Monday, November 26, 2007

Left Brain Right Heart: The Individual in the Philanthropic Marketplace

It has been almost four years since I embarked on my personal legacy journey, and the study of top philanthropists, generational families, investors and thought leaders. From this study I learned that there is a heart of philanthropy and a rational philanthropic marketplace, and that there are great challenges and opportunities to integrate the two.

Philanthropy of the heart receives joy from giving not just of one’s money but of one’s self, and often lends a deaf ear to the rational arguments of those of the left brain. The heart wants to give out empathy and compassion, without rational thought or persuasion. It is in the act of giving that the heart feels joy. The left brain, rational side of philanthropy on the other hand is about solving problems. The left brain understands that the issues facing the world today are complex and require a business-like approach if they are to be resolved for future generations. The left brain quickly embraces the idea of a philanthropic marketplace where governments, foundations, academics, corporations and individuals work together in partnership to apply their resources towards clear social strategies and quantifiable goals.

For the philanthropic marketplace to function optimally requires integrating individuals of the left brain and right heart into it. One needs little more evidence of the importance of the individual in the philanthropic marketplace than to understand that 75% of annual giving in the U.S., outside of the government, is by individuals out of their checkbook. The volunteer time and money contributed by individuals to charity every year is what makes the philanthropic marketplace hum. In the coming decades trillions of additional dollars are earmarked for charity out of individual estates due to the aging of the baby boomers in particular. This will only increase the importance of the individual in the philanthropic marketplace. Connecting individuals effectively into the philanthropic marketplace for the maximum benefit of society is a great challenge that every government agency, foundation and charity faces. It is also a great opportunity that if accomplished effectively could greatly benefit society.

The Right Heart Of The Compassionate Individual
The heart of philanthropy is the compassionate individual who wants to give because it is a noble, just and pure act. The heart of philanthropy is spiritual. It witnesses with eyes wide open the most dire problems of humanity, problems that are hard to view up close and personal, problems that seem impossible to resolve, problems that are just as easily left to someone else to tackle, problems where there is no monetary gain, problems that if one were to get involved might change the course of one’s life. The heart desires to give out of empathy and caring for other human beings.

The heart receives joy from giving as well; from walking in the beauty of nature and then helping to preserve it; from witnessing the miracle of child birth, and then helping to improve the lives of children; from enjoying the security that comes from a safe home with loving parents and three glorious meals a day, and then helping other families to realize that same sense of security; from growing up in a free and open society where all individuals regardless of ethnicity, color, race, gender or religion are treated with dignity and respect, free to live together in peace and harmony supported by a rule of law, and then helping to spread that kind of open society around the globe.

Right hearted individuals lead from a place of emotion, compassion and empathy. They give when they are asked to give without question or recognition. They feel the pain and suffering of others and cry, seeking to provide relief in whatever way they can. They act when they are moved, and they are moved by images of suffering and devastation. They care about relationships, and support the causes of their friends without questioning. Giving is part of who they are as humans. And when the right heart gives it is full.

The Left Brain And The Philanthropic Marketplace
The left brain operates from a place of rationality where the language and motivations are quite distinct from the right heart. The left brain does not dwell on images of pain and suffering. It does not speak of injustice or of the moral obligation of individuals. Instead, the left brain focuses intently on problems and solutions. The left brain is about facts and objectivity. The language of the left brain speaks in terms of giving that is productive, effective, and strategic. When left brained individuals support a charity they seek to improve the operation of that charity. They are attracted to social strategies that are grounded in research and are measurable. They like the ideas of leverage, governance, collaboratives, and public-private partnerships. The left brain is about solving social problems with a rational approach.

The logical outcome of left-brain philanthropy is a global philanthropic marketplace. A global philanthropic marketplace, like a global financial marketplace, is a place where sources of capital intersect with organizations seeking capital. The capital sources in this case are the government, foundations and individuals providing philanthropic capital. The organizations seeking capital are charities. In a rational philanthropic marketplace the charities that would receive the most capital are the ones that are the most strategic, high impact and well run. In a rational philanthropic marketplace high impact charities would grow, and other charities that are less strategic would shrink or go out of business. In a rational philanthropic marketplace intermediaries would help provide information to guide capital to high impact charities. There would be analysts, brokers and social investment banks conducting research and raising capital for high impact charities. There would be objective rating systems as well of social investment funds, much like the rating systems that exist in financial markets. Ultimately, the global philanthropic marketplace would guide individuals and philanthropic dollars to organizations and causes that yield the highest and best results for society.

Today, there is no central philanthropic marketplace, however, there are fragmented efforts to create one. Efforts exist to aggregated social capital in the form of donor advised funds, community foundations and donor collaboratives. There are rating agencies for charities by organizations such as Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau. In addition, there have been some attempts to create a transactional philanthropic marketplace that would allow individuals to evaluate charities online and then to give, similar to the workings of the financial marketplace. Over the coming years there is little doubt that a more robust philanthropic marketplace will emerge supported by major technology players. At issue is how left brained and right hearted individuals will integrate into this marketplace in a way that is productive for society but also fulfills their desires to personally and emotionally connect with charities and causes.

Ideas For Integrating The Individual Into The Philanthropic Marketplace
In pondering the conundrum of the compassionate individual in the philanthropic marketplace one comes to believe that success requires turning philanthropy on its ear. As a result, it is daunting to contemplate such a transformation. On the other hand, if successful the opportunity for society is so great that it would be negligent not to contemplate. By focusing resources on philanthropic initiatives that could advance health care, poverty, the environment, education and local communities, we could unlock an incredible force for good around the globe. So how might a marketplace be created that satisfies the individual, and advances the public good?

Following are 5 ideas that hold promise for integrating individuals of the left brain and right heart into the philanthropic marketplace.

1. In Search Of The Online Directory Of Philanthropy - It often seems as though every new individual joining the philanthropic marketplace wants to create his or her own charity. The heart of America is entrepreneurism, and it extends to the philanthropic marketplace. As new entrants decide they would like to act within the philanthropic marketplace, they would benefit from a directory of the stakeholders and initiatives that are already in motion within their community or issue area. It is likely in many instances that the new charity an individual would like to form exists somewhere else. If not, it is likely that there are complementary organizations and activities that would benefit that charity and help it succeed. The knowledge related to stakeholders, charities and activities within issue areas and communities is highly fragmented. There is no one place to go to identify the players or activities in issue areas and communities. With the benefit of technology, however, it is possible to create a global directory of philanthropy for every community and every issue area. If a philanthropic directory were to exist then right hearted individuals could do their research, and then reach out personally to the charities that spark their passion. They could convene more easily with others who have identified themselves as caring about the same cause. Building the directory of philanthropy would fill an information gap required to connect individuals into the philanthropic marketplace.

2. Supporting Intermediaries and Advisors As Philanthropic Guides – Advisors such as trust and estate attorneys, private bankers, insurance professionals, accountants, philanthropic advisors and others are often trusted resources who individuals turn to for support with their money, insurance and estates. They have the mind share and trust of their clients, and, with the proper tools and training, they could be philanthropic guides as well. With that said, there are few intermediaries or advisors who are trained as philanthropic guides. Many advisors are reluctant to discuss philanthropy with their clients because their conversations may feel uncomfortable or may delay the sale of a product that fills an immediate need for the client. The truth is that there is little training for advisors in this area, yet advisors touch right hearted and left brained individuals every day. There are several initiatives underway, however, that hold promise for advisors in philanthropy. First, some financial advisory firms are wrapping values based legacy planning into their investment process. Legacy planning is in many ways an extension of their investment and asset allocation process. It also helps advisors build trust with clients. When legacy planning becomes part of the investment process then it is replicable just as asset allocation is replicable, and firms can then implement it on a widespread basis. Second, there are a few associations that focus on nothing but convening advisors locally or nationally, and supporting them on topics of philanthropy. Advisors in Philanthropy (AIP) is one organization that puts on an annual conference for advisors in this area. Another is called the Philanthropic Advisors Network (PAN), which is a collaboration among a number of industry players including Foundation Source, AIP, Social Venture Partners, Citigroup and myself, to convene advisors locally in cities around the country. The idea is to support advisors to learn from other advisors and network within their local communities. Third, there turns out to be a professional designation that advisors can earn in philanthropy called the Chartered Advisor In Philanthropy (CAP) designation. This is a professional designation that involves learning the advanced techniques of philanthropy from planned giving to charitable structures. To integrate compassionate individuals into the philanthropic marketplace will require that advisors are fluent in the language of philanthropy of the heart and the techniques for effective philanthropy in the philanthropic marketplace. For this outcome to occur will require new training and support networks for advisors.

3. Developing A Scalable Rating System Of Charities – A rating system for charities is essential for rationalizing the philanthropic marketplace, for guiding individuals to high impact charities, and for directing the flow of philanthropic dollars to where they can be utilized for the greatest good. Just as Morningstar rates investment funds in the financial marketplace a similar service is needed in the philanthropic marketplace. Today there are truly noble efforts to create a charity rating system, however, the current approaches are expensive and difficult to scale. In order to greatly increase the number of charities that are reviewed by an independent agency would take a much larger effort than is achievable today. It would be very expensive to scale the current approach, and it would take a great deal more investment. Therefore, new approaches to rating charities are being explored. The outcome of these efforts is essential for guiding individuals in the philanthropic marketplace.

4. Complementing Hands On Philanthropy With Online Philanthropy – Online philanthropy is coming, and it has the potential to change the face of philanthropy. Even a casual search of the Internet reveals hundreds of online initiatives to create a philanthropic community, to become the Facebook in this area, a meeting place to learn, network and give. It is early days, however, and as of today none of these efforts have achieved scale. My belief is that the opportunity in this area is very large, but, just as we saw with Amazon in online shopping, it will take more money and time than people realize to establish this online marketplace. Likely the online marketplace will be created in conjunction with a major partner such as Google, Microsoft or Facebook. On the surface online philanthropy appears to be impersonal, and something that would be shunned by true, hands on philanthropists. I would suggest, however, that online philanthropy does not take the place of rolling up one’s sleeves and getting personally involved with a charity, but might enhance the experience. For instance, more and more people are using the Internet to learn and network. After researching a charity online someone might decide to attend a lunch or visit that charity. This could lead to volunteering and the desire to enlist others. Once an individual has connected with a charity, almost universally he or she wants to raise money for that charity. It does not matter whether a person is left brain or right heart, whether they care about a community organization or a global cause, they would like to support the charity which they have already decided is important to them. If online technologies can assist in this effort then individuals will embrace it. Likely in the future they will give online as well because it is simple and easy. In fact, online giving is growing at a much faster rate than overall giving. In the future there will be a seamless connection between online and hands on philanthropy which will appeal to both the right heart and left brain.

5. Embracing New Philanthropic Incentive Structures – For the left brain in particular the philanthropic marketplace often comes down to a matter of dollars and cents. While the right heart believes that work in philanthropy should be for free or at least at a much reduced cost, that individuals should not make money off of charities, that people should donate their time, and that charitable dollars should go directly to support causes with as little overhead as possible, the left brain does not think along these lines. For the left brain, there is a need for a new philanthropic incentive structure that rewards the organization and individual in a fashion more in line with the financial marketplace. For the left brain doing good for society without doing well enough to support their individual and family goals is an unacceptable tradeoff. In many ways blended value philanthropic models or social enterprises that have a strong financial business model combined with a philanthropic mission help to break this log jam. Social enterprises that can afford to pay competitive wages relieve the left brain of the burden of making a tradeoff between family and society that he or she would prefer not to make. The left brain sees in social enterprise the ability to support all of its personal, family and philanthropic goals. It sees as well the ability to reduce waste, the waste that is caused by spending time and money on fundraising rather than on the business of philanthropy. There are more and more blended value organizations being created today. Everything from microfinance to community foundations falls into that category. In fact community foundations are great examples of how the government has provided an economic incentive to make them more attractive. Not every philanthropic pursuit has an economic underpinning, and social enterprise fundamentally cuts against the grain of the right heart of philanthropy, but in social enterprise exists the potential to attract the left brain to the philanthropic marketplace earlier and in greater numbers. As such the heart of philanthropy should embrace it.

In summary, the nucleus of philanthropy is the individual. Without the individual there is no philanthropic marketplace. Individuals, however, often connect with this marketplace randomly, and without a clear picture of the overall cause they are supporting. The ideas presented here have the potential to connect individuals into the philanthropic marketplace in a more rational manner, with the potential for increased impact and less waste. Today, however, these ideas are often being approached in an under-funded and uncoordinated manner. What is needed is a new philanthropic marketplace, a marketplace that is embraced as a social enterprise, and as such is profitable, attracts social capital, supports the social good and integrates the compassionate individual. The architects of this new philanthropic marketplace must be major philanthropic and technology players supported by government incentives. Success in this endeavor is critically important to our global society. With human will as the engine, which harnesses the heart and mind of the individual, the goal of a new philanthropic marketplace is quite achievable.

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