Saturday, August 14, 2010

My 100th Post

Gratitude, I believe, is the key to personal and professional success. It is achieved by reflecting on what we have and by realizing that none of it is owed to us. That which is not owed, is given. And what was given yesterday or today is not promised tomorrow. Tomorrow is constructed by making the most of our gifts today with what we inherited from yesterday.

Nature’s abundance, as well as the opportunity to freely express their faith and their opinions, and to seek and enjoy the fruits of their own labor, left many early Americans with a profound sense of gratitude. Realizing they had been given much, they resolved to build a better tomorrow by extending the franchise of freedom and opportunity to ever more members of the human family. This spirit defined our culture from its inception and continues to animate it today. The level of voluntary wealth transference is has produced is unparalleled in human history. I call it the American Philanthropic Revolution.

On July 13, 2008 I began writing this blog to remind us that we are not owed this revolution, that it will persist only as long as we remain grateful for it and commit ourselves to building better tomorrows from it. I wrote to suggest ways that we could replenish our remarkably rich philanthropic soil and to warn against tactics and techniques that were taking from it by taking it for granted. Too many non profits, I argued, were taking this revolution for granted by concluding all they need do is lay claim to some virtue and ask, ask, ask -- even without an imaginative vision, a compelling set of objectives, a commitment to contain ancillary costs, or a deep sense of accountability to their contributors. I saw too much of fund raising training and practice focusing on the “the ask,” and too little on “the give” as envisioned through the wants and hopes of donors. I saw too many non profits wandering about in pursuit of the mythic “low hanging fruit” and too few committing themselves to the long-term growth of orchards of support. I saw institutions expecting too much of donors and too little of themselves.

I shared my blog with a small group of friends, long-term colleagues and family members and received great encouragement from them. I asked a young company called Academic Impressions to allow me to design and present a series or workshops built around my philosophy of philanthropy, which they graciously consented to. When I made my case to fund raising professionals at their conferences, they responded with enthusiasm and asked for more. So I referred them to my blog and the number of readers grew. They, in turn, began sharing my blog posts with others, and I began hearing from conscientious professionals that I had never met. When I began to doubt the utility of writing this blog, some of my readers seemed to intuit my misgivings and wrote to tell me of its importance to them and to encourage me on.

So on the occasion of my 100th blog post, I write to thank my loyal readers and to let new readers what this blog is about. I will continue to write because of you and, indeed, because we all have more to do. We need to encourage and support best practice, to remind young and new members to the field, that our finest professionals see themselves as agents of philanthropy, not just representatives of a single institution. As such, they understand that philanthropy is a compact between their organization and those that support it to get something of mutual interest done. They know that the relationship between their organization and its donors, like all successful relationships must be based on mutual respect, regard and tactful candor, that even a whiff of institutional entitlement can create an atmosphere of donor exploitation, and that institutions must, in word and deed, always call upon the “angels of their better nature” if they are to attract the most conscientious professionals and the most constructive philanthropists.

Those are our purposes. Please write me at to let me how I can continue to make this blog meaningful to you for the next 100 posts.

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