Forbes talked with Senior Partner Bryan Clontz about Donor-Advised Funds in the Nov. 25 article Generous Tax Tricks.
Too often searches for a new development chief for a community foundation end up with someone with a nice suit, bright smile, firm handshake, gift for gab, and a large file of contacts. He or she may look the part, but much like a great actor or actress playing a part in a film that just doesn't work, they may not be the right fit for the foundation.
The casting above assumes that community foundation asset development is just another version of the art of fundraising. In reality, it is more a science than an art. And therein lays the key to the hiring the right "actor" for the part.
These components top my list of the most important strengths possessed by the ideal candidate:
When you find someone possessing these attributes, you have a prime candidate for the role. As with any great movie, you need not just great actors and actresses, but they need to be in the right roles with the right script and direction. Finding the right actor or actress to lead your development efforts can help you create a movie that has a very satisfying ending for your community. And if by chance you find more than one possessing these attributes, then hire the one with the nicer suit, bigger smile, etc.
In case you missed it, a recent article in the “Wall Street Journal” (and a subsequent piece in the “Chronicle of Philanthropy”) told the story of a very generous couple who established a $135 million endowment at a local hospital near their home. The endowment was “to be held in perpetuity” (as expressed in their wills in the 1990s). Today, less than 20 years later, it is gone!
“How did that happen?” you ask. It happened because the hospital, facing serious financial challenges, sought and received court approval to use the fund as collateral for loans Later the hospital sought the court’s approval to tap the principal by invoking “cy pres.” There were more “laters,” but suffice it to say that all the money is now gone and no longer helping meet the health care needs of area residents.
Who was minding the couple’s interests in insuring better healthcare for the people of their community? Hmmm…good question! I can’t help but believe that had the couple been aware of and used a designated fund at their local community foundation this story would have a different ending. Actually, it would be never ending.
There was a time I thought designated funds in a community foundation were best suited for small organizations that were not geared up to manage investments, but rather to deliver services in the community. The larger and more sophisticated enterprises, I reasoned, were perfectly capable of managing the money. But the lesson in this story tells us that what they may not be so good at is protecting and preserving the donor’s charitable intent for community benefit. That is where a community foundation’s inherent careful exercise of stewardship responsibility plays such a critical role.
By the way, this was one of nearly 20 endowments this couple established to support various community benefits and charitable purposes. It makes me wonder, how many of those may be at risk of disappearing?
The term “Donor Fatigue” has reemerged. That is if it ever disappeared (or left to take a nap). Anyway, it seems to be getting a lot of mentions of late…at least where I’ve been looking and listening.
Some, usually development professionals, believe donor fatigue will occur unless donors are “given a rest” now and then – i.e., the organization declares a moratorium of some duration on mailings and phone calls. While others, mostly those who habitually dream up reasons to launch yet another campaign, deny there is such a thing.
I have come to the conclusion that donor fatigue can exist, particularly as a result of repeated bombardment by solicitations several times a year. But I have also observed that lots of donors self-regulate by selectively tearing up and tossing or otherwise dodging those solicitations. They also tend to get progressively annoyed. So from that standpoint, the development professionals have a point.
However, I don’t ascribe to the idea that “resting donors” is the “fix” because I am not at all persuaded that giving should or must be exhausting. And the notion, “give ‘til it hurts,” …no way! Must it be painful? Absolutely not!
Okay, I recognize a lot of money has been raised by hard selling and the twisting of arms on behalf of university, hospital, and the like campaigns. But, too often, the gift given is actually the answer to an unasked question, “What is the least I can get away with giving to what they are pitching?” Too often it is a joyless, and sometimes even outright annoying way of giving, which fosters a stronger proclivity to dodge such pitches in the future.
Why must it be exhausting? Shouldn’t it be satisfying and joyful? Can’t it be exhilarating? For the many donors who have chosen to use a community foundation to help them shape and pursue their charitable objectives, it certainly has…and with no arm-twisting.
When someone gives to something they have come to really care about and to which they feel their gift will make a substantial difference, it feels great! They won’t need rest due to “fatigue.” Rather, they are energized by what is accomplished by their giving! So much so, that if able, they will want to give more. And in the end, that's what we all want to see happen.
Every time I attend the Community Foundations of Canada meeting (#CFC2013), I am reminded of what it means to be part of the global community foundation movement. My use of “movement” vs. the traditional U.S. use of “field” is purely intentional. To me, a movement denotes a body of people or organizations who are buiding toward some common goal (as we all are), while a field brings to mind an image of people or organizations who are somewhat loosely aligned, but don’t have that same cohesion.
Community foundations remain the fastest growing form of philanthropy across the globe. While many have decried the state of the “field” given changes in technology and donor habits, new community foundations continue to develop throughout our world. This comes in spite of (or because of?) the rapid pace of change we all now face.
For example, at one of the sessions this week, community foundations from Poland, Singapore, Brazil, Latvia, Australia, Kenya and Mexico made presentations on the work they are doing. In every case, it left me in awe of the effort, and reminded me again that we all have much to learn from these emerging community foundation markets.
Another conversation, this one about the role of community foundations in corporate social responsibility (thanks to the Bertelsmann Foundation for making this possible), made the case for a more globally connected community foundation movement. It’s an issue that we continue to have an interest in as a firm as Helmer Ekstrom and I were both participants in the Transatlantic Community Foundation Network (again thanks to the Bertelsmann and Mott Foundations). I was encouraged by the passion and commitment of others in our movement to carry these conversations forward. If you’re interested in participating as we move forward, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Community foundations, by our very nature, have been and likely always will be, local institutions, but in our increasingly connected world, we must also become more “glocal” in our outlook. We must continue to operate locally, but also recognize the additional opportunities that are now possible because we are a global movement
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.