In the confluence of a shaky economy and a technological boom that can mobilize masses via social media, a radical reinvention is underway for the mahogany-and-mothballs cliche of philanthropy as the hobby of a wealthy elite.
It’s the subject of our upcoming March 15 Chicago Forward forum on The Face of Philanthropy at the Thorne Auditorium, and of a smaller community conversation luncheon on the topic at the Tribune Tower earlier this week.
Increasingly, said Groupon G-Team manager Patty Huber, it is an area of interest to places like Groupon, with its 27 million members eager to pool small donations that serve a bigger cause. Recent trends show more philanthropic money coming from small donors than large donors, our 15 lunch guests told 11 Tribune journalists — while in many cases, more attention and more financial tools are employed to leverage and follow up on gifts more effectively.
There’s a mythology built around philanthropy, said Donors Forum CEO Valerie Lies. Amy Rasmussen of the Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education said philanthropy increasingly plays a role in the gray area between government and civic giving, such as in music programs in schools. Lines are blurring between non-profits and organizations that view philanthropy as an investment that both does good work and turns a guilt-free buck, said Sharon Schneider, philanthropic director at Foundation Source.
(My favorite moment? When Maria Kim suggested doing away with the tired term “non-profit” in favor of the phrase “mission-driven organization.” At Trib Nation, I can appreciate that!)
And when philanthropy is the province of monied families passing on their fortune, it is often viewed as a way to pass on generational values about involvement and giving back as much as it is about passing on the family millions, said Marguerite Griffin, National Director of Philanthropic Services for Northern Trust, whose group provides philanthropic advice to high net-worth clients nationwide.
There’s a reinvention underway for what “philanthropy” means, said Jason Saul, founder of Mission Measurement — and some fascinating personal stories hidden behind attention to money and giving, said Francia Harrington, the J.P. Morgan Chase Senior Vice President for Civic Affairs.