Entries in Book Review (3)


Giving 2.0

Back when I worked at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society,  I had the great honor of working with Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen as her teaching and research assistant at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Department of Public Policy for her courses on Strategic Philanthropy and Philanthropy and Social Innovation.  In truth, I credit her for inspiring me to make philanthropy a central part of my professional and personal ambitions. 

Now, she's promoting her new book, Giving 2.0: Transform Your Giving and Our World, which is a practical guide for philanthropists and families.  Although our backgrounds couldn't be more different (she's from extreme wealth and I'm from extreme poverty, for example), one of the things I appreciated most about working with Laura is that she can bring out the philanthropist in anyone. 

Even me.

And true to her generousity, 100% of author royalties from the sales of Giving 2.0 will be donated to innovative, high-impact nonprofits through the Giving 2.0 Grants program. Checkout this promotional video:

Giving 2.0: Transform Your Giving and Our World from Giving 2.0 on Vimeo.


Also, be sure to watch her interview on Charlie Rose.


Reading Recommendation: The Raising of Money

It’s simple, yet all too true: “Organizations Have No Needs” is the first small chapter in the book The Raising of Money: 35 Essentials Trustees Are Using to Make a Difference by Jim Lord.

I’ve never thought about it before, but he’s obviously right.  The organization doesn’t have needs; people do. I’ve never heard an organization beg.  I’ve never heard an institution say “I’m hungry!” 

It’s what we so commonly assume about organizational behavior is that somewhat ironically, organizations are not literally alive, nor does one behave.

But when you want something to grow, much like a person, an organization requires essential nutrients and significant investment. We invest in people, for causes, that are approached in a strategic and organized manner.

As a reminder, civil society is really people asking for support and essential resources, for causes that are important to them for any number of reasons. Somewhat like requesting nourishment, the heart of philanthropy is based on personal relationships.

The book is divided into seven sections:

  1. Working from the Perspective of the Donor
  2. Getting People Involved
  3. Setting the Pace for Giving
  4. Applying the Campaign Principle
  5. Asking for Money
  6. Practicing Stewardship
  7. Kindling the Spirit of Philanthropy

Each section has a number of small chapters, each filled with tips and strategies, targeted to trustees and development professionals; or in the case of smaller nonprofits, the board of directors and fundraisers.

The book was recommended to me by my mentor as a fellow with the Association of Fundraising ProfessionalsGolden Gate Chapter. I was excited to read the book for professional and personal reasons.

For example, I was recently elected to the Board of Directors at Stanford Pride, a nonprofit networking organization affiliated with the Stanford Alumni Association. Without being preachy, the book had many pages that directly apply to my leadership and volunteerism. The book addresses both sides of the philanthropic coin – the donor and volunteer, or in many cases the donating philanthropist and development professional.

I’m definitely grateful that this book is fresh in my mind as I begin this service commitment!

The book is also filled with inspirational quotes – some from creative works, others from passionate philanthropists, such this inspiring quote on page 76 from John D. Rockefeller, Jr.:

“When a solicitor comes to you and lays on your heart the responsibility that rests so heavily on his; when his earnestness gives convincing evidence of how seriously interested he is; when he makes it clear that he knows you are no less anxious to do your duty in the matter than he is, that you are just as conscientious that he feels sure all you need is to realize the importance of the enterprise and the urgency of the need in order to lead you to do your full share in meeting it – he has made you his friend and has brought you to think of giving not as a duty but as a privilege.”

In all honesty, this rather long quote resonates with my passion for my work and personal alignment with the mission of the California Academy of Sciences, where I spend my day job as a part of the development team. Each day, I aspire to work with donors in such a way that they will see my personal and professional missions as one in the same, and something they can be a part of as investors.

In conclusion, the book is also an important reminder that all forms of philanthropy (time, talent, treasure) is based on people helping people (also the title of chapter 26!). The book is dedicated “The the Volunteer… the heart and soul of philanthropy.”  Its insight-filled pages had many practical implications that apply to my work, my board service, and all other areas of my involvement in civil society.

Colleagues and comrades, this book is a must-read if you want to take your work in philanthropy seriously. 


Book Review: Small Change by Michael Edwards

Small Change: Why Business Won't Save the WorldSomtimes I think, "If I wanted to go into business, I would have gone into business..."

It seems often forgotten that many people – myself included – make an active decision to avoid politics and business. We have a variety of motivations and missions, but we seek change that comes beyond convention. Nonprofit… nonpartisan… we are defined by what we are not. And I think that’s great.

I am reminded of the special nature of civil society as I read Small Change: Why Business Won’t Save the World by Michael Edwards. The primary purpose of the book, in my view, is to be practical by raising challenging questions about the role of business in progressive social change. In response to a wave of “Philanthrocapitalism” (a la Matthew Bishop, Michael Green, et tout le monde), Edwards provides an analysis and critique of the movement, as well as an argument for what he calls “Citizen Philanthropy.”

Edwards sums his message early in the preface, when he argues against a "business-is-best" philosophy:

"That's an attractive proposition, but also a dangerous mirage. Can we compete ourselves into a more cooperative future, or consume our way to conserve the planet's scarce resources, or grow grow our way to out of deep-rooted poverty and oppression, or fight our way to peace?" ..."The claim that business thinking can save the world is a convenient myth for those who occupy positions of great wealth and power; and the constant celebration of the rich and famous individuals is a dangerous distraction from the hard, public work of finding solutions, all of us together" (p. xi). 

“Social transformation is not a job to be left to market forces or to the whims of billionaires. Perhaps if we supported the energy and creativity of millions of ordinary people, we could create a foundation for lasting progress that will never come through top-down planning by a new global elite, however well intentioned. When this principle is accepted and philanthropy is reconfigured to be less technocratic and more supportive of people’s own self-development efforts, then change will come – larger than we can control, quicker than we can imagine, and deeper than we could ever hope for by reducing everything to market forces” (pp. xiii-xiv).

To be fair, it seems that his message is meant to provoke debate. He isn’t suggesting that market forces are always inappropriate as a tool to advancing social change. However, he does argue that it can be detrimental to always use market forces in a blind manner.

I was able to hear Edwards speak about the book at an event with Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP) – Bay Area Chapter in early Novemeber, 2010. Speaking to a group of young professionals, aspects of his message seemed to encourage our dedication to advancing social change, no matter the method. He suggested that we think critically about when markets (and associated tools) are appropriate and inappropriate.

I found the book to be an extremely interesting, quick read with some powerful and profound points. Coupled with a re-reading of Philanthrocapitalism, it’s worth knowing these perspectives and the arguments these authors make. Keep in mind that the dialogue is friendly, as you can watch Michael Edwards and Matthew Bishop debate on YouTube: