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December 10, 2007

News Briefing: When a Luxury Vacation Cultivates Philanthropy

  • Growing movement to change farming subsidies will affect the lives of farmers from Africa to the U.S.  [Associated Press]
  • A new kind of philanthropic travel lets wealthy vacationers do good works while still enjoying fancy hotels.  [New York Times]
  • A $40 million gift to revitalize a college town is met with some criticism.  [New York Times]
  • Study released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture ranks Oklahoma fifth worst in the nation in the level of food insecurity.  [Associated Press]

December 05, 2007

News Briefing: China's Rich Give Back as Philanthropy Surges

  • Philanthropic donations in China are surging, and should continue to do so, analysts say.  [Reuters]
  • Senator Grassley's inquiry into the finances of six televangelists raises questions.  [Associated Press]
  • The ongoing Center on Philanthropy Panel Study explores factors that influence Americans' giving and what causes those behaviors to change.  [Associated Press]
  • Former Senator Bob Graham and his family donate $1.5 million to the Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida.  [Associated Press]

April 24, 2007

Fame as Currency: Celebrities and Moguls Trade Success for Global Change

The halls of the Beverly Hilton are draped with elegant black and white photographs of stars from Hollywood's golden age. Among the 3,000 attendees of the 10th annual Milken Global Conference - the philanthropists, media titans, private equity chiefs, and economists - mingle the tastefully-framed images of Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, and Lauren Bacall. And there among them is Kirk Douglas - not a portrait at all, but a living man, smaller and frailer perhaps at 90, but as forthcoming and eloquent as any speaker at this 21st century confab of the monied and powerful.

The confluence of celebrity and philanthropy has very much been a central them at this year's Milken conference, and no one personified that collision as much as Kirk Douglas. In a softer voice slightly slurred by a stroke, Douglas was open about his life as an actor, missed opportunities, and the challenges of fame and fortune and aging.

Kirk Douglas

"You know, a stroke is a very difficult thing. You get depressed. Do you know what my wife told me when I was laying there moaning about my condition? She said 'get your ass our of bed and go see the speech therapist.' And what I found was this: the cure for depression is to think of others, to do for others. You can always find something to be grateful for."

A much younger man but as visibly affected by a medical malady as Douglas, Michael J. Fox spoke bluntly to a crowded ballroom throng last night during a panel on celebrity and philanthropy.

"I always tell people," he said, "that I didn't volunteer for this job, was recruited."

"This job," of course, is the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, which is dedicated to ensuring the development of a cure for Parkinson's disease within this decade. Fox's Foundation has raised and distributed more than $100 million toward research into Parkinson's and related conditions, and the still-youthful actor has become a vibrant spokesperson for increased Federal funding of medical research and for stem cell research.

"When I was diagnosed with Parkinson's back in 1991, I was 29 years old and it was like being hit by a train," he said. "But eventually I realized that I was part of a community and I felt a responsibility to use my energy, to use my profile to garner some attention, to draw some attention to this situation."

Celebrity helps, but it doesn't make things happen - that's been a central theme among the Hollywood types here at Milken.

"You can have a passion but things don't just fall out of the sky. It really is a matter of making it happen," said Fox. That meant creating a "fast-track" foundation, staffing it up, working with scientists, and hitting the political trail to change minds and open budgets.

Eli Broad and Sherry Lansing

A couple of years ago, Sherry Lansing was the all-powerful CEO of Paramount Pictures, and the first woman to head a major movie studio. But as she approached 60, Lansing told her bosses she was opting out - changing her life.

"I think you have a genetic need to give back," she said during a panel discussion on second careers in philanthropy. "There are people who think you are mentally ill - they just cannot understand that you don't want to get more, that you can walk away when you're 60. But I must tell you, I've felt younger than I have ever felt - I feel like when I was 22 with the whole world before me. And in nonprofit community I've met the purest, most decent people I've ever met in my life. I get up every day with total joy. The expression I use is that I'm rewired and not retired."

Lansing's new passion is philanthropy: the Sherry Lansing Foundation works to improve educatiom, fight cancer, and get older Americans more involved in voluntary projects and philanthropy. Lansing's Older Adult Civic Engagement movement seeks to rally Americans over 60 - a "demographic powerhouse that is larger, healthier, more successful and better educated than any other in history" - and empower them to contribute their strengths and expertise to community improvement.

"You know, in my generation, we're all supposed to retire. But believe this is the prime time of your life, and I want to build a movement to put these people back to work to make the world a better place. I want to change the world."

Two over-60s who have changed paths - Eli Broad and Ted Turner - talked about the amount of energy they now put into their second, post-billions careers.

"You know, this country has been very good to me, my children have more than they'll ever need, so I asked myself, what can I do now," said Broad, whose foundation works in secondary education, medical research, the arts, and redeveloping Los Angeles. "You know what? I'm working harder than I've ever worked and I'm getting more satisfaction than I did running a Fortune 500 company."

The always-iconoclastic Turner discussed his United Nations Foundation, where he has committed more than $1 billion toward international relations and arms control. And he wasn't always optimistic during his talk here.

"You know, in order for humanity to make it through the next 50 years, we're going to have to solve a whole lot of problems in a hurry," he said. "We're going to need another renaissance."

He suggested that American philanthropy could have had more success in Iraq than American military might: "If we'd have sent a bunch of doctors and teachers to Iraq, we'd have changed things for the better and they'd still want to be our friends."

Actors Bradley Whitford and his wife Jane Kaczmarek founded Clothes Off Our Back as a reaction to the glitz of awards ceremonies in Hollywood. But Whitford said that part of his role in the charity has been discussing philanthropy with his fellow celebrities.

"You know, you sometimes feel like you're on the receiving end of the suffering Olympics," he said. "You didn't ask for this, you didn't expect this when celebrity hit you. I try to help them get over their self-consciousness about it. It's that bitch-slapping against activism that you hear in the media that sometimes makes people in Hollywood wary. We've got a bad reputation for activism."

But he suggested that more celebrities are looking for ways to "spend" their fame wisely. And they're finding g their own, sometimes unexpected dividend. Said Kaczmarek:

"I started tithing, and when I did I started doing research on charities I was giving to, and I was inspired, as
an antidote to so much of the cynicism you see around us. I think maybe I like myself a lot more."

April 23, 2007

Capitalism and Philanthropy: the Milken View

If there can be said to be a single organizing principal of this Milken Global Conference, you'd have to choose this one: its organizers' core belief that the opening of capital markets is inherently good for human society. Applied to philanthropy, that belief in capitalism came out in what may well be the manifesto of this year's conference - that in the United States, "capitalism and philanthropy are twin expressions of an underying set of values."

That principal was laid forth in today's panel on "Entrepreneurial Philanthropy" by Don Randel, president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Randel argued that public civility, an organized well-regulated society, and the rule of law expressed "a kind of trust," a common belief that allows those in the society to believe in institutions.

"The culture of philanthropy rests on the same values that the great success of American business and free markets rest on," he said.

Milken Capitalism Panel

Teresa Heinz Kerry, serving on the same panel, took that theme of civic trust a step further, arguing that American volunteerism was what spurred its philanthropic instinict.

"Because you had to cross the country, you had to band together and perservere, there is a real history of volunteerism that you don't experience in other countries, and I've lived all over the world. All the kinds of group support systems - it's an American thing, it doesn't happen anyplace else. It is the great strength of America, going beyond yourself. That is why American philanthropy is so dominant."

Mike Milken noted that "individuals give today at least four times what comes out of corporations and foundations - most of the money being given is coming from individuals." And while that's true, the economists on his Nobel winners panel at lunch focused not on individuals, but on systems; economists tend to shy away from philanthropy as a major economic driver - even though the combination of individual philanthropy and overeas remittances (money sent back by immigrants to their countries of origin) - amounts to half a trillion dollars each year.

The ecomomists Gary Becker and Kenneth Arrow tussled lightly over the role of government in the increasingly capitalist world society, but really around the edges it was an argument over just how much good light regulation could do to continue to spur capitalist growth. They approached the world's healthcare needs - from disease in the developing world to the aging population of western nations - from a purely democraphic-economic standpoint: there are more aging people, so a market for caring for aging people is of value. Malarial and other deaths from poor water will decrease when market conditions align to fix the problem. The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa has discouraged investments in higher education because people who don't believe they're going to live very long don't invest in learning and aspiration.

A little cool and clear, shall we say, like the weather here in Los Angeles today.

But sometimes the truth is best served with a chilly breeze, especially in a world that celebrates its philanthropist-capitalists on the very same magazine covers increasing numbers. Becker was merely voicing a common perception when he stated that allowing markets to create social change - in their own time, of course - "is the greatest gift capitalism has provided."

While traditional philanthropy is honored here (there are any number of big-name foundation leaders here, from Milken himself to Eli Broad), it's innovation and collaboration that are the watchwords; that overlap with capitalism and creating markets. It's no accident that Milken launched its first philanthropy track this year - less than 12 months after Warren Buffett's historic gift and in cultural wash of increased media attention to giving. Still, when Carl Schramm, president of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, stated boldly that "foundations historically have been the most critical institution in the advancement of society," there wasn't a rush to agree.

Indeed, as a brand, the word "foundation" isn't particularly in favor. Here's the advice Don Randel had for the budding philanthropists of today:

"Don't go hire a bunch of foundation bureaucrats to run it for gets to be a business of self-perpetuation, with more and more layers of hoops to jump through to provide every last grant. And then grant manangers begin to think it's their money."

April 12, 2007

Live from Google: Time for Philanthropy 3.0?

Guest blogger Janice Schoos, senior managing director at our sister company Archimede Philanthropy Partners, is in Mountain View this week for the Global Philanthropy Forum at Google. She files this report:

This week, Google hosts the 6th Annual Global Philanthropy Forum conference at its headquarters in Mountain View, CA. The conference considers ways to apply market mechanisms to the problems of endemic poverty, disease and climate change. Entitled "Financing Social Change: Leveraging Markets and Entrepreneurship," the conference brings together 450 donors and social investors, as well as 80 Googlers, to discuss innovative approaches to systemic change.  The conference was created by the World Affairs Council to build a community of strategic philanthropists committed to international causes.

The first day of the conference was highlighted by a talk with Google's founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.They were joined by Dr. Larry Brilliant, executive director of Google's philanthropic arm,  The team talked about their plans to use the tools and technology of Google plus its staff (or Googlers as they are known) to focus its philanthropic efforts on poverty, public health, and climate change.

The team cited examples of using technology to change the way traditional systems work such as technology that translates Arabic to English, and technology to detect outbreaks of epidemics through community-based information reporting. Google also unveiled its collaboration with the United States Holocaust Museum that applies the technology of Google Earth to shed light on the atrocities occurring in Darfur. It incorporates high-resolution mapping imagery and photos of the people in the region to tell their stories of how their lives have been impacted. The goal of the site is to not only raise awareness of the issue but to also promote action for social change. 

Since its inception, Google founders have reminded its employees that their work should 'Do no evil' - that is, they need to consider the possible negative consequences of their actions.  Google has revised that belief to now state: 'Be Good.' Through they plan to take advantage of the opportunities the company has to do great good in the world.

While the team acknowledged that they have much to learn about philanthropy, it will be their untraditional approaches and eagerness to look beyond the barriers of private, government, and nonprofit sectors that will develop into Philanthropy 4.0 and beyond.

Meanwhile, the very definition of philanthropy continues to evolve. Judith Rodin, president of The Rockefeller Foundation, introduced the concept of Philanthropy 3.0 in the keynote address. Rodin recounted the great history of the foundation created by John D. Rockefeller and its need to remain nimble in order to continue to focus on root causes and address profound issues. She described Philanthropy 3.0 as an approach that acknowledges that no single player can solve problems alone. Philanthropists need to seek advice from experts, pool resources, collaborate with others, and listen to local people to learn from their on-the-ground experiences.

Iqbal Paroo, CEO of the Omidyar Network, expanded on the concept of Philanthropy 3.0 and stressed the role of philanthropists in helping to remove barriers so that people in developing countries can address their own needs.  Jacqueline Novogratz, founder and CEO of Acumen Fund, echoed Paroo's focus on promoting local, commercially viable solutions that will only scale by providing access to capital markets. 

The idea of Philanthropy 3.0 was further demonstrated by Jean Oelwang, managing director of Virgin Unite, the independent charitable arm of the Virgin Group. Virgin Unite is the result of Richard Branson's desire to combine the activities of its 200 businesses to focus on entrepreneurial approaches to social and environmental issues. Virgin Unite leverages the skills of social entrepreneurs by linking them with Virgin staff, its customers, suppliers, and their network. Yahoo! also takes a different approach to philanthropy than other corporations. Meg Garlinghouse of Yahoo! talked about how the Internet company believes it can make the greatest impact by connecting its 520 million users with issues and organizations through Yahoo! For Good.

February 09, 2007

Facebook Launches Virtual Giving Campaign

Facebook_logo_3 This week Facebook, the immensely popular online social network, entered the e-philanthropy realm by launching a new feature that enables users to buy virtual icons to appear on the online profiles of their friends. At a cost of $1 each, the net proceeds of these “tiny tokens of appreciation” will be donated to charity.  Facebook administrators choose Komen for the Cure, the breast cancer research organization, as the designated charity for the month of February, because “Breast Cancer Awareness is the largest cause related group on Facebook.” No word yet on how long this campaign will last, or whether it will be opened to other charities.


While this is certainly a positive development – helping a younger and intensely interactive generation become more engaged in philanthropy – it brings even more attention to the need for nonprofit organizations to understand and harness the opportunities of emerging technologies to bring their message to new audiences and generate new sources of revenue.  It will be interesting to see how this Facebook campaign takes off – no doubt there will be bumps and lessons learned along the way – and it will be especially telling to see which nonprofits succeed in embracing the potential of new communications platforms.

January 02, 2007

Wealth and Philanthropy: Who Gives (and Why)

Boston Globe:  Some have charged New Englanders with giving less to charity than people in other regions. Others say secular donors give less than the faithful. Yet such assertions are less informative than this statistic: Two-thirds of all philanthropic gifts made by U S households come from the wealthiest 3 percent of Americans.

December 21, 2006

In Your Name: Holiday Donations on Behalf of Those With Plenty

New York Times:  In their 10 years together, Paige and Matt Rodgers have given each other a lot of gifts. An expensive Swiss watch one holiday season, a white gold Tiffany bracelet another year. And every year each counts on the other to replenish their respective collections of pajamas and ties.

December 11, 2006

For-Profit Philanthropy

New York Times:  This year, the philanthropic community witnessed the opening moves of, a for-profit entity through which Google plans to conduct its charitable operations. As a profit-making enterprise, can do certain things that by law a nonprofit cannot.

November 29, 2006

Philanthropy Gets Serious for Some Companies

MSNBC:  With the holidays gearing up, companies will soon start preaching about "the season of giving," in hopes that their products will be the ones customers put under the tree at Christmas.

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