October 19, 2006
by Bradley Center
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A complete, edited transcript is now available of our October 19 book discussion:
The Art and Science of Philanthropy
by Peter Frumkin
(University of Chicago Press, Fall 2006)
Thursday, October 19, 2006 • 12:00 to 2:00 p.m.
The Betsy and Walter Stern Conference Center
“Strategic Giving will become the benchmark text for the field. It is the most comprehensive and analytical examination of the donor world that has ever been published. It should set the content and tone of the debate in the philanthropic, nonprofit, and academic communities for many years to come.”
- R. Craig Kennedy, President, The German Marshall Fund of the United States
Program and Panel
Welcome by the Bradley Center’s WILLIAM SCHAMBRA
PETER FRUMKIN, University of Texas at Austin
GERARD ALEXANDER, University of Virginia
CHRISTINE LETTS, Harvard University
RALPH SMITH, Annie E. Casey Foundation
Peter Frumkin, who wrote the monograph Trouble in Foundationland for the Bradley Center in 2004, returned to Hudson Institute on October 19, 2006 to present his latest work, Strategic Giving: The Art and Science of Philanthropy (University of Chicago Press, 2006). Even before its release, the book was heralded by the German Marshall Fund's Craig Kennedy as "the most comprehensive and analytical examination of the donor world that has ever been published" and "the benchmark text for the field" (from Kennedy's blurb on the book's back cover).
Over the course of 409 pages and notes, Frumkin's Strategic Giving looks at a multitude of actual philanthropic decisions in order to lay bare the strategy (or lack thereof) behind them, as Frumkin told our audience. "I like to think about philanthropy as the process of grabbing a thousand darts and throwing them at the board and then running up to the board and seeing which ones hit the center?and then trying to figure out why," he explained. But Frumkin's book is also – more importantly – an effort to "elaborate a clear, concise theory of what is strategic, effective giving," something he perceived to be missing in the field.
Frumkin deems as essential to truly strategic giving a fit or coherence between five considerations: the vehicle through which giving takes place, the way impact will be achieved (i.e. the logic model or theory of change of the donor), the level of engagement and profile sought by the donor, the time frame for giving, and the underlying purpose of the gift (whether to serve public or private needs or some combination thereof). There is no one right choice, he emphasized; rather, Frumking pointed to carefully aligned sets of (five) choices as key to strategic giving: "There are choices along these five dimensions that fit more or less well together… Effective philanthropy is really focused on donors and can be found in donors who make choices that are mutually reinforcing and well aligned."
Frumkin's fellow panelists on October 19 included his former Harvard colleague Christine Letts, Ralph Smith of the Annie E. Casey Foudation, and University of Virginia professor Gerard Alexander. Both Letts and Smith noted that Frumkin's book seemed to cater too much to donors, and that its lessons could be far more widely learned, and the questions it raises about effectiveness, accountability, and legitimacy far more widely discussed. Alexander urged the panel and audience to recognize that there is much we don't know about theories of change and their ability to cause real social change. "We ought, in a spirit of humility, to experiment to try to find out more," he stated. Alexander also stated that the fulfillment of immediate needs (commonly known as mere "charity") should not be overlooked as a worthy way to achieve philanthropic impact.
Participating members of the audience included Martin Morse Wooster, Pablo Eisenberg, and Steven Culbertson of Youth Service America.
BLOG MENTION: Susan Herr of the blog Philanthromedia (http://www.philanthromedia.org/) wrote about Gerard Alexander's remarks on January 29, 2007 ("Is Change the Outcome You Seek for Your Giving?").
For Further Information
This event transcript was prepared from an audio recording and edited by Krista Shaffer. To request further information on this event, the transcript, or the BradleyCenter, please contact Hudson Institute at (202) 974-2424 or e-mail Kristen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hudson Institute's Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal aims to explore the usually unexamined intellectual assumptions underlying the grantmaking practices of America’s foundations and provide practical advice and guidance to grantmakers who seek to support smaller, grassroots institutions in the name of civic renewal.
Click here to view the full list of Speeches & Testimony.
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