Americans are often noted for being amazingly generous. While the stress of our modern world continually increases, with more and more demands on our time, energy and money, we still find the will to give to others.
In 2009, during the depths of the current economic recession and a time of hardship for many, the annual individual giving in the United States averaged almost $2,000 per household.
Educational and cultural needs, responses to natural disasters such as the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma and Hurricane Sandy, and many other causes all call on our philanthropic responses to help others and to make the world a better place.
Complex problems call for increasingly complex solutions. It stands to reason that the more we can learn about giving, the more effective our giving can be.
Here are three philanthropic books to help provide knowledge and strategies for your own interests.
Giving 2.0: Transform Your Giving and Our World
By Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen
Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen defines philanthropy as the act of giving not only money, but experience, skills and even social networking in order to create a better world.
Indeed, the Greek word “philanthropus,” from which it is derived, translates as “love of humankind,” without any reference to money. True philanthropy, the author suggests, is any act resulting from a generosity of mind and spirit.
With this premise, Giving 2.0 is a departure from more traditional thinking that considers philanthropy simply giving money to worthwhile causes. Today’s complex problems call for new thinking about giving, the author tells us. Philanthropy should include many aspects of giving, including volunteering.
Volunteering is not only philanthropy for others, but has benefits for the volunteer. According to a 2010 study, people who volunteered rated their physical and emotional health higher than non-volunteers. More than 65 percent reported that volunteering made them healthier.
No matter the type or amount of philanthropy, the author encourages us to think carefully and strategically. The book provides numerous examples, websites, references and lists of practical questions for philanthropists and receiving organizations. With so many needs to be addressed and supported, these questions are particularly helpful in organizing a proactive strategy for giving.
Give Smart: Philanthropy that Gets Results
By Thomas J. Tierney and Joel L. Fleishman
How do you know your philanthropy is making a real difference? This central challenge is addressed head-on in Give Smart. Most importantly, the authors provide practical advice for asking crucial questions when deciding on giving.
“We believe that all philanthropy is deeply personal and highly circumstantial,” the authors write. “There are no simple steps, fancy frameworks or trusted tools upon which you can always rely. Ask the right questions and you will be more likely to bring about the change you want to see in the world.”
“You will also have a lot more fun and live a richer and more meaningful life,” they add.
Calling philanthropy “the awesome responsibility of giving money away,” the authors suggest that generosity alone is rarely sufficient if you aspire to leave a legacy.
Donors must face up to the “terrible truths” of philanthropy. Among these is the reality that “philanthropy’s natural state is underperformance.” Only by asking the “right questions at the right time and in the right way” will you be able to create satisfactory results.
The authors respond to this challenge by offering guidelines on how to create and implement a plan as well as how to follow through to make certain it achieves the desired end result. Particularly of interest is the questioning process that provides insight into how to measure the success of philanthropy.
Nonprofit and charitable organizations are a multibillion-dollar part of the U.S. economy, yet many donors are unaware of the results (or lack thereof) that their funding actually provides. This book provides insightful ideas on learning the importance of well-designed giving.
Money Well Spent: A Strategic Plan for Smart Philanthropy
By Paul Brest and Hal Harvey
Most business leaders would tell you that having a strategic plan for your business is vital for success. According to Money Well Spent, this is equally true for philanthropy.
“All outstanding philanthropic successes have one thing in common,” authors Paul Brest and Hal Harvey say. “They started with a smart strategic plan.”
Their award-winning book provides a framework for getting results that are measurable and accountable. The objectives for creating a philanthropic strategy include:
• Defining specifics for success before the project begins;
• Creating a plan that is realistic and based on available resources;
• Requiring clarity about goals and determining timelines for achievement;
• Setting pre-determined milestones where corrections can be made if needed; and
• Being clear about the environment in which the plan will operate.