A Profusion of Philanthropists
Philanthropy thought leaders reveal why all of us have something to give
When Benjamin Franklin arrived in Philadelphia from Boston in 1723, a 17-year-old printer’s apprentice on the lam, the first thing he did was to buy a meal of “three great puffy rolls.” The second thing he did was to give two of the rolls to a woman and her child. It was the beginning of a lifetime of civic engagement that included the founding of a fire company, a lending library, a scholarly society and more than one college.
“You can make a lot of money and be a great philanthropist. You can make a little money and be a great philanthropist,” said Art Taylor, Esq., ’80, president and CEO of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. “We can all have an impact on the world.”
Taylor is among a growing number of influential alumni who, inspired by their Franklin & Marshall education and the College’s founding father, have placed philanthropy at the center of their lives. These philanthropy thought leaders insist that all of us have ample opportunity to become philanthropists.
Philanthropy by the Numbers
Andrew Carnegie gave the equivalent of $7 billion to philanthropic causes. Bill and Melinda Gates have contributed $28 billion. Warren Buffet has pledged $31 billion.
Many people probably wish they could offer that level of support. But, according to research into giving trends, a growing number of Americans understand they don’t need to be a John D. Rockefeller or an Oprah Winfrey to be a philanthropist.
Americans gave almost $300 billion to charity in 2011, according to Giving USA, an annual report on U.S. philanthropy published by the Giving Institute. Nearly three-quarters of that total came directly from individuals, with bequests, foundations and corporations making up the rest.
Total giving grew by 4 percent, or just under 1 percent when adjusted for inflation. That’s on par with historic trends.
“Each year, Americans give about 2.2 percent of their gross national income to charity, and that hasn’t fluctuated much over time,” said Les Lenkowsky, Ph.D., ’68, clinical professor of Public Affairs and Philanthropic Studies at Indiana University.
Giving USA’s research is conducted by Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy. The center also publishes a periodic panel study that tracks giving by U.S. households. “The most important factor affecting charitable giving is growth in income or wealth,” Lenkowsky said. “The economy was modestly better in 2011, and we saw a corresponding modest increase in charitable giving.”
Giving and Receiving
Philanthropy is a Greek term that translates in English to “love of humans.” “’Voluntary action for the public good’ is the definition we use,” Lenkowsky said.
Experts in philanthropy emphasize this emotional element of giving, saying it is about more than handing over large sums of money.
“Philanthropy is a pretty big word,” said Susan Washburn ’73, principal of philanthropic consulting firm Washburn & McGoldrick Inc. “But philanthropy is simply how you demonstrate that you care about your fellow human beings.”
Talk to those in the philanthropy field about what they do, and words such as “caring” and “fellow humans” come up again and again. So does the notion of personal empowerment.
“To me, philanthropy is about helping people to realize their aspirations and to develop fulfilling and meaningful lives,” said Janet Haas, M.D., P’11, chair of the William Penn Foundation.
“Many Americans aren’t in a position to give substantial dollars right now,” Haas said. “But most can volunteer. At F&M’s graduation this year, [New York City] Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg offered thoughtful comments about finding ways to become involved in solving social problems. I was struck by his NYC Service program, which has mobilized more than 1.8 million volunteers.”
Successfully achieving this level of charitable engagement is distinctively American, according to Lenkowsky. “Philanthropy is an expression of American pluralism, where people can choose where to give their money and which causes to support,” he said.
Matters of the Heart
No matter how you give, those with experience in philanthropy urge giving from the heart. “Find something you really care about, that you want to invest your money or time in,” Washburn said. “Philanthropy is about being engaged in something bigger than yourself. And it’s a joyful process. I’ve heard people use the expression ‘Give till it hurts.’ But I would say, ‘Give till it feels great.’”
How can you identify what you care about most?
“First, look at the organizations that have affected you personally,” Taylor said. “Next, focus on the institutions that need to be around if our society and our communities are to thrive. Then find where those two things intersect.”
There are many paths to such an intersection. After graduating from F&M, Taylor took a job at a Big Eight accounting firm, where his first client was job-placement charity OIC of America. Years later he ran into OIC’s controller, who was about to leave the organization and suggested that Taylor apply for the job. Taylor became controller and later president of OIC, a career move that led to his current position.
Many philanthropists first became engaged in giving while in college. Washburn became involved in philanthropy through her work-study job at F&M. “I worked in the public relations office, so I had exposure to alumni and others who gave to the College,” she said.
She later took full-time jobs on the development office staff, where she helped raise funds to build the Steinman College Center. Washburn has been involved in higher-education fundraising ever since. But she points out that philanthropy exists beyond the fundraising offices on college campuses and extends into curriculum and student groups as “more and more colleges and universities are seeking to establish a culture of philanthropy on campus."
Lenkowsky’s early engagement with philanthropy reflects this. “I was in the College Scholar program, which was an interdisciplinary major,” he recalled. “My primary focus was government, but I was also interested in philanthropy.” Lenkowsky helped to establish some of the first public- engagement organizations on campus. He has now been teaching philanthropy and nonprofit management for 20 years.
For Haas, it was her upbringing in a family that “taught me the importance of doing what I could for others,” she said. “We volunteered for service projects, and I saved a little money from my allowance to give to charity. Later I was introduced to more formal philanthropy by my husband and his family.” She is married to John Otto Haas, grandson of William Penn Foundation co-founders Otto and Phoebe Haas.
But being a philanthropist need not involve a career in philanthropy. “Young people sometimes believe they have to make a choice to either make a lot of money or save the world,” Taylor said. “But that’s a false choice. It’s important for both students and alumni to realize that even if they don’t work for a nonprofit as part of their career, there are still many opportunities to be philanthropic.”
Philanthropy Through Education
That may be particularly true for those with a liberal arts education. “A liberal arts education lets you know there’s a bigger world than the one in which you operate,” Taylor said. “We’re connected to the fates of people in our community and around the world who have less than we do.”
Such an education brings with it certain responsibilities, in Taylor’s view. “You have been imbued with this wonderful education, and at some point you will be called upon to lead,” he said. “It may not be as president of the United States. But it may be as the senior warden of your church, or as the leader of a community group, or as the chair of a charitable board. We expect that of the people in whom we have invested a liberal arts education.”
An example of that principle in action is Jessica Fuhrman ’12, who spearheaded a project that raised funds to build a school in Cambodia. Fuhrman majored in government at F&M and was a champion for human rights during her time on campus.
“The impetus was when [author and New York Times columnist] Nicholas Kristof spoke at F&M,” Fuhrman said. “I had been reading his columns, and they opened my eyes to gender imbalance in the international community.”
The project was organized through the International Women’s Outreach Committee, of which Fuhrman was vice president at the time (she later became president). The group raised funds for American Assistance for Cambodia, a nonprofit that builds public schools in rural Cambodia. “Only 25 percent of the population over age 15 in our district in Cambodia is literate,” Fuhrman said.
Fuhrman devoted a year to evaluation and planning before she began fundraising. She also sought guidance from professors
and administrators such as Kent Trachte, F&M’s dean of the College, and Susan Dicklitch, associate dean of the College and director of the Ware Institute for Civic Engagement.
Fuhrman and fellow students held fundraisers, such as Asian-themed dinners, throughout 2010 and 2011. They were assisted by F&M’s Human Rights Initiative, which aims to raise awareness about the need to improve educational conditions worldwide. Donations to the project topped $13,000, which was matched by the World Bank.
The result was a coeducational school in the Kampong Speu province in south-central Cambodia, “in a tiny village a couple of hours’ drive over dirt roads” from Phnom Penh, as Fuhrman described it.
Construction was completed in fall 2011. The following spring, Fuhrman visited the school to meet the principal, teachers and students. Today, 486 children receive their primary education there.
But work at the school is hardly done, which is driving further efforts to fuel engagement through philanthropy. Fuhrman plans to raise money outside F&M, and F&M students continue to raise funds on campus. “We want to hire an English teacher for the school,” Fuhrman said. “We also want to acquire computers and better textbooks.”
Fuhrman is an example of the passionate philanthropist who pursues her philanthropic activities independent of her professional work. She is an intern at a Long Island magazine and is applying for graduate-school fellowships. Her plan is to study journalism, with a focus on civil rights.
“Don’t let anyone convince you that you can’t do it,” she advised others who would become involved in philanthropy. “Had I listened to how impossible it would be to build a school in Cambodia, it wouldn’t be there today. But I was confident I would get it done, no matter how long it took. And now there are 486 students who have a school who wouldn’t have one otherwise.”
Americans are becoming increasingly engaged in charitable giving, many philanthropy experts agree. As their affinity for giving has grown, so has their demand for greater accountability from the causes they support.
“Some have suggested that Americans are becoming less involved in their communities,” said Sue Washburn ’73, principal of philanthropic consulting firm Washburn & McGoldrick Inc. “But I simply don’t see that. More young people and retirees are getting involved locally. Schools, colleges and universities are emphasizing civic engagement. Younger people want to be more engaged in their giving. They think in terms of being investors in philanthropy. They don’t just want to give; they also want to see the impact of their giving.”
And it’s not just young people. The biggest trend in philanthropy is that donors want to know that their charitable dollars are being put to good use, according to Les Lenkowsky, Ph.D., ’68, clinical professor of Public Affairs and Philanthropic Studies at Indiana University. “But it can be difficult to measure the impact of charities,” he said. “If you give toward a new building at F&M, you can watch the building go up. But if you give to support F&M’s overall mission, how would you measure the results?”
Evaluating charities is the purview of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, but President and CEO Art Taylor, Esq., ’80, agreed there are limits to what can effectively be measured. “Our reports tell donors whether a charity meets our standards in areas such as governance and financial management,” he said. “But we don’t try to evaluate something like how effective a job-placement charity is at placing people in jobs.”
If I Had a Million Dollars
We asked our experts what they would do with $1 million. Here’s what they said:
Art Taylor, Esq., ’80 is president and CEO of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance (www.give.org), which evaluates national charities against a set of accountability standards. He is a member of the F&M Board of Trustees and chair of OIC of America, a national nonprofit that offers job training and placement to disadvantaged people.
Les Lenkowsky, Ph.D., ’68 is clinical professor of Public Affairs and Philanthropic Studies at Indiana University. He was appointed by President George W. Bush as CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, a position he held from 2001 to 2003. In 2010 he was awarded the David R. Jones Leadership in Philanthropy Award from the Fund for American Studies.
Sue Washburn ’73 is principal of Washburn & McGoldrick Inc., an international philanthropic consulting firm specializing in higher education. She is vice chair of the F&M Board of Trustees and former chair of the board of trustees of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.
Janet Haas, M.D., P’11 is chair of the William Penn Foundation, which focuses on improving quality of life in the greater Philadelphia region by supporting educational, cultural and environmental initiatives. She is a trustee with the Wilderness Society, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the University of Pennsylvania and Morris Arboretum.
“I would invest more in the primary school we built in Cambodia. I’d also like to build a secondary school in the region. I’d also like to offer adult-learning classes at the school. I’d like to create a scholarship fund to allow one student a year coming out of the school to attend F&M. I’d like to start a for-credit program that would allow F&M students to teach enrichment courses at the school. I think I’ve probably already spent the million dollars.”
Jessica Fuhrman ’12 is former president of the International Women’s Outreach Committee at F&M. She is the 2012 recipient of the College’s Muhlenberg Goodwill Award, presented to a senior who is dedicated to improving social conditions in the larger community. During her junior and senior years at F&M, she led an effort to raise funds to build a primary school in Cambodia.
Leave a Response