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Give Smart and Smart Giving

October 12, 2011

Speaking of effectiveness in philanthropy (see last week's post on Foundation CEOs and Effectiveness), I've recently finished reading two books on private philanthropy: Give Smart – Philanthropy That Gets Results, written by Thomas J. Tierney (former managing partner of Bain & Company and current chairman of the Bridgespan Group) and Joel L. Fleishman (professor of law and public policy at Duke University), and Smart Giving is Good Business, written by Curt Weeden (former vice president for philanthropy at Johnson & Johnson and current president of Business and Nonprofit Strategies, Inc.).

Give Smart encourages donors (individuals and institutions) to answer six questions when deciding on a strategy for their philanthropy:

  • What are my values and beliefs?
  • What is "success" and how can it be achieved?
  • What am I accountable for?
  • What will it take to get the job done?
  • How do I work with grantees [nonprofit organizations]?
  • Am I getting better?

Tierney and Fleishman argue that these questions create an approach for donors and nonprofit leaders who want to effect real change. But, they also suggest that sometimes the questions are more important to the process than are the answers.

The authors take the reader through numerous examples of how donors have been strategic with their grantmaking - achieving tangible results and really making a difference. Doris and Don Fisher (founders of The Gap) investing over $70 million in the expansion of KIPP schools nationally. Dr. John Dorr (a protégé of Thomas Edison) focusing on getting white stripes painted in the center of highways to avoid accidents. Dorothy Chandler building an arts center in downtown Los Angeles. Bill and Melinda Gates attacking health issues in Africa.

If I have one quibble with this excellent book, it is this: while many of the philanthropists mentioned earned their fortunes through corporations, there is not one example of an effective corporate philanthropy program cited. I can't believe that it was just an oversight so it must have been intentional. Does this mean there are no effective corporate philanthropy programs worth mentioning?

I was hoping that Weeden's book would have the answer.

Rather, Smart Giving is an excellent "how to" guide for companies that are interested in either starting or expanding corporate philanthropy programs, and he offers his ideas for aligning the business with worthy causes. Written in an easy-to-read and grasp style, Weeden's text takes the reader through questions like:

  • Why should a business give at all?
  • What's the right amount to give?
  • Who decides what gets funded?
  • Does a company need a foundation?
  • Should a company donate products and services?
  • How should a company respond to a disaster?
  • Can a company measure what works?

While Weeden uses a few companies as examples in his lively and informative discussion of these questions (including Newman's Own, Target, IBM, Sun Trust Bank and Bausch & Lomb), there is little attempt to discuss whether their programs are actually effective at achieving results or not.

Again, I'm sure this must have been intentional so the question I posed above (Does this mean that there are no effective corporate philanthropy programs out there?) remains unanswered – at least in these texts.

I know of many corporate philanthropy programs that I would consider effective, so perhaps I'll use this question as fodder for a future posting.

What about you? What do you think? Let us know by clicking here.


Don Greene
You were a participant today in The Conference Board's Research Working Group on Global Corporate Philanthropy and heard the presentation by Cargill on "Nourishing India." I think that Cargill is an excellent corporate example of effectively achieving results. Their philanthropy focus is aligned with their corporate strategy; they use international NGOs effectively; they engage employees through councils; they use both foundation and business unit giving with communications support; and they measure impact. Cargill has a fully integrated approach in their CSR and global philanthropy. Kudos to Michelle Grogg and her team!

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