harp-weaver is an independent philanthropic advisory firm based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Teresa Araco Rodgers, the principal, works with individuals and families to gift to issues that matter in a meaningful way.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Council on Foundations Annual Conference

The Council on Foundations is hosting its annual conference this week. Thanks to the Internet, those of us who could not attend are able to read articles and summaries of the sessions. The keynote speaker today was Bill Somerville. He is the author of Grassroots Philanthropy and the President of the Philanthropic Ventures Foundation. In his speech, he called for reform in philanthropy. He believes that too much time is spent on small grants and that this is ineffective. There is a huge burden on nonprofits to go through a lengthy and time consuming application process. He told young people in the field, "We need to do better."

He challenges foundations to go paperless, to turn around grant requests in 48 hours and to give discretion to staff. Bill believes it is about trusting people. He had some pretty tough words around metrics and outcomes. I agree with him that funders need to ask the nonprofits how they measure success, but I do believe a lot of good work is being done around performance.

Given my background in investment management, I like this line the best. "We're investing in people who are worthy of that investment. You are all investment managers."

I found his speech inspirational. Check out the work of Philanthropic Ventures Foundation at www.venturesfoundation.org.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Back to the Books

Its been some time since I have written. I started classes to obtain the Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy designation. I am taking two classes. One is on Planned Giving and the other is on Impact. There are some interesting readings that are serving to be a nice refresher for me. Reading and attending class makes me think back to my days at the Fels Institute where I earned my Masters Degree. I was working at SEI developing the Philanthropy business and attending school full time. It was an indulgant time for me. I am certainly one of those people who enjoys learning in the classroom. There are opportunities to read and process. So often we read articles and books, but don't give ourselves the chance to process the information let alone apply the learning. I had a really unique opportunity to learn, to process and to apply. I think families are faced with this same challenge. Charitable gifting is time-consuming. You want to understand and learn about the issue. You want to investigate the nonprofit and its programs processing how those programs address the issue. And you want to apply your resources. For smaller foundations or for families with donor advised funds (both without staff) the joy in gifting could turn into a burden. I worked with a second generation family and they struggled with the work associated with gifting money in a thoughtful and consistent way without staff. This is why the support of a philanthropic advisor can be so important and really make the difference for a family.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Haiti Post-Quake Donor Conference

At the Haiti Post-Quake Donor Conference held on March 30, 59 United Nation member states, international institutions and NGO coalitions pledged nearly $10 billion towards rebuilding Haiti over the next 10 years.

There are three major concerns that came out of the conference. First, the $10 billion are just pledges. The money needs to come through and with Bill Clinton admitting he has only raised 30 percent of his orginal goal, it does call the reconstruction pot into question. Second, there is significant concern over the infrastructure in Haiti to support reconstruction. Conference attendees questioned the Haitian government that has historically been wasteful and corrupt. And finally, there is a lot of criticism on the ground in Haiti calling out the fact that local grassroots organizations are not being included in the decision-making about how funds should be deployed.

From what I have read, there still does not exist a plan to rebuild Haiti. Its really surprising to come to this point given all of the media attention and heavyweight support this catastrophy has received.