Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Philanthropist's Coming Out

Ever wonder what it's like when a wealthy person "comes out" as a major philanthropist? Well, today's New York Times paints such a picture in the story of Lisa Maria Falcone. She's the 40-year-old wife of a billionaire who's passionate about the arts in New York City. The most interesting part of the story, however, is the very subtle hints at philanthropy as an elite status symbol. Her spontaneous $10 million contribution to the High Line, certainly is generous, but would it be better spent addressing the needs of the city's under served populations? Her love of the arts comes from a lack of cultural experiences as a poor child. Considering her upbringing in a poor neighborhood, I would think that contributions to social services would better serve poor children.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"The Philanthropist" episode 1

Every Center on Philanthropy student's dream starts in one hour: the premier of NBC's new show "The Philanthropist." You won't be disappointed. I'm not much of a t.v. critic, so instead I'll point out some of the philanthropic questions you can mull over while you watch the show. If only this was airing when we were in Gunderman's ethics class! (*oh, maybe we'll discuss it when I take his doctoral seminar this fall!)

Here are a few philanthropic dilemmas you'll see in the pilot:
  • One of the first things Teddy Rist declares in the episode is, "Happiness is the art of living well." What is the relationship between giving and human happiness?
  • How is corporate social responsibility defined and measured? Rist makes a point in noting that his private plane is a hybrid.
  • What is the relationship between profits and corporate giving? How much should corporations give? Is it enough to simply write a check? What's the return on investment?
  • Are Rist's motives altruistic? [They obviously are not, and he recognizes it.]
  • The episode only skims the surface of the problems in getting humanitarian aid to people, including: government corruption, lack of roads and infrastructure, political roadblocks, rebel forces, snake bites, and how to keep vaccines from going bad.

I honestly didn't know much at all about humanitarian aid before I took Professor Lenkowsky's international civil society course this past spring. There's still a lot to know, but I'm sure glad I took that class now. As I was watching the show, David Rieff's book A Bed for the Night: Humanitarianism in Crisis, kept ringing in my mind. His book describes the major obstacles and dilemmas of humanitarianism as he saw it during his time as a journalist in crisis areas.

Rieff says, "When all is said and done, humanitarianism is an impossible enterprise. Here is a saving idea that, in the end, cannot save but only alleviate." (page 83)

We'll have to watch and see how Teddy Rist navigates his philanthropic calling in situations where it's almost impossible to succeed.

"Benefactor Without Borders"

So, the premier is tonight! To tide you over, here's the New York Times review. Overall it's postive and accurate, I think. I may or may not have already seen the pilot thanks to one professor who will remain nameless. I'll be blogging about it later this evening!

Monday, June 15, 2009

NBC's "The Philanthropist"

It's about time I'm back to blogging. Let's just count the last six weeks as a much needed post-graduation break from any kind of intelligent thinking.

BUT, but with the much anticipated debut of NBC's "The Philanthropist" show, I'll be back in the saddle, providing you with a philanthropic studies point of view. What would Gunderman say? How would Burlingame respond in an opera? And most of all, will the show be any good?

[Full disclosure: I'm already a little biased in favor of the show since Jesse L. Martin, original cast member of Jonathon Larson's RENT, plays one of the lead characters.]

All this and more starting June 24th.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Just Desserts

This weekend, the White House is hosting the White House Correspodent's Association dinner. This year, people won't be receiving their just desserts. The association has decided to forego serving dessert and instead is donate the money saved -- over $13,000 -- to the So Others Might Eat charity. The president of the association wanted to make it clear that they were trying to recognize the difficulties that lots are facing.
This "dessert" money, in addition to $10,000 generated the event, will go towards SOME's provision of meals, job training, and addiction counseling to the poor.

So there's a sweet ending after all.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Class field trip??

As a final act, I suggest we all go to NYC to see "The Philanthropist" on Broadway. Surely we could write a much better review than the New York Times after finishing our degree in philanthropic studies.

Oh, and it stars my most favorite movie & theater star ever: Matthew Broderick!

Who's up for it?

Facebook for Philanthropists

Well, kids. We *know* Sarah and I love facebook and twitter (is it wrong that I started saying things like "Tweet dreams!" and "Oh, I heard about that -- I saw that in my news feed!" ??). Now there's a social networking site specifically for nonprofits to network. Unlike idealist, where nonprofits post jobs and people can search nonprofits, ActofGood.org is specifically for networking. Every nonprofit on the site is researched extensively to verify its validity.

I say: sign me up. But only if I get to have a profile picture.