Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Final post of 2008 ... with more to come ...

I am finally settled back into life in Indianapolis after 12 days criss-crossing the upper midwest. After two major blizzards, I'm pretty happy to be back to the mild Indiana winter, to say the least!

I have a laundry list of things to blog about, since I wasn't able to blog from Fargo (low-speed internet does not make good blogging). But I will leave you this year with a story about generosity from my birthplace: Bismarck, ND.

Listen to the PostSecret Christmas story here.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Benny Boy and Mick Team Up for Congo

When the whole Matt Damon/Ben Affleck craze started, I was always on Team Matt. [sooo much cuter in my opinion. And i say...what wife?!?]

However, the Chronicle's report on Ben Affleck's latest involvement with relief efforts for the Democratic Republic of Congo are catching my eye, and perhaps encouraging Damon lovers everywhere to switch teams for a hot minute.

Ben and Mick Jagger teamed up to create a short film shot in the DRC called "Gimme Shelter," which they hope will raise $23 million in relief for displaced persons and refugees as a result of the fighting currently taking place there. The disputes are offshoots of early 1990's fighting between Rwaandan ethnic battles. The UN estimates that the fighting has claimed as many as 4.5 million lives in the past decade. Insanity.

Thank goodness more efforts towards awareness and humanitarian relief are being backed by the Jagg-meister and Benny boy. Hopefully, their video will aid in the UN's relief efforts and open the eyes of many an ignorant citizen.

So for now, Ben has taken the lead. Maybe Matt's attempts to win back my heart could be to dump his current wife and whisk me away to the war-torn Congo to shuffle these refugees to safety?!? And then he will be my lover AND favorite celebrity philanthropist.
[Shoot...I've watched Beyond Borders waaaayyy too many times.]

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Continuing Education :)

Ok, so the semester is over. Finito. Finalemente. No more-ay. (??)

However, I propose that we continue blogging. Because even though our academic calendar for fall semester has ended, that doesn't mean that our dedication to seeking out philanthropy in pop culture should.

Plus, I love this font. And don't ever want to stop typing in it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Robertson v. Princeton and a Waste of a Whole Lot of Money!!!

OK, I promise I will not bore anyone with yet another discussion of the doctrine of cy pres or the particular merits of this case (whose recent settlement made the major press). I merely want to vent about the APPALLING amount of money spent on legal fees by both parties over the past six years!!! According to this report in the NY Times, both sides spent over $40 million ($80 million total for those of you doing the math!) on legal fees before the settlement!!! That's more than $13 million EACH YEAR FOR THE PAST SIX YEARS!!! Yes, I'm screaming and using an excessive number of exclamation marks. I'm outraged and disgusted.

I can certainly think of, oh, maybe just a few better, more meaningful and philanthropic ways to spend $80 million supposedly charitable dollars!! This is a moral disgrace.

Brad and Angie - The Fascination Continues

I can't wait for my Rolling Stone magazine to show up tomorrow. I don't really know how or why I get it. I certainly didn't subscribe. I haven't been billed. My husband swears he had nothing to do with it. But it does have great articles (like the recent spread on The Big Lebowski -- one of my favorite movies ever -- but I digress) and tomorrow's should not disappoint. Brad Pitt is on the cover, and according to this report, he defends his and Angie's decision to sell their children's photos for charity.

The Jolie-Pitts had, as far as I can see, four choices when considering the rabid interest for photos of their offspring: (a) ignore the paparazzi and shield their newborns from the public eye, (b) embrace the paparazzi and public, and willingly pose with their newborns for free, (c) sell exclusive photos of the newborns to publications for personal profit or (d) sell exclusive photos of the newborns and donate the proceeds to charity. The Jolie-Pitts, obviously, chose (d).

Proceeds earned from the sale of exclusive photographs of their natural-born children -- Shiloh and twins Viv and Knox -- to pop culture magazines like Hello! and People have netted the Jolie-Pitt Foundation tens of millions of charitable dollars over the past few years. And all because of the public's insatiable thirst for celebrities! I'm guessing that's the reasoning behind the decision. Or at least one of them.

Many celebrities raise money for charitable organizations (Bono's RED Campaign, Jerry Lewis's annual Muscular Dystrophy telethon). But the Jolie-Pitts have cashed in on their celebrity to raise money for their personal charitable vehicles, putting them in a very interesting position on the altruistic-egoistic spectrum. I can't wait to read Brad's explanation tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Misanthropy & the Joker

It's appropriate on this day, the DVD release of Batman: The Dark Knight, that we discuss misanthropy for the first time on this blog. We'll have to save the discussion of Batman as philanthropist for another time.

[May I just say before going any further how amazing the film looks on Blu-Ray, especially those scenes shot with the IMAX film technology!]

As Batman's nemesis, the Joker is the ultimate misanthrope. He is not your usual villain: he has no friends, he's not motivated by money or revenge, he is not reasonable or plays by any rules, and there is nothing to threaten him with. As Alfred Pennyworth said, "some men just want to see the world burn." Indeed, this seems to be just what the Joker wants.

Among his worst acts:
  • He uses knives to kill people instead of guns. Guns are to quick; with knives you can savor the emotion of seeing who someone really is in the last moments of their life. Do you want to know who was a coward?
  • The Joker appears pleased, as if he is having fun, at each new heist he completes. He relishes the fight Batman puts forward, believing that things would be boring if Batman didn't exist.
  • Among the hundreds of innocent people he kills are numerous police officers, the police commissioner, a judge, and, of course, Rachel Dawes. Oh, and don't forget the he also blew up a hospital.
  • Finally, in an attempt to prove that even someone good can turn evil, he ultimately targets Harvey Dent, Gotham's District attorney. The Joker pits Rachel against Harvey; only one can live, and when Batman saves Harvey, Rachel dies. Harvey is left with half his face burned ... as Two Face, Harvey Dent gives in to the dark side.
My question for you: Is there a difference between pure evil and misanthropy? Is the Joker one or the other? Or both? What about Lord Voldemort, Harry Potter's nemesis? Other examples?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Philanthropist's Bailout

Billionaire Eli Broad has offered the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary of Art a $30 million bailout to rescue the museum from financial trouble. But, the gift comes with certain strings: the museum cannot merge with any other institutions or sell any pieces of art. Broad is using his gift to improve the board. I encourage you to listen to his NPR interview: it just screams of Duty of Care, Duty of Loyalty, donor intent/cy pres, and what it means to be an art collector/philanthropist.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter, Beetle the Bard: helping children

J.K. Rowling annouced this week that all proceeds from her forthcoming book, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, will benefit Children's High Level Group, a charity she founded. CHLG funds education and outreach activities to improve the lives of marginalised and institutionalised children across Europe.Beedle the Bard is a collection of five fairy tales and is mentioned in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" as having been left to Hermione Granger by Dumbledore.

If you're in Edinburgh, Scotland today and hoping to get tickets to today's lauch "tea party" of the book, sorry, tickets were distributed by lottery to Edinburgh kids age 8 to 11.
You can support CHLG with your purchase of Beedle the Bard (standard or collectors edition) ... or, if you're like me and just can't get enough Harry Potter, I won't wait for this book to show up in my Christmas stocking!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Starbucks' Warm Glow

Ok. I'll admit it. I am addicted to Starbucks. If this whole philanthropy thing doesn't end up working out, I am soooo cut out to work as a barista. My addiction is at a level where I define my seasons by the seasonal drinks that Starbucks serve: Summer = Green Tea Frappachino, Fall = Pumpkin Spice Latte, Winter = Holiday drinks!

With the holiday season upon us, Starbucks has released their ever popular holiday drinks. I LOVE the holiday drinks, and have a special soft spot for the Gingerbread Latte, as it was my inagural Starbucks drink and the drink that started my love affair with caffeine. As if they could get any better, this year the holiday drinks have an added bonus. Starbucks has partnered with (Project) Red in order to brighten the holiday season. (Starbucks) Red has decided to donate 5 cents to Project Red -- an organization that helps provide AIDS relief in Africa and has Bono as a front man -- for every holiday drink bought this season.

While 5 cents doesn't sound like a lot, there are three drinks to choose from at millions of locations across the US.

(Starbucks) Red is bringing a whole new meaning to the "warm glow" the holiday drinks bring every year.

Another celebrity philanthropist

I miss my subscription to Time magazine which ended recently ... I thought it was a "times are tough" cut-back that I needed make, but since a friend forwarded me this article from the most recent issue, I realize how much I miss the weekly magazine I found in my mailbox on Saturdays.

Here's the story of actor Jet Li, who is teaching compassion and civic duty in a modern, Westernized China. Li's One Foundation is a partnership with the Red Cross Society of China. At the core of the foundation's philosophy is: “1 person + 1 dollar/yuan + 1 month = 1 big family”. The actor hasn't made many movies lately, as the article reports, to reprise the "major themes of his life — self-sacrifice, service and discipline."

Knowing we have a few Chinese students at the Center on Philanthropy and another fellow blogger who's also an Asia studies scholar, I'm interested to know what others think.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Here's a terrific example of combining social media with philanthropy. Tweetsgiving is a Twitter celebration of gratitude and giving created by Epic Change, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The project aims to demonstrate the power of the social web by raising $10,000 in 48 hours to build a classroom in Tanzania. Find out how you can participate at

I'll be tweeting thanks for a long & productive weekend!

Follow me on Twitter!

Fargo Lions at it again ...

I realize I'm a little biased, but the Fargo Lions are a real force for social capital building. They were at it again last night: leading the community in Christmas carols before the city's annual holiday parade. The group even got a nice mention in the Fargo Fourm today. I can't wait to see all my Lion friends on December 22nd!

Remington Vannet (front) and Anna Goffe of Fargo sing Christmas carols Tuesday led by the Fargo Lions Club before the Holiday Lights Parade kicked off. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Jon & Kate + 8

This week on one of my favorite shows, Jon & Kate + 8, the Gosselin Family had a yard sale. While there's nothing particularly 'philanthropic' about a yard sale, Jon and Kate put a unique spin on it - all of the money they earned from the sale went to a pediatric cancer research fund. Feeling blessed by the hundreds of people who have helped them and their 8 children (twins and sextuplets) with gifts, the Gosselins decided to pass on those gifts. Jon and Kate explained and talked to their kids for the weeks leading up to the sale about giving and its importance so that even the six pre-schoolers understand. I hope that more parents will follow their example and introduce philanthropy into the lives of their children!

The Gosselins epitomize serial reciprocity at its simplest and finest.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Altruism or consumerism?

Is the notion of giving a simple gift, no strings attached, becoming more and more passe? The NY Times reports on the growing phenomenon of "gifts with benefits" special events fundraising and charity auctions, where portions of every purchase are "donated" to charity. Is this creative fundraising -- a win-win for consumers and charities alike -- or dilution of philanthropy as an ethical and moral value?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Starbucks doing "GOOD"

I was sitting in the Starbucks at Monument Circle yesterday afternoon (awaiting fellow blogger LKM) and picked up the "GOOD Sheet." This mini-newspaper is a "weekly series breaking down an important issue to help make sense of the world around us." The GOOD Sheet is a publication of GOOD magazine (which I subscribe to), a magazine "for people who give a damn." You may be wondering, as I have, "give a damn about what?" But that's a discussion for another time. For those of you who are unfamiliar with GOOD, 100% of its subscription price is contributed back to partner nonprofit organizations.

Ok, back to this issue of the GOOD Sheet: this week's topic is National Service, something we've already covered in this blog. Naturally, it includes all of the latest volunteerism data available from the Corporation for National and Community Service. It also includes a handy "how-to" chart for determining the right service outlet for you. Can you pass a physical exam, commit two years, between the ages of 17 and 41 and want to help communities in the US and abroad? Then you should join the armed forces! Would you rather skip the physical, commit only 10 months and stay in your community? Then Americorps is right for you! I wish my post-graduation career planning was this easy.

I like the idea of the GOOD Sheet, I am just not sure how many people are sitting down with their friends at Starbucks and engaging in conversation based on its topic. Next time you're in Starbucks, pick up a free issue - next week's topic is "Holiday Economy". Timely. I may be wrapping presents this year in GOOD Sheets - it's cheaper than wrapping paper.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Charity (?), Hollywood Style

While I am allllll about the Celebs doing good -- it brings heightened awareness, most importantly -- for certain causes, an article highlighted in the Chronicle today cites an article in a recent New York Post. The article criticizes some of the foundations and organizations started by celebrities like George Clooney and Bono, have been somewhat misappropriating their funds.

In line with Laura's post below, there are upsides and downsides to Celeb Philanthropy. The upside, as previously mentioned, is an increase of awareness for a cause, leverage of increased funds, and proximity to pretty people with lots of money. While I am all for George Clooney (Hello, gorgeous.), the article points out how these celebs' organizations have not been the most careful in accounting for all of their funds or spending more on operating costs than actually on grants or their mission. George Clooney's foundation hadn't even turned in forms to the IRS!

Even though these celebs elevate the causes, are they above the legalities of nonprofit and foundation work?

I say absolutely not!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Corporate Social Responsibility in Question

Oh! This is my inagural post -- I'm SO EXCITED!! I am a total novice to the blogging world, but what better forum to discuss what we each see in our day to day lives regarding the study that we love -- Philanthropy.

Although from an issue in the Chronicle a month ago, the effect of Corporate Social Responsibility has peaked my interest. This article appeared around the same time that Target started running it's new (and super cute) commercial ad, touting the fact that 5% of every purchase goes towards Target's mission of community awareness and their community outreach program. They give money to education, arts and culture, and social services in the community, donating roughly $3 million a week. CSR is an admirable way for companies to funnel some of their profits back into the community that supports them.

However, the October article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy cited a Forbes article which asks, does CSR really pay off? Does knowledge of Target's 'giving back' really incline consumers to shop there instead of WalMart? Hass claims that convenience, price, and quality rather than ethical reasons motivate consumers to buy certain products, or in this case, shop at a certain store.

After an in-depth and elaborate consumer poll (consisting of Laura, my mom, and I...HEY! We are born shoppers), I concluded that it does indeed make a difference.

But perhaps we are predisposed. I mean, I AM blogging for the first time in my life on the issue of philanthropy.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

"Extracting Good from Good Works"

An article in this week's Time magazine describes Corporates for Crisis (CforC), a consulting firm that assists multinational corporations working in developing countries. Created last year, the firm "assists multinationals in emerging, postcrisis countries, particularly in Asia and Africa, by getting them directly involved in local humanitarian, developmental or environmental projects." They do this by bringing together experts in global business, diplomacy and nongovernmental organizations who go to work in the field. Each unique team assigned to a client is designed to seamlessly think about the client's social and business interests. In short, the company is developing a new model of Corporate Social Responsibility. According to its website, "Corporates for Crisis is a new innovative and sustainable approach to corporate responsibility. Our aim is to build on the considerable commitment already shown by the business world by moving away from 'cheque book charity' and harnessing their strengths and motivations to make step changes in the world of community development and humanitarian aid." CforC "is a business for which profit isn't a dirty world."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Chronicle on the 'Cause Celeb'

A recent edition (October 30th) of The Chronicle on Philanthropy included an article on celebrity activism. ( In particular, it discussed Ashley Judd's involvement with YouthAIDS, a program of Population Services International. While Ashley Judd's involvement has brought positive attention and greater awareness to the mission of YouthAIDS, this mutually rewarding and beneficial (I'm inferring from the article) partnership does not always play out as well with other causes and celebrities. Helen Fielding's novel Cause Celeb offers a spot-on take of all aspects - both positive and negative - of celebrity charitable activism. Her questions are thoughtful, insightful, and certainly not easy to answer. For anyone interested in this growing fundraising and awareness trend, Fielding's novel is a must read!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hospitals' Charity Care in Fargo

Other than the snow that fell yeserday, charity care at Fargo's two largest hospitals tops the news in my hometown today. I had not realized before just how much uncompensated care the hospitals provide as compared to their charity care. Since the former is significantly higher than the latter, it seems both figures should used to calculate their required charity care requirements to maintain tax exemption.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bono writes for the New York Times

It looks like Bono, the philanthropist musician, will be writing an occasional column for the New York Times next year. White the details are still being worked out, I would hope he'd use the opportunity to promote his philanthropic work through the ONE Campaign while reiterating to readers the impact ONE gift or ONE volunteer can have globally and locally.


Who can resist helping victims of office robberies, even if there is no Wikipedia entry for office robbery statistics?

Mostly, I couldn't resist blogging about last night's episode of The Office in which Michael organizes a charity auction to help his colleagues who have been victims of an office robbery. According to Michael, "It's like Farm Aid, but instead of farmers fighting against AIDS, it will be us fighting against our own poverty." Never mind that the victims will actually have to spend more money bidding on their own goods and services (like Bob Vance's $1000 purchase of a hug from his wife!).

C.R.I.M.E A.I.D stands for "Crime Reduces Innocence Makes Everyone Angry I declare." Only Michael Scott can could up with something so ridiculous.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Blonde Charity Mafia

Philanthropy and controversy. The two seem to go hand in hand a little more frequently than they maybe should! This time, however, the 'controversy' is much smaller in scale - and in relation to an upcoming television show. The Lifetime network will be airing a new show called "Blonde Charity Mafia", a series that follows young female socialites as they navigate the charity fundraiser scene. 

The issue stems from a woman who knows the three socialites (Katherine, Sophie, and Krista) and accuses them of not having charity at the foundation of their interests. It will be interesting to watch this series unfold and see how the show portrays not only these young philanthropists but also the causes to which they're pledging their support. 

I know I'll be tuning in come 2009!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

WellPoint & X Prize

This year I have been very fortunate to have a Graduate Assistantship with the WellPoint Foundation and Social Responsibility. An announcement this week from the company indicated its new collaboration with WellPoint, Inc. and the X Prize Foundation.  The three organizations are going to be collaborating on a $10 million competitive project that will challenge teams to come up with new and innovative ideas for changing the health care system in America. It will certainly be interesting to see what this collaboration generates! 

For more information check out the press release at and one by The Chronicle on Philanthropy at

Fargo Lions Roar

I'm preparing to leave for Fargo on Tuesday and thinking about those pioneer women I'll be interviewing, so I can't help but give a little shout out to my Fargo Lions.

In our Philanthropic Studies curriculum that's dominated by the charitable nonprofits [501(c)3], the mutual benefit organizations that are service clubs are often overlooked [501(c)4]. That's one of the many reasons I'm investigating a Lions Club for my thesis research. For the two years that I lived in Fargo I was also an active member of the Fargo Lions (I'm still a member of this club although I'm inactive living in Indy). When it comes to building social capital, mobilizing volunteers and raising funds for local charities no one does it better then the Fargo Lions.

Lion John Dobbs is one of my Lions mentors and now a dear friend. Our friendship is an example of how service clubs bring generations together among members and among the community (what could be better than bridging AND bonding social capital?!). John will always have a special little place in my heart - - he was my dad's insurance agent and he insured me when I was a babe. Indeed, we're quite sure John held me as a baby at more then one office visit ... now, 30 years later, we're friends!

That's me & John at the Fargo Lions 2007 Take the Cake auction - ROAR!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

'Friends' & Philanthropy!

In my ongoing quest to prove that 'Friends' was (and still is) one of the best TV shows EVER, I wanted to share an episode I just watched this afternoon. In Season 5, the episode "The One Where Phoebe Hates PBS" poses an ongoing question: Can any good deed be selfless?

Joey argues that no good deed can be selfless, while Phoebe believes the opposite. Phoebe spends the rest of the episode striving to prove she's right. After several attempts (including letting a bee sting her), Phoebe finally decides to donate $200 to a PBS telethon where Joey has been taking pledges all day. Due to a long-standing grudge against Sesame Street and PBS, she's not too happy about giving the money, but she knows the donations will help other children who do like Sesame Street. Unfortunately, Phoebe's donation puts them over their telethon goal, which gets Joey on TV for taking the pledge. Watching Joey get excited about being on TV makes Phoebe happy, effectively ending her quest for a selfless good deed.

Although the episode ends without a definitive answer, it brings up an important philanthropic question about altruism and egoism. To what extent is giving for others? Does it matter if we partially, or wholly, give to benefit ourselves? Is there a proverbially line we 'shouldn't' cross?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Broadway & the Economy

Obviously, the economic meltdown is permeating all parts of popular culture these days. So in keeping with my musical theater interest, here's a story about how Broadway is effected by Wall Street. Some new productions, the article notes, have already lost an investor or two. Both for-profit and nonprofit theaters are struggling. At the local level, I'm sure many community theaters will face a difficult year of both fundraising and attracting audiences. Even I have to admit that I may need to cut down on my entertainment budget for awhile.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Tony Award for Philanthropy

The New York Times reported today that there will be a new Tony Award for Philanthropy that will go to someone “who has made a substantial contribution of volunteered time and effort on behalf of one or more humanitarian, social service or charitable organizations.” I haven't watched the televised awards show in years, but growing up in Fargo I was glued to the TV screen as the Tonys were my annual expose to all things musical theatre ... something I still very much enjoy .... which reminds me I need to purchase my Avenue Q tickets for next week ...

Friday, October 3, 2008

Philanthropic Travel vs. Voluntourism

For those of you who are interested in the issue I raised yesterday, here's some futher reading on the differences between philanthropic travel and voluntourism. I'm still not sure where I stand on either, to be honest.

As I think about Aristotle's 5 criteria for giving, or RAMBAM's Ladder, I'm just not sure that either really qualify as the best kind of giving. And, to invoke Payton/Moody, if either is to be philanthropic, it must be done thoughtfully and with careful study. What does this or any other tour/travel provide to ensure that it is? Pehrpas everyone should be required to read Understanding Philanthropy first!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Oxymoron: Luxurious Philanthropic Travel?

I got an email this morning from Twitter informing me that "Philanthropic" is now following me. [I could go on and on about Twitter for those of you who don't know about it or use it, but that would be more then a little far afield for this blog.]

Of course I checked out their Twitter page which led me to the organization's website. I'm more then a little befuddled reading philanthropic travel described as "exquisite" and "luxurious." The home page even invokes the ever-popular serial reciprocity: "Philanthropic Travelers create a chain reaction of 'pay it forward,' goodwill that unlocks powerful community development and gratitude."

I'm curious to hear what others think: is philanthropic travel (a.k.a "voluntourism") really "a catalyst for a Peaceful, Prosperous, and Friendly World"? And if so, how would you even begin to measure that??

P.S. if I had thought about it a year ago, I should have proposed to go on one of these tours for "thesis research" to invterview participants and create some kind of metrics for measuring impact. Ah, too late now. To Fargo instead. :)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Paul Newman, Philanthropist

Since I was crossing the east coast this weekend (5 states in one day!), I'm a few days late posting the sad news about actor and philanthropist Paul Newman. I'll leave his movie credits to our in-house movie buff Laura, so I'll mention just a few of Mr. Newman's philanthropic activities. In 1978 he created the "Newman's Own" brand. Being a privately held company, he's been able to use 100% of profits for his charitable work. He established and funded Hole in the Wall Camps for kids with mental illness (a camp that's attracted a lot of celebrity backing, by the way). His dedication to the less fortunate has long been well-known. Indeed, I think most would agree that he lived true to his own motto: "I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer, who puts back into the soil what he takes out."

I really enjoyed NPR's story on Mr. Newman, which I listened to while driving from DC to Baltimore on Saturday.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Philanthropic Gift of TV

Two weeks ago, all three major television networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) simultaneously broadcast a one-hour commercial-free telethon for cancer research -- Stand Up to Cancer.  While telethons aren't exactly new, what is new is the collaborative effort by all three networks for a single event.  It's been over 10 years since the three shared a broadcast of anything that wasn't precipitated by a disaster.  The event had over 10 million viewers and raised over $100 million.

What strikes me the most about this event is the amount of money raised in such a short window with a relatively small amount of effort put forth by ABC, CBS, and NBC.  This medium reaches millions and millions of people each and every week.  Why, with all the causes and organizations that could stand to benefit from this type of exposure, has it taken so long to convince these networks to donate airtime together?  Shouldn't they do more?  Shouldn't the American people expect them to do more?  And what would be 'enough'?  I'm not sure what kind of monetary giving ABC, CBS, and NBC do, but it seems to me that they are ignoring the most powerful philanthropic gift they may have to give.

(For more info from my favorite pop culture magazine, visit this site:,,20222071,00.html) 

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Broadway Stars & Crew: Not Bowling Alone

Robert Putnam, take note:
A great article in today's New York times highlights the Broadway Show Bowling League. Yes, that's right: the actors and stage crews of Broadway's hottest shows have a bowling leage. In fact, they've been bowling together since the 1960s. At it's core, the League is a social captial dream: "Co-stars decompress with co-stars. Friends catch up with friends who have moved on to other shows. The unemployed network."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Legacy > Currency

In addition to biking, one of my other great loves is wine. Everything I learned about wine I learned from Gary Vaynrchuk via his video blog Wine Library TV. Well, tonight I was watching Batman Begins (which you'll hear more about in upcoming posts) but all his talk about Bruce Wayne continuing his family's legacy (or when he was younger, intentionally disregarding it) made me think of GV. He's a huge internet celebrity - just search for him in google, twitter, facebook, or flickr - who has earned that celebrity because of his business acumen AND enthusiastic passion for good people. Remember Good People Day 2008? That was his idea and it cascaded through the internet like Hurricane Ike. I can't think of anything that's MORE pop culture then this internet sensation.

Anyway, back to legacy. A recent post in Gary's personal blog is "Legacy is Greater Than Currency." It's something he believes in so strongly you can see him wearing it on his shirt above. This mantra reflects his belief that you should make business decisions based on your long term legacy. For him, his long term legacy is building a successful business (which arguably he's done a few times over!), but there's much more behind that then just the money. It's pretty clear that in fact it's not about the "bones" - - he often says he'd rather have a million friends over a hundred million dollars. For me, this is what philanthropy is about: PEOPLE. Gary may not know it, but a concern for people's happiness is at the core of a philanthropic life and Gary is living it.

He sums it up best: "Your social equity is more important than your financial equity."

So, now that I've covered 2 of my 3 favorite activities in this blog, how am I going to relate salsa dancing to philanthropy????

Monday, September 15, 2008

Time Magazine: second annual National Service issue

Time Magazine's second annual National Service issue arrived in my mailbox on Saturday - there's Obama and McCain with their work boots and hard hats on the cover and inside they each reveal their plans for national service.

The cover story notes that since last year's issue made the case for national serivce, this year's issue will focus on "21 big and small ideas on how you can service your community, your family, your country." But the over-arching theme of the article will sound familiar to us phil studies students. First, what is the proper role of government when it comes to service? When it comes to the presidential canditates, their backgrounds tell you a lot about their answer to this question: McCain served his country through tradition and honored military service while Obama's work with grassroots community organizing is more unorthodox. (More on this below). The other theme of the article that struck me was that "National service is part of our DNA" in America. Indeed, "service is a key part of the story we tell ourselves about this country."

You can peruse the list of 21 to-do's on your own. Of most interest to me is the candidates' plans for national service - - as I noted above, their respective experiences certainly influence their proposals. Obama's plan centers around investing in grass-roots ideas. He proposes a Social Investment Fund Network to bring together faith-based organization and foundations to expand successful programs. McCain's plan centers around enhancing educational opportunities in service, American history and civics. He also proposes a White House Serivce to America Office to streamline national serivce programs across the federal government.

And finally, if you pick up a hard copy of this magazine, be sure to pay attention to the front cover advertisement from Target. It shows a picture of a young girl at school. The tag line reads "5% Philanthropist". It says to me: the easiest way to be a philanthropist is to shop at Target becuase the company gives 5% of its income to support education, the arts, social service and volunteerism (this according to the ad). But, I don't think this ad really inspires me to be a philanthropist anymore then it inspires me to be a consumer.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lance Armstrong: using his celebrity to raise cancer awareness

You may already know that I love to ride my bike - - I am also a bike Lance Armstrong fan. When Lance was racing the Tour de France I was an avid follower. Yesterday he announced (via video blog on the Lance Armstrong Foundation website) that he's coming out of retirement to ride in the Tour once again as part of an international cancer campaign strategy. In other words, he's using his celebrity to “raise awareness of the global cancer burden.” This announcment interestingly comes on the heals of the huge Stand Up to Cancer sucess of last week (something I know Laura wants to blog about!).

This week's Time magazine includes a feature article (with a full page photo of Lance!) about cancer research funding and why American cancer deaths continue to rise. While government research funds have stayed flat for several years, what is philanthropy's role in funding research, advocacy, and caring for patients, survivors and their families?

I think we'll be seeing a lot more on this topic in the future!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Football, The Colts, and Riley Children's Hospital

I was watching the Colts loose last night but couldn't help but notice Tony Dungy in a commercial for Riley Children's Hospital, a perfect example of philanthropy in popular/sport culture. Indeed, just last week the Colts made a $1 million gift to the hospital. The press release doesn't specify what the gift will be used for, but it does interestingly note that the founder of Lucas Oil - i.e. the company who secured naming rights to the stadium - has been appointed to the Hospital Foundation's Board.

So, the question is: how are the Colts team and/or owner using philanthropy to promote itself within the community? Given the assets of both, is it doing enough philanthropy? Is a $1 million gift really that significant when compared to the players' payroll, for example?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Advacement Office

On Saturday I received a postcard from my alma mater, Concordia College, entitled "The Advancement Office." I'm impressed that the development operation is branching out this year in an attempt to better connect with its youngest alumni by spoofing the television show The Office. The postcard directed me to where I watched 4 homemade videos of the development office staff. The Vice President of Development plays the ineffectual, and un-self aware, leader role. You see him trying to motivate his staff with corn hats (no joke, our schools mascot is the Kernal). You see him scheduling a meeting with a major donor at Mick's Office, the much-beloved but hole-in-the-wall college bar. And my favorite is The Rivalry between Kristin, who strong believes that the age of online giving is here and now, and Andrea who argues that phonathon is king. In the photo below Andrea tries to foil Kristin's online giving plans.

I don't believe the college would have ever done something like this a year age but I love that it's stepping outside of its comfort zone while embracing web 2.0 ... not to mention how it effectively engages alumni. If the postcard made me go online AND make my annual gift, then I hope other young alums will do the same!

Watch The Rivalry (and the other clips) at:

- Sarah

MBK on board!

I just learned that Mary Beth is also on board for Pop Philanthropy!
Photos and more content coming soon.

Philanthropy in Pop Culture

With Dr. Burlingame's blessing, Laura & Sarah proudly annouce "Pop Philanthropy" - the cutting edge blog in the study of philanthropy and popular culture (a.k.a. our semester long independent study). Any and all topic suggestions (including movies & literature you think would be valuable to add) are welcome!

You already know that if Alexis de Toqueville were alive today, he'd be a blogger, so come along for the ride .... and add our blog to your RSS feed (may I reccomend Google Reader if you're not already using it?).