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?).