Finally busting the charity overhead myth

Over the past few years, philanthropic leaders have begun to successfully challenge the “overhead myth” — the belief that high administrative costs reflect a charitable organization that is poorly run and not worthy of support. The well-intentioned and generous family, corporate and foundation donors we regularly work with often recite versions of the overhead myth. They tell us,…

Philanthropy helps families avoid shirtsleeves-to-shirtsleeves challenge

When meeting with affluent family clients, advisers frequently invoke the warning: “shirtsleeves-to-shirtsleeves in three generations.” This popular quote strongly suggests that, without careful planning, a family’s wealth will be dissipated by the time it reaches the grandchildren of the wealthcreating generation. It is thought to derive from the old English proverb, “there’s nobbut three generations…

Five lessons in five years

Over the past five years, I have written 60 monthly “On Philanthropy” columns for Sunday’s Denver Post. These columns covered a broad range of topics related to individuals, families, businesses and foundations — and how they can approach their philanthropic initiatives with strategy, thoughtfulness and effectiveness. In my role as a philanthropic strategist, I’ve gained…

Talking with philanthropist Bill Clinton about the power of giving

Last week, the Clinton Foundation held its second CGI America conference in Denver. Led by former President Bill Clinton, the foundation is one of the most prominent in the world — and among the most controversial. In a wide array of direct initiatives, the Clinton Foundation brings together businesses, governments, nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs, and…

Breaking up is hard to do; When grants come to an end

Some personal relationships last a lifetime. Many of them end, however, and people move on. The same is true in funding relationships. Donors and nonprofits must anticipate and prepare for the eventual end of most grants. Major gifts are the lifeblood of nonprofits — enabling them to pay overhead, hire workers and implement the programs…

Program–Related Investments a key tool for impact investors

Increasingly, charitable donors are interested in “impact investing” with their philanthropically committed capital. They seek more creative ways to align their investments with their missions. Earlier this year, in “All investing is impact investing,” I discussed the growing recognition that grants and investments can generate both financial returns and social impact. In this column, I…

Seven steps towards strategic corporate philanthropy

Last year, U.S. corporations donated more than $18 billion to nonprofits — and billions more if you include the value of employee volunteerism. Successful companies now recognize that philanthropy is a key component of corporate citizenship and overall business strategy. Too often, corporate philanthropy is random and uncoordinated. To be truly effective, it must be…

Trusted family advisors should address philanthropy

More than $40 trillion will be inherited over the next few decades — the largest transfer of wealth in history. Forty-five percent of spouses who inherit will seek and find a different financial adviser to manage those funds. Once the surviving spouse dies, a whopping 98 percent of the inheriting descendants will move those funds…

All investing is impact investing

In the United States, nearly $1 trillion is committed to philanthropy — sitting in foundations, donor-advised funds and elsewhere. Donors have transferred ownership of these funds to separate entities and received their tax deductions. Yet only a small percentage of those funds is expended on charitable donations for the public good. The great majority of…

Strategic giving: 5 steps to get the most bang from your philanthropic buck

During the holiday season, our mailboxes are overflowing with catalogs, holiday cards — and requests for donations. Our voice message boxes are not much farther behind. At this time of year, when people are feeling particularly generous, nonprofits work hard to raise needed funds for the upcoming year. Although critically important to nonprofit budgets, most…