The “Gift” can be Deceiving

Over in Gift Hub, Phil was talking about a recent article in Chronicle of Philanthropy where I was quoted. The article described "The Ultimate Gift" as a movie to drive donors to advisors.

My quote in the article was:

"On the one hand, I want to applaud them because we do need to have more conversations that lead to inspired philanthropy," says Jean Russell, a consultant in Normal, Ill. who helps people, charities, and businesses identify goals and create strategies. "On the other hand, it’s so on the salesy side that it comes off as disingenuous, and you find yourself asking questions: What is the agenda behind this? Are financial planners using the idea of values as just another way to snag clients?"

Here is what Phil said:

The best is an impossible standard. Good enough is better than nothing. Some of the advisors will have training, to some degree, in charitable tools, some will have an inkling of idealism, most will see it as a prospecting tool. As Leo Strauss said, "Democracy builds on low but solid ground." So does the market.

Maybe the best way to say it is, how can we do better? We being a collective "we" of the various fields of practice, and specifically we ourselves, each of us?

If Stovall can stimulate demand for charitable planning, then maybe more will come into it, and maybe companies will spend more to train them, and maybe that will create an updraft for people like you, Lisa
Tracy, and Tracy Gary who have a larger vision, as well as specific skills around coaching, planning, and community engagement. I hope so.

Then Jane King said, "Hokey, yes, but what is the harm?"

Well Jane and Phil, the harm can be pretty great. These are not pennies tossed into a waterfall or pool. These are real investments done well or done poorly. These are real people, perhaps led far astray by wolves in sheep’s clothing. And, for those who honor the greater good and civil society, they might be coupled in name and reputation to those who dine on lamb. Will some good come of it? Yes. Perhaps much. Might there be many donors harmed? Yes. And that we should mitigate as best we can.

I would love to see an updraft of giving. Nothing could be more natural in this time of sufficiency and abundance. But the quality of the giving is important just as the quantity is important. We need both. Yes, I am an idealist.