Social Schizophrenia

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    On which side of philanthropy’s great divide do you stand? More importantly, where do your donors and potential donors stand?

    The divide used to be less noticeable, but with the explosion of social media over the past five years, tweeting, blogging, and linking has brought the great divide to the forefront.

    On the one side are those who assume that “social capital” belongs in the public domain and should be applied to the public good. The “public good” is defined by broad terms such as social justice and environmental ethics.

    On the other side are those who are productively and satisfyingly engaged in personal philanthropy … where one’s giving is a personal expression of one’s own values, concerns, interests, (hopefully) vision, and, yes, even whim.

    Do donors have a social obligation to subordinate their personal philanthropic passions to a group-think standard for how and why they should give? Isn’t that part of what we pay taxes for – how successfully have THOSE dollars been used to create social equity? Will a philanthropic “free social capital market” be any more successful – or socially just – than, say, a Goldman Sachs-school market?

    The divide is more than polemics. If you think this debate has no bearing on your own nonprofit, think again. Where you stand on this issue will affect everything from how you frame your case, to how you package your appeal, to how you interact one-on-one with your supporters and those you serve.

    Private philanthropic money … public good or private vision?

    And what, in essence IS philanthropy … “love of mankind” or “obligation to mankind”?

    Food for thought.

    Farewell and fare well until next week …

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    For more resources, see our Library topic Nonprofit Capacity Building.

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