The Two Faces of Philanthropy

February 10, 2014 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

"When I talk to young people who seem destined for great success, I tell them to forget about charities and giving. Concentrate on your family and getting rich…People who do not make money will never become philanthropists. When rich people reach 50 and are beginning to slow down is the time to begin engaging them in philanthropy." So declared hedge fund manager Robert Wilson in a... Read More


The Right Way To Approach Raising the Minimum Wage

January 10, 2014 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

There are some national issues that never seem to go away. A couple times every decade we circle back to the issue of raising the minimum wage. The problem (underpaid workers) appears to be as concrete as the solution (raising the minimum wage). But something about this solution can’t be right. Solutions are supposed to kill problems, not anesthetize them into dormancy only to have them resurrect... Read More


Holiday Rituals: Are We A Thanksgiving Nation or A Christmas Nation?

December 24, 2013 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

Somewhere in that hours-long transition between Thanksgiving Day and the Christmas season a very remarkable change comes over us. Thanksgiving being a time for reflection, counting blessings, giving thanks, and serving others, Christmas has mostly come to mean just the opposite. America wakes up (sometimes never having gone to sleep) on Black Friday and plunges into a state of mind totally... Read More


Thanksgiving: At the Intersection of Grace and Sorrow

November 26, 2013 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

Most Americans associate Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims of Massachusetts, who dedicated a day (or three) of reflection and feasting in thanksgiving to God for providing for them in a new land. Indeed, this is how the holiday as we now celebrate it first began. But to know that story is only part of Thanksgiving’s history, and partial knowledge begets partial appreciation. In America, there is... Read More


"Effective Altruism": Where Peter Singer Gets Philanthropy Wrong

October 10, 2013 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

Altruism, like love, is a trait that resists quantification. Its existence can’t be reduced to a numerical value because altruism is inherently relational. When the relational aspect is removed or diminished, altruism becomes less about others and more about ourselves. Instead of being an end in itself, altruism becomes a means to an end; and that end is almost always self-focused. Peter Singer,... Read More


The Way Millennials Give, and Why it Should Concern Us

September 16, 2013 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

Last month, The Chronicle of Philanthropy conducted an in-depth study on the future of philanthropy in America. The study looked at America’s four adult generations (WWII, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials) and how they give to charity. As if there was any doubt, Millennials give very differently than their predecessors. Whereas the elder three generations ranked “my place of worship” as the top... Read More


Convicting Insights Of An Unfamiliar Place

August 25, 2013 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

I love going to new countries and experiencing cultures for the first time. Not only do I enjoy immersing myself in a new atmosphere and meeting the people of the culture, but it gives me a unique opportunity to reflect on the world around me. Everything I see demands my attention, because it all strikes me as new. Features of life I would normally overlook back home seem to stand out in vivid... Read More


Stories are, in many ways, the glue of our existence. They are the way we make sense of reality. Without a story within which to situate the numerous, disparate events of life, we wouldn't be able to function. Story strings the seemingly unrelated events of life together into one coherent whole. It is a means of creating order out of disorder, and understanding out of confusion. Think of our... Read More


What Our Nation's Veterans Can Teach Us About Ourselves

June 26, 2013 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

Can Service Save Us? This is the question Time magazine explores in its cover story this week. In his inspiring piece, columnist Joe Kline uses returning American Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans as a test case to analyze the holistic restoration that service seems to confer on those who make it a part of their daily lives. Through both anecdotal accounts and hard research, Kline transmits the... Read More


The Tyranny Of Globalism Over Localism

June 10, 2013 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

We often think of access to information as an inherent good. It’s hard to make a case to the contrary, but while I would agree that access to more information is a good thing on its face, when it comes to philanthropy in a democracy, it has the potential to prey on a natural proclivity peculiar to the democratic mentality. Alexis de Tocqueville, after traveling from his native France to observe... Read More


America's Remedy to Individualism

May 19, 2013 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

An interesting and pivotal change took place over the last century in the way philanthropy was practiced in America. In the 18th and 19th centuries, philanthropy was inherently communal. If you wanted to help orphans or ban the sale of alcohol, you would associate yourself with others in your township of the same mindset. You didn’t wait around for someone else to step in. Instead, you found... Read More


Slacktivism's Fair Shake

May 02, 2013 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

In perhaps the most organized attack yet launched by a nonprofit on slacktivism, UNICEF Sweden unveiled a coordinated PR campaign last week against the “likes” it receives on its own Facebook page. The campaign’s intent was to force donors to confront the fact that “liking” their page does not equate to helping children in need. Concerned that a more nuanced message might lack the impetus to... Read More


Charity Gets A Cosmetic Makeover

April 17, 2013 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

“This idea of a ‘gift with purpose’ is a really great opportunity,” Ms. Thomas said. “With no energy or lift on the customers’ part, they get this really feel-good element with the shopping experience.” Ms. Thomas is referring to the $1 donation that Clarins, in partnership with Macy’s and Feed Projects, will make to help feed starving children upon the purchase of two Clarins products and a... Read More


Empathy, And Why Relationships Are The Key To Reality

April 01, 2013 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

Ken Stern, in his recent op-ed in The Atlantic, strikes a forceful blow to a widely held preconception Americans have about the rich: they are more generous than the poor. When we think of wealthy philanthropists, we think of the Rockefellers and Carnegies of the Gilded Age and the libraries, museums, and colleges they funded from their own fortune. In recent years, a more strategic effort to... Read More



March 13, 2013 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

I recently heard Jim Gilmore, a friend and co-author of the best-selling book The Experience Economy, give a talk at a conference I attended. He called to the audience’s mind the clear, domed receptacles scattered about high traffic pedestrian areas (such as airports or theme parks), the kind into which a person drops a quarter and watches it go round and round in a descending spiral until it... Read More


Post-Production Philanthropy

February 27, 2013 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

“Post-production” is the work performed on a piece of media, be it film, music, or photography, after the content itself has been captured. It is the “finishing” work applied to the substance of the art to make it ready for public consumption and dissemination. It is the third and final stage of the production process, following the pre-production (getting everything ready for the filming,... Read More


To Post Or Not To Post: Philanthropy In An Age Of Social Networking (Part 2)

February 13, 2013 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

I don’t post about my giving to Facebook. I don’t post about my giving to Twitter. I don’t post about my giving to LinkedIn. I don’t use Tumblr and I rarely ever use Google+. When it comes to my giving, the only posting I ever do is to TurboTax at the end of the year. When I see someone else post about his or her giving on social media, I don’t think much of it. In the first place, I don’t see... Read More


Most people I know, when they make a donation, choose not to announce it to their social network. In fact, I’m the same way. Granted, I rarely make one-off donations, which generally make it possible for me to effortlessly post about it to my social network. I find a few organizations whose missions I believe in and give to them monthly. Posting about my recurring donations would be more... Read More


Sandy Hook and the Wisdom of Organizing

January 15, 2013 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

A month out from the Sandy Hook shootings, grieving Newtown, Connecticut residents have begun to mobilize. So has Washington. Post fiscal cliff, the policy buzz about the beltway targets assault weapons. Late last year, the Obama administration initiated a task force headed by Vice President Biden to look at options for curtailing civilian access to assault weapons. The administration is calling... Read More


What Sacrifice Are We Willing To Bear?

December 23, 2012 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

A week out from the fiscal cliff and a compromise seems exceedingly unlikely. The Senate is in recess until December 27. That leaves a paltry five days for the President and the Democratic-controlled Senate to come to a compromise with the Republican House before the severe spending cuts and tax increases outlined in the Budget Control Act of 2011 go into effect. This puts the so-called... Read More


Is The Charitable Deduction In Jeopardy?

December 12, 2012 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

The charitable deduction is on the chopping block and non-profits are lobbying for a pardon. The fiscal cliff, or the point in time (January 1, 2013) when automatic sequestrations to federal programs will kick in to curtail America’s mounting debt, will impact every sector of the economy, and thus every American. There is no way to avoid its effects entirely: either Congress will work with the... Read More


A Practical Way To Approach Your Giving This Holiday Season

November 19, 2012 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

As we enter Thanksgiving, the threshold of the holiday season, I thought it might be helpful to offer some practical ways to approach our giving heading into the new year. December 31 is the fiscal year end of most non-profits (coinciding, perhaps coincidently, with the end of the IRS tax year). This is why our mailboxes and inboxes are inundated with appeal letters from untold numbers of... Read More


You May Be Concerned, But Do You Feel Responsible?

November 04, 2012 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

We can’t be a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to giving. Our giving should be strategic and focused, centered on a small number of issues that we feel responsible to address; issues that lay particularly heavy on our heart. If we want to be effective philanthropists, we need to be aiming for impact, not reach. Pursuing impact begins with knowledge, with educating ourselves about issues. If we... Read More


These Too Must Pass

October 08, 2012 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

Is death the ultimate sign of failure to mankind, failure taken to its logical conclusion? Hopefully you’re still reading. I don’t mean to exposit on what appears to be a profound philosophical question. It’s not something I can answer, but I think it’s instructive when it comes to how we view the role of living things in society. If we accept death as an inevitability then why are we so... Read More


Charity Will Never Be “The Other White Meat”

September 17, 2012 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

The Wall Street Journal’s Saturday Essay this past weekend featured philanthropy activist and author Dan Pallotta pushing back on society’s posture towards charities. In his essay Why Can’t We Sell Charity Like We Sell Perfume? Pallotta issues a clarion call to the rest of America calling for an end to the double standard we apply to the non-profit sector. It’s perfectly fine - even justified - he... Read More


What Non-Profits Have That We All Want

August 21, 2012 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

Accepting a longer time horizon opens up new opportunities for non-profits to meet donors where they are and to engage them based on their interests. Only when efficiency is unseated from its prominent position in fundraising will non-profits be able to take a fresh look at creative ways to create and nurture relationships with their donors. I believe one of these ways is through information.... Read More


Nurture Or Nature?

August 09, 2012 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

Building off what we discussed in the last post, I believe a large reason why donors don’t spend much time on non-profit websites is because non-profits haven’t taken donor interests seriously. Or maybe it’s that they haven’t been honest with themselves about donor interests. Non-profits have articulated incredibly well what they would like from donors but there is a clear disconnect between those... Read More


"Us" Versus "Them"

July 24, 2012 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

Imagining a better form of interaction for non-profits and donors is no easy task. This is especially the case with me. I have a terrible imagination. Maybe that’s a symptom of my ISTJ personality, or the fact that I majored in and worked several years in a science (at least according to my alma matter, which gave me a B.S. in business). Not until the last couple of years have I given the right... Read More


Urgency Can't Build Relationships

July 05, 2012 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

Using emotional techniques to prompt donations is considered a best practice in the industry – and not just in philanthropy, but in the for-profit sector as well. All advertising aims to stimulate a person’s emotions. As I’ve said before, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Emotional appeals are an industry best practice because they work; however, such appeals become a destructive force when they... Read More


Is There An Industry Standard?

June 15, 2012 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

I think non-profits tend toward coaxing donors to be impulsers when it comes to giving. They primarily do this through their form of communication, the words and images they use – and don’t use – to spur us to act. Clearly, not every non-profit does this – and many do it unintentionally. Often times, they simply do it because that’s what seems to be common practice. In my own experience, I’ve... Read More


The Triad (Part 2)

May 31, 2012 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

Understanding a person as three distinct yet interrelated parts (intellect, emotions, and will) that are generally exercised with different levels of intensity depending on the context might be hard to grasp. At least, it was hard for me until I began seeing it play out in real life. Earlier I mentioned that every person possesses all three aspects of the Triad at all times, we just tend to... Read More


The Triad (Part 1)

May 24, 2012 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

In order to improve how non-profits and donors communicate with one another, I think it helps to actually define and understand what a person is. After all, non-profits are not abstract institutions that have lives totally their own but instead are made up of individual persons who are the life givers to those institutions. Non-profits are an integral part of society because society by definition... Read More


Emotionalism. It Works!

May 14, 2012 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

Non-profits, just like corporations and politicians, often excite our emotions to drive us to action. Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if their goal is to coax a person into making an uninformed decision simply for the organization’s (or company’s or politician’s) benefit, then such appeals cannot be justified. As I mentioned in my last post, non-profits may or may not be aware of... Read More


Sweet Emotion

May 07, 2012 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

Why did KONY 2012 generate such a volcanic response, producing over 100 million views and 3.5 million pledges from 204 countries in less than three months? It’s hard to pinpoint any one reason because the factors are dynamic: the movie was expertly produced, the messaging was clear, the story was engaging, etc.. Whatever the reasons, Invisible Children succeeded in creating the swiftest response... Read More


Simplicity On The Other Side Of Complexity

April 30, 2012 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

Non-profits are in a tough position. They’ll always be Sisyphus struggling to push the boulder of financial sustainability up a hill, only to have it roll back down again sometime near the end of the calendar year. The inherent instability of their business model (voluntary contributions from others) obliges year-end pleas to donors to ensure the organization will be around for another year.... Read More


Do Non-Profits Value Donors...Really?

April 24, 2012 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

We can’t create practical solutions to reforming philanthropy without first diagnosing the problem. The problem, as I’ve mentioned, is the lack of integration of philanthropy in our lives. Remember, we are trying to get at the why of our disinterest in order to discern what needs to be done. Let’s begin by taking a look at how the typical non-profit views the donor. Non-profits are simply... Read More


Reclaiming Our Responsibility

April 16, 2012 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

Let’s be honest… Philanthropy isn’t your priority. Keeping up to date with your “favorite” non-profit isn’t exactly an important – much less exciting – part of your everyday life. Chances are you treat philanthropy the same way you would a tire rotation for your car: you’ll get around to it eventually, but you can go a bit longer without having to pay the expense. In fact, if you’re reading this... Read More



April 12, 2012 | Posted by Michael C. Phillip in

I want to invite you into an ongoing conversation about how we might reform philanthropy (which I would define as any act of altruism requiring an intentional sacrifice) to make it more accessible and a more normal part of our everyday lives. Why? because right now philanthropy most likely assumes an ancillary position in your life, and if you could have it otherwise, you would. Whether or not... Read More


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