A Lot to Give (and Listen To)

The public radio program “Marketplace” last week ran an in-depth series on philanthropy called “A Lot to Give,” which did a deep dive on many of the pressing issues in the field--the good, the bad, the tax deduction.

Not that you need any reminder that effective philanthropy is hard work, but the series provides a concise and revealing look at such issues as what motivates people to make big donations,  the pitfalls of giving away money, and why you don’t have to be among the mega-rich to start a foundation.

You can also hear Peter and Jennifer Buffett’s critique of the traditional philanthropic model. The conversation is essentially a continuation of Peter’s provocative New York Times op-ed, where he said the idealism and pragmatism of philanthropy too often does not intersect, resulting in unintended and unwanted consequences.

In the “Marketplace” interview, Jennifer said the op-ed was a call for philanthropists to better coordinate their efforts and match up their good intentions. 

“It’s more difficult to have the conversations about the difficulty of problems, about you know, the gaps, about the incongruences of the whole sector and that fact that … people get to decide their own sort of self-imposed metrics of excellence and success and what not, and it’s not well-coordinated at all.”

That problem sounds like something that could be avoided when philanthropists come together and network. In other words, the kind of thing JFN and its members do all the time.

“Marketplace” is a program without an agenda. Their reports are marked by balance, not to mention solid production values. So, left unsaid is how it feels about philanthropy. Rest assured, it’s all for it. There are at least nine foundations and funds that provide “generous” support to keep the program on the air.