When those who have “done well” decide to use their wealth to “do good,” philanthropy happens. It’s usually a good thing.

You thought making the money was the hard part…

The decision to practice philanthropy can be the first step on a journey filled with more than its fair share of joy, gratitude and hope; "doing good" can and should "feel good." Nothing wrong with that.

At the same time, deciding to practice philanthropy thoughtfully means setting out across strange waters. Consider that with an investment portfolio, there is, sooner or later, a reckoning stated in terms of terms of profit and loss. There is, in other words, a "bottom line." At any given time, you know how you are doing, where you are.

With a grant portfolio, things are less certain. We are usually chasing some fuzzy thing called "making a difference" or "social impact," and then there are emotional, spiritual and moral returns to consider. Such things are hard to articulate, difficult to achieve and challenging to measure.

How We Can Help


Philanthropy must be more than merely strategic. It has to have soul. We help donors address those pesky “philosophical” questions that get to the heart of who they are and aspire to be as philanthropic agents of social change. Whitman sets before us the ideal: “Behold I do not give lectures or a little charity,

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We help donors implement the principles of “strategic,” “data-driven” or “outcome-oriented” philanthropy in ways that embrace rather than frustrate the charitable impulse that ought to animate our work in the social sector. Strategy is a military word. The Greek strategos was a field general, and classically strategists studied how such generals deployed and exercised military

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We develop grant portfolios infused with the intelligence and personality that characterize inspired family philanthropy, assisting donors with pre-grant due diligence, post-grant evaluation and grants management. There is no surer way to undermine all the hard work you put into our character and strategy sessions than to fail to take seriously your grantmaking policies and

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Newest Posts

Pack Line Philanthropy

Positively giddy over the Virginia Cavaliers once-every-thirty-five-year-run to the Final Four, I cannot resist saying a little something about college hoops. You will likely think that I am forcing a pass into the low post here, but it really is my contention that you can learn more than a little about systems thinking by watching

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Four challenges to charitable decision making

Revealed in the December 2018 Chronicle of Philanthropy are the results of a study produced by Bank of America’s U.S. Trust Philanthropic Solutions group in partnership with the Indiana University Lily School of Philanthopy. The study looked at the giving habits of high-net-worth philanthropists and identified four broad challenges the wealthy cite to their charitable

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How not to die of dysentery on the Oregon Trail

Recently, I was cheered to discover my nephew playing a hand-held version of the generation-defining  game The Oregon Trail, a game I first played on the Commodore 64 (or maybe the Apple II? Have I sufficiently dated myself?). The objective of the game is straightforward enough: get yourself and your traveling companions from Independence, Missouri

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What is it that you do, exactly, and why is it worth paying for?

Fair question(s). It cheered me recently to read good answers provided by Ann Carrns in the Wealth Special Section of the March 22, 2018 Sunday New York Times: When It Comes to Donating Money, Whom Do You Trust? It looks like her article is not behind the paywall; but, even if it is, you should probably be subscribing

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In defense of TPS reports (not really)

If the “right side” of a logic model is concerned with impact, the left is concerned with efficiency. One way to think about efficiency is to see it as a matter of eliminating waste from a system, whether in the form of wasted materials, money or, perhaps most insidiously, time. There are a number of

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It Ain’t What You Give, It’s The Way That You Give It

This book, by Caroline Fiennes, was given to me by someone in the philanthopy game whom I very much respect right when I was starting to take the idea of philanthropic strategy seriously. It has never been out of reach since. In my previous post, I worry that I may have come across as somewhat

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