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 decision making. I found myself cheered to learn that here at Remington Weld we are set up to address all four challenges rather well, and so at the risk of appearing more than a bit self serving, I thought I would record a few thoughts here.

Identifying what you care about

It may seem strange to some that this is even an issue: How can we not just know what we care about? The issue here is one of precision. Sure, we can have a vague sense of wating to ‘do good’ for some target population; but, once you begin to press on those intuitions you might be surprised at how hollow and thin they really are. Fortunately, here at Remington Weld we employ an unapologically philosophical approach to the point of having an actual, honest-to-God philosopher on the speed dial. Thus, we know how to get to the heart of whatever matter you put before us, and we know how to do so tactfully. It is not lost on us that they put Socrates to death for asking impertinent questions.

Understanding how much you can afford to give

Generous people want to give, well, generously. But money, it is alleged, does not grow on trees, and so it is imperative that your giving practices are aligned with your investment objectives and strategies. At Remington Weld, we like financial advisors and private wealth advisors (among our favorites are Don Morgan at AB Bertstein, Joe Lumarda at Capital Group, and Greg Fulmer at Morgan Stanley). We really do. We know how to speak their language and welcome the opportunity to partner with them to help you not only to generate more wealth but also to deploy your wealth in ways that help make this world a better place.

Monitoring your giving for impact

It is difficult to find anyone in the ranks of professional philanthopy who is not championing the cause of data, analytics, measurement and evaluation related to ‘impact.’ I am one of them, I suppose. However, I also worry that the cult of evaluation risks burdening the social sector with the same kinds of bureaucracy and gamesmanship endemic to so many public sector interventions. To be sure it is balancing act. At Remington Weld, we work with our clients to develop monitoring and evaluation programs that are bespoke, appropriately tailored to your needs and informed by the voices of those to whom you donate and those whom they ultimately serve. Otherwise, much of it is, I regret to say, just so much brouhaha spouted by those for whom it is more important to look smart than actually be smart. We aim for the latter here.

Finding time to engage with the recipient organization

The power dynamics intrinsic to philanthropy ensure that donors almost never get the whole picture of what their money is doing and what those to whom they donate wish their money was doing.  Having Remington Weld involved can go a long way to mitigate some of these dynamics. We know how to play the role of a trusted go-between in both directions, ensuring that communication among grantors, grantees and beneficiaries remains relevant and reliable. 

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