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The art of giving: Institute on Philanthropy

The art of giving: Institute on Philanthropy

‘Effective philanthropy requires a lot of time and creativity - the same kind of focus and skills that building a business requires.’

-Bill Gates

The first fictional philanthropist was Prometheus in Aeschylus’s 5th-century BCE Prometheus Bound. He was proclaimed as such by the author due to his largesse in giving the gift of fire to the earliest humans. It experienced a re-flourishing during the Enlightenment when it became fashionable to be kind. During this period in England, foundling hospitals sprang up – the first of their kind – and William Wilberforce campaigned against slavery. And around the turn of the 20th century, the generosity of Andrew Carnegie drove him to give away 90% of his huge wealth to philanthropic causes, setting an example for future zillionaires like Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates.

The word philanthropy means ‘love of humanity’, and the art of giving for the betterment of others is fortunately still alive and well. However the well-intentioned cannot simply fling money around if they truly want to help. They need to implement structured programs of giving that ensure the money passes through the right hands on its way to the needy, and that it is intelligently targeted so as not to be wasted. There’s also an awful lot of paperwork.

The Richmond School of Professional & Continuing Studies in Richmond, Virginia provides training in the administration of philanthropic projects via its Institute on Philanthropy. Nonprofit professionals, volunteers, donors and community leaders are educated in ethical and effective fundraising, marketing and board development. It functions via a quartet of week-long ‘institutes’ spread throughout the year. Training includes fundraising and development, grant writing and management. The four institutes are:

  • Fund Development Institute (Winter and Summer): Focuses on the fundraising cycle and the fundamentals of nonprofit organisations. It explores creating a Roadmap for a giving program, and the ongoing stewardship of such a program.
  • Marketing for Nonprofits Institute (Winter and Summer): Teaches how to find the right audience and tell a compelling story. Marketing plans and how to develop your staff to maximise marketing ROI.
  • Planned Giving Institute (March): Teaches the skills, knowledge and tools to develop a planned giving program for nonprofit organisations.
  • Grant Writing & Management Institute (May): A deep dive into the details of grant writing and management. How to work to secure funding in today’s competitive environment.

The Instutite on Philanthropy offers training in business administration for givers – an activity whose proponents say it is so much more fulfilling than wealth creation.