Where The Heart Meets The Mind

Tamar Snyder writing in The Jewish Week:

Noted philanthropist Charles Bronfman and philanthropy expert Jeffrey Solomon have co-authored their first book together, titled “The Art of Giving: Where the Soul Meets a Business Plan” (Wiley), which will be released in early November. There, they argue that philanthropy must be strategic, intentional and – perhaps most importantly – fun. The Jewish Week sat down with the authors at The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies office on East 59th Street, where they spoke about the shift from charity to philanthropy, how the Madoff affair has impacted philanthropy and the importance of giving with your mind – not just your heart.

[question:] In this book, you draw the distinction between “old philanthropy” and “new philanthropy.” How do you characterize the basic differences between the two?

Jeffrey Solomon: In the “old philanthropy” model, there was a direct connection between the heart and the check-writing hand. It never went through your head. New philanthropy offers a far greater emphasis on impact.

CB: I’ll give an example. When Katrina happened, my wife was still alive. She said, “Let’s give X to whatever [relief organization].” I said, “How do you know the money will get there?” Sharna Goldseker’s husband, Simon, was working at Jewish Funds for Justice, and he led us to an avenue that went directly to help people build homes. The heart was involved, but the giving went through the head.

[q:] In your book, you often refer to the philanthropist as a “she.” Was that intentional?

CB: We wanted to get over the sexism; we strived for balance.

JS: We’ve observed too often, especially in the Jewish community, a lack of sensitivity toward a variety of diversity issues, gender being at the forefront.

CB: Philanthropy used to be totally controlled by men. The women’s campaign really revolved around men telling women what they could give. Now it’s different. The glass ceiling really has been broken.

JS: Before it was called “new philanthropy,” it was called women’s philanthropy. Women are more project-oriented and they understood what it was they were giving to. Men tend to be more competitive with their giving and devote less time to it than women do.

[q:] You had the opportunity to invest with Madoff, but wisely chose not to. What are the lingering effects of the Madoff affair on the wider philanthropic world?

JS: Fifty-one foundations died as a result of Madoff, and 143 were injured. It was a philanthropic tsunami. It’s wrong to see it as a Jewish problem; it’s an American tragedy. Research showed that an organization was much more likely to be affected by Madoff if it had a small board. The lesson, though, has been learned. No more than 10 percent of assets should be with any given money manager. And the money you set aside philanthropically is not money you own, but money you steward for society and for the future. It should be treated more conservatively.

Due to the leverage of partnerships, The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies have produced more than $200 million worth of programs each year with an investment of under $20 million.

CB: It’s less than that now, about 35 to 40 percent less. We didn’t get caught with Madoff, but we were affected by the general recession.

JS: The total philanthropic field lost $200 billion and will reach 2007 giving levels in 2017. We’re a spend-down foundation and we’re going out of business in 2016.

excerpted from Where The Heart Meets The Mind; posted with permission