Inviting Philanthropy

Chris Weaver shared a bit of his model for “State of Grace Philanthropy” today, by email. His approach focuses on projects and retreats and leads to “State of Grace” documents for sustained project funding and action — all of which got me thinking about my own model for what I might call Inviting Philanthropy. What follows is distilled from my work on Small Change News over the last two years, since the Giving Conference which Phil Cubeta recently summarized.

First, philanthropy is about love, care, and people. We might generalize to include all beings. We might acknowledge current use and practice and allow that it now means something about money and resouces, action and results. Inviting Philanthropy is about all of that.

Next, the basic model. Start with some people with projects, and also some people with funding. These can be all from one project or issue area, or a diverse group. Projects and funding at any level are okay, what matters is passion and a willingness to commit. Recognize that the project people have some money, and the money people have some ideas about projects. Ask everyone to write the answer to four questions, providing whatever one-on-one coaching is needed in order for them to articulate:

  • What do I want (to see in the world)?
  • What do I have to offer now?
  • What do I need to move forward?
  • What will I do when I get what I need?

Now, invite everyone together, in Open Space, to work on Philanthropic Action: Issues and Opportunities. All manner of caring and commitment are welcome, actively invited. The ticket to enter is that you’ve answered these four questions. Copies of everyone’s 4-part statement are available on a table. In the course of the conversations, people pass out these statements like business cards, and refer to them like we refer to websites… “oh, yes, there’s a bit about that there in my answer to #2.” In this way, what is wanted, what is available, what is needed and what is willing are all mixed together.

In the last segment of the Open Space meeting, imagine Sunday afternoon of a 2-day weekend program, there is an invitation to focus on specific projects that might go forward. The invitation is to merge any number of individual statements into one project statement. Add to that a “State of Grace” spin on things that will help the group ride out any potential conflicts.

Rinse and Repeat. Do this on an ongoing basis, probably quarterly, and allow all of the statements, for individuals and projects, to be updated and shared in a new round of Open Space.

Publish everything, the notes from breakout sessions, the personal statements, the project statements, and especially the project news reports, as things actually get done.

Invite care. Invite coherence. Invite conversation. Invite collaboration. Publish everything and everyone point friends and colleagues to the website, and bring colleagues to the retreats. Inviting Philanthropy.