An estimated ten times more money will pour into philanthropy during the first half of this century than during the entire century before. A high-profile case in point is the Giving Pledge, a campaign headed by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to encourage the nation’s wealthiest people to give most of their money to philanthropic causes. To date, 57 billionaires, including several HBS grads, have joined the campaign, committing upwards of $125 billion to charitable causes.
Here’s the rub. It’s hard to spend all that hard-earned money wisely. In fact, “philanthropy’s natural state is underperformance,” write Tom Tierney (MBA ’80) and Joel Fleishman, two of the nation’s leading authorities on high-performance giving, in their new book, Give $mart, Philanthropy That Gets Results.
“The generosity that causes people to use their wealth on others’ behalf is a wonderful expression of humanity at its best, and it can bring enormous joy into a donor’s life,” they write. “But generosity alone is rarely sufficient if you aspire to leave a legacy of exceptional results.”
That’s where Give $mart comes in. Tierney and Fleishman have crafted a primer for philanthropists and the nonprofits they support to guide them with practical advice on how to make the transition from aspiration to real impact. It’s a topic they know a lot about.
Tierney is cofounder and chairman of The Bridgespan Group, a nonprofit consultancy that enhances the effectiveness of social-sector organizations, and chair of the HBS Social Enterprise Initiative advisory board. Fleishman is a founder and faculty chair of the Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy.
Based on their collective experience, Tierney and Fleishman frame their advice around the process of seeking answers to six key questions, each comprising a chapter:
- What are my values and beliefs?
- What is “success” and how can it be achieved?
- What am I accountable for?
- What will it take to get the job done?
- How do I partner with grantees?
- Am I getting better?
Wrestling with these questions, they say, “will require you to develop strategic clarity about what you hope to accomplish,” a necessity for spending philanthropic dollars wisely.