Monday, December 1, 2014


We’ve been through Thanksgiving Thursday, Cyber Friday (which started weeks ago), Cyber Monday (today) and now …

Tomorrow, December 2, is Giving Tuesday, a virtual program in which anyone and everyone is encouraged to support whichever charities they choose; and the charities are free to promote themselves as they will. The best evidence is that GT creates a giving bump.  For more info visit

Many gifts are new; others may be gifts that would have been made in any case. But the real value of GT is in creating awareness. The “father” of GT is Henry Timms, CEO of the 92nd St. Y in New York. A few years ago he pulled together about a dozen people, of whom I was one, to pop this idea – which of course we all liked. The GT web site was created; we worked our nets; the group enlarged – and from then on has grown virally as was the intent. GT is not owned by anyone; there is no central organization; there is no board of directors.  Every charity is free to adapt GT to its own use as it sees fit. There are no copyrights or service marks. GT very much reflects Henry’s concept of ”the new power,” distributed freely and horizontally, rather than top-down – the traditional way.

Between now and year-end, the holiday shopping season, an estimated $616 billion will be spent by consumers; in all of 2013 Giving USA reports $335 in charitable gifts.

Monday, November 24, 2014


Today is National Philanthropy Day in New York. It will be marked by a big luncheon at the Plaza. Along with the metaphoric rubber chicken and gooey red sauce on the chocolate dessert, outstanding philanthropic leadership in the tri-state area will be recognized by AFP, the Association of Fundraising Professionals. NPD was proclaimed as November 15th each year by President Reagan to mark the extraordinary role of philanthropy and voluntarism in national life.  It has grown in acceptance over time and is now celebrated all around the country though not always on the 15th.

I generally try to avoid large events. But for NPD I up the Compazine and attend because in the one warm chamber of my heart I actually appreciate everything everyone does to make the world a better place, no matter how hard, how long, or how messy the process may be. Change is one person at a time and it adds up. The private nonprofit sector, according to a White House report, employs 14 million people, 10% of the work force; and generates some $1.6 trillion in output, 5% of GNP. Over $335 billion of that is philanthropic giving. Though I may question the accuracy of this datum I have read that 60 million Americans volunteer. Whatever the real number may be voluntary action in the US is assuredly mega-class.

Following the day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday and then Cyber Monday, two days a year when US consumerism is at its rabid worst. As you have seen we barely got through Halloween before the holiday hawking began. In the past people have died in the stampede to load up on “stuff.” Next week we will have Giving Tuesday, a one day push for an extra gift to whatever charities anyone might favor. I’ll write about it next week. Meanwhile you might visit

For now enjoy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 7, 2014

... Sayeth the The New York Times today, November 7th.

This meaningless headline tops a two-column story asserting that "charitable giving is back in a big way." But is it? Yes it has improved since the recession. Those years hit the sector hard and there has been a modest recovery. And for that we should be grateful because no profits, especially those in the human services field, need every cent they can generate, particularly operating funds.

I don't  know what "new donor generation" they're talking about. Zuckerberg's $25 million gift to the CDC to "fight" Ebola is certainly significant especially because the US charitable response to Ebola has been dismal; the big relief agencies have been mum. Only Doctors Without Borders has been a consistent voice.

As a percentage of GDP giving remains locked at around plus or minus 2%; that hasn't changed for as  long as records have been kept. And the slowest part of the charitable sector to recover has been individual giving, described  by the Times as "the biggest drag." Many people think that foundations and corporations are hugely account for most of the $335 billion donated last year. But in fact the greatest percentage of giving is from living individuals. Internet giving is marginal; social media's impact on giving has been modest at best.

We are certainly  in a better place than we were a few years ago. Between now and year end charity will generate around 30-40% of its total annual giving revenue. We will know within a few months whether US charitable giving is inching up or really rebounding.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Why I Won't Visit ... I Live Here

From SoHo World Trade Center 9-11-14
On September 11, 2014, walking home from dinner I turned right  onto Wooster St. in the heart of SoHo. The new World Trade Center marked the sad occasion with the vaporous blue twin beams.

Ground Zero is about a mile away as the crow flies. SoHo is arguably one of  the world's largest unroofed high end, retail malls. Befuddled tourists, street vendors purveying everything from junk and knockoffs, to really fancy stuff, and of course we locals crowd the narrow streets by day. But at night Wooster Street stretching north-south from Canal to Houston, is quiet. Parking spaces abound.

Friends come to visit, shop and sometimes, flop. Like everyone else from out  of town, WTC is almost always number  one on their bucket list. But not for me. Staying away is for me not about avoiding the reminder that for six months after 9-11, we were still  picking soot from the cats' fur and still finding dust patches in neglected corners. Or that on the evening  of 9-11 everything south of Houston was a military encampment because no one knew what might come next.

What my boycott is about is the commercialization of WTC, especially the Memorial Museum that in the name of 9-11 hawks key fobs, coffee mugs,  emblazoned hoodies, phony cop and firefighter gear and other mindless tchotchkes. Tasteless, crude and not a symbol of tragedy but an ensign of the politicization, political wrangling- and so sadly the divided survivor lobby. After 13 years the raw wound gives way to a maybe well intended  but hopelessly inept attempt to memorialize.

No one consulted me professionally. But had they I would have counseled against anything but the simplest, commercial free representation possible. Maybe a museum; maybe not. But making a grand souvenir stand out of 3,000 dead is sacrilegious. 

And I'm a non-believer.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

From Shoemaker to Shoe maker in Three Gnerations!

It’s an old story winningly told by TOM ROGERSON  senior director and wealth management advisor at WILMINGTON TRUST COMPANY ( A 14th generation Mayflower descendant, still living on the family’s original land in Massachusetts, Tom is the scion of a wealthy Boston family that lost all its money – in three generations.

He weaves his personal story into solid wealth management advice for families. Speaking to a meeting of philanthropic advisors in Vancouver BC - members of the Giving Institute ( - it is less a story about money itself but how family dysfunction and poor-to-non-existent communications among the family, from the paterfamilias downward, took away the wealth.

A recent study, Tom reported, showed that typically a family loses lost 80% of its wealth within 50 years of the fo under’s death. The takeaway is only partly about how the wealth will be managed, or by whom, but ratherthe family dynamic. A dysfunctional family will end up with a dysfunctional foundation – quarreling about the founders’ (usually parents) commitments versus the children’s interests – either philanthropic but commonly about money that they’d rather have themselves; about who’s in charge and how decisions are made. Tom’s presentation included this quote attributed to George Burns:

“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.”

Tom Rogerson