student ex·tra·or·di·naire

Philanthropy: Exploration the art of giving in America

Friday, December 01, 2006

Philanthropy: A Student Perspective

In 1464, the printing press was established in Europe. During the fifteenth century Italian Renaissance scholars began showing an interest in the translation and study of ancient text. As invention accompanied interest, ideas and knowledge began to circulate through society. From this era on, civilizations would use documented information from the past as a foundation to expand upon for contemporary societies. Presently, our technology has advanced beyond the comprehension of ancient cultures. Today, we are able to access, sort and immediately search through vast amounts of information via the Internet. Valuable, researched information is geared towards a target audience. Many scholarly topics are discussed, shared and debated on a daily basis within blogs.

Over the past three months I have devoted my time to sharing about an interest of mine, philanthropy. As a university student, I researched and compiled my knowledge on this subject as a means to share with others. Philanthropy varies in form but shares the goal of giving to those in need. A key motivation for philanthropic work is community improvement. Communities are the environment in which future generations will be raised and therefore crucial to the future. A contributor to the local southern California community is Lisa D. Hansen. She has dedicated her career to philanthropic work and community involvement.

I have presented all information to the best of my knowledge, in hopes of spreading the word about the selfless work done by others. I believe the community of philanthropy highlights the grandeur of American values and gives outlook to our future. Over the duration of my blogging experience I have gained tools applicable to my future. As I look back on my scholarly work, I notice areas of weakness in which structure and grammar could be improved upon. I do not read my previous work through the eyes of the writer, because the knowledge I have gained has improved my abilities. Real success has been accomplished when one is able to improve upon themselves through knowledge gained in the past. I welcome you to enrich yourself in the knowledge I have gained while researching philanthropy.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Lisa D. Hansen : Honrary Degree

When deciding, who, within my academic field, is the most desirable candidate for a 2007 honorary degree from the University of Southern California many considerations must be observed. Due to the caliber of this award, only the most promising of applicants should be nominated, because the University defines itself through whom they recognize for greatness. As James O. Freedman says, “honorary degrees are, of course, one of the ways in which universities advertise themselves. Most announce the names of their honorands well in advance of commencement, and thereby often generate favorable publicity” (125). In short, the winner of this honorary degree will embody the university through their chosen lifestyle and will be expected to continue success and greatness within their field. As the University's website states, this is "the highest award that the University of Southern California confers" and their objective is to "honor individuals who have distinguished themselves through extraordinary achievements." When the University publicly celebrates an identified member within the community, the two entities become connected, and may be used to define one another. With this in mind, the importance of properly choosing a worthy individual is emphasized.

In Mike W. Martin’s Meaningful Work, he claims personal ideals contribute to choosing a professional career. Because these private ideals motivate professional careers it may be said, if one has a very noble profession, focused upon bettering society through philanthropic giving, they will also possess noble personal ideals. For ideals are the foundations to personality and character, so they will not shift between personal and professional lives. Instead they are a constant determinate in all decision-making, conflicts and conclusions. While understanding the sources of meaning that come from an orthodox career, one may come to appreciate why Lisa D. Hansen has assumed a career as chairmin to a large and prominent southern California based foundation. For, Lisa D. Hansen constitutes all factors required morally and fundamentally to execute her role as the Chair to The Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation. This position within a foundation requires the most output and responsibility. Hansen surely meets the University standards, "to honor alumni who have made outstanding contributions to the welfare and development of USC or the communities in which they are a part of." Hansen's philanthropic work has not only contributed directly to the University, but has had an extended impacted throughout the southern California region. Since The Norris Foundation was established in 1963, it has primarily funded southern California. The Foundation’s community roots, allow for local charities and organizations to benefit primarily. Grants are annually approved for hundreds of local non-profits categorized into five different sections: community, cultural (the arts), youth, medicine and science/education. As Martin explains, "expertise is acquired through higher education and developed throughout a career.
From a young age Hansen was interested in helping her community. She remembers, “in our house volunteering was a common practice. It was the culture and family I grew up with, I ultimately began attending board meetings as a guest in the mid-80’s and my interest and involvement grew from there.” In 1993, Hansen assumed role on the Board of Trustees. This new position allowed her to gain first-hand experience in the form of site-visits, workshops, conferences and quarterly budget proposals and reviews. This activity exposed her to the fundamentals of a foundation; she maintained Trustee status for over a decade. In doing so, she was able to prepare herself for a future profession in philanthropy. Her current role as Chairman, allows for her to oversee all aspects of the Foundation, including overall business practices and keeping the Board informed of all the business on a timely basis.

Even though this foundation has a multi-million dollar annual distribution, it receives more grants than it may fund. This is a difficult moral dilemma to be faced with; one must decide who should receive funding and who should not. Hansen provides insight into this debatable situation, “my role as Chairman did not come with a rulebook, but more with an educated transition as I was a Trustee prior. My role is to implement the mission of our Foundation in all that I do.” Hansen also explained her strive to continually educate herself by attending seminars, conferences and visiting institutions we grant or potential grantees. The board of trustees and chair must review all grant applicants, then research and debate which organizations would be able to use their money most to benefit society. In the end, money is given to hundreds of charities and organizations which delivers a grand sense of accomplishment. However, one may never feel totally satisfied, always remembering those who could not be helped this year. Usually, the chair, who is most responsible for the improvements in society, may also be stuck with a feeling of incompleteness for all those who did not receive funds.

Most established professionals morally benefit from their career, as a nominee for an honorary degree at USC most definitely should. Compensation motives may generally be looked at as self-interest motives, usually incorporating some kind of social rewards. Not to be considered a negative motivation, but more a driving determinate resulting in rewards of recognition, establishment and dominance. However, in the subject of my concentration, laws and humane letters, Martin makes an exception “Compensation motives are not exclusively self-interest. They may be linked to philanthropic desires to obtain resources to help others.” Motives begin to overlap, because Hansen’s has such an admirable position she not only feels jobs satisfaction but also able to enjoy community recognition for accomplishments within the foundation. The social rewards are above average.

Moral concern is associated with how someone lives his or her life. It determines right from wrong and varies among individuals. Morality is a doctrine to life. Moral concern within a profession “involves relationships of trust, confidentiality and caring about clients” (Martin 25). Since, Hansen has been an active member within her community for over a decade, she has formed crucial relationships with organizations and charities. This personal level of interaction gives a greater opportunity to improve. On the Foundation's website, Hansen states, “I am reminded of what has sustained us over these five decades: a fundamental commitment to freedom, compassion, respect and responsibility. We not only believe in these timeless ideals as an entity, but look for them in our grantees.” Philanthropic giving is one of the most rewarding professional careers one may have the opportunity to experience.

As Hansen's admirable reputation proceeds her, Freedman expresses "there are of course risks to colleges in the granting of honorary degrees. Perhaps the greatest risk is that a recipient will turn out, in retrospect, to have been ill-chosen (130)." This condition is unlikely to occur with this candidate because her life has been built around her current position; with experience comes knowledge and reliability. However, concern may arise in one particular area. The honorary degree committee of USC explains the University's desire to "elevate USC in the eyes of the world by honoring those widely known and highly regarded." As I fear, Hansen's reputation is not world renowned and she could not be highly publicized into attracting mass crowds, but her experience and devotion could provide a grand sense of direction for graduating students. If nominated, Hansen could pass forth the need and knowledge for other community leaders, infusing her experience and moral gain. In the end, it is about helping others help themselves, taking the time to develop a humane society. Hansen's rich knowledge and personal demeanor would provide graduating students with a very insightful and inspiring message.

In relationship to the University of Southern California, Hansen’s role must be relevant when qualifying for an honorary degree. Proximity is a key factor. Both institutions grew from southern California soil, and were able to establish a central framework in which to expand. The University of Southern California and The Norris Foundation have paralleling motives. The foundation’s web site defines itself as, “family founded through economic freedom, the Norris Foundation supports programs that advance better health and intellectual enlightenment through education, cultivation of the arts, individual responsibility, freedom and dignity.” The Trojan family also supports programs dealing with social advancement through education, intellect, arts and individual responsibility. One may observe the connecting values in morality shared between the two. After local funding is allocated its progression is able to be monitored to ensure efficiency, contributing to a more productive southern California. USC also maintains a similar stigma written into their mission statement, “the central mission of the University of Southern California is the development of human beings and society… The principal means by which our mission is accomplished are teaching, research, artistic creation, professional practice and selected form of public service.” The university and foundation are aligned upon similar values.

After understanding that personal characteristics contribute significantly to chosen professions, one may conclude that professional careers may distinguish personal morals. As learned through the readings, sources of meaning obtained through career objectives may give an individual a sense of satisfaction. Hansen has made outstanding contributions to the welfare and development of the University of Southern California, and the larger southern California community in which she is an active member. In 2007, the university should rocognize Lisa D. Hansen with an honorary degree, and make a statement to the students and the world about the qualities of character of this extraordinary individual. The nonprofit service organizations form a vital and creative part of our economy in which moral ideals play a prominent role. Hansen has earned and obtained a career that not only brings her job satisfaction, but more importantly she is able to utilize her resources to enrich others within her community. Her outstanding, proficient and selfless work deserves recognition from a University that shares her morals and ideals to enrich through education and knowledge.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Activism: Engaging Communities

In June of this year 713 million people around the globe were projected to be Internet users. As Lee Rainie, Director of Pew Internet & American Life Project, points out, Internet use has become a norm in America. The vast increase in Internet users is mainly due to the spread of higher-speed broadband connections. Rainie importantly notes, “the rise of these two-way technologies has enabled Americans to become their own publishers and media producers”. Web sites are often geared towards an intended audience and successful for intriguing readers of similar interest. As the Internet begins to dominate global communication, the importance of knowledgable web sites increases. A Webby Award, is the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet. The Web Style Guide points out the importance of site design, content and structure. Activism is a popular subject recognized by the 2006 Webby Awards. Philanthropy and activism within a community are closely related topics because both are concerned with improving society by achieving goals of common interest. One of the nominated websites, under Activism, for the 2006 Webby Awards was entitled Help Your Community.

Using TheWayBack Machine, I was able to appreciate the evolution of this site. First appearing on January 26th, 2002, Help Your Community was sponsored by The Ad Council. The background was plain, three small photos appeared on the home page along with options to learn about coalitions, get involved and hear success stories. This archaic site provided efficiency options in the form of search and contact tabs. The main purpose of this webvsite in 2002 was to simply provide information, like many other sites from this time period. Research Specialist, Mary Madden, says over time, Internet users note big improvements in their ability to pursue hobbies and interests online. Consistent reports show the Internet has “improved various aspects of life” including access to health information, job resources, hobbies and shopping. As we become more dependent and trusting of the World Wide Web, we integrate the Internet into our daily lives, along with technology. Our rate of integration is only speeding up. The WebAwards point out the importance to recognize the people and organizations responsible for developing some of the most effective and best web sites on the Internet today.

Help Your Community, is an organization-based site that successfully relays information associated with activism, youth and community. Aligned upon the goals of activism, this site "facilitates social movement, human rights, public education, and reform or revolution." The organization believes by engaging children in youthful activities, with the help of volunteers, the kids will be less likely to engage in drugs. Instead of influencing children through anti-messages, volunteers and the target audience, are educated on making positive changes within a community. This site works as a connector, educator and recruiter. The viewer may access links to anti-drug collations and learn how to start their own with a seven-step plan. One may play previous public service announcements in both radio and TV formats. Applications and contact information for grants, including one for a drug-free community, are easily accessible and properly located. In order to relate to an individual viewer, this site incorporates a place to enter a zip code and search for nearby “volunteer opportunities”. One is also provided with the choice to work with kids, teen, seniors, and/or groups. When I searched a local zip coed in Los Angeles I received 440 organizations recruiting volunteers, a description of their “opportunity” along with start dates. These results were powered by Volunteer Match in a separate pop-up window allowing the viewer to stay connected to their original site. The pop-up window did not contain graphics or a distracting color scheme, which contributed to the effort of simply obtaining results.

This site allows viewers to help inspire each other, by reading success stories of others making a difference. Thus, ideas for community involvement may be shared, transferred and improvised for one’s own circumstances. The “success stories” share a broad range of forum, including one particular story of board teens from Newberg, Oregon, a small rural community 30 miles outside of Portland. A core group of youth were challenged to do something by a mentor sick of whining. Together peers decided they wanted a skate park, and they set about to make that happen. A two-year campaign taught the youth about their city’s government along with life lessons about determination and perseverance. Today, there is a $300,000 skate park in Newberg, Oregon. The children developed an “advisory board” in charge of establishing park rules and maintaining the concessions stand, two independent skate shops have opened up nearby. These efforts brought forth leadership and responsibility skills along with a victorious achievement.

This site was not created for children or does it engage children. There are no places for children to learn about fun activities in their local communities. An optimistic but unrealistic portion of this web site is displayed in a list of “101 Things You Can Do” with youth. My first problem with this portion is why this list exists. I would assume most people visiting this site would already have an idea to help or be competent enough to think of one on their own. However, some of the suggested activities are beneficial and useful, such as, #3 Be a camp counselor, #40 Visit a museum or #27 Learn another language. Although knowing another language is an extraordinary thing to know, after struggling with years of foreign language in college, I don’t know if a kid would participate actively. Other items on the list may be viewed as frivolous. These items include, #78 Play a video game, #79 Have a birthday party, or #82 Go swimming. Sure, these are fun things to do but I don’t know if these past times would engage communities. Worst of all, Have a bake sale is repeated on the list.

With such an abundance of growth online, in all demographics, it is important for websites to be highly functional and able to provide information in a cohesive manner. Four years later, this site proves its credibility as a nominee for the 2006 Webby Awards, Activism category. Credibility is further established through well-known sources of sponsorship, links and affiliates. As the Web Style Guide points out, the design and original framework of a site determines the viewer’s overall experience. Parallel to the viewers needs, this organization’s mission is to educate the viewer. All content is geared towards developing the reader’s knowledge and community. The visual graphics, structure and navigations have all improved tremendously along with our technological advancements. Overall, this web site spreads a good reason to get involved through a credible source with the hopes of benefiting our youth.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Too Much Money: A Bad Thing?

It is hard to find negative qualities associated with philanthropy; however we live in a world with many different views. Filipino author, Grace, was inspired to spread the word of philanthropy when Warren Buffett, the second richest man in the world, donated 85% of his fortune, about 30 billion dollars, to the Gates foundation. She noted the importance of mega-philanthropists, wishing more people of her heritage, would give back to society. Although charity should not be relied upon, sometimes the public sectors can not reach all of their goals, and it is great that private foundations can have the opportunity to reach out and lend a helping hand. I was surprised to read a blog, written by Tim Graham, which was unappreciative and even insulting of Warren Buffett's generous donation to the Gates Foundation. Graham's argues that people shouldn't rely on private charity and this contribution proves to be a "shift toward a less equal America". I found it extremely frustrating to read an act of such kindness to be considered as any less of compassionate for two reasons. Number one, the Gates foundation is one of the most prominent in the world. Therefore, the board is guaranteed to be established along with perfect execution of financial affairs due to high publicity and government monitoring. Second of all, Buffett did not give the Gates 30 billion dollars; he donated it to their foundation. All of this money is going to help other people, not the Gates. Now the Gates foundation can do more work in philanthropy and touch even more lives than before, ultimately bringing more equality to America!

The following post is in response to Tim Graham's blog, technically difficulties prevented me to post it on his site:

I find it impressive that you can denounce people actively engaged in promoting human welfare. Some of the world’s most successful people give their time and effort to give back through philanthropy, when it is not required. Warren Buffet’s 30 billion dollar donation to the Gates foundation, will contribute solely to societal needs. The Gates Foundation is an optimum resource for Buffett to employ. The Foundation is one of the most prominent in the world, and highly publicized. Therefore, the board members are guaranteed to be efficient and organized, the financial affairs have a flawless reputation and government monitoring ensures for all money to be spent in a dignified manner. Your worry about a “shift towards a less equal America” is not achieved by a philanthropic donation; every penny of Buffett’s money is to be utilized helping Americans and people around the globe. I assure you these efforts contribute to a more equal America. Private generosity should never be relied upon, because then it would be expected. However, I wish people would recognize and come to appreciate the effort mega-philanthropist are putting forth, this does not harm society. Private wealth is able to fill in what public sectors lack, enhancing humanity around globe.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Enforcing Integrity: The New Requirements

There are over 700,000 federally recognized nonprofit organizations, almost 150,000 residing in California. The philanthropic world generates and transfers millions and billions of dollars every fiscal year. With such vast amounts of currency in motion, it is likely for some money to "fall between the cracks" or be misused. One example of “questionable” spending would entail a very prominent global foundation conducting work in Africa, and flying board members to Africa via a privately charted Lear jet. This type of spending was considered a legal tax write off, because proir to new requirements, the old laws regulating philanthropic spending were inefficient. The goal of the 2004 Nonprofit Integrity Act is not only to account for all spending, but to also to ensure all spending is justified. On September 30th, 2004 California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed, The Nonprofit Integrity Act, senate bill 1262. This bill was originally sponsored by California Attorney General Bill Lockyer and presented to the senate by Senator Byron Sher. This act enforced new requirements on foundations, charities, commercial fundraisers, councils and nonprofit organizations to ensure all monetary activity is accounted for and properly recorded. This Act took effect on January 1, 2005 and shall remain a current issue for all entities involved in the world of philanthropy.

Charitable organizations accumulating over two million dollars in the fiscal year must register with the California Attorney General. These corporations must have “all financial statements audited and prepared by an independent certified public accountant”. Foremost, each charity should have a Board of Directors, which in turn must elect an audit committee to maintain a feasible budget, vote on financial distribution and meet new requirements regarding monetary affairs. These financial statements are susceptible to inspection from the Attorney General and public within nine months of initiation.

All charities should have a chief executive officer and chief financial officer. The Board of Directors must review and vote upon the compensations and benefits of these two very prominent positions and report any dissatisfaction. This proves to be a crucial step in the review process and is not meant to be insulting to the officers being reviewed, however, without this step, money may potentially be misused.

Charities and fundraisers are required to work within “written contracts containing specific information regarding the nature and financial provisions of the services to be provided to the charity…setting forth information of the fundraising methods to be used, the dates when fundraising will begin and end under contract and identifying information about the person responsible for directing and supervising the work of the fundraiser.” Commercial fundraisers must be registered with the California Attorney General, and charitable organizations must work solely with properly registered fundraisers. Fundraisers now have 30 days to register after receipt of property, compared to a previously required six months.

The Nonprofit Integrity Act in 2004 in combination with previously established laws promotes accountability from all parties involved in the philanthropic process. The first part of this act establishes new requirements for “financial audits, for audit committees, for public disclosure of audited statements, and for review by the board of directors of the compensation paid to the chief executive officer and the chief financial officer of the charitable organization”. The second half of the Integrity Act develops boundaries associated with charitable fundraising through required registration, written contracts and highly specified guidelines. The California Attorney General holds all control and authority to enforce these new requirements and severely penalizes all parties found uncooperative.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Gift of Giving

In today’s setting of political turmoil and enemies raging against our culture, our society begins to feel dark and depressed. With so much negative energy consuming our lives, this proves to be an optimum time to remember one of America’s most noble traditions, the art of philanthropic giving. The idea of philanthropy is simple and fundamental to our nation’s success, for philanthropy is founded upon the same values of our nation, freedom, generosity and democracy.

Philanthropy is perpetuated by human kindness in a purely unselfish manor. This form of charitable giving has increased throughout history. Philanthropy is unique in its ability to unite our nation and citizens without excluding anyone. As concluded from the White House Conference on Philanthropy, “philanthropic giving is (and has long been) practiced by every segment and level of American society. We need to celebrate this fact and communicate that everyone has a role to play, a gift to make – whether through dollar donations, gifts of items, or gifts of their time.”

Some of the most recognizable names in the history of American entrepreneurs such as Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller were full supporters of charitable giving. Carnegie died having gifted away 540 million dollars. Although Rockefeller was an extremely prominent businessman, and accumulated the most wealth of any individual in the 19th century, he still struggled with the idea of how to give his money away. As Carnegie once said “It is more difficult to give money away intelligently than to earn it in the first place.”

In 1921, legislation passed that would change the future of the philanthropic world; this change consisted of a dramatic, steady increase of giving throughout America. This legislation brought tax relief in exchange for charitable giving. This act of recognition from the American government would improve our nation as well as encourage the lesson of giving through generations to come. Although in 1935, similar legislation became applicable to corporations, in 1999 it was recorded that 85% of all funds given to charities in America still came from individuals.

Although charitable donations were encouraged in exchange for tax relief, the primary motivation for giving was not simply to avoid taxes. As people contribute their hard-earned money, donating to charities requires research and thought, ultimately resulting in a greater knowledge of oneself and their community. Our government must be recognized for the flexibility it provides to the tax payers. In exchange for reduced revenues from tax payers, the government provides the People with the great opportunity and responsibility of getting involved and putting their money towards special causes, passions and areas of personal interests. This freedom of flexibility in finances from the government was returned to the People, by the People.

The entire concept of philanthropy is based upon “a love of mankind” and a goal of greater humanity. This is simplified by one person in need and another attending to those needs. This is a dialogue between past and present society, but more importantly must continued through generations to come.