Comparative Concerns: Donors and Fundraisers, Nonprofits and Community Members

I want to share with you my review of Lisa Greer's book, Philanthropy Revolution, just published on Amazon. (I wasn't certain that it would join the previous accolades, having purchased my now dogeared copy at my local independent bookstore.) After having read her book, what strikes me is, though our focal points are properly different, our concerns are equally legitimate. On the one hand, she would have the philanthropic sector redolent with mutuality between those who have resources to give and those who would have their hands on such assets, and her book seeks to make it so. On the other hand, the focus for my work has come to rest substantially on the imperative of a kindred sense of mutuality between those who operate nonprofit organizations and those who ostensibly benefit from the efforts of such outfits. And my book seeks to make it so.

I also have the temerity to suggest another element of common ground between Greer & Chess. Though separated by volumes of real life business experience, let's call it, hers as luminary as mine is modest, we both seem to have written books that fly in the face of some sort of conventional wisdom within the broadly defined nonprofit realm. (That, and her birth name starts with Z as does my family nickname.) To her credit and my envy she's used her visibility to do a far better job of getting her written words purchased than have I. My aspirations remain intact, nonetheless. The review follows.

My copy of Lisa Greer's book, written with Larissa Kostoff, is a study in usefulness, already dog-eared and orange underlined.  I got my hands on it as a regular reader of her Philanthropy 451 email series - and as someone as interested as she is in change, having spent much of my working life among people within nonprofit organizations. I had just finished Winner Take All by Anand Giridharadas and so my susceptibility to the notion of sector change was already keen. And she kept it sharp for me. The Chapter Headings alone should be enough to pique the interest of any reader: Philanthropy Is In Trouble; Donors And Their Motives; Fake Friends And Unequal Power; Money Talks; Investing Beyond The Dollar; What Money Can't Buy; Good Communication: Events For A New Era; Giving Thanks and Saving Giving. The implied focus on challenging the status quo is what makes the innards of the book so down-to-earth illuminating. As for specifics, her take on the good, bad and ugly of Donor Advised Funds alone is enough to make this book required reading for anyone who in any way seeks to help a nonprofit organization sustain itself and stay the course. And, the section that details how someone seeking funds role-play being a donor should be required reading for every last soul who's ever struggled to make the case for a nonprofit to receive funding. When I was actively conducting workshops for grant seekers and fundraisers, I often carried around recommended resources for attendees in addition to my own. Had it been available then, Philanthropy Revolution would have been an essential component. Let me finish with my favorite quote from her book: 'Wouldn't it be great to get to a place where organizations trust donors enough to be transparent, and donors trust organizations enough to let them lead? That place is where we realize that we want the same thing: organizations that  are as effective as they are visionary, and outcomes that change the world." As an advocate for grassroots nonprofits in these difficult times, I heartily concur.

Harvey B. Chess
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