Philanthropic Finesse

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September 2017
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A Philanthropist Speaks: Conversation with Liz Thompson

“Get in the car and drive two miles and let’s help the kids on the other side of the city of Chicago.  In addition to being a global city, let’s be a local city…Don and I have decided to focus our philanthropy right here at home.  If other people want to give globally, that’s wonderful. We applaud that because we need it. We are Chicagoans first.”

Liz Thompson, president of Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education

Generally speaking, Americans believe philanthropy is giving money to help the needy.  Period. I argue that there is so much more to philanthropy than donating money and Liz Thompson helps me make this case.

I met Liz earlier this month with the goal of her sharing her experience as a philanthropist.  Hearing the master speak taught me that I have not met many philanthropists. Donors, yes. True philanthropists, not so much.  Liz and her husband Don epitomize what it means to be philanthropists.  Their humble beginnings and their ability to take advantage of opportunities paved the way for them to pay it forward.  My hope is that you are wiser, empowered and more optimistic about our future after listening to my conversation with Liz.

Here are additional links to the podcast:

Liz Thompson on SoundCloud

Liz Thompson on iTunes

As Black Philanthropy Month 2017 concludes on August 31st, continue to support the organizations whose missions speak to you 365 days a year.  Make financial contributions, volunteer your time, and share your expertise.

August 30, 2017




A Look at Corporate Giving During Black Philanthropy Month

“What’s really impactful to me is meeting with the individuals served by the organization…I can look at an application and it’s very different to read on paper what an organization is doing versus seeing it live and in action. And that’s what’s important. It very much personalizes the work the organization is doing and our potential partnership with an organization.”

-JeNyce Boolton, Vice President, Community Relations Manager, U.S. Bank

Black Philanthropy Month is in full swing and this week I am giving voice to fuel change! JeNyce Boolton, community relations manager at U.S. Bank in Chicago and I recently had a conversation about corporate philanthropy.  We talked about U.S. Bank’s giving priorities, especially as they relate to the African-American community.  U.S. Bank emphasizes funding for economic development through its Community Possible program and its three pillars: work, home and play.  JeNyce also gives us valuable insight into the overall corporate philanthropy landscape and U.S. Bank’s commitment to communities of color.  If you are affiliated with a community based nonprofit organization you will find this Corporate Philanthropy with Je’Nyce Boolton podcast to be a valuable resource. The iTunes podcast can be found here.

For more information on U.S. Bank’s Community Possible grant program, click on the link here: U.S. Bank Community Possible

You may contact JeNyce Boolton at

The business of business should not be about money. It should be about responsibility. It should be about public good, not private greed.

– Anita Roddick, Founder, Body Shop

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August 23, 2017

Conversation with Dr. Jackie Copeland-Carson, Founder of Black Philanthropy Month

August is Black Philanthropy Month (BPM).  The BPM movement strives to encourage and mobilize people of African-American and African heritage to get informed, involved, inspired and invested in giving back to our communities. The movement is recognized in 20 U.S. cities. The BPM theme for 2017 is Giving Voice to Fuel Change.
For Black Philanthropy Month 2017, I am giving voice to African-Americans leading the charge in giving back and facilitating philanthropy in Black communities and in the greater society.
Click on one of the interview links below to hear Dr. Jackie Copeland-Carson, the founder of Black Philanthropy Month, offer an impassioned and well-studied perspective of philanthropy during our conversation. This interview and others like it will be aired on Wednesdays at 4:00PM CST on SSW Radio 88.5FM  through the end of August.
For the more information on the BPM movement and ways to get involved during Black Philanthropy Month and beyond, check out these sites.
Huffington Post Black Philanthropy Series
African Immigrant Innovations in 21st Century Giving by Mojubaolu Olufunke Okome and Jackie CopelandCarson with Foreword by Una Osili
Pan-African Women’s Philanthropy Network
The Freedman’s Bureau Transcription Project
August 11, 2017

Ben & Jerry’s Foundation Accepting Applications Now

Well known for their delectable frozen treats, you may not know that Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream has a foundation with a social justice mission.  The Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, founded in 1985, funds grassroots organizations committed to social change.  The Foundation’s focus areas are social justice, environment and food sustainability.  Its investment policy mirrors the mission. The Foundation only invests its funds in Community Development Financial Institutions. These include community development banks, credit unions and loan companies with missions to meet the needs of low-income communities.

The Foundation makes one-year grants of up to $25,000.  Applicants must be 501(c)3 organizations or have a fiscal agent with the status. Annual budgets cannot exceed $500,000.


To be considered, organizations will need to prove they are using community-organizing and base-building strategies.  The pre-application round began on February 1st and the deadline is April 14th.  If your organization is selected, the full proposal is due October 19th.


Here’s a sample of 2016 grants recipients from large metropolitan areas and small communities.

One Step a la Vez, Fillmore, CA

Power River Basin Resource Council, Sheridan, WY

Amos Institute of Public Life, Des Moines, IA

Freedom University, Atlanta, GA

Blocks Together, Chicago, IL

Youth Art and Self-Empowerment Project, Philadelphia, PA

Louisiana Bucket Brigade, New Orleans, LA

Workers’ Dignity Project, Nashville, TN

Dakota Rural Action, Brookings, SD



The Obamas Need Your Help

“True democracy is a project that’s much bigger than any one of us.”

Barack H. Obama, 44th President, United States of America

As Barack and Michelle Obama transition from their public roles as President and First Lady of the United States of America, they will continue their patriotic service in their private lives through the Obama Foundation.  The couple will tirelessly work to create positive change locally (in Chicago), nationally and worldwide as they did in the White House.

As Michelle says in the video, “This will be your Presidential Center, as much yours as it is ours”.  They want your ideas.  They want to know what should be the Foundations’s critical focus areas.  Watch this short video and hear them explain how you can help.

Follow Philanthropic Finesse on Twitter at PhilanthropicFi, #PhilanthropicFi, @ygivingmatters and on Facebook at Philanthropic Finesse.

What Great Nonprofit Board Members Routinely Give

Finding volunteers with the right attributes is like winning the trifecta – difficult to do, but worth making the effort to find the right mix for the organization.  Every nonprofit should create a Board member job description, with detailed explanations of expectations and service commitments.

Defining Board member responsibilities can vary as widely as there are nonprofit organizations, but it would be a disservice to leave out any of these qualifiers. They are the 3Ts (Time, Talent and Treasure) or the 3Ws (Work, Wisdom and Wealth).


Members of a nonprofit Board give their time(work) to help the organization.  They can do this by:

  • helping to shape the future direction of the charity.
  • creating new, modifying and/or approving the planning documents that guide the organization (mission and values statements, guiding principles, and strategic, operating and fundraising plans).
  • attending regular and special Board meetings.
  • serving on committees and subcommittees.
  • attending events.
  • encouraging others to learn more about the nonprofit’s great work.


Accomplished people are asked to join nonprofit Boards because of their expertise in certain areas. The charity needs their talent(wisdom) to improve the charity’s decision-making. Here are examples:

  • You are an estate planning attorney and the charity wants to start a gift planning program.
  • You are an executive for a construction firm and the charity is considering building a new facility to serve a different demographic.
  • You are a doctor using innovative approaches to treat diabetes and the charity’s mission is to find a cure for juvenile diabetes.
  • You are a vice president at a major consulting firm and the charity is looking for new opportunities to grow its services while cutting costs.


Nonprofit leaders tend to be comfortable asking Board members to volunteer time and asking for  advice, but sometimes are hesitant to ask their Board members to give their treasure(wealth) annually.  Why?  In some cases,

  • the charity doesn’t have a case for support.
  • there is no clear plan to solicit Board members.
  • Board members were never told of any expectation to make annual gifts at a specific level.
  • Board members were told giving is optional.
  • the charity’s leadership is uncomfortable asking for gifts, fearful of being told no and/or terrified of Board members becoming upset and resigning.


When vetting Board candidates, it is important for the nominating committee to give candidates good reasons why Board membership has to be a reciprocal fit.  It is the charity’s responsibility to make sure all new and returning Board members have clear expectations of their roles before joining or accepting additional terms. Each party should understand and agree to:

  1. the time commitment.
  2. how a candidate’s or a returning member’s expertise will be used to improve the organization.
  3. an annual gift of at least the minimum required for the duration of the term of service.
  4. an annual Board member review with the CEO and the Board president.

The vetting process goes both ways.  Both sides are looking for a good fit. Open and honest dialog is important.  Candidates for Board membership should have a clear understanding of the mission, and know all the requirements for Board service, including time(work), talent(wisdom) and treasure(wealth).

Over time, increasing the number of Board members who actively give of their time(work), talent(wisdom, and  treasure(wealth) will change the Board from being good to being great!

UP NEXT: My experience with Board member reviews.

Follow Philanthropic Finesse on Twitter at PhilanthropicFi and on Facebook at Philanthropic Finesse. @ygivingmatters #PhilanthropicFi





Today is National Philanthropy Day


Take time out of your busy schedules today to support nonprofits with missions you care deeply about!

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