The following is a re-post from Asian Philanthropy Forum.
As philanthropic advisors, our goal is to help our clients or donors answer difficult questions, listen to their ideas and dreams and eventually define a strategy and implementation plan to fulfill their philanthropic goals. Along the way, we make adjustments, complete evaluations and re-define our path based on new information we gather. To be a good philanthropic advisor, I think we must act like attorneys (and not as wealth managers or bankers - fields where many philanthropic advisors are coming from). That is, seeing the situation from various sides, researching and completing a form of comparative analysis in the philanthropic interest, and then providing the client or donor with the best recommendation. Like attorneys, we "zealously advocate" for our client's or donor's interest even when no one believes in their philanthropic dreams. But how far should we proceed in advocating for our donor's philanthropic interests?
Russ Alan Prince, president of Prince & Associates, a market research firm specializing in global wealth, has written extensively on the subject of philanthropy, including the very well known book, Seven Faces of Philanthropy. In the March/April 2011 issue of Private Wealth magazine, Prince wrote about his lunch experience with a cryptozoologist who had recently inherited $30 million. His lunch date had a doctorate degree in anthropology and taught college for a few years. He stumbled upon a collection of ancient documents one day that described the amazing power of the alicorn- the horn of the unicorn. According to his lunch date, the alicorn can eradicate disease and potentially help people live for centuries. After spending $10 million of his inheritance researching unicorns, he clains to have found their secret sanctuary. According to his projections and business plan, he needs another $50 million for the expedition to retrieve the alicorns - this also included the training of an elite corp of female virgins who are required to capture the unicorns. He attempted to raise funds from private equity firms but they lacked vision so he found a few individuals who were interested in backing his unicorn expedition.
As I was reading the article, I wondered how I would have responded if the cryptozoologist came to me and shared with me his plans. Crazy? A bit off the beaten path? A dreamer? But what if it was true? What if alicorns can eradicate disease and cure all those that are currently in pain? Afterall, who are we to tell Bill Gates that he can't eradicte polio or malaria if he wanted to?
As philanthropic advisors, we sometimes have to take a leap of faith with our clients or donors. Philanthropy can be practiced everyday in simple ways. However, there are some folks out there, maybe calling them visionaries is not completely appropriate, but folks that have dreams of how they wish to see the world. How far would you, as a philanthropy advisor, leap with your clients or donors?
Photo courtesy of scorpiorules58, Creative Commons, Flickr