Our class on Tuesday was geared towards preparing for the Great Philanthropists Debate. We began by looking more in depth at the philanthropic principles and philosophies of John D. Rockefeller, Julius Rosenwald, Jane Addams, and Andrew Carnegie. I found it very interesting to compare and contrast each of them in order to understand various approaches to philanthropy. I feel that it is very important to look back at history and study the most prominent philanthropists since we will be mimicking, on a smaller scale, what many of them looked to do. For instance, Rockefeller was removed from his giving, and felt he should leave experts in charge. Rosenwald, on the other hand, held the belief that it was best to spend all his money in his lifetime, rather than setting it aside for the uncertain future. Addams took more of a hands on approach, believing that it was necessary to understand the helpless so that she could help change the system. And, finally, Carnegie saw philanthropy as an obligation, a way to immortality, and an exemplar of the benefits of capitalism. These different approaches all helped shape their giving, and are all highly influential. As a class, we must look back at the greats in order to cultivate our own approach and our own perspective on philanthropy so that we can make the best use of the $10,000. After we finished discussing each of the philanthropists, we began preparing for our debate. In our next session, our class will break into our five groups, Rockefeller, Rosenwald, Addams, Carnegie, and Oprah Winfrey, and we will each attempt to prove our philanthropist was the greatest. I look forward to hearing the thought-provoking conversation, as well as determining if the winner is the individual whom I feel was the best giver. I think it will be interesting to see if the winner is subject to personal belief or if it is obvious that one philanthropist, both in the class discussion and in real life, is superior. I also am hopeful that this processes helps educate us so we can make a more informed decision in the end.
In class Tuesday, we discussed the Kaplan case and how we believe the Kaplan Fund should be split up (or not split up). We saw how difficult it was for the Kaplan family members to come together to make joint decisions regarding their grants. In fact, we concluded it would be extremely difficult and impractical to keep the fund intact and have all members vote on each proposal. This got me thinking on how difficult it will be for our class to decide what to do with the 10k. We all come from very different backgrounds, live different lives and have different opinions and values. We are all going to want to support different causes, so how will we decide between them all? Will we split up the 10k and give to multiple non-profits, or will we donate the full grant to only one organization? How do we even begin to decide how to make decisions in the first place? This all seems a bit overwhelming, but we can use the Kaplan case as a good example of what not to do. The members of the Kaplan Fund were stubborn and refused to listen to each other’s ideas. Many of them did not keep an open mind and just wanted to get their share of money so they could do what they wanted with it. To prevent the same thing from happening in our class, we must all be willing to make compromises, listen to others idea and truly give each idea a chance. We should build off each other’s ideas instead of knocking them down. We should work to create a decision making process that is fair and practical. We are in this class because we are interested in making a difference in the community and we would all like to feel satisfied with our final decision. Maybe each of us as individuals would not have come to the same decision if this was our own money, but we must remember this is a team effort. Hopefully we can work together to find some common ground where the majority of class members are gratified by our donation.
Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” In class when discussing the New Jersey Public Television (NJPT) case, something odd happened. In my personal case study submission, I took the stance that the blame for the change in management of the station was primarily in the hands of Larry Frymire. After discussing who was at fault in class, we almost unanimously decided that everyone was at least partially to blame. That was expected. Usually, in the classroom environment, that is the lesson to learn. No one is right. No one is wrong. There are always many factors that culminate towards a result. This is where I was surprised. Professor Grimm’s opinion was in consensus with my writing submission. Larry Frymire was primarily to blame. A professor focused fault on a specific individual and I can see why. As a leader, there are certain pressures and undertaken obligations that Larry Frymire did not accept. Larry Frymire’s resistance to change cost him his leadership position, and, even though other factors were at play, his inability to adapt to the changing needs of the society he was trying to sculpt thwarted his position. This February 9th lesson enforced my initial ideas of an ideal leader – someone who wants to make a difference. In order to effectively make a positive impact, they must be a good communicator of their ideas and be understanding of the ideas of others. They must, most importantly, be able to combine the two traits. That adaptability both with unique individuals and with their changing environment is what is necessary for the leadership to be effective and survive.
When analyzing this leadership case, we focused on the characteristics of an effective leader. Larry Frymire was asked to step down as the Executive Director for the New Jersey Public Television (NJPTV) because he was not an effective communicator. As we went on to examine the case, we tried to parse the shortcomings of Frymire in communicating with the different players at NJPTV like Adubato, the Commissioners, Meade, and Governor Byrne. His inability to adapt to the changes that were happening at NJPTV also led people to view him as someone who was stuck in the past. As the leader of NJPTV, Frymire essentially failed to network with the new members of the Board. For example, if I were a board member who was appointed by a new governor, I would want to be welcomed by the leader(s) of NJPTV. I feel like if he wanted to reach out and connect with the new governor (Byrne), he should have had attended more meetings with the commissioners and tried his best to be as welcoming as possible. Another problem that we discussed in class was Frymire’s incapability to be receptive to ideas or even criticism. A good leader is someone who is willing to sit down and listen to criticism; someone who is willing to incorporate the ideas of others as well as his own. Frymire was unable to work with or even listen to what Adubato wanted to say about the organization lacking diverse shows. The biggest lesson that I learned from this class discussion was that in order to be an effective leader, I have to learn to communicate with different individuals. I have to learn to be open-minded and willing to make -and adapt- to changes for the good of the organization. At the end of the day, the cause is more important than my personal agenda.
If you had asked me two weeks ago what the difference between “philanthropy” and “charity” was, I wouldn’t have had an answer. In fact, I wouldn’t have even known why you were asking me the question. The goal of both acts is to help those in need, so who cares about the distinction? It wasn’t until taking this course that I realized that knowing the distinctions makes the difference between having a small and large impact. In his Ted Talk, Dan Palotta discusses people’s aversion to investing in the growth of non-profits, and it makes sense. Even after discussing the importance of philanthropic investments at length, my gut reaction to a proposal to donate $10,000 towards someone’s salary was still “no.” Perhaps it’s a cultural thing. In our society, we have come to expect fast results. If our efforts aren’t producing, then we focus resources elsewhere. So, when told that donations are being put towards “overhead,” we immediately think “corruption” or “incompetence”. Although charity is necessary to deal with urgent issues, we need to recognize the careful planning that goes into effecting real change. We have been given the rare opportunity to donate $10,000 to an organization of our choice. This means that going forward, we must continuously assess and reassess not only the organizations themselves, and, maybe, also the way in which we think about philanthropy.
As time dwindles, we are left with two organizations. One of which has a deep passion and tugs at our heartstrings, whereas the other has a strong statistical backing – that is not to say that the latter didn’t have a passion for the subject as well. To summarize, in our proposal we stated that we are looking for an organization that will improve the academic and attendance of students and provide personal support to the most at-risk or underserved from grades K-8. The latter fulfills both parts whereas the former fulfills the second part extremely well. Logic would dictate giving to the latter but we are human and the heart is also important. We have clearly outlined what we are looking for in our request so what is the point if we don’t follow it. We all have gone through the battle of head and heart in order to aid the problem that is the achievement gap, both the nonprofit organization and the class so the problem in the selection is a matter of priorities, I believe. Should we prioritize the criteria we laid out or what our hearts want? There has been much debate between these two organizations stating the former will give our money more impact but to put it another way, is the impact guaranteed? Are we going to bet our money on an organization to bring the bottom up or are we going to bet our money to bring an organization up for a collective contribution in closing the achievement gap? Time is running out for the class but whatever the class decides, it will be a hard decision nevertheless.
– Tommy T.
It’s been an entire semester since Robert Payton’s “A Dialogue Between the Head and the Heart” reading was assigned, but my classmates nevertheless couldn’t stop referring to the ongoing battle between the head and the heart when it comes to philanthropy during last week’s class. This concept became especially clear on the topic of whether or not to give our $10,000 grant to Little Lights Urban Ministries, Higher Achievement or Prince George’s Tennis & Education Foundation, which were our three final contenders. On one side of the argument, people such as myself touted the idea of giving to PG Tennis because our contribution would make up almost half of the program’s funding, allowing us to see the difference our money was making. Additionally, the fact that the program has an inspiring role model and a family atmosphere really resonated with a few of us. Even those supporting Little Lights couldn’t say enough about the community aspect of the program, and how it provides a caring, supportive environment for children who might not get that love and support elsewhere. However, other students were quick to argue that we were letting our emotions get in the way — that our want to make a tangible impact and our admiration for what those programs stood for was preventing us from using our “head” and acknowledging what program would use our money most efficiently. Many argued that Higher Achievement is an established, structured organization that reaches the most students and makes the largest impact, and is therefore worthy of our funding. Even after the discussion — which has now come down to Little Lights and Higher Achievement — I’m still struggling to find a balance. What’s wrong with using the heart, for believing and having hope in a smaller organization even if it isn’t the best in regard to numbers? Is it wrong to feel a sense of satisfaction when one donates? Is it selfish to use the heart, as I’ve been doing? I’m interested to see how those questions, and the fight between head and heart, play out next week.