Monday, November 7, 2011

Generations, Gender and Generosity

I was pleased to have been part of the celebration of the Women's Philanthropy Council of the University of Wisconsin Foundation's tenth biennial forum on philanthropy"Generations, Gender and Generosity." My dear friend and colleague, Martha Taylor helped establish the Council twenty three years ago and it was the first women's philanthropy initiative at a public university.

The day opened with my moderating a four member panel of women of different generations discussing their philanthropy.  As you might imagine, the women did have some differences in their approach to philanthropy: Gen Y said she had no trouble approaching her friends for money while the others found asking friends to be somewhat difficult.  But most of the approaches to giving were very similar, despite the difference in ages from 21 years to 93 years.

When asked what they felt their responsibilities were as philanthropic leaders, the women said to educate others so they know how to give back, and to lead by example and not give anonymously.

I asked about the values they wanted to pass on to the next generation and they said making a difference, the responsibility to put philanthropy to its best use, compassion and giving to things that touch the heart.

As for the panel's expectations from giving a gift, the answers were knowing how the gift was used, that their gift was earmarked and not for the general fund, and looking at their contribution in the same way as when making a new investment; they want an accounting.

When the discussion turned to how they like to be asked for a gift, they said through the use of stories and knowing there will be collaboration with others.

And finally, we talked about where philanthropy is headed.  The responses were that more people will be giving locally as compared to giving to large institutions, and that philanthropy will become even more important with government cutbacks.

One panel member closed the session with the inspiring comment about the cup half full and half empty story and said what we really must do is give our cup to others to drink.  Her statement was a fine conclusion to the day's atmosphere of giving back, giving to basic needs, compassion, and generosity that was in abundance at the day long forum.

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