Sunday, March 4, 2012

Gender, Generations, and Generosity: From Andrew Carnegie to Lady Gaga

In February, I was the opening keynote speaker for the AFP San Antonio Conference, 2012, and had a lot of fun with the above title.  The concept originated with Lisa Parker, President, of the Lawrence Welk Family Foundation and Principle of Family Circle Advisors.  Lisa and I will be working together in June at the Council of Michigan Foundations Family Philanthropy retreat and the title of her presentation is "From Lawrence Welk to Lady Gaga: Bridging the Generational Divide in Family Philanthropy." I can assure you that the title surely does get peoples attention.  

The title in San Antonio it was particularly topical as Lady Gaga was to announce her latest foundation, "Born This Way," on February 29 at of all places, Harvard University.  The foundation's purpose, according to her mother, a cofounder of the foundation, was born out of Lady Gaga's own experiences growing up, and her passion to create a better world.  A world where people are kinder and nicer to one another, and are accepted for who they are, regardless of how different they may be.

And how can we describe two such different such different ages?  Well, they both surely have bridged their gender, generations, and the centuries through their giving.  But I believe that Lady Gaga's giving represents generosity as well as philanthropy, and that future giving will be based more on generosity.  Philanthropy is thoughtful, deliberate planning while generosity is a spontaneous reaction to an immediate problem, based mainly on human needs; and on sharing rather than giving.

With all that the Internet now offers, and 24/7 news media, we see firsthand what is happening in all parts of the world; a tsunami, earthquake, or an issue we are particularly concerned about.  And we give because we care deeply about people in need, and issues needing our immediate help.

We will always need the philanthropy of an Andrew Carnegie as well as the generosity of a Lady Gaga.  How fortunate for the world that the two can and are happening simultaneously.

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