RIDGE WRITERS ON BOOK: ’Giving With Confidence’

By DONNA McCrohan Rosenthal

RIDGE WRITERS ON BOOK: ’Giving With Confidence’In the current financial crisis, government funders pay more slowly, foundations have had to retrench and demands for basic services continue to rise. Against this backdrop, former Packard Foundation CEO Colburn Wilbur and coauthor Fred Setterberg discuss giving circles, Internet resources, communities of donors, nonprofit technical assistance organizations and more for individuals, families and family foundations that donate over $5,000 annually to charitable causes.

Facilitating the transition from well meaning to effective philanthropy, they offer passionate arguments for generosity that strives to be deliberate, thoughtful and imaginative, connected in the right places and ambitiously realistic.

They cite such examples as a few hundred dollars that went for paints, brushes and paper used in a free workshop for low-income children who otherwise might never have discovered the arts and an initiative that taught English to immigrant mothers who then landed jobs, some of them interfacing with other families that spoke no English.

At the same time, Wilbur and Setterberg emphasize the importance of discretionary gifts —money with no strings attached — in an environment where most donors would rather bankroll specific programs than general administration “as though programs could somehow leap fully formed from disembodied goodwill and aspiration” burdening the organization with a laundry list of commitments yet no way to turn on the lights.

“Overhead,” they say, “isn’t a code word for waste and rapine… If you try running a program without budgeting for sufficient salaries, insurance, or training, soon you’ll be running your organization into the ground.”

They suggest getting involved in the nonprofit sector both as a financial supporter and a volunteer who learns what it means to have to look for money as well as disbursing it.

The authors go on to urge an empowering sense of mission to change the planet: “Philanthropy is a way of renewing the world. It’s how we improve on what we find during our life’s short span, leaving something for the next generation to make even better” because we have a “responsibility to invest even more of ourselves in the ongoing project of diminishing pain and enlarging opportunity, beauty, justice, and joy.”

Warning: Whether you write large checks or can only manage small ones, “Giving with Confidence” may inspire you to up your game because, simply stated, “We all owe each other all of the time.”

This weekly column is written by members of the Ridge Writers, the East Sierra Branch of the California Writers Club. Meetings are held the first Wednesday evening of each month at Ridgecrest Presbyterian Church and free programs are offered throughout the year. Ridge Writers’ book “Planet Mojave: Visions From a World Apart” is available at Carriage Inn, Jawbone Station, the Historic USO Building, the Maturango Museum, Red Rock Books and online from the official website, www.planetmojave.com

Story First Published: 2013-02-27