All posts by Alan Cantor

Donor-Advised Funds: By the Numbers

Last week I participated in a terrific debate about donor-advised funds with my good friend Stuart Comstock-Gay, the president of the Vermont Community Foundation. (Thank you, Planned Giving Council of New Hampshire and Vermont, for inviting us!)

Stu and I found a lot of common ground, as well as several areas where we cordially agreed to disagree. Stu made the case for donor-advised funds, saying that their flexibility and low entry point encourage charitable giving and democratize philanthropy — private foundations for the average person. He also emphasized their efficiency. I brought out my concerns (familiar to readers of this column) that donor-advised funds were attracting money that otherwise would be going to actual charities. I also pointed out that money goes into donor-advised funds more readily than it comes out, and I described the unethical financial incentives that are driving the growth at commercial gift funds such as Fidelity.

In preparing for the debate I came up with some numbers that I think illustrate the challenges posed by donor-advised funds. (Because we were meeting right across the river from Dartmouth College, by far the largest fundraising operation in Northern New England, I make references to Dartmouth in a few places.)

The numbers:

Continue reading

Share this: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedintumblrmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedintumblrmail

Cheap Easels

If you want to understand the nonprofit world’s approach to spending money, take a look at their easels.

Every small nonprofit owns metal easels. They use these easels a dozen times a year to hold big newsprint pads for strategic planning retreats, staff meetings, and board presentations, and to hold up posters at public events. Virtually every organization has a metal easel or two stuck in closets and car trunks and basements. Even in an era of PowerPoint presentations and digital projectors (not to mention white boards), nonprofits continue to own and use easels. For some reason, easels are a tough habit to break.

Continue reading

Share this: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedintumblrmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedintumblrmail

Foundering

“So what’s your boss like?” I asked a friend, who had recently taken a position at a nonprofit.

“Well, you know. He’s a founder.”

My friend then listed the adjectives describing his boss: “Creative. Dynamic. Charismatic. Visionary. Brilliant. Funny. Inspiring.” Also, “Meddling. Obstinate. Egotistical. Defensive. Controlling. Annoying. Demanding. Distracted.”

Continue reading

Share this: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedintumblrmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedintumblrmail

Identity Laundering

Some charitable gifts are made with open hearts and great altruism. Other charitable gifts are made largely to curry favor or gain attention. And then there are gifts that use charity purely to further the donors’ political and financial interests. Here’s a story about how a pair of famous billionaire brothers have manipulated charitable giving laws for personal and political ends – all while taking advantage of technicalities to cover their tracks and protect their pet charities.

Continue reading

Share this: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedintumblrmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedintumblrmail