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Global Geneva's 'Wise Givers' List

November 26, 2007

Barron's, the business and financial weekly published by Dow Jones, has jumped on the philanthropy bandwagon with a "special report" in its current issue (available in print and, online, to subscribers only).

The centerpiece of the package is a 560-word article highlighting the work of ten philanthropists "who epitomize thoughtful and effective giving." Compiled for Barron's by Geneva Global, a leading international philanthropic advisory firm that works with donors to turn their investments into "Life Change" -- sustainable, long-term social change -- it's an eclectic list that includes Eugene Lang, the 88-year-old entrepreneur who started the "I Have A Dream" Foundation; Lynn Fritz, who used proceeds from the sale of his global logistics firm to start the Fritz Institute; and Microsoft millionaire Mike Murray, who started Unitus, "a global microfinance accelerator."

Does philanthropy need another top ten list? Not if its based on dollar amount given, writes Global Geneva CEO Steve Beck in the firm's blog, Beyond Philanthropy. "Ranking philanthropists based on dollars given," he adds,

is akin to ranking the world’s great investors by the amount of stock they bought rather than their returns; it celebrates the input without regard for the impact. We need deeper reflection on what philanthropy is really about. Rankings can spur healthy competition. But let’s spur each other on to what really matters.   

To that end, Beck and his colleagues offer "a few simple rules" that any serious donor would do well to consider:

  1. Start with a goal that engages your passions and leverages your own experience;
  2. Create a plan to achieve that goal;
  3. Thoughtfully measure progress, even if the metrics are imperfect;
  4. Learn from success and failure; and
  5. Be willing to change what you’re doing based on that learning.

It's a good, if unsurprising, list. And frankly, I'm more interested in how Beck and his colleagues assembled their list of "effective" philanthropists -- and whether the methodology they used could be adapted to the foundation world. I'll have more to say about that another day, but in the meantime feel free to read Tim Ogden's description of how they did it and draw your own conclusions.

-- Mitch Nauffts

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