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“How much is enough?” is a question we often hear asked about personal wealth. I have heard it very few times asked about foundation assets. The assumption seems to be the accumulation of assets is a good thing and that will only mean more to give. Now and then I will hear from a friend struggling with the growth of foundation assets. That’s the case in this recent letter.
My critical issue and question at this moment of time is “How to deal with excess financial capacity without building a bigger barn.” The barn to which I speak is really two barns. One ‘barn’ houses our personal assets. The other ‘barn’ storehouses a considerable amount of charitable assets, our foundation. Both are as big as I feel are necessary. My dilemma is we have received an unanticipated generous distribution from the family business and I have no vision for it’s future use, either personally or charitably. Normally, as in prior situations similar to this one, the lion’s share would go to our foundation (and taxes). But now that that the foundation has already achieved a sufficient asset base it does not need to grow it any further. What appears to be the obvious solution to our dilemma,‘distribute it in grants’, is just as problematic as our current model of grant making is not capable of distributing this new infusion of cash in a wise, timely and responsible manner.”
His financial capacity has outgrown his vision and his model for making gifts. Years ago, I met a man, Charles Graustein, who faced a similar situation. In fact, we published his story in the newsletter. This is how he described the change and his response.
“It startled my sense of identity. Still, I did not want to be mistaken for a two-legged ATM machine. So, I set up an advisory panel to act as a sounding board and to widen the circle of conversation about our new capacity.
"The sudden increase in capacity, though, meant I had to make some changes personally and let go of some of the comfort of my previous identity that was built around my previous capacity. There was a sense of grief in that because I liked that level of giving and was not comfortable with this new level. I was afraid of making mistakes, of having to build a new identity in the community, of attracting grants in a range for which I had no expertise. Change involves a certain amount of loss." "I found a process developed by Daniel Yankelovich that helped me develop a sense of urgency about making the change. Otherwise, I would have put off doing it thinking I would first get comfortable with it and then make the transition. I found I had to make the transition and then get comfortable with it. I had to find a level of trust with people and the future. I had to face the questions, What is the best that could happen and what is the worst that could happen?"
"The first step was my own awareness of the problem. My assets were going to grow faster than my current style of giving. The second step was creating a sense of urgency about responding to that. People around me that I trusted helped me make that change. The third step was jumping to a quick solution just to get back to equilibrium. Wrong move but almost an inevitable move. The fourth step was resistance from myself and others around me because none of us wanted to make the change, really. The resistance is real and it has to be brought out into the open and talked about. The fifth step was coming to grips with a number of options. There is no one right answer. The sixth step was willingness to put some weight down on one or two of the options. The seventh step was our full commitment to what we are currently doing. If the assets change dramatically again then we will have to go through the process again."
What would you recommend for my friend if you were on his advisory panel? That’s not a rhetorical question because he would like to know what others think. Send me a note with your thoughts.
601 Shelley Drive
Tyler, Texas 75701
Like everyone else, I’ve tossed around the words “call” and “anointing” to mean discovering the right place in life. Of course, the implication is always this is the place where you will be the most fulfilled, satisfied and genuinely engaged. Campus Crusade used to call it “God’s wonderful plan for your life”. Over the years I’ve helped any number of young people find their calling and there are countless books on the subject. In my mind those people who are anointed are those who have found the perfect fit between the way they are designed and the work they have been called to do. Again, the implication is usually this is a prelude to their lives being ones of achievement, accomplishment and meaningful work.
I read the passage on Jeremiah’s calling this week and I have to say it jolted me. Anointing and calling were not at all about finding a “fit” for this young man. It was not about leadership or fulfillment or even a sense of accomplishment. I think Jeremiah may have thought that when he first heard the words about God shaping him for this very moment in time. I guess we would all like to feel that way about ourselves. Instead, it turns out calling and anointing for young Jeremiah are not about living a significant life but about suffering. Chosen to suffer, in fact. I don’t know if I can sell this to people looking for their calling and their anointing as a way to a rich life. What if Bonhoeffer is right in saying that Jesus’ call is not to success or significance or fulfillment but to “come and die”? It would be wrong to feel sorry for Jeremiah. This was his calling. As he says from the perspective of an older man in Lamentations, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:…great is your faithfulness.”Comments
While in Portland for the latest Q conference in April, I had a few minutes with one of the participants who has also been a speaker at many Christian conferences around the country. We had not seen each other in a couple of years and I wanted to catch up – and hoped he did as well. As we talked he made a funny comment about being one of the “carnies” that move around from show to show on the circuit. While they all travel separately (unlike the circus) they all seem to end up at the same conferences together. Carnies call it running a “joint” or booth, “grab joint” (food booth), game or ride. Different town – same players.
Being in the business of doing conferences it started me thinking about how much truth there is to that. Arthur Koestler wrote a book titled “The Call Girls” about a small group of academics who show up on the same foundation and university sponsored conferences year after year around the world, give their papers, answer questions, and move on to the next venue. High class carnies. A friend who did lots of Christian conferences once described it as getting on a plane not knowing anyone, being picked up by someone you don’t know, speaking to people you’ll never see again, being driven to the airport by a new someone you don’t know and coming back to a family you stopped knowing years ago – only to turn around two days later and repeat the cycle. Sounds like life with Jackson Browne, doesn’t it?Comments
I don’t make many statements or give quotes but sometimes I do when I think the issue is interesting and my perspective will help. That was the case in an article by Christine Scheller in an article titled “Who Gets The Money?” at http://www.urbanfaith.com/2011/02/who-gets-the-money.html/. The premise is Christian donors are less likely to write checks to minority-run ministries and, possibly, there is a race-based disparity. One of the minority ministry leaders (Leroy Barber from Mission Year) wrote a response:
I was incredibly saddened earlier this week as I read an article by Christine A Scheller titled “Who Gets The Money?” on urbanfaith.com. Although I have lived with this reality swirling around me for over twenty years in ministry, it was still shocking to see it documented in print. The fact that organizations run by African Americans suffer simply because they are at the helm is quite an indictment on Christianity. The feelings caused me to tear up as I read the story. The following is an excerpt from the article:
“Fred Smith is founder and president of The Gathering, a group that encourages Christian philanthropy. He has seen similar dynamics in the Dallas area and agrees that lack of trust and latent racism can be factors, but says, ‘I suspect the predominant cause is a lack of networks that are peer-based.’ Soderquist acknowledges the reality that white- led ministries often have an easier time getting funding than black-led ministries. ‘It’s like urban ministry’s dirty little secret in that we are often the ones who speak prophetically to the majority culture church about issues of justice and issues of race, and yet we continue to fit into this system where we seem dependent on the white leadership of organizations.’ He says it’s a catch-22, because inner-city ministries need resources, but funding more easily flows from white resources to white-led organizations.”
This makes me sick to my stomach, and yet I’m also very thankful for the many people that have supported Mission Year and the many projects I have led as an African American leader. My heart is full of joy as I think about the many donors I have sat with around the country who consistently support our work. Thank you for not following the racist trend that sits before you, thank you for trusting a leader of color, and thank you for really changing the world. I constantly hear of people who profess to change the world and yet continue to support the racism that exist within philanthropy in this country. I am proud to say I know and have been with philanthropists that don’t follow that trend and who have instead committed to change by supporting our work. I will not bow to the current majority trend, but will choose to spread the hope of change by highlighting the great efforts of those who go against the flow. Friends and donors in Pennsylvania, New York, Atlanta, LA, and Memphis, to name just a few.
What would happen if the leaders of The Gathering would sit down with a few quality Black leaders and learn about our work? Perhaps they could be challenged to be trendsetters instead of trend followers. To all my white friends that help make a difference by living, giving, and serving alongside black led ministries, I’ve got nothing but love for you, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for trusting that Black leaders can do a good job. To all my Anglo brothers and sisters who do not yet support an African American-led organization, I urge you to join us as we change the world.
I’ve been thinking about my take and his response. As a result of the article he has invited me to join a group of minority led ministries to talk about this. I stand by the quote because I don’t think it is overt racism as much as it is minorities do not circulate in the same circles as ministries led by white, well-connected leaders. At least, that is my experience.Comments
I spent an hour on the phone this morning with Dave Hillis, the relatively new President of Leadership Foundations (www.leadershipfoundations.org). I was first introduced to LF many years ago through Reid Carpenter – a genuine cowboy and former Young Life leader. As everyone says semi-seriously, “If you were in Urban Young Life you moved to Leadership Foundations when you got older. If you were in regular Young Life you moved to the Fellowship.” Probably a good deal of truth in that.
Anyway, for years the Leadership Foundations were local city initiatives with a wide variety of missions that often started with hosting prayer breakfasts, working with city leadership, pastor and ministries. Always a little vague and definitely varied in their approach from city to city, it was hard to pin down what exactly they were accomplishing and how they measured their results. Several years ago they created an association with a central office and wanted to establish a bit of uniformity (bad word) for the movement and figure out ways to set some standards regarding the work around the country and the world. It’s been a transition in many ways. There has been a leadership transition from Reid to Dave.
Succession is always a challenge but it sounds like they have addressed it well without killing the founder or the founder killing the organization. As you know, that happens all too often. They’ve done some rigorous work in defining which local LF’s are in the development stage and which are established. In other words, it sounds like they have moved from the highly entrepreneurial stage to the managed stage. If you want to know more, contact Dave at (253)272-0771 or firstname.lastname@example.orgComments