Monthly Archives: August 2009

Philanthropic Analysis Paralysis

Face it, many of us “wonks” (which I lovingly use) in the philanthropic sector have become enamored with being able to measure things. We also like to complain a lot when we can’t measure something.

Lately, all of the talk has been on the various ways to measure an organizational outcome. Under Ken Berger’s leadership, Charity Navigator has set a new course and begun studying ways to incorporate measurement of outcomes into their charity rating system. I applaud Ken and Charity Navigator and believe that for too long, we have not been focusing donor attention on the entire picture. It is inherently good to ask the question, “How effective have you been at actually achieving the thing we’ve been giving you money for?”. To be able to create mechanisms that address that question could potentially have a huge impact and be a game changing moment for the nonprofit sector.

In my work as an investment adviser, I choose investments to put money into. For the most part, I frankly don’t care how much a company spent on advertising expenses or other overhead costs, I care about their earnings. I care about their dividend. I care whether the company is growing or contracting. I care how much market share they have relative to their competitors. These and other things tell me how healthy a company is. While it is useful to compare the overhead of Home Depot to Lowes, it is pointless in my opinion to compare it to Johnson & Johnson if you are interested in the metrics of the home improvement business. They do completely different things. Measuring the right things is something that we’ve done a poor job at and it seems like good people are committed to making real improvements to how we track effectiveness. This is long overdue. Have we missed something along the way though?

When I first started becoming interested in philanthropy as part of my business, I wanted to help charities tell the planned giving story. When I went to become a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional, I saw the tax wizardry of Charitable Remainder Trusts and was amazed when I saw that one could potentially leave more money to heirs through the use of these and other kinds of charitable vehicles. I thought, “Wow, why doesn’t everyone know about this?” I felt that many more people would give to charity if they knew what kind of tax benefit they could get and that if heirs actually wound up receiving more in the process, well that would certainly be a win for everyone but the government. Over time, I learned that while many people do give for tax reasons, more give because they are inspired to do so for one reason or another. They give from their heart. They give to give something back or to make a difference.

While the measurement issue is a critical one, let’s not lose sight of the fact that we also need to be focused on showing people the way into philanthropy. We need to be creating opportunities to make new philanthropists by showing the world that we all make a difference and have the ability to do so. I discovered philanthropy. A business coach asked me to write my own eulogy. After a few minutes of sitting there, staring at him, and thinking about the question, I answered. I said, “I guess I would want people to say I made a difference…” The rest is history.




A Bold New Facebook Scam! That’s Nerve!

A few days ago, I was working on my computer and only had Facebook open in the background when I suddenly heard the sound of my instant chat window pop up (you know that sound). When I opened the window, I was pleased to see someone whom I hadn’t spoken to for a long time. I personally knew this person from my networking and had spoken a number of times to this person by phone, but we had never met in person. When I asked how he had been, he replied to me, “Not good”, and proceeded to tell me that he had just been held up at gunpoint, mugged, and had all of his cash, wallet, and cell phone stolen. “That’s terrible”, I replied. He said he needed money to settle his hotel bill and promised to pay me back tomorrow, saying his flight back to the US was leaving soon and he had to settle the bill. Immediately, my “B.S. detector” went off. While I did know this person, I am certainly not the first person he would have asked for money. I asked a few more questions and determined that someone had hijacked my friend’s Facebook account and was posing as him. I knew this person well enough to know it wasn’t him. I tried to call my friend to see if he was ok but unfortunately I couldn’t reach him. This guy was good though. When I asked him for a phone number to call him, he gave me a number, saying it was for the hotel in Kentish Town. I Googled the name and location and got a hit that this was indeed a scam. While I watched, the person actually changed my friend’s email address in his Facebook profile. The guy posing as my friend tried to get me to wire $800 bucks to a Western Union account.  I was astonished that this person was actually so bold. Stalling for time, I actually called the FBI while the person was online and reported the person.

Watch out on Facebook if anything like this happens to you. Happy surfing and keep safe.

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Revisiting Social Networking and Twitter for Professionals

It is always nice to get a quote in the Wall Street Journal. Unfortunately, it seems other advisors aren’t having such a positive experience with Twitter and other social networking websites, so I thought I would expand on the notion that these sites are not “measuring up” and talk about some of my own personal experiences and what has and hasn’t worked.

In terms of my own personal use of social networking sites, I first started with LinkedIn, then Facebook, then eventually went Twitter. With all of these sites, I think there are some common stages of acceptance. First comes “denial” (that will never work), next “curiosity” (my friends and colleagues keep talking about this thing, perhaps I should check it out), next “acceptance” (may be interchanged with addiction for some), and lastly “adoption” (figuring out where it fits). With each of these services there was initially denial, “that will never work”. With Twitter in particular, I already had over 5000 connections on LinkedIn and I couldn’t figure out why I would ever need to use anything else. Having explored each of these services in some detail, I can tell you that that they all do different things and having an opinion on one should not have you forming conclusions on the others. The key to success in social networking is, knowing what you want to get out of it before you start. Unfortunately, if you haven’t taken the time to learn what the services do or what they are about, it might take some time to figure out how to get the most from it.

Let’s address the issue of  “measuring up”. What does seem clear is that you should check you expectation of your social networking profile being an instant client magnet. If your expectation is to put up a profile and have droves of qualified clients start emailing and calling you, you can forget it. For sure, your expectations won’t measure up. So what good is it?

Twitter is by far, one of the best ways to keep up on news in your niche, find out who the influencers are, and be in the know about what’s being discussed when it comes to things you are interested in. As was mentioned in the Wall Street Journal article, within a very short period of time (less than a week as I recall) of joining Twitter, I followed Jean Case and The Case Foundation. Because I was blogging and talking about philanthropy and social entrepreneurship related topics, Jean Case followed me back and started listening to what I was talking about. Soon we also connected on Facebook as well. It turned out, while our relationship was limited to online, we shared a few common Facebook connections whom I knew offline too. While Jean and I have Re-Tweeted a few posts from each other, our relationship has remained one of “social networking acquaintances”. Since she and I connected, I discovered the great work their organization does. We are both on each others “radar” if you will. Who knows what will come in the future. Had it not been for Twitter, we would not have know about each other. There have been dozens of people I have met in the social networking world, many whom I have actually met in person and have developed business relationships with.

Social networking helps me cast a wide net and meet people who are interested in the same things I am. If you use social networking properly, these relationships can turn into business opportunities as they have for me. Having a philanthropic and social entrepreneurial wealth management practice isn’t something that you just hang a shingle and advertise. Social networking is a key tool for building your reputation, meeting key contacts, and emerging with a niche. It has become an essential and effective tool for me and makes meeting new people easy, effective, and fun.