L.A.-based philanthropist and author Lisa Greer wrote Philanthropy Revolution in hopes of ending the frustrating and ineffective practices she noticed as a donor and nonprofit board member. On July 27, Greer will join Kate Gale, co-founder and managing editor of Red Hen Press, for a conversation at its Pasadena headquarters (free and open to the public), where they will further explore Greer’s mission to save giving. Here, Greer speaks to Gale about the future of philanthropy.
Kate Gale: Now that more than 50% of donors are women, the game has changed. What do you think is the most significant change for nonprofits, now that there are more nuanced conversations with women donors?
Lisa Greer: Nonprofits need to understand that the world has changed and they must adjust to that. With women controlling one-third of the world’s wealth (and growing), it is rarely acceptable to ask a woman to have her gift approved by a man, such as her husband. Women, like any group, are individuals, and their thoughts, feelings, and methods will differ depending on the person involved. They, like most donors, don’t want to be looked at as piggy banks.
KG: How would you like to further change the world of philanthropy?
LG: We need to look at every piece of the process and determine if our methods and practices make sense anymore. If they don’t, we need to create a more intelligent process based on the present time, culture, and realities of the 21st century. Nothing about the way fundraising is done should be sacrosanct.
KG: Many nonprofits feel “stuck” and don’t know how to build a relationship with their donors or ask for help. What would you advise?
LG: Think about yourself as a donor. When you give someone your pitch, think about how you would react if the same pitch was given to you. Would you find it compelling or off-putting? Also, be honest. If you ask a potential donor for a meeting, be honest about your intention to ask for money or not. Share your organization’s accomplishments as well as challenges. Donors are unlikely to believe that everything at your organization is perfect, and if you say it is, they will likely not trust you.
KG: Nonprofits get stuck with their boards too. We want a great board, but often we only collect the people we have around us. What’s your advice for building a great board?
LG: Boards need to (a) represent the communities that the nonprofit is helping, demographically, (b) bring a variety of viewpoints and types of experience to the table, and (c) be careful to appoint members who are passionate about your cause and are willing to provide various types of resources to support the organization. This does include money—whether it be from the board member directly or indirectly.
KG: We used to think that men like Carnegie and Rockefeller moved the philanthropic world, but now women have the checkbooks. How does the world of philanthropy spin differently with women at the helm?
LG: Women tend to be more likely to want to “get their hands dirty,” and to volunteer their time in addition to their money. Women are much more likely to give online than men, tend to be more collaborative, and giving circles are much more likely to be women-based. A form of a giving circle at Dartmouth recently saw 104 alumni women give their alma mater more than $1 million each!