Philanthropy Revolution “Lifts the Lid” on Charitable Sector

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A Book Review by the Return on Good Staff  In September 2020, when the world was in the thick of pandemic stress, HarperCollins published Philanthropy Revolution: How to Inspire Donors, Build Relationships and Make a Difference.   This book, written by businesswoman and philanthropist Lisa Greer (with Larissa Kostoff), is a great read. It’s about giving from the lens of a major donor.   As the book description says, Greer “lifts the lid on our charitable sector” and shows us how outdated our charity model has become.   Philanthropy Revolution reminds us at Return on Good why we’re engaged in the important work of helping people Give Smarter and in ways that fit their values.  In Greer’s opening chapter, she tells the story of a fundraising ask gone wrong. It left her feeling bewildered, shaken and despondent about giving. Too often, she explains, the focus in fundraising is on working the donor with an extreme disconnect from what matters. Greer writes:  “And this has meant that everything I value – the qualities of honesty, transparency, and connection that have always governed my personal relationships in business – is left at the door.”

Greer shares stories of other gift conversations, relating time and again how the charities got it wrong.

Those of us at Return on Good who have been fundraisers cringed while reading, thinking: Oh gosh, I think I did that. Like, more than once.  She shares clear examples of lapses in charity impact accountability, along with some significant ethical lapses by philanthropists that still have their names on buildings today. She also shares examples of how she, other givers and charities did it well. She provides clear recommendations on how to make that more common.   Written in an effective, story-driven style, this book is a textbook on how to do giving right. Philanthropy Revolution is a great overview of what’s going on in the charitable sector from the viewpoint of a donor who has given big, and who will keep doing so despite the hurdles.   With everything from insights on how donors are feeling, fundraiser struggles, and how the next generation (including her children) will give, this book is a tremendous resource for anyone who wants to understand giving better. And it inspires those who want to give strategically (exactly what we help our clients do at Return on Good).   As Greer says, part of the goal is to “put humanity back into fundraising.” And she provides one of the most comprehensive overviews on how to do this well. She accomplishes this with anecdotes, clear overviews of how volunteering, civic engagement and philanthropy works, research reports, real examples, and including some of the best minds in giving. She even covers how to do events better.  As one of the few books that speaks across all the key philanthropic audiences, it’s ideal for donors, fundraisers, and anyone who, like Return on Good, agrees that philanthropy needs change. Greer’s personal stories, along with very clear advice, emphasize that giving is about more than money. It’s about humanity, values, transparency, relationships, and strategy.  We at Return on Good couldn’t agree more.