THE BLOG
09/23/2014 02:46 pm ET Updated Nov 22, 2014

What's This About Making Philanthropy Hard?

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece about solo vigils and why it's good to make philanthropy hard. Sort of kept rolling through my head. I am such a huge believer that, until you make your philanthropic work challenging, grounded and push yourself, you are just swimming in the shallow end of the pool. I came across three more reasons why it's good to make your philanthropy "harder."

I was reading a report from a few years ago, done by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, and they were exploring what nonprofits biggest wants and challenges were with funders. #1 on the list of what they wanted, ahead of more money, was an open, trusting relationship with their funders (that's institutions and individuals). They want to be able to know them personally, create relationships, tell the truth. You don't get those kinds of relationships between funders and nonprofits unless the funder / philanthropist rolls up his or her sleeves and digs into the work together, where it can get hard.

Like many of you, I'm a fan of Brene Brown's work on vulnerability and her more recent book, Daring Greatly, about leadership. I like to save good quotes and jotted down one from her that is relevant -- "If you are not uncomfortable in your work as a leader, it's almost certain you're not reaching your potential as a leader." Making the work harder and putting yourself in positions to be uncomfortable are the same concept. So making this work hard grows your potential as a LEADER

And last but not least, it reminds me of several years ago when an SVP Partner, Tim Schottman, came to his first Partner meeting and heard about Ron Tanemura's work with Alive & Free, it was so powerful for Tim that he decided to make a pivot (that he'd been considering) and move from the private to the social sector with Sightlife. So when you dig in and make the work harder, you INSPIRE.

The engaged philanthropy model of bringing human and social, as well as financial, capital is about the nonprofits first and foremost. But it happens to have a whole lot of "side benefits" that add to the whole equation. I've said it before -- not being afraid to put philanthropists out there in tough spots is one of SVP's core values, it sets us apart, it's one of the best ways to truly dive in the deep end.