Friday, January 30, 2009

I was fleeced by Madoff

"...Over and over again, I've asked myself: Why didn't I secure the most basic of all things -- shelter itself? Why didn't I pay off my mortgage? And if I don't engage in blame, I see the answer clearly: because I believed in something else more -- I believed in accumulating. And when you believe in accumulating, you see what you don't have, not what you have. My relationship to money was no different from my relationship to food, to love, to fabulous sweaters: I never felt as if I had enough. I was always focused on the bite that was yet to come, not the one in my mouth. I was focused on the way my husband wasn't perfect, not the way he was. And on the sweater I saw in the window, not the one in my closet that I hadn't worn for a year..."

From an article posted on by Geneen Roth, a teacher, columnist and writer of numerous books including "When Food is Love" and "The Craggy Hole in My Heart." (retrieved from 1/30/09)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Right but not Tight!

  • The Wall Street Journal (January 22, 2009) posted an insightful article by Arthur Brooks

"What is required of us now," President Barack Obama said in his inaugural address this week, "is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition on the part of every American that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world." It is a message that nonprofit organizations would like our nation to take to heart, as 2009 fund-raising begins.

Unfortunately, we nonprofit leaders, like our for-profit counterparts, are laying awake nights. The end of 2008 was disappointing for philanthropy, and some believe that 2009 will be difficult as well. Indiana University's Center on Philanthropy publishes the Philanthropic Giving Index (PGI), which tracks the predictions of nonprofit leaders about charitable giving. Like the more-famous Consumer Confidence Index, it shows a level of gloom not seen in years, falling from 83 to 65 (on a 0-100 scale) in just six months.

The PGI is useful, but it is a blunt tool for predicting charitable giving by individuals or to specific charities. It does not tell us that all nonprofits will experience equal pain. Nor does it tell us that all givers will lower their giving by the same amount. In fact, there is good evidence that some Americans will maintain their giving levels far more than others in spite of the recession. One beleaguered group in particular promises to hold up their charitable end in spite of the sputtering economy: political conservatives.

Over the past several years, studies have consistently shown that people on the political right outperform those on the left when it comes to charity. This pattern appears to have held -- increased, even -- in 2008.

In May of last year, the Gallup polling organization asked 1,200 American adults about their giving patterns. People who called themselves "conservative" or "very conservative" made up 42% of the population surveyed, but gave 56% of the total charitable donations. In contrast, "liberal" or "very liberal" respondents were 29% of those polled but gave just 7% of donations.

These disparities were not due to differences in income. People who said they were "very conservative" gave 4.5% of their income to charity, on average; "conservatives" gave 3.6%; "moderates" gave 3%; "liberals" gave 1.5%; and "very liberal" folks gave 1.2%.

A common explanation for this pattern is that conservatives are more religious than liberals, and are simply giving to their churches. My own research in the past showed that religion was a major reason conservatives donated so much, and that secular conservatives gave even less than secular liberals.

It appears this is no longer the case, however: The 2008 data tell us that secular conservatives are now outperforming their secular liberal counterparts. Compare two people who attend religious services less than once per year (or never) and who are also identical in terms of income, education, sex, age and family status -- but one is on the political right while the other is on the left. The secular liberal will give, on average, $1,100 less to charity per year than the secular conservative. The conservative charity edge cannot be explained away by gifts to churches.

Perhaps you suspect that the vast political contributions given to the Obama campaign -- $742 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, versus $367 million for the McCain campaign -- were crowding out charitable giving by the left. But political donations, impressive as they were this year by historical standards, were still miniscule compared to the approximately $300 billion Americans gave charitably in 2008. Adding political and charitable gifts together would not change the overall giving patterns.

But here's where the charity gap really starts to make a difference for the recession of 2009: Conservatives don't just give more; they also decrease their giving less than liberals do in response to lousy economic conditions.

Economists measure the "income elasticity of giving" to predict how much people change their giving in response to a particular percentage change in their income. It turns out the response in 2008 was dramatically different for left and right. For instance, a 10% decrease in family income for a conservative was associated with a 10% decrease in giving. The same income decrease for a liberal family led to a 16% giving drop. In other words, if this relationship continues to hold, the recession will almost certainly exacerbate the giving differences between left and right.

All this is good news for the health and survival of explicitly conservative organizations, of course. But folks on the political right give to all types of nonprofits -- from soup kitchens to symphony orchestras -- not just conservative groups.

Ironically, few environments are less tolerant of conservatives and their ideas than the nonprofit world. The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported in October of 2008 that employees of major charities favored Democrats over Republicans in their private political contributions by a margin of 82% to 18%. Among the employees of major foundations, the difference was an astounding 98% to 2%.

Reasonable people can disagree on politics, but the numbers on giving speak for themselves. Nonprofit executives, disproportionately politically progressive, do well to remember that many of the folks they will count on in hard times are not necessarily those who share their political views. Understanding this might make for better fund raising in a scary year -- and help us all to give credit where it is due.

Mr. Brooks is president of the American Enterprise Institute, and the author of "Who Really Cares" and "Gross National Happiness" (Basic Books).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Century Ago...

...from the minutes of the 1908 Annual Meeting of the Michigan Conference of The Wesleyan Methodist Church (p.25):

“Whereas:  There seems immediately upon us as churches, in common with the universal decline in spiritual life apparent on hand, a dearth of interest, a lack of divine energy, inspiration, and burning desire for the salvation of sinners, and,

“Whereas:  The enemy of all righteousness rejoices, while God is displeased with indifference, the period in which this shall prevail according to the teaching of revelation being upon the religious world,

“Resolved:  That we as a Conference prayerfully consider some new order, or arrangement by which the Church of the Living God, and the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ shall be strengthened and the borders thereof enlarged, our weak churches and despairing brethren reached and encouraged, the principles of eternal truth, so dear to God’s people established and through evangelistic spirit and effort, by the help of the Holy Spirit, be once more restored among us.”

Monday, January 5, 2009

Innovation3 Live Web Interviews with Ministry Leaders

That's the link to a series of live 15-minute video web shows with some great leaders. It's all part of the promotion for Leadership Network's Innovation3 (Innovation Cubed) event that will be held later this month in Dallas. Here's the deal... for the next three weeks, they've lined up some great ministry minds (who will also be speaking at Innovation3) to share a short, LIVE internet interview. Of course, it's totally free. They will all happen at 4:00 EST. Here's the line-up starting today with Larry Osborne, Pastor of North Coast Church:

January 5 @ 4:00 EST: Larry Osborne 
January 6 @ 4:00 EST: Dino Rizzo 
January 7 @ 4:00 EST: Dave Gibbons 
January 8 @ 4:00 EST: Dave Ferguson 
January 12 @ 4:00 EST: Reggie McNeal 
January 13 @ 4:00 EST: Neil Cole 
January 14 @ 4:00 EST: John Bishop 
January 15 @ 4:00 EST: Pete Briscoe 
January 20 @ 4:00 EST: Mark Driscoll 
January 21 @ 4:00 EST: Greg Surratt 
January 22 @ 4:00 EST: Darrin Patrick