Archive for September, 2010


Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

NYC streets have slowed to a crawl as the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) summit and the annual Clinton Foundation poobah power bash convene and converge.

There are only five fleeting years to go for the MDGs to achieve its eight target goals by 2015. All eight are noticeably lagging, but the goal of maternal health around the world is trailing most of all.

No doubt, Manhattan’s traffic mirrors our progress.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reports that total worldwide military expenditures in 2009 were estimated at a mind-boggling $1531 billion, up nearly 6% from ‘08. That was despite the financial credit crisis and global recession.

Questions raised by the Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom (WILF) should make all of us sit up and respond. What, asks the WILF, would you rather have our governments pay for:
– One year of the world’s military spending, or over 24 years of the additional foreign aid that’s needed to achieve MDGs by 2015?

– One year of the world’s military spending, or 700 years of the UN regular budget?

– One year of the world’s military spending, or 2928 years of the just-launched UN women’s agency?

Where are our priorities?


Sunday, September 12th, 2010

I’ve been thinking about the future and present of Millennials all week — all year, actually – but lately spurred by news of a just-published business book.

This book seeks to advise employers of all stripes about the seven trends “essential for understanding and managing the Millennials” in the workplace. The trends are: “the role of the parents; entitlement; the search for meaning; great expectations; the need for speed; social networking; and collaboration.”

Seems to me, if you shift that jargon just a tad, you’re talking about the way society saw Boomers back when that generation was coming of age in the 1960s. As in: “search for meaning” turns into “idealism;” “collaboration” translates into “communal;” and “entitlement” equals “anti-establishment.”

Every generation in power looks back (down?) at the young’uns and appears to quickly lose sight of his or her younger self. Human nature, I guess. But this dishing up of the Millennials is getting a bit much for me.

Don’t get me wrong. Every generation is uniquely forged by its own zeitgeist. Gen Y is no exception. We now have a cohort coming of age that’s been shaped by, of course, the 24/7 wireless bytes, not to mention the Columbine massacre, the O.J. Simpson circus, the presidential election that couldn’t (and which then ossified the DC divide that’s deepened to a chasm), the first, second and surge of Mideast wars, and, oh yeah, let’s not forget 9/11. So, yes, absolutely: Nothing in American history has ever spawned a group like Gen Y. But isn’t that the case for every generation. Let’s think about the assassinations of JFK and MLK and RFK. Every young cohort feels special and raw and fresh and know-it-all. It’s not smart or helpful to conflate socio-politico-economic influences with the extravagant utterances of youth. Let us define which is which as we embrace Millennials into the world of work and tradeoffs. Young people always are gonna be young people. And in this horrific climate, the group born between 1980 – 2000 clearly only wants to work hard, do well in addition to doing good and get on with having fun and falling in love and looking for purpose. Not such a crazy, unheralded sociological experiment, after all, is it?

I continue to watch the first, second & third sectors turning somersaults trying to figure out how to harness Gen Y’s “special” attributes. Instead, I’d like to advise everyone to just relax and dive in. Stop analyzing and researching and start having, you know, conversations. Talk about how Gen Y folks can help your efforts, whether for-profit or nonprofit goals. In the third sector, that includes donor outreach, fundraising, communications and mission-oriented programs and grant-making finetuned to younger aspirations and vocabulary.

It means telling and harnessing stories that are not all about you but all about them. Talking to a target always is so much more revealing than talking about one, don’t you think?


Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

In honor of the Hill-Snowdon family foundation’s 50th anniversary since being established and the 10th since launching its strategic grantmaking program, the National Center for Family Philanthropy has collaborated with Ashley Snowdon Blanchard, foundation president, to produce a history of the family’s turns and transformations.

When I talked to Ashley some time ago, her view of the role and growth of the foundation was intimately allied with family matters and engagement. Her smart stewardship of the foundation’s growth provides a role model for succession and impact.

As some of us are all too keenly aware, parents and their kids don’t always think alike. And when it comes to passing on the values, mission and financial control of a family’s giving plan, things can get especially tricky.

Ashley, a philanthropy consultant in New York, seems to have jumped the hurdles of passing on a legacy through steady perseverance.

In 1959, her great-grandfather Arthur Hill established the family’s Hill-Snowdon Foundation, now based in Washington D.C. He had built up assets as an executive at Johnson & Johnson by receiving stock options in lieu of salary during World War II. Still, “we didn’t really have that much money until the enormous rise in J&J stock in the 1990s,” says Blanchard.

She recalls family members sitting around a kitchen table each year to decide where the foundation’s grants would go. “Everyone had their own particular organizations and causes. It wasn’t thought-out.”

By the turn of the century, after the rapid increase in assets, Blanchard began attending foundation meetings as a young adult. “What had worked for people around the table didn’t make sense for the next generation, and we brought a critical view to the status quo. “We could put forth ideas without dipping into anyone’s pot.”

In the meantime, Ashley had graduated from Stanford and studied nonprofit management and social welfare policy at UC-Berkeley. “I came of age when welfare reform was a hot-button social issue. The other huge issue was women’s balancing act and the ‘second shift’ they worked at home. It was clearly a myth that women could do it all. Ultimately, that led me to social change and philanthropy.”

It was time for the 40-year-old foundation to grow up.

To help with the transition, the family worked closely with consultants from the Tides Foundation, based in San Francisco, which counsels families and individuals about charitable plans. Within a few years, Blanchard had become president of the board, working, along with a small staff, to make the foundation strategic and focused on a consistent mission of social change and economic justice.

Nowadays, the Hill-Snowdon Foundation, with an endowment of roughly $30 million and annual grants of about $2 million, is on “cruise control.” Ashley works with the executive director to set agendas and keep the family informed and engaged. She has begun mentoring the next generation, including cousins who have become trustees.

“We learn by doing,” says Ashley.