Most philanthropists share two qualities. They hold fast to the belief they’re doing something important with their money. They find exquisite joy in the experience of being pandered to.
Put them together and you have money and power writ small in all its vainglory.
Lesser beings, those who actually invent, agitate, initiate must learn the fine art of pandering if any philanthropic dollars are to flow their way.
For starters, the monied – old monied Carnegie and Rockefeller types or new monied Buffett and Gates types - deep down share the same expectation. Kiss my butt if you want what we’ve got. Subtle or blatant, quixotic or bureaucratic, that’s where the action is. We rich, or more likely an intermediary of we rich, know better. More important we are better so butt kissing in actuality is mere recognition of a truth.
The only way to get around this entirely is to raise dollars through alternative means – hard work for hard money. I suspect more organizers leave the field because of this degree of difficulty than for any other reason. It makes a person tough minded but it can frustrate and wear down the spirit. Paradoxically solving the money problem for an organizer doesn’t do him or her any favors. Concentrating money at the top of networks of organizations turns everyone into a hired hand.
Relying on hard money guarantees survival, ownership and self-respect. But it radically decelerates parts of the organizing business that are exceptionally difficult to scale up without outside, soft money resources. To name just two:
· Identifying, training and trying out organizers not ready for prime time payrolls
· Scaling up educational ventures that complement organizing and extend the reach and range of the work.
Neither is possible without significant outside dollars.
The money problem confronts organizers and leaders with hard trades, conflicting aspirations and persistent dilemmas.
Frank C. Pierson, Jr.
Frank Pierson retired after forty years of work with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) as a professional organizer. He began his career in 1971 in Chicago, moved to Queens, New York City and migrated west to work in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado. He resides with his wife, Mary Ellen Kazda, in Oracle, Arizona. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org