Saturday, June 23, 2007

Asking for money vs. caring for people

This recent post from Larry James' Urban Daily, "Asking for money vs. caring for people," is so good that I just have to post it here.

Having known and worked with Larry for a little over 2 years, I am still learning to understand the depth of his thought and the origin of his immense wisdom. And every time I get close to finding either, I realize they are the same -- "prophetic compassion."

Enjoy. And please consider subscribing to Larry's blog.

Asking for money vs. caring for people

By Larry James

Yes, I ask people for money all of the time.

But, a surprising thing has happened to me over the past 13 years in the city. I care less and less about the gift.

When I say that my focus today is the giver, please don't hear me commending myself. I'm not patting myself on the back, not at all.

There is just no other position to take in the matter if I want to sleep at night!

Major wealth is a challenge and, I have come to believe for many/most people, at times a special burden.

I find myself asking for money less and less often. What I am inquiring most about these days is the life of the wealthy person who expresses interest in what we are doing.

Important questions, having nothing at all to do with what a donor may or may not decide to do for my organization, need to be posed to the very wealthy.

As a new friend told me recently, "It is a grand time to be wealthy."

That is certainly true from the standpoint of the growing wealth of the very wealthy in the U. S.

But, with multiplying wealth comes all sort of unique problems and specialized issues.

Taxes are a huge concern for most mega-wealthy folks. Thus, the proliferation of the family foundation as a means of managing that special set of challenges. Many people create foundations to handle tax burdens, but have little if any idea as to what the mission of their foundation will be.

Children as heirs is another gigantic concern for the very wealthy. The rich care about their children just as I care about mine. But the transfer of wealth to the next generation is not something that can be taken lightly. Parents worry about this significant passage in their lives and the affect it will have on the next and succeeding generations.

We are all on a journey through life.

My obligation, it seems to me, is to ask about the life stories, the dreams, the interests and the hopes of people--rich and poor alike.

I've noticed when I communicate to a wealthy donor that I care most about his story, her journey, his hopes and her mission, our conversations turn inward and go deeper. These conversations allow space for "safe reflection" and processing along a path of personal and community growth.

I've come to a place where donations just aren't the point.

Shared life, authentic understanding and productive action as community is what the journey entails.

Loving wealthy people is all about understanding and listening and really caring.