Friday, August 2, 2013

Weathering the Storm through Philanthropic Climate Change

Image courtesty of Suvro Datta /
Many of us in the fundraising profession have crossed paths with some colorful characters who have lived interesting lives and had interesting careers. One of my donors came from very modest circumstances but made a fortune when he invented, patented and manufactured a system that allowed clothing manufacturers to ship clothes on hangers. In the past clothes came to the stores folded and store employees had to put each piece on hangers. It saved retailers a bundle and made him rich. 

Another donor I worked with appeared to be someone of very limited resources at first glance. He certainly was rough around the edges!  It turns out his widow was one of the certified Howard Hughes heirs. The donor made a significant gift in his wife’s memory.

It WAS a little-known fact that in addition to my consulting work with nonprofit organizations around the country, I have helped operate a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm in southwestern Ohio. Like the little-known activities of the donors mentioned above (with the possible exception of a famous family member), my avocation has a lot to teach my vocation. Can we thrive when conditions are less than ideal? Did our planning yield enough to meet the needs of our supporters? Can we get the right mix of volunteers and professional workers to deliver on our promises? Should we try something new, or stick with what’s worked in the past? 

While the CSA team is asking those questions at the beginning of a growing season, my nonprofit clients are asking the same things about their mission-driven work. And PPP is asking them too. The philanthropic climate is changing in response to economic and political and social trends. In fact, it’s always changing. Our job is to look as far forward as possible, and to help our members weather the storms. PPP’s volunteer leaders and staff take that responsibility seriously, and I look forward to my work with and for you this year as chair of the PPP Board. Please use every channel you have, including responses to this blog, listserv and forum posts, survey responses and phone or e-mail contacts, to let us know what you need in order to thrive.       

About Jeff Lydenberg

In addition to serving as the 2013 President for the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning, Jeff Lydenberg is a vice president of consulting at PG Calc, a planned giving services firm headquartered in Cambridge, MA, with offices in Seattle and Cincinnati. Jeff joined PG Calc in 1999. Throughout his career at the firm, he has participated in client support, product development and product training for the company’s software products, Planned Giving Manager and GiftWrap. 

Jeff previously served as assistant director of planned giving at The Cleveland Clinic Foundation and in a similar capacity at the Cleveland Foundation. Prior to that, he practiced law with the Cleveland-based law firm of Thompson, Hine, and Flory. Jeff has a BA in American studies from Kent State University and a JD from Case Western Reserve University School of Law. 

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