The Bridgespan Group Launches Free Video Series: "Conversations with Remarkable Givers"

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Offers behind-the-scenes insights into donors’ strategies and personal stories

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Never before has there been, in one place, such an extensive set of conversations with people who are helping shape 21st century philanthropy trends.

Today, The Bridgespan Group is launching a groundbreaking, free video series of frank and candid conversations with more than 50 philanthropic leaders, providing unprecedented access to their strategic thinking, insights, and wisdom; the series can be accessed at Bridgespan’s website for philanthropists, http://www.GiveSmart.org.

Including individuals such as Ted Turner, Eli Broad, Pierre Omidyar, Michael J. Fox, Peter and Jennifer Buffett, Charles Bronfman, Melinda Gates, Jean and Steve Case and foundation leaders from across the country, Conversations reveals how our interviewees think about effective philanthropy in relation to their families, how they pick causes to champion and work with grantees, and how they define “success” and measure results. They reflect on a host of issues from disaster relief to the successful (and surprisingly unsuccessful) application of business skills to the social sector. Several remark on what’s humbling and what’s unexpected, all sharing what they’ve learned along the way.

“Never before has there been, in one place, such an extensive set of conversations with people who are helping shape 21st century philanthropy trends,” said Thomas J. Tierney, Chairman and Co-founder of The Bridgespan Group and co-author of Give Smart: Philanthropy That Gets Results (Public Affairs, 2011). “Containing insights ranging from how to get involved in results-driven philanthropy to learning from failure, these amazingly candid conversations provide a roadmap and resource for those who want to make a difference through philanthropy.”

When asked about her participation in the video series, Jennifer Buffett, President and Co-chair of the NoVo Foundation said, “Effective philanthropy calls for the marriage of head and heart, the pragmatic and the inspirational. NoVo Foundation is pleased to be part of GiveSmart.org's video project, which provides useful, accessible, and inspirational guidance to grantors and grantees alike. While everyone's philanthropic journey will be unique, we can all learn from the experience of others.”

Bridgespan’s philanthropy experts initiated and led these original, private interviews, which comprise more than 1,000 video clips, ranging from 30 seconds to four minutes long each. Materials are organized onto landing pages and information can be searched for by:

  •     Interviewee;
  •     Causes such as education, global giving and health; and,
  •     Themes such as ‘delivering and measuring results’ and ‘giving more than money.’

According to Susan Wolf Ditkoff, a Bridgespan partner and co-leader of Bridgespan’s philanthropy practice “Although the interviewees had their own individual stories, the conversations surface some common philanthropic patterns:

  •     Motivations for giving are often rooted in family values, pivotal personal experiences, and a relentless optimism;
  •     ‘Giving while living,’ including deep personal engagement of time and influence, starting earlier and spending down assets rather than endowing private foundations in perpetuity;
  •     A focus on building a “portfolio” of giving, defining success, adapting strategy as they learned, and addressing the imperative to measure results;
  •     Understanding the advantages of making big bets and taking risks in some cases, in others, leveraging access to smaller-scale giving by individuals through technology;
  •     Successfully applying business skills developed during private-sector careers to the social sector, and also discovering the surprising limitations of doing so; and
  •     Learning from mistakes and the desire to share hard-earned advice for new philanthropists.”

In describing the challenge of transitioning from success in business to successful philanthropy, participant Charles Bronfman, Chairman of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, shared, “I’ve heard many business people say, ‘Well, I made a fortune in business, so it must be easy to give money.’ But Warren Buffett didn’t think it was so easy, and John McArthur didn’t think it was easy—and they were right. As in business, you have to have goals. You have to have objectives and the ability to identify and resolve problems. You have to know when you’re failing, and how to learn from those failures and improve. If you’re going to be good at the things you care about most, you’ve got to work at it and you’ve got to get better over time.”

Acknowledging that “giving smart” is more difficult than it may appear at first blush, Co-founder of The Home Depot and interviewee Bernie Marcus said, “I know when making grants, we do not have every answer. Giving away money is not easy if done right. I think this is a great way to use 21st century technology as a resource for the many serious philanthropists that spend their hard earned money to make the world a better place. I will learn from many on the site and hope my insights are also helpful to others.”

According to Mario Marino, Co-founder and Chairman of Venture Philanthropy Partners, “This unique archive is a great resource for philanthropists who care about effective giving. It also provides a window for nonprofit leaders into the motivation and thinking of donors.”

Conversations is the newest component of Bridgespan’s Give Smart philanthropy initiative, which includes a book, Web site, and curated and original content, to inform and inspire donors about how to get better results from their giving.

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About The Bridgespan Group
The Bridgespan Group (http://www.bridgespan.org) is a nonprofit advisor and resource for mission-driven organizations and philanthropists. We collaborate with social sector leaders to help scale impact, build leadership, advance philanthropic effectiveness, and accelerate learning. We work on issues related to society’s most important challenges in three primary areas: pathways to opportunity for disadvantaged populations, environmental sustainability, and civic engagement. Our services include strategy consulting, executive search and leadership development, philanthropy advising, and developing and sharing practical insights.

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