‘The Philanthropic Mind’ by Chuck English and Mo Lidsky – Reviewed by Michael Alberg-Seberich

This book is an express introduction to private philanthropy in Canada – a country that, so far, has not been on the radar in most works on private giving.

Fundraising and marketing adviser Chuck English and investment adviser Mo Lidsky interviewed more than 40 Canadian donors for this book.

They use these interviews as a basis for observations on donor characteristics in general, advice for fundraisers on how to appeal to such donors, and recommendations for donors on their giving. This is an ambitious goal for a relatively short book of less than 150 pages.

The authors identify 19 topics concerning the philanthropy of high net-worth individuals, starting out with ‘You can’t judge the philanthropist’s playbook by its cover’ and closing with ‘Philanthropists are just people’. This language indicates an advisory tone.

The uniqueness of The Philanthropic Mind is the qualitative base. The authors have woven their interview material deeply into the well-written text.

One third of the book is quotations. Donors are introduced by name and a short biography, with a more detailed biography in the appendix. The book therefore is rather personal in its presentation of philanthropists.

The quotes throughout the text document the interviewing skills of the authors. A good example is the chapter ‘It’s all about the right person’, in which several interviewees describe the importance of who actually asks them for a major gift. In ‘How not to get the gift’ donors openly talk about mistakes in their giving, as well as their experiences with fundraising professionals.

English and Lidsky end most chapters with references to (academic) research on, for instance, why people give or why donors burn out. Other chapters end with brief stories that contextualize, for instance ‘The mystery of marketing material’.

For a reader not from Canada or North America, the book raises a couple of questions. Most of the donors interviewed talk about gifts to universities, hospitals and large art institutions – prime recipients of private giving in Canada. In addition most of the donors have taken on roles as fundraisers for such institutions.

The openness with which authors and interviewees discuss this practice may be a starting point for greater reflection on the societal effects of this practice in further publications.

The Philanthropic Mind may have taken on too big a task. It is, in the end, a book for fundraising professionals. It certainly speaks to them when it describes the ‘point that is at the heart of this book’ as ‘fundraisers will only be successful when they approach the philanthropist with the thoughtfulness and sensitivity he or she deserves’.

For other readers the book gives an insight into Canada’s overall culture of philanthropy.

Michael Alberg-Seberich is a managing partner at Active Philanthropy and Beyond Philanthropy.

About the book
Published by: Dog Ear Publishing
Price: $23.95
ISBN: 9781457539916
To order: thephilanthropicmind.com


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