A wealth of information

A guide for the philanthropically inclined.

By MORTON I. TEICHER
March 21, 2010 17:07
3 minute read.
A wealth of information

money in hands 224 ap. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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The Art of Giving
By Charles Bronfman and Jeffrey Solomon | Wiley | 285 Pages | $29.95

Are you very rich? Do you have lots of money to give away? Are you having trouble deciding where to make your donation? If you answer yes to these questions, then this book is for you. The rest of us can look on enviously as we get a peek at the prosperous world of philanthropists.

The authors of this guide for the affluent are Charles Bronfman, a billionaire, and Jeffrey Solomon, the professional who presides over Bronfman’s foundation. Bronfman inherited his money from his father, Sam, who made a fortune manufacturing and selling liquor. After working in the family business for many years, Bronfman established the Andrea and Charles Bronfman foundation, named for his late wife and himself. Originally housed in Montreal where the native Canadian lived, the foundation moved to New York in 1996.

Unlike most foundations that allocate funds to nonprofit applicants, Bronfman’s organization engages directly in program activities, spending about $220 million a year on its work. In recognition of this distinction, it is named the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies. The institution plans to use up all of its financial resources by 2016, when Bronfman will be 85.

Solomon had a distinguished career in social work before 1997 when he became the president of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies. (Bronfman’s title is chairman.) He worked in the fields of family service and aging in Miami before moving to New York where he was the chief operating officer of the UJA-Federation. Solomon makes excellent use of his education and experience in making perceptive expenditures of the Bronfman money. He is especially proud of Birthright Israel, an innovative program designed to foster Jewish identity by sending young Jews to Israel on a free 10-day trip.

Drawing on their knowledge and their experience, Bronfman and Solomon offer this practical handbook for those seeking to make effective donations. They begin with the donor, describing various types of individuals “who have more money than they need” and who want to do something worthwhile. According to the authors, what these people get in return is nourishment for the soul. This somewhat esoteric assertion is sparingly spelled out as “the joy of giving” which brings “spiritual forms of value.”

What follows is more practical as the various types of donors are considered, as well as the ways in which they can maximize the results of their gifts. Even more pragmatic is the listing of 26 areas into which nonprofit organizations can be categorized so as to help donors decide where they want to give their money.



In the second section of the book, the authors explore how donors can heighten their impact by working with existing agencies and by trying to make them more effective. There is specific and useful advice about being a competent board member. Also described is an alternative for distributing money, which consists of establishing a family foundation where several generations can join together in making gift-giving decisions.

The third section, “The Gift,” deals with the financial and tax implications of donations. It also spells out the various kinds of largesse. The importance of measuring the impact of the gift is stressed. To assist further with the items covered in this section as well as the preceding ones, the final section of the book lists specific resources that can be helpful.

As indicated at the outset, this is a guidebook for rich people. The rest of us, including those who aspire to be rich, are given a useful glimpse of a dilemma that confronts wealthy individuals. How can they best live a philanthropic life, making intelligent and informed choices about their donations? The step-by-step instructions are augmented by interesting anecdotes with the result that this is a clearly written manual that fully deserves the attention of the well-heeled people for whom it was prepared.


The writer is the founding dean, Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University, and dean emeritus, School of Social Work, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


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