It seems in the world of philanthropy every five years or so a new buzzword or phrase overtakes charitable foundations and other institutional and private funders. During the span of my career we’ve been through efficiency, effectiveness, strategic philanthropy, venture philanthropy, and impact, to name a few. As these concepts build on each other they travel in turn through the nonprofit and philanthropic sector as magic bullet of the day. As in many fields, trends in philanthropy tend to follow a similar trajectory from insightful and powerful to hackneyed and meaningless. The tragedy of this, of course, is that we often underutilize the philanthropic sector’s best ideas in practice even as we overuse them in rhetoric.
This month I have the privilege of addressing Jewish outreach professionals about fundraising at the Association for Jewish Outreach Programs’ (AJOP) annual convention in Baltimore. Though I’ve spoken about my experiences as a fundraiser, conducted trainings and mentored young fundraisers many times over, this one feels different.