A Difference of Opinion
Gary Tobin ("Family Philanthropy's Mad Hatter," January/February 2004) has offered his customarily comprehensive overview of the skills and attributes necessary for philanthropic advisors. Permit two observations:
As one who serves as an advisor to several families and foundations, I have found that it is rare that one can play all of the roles Tobin lists. It is very helpful to establish, up front, a mutual understanding of the range of desired and acceptable roles. Moreover, of course, not every family defines family participation in the same way. In some cases, the client is clearly the donor; in others the "client" includes successor generations. Every advisor needs to know the expected roles and have clarity on whom the client is.
Tobin also bemoans the paucity of academic courses training grantmakers. NYU's Heyman Center for Philanthropy has been developed exclusively for practitioners (lay and professionals), and the courses have been built around core competencies of grantsmanship. The growing number of our students, from around the country and from large and small foundations, is a testament to the impact our program has. At the urging of our students, we are developing more advanced and specific-interest courses as part of our commitment to redress the educational gap that Tobin identifies.
Considering the "Vision Thing"
The January/February FN&C issue, with its special section on leadership, sounds a necessary call to those in the philanthropic community to summon the human and capital resources needed to meet the public challenges its governance faces today.
This issue is especially timely in light of the turbulence philanthropy has had to confront over the past decade, as highlighted in the commentary by Emmett D. Carson ("Worst-Case Scenario or the Perfect Storm?"). The column by Allan R. Clyde ("To Lead and to Follow") provides a great "curtain raiser" for addressing the issues that have challenged to the core the governance of philanthropy and its engagement in the public weal.
As one reads the articles, the question that comes to the fore is: Leadership for what purpose? The "vision thing" in Paula J. Kelly's article especially brings it to mind. In thinking of carrying the leadership theme forward in future issues of FN&C, it might be well to consider the "vision thing" from a variety of perspectives and a variety of fields.
Where are the leaders in the philanthropic world in the 21st century who are defining the issues in such broad sectors as health, education and the arts? The Ford Foundation certainly showed the way for the arts in the 60's and 70's and, so too, the Gates Foundation in health in the developing world over the past decade.
When I served as vice president for grants at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the vision that animated my colleagues and me was educating the next generation of biomedical scientists and broadening the exposure of all of our studentsespecially underrepresented minority students and womento the biological sciences.
As I described in my recent FN&C article ("Grantmaking's Looming Digital Divide," November/December 2003), we applied the digital revolution to the management and assessment of our programs, to bolster science education programs for the benefit of teachers and students alike and to promote our overall vision.
Based on my past and current work, I'd really be interested to learn about the philanthropic leaders today in the various fields philanthropy subtends and how they are catalyzing their colleagues to build a brighter and more promising future for their communities of interest.
Dot Ridings has issued a call for "doing it right" from the perspective of governance and ethics. It would be a real service to the philanthropic community to have a comparable focus on leadership for "doing it right," as well as "doing it well," in addressing the great issues we collectively face, here and abroad, in areas such as health, education, the arts and humanities and social welfare. The current issue of FN&C is a good beginning. Where better to set the agenda and continue the discussions?
Joseph G Perpich, MD [via e-mail]
Either/Or, Never Both
Jane C. Nober's article ("Conflicts of Interest, Part II," January/February) does not discuss a major issue arising from a lawyer's serving as both counsel and fiduciary of a legal entitypreservation of the lawyer's ethical duty to preserve the confidences of his client and preservation of the attorney/client and attorney work product legal evidentiary privileges.
The surest way to preserve them is to ensure that the lawyer functions only as a lawyer and never also as director or trustee. Other reasons for clearly defining the lawyer's role as a lawyer are to preserve his disinterest with respect to issues of fiduciary duty, to enable the fiduciaries to exclude the lawyer from their meetings (which cannot be done if the lawyer is a co-fiduciary) and to enable the other fiduciaries to seek freely another legal opinion or other counsel. In most of the conflicts situations Nober describes, the ethical lawyer will not act for any part.
All and all, in this lawyer's personal, not official, opinion, it is always better for a lawyer to be counsel or fiduciary, never both.
Editor's note: Mr. Josephson is an Assistant Attorney General for New York and head of the state's Charities Bureau.
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