Traverse City Record-Eagle


August 27, 2013

Forum: The new science of giving

By Phil Ellis

A recent article — “The (New) Science of Giving” — offers a very insightful look at the future of philanthropy and is reflective of how donors’ wishes and direction are increasingly oriented to “transformational” efforts.

This represents the heart of philanthropy with a focus on how giving can be transformative for individuals, communities and cultures. One of the ways I have come to think of the difference between charity and philanthropy is that charity addresses and helps alleviate the needs of today and philanthropy is focused on resolving the problem or “changing the world” in a transformative manner.

An example of this type of philanthropic intent is happening here in our communities with the Community Foundation Cleo M. Purdy Endowment for Education and Families. This fund has, at its core, the mission of using education to lift up children, families and generations in Central Lake. As a donor, Cleo held that education is the key element to creating a different future for local residents, beginning at birth and focused on early childhood learning and development.

While it might be simple enough to only give money now to support early childhood, this is not the kind of transformation that Cleo was looking for. Her intent and vision are greater and reach beyond only making programs today a bit better.

Cleo had a vision to impact today while also ensuring that the benefit of her vision would be felt for generations to come. Cleo believed in the power of endowment, where a portion of her gift will be available annually for grants, forever. Changing the world is a pretty tall order and it is the kind of goal that requires that we stretch beyond what we know today and become the conduit to sustainable differences.

Cleo’s story is about one woman, born and raised in Central Lake, who joined the Army, went to college to become a teacher and began to invest in real estate. At the end of her life she was able to leave a gift that will impact generations to come.

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