Giving Compass' Take:

• Eduardo Andino explains that, while Money Well Spent: A Strategic Plan for Smart Philanthropy contains valuable advice, the book has a short self-life due to its ideological content. 

• How can funders sort the difference between solid advice and philanthropy fads?

• Find out what books philanthropy leaders recommended in 2018.

Paul Brest and Hal Harvey have released a second edition of Money Well Spent: A Strategic Plan for Smart Philanthropy. The first edition of the book, and Brest’s strategic philanthropy approach more broadly, have been discussed on Philanthropy Daily before (see the beginning of a debate here, and a recap of the debate here).

The greatest merit of Brest and Harvey’s book is its thoroughness as a guide for donors. Chapter by chapter, the authors bring to donors’ attention all the different questions they might ask themselves about giving away money and making a difference through their philanthropy. The thoughtful donor will have many practical tips to mull over and will approach his giving in a more informed fashion as a result of reading and regularly referring to this book.

To give just a few examples: In chapter 2, the authors help the reader think through the most basic question: which problems do they wish to address through their philanthropy? Chapter 7 explores some differing philanthropic paths. Do donors wish to support a fairly “safe” endeavor, with visible, short-term results—such as founding a museum—or a high-risk, high pay-off project—such as vaccine research—which may not bear fruit in the donor’s lifetime, if at all? Chapter 16 talks through the giving vehicles a donor might use to give away their money, such as donor advised funds or grantmaking foundations. Chapter 17 discusses the tensions between spending down principal to achieve goals more quickly and spending little year over year in order to maintain investments for future giving.

If the authors had limited themselves to the very practical advice and useful questions they propose to donors, the book would have been an excellent work, perhaps a classic in the field of philanthropic advising. Unfortunately, the authors do more than guide donors through the many considerations of giving. Throughout their chapters they advance an ideology under the guise of focusing on impact and philanthropic return on investment, what they call strategic philanthropy. The result is that Money Well Spent will lose its relevance once the fashionable progressivism that informs strategic philanthropy’s assumptions falls out of favor. It will read to future generations like 19th century British travel literature reads to us—historically interesting, but embarrassingly confident in its mistaken assumptions and condescending tone towards “the natives.”

Read the full article about Money Well Spent: A Strategic Plan for Smart Philanthropy by Eduardo Andino at Philanthropy Daily.