Leader and philanthropist: Bill Clinton

This week at DonorDreams we are talking about what it looks like to be a fundraising “LEADER”. Today, we will continue our work by examining Bill Clinton’s teachable point of view around philanthropy, which he details in his 240 page book titled “Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World“. Tomorrow, we will cap the week off by looking at a variety of organizations that provide t”hought leadership” in the area of charitable giving.

Earlier this week I wrote blog posts titled “Are you and your non-profit agency a fundraising leader?” and “What is your teachable point of view around fundraising?“. If I had to capture these posts in a few words, it would be . . . leaders are teachers and they always have a teachable point of view (TPOV). After reading Bill Clinton’s book on “Giving,” regardless of whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, it would be impossible to argue that Clinton doesn’t has a TPOV on philanthropy and that he uses his book as a vehicle to teach us how to be more charitable.

Clinton shares a wealth of “Ideas” (remember this is one of the three elements of a TPOV) through his book including: much still needs to be done in our communities; everyone can giving; charitable giving doesn’t have to just be money but can also include time or things or skills; and we have an obligation to each other (which kind sounds like Hillary’s “it takes a village” mantra).

Identifying Clinton’s “Values” (remember this is the second of the three elements of a TPOV) and principles  throughout his book isn’t difficult. A few of those values were: duty, service over self, compassion, life, and self-sufficiency.

Finally, his “emotional energy and edge” (remember this is the final piece of the three TPOV elements) is loud and clear in every chapter of the book. I think this quote from Clinton captures it best:

“I wrote this book to encourage you to give whatever you can, because everyone can give something. And there’s so much to be done, down the street and around the world. It’s never too late or too early to start.”

This call to action echoes Dr. Martin Luther King’s inspirational words: “Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.”  Clinton’s book reads like a manual for the average person in America on how a private citizen doesn’t have to have an extraordinary Presidential life story in order to make a difference.

Bill Clinton as a philanthropic leader and teacher? ABSOLUTELY!!!! And he is someone we can all learn a lot from.

Perhaps, my favorite part of this book is where Clinton reminds us of why donors give of themselves.

“Why do some people give so much while others give the bare minimum or not at all? I’ve thought about this a lot, and it seems to me we all give for a combination of reasons, rooted in what we think about the world in which we live and what we think about ourselves. We give because we think it will help people today or give our children a better future; because we feel morally obligated to do so out of religious or ethical convictions; because someone we know and respect asked us; or because we find it more rewarding and more enjoyable than spending more money on material possessions or more time on recreation or work.

When people don’t give, I think the reasons are simply the reverse. They don’t believe what they could do would make a difference, either because their resources are limited or they’re convinced efforts to change other people’s lives and conditions are futile. They don’t feel morally obligated to give. No one has ever asked them to do so. And they believe they’ll enjoy life more if they keep their money and time for themselves and their families.”

Sorry for including such a long quote from Clinton, but I find these words to be truly inspiring. I also believe that EVERY non-profit organization can use this passage to evaluate their comprehensive resource development program by asking:

  • What are you doing to demonstrate to donors and the community at-large that your agency’s programs “make a difference”?
  • What are you doing to show both large and small donors that regardless of how small the contribution might be that it is important, valued, appreciated, and transformational?
  • How does your agency and your staff, board members, volunteers and donors model the morality-values-principles associated with philanthropy? And how do you do this in a way that inspires others to jump on the bandwagon?
  • How are you asking others to join you? Is it all about the impersonal email, newsletter, social media post, telephone call or snail-mail letter? Or are you and your volunteers getting out into the community and “pressing the flesh”?
  • Studies demonstrate that people who make philanthropic contributions (e.g. time, talent or treasure) are “happier” people. Do you and your volunteers look happy or are you making charitable giving and service look dreary and hard?

I encourage you to read Bill Clinton’s book because it reads like a love letter to the non-profit community and an instructional manual for donors as well as non-profit organizations!

Have you read the book? What were your impressions or lessons learned? If not a high-profile leader like Bill Clinton, who have you looked to as a philanthropic leader? What life lesson did you learn from that person?

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC

About DonorDreams

Erik got his start working in the non-profit field immediately upon graduation with his masters degree in 1994. His non-profit management and fundraising experience numbers nearly 20 years. His teachable point of view around resource development is influenced by the work of Penelope Burk and those professionals subscribing to a "donor centered" paradigm. Donors have dreams and it is our responsibility to be dream-makers because donors are not ATMs.

Posted on January 26, 2012, in Fundraising, leadership, nonprofit, resource development and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Erik, you know I’m your fan. But you really outdid yourself with this post. I hit print!

    Thank you for challenging me to teach volunteers about the importance of creating the happy environment for philanthropy. Right now I’m working with a young group and their stress is palatable. They are anxious and unsure about reaching their goal. I am going to continue to encourage the joy in the ask and the messaging around every gift helps. They will succeed. And I am encouraged by your post. Kudos!

    • Pat . . . it is so good to hear from you and thank you for the kind words! I am constantly amazed at how many NFPs make philanthropy seem arduous and then expect people to get inspired and give. Ugh! Regardless of what people think about Clinton’s political points of view, it is hard not to fall in love with what he says about philanthropy. He is a “thought leader” who I can read all day and all night long. I hope you get a chance to enjoy the book. Keep up the great work that you’re doing with your clients. I know your work is amazing!

      Please keep in touch.


  2. Mr. Clinton is a great example! Haven’t read the book yet, but thanks for your take on it. I’m going to add it to my list of “required reading” for sure now!!

    • You are very welcome . . . it is a worthy addition to everyone’s list. Hmmmm, I’m starting to feel like Oprah. If only I had her bank account. LOL 😉

      Happy reading!


  3. One important point that was put forward in the first quote you placed was that “…it’s never too late [to give] or too EARLY…”

    Also… I think it’s important to emphasize the TPOV aspect of being a leader. That’s powerful stuff!

    Great post!

    • Thanks! I love Noel Tichy’s perspective on leadership with regards to “leaders teach” and “all teachers must have a TPOV”. When I say Clinton’s book, I couldn’t have imagined something aligning more perfectly.

      Thanks for your comments as well as stopping to read the blog. I hope you come back more often and consider subscribing.


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