Part 1: Learn About “Giving With Confidence: A Guide to Savvy Philanthropy”

 In Board Member, philanthropy

The Loneliness of the Individual Donor – and How to Cure It

We are pleased to share an excerpt from Giving With Confidence: A Guide to Savvy Philanthropy, a new book by PVF Board Member, Colburn Wilbur.

“You need two things to give well and to keep giving,” an experienced donor once told me.  “Inspiration and support.  You’re not going to get either one when your philanthropy remains an entirely private matter.”

The people who inspire us most profoundly usually reside close at hand.  We rely on our families and friends for models of behavior and a sense of the possible.  They’re also our most common sources of support.

But when you want to strike out in a new direction, and perhaps leave behind some of the habits and assumptions of your upbringing, social class, and circle of acquaintance, it’s necessary to reach out to new people.

The head of a small family foundation once told me about her early quest to learn about philanthropy.

“At first,” she said, “I attended every training offered by the Council of Foundations and the Southern California Grantmakers.  If the workshop was about engineering, I went to it.  I just wanted to learn. I had no problem saying, ‘I don’t know. Help me out.’ When you ask, people respond.”

But her real education started in the wake of the Los Angeles riots in 1992.

“Many Foundations were asking what they could do. I was chair of the Southern California Grantmakers board and we launched a feasibility study that resulted in the creation of L.A. Urban Funders, with 30 foundations committed to pooling funds to improve neighborhood conditions. This effort spanned 12 years and was the largest, most successful foundation collaborative in our country to date.  In L.A., we are still learning and building on the lessons learned.

“As for me personally, it plunged me into the life of Los Angeles in ways I couldn’t have imagined. My son later told me that going on site visits with me during this period was the single-most formative experience of his adolescence.  It changed my life, too.  I couldn’t go to another book club or luncheon in the privileged neighborhoods of Brentwood because they seemed so unreal.  I realized that I’d rather be spending my time with the immigrant women in East LA because they were talking about issues. I came to understand that philanthropy is a graduate course in which you get to constantly re-enroll.”

To read part 2 of this excerpt, please click here

About the Authors

Colburn Wilbur

Colburn Wilbur is a trustee of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, where he was the CEO for twenty-three years. Prior to that, Cole served as executive director and CEO of the Sierra Club Foundation. He was a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foundations (1999-2000) and in 1999 received the COF’s Distinguished Grantmaker Award. In addition to serving on the Packard Foundation Board, Cole is currently a member of the boards for Colorado College, the Institute for Global Ethics, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, The Stanford Theatre, and Philanthropic Ventures Foundation. Cole received both his undergraduate and MBA degrees from Stanford University and is the coauthor of The Complete Guide to Grantmaking Basics.

Fred Setterberg

Fred Setterberg is the coauthor, with Bill Somerville, of Grassroots Philanthropy: Field Notes of a Maverick Grantmaker, and author of five other books, including the award-winning The Roads Taken: Travels Through America’s Literary Landscapes and the recently published Lunch Bucket Paradise. He has been a staff writer for the East Bay Express and editor of Travelers’ Tales America, and has written for the New York Times, The Nation, and scores of other national and regional magazines. He lives in Oakland, California. Visit his website at

Recommended Posts