Doctor of Philosophy

director of nonprofit administrative programs of the University North Dame, USA

Academic conference “Trust. Responsibility. Philanthropy”

October 7 

On behalf of Nonprofit Professional Development at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, and its Dean, Dr. Carolyn Woo, I want to thank the organizers of this conference because I know it is a great deal of work and you are to be commended for your selfless efforts. I particularly want to thank Antoine Arjakovsky for coming to Notre Dame several months ago and meeting with me to talk about philanthropy. I also want to thank Irina Kitura for her excellent help as I was preparing my speech and travel plans. It is because of Antoine’s invitation to speak and Irina’s assistance that I am privileged to speak with you.

As you know from my introduction, I am the Director of Nonprofit Executive Programs at the University of Notre Dame and I also teach in the Master of Nonprofit Administration Program. But I humbly tell you that if someone had told me in high school that I would be teaching there one day, I would have told them they needed psychiatric help. I grew up within 10 miles of the University of Notre Dame but never gave a thought to actually working there someday. I was born in the small town of Bremen, Indiana, and neither of my parents finished high school. My father was a barber and my mother worked in a grocery store. We were a lower middle-class family, and my parents were elated that I graduated high school, but rarely talked about the possibility of college. Although they were supportive of my aspirations, people in our family didn’t go to college, they worked in factories or in a trade. But I had two teachers in high school school and one in college who engaged in acts of philanthropy by encouraging my talents in writing and speaking. I have had mentors in my work life who have helped me along the way, including my current supervisor, Thomas Harvey, who has believed in me when others did not. These mentors have taught me many things about how to successfully navigate the world. I have been the beneficiary of gifts of encouragement from many, many people, and they are the reason that a young boy from a modest background is now in this room with you in Lviv, Ukraine. I am here because of the philanthropy of many others, and I feel very honored to be here to share our visions of the future of Trust, Responsibility and Philanthropy. And it is appropriate that this is an ecumenical conference, because philanthropy evolved from religious roots, and the concept of charity was born out of Catholic and Orthodox Christian traditions.

An example of this deep history and its resurrection after the dissolution of the Soviet Union is represented in an experience that my supervisor, Tom Harvey, shared with me. Tom was President of Catholic Charities USA in 1991 when he met a Romanian Orthodox Benedictine Monk. The monk shared with Tom that for more than 1,000 years his parish was the safety net for many the poor people. However, after the Second World War, when the Soviets controlled Romania, the government took over social programs and his parish forgot how to administer to the poor in a structured way. Tom introduced him to the systems that Catholic Charities used to serve the poor in America not to teach him, but to help him remember what he and his parish had done for a thousand years. This kind of rebirth, of remembering the charity that the Christian Church invented and has been active in for centuries, is the kind of resurrection of charity and philanthropy that a conference such as this can help facilitate.

To give you an idea of how important this conference is, especially to the citizens of the Ukraine and other former states of the Soviet Union, it is necessary to point the need for this kind of dialogue. Allow me to reference a newly released global study of 153 countries by the Charities Aid Foundation in the United Kingdom. The World Giving Index project interviewed from 500 to 2000 people over the age of 15 in each country and ranked them in three philanthropic areas: giving money, giving time, and helping a stranger (http://www.cafonline.org/PDF/World_Giving_Index_2010_A4.pdf) . The findings were that Australia and New Zealand scored the highest, tying for 1st place. The United States placed 5th, which is certainly not bad. But given the amount of wealth in the U.S., quite frankly we should be embarrassed that we were not in 1st place. Most of the countries in Central and Eastern Europe placed in the bottom half of the rankings, and the Ukraine placed 150th out of 153 countries.

I cite this study because I want to applaud the vision of those who have recognized this important need to start educating others on the benefits of philanthropy, trust and responsibility. It is also important to note that this study will be repeated every year, which means it is an excellent way to mark the progress of a country in these three areas. Perhaps even more important, it may be a way to measure a country’s overall progress, as the study also indicates that the happier a country’s citizens, the more they give.

I want to start with the concept of philanthropy and then relate it to responsibility and trust. As I have shared in my own story, philanthropy is not just the act of wealthy people giving money to individuals or organizations who are doing good in the world. Philanthropy is something in which everyone, regardless of economics or status, can participate and make a difference. It is also something that, when we look at our own lives, we must understand that whatever accomplishments we may claim, we were blessed by the philanthropy of others.

 

Philanthropy

The word philanthropy was coined by the Greek playwright Aeschylus, the author of Prometheus Bound, which is an ancient myth about how humans originally lived in the dark to avoid the wrath of the Greek god Zeus. When Zeus decided to destroy humans because their imperfections had disappointed him, a Titan named Prometheus gave them two gifts: fire and hope. This combination gave humans the ability to envision the future and the tools to build a better life and world.

This act became known as philanthropos, a combination of the Greek word “loving,” and anthropos, or “humanity.” Prometheus trusted in their human potential and gave them the tools of hope and fire to create and accomplish. “'Philanthropia'—loving what it is to be human—was thought to be the key to civilization.”[1]

The Plutonian definition of philanthropia is: “A state of well-educated habits stemming from love of humanity. A state of being of productive to benefit to humans.” The Roman translation of Philanthropia was humanitas or human-ness. In addition it was believed that because Prometheus defied the command of Zeus, philanthropia also signified freedom.

Therefore, if we look as the origin of philanthropy, we see that it is an act which gives three things; hope to help humans envision a positive future, tools to help create better living conditions, and freedom to allow them the ability to grow and prosper. Like Prometheus, we must embrace the imperfections of humankind and trust that the assistance we give them will allow them to rise to their potential and give back to others. They can bestow that same trust in human potential on others, which in turn creates even more trust between giver and recipient.

In the United States we sometimes say that a person who has a lot of energy, or is driven to succeed, has a lot of “pep.” I believe that everyone, no matter what their circumstance, can help establish trust and energize others through a powerful and simple act which I have titled “Personal Encouragement Philanthropy,” or “P.E.P.” Each one of us here today probably had at least one person in our life who believed in us even when they did not believe in ourselves, someone who, like Prometheus, gave us hope. To have that sincere and constant support from people who had no motive other than to encourage you to reach your potential is absolutely the best way to give hope to others. It could come from anyone, a relative, a friend, a supervisor, a teacher, a coach, even a stranger. And everyone needs a little encouragement, or “P.E.P”. from time to time, even us. But how do you repay these people from their time, kindness and belief in you? How can their influence on your life really be measured? The answer is that it is impossible to repay them. The only repayment that is fitting is to pass on to others the personal encouragement that they desire and need to grow. This act is called “paying it forward,” or giving to future generations the philanthropy that was given to us. It is our personal responsibility to pass the gift of “Personal Encouragement Philanthropy” on to others, which in turn builds trust within our families, our communities, and our countries.

Many people believe that giving money to others is the most demanding form of philanthropy because it requires of us to sacrifice a portion of our earnings or wealth. And while financial support of worthwhile causes is needed and essential to creating a better future, it asks from us a commodity that can be replenished. We always have the capability to make more money – just ask George Soros – but even George cannot make more time. Time is the most valuable gift we can give because our time is finite. We cannot create more time, and once gone it disappears forever. Volunteering our time to a worthy cause is the most important and valuable investment we will make in creating the kind of community and world we want to live in. Volunteering to be a board member for a Non Governmental Organization, or to help a neighbor during a difficult time, or to nurture a child’s talent, has a great and lasting impact. And most important, volunteering builds trust between people who may be very different.

For example, I once asked a wealthy philanthropist and close friend of mine, Frank Basile, why, in addition to giving money, he also volunteered to serve on boards and committees. He told me it was because in business he only met people who were involved in his kind of work, and he volunteered with several charitable organizations because he met people from all walks of life that he never would have met before: artists, teachers, politicians, students and those who are impoverished. He also told me that he grew up very poor and knew first hand that most people were poor because they were born into families with no money and limited access to opportunity. He felt that giving of his time and money was his way of helping others the way that he was helped. Again, this was his way of paying back the trust that others had extended to him throughout his life. The important points here are that first, he honored his responsibility to give to others as he was given to, and second, he recognized the benefit of friendship he received from working side by side with others that had once been strangers to him.

Perhaps some useful information can be applied to the efforts of rebuilding trust and creating more stable civic and governmental institutions by putting the growth of volunteerism and philanthropy into historical context as it relates to both the United States and the Eastern Europe. The United States, from its inception, was a very large experiment. It broke from the European traditions of a citizenry reliant on the benevolence of monarchs, dictators and governments to a belief that individuals not only had the right to form associations to assure their own welfare, but that these associations of individuals could do it better. These associations were also the foundation of U. S. democracy, as John Adam’s wrote in the Massachusett’s Constitution, “The Body Politic is formed by a voluntary association of individuals. It is a social compact by which the whole people covenants with each Citizen, and each Citizen with the whole people, that all shall be governed by certain Laws for the Common good.” Part of this sense of association and cooperation, this commitment to help each other was that for most helping each other was a matter of survival. The church building in each community became the focal point of these new settlements and the focal point of all community activity such as town meetings, weddings, funerals, social gatherings, and classrooms for their children. There was minimal government assistance to these pioneers in this new country, so they had to rely on each other for physical, spiritual and moral support. When a central government is weak, in chaos or in such early formation that it cannot meet all the basic needs of the community, then its citizens must recognize the importance of helping each other in order to survive and thrive. To not help and or trust each other can be devastating.

Being of service to others as a form of philanthropy can help communities thrive. This often means volunteering to be part of an organization or project that serves the common good and can only be accomplished with a group of dedicated individuals. This, of course, is the most precious of all forms of philanthropy because we can always make more money, but our time is finite. Once an hour of our life is gone, it is gone forever. So volunteering an evening or a day or a year to a worthwhile project is the ultimate sacrifice and signifies the level of your faith and trust in the outcome of that activity or project. I belong to a Rotary Club in the United States and I plan to visit Rotary Clubs here in Lviv. I belong to Rotary because every Rotary Club is committed to making their community and the world a better place. On a global level, their mission is to eradicate polio from the world. On a local level, they serve the needs of youth, families, education, and health care. Civic organizations like Rotary build trust because they bring together people of diverse backgrounds to serve a common cause. This allows people to build relationships with other who may be very different, and these relationships build trust between people.

This is the creation of what scholar Robert Putnam, in his book Bowling Alone, calls “Social Capital.” He states that there are two kinds of social capital, “bonding” and “bridging.” In the case of “bonding” social capital, it means the way we re-enforce and strengthen the bonds of relationships within your family, church, race, ethnicity, and close friends. But “bridging” social capital reaches beyond our personal “bonding” relationships and builds bridges between others who are outside our comfort zone, people who seem different or strange to us. When we create and reinforce relationships between those who are different from us, we help “bridge” the divides between us and increase the strengths of understanding and tolerance. And we are often surprised that those who we once avoided become very good friends and associates.

Philanthropy helps build these bonds of trust because it signifies that we believe in the intention of others and in their potential to make better lives for themselves and at the same time create a better existence for their families, churches, communities and countries. It builds social capital, both bonding and bridging, that form the foundation for a more civil society.

Responsibility

But reaching out to others who are unlike us is uncomfortable and involves risk. We often question why we should we take responsibility to help others who are unlike us. Some people ask, “Are we our brother’s keeper?” But I would like to expand that question a bit and ask, “Are we our cousin’s keeper?” If we believe that our cousin is our relative and therefore deserving of our help, then we must look upon the rest of the human race as a cousin as well and say yes to the question, “Am I my cousin’s keeper?”

The National Human Genome Research Institute (www.genome.gov) recently reported that present day human beings in Europe and Asia share 2% of their DNA with common ancient ancestors. In essence, science is validating what religious leaders and philosophers have been teaching for centuries: we are all connected by a common heritage. In light of the research, we are all distant cousins. We may more accurately ask the question “Are we our cousin’s keeper?”

Like many family members we don’t always agree with our closest relatives, much less our distant relatives or the way they live their lives, but we accept them, we do not seek to destroy them or undermine them (although, let’s face it, we sometimes would like too!). When we get together at large family gatherings we tolerate them for the good of the family. Often we help them only because they are family. Like Prometheus, we accept them because they, like us, are human. Which means that we are all imperfect, yet perfect in our imperfection.

Let’s revisit the story that Jesus told of the Samaritan who helps the injured man in the street. Samaritans at the time were reconsidered a vile people by the Jews and Jews avoided them, such as the Levite and the Priest who crossed the street to also avoid the injured man. Yet the Samaritan, who was not welcomed by the town’s people, risked his own safety and carries the injured stranger to an Inn for rest. He then gave the Innkeeper money to pay his expenses, and promised to return to pay whatever was owed. We understand the message in this story that we should reach out to others who are in need and who may not be like us. Jesus taught that the Samaritan was the man’s true neighbor because he relieved man’s suffering without thought as to whether he was a Jew or not.

But there are also other important lessons and questions that emerge from this story. For instance, what did the Innkeeper think of this so-called barbaric Samaritan when he brought the injured Jew into the Inn and paid for his room and board? What did he think when the Samaritan returned to take care of any additional expenses, as promised? Surely he was shocked and surprised, but did his view of Samaritans change for the better? And what about the others who were staying at the Inn, did their beliefs about all Samaritans change? And most importantly, what did the injured Jewish man think when he woke up and found out that a Priest and a Levite had passed by him, but a lowly Samaritan saved his life? If that were to happen to one of us here today, wouldn’t we have a much more positive opinion of Samaritans? Would we not speak better of them, perhaps dispelling myths about Samaritans as a whole? Would not there be more trust between us and those we are wary of? The Samaritan’s philanthropic gift of time and money surely must have built more trust, or “bridging capital,” on many levels, because he understood that even though the injured man was a stranger, he indeed was his cousin’s keeper and had a responsibility to help him.

 

At the Mendoza College of Business, we believe in the positive power of business and its responsibility to improve conditions in society. We call it “Business for Good” and our challenge to our business students is “Ask More of Yourself. Ask More of Business.” Corporations and businesses also have a responsibility to give back to their communities and countries. Like individuals, no business becomes successful it by itself. It takes the involvement of investors, natural resources, suppliers, workers and customers, just to name a few. A business works within a very complex support system and to starve that support system is to starve itself. Nurturing that support system helps the company grow while improving the image of its brand or products.

For instance, McDonald’s restaurants market to children, and the children insist that their parents take them to McDonald’s. To enhance this playful appeal, McDonalds has added indoor playgrounds and meals with toys in them. But even more significantly, they decided several years ago to fund Ronald McDonald Houses near hospitals that serve severely ill children. These houses provide a place where families can stay at little or no cost while their child is undergoing treatment. This was a service that was needed by the communities, and it was also serving the very customers that McDonald’s markets to: children and families. They have created a special bond with their customers that goes beyond fancy marketing, a good product and customer service. Even customers, like myself, donate my extra change to the cause when I am at the counter, so we feel a part of the effort. Today, McDonald’s is known as much for its corporate philanthropy as it is for its hamburgers. According to the January, 2010 issue of Forbes Magazine, tt continues to grow in revenues even in this depressed economy. So the business of doing good is very good for business.

 

Trust

I have spoken to many groups in the past about management, leadership and customer service, and I constantly hear the same comment, which is “My life at work would be so much easier if I didn’t have to deal with all those other people.” At the same time, those other people might be saying the same thing about them. I have to remind them that we really don’t have an option. Animals are never going to run organizations. And plants aren’t much help. And until robots become more sophisticated, we are stuck with each other.

Trust in not one of the most important aspects of our lives – it is THE most important aspect of our lives. A lack of trust brings darkness, suspicion and isolation from others, while an abundance of trust can overcome once insurmountable problems. So how do we help create a culture of help and benevolence within our families, our communities, our countries, and our countries’ neighbors?

It is a coincidence that at the time I was invited to speak at this very important conference I happened to be reading a book titled “The Speed of Trust” by Stephen M.R. Covey. He states that when people have a high trust level between each other, life becomes much easier and good things can happen much more quickly. In business, productivity goes up, costs go down, and satisfaction increases. This is also true between organizations, or between citizens and their governments. This makes sense because when we trust someone to do a job correctly, it takes much less supervision and time to create the outcomes we are trying to achieve. When we feel confident that we can agree on a contract with a handshake instead of mountains of legal contracts, our transactions are faster and less expensive. When we know we can trust a person or organization to do what they agreed to do, it causes much less worry and stress in our lives. Most of us have had people in our lives that we knew we could count on, a parent, a teacher, a relative or a friend. And because of that trust we were willing to listen to their advice and learn from it. When we live in a culture of trust, we feel more confidence in others, in ourselves and in our communities. Opportunities arise as a result and we can see potential in our future. To live in a culture of distrust is to live in fear and anguish, and no one would choose that existence over a more secure situation built on a foundation of trust. Covey has surveyed thousands of people about their descriptions of low-trust and high-trust organizations, and below he contrasts the two. Which organization would you rather be associated with?

Attributes of Low-Trust Organizations

Attributes of High-Trust Organizations

People manipulate or distort facts.

People withhold and hoard information.

Getting the credit is very important.

People spin the truth to their advantage.

New ideas are openly resisted and stifled.

Mistakes are covered up or covered over.

Most people are involved in the “blame game,” bad-mouthing others.

There is an abundance of gossip.

There are many things that cannot be discussed.

People tend to overpromise and under deliver.

There are a lot of violated expectations, for which people try to make excuses.

People pretend bad things are not happening or are in denial.

The energy level is low.

People often feel unproductive tension – sometimes even fear.

Information is openly shared.

Mistakes are tolerated and encouraged as a way of learning.

The culture is innovative and creative.

People are loyal to those who are absent.

People talk straight and confront issues.

There is real communication and real collaboration.

People share credit abundantly.

Transparency is a practiced value.

People are candid and authentic.

There is a high degree of accountability.

There is a palpable vitally and energy – people can feel the positive momentum.

 

It is obvious that most of us would rather work with an organization that has a high-trust culture. There may be some who say that they are a high-trust organization but actually practice low-trust actions. If we think that we can get away with being untrustworthy while convincing others that we are not, we are deceiving ourselves. The difference is evident to anyone who cares to look closely. No amount of deception can cover up a lack of trust for long. Sooner or later, a trust that has been broken is revealed. It is devastating to the one who has been deceived, but even more devastating to the one who has violated another’s trust, because word travels fast about what they have done, and the violator usually does not know the terrible stories that are being told about him or her. In fact, although the violator believes that he or she has gotten away with something, or gained something in the short term, they have actually destroyed their reputation, which will create tremendous loss for them in the long term. No one will want to do business with them. Children will soon distance themselves from an untrustworthy mother or father. Friends will avoid the untrustworthy friends and create new friendships with those they trust. Governments may lie to citizens for many years and leaders may be corrupt, but the truth always eventually rises to the surface and the leaders of these governments are then defamed forever in our histories.

But how do we create trust where none currently exists? We must start with ourselves. Even if we have been the victim of many an untrustworthy act, we much reach out and extend trust to others. This is not a blind trust, but what Covey calls “Smart Trust.” We trust people with small things first until we know they can handle bigger obligations. Then the more responsible they are, the more trust we extend them. As the rewards of this exchange of trust become evident, both parties realize that mutual trust is much more productive and beneficial than irresponsibility or dishonesty.

Another way to develop trust is to join a civic organization that has a mission of improving the community and the world. One of the early books by Robert Putnam, “Making Democracy Work,” is about how the creation of social capital in Northern Italy. Putnam found that Northern Italy had much more political stability than Southern Italy. One of the causes for this was that Northern Italy had established many more civic groups, especially choirs. These groups brought people from all different backgrounds together for a common cause, such as singing. The relationships that were built from these organizations created trust between diverse participants and a foundation for a more stable government.

I am not so idealistic to think that building a culture, trust and philanthropy is easy. It isn’t. But nothing worthwhile ever is. It is like being a Chicago Cubs Baseball fan, a team that hasn’t won a World Series in more than 100 years. It takes a tremendous amount of faith! Which leads me to an example I want to share with you. It is a scene from a film about baseball – specifically women’s professional baseball. As some of you may know, baseball is a much loved sport in the United States, and I know that the Ukraine also has its own professional and amateur baseball leagues. It is also important to note that sports such as baseball also create “bridging capital” because they bring people together from different ethnic, religious, racial and demographic backgrounds. The players may be very different from each other in those respects, but they share a talent for, and a love of, their sport. They must play as a team to win, and that’s what bridges the relationships between them. Of course, not everyone is an athlete and not everyone can participate. But I don’t think it is more difficult than building a better world, which is what all of you are trying to do.

The film I am referring to was made several years ago and was titled “A League of Their Own.” Some of you may be familiar with it. It is a true story about an all female baseball league that was created during World War II because many of the male baseball players were fighting in the war. The focus of the movie was on the captain of one of the teams, Gina Davis, and Tom Hanks was her coach. The team has advanced to the final championship, the World Series, and the night before the big game, Gina Davis’ husband returns from the war. She is so happy he is safe and alive that she decides to quit baseball and leave the next day to go home with her husband. When Tom Hanks sees her leaving, he stops her and asks her why. She tells him that it just got too hard for her. He replies, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, anyone could do it. The hard is what makes it great!”

That’s why creating trust is supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would have trusting relationships. If it wasn’t hard, every business would trust every other business. If it wasn’t hard, all citizens and their governments would work together for the common good. Extending philanthropy to others is a risk and sometimes the project will not be successful. But the difficulty of your work is the very reason its success is so highly praised – the hard is what makes it great!

Those of you in the Ukraine and Europe have seen your share of war and the way it divides people. Repairing these divides is very hard work and takes the efforts of courageous people on all sides. In our own country, after the American Civil War of the 1860s, President Abraham Lincoln recognized the importance of repairing the relationships between the warring sides of the north and the south. He believed, as scripture states, that a house divided against itself cannot stand. The truth is, we all live in houses within houses; the house of our home within the house of our city within the house of our country within the house of the global community. Anytime any of these houses are split and pitted against each other, progress stops and society digresses. Anytime those houses are united in common cause, progress is made and society advances. In order to accomplish these higher goals, we must engage in the philanthropy of forgiveness and understanding. We must invest ourselves in forging new relationships, extending trust and taking risks in order to build a better future. Remember, no one becomes a success alone. We all need the help and assistance of others. We must, like the Samaritan, truly believe that we are our cousin’s keeper. As the famous Ukranian poet, Taras Shevchenko, wrote:

Once in my Ukraine…

Once they swore oaths and made pacts

Of brotherhood and sisterhood…

 

May you continue to swear oaths of responsibility for each other’s welfare and make pacts based on trust, forged together by the compassionate fire of philanthropy! Like the Benedictine monk, may you reclaim the charitable culture invented by the Christian Church, remember and resurrect the traditions of charity, and encourage the rebirth of a new age of understanding and cooperation.

Thank you for your kindness and for inviting me to share this time with you.