Joanna Krotz, a wonderful writer I know, recently had her new book released. The Guide to Intelligent Giving: Make a Difference in the World—and in Your Own Life (Sterling/Hearst Books, 2009) is not just about our country’s interest in charitable giving (yes, even in a shaky economy) but also delves into giving smart. Krotz draws on her extensive research and experience in covering women, wealth, giving and business to map today’s changing terrain in philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. She also is a knowledgeable forecaster and reporter for the new breed of donors and current trends in philanthropy, notably for Town & Country, where she is a contributing editor. I thought it would be interesting to see how she’s promoting the book and demonstrate to those in the development world how one can talk about this issue in interesting and compelling ways. Here’s part one of my interview with Joanna Krotz.
How did you initially become involved in philanthropy?
In 2003, Town & Country magazine asked me to do a short feature about family foundations.
As a business writer, I’ve covered the range of personal finances topics, from nuts and bolts about drafting a will to advice about retirement and college tuition. It was a natural stretch for the magazine to ask me to look into private foundations, but at the time, I didn’t know much about the third sector.
In 2003, this also was a timely story, as it remains today. Private foundations are growing fast. Seven out of 10 of today’s 37,000 family foundations were formed since 1990.
Every reporter begins by putting out the microphone, and because it was Town&Country, an affluent, established, national brand — I had carte blanche to call almost anyone and everyone. I interviewed dozens of people, from those who had very little money to those who had multigenerational wealth, like the Hiltons. I talked to a really broad mix of foundation founders, including Sir John Templeton, the billionaire who was one of the founders of the mutual fund industry in the 1950s, now deceased, and Jason Chapin, son of troubadour Harry Chapin, who died at age 38 in 1981.
I got hooked on the stories I heard about why people were dedicated to making a difference and, even more compelling, how they made decisions of who and where and what to give.
There was also the journalist factor. In 2007, U.S. charitable giving hit $306 billion, setting a new record. 80% of that annual giving comes from individuals.
So the third sector, as it’s called (business and government, being the other two), is a huge and influential industry and virtually no mainstream media outlets cover it. I find it amazing that so much money and so much power is simply overlooked. So I’ve moved in to cover the issues and news.
I also believe that today’s hands-on donors, who contribute while they’re alive (instead of after they die in bequests), are having increasing impact on worldwide policy and social change. And I want to be a part of that.
What type of giving makes you feel most proactive?