|Conclusion to Part I
Part 1 of 4
From the book, Philanthropy: Voluntary Action for the Public Good, by
Robert L. Payton
It seems that one thing we need for our task is a
certain courage, a courage in following out the course of our thoughts where it
leads us, a mental courage, about which common experience allows us to say
definitely that it is infinitely less widely diffused than physical courage
The Mystery of Being
Philanthropy in Education
Private voluntary giving will not increase unless
there is better and firmer understanding of its importance to our society and
the people in it. That understanding is not the product of a how-to course; it
is not the result of rote learning from a textbook; it will not follow directly
from classroom exhortation or from unreflective experience. I hope that the
philanthropic tradition might come to be thought of as a familiar topic of the
formal education of Americans, tied in some cases to the out-of-classroom
student experience of giving and raising money and volunteering and becoming
involved in the tradition as a dynamic process.
Such an education should deal with fund raising and
giving as part of a single process. More of us might then better understand the
psychological quirks that make that relationship so difficult at times. The
linkage of research, teaching, practice, and experience has not yet been
achieved for most people—including those of us who are paid to be involved in
Public education will not advance until professional
education does. Professional education will not advance until philanthropy
begins to permeate the undergraduate curriculum—especially those basic courses
known as general education. While research proceeds in its plodding, unorganized
way, philanthropy must earn its place in the discussions among students and
faculty members. It has to be talked about on the campus as a continuing and
pervasive influence in the society, contending for attention with other
unresolved issues: nuclear weapons, , ethnic conflict, Marxism in the Third
World, deconstruction in literary criticism, the place of religion in American
politics, and so on.
Conversation interacts with learning in the classroom
and research in the library; it doesn't always lead to action, but it should
always seek understanding. More not-for-profit organizations with an established
base on the campus should seek to become more directly involved in the campus
dialogue about philanthropy. There is a natural link between courses in
sociology and psychology as well as politics and economics and the activities of
the philanthropic organizations. Many of these organizations play an important
role in providing forums for debate of all sorts of issues; most of them have
close ties with faculty members in those fields and in other departments; all of
them have a continuing interest in engaging students as volunteers.
• The first responsibility is to help professionals
in philanthropy to become better educated in their own tradition.
• The second responsibility is to encourage research
and the dissemination of the results of that research.
• A third responsibility—and all these have to go on
concurrently—is to encourage the publication of teaching materials: more
histories like Robert Bremner's American Philanthropy, more
anthologies like Brian O'Connell's America's Voluntary Spirit, and
more analysis like James Douglas's Why
Knowing that some views of society are unsympathetic
or even hostile to the philanthropic tradition, we need to know what those
arguments are. Independent Sector's task of advancing the tradition must go
beyond cheering it on.
None of this noble work will proceed without money—or
at least, no widespread effort will occur. The surprising fact is that the
independent sector has failed to invest in the study of itself. Scholars are
likely to work in fields where resources are available to support their work.
Marginal journals and esoteric articles require subsidy. These facts are known
to all of us in the field, yet few of us invest in advancing the understanding
of the philanthropic tradition.
We are our own bottleneck.