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Chocolate or the Peanut Butter?

Chocolate or the Peanut Butter?

I have a serious affection for Peanut Butter Cups. I believe I have definitely eaten more peanut butter cups than vegetables over the course of my half century of living and believe with great anticipation that I have many more of the treats in my future.

As a child I loved the ads that debated whether it was the chocolate or the peanut butter that made the confection so wonderful.  I would actually try to engage others in a debate about this question as peanut butter cups mattered to me and I felt this tension-point had merit.

I also love philanthropy. I will not comment as to where this compares to my love for peanut butter cups in my life but recently the great chocolate peanut butter deliberation has come to mind in the context of my work in modern day philanthropy.  Philanthropists today are searching for ways to achieve both thoughtful and effective giving.

When I am writing and speaking about giving I mention that giving should be impactful, effective and in the same breath say that it should feel great and be the most fun a donor ever has.  Recently I had a donor in my office who ask me how exactly to achieve both of those goals.  He felt a tension and certain trade-offs were needed and wondered if one characteristic was more important than the other—In other words, is it the chocolate or the peanut butter that makes giving so deliciously important.

Just as I could never give a definitive answer on the peanut butter cups, I explained to him that philanthropy today requires us to hold on to what could seem like two opposing views at the same time and still get to the good or the change we want to create. He got me thinking about those tensions that donors face when trying to create meaningful plans.

A few days after he left my office I came upon an article written by the CEO of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Melissa A Berman in the Chronicle of Philanthropy.  She and her colleagues have been advising wealthy donors for over a decade and had identified 10 tensions they saw every strategic donor wrestle with.  She was clear to point out that “The dichotomy should make clear that there is no right or wrong, but that each of these ideas factors into the giving equation, resulting in philanthropy that is both inspiring and challenging. A few of the tensions her team had identified were Focus vs Flexibility:  Focusing in on a few select causes vs spreading funds thinly among several; Capacity vs. Capability: The age old question of affecting the largest group of people possible or doing the best job for a small targeted group; and Speed vs. Thoroughness: When a disaster strikes providing quick immediate funding vs money and resources needed for the long term recovery.

To see all 10 of Berman’s teams trade-offs you can access the article, “10 Trade-Offs Donors Face That Make Philanthropy Tough but Rewarding’ at

Berman goes on to say, “Each of these tensions makes strategic philanthropy both difficult and rewarding. To help navigate these tensions, donors should evaluate which ones are most important to them and how they see themselves in philanthropy. Then and only then can donors determine which trade-offs they are willing to accept. It’s not a perfect world—that’s why we need philanthropy.”

Just like the great peanut butter cup debate, it is personal but in the end we all savor the end result.

If you are considering developing a strategic plan for your 2015 giving, please email me at [email protected]
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Sarah Owen
Sarah Owen

Sarah Owen, President & CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, leads a passionate and diverse team dedicated to driving regional change for the common good. The Foundation is committed to engaging the community in conversations and action that creates sustainable positive change and provides the funding to make those changes a reality. More