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Matt Beem
President and COO
Kinetic Fundraising, Inc.

America needs a new czar

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Independence, MO – I’ve got a suggestion for President Obama as he seeks to shore up our country’s economy: Appoint a philanthropy czar.

In recent years, presidents from both major political parties have created high-ranking positions in response to matters of national crisis and to advance priorities. Clinton named eight czars, Bush tapped 33 and Obama already has appointed 37.

Proposed solutions to our economic crisis usually swirl around strategies to cut government spending and raise taxes. Both are important elements of any fix, but none has suggested leveraging the U.S. nonprofit sector, an amazingly efficient service-delivery mechanism.

Just think: A dollar saved through reduced government spending or increased taxation yields a dollar to allocate elsewhere. But a dollar given to a nonprofit organization yields much more than a dollar’s worth of services, because volunteers carry out much of the nonprofit sector’s work.

The philanthropy czar would lead a campaign to stimulate our economy through gifts to organizations in the nonprofit sector that carry out services and functions essential to our government. Universities raise billions of dollars for important initiatives, and there’s no reason our nation can’t do the same.

Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Larry Ellison, Christy Walton and Charles Koch are on my philanthropy czar short list. Do your research, and you’ll learn they’re the five wealthiest people in the United States.

The philanthropy czar’s charge would be to increase U.S. philanthropy 10 percent. With nearly $304 billion given in 2009 to nonprofit organizations in the United States, that would drive a $34 billion uptick. He or she would accomplish the task by making a gift of significance to the campaign, identifying others who can do the same and cultivating and soliciting their gifts.

The goal is achievable. If the 10 wealthiest people in the United States – who are collectively worth about $230 billion – each gave 10 percent of their resources to the campaign, $23 billion of its $34 billion goal would be accounted for. Because 85 percent of all campaign gifts come from 15 percent of all donors – and because 86 percent of those gifts come from individuals – my strategy is the right one to grow philanthropy substantially in our country.

This is the second time I’ve suggested a philanthropy czar in this space. I was replaying the idea last week to Kate and reminded her that I wrote Obama about it shortly after he took office. I emailed the White House in March 2009 and never heard back, which bummed me out, given Obama’s profile as the people’s president.

As usual, Kate was short on pity and long on good ideas. She suggested I write Bill Clinton, whom Newsweek recently anointed president of the world and whose commencement speech last week at the University of Central Missouri laid out his foundation’s far-reaching plans and vision to positively influence the trajectory of our global society.

I just visited the Clinton Foundation’s website and bookmarked the page inviting notes to Bill from people like me. I’ll return and pass this column on to him after it’s printed and posted on the web.

So consider yourselves insiders. You read about the philanthropy czar before he or she was appointed.

If my note to Clinton makes the difference, I’ll suggest that former presidents be allowed to run for office a second time.

> Matt Beem Bio