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By Jay Ruderman
Philanthropic guru Ellen Remmer recently used the P-word in her blog, a word you don’t usually see in conjunction with charitable giving.
Remmer, who’s President and CEO of a think tank called The Philanthropic Initiative, dared to use the word ‘passion’ to describe what propels people to give away their hard-earned money. And she goes further, asserting that passion goes well beyond a sense of personal satisfaction, but is the ingredient capable of playing “a critical role in achieving deep social impact.”
In making the case for philanthropic passion, Remmer takes on “a field buzzing with the drive to collect data, measure results, and support ‘what works,’” a place where passion is “culturally uncomfortable for many individuals who have been taught to restrain emotions and quell enthusiasm lest it cloud their analytical ability.”
And, by insisting on passion as a key ingredient in successful philanthropy, she reminds us of why we do what we do. “Passion is that mix of curiosity, enthusiasm and conviction that takes us beyond annual contributions into a sustained engagement with an issue, cause or organization … Passion in philanthropy is about making a commitment to your most important beliefs and values.”
Remmer doesn’t recommend we ignore the objective realities of the world around us but that we leaven our analytical approach with enough passion to keep us engaged even when things look grim. “Perhaps the best kind of philanthropist is one who is engaged on both the intellectual and emotional levels,” she writes, “one who can advance both the art and the science of their giving.”
It’s passion alone that can fire up a philanthropist with “the energy and momentum to not just execute but to lead,” she adds. “With all the demands for our limited philanthropic dollars and time, it is likely that only the most deeply felt causes will stir your initiative.”
In the early days of this new year, let’s remember Remmer’s challenge to us: to forge a deeper connection with our philanthropic commitments for healing this world. One person – and one passion – at a time.
— Jay Ruderman