The Philanthropy Roundtable’s breakthrough group strategy has been central to our growth and influence. Our four current breakthrough groups—K-12 education, higher education, conservation, and national security—all have an excellent track record in putting on outstanding conferences. We are also making substantial progress in stimulating the emergence of significant new donors in each of these four fields.
Later this year the Roundtable will create a fifth breakthrough group, “Helping People to Help Themselves.” Like each of our other groups, this will have its own specialized conferences, publications, working groups, and customized services for donors. The breakthrough group will also have its own full-time director.
The objective of helping people to help themselves has always been central to The Philanthropy Roundtable’s work. We published a book on this subject by Michael Hartmann of the Bradley Foundation. Our annual meetings regularly include several sessions related to this theme. We now believe that we can take our work in this subject to the next level, by hiring a program director and planning specialized programs in the field.
The mission of the new breakthrough group will be to help philanthropists expand opportunity among the poor and needy, with an emphasis on business enterprise as a source of employment and wealth creation, the ownership of homes and other assets, and the design of social-assistance programs that promote personal responsibility and life skills and empower individuals and families to enjoy the blessings of liberty.
The “Helping People to Help Themselves” group will focus on five sets of philanthropic strategies in its conferences, publications, and customized donor services.
1. Business formation among low-income populations:
- Entrepreneurship education;
- Legal and investment services for entrepreneurs;
- Removal of regulatory and cultural barriers to business creation and growth.
2. Job training and placement, with a special emphasis on private-sector work. This will include a focus on employment programs for specialized populations, such as ex-offenders, legal immigrants, and welfare recipients.
3. Ownership of assets:
- Programs to increase home ownership, including Habitat for Humanity;
- Public policies to encourage asset-building, including private Social Security accounts;
- Financial literacy and management, including programs to foster credit-worthiness.
4. Enterprise-based approaches to third-world development:
- Microfinance and microfranchising;
- Investment funds to encourage growth of larger enterprises in promising business sectors;
- Promotion of rule of law, freedom of international trade and investment, and other institutions that permit business creation and growth to flourish.
5. Personal responsibility and life skills:
- Character-building institutions such as Scouting;
- Mentoring and other programs that emphasize skills and responsibility;
- Programs that reduce alcohol and drug abuse;
- Programs that encourage loving family relationships;
- Programs that enable people with disabilities to lead full, independent lives.
As the Bush administration comes to a close, donors committed to freedom, opportunity and personal responsibility have an excellent opportunity to build private-sector institutions that embody the principles of “compassionate conservatism” rather than look to government for primary funding of such organizations. Our new breakthrough group will help build a critical mass of donors who will work to expand opportunity among the poor and needy.
A Roundtable approach to this issue would clearly be distinctive in the philanthropic world. For instance, everyone in philanthropy today likes microenterprise; so do we, but we also will focus on bigger enterprises and on the rule of law that enables businesses of any size to grow and flourish. Ditto with entrepreneurship education; we focus not only on groups such as the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, but also on removing regulatory barriers to business in low-income neighborhoods. Our emphasis on personal responsibility and institutions such as Scouting would similarly be distinctive in the philanthropic world.
We are currently hiring a director of this program. In the meantime, foundations and families that would like to participate actively in “Helping People to Help Themselves” should please contact me at email@example.com or 202.822.8333.
Adam Meyerson is president of The Philanthropy Roundtable.