Thursday, September 10, 2009

BREAKING: Beloved Benefactor Philanthropy A.S. Usual Passes Away

Philanthropy A.S. Usual passed away this morning after a long struggle with a number of social ills. He was more than a century old.

His heirs will be celebrating his life and legacy Tuesday, September 15, 2009.

“Phil,” as he was known to friends and colleagues, began his beneficent life in the latter part of the nineteenth century, during which he pioneered the use of endowed funds for charitable causes.

At the time of his death, Phil’s successful empire represented more than 75,000 foundations, 122,000 donor-advised funds, 45,000 supporting organizations, and countless other grantmaking institutions, supporting a nonprofit sector of more than 1 million charitable organizations, employing about 7 percent of all Americans.

Critics charged that Phil’s generosity often got in the way of larger social change, saying that it was no longer suited to the challenges ahead. Others disapproved of Phil’s more “strategic” projects, noting that they excluded or disempowered some groups with little to show for their intrusive ambition. Those who knew him, however, found inspiration in all his efforts, however imperfect, to make a difference in the lives of others.

Phil is survived by four generations of grantmaking professionals and volunteers. Experts estimate that, in a historic wealth transfer, some $41 trillion will pass from one generation to the next before 2052. It is unclear what Phil intended for this money. His last will and testament is deliberately vague, though Phil seemed excited by the potential of those who would care for his legacy.

“If you are reading this, Philanthropy A.S. Usual is dead,” he wrote to his successors. “I am certain that I leave a world slightly better than the one I entered. I am not as certain that my descendants will enjoy the same fate if they attempt to do exactly as I have done. Do not be afraid to do things differently. I put fires out all my life. If you find you need to start a few, remember to use long fuses and to strike a match for me. I’ll be watching for the fireworks.”

Additional excerpts from the last will and testament of Philanthropy A.S. Usual will be read at the reception. In lieu of flowers, please send your contributions to the next generation of grantmakers in DC: Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy.

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