The first true secular analog to TG has appeared on the scene, and it is mighty impressive

Catalytic philanthropy.

Sean Stannard Stockton is intrigued by it, terming it Shock and Awe Philanthropy.

Commenters on Mark Kramer’s article introducing the discipline are mixed in their reviews of it.

And me? I’m absolutely delighted by it. Of course since Catalytic Philanthropy is a secular philosophy, its goals, presuppositions, and methods are distinctly different from Transformational Giving. But still, I can’t help but woot in agreement as Kramer contends:

For most donors, philanthropy is about deciding which nonprofits to support and how much money to give them. These donors effectively delegate to nonprofits all responsibility for devising and implementing solutions to social problems. Despite the sincere dedication and best efforts of those who work in the nonprofit sector, there is little reason to assume that they have the ability to solve society’s large-scale problems.

Now in TG, the focus is not on solving social problems but rather on comprehensively reflecting the character of God to a world in need, but still, my gosh, it’s wonderful to have someone else hankering articulately and systematically for a reformulation of the relationship between nonprofit and the individuals they solicit.

Kramer’s article opens with a powerful picture of what in Transformational Giving we would call a champion–someone who owns the cause comprehensively in their sphere of influence:

Thomas Siebel does philanthropy differently from other donors. As the founder of the software company Siebel Systems Inc., he is one of a handful of philanthropists who have the resources to devote substantial time and money to charity. His approach and the results he has achieved, however, dramatically distinguish him from most of his peers.

In 2005, while spending time on his Montana ranch, Siebel became concerned about the rampant local use of methamphetamine, or “meth.” Meth is a highly addictive and physically destructive drug, and it is a particularly acute problem in rural America. In 2005, Montana had the fifth worst level of meth abuse among all U.S. states. Half of its inmates were imprisoned for meth-related crimes. The direct cost to the state was estimated at nearly $300 million per year, and the cost in human lives and suffering was far greater.

Rather than writing a check to a local nonprofit, Siebel took the time to find out why people become addicted to meth. After learning that first-time users were typically teenagers who were unaware of meth’s risks, Siebel created the Meth Project to change teenage perceptions about the drug. He brought together experts and hired a major San Francisco advertising agency to develop a hard-hitting campaign that would reach 80 percent of Montana teens with at least three ads every week.

You’ll want to read the rest of Kramer’s article to find out the impact that Siebel is having. Make sure to scroll down through the comments, where you’ll find appreciative nonprofit leaders lauding Kramer with such praise as “The arrogance and condescension in this article is disgraceful.” Old ways die hard and ugly, and often the only beautiful thing to nonprofits about so-called “donors” is their money.

Still, we wish Mark well. Good to see many of the principles we champion also gaining a foothold in the mind and practice of our secular counterparts. What’s more, were I feeling smarmier than I am today I would note that this development is especially exciting for we Christian nonprofits, who are, sadly, known less for putting into practice the courage of the Bible’s convictions about what we ought to be doing and known more for copying whatever’s working in secular fundraising. My advice: If you’re going to copy secular practices, give Catalytic Philanthropy a try.

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is also the International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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