Skip to content

Give Smart (Tom Tierney and Joel Fleishman): “Back to School” Book Report by Kate Hovde

September 15, 2011

Kate Hovde

Over the next few weeks, a member of our team will review a book from our summer reading list. We selected books based on their potential not only to help us in our own work in identifying high-impact philanthropic opportunities but also to help donors interested in improving their philanthropic impact. We often talk about the fact that practicing high impact philanthropy requires a commitment to  learning constantly, looking for ways to do even more. We may not ‘technically’ be in school anymore (although we are based at a university), but we hope this series helps make some of our own learning transparent so that others may benefit. This week’s “Back to School” book report is by Kate Hovde.

Give Smart by Thomas Tierney & Joel Fleishman

If you are a high net worth individual or foundation CEO looking to improve the satisfaction and effectiveness of your philanthropy, Give Smart, written by Tom Tierney and Joel Fleishman, should be an addition to your fall course syllabus. Between them, Tierney and Fleishman have experience both as philanthropists and advisers to philanthropists, and Give Smart represents their combined wisdom on common pitfalls and good practice in the field.

The book is divided into chapters exploring key questions such as: What is success? and How can it be achieved?

While the answers to these questions may seem obvious at first blush, the authors illustrate with instructive anecdotes that they are often more complicated. Extensive use of specific examples makes the book interesting and helps ground advice.

Here’s an example of an illustrative story from the book that particularly appealed to us at the Center:

Did you know that the white lines painted at the side of most roads are the result of a philanthropist’s investment in research (accident incidence with and without the lines) and public advocacy?

For  John Dorr and the Dorr Foundation, what began as his wife’s observation about driving habits turned into a lifelong obsession The example was also a great reminder that simply having a good, evidence-based and cost-effective solution to a problem is not enough to have impact; getting people to implement the solution can be an even harder than identifying it. The Dorr Foundation ended up embarking on a years-long advocacy campaign to convince state highway departments to spend the extra $150 per mile to stripe a road shoulder, despite convincing evidence that doing so lowered accident rates and the associated costs in lives, health care, police intervention, etc.

So thanks to Tom Tierney and Joel Fleishman for making us think, and hats off to John Dorr and the Dorr Foundation for making an impact by lowering impacts!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: