The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article, "The New Science of Giving", that focuses on the philanthrophy of Houston couple Laura and John Arnold. John Arnold is a former hedge fund operator who accumulated a fortune estimated at $4 billion and who now devotes himself to philanthropy. The difference is in the approach to philanthropy, which is illustrated with the quotes below. (The Foundation website is at http://www.arnoldfoundation.org/front.
The foundation's approach is to "focus on systemic problems without easy answers ". The Arnold's define this focus as "public-policy problems that led to ... "moral inefficiencies". Their methodology is to "spend a lot of time doing research and evaluating data, and then make a handful of big bets, even if they involve considerable risk" (similar to well run hedge funds). Areas of particular interest are K-12 education and the U.S. justice system.
What I like about the Arnold approach is the following:
- Focus on the really big problems (the only one's worth working on)
- Use a data driven, analytical approach to develop new solutions (don't follow the philanthropy crowd)
- Focus on the project results and their measurement
- Set aside the "feel good" part of philanthropy and look at the results produced