I’ve spent my adult life teaching how the sonnets of Petrarch yielded the great flowering of poetry of the Elizabethan age, and how Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man
fits into the development of the novel. These are questions on which I might carry a bit of credibility. But money? Few would think, “Hey, I’ll ask an English teacher about money.” Yet, I have learned a little about giving and value.
In an era when American democracy depends on ideas and civic engagement, our public sector rarely steps up to fund humanities when other pressing needs (health, science, technology, global development) call for funding. A few years ago, a college buddy explained his strategy for giving money. (He has made a lot of it and is very generous in giving it away.) Over coffee, I learned something new about money. Smart money.
When my friend wants to support a project, he looks for impact. Is it drawing partners? He analyzes whether his seed money can make a difference, rather than being merely “icing on the cake.” He wants to know if his money will be leveraged or matched to create more capacity. Impact. Partnership. Leverage. These are his guidelines for making smart money gifts.
Those features apply when giving to OHC programs and endowments. Impact: OHC grants help communities fund things that matter to them—at a local level. Partnership: Getting an OHC program means that a community—small or large—has agreed to build public and private partnerships. Leverage: OHC partnership keeps projects accountable for private funding and in-kind donations to leverage support for maximum effectiveness. Your dollar is often matched by other private donations and funding from the NEH.
I give to OHC because I love the humanities projects we support; but I rest easy knowing that my gifts, however large or small, are smart money.