Monday, October 01, 2007

Philanthropy Diaspora

I'm a big fan of Pittsburgh Quarterly, a relative newcomer to the Burgh magazine scene. For the sake of transparency, I've met editor Doug Heuck a few times and I consider to him to be part of the project to network the Burgh Diaspora. So, I have a vested interest in seeing his magazine do well. However, I can also honestly say that I've admired Pittsburgh Quarterly long before we exchanged business cards. Mr. Heuck looks forward with great visions for the Pittsburgh region. Every story, and even every advertisement, moves Southwestern Pennsylvania in this direction. The magazine mines the best of the past in order to imagine a better future. With all the energy each issue brings to my household, I have a hard time keeping my optimism in check.

The latest offering is no exception. The subject of the regular column, The Observer, fits in with my Monday deluge of blog posts. Pittsburgh's tradition of philanthropy is not a relic to be taken for granted. Instead, it is a global brand that could define the city's next era of success:

There lies the opportunity for Pittsburgh. What city is better poised to become the headquarters of that international industry than Pittsburgh? It was here that the modern philanthropy began with Carnegie and his famous thought that "He who dies rich, dies disgraced." It is here that philanthropy has grown and flourished more than anywhere else - some 100 years later, we remain No. 2 in philanthropic assets per capita, behind Seattle with its Gates-Buffett philanthropic merger.

Like philanthropy, the Burgh Diaspora is an under-appreciated asset. There are many others beyond those two. Read Pittsburgh Quarterly and rediscover what they are.

Edit: A recent Thomas Barnett blog post reminds me that one of the feature stories in this issue of Pittsburgh Quarterly covers Pittsburgh's business with China. What is the philanthropy angle?

While foreign charities are officially banned from soliciting charitable donations in mainland China, some large U.S. nonprofits are sniffing out ways to catch the new philanthropists’ money. The University of California, for example, has established a fund-raising arm in Hong Kong, which operates under different laws from the mainland. However, foreign charities need to tread carefully around China’s different approaches to philanthropy. The government is wary of giving too much financial and political independence to nonprofits, even if it has gingerly embraced them as a way to fight the nation’s widespread poverty—about 10% of Chinese people live on less than $1 a day. Mr. Wilhelm says there are about 340,000 nonprofit groups in China, although he says estimates run as high as two million.

Philanthropy is a growth industry and Pittsburgh should be a global player.


John Morris said...

I hate to say this since I live in Pittsburgh now, but I think Pittsburgh is a terrible place to become a major center of global philanphropy.

There are two basic reasons for this. One, is that it is in no way a typical city in terms of diversity, imigration, international trade etc. It's also far too disconnected from the realities of the world that charities need to be connected with.

The likely capital of Philanphropy, is likely to be Washington, DC but it would be even better if was New York or LA.If Pittsburgh was to become such a center it would only reinforce the disturbing antimarket nature of the cities culture.

Brendan Crain said...

I hadn't heard of the Quarterly, but while checking it out I came across Mark DeSantis' column...and I have to say, he sounds like he'd make a fantastic mayor. Even if he's just being a politician, he can't be worse than Lukie. DeSantis really does seem to understand the nature of the city's problems, and from what little I've read of him, he does seem like he's got the experience to back up his ideas.

Good luck to him. Pittsburgh needs another great mayor. It's been awhile.