Vision and transformation are powered by our internal quest for connection.

In the traditional, non-profit world of associations the conversation of philanthropy includes two actors: donors and beneficiaries. In the most basic terms the beneficiaries are the people who have their “boots on the ground” creating the organization pushing for change. Donors provide the energy, usually in the form of money and sometimes in expertise, to fuel the organization.

Donors and beneficiaries are driven by a similar interest; to bring vision and vitality to the community. When positions are aligned the rhythmic swing between donor and beneficiary flows. The non-profit naturally, organically grows.

Infographic of Donor and Beneficiary Relationship
Infographic of Philanthropic Donor and Beneificary Relationship

The Dynamic of Power

There is also a natural tension that exists between donor and beneficiary. The tension involves power and direction over the project. The one with the money, the donor, often has the upper hand. Since the donor’s major responsibility is to provide the energy (money), personally there isn’t as much at stake in regards to the life/success of the project…a check is written and the job is done.

Depending on your understanding of personal giving, this sort of involvement can be transactional and flat. Yet, giving is a personal act of connection. Receiving is a personal act of connection. Why doesn’t it always feel that way?

Giving is a personal act of connection. Receiving is a personal act of connection. Why doesn’t it always feel that way?


People’s drive towards change comes from an inward tension that seeks resolve. Instead of investigating and being aware of our inner passions we rely on the outward tangibles to define our interests and set our goals. Because we are only working with what we “think-see” there is greater potential for polarizing conversations often based on a “right-wrong” perspective.

In order to protect or defend our position we forget about the interest that brought us together and rely on the limited security of our labels.  The donor and beneficiary relationship changes to a donor vs. beneficiary relationship.

The donor and beneficiary relationship changes to a donor vs. beneficiary relationship.

Our Inner World

Illustration showing importance of self when giving to others


If we are not engaged with our inner world in our philanthropic practice then we are missing a huge piece of the conversation and learning what our philanthropy brings to us. We need to be in contact with the spark that originally called us into action. The spark holds our pain (the root word for passion), vulnerability, anger, urgency, and our deepest creativity. The shadow world that lies underneath is the fertile soil developing and manifesting the transformation we wish to see. This is the juice that pushes our creative expression and drives us to join with others to evolve.

Illustration of internal creativity and web of ideas


Accessing our creativity requires patience, curiosity and exploration. What we firmly think we know is set to the side so that we may ask questions and open ourselves to answers not readily seen. What are we seeking? Whose healing/need is being addressed? How is my internal need to be healed mirrored in the reality of the outside world? From this foundation we can leap into vision.

According to Robert Fritz, vision and problem solving are two very different conversations. Problem solving deals with known variables that are rearranged to create different outcomes. Problem solving can create changes within a conversation but it does not transform the conversation. Transformation and vision live within the desire for the impossible and in the land of unknown variables. The impossible (which is often in the form of a question for me) becomes a guide-star. Openly listening to the star brings on the heroes journey. You are leaving the land of what is known to bring in new life.

Infographic showing importance of mutually beneficial partnerships


In his book, The Spell of the Sensuous, David Abrams finds refuge in a large cave during the monsoon season in Thailand. As his eyes adjust to the darkness he sees the biggest spider web ever! He is terrified to come into contact with the creature who made it! As he calms, he examines the spider web in more detail and realizes it is made up of hundreds of smaller webs. The design of the web(s) plays tricks with his eyes. Is it one web or many?

Vision manifested requires partnership. Like the web in the cave it is one giant design made up of several individual webs. The Venn Diagram: two circles conjoined in the middle illustrates the power of this alignment. The circles represent the sovereignty of each representative. The intersection is where the unique gifts, ideas, energy of each comes together to empower and give life to vision. When donors and beneficiaries stand side by side holding similar passions, healings, and visions, they create co-passion or compassion. Compassion creates a natural synergy for partnership!

Finding our philanthropic heart is a practice. When we are in touch with the practice we find the action of philanthropy speaks to both the donor’s and beneficiary’s needs. Instead of fixing problems, we are open to the creative mystery of transforming challenges. The relationship between donor and beneficiary is engaged. The conversation goes beyond our positions and captures the energy of our deepest desires and mutual interests.  “As within so without. As above so below.” This is the heart of true philanthropy!

This is the heart of true philanthropy!

Take a look in the resources section to find books that are my touchstones filled with ideas, philosophies, and practices that spark my spirit and show me how to do a deeper dive.

The stories within our life web are complex and guided by a few powerful moments.

Illustration of family values and personality