January 2023

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Friends in Philanthropy: January 2023 Issue


“Don’t tell where it came from, and don’t tell me who needed it. Just say it’s a blessing from the Lord.”

– Small-town farmer Hody Childress on his $100 monthly gift to cover strangers’ prescription costs, as remembered by a local pharmacist

Hody Childress won’t make the next Forbes Top Givers list. His simple act of kindness—anonymously giving $100 a month to a local pharmacy to make sure his neighbors can get their prescriptions—is far too modest by their standards.

But gifts like his are just as important as those of, say, Bill Gates or Warren Buffett. That’s because they prove the average person really can do meaningful good in the world, simply by choosing to be generous.

Childress’s story comes at an important moment, as the decline in middle-class charitable giving reaches a crisis point. In fact, with so much attention on mega-donors in recent years, it sometimes feels like philanthropy has become a luxury, reserved for the wealthy and out of reach for the rest of us.

It’s just lucky nobody told Hody Childress.

Read more about his story, and about the collapse of middle-class charitable giving, in this month’s issue.

But first, a programming note: Going forward, Friends in Philanthropy won’t be sent on the same monthly schedule. Instead, we’re looking into sending less frequent, more substantive updates on the state of philanthropy in 2023. Watch your inbox for news.

Thank you for being a subscriber up to this point! We hope this newsletter has helped you become a more informed and thoughtful donor, and that reading stories about other generous givers like you has inspired you to keep sharing your good fortune with the world.


One hand reaching out for another

How to Support Kinship United with Your Donor-Advised Fund (Kinship United) – Ready to support a charity that uses Christian principles to rescue widows and orphans around the world? We’ll show you how to recommend a grant through your DAF in minutes.

A piggy bank and some change

Middle-Class Philanthropy Is Collapsing (National Review) – From 2000 to 2018, the share of U.S. households that donate to charity dropped from 66% to 50%. Yet big-ticket giving is actually growing. Has charity become a luxury?

Prescription pills out of the bottle

An Alabama Man Secretly Helped Pay Strangers’ Prescriptions For Years (BBC) – For a decade, small-town farmer Hody Childress gave $100 a month to a local pharmacy so his neighbors could afford their medicine. He only told his family when he got too sick to handle it himself.

A man loading boxes into a van

4 Ways To Prioritize Corporate Philanthropy During An Economic Downturn (Forbes) – It can be tempting to cut back on corporate giving programs during a difficult economy. Here’s why pulling back when demand is highest might be a mistake, and how to avoid it.

A green plant growing out of a jar of change

Your Estate Plan Is About Living Generously Right Now, Too (National Christian Foundation) – When families discuss inheritance, they’re talking about passing along faith and values, not just money. Here’s how to make sure your estate plan is leaving a clear “living legacy” for the next generation.


Photos courtesy of Unsplash.

Kinship United often posts content and opinions that are of interest to the philanthropic community that supports Kinship United’s mission. Nothing published by Kinship United constitutes an investment recommendation, nor should any data or content published by Kinship United be solely relied upon for any investment, tax, legal or financial decisions. Kinship United strongly recommends that you perform your own independent research and/or speak with a qualified investment professional before making any financial decisions.

December 2022

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Friends in Philanthropy: December 2022 Issue


“It’s not good for the country that there are so many people who have to rely on us.”

– Feeding America CEO Claire Babineaux-Fontenot on the organization’s staggering growth in recent years

Topping a list from Forbes seems like great news. But for Feeding America, who leapfrogged the United Way to become the magazine’s #1 charity by private donations, it’s a sign of the country’s troubles.

After all, it’s only since the pandemic started that fighting hunger became such a priority for donors. “People saw something that they didn’t understand before this—food insecurity,” Babineux-Fontenot told Forbes.

It’s clear much work remains to be done to recover from the societal shockwave of Covid. But as we head into 2023, it’s also worth considering how far we’ve come. So in this month’s issue, we also highlight some bright spots over the past year in philanthropy, courtesy of the Christian Science Monitor’s year-end progress roundup.

Read on to get inspired by all that philanthropists like you have done together as a community this year, and to find the resolve to carry on that work into the new year and beyond.

A globe hovering above someone's hand

The Values That Led Humanity Forward This Year (Christian Science Monitor) – “Smart canes” in Rwanda. An all-women newsroom in Somalia. Christian Science Monitor’s year-end “progress roundup” shows how values like ingenuity and dignity drove positive change in 2022.

Shelves in a food pantry

Feeding America Ousts United Way As America’s Largest Charity (Forbes) – The Chicago-based food bank network took in more than $4 billion in gifts last fiscal year, a 47% increase over two years ago. But its growth isn’t exactly happy news. (See the full Forbes Top 100 Charities list here.)

Someone using a register to check out

Should You Donate to Charity in the Checkout Line? (Verywell Health) – CVS is being sued for using customer donations to fulfill a $10 million pledge to the American Diabetes Association. Now experts are noting the downsides of such indirect gifts.

Someone looking at monthly budgets on a laptop

MacKenzie Scott’s New “Yield Giving” Site Sheds Light on Her $14B Giving Spree (Geekwire) – Scott’s mostly stayed mum about her giving over the last few years. Now she’s sharing a searchable database of 1,600 of her gifts, plus more details about her grantmaking process and philosophy.

Small stacks of coins

How Program-Related Investment Supports Charities Without Giving Money Away for Good (The Conversation) – By law, foundations must pay out at least 5% of their endowment annually. Here’s how issuing loans at below-market rates can help them meet that target and still preserve funds for the future.

Photos courtesy of Unsplash.

Kinship United often posts content and opinions that are of interest to the philanthropic community that supports Kinship United’s mission. Nothing published by Kinship United constitutes an investment recommendation, nor should any data or content published by Kinship United be solely relied upon for any investment, tax, legal or financial decisions. Kinship United strongly recommends that you perform your own independent research and/or speak with a qualified investment professional before making any financial decisions.

November 2022

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Friends in Philanthropy: November 2022 Issue


“The amount of money didn’t even feel real. What felt more real was the pride and validation that the work I was doing mattered, and somebody had noticed.”

– An anonymous nonprofit leader on what it meant to receive a large, unrestricted grant from MacKenzie Scott

It’s been more than two years since MacKenzie Scott shook up philanthropy by giving dozens of nonprofits enormous grants with almost no conditions attached.

Now we’re starting to see whether her radical approach is working. Short answer: absolutely.

That’s according to a new survey from the Center for Effective Philanthropy, which found that the nonprofits Scott supported are generally thriving—expanding services and reach while making permanent improvements in their infrastructure and financial stability.

Only time will tell if the rest of the philanthropy world will embrace Scott’s trust-based giving style. But given the results so far, expect much more talk about rethinking how funders see their role in the coming years.


A grandma kissing the forehead of her granddaughter

10 Ways Your Foundation Can Engage the Next Generation (Exponent Philanthropy) – Experts say forcing younger family members to get involved on your terms is a dead end. Instead, create a two-way partnership that gives them a say and lets them use their strengths.

A gold trophy

A Major Survey Finds MacKenzie Scott Is Fantastic at Philanthropy (Fortune) – Some have worried that charities might struggle to handle Scott’s large, unrestricted gifts. But a new survey of 277 nonprofits shows the grants have been nearly all upside. (Read the full report here.)

Man opening an empty wallet

The FTX Bankruptcy Is a Disaster for the Charities It Supported (The Conversation) – Millions in promised funds will almost certainly not arrive—and even some disbursed money may get “clawed back” in bankruptcy.

A community in Africa raising their hands in the air

Glimpses of Hope During a Week in Kakuma Refugee Camp (Christianity Today) – Refugee camps are meant to be temporary. But now many of Kakuma’s 240,000 residents are 2nd- or 3rd-generation. Still, one visitor saw how worship services kept people there from losing all hope.

Stacked sandwiches

A Local Legend Inspired Volunteers to Make 10,000 Sandwiches in a Day (Washington Post) – Eugenia Duke (of Duke’s Mayonnaise fame) was said to have made 10,000 sandwiches in a single day to get by during WWI. Could her hometown replicate the feat for local food banks?


Photos courtesy of Unsplash.

Kinship United often posts content and opinions that are of interest to the philanthropic community that supports Kinship United’s mission. Nothing published by Kinship United constitutes an investment recommendation, nor should any data or content published by Kinship United be solely relied upon for any investment, tax, legal or financial decisions. Kinship United strongly recommends that you perform your own independent research and/or speak with a qualified investment professional before making any financial decisions.

October 2022

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Friends in Philanthropy: October 2022 Issue


“I never know what I’m going to do or why I’m gonna do it. I just see a need and if I can fill it, then I will.”

– Dolly Parton on her intuitive approach to philanthropy

We talk a lot about giving strategy in this newsletter, and with good reason. A thoughtful approach to your philanthropy can be the difference between solving a problem and spinning your wheels.

(Just see this month’s first story on “going beyond the grant” for proof.)

But when you’re lost in thorny problems around setting priorities and measuring impact, sometimes it’s nice to be reminded how simple being charitable can be.

That’s Dolly Parton’s philosophy, anyway. In a recent interview conducted just before she accepted the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy, the country music legend confessed she doesn’t worry too much about the strategic side of giving. She just listens to her instincts.

And her instincts are good. Between her literacy program, which puts 2 million books in kids’ hands each month, and other pursuits like disaster relief and scholarship programs, no one can seriously doubt Dolly’s making a difference. 

Read on for more stories about donors and doers who are figuring out their own way to pull off the same feat.


A team putting their hands in the middle

How an Ambitious Foundation Handles ‘Going Beyond the Grant’ (National Center for Family Philanthropy) – Laurene Powell Jobs’s Emerson Collective knows a thing or two about supporting nonprofits beyond funding. (They even have a “capacity building menu”!)

Graffiti painting of Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton’s Donation Strategy: ‘I Just Give From My Heart’ (AP News) – The recent Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy winner doesn’t dig deeply into giving strategy. But from children’s books to disaster relief, when she sees a need, she fills it.

A house keychain and a key

Could No-Interest Micro Loans Be the Key to Preventing Homelessness? (L.A. Times) – Software entrepreneur Adam Miller’s new $1M lending fund is meant to tide over L.A. residents on the verge of eviction. But is it sustainable?

Two women looking down sorrowfully

How a ‘Tsunami of Suffering’ Pushed One Woman Toward Purposeful Giving (National Christian Foundation) – Susan Ibarguen faced a series of tragedies before a fateful Bible study session changed her life. Now her two-word purpose statement guides everything she does, including her philanthropy.

Welcome mat that says, "All are welcome here."

How Well Do We Love the Strangers Among Us? (The Better Samaritan) – Inspired by a dinner hosted by her Syrian refugee neighbors, author Catherine McNeil considers Biblical wisdom on how to treat strangers—especially strangers from another culture.


Photos courtesy of Unsplash.

Kinship United often posts content and opinions that are of interest to the philanthropic community that supports Kinship United’s mission. Nothing published by Kinship United constitutes an investment recommendation, nor should any data or content published by Kinship United be solely relied upon for any investment, tax, legal or financial decisions. Kinship United strongly recommends that you perform your own independent research and/or speak with a qualified investment professional before making any financial decisions.

September 2022

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Friends in Philanthropy: September 2022 Issue


“That’s probably the period of time where Melinda and I will be around to help make sure it stays on track.”

– Bill Gates on the informal plan to spend down the Gates Foundation’s endowment in the next 25 years

In our July issue, we noted that more foundations were pursuing a “time-limited” approach to their own existence. Now you can add the country’s largest charitable foundation to the list.

Speaking at the Forbes 400 Philanthropy Summit, Bill Gates revealed that he and ex-wife Melinda French Gates had discussed winding down the Gates Foundation over the next 25 years.

Of course, in a sense “winding down” also means “ramping up.” In order to spend down its endowment, the foundation plans to increase its giving, from $6 billion annually now to $9 billion by 2026.

The Gates Foundation is just the most prominent example of a larger trend in the industry, as philanthropies big and small become more thoughtful about how their structures and processes influence the outcomes they deliver. Read on for more insights you can incorporate to make your own giving more strategic.


Sand going through an hour glass

Bill Gates Sees the Gates Foundation Winding Down in 25 Years (Geekwire) – Time-bound giving got a big boost when Gates said his foundation would likely spend down its endowment in the coming decades. The goal in the meantime? Bring infectious disease “largely to an end.”

A piggy bank looking at coins

A QCD Can Lower Your Tax Bill Even If You Take the Standard Deduction (Kiplinger) – A qualified charitable distribution (QCD) from your IRA can benefit both you and your chosen cause in several ways. Here’s what your savings could look like, plus some rules you’ll need to follow.

A "Wrong Way" Sign

What Foundation Trustees Need to Know To Keep Out of Trouble (Philanthropy Roundtable) – Rental payments, credit cards, staff sharing arrangements—here are some common “self-dealing” pitfalls trustees fall into, often by innocent mistake.

Someone pulling money out of their wallet

Nearly 6 in 10 Donors May Increase Giving Despite Economic Fears (CNBC) – Large majorities of Americans say they’re worried about the health of their communities. So 2022 might turn out to be a robust year for giving, whatever the economy brings.

A gavel

The Messy Newman’s Own Estate Fight Has Lessons for Foundations (Wealth Management) – The late actor’s daughters are suing for more control over his foundation’s spending. A lack of written documents made the situation “ripe for conflict.”


Photos courtesy of Unsplash.

Kinship United often posts content and opinions that are of interest to the philanthropic community that supports Kinship United’s mission. Nothing published by Kinship United constitutes an investment recommendation, nor should any data or content published by Kinship United be solely relied upon for any investment, tax, legal or financial decisions. Kinship United strongly recommends that you perform your own independent research and/or speak with a qualified investment professional before making any financial decisions.