The Joy in Giving Done Right: Looking Back on Season 3 of CEP’s Podcast

Chloe Heskett

Here in New England, the leaves are all on the ground, the trees are bare, and the air is sharp (and the wind sharper). Just like that, it’s late November — and Giving Season is upon us.

It would be easy to focus on the negatives as we approach this season; there is a sense of prolonged urgency as we phase into a so-called return to normal (that is really far from normal, but more of an evolution of the crises we have grappled with for years). The giving appeals that will be sent today and in the coming weeks will reflect that urgency, and be colored by the knowledge that rates of household giving have declined while inflation is on the rise and demand for services remains high, making it difficult for many nonprofits to make ends meet. The remarkable changes we have seen in institutional giving in the last three years are just that — remarkable — but will they last, especially as the economy wobbles?

But there is another side to the story, and ample reason for hope. There are those, both at the individual and institutional level, who are approaching their giving with curiosity as well as generosity; those who are asking crucial questions about how to give better, and really listening to the answers; and all those in this sector who are leading the way by modeling giving with both the heart and the head, as Rohini Nilekani, Giving Pledger and a guest on CEP’s Giving Done Right podcast once put it.

While CEP has many resources for givers looking to give effectively, both institutional and individual, I particularly wanted to share one of my favorite resources this Giving Season; it is one that is chock full of advice for givers, moving storytelling, and inspiration that can inform the major donor and everyday giver alike: the Giving Done Right podcast.

We’ve just wrapped the third season of the podcast, and I can honestly say that as I listened to each episode this season, I thought to myself, “This may just be the best one yet.” CEP’s Phil Buchanan and Grace Nicolette, who host the podcast, lead honest, insightful conversations with each guest that are simultaneously a great listen and an invaluable way to gain insight into how to give wisely and from the heart. Here’s what you’ll find in season three:

  • Gladys Vega, executive director of La Colaborativa, a direct service and advocacy organization in Chelsea, Massachusetts, joins Phil and Grace to discuss the importance of work rooted in community, her experience providing vital services through the challenge of the pandemic, and more.
  • Patty McIlreavy, president and CEO of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP), shares her expertise on disaster funding and discusses the vital role of an equity-focused approach in disaster funding, as well as common pitfalls for donors in disaster response.
  • Grace interviews major donor and restaurateur April Tam Smith, discussing her and her husband’s remarkably generous approach to giving, how she marries a career in finance with her philanthropic pursuits, and her nonprofit restaurant in the heart of Times Square.
  • President and CEO of RIP Medical Debt Allison Sesso speaks to Phil and Grace about the urgent need for medical debt relief and her organization’s innovative model to addressing that need. Plus, they discuss her experience receiving a $50 million gift from MacKenzie Scott.
  • Heather McGhee, author, activist, and organizer, discusses how the racial zero sum mindset hurts everyone and presents a powerful case for the need for donors to consider and address this issue in every aspect of their giving.
  • Philanthropists Vinh and Leisle Chung join Phil and Grace for a moving conversation that ranges from their remarkable stories as a refugee and immigrant, respectively, to how they have built a successful medical practice centered on giving back.
  • In episode seven, philanthropist and co-founder of The Home Depot Arthur Blank comes on the podcast alongside President and Director of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, Fay Twersky. They discuss values-driven family philanthropy and bringing big business and philanthropy together — and giving the two equal weight.
  • In the season three finale, Phil and Grace discuss CEP’s new research on the transformative effect of MacKenzie Scott’s giving for the nonprofits that have received her gifts, diving deep on how the research came about and its implications for donors.

I hope you’ll give these conversations a listen this giving season and, if you do, I hope it helps put a new lens on your giving, whether strategic, heart-driven, or both. We look forward to sharing future seasons of the podcast and having many more conversations about how to give well, be it in the recording studio, at future convenings, or with friends over coffee. It is too important a topic to not spend a good deal of thought on, but it is also one that has the power to bring joy and light into our lives — and after all, that is what the giving season is really about.

Chloe Heskett is editor & writer on the Programming and External Relations team at CEP.

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