What Is Foolanthropy?

By David Gardner

Foolanthropy (n): The form of charity advocated and practiced by The Motley Fool. It has five tenets.
(Oct. 14, 1999) -- Foolanthropy seeks to fulfill the same mission as The Motley Fool: to educate, to amuse, and to enrich.
Education comes first! A great charity is constantly educating: educating its beneficiaries; educating its employees, volunteers, and participants; educating its givers. Foolishness always begins with education; it is absolutely critical. But amusement, too, shows through in a Foolish charity's efforts. The Foolish charity is able to jazz
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people, generate contagious enthusiasm, get the public-at-large psyched about what it's doing. If there's been any clear failure in contemporary philanthropy, it has been this: a lack of imagination, a dearth of creativity -- to a certain extent, an underappreciation of marketing. This is simply another way of saying, in Motley Fool parlance, a failure to amuse. As for "to enrich," this is self-evident. We have only to add that true enrichment ultimately has very little to do with money. (Coming from The Motley Fool, you might be surprised to hear that!) True enrichment exists within a society of individuals, all of whom feel a sense both of belonging and of significance.

Foolanthropy expects. Foolish charities are neither paternalistic nor markedly altruistic. That is, they neither condescend to their beneficiaries nor do they expect nothing in return. As Foolish charities frequently confer a sense of ownership upon those whom they serve, they naturally expect a lot back: They expect their beneficiaries to exert themselves, to try, to care. Foolish charities treat their beneficiaries as responsible adults. The empowerment that emerges from the charity's efforts brings with it a corresponding requirement: personal responsibility.

Foolanthropy make its finances transparent. Anyone giving to a Foolish charity can clearly see exactly where his money has gone, starting with a simple look at the financial statements. Foolish charities are so forthcoming and transparent in their financial disclosure that fraud would be practically impossible to perpetrate: Too many people in and outside of the charity know too much for it ever to come to pass. The Foolish charity's tendency toward transparent financial disclosure pours forth from its very heart. It is the nature of the beast, not a tail pinned onto the donkey to impress or appease the public.

Foolanthropy creates sustainable solutions. Foolish charities begin by providing hope, but more importantly, go on to identify the clear path toward turning that hope into long-term success. Success of this sort is self-sustaining. Foolanthropy is never "hand-to-mouth." Hand-to-mouth solutions are rarely solutions; they are generally desperate measures taken to answer an immediate need. While such giving is an excellent thing to do in an emergency, it does not represent something sustainable; this giving does not create, but succor. Foolanthropy is far more about giving a sustainable solution than it is about giving a piece of bread.

Foolanthropy involves the public at large. The most Foolish charities create solutions that are broad ranging, significant, and relevant. To this extent, they have a strong capacity to involve the public at large in their mission. This is not to be critical of smaller charities that serve narrower niches, for many are excellent organizations with worthy aims. But the Foolish charity can lay legitimate claim toward being epic in its grandeur, in the grandeur of its idea and of its mission.

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