"It’s a real mistake to think that philanthropy has to be pure. It’s not pure – I can tell you that from having worked on all sides of the equation from start-up social enterprises to large organizations to big foundations to small foundations to individual philanthropists to work with families. But the fact that you have multiple motives doesn’t at all mean that you don’t also have a real heartfelt desire to make a difference. And if you treat philanthropy as something that we only do for pure motives to give something back to society, then you’re limiting the potential impact of it.
Sometimes people get embarrassed about being self-interested about philanthropy, but to me there’s no right or wrong motivation, so long as you get there; that’s what really matters. I think one might even argue that if your giving is in your self-interest, then you’re going to give more and be more effective with it than someone who’s just doing it because he or she has a general desire to give back to society, or because they want to be recognized in the community. Those are very honorable motivations; they truly are. But sometimes there can be other much more pragmatic motivations, if you will, and that is good, too. The best of us are altruistic only a small part of the time; most of our time and energy focuses on things that somehow benefit ourselves. If we hope to harness the full potential that family companies bring as an engine for change, then we must be clear about the benefits that giving brings to people beyond the psychic rewards. It’s far better, and more sustainable, to acknowledge our interests rather than to give only when a feeling of altruism sweeps over us.”
Pair with philosopher Judith Butler on how reading and the humanities make us more empathetic and philosopher Roman Krznaric on empathy and social change.