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Proactive Philanthropy: Don’t Wait, Reach Out!

Baby Boomers are swelling the retired ranks at an unpresented rate. Many of these seniors are taking more money and assets with them than they will need for the rest of their lives. My broker once said to me that pretty much all of his clients want 10 percent more than they have, regardless of how much they have. However, if only 1 percent of the retiring seniors have more money than they need, that is still a lot of people who can afford to become philanthropists.

I know one of these people. Not only has he started a foundation, he also created a peace organization, the War Prevention Institute, in Portland, Oregon. I’ve been a peace activist in Portland since 1967, and he is the only person that I know who has proactively reached out to the local peace community and funded it. He did not wait around, reactively, for someone to ask him for funds. As many of you know, the “People’s Republic of Portland” is well known for its progressive political commitments, so you would think that I would know about another peace philanthropist, but I don’t.

If you are one of the retired seniors, you might think that peacemaking is a well-funded activity, considering the well-funded United States Institute for Peace, the United Nations, and the Carter Center in Atlanta. Sadly, you would be wrong. At Portland State University, we don’t even have travel money to drive across town to recruit students, interested in peace and conflict resolution, at metro area community colleges. Other local peace groups are lucky if they can briefly hire anyone to coordinate volunteers, and most have forsaken the thought of having an office; the longstanding Oregon Peace Institute gave up its office many years ago and is now purely virtual—largely surviving on the philanthropy of this one proactive funder. Another long-standing peace organization, the Salem-centered Oregon Peaceworks, went completely out of business a few years ago, even after building the most robust statewide network of peace activists that Oregon has ever had. The Northwest Institute for Conflict Resolution was funded by a one-time bequest for a few years, and is now operating only minimally. The Peace and Conflict Studies Consortium, as well as the Newhall Nonviolence Institute, are also functioning at a minimum because of a lack of funding.

So, if you wait to be contacted by any of these organizations, or ones like them in your own local community, you will probably be waiting a long time. So many community peace and justice organizations don’t have the money for marketing or hiring tech-savvy fundraisers. If you have money to give, don’t wait for a call, an email, or a formal proposal, please reach out to a local community organization that is working on a cause you believe in, and get involved with what they do, and when you are convinced that they are doing good work, fund them!

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