#105 Behind the Scenes Brainstorming Dialogue about Effective Giving Strategies for Season 2 Part Four, With Sybil Ackerman-Munson and Fred Ackerman-Munson

Nov 28, 2022


Sybil is once again joined by her husband for the fourth part in the series where Sybil and Fred consider topics that are important to discuss in the philanthropic world to set the stage for key themes and trends that they will discuss in detail for 2023. 

Episode Highlights:

  • What is the psychology behind giving?
  • Why should we care about trends in philanthropy?
  • Why there is not necessarily one right way to effectively give to causes that a donor cares about.

Sybil Ackerman-Munson Bio:

With over 20 years of experience as a nonprofit professional and foundation advisor, I work with philanthropic institutions and foundations interested in successful, high-impact grant making, so you can make a true and lasting positive contribution to the world on your terms.


If you enjoyed this episode, listen to these as well:

#73 Sybil Speaks: It Takes Time to Make a Difference

#71 Sybil Speaks: When and How to Engage Expert Advisors

#69 Tips to Support a Nonprofit in Pursuit of Best Practices with Patton McDowell, Founder, PMA Consulting


Crack the Code: Sybil’s Successful Guide to Philanthropy

Become even better at what you do as Sybil teaches you the strategies as well as the tools, you’ll need to avoid mistakes and make a career out of philanthropy through my new course, Crack the Code!

In this new course, you’ll gain access to beautifully animated and filmed engaging videos, and many more! 


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Send in your inquiries through her website www.doyourgood.com, or you can email her directly at [email protected]!


Full Transcript

Hello everyone! This is the last of the four-part conversation that I had with Fred to help them think through what the key themes are going to be in 2023. 

So, in this episode, you'll hear us briefly discuss the sustainer, campaigner, and launcher categories of funders and donors. There's been too much in this conversation, but I'll talk about it. 

We're going to talk about the Mackenzie Scott style of giving a little bit. We're going to talk about spending down. We'll also discuss trends and what they mean to us as donors because there are so many of them, and how we get grumpy when people bring up a giving idea that they believe is the only way to do it. But we also value all the different trends that have come up.

In addition, we're going to just sort of talk about why people give. And I love our conversation around that because it also gets into, like, what our role is as program officers and consultants, and how we approach donors and what those entails.

I hope you're going to enjoy listening to this conversation, and you know, we bring up a bunch of topics, but we're actively working on bringing up more topics behind the scenes to bring to you what we think are some critical conversations in philanthropy.

And we're going to focus on them. As I said before, the entire year of 2023. Each month will focus on a different theme, so please DM me on Instagram at the @ sign. Do your good. I love saying the at sign because I know my kids would cringe because there must be a proper way to say it, but for me, that’s the way I think about it. Anyway, without further ado, have fun listening to the conversation between my husband and me. 

Well, that was. You know the whole reason. I was doing something similar to that campaign or sustainer launcher thing is a little bit of a reaction to this whole challenge here actually has to do with the trends, because, like I just said, "Wait a minute," I've been around now for over a decade or longer on this stuff. Both as a grantee and then as a grantor you’ve heard of donors and people who help donors. There is no single silver bullet to giving rights.

Oh, the other trend is Mackenzie Scott's trend, which she's starting, where you just give money to the tune of multi-millions of dollars to these groups that have good and bad sides.

Yeah, we should. Talk about that.

Yeah, I have a lot. Yes, there are differing viewpoints.

So, Mackenzie Scott will be on the list

It's just that it's not just her; there's a whole thing going on.

No, I know!

She's starting a trend.

I know, I know.

She's been oh. And then there's Uhm, there's a trend around give all your wealth, Well, I guess it's the spend-down thing, but a lot of the very, very wealthy folks are saying they want to give a percentage of the pledge they make.

Right? Yeah, it's it I

What exactly is that? The thing called again.

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett's giving pledge

Yeah, so what's it called again? "Giving pledge." That's the whole thing. That's a trend.

Yeah, I like that.

I'm thinking that we shouldn't use the word "trend" because how it sounds like we don't value it. I'm sort of getting around because, like, I value every one of these things, and I find every single one of these giving strategies super interesting.

Yeah, yeah. 

And important in a specific context, and you know the angle and way to do it, and such.

I see OK, so yeah.

So, I feel like I'm being negative, and then when we're listing it like that, I feel like we're being negative, and I don't want to be.

Right, it sounds good. It sounds pejorative, so the thing is, let's get here

Be negative, yeah? Yeah, how do we say it differently?

Well, here's the thing: We could do an episode on trends and just kind of, first of all, I think it would be interesting for people to learn about our history. Yeah, I know that there have been 10 or 12 major trends in 17 years.

In philanthropy, I love that.

Okay, and then, we say.

Yeah, We can get a catalog of it.

We can also be nice. Of course, Yeah, they're all interesting, some of them seem to have something in common as if they are presented as the thing. Whereas they are one of many options. That work for some people but not for others in certain situations, and so on. as well as

{Commercial break}

Then each month can focus on one of those trends.

That's a possibility, sure.

And it would be like a nice way to hook it all together, but then I don't want to forget the first thing you talked about, which is why do people give? So, we might want to like start the series with "why do people give?" and sort of think through that part.

Can I return to why people give for a second, and this is a little bit of a digression?

Yeah, yeah. 

You've got to stop moving your chair around because it makes a lot of noise.

I know, I know, I know.

Although I know we're just informally talking,

I apologize to anyone who has to listen to this. 

Another aspect of the psychology of giving this is similar to a. I don't know that you and I have ever really talked about this specifically at length, but I was thinking about it, so We have trustees, and that is one of our jobs. is to make them happy.

And that's going to be different for different people, and that's kind of a little bit why I was getting at the question Why do people give? Because the reason people give them influences if they happen to have, for instance, foundation staff. Those people appear in the world

So, I disagree with your statement that you should make them happy. First and foremost, I cringe at that. 

I don't ever feel like my role is to make my clients happy. I feel like my role is to help them. They come to me because they want to find meaning in their lives through giving. And they're not asking me to be happy. What they want to know is how they can give intentionally to make a difference. That part of their lives can have purpose and meaning, and that's very different from "happy."

So I just really don't like them. How did you say that?

I pushed back on that. For the second time today, there are lots of ways to have purpose and make a difference. There are lots of different issues. There are lots of different ways to approach it. You discuss it with a campaign, a sustainer launch, or all of them.


You still at the end of the day take Your trustees' hints, signals, and instructions you can't go. You can't go off on your own and create this whole thing that doesn't relate to what they want to do or how they want to do it.

What do I do? Right, but that's happy. When I'm giving a presentation to my trustees, they're not jumping around and smiling and laughing.

Of course, I understand OK, so you're fine, and you're reacting to the word happy.

I'm not like a clown. Yeah, that's what I'm saying.

Let me try to find a different word. at the end of the day. You're a consultant. I'm an employee. Such things must be done our trustees want

OK, maybe it's linked to, like, remember when we were watching that show? Called loot. We were laughing because the executive director was yelling at her in front of the trustee. OK, that would never happen. Is that what? You're trying to say or It's more like but that's not the main point here. The power dynamic is more important than anything else.

Right, but. OK. 

Although I must state that I have pushed back on my clients. Well, that's because I am close to them, and I am. Do they want me to like them? Tell them that's one of the reasons we're there, right?

And I wish But I know, and I've pushed back on it. Trustees, but still OK.

We're not pushovers. Yeah, this is a good one. This is excellent. However, there is a discussion to be had.

OK, yeah, that's what I'm trying, so we talked about one of them. What we want to do is get a little deeper, yeah. The reason I was talking about is: why do people want to give? 

And there are psychological things that operate on people. And how do they feel? They should be pleased that their foundation funds have been put to make a win in whatever it is that gives them a psychological benefit. This is, like. People are taught the ABCs of life.

Yeah, I know, but here's this, yeah?

all that kind of stuff, and I'm not trying. To reduce it to that But I'm saying it's a

Yeah, but. 

It's a thing that operates in the world. It's unseen and unspoken, but

I think that all of my clients would react. And I do. That makes me cringe as if that's how we were discussing it.

I mean, we should. We should debate it and discuss it during one of our things, because what is the motivation? I mean, that's what I think you're getting at, the psychology of it. Because I think that there might be some people who have that, I can think of one my clients. I really know who it is that has that. piece of it, where it's like they need to feel I believe my other clients would stop if they felt that was one of the pillars or components of why they were doing it. They wouldn’t do it anymore.

Right, if they felt that, but I'm saying that there is this hidden world underneath.

{Commercial Break}

I'm laughing because I love Fred's last statement there. There's a hidden world underneath. 

I think that the reason that I'm doing this podcast series is that There's so much around giving that is hidden. That is confusing for folks, both for the giver, the person who wants to give, and the person who's seeking those funds to do good in the world.

And I just loved this series where Fred and I were just talking to try to figure out what we're going to focus on. We are focusing on the future year of 2023 plus December. 

We will focus on the psychology of why people do what they do gives, so I'm doing a bunch of different podcast episodes around that, and then at the end of the month, Fred and I are going to have an in-depth discussion about it. This is just so inspirational for me, and I hope it's inspirational for you and as fun for you to listen to as it has been for me to put this whole series together.

Thanks a lot, and until next time, do your good and be well.