That Grantmaker Plays a Mean Bass Guitar

We grantmakers should strive to be enablers, finding effective partners and using our charitable gifts to allow those partners to be the best versions of themselves. When we get credit for a project or initiative, we ought to be quick to praise our partners, for without them we could not make an impact.

My only disappointment was that they didn’t smash a guitar.

Actually, looking back, I’m glad they didn’t. That would have been wasteful, and such destructive behavior really wasn’t as “cool” in their later years. The Who could still put on an incredible concert though.

This was all back in 2000. I was 14 years old and was about to see my favorite band for the first time. The show was as good as it gets, and my favorite part was watching and hearing John Entwistle’s bass solo in the middle of “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” He was remarkable, and that would be the last tour he performed before passing away. I’ll always remember it.

You know the hypothetical question, “If you were in a rock band, what instrument would you play?” Usually, the person asking is inquiring more into your personality than your musical talent. Well, in my case, I began answering bass guitar after watching Entwistle. Yes, that solo was spectacular, but his main job was to be the backbone of the show. He was steady the whole way, rarely getting the spotlight and allowing Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey to shine. Basically, he allowed the stars to be the best versions of themselves. I guess I’m drawn to the “unsung hero” trope.

In my opinion, this role is generally the proper one for philanthropy. We grantmakers should strive to be enablers, finding effective partners and using our charitable gifts to allow those partners to be the best versions of themselves. When we get credit for a project or initiative, we ought to be quick to praise our partners, for without them we could not make an impact.

Philanthropic partnerships take many forms, but one of the more innovative ones is a public-private-philanthropic partnership, or P4. As I wrote last week, when government partners with private enterprise, amazing things can happen. Government brings a mandate for social good to the table along with taxpayer dollars. Private enterprise brings business expertise and efficiencies to the table along with investment dollars. When it all works well, both society and private interests come away with a win.

So what does philanthropy have to offer? I would answer that P4s allow governments and private enterprise to be the best versions of themselves. Philanthropy shares a mandate for social good with government. It shares operational efficiency and fast-moving capital with private enterprise. And, since philanthropy does not directly report to either taxpayers or for-profit investors, it is able to assume risk with its dollars in ways that neither partner can.

At the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, we are taking this partnership model out for a test drive (another fully-intended pun). We are proud to be funding The Ray, a project designed to invent the prototypical highway of the future, a sustainable and regenerative highway, utilizing 16 miles in West Georgia as a proving ground. To date, we have partnered with the Georgia Department of Transportation and businesses such as Interface and Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia (KMMG).

At the heart of it all is The Ray itself, a new non-profit committed to orchestrating this revolution in transportation infrastructure. These partnerships are new and still developing, but I can confidently say that they work. We are accomplishing so much more, and will continue to do so, than if we were all laboring alone.

To each of these partners, and in particular to the leadership of The Ray, I offer my sincere gratitude, admiration and appreciation. And to you readers, I ask you to follow along. The Ray is just getting started.

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