Boston Foundation donor Tom Bird attended the Understanding Boston forum on nonprofit leadership on April 26th and found it fascinating (see page 1). “This is one of the reasons I like being associated with the Boston Foundation,” he said in a conversation after the forum. “An event like today’s gives me something to think about and react to.”
A recent gift that Mr. Bird made to the Boston Foundation had the entire nonprofit community thinking. He and his business partner, Ken Saxon, gave the domain name “farm.com” to the Foundation, making headlines across the country. They had acquired the domain name for an information management firm they subsequently sold.
“We were surprised by the gift,” said Ruben Orduña, the Foundation’s Vice President for Development, “but it turned out to be one of the easiest we’ve ever received. We quickly sold the name for $200,000 and placed the proceeds in a Donor Advised Fund that Tom and Ken opened here.”
That particular Donor Advised Fund is just one of four that Mr. Bird has opened at the Foundation, including one for his family and two others for extended family members. “I think many people are interested in giving, but they don’t know quite how to go about it,” he explained. “If they discover how easy the Donor Advised Fund mechanics are, my hope is that it will ignite future participation.”
Even though giving through a Donor Advised Fund can be easy, Mr. Bird thinks that philanthropy in general is hard. “It’s very challenging to make decisions about where to direct philanthropic dollars,” he explained, “so one great thing about a Donor Advised Fund is the sequence. You can decide how much overall to contribute in the first place, and then take your time deciding which specific mix of organizations to support."
Mr. Bird likes being challenged by new ideas, which is why, after success in business, he decided to go to Harvard Divinity School part-time, receiving a Master of Theological Studies.
“It was eye-opening,” he said, “and the Boston Foundation experience builds on it in a practical way. For instance, one seminar offered by the Foundation helped me think about my relationship to wealth and responsibility. It presented a triangle. First, how much do you and your family need? Then, how much do you want to leave your kids? Finally, how much do you want to invest in philanthropy? It’s an intentional way of thinking about your resources and where they’ll do the most good—and it makes philanthropy not only a part of your financial planning, but an important part of your life.”
Back to TBF News March/April 2006