family philanthropy

SGS CEO Featured on ESPN Radio's Real Talk San Diego

Social Good Strategies CEO Kate Azar was featured on ESPN Radio's Real Talk San Diego to discuss her work advising successful and corporate clients on their philanthropy. If you missed the live broadcast, you can listen to it here. 

"Real Talk" features community business leaders and entrepreneurs sharing their insights and opinions on business, finance, real estate, political and lifestyle related topics that impact our communities. 

Need & Affluence in Orange County

The Chronicle of Philanthropy (CoP) published new data highlighting the mismatch between affluence and need nationwide. The data, based on CoP's How America Gives study, compares giving behavior with quality-of-life measurements in more than 2,700 counties across the U.S.  Past studies have shown that those with lower income give more per dollar -- according to CoP's data, households that earn $50,000 to $75,000 give an average of 7.6% of their discretionary income to charity, whereas those who make $100,000 or more only give about 4.2% (though, we should note that the total amount people in wealthy areas give is often larger than the amount given by those who live in less affluent counties.)  Indeed, CoP's latest data shows that residents in more affluent areas (those with higher standards of living, low poverty and low crime) give less to charity than those in less affluent areas.

Orange County follows suit with this trend. In CoP's interactive map, one can see that Orange County's opportunity index (a measure of economic well-being) is well above average (57.5%) whereas its giving ratio is at the bottom (only 2.8%). 

To articulate this in a more tangible manner, in April, the Orange County Register published an article stating that, while Orange County is well known for its affluence, 1 in 4 residents live in poverty - that's a stunning 24.3% of residents, giving the OC one of the highest poverty rates in the state. 

This data makes clear people in wealthy communities are missing opportunities to make a positive impact in not only their neighbors' lives, but that of their county as a whole.   With government funding for affordable housing and other social services being drastically cut, philanthropy must pick up the slack. As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats. More philanthropic investments could lower crime, poverty and the need for tax funded social services across the county. 

So why don't more affluent OC residents give to charity?  From the same CoP article

"When it comes to volunteering, if it’s hard to find an organization to volunteer with, you might not do as much. When it comes to donating money, I think probably the same factors are taking place."

As an advisor, I often hear the same grievances from my clients.  In fact, there is a common adage about how hard it can be to give money away responsibly and effectively.  Consider that there are an estimated 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the U.S. alone.  Also, consider the latest news of some of our nation's most treasured and well-established nonprofits and the scandals of mismanagement (see Pro Publica's groundbreaking story on the Red Cross's failures in Haiti).  It's no wonder donors are unclear about where to give their time, talent and treasure.  It's not an easy landscape to navigate. 

Another problem may likely be that those in affluent communities are unaware of the plight of their neighbors, whereas lower income residents identify with the challenges facing the less fortunate in their community and are therefore more likely to give. "Social capital and neighborly empathy are sometimes missing in wealthy counties, where a veneer of affluence may mask struggling residents and persuade people there’s no need to donate to social-service organizations."  

This is where we see the role of philanthropic advisors can add value in boosting the overall culture of philanthropic giving.  We research and map out the landscape of social issues, identifying the core issues, theories of change, and key stakeholders.  Then we work with our clients to make sound philanthropic investments based on this research. 

We know that when donors feel confident about where their charitable gifts are going, when they have well-informed advisors for their philanthropic investments (just as they do for their other financial investments), they are more likely to give more to the causes that truly need it. Social Good Strategies, LLC is committed to growing that culture of philanthropy in Orange County and beyond. 



Strategic vs. Checkbook Philanthropy

What is Strategic Philanthropy?

Many people ask me what I mean when I talk about "strategic philanthropy."  There are many varying definitions for the term, including a common association with corporate philanthropy. But when it comes to personal or family philanthropy, being strategic with your philanthropic planning means to do so with design and planning backed by research, specific and measurable goals, indicators of success, all to have a measurable impact. 

I often contrast the concept with what we call "checkbook philanthropy," wherein one gives to causes ad hoc with little further communication or follow up on the part of donor or the nonprofit recipient.  Most of us give small amounts (or maybe large amounts) here and there when a friend or charity makes an appeal. An example of this would be to buy a chocolate bar from a kid outside the grocery store to support his baseball team, sending $20 in response to a charity mailing, or donating to a friend's charity walk. There is nothing wrong with this type of giving, every little bit helps (see President Obama's fundraising campaign!) but this type of giving probably won't be as transformative as one or two larger planned gifts.  Also, this type of giving can often leave a donor feeling unsatisfied as we are left with little feedback as to how our contribution really impacted the cause.  

Another fun phrase in the philanthropist's lexicon is "drive-by philanthropy," a term I borrowed from Attorney John Fraker and his podcast Family Philanthropy Radio.  He describes "drive by philanthropy" as a situation in which a family foundation or donor gives to so many causes that they are really not able to be truly engaged with any cause. 

Charity is just writing checks and not being engaged. Philanthropy, to me, is being engaged, not only with your resources but getting people and yourself really involved and doing things that haven’t been done before.
— Eli Broad

Often, I advise my clients to pick 2-3 causes to engage, as opposed to many, allowing them to make a more significant impact in these issue areas by really delving into the issue and getting to know the cause, and its stakeholders well.  I help my clients find a handful of causes that are important to them.  Together, we explore theories of change and action.  We come up with a personal mission and find partners, nonprofits and charities that align.  We really listen to the players and other important stakeholders and explore how we can best make an impact.  We ask nonprofits and charities what they really need and how our client's time, talent and treasure can be most helpful. We track the results of our client's giving, and tell the story of how their contributions made a difference.  Then we plan for the next year based on what we've learned -- what worked, and what didn't.  This is one of the benefits of strategic philanthropy and, in my opinion, the most effective philanthropy. 

Another benefit of having an annual philanthropic plan, when you get those "drive-by" requests (the ones that you give to out of guilt, rather than genuine interest), you can politely decline, explaining that you already have all your charitable funds committed for this year but you'd be happy to consider the request next year.  Then we can explore whether the cause fits in your personal charitable mission. 

Learn more about how we build a sound philanthropic strategy here

The Launch of LA's Future

Social Good Strategies is proud to announce the launch of our client, Donna Bojarsky's ambitious and exciting new venture Future of Cities.  Social Good Strategies's CEO, Kate Azar, served as Chief of Staff and Advisor to the project.  

Future of Cities will spur a course-changing conversation about how to reinvigorate civic stewardship in Los Angeles.  As explained on the initiative's website:

SGS CEO, Kate Azar; Bob Johnson COO and Co-Founder, Future of Cities, Deborah Brutchey, Executive Director,  LA Works , and June Baldwin, Senior Vice President, General Counsel, Corporate & Legal Affairs,  KCET  at Future of Cities event in Beverly Hills, Calif., June 2, 2015, Photo by Jonathan Alcorn   — with  Kate Azar  in  Los Angeles, California .

SGS CEO, Kate Azar; Bob Johnson COO and Co-Founder, Future of Cities, Deborah Brutchey, Executive Director, LA Works, and June Baldwin, Senior Vice President, General Counsel, Corporate & Legal Affairs, KCET at Future of Cities event in Beverly Hills, Calif., June 2, 2015, Photo by Jonathan Alcorn — with Kate Azar in Los Angeles, California.

“Cities are recognized as the most important laboratory for a successfully organized society, and ground zero for creative ambition. Los Angeles is an important hub with powerful symbolic value. Yet, it is often overlooked for the role it plays in the world both financially and culturally. We are hindered by a traditionally weak civic fabric. LA is a segmented city lacking a dynamic, engaged and representative leadership cadre. Furthermore, we have precious limited infrastructure to bring forth a new generation dedicated to a sustainable world-class city.

This is the perfect time to promote a new kind of civic stewardship representative of today’s Los Angeles – a region of unparalleled diversity, technology, entertainment, media, venture capital, environmental consciousness, and creative capital.

Future of Cities: Leading in LA is a civic initiative that aims to reinvigorate the involvement of civic leaders in creating a vibrant, cutting edge future for Los Angeles. Our goal is to marry vision, leadership and results to fulfill LA’s ambitions and uplift this city.


On June 2nd, Future of Cities launched with a reception at the home of philanthropists Jeanne and Tony Pritzker with more than 100 civic leaders, philanthropists and activists, including Moby, LACMA's Michael Govan, The California Endowment's Robert K. Ross, President of Disney/ABC Television Group, Ben Sherwood, among others from across business, entertainment and philanthropy.  

Future of Cities will hold its first public event on October 19th at LACMA's Bing Theater. To attend, join the initiative and receive additional information, you can sign up here

Award winning musician and activist   Moby at the   Future of Cities event in Beverly Hills   on June 2nd. 

Award winning musician and activist Moby at the Future of Cities event in Beverly Hills on June 2nd. 

Press coverage of the event below. A full photo gallery from the event can be found on the Future of Cities Facebook page.

New future of LA initiative launches in a big way  Kevin Roderick - LA Observed
“More than 100 civic leaders, movers and activists gathered to lend support to a new effort to engage Los Angeles leadership in fresh ways….Bojarsky took a show of hands to see how many in the crowd were native Angelenos or had moved to LA (about half and half) then made a point by asking how many planned to leave. I didn't see any hands, which gave her an opening to press for their greater involvement in local affairs.”

Hollywood Tapped to Support 'Future of Cities' Initiative  Tina Daunt - Hollywood Reporter
“At a kickoff event this week, Donna Bojarsky brought a Beverly Hills living room crowded with movers-and-shakers from virtually every facet of Los Angeles life up to speed on her plans to bring that process back home in a grand new salon whose purpose is nothing less than the reimagination and revitalization of her city’s civic culture. Her new initiative — which is receiving final support from Disney, ABC, Sony Studios, ICM, and CAA — is called Future of Cities: Leading In L.A.”

Los Angeles Group Aims to Make the City ‘World Class’  Ted Johnson – Variety
“Los Angeles has a rather checkered history with the term “civic engagement.” Its disconnectedness seems to translate into low voter turnout for citywide elections or participation in cultural institutions. Hollywood, the industry, seems more apt to portray the city’s apocalypse than its moves toward livability.

Critic's Notebook: Visionaries search for key to civic engagement in L.A.  Christopher Hawthorne - LA Times
“Bojarsky is right, of course, that L.A.'s civic fabric has long been flimsy and prone to fray; for many decades, the city has been far better at promoting, and enabling, individual than collective ambition.”

Less Bike Lanes, More Jobs: 100 Civic Leaders Ponder L.A.’s Future  Marielle Wakim – LA Magazine
“Upon visiting L.A. in 1926, journalist H.L. Mencken noted “there were more morons collected in Los Angeles than in any other place on earth.” If he were still alive to be argued with, the movers and shakers at Tuesday’s Future of Cities launch event—including LACMA director Michael Govan, Moby, and our own editor in chief Mary Melton—would have taken Mencken to task. Founded by longtime city activist and Democratic Party consultant Donna Bojarsky, Future of Cities is an initiative that seeks to galvanize Los Angeles leaders into doing away with L.A.’s overt lack of civic cohesion and replacing it with an invested network of impassioned citizens.”



“What’s Possible” at the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit

Just as I wrap up my work at RALLY, my client Lyn Lear launches her climate film "What's Possible" at the United Nations Climate Summit. It was such a pleasure to work with the Lear's while I was at RALLY. They are so passionate about using their networks and influence to create a better world. I've had the pleasure of managing press outreach at a People for the American Way Foundation, founded by Norman Lear, Spirit of Liberty Awards event and then I had the great opportunity to help Lyn Davis Lear develop partnerships and a rollout for her latest film. Watch Lyn's inspirational film and learn how you can take part at

With people like the Lear's and the thousands of people who stand for climate action (see the People's Climate March), I am reminded of what's possible with the power of passionate people.