About Joanna Krotz
How the personal can turn political…
As a business writer, besides corporate and entrepreneurial issues, I’ve covered the full range of personal finances topics, from nuts and bolts about drafting a will to the emotional decisions and hardships of finding funds for a child prodigy’s passion.
My focus on philanthropy was launched when Town&Country asked me to write a story about how to start a family foundation. Every such story begins by putting out the microphone. I started calling family foundations around the country, organizations of all sizes, endowments, missions and years in operation. I spoke to mutual fund pioneer Sir John Templeton (since deceased), about how he chose to grant roughly $40 million a year to fund “scientific research into spiritual matters.” I talked to Jason Chapin, son of troubadour Harry Chapin, who died at age 38 in 1981, about honoring his singer/father’s work on behalf of the homeless and world hunger. I talked to best-selling novelists, scions of multigenerational wealth like the Hiltons and anonymous offspring of the rich and famous, like the daughter of Liberace.
As interviews piled up and family stories about giving and creating legacies grew, I clearly had plenty of material for my short feature. But I couldn’t stop calling people of all levels of wealth, influence and backgrounds who chose to establish and run a wide variety of foundations. I wanted to hear more personal tales of how and why and when and whether families engaged in giving.
I got hooked. And I remain that way.
CREATING THE SPRINGBOARD
Philanthropy starts with someone’s story
Having grown up in a family without much money and with values that emphasized social activism and justice, I was programmed to be impressed and admiring of anyone who donates assets — time, talent, technology or treasure — to a cause or an organization.
But that’s only the armchair psychology version. Behind that, I find the terrain of philanthropy to be compelling because it’s both a minefield and a blueprint of people’s feelings about the world: how they view money; their notion of self-worth; what’s important to them and their loved ones; how values get implemented, if at all, in the real world; what makes us feel effective and purposeful. And, perhaps the key, I discovered that giving is the way we can implement hope.
Philanthropy is an extraordinary prism for viewing human endeavor, passion and optimism.
Then there’s the journalist factor. In 2021, U.S. charitable giving hit a whopping $484.85 billion, according to Giving USA. Even more impressive, the overwhelming bulk of that money was donated by individuals, rather than organizations or foundations or corporations. That added up to 67% of the total, or $326.87 billion.
The third sector, as it’s called, has become a huge and influential industry although very few media outlets cover it — except around the holidays. I find it astonishing that so much money and so much power is simply overlooked. So I moved in to cover those issues and news.
Finally, there’s the woman angle. I’ve been covering the rising wealth, leadership and success of women in political and executive offices for years. Although there have been some egalitarian changes in the profile of donors and their giving styles, particularly as tech billionaires embrace giving back, philanthropy has scarcely shed its black tux, glam gown gala image. The field remains a phenomenon that celebrates male success, with business periodicals, like Forbes and Fortune, covering the arena mostly by publishing annual lists of whose is bigger — meaning the amount of money people give away, of course.
I want to chronicle and advocate for the growing engagement of women. There’s deep and persuasive evidence to show that when women do become involved in giving, social justice is often served and society changes for the better, and for the long-term.
Consider giving to something or someone or some cause you care about. It’s not about the zeros in your bank account. It’s only about deciding to make a difference.
Best in hope,