By Dolores Kong
The Boston Globe

In years past, when mailings from charities arrived
during the holidays, Janet Grey used to give to
whatever groups struck a chord with her until her
funds ran out.

"It was giving through guilt, I think," said Grey, a
Jamaica Plain resident and retired Brookline
elementary school teacher. "What I found happening was
that I only have so much money at Christmas time. It
really isn't a very useful way of making

Then she got an e-mail about the formation of an
"Inspired Philanthropy" group, and she signed up. Now
she has a giving plan, purposefully donating larger
sums throughout the year, totaling 5 percent of her
income, to specific organizations.

Around the country, whether through small discussion
groups and so- called giving circles, or the thousands
of newly formed family and community foundations,
countless people like Grey are seeking guidance.

Charitable giving is no longer just about old money
being courted by organized philanthropy, the
new-economy rich setting up a venture philanthropy
fund of their own, or the working class donating a
part of their paychecks to a workplace charity

"I think what is happening is people are starting to
explore what giving means to them," said Siobhan
O'Riordan, director of Giving New England, a project
of Boston-based Associated Grantmakers of
Massachusetts. "It's really a personal process."

There's plenty of evidence of the growing interest:

More than 300 requests for kits on how to start a
giving circle have been placed over the last few years
with Giving New England (
Giving circles are a kind of social investment club,
in which members pool money and decide together how to
give it away.

More than 20,000 foundations have been created
nationwide since 1996, with assets of more than $38
billion, according to statistics from Jankowski
Associates. Massachusetts ranks among the top 10
states, with assets of $1.1 billion spread over the
950 foundations created in the state since 1996.

Several community foundations have been established in
Massachusetts during the last few years. There are now
more than a dozen tax-exempt public charities focusing
on local needs, said George McCully, trustee of the
Ellis L. Phillips Foundation in Boston and coordinator
of the foundation's annual "Catalogue for
Philanthropy." Community foundations can help
individuals set up donor-advised funds, allowing
people to get a charitable deduction the year the fund
is set up and suggest distributions at any time.

New groups such as the Philanthropic Advisors Network
and the National Network of Philanthropic Planners
have cropped up to provide giving guidance, with
members coming from such fields as law and financial
planning. A new professional designation, the
Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy, is being offered by
the American College, a Pennsylvania-based resource
for financial service and insurance education.

Why the explosion in interest?

Part of it has to do with the tremendous creation of
wealth over the last decade, despite the recent
downturn in the stock market and the economy.
According to statistics cited last year by The
Philanthropic Initiative, 5 million millionaires and
350,000 individuals with a net worth of $10 million or
more live in the United States.

Some of it stems from the intergenerational transfer
of wealth that's expected to occur - an estimated $41
trillion to $136 trillion over the next 50 years,
potentially creating a "golden age of philanthropy,"
according to research by Boston College sociology
professor Paul G. Schervish and senior research
associate John J. Havens.

When people believe they have enough money to meet
their needs, it's only natural that they seek guidance
in giving some of their wealth away or otherwise doing
good with it.

Take the case of Christopher Mogil, who inherited
enough money from his grandparents two decades ago,
when he was 23, to place him among the wealthiest 5
percent of Americans.

"It was an experience of sudden wealth," said Mogil,
whose grandfather had invested wisely in the stock
market and whose grandmother's family made its money
from a variety of businesses. "I was doing community
work in Philadelphia, living simply. It seemed
enormous to me."

He didn't know what to do with his newfound wealth. "I
desperately needed to talk to other people in my
situation," Mogil said. He formed a support group,
which he and his wife, Anne Slepian, in 1991 turned
into the Arlington-based national nonprofit More than
Money, to help people with wealth contribute money and
talent "toward creating a more sustainable and just

About 1,500 people who identify themselves as being
among the wealthiest 5 percent - household net worth
of $898,000 or more, and household gross income of
$127,000 or more - belong to the group.

More than Money provides other types of support for
people with wealth beyond guidance. Its next national
conference, in Cambridge in April, features a workshop
on giving as well as sessions on financial planning
and management, money and relationships, and other

There's another recent Massachusetts initiative. Every
year, a free "Catalogue for Philanthropy" is sent to
the 120,000 Massachusetts households with incomes of
$150,000 or higher. This year's catalog, arriving this
month, will profile 65 charities and 10 new venture
philanthropy projects, said McCully, the catalog's

"There are people out there who would love to get
involved in philanthropy but don't know how. They need
help," said McCully, who has also devised a national
Generosity Index, which has consistently shown
Massachusetts at or near the bottom.

But it's not just people with high net worth or
six-figure incomes who are seeking guidance. Penny
Yunuba, 60, of Jamaica Plain, a devotee of living
simply who spends only about $9,000 a year, was the
organizer of the Inspired Philanthropy group that
Janet Grey participated in.

"What if you had enough and knew you had enough? How
would you figure out how to give it away?" said
Yunuba, recalling what prompted her to seek out the
"Inspired Philanthropy" workbook by Tracy Gary and
Melissa Kohner and create the discussion group based
on it.

Joining Yunuba and Grey at the meetings is IBM
software developer manager Clark Cole. "I'm always
trying to figure out ways to improve my giving," said
Cole. Over several months of meetings, participants
were to come up with a personal mission statement and
a plan for giving.

As a result, Cole, 39, a Boston resident and a
longtime volunteer and giver, donates 10 percent of
his income, much of it to his church and the rest to
25 groups.

"Somewhere I heard that if you give away 10 percent,
you manage the rest of your money better than ever
before," said Cole. "That seems to be very true."