Ruth Ann Harnisch, Founder & President

Here’s where I sound off! Whether I’m sharing fresh insights or channeling righteous rage, this is the place I’ll be pouring my heart out to you. Updated fortnightly if not more frequently.

Ruth Ann Harnisch, Founder & President

Here’s where I sound off! Whether I’m sharing fresh insights or channeling righteous rage, this is the place I’ll be pouring my heart out to you. Updated fortnightly if not more frequently.

In 1998, when I founded the Harnisch Foundation, my intention was to be a good steward, leveraging money, skills, and connections to help make life a little better for others.
Ruth Ann Harnisch
In 1998, when I founded the Harnisch Foundation, my intention was to be a good steward, leveraging money, skills, and connections to help make life a little better for others.
Ruth Ann Harnisch

6 months ago

Wouldn’t you like to have Bill-and-Melinda-Gates-level money at this time of year?

A woman stands on a stepladder and shouts into a cartoon-drawn megaphone

I know, I know, any time is the right time to have a fortune, but especially around this time.

And wouldn’t you know just what you’d do with that money if it was yours?

Actually, I thought I knew what Melinda Gates should be doing with HER money. (Repeat, HER money)

When I heard she had committed a billion dollars to investing in gender equality, my first thought was, “Nice, but come on. Just ONE billion out of all the billions you and Bill have?” And when I found out it was a billion over ten years, my judgment hit Supreme Court level.

As I did the Mean Girl Math, the arrogance and audacity of having an opinion about somebody else’s money choices hit me and I laughed. What do I know about Melinda Gates’ decision process? I’m clueless about how much she controls, where it’s deployed, how it’s managed or made accessible to her, how she’s achieving gender equity goals in her many other investments, businesses and philanthropies, not to mention how many hours she can wrap her mind around all the responsibilities in her command.

Also, a couple News Flashes:

A billion dollars is a billion dollars (!!!). The greatest gift Melinda Gates can give is the attention she brings to whatever has her attention. That’s priceless, as is her personal leadership. I don’t know why we humans have always thought we’re entitled to an opinion about other people’s personal choices, but it’s really a thing, isn’t it??

I recently ran into an acquaintance who told me how disappointed they were with a mutual friend. It seems our friend had said out loud and in public the dollar amount of the gift she was giving to a cause we all hold dear. “Such a small number!” said the person in front of me. “Everybody knows that’s nothing for her.”

Now, I happened to know a lot of reasons for which the gift in question was generous, even boundary-stretching. So I asked, “If you knew _____ would you still feel that way?”

They were embarrassed at their assumptions and judgment, and I assured them I had just done the same when Melinda Gates announced that she was “only” giving a billion dollars to gender equity.

Here’s the holiday miracle in this story: The giver of the “little” gift reached out to a big  network of friends, colleagues, and fellow funders. She explained her involvement and invited us to join her in funding, saying “I know gifts of all levels are appreciated.” In the end, that”little” gift is actually a “leadership gift.” It says “I support this with money and I invite you to join me.”

Your gifts of all levels are appreciated, truly, by almost every nonprofit, campaign, or good cause. Your gifts of time, of goods, of money, of skills are appreciated too. And the best gift of all is your championing the causes you care about.

It’s a perfect time to cultivate this mindset, not only in our philanthropy but throughout every facet of life. May all the gifts of the season be yours.


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