Lisa Greer and Larissa Kostoff are never ones to be excessive, or to mince the appropriate words. Their new book, titled Philanthropy Revolution: How to Inspire Donors, Build Relationships, and Make a Difference, is proof enough of this. They unpack concepts in clear, concise language that doesn’t beat around the bush, doesn’t spare the proverbial rod, but doesn’t ever make one feel marked or unenthusiastic about the work that needs to be done. Often literary and advocacy figures a la Greer and Kostoff can come across as high-handed, preachy, or condemning.


It’s understandable given that the urgency of various endeavors relevant to the philanthropic model are so high, there isn’t time to play nice. But Greer and Kostoff walk a fine line between telling it like it is, but always adding an encouraging footnote where factually relevant. It brings everything back full-circle to the overall point both women are trying to make about the modern implementation of philanthropic fundraising methodologies, that an organizational upheaval is in order, and the time is never more relevant than now. They’re not interested in simply presenting the factual descriptors and historical bases for what does and doesn’t work within the philanthropic think tank spheres today. What they are interested in is actually engaging the reader to join them in this effort, the book is as much an educational piece as it is something in the nonfiction category bringing about awareness on select issues.

“Mark Twain said it first – ‘It’s wiser to find out than suppose’ – and he’s right, even (or especially!) in fundraising,” Greer and Kostoff write. “If you work at a charity, finding out what motivates donors is critical to the success of your cause. Only, as I’ve been explaining, the conventional wisdom in the sector is based entirely on suppositions. Such as: Donors are motivated by guilt. And: Donors like to be coddled, ideally over a very long lunch. And: Adult donors were trust-fund kids. They have no business sense, and little common sense. While they like shiny things, they themselves are not that bright. I could go on.”

It’s through this ability to speak candidly, but never with a meanness of spirit, the book makes its proposed tactics actually feel adoptable across a wide margin. Really, Greer and Kostoff essentially argue, the push to getting the wheels turning is a sort of empathetic goodwill. An in-depth examination of what makes a specific organization’s parts tick, and how said components contribute to the collectivized whole of said organization’s level of success with its efforts. Trust is a word Greer and Kostoff often use time and again, and it serves as a good linguistic stamp for the quality of the aforementioned processes above. “Unless we change…old rules of engagement, which themselves are institutional relics, we’re going to continue to bump into (a) problem of (trust),” write Greer and Kostoff. “If those of us with the capacity to give don’t trust our institutions to do right with our money, the bottom falls out of the whole concept. It’s one of the reasons I’m specifically putting donors and fundraisers in the hot seat, leaving foundations for a future discussion.” They finalize these statements with the following, “This is about people over systems.”


All in all, a solid read. Greer and Kostoff don’t fool around, and they aren’t ones for semantic games. It’s just straight truths here, and what you can do about them.

Kendall Townsend