When I first started reading this book, it was a “work” book. Don’t misunderstand – I wanted to read it but it was definitely not considered a “relax at home on the couch” kind of a book. However, I was only a few pages into the book when it started to resonate with me and my own thoughts and values around philanthropy. Before I knew it, I was tucked up at home on the couch in the evenings, after work, thoroughly enjoying this journey into philanthropy and along the Camino.
Mark Petersen is the CEO of a private foundation and a walker of the Camino, the ancient pilgrimage through Spain that ends up in Santiago de Compostela. In the book, he parallels his pilgrimage through Spain with his journey in philanthropy – and a delightful and challenging journey it is! Mark says that “going on a pilgrimage teaches you to be human again” (p. xvi) because it is a slow journey that requires you to listen, to join with others and to see beyond the barriers that our culture erects. Likewise, he says that “philanthropy is a slow journey” (p. xvii). To learn how to give well takes time, a lot of listening and the patience to learn and make mistakes. Philanthropy is not just about giving – it is about giving well.
Giving is about much more than financial transactions. Engaged generosity has the potential to radically transform our way of life and attitude towards living. When you come close to need, your heart can be broken and expanded. Good giving requires more than the donation of a check; it requires giving your heart. (p. 7)
And so Mark takes us on a journey along the Camino, experiencing the challenges of aching muscles, unsavory hostels and odd characters, all the while drawing parallels to the challenges of giving well (we sometimes meet odd characters, don’t we?). Much of the book is written from his perspective as the head of a foundation and how they approach giving – which gives wonderful insight for those of us who are writing grants. But he also touches on the challenges and value of considering our own personal philanthropy and how each individual can become a philanthropist. We don’t need to be rich to give well – a truth that is so counter-cultural and yet so true.
I highly recommend this book for anyone on the pilgrimage of philanthropy. It doesn’t matter if you have only started the pilgrimage and your boots are not yet broken in, or if you have walked for miles and have your goal in sight – in this book there is truth, insight and blessing for any who travel the philanthropy road. Buen Camino!
Joanne Specht is the Manager of Communication and Fund Development for The Cridge Centre for the Family in Victoria BC.
Cascade Books: Eugene Oregon, 2017