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April 20, 2000

Book Review: Robin Hood Was Right

Three leaders in giving for social change provide a primer for tomorrow's philanthropy, taking a hard look at the pitfalls of traditional charity giving. -- With the growing importance of "social returns," tangible benefits to community and society, the historic distinction between community investing and philanthropy has begun to fade for social investors. A new book from veteran social change philanthropists, Chuck Collins, Joan Garner, and Pam Rogers continues that trend by showing how direct giving can result in unprecedented social returns.

Each year, Americans give over $100 billion to charities, in a seemingly insurmountable struggle against poverty, social inequality, and environmental problems. In "Robin Hood Was Right," the authors illustrate how charitable giving can be more effective, reaching beyond traditional religious and cultural organizations to really make a difference in society.

"It is time to reassess our assumptions about charity," assert the authors. "We must take a look at the aims and approaches of traditional charity, rethinking the prevailing wisdom about who is deserving. It is time to re-evaluate what our money can and cannot do."

"Robin Hood Was Right" is a new version of a book by the same name, produced 23 years ago by the Vanguard Public Foundation. While the original Robin Hood seeded the growth of a movement of social change givers and progressive foundations, the new book builds on two decades of practical experience to provide vivid examples and tools for effective change.

The new Robin Hood represents the collective experience of the Funding Exchange, a network of 15 social change foundations throughout the U.S. working to advance economic and social justice and to protect the environment. Since 1979, these foundations and the inspired philanthropists they represent have contributed more than 64 million dollars to locally based organizations in the interest of positive social change.

Co-author Joan Garner is Executive Director of the Southern Partners Fund and Pam Rogers is a member of the Development Team for Haymarket People's Fund, two Funding Exchange member funds. Chuck Collins is the co-director of United for a Fair Economy, a national organization drawing attention to the consequences of income and wealth inequality, and a grant recipient of the Funding Exchange.

"Robin Hood Was Right" provides an invaluable beacon through the Sherwood Forest of progressive giving. Collins, Rogers, and Garner examine the politics of giving, explaining the critical differences between change and charity, and illustrating the positive impact that social change giving has had on shaping our lives and history already.

The book also explores the personal issues that many people have about charity, how issues of hope and vision, and even money itself, can affect philanthropic tendencies. The authors offer a crash course on cultivating the belief, in this cynical age, that change is possible, including an irreverent look at the "roadblocks" to effective giving.

But at the heart of "Robin Hood Was Right" is a nuts-and-bolts guide for taking control of your money, investing, and tax-wise giving. It provides worksheets and IRS rules, and allows readers to effectively allocate their finances between investments and social change giving, and to chose a giving plan tailored to their own individual vision.

The message behind "Robin Hood Was Right" is that social change happens through community-based activism organizations that use the collective power of people to solve their own and society's problems. The authors highlight several of these organizations, from The Coalition for Human Dignity to The Virginia Black Lung Association, by profiling one between each chapter of the book.

"We believe that giving can be one of the most joyous and rewarding of all human experiences," the authors attest. "Done consciously and with one eye always on the goal of attaining social and economic justice, it can be one of the most satisfying ways of all to spend money."

"Robin Hood Was Right" is testimony to the fact that the fabled outlaw of Sherwood Forest not only did good, but he felt good. As actress/activist Alfre Woodard writes in her preface, "Robin Hood was right. And he had a damn good time."

"Robin Hood Was Right: A Guide to Giving Your Money for Social Change" by Chuck Collins, Pam Rogers, and Joan Garner. W.W. Norton, 2000.

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