For Love of the Hyphen…

The winds of change blow constantly across the philanthropic landscape.  Legislation, donor transparency, even social media, have swept through the industry at different times to shake-up the status quo.  Here at Renaissance we decided it was time to kick-up a little dust for a cause we strongly believe is not getting the attention it deserves: the hyphen.

Why all the fuss about a hyphen?  As champions of donor-advised funds (DAF), we could no longer sit idly by and watch the hyphen be ignored and omitted by the vast majority of the charitable giving world.  It wasn’t a decision we rushed into so perhaps you’re stuck on the fence too?

We’ll start with grammar.  Hyphens are the match makers of the grammar world serving as connectors for other words.  By using a hyphen in donor-advised we are combining the two adjectives that describe the noun that follows it, fund, into a compound modifier so it acts like one adjective.  Bottom line, it creates a stronger adjective to more aptly describe what type of fund it is.  There is no confusion for a reader that a donor-advised fund is advised by a donor.  Of course, as soon as we started the grammar debate we lost the interest of most of our group.

It was Greg Baker’s symbolic argument for the hyphen that won over hearts and minds to the cause.

He asked us when you look at a headstone what do you see on it?

The answers were fast and furious:

“The person’s name.”

“Their date of birth”

“Their date of death”

Then he followed up with, “What is the most important piece of information?”

“The number of years they lived?”

He said, “No, the most important piece of information is the hyphen.”

Why the hyphen?  As Greg says, “Because it represents all that person accomplished in the time they were given on this Earth.”  The time represented by the hyphen is what matters in the end.

We view the hyphen in donor-advised fund the same way.  It silently represents the story behind every grant made from a DAF.

The grant to the March of Dimes from two thankful grandparents who have seen five grandchildren born healthy and their second, more substantial grant, to the Children’s Hospital who saved the life of their sixth grandchild.

The anonymous donor whose million dollar grant arrived at the nonprofit organization coincidentally enough just in time to be counted so the group met its fundraising goal and earned a $4 million challenge grant.

Or the group of employees who started their own donor-advised fund at work and with the help of their company, had the funds direct deposited from paychecks.  Their donor-advised fund holds on to the money until the end of the year when the participating employees sit down as a group and vote on which of their favorite local charities should receive grants from the $12,000 they collectively donated.

Sometimes we learn the motivation and story behind grants but more often than not, they remain untold.  The hyphen reminds us to put some focus back on the donor who advises where to grant those valuable funds.

Join us in celebrating the role our friend the hyphen plays in “donor-advised fund”.

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