The Power of Philanthropy: Enhancing Lives & Communities with Dianne Chipps Bailey

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Today we sit down with Dianne Chipps Bailey, a seasoned philanthropy strategist from Bank of America, who’s dedicated over two decades empowering donors and nonprofit leaders to enact enduring change. Dianne offers insights on philanthropy, from the impact of giving on life satisfaction to how philanthropy complements government policy in community improvement. In addition to discussing the importance of holistic philanthropy beyond monetary donations, she also shares personal stories that shed light on her dedication to the cause. Tune in for a discussion filled with passion, optimism, and invaluable advice for current and future philanthropists.


Katy Smith: Charitable giving in absolute dollars in the United States reached $485 billion in 2021. A new record according to the most recent Bank of America study of philanthropy, but donations play just one role in community change, and philanthropists of all sizes have so many roles they can play in making their communities better.

I’m Katy Smith with Greater Good Greenville and on this episode of Simple Civics I’m delighted to speak with Dianne Chipps Bailey, Managing Director and National Philanthropic Strategy executive with Philanthropic Solutions at Bank of America. For more than two decades, Dianne has worked to empower donors and nonprofit leaders to create meaningful and enduring change.

She completed her law degree at Georgetown University and since then she has advised tax exempt organizations and their leaders, philanthropic donors, foundations, family offices, and others. She is passionate about civic engagement and has served on and led many nonprofit boards of directors, and she’s optimistic, as you can hear in her TEDx talk, “The Fierce Case for Optimism.”

Dianne will share why she believes in philanthropy, what she believes philanthropists should know about government, and the crucial role that philanthropy plays in civic life. Dianne, thanks so much for joining me today. I am really excited to hear what you have to say about philanthropy and its important role in civic life because I know that’s what you’ve dedicated your career to, to philanthropy, and that you care deeply about it.

So thanks for being here.

Dianne Chipps Bailey: It’s an honor. Katy, thanks so much for having me.

Katy Smith: Tell us why you care about philanthropy.

Dianne Chipps Bailey: Well, Katy, it’s because I care, right? And I care in particular about people. When you think about philanthropy in its essence, and even going to the etymology of that word, it’s all about love of humanity. And philanthropy, it impacts so many areas that enhance lives. You know, really enabling people to thrive, but also nurturing the communities that we live in, you know, in all of the areas.

Basic needs, health, education, faith, the arts, as individuals, but also collectively. We’re also called to be stewards for the world, and to also care about animals, climate, the environment too. And I think about it, how I’ve dedicated my career to philanthropy.

Honestly, this may be a little bit of a podcast stream of consciousness moment, but I can remember a conversation that I had with my father years ago. He said, he said, you know, on my tombstone, I hope it just says he cared. Right? And that pretty much sums it up. You know, he’s a physician, he’s into his seventies, he still makes house calls.

And he gives so generously of his time, talent, and treasure. You know, he cares the most about organizations that serve children and of course focusing on health. So, you know, I care because my parents set a really high bar by their example. Um, but most importantly, you know, I care about philanthropy because it works, right?

It works when people express their love of humanity through their giving. It improves lives and not only the lives of the recipients of the generosity. You know, the data is unambiguously clear, Katy, that giving back, it also correlates with life satisfaction and overall wellbeing. Philanthropists, they’re just happier than the rest of us.

Katy Smith: Oh, I love that. And I love your dad as an example because it shows how when you care, it certainly can come out through your checkbook or a cash donation of any, you know, any kind of financial gift, but it can come out in so many other ways. Maybe you can talk about how philanthropists can think beyond donating money and different ways to be change agents with their more holistic philanthropy.

Dianne Chipps Bailey: Absolutely. You know, I’ve already referenced the, the three Ts that we all know, right. Time, talent, and treasure. But increasingly when we see change agents in this world, you know, and particularly women and the rising generation, are ones that are really adapting to this holistic approach to driving forward the issues that they care about.

It’s really five Ts, right? It’s time, talent, treasure. But it’s also testimony and ties and all five of them are really built on a foundation of trust. And so, you know, when I look at, at these change agents out there in the world, you know, leveraging their testimony and their ties in particular to influence government priorities, um, you know, whether it’s through policy, research, activism, I cannot believe, and it’s been almost three years, um, since George Floyd’s murder and we saw people taking to the streets, um, in, in demonstrations, certainly advocacy, running for office and always, always, always voting.

You know, basic needs is one of the most important areas of focus. Um, when you look at how, um, donors prioritize their giving, giving to faith, you know, places of worship, temple, mosque, um, synagogue, church, does take the highest percentage of giving.

But after that it’s basic needs and a huge driver for that is affordable housing, right. Having, um, a safe and reliable place to live. And certainly they’re nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity or Enterprise Community Partners that are doing amazing work in this space and really rely upon, contributed capital.

We’re also seeing impact investing really making a huge difference, um, in this area as well, but also local governments. I mean, local governments have a huge hand in whether affordable housing is in supply, or whether it’s only in demand. And, you know, you think about the things that they can do, kind of the levers they can pull.

I mean, looking at developing housing directly or in partnership with some of these nonprofits that we’ve already mentioned. Affordable housing bonds can be issued. Again, that impact investing, um, strategy. They can influence the number of units that are available for affordable housing in mixed use developments. Thinking more and more about how the zoning impacts, um, the, the availability and accessibility of affordable housing, and also just in their role as leaders, you know, really setting this as a community priority.

And so when I think about counseling philanthropists, which is what we do day in and day out, um, we’re a philanthropic advisor as to some of the most impactful, influential donors across the country. And I say to them, and, they respond, you know, if you care about providing for our communities, then you have got to care about government and government policy.

Katy Smith: I feel like you have just been listening in on all of our conversations over the last year and a half. That is what I have seen happen here in Greenville with some of our most generous folks who have, as you say, given to direct services for people experiencing homelessness or to build more housing units or to help develop our workforce in more frontline training.

The more they’ve gotten involved and rolled up their sleeves and opened their checkbooks, the more they’ve realized these systems issues that impact the effectiveness of those direct service nonprofits. And so now they are coming to city council meetings and giving testimony or meeting with county council members and are really focusing on local government because they realize the impact it has on the ability of all of us to come together as a community for change.

So thanks so much for those great examples and to hear that you’re seeing this across the country. What do you believe government should know about the role of philanthropy in their community?

Dianne Chipps Bailey: American philanthropy, it’s different. I mean, it’s wholly distinctive in the world. And it’s a reflection and an extension of democracy. And capitalism, right? So philanthropy steps in where, kind of the democratic process, where the government and the markets, through companies and businesses leave gaps.

And so, you know, philanthropy, it can do so many things. Um, we’ve already talked a lot about the direct service work, you know, really providing for people in need. But philanthropy can also be an incubator, right. For new ideas and programs and partnerships. But philanthropy cannot succeed in asylum. Right? Not withstanding the breathtaking generosity of Americans, again, distinctive in the world.

Philanthropic dollars, they’re small in comparison to government funding, right? So just to give you some context, Katy, 485 billion dollars was given in 2021. That’s the most recent data we have available today. It’s staggering, right? I mean, it was a new record in absolute dollars, a little bit of off the high watermark, um, coming out of 2020.

Um, in terms of when you’re adjusting for inflation, you know, it’s roughly 2% of GDP. That compares with federal government spending alone. So don’t put in state spending, don’t put in local governments. Federal alone. Which is $5.8 trillion, 23%, right, of GDP. And so it’s not that the, the philanthropic dollars are important, right?

For all the reasons we’ve talked about, they are the safety net. Um, they are the source of innovation, but they can’t go it alone. They can’t go it alone. I think Martin Luther King Jr. nailed it. He really said it best when he said “philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice, which make philanthropy necessary.” Let that sink in. So the other thing I would say, to government officials, you know, for them to know, you know, that philanthropy is an expression of values. So when we look at the Bank of America Study of Philanthropy, that is our research report that we publish every other year with the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

And we ask affluent Americans why they give. And the number one reason is they’re motivated by their personal values, right? Their personal values. And so presumably that’s the same reason why people vote. So elected officials are really wise to be paying attention to philanthropic capital. Not only because it’s an extension and a compliment of the work that they’re doing, um, but also because it does in many ways forecast the future of the priorities of donors and ultimately voters.

Katy Smith: I appreciate your statement about philanthropy being an expression of values because we are interested in Greenville County, South Carolina, and our community does have a unique set of values compared to other communities in the United States.

And philanthropy, when practiced locally is reflected differently than it might be in other communities. And we are so passionate about local government because those elected officials are community members, just like all of us. So I really love the way that we can all express our community values together through votes that elected officials might make, through the ways that local constituents express themselves and through the way donors can give and get involved, and make the kind of Greenville community that we’d like to see together.

What advice would you have for philanthropists as they think about practicing philanthropy in a more holistic way?

Dianne Chipps Bailey: I love the question, Katy, because I want to inspire all donors to show up holistically in their communities. And you know, I always say, you know, as a bottom line, I encourage people to volunteer passionately, give generously. None of this is a substitute for giving, give generously. Buy consciously, invest strategically, speak courageously and vote intentionally.

You know, I want people to show up and do all the things all the time to advance their personal philanthropic goals to make our communities better.

Katy Smith: That is great. Dianne, thank you so much. I really am grateful for your passion and for sharing your experience with folks across the country, and especially here, right here in Greenville, because we do have such generous folks and we can change our community of people, unleash all of those tools with their hearts at the center of it.

So thanks so much for joining us today.

Dianne Chipps Bailey: And thank you Katy. I’m so grateful, um, to be your partner and just deeply, deeply grateful for your leadership.

Catherine Puckett: Simple Civics: Greenville County is a project of Greater Good Greenville. Greater Good Greenville was catalyzed by the merger of the Nonprofit Alliance and the Greenville Partnership for Philanthropy. You can learn more on our website at This is a production of Podcast Studio X.

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