Giving with Confidence: A Guide to Savvy Philanthropy

Finding deep satisfaction through investing in humanity

There are thousands of books that tell you how to get money, but few that cover something just as challenging: how to give money away. Giving with Confidence provides thoughtful guidance culled from decades of experience in the philanthropy world. Whether you are an individual who donates to your favorite charity or the head of a small to medium-sized foundation, the gentle practicalities of this book will enable you to manage your giving with effectiveness and personal satisfaction. By following its seven core principles, you will have what you need for “improving the reach, scope, and impact” of your contributions.


“During Colburn Wilbur’s twenty-three years at the helm, the Packard Foundation went from a small, obscure West Coast foundation to one of the ten largest foundations in the United States.”

—Susan Orr, chair of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation


“Cole Wilbur’s years of experience really come through in Giving with Confidence. At last a book on the subject that speaks to both the heart and the mind. And jargon-free, no less. It will be helpful to both the seasoned professional as well as the modest donor just starting out. I found myself educated and inspired, moved and amused. The best I have read on the subject.”

—Thomas C. Layton, president of the Wallace A. Gerbode Foundation


Giving with Confidence reveals the secret sauce of philanthropy with humor, wisdom, and plain good storytelling. This book is a gift for anyone who has considered giving.”

—Ralph Lewin, president and CEO of Cal Humanities


“Cole Wilbur, veteran foundation grantmaker, has teamed up once again with Fred Setterberg to write another outstanding guide to creative and effective grantmaking, this time for the individual philanthropist. Their advice is to toss out formality and procedures, be bold but smart in your giving, give of yourself as well as your money, give locally, give now, and be willing to be patient, uncelebrated, and stay the course with your support. Advisers and community foundation staff will also find here a tool to open new conversations with donors that can spark more fulfilling, connected approaches to individual philanthropy.”

—Dawn Hawk, program officer for the Philanthropic Ventures Foundation


“This insightful guide to the pitfalls, potential, and the ins and outs of charitable giving is a must-read for all nonprofit leaders, donors, and students who want their work to matter. An inspiring book that will birth many new ideas and practices to bring about social change.”

—Marjorie Schwarzer, former professor and chair of museum studies at John F. Kennedy University,and author of the award-winning Riches, Rivals, and Radicals: One Hundred Years of Museums in America


“There is a ton of advice for the wealthiest givers, but none for those of us who give more than $5,000 but less than $75,000 per year. Here in a non-dogmatic style are some approaches and guidelines to make donors feel more effective. Thank you, Cole and Fred.”

—Jan Masaoka, CEO of the California Association of Nonprofits


“Part up-to-date behind-the-scenes guide, part how-to, this potent little book distills the wisdom of a life’s work in philanthropy by one of our best thinkers and most devoted practitioners.”

—Marilyn Bancel, author of Preparing Your Capital Campaign


“Here is a book written with the practical insights and experiential wisdom of leaders who know we are building community one donor, one volunteer, one person in need at a time. Great reading for all of us involved in this work.”

—Philip Arca, executive director of St. Vincent de Paul of Alameda County


“Cole Wilbur hits all the right notes in Giving with Confidence. The lessons learned from his illustrious career will inspire the new philanthropist while reminding even the most experienced among us to pursue a steady, principled, yet bold approach that will ultimately yield greater impact for the organizations and people we are here to serve. It's a book to keep close to your desk.”

—Marc Ross Manashil, cofounder of the Clarence Foundation


“A multifaceted yet clear and simple tool for overcoming the barriers to giving—and to asking. Although aimed at family foundations and individual donors, this book is also a gold mine for grantseekers trying to understand what makes for successful relationships with philanthropists.”

—Fred Goff, president emeritus of DataCenter


About the Authors

Colburn WilburColburn Wilbur is a trustee of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, where he was the CEO for twenty-three years. Prior to that, Cole served as executive director and CEO of the Sierra Club Foundation. He was a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foundations (1999-2000) and in 1999 received the COF’s Distinguished Grantmaker Award. In addition to serving on the Packard Foundation Board, Cole is currently a member of the boards for Colorado College, the Institute for Global Ethics, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, The Stanford Theatre, and Philanthropic Ventures Foundation. Cole received both his undergraduate and MBA degrees from Stanford University and is the coauthor of The Complete Guide to Grantmaking Basics.
Fred SetterbergFred Setterberg is the coauthor, with Lonny Shavelson, of Toxic Nation, Under the Dragon: California’s New Culture, and five other books, including the award-winning The Roads Taken: Travels Through America’s Literary Landscapes. He has been a staff writer for the East Bay Express and editor of Travelers’ Tales America, and has written for the New York Times, The Nation, and scores of other national and regional magazines. He lives in Oakland, California. Visit his website at