A magazine for the rich that even a financially strapped cynic can bear to read? Amazing! The one-year-old Contribute doesn't focus on those evergreen topics of upscale mags -- money-making or spending -- that would inspire boredom or envy in the less well-endowed. Instead, its mission is nobler and (to me, at least) more interesting: to "promote more effective giving" with "engaging and responsible coverage of the philanthropic world," according to the pub's Web site.

So, rather than focusing on $50,000 fur-lined refrigerators, Contribute features a roundtable of six corporate CEOs discussing how "business should get its hands dirty" to aid the less fortunate.

But the mag is not all sweetness and light. Sure, some stories have a high "Awww" quotient, like the profile of a Manhattan plastic surgeon who provides free operations to poor children with deformities. The rest of the book, though, deftly examines the complex issues inherent in a world where corporate inefficiency can hamper corporate do-gooding. For example, "Pill-anthrophy" scrutinizes the increase in pharmas' drug donations to the needy, which has led to disasters like the 70% of medications donated to victims of the 2004 tsunami that were "labeled in a language not understood by professionals in Indonesia."

A rotating list of nonprofits also comes under financial scrutiny in each issue. This is a feature even I, with a taste for much more modest giving, find helpful -- especially what's probably the most crucial stat, the percentage of each charity's spending that goes to its cause. Sadly eye-opening: of 25 charities listed, only one gets a "good" financial stability score (five years in the black); most are rated "poor," having tracked two or more of the last five years in the red.

Those charities are all in the tri-state Metropolitan New York area, the pub's current focus. Next year will see the launch of four more city editions, according to President and COO Elizabeth Ann Zacarian.

Currently, the book is limited in its distribution as well, mailed to high-net-worth Zip codes. This pedigree no doubt accounts for the preponderance of upscale advertisers, along with a few name-dropping-socialite-type features, like fundraising party pix.

Still, such fluff is balanced by the tone of the rest of the pub, that of a smart business mag with a social conscience. For example, shoe magnate Kenneth Cole discusses the nuances of advertising for a good cause: to avoid any hint of commercial exploitation in his historic 1985 AIDS awareness ads, he had the supermodels pose barefoot.

There's humor mixed in with the social consciousness, too. My favorite article, "Name-dropping," written by noted journalist Michael Gross, is a witty look at the trend of selling naming rights to almost anything -- including the four bathrooms in a new museum, called the "$100,000-plus loo coup."

That article is illustrated with a funny cartoon -- a feat of graphic excellence not matched by the rest of the book. As in many business pubs, there are too many charts. And the piece on the CEO roundtable is illustrated by -- of course -- boring shots of six white men in ties.

Still, you gotta love these guys -- all board members of the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy -- for their combination of hard-headed business sense and idealism. "Why can't we put our resources together without having a hidden agenda of our own, in order to solve common problems in the world?" asks Michael Roth, CEO of the Interpublic Group. Why, indeed.


Published by: Contribute Magazine, Inc.
Frequency: Six times a year
Web site: Bare-bones now, but set to be beefed up in the fall, according to the pub's COO, Elizabeth Ann Zacarian.

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