2007 Buzzword #10 - Philanthropy 2.0


After all the hoopla about embedded giving (including this story that ran on the front page of Sunday's Washington Post) I am tempted to hang up on the list of 10 buzzwords. I'm guessing that nothing else will compete with the buzz of that one.

Of course, since the point of this list of buzzwords is to point out some silly ideas, flag some valuable ones, remind myself and you that the jargon and hype grows faster and with more flourish than meaningful change, and, really, just to have a little fun, I figured I'd better finish off the list.

In the spirit of New Year's Eve countdowns, everywhere, here then is the full list of 2007 philanthropy buzzwords.

10. Philanthropy 2.0

This is the newest one to the list so here's an explanation. Philanthropy 2.0 (or giving 2.0, charity 2.0, etc.) is a riff on Web 2.0 and refers to any of the zillion efforts or applications out there that are trying to make philanthropy more interactive and user-generated. Examples include the spread of charity badges and widgets, community giving sites such as change.org or the much hyped causes application for Facebook, Kiva.org, etc. etc.


Being named a buzzword doesn't mean that the ideas matter. It also doesn't mean that an idea is nothing but fluff. This list is deliberately a mix of both fluff and matter.

I believe that some of these ideas matter in profound and meaningful ways - whether or not the actual buzzword is the term that sticks. Notably, the ideas, purposes, and mechanics behind B Corporations, Social Stock Exchanges, Aligned Investing, and Endorsement Philanthropy have the potential to make lasting and significant change in the business of giving. Microfranchising also stands to change how aid and development efforts are organized. The concepts that underpin open philanthropy are critical to a more transparent, accountable, and leveraged set of giving practices - let's hope they take hold.

If I'm right, these buzzwords will go far beyond buzz to actual impact and acceptance. That would make for a good 2008. Regardless, starting January 1, I'll be on the lookout for the next ten buzzwords.


36 comments:

Anonymous said...

Does Philanthropy 2.0 mean using dishonest tactics to increase donations?

Lucy, you're on the board of Givewell.net

So have a look here:

http://metatalk.metafilter.com/15547/GiveWell-or-Give-em-Hell

And then tell us you plan to remain on the board with these two scammers at the helm.

Lucy Bernholz said...

OK So far as I can tell - but I haven't fully looked into this yet - Holden has now managed to piss off a bunch (a few?) people over on a site called MetaFilter. Since the poster of the above comment did so anonymously, I know nothing about his/her beef, connection, role at MetaFilter. The complaint appears to be rampant self-promotion, violating the rules of the MetaFilter community. Holden has been "rampantly self-promoting" from the day I met him, has pissed off old-line philanthropy for this reason as well, and I find it simply odd that it makes folks mad. Maybe they just envy his consistent promotion of GiveWell?

I'll try to make sense of what the MetaFilter complaint is all about and get back to you - however, I have to ask, "since when did rampant, overt, self-promotion" become a crime? I've never liked it myself, but it seems to be about as American as apple pie...

As a board member I'll look into this. I wish the poster - who seems to be mad at Holden for pretending to be someone else in order to draw attention to GiveWell had not chosen anonymity from which to make his/her accusation...

Ah the irony of the hot-under-the-collar web world.

Anonymous said...

The problem, Lucy, is that Holden (or Holden in plus someone else) attempted to promote Givewell through very opaque means. He then tried to brush it off as a temporary lapse in judgement, which obviously came off as very.. well, sneaky (transparency is apparently a very highly valued property of charity, is it not?). More details can be found here:

http://metatalk.metafilter.com/15547/GiveWell-or-Give-em-Hell

Anonymous said...

The issue is clear enough:

An organization claiming to be adept at analyzing effective use of charity giving is completely unable to analyze their own public relations and marketing campaign. Indeed, their marketing consists of false testimonials and attacking (bona fide) competitive organizations.

A poorly run organization is in no position to recommend well run organizations to others.

MissPinkKate said...

I don't have a problem with self-promotion, as long as it's transparent. I do have a problem with someone who works for a charitable organization bashing other charitable organizations under the guise of anonymity. That's a pretty serious issue, and the fact that you're not taking it seriously makes me certain I will never speak kindly of GiveWell in any forum.

Max Sparber said...

Your posts seems to be misunderstanding the seriousness of the charge. It's not that Holden Karnofsky engaged in self-promotion on the site, which would have still been a breach of the norms of an online community, but a minor one. It's that he engaged in deliberately deceptive promotional activities, and seems to have done so on other Web pages. As a representative of a business that touts the importance of transparency, and works in a nonprofit industry where trust is a high premium, his behavior has given GiveWell a black eye in a community of somewhere are 50,000 people, many of whom are expressing their discontent by contacting other blogs and media establishments. This is not an ironic "hot-under-the-collar web world" thing, as you seem to think. This hugely undermines the goodwill GiveWell has managed to build up so far, and should be treated with enormous gravity.

Jessamyn said...

Ah the irony of the hot-under-the-collar web world.

Hi -- I'm not anonymous, I'm one of the moderators of MetaFilter and I got to spend some of my New Years Eve watching this unfold and making sure it didn't get too crazy. My name is Jessamyn West and I live in Vermont.

Probabably the best place to get an idea of what happened is from the GiveWell blog where Holden explains that he he asked a question in our Q and A community Ask MetaFilter and then registered a second account so that he could "answer" it with another account that was not obviously linked to the first. This second account hyping GiveWell was also not linked specifically to GiveWell which is also sketchy. Promotion is one thing and not against the rules. If Holden had just stepped in and said
hey I run this cool non-profit" a lot of this could have been avoided. The fake answering stuff is a violation of our policies. The fact the the head of your organization is using this deception to get the word out is pretty shady in my opinion. That's a smaller issue than the bigger picture however.

It appears that, over the course of his explaining this lapse in judgement that resulted in this whole thread on MetaFilter and his apology on the GiveWell blog, that he has also done similar things, many times, on other blogs. This went on to the point where he, by his own admission used a "new employee account" [i.e. someone else's email address, if I'm understanding this correctly] to send out promotional information about GiveWell under someone else's name. Holden specifically said this

"I sent 10 emails to bloggers, from an gmail account that I had recently created for a new employee, with a 1-sentence plug for GiveWell. The email did not mention the employee's affiliation and was a deliberate attempt to plug GiveWell without the affiliation showing up, even though it used the employee's real name."

Again, if he was a shoe salesman, or someone else involved in the hypercapitalist world of sell sell sell, that would be one thing. He's not. He's involved in philanthropy and not just any philanthropy but an endeavor that promises on its own web site "complete transparency." He's also a high ranking member of that company, not some street team member. In my opinion, these sorts of shenanigans to not only promote GiveWell but to cast aspersions on the competition makes the organization look shoddy and like it's not walking the talk.

While I forgive your not having read or possibly analyzed what happened in the MetaFilter thread, I just want to assure you that while there are definitely a few heated exchanges, that at its core the issue here is not that Holden broke the rules of a web community, but that he used unethical tactics to promote the GiveWell organization, got caught, and did not give particularly convincing apologies or explanations.

Feel free to do whatever you feel is right. MetaFilter is just a web community at some level, but the fact that this extends to fraudulent emails, many more comments on other websites and a general strategy of deception should be deeply troubling to the people who want to sustain and build GiveWell's reputation and ability to do good works.

For those of us who have been interacting and working with web communities for the greater part of a decade, I'm dismayed that people who are newer to the playing field see this as just another way to game the web to hype themselves. There's much more to it than that, on all sides.

Anonymous said...

The trust of the public is a marker of integrity, which is vital to any sort of charitable organization. They have the potential to undermine their own purported cause by doing this sort of thing. Why cause animosity and divisiveness where it is not necessary or called for?

Look at the GiveWell blog:

http://blog.givewell.net/

Right under the apology is the previous post, titled, "Transparency, measurement, humility."

So, Lucy, is this just some line of BS meant to appeal to the public, or is there some deeper belief involved?

Frankly, these guys come of as a bit slimy. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and allow for good intentions. They just sound and act more like hustlers than people who have a genuine interest in helping others.

Michael Hoffman said...

The problem is not simply rampant self-promotion. It is self-promotion in a fundamentally dishonest way. It seems you already understand this but you choose to misrepresent it as being about self-promotion.

Simply put, how can anyone trust an organization to judge charities that engages in dishonest tactics itself.

It is also ironic that an organization that claims humility transparency and openness as virtues seems to exhibit few of these qualities.

Amy Peterson said...

The complaint is that your colleague has posted comments under pseudonyms on multiple websites bashing other charities while failing to reveal his connections with your organization.

The complaint is that he praises the "transparency" of your organization while engaging in deliberately and willfully misleading pseudo-marketing, in the form of pretending to be an unbiased outside observer when in fact he is an employee and officer of your organization.

The complaint is that he, under assumed names, tries to convince others not to donate money to competitor charities and to instead donate to your organization, under the guise of looking out for those donors' best interests, when he is in fact looking out for the best interests of your organization.

That is why people are upset with him, and with your organization.

Doug said...

I'll try to make sense of what the MetaFilter complaint is all about and get back to you

Great. I know there are lots and lots of folks who are looking forward to these comments, Lucy.

Lucy Bernholz said...

Thank you to people from MetaFilter for explaining certain elements of this to me. After checking into MetaFilter myself, its also clear that "blatant self promotion" is clearly discouraged and should not have been attempted. Its also now clear to me that it is not what happened - instead it was a case of mis-representation of himself and his affiliation. This is downright stupid, shortsighted, and will invariably come back to bite you in your ass wherever it is attempted - online or off. It was dumb, discrediting, and damning.

Here's where we seem to be:

1. Holden made mistakes and has apologized.

2. The community at MetaFilter has shown it can and will enforce its own, clearly-published rules.

3. Online communities can be powerful forces for holding high the best standards of truth-telling. They, and their rules, should be respected.

4. Organizations are worth only as much as the integrity of their people and their collective action. Anything that jeopardizes the highest standards of integrity is trouble.

5. Beyond the bounds of specific online communities, operating within the parameters of clearly stated rules, I am personally troubled by anonymous posts that refer to comments/conversations that have been removed from the web. In the offline universe, these behaviors are prevented by rules that allow for the accused to face their accusers and the basic rules of evidence - what are the online protections?

While I know that efforts at "bloggers' codes of conduct" have floundered, I find myself wondering where the bounds are between self-policing and vigilantism?

Anonymous said...

This is not vigilantism. Holden's "accusers" here are an entire community, some of us identified and some anonymous for reasons you should become familiar with -- or Holden should: a careful attention to the salience of our online lives to our professional ones.

I am the original anonymous poster in these comments, and I am no ranting vigilante.

What Holden did -- and Elie as well, if you will check the Metafilter thread -- was dishonest conduct. It directly belies the representation of GiveWell and these two characters in the prominent mainstream media pieces of the last few weeks. At best it was stupid behavior for a professional, the kind that would cost many young professionals their jobs.

You, as a Board member, have a professional responsibility here to, which must entail making no excuses for what has gone on here, including the backhanded excuse of implying the accusers are over-heated. Some of us are. Some are not.

I know I am not. And none of the record, by the way, has actually been deleted. The very first link n the Metafilter MetaTalk thread will take you to an archived copy of the original offending posts that revealed Holden's deception on MetaFilter, but led to the discovery of many other deceptive postings on other sites.

You need a damage control consultant here if this Givewell project is a serious one. You had a fortune in mainstream press coverage handed to you over the last few weeks premised on admiration for the character of Holden and Elie. Now that has been called into question, and that press coverage will become less valuable the higher this episode rises on the radar.

Chris said...

Lucy-

Regardless of what I think about GiveWell, given Holden and Elie's spammy outing, thanks for honestly looking into it and reading about what happened. However, it would have been a lot better had you done so before, well, putting your foot in your mouth with your first comment.

Re: your 5th point

If you're referring to MetaFilter comments as anonymous, they're not wholly anonymous. Posters (a lot of them? I'm not sure, as I'm not a mod) can be contacted by internal mail and sometimes external email. They (often?) include their names in their profiles; I do.

If you're referring to posts here on your blog specifically, I guess that's another matter entirely. However, at least the handful of ones above mine aren't using anonymity to direct traffic and/or business to their own enterprise.

Left the URL field blank because unlike what seems like 90% of the world I don't have a blog.

mattbucher said...

"Highest standards of integrity"? Astroturfing is deception. That violates a basic standard of integrity. Holden and Elie have posted stuff all over the internet in blatant disregard of any sense of integrity. You still seem to see this as a case of "self-promotion" but creating fake online identities is no more a legitimate form of promotion than spamming is. You keep dwelling on Metafilter commenters writing anonymously, but many of us are not.

amy peterson said...

Ms Bernholz, when did you become a board member at GiveWell? Was it before June 4, 2007, when you wrote this post on Huffington Post mentioning GiveWell, recommending them without saying anything about your affiliation with the organization? Before February 21, 2007, when you wrote this glowing endorsement of GiveWell on your blog without mentioning a possible conflict?

A said...

I am personally troubled by anonymous posts that refer to comments/conversations that have been removed from the web.

Nothing has been removed from MetaFilter -- Ask MetaFilter threads are just delinked from the front page, not deleted. It's the first link in the MetaTalk post, and you can find it here as well.

If you're talking about other sites, I'm not sure why that's relevant, but I can provide you with saved versions of the pages or Google cache links if verification is a concern.

Are you worried that you can't personally verify what was posted on those other sites, or that the online community can't? Since all of the comments on all of the sites were more or less identical, I don't think that's a response you want to rely on.

From the Deep Net said...

With you as a board member of the organization trying to paper this over as a case of misrepresentation rather than the outright deception as it clearly is, GiveWell.net is obviously unworthy of anyone's trust that it will police itself so yeah we feel a need to be the vigilant ones. Vigilantism is entirely called for in this situation and it boggles my mind that you, to all appearances an authority on philanthropy, are asserting that this incident is something which should be kept low-profile and be quickly forgotten.

Jeffrey said...

Please explain why it is that more than 50% of Givewell's budget goes to salaries for these completely inexperienced and thoroughly dishonest hucksters.

Lucy Bernholz said...

I became a board member of GiveWell at the organization's first Board meeting in June of 2007. All of my professional and volunteer affiliations are online in my company bio and my posted bios.

Lucy Bernholz said...

I am not defending what was done.

I am questioning anonymous bloggers on this site.

I was unaware that "removed comments" can be found by clicking through on MetaFilter - thank you for explaining this to me.

My first comment on this issue, in response to the comment that brought this my attention, was made without examination of MetaFilter - as it states.

Lucy Bernholz said...

I agree, the practices of astroturfing and misrepresenting one's identity (which is simply known as fraud offline) are deceptive and unacceptable.

middleclasstool said...

Here's where we seem to be:

1. Holden made mistakes and has apologized.


Holden engaged in highly unethical promotion of an allegedly transparent nonprofit, and said "Hey, sorry about that, I've been tired lately."

2. The community at MetaFilter has shown it can and will enforce its own, clearly-published rules.

Yes. But the rules of MetaFilter are not the central issue here, as has been stated several times, most eloquently by one of the site's mods.

3. Online communities can be powerful forces for holding high the best standards of truth-telling. They, and their rules, should be respected.

Sure, but again, not the issue. If Holden were just a blog rules-violating ass, no one would be here having this conversation now. They'd boot his ass, hurl a few pitchforks, and move on.

4. Organizations are worth only as much as the integrity of their people and their collective action. Anything that jeopardizes the highest standards of integrity is trouble.

Now we're nudging to the real issue. Holden stands for your organization, and his tactics speak to how your nonprofit is run.

5. Beyond the bounds of specific online communities, operating within the parameters of clearly stated rules, I am personally troubled by anonymous posts that refer to comments/conversations that have been removed from the web. In the offline universe, these behaviors are prevented by rules that allow for the accused to face their accusers and the basic rules of evidence - what are the online protections?

Holden's own words are what indict him. The fact that I'm posting here as middleclasstool and not Matt Reed doesn't change that he did what he did, and there's a trail. The deleted comments you refer to are gone because MetaFilter members alerted those site owners that Holden was astroturfing for your company, so they pulled them. Contact the site admins, see if they keep deleted comments in their database. But meanwhile, try not to make this sound like poor Holden made a minor boo-boo and the Big Bad Anonymous Internet is ganging up on him. This is to your benefit and the benefit of the people who run the sites where he pulls this crap -- we thought you might want to know that you have an unethical employee who reflects badly on your organization. Clear enough?

While I know that efforts at "bloggers' codes of conduct" have floundered, I find myself wondering where the bounds are between self-policing and vigilantism?

Well, see, you're dipping into a deep pool there, when you start asking questions like that. We could spend months here discussing the ethics of online identity, self-promotion, etc. Fact is these codes seem to be emerging organically within specific contexts, and self-policing seems to be doing the job.

Sure, some of the people who have responded to Holden's horribly stupid actions have done so out of malice and spite, but at least as many had legitimate concerns for your company and the entire philanthropic community at large, not to mention the other web admins who got their sites spammed by your wunderkind.

In short, your question is valid, but nobody's beaten up Holden or anything. Nobody's done anything but tell the truth about him, and as one of GiveWell's board members, I guess an appropriate response would be at least an acknowledgment that you want to hear about such things regarding your staff.

Anonymous said...

Lucy, in case you had missed the most egregious (in my opinion) aspect: it is established that Holden has attacked several other charities on popular websites, using a pseudonym. This is absurd behaviour for the chief exec of a nonprofit, and the board ought to react accordingly.

A said...

Thank you, Lucy. Being straightforward is important -- I'm sure we'll be watching carefully to see what the followup is. Keep in mind that some people will have their pitchforks at the ready, but that most of us are simply wondering if you're willing to stand behind your expression of contrition.

Holden botched the matter right out of the gate by being shifty -- that doesn't make him instantly guilty, it just shifts the burden of honesty and straightforwardness squarely into your court. If you are as serious about your project as you claim to be, hopefully that will win out in the end.

Anonymous said...

I must remain anonymous because of my TRUTHINESS.

(And I have worked for organizations that are linked to on the givewell.net site.)

So what if Bob Elliott doesn’t tip at his favorite glory hole, he’s a humanitarian for what he does here.

And maybe Lucy Bernholz shouldn’t be traipsing to Nigeria on sex tourism junkets on the givewell.net expense account, but she has made contributions to society here.

And we can all agree that Tim Ogden should be more considerate of the role that baby-daddy is supposed to play in Southeast Asia, but he’s a very busy guy doing the important work of sitting on the givewell.net board of directors.

The important fact to keep in mind is that it is Metafilter.com, BoingBoing.net, and Luxist.com who are the real douchebags here.

Lucy Bernholz said...

Thank you - to those who have consistently focused the discussion on the depth of the transgressions, the implications for accountability, and have patiently helped me navigate archived conversations. Your attention to the issues and its implications are appropriate, helpful, and appreciated. I take my board responsibilities seriously and will pursue these concerns.

Anonymous said...

Ms Bernholz, when did you become a board member at GiveWell? Was it before June 4, 2007, when you wrote this post on Huffington Post mentioning GiveWell, recommending them without saying anything about your affiliation with the organization?
posted 8:03 PM on Lucy Bernholz's blog

In response:
Lucy Bernholz said...
I became a board member of GiveWell at the organization's first Board meeting in June of 2007. All of my professional and volunteer affiliations are online in my company bio and my posted bios.
posted 8:20 PM on Lucy Bernholz's blog

Only the question of when you became a member isn't answered in any of you bio blurbs that I could find. The board meeting was June 22, but doesn't document you becoming a board member. Rather it seems you were already on the board. Perhaps the record just isn't as transparent as one might hope.

But I'm still wondering were you astroturfing on Huffington Post? Were you already or did you know you would become a member of of the GiveWell board when you published the Huffington Post column?

Lucy Bernholz said...

Prior to the June GiveWell Board meeting I had had two phone conversations with the founder. I was asked to join the board and agreed to do so at the June Board meeting, which I attended by phone. At the time of the HuffPo column I could have revealed that I have, at various times, had conversations with the founders of GiveWell, GlobalGiving, and have used Network For Good to make charitable donations. As a Board Member of CompuMentor I was also affiliated with Netsquared, I have an account at Schwab, have worked with the Giving Forum, regularly use Craigslist, YouTube, and LinkedIn, and am on Facebook.

As the Huffington Post column you cite was focused on YouthGive, and as I had already been named to and accepted a post on their advisory board, I noted that in the post. I have tried to be clear and public about my affiliations.

I think the above covers the organizations noted, but if you have questions about my relationships to any of the other companies or organizations mentioned in that post, or others, please inquire.

Anonymous said...

I'm impressed at the way you've responded since the criticisms of your first response have come in, Lucy. We're all still working out how real, professional, accountable discourse will happen online, and where the lines will be drawn between public and private matters. You've had the good luck to become a test case, and a lot of people are watching this unfold.

Anonymous said...

lucy bernholz said...
Prior to the June GiveWell Board meeting I had had two phone conversations with the founder. I was asked to join the board and agreed to do so at the June Board meeting, which I attended by phone. At the time of the HuffPo column I could have revealed that I have, at various times, had conversations with the founders of GiveWell, GlobalGiving, and have used Network For Good to make charitable donations. As a Board Member of CompuMentor I was also affiliated with Netsquared, I have an account at Schwab, have worked with the Giving Forum, regularly use Craigslist, YouTube, and LinkedIn, and am on Facebook.


This just doesn't make sense to me. First there is the non-denial that you knew you would become a member of GiveWell's board when she wrote about them without disclosure on Huffington Post. Please clarify the timing of when you were first offered a position on the board. My impression is that you conducted the same deceptive marketing techniques as Holden.

Then there is rambling misdirection (nobody is accusing you of astroturfing for Facebook).

Per standard procedure and GiveWell's operating agreement, changes to the Board of Directors requires a majority vote by the board.

And for any startup organization, especially one that values transparency, there are few bigger changes than changes to the Board.

How could GiveWell make changes to the Board and not feel compelled to mention that?

In light of the fact that there are meeting minutes of the June board meeting, why is there no indication a vote for approving new board members was taken? Has anyone at GiveWell even read the operating agreement or were you too busy approving salaries?

Lucy Bernholz said...

Anonymous:

I have answered your question above - at the time of the HuffPo post I had had phone conversations with the founders. I did not reveal that in the HuffPo post. You are correct, I did not reveal that I had spoken to them on the phone. Because you seem to think that it was inappropriate for me to omit this, I went on to disclose all of the other, similar connections I had to the other organizations mentioned in the post at the time that the post was made.


The first Board meeting of GiveWell took place on June 22, as you have correctly noted from your review of the publicly posted meeting minutes. Board members and officers were appointed at that board meeting.

Furthermore, referring to the early June HuffPo post, I had identified the specific relationship that went beyond phone calls or account usage to the single organization that was a focus in the post. That organization is YouthGive, and as noted I was (and am) on their advisory board.

If you have further need of clarification on this matter, I would appreciate the courtesy of having you identify yourself, to me and others on this site, and to contact me directly for any further clarification.

Michelle Moon said...

You have not answered the pertinent question. You still have not given the date upon which you were formally offered a seat on GiveWell's board.

Was that in one of the two phone conversations that took place before your promotion of GiveWell in the Huffington Post?

Or did it take place at some time after the last phone conversation but before the first board meeting?

I understand you're attempting to clear your name, but this is the information you need to clarify in order to do so.

Lucy Bernholz said...

Michelle

The pertinent question is did I fail to disclose a pertinent relationship with GiveWell in the HuffPo post on June 4 2007. I did not.

At the time of that post I did fail to disclose that I had spoken with the founders of that organization on the phone - which I understood to be only as worthy of disclosure as the other affiliations I had at the time. Since the post mentioned GiveWell in conjunction with LinkedIn, Facebook and other sites I have since disclosed my similary distant affiliations with those organizations (phone calls, accounts, site usage, etc.), been raked over the coals as an idiot for doing so, and am trying to be more forthcoming about my disclosures.

Michelle Moon said...

But the question being asked is also pertinent to a fair evaluation of GiveWell: on what date did you accept the nomination to the GiveWell board?

Lucy Bernholz said...

Michelle

Thank you for clarifying.

Holden and I discussed my taking a seat on the Board on June 12. As I had not yet met any of the other Board members, I agreed only to call into the upcoming meeting. I accepted a spot on the board when I was appointed at the June 22 Board meeting.

I reviewed my appointment calendar to provide the above dates. I have also reviewed the HuffPo blogging “deal” (http://blogger.huffingtonpost.com/archive/2005/05/bloggers-faq.php) which - as far as I can tell - raises no flags about my disclosure practices. I will be sure to keep my bio on HuffPo updated with a current list of affiliations. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lucy-bernholz/#blogger_bio)

Thanks