Thursday, November 30, 2006

What if everything were digital?

I didn't have a chance to attend this event last night at the LongNow Foundation but the podcast will be available soon and I'll be listening. Philip Rosedale, the founder of LindenLab (maker of SecondLife) spoke on the topic of digital everything. Had I gone, here's what I would have asked...

1. What does he think about the nonprofit/philanthropy that is emerging in SecondLife?
2. From what he has seen, how is it the same/different from philanthropy in first life?
3. Would LindenLabs ever consider trying to deliberately seed a certain kind of social action/philanthropy in SL? If so, what would it look like?

What would you ask him?

Video fundraising

The Third millennium Foundation and Seeds of Tolerance is sponsoring a video fundraising campaign on Current TV. You can watch short videos on five or six global issues, vote for the one that most moves you, and the winning video wins funds for the cause. Its YouTube with a conscience.

Philanthropy, new media and social change

Kudos to Northern California Grantmakers (NCG) for hosting Anil Dash in a workshop for foundations on new media and social change. Information (registration for foundations only) is online here.

Some of our work on philanthropy and these new tools can be found in the Future Matters reports (Keeping Your Foundation Ahead of the Technology Curve) on our website for the Futures of US Community Foundations.

Bill Clinton on Philanthropy - AUDIO

And here are 6 other "Charity" podcasts.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Second Life Millions

I feel so timely. Two posts on SecondLife and then I read this - the first SecondLife Millionaire has been minted. It won't be long till we see real virtual philanthropy.

One lovely irony - the first real life millionaire minted in SecondLife made her money buying, developing, and selling the oldest (and realest) asset - real estate.

Which provides us with a great opportunity - if SecondLife allows us to try things we might not otherwise risk, what roles will philanthropy come to play? What might foundations do differently? What giving structures, patterns, practices, motivations might emerge? Anyone want to try?

No harm, no foul

So I've been messing around with the look and feel of the blog for a bit. Cleaned up the blogroll - winnowed it down, thought about cutting it out altogether. Then my colleague tells me "rude!" Apparently, cutting someone out of your blogroll is a big deal (as shown by this reaction by one of those who wound up on the cutting room floor).

Who knew? A blog faux pas. I can't say I'm sorry because I'm not, but I can say "Now I know."

So, a warning, if I cut out the blogroll altogether, chances are, its not about you. Although it sure is a good way to generate comments - as the reaction to the post linked above certainly attest.

Wait a second - another story on Second Life Philanthropy

As my earlier post noted, my tour of SecondLife was a huge help. Thanks are due specifically to Erika B. who showed me around. During the day Erika changes the world through the good work of the Tides Center.

At other times, and in her "in world" persona, Sage Truss, she is making change happen through Avatar Action Fund which you can check out on the web here and in SecondLife here.

Many things are cool about this, not the least of which is the Avatar Action Fund website tracks and displays realtime donation information - drawn from the giving that happens in SecondLife. In other words, as avatars donate "linden dollars" (SecondLife currency) to the Avatar Action Fund kiosks in SecondLife, the "first world" website automatically updates the total raised. Most "real world" ("single world"?) organizations that I know cannot track their fundraising in anything close to real time - even without the need to teleport across universes.

And this isn't play money. LindenDollars flow through credit cards and PayPal, float on an exchange rate to US Dollars (and other currencies as well, for all I know), and accounts can be configured in such a way that the revenue generated in SecondLife can be withdrawn as cash at an ATM down the street near you. Here's a story about an Australian guy who does just that.

Lawsuits - want bloggers attention?

The Robertson v. Princeton case is a big deal. It calls the basic questions of donor intent - who decides, when, how do changes get made...As the website for the case declares "The outcome of the lawsuit will likely define “donor intent” in the 21st century."

And that is what interests me.* Lawsuits with websites. And websites with people behind them that send email to bloggers (yours truly) to gain 'coverage' about the lawsuit.

Frankly, the reasons that I can think of for doing this don't justify the expenditure. Am I missing something?

*OK OK the legal questions of donor intent also interest me, but I chose not to go to law school. And even I know better than to weigh in on the law on a blog.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

SecondLife Philanthropy

I had a very helpful tour of SecondLife yesterday.* I've had my avatar for months, but haven't had the patience to get very far. In addition to learning how to do things like "teleport myself to an island" I got to explore some cool fundraising kiosks, went looking for the American Cancer Society fundraisers that I've read about (we couldn't find them) and got to explore the TechSoup world, which has started a directory of nonprofits functioning "in world" (as they say).

We also found a fairly robust church presence, some of which were clearly churches "of a certain kind." The Unitarians and Mormons were represented (and others - though we saw no Jews, Buddhists or Muslims). This is both outreach, awareness, and actual fundraising (real causes and real money!).

Its also a way to try strategies or tactics that might be too expensive or risky in "first life." For example, finding individuals interested in, say, environmental justice, can be expensive. In SecondLife, you can announce a conversation, recruit people to sign on at a certain time, and talk in real-time with anyone, anywhere who shares your interest. The avatars "in world" all have real humans behind them, so there is some reality to what happens. The two worlds are also getting more and more connected, as SecondLife actions and transactions can be "reported" out into the "first life" and "first life" systems such as advertising, meeting announcements, blogs, and emails are increasingly directing people to SecondLife for events. Reuters even has a regular reporter in SecondLife.

*SecondLife is an online, alternative world where you can meet people, travel around (people fly!), buy and sell things, plant gardens, raise money...If you want to know more about what SecondLife click here, here, and/or here for some general-interest stories about it.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Philanthropic ideas festival

Wired Magazine hosts NextFest. Venture capitalists and banks host investment meetings. Why don't philanthropists host a series of meetings for technologists working on cool things like water purification, alternative energy, nutrition, community media, and so on and see what kind of "new use" ideas get generated and unintended consequences get found?

Michael Jackson to join celebrity philanthropic rush to Africa

Let's just hope he doesn't follow Madonna's footsteps and adopt a baby boy. (Oh come on, you knew a bad taste comment was coming)

Fast Company Best Blogs

Fast Company Magazine has named our humble blog as one of the three best blogs on Social Entreprenuerism. Check it out here (subscriber code, if needed, is FCDECSOCAP)

Tracy Gary's new venture

Few people have done as much for progressive philanthropy as has Tracy Gary. She's founded Changemakers, Resourceful Women, La Casa, The Women's Foundation, and a dozen other nonprofit organizations. Her latest effort is now up and running, Inspired Legacies. The organization will function as a not-for-profit philanthropy and legacy planning business.

Changing the world - one lightbulb at a time

Courtesy of Andrew Leonard and "How the World Works" I found this Fast Company article on the impact of Wal-Mart selling compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs). These bulbs save users money, they save enormous amounts of energy, and they last a really long time.

Post hurricane season 2005, Wal-Mart stocked up on CFLs and lowered the price on them in the Gulf States' stores. They flew off the shelves. They "rolled-back" the price in other stores around the country and the race was on - read Leonard's blog or Fishman's article for more on the implications of this - for lightbulb users, for energy policy (and, if you care, for Wal-Mart, and for GE). The very factors that make the bulbs so positive (energy savings and longevity) means that the manufacturers of the bulbs (GE) aren't necessarily thrilled about selling more of them.

What does this mean for philanthropy? It is an important story about how change really happens. Environmentalists have been promoting CFLs for a long time. They've made some progress - probably most of us in the "save energy" choir have already changed light bulbs. But the market matters to changing the behavior of the other 100s of millions of lightbulb users, SUV drivers, corn-syrup eaters, and so on. And the market players (as shown in the backstory about GE and Wal-Mart) don't always have the interests that you would expect.

Have you changed your lightbulbs yet?

Slate 60 Conference on Innovative Philanthropy

Here you go - one-stop shopping for the audio and video of the Slate 60 Philanthropy brouhaha at the Clinton Presidential library in Little Rock.

Private blogs

Blogging is about speaking to the world. So of course the latest trend is private blogging - check out Vox (brought to you by the folks from Six Apart).

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Social Capital in New Zealand

"Policy as if Outcomes Matter" is the tagline for this blog on Social Policy Bonds written by a New Zealand economist. Read here for a little on bonds and here for a lot.

Ground level philanthropy

A few posts back I wrote about Steven Johnson book, The Ghost Map. It led me to thinking about the need to connect ground-level expertise with birds-eye expertise. In the book, two men find the source of the 1848 London cholera epidemic by using city-wide data on deaths, water companies, and sewer systems alongside door-to-door knowledge of who got sick in which house on what street on which day.

To better use philanthropic resources we need to be able to use both systems-level/global knowledge about things like crop production, water tables, migration patterns, and cultural values with local expertise about which families are keeping their adolescent girls home from school because of the lack of private toilets or which areas have been so deforested that solar ovens might now be an attractive alternative to wood stoves.

This website, Outside.In, doesn't contain the knowledge I'm interested in, because it is tracking neighborhood-level conversations and issues in places like the wired, wealthy parts of San Francisco or Atlanta. However, the idea and platform provides a glimpse into what might be possible.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Real time trends

Time was, I used to track news headlines about philanthropy, counting them by month, plotting them in a spreadsheet and printing out a graph to use in slide presentations. So very old fashioned. Now Nielsen Metrics, the people who watched us watch TV for years, have introduced BlogPulse TrendSearch, an instant, online trend watcher for blogs. You can find the trend plotting I did on "philanthropy" here and the tool itself is here.

Web 2.0 philanthropy

Months ago I went looking for community-driven, Web 2.0 philanthropy. The posts are here and here (archive August 2006).

Here's a new one - advertising itself as "The World's First Web 2.0 Charity" - The RobinHood Fund lets the community do the donating. "The world's first" claim is bound to get hackles up - just what the people behind it* want. What do you think?

*No surprise, the whole thing is cause-related marketing for a "crowdsource" technology firm - Cambrian House.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Internet and Information Part Two

Part Two of previous post:

Both nonprofits and foundations need to rethink how they share information. I've made a start with the blogroll on the right-hand column of this blog. If you use you can read what I'm reading (subscribe to my list) and share what you're reading with me (add me to your network), or send me something to think about (link to me). Go ahead - try it! Imagine the collective philanthropy reading list we can build. (Then we'll figure out what to do with it). I'll take the lead in doing this about philanthropy - but YOU can take the lead in doing it about afterschool enrichment programs, vaccination research, water filtration, advocacy grantmaking, biodiversity, serious games, disaster relief or space travel (in other words, whatever you care about).

There are a lot of other cool tools we can use as well - backpack, technorati blog rolls, mybloglog....the important point here is that people interested in/working on a common subject can use these tools to share their information sources, work with colleagues, post questions, filter information, reach out to experts, and keep all of this stuff in one place - actually manage the information they need and knowledge they have - live, in real time, from anywhere, with anyone. The tools mostly exist - its a matter of using them.

Five years ago philanthropy got caught looping in a conversation that went something like this, "Wouldn't it be cool if we could....?" "Yes, but it would be too expensive to build the tools."

Now, the tools exist, and many of us are using them all the time - Flickr, blogs, collaborative writing software, video conferencing, tagging, networks. Its time to really experiment with these tools in the day-to-day work of philanthropy and see what we can improve.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Internet and Information Part One

This is just a warning...I'm about to go off on another tear about philanthropy, information, and knowledge. One of these days I will figure out if blogger lets me categorize these posts and then you can skip ahead if this particular fascination of mine is not one that you share.

This from today's NYT, on FreshDirect, an internet-based grocery delivery service in NYC that was set to deliver 6000 uncooked turkeys and 2000 pre-cooked dinners on this, the day before Thanksgiving:

"...It's about the Web as an information sorter. When you're looking at, say, crackers, you can sort them by price, by the amount of saturated fat per serving or by any number of other things. In recent months, the company has also loaded hundreds of recipes from some wonderful cookbooks onto its site. You can now click on one of the recipes and quickly order all the ingredients.

In the future... If your daughter were allergic to nuts, you would be able to tell the Web site not to sell you anything that contains nuts. For anyone with diabetes or heart disease, who keeps kosher or vegetarian, the advantages would be huge. All that time spent reading labels could be reclaimed.

[FreshDirect spokesman] puts it this way: Phase 1 of the Internet revolved around providing information. Phase 2 revolved around basic transactions. In Phase 3, what [the spokesman] calls "the golden age of marketing," smart companies are starting to use the information about customers to sell products in fundamentally new ways."
David Leonhart, "Filling Pantries Without a Middleman," The New York Times, November 22, 2006.

So what for philanthropy?
Here's Part One of so what:

Sort your giving interests and tag the material you rely on for information. Post to your website and create an online, invitation-only learning circle with other donors. Share materials. Share leads on projects. Set filters on existing sites so that only up-to-date information on hunger, performing arts, or Asian political parties comes through to your grants management platform. Share a virtual workspace with your fellow donors and the key organizations you're working with. Streamline volunteer recruitment. Let neighbors geo-tag the projects and issues they care about and re-organize neighborhood watches. Throw "block party" fundraisers and "book clubs" that stretch across the globe. Develop village level small business info brokerages regarding the price of produce several villages away - and organize "camel pools" to transport the goods to where the price is best.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Dancing with a Mission

Thanks to those who responded to my post about philanthropy magazines. Here is the story on capoiera from Benefit Magazine - including the photo of my son (that's him, in the lower right hand picture, in the back, standing on his hands).

The Big get Bigger

David Rockefeller will give $225 million to the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. The story is in The New York Times (subscription to Times Select needed).

The funds will create a Global Development Fund, will raise the endowment of RBF to about $1 billion, and puts Mr. Rockefeller's personal giving at about $900 million.

New Philanthropy Magazines

There are several new philanthropy magazines to note (or not).

Benefit Magazine focuses on San Francisco. Good is for the young, hip givers among us. And then there is Grazie! The Art of Giving, which I haven't seen yet (has anyone?).

All of this as the Council on Foundations folded Foundation News, effective November 2006.

I've been told (although I haven't seen it) that Benefit features a story on ABADA Capoiera, an amazing program in San Francisco's Mission District. Full disclosure: I'm told the photo that accompanies the story shows my 6-year old son doing a parata! Anyone who wants to send me a copy, please feel free.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Funding infrastructure

Infrastructure is foundation-speak for "organizations that support philanthropy." The current infrastructure for philanthropy in the US (and probably around the world) is in desperate need of a new city planning effort, IMHO. To kill the metaphor, we have a mix of public utilities and telephone lines in a place where cell phones are the norm and most everyone is trying to function off-the-grid. Roads extend where there are no homes, inner-city brown fields sit empty, and so on and so on (yes, the metaphor is now dead).

Funding "infrastructure" isn't sexy. Yet even CJ Craig knew that it was roads and sewers that were most needed to help poor African nations fight AIDS (see The West Wing, penultimate Episode).

So, why others are writing about Skyline Public Works because of its "hybrid" venture capital/political philanthropy approach, what I want to know is - do the cool name and great logos really equate to funding the "plumbing" of the progressive movement?

New Congress and Philanthropy

The U.S. 2006 Midterm elections mean new people at the helm of key Congressional and Senate committees. What might the results mean for philanthropy?

Here are some of the changes:
Senate Finance Committee: Bye-bye Senator Grassley, hello new Chair, Max Baucus (MT). Maybe rural issues will rise on the agenda. What have foundations done for farms lately?

House Ways and Means: Welcome new chair, Charles Rangel (NY). A big voice for the little guy, Congressman Rangel might have something to say about philanthropy's track records on inclusivity, poverty, and the inner city.

Speaking of inclusivity, the Council on Foundations' Fall 2006 Community Foundations conference featured Representative Xavier Becerra from California. (Download podcast here.) Representative Becerra is active in the Hispanic Caucus in the House and introduced a bill in 2005 to study the building of a National Museum of the American Latino Community. How is American filantropia serving hispanics?

Steven Johnson's new column

Steven Johnson is now writing a new column for Times Select readers of The New York Times.

Johnson's newest book, The Ghost Map, makes an easy-to-read and brilliant case for the role of experts and amateurs. Focused on the famous map of London that Dr. John Snow developed to help him prove that cholera was a water-born disease, Johnson shows how the doctor and others needed two kinds of knowledge - city-level and street level. They needed to bring a "birds-eye" view of disease transmission, as well as door-to-door knowledge of London's Soho neighborhood, in order to track the disease to its source. An interesting subplot in the book is the relationship between this new knowledge - the theory of water-born illness - and the fight to disprove the dominant theory of airborne (miasma) disease.

Questions for philanthropists: who are the birds-eye experts that you depend on and who knows what matters at street level? How can you bring both sets of knowledge to bear in addressing social challenges?

Climate change = civilization

A couple of wonderful reads on an important question. First, the question: What will climate change mean for all of us?

Now, the reading:

1) Michael Specter, "The Last Drop," The New Yorker, October 23, 2006
2) Steven Johnson, The Ghost Map
3) Andrew Leonard, How the World Works, reviewing Nick Brooks paper, "Cultural Responses to Aridity in the Middle Holocene and Increased Social Complexity."

Some gift horses do get looked in the mouth

The San Francisco Chronicle has a story about those who deign to doubt the effectiveness of the Moore Foundation's giving for conservation.

The story only hints at one of the most challenging elements of environmental philanthropy - the displacement of the native people who tend to live on these lands. Stories abound of well-intentioned outsiders making philanthropic gifts to protect land - animal habitat in Africa for example - and forcing the displacement of peoples that have lived there for centuries.

A constructive discussion about what works and doesn't work is one of the many things institutional philanthropy needs to participate in and to encourage.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Nonphilanthropic Newspapers

Referring to my post from an hour ago, here's some proof that newspapers will figure out their new business model - 176 papers signed an ad revenue-sharing deal with Yahoo.

Nothing philanthropic in the private newspaper business.

There is, BTW, an entire nonprofit/alternative press - in which philanthropy does play a role, lest we forget.


By now everyone knows that newspaper subscriptions are plummeting. On Talk of The Nation today, media commentator David Folkenflik noted that the major papers (NYT, Boston Globe, LA Times) are losing paper subscribers but that overall readership (including web readers) are pretty much staying the same.

Those of us who read the news (online or on paper) also know that big buck individuals such as David Geffen and Eli Broad in LA and Jack Welch in Boston are each entertaining (word choice deliberate) purchasing their local rags (the Times and the Globe, respectively) to keep them available as public services.

The commentator on TOTN noted these purchases/purchasers might be seen as philanthropic. I find this definition a bit hard to swallow. Remember, the products of both of these companies (news) are still being consumed, just in a different format. The fact that the companies are struggling to figure out how to make the same 20% profit per annum on the new format is not a public problem. They will figure it out (no doubt, Geffen, Broad and Welch think they have the answers).

Regular readers of this blog (both of you) know that I 1) read 3 papers a day plus countless online news sources, 2) am a staunch supporter of free and independent media and 3) am tireless in noting how the relationships between public, private and independent sectors have changed. That does not mean I think those relationships are interchangeable.

The USA has pushed privatization of public goods pretty far (farther than I think we should have). In the case of newspapers, I agree they are a public good AND that their market-based independence is key to their being such.

This idea of purchasing private resources (papers) as philanthropic investments raises a new issue, call it "philanthropicization." If profit-making entities that serve the public, such as newspapers, can be purchased as "philanthropic" acts and thus provided tax exemption on future profits we will, at the very least, completely bankrupt the public coffers.

I think we can (and are) blend the sectors in new ways. However, there is a point of "too far."

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Great Giving on PBS

Slate's conference on Innovative Giving plugs the PBS series on Great Giving.

Check out the video here.

Geo-Tag: Narita Airport, Tokyo

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Investing in interface

Have you ever wondered why everyone - grandmas, kids, CEOs - can figure out how to use Amazon, eBay, Google but the otherwise-intelligent staff of nonprofit organizations often need extensive support from the companies or associations that provide them with grants management, CRM, web-conferencing and other software?

I'm at the WINGS conference in Bangkok and attended a session on IT where several of the support organizations discussed their desire to provide software to their members but were daunted by the costs of maintaining tech staff to support those members. Even as they saw a potential membership benefit and revenue source, they were (rightly) worried about the costs of supporting the service.

As the session leader noted, "its because the commercial properties invested in interface once, and don't have to provide support afterwards." Amazon et al depend on their FAQs and online databases to answer your questions. Actually, they depend on their interface being useful enough that you don't have any questions. And it tends to work.

The nonprofit/philanthropic sector doesn't have the resources to spend on ongoing support. We need better design and ASP models (which allow the software providers to fix it once for everybody) so we can move beyond "dealing with tech support" and get back to changing the world. Fondazione Cariplo in Milan has built such a system for its grantees - this is the model the rest of us should be looking at.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

More online giving

Intelligent Giving is another online giving site, based in the UK, funded by an individual donor.

Silly me hadn't realized we needed another such site. That said, I do like this site's tongue-in-cheekiness, especially under how much to give.

Objects in Mirror are Closer than they Appear

I recently claimed that the funds committed to social good by businesses may be larger than those committed by philanthropy – institutional and individual. In an article ("Code Green," by Amanda Griscom Little) on Wal-Mart’s eco-commitments in the December issue of Outside Magazine, a found these tidbit to further my hypothesis:
• The company has committed $500 million ANNUALLY to meeting the company’s eco goals (described by the head of Greenpeace USA as “remarkable…hopeful, even if they’re just goals at this point.” Wal-Mart is getting help from Adam Werbach, former Sierra Club President, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the folks at Conservation International)
• Wal-Mart has started a program to help its suppliers cut packaging, waste, and fuel use. The five-year effort is pegged to save $3.4 billion over five years.
• Those are big dollar figures. Certainly more than environmental funders spend each year and – I’d guess, more than the cumulative budgets of most environmental organizations around the globe.

So, doesn’t someone want to help us figure out the rest of the revenue map?

Beam me some books

EduVision is using satellites to beam digital copies of textbooks to poor, rural schools in Africa that would otherwise have no textbooks or really really old ones (Soviet Union, anyone?).

This is cool.

Irony Labeling for Foundations

What if Foundations had to really disclose what they were made of? Right now, they report on their finances but only die-hards who read 990 forms (which doesn't include most board members who aren't on the investment committee) know what kinds of financial investments they're really making. If a self-identified environmental funder is granting $1 million per year for land conservation but has 10 million shares of stock in major home building companies are they really trying to save the environment? What about health funders and tobacco, alcohol or processed food company shares?

Maybe we need an "Irony Labeling" on Foundation Annual Reports, similar to the nutritional labels found on food packaging.

Ingredients: Financial investments
Environment $100 million in oil, gas, corn farms, and paper plants
Health $25 million: corn syrup processing and soda production
Education $20 million Disney Co.

Ingredients: Grants Paid
Environment: $1 million for land conservation
Health: $500,000 to fight obesity
Education: $500,000 after school programs for low-income children

After all, companies are starting to open up about what goes into their products, e.g. "no artificial sweeteners" or made with "all organic cotton."

Timberland, the shoe and boot manufacturer includes a "nutritional label" on its shoeboxes, revealing the environmental impact of the shoes' production. (Outside, Nov 2006)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Securitizing Social Investments

We’ve recently seen huge investments in microfinance (yes, that is somewhat oxymoronic).

We’ve also the creation of securities to back Microfinance institutions (BlueOrchard and Accion International, Omidyar Network) that have facilitated some of that growth. Now Good Capital is trying to raise a $30 million investment fund to invest in companies that do well and do good, such as a new mountain resort staffed by young adults from inner cities. Jed Emerson helped twist the normal equity equation so that investors make below-market financial returns and also get payouts when the investment meets pre-set benchmarks. (Fast Company November 2006)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Dance with me

Earlier, I posted about the "save a dance" feature of certain conference websites. This allows conference-goers to pre-book meetings with others who will be attending the conference - cutting down on all that frantic chasing in hallways that otherwise happens. You can see it in action and read about it here - from a conference hosted by Civic Ventures.

Thanks, Amy, for finding the link.

Strategic Plans Online

You here a lot of talk about transparency in philanthropy. Mostly about the need for more of it. Two grantmakers, the Vermont Community Foundation and Changemakers have actually done something about. Both have posted their Strategic Plans online. You can see VCF's Ends Statement here and download its Strategic Plan (and previous iterations of it) here. Changemakers' Plan is here.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Jan predicts the future

In an "exit interview" with The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Jan Masaoka, is asked her thoughts on future trends. Her call: "I think we're going to see foundations increasingly doing program work directly."

Jan also notes that she is leaving her current position to find the one "last big project" for herself. While she anticipates facing race, gender, and age discrimination, she says, "If I want to do something that takes 10 or 15 years, I figure I'd better start now." Read the full interview here.

Good luck, Jan. Thanks for everything. Go get 'em!

Give it away and manage it yourself

Stanford University (Endowment of ~$12 BB) joins Harvard University (endowment of ~$30 BB) in offering donors the opportunity to invest their Charitable Remainder Trust contributions along with the Universities' endowments (Stanford and Harvard both managed more than 15% average annual growth over the last ten years)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Creating Infectious Action

Bad health metaphors aside, this class at the Stanford is intriguing. Imagine if philanthropists and nonprofits could deploy what is learned "to spread positive behaviors."

This class, on Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability puts into practice one of my seven "building blocks" of open philanthropy which is to "build for the poorest."

Learning from success

Democrats, giddy from electoral success on Tuesday, are already gearing up for the Presidential election in 2008 (no doubt, Republicans, while less-giddy, are also gearing up). To steal a line from Stephen Colbert, if November 7 was known to most Americans as "next Tuesday," then November 8 was to be known as "the start of the 2008 campaign."

Among the cacophonous outburst of blogging, real-time news reporting (I got 2 emails announcing Rumsfeld's resignation while I was waiting for the streaming audio of Bush's press conference to start), media-analysis and self-congratulatory puffery floating around the web, I found this post by Zack Exley on Roots Camp. This is a series of "un-conferences" for democratic political leaders and the grassroots organizers who made the victory possible to come together and make sure the infrastructure isn't lost in the victory. Roots Camps will be held in DC, San Francisco, Bloomington, IN, and Columbus, OH with support from the New Organizing Institute and Emerging Progressives.

As the Council on Foundations prepares for its Philanthropy 2008 event, there is lots to learn from these kinds of unconferences (foo camp, bar camp and, now, Roots Camp). Inclusive agenda setting, participatory discussions, the use of dance cards and back channels, smaller real-life gatherings networked into a larger movement - this is how to get together and make change happen.

Dismal Science

Economics is called the dismal science. Despite the recent popularity of Freakonomics and Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, I've always assumed it was called this because 1) the quality of economic writing was so dreadful and 2) because the content of economic analysis was often so dreary. Maybe its just because its just so rationally seen in yet another study showing that there is nothing economically sound about philanthropy. Read a review here and download the paper here (click on link, "recent experiment")

Traffic circles. Not sexy, but important.

The Cleveland Foundation deserves praise for investing in improving the safety of the University Circle area of Cleveland. There is nothing sexy, or exciting, or innovative about fixing a city infrastructure, but as this story in Wednesday's NY Times shows, such infrastructure is critical to revitalizing a neighborhood, a downtown, a city, a state, (egad, even a nation, witness the non-rebuilding in Iraq).

Even though the story opens with the role played by a commercial architecture firm, the laundry list of organizations involved in literally rebuilding this part of the city is a "who's who" of nonprofits, including the Cleveland Orchestra, Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Clinic, the Cleveland Botanical Gardens, and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

And, just a random note, University Circle in Cleveland is nearby the city's Rockefeller Park. The story on this rebuilding effort appeared on page C6 of Wednesday's national edition of the NY Times. On page C7 (facing page) was a story of a super "green"development called Riverhouse, the address of which is One Rockefeller Park (New York City).

And some more on microfinance

I really like this blog, "How the World Works" by Andrew Leonard. Here is his thoughtful piece on the need for evidence that microfinance institutions work to get people out of poverty, not just that they can be good businesses.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Community foundations and public policy

Some community foundations are active on local policy issues. Witness the Rhode Island Foundation, which has worked hard for months on a statewide bond for affordable housing. Lots of this work was done in partnership and much of it happened behind the scenes.

But as the election neared, the Foundation's weekly e-news included information on the issue, the Foundation President sent an email blast encouraging the Foundation's constituents to vote for the measure, and the Foundation's home page includes a prominent call to vote.

And it looks like the ballot measure passed.


Dashboards for democracy

I've had plenty to say over time about philanthropy and metrics. "Dashboards" are one hot item in philanthropy - quick, easy to read presentations of key metrics.

Last night's elections across the USA gave MSNBC plenty of "quick"moving data to feed into its dashboard - check it out here. For another cool, real-time dashboard check out the People Ranker at "Eat the Press" on The Huffington Post (HuffPo in blog speak).

Green Philanthropy

This week San Francisco is host to the Green Business Summit and the Green Festival.* With the exception of the Calvert Foundation's involvement in the Festival, there aren't many signs that philanthropy is part of this movement.

* Also in town: Grantmakers for Education and Web 2.0 Summit, but they have nothing to do with my point.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

More microfinance

I ranted about the recent rush to microfinance here. Then I received this press release about a big gift from the Gates Foundation to Unitus to "study and improve efficiency in the microfinance industry." All the work is focused on making microfinance institutions work more efficiently and grow faster. That's great. But do they WORK?

Fantasy philanthropy

There are online marketplaces for almost everything. Fantasy football has been big business for twenty years and you can now trade professional athletes on ProTrade the way you'd trade stocks on e*trade. Today I heard radio announcers talking about playing "Fantasy Congress" tomorrow. The Motley Fool has been running Foolanthropy for ten years - pick a nonprofit, vote for it, get others to, and see how much money you can drive to the cause of your choice.

Social connections and elections

Allison Fine, author of Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age will host the first chat for the Chronicle of Philanthropy beginning on November 13. Finally, the philanthropic conversation goes on line. Join in here to learn more about connectivity and social change, to celebrate or bemoan election results (this is being written while polls are STILL open) or to share stories of how your organization is working with communities in new ways.

Vote Today!

Global millions and billions

In a recent talk at the Long Now Foundation, Katerhine Fulton noted that there are more than 10,000 Americans with net worth of more than $100 Million. This year, everyone on the Forbes 400 list had at least a billion US Dollars.

The money isn't just in America. China has "27,310 people with private property worth more than 50 million yuan, and 3,220 own more than 100 million worth." The country had 15 billionaires on the Forbes 400 list. Here's a map of the rest of the billionaires.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Not your father's nonprofit

My previous post on capital markets made some bold claims about the money. Don't forget the structure of those doing the work in the social sector is also changing.

Take a look at Biopact, for example. This is an international (intercontinental, actually), grassroots, volunteer-run effort to develop mutually beneficial biofuel for Europe and Africa. Lets hope funders don't screw it up.

Capital Markets: Follow the Money

The biggest opportunity for philanthropy in the next 25 years will be to proactively redesign capital markets for public benefit work. After a recent conversation with Jed Emerson, I have a hypothesis: There is more money flowing to public benefit endeavors from commercial investors and the corporate sector than from philanthropy.

That is to say, with commercial investments in alternative energy, real socially-beneficial enterprise, inner-city employment and job training efforts, and so on, the funds that are paying for things that we think of as nonprofit social goods coming from entities trying to make a buck are greater than those coming from individuals and foundations (which were about $242 BB USD in 2005).

NOW don't get me wrong - I AM NOT saying that the commercial investments in social goods is greater than the corresponding investments in social "bads" - pollution, corrupt leadership, lousy pay, union busting, human and natural resource exploitation, etc. etc. I am saying the capital markets for social goods are 1) not well understood, 2) not transparent, and 3) full of surprises. As long as foundations, for example, keep 95% of their assets off the table for investing in their missions, we can be pretty sure the big bucks are coming from somewhere else.

I'd love the opportunity to work with the right folks to track these revenue flows. If we can map the revenue (follow the money) we stand a much better chance of advocating for the capital market changes that Jan Masaoka, Clara Miller and others are calling for.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Show me the...proof...not just the money

Thanks to the friends who know my pile of New Yorker magazines is taller than my son. They know that the chances I've read an article in the October 30 2006 issue are slim to none and so drew my attention to last week's article on microfinance and Muhammad Yunus.

So here's the question: Where is the proof? Does microfinance actually get people out of poverty or does it just make them less poor?

Since microcredit and microfinance has become the 20-years-in-the-making-overnight-sensation of American philanthropists it is sure to attract 100s of millions (perhaps even billions) of USD in philanthropic investment. But there's plenty of time for a track record - where's the proof that it works?


This book - WorldChanging - is cool. It well deserves its moniker as "the Whole Earth Catalogue for the iPod generation." As someone who still owns a copy of the Catalogue and also owns an iPod, I find it reassuring that the book and the website exist.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Why 2173?

The title of this blog, Philanthropy 2173 refers to the year 2173. Why that year? Attached is dialogue from Woody Allen's movie, Sleeper, which takes place in 2173.



[ Laughs ]



So, lets talk about the future. But we best keep our sense of humor about how sure we are of what we say.

Warren Buffett Redefines Payout

I had an interesting conversation with Buzz Schmidt of Guidestar UK. He claims that Warren Buffett did not give $30BB to the Gates Foundation, as was widely publicized. Schmidt's read of the Buffett announcement (as reported in Fortune Magazine) is that Buffett gave 5% of the value of a set amount of Berkshire Hathaway stock. Under certain likely circumstances, which Schmidt details in an upcoming piece in Alliance Magazine, Buffett figured out a way to give the Foundation an awful lot of money (as long as Bill and Melinda Gates remain actively involved), while holding onto even more of it. If he's giving 5% of the value of the shares, that means he's holding on to 95% of the value - thus getting credit for giving $30BB while actually retaining the majority of the pile and watching it grow.

On the face of it, its not too surprising that "America's greatest investor" would figure out a way to make a buck even while giving it away. And its not at all unlike what foundations themselves do, granting 5% of their assets to good causes while investing the other 95% to perpetuate themselves.