Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Everyone is an adviser

Boing Boing, a blog about technology, is running a story on "how to be a successful micro lender." It pulls from a longer piece in WIRED on micro credit.

I've written at length about the "unbundling" of philanthropic services. What do I mean by this? Once upon a time a donor could put her financial resources into a foundation, a community fund, or make a direct gift. That would serve as a "bundled option" of financial and advisory services. For example, an endowed foundation with professional staff was a bundle of financial service (endowment) and advisers (staff). A fund at a community foundation was another way of packing advice and financial products together.

With the introduction of commercial gift funds, the market proved that donors were interested in financial products separate from advisory services. These funds, introduced in the early 1990s, now account for more than $12 billion in philanthropic assets and one of their key selling points is "no advice, you the donor makes all decisions."

So what does it mean when technology magazines and blogs start offering philanthropy advice? It certainly seems to be a continuation of the unbundling trend. The financial options became products first - "psst, wanna buy a charitable gift fund?" Next - perhaps - is the commoditization of the advisory services.

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