Friday, September 28, 2007
Choose from among the four posted finalists and vote here for the PBS NOW Project Enterprise winner. Polls are open until October 31st.
The winning group will receive coverage on the website and be part of an upcoming episode of NOW's Enterprising Ideas Series.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Direct from the press release
YouTube Debuts Nonprofit Program
Organizations Can Now Apply for a Designated Nonprofit Channel and Collect Donations Through Google Checkout for Non-Profits
YouTube’s 2007/2008 Clinton Global Initiative commitment enables nonprofit organizations (in the U.S. those with 501c3 tax filing status) that register for the program to receive a free nonprofit specific YouTube channel where they can upload footage of their work, public service announcements, calls to action and more. The channel will also allow them to collect donations with no processing costs using the newly launched Google Checkout for Non-Profits. YouTube’s global platform enables nonprofits to deliver their message, showcase their impact and needs, and encourage supporters to take action.
At launch there will be a thirteen organizations participating in the YouTube Nonprofit Program including:24 Hours for Darfur • American Cancer Society • Autism Speaks •
#4 - Open Philanthropy
#5 - Aligned Investing
Now, a little hubris is in order. Like "aligned investing," I can lay a pretty good claim to having coined the term open philanthropy (though William Safire may need to weigh in on the actual etymology). I first used the phrase "open source philanthropy" in several presentations back in 2002 and 2003; the fundamental concept appears in my book Creating Philanthropic Capital Markets, published in January 2004; I've got a chapter with the phrase in the title in Peter Karoff's 2006 book, The World We Want; and I've blogged the concept here, here and here.
But something doesn't get buzzword status until others start to use it - so here you go, this post from MIT Media Lab researcher Ed Boyden presents a "free market for research and donors" that he calls open philanthropy. Here's another, rather different take on the concept by blogger Mark Surman, an "Open Philanthropy Fellow" at The Shuttleworth Foundation in Cape Town, SA. And then there is this article by Paul Brest, President of the Hewlett Foundation on opening up information sources for donors - essentially open philanthropy.
And, in reviewing the blog archive for this post I realized I had not named "aligned investing" a buzzword, so I'm going to go ahead and do that now. This umbrella term for aligning your investment strategies with your organizational mission has roots in the Blended Value work, incorporates all three tactics of Mission related-, Socially responsible-, and Program related- investing, and (deliberately) stays away from the words "value" or "values," which invariably lead us into a rat hole of empty political rhetoric that I find to be utterly useless.
To recap the other Philanthropy Buzzwords of 2007 are:
Aligned Investing. Several more links about it are available here.
If you're overcome by web2.0 (blogging, podcast, linkedin, facebook, currentTV, vlogging, etc), here is a web2.0 solution - NOSO. Just waste some time and watch the video. Guaranteed result - irony overload.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
And here's the site - www.mycommitment.org
Clinton's own staff was impressed - here's their blog post of the announcement.
My quick cruise shows its a partnership with NetworkForGood (Charity badges, volunteer opportunities and nonprofit databases). One suggestion - the first thing that comes up when you click on "Find a trustworthy charity to donate to" is this little blurb....
Hmmm. Strikes the wrong tone to my mind - "I came here for independent information and the first thing you suggest is that I give to you?" No thanks.
"Thanks for your interest in making a commitment to donate money. To complete your commitment:
>>Donate to help the Clinton Foundation continue to fight HIV/AIDS, global warming, childhood obesity, and other significant challenges facing our world. With your help, we can continue to make a difference in communities worldwide."
The site encourages you to post your own stories and look for communities of like-minded givers. It also lets you see other people's commitments.
My initial review - it pulls together lots of stuff that has existed for a while (networkforgood, change.org, badges, blog posts) into one place, adds a dash of Clinton glamour, and...that's it. It doesn't even go so far as to connect all of the platforms that offer giving opportunities -
Check it out and tell me what you think - is it the ClintonBookBay predicted by the Financial Times?
Given earlier SFC attention to The Robin Hood Foundation's investment portfolio and fee structure, it seems we might have a troublesome potential headline here:
As hedge funds and private equity firms become the "crowd pleasing punching bag" of campaigning Democrats and Republicans, look for a few of those blows to land on endowment managers. After all, hedge funds don't build those billion dollar funds off of mom and pop investors.
"Exorbitant profits enjoyed by managers of untaxed funds earned by using endowment resources of untaxed organizations"
Philanthropy2173 is now cross-posting at the Stanford Social Innovation Review, with The Huffington Post, on Facebook, and the Giving Channel.
My posts are also "streamed" through to JustMeans homepage and are often picked up (sometimes almost verbatim) at Philanthropy.com/giveandtake
You can run, but you can't hide. Please join me in the comments section of any of these media partners.
BTW: I'll be talking about blogging and the Giving Channel at The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation on Tuesday, October 2. Joining me are bloggers from BeyondPhilanthropy, Tactical Philanthropy, SSIR, and The Chronicle of Philanthropy. If you've got questions or topics you'd like me to address, please let me know either in the comments below or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I'm looking at the downsides of microfinance partly because I am busy finishing reading A Billion Bootstraps: Microcredit, Barefoot Banking and the Solution to Ending Poverty, (Phil Smith and Eric Thurman). The book is an easy read and an unbridled exclamation on the power and potential of microcredit. For all its one-sidedness, the authors clearly make the point that microfinance and microcredit work best "where there is no financial services infrastructure." In other words, in poor countries.
The authors have a wonderful way of making economic arcana accessible. This is one of the book's key strengths. They also do a fine job of pointing out just how different a cash society (poor countries) is from those with built financial infrastructure (i.e., rich countries). The point is so obvious it is easily overlooked.
For those of us in the northern and western hemispheres, life is becoming ever more "cashless." We pay with credit cards, bank online, travel with e-tickets, pay bills electronically, swipe our way into and out of parking garages, and use "one-click checkout." Our life is so cash-free that the big advancements in money-technology are new radio-enabled credit cards that you merely wave near a payment machine - I mean, c'mon, who has time to "swipe and sign" anymore?
But poor countries are exactly the opposite - they are almost entirely cash-based. There are no credit cards, no capital market, no debt financing, no "30 day payment plans." Life is cash and carry, or barter.
I'm still reading A Billion Bootstraps. So far I don't buy into its unrelenting insistence that microfinance is the answer to poverty - but I appreciate the authors' presentation of why what works does so.
I have learned some important reasons why it may work in some places and not in others. Some economists (most of whom are less facile with pens than Smith and Thurman) also dig deeply into what works - and doesn't. My latest find in terms of microcredit criticism comes from economist Arneel Karnani at U Michigan, whose article "Employment, not microcredit, is the solution" is worth a read. He points to the smallness of the businesses that microcredit supports, not the structure of microcredit, as reason for its limitations. Microcredit, Karnani reminds us, supports "micro - enterprises," small businesses that are not big enough to lift people out of poverty.
I'll provide a more complete review of "Billion Bootstraps" soon.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Guy Kawasaki knows a lot about startup companies and technology evangelism. - In an interview with David Bornstein, author of How to Change The World, Kawasaki demonstrates his skill at asking good questions (even though he miscounts them). Here are the questions:
Question: Are there fundamental differences between a social and for-profit founders?
Question: Are there fundamental differences in the people who go to work for a social versus not-for-profit startup?
- Question: In the for-profit world, you keep score with sales revenue—how do you keep score in the not-for-profit world?
- Question: How can social entrepreneurs attract talent when there aren’t high salaries and options?
Question: Is this why many prominent business people move into social entrepreneurship?
Question: People celebrate when a corporate mogul ditches the big bucks and goes to work for a not-for-profit, but has the opposite occurred too?
Question: What makes some people take action and others to just cogitate?
Question: What are the things that keep potential social entrepreneurs from succeeding to fulfilling their potential?
Question: Then what could government or society do to encourage more social entrepreneurship?
Question: Who is the “Steve Jobs” of social entrepreneurship?
Question: Is the entrepreneur in the middle of Africa who gets a micro-loan and supports his or her family much different from Bill Gates or Steve Jobs?What?! You want answers, too? Go here. Just looking over the questions you see how business, nonprofits, individuals, communities, social entrepreneurs, regulators, national policies - all matter to understanding how something or someone succeeds.
Monday, September 24, 2007
It would all be a hoax.
A hoax documented by professional journalists, even while those involved were Googling or Wikipedia-ing all kinds of information that would have encouraged them to continue talking with Michael Nobel, Great-Grandnephew of Alfred (Nobel, of Nobel Prize fame), about a new prize for nanotechnology.
Media, prizes, celebrity, new technology, old journalism - I almost thought I was making this up as I read it in the paper today. (I'm six days into a course of antibiotics and pain meds, so strange things are likely). And just to make things weirder, I could not find the article on the paper's Internet site, but only in hard copy, The New York Times, print copy, National Edition, p c6. Here is a news post about the whole thing from the Nano Science and
The Financial Times reporter characterized it as “a cross between Facebook and eBay but for philanthropy." Even before reading Bernard Lunn's brilliant term “concept extrapolation” (the term for ideas that are most recognizable by an elevator pitch that goes something along the lines of “we are the x of y”), I've found these kinds of descriptions to more discrediting than helpful. So I thought I'd better read the whole interview, which is online here.
Here's just the clip about the new website:
No doubt that we have rounded a corner in what is possible regarding nonprofit information, donors interests, and the web. Some credit has to be due to those who've stuck with these online marketplaces (GlobalGiving, NetworkForGood) through thick and thin.
"BC: ... But I thought that if we set up a separate website, and on this website you could access all the NGO options we knew about in America and around the world, you’ve probably got 1 million of them. You organise them by category so you never have to go through that much, but we’re going to have huge resources here. The idea was to give people a place where they could go and make a commitment, or search for a partner, either receive their money or their time or their skills, or whatever, and that we would also set up a virtual community so that these activists could talk to each other and reinforce one another, and give each other their ideas and go forward together. So I hope that this, my commitment data will become like a year round floating CGI where people will be able to come in and out, and people of modest means will be able to see what they can do in their neighbourhoods and all around the world. And that the website will be a way of generating both more donors and more effective donations of time and money, and reinforcing the idea that this ought to be an elemental part of our citizenship in the 21st century.
FT: It sounds like a cross between Facebook and eBay but for philanthropy. Is that fair?BC: That’s a fair characterisation.And eBay, by the way, has done some of this. eBay has a website that will help to facilitate your gift. There are other people who help you to facilitate, but I want to do is let people register on this so they can actually talk to each other and access virtually every conceivable opportunity that exists in the world. eBay does have a very good website. There’s also another website I think that eBay set up so that if you want to give something away that has no immediate charitable purpose, you give it to them, they sell if for you as if it was an eBay deal, and then they give the proceeds to the charity you want."
If my market observational skills are at all accurate, we're nearing plateau on the next wave (Kiva, Change.org, Project Agape/Causes on FaceBook). If I'm right, we'll see a burst of new entries between now and December 31st (end of giving/tax season), some consolidation, some flameouts, some survivors, and we'll start 2008 with our attention focused on the next new platform that will change philanthropy as we know it.
Certainly President Clinton has done/is doing incredible things for philanthropy, not the least of which may be his intent to move the CGI to China next year (to catch some of that Olympic spirit, no doubt).
But putting NGOs on the web in searchable databases is old hat at this point. Lets put something out that is actually useful for donors and NGOs - like successful strategies, outcome indicators that matter; public policies that matter and ways to take action about them; clusters of community solutions; credible, transparent research and analysis on how to invest in change; easy-to-use tools for measuring action; easy-to-use tools for tracking and informing your giving; and/or ways to see your philanthropy and your investing practices and your political contributions all in one place (anyone out there at Mint or Democracy Alliance or the WJCF paying attention? - call me!)
Friday, September 21, 2007
If those in philanthropy care about job creation, education, health, children's rights, elderly involvement, civic engagement, environmental awareness, sustainable communities, economic development, or anything else that involves issues of equity and access to information then "Net Neutrality" matters. Take action here.
Shout out to GOOD Magazine for the photo.
Imagine you've moved to a new city. You need to figure out how to get around - should it be by bike, walking, public transit, car share, or do you really need to buy a car, pay for parking, insurance, and a garage? If you take this question to a car dealer, they will nudge you toward choosing between 2 door and 4 door model cars; they have no interest in selling you any of the other choices. They're not going to solve your transportation problem, they are going to solve your car problem.
Same thing applies for donors. Imagine you've got some money to give away. You've made small gifts direct to nonprofits in the past, but now its bigger than that. You need to figure out what you want to support, whether to use time and money, what to do about taxes, and how much giving away money will wind up costing you. If you go to your attorney, he or she is likely to "sell" you a private foundation, because, lo and behold, that's what attorneys sell. If you ask your investment adviser, they'll suggest whatever product option best allows their firm to continue managing your assets. Your favorite nonprofit, your alma mater, local community foundation, mutual fund company, bank - same thing - they'll help you choose among their products, but they may not solve your giving problem.
This is a key issue for philanthropic capital markets. Many donors know a lot about how they think change happens, what I call "change strategies." What they may not know is how those strategies are facilitated or hindered by certain giving vehicles.
In this conversation over at SSIR about advocacy a small comment shows how important this can be. In the discussion of foundations and advocacy, one person noted:
"Our founders (Steve and Michele Kirsch) created us as a supporting foundation of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation for the exact reason that they wanted us to be able to do policy work and lobbying."
Donors know how they think change happens - and should be asked about it - before they endow a foundation, fund a supporting organization, or purchase a donor advised fund. Because certain elements of those change strategies, such as lobbying, using endowment assets as part of the mission work, spending principal, engaging multiple generations, or being as anonymous as possible lend themselves better to some giving vehicles than others.
Those who buy these products (and, yes, all of the above options - foundations, donor advised funds, supporting organizations - are products) often don't get all the information they need to match their product choices to their "change strategies." Helping donors choose the right options - the ones that meet their values regarding change, costs, tax, and family benefits - is as important to rationalizing the philanthropic markets as is providing good advice about nonprofits to support.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Panelists included Peter Kinder, KLD Research & Analytics; Lisa Richter, GPS Capital Partners; Mike Miller, Colonial Consulting; and Brian Byrnes, Vermont Community Foundation.
The panel gave succinct and useful definitions of hotly contested terms such as socially responsible investing, mission related investing, and program related investing. The nuance is important, and there are different requirements for the types of returns needed from each of the above (for private foundations more than for community foundations). However, I still think the term "aligned investing" should become the industry standard for linking investing practices with organizational purpose.
The session focused on process and possibilities of using endowed funds to invest in communities and to advance missions. The potential of shareholder action was discussed and the backlash against not aligning investing policies with mission statements was noted. There were proposals floated from the session room for tracking the investment holdings of all 600+ American community foundations, for finding ways to collectively invest as a field, and for finding ways to better connect community foundations to the PRI Makers Network. All good ideas (some more controversial than others) - lets hope there is some follow up.
Immediately afterwards, I moderated a session on advocacy, civic engagement and community foundations that featured Barbara Masters of The California Endowment, Judith Bell of PolicyLink and Emmett Carson of Silicon Valley Community Foundation. (Same conference program omission).
Key point from this session - Community foundations cannot achieve their missions unless they get involved in policy and advocacy. As all three panelists put it, "do it."
So here's what it all boiled down to - foundations need to use what they have to do their work - policy, endowments, grants, reputations, expertise, networks. I hope Mel Brooks appreciates my reflection on the whole - "If you got, use it."
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
The most recent episode of the PBS Series NOW, Enterprising Ideas
took a look at some of the controversy in the microfinance world.
The episode looks specifically at the controversy surrounding a successful social entrepreneur in Mexico. Compartamos is a microfinance
company that once lent small sums of money to poor, indigenous Mexican
women to start businesses and is now a for-profit bank with more than
600,000 clients. Critics of Compartamos include Muhammad Yunus, who pioneered the microfinance approach to helping people out of poverty.
Harvard Business Review also features a look at Microfinance this month - and that look also offers a warning to "Beware of Bad Microcredit."
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - oft-criticized for its 3 person governance structure overseeing $30+ billion in assets - announced two Program Advisory panels today. One panel will advise the Foundation about its global development program and the other will provide insights on the Foundation's U.S. programs. A global health panel will be named in next few weeks. Members of the two panels include:
Global Development Program Advisory Panel
- Rajat Gupta (Chair), Chairman of the Board, India School of Business; former Managing Director, McKinsey & Company
- Amina J. Ibrahim, Senior Special Assistant to the President on the Millennium Development Goals, The Presidency,
- Kavita Nandini Ramdas, President and CEO, Global Fund for Women
- Lawrence H. Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor at Harvard University; former President, Harvard University; former Secretary, United States Treasury
- Ernesto Zedillo, Director,
for the Study of Globalization; former President of Mexico Yale Center
- Philip Zelikow, White Burkett Miller Professor of History,
; former Counselor, U.S. Department of State Universityof Virginia
· Ann Fudge (Chair), former Chairman and CEO, Young & Rubicam Brands
· Henry Cisneros, Chairman and CEO, CityView; former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
· Christopher Edley, Dean,
· Edward Glaeser, Professor of Economics in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences,
· Walter Massey, President Emeritus,
Monday, September 17, 2007
Monday, September 17, 2007 (SF Chronicle)
Foundations have role in keeping local journalism vibrant
As America wakes up to the crumbling of basic infrastructure, with
Minnesota's bridge collapse the most recent example, a more subtle but
also alarming breakdown is hitting our cities and towns. In community
after community, newspapers are shedding editorial staff at a rate that
spells trouble for a well-informed citizenry, a foundation of a free
Unlike the job of building and maintaining roads and bridges, however,
ensuring a vibrant press is a questionable role for government, when a key
role of journalism is to question power and hold it to account. Nor, as we
are seeing, can it be the sole responsibility of the private sector, not
when an eroding business model for community journalism leads private
owners to favor the bottom line above all other values.
As the nation's community foundations gather in San Francisco for their
annual meeting this week, I'd like to suggest that they put the survival
of quality local journalism squarely on their own agendas. They, perhaps
more than any other entities, could play a vital role in ensuring that
communities emerge from an inevitably messy media transition with the kind
of local information sources we all need.
The key word here is "transition." New media experiments are already
starting to fill some of the gaps, but not nearly at a rate that's likely
to replace what we're losing. By helping to encourage innovation and
sustainable business models - especially creating partnerships that
explain local problems and generate communitywide efforts to solve them -
foundations can apply great leverage at a critical moment.
Community foundations, in particular, are ideally suited for this role.
They pool resources from local donors. Many create what are called "donor
advised funds" through which donors exert active guidance on how the money
Why now? Because the collision of technology with media has disrupted the
journalism craft and business in every possible way. Journalists are
learning new ways of gathering information and telling stories. They are
also discovering that news should be more of a conversation than lecture,
as the people who once were an audience become producers of media, not
mere consumers. And, as noted, the business model for traditional
journalism is disintegrating, notably as advertisers discover far better
and cheaper ways to reach their own audiences online.
We have a national model for what community foundations could try. The
Miami-based John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has launched a 21st
Century News Challenge ( www.newschallenge.org), aiming to spend up to $25
million over five years on what it sees as "innovative ideas using digital
experiments to transform community news." Some of the projects are
potentially pathbreaking, though we won't know for some time if they're
sustainable. (Disclosure: Several projects in which I'm involved have
received Knight funding, and the foundation is a major supporter of the UC
Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, where I hold a part-time staff
But $25 million is a rounding error compared to what it will take
nationwide (and, in fact, around the world) to come through this
transition with a vibrant and diverse journalistic ecosystem that includes
local news. While much of the needed investment will come from investors,
foundations have the ability to support ideas that stem from motives other
than big profits, in addition to some that do.
What kind of journalism project might a community foundation or
donor-advised fund help? The possibilities are limited only by our
imagination - and there's no doubt at all that the best ideas would come
from the applicants. But here are just a few of dozens I could name
-- Provide seed funding for a network of local blogs and other community
sites combining a variety of media, adding journalism training for the
-- Pay the salary of an investigative journalist at a local newspaper. The
kind of investigative reporting that plays such an essential role -
requiring deep pockets and sometimes even courage - is losing favor in too
many newsrooms and executive suites.
-- Help get local and regional governmental data online in ways that
anyone, not just database specialists and professional journalists, can
easily use for a variety of purposes.
-- Fund local media-literacy education for this media-saturated age. This
would lead to far better understanding of how media work both for
consumers and producers, and could have the benefit of encouraging people
to look for, and then support, quality journalism.
Anyone reading this already cares enough about journalism, issues and
public life enough to have project ideas, too. But ideas are cheap.
Getting things done is not.
In a time when we have so many other problems, is it wise to argue for
this kind of foundation spending? Foundations and their donors will need
to answer that for themselves.
But if we are to have an informed, and engaged, society that understands
its problems, we need to recognize that thorough understanding is the
basis for any solution.
The emerging Digital Age will provide some of the tools communities need
to have informed, lively conversations about their futures. Excellent
journalism has to be part of that. As traditional journalism's business
model crumbles, we're already seeing major losses. Let's hope the
nonprofit sector sees the opportunity, and runs with it.
Dan Gillmor is director of the Center for Citizen Media (citmedia.org), a
project affiliated with the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and
the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University Law
Copyright 2007 SF Chronicle
View Bill Clinton: A Call to Action on FORA.tv
I'm thrilled to announce the launch of the Giving Channel.
With the help of friends (old and new) from foundations and media across the U.S. and Europe, Brian Gruber of Fora.tv and my colleagues from Blueprint Research & Design unveiled this new resource for individual donors, social entrepreneurs, foundation staff, and community leaders.
As the inaugural featured content for the Giving Channel, I’ve selected five videos that show the range of issues, strategies, and interests that make up philanthropy in our day and age. Hear President Bill Clinton describe the relationship between philanthropy, capital markets, and public service. A panel discussion on voluntarism reminds us that giving time is as important as giving money. Conversations about social entrepreneurs and corporate social responsibility demonstrate the many ways that individuals and enterprises contribute to community. A discussion of water issues around the globe puts philanthropy into an important larger context – that of the problems it is trying to solve. And, finally, Arthur Brooks' book, Who Really Cares? presents some important and controversial research about giving in America and reminds us that everything is political. Let me know what you think, email@example.com. You can join the discussion on the channel as well.
Next we’ll get ready for election month with videos that consider giving and philanthropy in political contexts, as well as highlight videos from recent foundation conferences. After that look for features on Philanthropy, Wealth, Race, and Gender; and Giving in a Global World. Suggest content for these ideas, as well as other features you’d like to see by emailing me, firstname.lastname@example.org
View Blending the Private and Social Sectors on FORA.tv
Friday, September 14, 2007
This Sunday (September 16) we will launch Fora's giving channel - so bookmark the site now.
The analysis is primarily about how nonprofits use the web to raise funds, get the word out about what they do, or streamline their operations. On the other hand, the successes that are highlighted, such as Kiva, fundamentally rely on web technology - without it they wouldn't exist.
This latter category is more interesting to me. By taking an existing concept - microlending - and re-creating it on a web platform, Kiva changed the very nature of the microfinance market - in terms of who participates, how they participate, and how quickly the new structure can scale.
As they say, a picture is worth a lot of words - 11 million in this case. The graph shows Kiva's growth since founding in 2005 - it has made more than $11 million in microloans. The money comes from more than 100,00 lenders and has been packaged into about 17,000 loans. The payback rate is greater than 99%. Learn more at kivapedia.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
What do high mountains, Southern California surfers, Paul Wittgenstein, Cyrano de Bergerac, and Travis Bickle all have in common?
Each of the above is a clue to the 2007 recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors - possibly the nation's most prestigious award in the performing arts. The clues match to the following recipients - in order - Diana Ross, Brian Wilson, Leon Fleisher, Steve Martin, and Martin Scorsese.
The awards will be presented on December 2, and broadcast on CBS on December 26, 2007. If you're hip to the nepotistic nature of this post, you'll understand my eager anticipation for this year's award ceremony.
This time of year I also tend to get rather introspective. Tonight is the start of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year). September marks the start of school. Its also the month that marks anniversaries of national revolutions, military coups, and terrorism (Spanish, Libyan, Thai, Chilean, Argentinian, American) - anniversaries which inevitably make me think of lives cut short, before those living them could do all they had hoped or dreamed of doing.
Since I traffic in philanthropy - a values-based industry - I take time at this point in the year to ask myself, Am I doing all I can about the things I care about? Am I doing the things I do best? Am I doing what I want to be doing? What more can I do?
I hope your answers are satisfying to you.
L' Shana Tova (for a good year)
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
What is a B Corporation? It is a new designation for commercial enterprises that actively seek to produce social and environmental benefits along with profits. While not yet part of corporate law, the B Corporation founders aim to first build a movement of companies that meet certain standards, and then change the law to recognize these entities.
Why is it so important? Everyone who has ever worked in, volunteered for, or donated a nonprofit organization knows how hard it is for these entities to raise the money they need to do their work. By creating a new type of corporate designation, organizations that focus on social, environmental goods will gain access to new kinds of capital. Once there are a few successes, the capital markets will shift accordingly. New types of financial products, new access to capital for public benefit organizations, and, eventually, perhaps, a new norm for fiduciary responsibility.
No, we're not there yet. But the B Corp is a big step forward. Mix it up with changes in accounting practices, new efforts to account for intangible assets, new metrics for business that include a Social Return on Investment, and new investment indices being created and the world could look quite different in a decade or so. It is entirely possible that the standard definitions we now hold as written in stone - nonprofit, commercial enterprise, capital markets, investments, and return - will all have widely accepted new meaning in 2020.
This is a good thing. We also need to ensure that as public citizens we all act on our responsibilities for providing public benefits. That we - as communities and societies - realize how shifts in one sector influence shifts in others. And that we remember some basic truths:
- As citizens in democracies, we hold responsibility for ourselves and others;
- There are some human rights and needs that need protection, advocacy, and support especially when they are least popular or unsupported by either majority opinion, autocratic leadership, or free markets;
- Changing markets and market forces is a part of solving social problems, but not the answer in and of itself, other sectors (public and independent) must also play new roles, and, finally,
- The problems of our society are not the result of action in any single sector, be it business, public sector, or the independent sector. No single sector created any of the challenges we face, no single sector will solve them.
Our discussion is relevant to the possibilities of the B Corp and other changes mentioned above. Surely, if they disconnect themselves from the underlying values, corporate structure or regulations about fiduciary responsibility will be window dressing, not real change. At the same time, the changes represented by the B Corp, etc. are themselves expressions of values operating in the form of firms, laws, corporate code, and board responsibilities. This is the greatness of what is going on - there are efforts out there, such as B Corp, that are challenging the industry at the level of its essential code - They are essentially saying that the existing rules don't match the values we bring to work and public good.
So, why do I think the B Corp is a big deal? Its value based. Its structural. It inherently challenges our rigid definitions of public, private, and independent. Its systemic in its thinking, grassroots in its organization, movement-centric in its ideology, and accessible to enterprises of all sizes, shapes, and purpose.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Invite you to the 1st B Corporation "Party With A Purpose".
Learn how your peers and leaders in the movement are
setting a new corporate standard in social and environmental performance.
It will be short, sweet, and meaningful.
Together, we can be the change we seek.
The Founding B Corporations include:
Raphael Bemporad / Mitch Baranowski - BBMG
Lucy Bernholz - Blueprint Research and Design
Jason Salfi / Don Shaffer - Comet Skateboards
Mike Hannigan / Sean Marx - Give Something Back
Tim Freundlich / Kevin Jones/Joy Anderson - Good Capital
Scott Leonard / Sean Holt / Matt Reynolds - Indigenous Designs
Mal Warwick - Mal Warwick & Assoc.
Adam Lowry - Method
Jeff Mendelsohn - New Leaf Paper
Sunday, September 09, 2007
I suppose you know something has gone totally mainstream when its portrayed in Doonesbury. Sunday, September 9 the strip ran a bit on philanthropy and fundraising in Second Life. (if the strip doesn't come up on this link, scroll to 9/9/07)
I guess its time to look for the next new thing.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
The Economist launches a new lifestyle quarterly magazine, with a heavy focus on giving, Intelligent Life. It is on newsstands in the UK now.
The comments are especially worth reading. Here's a sampling of ideas they raise:
- From an employment self-interest standpoint, disease charities have no incentive to actually cure the diseases they support;
- Prizes should be considered against other options for innovation - e.g. state support, corporate R & D, patent offices, Creative Commons, etc.;
- Various ways to use prizes in education;
- The costs and potential returns of prizes