Monday, September 24, 2007

Watch out - Here comes ClintonBookBay

According to the Financial Times, President Clinton is looking forward to Wedneday and the new webcasting complement to the 2007 Clinton Global Initiative meeting. This year the initiative will host not only a webcast but a new site with global NGO listings.

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:

"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."
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.

If my market observational skills are at all accurate, we're nearing plateau on the next wave (Kiva,, 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!)

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