Tuesday, December 30, 2008

MoveOn takes on Madoff

MoveOn.org has joined forces with The Open Society Institute and Atlantic Philanthropies to raise funds for several organizations that were ripped off by Bernard Madoff. Here is the full text of the MoveOn letter announcing this effort, MoveOn's website is here:

"Dear MoveOn member,
You've probably heard about how Wall Street financier Bernard Madoff scammed investors out of at least $50 billion.

But you may not have heard that his victims included the foundations that support some really important progressive organizations. Groups that fight for human rights, fair elections and racial justice are getting hit hard—just in time for the holidays. We've worked side-by-side with many of them.

If these groups can't replace the funding that came from investment accounts that Madoff stole, they may be forced to start cutting important projects or, in some cases, even lay off staff.

Can you pitch in $25 or $50 for each of the four organizations we're highlighting below? Our friends at Atlantic Philanthropies and the Open Society Institute will each match every dollar that comes in until January 1! So, for the next three days, your donation of $25 or $50 means $75 or $150 for groups affected by Madoff. If a few thousand of us give together, it can make an enormous difference—and help repair some of the damage Madoff has done. Click here to contribute:


Your end-of-the-year gift will be tax-deductible as if you had made the gift directly to the designated charities; we will forward 100% of your contribution to the organizations you select.

Many organizations have been hit by this crisis. We're highlighting the four that MoveOn has worked closely with over the last few years. Here's a bit about each of the groups:

The Brennan Center for Justice is a nonpartisan institute that focuses on fundamental issues of democracy and justice. Their work ranges from voting rights to redistricting reform to checking presidential power in the fight against terrorism. MoveOn has worked with the Brennan Center closely in the fight for fair elections. Chip in to help them out here.

Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, they give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Its rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. MoveOn has worked with Human Rights Watch on campaigns to preserve the constitution and protect human rights in America and abroad. Chip in to help them out here.

Advancement Project is a policy, communications and legal action group committed to racial justice founded by a team of veteran civil rights lawyers in 1998. They have pursued critical litigation to protect voters and also support grassroots movements for universal opportunity and just democracy in the areas of education and immigrants' rights. MoveOn has worked with Advancement Project to stop vote suppression, especially among minority folks. Chip in to help them out here.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a nonprofit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. MoveOn has worked with CCR to hold President Bush accountable for his unconstitutional acts, from illegal wiretaps to Guantanamo. Chip in to help them out here.

2008 has been an extraordinary year. Together, MoveOn's 5 million members have done so much—and we have a new president and new hope to show for it. But we wouldn't be where we are as a country without a strong movement of interconnected progressive organizations. Let's come together one last time to keep that movement going strong.

Thanks for all you do.
–Eli, Carrie, Ilyse and the entire MoveOn.org Civic Action team"

I also want to draw your attention again to TheyNeedUsNow. The creator of the site is a volunteer, and his comment on this post is a response to some of the discussion about the site that has emerged since I first noted it in the post. Please read it.

I thank him for identifying himself even more explicitly and I continue to applaud his efforts. I also apologize for not being able to identify him myself. I had noted his name on the bottom of the site pages (as he reminds us in his comments) and with a colleague was trying to connect to him through LinkedIn. My own misunderstanding led me to believe he was the webmaster and not necessarily the content creator, something I had hoped to clarify if I had been able to connect with him. He answers those questions and more in his comments.

I applaud these efforts (MoveOn, TNUN, Atlantic, OSI and the Jewish funders and networks that have come together) at supporting nonprofits who were ripped off by Madoff. Here's how I put it earlier:
"If this is the case, then accusing these nonprofits of bad financial management strikes me as holding the person who gets e. coli accountable for the bad sanitation practices of the farmer who grew the tomato on the sick person's sandwich. The farmer may have screwed up, along with the food safety system, distributors and perhaps even the sandwich shop, but the person who got sick did nothing wrong except eat a bad tomato. To hold nonprofits accountable because one of their funders lost money through their investment decisions seems a little farfetched to me."
Yes, there were crooks in our midst - and new laws and regulations may make sense, as would enforcing those that exist and doing the due diligence we all talk about so much. But perhaps we should also think about the differences between what is criminal, what is stupid, and what is bad luck - I tend to think these are questions for each of us as well as philosophers, ministers and rabbis, not just for regulators. I also think Madoff is just one exposed charlatan, with many others also laid bare in recent months and, sadly, more to come. There is plenty of time and room for finger-pointing. I prefer to note and stand with those who are trying to take positive action.

ADDITION: I just found this article from Fortune, about how the redemption patterns of foundation investors may have unintentionally helped Madoff keep his scheme going for longer than "normal" Ponzi schemes. This is only one of many questions being asked about investors' practices and how they played into this whole debacle. See comments here for some others.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Fifty great campaigns/websites/resources mixing technology and giving


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

They Need us Now

TheyNeedUsNow is a somewhat* rapid response to the trail of tears left in the wake of the great Madoff Ripoff. Hats off to the folks who pulled this together - whom I can't identify from a quick scan of the site (unsolicited RECOMMENDATION to the site builders: Fix this and identify yourselves so users won't worry about who you are).

Because it is a list of links to websites and paypal donate buttons, I don't think you can get ripped off using this site (Unless of course it is stealing your login info....oy vey). The site also includes a running list of stories on the Madoff case, you can find more information on ripped-off entities here, and my twitter feed contains a lot of news as it happened.

It is a great idea, I hope it is legit. It was also put together fast - the Madoff scandal only came to light @ 10 days ago. Of course, two books on the debacle have already been commissioned so "rapid*" is in the eyes of the beholder.

The price of data

[Photo: Edinburgh University Data Library]

I really was planning on taking a blogging break, but the philanthropy news (scandals) just keeps-a-comin'.

Long time readers know that the role, value, access to, and use of data in philanthropy and public problem solving are some of my key interests. It's a major theme in my last book, an organizing principle for a wiki I plan to launch in 2009, the core of a coming book. I just did a little search and found that "data" and "knowledge" are two of the most used tags on this blog.

And now, there is a price tag I can hang on data. Or at least the data held by one foundation. The price tag? $38 million. That's a pretty hefty sum in and of itself. It is even more impressive in light of this particular foundation's 2007 990 report which shows $16 million in assets.

How do I know how much these data are worth? Because Pfizer was just ordered by a court to pay $38 millions for stealing the foundation's data.

What happened? According to news reports, the Ischemia Research and Education Foundation and Pfizer were engaged in protracted negotiations to develop a data sharing agreement. These negotiations fell apart. Apparently, Pfizer instead entered into an agreement with a foundation staff person to get access to the Foundation's clinical trial database. The company claims its actions were legal, and it's just stuck between an employee and his former employer. The Santa Clara County Court didn't agree, and fined Pfizer $38 million for stealing trade secrets.

There you have it. I've been saying it for years, data matter. And they are very, very valuable.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Just what we didn't need...less trust

MTV has admitted to using Knight Foundation grant dollars to NOT pay the freelancers that it hired to do the work of its Street Team 08. Details are here and here, initial discussion from the freelancers is here and here. After some public tale-telling (just what you might expect from reporters, eh?), it appears that MTV will pay its bills on the grant.

Only sources I could find on this are various blogs that are linked in above paragraph; I found nothing noted about the whole issue on either MTV or Knight Foundation sites.

The drumbeat of bad news regarding trust, transparency, and accountability of institutions - commercial, public or philanthropic - seems to be getting louder and louder.

HT to @jefftrexler and uncivil society.

Government and giving

I was going to title this post, "Michelle and me." You see, I (and 10 million+ others or so) just got an email from Michelle Obama asking me to give to charity this holiday season. Here's my personal email from Mrs. Obama:
"Lucy --

This holiday season, the grassroots movement you helped build can make a big difference for those in need.

I hope you will join me in supporting your favorite charity or contributing to causes that are especially meaningful to me and my family.

While many of us will spend the holidays counting our blessings and sharing dinner with loved ones, millions of people around the country won't be so fortunate. Donating to your local food bank will help provide a holiday meal to people in your community who can't afford one.

Talking with the families of deployed troops was one of the most rewarding experiences I had during the campaign. Giving to Operation USO Care Package is a great way to send members of our military stationed around the world a reminder that someone back home is thinking of them.

This is a time to celebrate our blessings, the new year, and a new era for our country. But it's also a time to come together on behalf of those who need our help.

Do what you can to help today by locating your local food bank and giving your support:


Or send a care package to an American in uniform:


Thank you for all that you do and have a very happy holiday season,

So, this is all well and good. I'm proud to participate and every fundraiser knows how important the "ask" is.

However, let me also point out the obvious. I'm on this particular email list because I voted for (and donated to) change. Two changes in particular that I'd like to see:
  1. Food policy, jobs, and a safety net that minimize the demand on food banks, and
  2. Fewer troops overseas in need of care packages.
So, yes, I give, but my gifts won't bring about either item 1 or 2 above. Those will only come from policy change. I've been giving as much money and time as I can. And I vote, and I'm watching, and I'll keep voting and keep watching and keep giving and keep working. Because its not all going to come from individuals, nonprofits or donors, and its not all going to come from government, and its not all going to come from the private sector. It's all got to come by all of that coming together.

And so I hope that all of us, as we give, consider how those gifts sit in light of our own understanding of where philanthropy meets policy, where government meets giving, and where private commerce fits in to all of it. Where we see those things now and where we want them to be - for they are shifting, or, dare I say, changing.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Commons, not markets

The title of this post "commons, not markets" hints at a much larger theme I'm working on. In that vein, however, here is an interesting site and presentation on a "social venture commons" that I found through twitter (#igniter). Note the presentation refers to micro-funds.

Reminds me of my "Let's pitch Hollywood" and "Giving Commons" posts. And the SVC seems to be real(ish).

Friday, December 19, 2008

Who will answer the call?

Ah, yes. Two words - philanthropy and transparency - that go together quite frequently in "insider baseball" discussions among foundations and nonprofits.

Unfortunately, the general public is standing outside the ballpark on this one. Two major public events on this issue - the release of the list of donors to the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative and inquiries into new-Senate wannabe Caroline Kennedy and the Fund for Public Schools - will raise these questions in a way and for a public that's been having a very different conversation these past few months.

Of course, these public revelations - most shocking perhaps only in that they needed to be made public (i.e., weren't already public) - are coming on the heels of the Madoff Ripoff, an SEC that essentially admits to being asleep at the switch, and a financial services bailout in which it remains unclear which is the fox and which is the henhouse. In other words, philanthropy is being asked to explain itself at a time when the average American (if such a thing exists) is pretty tired of listening to bankers, mortgage brokers, government watchdogs, elected officials, auto companies and even former Presidents and the heir to Kennedy icon status explain themselves. That "average American" appears to be even more fed up with bailing out or being left with the costs of these institutional explanations.

All this leaves me to ask what I believe is a rhetorical question "Will the calls for new regulatory oversight of financial services lead to calls for new oversight of philanthropy?"

And, when that oversight gets called for, who will come forward with proposals and policy ideas that represent the best thinking from the field?

Who will lead a discussion informed by all that has been learned by those "inside baseball players" and the tools, benchmarks, practices, ethical statements and on-the-ground wisdom that those in the industry have been developing?

Who will lead this discussion from a place of true commitment to public transparency and a knowledgeable regard for what works and is feasible so that new regulations might spur better practice rather than be heavy handed slap backs?

Who will inform these negotiations with real knowledge of online giving markets, micro-philanthropy, volunteerism, small donations, community organizing, flash causes, twitter-enabled giving, social actions, networks enterprises, diverse cultures of giving, hybrid business models, social capital markets, and institutional philanthropy? (Oh, and it would be nice if they also understood industry incentives, policy making, regulation writing, and enforcement)

Who is planning for this now, when we can see it coming, rather than panicking to a defensive place when the call comes from Capitol Hill or the IRS or the White House or the State House or the SEC or a new Fund for Social Innovation or community service overseers?

I hope someone is.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mapping medical donations

Hey - check this out - global map of medical donations

Made possible by the Partnership for Quality Medical Donations www.pqmd.org - "...an alliance of pharmaceutical, health product companies and humanitarian organizations that donate billions of dollars in medical products each year to help people in developing countries."

HT Sean Stannard Stockton

Buzzword 2008.10 - Philanthrocapitalism

And the final buzzword for 2008....Philanthrocapitalism. It definitely goes to prove that buzzwords created by professional journalists will get a LOT of play. A Google search on the terms brings up 41,000 hits. The book has been reviewed everywhere, debated everywhere, and discussed everywhere. Even though, from an elegance stand point, this phrase has to be one of the worst word mashups ever, this is a term with serious buzz.

So here is the whole 2008 list. Enjoy...

10) Philanthrocapitalism
9) Social Capital
8) NextGen
7) Charitable Gift Cards
6) Good gifting
5) Micro - (endowment, philanthropy, finance, franchise, consignment)
4) Design,
3) Outsourced Program Advising,
2) Labs,
1) Mobile Giving,

And now, as a special bonus prize, here are some more top ten lists and buzzword games to get you through till January.

Buzzword bingo

And some other top ten lists:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What would you ask? (WWYA)

Nathaniel Whittemore has a nice discussion going on over at change.org - "What is the one thing you need to know before giving to charity this year?" The posts are all interesting, and comments are also helpful - here are some paraphrased excerpts - read the post/comments for the full discussion:

GoodGifting gets its own website

GoodGifting was buzzword number 6 this year. ChristmasFuture essentially puts the idea into action. Another rapid development example of buzzwords mashing into being.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Data matter

Data matter. So says Paul Brest, President of the Hewlett Foundation. Given my earlier posts on data, and the list of ideas that several groups have endorsed as ways to improve philanthropy, this paragraph from Brest's letter jumped out at me:
"In other development work, the Hewlett and Gates Foundations are collaborating to promote transparency by international donors. A new project encourages multilateral, national, and philanthropic donors—from the World Bank to China and the United States to the Hewlett Foundation—to post data about their grants to an online database. Though much of this information is published, each donor has its own format—sometimes fairly obscure—and it is difficult to track the resource flows into a particular country. The new system will organize the information to provide policymakers and nonprofit organizations timely and comprehensive access. Eventually, we hope this platform will encourage better use of data in donor decisions and recipient requests—which will enable countries to take greater ownership of their economic development processes. Only with knowledge of the money they have and sound predictions of the money they will receive in the future can governments design and implement long-term strategies for growth."
I would add to the last two sentences the hope that these data would also assist donors and nonprofits to better design and implement strategies.

It is a Buzzword Mashup

Predictions markets + mobile giving + charity gift cards = predicto + charity choice

You can't make up this stuff. (I know because I try).

Perhaps in 2009 I'll start a new list of real-live efforts that represent buzzwords mashed together.

No, I didn't "predict" the Madoff Ripoff

I assume no one takes me seriously when I claim to predict the future. I mean, c'mon, if I could predict the future don't you think I'd be doing something else besides working all the time and writing this blog?

I call my "predictions" predictions to be provocative. They're really just informed, intended-to-be realistic remixes of patterns I notice in what is going on now, things I hear are in development, trends that have some legs, and some reflections on what similar combinations have resulted in in the past. One source of data for such "predictions" is the list of ideas posted here and in the comments.

That said, as I watch the heartbreakingly sad (and infuriating) demise of several foundations and major charitable budgets in the wake of the great Madoff Ripoff, I'm kicking myself for not having predicted something like this. Surely, rising economies hide all kinds of scandals which only get exposed as the tide inevitably pulls out. I've taken a fair bit of heat for writing that logic dictates that charitable giving will drop in the wake of our economic woes - I'm only feeling more certain that I'm right. And hoping that more shoes like this don't drop in the coming months.

That said, here is a nice collection of 2009 predictions - great job, @kanter. And check out the new Craigslist for Service efforts. (Audio from Forum program will be here later today).

Monday, December 15, 2008

Big (?) Ideas

Several groups from several sectors have met in the last month+ to discuss ways to improve philanthropy and social investing on a global scale. In no particular order, and with no authority other than my own, here are some of the ideas I know of that are being discussed:*
  • New global information architecture for sharing and tracking data on revenue and capital for public benefit enterprise;
  • Ways to expand and connect existing social investment exchanges to work globally;
  • Social sector leadership in catalyzing new ethics for global finance;
  • Support for existing and emergent global networks on food, water, and climate change;
  • Creation of new kinds of deal brokers for social investing (private money for public good);
  • Creation of new intermediary organizations that can raise significant new capital for public good efforts;
  • Connecting sector analysts and ratings organizations from different nations to compare methodologies and ...
  • Cataloguing national legal and regulatory structures for giving, social investing, and community social organization, and a possible inquiry into developing new, global, enabling environments that would expand the resources available for and the reach of civil society;
  • Better metrics for social returns and financial returns that account for the full social impact of the enterprise;
  • Better manage and disseminate knowledge (who are the players? what approachesare working? what is needed?);
  • Offer technical assistance and skills training;
  • Identify and aggregate the best “deals”, connecting those investment opportunities with the most appropriate investors and capital providers;
  • Greater attention to the opinions and feedback from the intended beneficiaries of social investments and philanthropic gifts;
  • Advocate for increased spending from existing philanthropic endowments;
  • Advocacy for better understanding of and easier mechanisms for the expansion of "investment capital" (equity and debt) for nonprofit and social enterprises;
What do you think of these ideas? Are they on the right track? What is missing? What would you suggest to improve giving, philanthropy, social investing, and private/public support and investment in public benefit organizations?

*I participated directly in many of these discussions, and have read reports from and talked with participants in others. I am solely responsible for having assembled this list. This list does not infer or imply or require that any of these ideas will be pursued by any of the gatherings or players at those meetings that generated items on the list. Appearing on the list simply means the idea was discussed, and may or may not reflect my support for the idea.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Buzzword 2008.9 - Social Enterprise

This next entry on the buzzword 2008 list - social enterprise - is a perfect example of the 20 year+ buildup that some buzz requires. The concepts and realities of social enterprise have been around for a long time (Bill Drayton founded ASHOKA in 1980). In 2008 the blending of discussions about social enterprise with discussions of philanthropy seemed to reach a saturation point - people are long past willing to sit through the "What is the definition?" discussions anymore.

Social enterprise is also really a package of buzz - social innovation, social finance, social entrepreneur and social capital. Now the important thing to understand about this Social Capital is it is NOT the social capital that Robert Putnam and others write about. It is the emerging, catch-all term for "private financial resources available to fund public good." It has kin in social finance, patient capital and philanthropic capital.*

Some of what we call social capital comes from philanthropic sources, some comes in the form of investment dollars. It can be packaged as grants, program or mission related investments, low-income loans, convertible loans, and a variety of other forms of debt and equity. It is discussed by folks at Investors Circle, RSF, GoodCapital, Uhuru Capital, and elsewhere. It is the basis of discussion of social investing, social capital markets, social capital indices and social stock exchanges. It was celebrated in its first conference this year.

Some social capital demands social return in exchange for financial returns, more and more we are hearing from investors who demand market rate financial returns PLUS social returns. It is a dense, dispersed, dynamic, and diverse term - and it is all the buzz. Look for much much more discussion of it in 2009.

Why did social enterprise (and its related terms) crack the buzz list this year? Social enterprise is now standard fare at business schools everywhere - and, given the collapse of investment banking - those business schools are going to be overrun in 2009, positioning the concept just on the threshold of universal business jargon. Social enterprise and its related package of terms are real now - there are strong examples in every part of the world, marketing efforts such as those funded by the Skoll and Omidyar Foundations have reached critical mass, TV shows are dedicated to social enterprise, and President-Elect Obama is promising new government agencies and financial support for social enterprise and innovation. Kiva enables almost anyone to become a social investor in a social enterprise.

I have to say, I feel a bit like David Pogue in calling Social Enterprise a buzzword. How so? read this article by David about what happens when you criticize a product that has a loyal fan base. So before all you social entrepreneurs attack me for demeaning your term, please let me clarify - being a buzzword is not inherently a good or bad thing. It has to do with how recognizable the phrase or actions or concepts are. Here's what it means to be a buzzword.

*I used the term philanthropic capital in my 2004 book precisely to avoid confusion with the social capital that is discussed, measured, written about and lies at the heart of community connectedness studies and experts such as Putnam. I seem to have lost the jargon battle here, though I still think these two distinct but related meanings for social capital cause confusion.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Thoughts on philanthropy

If you got together with other smart people to discuss how to "optimize institutional philanthropy" you would have a lot to talk about. It would help to identify some of what needs to be made better. Here's a rather elegant and brilliant summary from a colleague, Tamzin Ractliffe, about many (most? all?) grantmaking organizations:
  • They don't respond quickly enough;
  • They don't act fast enough;
  • They don't stick with anything long enough; and
  • They don't fund the work enough
Well said.

Why not a "Giving Commons?"

Both videos are by Jesse Dylan, who made the Will.i.am "Yes we can" video. These are from the blogs of Creative Commons and Larry Lessig.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

(Almost) real time grant data

My hat is off to the Foundation Center!*

- check out these maps of foundation giving and program related investments in response to recession - it isn't a $700 billion bailout, but there is activity to note, and the Foundation Center maps make it easy and useful! This is a big hurrah from me, about one of my longest standing complaints - philanthropy needs better data, better access to it, better use of it, better sharing of it...So these tools are a great addition to the industry - Jump in, check out the maps, make them better, http://maps.foundationcenter.org/economic_crisis/RecipTypeUS.php.

And - look - an RSS Feed too!

So the data are not really real-time (but that is a down-stream problem - foundations have to send their data to the Foundation Center first) but they are getting closer....I'm writing this on Dec 12 and a random click on grants within the maps found several from 2 weeks ago....way better than 2 years ago...And foundations can now feed data to Foundation Center electronically and Foundation Center feeds it to you...

Tags: , ,

This is a big deal, I'm writing this from Austria where taking your hat off is akin to freezing to death.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More social innovation, this time Jewish

Over on Huffington Post there is a great post about innovation in times of recession. It focuses on opportunities for social innovation in the Jewish community, but only a little of what it has to offer are specific to that community. Here are the authors' three identified opportunities:

"First, we have to stop funding projects simply because they've been funded before. ... There's probably a cash-starved startup that has figured out a way to do the same thing faster, cheaper, and with greater success.

Second, while we identify what doesn't work, let's take advantage of what does. This means a paradigm shift in the nonprofit economy: applying the latest technology and best practices to everything from operations and human resources to program delivery and communication. ... it means taking advantage of already existing social networks to scale up and out, instead of relying on formal inter-organizational alliances that may not have kept up with current needs. In the Jewish community, it means changing our measure of success from being Jewish to doing Jewish, from being righteous to doing justice.

Third, we have to reorient philanthropy -- especially Jewish community philanthropy -- to incorporate a steady commitment to future thinking and R&D. ....

In short, the recession presents an unparalleled opportunity to cast a critical eye on all of our current practices."

Now, some of these are clearly controversial. While funding something just because you've funded it before may not be the best approach, NOT funding something just because you've funded it before is DEFINITELY not the answer. This part of the article may be specific to organized Jewish philanthropy in the U.S. - which has long been dominated by federated and community foundations and is actively struggling with alternative forms of giving. The discussion/debate about community giving institutions and other giving structures is not unique to Jews, but it is a large concern within the community.* In another opinion piece on the same topic other authers offered these three suggestions on how to address the problem:
"First: In the next three years, Jewish foundations and significant individual Jewish funders should act as modern governments do in times of significant contraction — increase their expenditures, with the intention of returning to normal levels of giving when the economy grows again. ...Once the economy shows signs of renewed growth, foundations can reduce their proportion of funding and return to encouraging non-profits to diversify their funding sources and to reach out to new donors.

Secondly, foundations, federations and funders should provide additional support to young, fast-growing organizations. No single organization in this cohort is doing anything that we couldn’t live without. But together, they are remaking the Jewish world. ...

Similarly, there is an urgent need for significant Jewish funders to create new funding mechanisms to ensure funding for the “innovation sector” over the next two to three years. Otherwise, that sector will risk facing irreparable damage. ...

Our third argument is addressed to the nonprofits themselves. Asking funders to step up in extraordinary ways obligates the recipients to take extraordinary measures to be as efficient and effective as they can possibly be. If the young non-profits were private sector companies, we’d see a wave of consolidation in this young and fragmented market sector. The economic situation provides an opportunity for truly innovative organizations to maximize impact while minimizing costs. Young nonprofits need to collaborate more effectively, openly and generously. They need to share space, knowledge, software, hardware, people, and even markets. And where there are opportunities for mergers, they need to pursue them."
What is the answer? I think we'll find it by realizing we need to look at services, outcomes, and those served - and not just at the organizations we know. And if you are interested in serving underserved or unserved groups, or groups that have not been served well, I think it behooves you to consider what and how and why that group has not been well served and then decide how, and with whom, to address those needs. It is thinking like this, as well as efforts such as everywun, good2gether, ammado, and socialactions that have led to me to cast a watchful eye on the role of "actions" as much as "organizations."

The HuffPo authors are primarily concerned that tight economic times will drive more dollars to big established organizations and away from scrappy grassroots organizations. This seems to be the same recognition that is driving predictions of declining numbers of nonprofits (see Paul Light's predictions and others). But I think any decline in numbers will be paralleled by increases in social enterprises - either separate from or within nonprofits.

*And no, I don't think there is anything like a single Jewish community, in the U.S. or anywhere else. Full Disclosure: I serve on the board of UpStart, an organization that supports Jewish social startups. Through that relationship I have spoken with the JumpStart leadership.

Buzzword de-listing!

Hot on the heels of the Marketplace review of buzzwords (listen here) we've had our first ever buzzword de-listing! Thanks to the folks in Jewish philanthropy, we saw NextGen move into mainstream philanthropy and take the number 8 2008 buzzword spot. No sooner did it make the move did I learn that the Jews have de-listed NextGen and moved on to NowGen (read comments to post)!

I love this - both for its content (its not about them, they are us) and for its buzz-i-ness. Thanks to Dan at eJewishPhilanthropy for keeping me in the know (and the now).

Marketplace interview:

60th Anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

December 10 is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Celebrate it here with AfroPop.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Buzzword 2008.8 - Next Gen

Here is buzzword number 8 for 2008....NextGen - the hip short hand for next generation. Unlike software, when used in philanthropy and nonprofits NextGen really refers to people - the next generation of leaders.

This buzzword has its detractors - read this fabulous post about the need to focus on ThisGen, not nextgen.

Next gen got its mainstream philanthropy kickoff in April, at the Council on Foundations conference. The 2008 conference was the first time this mainstay event paid more than lip service to the abilities and promise of younger leaders. The sector got some good research this year on both the promise and needs of next gen leaders. BridgeStar, a leadership effort for the nonprofit space, also began to get some traction, as did JustMeans.

Nextgen is a great buzzword because it comes with its own built-in "end date" - we'll know the nextgen focus is real (andnot just buzz) when use of the term is either passe or has shifted to thisgen.

Here's the rest of the list

8) NextGen
7) Charitable Gift Cards
6) Good Gifting
5) Micro -,
4) Design,
3) Outsourced Program Advising,
2) Labs,
1) Mobile Giving

Monday, December 08, 2008

Charitable Gift Cards - Buzzword #7 - on Marketplace

Marketplace ran the first in its series on philanthropy on Friday - focusing on charitable gift cards (which regular readers will remember came in at number 7 on this year's buzzword list). Here's the story and here's the buzzword list. The story also refers to the phenomenon I've buzzed as "good gifting" - giving charitable gifts instead of "stuff."

Today's (Monday's) segment looks at Muslim charities and the reviewing agencies (such as WiseGiving of BBB) that help donors and organizations document that good work is being done for the dollars.

The segment I taped on Marketplace should play Tuesday December 9 - so tune in to your local public radio station and let me know what you think.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Let's pitch Hollywood


"Craigslist + Kiva = ?"


"Twitter + United Way = ?"


"My.Barack.Obama + VolunteerMatch + WorldBank = ?"

Now it's your turn. We can play on Twitter. I say "Salesforce" and you say "..." Or I say "vaccines" and you say "..."

Friday, December 05, 2008

Necessity is the mother of social innovation

Reposted (with edits and additions) from SSIR

Ah, December. The anticipation of snow, unless you’re already several feet under. The warmth of a fire, unless you live in the south. The excitement of winter holidays, unless you’re a grouch. Don’t forget the thrill of reviewing the year gone by and the accuracy of previous prognostications, while also prepping for the foolhardiness of sticking your neck out yet again and claiming trends, key changes, and buzzwords for the year to come. Ah, December.

Last year at this time I made several rather rash predictions. Briefly, they were:
1. One of the many philanthropic prizes launched in 2007 will succeed in motivating the solution it seeks;
2. At least one-third, and maybe as many as one-half of the world’s top ten largest gifts in 2008 will be made by non-Americans to non-American institutions;
3. The lines between political giving, embedded giving, and giving will continue to blur;
4. Half of the glossy magazines dedicated to giving that launched in 2006 or 2007 will fold in 2008; and
5. Nothing significant will happen to the regulatory structure that shapes philanthropy in 2008.

My full accounting of these predictions can be found here in this article, “Back to the Future” written for Alliance Magazine. You can find additional discussion of it here and here.

In brief, I was right on numbers 3 and 4, wrong on number 1, and we don’t have the data yet to assess number 2. Number 5 was so poorly worded (my fault) that I can claim to be correct simply by being selective about which regulatory frames I meant. Apologies – I’ll do better next time. In that same post I also identified six trends or events that would matter to philanthropy in 2008 – they were:
1.The economy.
2. Health care finance will start down the same slope as subprime mortgages.
3. Metrics
4. Markets
5. Bill Gates will go full time.
6. Race and age will matter
It is pretty clear in December 2008 that the economy and health care finance have profoundly shaped the direction of philanthropy in the last year – to say nothing of their effect on the U.S. Presidential election. Discussions of metrics and markets were plentiful and some progress has been made – from the Acumen Fund’s Portfolio Data Management System and mainstream media’s attention to metrics to conferences on Social Capital Markets and the buzz around philanthrocapitalism. Bill Gates as philanthropist has garnered attention from his speech on creative capitalism to his retirement in June to his launch of a new company to the rapt attention paid to the Foundation’s investment policies and grants budgets. And, finally, the sector is beginning to pay real attention to racial diversity of leadership, grant making, encore careers, and next generation leadership issues – plenty more to be done, but I’d argue these issues have moved out of the wings and into the center of the room.

So what about 2009? Here are some thoughts, semi-organized into the various kinds of capital we need to make change happen.
Financial Capital
I’m going to recycle prediction number 2 from 2008 – big giving is going to come from off America’s shores in 2009 – we’ll see at least 30% of the year’s biggest gifts coming from/going to non-Americans. And we’ll have data to show this.

Overall giving in the U.S.A. from all sources (foundations, individuals and corporations) will drop in real dollars in 2009 compared to 2008. (There I go again, sticking my neck out).

U.S. public expenditures on domestic programs will dramatically increase - causing a reconfiguration of the sectoral relationships (public, commercial, philanthropic) that have developed over the last decade. This is a change for which all nonprofits and philanthropists should be planning.

Human Capital
Social action by young people and elders will keep us hopeful and engaged.

We will have two huge bubbles of people available to work for (or in need of services from) the social sector. At one end are the "un-retireds." These folks will change the nature of our communities as more and more elderly people have to stay in or return to the workforce. At the other end of the age spectrum, we will have a bubble of younger people who planned to enroll in college but become unable to do because of increased costs, limited access to loans, and less financial aid from endowment-challenged colleges.

Real brainpower from young people, new college graduates and all those business schools teaching social entrepreneurship will energize social and community organizations. The millions of first-time voters from the 2008 election and the boundless energy of teenagers will bring a mass of lowest-cost, tech-dependent, temporary, "get something done"-oriented actions. These are actions, not organizations (influencing the next category, institutional capital)

Given the changes in political leadership in DC we will see a wholesale shift of "insiders" and "outsiders." Huge numbers of leaders from liberal/progressive nonprofits, think tanks and activist organizations will move into government positions - leaving their organizations to find new leaders as well as reconsider their roles now that they have allies in the public sector. The opposite is true for politically conservative organizations.

Institutional Capital
The number of nonprofit organizations in America will shrink through mergers and organizations going out of business. Paul Light has pegged this decline at 100,000 organizations or just fewer than 10% of the whole. Others I know are predicting shrinkage in numbers of up to 25%.

On the other hand, social enterprises will increase. President-elect Obama is promising investment in them and has already established a working group on social innovation. Necessity is the mother of social innovation. One problem – we don’t have any accurate or longitudinal counts (or even definitions) of social enterprises – so I can’t be wrong on this, because we don’t have data. (What an opportunity….)

New corporate structures, such as B Corporations and L3Cs will significantly expand in 2009 – B Corps will double in number and market reach.

The market of online giving marketplaces will mature – we’ll see this in shrinkage and consolidation (there are more than 120 of these now, they’ll be fewer than 100 this time next year) and the solidification of market leaders.

Regulatory Framework
A federal office supporting social investment will launch and begin work (drawing from what exists) on metrics and definitions.

The B Corporation will be writ into corporate law in at least one state.

Advocacy organizations will be shifting tactics as the new Congress and new Presidential administration take office. From those who now have access to those who are now political outsiders we will see regulatory consideration over philanthropic support, public support to faith-based organizations, and/or advocacy itself.

What do you think? What do you predict? How can you and your enterprise take advantage of these trends or changes? What will you stick your neck out about?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

All Hands on Deck

Mario Morino of Venture Philanthropy Partners has a great view on the opportunities contained in tough times. Read his perspective here.

From the grassroots the GiveList effort (#givelist) provides real-world, real-time, real-people examples of actions we can take to make the world a little better. (My plan is to sit down with my kid to add some up ideas. And then do them). You can also check out the list of "hottest clicks" on socialactions to learn what like-minded folks are searching for this holiday season.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


Hats off to Allison Fine and Marnie Webb for rapidly building GiveList - a place to share ideas about how to give in these tough times.

Predictions, past, present and future

My thoughts, and those of others', on the impact of the economy on philanthropy are also in the December issue of Alliance.

  • Did you know Paul Light has predicted a 10% "death rate" for nonprofits in 2009,
  • and that others are saying that decline prediction is too small by half?
My interview on 2008 buzzwords and a few thoughts on 2009 will air on Marketplace on December 9, 2008.

My 2009 philanthropy predictions are coming soon - feel free to help me out here.

Prediction review

Alliance Magazine's December issue has several articles worth reading. The issue of the issue is "how far will they go" and it includes discussions and examples of foundations going "all out" to achieve their goals. Some of you will, no doubt, say "not far enough."

Since it is December and time to check in on trends, buzzwords, and predictions, this issue of Alliance also includes my review of my 2008 predictions. My piece "Back to the Future" is available here and on the home and publications pages of Blueprint Research & Design's website. Please subscribe to Alliance to get all the rest of the best stuff.

Just as a teaser, the first item in the 2007 predictions line (written on December 5, 2007) reads as follows:
"Almost all economic predictions for 2008 point to much slower growth, and even recession, in the US economy, which would matter domestically and globally.
Today's headlines read, "Its official: U.S. in recession all of 2008"

Not all of of my predictions were as on target - check them out here. And since I believe crowds are far wiser than I am, and with all due respect for Black Swans, let us bring your brain into this discussion - what do you predict for philanthropy 2009? Comment below and I will compile, edit, and post. Comment today and I'll email you a free copy of the Alliance review of my 2008 list. The price to play? You have to be willing to review your predictions, publicly, one year from now.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

And the list goes on.....

Two more organizations to add to the list:
And here's the rest of the list, so far:
It is definitely time to try to wrap some categories and distinctions around these organizations. I'll port this list over to Think Social Impact, where we had a mapping effort underway some months ago (in the old google group). Maybe we can all chip in and make some collective sense of what we have, what is under development, who uses what, what we might still need, etc.

Give fast

Epic Change raised over $10,000 in 48 hours to build a classroom in Tanzania.

Beth Kanter raised more than $2500 in 90 minutes for an organization for which she has long volunteered.

Here are a list of reflections about how to do this - most cites lead to blogs. There is a lot being written and posted on Facebook as well.








What is my take on all this? I see it AT LEAST as one more example of something that might seem marginal moving into the middle. Think about the expectations that this kind of fundraising raises -
  • Video, blogging, twitter, online payments, viral marketing, instant thank yous, etc as the minimal expected organization infrastructure;
  • Community building (you can identify other donors, everyone blogs about it), instant infrastructure (giving managed by chip-in, Paypal enables the back office);
  • Quick commitment - set a goal, reach it, move on;
  • Little gifts - and lots of them - are the holy grail;
  • Creativity matters - next year you'll need a new twist;
  • Anyone at an organization might be the leader of your next campaign;
And then some other questions that just pop to mind?
  • How do we understand this kind of giving in relationship to discussions about metrics and leverage and impact?
  • What about privacy concerns - are there any?
  • Is there any tracking of giving campaigns? Are data available from Twitter? Chipin? Paypal? And are these the new data sources for tracking giving?
  • Do these kinds of campaigns signal anything to larger donors, the way GoogleFlu may signal pandemic outbreaks? Do they highlight new organizations to consider? New kinds of organizational capacity metrics to care about (how many twitter donors do you have? what kind of micro-philanthropy programs do you run?) Are they useful sources of news - beyond what they've already been shown to do in tragedies?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Social Capital index

I just got updated news that xigi.net and GoodCapital, the two social capital organizations that gave us SoCap08 have moved the Social Capital Index to its own site with its own team. You can find it here. As the site managers point out:
"Another constant theme [of SoCap08] was the need for more tracking of the space, its funds and enterprises, and their social impact and blended returns. In short, the need for the Social Capital Index was quite clear, and we were very pleased by how our initiative was received."
The index joins my growing list of enterprises/products/services that track/measure/quantify/index social value. The blog post on Information Markets is generating some good discussion, part of which I'll post below so you can jump in with your perspective.

Before I do that, however, let me paste in the list with some important additions. Here's the latest list, now numbering over 30 efforts (please add in those I'm missing):

Newest additions:
And here are some points pulled out from the comments section on the original post:

"...I agree when you wrote that there isn't shortage of metrics, but there is a lack of comprehensive ones; it seems as though many non-profits are not seeing the value in long-term measurement of effectiveness. How do you suggest a standard of consistency is made in metrics among non-profits? Your list is up to 31 players now, how does a regular donor weigh importance of the information they are provided (good v. bad non-profit based on the evaluator’s definition of effectiveness) among all these groups without spending hours searching on each page?"

"...This is a helpful chronicle of what is out there. It is still pretty messy and will be until someone--or a group of institutions and individuals--hit on a sit of metrics that helps inform real decision making, whether that it is allocation of capital within an organization or funding across organizations. ...I personally don't lament the duplication, redundancy, divergence, etc as I think that is the sign of a healthy and creative time during which new ideas will hopefully improve on their predecessors."

"... I agree with your point about duplication, in fact I'd go beyond not lamenting it to modify it as follows - in any industry, in any product, in any field the "... duplication, redundancy, divergence, etc..." is [a] sign of a healthy and creative time during which new ideas will hopefully improve on their predecessors."

There is, however, the difference between serving the needs of individual organizations that make funding decisions and serving the needs of donors and others trying to make funding decisions. In philanthropy - where sharing ideas about what works is crucial to 1) influencing where dollars go and 2) addressing any of the social concerns we care about on a scale that can be meaningful, the investments in measures/data/indices etc are almost the "backbone" of a more informed and effective capital system.

What I think is possible here is something between independent "creativity and exploration" and "top down" directives - but that will allow for multiple meaningful measures to be developed AND for the world of potential users of those metrics to see that menu as it develops, choose from among its many items, and in fact, inform the development and application of new measures/metrics/data systems/indices. Getting the "crowd" involved is critical - as informants, decision makers, users. And right now, the only systems we have that reach any kind of crowd are Guidestar and Charity Navigator, both of which have proven there are millions of people who want better information and will use it, and neither of which have yet been able to offer the first slice of such information. So we have better information, being developed and tested in small batches (effectively in secret from the market of potential users) and delivery systems that do reach the broader market but are not yet delivering the best possible thinking on the subject of measuring social impact. What an incredible opportunity for the field!"

Thanks for reading. Please jump into the comment thread here or on this post, help us build a comprehensive list, join the discussion on the Information Markets paper. And take a minute to give thanks for something. (if you want to be socially media thankful, check out tweetsgiving - it may not be the most strategic giving, but it might make you smile.) Happy Thanksgiving.