Friday, June 27, 2008

World wealth...and a game to hold on to it

Here is the link to Capgemini's recently released World Wealth Report. Some factoids (and my additions in [ ]:
GenSpring has developed a game, called Shirtsleeves to Shirtsleeves, to help those families in the wealth column avoid becoming those families in the [brackets].

Thursday, June 26, 2008

One picture = 1000 words = $300 Billion US

Here is a single slide that captures one of the key premises of my 2004 book on philanthropic capital markets. I'm working on "translating" the rest of the book into images (kidding! though perhaps it is not a bad idea...)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Exchange rates

Randy Cohen, "The Ethicist" discussed an issue in last Sunday's column that made me wonder about the philanthropic impact of a declining dollar.

Cohen's column dealt with the financial disparities among siblings, some of whom lived in the US, others in Israel, who were all contributing to the costs of caring for their elderly, Israel-based father. As the dollar declined in value against the shekel, the question arose as to whether or not the US-based siblings should increase their contributions?

Exchange rates are generally the stuff of arbitragers and traders - perhaps the banking industry's services in private philanthropy have something particularly useful to offer in these situations?

How are US foundations and donors adjusting their international giving to account for the declining value of the dollar? Their behavior is no doubt related to how giving behaviors track with economic trends or expectations in general. Data on this is just out from GivingUSA and is discussed in a series of columns in the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Bloggers are asking, too - see discussions here on here. Other contexts in which to ponder the role of exchange rates - how do they relate to online international giving and diaspora remittances.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Transfer WHAT wealth?

Eight Reasons You Should not Expect an Inheritance (New York Times, June 21, 2008)

For a LONG time now I've been raising questions about the impact that health care costs, retirement (or the lack there of), and living transfers of wealth will have on the much-touted Intergenerational Transfer of Wealth numbers. These predictions of trillion dollar transfers drive things from philanthropic planning to nonprofit growth to private bank activity to the marketing budgets for donor advised funds.

So...what happens if the transfer happens but the money goes to things like housing and education costs? Or if the transfer doesn't happen because it is really expensive to live forever as some baby boomers are planning? The NYT asks this question, and points to eight reasons why inheritance trends may not go the way of predictions.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008

Alliance Magazine Editorial Board

Alliance Magazine, one of the few "must-reads" in philanthropy, has just named me to their editorial board. I am honored and delighted.

Other affiliations are in my linkedin profile.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Micro....buzzword prefix 2008.5

MicroFranchise (a 2007 buzzword). MicroEndowment. Micro-consignment. MicroFinance. Micro - the buzzword that is so small it is big.

Micro is the new macro (as in a script or set of instructions for a repeatable action, see your computer software manual).

This is fascinating to me. Going global relies on first going small. Going big - as in the old version of things we used to call "scaling," or "replicating" - is now being premised on the recognition of individual actors taking ideas out, moving them along 1:1. So micro is either a buzz -prefix or a whole new buzzconcept.

This (somewhat incomplete) train of thinking was sparked by an email from ASHOKA announcing its newest fellows. One such fellow is Greg Van Kirk, who is described as follows in the email (Entire paragraph cut from email):
"Greg has found a way to deliver health–related products to remote Guatemalan villages. Rather than distributing hand-outs, Greg trains villagers to be entrepreneurs, taking goods and service provision into their own hands. Through Greg’s “Micro-Consignment Model,” [emphasis added] implemented by U.S.-based Community Enterprise Solutions, villagers – mostly women – go door-to-door advocating for better healthcare and selling affordable products such as eyeglasses, wood-burning stoves, and energy-efficient light bulbs. These entrepreneurs are transformed into community leaders who are improving public health and the local economy. Greg is currently working on adapting and expanding his model to Mexico, Paraguay, Nicaragua, and India."
This concept of micro-consignment grabbed my attention partly because I had the honor of moderating a panel over the weekend that included Mari Kurashi of GlobalGiving, Mark Ward of US AID, Troy Stremler of Newdea, and Chuck Slaughter of LivingGoods.

LivingGoods is very similar to the Community Enterprise Solutions described in the paragraph above. When Chuck talked about the reach, the return, and the rapid growth of his organization's nascent partnership with BRAC in Uganda you could see people in the room start to understand that change - big change made in repeated small steps - was possible.

In addition to health goods, the LivingGoods Health Promotion Partners will begin providing clean cook stoves, clean water goods, and a variety of other personal and family-size goods. On the cook stove front, LivingGoods points out there is a "quadruple bottom line" (Next buzzword?) from this kind of good and this kind of distribution model:
  1. returns to the individual entrepreneur,
  2. returns to the nonprofit (sustaining its work),
  3. returns to the users of the stoves in terms of money saved, and
  4. returns to the environment (less pollution, more efficient use of bio-mass fuel)
Big changes from repeated small steps. This is what the micro-prefix, or what the micro-prefix buzzconcept, is all about. I'll have to add in some of these examples and ideas to my 7 Building Blocks of Open Philanthropy, one of which was build for the poorest and another was to design for global but rely on the local (in other words, go small to go big).

I'll be following up on this in the forthcoming book (that is a nudge to myself) but this buzz is big. So small its big.

Over Disclosure: I've known the founder of LivingGoods since my freshman year in college, 1981. I think the LivingGoods model has genius award written all over it, even though just saying that may doom it. I've also known the panelists from GlobalGiving, Newdea, and the Open Silicon Valley hosts for some time. I met Mark Ward of US AID while preparing for this conference panel.

Blog break... Got to catch a cab

Outside San Francisco City Hall, June 17, 2008.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Giving trends...on the other hand

I'm not the only one wondering about a down year for charitable giving - this article from Slate predicts a "Charity crisis" - ands builds the case off the same informal predictor of giving trends that I use - the Robin Hood Fund's annual fundraisingpalooza.

Daniel Gross's article has some useful insights:
  • Drops in philanthropic giving and recessions have a long history together;
  • Charitable giving is a "lagging indicator" of economic well-being (bills get paid first);
  • "Swanky" giving and "Salvation Army" giving rise and fall in similar waves
So if foreclosure rates, gas prices, food costs, "disaster fatigue," and airplane baggage fees haven't already convinced you that 08 (and '09, if the indicators really lag) may not be boom years for giving that we've seen in the past then the Slate article might.

On the other hand (and there is always another hand), unofficial peeks at online giving sites GlobalGiving (on track so far in 2008 to double 2007 giving) and Kiva show that the giving may be moving in other ways, on other sites, in other trend directions.

Over at SocialActions Peter Deitz has done some data compiling on online sites. I continue to think that these sites - and the industry as a whole - need to be RSS feeding, mashingup, or otherwise aggregating and compiling their data in a (somewhat) real-time way so we can truly begin to see "the other hand" of philanthropic trends.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Great graphic

There is a great picture (worth at least 1000 words) and insights on Kasper and Scearce's paper "Working Wikily" over at Beth's Blog.

Thanks, Beth, for the shout out about my monikering mania - just to be clear, Gabriel Kasper and Diana Scearce wrote the paper. I just commented on, and then the authors "adjusted," the title.

A different take on perpetuity

This post from the LongNow Blog on the 100 oldest companies in the world made me think about perpetuity. Most of the world's oldest companies are family businesses. In modern financial terms, this means they have avoided going public, taking outside investment, or focusing on short-term growth.

Some of these companies have been around for hundreds of years and dozens of generations - currently the oldest company is more than 1200 years old and is being run by the 46th generation of the founding family. Until 2007, when it went under (what happened!?) the oldest company was a 1400+ year old Japanese construction company that had been founded 40 generations earlier in the year 578.

It is not too surprising that this list is dominated by industries such as innkeeping, agricultural products (wine, olive oil), construction, and paper making. Banking appears on the list, though I spotted only one such company (at number 50). There are at least two funeral service firms, several distilleries, a pen maker, a few makers of woolens and linens, and even a publishing house on this list.

The oldest US company on the list is a New Hampshire based family farm dating from 1638 (an infant compared to others on the list, it appears as number 36).

The youngest company on the list was founded in the year 1780. The Rockefeller Foundation is the oldest endowed US foundation, it was chartered in 1913 (making it a relatively embryonic 95 years old).

Perpetuity is a long time. If you are starting a family foundation today and chartering it in perpetuity, can you imagine what your family might be doing 46 generations from now? 1,200 years from now, in the year 3208? This puts a slightly different spin on "nextgen." I thought I was extending my imagination by naming the blog after the year 2173 (actually, I was just borrowing Woody Allen's imagination...)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Design - Buzzword 2008.4

Twelve years ago I started my company, Blueprint Research + Design, Inc. At the time, I had a little blurb on the website about the meaning of the name - it talked about blueprints as plans for action, research as our core asset, and design as a core value and methodology.

I didn't realize then that I'd be waaaay ahead of a curve in philanthropy - the design curve. Suddenly, design is now the way to plan in philanthropy (in buzzword land at least, this design activity might best happen in a lab).

Here are two great reports from The Rockefeller Foundation/IDEO (an exemplar design firm) on design for social impact. This month's HBR has a user-friendly article on design as a planning approach. Last year the (new) at Stanford did some great work for GlobalGiving. I've recently (today, for example) participated in several charrettes* for philanthropic projects, there are several more on my travel planner, and a search found several others (such as here and here). None of this is too surprising, as design as business strategy has received lots of attention over the last few years (and not all of it from Tim Brown and IDEO).

There you have it - buzzword 2008 number four - design. It joins the first three buzzwords of 2008:
  1. Mobile giving
  2. Lab
  3. Outsourced program advising
More to come. It is halfway through the year and I'm not halfway through the list.

*I considered naming my company charrette. This could easily be a buzzword of its own.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Online Social Action Platforms

Causewired is building a list of online social action platforms.

So is Peter Deitz.

Check them out as complements to this list.

Wear my shoes

I know someone who is a foundation program officer and an individual grant recipient from another foundation. This person simultaneously wears both hats - grantor and grantee.

Is it any coincidence that this person is one of the most respectful activists on behalf of grantees when it comes to "interpreting" the rules about proposals, reporting, protocols, etc. to make life easier on them? I don't think so.

The simultaneity of roles puts this person in a fundamentally different position than even those foundation program officers who used to be grantseekers and those grant seekers who once were program officers or foundation executives. Project Streamline is a great piece of work - it clearly spells out many of the steps that can (and should) be taken to "right size" the foundation proposal process. Whether or not those steps are taken will depend, I think, on whether or not decision makers are living with real empathetic incentives to make change happen.

Walking a mile in my shoes is helpful - but perhaps if everyone wore each others' (metaphorical) shoes simultaneously things would really change.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hedge fund foundations

Hedge fund foundations are up 31% in endowment value from last year, managing $4.6 billion in assets in 2007 up from 2006's $3.52 billion. This year-to-year growth from 2006 to 2007 tracks with the increase in giving at last year's Robin Hood Foundation one-day fundraisingingpalooza.

So the question is whether the 21% drop in RHF fundraising in 2008 (over 2007) really will be any kind of predictor - as I mused here. on Prize Philanthropy Phenomenon

Here's a good story on the prize philanthropy phenomenon from - looking at Changemakers, Innocentive, RWJ Foundation - and quoting us here at p2173.

The future...we'll be watching...

Maybe in the future we'll be in more than one place at a time. I don't necessarily think that would be a good thing, but...

I'm working in Chicago today and Friday then returning home to a conference of Pakistani Entrepreneurs and Global Social Change and then was supposed to head to NY for a launch meeting about new open data systems for sharing grant/investing information. Today and tomorrow there is an interesting conference in Minneapolis - the Push: The Fertile Delta Unconference. There is no way I could be in Minneapolis so I'm thrilled that Trista Harris over at New Voices of Philanthropy is going to blog the PUSH conference. Thanks, Trista, we'll be watching.

Beam me up.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

One click giving infrastructure

Over the last few years we've become accustomed to being able to click to give. We've gotten used to searching for things on the internet and having some of the revenue we generate for the search engines redirected to a nonprofit. We've gotten used to being asked to support prostate research, diabetes research, or cancer services when we checkout at the grocery store. Heck, we'll even turn loose or inner word nerds in order to support the World Food Programme.

But how do you know which site to use for your $50 gift?
I think we've reached the point where we need a one-stop directory of these sites. Just as foundations of all kinds began organizing themselves a few decades back, it is probably time that these online marketplaces start doing the same. Why? Same reasons the foundations did - public awareness, regulatory input, joint research, shared interests in developments regarding technological/infrastructure/charitable law.

It is clear to me that the "disintermediation" that the Internet promised way back in the 20th Century is now an assumed part of the philanthropic landscape. I'm predicting it will soon be building its own industry supports (infrastructure).

BTW, one thing I noticed as I compiled the bullets above is the absence of two key sectors - the arts and the environment. Scanning my memory bank I came up blank on online giving sites/communities/intermediaries focused broadly on environmental or arts/cultural giving. Help me out - send me the sites I'm missing. Or better yet - start the directory and build the new infrastructure.

Full Disclosure: I've worked with or know individuals involved in running the sites listed above. I've used some of these services but am not formally affiliated with any of them at this moment.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Philanthropy in action - this last week

Video games and Supreme Court Justices.

Museums without collections.

New public transportation systems and infrastructure.

Students discuss Facebook activism - 5:10 pm pdt June 10.

No child.

Jewish social entrepreneurs, socialmarkets, and JFN.

Pakistani entrepreneurs interested in social change.

Just a random walk through my week in terms of philanthropic events, speeches, meetings, or openings. This may explain why I'm a bit too scattered to write anything coherent.

Full disclosure: I am on the board of GamesForChange , a member of the CJM. I taught at Stanford this last quarter and lurked on the Psychology of Facebook course mentioned above.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Buzzwords 2008....Drumroll, please

It is finally here. The moment you've all been waiting for. The philanthropy buzzwords 2008 list is here. Or at least some of it, numbers one - three to be exact.

1. Mobile Giving
I've written about cellphone enabled giving before, including the US launch of Mgive in this year's Superbowl. Seems like natural disasters might be what it takes to vault a new behavior like this into the mainstream - recent earthquakes and cyclones have pushed mobile giving into the mainstream.

2. Labs
Lab is the new cool phrase to indicate that your work is about mixing up ideas, action, innovation, breakthrough! Witness: KelloggActionLab. Movement Vision Lab. IssueLab. IdeaLab. HopeLab. I guess this was the next logical outgrowth from prize philanthropy and a resurgent focus on innovation....

3. Outsourced program advising
This is a trend I first predicted back in 2004 - as philanthropic products such as commercial charitable gift funds showed the market's eagerness for products that unbundled the philanthropic financial management from the program advise, the financial offerings have taken off. See recent stories in SSIR and the Chronicle of Philanthropy (premium articles, registration required) on Donor Advised Funds - the prototypical unbundled product. Slowly but surely, however, the market of advisory offerings to support those unbundled financial products has also been growing. Giving Circles were one step in this direction - the "do-it yourself, peer learning approach." Now we are well into an age where private banks have to have philanthropy officers, multi-family offices with philanthropy advisers, independent philanthropy advisers, associations of philanthropy advisers, magazines offering advisory services, websites that provide "do-it-yourself" advice (just like discount brokerages and online trading). This is because donors are juggling multiple products, trying to manage "Giving Portfolios" and looking for good advice on strategy and impact.

Time was, donors started foundations and hired staff. Now they have their philanthropic funds in many pockets - foundations, community funds, donor advised funds - and they get advisory support from other sources. They have unbundled the products and are re-assembling their own suite of philanthropic tools

Here is my classic picture of how this market of options looks, from a donor's perspective:

The industry, she is a changin' and it is the same set of forces (choice, control, price) and same direction of change that Google Apps is putting on MS Office Suite.

Stay Tuned, Buzzwords number 4, 5, 6 coming soon!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Outsourced idea generation

ReadWriteWeb points to OhBoyObama as an "outsourced think tank." The site allows users to submit policy ideas or proposals and the crowd to vote on them. The discussion about the site has focused largely on how it meshes (or doesn't) with the campaign's use of technology and its promises about data should the candidate become President. It is also interesting to examine the growing tech-kudos that the Obama campaign is receiving for its use of blogs, wikis, my.barack.obama, ringtones, twitter, flickr - somewhere I am sure there is a graduate school class on social media that is having a field day using the candidate's campaign as a case study.

I'm more interested in whether or not this strategy provides a forum for ideas that would not otherwise rise to the attention of a Presidential campaign. It also reminded me of the opinion piece several months back in the Chronicle of Philanthropy about the plagiarism of good policy ideas - a column which prompted me to ask if there really was such a problem. This OhBoyObama approach seems to be an approach 180 degrees in the other direction - asking the world to submit good policy ideas on the assumption that the generators of those ideas would like them to become policy more than they care about getting credit for them.

I'm sure you can see where this is going. While folks are pointing to the Obama campaign as the test case for social media practices at work in politics I'd suggest there are lessons for philanthropy and community work as well.