Sunday, August 31, 2008

Where will your disaster dollars go?

As I write this, Gustav has moved, having left 80+ people dead in Cuba and is now bearing down on the gulf coast. Hanna is headed for Florida's eastern flank. There are two more tropical storms brewing in the Gulf of Mexico.

According to The Wall Street Journal (and some others), the Red Cross is in dire straits. Where will your disaster relief giving dollars go?

While I'm away

Well I am away but not for the reason (vacation) I had planned. So instead I'm within striking distance of the Internet and can't help but capture some thoughts in between other things....

Sean Stannard Stockton has a good conversation going on over at tacticalphilanthropy about philanthropic advising. I, of course, suggest you consider his ideas and the comments in light of the larger frame of "the business of giving."

Maybe it was to the 13 tweets and countless emails I received from Michelle, Barack, and David in the last week, or the constant IM'ing with my siblings as we update on family drama and track each other's cross-country flight schedules minute by minute, but life for this 45 year old is now pretty thoroughly mobily online. I also noted the first 2 of the following interesting uses of technology in nonprofit activism at ...
  1. A site where you can ask any politician running for office a question about the nonprofit sector and the answers will be posted to a public blog - check out the V3 Campaign.
  2. The much discussed use of LinkedIn to ask donors what irks them.
  3. I've just found out, courtesy of the weather channel, that I am in the "cone" of Gustav and Hannah. Which led to me find out about Andy Carvin's Gustav08.ning site (which came to my attention through a Facebook status update). The ning site has a wiki, tweets, text alerts, and so on. You can get a gustav badge here, but I don't yet see a "donate now" button...
And finally, this has nothing to do with philanthropy, but it did come to my attention via Facebook - Maybe McCain really meant to choose Tina Fey as his VP? - and it gave me a much needed chuckle.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sustaining Attention

Top 20

I just learned that the p2173/JustMeans cross-post, "The Customer is always Right" was picked up as a top 20 blog post.


Here is my most recent post, "Sustaining Attention," from All Things Reconsidered, the JustMeans blog (Save yourself a click or two):

Sustaining attention

I was at a meeting earlier this week with about 40 people, assembled around a large U shaped table. As the moderator led a round of introductions, the folks on one side the room gave their names, current professional titles and always added something like “former reporter for the small city Times,” or “former editor for the big city Journal,” or “former writer for mid-region Tribune.”

On the other side of the table, occupied by much younger people from a much more diverse set of racial and ethnic backgrounds, the introductions came fast and furious: “community and media organizer,” “entrepreneur and blogger,” “activist and podcaster,” “executive director and radio show producer.”

On the first side of the table were people who had once had jobs as media professionals. On the second side of the table were people who viewed the media as an integral part of their work, whatever that work happened to be. As one participant explained, “we do youth organizing, which means we are a media organization.”

This is an important pattern to consider as we think about sustainable businesses, sustainable careers, and the multi-sector blending that is part of the social justice work, environmental activism, clean tech development and global health interests of the Just Means community. Information is everywhere and we all produce and consume it – through print, online, visual displays, audio sources, in games, at our desks, in meetings and on our daily jogs. All of us wear many hats, all of us consume and produce media - - how do these things fit together as we focus on sustainable work? Here are some thoughts:

  • Everyone in your company or organization needs to be thinking about customers and how to listen to them, learn from them, and reach them with the information they want – this can’t be the job of just the marketing department.
  • The same shifts that are busy reverberating through news businesses – putting all those reporters and writers and editors into the “former” categories – are also shaping your company. Do you know how? What is your plan to capitalize on the changes rather than be swept away by them?
  • If you do youth organizing, or environmental activism, or create clean products, or are providing new capital to social enterprises – aren’t you also a media organization?

Some pundits describe the current economy as the information or knowledge economy, others have started to call it an attention economy – either way, the question comes down to this - how does information, analysis, and media factor into your work? Are those practices sustainable?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Finally. Summer break.

I'm taking a week off from posting here. See you in September.

Let us hope it is not a buzzword - philanthropizza

Alternative definition of philanthropizza - that which must be provided to volunteers at all meetings...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The customer is always right

Cross posted from All Things Reconsidered

There are several customer-centric tropes in the business world: “listen to the customer,” “the customer is always right,” “make the customer happy.”

It is harder to find this kind of focus in the world of social action, nonprofits or philanthropy. First of all, who is the customer? Is it the direct beneficiary of the service (the hungry person, the school child, the museum visitor, or the clinic patient)? Or is it the funder of the service provider (foundation, government funder, individual donor)? Or is it both?

Here’s the thing, when it comes to philanthropic institutions and customer service the question of who is the customer is almost a second-generation matter. When it comes right down to it, our civic institutions are not very good at listening to any of the possible customer groups. Customer satisfaction as a measure and tool – real feedback from customers (whoever they might be) – that actually changes organizational practice, focus, or services is tough to find. We don’t know if the customer is right or wrong, because we rarely ever ask.

Foundations typically haven’t seen themselves as having customers. This is starting to change with the grantee perception data and reports from the Center for Effective Philanthropy. More and more foundations are commissioning these surveys, responding to the feedback, and posting the reports on their websites for all to see. At the same time, CEP is amassing a database of results that allow for industry-wide benchmarking – so when foundations get their own data there is data there for comparison purposes. Soon, it may be ‘standard industry” practice to do these surveys, and foundations that don’t conduct the surveys or share their reports will be the outliers, not the other way around. Real organization change doesn’t just come from doing the survey – but being held accountable to what the survey finds, to what your peers are doing, and to what the “industry” is doing.

Nonprofit organizations do conduct user surveys, and then face the twin challenges of time and money to respond to the findings. Boards, funders, and partners rarely ask organizations for data on what their direct service customers think. Simply asking for this information would be useful first step. But then those that do gather and use the information still do so mostly in isolation – there isn’t (yet) a comparable body of data from which to determine “industry benchmarks.” A shelter can learn from its findings and compare its own results over time, and this is better than nothing. But the kind of peer or competitor comparability that can spark real organizational change is still missing.

There is a lot of work underway to develop nonprofit and philanthropic ratings, outcome measures, and standards of operating procedures. In the course of this work it behooves us to remember two things: How do these measures reflect what the customer thinks? How can we gather and use customer input in ways that actually drive improvement?

Every business from television production to auto manufacturing can point to some kind of industry-wide customer satisfaction measures and processes – from Nielsen ratings to J.D. Powers and Associates to Consumer Reports – that they use to gauge and improve their work. The web has only made this more so - see AngiesList, C/NET and Yelp for examples ranging from plumbers to doctors to tech gadgets to hair salons.

Customer satisfaction as a tool for change reaches beyond individual organizations to the consumer rights movement, a combination of grassroots activism, public awareness, educational programs and regulatory structures, that is built around helping customers make informed, appropriate decisions based on accurate information. Shouldn’t we expect at least as much from our philanthropic institutions as we do from fast food restaurants and toy stores?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Innovate and educate

If you know anyone who has worked in the nonprofit sector for more than 6 hours then you know someone who has heard a lot about what the sector can learn from business. They may think there is a great deal for the sectors to learn from each other, they may think the nonprofit sector has more to teach business than vice-versa, they may be convinced that market-based solutions and management practices are exactly what nonprofits need, they may ask "Separate sectors? What a quaint idea?" or they may simply tune out the latest round in this ever-going discussion.

Three books by business thinkers may well re-frame this old discussion. The first, Good to Great and the Social Sectors, by Jim Collins, is that rare thing - a book written by a business expert that argues that business may not be the best model for improving the nonprofit sector.

The second, Disrupting Class: How Innovation will Change the Way the World Learns, is by Clayton Christensen, the reigning guru on innovation and institutions. It is interesting because it look beyond the usual discussions about schools in cities, schools in rural areas or even schools in the U.S. to ask broader questions about education in a network-based, global society and economy. Following on the heels of Sunday's story in the NYT Magazine on schools in New Orleans, which showed the enormous possibilities and challenges of re-creating an entire school system, the ideas are particularly relevant. It may be of particular interest to those working on new learning institutions, innovating with digital media, and building/proposing/promoting education beyond school walls.

The third, Redefining Health Care, by strategy guru Michael Porter and Elizabeth Olmsted Teisberg takes on the role of competition, altruism, and policy in delivering quality health care. I think it is worth the read because it recognizes the ways each of these sectors - public, private, and philanthropic - have contributed to our current crisis.

My next book review - Money Well Spent: A Strategic Plan for Smart Philanthropy, by Paul Brest and Hal Harvey, due out from Bloomberg in January 2009. --- CORRECTION: Money Well Spent comes out on November 12, 2008 - officially launching, along with NYT special Giving Section, Giving Season 2008.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

International aid and philanthropy

My friend Tony Pipa sent me this thoughtful reflection on international aid and international philanthropy. He delicately raises some key questions about the distinctions between them, intended and perceived, past, current and future. He lets me off the hook for mistakes I made in this post, and gracefully suggests my mis-application of language might be indicative of larger trends (which might be the case, or I might just have been wrong).

In doing so, he raises the fundamental issues underlying both - what is one community's responsibility to another? How are we connected? What are the right tools (financial, in this case) for the job? What is, or should be, or could be, or will be, the difference between a public commitment and a private commitment? And if, when, and how can they be the same?

Great piece, Tony!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Monday bits and pieces

Is it redundant to post small bits and pieces of thoughts on a blog since so much of what gets blogged is small bits anyway? That asked, here are a few "bits and pieces*" of philanthropy thoughts to start your week:


New Report on Community Foundations and Social Media
The Future Matters report "Community Philanthropy and Social Media" report has been loaded to the website (The futures project site for On The Brink of New Promise). It was striking to me, as we were getting this report ready for posting, to watch this blog discussion on foundations and community networks unfold over at the SocialText blog.

The Olympics and the blending of the Sectors
I often write about the re-arranging (some call it blending) of public, private and philanthropic roles. Watching the Olympics with my seven year old I realized they are a remarkable crucible from which to discuss this phenomenon. Here are his questions:
  • "Why are the basketball players from the US men's team so famous already?"
  • "Why do they keep talking about how much money Michael Phelps is going to make?"
  • "Why did they say the government was going to pay her so much money?" (Asked after the Korean weighlifter won gold and blew the world record out of the room by lifting 186 kg)
  • "What will Yulianti do when she goes back home to Indonesia? (After winning bronze in women's singles, badminton)
  • "Why do they tell us where all those women went to college?" (Asked as the U.S. 8 women crew team was at the start for its 2000 meter final)
  • "When I grow up I want to be on the Olympic triathlon team. For India."
And our attempted answers:
  • Because they are all professionals - they get paid to play basketball in this country.
  • Because this is the full extent of what Bob Costas and Mary Carillo know anything about.(Snarky, I know, but could we please get hosts who aren't so insipid?)
  • Because in some countries the government pays for athletes, in this country sneaker and cereal companies pretty much take care of it.
  • I don't know. Let's go get some information - as compared to listening to Costas and Carillo for one more second.
  • Because a lot of people learn to row and get really good at it while they are in college.
  • Great! You'll have to become a citizen of India (and get really good at swimming, etc...).....(this one went on for a long time).
My point, and I do have one, is that the Olympics, which folks my age and older might remember as synonymous with "amateur sports," have really changed - governments, companies, and television contracts move billions of dollars in and out of the Games, athletes can be amateur/pro, sponsored or not, subsidized or not....It is a collage of public, private roles - you think of a combo and I bet there is an athlete, a country, and a sporting organization that represents that combo.

Games - make your own
Story in today's S.F. Chronicle about games that let players make games. This is right in line with the MacArthur Foundation supported Gamestar Mechanic project from University of Wisconsin and GameLab.**

Blend of the above: Where is the Olympic video game? (or iphone app?) Is there Second Life Olympic coverage?

I'm delighted to be joining the Organization Review Board for the Philanthropy Advisory Services of FasterCures. I've written about their work in the past, and they are coming out of the gate with some very exciting, well-done products that exemplify the ideas for sharing knowledge across the philanthropic revenue stream that I wrote about in 2004.

*How my mind was working this morning (Hat tip to Kyle for the following flow chart):
...bits and pieces --> small things --> blog about giving --> small gifts --> tchotchkes.
(How many of you would have gotten the joke had I called this section tchotchkes? All NYers and Jews put down your hands)

**Usual disclosure: My company works with MacArthur on its DML Program.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Network analysis as metric for grantmakers

[image from boxesandarrows]

You hear a lot about networks these days. In nonprofit jargon no one even wants to be an organization anymore, everyone wants to be a network. I've been thinking on a smaller scale of how networks might matter to philanthropy and funders and do-ers.

Assuming we value networks because they facilitate useful connections, improve information flow, influence better ideas, distribute work, disseminate excellence, and help distill any wisdom that might exist in a crowd than let us leave aside the rhetoric for a moment and look at networks as a measure of an organization's likelihood for success.

  • First, we have network measures - resilience, connectivity, diversity, centrality, even really cool sounding things like the Shimbel Index.
  • Second, grantmakers routinely collect information on the people in an organization (leadership, management, board) but don't do much with that information. If diversity of organizational leadership matters, doesn't it follow that the diversity of organizational networks also matters? Funders could map the networks that individuals associated with an organization represent - to other organizations and sectors - and develop some guidelines/categories that would help assess whether the organization was well connected to those it needed to be or was isolated. These cluster nicely and can be given fun names like "kevinbacon" or "singleton." Then they could factor this information into grant decisions.
  • Third, foundation program manager could factor this networked-ness into their portfolios - it is possibly as useful as "calculations" about risk and it is more consistently measurable.
  • Finally, networks measures can be considered over time - how do they change? which changes matter? Which networks helped the organization succeed? Which connections actually amplified the work?

OK, so I'm down in the weeds a bit today, but given the few comparable measures we have, maybe this is one that offers two of those rare attributes - it can be assessed and it matters.

Waddya think?

Note to self...have I noted network as a buzzword yet?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A gathering of market makers

Back in June I called for a new one-click infrastructure. My point - with the abundance of social action platforms and online giving sites it is high time they got together and identified their shared needs, regulatory issues, market size, and ways they might share data.

Well, Wednesday night in San Francisco an impressive number of representatives from these sites are getting together at the Awareness2Action gathering. Perhaps years from now this bar gathering will be as notable as the luncheons that led to the regional associations of grantmakers and eventually to the Council on Foundations. Good for them. And good for the rest of us.

Here's the description from the event site:

"You are a changemaker. You get the power of the web to convert awareness into action, and you're jumping on this opportunity to effect positive change in a scalable way.

Come out and connect with folks like you who lead organizations that make a difference at an exclusive mixer with limited attendence (60 people).

We'll have founders, CEOs and/or key people from:

- Kiva
- Room to Read
- Ashoka
- Involver
- World of Good, Inc.
-, by eBay
- eduFire
- CauseCast
- Better World Books
- SocialVibe
- NetImpact
- Market for Change

There'll also be a few investors in the mix, including folks from:

- Greylock
- Omidyar Network
- Good Capital"

Shout out to WJ for the heads up.

Who needs an annual report?

By now I'm sure you've heard that Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama is going to announce his choice for Vice President by text message.

Imagine a world in which texting is how major news gets announced. What does that mean for your philanthropy?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What's wrong with embedding...

There is an interesting comment discussion going on in relation to this post from a week or so ago....touches on the role of everyone as a content producer and thus an advertiser, fundraiser, influencer. What might this mean for giving and activism?

Don't put this off to a "young/old" divide - there are real questions here about who sways whom, the empowering and distributive nature of social media, the omnipresence of advertising and media consumption, media literacy, and whether or not weaving your charitable affiliations into all of your activities serves to emphasize or demean those concerns....join the discussion.

Receiving well

I wrote recently that the Internet may not be changing giving so much as receiving. In honor of the 28th Steinbeck Festival (which just concluded) here is John Steinbeck, writing in 1951, on what it takes to be good at receiving:
"Certainly he was an interesting and charming man, but there was some other quality that far exceeded these. I have thought that it might be his ability to receive, to receive anything from anyone, to receive gracefully and thankfully, and to make the gift seem very fine. Because of this everyone felt good in giving to Ed--a present, a thought, anything.

Perhaps the most overrated virtue in our list of shoddy virtues is that of giving. Giving builds up the ego of the giver, makes him superior and higher and larger than the receiver...It is so easy to give, so exquisitely rewarding. Receiving, on the other hand, if it is well-done, requires a fine balance of self-knowledge and kindness. It requires humility and tact and great understanding of relationships. In receiving, you cannot appear, even to yourself, better or stronger or wiser than the giver, although you must be wiser to do it well.

It requires self-esteem to receive--not self-love but just a pleasant acquaintance and liking for oneself."

John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez, Appendix, ""About Ed Ricketts"", Penguin Books, 1951, pp. 272-3

Thanks, Rikki!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Philanthropy Advertising

(photo from

My post on Embedded Giving 2.0 elicited a comment that suggested this kind of activity - in which individuals advertise their chosen brands on behalf of their favorite causes - be called "embedded advertising."

Nothing embedded about the latest advertisement for philanthropic advising - yesterday's New York Times Magazine came wrapped in an ad for philanthropy. Literally. The magazine had one of those half-wrap paper covers on it that you sometimes see on magazines on the newstand. The content of the wrap (which I have right here in front of me and you can see in photo above):

"You want to make a difference in the world. And we can make a difference in your ability to do so."
Brought to you by U.S. Trust and Bank of America Private Wealth Management.

I'm not an ad expert but I am a lifelong reader of the NYT. I was pretty sure I had never seen the magazine wrapped in this way (recently the paper seems to just be putting out "special issues" to focus their advertising, including one on Giving and regular issues of Play and Key, focused on sports and real estate, respectively). Adweek confirmed my suspicion, this is the first ever "wrap" of the NYT Magazine. Adweek also confirmed my sense that philanthropic advertising was on the rise, quoting a U.S. Trust spokesperson on their "...$30 million in advertising" this year alone. And it is only August, not even close to giving season.*

*Maybe philanthropy advisers can pick up the slack from the auto industry, which an article in today's NYT notes has cut its advertising so significantly ($414 million less in first quarter alone) as to be contributing to the woes of the newspaper industry.

Friday, August 08, 2008


Wow - check out this post on Beth's blog, tracking a "slow season" in developments in the nonprofit social media space. Let me say, if that is low volume, watch out for peak season.

The post itself is full of the latest and greatest and not so greatest nonprofit tech developments. Being the meta gal I am, here's what I like about it:

"The NpTech Tag started as an experimental community tagging project in 2005. A loosely coupled group of nonprofit techies and social change activists decided to use the tag "NpTech" to identify web resources that would create an ongoing stream of information to promote and educate those working in nonprofit technology. Through TechSoup's Netsquared project, blogger Beth Kanter, was commissioned to write a weekly summary."

Yep, as an ol westerner might say, "Der's data in dem dar tag streams - jes need to make sense of it, ma'am." Thanks Beth, for making sense of it.

2009 - the year of philanthropy books

One of the nice things that has happened to me in the last several years is that I often get asked to read and comment on other people's manuscripts. This gives me a chance to learn from good thinkers as they are still in the creative process - an incredible gift. It also is exciting for me to have a bit of a sneak peak on books about philanthropy.

Several good articles and books should be coming out between now and mid-2009. Keep your eyes open for works from Paul Brest and Hal Harvey, George McCully, Bruce Sievers, Laura Arrillaga, and Steve Goldberg.

I've just finished Eboo Patel's Acts of Faith. It is an extraordinary, inspiring and hopeful story - one that recognizes the power of youth organizing in deep and future-filled ways. His observations about the effectiveness of religious fundamentalists as youth organizers is one of those insights that clarifies the chaos of world events in a profound way. If youth organizing can be so effective in fostering hatred and violence it stands that, with the right intentions, it can also be powerful force for religious pluralism, true co-existence and tolerance, and peace.

I will be bringing the book to my synagogue and our gay Jewish family camp. I find myself motivated to share it with others. This morning I said in conversation, "I felt this story on so many levels. You know, because I* have so much in common with a Muslim Indian-American Rhodes Scholar working class man from Chicago who is at least 10 years younger than I am."

Patel has one chapter on dealing with foundations. Everyone in philanthropy should read at least that chapter (everyone should read the whole book).

*For those who don't know me in person, I am a female Jewish New Yorker with Polish and Irish roots, living with my wife and son, who knows Rhodes Scholars because I attended the schools and universities that many of them also attend, but I certainly am not one.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Losing the other - a philosophical divergence

The State of California is operating without a budget. This happens just about every summer, as governors and legislators nit and bicker and fool around with people's lives.

This year, my local paper, the San Francisco Chronicle, has been covering the story by looking at the impact of state budget shenanigans on individual Californians. These stories feature pictures and stories of the workers, family members, and children who get medical coverage through Medi-Cal (the state health insurance program) - and who won't have access to that care when clinics stop getting paid because the State has no budget. The gist of the stories - "These are the folks who benefit from Medi-Cal."

But here's the thing. I benefit from Medi-Cal. So does the rest of my privately insured family, all of my privately-insured colleagues and friends, my doctors, their hospitals and practices, their families, my neighbors, and so on. Yes, Medi-Cal benefits those who use it directly. But everyone else benefits as well. Healthy people are good for healthy communities. I benefit when I am insured, I benefit when you are insured, you benefit when I am insured. I benefit when I can care for my health, I benefit when you can care for yours, and you benefit when I can care for mine.

These same principles apply well beyond health insurance - to education, employment, nutrition, public safety, land use, clean air, water, etc. etc.

I worry that we've lost sight of these inter-connections. Headlines that make it seem as if only "others" benefit from certain programs and services are symptomatic of that loss. Losing any sense of interconnectedness shapes how we vote (is it good for me or only for others?), how we give ( others...for others...) and what we prioritize as a society.

This is complicated in philanthropy, because many of us and our faith traditions and giving cultures emphasize the importance of doing for others. Sociologists, philosophers, biologists and fundraisers study and opine on a concept of altruism that emphasizes doing for others without benefiting oneself.

But we are all connected. Communities require balance, systems don't work when broken into parts, and caring for others because we are all part of a whole is a lesson found in the Q'uran, the Torah, the Bible, Buddhist and Hindu teachings and (I expect) most other traditions as well. Social biologists who argue that there are individual evolutionary benefits to helping other members of a species get cross-eyed receptions from modern day philanthropy philosophers - do we really want people thinking about how they themselves benefit from helping others? Isn't it better to do for others without considering oneself?

I'm not a social biologist, philosopher, sociologist or other big thinker. But I think the notion of "others" as separate from "us" is not helping when it comes to really considering one's role in giving, voting, or acting for a better world.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Marketized giving

There is lots of talk about how the Internet has democratized giving. Sites that make giving easy and bring down the transaction costs have made it possible for lots of people to support lots of causes and issues that they might not have been able to do before.

Personally, I think this is somewhat overblown. After all, what web sites do is make things faster and more interactive. But the same person who know manages a portfolio of loans on Kiva could have supported a child through CARE's magazine ads back in the day. Sure it is faster, cooler, and feedback is right there, on the desktop that you are staring at 8 hours a day (as opposed to in the magazine you put down in the bathroom, good intentions and all). Yes, the Internet has changed giving, but as important, I think, is that it may be changing receiving.

The changes for the receivers, which are about more than being faster and global, have to do with a re-invigorated faith in individuals, concern about choice and discretion, changes in how we think about institutions, and a general increased 'marketization' of philanthropy.

This includes the trend of giving directly to some ONE rather than to some INSTITUTION. Witness DonorsChoose, which features teachers' postings about giving opportunities; the aforementioned Kiva*, which features individual entrepreneurs; Endeavor and ASHOKA (also about individuals). Each of these organizations is about the people they support - they lead with their images, market their accomplishments, and measure organizational success through their success. The "voices and images" of Kiva and DonorsChoose, in particular, are those of the individuals who benefit from the loan/grant.

Now, in the most direct - to - direct example I've seen, comes - which matches scholarship donors directly to students (or claims to). The idea is to give donors a chance to support specific kinds of students, not just the universities where those students go to school. In their words:

" is a public charity that seeks to award scholarships to the types of students who donors wish to support. Unlike colleges, universities, or other educational foundations, we let donors specify student attributes they care about with their donations."
Economist Tyler Cowen took a look at the site - his comments focus on the increased competition that the site can bring to the scholarship market. (Typical of an economist) However, the larger point here is that this kind of 1:1 giving shares attributes with several other trends we've followed on p2173, notably:
Of coure, a wise giver won't completely fall for this 1:1 hype - all of these sites rely on institutions (many of them newly created) to manage the donations and the selection process. *Kiva works through its microfinance partners, for example, and DiscoverScholars doesn't escape institutional middle-men, it simply created a new one (itself). So, I still don't think philanthropy is particularly democratic, but it sure looks ever more like a market.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Algorithms and recommendations

Broadband Internet access may have done more to disrupt the recording industry then any other, though I suppose print journalism is not far behind. I find that it pays to listen to music lovers when it comes to their thoughts on web-based tools as they tend to try them all and have definite and informed opinions.

Several folks who commented on my "Pandora, Pop Culture and Philanthropy" post fall into this category so I want to draw your attention to this note, on three types of recommendation structures:
"I think that different people (or personalities) seek out different types of recommendations.

I'd say there are about three types of recommendations that people look for, Expert (a professional reviewer), Social ("hey, my buddy really liked this"), and Managed (radio plays and automated recommendations). The best resources will be the ones that offer all three." (Thanks, Aram ZS)
Words to the wise for the data discussion and those considering building recommendation engines or models to guide donors.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Syndication and other notes

A couple quick notes for this Monday:

Philanthropy2173 is joining the JustMeans team. I'll be blogging from All Things Reconsidered on the first and third Fridays of each month, beginning this week on 08.08.08 (my own Olympic moment!). Joining up with JustMeans puts us in touch with individual activists and adds to our syndication/cross-posting relationships which currently include The Huffington Post, SSIR, xchangexchange, and SmartLink. The blog feed is also picked up by Alltop and several regional associations of grantmakers blog rolls. If you are reading the blog through some other syndication that I haven't listed, please let me know - I'm not even sure of all the places this is being pulled.


My posts about data from last month got lots of attention. The group discussion list about data in social capital markets that was suggested by a reader in response to the post is beginning to take off. Join us if you like. I was struck by a newsletter I received this morning from Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors that includes an article called "Data, Data Everywhere; and not a way to think," because they riffed off of Samuel Coleridge better than I had with Data, Data Everywhere and not a drop to drink. The point of the piece mirrors that made here and now under discussion by the group - clearly there is much going on in the data markets.


Endeavor, a nonprofit organization in NYC that finds and supports individual entrepreneurs in emerging markets has received a $10 million infusion from the Omidyar Network. The Endoeavor model is interesting in and of itself - also sparked my interest in a "network analysis evaluation" of social entrepreneur supporters - ASHOKA, Endeavor, Acumen, Omidyar - lots of connections noted. This article on Endeavor in The Economist gives us another tidbit to chew on in the "nonprofit v. commercial structure" dialogue that so many people are facing (and that led to the creation of both B Corporations and L3Cs). Endeavor founder Linda Rottenberg addresses the challenges of raising nonprofit capital and points out how the issue of trust factors in:

"Funding has long been a problem for Endeavor. As a non-profit, it has to rely on donors—many recruited through a glitzy annual gala in New York—which has been tough at times, as in the months after the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001. Would it make more sense to be a for-profit operation? Endeavor has struggled constantly with whether to pursue profits, but each time has concluded no, says Ms Rottenberg, who also says she declined the chance to set up a $100m fund focused on emerging-market entrepreneurs. “If Endeavor had been an investor, rather than an independent, objective, non-profit enabler, it would not have been trusted by the business elite, or the entrepreneurs,” she insists. “Trust is everything.”

Happily, Endeavor has high hopes of moving onto a stronger financial footing. In some countries where it operates, starting with Brazil, successful entrepreneurs are signing up to a “give back” programme, donating 2% of their equity to Endeavor. With luck this could soon make the national operations self-sustaining."

Speaking of B Corporations, I'm proud to say we were one of the first 10 founding B corporations to be audited (chosen by random selection - lucky us). We've just completed the work, passed the test, learned a lot, had a chance to interact directly with some fabulous staff members of B Lab and are already making some organizational changes here at Blueprint Research & Design to implement what we learned (New staff handbook coming soon - yee ha!). Here are a couple of notes of interest regarding B Labs progress - the movement is on track to have companies aggregating to a $1 Billion marketplace by end of 2008; they are beginning to role out the policy agenda, and through their B Capital Partners work are encouraging investment advisers to use the B Corporation Survey Tool as part of their due diligence process for finding good investments for their clients.

One last thought. Dan Gillmor has a column in today's San Francisco Chronicle on advocacy organizations and "almost journalism." Anyone interested in nonprofits, social media, communications, influence, impact, journalism or the Knight Foundation's local media challenge should check it out - here's a link. The article reminded me of a piece in August's issue of San Francisco Magazine headlined, "The Next Big Charity: News." I couldn't find the article on SF Mag's website but the print piece listed 3 organizations (beyond the Berkeley based Center for Investigative Reporting and Bay area philanthropists Sandler-funded ProPublica) focusing on nonprofit journalism, San Francisco Free Press, San Francisco Public Press, and CalExpress. Oddly, and annoyingly, and ironically, none of the three except the Public Press seem to have Google-findable URLs at this time.

Gotta go to work now.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Data + Prizes = "made for me" blog topic

I spend a lot of time and energy thinking about the data we need to make better giving decisions. This has led to a lot of time watching data providers in the social capital market space grow and diversify. This has lead to a growing discussion group that is thinking about issues from content ownership to licensing to the types of data that markets need to work. You can join that discussion over here.

I also spend a lot of time thinking and writing about prizes.

So this announcement, for a prize to the best articulation of data needs in emerging markets for SMEs*, was like a "made-for-me" announcement. The SEVEN Fund is looking for ideas about data that investors could use to make better decisions about SMEs in emerging markets. Got 750 words to share on this topic? Post 'em up and win $50,000. And help change the world.

*SME = small and medium enterprises