Friday, October 31, 2008

Slingshot Fund - Innovation in Jewish Philanthropy

The Slingshot Fund is a great example of endorsement philanthropy. It leverages the due diligence process, selection criteria, and marketing muscle of a few organizations to inform multiple foundations and donors.

The Fund is now accepting nominations for the 2009 / 2010 edition of Slingshot, an annual guidebook that celebrates Jewish innovation by highlighting 50 North American organizations that take innovative approaches to addressing age-old concerns of identity and community in Jewish life. Organizations that are selected for the guidebook gain significant exposure to a diverse funding community and become eligible for a capacity building grant from the Slingshot Fund.

The nomination form can be downloaded at this Web link: In order to be considered for Slingshot '09-'10, completed nomination forms must be emailed to Barbara Taylor at and received by December 1, 2008.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Community Foundations - lend us your data!

I've been talking to lots of people, reading lots of reports, and debating trend data and anecdotes with reporters, researchers, statisticians, historians, foundation executives and board members - everyone wants to know what the future holds for philanthropy.

The truth is, we don't know (though I've posted my opinions). We have trend data that shows limited declines in charitable giving during recessions, but these data don't goback to severe economic shifts such as the Great Depression. We have some recent giving information from online giving marketplaces - but nothing aggregated or longitudinal. We have stories of nonprofits going out of business, public commissions withdrawing or cutting funding, and foundations stepping up to deal with foreclosures. And, at the same time, we hear daily reports about plunging home values, credit crunches on small businesses and student loans, foreclosure rates, and hits to retirement funds.

We do have one source of data that could shed light on the nonprofit and giving practices in communities all over the country from the late 1920s and through the 1930s - community foundations, federations and United Ways. Many such organizations from Boston to Cleveland to Winnipeg were founded in the 19-teens and 1920s - these organizations are sitting on a gold mine of data, primary sources on donors interests, community needs and giving patterns. Similarly, there are churches and community organizations that trace their history back long enough to have some information to share. It is no doubt in ledgers, annual reports and photo albums that will require patient analysis, but the stories are there to be found, if we're willing to look.

So here it is - my free offer for 1) reporters looking for sources, 2) statisticians looking for historical trends data, 3) graduate students in search of dissertation topics, and/or industrious bloggers looking for some insight into their local community in previous dire economic times. The stories are there, though they will require some searching around and dusting off. Don't misunderstand me - things won't be the same now as they were then. But it never ceases to amaze me how much we can learn about the future by looking to the past.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What can philanthropy learn from political campaigns?

I recently found myself wondering what the tactics, strategies, infrastructure, governance changes, and technology applications that distinguish this Presidential campaign from others might mean for communities and community philanthropy. I had just read a piece in the San Francisco Chronicle, and was walking to get bagels on a sunny morning. Since I always have my mobile phone with me, I twittered the question - sort of a high-tech "note to self." Of course, a tweet is also a "note to others." Within 20 minutes I had heard back from Sidney Hargro, a far-flung community foundation colleague - who had been wondering the same thing.

His comment showed up on his Facebook Wall, where the two of us continued to chat over the course of the day. The fact that he was in Ohio and I was in San Francisco and we never spoke to each other or changed our existing weekend plans to fit in this conversation makes it notable to those of us who are over 40 and completely normal for those readers under 25.

The back drop of the story mimics some of what he and I were asking ourselves about connection, community, idea sharing and technology. Our thinking was boosted by stories we each had read in Fast Company, The Atlantic, Wired, scholarly research, legal analysis, and elsewhere. Both of us are fans of Beth Kanter and her wisdom on social media and nonprofits. Here's some of our exchange:

"My random thoughts include comparing the notion change funded by high net worth individuals to the notion of change funded and fueled by the people. The fabric of the Obama ground game as I see it was produced by weaving community organizing structure with the technology and philosophy of social media. My burning question is - "What would the impact of community philanthropy be if funded and fueled by the people?" Similarly, would our communities look like if our traditional philanthropic institutions take a deep breath and surrender the need for absolute control?"

"...My observations about Obama campaign as an org is as flat and connected to ground, not top down and centralized. sounds good if you say it real fast but its new for organizations to have staff who work to connect outsiders, bridge turf, and repeatedly offer points of connection so that each individual finds the one that works for him/her. I've lived the difference just in organizing small local fundraisers - working differently takes skill and new mindsets. how can these be encouraged?"

"There are definitely generational advantages to a new mindset - but don't count us old folks out. One very mundane example is simply giving people the experience of being part of something different. Then they (we) start to ask - wait, why doesn't my organization, this campaign, this fundraiser (etc etc) work the way that other one did....I'm personally right in the midst of this - delighting in the Obama campaign street effort, online effort, MSM effort, etc. etc and shaking my head and trying to shake up the same efforts regarding defeating Prop 8 - a California initiative. In medical residencies (I'm told) the practice is "see one, do one, teach one" - I find this somewhat frightening where my life is concerned - and totally appropriate where grassroots organizing, fundraising, outreach, voter drives, etc. are concerned."

After some of this back and forth I asked if we could move this discussion to the blog - so that you all might chime in. What are the elements of how the campaigns that most interest you from the perspective of what you or your organization might learn?

Is it how they:
  • have been using technology?
  • structuring themselves?
  • using volunteers?
  • using the media?
  • delivering information?
  • raising funds?
  • mobilizing online communities?
  • giving their supporters online invitations/tracking tools/etc. to host fundraisers?
  • Other?
How do the examples that you noted matter most to communities? To community philanthropy? To any philanthropy? Let me (and Sid) know...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Future of Philanthropy Down Under

The fine folks at Philanthropy Australia sent me a copy of the opening speech from their recent conference - here is the link from the PhilanthropyOz blog. Besides offering a nice, concise several century history of philanthropy the speech looks to the future. A short list of what they see:
  1. Philanthropy is more than money - it includes time and expertise;
  2. Efforts to measure impact must recognize number one above;
  3. Wealth transfer may matter more than wealth creation;
  4. Corporate social responsibility is likely to continue to offer competitive advantages;
  5. Transparency and information sharing matter significantly; and
  6. Australia can and should look to it Asian neighbors for economic and philanthropic leadership.
The full speech is online here. The more we can collect insights and stories such as these about "wither philanthropy" in these economic times the more we might actually be able to understand what we are going through.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Philanthropy calls to action

My post from Friday, better philanthropy, is about the future and what a better philanthropic system, industry, market, ecosystem (or all of the above) can look like, how it could work, and how individuals and enterprises would work within it. Since I initially put out this vision in 2004, many things have come online that have made elements of that vision real.

In the last week or so I've received at least six emails (and one Facebook notice) that are examples of how this is happening. One came from a major research university, one from a think tank, one from a consulting firm, one from Paul Shoemaker of SVP Seattle, one from the Council on Foundations and one from Grantmakers for Effective Organizations. All of them were promoting or encouraging certain types of collective action by philanthropists during this economic cycle and in preparation for a new presidential administration. They are notable in the aggregate for several reasons:
  1. It wasn't that long ago that it was hard to find any organization actively promoting an agenda for philanthropy in the aggregate, let alone five such calls to action;
  2. The diversity of players in the list above is notable - two professional associations, one research center, one commercial vendor to the field, and a group of committed actors - that type of organizational diversity, promoting collective action, is a healthy sign for an industry.
  3. All of the calls to action encouraged continued contributions and a recognition that philanthropy sits in relationship to the public sector and private economy - an intersectoral reality I fully subscribe to but so often see ignored.
These are positive signs of efforts to work together, to aggregate action, to respond and work within tough external realities, and to think deeply about the timing and commitment philanthropists make to the causes they care about.

Innovation in philanthropy

The Kellogg Foundation/Monitor Institute just published a paper on innovation in philanthropy that is worth a look. Find it here. This may be more relevant than ever, as tough economic times are often powerful catalysts to change - a point I've tried to consider here and here and that Tom Watson makes here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Better philanthropy

There are not a lot of people who spend their time wondering what a better philanthropic system/market/ecosystem could look like. I am one of those few. Colleagues of mine from Blueprint recently reminded me that I have already outlined a vision of better (in my 2004 book, Creating Philanthropic Capital Markets: The Deliberate Evolution). The elements I identified then were:
· Aggregated philanthropic dollars
· Diversity of people, resources, ideas and vehicles
· Different power dynamics between grantor/grantee
· Long-term, committed grantmaking for change
· Integrated resources across sectors
· Timed well relative to stage of problem and other funding.

I still agree with those, and realized that since 2004 I'd developed some other lists as well. ... These seven building blocks of open philanthropy are:
  • 1. Facilitate adaptation, don’t hinder it
  • 2. Design for interoperability, local specificity will follow
  • 3. Build for the poorest
  • 4. Assume upward adaptability
  • 5. Creativity and control will happen locally
  • 6. Diversity is essential
  • 7. Complex problems require hybrid solutions
And some 2007 thoughts on aligned investing included these items:
  • Data, research, analysis, strategy, and measurement tools help people put their resources where their personal interests and passions are.
  • the ... philanthropic industry personal, fragmented, and anonymous. It is also strategic, brand-oriented, and – in the aggregate – enormous. Its most generous participants – as measured by percent of net worth given – tend to be the poor, not the rich.
  • While the range of issues they can support is almost limitless; the number of tools that philanthropists have at their disposal is rather small. They have really 7 things to bring to the table: money, knowledge, time, expertise, connections, patience, and independence.
  • I do equate strategy, knowledge, and alignment with effectiveness.
I need a cohesive statement of where the philanthropic industry is now, where it is going, and where are its points of influence. I'll start with these lists above - please feel free to add, subtract, argue with or point me to other sources.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Irvine Foundation Leadership Awards

The James Irvine Foundation Leadership Awards recognize individual leaders who are advancing innovative and effective solutions to significant issues in California. The award aims both to recognize the leaders’ successes and to advance the solutions they have implemented. Nominees for the award may be working in any field — such as education, health, housing, economic development or the environment — in the public, private or nonprofit sector. Award recipients will each receive $125,000 to support their work to benefit the people of California.

Nominations can be submitted online at

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Multi-Media Philanthropic Platforms (Tech Roundup 2008.3)

The California Endowment is helping to make possible a live webcast of The Women's Conference tonight (Wednesday, October 22) from Long Beach. Check it out here.

Participant Productions, the movie company funded by Jeff Skoll (also of the Skoll Foundation and SocialEdge) which brought us An Inconvenient Truth, The Visitor, and The Kite Runner (among others) has put its takepart website up in public alpha - it is worth a good look.

And speaking of movies for social change, at the SSIR Online Giving Marketplace conference, and then again on Monday at the SocialActions lunch (blog post to come) I had a chance to chat with Lloyd Nimetz, a co-founder of HelpArgentina. He is now working on a enterprise that will allow smaller donors/investors to invest in the production of films/media that promote social change - sort-of a Participant Productions for the rest of us.

Mobile texting moves to Mobile Volunteering

I've written a lot about text giving and its potential for philanthropy. Yesterday, as I noted here, I learned about a whole new role for mobile phones in philanthropy - theextraordinaries (video).

I'll be honest, I'm so old my first thought was "Huh? You can't volunteer in any meaningful way in 20 minutes." Wrong again, old lady (as my son might say). First off, the rep from theextraordinaries caught my attention by noting that "petitions stink" (not his exact words, but close enough). I agree. Signing petitions is a very unfulfilling way to try to make a difference.* So I went over to chat with him. He grabs his blackberry and starts flipping through screen shots of what he was talking about - real possibilities for using the time my time on the bus or at the bus stop for good - I could help identify craters on Mars or comment/edit on a nonprofit brochure. When he showed me the way the system will help nonprofit managers and community organizers think in terms of 20 minute time bits I thought, oh boy, change is coming.

The whole system is built around mobile phones - since that is what the world carries - and so is noteworthy for being a fun, technogical adaptation to the reality of crazy busy lives, short attention spans and desire to do something good. Given that our phones are also cameras and gps trackers, as well as data storage devices and useful for making phone calls - I got this strange feeling that if the technology to make the outreach happen the types of 20 minutes tasks would rapidly proliferate and diversify. They could even be fun and meaningful.

And maybe, just maybe, it will lead to an end of the Market Street Shuffle, in which I dance around/look past/or politely refuse the dozens of petition signers between me and the bus stop and get on with doing something more meaningful.

*I hate petitions for lots of reasons - for example, they mostly serve to put me on a list that generates junk mail, there is no connection to the ongoing process, you never hear back about what happened, they often result in poorly written ballot measures that wind up in court, and they are EVERYWHERE. There are lots of folks who've reached the end of their ropes with petitions and the initiative process here in California. I do acknowledge that petitions sometimes work, especially right now when my immediate fight for my civil rights was made possible by someone else's petition drive. And I understand that because they sometimes work they will continue to be used. That doesn't mean we can't try to improve the initiative process and find alternative ways for people to take meaningful action.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Philanthropy talks on either coast

If you are in NYC on November 3rd go hear Susan Berresford (former President of Ford Foundation) speak about foundations in tough economic times. Information is here.

For those in San Francisco on November 19 you can hear Paul Brest (President of Hewlett Foundation and author of Money Well Spent) and Bill Somerville, President of Philanthropic Ventures Foundation (Author of Grassroots Philanthropy) talk about their work and books. Information is here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

I have just seen the future...

... And so I will blog about it while walking back to my office ... and it's "cloud" of ways to change the world - and their vision of "free time".

More to come when I am not typing with my thumbs.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

More on the future

Thanks to all you have commented on the "...future of philanthropy as we know it" posts.

Conversations and comments are scattered across several blogs - check The Foundation Center, Chronicle of Philanthropy, and Huffington Post for some important insights from readers about the 1) additional effects of public budget cuts, 2) comments from BC researcher John Havens on how foundation giving may not slow down for a year or so - and my thoughts on that - and 3) some insights from fundraisers for religious organizations - by far the largest area for individual giving and perhaps a bellweather of things to come.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Resetting philanthropy

Lots of folks disagree with my post on "...the future of philanthropy."

Here are comments from two economic watchers - one a writer for Business Week and the other is a bank VP, who may agree with me (transcript is from

"Are we in a recession? A slowdown? A rebalancing? What happens next? Kai Ryssdal asks Mike Mandel, writer for BusinessWeek, and Johs Worsoe, senior executive vp, global markets, for Union Bank, for their thoughts.

"Kai Ryssdal: I don't know if you'd call it calm, exactly. But there doesn't seem to be the same existential angst about the economy this Friday as there was last week. To get a bead on what is going on out there we've got Michael Mandel from BusinessWeek with us and Johs Worsoe, he runs the global markets division at Union Bank.

Gentlemen, good to have you both with us.

Ryssdal: And Michael Mandel, I'd like to start with you and I'd like to get your take on this proposition: that the immediate crisis has passed and what we need to do now is sit back and see what happens.

Michael Mandel: I wouldn't quite say that. What we've done is we've avoided a depression. But what we're heading

Ryssdal: Transition to what?

Mandel: Well, what we've had is number of years where the global economy was driven by the U.S. consumer. The U.S. consumer was borrowing in the form of credit cards, in the form of mortgages. And most of the rest of the world was shipping to the U.S. And now, that won't work any more.

Ryssdal: Johs Worsoe at Union Bank, what are the markets telling you about where we are?

Johs Worsoe: Well, we started the week seeing some bright light in the tunnel after an equity market boom on Monday. And then we got humbled in the following of couple of days here. So I think the systemic risk is still there. ... But let's get the systemic risk behind us, which I hope we can do over the next few months, just focus on what effectively will be a reset of the economy. We're probably going to reset ourselves back a few years, create a bottom and work from there.

Ryssdal: Mike, is that your sense, a reset of the economy?

Mandel: Reset is a word that makes it sound like we're going back to the way we were before. I really think that we're going to end up with a very different sort of economy than we've seen in the last eight to 10 years. You know, we've had this very bizarre economy where, starting really about 2003, wages started to, real wages started to drop, but people just kept spending. We're just not going to see that anymore. We don't know, a whole set of institutions, the whole set of businesses set up around consumer spending, those won't have a place in the new economy.

Ryssdal: Johs, let me ask you this: There's a school of thought that said we needed some kind of economic setback in this country. We had gotten so out of whack with the economic fundamentals, that our spending has to be cut back and our credit use has to be limited. Do you buy that?

Worsoe: Yeah, I do buy that. My comment on reset is really the size of the economy, the growth we had the last few years in retrospect wasn't real. What we need to do is we need to change our behavior. ... So the bottom line here is that we need a behavior change.

Ryssdal: Mike, everybody's talking about a long recession. What is the starting point for this restarting or rebalancing or whatever we want to call it? Is it end of next year? Is it the beginning of 2010?

Mandel: You mean when does the economy start growing?... We may actually see growth next year, but it won't be sustained; it won't be the beginning of a long boom. We're gonna bump along in a slow growth period. We may have some up years. We may have some down years. That's what I mean by a transition. It's not just a kind of return to where we were. It's a bumpy movement to somewhere else.

Ryssdal: Johs, there's been a lot of talk actually about a change in the economic fundamentals, about capitalism as we know it has changed. ...

Worsoe: Leverage is clearly a thing of the past, at least the degree of leverage that we've seen in the last few years. ... But this is where the behavior change comes in. ... People do have to be more cautious. "

That is a lot of talk of transition, reset, new economy, change in the fundamentals, restarting, rebalancing......In other words, different.

Foreclosures, falling economies and the future of philanthropy

I'm going to start this post with two notes and build to a big finish....

  • Smartlink has new giving guides for donors concerned about communities and the mortgage crisis.
  • The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced $68 million for mitigation and prevention of foreclosures in Chicago.
Those two notices made me think bigger. So I went looking for the trends. For data on foundation giving in economic downturns, I turn to the Foundation Center, which notes the following:

"Since the Foundation Center began collecting data on all grantmaking private and community foundations in 1975, the country has weathered several recessions. During each of these recessionary periods — 1980, 1981-82, 1990-91, and 2001 — U.S. foundation giving in inflation-adjusted dollars did not decline and, in fact, increased slightly."
The Foundation Center continues:
"Although the economic outlook has worsened over the course of 2008, these and other factors, along with a survey of the country's largest independent, corporate, and community foundations, led us to predict in Foundation Growth and Giving Estimates (released in May) that foundation giving will grow ahead of inflation this year."
Please note the Foundation Center is talking about foundation giving - which is a small percentage of the $300 billion in U.S charitable giving - and includes gifts to foundations themselves (charitable dollars put into foundation endowments).

So those new tools for giving, big new gifts, and trend predictions are all good. But I think the growth prediction for foundation giving is pointing in the opposite direction for charitable giving overall.

For reasons noted throughout this year on this blog, from recession trends to political giving to job losses to the my longstanding doubts about predictions for intergenerational wealth transfers to drops in retail spending to the end of entire industries (video) to decline in religious worship to generalized economic anxiety to big hits at hedge funds - I think we'll see a drop in charitable giving in 2008. I'm just wondering how far into 2009 or 2010 this will go...(see this prediction

I'm sorry to rain on anyone's parade and it is not that I'm a gloomy gus. I run a business (two of them, actually). I'm doing my 2009-2010 budgeting and forecasting just like Joe the Plumber and Sequoia Capital. I'm sticking my finger in the wind trying to guess where things are going just like the next person. I've managed and grown a company through a downturn and so I don't just think about this stuff so I can write snarky blog posts, I've got payroll to make.

I don't think a short-term drop in giving is all we're facing here. I think we're going to see new banking rules, new credit rules, new housing laws, new charitable giving laws, new philanthropic approaches, new tax structures, new public service demands and possibly programs, the heads and tails of important demographic and generational shifts, and lots of other things that will fundamentally restructure the business of giving as we've come to know it. And I think a drop in giving this year is just the beginning of it.

Come on - jump in and disagree with me! First of all, I would love to be wrong about the above. Second of all, I'd learn from some real discussion about why charitable giving won't change or drop in the short term and how philanthropy might continue to grow in the longer term.....after all, pretty much anyone who reads this blog should care about whether we're in an evolving business or a mature one, whether giving is growing or declining, whether its philanthropy or online giving or peer-to-peer lending or microfinance or impact investing or social enterprise or social capital markets..share your thoughts...Don't just sit there and shake your head, tell me what you think..

Charitable and political giving

I published this paragraph as a bit of an afterthought on Thursday's post. Thought I'd pull it out and let it stand on its own -

Here's another thought I've been noodling on for a while. I've given more money to political campaigns this year than I ever have before. Judging by the size of the funds raised through primaries and general elections, I'm not alone. Lots more people have been giving money to candidates (and propositions, initiatives, etc) than ever before. What will be the impact of all this political giving on people's budgets for year-end giving? I don't know the answer to this question and we may not know until well after the election and after Giving Season. My hunch is that, as our wallets have grown thinner in recent months and our anxiety has increased, the "average" person's budget for year-end giving is going to move in the same direction as their budget for holiday shopping - down. Consumer companies and investors are planning on lower spending. Nonprofits are girding for it. Some research says this isn't the case. But that research was done in July 2008, back when folks had jobs, some had 401K plans, investment banks still existed, and banks themselves were independent. Now more than ever we will be making decisions about where and how to allocate our dollars and what lever - charitable, political, investment - will make the change we seek.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Videos and podcasts and twitter

As Executive Producer of the Giving Channel on I'm thrilled to point you all over to some of the video coverage of the recent Social Capital Markets (SoCap08) conference. I covered the conference here, here, here, here, and here. The SoCap08 conference gave me the final push I needed to go live on twitter.

The week before SoCap08 I was at SSIR's conference on Online Giving Marketplaces. Interviews and pictures from that conference are now online here.

Changemakers - R. I. P.

Changemakers is probably not the first nonprofit to close its doors since the economy went belly up (and it won't be the last) but it is the first in the immediate circle of organizations I have supported. Here is some of what was said as they shut the doors and turned off the lights:
"...Changemakers is closing. It is with regret, but also with unanimity and clarity that we made this decision. The economic downturn, combined with our fundraising outlook, has made our course of action clear.

Changemakers burst on the scene a decade ago, not to build an endowment or another entrenched institution, but to awaken the country to social justice philanthropy as a field unto itself. Our intent was to ignite a passion for social change in donors everywhere, and to help build a powerful infrastructure for funding social movement organizations of the future.

Our work as an ongoing institution is done. We step aside to allow the seeds we have sown to take root, grow, and blossom in new and innovative ways. Together we can take profound, collective pride in our decade of accomplishment:
  • We granted over $2 million to community-based social change philanthropies. These investments helped scores of organizations position themselves for the future and build lasting organizational capacity.
  • Our guiding principle has been that social change philanthropy is defined not merely by where money is directed, but by how it is given. We spotlighted how the grant-making process itself could be a means of empowerment, constituency engagement, and could shift the balance of power between grantor and grantee.
  • In the spirit of advancing diversity in philanthropy, we created a groundbreaking curriculum for donors of color that honors the unique contributions of different cultures to the American tradition of giving and inspires them to take a seat at the organized philanthropy table.
  • We continually asked donors and foundations across the nation: "What are you doing with your philanthropy to achieve deep and lasting social change?" and many now have engaged deeply with that question.
The groundwork laid by our grant-making, education and advocacy will be a rich part of our legacy. But what we most want to leave as our legacy is a call to action for social justice philanthropy for the 21st Century that includes:
  • Investment in the essential work done by Changemakers' past grantees;
  • Support for our colleagues working tirelessly to strengthen the infrastructure for social justice philanthropy. For more information, please visit

  • Support for the organization that will house the Essentials for Diversity in Giving (EDG) curriculum, to allow it to continue to build the capacity of the community-based philanthropy field.
As Changemakers works to finalize this transition, you can find the latest news and view our last video on Reimagining Philanthropy by visiting"
Letters like this raise some serious questions for all of us in all of our roles - as donors, residents, direct service users, indirect service beneficiaries, board members, volunteers, voters* -
to consider.
  • What was getting done that will no longer get done?
  • How will our lives be affected by the loss of organizations we have supported in the past?
  • What will we do with that support? Find new issues? New organizations? Give up?
  • What have we learned from this?
  • What can I do better/differently/more of for the other organizations I support?
  • How do I advance the issues and solutions I care about, when the organizations I've known and worked with no longer exist? Are there other organizations, other strategies, new partnerships, new resources?

*Here's another thought I've been noodling on for a while. I've given more money to political campaigns this year than I ever have before. Judging by the size of the funds raised through primaries and general elections, I'm not alone. Lots more people have been giving money to candidates (and propositions, initiatives, etc) than ever before. What will be the impact of all this political giving on people's budgets for year-end giving? I don't know the answer to this question and we may not know until well after the election and after Giving Season? My hunch is that, as our wallets have grown thinner in recent months and our anxiety has increased, the "average" person's budget for year-end giving is going to move in the same direction as their budget for holiday shopping - down. Consumer companies and investors are planning on lower spending. Nonprofits are girding for it. Some research says this isn't the case. But that research was done in July 2008, back when folks had jobs, some had 401K plans, investment banks still existed, and banks themselves were independent. Now more than ever we will be making decisions about where and how to allocate our dollars and what lever - charitable, political, investment - will make the change we seek.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Nominations for Change

The Charles Bronfman Prize

The Charles Bronfman Prize has launched its 2009 award cycle, marking the start of this year's international quest for extraordinary, young humanitarians. The Prize celebrates the vision and talent of an individual or team under 50 years of age, whose humanitarian work has contributed significantly to the betterment of the world.

The Prize awards the recipient(s) $100,000. Nominations will be received until November 30, 2008.

Echoing Green Fellowships

The Echoing Green Fellowship provides seed funding (up to $90,000) and technical support (fellows learn how to develop a strategic plan, create a budget, and run an organization) to turn a visionary idea for social change – be it a sustainable energy system, a new model for middle schools, or a cutting-edge public health program – into a reality. And social entrepreneurs in dozens of countries and just about every field of social change, from education (Teach For America) to human rights (EarthRights International), from public service (City Year) to microfinance (SKS India), have used this fellowship to launch their organizations. Phase One applications due December 1, 2008.

Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship

The Skoll Foundation announces that November 4, 2008 is the next deadline for receipt of applications for the Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship.
Skoll is looking for social entrepreneurs whose work has the potential for large-scale positive change in the areas of tolerance and human rights, health, environmental sustainability, peace and security, institutional responsibility, and economic and social equity. Within these issues, we are particularly interested in applications from social entrepreneurs working in five critical sub-issue areas that threaten the survival of humanity – climate change, nuclear proliferation, pandemics, conflict in the Middle East and water scarcity.

Award winners are celebrated at the annual Skoll World Forum following their selection, at the end of March in Oxford, England.

You can read the Award Guidelines, take the eligibility quiz and fill out an application on the Web site.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

SoCap Plenary Tuesday Morning

Some notes from Tuesday's SoCap08 opening session with Katherine Fulton and a panel with Jed Emerson, Matthew Bishop, and David Chen.

Locked in drivers of change - the things we know are going to happen, because they already are:
  • money seeking diversification
  • values driven investors
  • growing inequity and environmental crisis
  • track record of early success
  • talent pushing new careers
  • openings for policy change

The question for the impact investing, social capital markets: Can they take off? Or will they
remain small, disorganized, undercapitalized niche for decades to come?

Stages of evolution of industry (Nice graphic. See my book for same point made 4 years ago)
  1. uncoordinated innovation,
  2. marketplace building,
  3. capturing the value of the marketplace,
  4. maturity

Impact investing is now moving from stage 1 to stage 2. This can take a LONG time. e.g. microfinance took decades to get through stage 2, same with Community Development Finance.

What we need: New collective structures - new supply side network, institutional investors and family offices, that structure is necessary to drive policy change,

The moment will come soon for fiscal stimulus and policy change - open moment is very soon (**Perhaps between now and January 20, 2009? - and then in 100 days thereafter? Footnoted thoughts of a wishful American voter) (See note above on book)

All investing 60 trillion USD, impact investing $2 trillion USD, US philanthropy 0.3 trillion USD. Impact investing in 5-10 years? Fulton guesses impact investing could grow to ~1% of total managed assets, approx ~$600B of capital.

Time out! How can we sit in a gathering discussing markets, in October 2008, and still discuss growth as a key goal, meaningful metric, or some kind of end in itself? How can we assume growth = good? My questions from 5 am seem even more important (to me at least) now that I'm awake. Here they are again:

"The news in recent weeks has been full of "lessons we should be learning" - from the Great Depression to Norway and Sweden's banking crises, Japan's decade of malaise, what Iceland can learn from Argentina and so on. So I think this is the perfect time to ask some harder questions of social markets than "are we here yet?"
  • What is the long term vision?
  • What does failure look like?
  • What would social market collapse look like?
  • What ancillary supports - regulatory, market-based, research, metrics - do social markets need to succeed?
  • What safeguards and checks/balances do we need?"

If there is a SoCap09 here's what I would hope for:
  • Reflections on a year of significant policy change about markets - social and otherwise - in US and global financial systems, and plottings for further improvement;
  • Clear sense of (and support for) the major policy actors working on behalf of market forces that promote and sustain public benefits;
  • Much clearer sense of what types of capital work for what stage of public benefit;
  • A community that has moved beyond assumptions that "growth is good" (or any kind of end in itself) and is making real conversations happen about what social capital does, where its leverage can be on other forms of capital (especially public resources), and how the different sources of capital work together to advance public benefits.
  • And lots of other great stuff...
I had to leave the conference early because of a family emergency - will try to follow the incredibly impressive blog and twitter streams. Thanks to all of those who made this event happen - absolutely one of the most energized, provocative, and hope-inspiring conferences I've attended in a long time. Take my nudgings and urgings and time-outs for what they are - the rantings of an impatient entrepreneur/advisor/nag who knows we can always do better and who spends her life wondering what is around the next corner.....

Social Markets Meet Mission Markets

Yesterday I hinted at news from - I've just been given the OK to leak this out - they've formed a partnership with and will be announcing it today at 12:05 pm in room 190c at SoCap08. This is cross-platform philanthropic investing.

Further reflections on SoCap 08

Are Social Markets here? I asked this question yesterday. I think they are very much emerging, in formation and in ten/twenty years will need little explanation. So, to a small degree, they are here. But they are still very new. We have a lot of influence over what they are, how they work, what is included and what isn't.

Overnight reflections on yesterday's session brought a few more thoughts (also spurred by a quick scan of today's headlines on actual newsprint - as well as headlines on the web):
  • Will Rosenzweig commented yesterday that opportunity abounds where there is technology transfer - particularly transfer of tools made for emerging economies that can be transferred to developed economies. This reminded me of my principles of open philanthropy - "build for the poorest" and let adaptation work its way up the funding environment - perhaps this principle has broader implications.
  • Paul Krugman, Nobel Laureate in economics and columnist for the NYT, won acclaim for his research on why countries trade they ways they do. His column on Monday credited the British government for its response to current global credit crisis - and points out that the Europeans and the U.S. could and should (and subsequently have) followed the British lead.
  • A Kenyan entrepreneur interviewed on The World yesterday talked about how African entrepreneurs and policy makers need to actively define options and values for the emerging African economy - so that it doesn't mirror the currently failing systems all around it.
The news in recent weeks has been full of "lessons we should be learning" - from the Great Depression to Norway and Sweden's banking crises, Japan's decade of malaise, what Iceland can learn from Argentina and so on. So I think this is the perfect time to ask some harder questions of social markets than "are we here yet?"
  • What is the long term vision?
  • What does failure look like?
  • What would social market collapse look like?
  • What ancillary supports - regulatory, market-based, research, metrics - do social markets need to succeed?
  • What safeguards and checks/balances do we need?

If there is any lesson we might collectively learn from the current economic situation is that markets are man-made and thus can be shaped toward certain ends - by regulation or lack thereof, by definitions, by barriers to entry (or lack thereof), by collaboration and competition, and yes, dare I say, by deliberate evolution. SoCap is exciting because it is new, filled with entrepreneurs and their energy, and emerging - so this is the perfect time to ask these longer term "what if" questions.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Social Capital Index

Here are some cool things I've heard about at SoCap08 (so far):

SoCap 08

What does it mean if you throw a conference and twice as many people show up as were originally registered?

Well that is what happened at SoCap08. The rooms were so full it made sense to join twitter so I could find out what was happening on the other side of the door - there were no available seats!

Perhaps this means that Social Capital Markets have finally made it? I don't think so. Partly this is why I was on a panel with Will Rosenzweig and John Goldstein in which the bulk of the discussion was about 1) pitching funds with market returns and never mentioning the phrase "social capital," 2) making sure enterprises deliver financial returns and social returns (not an either/or, not a tradeoff, not a proxy) and 3) the importance of focusing on the spaces between silos while also referring to the silos, or as John put it, "Sometimes it is better to not be new or different. Help investors understand what you are similiar to, describe yourself in terms of the familiar, and don't reinvent the wheel."

Was the conference oversold because of the credit crisis? Perhaps everyone who was going into investment banking is now looking for work in social enterprise or the social capital markets (if they are not applying to business school?)

Perhaps the crowd was so big because the conference is new and still invites both those with funds and those seeking funds?

Or perhaps the timing was just truly perfect - social capital markets are "here" enough to have surpassed their longer-term conference venues (SVN, Investors Circle, BSR) while still being "new" enough to be hot.

Whatever it was that attracted the crowds, the folks at GoodCapital and other organizers/sponsors are to be congratulated on getting such a response and responding to it as best they could. I saw several familiar faces, talked with U.S. foundations, entrepreneurs in traditional fields like healthcare, entrepreneurs from emerging economies, representatives of national governments, nonprofit leaders, lots of students (mba and otherwise), citizen media folks, social sector analysts, endowment advisors, family foundations, and several others. You can follow it all here.

New report on community foundations

The latest Future Matters report has gone live on the Futures project website. Check out for a look at philanthropy and immigrant communities around the country.

SoCap08 starts today - that is where I'll be, leading a session on Money and Meaning today and attending sessions, shmoozing in the halls, blogging sessions and covering the conference for Alliance Magazine tomorrow. You can follow SoCap on twitter, facebook, and linkedin.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Media Coverage and New Publications

The book review I published here on Money Well Spent has been picked up by Alliance Magazine's Recommended Resources page.

Blueprint Research & Design, Inc., the company that brings you this blog, is featured in the October issue of Wealth Manager Magazine, in a story on financial advisers and client expectations (on newsstands now).

My latest publication is a chapter in the new Foundation Center book, Local Mission, Global Vision. The chapter, titled, "Managing for the Future: Community Philanthropy and the Next Hundred Years," concludes this collection of essays on community philanthropy around the globe, edited by Peter Hero and Peter Walkenhorst.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

USA Today on philanthropy

Special section in USA TODAY on philanthropy. The section includes:

This being USA TODAY, there are some good graphics - check out this interactive map of community organizations across the country and one of giving by the numbers.

Friday, October 03, 2008

New meaning of philanthrocapitalism

Matthew Bishop's book, Philanthrocapitalism was released a week or so ago. Haven't read it yet, but have read lots of excerpts, responses, etc. etc. It is on the reading list.

In the meantime, however, and with all due credit to my friend Tim Ogden, this Don Asmussen cartoon reminded me of the "other" definition for philanthrocapitalism that has been making the rounds as stocks fall, credit freezes, and banks fail or get bought out:

Philanthrocapitalism: Noun. 1) Using business principles in one's philanthropic activities. Alternative, 2) Using public money to bail out rich capitalists.

88 Against 8

ATTENTION: This post is blatantly (and proudly) self-interested.

The legendary pianist, Leon Fleisher, is appearing in a special benefit concert "88 Against 8" to raise funds for the No on 8 Campaign. The concert is October 21 in San Francisco, tickets require a minimum donation of $500. All proceeds from the concert will go to the No on 8 Campaign. This is the campaign to defeat Proposition 8 on California's ballot, which would deprive same sex couples of the right to marry. More information is here. If you can't attend, you can still donate here: (donations are not tax deductible).

And please vote - just because both vice-presidential candidates threw me and my right to marry under a bus, doesn't mean you have to.

Full disclosure: Leon Fleisher is my father-in-law. Or he will (continue to) be, if Proposition 8 is defeated and my June nuptials aren't taken away.

If I wanted to make this post relevant to the major issues of this blog, I would point out the enormous philanthropic effort, donations of cash, goods and time, that is making this political campaign possible. But you knew that. I'd also point out the fact that my marraige has become an issue for voters is a poignant example of how issues of public and private get framed in our society - the realm in which we often consider philanthropy.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Clarification - Money Well Spent

Some of you have written in and asked me about the review I posted on Money Well Spent, the new guide to smart giving from Paul Brest and Hal Harvey. In particular, the questions deal with my suppositions about the role of strategic philanthropy in tough (may this not prove to be an understatement) economic times. Let me clarify as best I can:

  • Being strategic with one's philanthropy is a good thing. Research, goals, objectives, partnerships, measures, feedback loops - all important, all possible.
  • Philanthropy is by its nature, a matter of head and heart, so strategy will only go so far - the best strategy may not, necessarily, change one's areas of interest or regions of focus, for example (those are so often set by interest, passion, familiarity, connections, etc.)
  • When resources are limited, it is important to be strategic.
  • When resources are abundant, it is important to be strategic.
  • The current crisis in credit markets and its rippling effects to financial markets and the broader economy do not lessen the need to be strategic. However, they may dampen interest/ability in being philanthropic.
  • My point about the timing of the book's release had to do with whether interest in philanthropy would be diminished, not whether or not the book's messages would be less important.
Hope that helps.

And, yes, I appreciate the "irony" that I can amend my post because of this medium (blogging), an ability that published books don't have - the point I made at the start of my review.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Money Well Spent

I received my review copy of Money Well Spent, the new book on strategic philanthropy by Paul Brest and Hal Harvey, back in August. I sat right down and read the book, but waited to post this review to align with the timing of the book’s public availability. Given that there’s been a “slight” change in our financial structures since August, I’m glad I held back. Harvey and Brest can’t rewrite the book before it hits the shelves to account for the changing economic fortunes across the U.S. or the new landscape of investment banking, Wall Street, and mortgage lenders (to say nothing of taxpayers and mortgage owners). Nor can (this edition of) the book ponder the implications of these crisis-driven shifts in the financial industry or regulatory systems on the philanthropic industry.

But I can. So let me use the occasion of this book review to remind us of how interconnected the business of giving is with the fortunes of finance and the vagaries of regulation. I have always contended that philanthropy is a regulated industry. Three forces define the outlines of philanthropy as we know it – markets are the first and regulatory structures around personal taxes and institutional tax exemptions make up the second. The third, a concern for others, is the only one of these forces that flows from within humanity and stands outside of human institutions and systems.

Lets get on with it. The book marks a significant moment in the marketization of philanthropy. It is, in its own words:

"...intended to do for philanthropists what the best books on business strategy do for business entrepreneurs and executives: provide readers with the concepts necessary to design a strategy to achieve their goals - in this case their charitable goals." (preface, page xi, review copy)

Why does this matter? Because such a 'manual' couldn't have been published 10, maybe even 5 years ago. Why? For at least three reasons: First, there was not enough material, hadn't been enough discussion, not enough real development of strategic technique and thinking. Even though foundation philanthropy - which the two authors know best of philanthropy's many forms - has been around for almost 100 years, there was not, until recently, the commitment to an industry, a demand for strategy, lasting challenges to the status quo, or a significant quantity of players, thinkers, institutions, vehicles and experiments about philanthropic practice to actually inform a book such as this.

Second, and perhaps more important, there was no visible demand. The market of individuals who might become philanthropic, and of philanthropists who might become strategic, and of advisers who'd like to sell to this market, and of financial companies who wish to manage assets for these individuals - these were all too fragmented, too under-the-radar, and too quiet. Only in the boom of the last six or seven years have critical numbers of each of these developed to the point where there was an identifiable, reachable target market.

Finally, the book is published by Bloomberg, which is an example of the changes that have occurred in the philanthropy marketplace and of those to come. That a financial press is bringing out this first guide for the mass market is telling - their readers care about this stuff, they see philanthropy as a core business skill, and the business press intends to serve them.

That said, what about the book's contents? The authors divide the work into three sections - Framework, Tools, and Organizing Your Resources. The first two are relevant to all their intended audiences - the last one is best for individual donors and their financial or legal advisers. Professional foundation staff (a small group, about 18,000 or so nationally, including both of the authors) may be less interested in the third section.

The logic of the sections is important - Brest and Harvey go to great lengths to present strategy absent ideology or issue. Their frame for thinking, their recommendations on strategy development, programmatic approach, asset allocation, evaluation, structure, and so on are determinedly issue-agnostic. It doesn't matter, assert the authors, if you are interested in the arts or health care, whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, whether you want your philanthropy to support micro-finance in Zimbabwe or Zen studies in Michigan - the guidance they offer is relevant.

And much of it is. Of particular use is the frame that the author's provide to help a donor locate their goals. They present a frame for thinking about the scale of philanthropic goals that I believe is truly important. This scale offer three dimensions to consider:

* Does the problem diminish the quality of life or does it threaten life itself?
* How long will the harm persist?
* What is the scope of the problem? (pp. 22-28, review copy)

These are three, judgement-free, axes that will help a donor articulate his/her goals and escape "zero-sum"comparisons of "infants or immigrants, arts or AIDS." This is valuable, it effectively "de-escalates" judgement value on values that often paralyze people.

Working from this three-dimensional analysis, Brest and Harvey take readers through carefully chosen, well-documented stories that illustrate real-life choices to define a problem, establish a funding strategy, and evaluate the support that is provided. They provide accessible, and relevant, discussions of technicalities such as expenditure responsibility grants, prizes and awards, and payout rates that will help donors make better decisions about their philanthropy. Simply put, the advice in this book will help people give smarter.

As useful as the advice is, I still found myself pondering two ironies as I finished my read. The first irony is that the same place the book succeeds is where I also think it falls short. No doubt about it, Brest and Harvey have synthesized and presented key elements of rational, strategic giving. Their chapters on goal articulation, strategy and evaluation logically lead them to their final section on organizing resources - the book takes to heart the idea that form should follow function. What it leaves out is the heart. Philanthropy is an industry, enterprises within it do compete as businesses, and it is becoming ever more rational, measurable and visible because of this. These are good things.

Philanthropy is also a labor of love. It is perhaps the only business where passion and volunteerism play major roles. No matter how strategic a donor or foundation becomes, they may still be pursue what some will consider to be foolish, frivolous, or redundant goals. No matter how strategic or effective (or neither) a foundation may be, at any point in time for any number of reasons (some rational, others perhaps not) the donor may pull the plug, redirect the resources, or simply decide to no longer participate. There is little to put an endowed foundation out of business, nothing to tell a donor "don't do that, it is actually harmful," or little that can keep someone from packing up her philanthropic playthings and going home. The most strategic foundation, the most carefully evaluated program strategy, and the most well-weighted goals will still be pre-defined by the donor's interests - be they environmental, health related, artistic, justice oriented, equality-seeking, or none of the above. So while the focus on strategy and measurement are in sync with two of the defining forces of philanthropy (markets and regulation), they are out of sync with the third, the heart and human nature.

The second irony of the book has to do with the timing of its release. Just as this book could not have been published 10 or 5 years ago, it is somewhat fitting that it is being released in the midst of a crisis-induced restructuring of American financial markets and the public systems that oversee them. The book was written during a boom that seemed to have no end, it is informed by a mindset that philanthropy as an industry will continue to grow in size and sophistication and it is intended to inform that growth strategically. Only hindsight will tell us if this transformative moment for markets and regulations is also a transformative moment for the business of giving.

One can easily see a need to be more strategic with declining philanthropic resources, just as Harvey and Brest lay out the need to be more strategic during boom times. Whether or not that will happen, however, is anyone’s guess. If it does, it will more than likely depend on that amorphous, irrational, non-strategic third defining force, the heart of philanthropy, as the roles and shapes of markets and regulation are reconstituted.

The publication timing for Money Well Spent will either prove to be deeply ironic or deeply prescient. In either case, since any valid philanthropic strategy must account for the context of relationships between independent actions, public systems, and private markets, Brest and Harvey’s message remains important, we just can’t predict how well it will be heard.

Full disclosure: I had several opportunities to discuss the developing book with the authors and provided feedback on a penultimate version of the manuscript. I have to say, for all my love of blogs and RSS feeds, and reading the news on my iPhone it is still exciting to see a book become a book (as in the real artifact, bound paper with a nice cover, table of contents, index, the whole shebang). Even as it is, of course, also a website. (