Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New York Times Giving Section

Today's New York Times features the annual giving section. The front page of the section (in the old paper version)* includes articles by David Cay Johnston, Joe Nocera and Stephanie Strom. Johnston and Nocera are two of my favorite current and former columnists. Strom takes on the unenviable task of trying to nail down the economy's impact on giving. Her story leads with quotes from yours truly.

Now you've all heard me say this before but it bears repeating - philanthropy will not cut it as a market, marketplace, industry, what-have-you as long as reporters like Strom, experts like those cited from IUPUI and analysts/pundits like me have to guess/estimate/postulate/suppose about real-time data on capital flow in the sector. Sure, we'll all get data from GivingUSA and The Foundation Center next June and then again in June 2010 that will actually tell us what is or is not happening now. Not good enough - we need to be able to track giving flow.

So how can we do this? Here are some ideas:
There are lots of other ways we can solve this problem. If you have some, please share them with me in the comments. Information and data matter. Giving flows are the "lifeblood" of philanthropy - we ought to be able to track them.

*I just got a Kindle and it changing how I read, where I read, when I read, and what I do with all the stuff I read. Here's what I need - a way to connect my Kindle highlights/notes to my twitter feed - stay tuned.


Sean Stannard-Stockton said...

I just saw an amazing little tool called Google Flu Trends that indirectly tracks the rate of influenza in real time. Maybe there's ways to indirectly track charitable donations?

Lucy Bernholz said...

I'd just posted a piece on googleflu trends - an hour later your comment came in - yes, I agree, this is an example of what we can see when we can see data!

Lucy Bernholz said...

here's the link for the post on googleflu


Sean Stannard-Stockton said...

Ah! I'm still digging out from under emails and posts after getting back from my trip. You're one step ahead of me as usual!

Steven Lawrence said...

We at the Foundation Center are feeling the same way and, for our part, are actively reaching out to foundations to try to get the most timely information possible on their giving. In fact, we have made it a top priority to reach out to funders to ask them to report their detailed grants data to us electronically so that we can make their most current information available quickly. To date, close to 360 grantmakers—including many of the nation’s largest foundations—have done so.

We also work to get as close to real-time data as possible on institutional giving in response to the economic crisis, much as we did following the Gulf Coast hurricanes and 9/11. So far we’ve collected more than $440 million worth of real-time data on grants related to the crisis, available on an interactive map at our web site and through an RSS feed. And in our recent research advisory, (http://www.foundationcenter.org/focus/economy/advisories.html) we reported on findings of a September 2009 grantmaker survey, updating the predictions we made earlier this year about overall foundation giving in 2009 and 2010.

It’s a challenge, but we’re committed to improving both the comprehensiveness and timeliness of data on the sector and welcome all ideas for and assistance with making this happen.