Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 - the year in pictures (sort of)

I wasn't going to blog today but I'm several days into a nasty head cold and can't do much of anything else. To say goodbye to 2011, a year in which #infographics made the #buzzword list, I thought I'd share a few special ones.

First, there is Beth Kanter's collection of #philanthropy and #nonprofit related infographics - in wiki format - so that everyone can share.

Second, The WildAid machine (pictured below) is a virtual Rube Goldberg machine, drop your donation in one end and watch it "spit" out the results.

The "WildAid Machine" must be the ultimate intersection of #infographics and fundraising. (The picture is just a screen clip - you have to go the site to make it work)

Third, I've set two work related New Year's resolutions. One is to unsubscribe from all the email newsletters I receive (please don't send me any more). I've been at this for two days, unsubscribing away. The second is to try two new sharing sites for my work at Stanford (what a thrilling life I lead). Posterous sent me a great link to their "inspiration gallery" - and there I found an entire website dedicated to social media #infographics.

Fourth, this display of the Republican presidential candidates and their typical entourages was fascinating to me and my son. The content was clear and compelling. The display demonstrated the power of pictures to make interesting an idea that would be miserably dull if conveyed in text.

(Photo clipped from New York Times graphics)

Finally, a big thank you and an appreciative Ha! to Tony Macklin, who took it upon himself to create a practical #infographic representation of my buzzword lists from 2009, 2010 and 2011. He turned them into an actual #buzzword bingo playing board. (You can download your own board on Tony's site)

Thanks Tony, and all of you, for reading along, chiming in, and doing the good work that you do. If you like this blog and care about its continuation, please consider buying a copy (or two dozen) of the Blueprint 2012. It reflects my best thinking on the year to come, draws from the conversations we have here, and pays a tiny lit bit toward all the time I put into this blog.

I wish you all a happy and healthy year ahead.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Buzzword 2011.10 - #

The final buzzword of the year is # - the Twitter hashtag. Philanthropy finally got really hip to Twitter this year (as did so many people, thanks to the Arab Spring and Twitter-enabled TV shows). So the humble hashtag, the pound sign, the # is our final buzzword of the year.

One great example of how this Twitter convention has become part of the regular lexicon - The Case Foundation's end of year #GoodSpotting campaign - born to be sticky, hashtag and all. Forget about folks fumbling to come up with "bumper sticker" statements or even sound bites. #Whatmattersnowisthehashtag.

We've rediscovered the @ sign. Google brought back +. The humble # is 2011's final philanthropy buzzword. As you prepare for your New Year's celebration take a moment to ponder which lowly keyboard key will come to prominence in 2012.*

Happy New Year to everyone.

The full #buzzword list:
.1 Social Impact Bond
.2 Collective Impact
.3 Storytelling
.4 Charitable Tax Reform
.5 Infographics
.6 Evidence-based

.7 Shapeshifting
.8 Disruption
.9 Amplify
.10 # 

*I've already had a very funny Twitter discussion about the | - the keyboard symbol that has @jenbo1's vote. Go vertical line!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Giving with Brian Lehrer

Will Kickstarter raise more money for the arts in 2012 than the NEA provides?

Is there a new generation of assumptions about where good comes from?

Is technology changing our definitions of good and evil? Will the future of philanthropy be found in brown paper bags?

Listen in on this Skype discussion with Brian Lehrer and colleagues from The Awesome Foundation, DonorsChoose, and KickStarter to learn more.

Also introduces Stanford's Philanthropy, Policy and Technology Project and our #recodegood project. 


Monday, December 19, 2011

Philanthropy Buzzword 2011.9 - Amplify

Is it a social media thing? Have we given up on leverage? Scale?

Without a doubt, 2011 was the year of "amplifying" philanthropy. A few examples:

And on and on and on. My, it's getting loud in here.

Here's the list of 2011 Philanthropy Buzzwords.

In honor of the recession-that-experts-say-is-over-but-tell-that-to-the-unemployed, I'm only doing 9 Buzzwords this year. Everyone has to cut back.

.1 Social Impact Bond
.2 Collective Impact
.3 Storytelling
.4 Charitable Tax Reform
.5 Infographics
.6 Evidence-based

.7 Shapeshifting
.8 Disruption
.9 Amplify

I'm just kidding.  Stay tuned - in the interest of collective impact, multi-platform storytelling, and disrupting the status quo, I'm trying something new this year.  The 10th buzzword of the year will be announced in the Chronicle of Philanthropy on December 27th. They'll have the full list and reveal the buzzword you've all been waiting for. 

Buzzword 2011.10 - ....

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Buzzword 2011.8 - Disruption

Disruption is the new black. Clayton Christensen began the authorial trend with his management classics on disruptive innovation. He’s gone on to “disrupt” health and class. I contributed to the meme with Disrupting Philanthropy: Technology and the Future of the Social Sector. Others have written on disrupting homelessness, media, technology, and manufacturing. 

Here's a report from the Alliance for Children and Families called Disruptive Forces: Driving a Human Services Revolution

Disruption may soon replace innovation as the most overused and underdefined term in the social economy.

You can find other buzzwords in Blueprint 2012. The 2011 list so far includes:

Buzzwords 2011

.1 Social Impact Bond
.2 Collective Impact
.3 Storytelling
.4 Charitable Tax Reform
.5 Infographics
.6 Evidence-based
.7 Shapeshifting

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Buzzword 2011.7 - Shapeshifting

Shapeshifting is what happens when an organization changes corporate form – usually shifting from nonprofit to for-profit. In the 1990s dozens of health care organizations and hospitals made this shift, spinning off philanthropic foundations with billions in assets. Since 2000 we’ve seen this in other sectors, including student loan providers. The sale of nonprofit Jumo to for-profit GOOD raised the issue again in the summer of 2011. 

Two other notable instances of shapeshifting that received less attention were the conversion of website verification firm TRUSTe and the online community site Couchsurfing. These last two shifts were accompanied by significant venture capital investment. Shapeshifting raises valuable questions about the range of organizations that can produce social good , their relative effectiveness, and the role of both private and philanthropic capital in catalyzing these enterprises. 

Brad Smith of The Foundation Center gets the "buzzword identification" prize for this one

Buzzword 2011.6 - Evidence Based

I first came across the term evidence-based as a description of a specialization in medicine. Yes, Evidence Based Medicine is a new subspecialty. I know what you are thinking - the same thing I wondered when I heard this. "Wait, if evidence-based is a specialty, what other kind of medicine have the docs been practicing?"

Well, it turns out, that the evidence-based protocol in medicine, which involves a certain number of Random Control Trials (Hey, you, get back here, I heard you start to leave the room) and a specific protocol for reviewing the medical literature, is contested by folks who  practice medicine based in science AND human judgment AND quality of life. It's a beautiful parallel to the role of evidence-based practice in philanthropy and nonprofits - proof + passion, head + heart.

Evidence based practice is what we got when the protocols for using specific kinds of research analyzed in specific kinds of ways spread beyond medicine into domains such as education and nursing.

Evidence based practice is expanding in philanthropy. The Annie E Casey Foundation has an evidence based practice group. The spread of EBP seems to be in direct proportion to the growth of Program Related Investments, Impact Investing, and Social Impact Bonds - all tools that need external standards for success. It's also riding the wave of charity rating efforts, independent ratings organizations, and institutions focused on improving philanthropic practice. Nonprofits and evaluation groups are using evidence-based practice not only to assess programs but to design and replicate them. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration maintains an online database of evidence-based programs and practices.

This is not a fly-by-night buzzword. Evidence-based is a rigorous approach to the application of research to practice and while the approach may not have all the answers we can expect to see more of it.

Monday, December 12, 2011


I'm thrilled to announce the ReCoding Good Charrette series. This is a key part of the work I'm now doing at Stanford's Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS).

The charrettes (design conversations) will run over the course of 2012 and focus on issues that offer new opportunities to use private resources for public good. We'll poke and prod and question these topics, turning them over and examining their roots as well as their potential. What are we looking for? Their likely, possible, or desired impact on philanthropy and the policy frameworks we use to guide private resources for public good.

Charrettes are hosted with partner organizations. Topics identified so far include:
  • Is it better to give or to share? Intersections between philanthropy and the sharing economy
  • Political Charity? Citizens United and the New Reality of Change
  • New Money, New Rules: The Policy Frame for Impact Investing
  • Global and Digital: Public Goods in the Internet Age
  • Big Data, Open Government, and the Public Good
  • 21st Century Institutions: Governing Public Good
  • Bioscience, the body, and the body politic - new frontiers of public and private
The conversations happens all year long online at #ReCodeGood. Charrette discussions will be  documented and shared on the PACS website and here. We invite you to participate in all of our electronic discussions and public forums.

The ReCoding Good charrettes complement a series of scholarly workshops, ongoing public forums, idea sharing, and policy research that make up the larger project on Philanthropy, Policy, and Technology. We expect this work to provide guidance for improving the public policy frameworks that shape our social economy.

We invite you to join us in asking five key questions about the emerging social economy:
  • What does a post-Citizens United world mean for nonprofits, philanthropy, and the public good?
  • How is digital technology changing our conception of public accountability and public goods?
  • How will big data, the sharing economy, and open government influence philanthropy?
  • How can we better align our regulatory frameworks that govern and structure the creation of public goods with the technological innovations being made in bioscience, data processing, and other rapidly advancing fields?
  • What are the 21st century policy frames we need to encourage the use of private and public resources to help address our major domestic and global challenges
The answers to these questions will inform policies to shape a more robust, capable, fair, and effective system for using private resources for public good. Such a system matters to all of us: nonprofits, donors, social investors, social entrepreneurs, activists, public officials, and, above all else, citizens. The rules reflect what we want from government, markets, and individuals in solving our shared social problems.

All materials from and information about the project can be found at We invite you to join our email list, talk with us on twitter (#ReCodeGood) and join us in person whenever you can. You can register to participate in the conversations here.

The ReCoding Good charrettes are part of the Philanthropy, Policy and Technology Project of the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at Stanford University. Rob Reich, @robreich) and I (, @p2173) are leading the project. 

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Making political decisions in the new social economy

In the newly released Blueprint 2012 I talk about how political contributions and charitable giving may well become part and parcel of the same "change strategies."

I use a "galaxy/universe" metaphor to show how charitable giving, impact investing, and political contributions are all part and parcel of one universe. As donors and changemakers we are traversing this universe, making decisions about our resources from each of the galaxies.

(Blueprint 2012)

I was surprised and delighted to see a similar metaphor used in the newest issue of Mother Jones Magazine where they write about the emergent relations between 501 (c) nonprofits and political giving. All of this is brought to us courtesy of the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United vs the FEC.

Mother Jones also includes a closer look at the content of the political giving galaxy - here's a snapshot (Photo from Mother Jones, Courtesy of BoingBoing)

This issue of Mother Jones issue includes the decision tree infographic below. Whatever your politics, policies, or charitable interests, these are the enterprise decisions you are now navigating. The decision tree walks a donor through the tradeoffs of anonymity, tax deductibility, and other factors that are now in play.

(Mother Jones Magazine)

I was quite struck by this, as it mirrored a conversation I'd recently had with a real life large scale political donor. He told me of a conversation he'd had with a campaign fundraiser, who basically walked him through these options on the phone. And when he got off the phone he said, "Whether or not I mix my philanthropy with my political giving this way I know that others will be doing so." I found myself also wondering if the nonprofit development directors calling him were aware of the blend of options he was now considering.

This is the new social economy.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

The data ecosystem

Open up the data!

I feel like I should tattoo this on my forehead. This is what I think about, write about, speak about, and blog about. My forecast for next year (and the years beyond) includes a whole section on big and open data as a resource for social good.

But I don't think data are going to change individuals' behavior directly. Most of use a lot more than data when we make decisions. Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist, won the Nobel prize in Economics for proving that we're not as rational (read: data driven) as we think we are. We factor in lots of other interests and issues besides data when we make choices.

This is especially true in philanthropy. We give for reasons of the heart, personal connections, feeling good, looking good, and doing good. Efforts to shift our giving toward more rational, data driven, informed practices know this - they aim to shift the margins (which are quite big) in order to eventually, perhaps shift some of the middle.

So why am I so focused on opening up data when individuals may not use them? Because data are the most basic organic matter for the ecosystem of social good. They provide fodder for how we identify "the problem," which then plays a huge role in "the solutions" that we build.

I believe that opening up philanthropic data will help enough innovators to think differently about how we change the world. Their efforts will yield new opportunities for the existing system and for all of us.

Stop for a second and think about how data now subtly guide or inform your choices in all sorts of realms - air fares, music, book and movie recommendations, jobs, directions, bank rates, cupcake shops, hairdressers - we all have the option for using more data than ever before when we make these daily decisions. And it's not just the easy stuff, like price. It's the tough stuff, like opinions and reviews, that are now available anywhere, everywhere on seemingly everything. When Angie's list started advertising that you could compare plumbers and doctors I knew we'd turned a corner.

I didn't personally seek out these data. Entrepreneurs saw the value of data as raw materials from which they could put new tools into my hands. Those tools help me do the things I like to do faster, easier, and with better results. And when enough of us start expecting this information to be available it spills over onto how the whole system works.

In philanthropy, we're just moving beyond the most basic information. Basic data on operational overhead is widely available and is beginning to power some new tools that let you contrast nonprofits. But that approach still assumes that you and I care about that administrative ratio comparisons first and foremost when we make a gift. Some of us do, but most of us don't.

This approach also sees data as an end-point in the decision making process, not as an input to thinking about solutions.

What we need is an approach to data that goes beyond the basic quantitative comparisons and gets to the level of how we solve problems. If we shared information on where private and public money flows in a community, or where needy people spend their days, or how much food gets wasted and where, or we could hear directly from our elderly neighbros, or help artists connect with each other we might imagine whole new approaches to our shared problems.

What if we could match something like RelayRides (neighborhood car swaps) with TaskRabbit (small job doers) with volunteers for the elderly so that we could help our neighbors keep their doctor appointments and avoid the ER? Or use data on car sharing services to reroute busses so they serve the areas that really need them? Or use the Twitter patterns of food trucks to help identify cohorts of professionals who might be willing to volunteer? Used the opt-in text messages of young people to engage them in community or public service?

What can we learn from giving patterns? Of individuals, corporations and foundations? We don't really know because we don't really have these data in the form that would allow us to know. We also don't have the ability to mix giving data with shopping data, political giving, voting patterns, faith traditions, or other potentially useful information. Charitable giving is an enormous part of our communities, yet we haven't cracked a way to use the aggregate information on money flow, causes, organizations, or donors so we can see this pervasive activity in any kind of meaningful context.

I see philanthropic data as a "nutrient" in a healthy, diverse ecosystem of social solutions. The open government movement has accomplished some of this with public data - and we have better 311 systems, better public transit, and quicker response times for public works departments as just some of the results.

Early, proprietary efforts at mashing up philanthropic data are being used to develop strategy maps and plot grants by location. These are great first steps.

When we get to the point when you can track funding from all investors (impact investors, philanthropy, government) or monitor particular organizations or enterprises that interest you, then we can influence the flow of capital.

When we can see entire  ecosystems of organizations and funding by issue, geography and population, we can engage communities, guide public policy, and fund accordingly.

And when we can map and mine patterns of success and supply, we will inspire the next era of change makers to expand what works and build what's missing.

Open data are the fuel to make all of this happen.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Philanthropy and Social Investing Blueprint 2012

My third annual industry forecast for philanthropy and social investing is now available.

After a year like the one we've just had what can donors and impact investors look ahead to in 2012? Here's what we can expect:

"There are two things we can be sure will happen in 2012. First, hundreds of millions, probably billions, of dollars will be raised by newly created, issue-specific nonprofit organizations in the United States. Second, that money will be used for political advertising in the American presidential campaign.
An opening statement about political giving might seem out of place in a monograph on philanthropy. It should make you say, “what?” The key challenge for philanthropists going forward will be to understand and adapt to the actual landscape of funding in which they now work. Today this is as much a landscape shaped by the dynamics of political giving and impact investing as it is by charitable giving. It is the gravitational pulls and pushes, the choices made between and among these resources and the enterprises that they fund that matter."

Blueprint 2012 will help donors, investors, and enterprise leaders address three big shifts coming in 2012:
  • Finding your way in the new social economy in which philanthropy and impact investing now operate
  • Considering the implications of the Citizens United decision on philanthropy and social investing
  • Making sense of data as a public good
Looking further into the future, Blueprint 2012 provides early alerts about the impact of open government and the sharing economy on philanthropy and impact investing. 

You can buy hard copies on Lulu, pdfs at Scribd or Amazon Kindle versions (eBook format is coming soon!). Orders of 20 or more can be placed by clicking here. Preview the book below:

Philanthropy and Social Investing Blueprint 2012