Thursday, December 27, 2012

Philanthropy Buzzword 2012.10 X

Here's the full list of Philanthropy Buzzwords for 2012 as reported in The Chronicle of Philanthropy

(Headline from The New York Times, November 30, 2012)

X is a great buzzword.

In its algebraic context it means "unknown" as in 3X + 59 = 1217.

In its arithmetic context it means "multiply" as in 2 X 2 = 4.

In a geographic or literary context, X always marks the spot where the treasure can be found.

(Photo from Rob Myers)

In David Brooks' world, X means a consumption tax.

In its philanthropic context, X has come to mean "cool," "community-oriented," and "open." Think of: 
  • The X Prize (Revolution through competition)
  • TEDx (Independently organized, global and local)
  • EdX (The future, free, online)
X can also mean eXchange - as in Impact Investing Exchange Asia (IIx) or NeXii
Here is the full list of 2012 buzzwords:
10) X
9) MOOCs
8) Hackathon
7) Fiscal Cliff
6) Resilience
5) Social Welfare Organization
4) Sensemaking
3) Data Scientist
2) Flash Mob Philanthropy
1) Data

I have to say that X might be my favorite buzzword, right up there with last year's #10 - #.
Geoffrey Nunberg, linguist, told NPR that "Big Data" should have been the word of the year, not YOLO (You Only Live Once). I'm glad we started there.

Have a a wonderful new year and I'll see you all in 2013.

Remember - the Blueprint 2013: Philanthropy and the Social Economy will be available for a FREE download on January 7th at

Buzzword Bonus: And just for fun - how about we revisit "Disrupt" as an uber-buzzword of the year!? 2012 brought us an abundance of resilient buzzword possibilities. (Hat tip to @JuliaThornton for reminding me.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Philanthropy thought experiment

I had a great preview of the Blueprint 2013 yesterday with the staffs of the Stanford Social Innovation Review and the PACS Center. Among other things, we "crowdsourced" some ideas:
  • The majority of the group thinks that the charitable tax deduction rules will change in 2013,
  • They agreed with me (out of courtesy) that almost everything can be made into a data question, and
See that little widget over on the right side column headed "Thought Experiment Poll?" (mobile/email/RSS readers, you'll have to go to blog to see the poll widget)

Vote for "End charitable tax deduction" or "End anonymous giving" as bigger negative influence on giving rates and I'll report out on the findings in a week or two.

A little data to inform your vote.

According to Indiana University, as reported by the Foundation Center, the proportion of giving that is done anonymously ranges between 3 - 5 % of "big gifts." This doesn't capture any of the anonymity motivation that drives people to donor advised funds, nor does it capture smaller gifts (under $1 million).

As for the impact of the charitable tax deduction, well, the waves are awash with opinion and a little bit of data:

Friday, December 14, 2012

Global #philanthropy #buzzwords

A reader from Berlin (@Steph_Reuter) noted that my buzzword list from 2009 had some entries on it that were just peaking in Germany this year. Similarly, several ideas that have peaked elsewhere are just making their way to me now. What's buzzy in one place at one time may be old hat elsewhere or not yet on the radar screen.

Why don't we figure out a way to globalize the buzzword watching? Wouldn't it be fun if we could see where a phrase or an idea first becomes "hot," and where it moves to (as well as how fast or slow it travels?)

I have an announcement coming in January that will help make this happen (the announcement will come in regard to Blueprint 2013) but I will need to be part of a crowd to make this happen.

I'd love your ideas, your help, your insights to think through how we do it and then make it happen.
  • What would be the best storage and visualization technology tools for us to track and display the buzz phrases over time? 
  • Can we pull it together for the Buzzword 2013 list?
  • Can I get some volunteer "buzz ambassadors?" A "buzz posse?"
Speaking of your wisdom, thanks to those who've suggested nominees for the Beautiful and Brilliant Awards for philanthropic/nonprofit  data visualization and communications - that is another curation project for which I'd welcome your help.

The latest suggestion was for the Landesa Global Annual Report - 100 million families served with goals to serve 20 million more by 2016 - I'd call that beautiful and brilliant! Thanks to @EhrenReed for pointing me to it.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A year in #socialmedia #datavis

Yesterday I posted my "prediction scorecard" reflecting on the #Ten for the Next Ten predictions I had made back in 2010. In the upcoming Blueprint 2013 you will find my scorecard for the predictions I had made in Blueprint 2012.

Today, in honor of the new Pew Global Attitudes Report on social media - here are a few snapshots of my year in social media.

A wordle of this blog, courtesy of Kyle Reis, a friend and attentive reader:

My year on Twitter, courtesy of Vizify. You can do this too at

For some context, here's the new Google Zeitgeist reports on what the world searched for in 2012.

And here is the "Pulse of the Planet" according to Twitter.

And, because I love cartoons, here's the year in cartoons from The Washington Post.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Scoring my own predictions

Have you read Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise? You should. It will make you appreciate the  National Weather Service and shake your head again at the collateralized debt obligation/mortgage backed securities meltdown of 2008.

I always include a "Hindsight" section in my annual forecast, looking back at how I did with the previous year's predictions. Blueprint 2013 is now in final production stage (release on January 3 7, 2013) and so I've been keeping score for myself on how I did in 2012. You can see that scorecard in the Blueprint 2013.

Then a colleague reminded me of my decade-length list, Ten for the Next Ten, that I posted in 2010 with an eye on 2020. I thought I'd check in on that longer set of forecasts.

Here's the abbreviated list, with [my quick assessment on progress to-date in brackets]:
  1. The rules will change. [Yes, see fiscal cliff discussions and changes to charitable tax deduction]
  2. More spend down foundations [I don't know - do we have baseline data, anyone?]
  3. Gaming and game pedagogy will be built in to problem solving [Yep]
  4. Disaster relief giving will be more structured and planned [Maybe getting there.]
  5. Impact investing will surpass philanthropy [not yet, but time frame is till 2020]
  6. Institutional philanthropy will be more collaborative [Really? What was I thinking?]
  7. Data analysis and visualization will be key skills for philanthropists [Key skills they recognize that they need, not that they already have on hand. Search this  blog for datavis to find examples.
  8. Foundations and nonprofits will still be here [Phew. Although Johns Hopkins' findings of declining employment in nonprofit sector human services, education and healthcare jobs mean I'm on to something over the long run]
  9. Mobile phones will replace credit card donations.  [Coming soon]
  10. Scale will have a networked meaning. [Hmmm. The jury is out on this one]
I had some bonus tracks on the original list, [again, current comments in brackets]
  1. “Impact economy” will replace “social sector” as the term of art. [Nope]
  2. Foundation leadership and boards will not reflect the racial, ethnic, or gender makeup of the nation. [Yes, still a safe bet and a sad truth]
  3. China and India will be atop global philanthropy leader boards. [Getting there]
  4. There will be a multinational oversight organization for global philanthropy or social investing. [Eight years to go]
Seems like I should have some more things to add to this list or refine it. Maybe I'll do that in the new year. What would you add or remove from this list? What score do you give it?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

and the final buzzword is....

....not going to be revealed until December 27th. And it won't be revealed here, but in the Chronicle of Philanthropy (as we did last year, and we shall do from now on).

The good news? That gives you an extra 10 days to keep guessing what it could possibly be. Anyone who guesses it (and posts it on comments of this blog) before midnight PST on December 26 will win a free, signed, hard copy of the Blueprint 2013.

The bad news? There is no bad news.

But to remind you, here's the list as it now stands: Philanthropy Buzzwords 2012.

10) ?
9) MOOCs
8) Hackathon
7) Fiscal Cliff
6) Resilience
5) Social Welfare Organization
4) Sensemaking
3) Data Scientist
2) Flash Mob Philanthropy
1) Data

Here are the Buzzword lists from 2011, 2010, 2009 , 2008, and 2007.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Beautiful and Brilliant Awards

I've called out great info presentation from Humanity United and the Knight Foundation over the last years. I'm happy to add the three following examples of "beautiful and brilliant" information sharing from foundations.
  • Mozilla Foundation for its Annual Report (includes videos, short sections you can click through, great photos, right information)
  • Irvine Foundation's Art Innovation Fund evaluation - engaging site, right-sized information categories, key points easy to find, useful, intuitive infographics.
  • The Hewlett Foundation's Periscope tool for its grants database. The plusses - you want to play with it, it's easy to look for patterns, find gaps, query clusters and ask new questions. Best thing - they're licensing the software under a Creative Commons agreement to other funders. The downside - it makes it clearer than ever before that grants data can only tell a small part of any story. 

Evaluation reports, annual reports, and grants databases - three common foundation communications. Thanks to Mozilla, Irvine and Hewlett for upping the ante on how to present this information in a ways that might encourage us to use it.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Guess #Philanthropy #buzzword #10 - win Blueprint 2013

Can you guess what the last #philanthropy #buzzword for 2012 will be? If you do, I'll send you a free hard copy of the Blueprint 2013. These are rarities - a limited number of the books will be printed and available.

(Watch this space for where, when and how you can get your own pdf download of the Blueprint 2013. But if you want a published copy you have very few choices - win this guessing game or re-start your lapsed subscription to SSIR)

Here's the running list of 2012 buzzwords, numbers nine to one:

9) MOOCs
8) Hackathon
7) Fiscal Cliff
6) Resilience
5) Social Welfare Organization
4) Sensemaking
3) Data Scientist
2) Flash Mob Philanthropy
1) Data

Here are the Buzzword lists from 2011, 2010, 2009 , 2008, and 2007.*
I don't (knowingly) repeat buzzwords.  

I will post Buzzword #10 on the Chronicle of Philanthropy's website on December 27, 2012. December 17, Pacific Daylight Time. Entries need to be posted to the comment section of this blog or tweeted to me (@p2173) before midnight PDT on December 16, 2012. If you win, I'll let you know and then I'll need a snail mail address.

*I should also have offered an award to guess how many years I've been doing this. I would have gotten the answer wrong. Thank goodness for blog archives.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Civic tech and listening for social change

The civic technology movement just got a big boost - a $45 million fund focused on technologies that help people engage with their governments and government agencies be more responsive to their people launched today.

The Making All Voices Count Fund (MAVC) is a partnership between Omidyar Network, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID) and Sweden, through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). 

I also just came across this useful report on Civic Technology from #openplans as part of the Living Cities initiative. It breaks civic technologies down into three categories: 
  • "Improving quality of and accountability in public service delivery – Help city residents more effectively access and track responsiveness of public service delivery, facilitate resident engagement with government around service delivery issues, and streamline resident access to public services.
  • Facilitating resident-driven improvements to neighborhood quality-of-life – Enlist city residents to provide new data to support or inform government efforts, to organize community-based efforts based on that data, or to participate in the development of strategies and policies to address these issues more effectively.
  • Deepening participation in public decision-making – Developing more effective ways to collect meaningful resident input, especially from low-income people, and bring low-income people more deeply into public decision-making processes."
These are helpful categories although they're very broad.  They focus on the interactions between residents and governments - as does the MAVC funding. I'm also interested in resident-to-resident versions of these technologies - where we're using them to connect to each other in pursuit of a shared goal. These include disaster response efforts like #hurricanehackers and #occupysandy, apps that let you share info on farmers markets, apps that faciliate produce or tool exchanges between neighbors.

Last night I attended a meeting hosted by the Knight Foundation that brought together a small group of Silicon Valley companies, nonprofits, city officials, techies, and activists interested in building the connections between residents and our governments. Knight's been hosting similar meetings in other cities, following on its TechForEngagement summit last year. It is all part of a small, growing, exciting movement happening all over the world. It ties in nicely to my post earlier this week about MySociety - the UK nonprofit that "tweeted for trustees."

The civic technology field is fascinating to me precisely because it's more than technology - it's about people:government, it's people:people, it's people:people:goverment and people:communityorganization:people.

It's all part of an emerging digital civil society.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Philanthropy buzzword 2012.9 - MOOCs

A MOOC is a Massive, Open, Online Course, or the somewhat bovine sounding name for a (usually free) class, offered over the Internet.

Classes developed and delivered by university professors are lighting up the airwaves, allowing people anywhere to take classes once open only to enrolled students. MOOCs have universities and colleges in a fever of disruption. As my colleague Rob Reich notes, MOOCs may send universities down the same path as newspaper publishers. Some students may soon be able to earn college credit through MOOCs. Minnesota briefly made the news by deciding to ban MOOCs in the state (regulators changed their mind shortly thereafter).

As the business models shake out and the questions of public purpose get real MOOCs will force open an important discussion for all nonprofits about “how, for whom, and who pays?” After religion, education is the biggest area of interest for philanthropic donations - how will donors get involved in MOOCs?

EdX is one example of a source for MOOCs. Coursera and Udacity are others.  Here's one set of opinions about MOOCs, and here's a view that argues "not much new here, move along." KCRW in Santa Monica ran this story back in November. (HT @davidalynn) Today I found this O'Reilly Radar piece on "true progressive" disruption in education.

Here are the rest of the 2012 Philanthropy Buzzwords: 

9) MOOCs
8) Hackathon
7) Fiscal Cliff
6) Resilience
5) Social Welfare Organization
4) Sensemaking
3) Data Scientist
2) Flash Mob Philanthropy
1) Data

Friday, November 30, 2012

Tweeting for trustees

(Photo from my twitter stream, November 30, 2012)

That tweet is something I've never seen before - "Tweeting for Trustees" I called it when I retweeted it and watched it take on life.

The idea is impressive to me - My Society, the brand name of the UK Citizens Online Democracy, is inviting people to apply to be trustees of the organization. MySociety is home to such services as,, and and has recently received financial support from the Omidyar Network and Open Society Foundations. Here is a primer from the UK Charity Commission on what it means to be a trustee. I wish I qualified, I'd apply.

Back in the winter and spring of 2012 I wrote about how governance would need to change given increasing expectations of accountability. This was one of the more important lessons of the Komen Foundation meltdown, in my opinion. It's going to be fascinating to create new models of governance that take advantage of the tools we have and help organizations better serve communities. (This is a theme in the coming Blueprint 2013) .

If you know other nonprofits or foundations that are really opening up their governance methods, processes, participants please point me to them.  I'd love your help in finding great examples - as always, please load them in comments, tweet me at @p2173 or send via email.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

In re: philanthropy rules, pay attention to the states

I'm up past my eyeballs working on the Blueprint 2013. In it I write about the critical role that state governments will play next year in providing incentives to, tracking, and regulating nonprofits and foundations. The last few days have carried these stories:

1) The New York Attorney General will post data online about nonprofits' fundraising and spending in response to the October storm.

2) State tax credits are a boon to donors. This is true in some places, but in others, like Michigan, the end-of-year giving numbers will reveal what happens when states end tax credits for giving.

3) Cases in California, Idaho and Montana went down to the election day-wire demanding donor disclosure from nonprofits deemed to be active in politics. This issue will continue at the state level even as the national attention fades (until the 2014 midterm elections). New York passed a temporary rule requiring greater disclosure.

So while media attention focuses us all on the "fiscal cliff" and nonprofit advocacy coalitions bare their teeth over potential changes to the charitable tax deduction rules, pay attention to the 50 states - that's where I think the policy action will be next year.

This is one reason I am so (super wonk) excited to be participating in a February conference of Charity Regulators hosted by Columbia Law School.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Scaling mutual aid

This is a fantastic article on #occupysandy, #rollingjubilee and the opportunities/challenges of scale in today's social economy.

Occupysandy is the disaster response network birthed from the #occupy movement in response to Hurricane Sandy. Individuals have been out there serving as bike messengers, food runners, pedal powered cell phone chargers, apartment stair runners for water delivery, and managers of Amazon wish lists for purchasing and distributing goods.

Now four weeks past the storm (recovery still underway), the network has introduced #rollingjuibilee - a global, mutual aid effort that is relieving individuals of their debt burdens. Donors buy debt for pennies on the dollar and then forgive them. Simple. So far, individuals have donated a bit more than $400,000 and freed other people from more than $8.5 million in debt.

Simple, yes. And wonderfully pushing the boundaries of political ideology, organizational structure, and the age-old expectation that mutual aid involves knowing the people you are helping. This is one fantastic example of how we are changing the ways we use our own resources to help others, or, as we so alliteratively refer to it at Stanford the ways we use private resources for public good. That it doesn't fit neatly into existing political boxes is an intellectual bonus from my perspective - falls right into line with Steven Berlin Johnson's arguments in Future Perfect about peer progressives. (See my review in SSIR - but really, you should read the book.)

And now, to the question of scale. In Paul Ford's New York article he describes how the Rolling Jubilee effort is built on the Amazon IT backbone. This infrastructure is available for mere pennies compared to dollars. Researchers use it, businesses use it, (more) nonprofits probably should use it - when it comes to cheap, scalable infrastructure this is one example of the corporate world's best and biggest made available to anyone.

What once may have seemed ironic now seems ordinary - occupy, a network noted for its lack of hierarchical corporate structure and its anti-corporate focus -  has found a way to deploy one of the corporate world's most reliable, biggest, and "first class" systems to scale its debt-erasing efforts. Scaling social change efforts ain't what it used to be.

Using Amazon's servers requires one to behave by Amazon's rules for data ownership, portability, and surveillance. You use their systems, you play by their rules. This is just one more example of why data (policies, practices, ownership, rights) are so important - a theme I've been barking about for years and which, I'm happy to announce, is quite prominent in the upcoming Blueprint 2013.

What's my point?  Infrastructure, cost and assumptions about proximity are not the impediments to scaling social change efforts that they once were. Data rules might be. 

The rules are changing. We all need to be part of how they change - please follow my work on this at #ReCodeGood and at Stanford PACS, in the Blueprint 2013, in our SSIR blogs, and in our soon-to-be-published white papers.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Philanthropy Buzzword 2012.8 - Hackathon

Hackathon*. This a cultural event in the world of software coders that is quickly becoming a problem solving approach in the civic space. What is a hackathon? A brief and intense (usually a weekend) period in which coders, designers, data geeks, and increasingly artists, community members, nonprofit leaders, and philanthropists get together to try to create quick technological solutions to shared social problems.

The geekier ones focus on deeply troublesome code problems. The more social oriented hackathons produce apps and maps and mobile tools for guiding disaster response, job seekers, data seekers, pothole reporters, park bench users, and others.

CrisisCommons, #hurricanehackers, #HackerHelper, DataKind, CivicCommons, RandomHacksofKindness, CodeforAmerica, Tech4Engagement, github,  - hacking and hackathons are everywhere. These are just some of the organizations, products, networks and relationships bringing them to bear on shared social problems.

Previous list of 2012 Philanthropy Buzzwords

7) Fiscal Cliff
6) Resilience
5) Social Welfare Organization
4) Sensemaking
3) Data Scientist
2) Flash Mob Philanthropy
1) Data

One great thing to look forward to in 2013 - hackathons 2.0 in which the communities, organizations and individuals who have the questions and grassroots expertise to identify the right problem and help design the solution will be part of these hackathons. Check out the work of the Grey Area Foundation For the Arts, Creative Currency for one example.

* Also known as Code Fests, DataJams, Code Jams...Some bonus related terms, courtesy of @vicvrana - "Datapalooza" and "ideation"

Monday, November 19, 2012

We've got data, now what?

Join me for this upcoming webinar

We're Getting Data, Now What?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012
11:00am-12:00pm PST, 2:00-3:00pm EST
Lucy Bernholz, Visiting Scholar, Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society
Darin McKeever, Deputy Director, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Jake Porway, Founder and Executive Director, DataKind
June Wang, Knowledge Management Officer, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Up until recently, the nonprofit sector has not been known for transparency and collaboration. But times are changing. Thanks to rapid advances in computer and communication technologies, it is possible for stakeholders in the nonprofit sector to disclose more, to know more, and to demand more.

Join SSIR on November 27, 11 am PST and 2 pm EST, for "We're Getting Data, Now What? " a lively discussion on recent changes taking place in the nonprofit sector. These changes include the "Reporting Commitment," in which 15 large foundations have agreed to report quarterly to the Foundation Center's, and the "New Markets for Good" effort, focused on helping donors use data about different organizations to inform their giving choices. The presenters will analyze how more timely grant reporting from foundations can allow other foundations and nonprofits to look for relevant patterns, identify potential partners, scan a funding field, and potentially develop strategies that take into account other philanthropic resources.

This webinar is ideal for any and all stakeholders in the nonprofit sector who seek to know more about trends in nonprofit disclosure and transparency and who seek guidance on how to understand and take advantage of big and open data. Webinar registrants will have the opportunity to ask the presenters questions during the last 15 minutes of the hour.

Learn more about this webinar and register here. Your registration fee includes on-demand access to the webinar for 12 months and downloadable slides. This webinar is part of the 2012 SSIR Live! series—webinars are presented on the most provocative and important topics that have appeared in recent issues of SSIR and from sessions at the Nonprofit Management Institute. To view previous webinars, go to


Friday, November 16, 2012

Your #Philanthropy #Buzzwords

I'm working hard on two things for you.

First, the Blueprint 2013. There's some good news about the Blueprint this year. I can only tease you with it now, but look for a real press release soon. In the meantime, loyal readers and dear friends, pull out your pencils and mark your calendars - the Blueprint will be available on January 1, 2013. That is a little bit later than its usual December 1st publication date, but, trust me, it will be worth the wait.

Second, buzzwords. It's almost Thanksgiving. I know you think of the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's as "Giving Season." This year, be sure to be part of Giving Tuesday on November 27 as we turn our collective energy to helping make the world a better place.

I, however, think of the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years as "Buzzword Time." I have to check the list I've been keeping all year, watch what others are doing, start bookmarking all the other lists that people start posting everywhere. Most of all I have to make sure I get to 10 Philanthropy Buzzwords for 2012 before December 31st.

Here's the list I have so far:

7) Fiscal Cliff
6) Resilience
5) Social Welfare Organization
4) Sensemaking
3) Data Scientist
2) Flash Mob Philanthropy
1) Data

This year I got some great help from participants at the Independent Sector Conference. Here's a list of suggestions I gathered in a breakout session.
"Network(s) (ed)           Highly effective organizations           Community engagement
Innovation                     Analytics                                             Social enterprise
Impact                           Tech for good                                      Crowdfunding
Interaction                    Blended Value                                     Mission related investing
Impact Investing           Collective Impact                                B Corporations
Big Data                        Metrics                                               Optics
Social enterprise           Crowdfunding                                    Social innovation
ROI                                Results-based                                     Social impact bonds
Digital public goods      Outcome oriented                               Social economy
Evaluate                         Theories of Change                            Hybrid organizations
Community ecology        PerformWell                                      Transmedia"

I also was the recipient of this great "buzzword proposal."

I have my ideas and secret list of Philanthropy Buzzwords 8, 9 and 10. I'm also open to suggestions right up until December 31st 2012. Send me yours in the comments or on twitter at @p2173.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Art of Jargon

I had a great time at the Independent Sector conference on Sunday. I learned a lot at the four sessions I attended, ranging from some more details about the MarketsForGood initiative (concept paper is now up) to great examples of social finance from The Moore Foundation, Omidyar Network, New Schools Venture Fund, the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, and McKinsey. I thought Matt Miller's and Arturo Vargas's comments at lunch were spot on - I hope #IS makes them available publicly immediately.

I also met a guy named Michael Alexander from Grand Performances in the session I did providing a "sneak peak" at the Blueprint 2013 (yes, it is almost that time of year). He (and all the participants) showed a fine ear for buzzwords (stay tuned) and Michael also shared the following proposal he has written. Enjoy (with tongue firmly planted in cheek)!
"The Innovative Art Jargon Creation Project - An Activity for the New Millennium"
Project Synopsis
Grand Performances respectfully requests a grant of $37,500 to manage a program to develop new Art Jargon which will be necessary for effective grant writing in the next century. Grand Performances is uniquely positioned to manage such a project because it has already created a number of important new phrases that, through increased use, will be of great value to arts grants writers in the years to come. 
Grand Performances will arrange a three day retreat, in an inspiring setting for a minimum of twelve experienced arts grant writers, grant panelists, foundation policy managers and artists to assess the need areas for future art jargon and to suggest a minimum of 120 new phrases (commonly referred to as "buzz words") that can be used by arts grant writers for at least the next ten years without "wearing out their welcome."
Each new phrase will come complete with a dictionary-style definition and a minimum of three contextual examples to help arts grant writers become comfortable using the new phrases in grants they are preparing for various size organizations representing various arts disciplines. In addition, by using the latest technology, an "Art Jargon" home page will be established to provide national distribution of the phrases as they are developed. 
Each passing decade since the establishment of the National Endowment for the Arts has seen a geometric growth in the number of "buzz words" used by arts grant writers in their appplications. To date, there has been no formal development program to insure consistency of quality of these new phrases, nor a system for dissemination to insure that grant writers throughout the country had access to the new phrases at the same time, often giving grants writers in one geographic region or one discipline an unfair advantage over those writers not familiar with the new phrases. Certain regions and certain disciplines have been consistently underserved due to their grant writers' inability to gain access to the new phrases in a timely manner. 
As the number of new ideas for projects eligible for grant funding has decreased (see "There Is Nothing New Under the Sun" attached), the number of new "buzz words" has increased enabling experienced grant writers to 're-package' old ideas with new jargon. During the national economic recession of the early 1990's grant writers hit "a brick wall" as funding decreased for the arts and the available supply of new "buzz words" diminished. Arts consultants were the first to notice the problem and quickly brought the issue to national attention at conferences and other gatherings where arts consultants meet to strategize and assess their own ongoing marketing efforts. A privately funded study involving independent arts grant writers, arts consultants and representatives from government funding agencies from throughout the country provided evidence that one of the major causes of the diminished funding was a scarcity of exciting and useful "buzz words" that could be used in arts grant applications. 
Grand Performances is less than two years old and has already coordinated one large "arts think tank" retreat and produced two new Arts Jargon phrases that have entered the grant writing vocabulary. These phrases already have had positive results in Grand Performances' grant writing. In 1996, with funds from a Lila Wallace/Arts Partners grant, GP hosted a two day retreat to address questions of serving "accidental audiences," the first new Art Jargon phrase GP created. At a subsequent "art jargon brainstorming workshop" the use phrase "art tastemaker" was created. 
Armed with the credit for creating these new, vital arts grant phrases and the success of the workshop process, GP is now ready to embark on a more adventurous project to create 120 new "buzz words" and develop the Art Jargon Home Page.

If The Innovative Art Jargon Creation Project is a success, as it is expected to be, Grand Performances will embark on an acronym acquisition and administration (AAAA) project that will create useful acronyms that can be used in project proposals, interim and final reports and other project-related documents.
Grant funding will be used to operate the Home Page for the first year. In subsequent years, subscriptions, which will be sold to Arts Grant Writers for $200.00 per year, will sustain the Home Page. Any additional income will be used by staff to revisit the retreat site during the off- season to look for lost "buzz words". 
Grand Performances is also exploring the possibility of copyrighting the new phrases and charging a re-use fee in order to support the project in the future. "

Not surprised that someone as talented as Michael is way out in front of me - it never occurred to me to try to license buzzwords and I'm nothing compared to him when it comes to acronymization. Hats off!

Friday, November 09, 2012

Buzzword 2012.7 Fiscal Cliff

The fiscal cliff. I was saving this buzz word for later in the year. However, I've heard the phrase so many times today it must be the post-election day equivalent of attack ads. Since reading the paper and turning on the radio this morning I've heard the phrase at least once every hour (I'm listening to NPR). So far, only Terri Gross has spared me.

What is it? The fiscal cliff is the well-branded combination of automatic budget cuts and tax hikes set to go into effect on January 1, 2013. This is what our esteemed representatives signed off on when they couldn't reach an agreement but had backed themselves up against a debt limit ceiling. It's a self-imposed, self-exploding deadline of financial decisions that is intended to make politicians work together to avoid it.

Wait for'll hear about it on the news any second now. Expect it to dominate all poltiical coverage from now until December 31st. If anything has actually changed in Washington, the House and Senate will do something about it.  Whether they do or don't you'll hear about it.

What does it have to do with philanthropy? Lots. One of the tax cuts set to expire is the estate tax. The domestic spending cuts it would set off would have big implications for social services across the country. The uncertainty it creates is one of those fail-safe 4:05 pm excuses reasons given to explain why the stock market went down or sideways (not up).

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Predictive analytics and philanthropy

Political and media junkies agree that one man, whose name appeared on no ballot, really won the election on Tuesday. Nate Silver, big data political analyst, blogger, and New York Times columnist. Silver's accomplishment? Using aggregate analysis of polling data Silver was able to correctly predict the outcome of the election in all 50 states. Watch Jon Stewart and Silver discuss this accomplishment and its role in the "defense of arithmetic."

In this age of big data and increasing foundation transparency, who will be the first big philanthropist to put predictive analysis to the test in the social sector? Silver's analytic model relies on calculating the probability that each candidate will win based on the results of numerous state and national polls. The model is inherently dependent on the quality of each of those polls but it also benefits from the sheer number of polls done during a Presidential election.

As individual foundations share more of their information in more useful ways, IssueLab catalogues and organizes the research that foundations and nonprofits do, independent analysts like GiveWell or users of the Nonprofit Finance Fund's FinancialSCAN tool, and local, state and federal agencies make more data available publicly we may be reaching the point where meta-analysis of others' research - whether program evaluations, strategy plans, or needs assessments - is possible and worth considering. We are slowly building the repository of raw material - data that can be shared, compiled, compared and considered in the aggregate - that makes such research feasible. Academic centers like MIT's Jameel Poverty Action Lab have been doing this with kind of analysis of existing randomized control trials.

Who will be the first philanthropic funder to take on the role of "aggregate analytic funder?" Seen as part of the overall social landscape, with foundations often claiming the role of R and D and innovator, it is a role ripe for the taking. Now looking for the "Nate Silver of the Social Sector"
Blatant Self Promotion:
On November 27 at 11 am PDT I'll be moderating an SSIR webinar on Data and Philanthropy with Darin McKeever of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Jake Porway of DataKind and June Wang of the The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. We'll be looking at and talking about the emerging data backbone of information from foundations as well as the "why and how"? of using this information. Please register and join us.
Please note, I'm not contradicting all my previous statements about the role of intuition and passion in philanthropy. (In fact, for an individual donor who is passionate about math, big data, and analytics, this is indeed a perfect fit.) This foundation could be a "meta sense-maker" of sector research and data, help issue-specific funders learn which information works and where there are real knowledge gaps, and help others use and make sense of the abundance of research that exists, but is sorely underused. 

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The big power of 140 characters

A few days after Hurricane Sandy slammed into the Atlantic seaboard, devastating places like Staten Island, I saw something on Twitter I'd never seen before - a request for a significant donation:

Met and responded to by the Foundation (within hours)

 Agreement reached -

All on Twitter. In a matter of hours.

There's another storm bearing down on the east coast. Many people (family members of mine, included) are still without power (10 days now.) Many lost lives, homes, businesses, loved ones. Recovery takes a long time.

The Carl V. Bini Fund was set up in memory of one of the #FDNY's finest who was lost on September 11, 2001. Anthony De Rosa is a Reuters reporter and an avid Twitterer.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Money laundering and the election

When I wrote, in 2010, that the Citizens United decision would lead to money laundering by nonprofit social welfare organizations I really didn't expect it to be as obvious as this morning's headline on the San Francisco Chronicle:

(Photo from

If you can't read the text of that right hand column, above the fold story, here is the opening sentence, "California regulators said Monday that a conservative Arizona group hid the true source of an $11 million political donation in what they called the largest campaign money-laundering scheme in state history."

There's every kind of get out the vote effort under the sun today - check out "yourexcusesucks" and the "#ivoted" nudge campaign on Twitter for just two of them. Please, vote. The election will be over tonight.* The damage done to our civil society by this kind of money laundering and trust-incinerating will still need you tomorrow.

*Yes, I'm aware that both parties have lawyers at the ready and there's a chance we won't be done with the election tonight. I remember November and December, 2000. I'm trying to stay positive.

Friday, November 02, 2012

#tech, communities, #sandy

This is, (bad pun intended), a marathon.

1) Steven Clift of eDemocracy is working on a "tips" list for neighbors, disasters, and social media.

2) "First world" disaster recovery - cell phone charging is major activity. 

3) #DoSomething helps people everywhere think about disaster prep with #PantryPrep

4) Social media driven fundraising sites like getting lots of use for #sandy recovery (I mentioned CrowdRise and CraigConnects earlier)

5) After @MikeBloomberg (wisely) canceled the NYC Marathon, folks quickly set up ways for racers who had already booked hotel rooms to donate them to those seeking shelter post-storm - race2recover was up within hours of the Mayor's announcement.

6) Interactive maps of Red Cross shelters, open gas stations, and pharmacies.

7) Incredible maps of FourSquare check-ins pre- and post-storm

8) Public agencies turned to Twitter in a big way - good story from CNN on the woman behind the @FDNY account. (HT @Darimonline)

9) Here's an open transit planner built by tech community (HT @Digiphile)

10) David Pogue offered some tips on keeping things charged up

11) The Chronicle of Philanthropy put out this list of company donations to storm relief efforts.

12) PBS IdeaLab posted this story on most innovative coverage of the storm

13) Courtesy of @NickBilton and @theWirecutter - necessary tech for an emergency

Best of luck and lots of support to the #hurricanehackers and others at #crisiscamps this weekend!

Here are the previous posts:

Thursday, November 01, 2012

#Sandy, Tech, Communities - Part 8

This is the 8th post in this series. Here are some more resources

1) New York Tech MeetUp -#NYTM - is helping folks find electricity and coworking spaces. They've crowdmapped office space and bike access. (HT @ElizbthMllr, @Rasiej). They're coordinating through twitter with hashtag #sandycoworking

2) #NYTM is also organizing techie volunteers - here's the sign up form.

3) Here's a list of NY Tech community resources

4) It's amazing to me that any buses or subways are working in NY. That said, here's a (fake) version of what the NYC subway system would look like if it were mapped today. I got this on Twitter - don't know where it came from.

5) The biking community is out in force, helping people plan commutes and using bikes to charge phones. 

6) In a similar bike vein, #OccupyWallStreet folks were re-directing themselves into a bike messenger service -
7) More volunteer opportunities being coordinated by #OWS

(The examples from the bike communities and #OWS remind me of how important these kinds of flexible communities can be. Organized for one reason, the personal connections and commitments can be redirected in times of emergency)

8) #HurricaneHackers and others coordinating #CrisisCamps this weekend

9) Pay phones became useful again - ah, inrastructure. Perhaps someone will install handcranks in these and USB ports so folks can charge cell phones.....?

10) Duracell sent BIG battery trucks to Battery Park City. Here's a teapot that turns steam into electricity for phone charging (via Kickstarter). Assumes you still have gas running to your stove.

Here are the previous posts:

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

#tech, communities and disaster #Sandy part 7

I took a brief break to watch the #SFGiants celebrate the World Series Championship - a great day in San Francisco. A bit of cheer (from about 1 million crazed fans).

(The view from nine floors above Market Street, confetti guns and players in cars. I'm going to miss that office space...especially if Giants keep winning)

Here's my 7th post on technology, communities and disaster response.
  1. TechPresident has a great roundup of stories related to tech infrastructure and rumor debunking on its site. If you are interested in how technology is changing politics and our communities, you should check out this site (and consider joining Personal Democracy Media - unsolicited, heartfelt plug from me, People ask me all the time what I read on the web - PDM is always part of the answer)
  2. ModestNeeds - a fundraising site - is connecting to #SandyAid to help folks put out by the storm.   (HT @CDEgger)
  3. Google.Org expanded its tech-driven efforts - mapping shelters, evacuation routes, and danger zones.
  4. The intrepid #hurricanehackers and Geeks Without Bounds are organizing and encouraging crisiscamps this weekend - you can find out more and join one or start your own. Here's a sign up for DC.
  5. CrowdRise and CraigConnects got busy raising money for relief efforts, as did NetworkForGood.
  6. Scientists at Purdue enlisted citizen scientists to gather rain and snow samples during the storm and send them in for isotope analysis. 
  7. The Atlantic reported that the FCC blamed #Sandy for knocking out 25% of all cell towers
  8. I posted earlier about social media self-correcting efforts (see item #2) - debunking myths and lies and fake photographs almost as fast as they could spread. Alexis Madrigal adds some more insight on this. This turned into a robust debate about ethics and disasters and scams - and will probably be something we hear more about as social media become our expected news sources.
  9. The United Nations tweeted out emergency information regarding delegate and staff access to headquarter building. 

Here are the previous posts:

Tech, communities and #sandy (big data version)

This is my 6th post on how communities - physical and virtual, issue and skills-based - are using technology and social media to prepare for, respond to and recover from the storm #sandy.

1) Big Data
All of the #hurricanehacker mapping and needs/haves tools that have been created rely on data. They're taking tweets, FourSquare posts and images and aggregating them, sorting them, and making sense of them. I was also thrilled to get some insight from Direct Relief International about how big data plays into their work in times like this - specifically in determining who is most vulnerable and where they are. This is critical for Direct Relief International which, among other things, distributes prescription medicines to those hit by the storm. They have several interesting posts about how they work with a big data analytics firm in advance of, and during the storm. Disaster relief is not unlike UPS ads - logistics, logistics, logistics. It's good to see how both informal networks of hackers and established organizations like Direct Relief are using data tools to help our communities.

2) Fundraising
Will #sandy disrupt giving totals for the year? It hit just as New York's "gala" fundraising scene was ramping up. East coasters also account for a good percentage of blood donations and The Red Cross has been actively trying to encourage donations elsewhere both to meet the needs created by the storm and to fill the gap as east coast donation drives don't happen. We'll need to see how giving flows shift over time and whether giving in response to the storm outweighs those funds lost due to canceled events and fundraisers.

3) Infrastructure
Roads. Bridges. Tunnels. Walls. Homes. Businesses.  Cell towers, server farms, Internet cable. All damaged, all in need of repair. Some of the infrastructure is public, other parts are owned by commercial firms and dependent on public right-of-ways. Our communities need it all.

4) Learning from the present and past
Here's a useful collection of what works for neighbors using social media to help each other. Based as I am in San Francisco, it should go without saying that emergencies and disasters are something I think about a lot and try to stay prepared - I appreciate this one personally. (And I should point out that I found this through Twitter)

Here are the previous posts: