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February 2007
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April 2007

March 2007

Funding Gifthub in Perpetuity

The man who has, perhaps, the best claim to having  invented blogging, Dave Winer, writes,

I would like to be able to pay a web company like Amazon or Google a one-time flat fee to host my content for perpetuity. I'd deposit my writing with them, on the web, and not worry about whether or not my heirs will keep paying the hosting bills to keep it alive. Today I'm hosting the weblog of my departed uncle (who I miss terribly!), I don't mind doing it, but what will happen when I pass? I'd gladly pay $10,000 to be sure my site and his survive my death. Long-lived institutions like Harvard University or Mount Auburn Cemetary (in Boston), even insurance companies, could get into this business. Think of it as a personal endowment, it would work like the money richer people leave behind as memorials to their own lives, or lives of loved ones.

If you as a philanthropist are inclined to endow this blog as a perpetual gift to humankind, please let me know.  I am thinking of something like a  Pyramid, with  an open space inside and huge screens  for pilgrims to watch the posts stream past, over and over.  If cash is collected at the turnstile, it could be a double bottom line social venture.   You can have your name as Benefactor appended to each post.  Let's deal! 

Charity Evaluation as 'Pataphysical Science

You can't square a circle by improving your tools. Conceptual muddles can't be resolved with more data. To seek one standard by which all nonprofits can be measured is to seek what does not exist.  A wealthy Rapture Ready Christian, and a prominent donor here in Dallas, TX, once told me, in front of witnesses, who took notes and nodded sagely, hoping to flatter him out of some ready money, "Diogenes, we should not give for causes, like environmental protection, that work against the Will of God." That is, God has slated planet earth for destruction. Christians will be raptured to Heaven. Liberals will be left behind to die deaths as horrible as those inflicted by General Sherman on the flower of southern chivalry in the War of Northern Aggression.  Each environmental disaster should be embraced as bringing the Second Coming of Christ closer. Now, show me the metric - the one metric - on which to place this man's favorite charity (say,  a Ministry devoted to converting homosexuals through the use of electroshock) and the Sierra Club, or Astraea. There is no one metric because there is no one vision of the good.  There are many visions of the good and at any given moment they are at war with each other, each characterizing the other's god as the devil. 

Objective evaluations of charity are the leading edge of 'Pataphysics,  Alfred Jarry's "science of imaginary solutions. " We might as well weigh sunbeams in ounces and divide by cucumbers in inches to arrive at a dollar amount.

The conversation about metrics is well summarized by Sean at Tactical Philanthropy.

Aspen Philanthropy Letter Cites Philanthropy Bloggers as Pests? Or What?

The March Aspen Philanthropy Letter mentions Gifthub and many of our fellow philanthropy bloggers in a piece on how the Internet is increasingly used to make foundations accountable to the public whose interests they serve. Aspen notes, "A whole online community of people engaged in the subject of philanthropy has sprouted" at Gifthub.  At least they did not say that our community has metastasized. (As I post this, the March letter does not yet appear to be online, but has been distributed to their listserv.) The post is provided below.

Continue reading "Aspen Philanthropy Letter Cites Philanthropy Bloggers as Pests? Or What? " »

"Give and Take" is Exactly Right

Give and Take, the Chronicle of Philanthropy's blog, has a nice post by Peter Panepento on the recent Giving Carnival about metrics for grants. Gifthub and several of the giving blogs I regularly read are mentioned. Of course, I am personally flattered, but the main thing is that we now have a many-to-many conversation about giving,  a conversation that includes professional journalists and bloggers who care passionately about the topic and may be professionally engaged in one of the giving trades.

Sometimes I am asked by a journalist for an interview about some giving topic. They then edit the interview to suit the needs of their article, publication, style guide, editorial policy, space constraints,  business model, and audience. Being interviewed, I find myself getting formal and stilted, intimidated a little by the whole process. Now, what is evolving is that the journalist, like Peter Panepento, and the "expert sources," like Sean Stannard-Stockton, Susan Herr, or Albert Ruesga, are talking back and forth offhand, as civic friends and as colleagues in a common effort. I find that very promising, not just because I am included in the mix, but in the hopes that you too, as a reader, will comment here,  or on your own blog, and make your voice heard in the conversation of democracy. 

Give and take, indeed.

Guidebook for Family Funders on Social Change Philanthropy

Premiered at the Council on Foundations annual family foundations conference on February 25, 2007, Changemakers new publication, Legacy and Innovations: a Guidebook for families on social change philanthropy is now available . $15.95 plus shipping.  Families and philanthropy is a topic much discussed, in fact it is becoming one of the most discussed topics among leading financial, tax and legal advisors who engage with clients are around vision and values as well as tool and technique. Social change philanthropy - seeking to address root causes, is more rare. And "community-led" social change philanthropy defines a small, but intensely idealistic niche. Over the years, writing promotional materials for advisors in the field, I have learned that the most effective word to use over and over with new money donors or social investors or those on the verge of becoming givers is, "control." What Changemakers stands for is the belief that you can't be in control if you insist on control. True, control is so light it feels like service.  To cede control, or create partnerships, with communities served is a kind of self-overcoming.  The root cause addressed includes "cherishing," as the Buddhists call it, or "coveting" as the Ten Commandments call it. We don't control what we can't give away (rather, what we can't give away controls us). I realize this falls mostly on deaf ears, but I enjoy being around Changemakers' staff and donors because they are like Diogenes gesturing beyond money to our spiritual condition as citizens in community with others, not just producers and consumers in a marketplace.

Social Entrepreneurs - Definitions of

Door_defoe The School for Social Entrepreneurs discusses the definition of Social Entrepreneur provided by Martin and Osberg in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, and discussed in an earlier Gifthub post. If a Social Entrepreneur makes the world better, or more just, for a targeted group, through disruptive change, leading to a new equilibrium, was Rousseau a Social Entrepreneur? Robespierre? Tom Paine? George Washington? Harriett Beecher Stowe? General Sherman? Lenin? How about Dante? Gallileo? Machiavelli? Confucius? Can a great social entrepreneur, like a great writer, go unheralded, and die forgotten, without achieving a real world effect? Or, is success part of the definition? So that we call a failed social entrepreneur, a "loser" and leave it at that? I would think that social entrepreneurship to be a useful concept would need to have better boundaries, and clearer contrasting terms, not just be a fuzzy honorific, or puffery. I would think at the very least a social entrepreneur by definition must be under the impression or delusion that markets are the best avenue to a better world. A social entrepreneur is one who looks to business as a high calling, or sees business methods as the preferred means to high and noble ends. That definition would then set social entrepreneurs apart from heroic figures in the arts, sciences, war craft, diplomacy, law, religion, philosophy, and other walks of life that may in fact have far greater effect than entrepreneurs per se can or should.

When did shopkeers and entrepreneurial upstarts first become moral heroes? How about Moll Flanders?  Or, Macheath? Today, we find it commonplace to look up to entrepreneurs in all their cultural narrowness, presumption, and vulgarity. There was a time when to admit you consorted with an entrepreneur (then called a "Projector" or a "Virtuoso"; see the Novak tome linked here) brought dishonor on a person of good breeding and good taste. An entrepreneur would not have been admitted to any drawing room in the time of good Queen Anne. Now, it is the cultured people, the carriers on of intellectual, artistic, ethical, and spiritual traditions, who are in the Dumpster, as the bumptious MBAs laud one another as world historical figures, seers, world changers. How sad if it be so.  They sure don't write like they are in touch with the World Spirit.  For the Social Entrepreneurs among us, here is a link to the word bumptious, so you won't have to look it up. The definition could have your picture on it. as For Instance

No higher compliment than constructive criticism from those who are passionately engaged. In that spirit Sonny Cloward at Nonprofit Technology Network offers an in depth critique of and by extension other social networking sites designed to build a "movement" of givers for common purposes.  My sense is that we are all learning in this together, that Ben Rattray of, is a very bright and idealistic guy who will forge ahead, making adjustments as he goes, and that the real breakthroughs will occur when highly networked people, who are not yet online, begin to use the technology as an extension of their work. I will give an example, from real life, and real time.

Tracy Gary
and I convening an invitation only group of  "philanthropy mavens"  in Chicago on April 25.  Our goal is to create a "network of networks" of donors, advisors, and nonprofits, to help donors do the right things for themselves, their causes, their families and the world. Tracy is supremely well connected on the donor side and with progressive nonprofits; I know lots of people on the advisor side. We are both flat out busy, and have limited admin support. We need a mailing list, email list, and bios of participants; we need to share documents; we need to keep a buzz going; we need a way to keep momentum building after the meeting. I opened a private Ning site for these purposes.  It seems to have the functionality needed. No doubt other social networking sites do too. The technology in this case is a solution, a tool, an extension of a meeting that would happen even without technology.  And what will hold the Ning effort back in our convening is gray or silver hair. The big people in these networks (age 45-70) are still not tech savvy. They do not live on line; they are concerned about privacy. They see the net as a wild and dangerous place. They are not always eager to meet strangers. They have fears and suspicions about being preyed upon, or having their non-billable hours wasted. Will they use Ning? Maybe sorta. But it is not the technology that will drive it, but the social psychology, and the offline prods and nudges, like the personal invitations from Tracy, the convening, and the real world opportunities to advance their very specific personal and professional agendas. 

Moral: Begin, where possible, from real world networks and work towards technology, rather than creating a meeting place on line first and then expecting the right people to show up and self organize. Look for real world venues that are now being handled sub-optimally and suggest how technology could boost those meetings. (Council on Foundations Conferences, Regional Associations of Grantmakers, National Committee on Planned Giving, Philanthropy Round Table, Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal. You can see from that list of  "business attire required" prestigious venues how far apart the nodes on this network are - Ben Rattray and Sonny Cloward just are not going to these meetings of established philanthropy organizations, nor are those who do attend these meetings paying attention to the work of the online figures. We have got to connect across these generational and cultural divides. I welcome it, and look forward to a day when we can presuppose technology savvy among donor, advisor, and nonprofit mavens.)