Gerry Gleason, a major giver in his own right, not of money (which he doesn't have a lot of), but of talent and time and creativity, asks me an important question to which I do not have an answer:
When will the progressive philanthropic community start to connect with the larger networks who are already moving forward with or without resources? We want to connect these communities and don't know how. The conversations in this space are the closest thing I have seen, yet there is still a disconnect. What is still missing?
Does anyone from the funder side have any input?
Gerry, by the way, is an MIT trained "geek." If your funding plans involve self-organizing systems on the internet, he would be a good entry point to idealistic, talented networks of people who have made their own sacrifices for the good of others. They don't want your check book philanthropy. They are not going to "cultivate" you as if you were a farm whose crop was cash. They don't have professional fundraisers, grant writers, or a 5-year fundraising plan. They are not out there taking courses on how to "make the Ask." They have no clue about how to write a grant request. They are not nonprofits. It is just them, doing what they can do with their talents in small self-funded projects, to create online networks and offline collaboratives to protect the common good. They want to make common cause with other idealists who have resources, like money and connections. They have the skills to leverage those dollars many times over. And they are, I believe, as interested in your ideas, even in your leadership, as they are in your money. "Open Source Philanthropy" is a meaningful phrase to Gerry's friends because many are open source programmers. You can't buy what they would give you. And you can't ask them to beg for your gift either. We are in it together as citizens. Can we open some doors for one another? Can we get this conversation going, not in a backroom funder circle, but back and forth, through email or on line or face to face, with key players, with or without money? These are unusually dangerous times. If we freak out and go into our little private worlds, the vacuum we leave in the public square will be filled by men in boots. Or maybe women; one in particular. The lies she tells with be official, and to say the reverse will be un-American, etc. Maybe it already is and we have just not gotten the memo.
If you are engaged in a funder collaborative, or are in position to make an impact personally, and want to get in touch with me, I would be honored to talk (pro bono publico) with you about your sense of your capacity for leadership, citizenship, and active giving in the context of your resources, family, community engagement, and personal principles. There are many ways to engage, and many of us are active, just below the threshold of public visibility. None of us can buy a better world, nor can the active ones build out their pieces sans resources. Gifts circulate, defining a community. What can we do for you?
Are we talking about philanthropy yet?
Possibly. You tell me.