Technology for Giving Feed

Razoo Travel Prize for a Good Act

Join Razoo. Do a good deed from those listed, or set up your own "good act." Winners get travel prizes.  What do others think of such promotions? Are we trivializing giving? Is this the kind of incentive that matters to givers? Will micro-good-deeds add up to something?

Looking at Razoo and at what seems to be missing is something like what Rousseau would have called the creation of a public will. That is, we have a bourgeois model of tiny consumer choices and micro deeds that are somehow supposed to aggregate into something worthwhile; "the market" will somehow produce big results from little acts. The power of many, the wisdom of crowds will bring good results from trivial, isolated, individualistic, gestures aggregated.

I tend to think we need to see giving/democracy/civil society as more the creation of shared understandings through conversation. Then, when we begin to see things in a certain way, and begin to see one another as allies and friends, and when we begin to use words like solidarity and common purpose, our will, our funds, our lives and our deeds can be "aggregated" in acts that form what amounts to a movement within a shared mythos or set of ideals, or common narrative.  Short of that we are entertaining ourselves and putzing about. 

My perspective is that of a Boomer, yes. And I am truly interested in what Gen X or Y folk have to say, from their generational wisdom and understandings. The next big movement, the thing that might just pull us all back from the brink of extinction, will not come from folks my age, but from the people who are now finding themselves and one another online.  They are not "bowling alone," they are online, collaborating, outside the view of their near-sighted elders who rue the declining membership in the Elks and Kiwanis Clubs, or Jewish Federation, or Rotary, or the established political parties.  Rather than criticizing the rising generations, I hope simply to remain involved as a nearly obsolete elder, learning what he can before the lights go out. (My thoughts on Gen X and Y are indebted to Sharna Goldseker. I interviewed her by phone yesterday. More on that in another post.)

As Jesus Said, or How To Advance in The World

Mary had a little lamb; its fleece was white as snow...

I have been thinking of quoting Jesus more often, and generally borrowing moral authority from the Bible. Here in Dallas that stuff goes over well, opens doors, and serves as universal solvent. Detergent for the soul. I have held back from this kind of shameless exploitation of a religious tradition, recognizing that I am a sinner, a man of weak faith, an opportunist and a hypocrite motived by a driving need to advance my own worldly career by fair means or foul. Yes, I need the money. Yes, I want respect. But how could I stoop so low as to invoke Jesus to help myself get rich? That would be sacriligious. It would prove beyond any doubt that I am damned, and also a lousy reader, unable to even grasp the plain sense of the Gospels.

Then, I had the good sense to talk with my own closest spiritual confidante, my Brother-in-Christ who has made a ton of money. He assured me, over lunch in a fine restaurant, that opportunism is standard operating procedure, pretty much throughout the community and in religious hierarchies as well, from the very top to the very botton, and that I should not let my moral qualms hold me back from getting all I can before someone else does, in the holy name of Jesus. I asked about my prison record, and rap sheet. Would my being a bigamist count againt me? A forger? A fencer of stolen goods? 200 counts of mail fraud? Grand theft? Prostitution? Pimping? He told me those were advantages, really, now that I have been Born Again, as they show the power of God's grace. That is for the sins I used to commit. The new ones are covered under the waiver, "Once saved, always saved."

I get it! I can do this! With my background in sales, and natural glibness, and no conscience whatsoever, I will be quoting Jesus pretty much on a daily basis. He is in any case an excellent role model for a Dumpster Dweller and persona non grata interested in charity. More Fool he. He meant what he said and lived it. Look what it got him. I am just going to quote him and keep on as I have, fleecing whomever comes into my hands, like a Good Shepherd. Well, I must be off. I am having supper with Joe Fosco, Conrad Black, and the Bishop. Then off to Wealth Bond*ge for an evening of cabaret. We get to wear costumes and dance with the fine ladies and gentlemen. I am going as Little Bow Peep who Lost her Sheep. The Crozier works for me, but the petticoat is driving me crazy. See you there!

We The People Giving Online

Peter Deitz:

As of this week, the Wall Street Journal has started to report on micro-philanthropy websites such as, Project Apage, SixDegrees, and DonorsChoose.  Check out this interview with Ben Ratray of and this article, A New Generation Reinvents Philanthropy.

What term best captures this new form of giving: Peer to peer philanthropy, micro-philanthropy, crowd sourcing of philanthropy, grassroots giving, democratic giving online, philanthro-populism? So far it seems in its infancy, more "feel good" than "get real," but if we can begin to pool token amounts maybe we could take on issues that entrenched foundations can't or won't for fear of embarrassing their well-connected boards.  Ford, Pew, Soros, Rockefeller, Omidyar, name any big foundation, are fine with the gutting of our Constitution. No problem. Nothing said. All fine with them. If we are going to put both parties back inside a Constitutional container, serving us, not money,  it will have to start with we the people.  We need to fix a whole lot of things that most wealthy givers won't even look at.  (I wish this were not true, but I get it on good authority as well as from experience.  Philanthropy is an inside job. To change it we need to involve many more people from the bottom up, not just giving to feel good charities, nor supporting party A or party B, but giving for fundamental social change, right where it hurts entrenched interests most. We are not there yet, not even started, but maybe there is hope.)

Rockwood Leadership Programs: Technology Insights Requested

In talking today with Andre Corothers, Executive Director of Rockwood Leadership Programs, he walked me through what Rockwood does.

  • They have recruited and trained more than 1,500 advocacy leaders from literally thousands of progressive non-profits (Amnesty, Greenpeace, Common Cause, MoveOn, Center for Community Change and their kin) in just five years.
  • Their growing network of senior non-profit execs, concentrated in the major cities (250 in the Bay Area, 150 in Washington,  200 in NYC, etcetera) represents a high potential organizing, networking and leadership development opportunity for those working towards progressive social change.
  • Also, they have two programs a year for foundation and philanthropic professionals.
  • As Andre says, "If Rockwood did not already exist we would have to invent it."

Request for Technology Insight

Andre would like to set up an alumni program, with a defined set of services for his busy clients.  He has asked that the Gifthub network give him any thoughts you might have. You can reach him at Rockwood, or leave comments here.

  • The new alumni program would combine the best of the new web-based networking applications with in-person training events and downloadable materials.
  • The site would have a directory, discussion groups by topic, and maybe blogs.
  • It would have the capacity to help alums find one another by geographical area, and by area of interest or cause, and by such specifics as role, skill set, services offered, services needed.
  • I assume that the site would either be behind a password, or at least have levels of privacy.


  • Does anyone know what existing sites or technology would best support such an effort?
  • Does anyone have an existing community that they could point Andre to by way of a working membership-based ecosystem?
  • What additional functionality would help Andre's network thrive?
  • Or, does anyone have a sense of what it take to build such a site in, say, Civicspace, or on whatever other platform?
  • Finally what questions should Andre be asking?
  • And, what questions would a developer have for him?

Peer to Peer Philanthropy

Peter Deitz, writing at Tom Munnecke's Uplift Academy, provides a list of some 20 online peer to peer networks for philanthropy.  Here Peter discusses facebook and linked in. This is one smart man. 

With the launch of Causes on Facebook and 'digital bumper stickers' Linked-in, non-profits can now benefit from the rocket success of the two social networking web sites.

Causes is a Facebook ‘application’ designed by Project Agape that adds the ability for friends on Facebook to raise money for any registered non-profit. LinkedIn’s digital bumper stickers are the equivalent of ‘donate now’ buttons for non-profits that a LinkedIn user can add to his or her profile page.

Colleagues on Linked-in and friends on Facebook can use either system to affirm their connections with one another through a contribution to a contact's featured non-profit.

Facebook and LinkedIn have spent the last several years building web sites that mirror real world friendships and professional contacts. The resulting communities combine the always-on quality of the internet with the high trust-factor of actual friendship.

I can’t imagine a more ideal setting for experimenting with person-to-person fundraising. Person-to-person fundraising—also known as group fundraising—consists of individuals creating online campaigns on behalf of non-profit organizations, and then emailing friends, colleagues, family about the initiative and the intended outcome.

Facebook and LinkedIn remove an important step in conventional person-to-person fundraising: the email solicitation. Until now, the essential component of any group fundraising campaign was the email that an organizer had to send to his or her personal network in order to let people know about the giving opportunity.

With the launch Facebook Causes and LinkedIn for Good, a new group fundraising campaign can get syndicated to a individual's personal network instantly through the news feed on Facebook or by the appearance of a donation button on the initiator’s LinkedIn profile.

This evolution in the syndication process of group fundraising is quite significant. News of a campaign can reach its niche audience without the hassle of gathering together email addresses or the awkwardness of emailing a solicitation to friends and family.

I’ll be curious to see how the existing group fundraising platforms respond to these developments.

What is taking shape here is not only philanthropic but political, in the sense that the many ("the non-rich") are finding ways to come together not only to talk but to collaborate and to fund. Look out, big world! The last big movement that did that was the unions.  I would be interested in Peter's sense of how a hub like compares to his group funding networks. Can we come together to fund a movement, not just attack adds, existing nonprofits, or lobbyists?

Conversation with Newdea

Tracy Gary and I conferred today by phone with Newdea on how their technology might help donors, advisors and nonprofits work together for optimal outcomes.  I have written about Newdea here and here. Newdea is a well funded double-bottom line social venture, now several years old. They have a powerful idea: Creating an online site where donors, advisors, large financial services firms,  and nonprofits can converge. Donors can find appropriate causes, and then track results.  Advisors can better serve clients, and meet new ones from donor networks. Firms can provide a value-added service to top clients. And nonpprofits can be visible to more donors, as well as strenghtening their relationship with existing donors. That is the vision. Was it Clausewitz, though, who wrote, "No battle plan survives contact with the enemy"? Getting the cultures and procedures of donor, advisor, and nonprofits to fuse productively is difficult -  just as the upside is enormous if it can be done effectively. Technology is part of the solution, as is motivation, education, training, and person by person empathy and relationship building. We hope to talk with Newdea further. They seem intent on capturing and promulgating best practices from an area (donor philanthropic advisory services with an eye to social impact) that has been a boutique service and black art. If they can get into their systems the practical, empassioned wisdom of someone like Tracy Gary, they will do a lot of good while growing their business and that of their forprofit constituents.

Really Simple Social Action (RSSA)

RSSA is a model for connecting people, ideas, and activities at a large scale. It is based on the model of RSS that allows sites to create web feeds of their content that can be then collected by aggregators into a common feed. RSSA is an enabling technology to allow diverse sources on the web, such as blogs, email signatures, videos, web sites, podcasts, wikis, television and radio broadcasts, etc. to attract attention to a common Activity Space. As people and agents interact, their Activity Stream is recorded so that others may see what is being done.