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.
---------------- From Aspen March Philanthropy Letter----------
INTERNET, THROUGH BLOGS AND MESSAGE BOARDS, INCREASINGLY USED AS VEHICLE FOR CRITICIZING FOUNDATIONS
There is increasing online attention to foundations and philanthropy, and it's a sign that the public is watching and recognizes its role in the sector's "public trust equation." That's according to philanthropy consultant Lucy Bernholz, writing in a post to her Philanthropy 2173 blog. The various blogs focused on philanthropy recently tore into the story about the investment practices of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in an unprecedented way, even creating a back-and-forth discussion. The investing story began with a critical, two-part Los Angele Times series that ran in January and reported, among other things, that the Gates Foundation mandates that its grantees operate in ways consistent with its stated goals but doesn't require the same of the companies in which it invests. More than half a dozen bloggers were engaged on the subject, delving into the specifics and technicalities of socially responsible investing and whether it amounts to rating companies as good or evil. But the focus was mostly on the general implications of the practice for foundations, and whether it's a "slippery slope" concept of curtailing foundation freedom - or whether it's simply a way for foundations to honor their tax-exempt pledge to use wealth to improve society. Financial consultant Sean Stannard-Stockton has created a roundup-style post of the discussion in his Tactical Philanthropy Blog. And it's not just blogs. A whole online community of people engaged in the subject of philanthropy has sprouted. As Phil Cubeta of the Gift Hub Blog writes: foundations "will increasingly have to answer to the public" as more people use the Web to air their grievances. Of course, besides the Internet commentary on foundation investment practices, these investing issues have been discussed in other more traditional forums, including a Feb. 12 symposium at the Hudson Institute that featured Lucy Bernholz and others.