Enhancing the Scale of Philanthropy

You will read a lot in these pages about ideas for scaling philanthropy. While most conversations around scale in the Nonprofit Sector focus on "scaling up" an effective organization or approach, one of the major questions this blog concerns itself with is: what would it take to engage significantly greater numbers of high-net worth donors in the work of improving communities locally, nationally, globally? This question is more compelling now than ever. As we have noted before, "The number of super wealthy in the U.S. has surged, with 430,000 households now worth more than $10 million. That's up from 65,000, adjusted for inflation, in 1989." (WSJ, 5/20/05) From the perspective of philanthropy, this surge represents folks who have never been extended meaningful invitations to the charity ball. These are individuals who might come if they were asked by the right person, if it sounded like fun, if it fit with their sense of what brings meaning to life, if it provided a write-off, if it enabled them to mingle with others who are like them or a million other highly personalized reasons. They are buying big cars and big houses with their "new money" and there is no reason to believe they wouldn't welcome the opportunity to engage in the wide range of philanthropic activities that "old money" traditionally has. While we aren't naive enough to believe these wealthy folks are sitting around waiting for an invitation to the dance of philanthropy, Katrina happens and tsunamis happen and a "liquidity event" happens and suddenly there is an opening. How do we insert philanthropy into that moment with compelling, high-impact opportunities that are matched to individual donors? Community Foundations of America's R & D, conducted over the past six years, demonstrates that because public charities (community foundations, Jewish foundations, identity-based funds) tend to focus their work at the personal level, one-on-one with wealthy donors, they don't have the ability to effectively serve thousands donors. Key to the type of scale we envision are: tools from technology, strategies used by internet-based businesses, partnerships with financial institutions and financial advisors, metrics that indicate which nonprofits perform to goals they set, and on and on. GoodFlow is scanning the globe, and inviting your ideas, for ideas that direct any and all comers to the sweet spot where more dollars flow to (really) good works.

Susan Herr

Posted at 6:52 AM, Aug 22, 2006 in Scaling Philanthropy | Permalink | Comment