Thursday, September 13, 2007

Beyond THE FUTURE: Reinventing Philanthropy

There’s so much good going on in this world that it’s hard to wrap my arms around it sometimes, much less write a concise post about it. It’s nice, then, to stumble across a resource that’s already done so much of the hard work. The August 21 issue of The Wall Street Journal featured an article by Rachel Emma Silverman entitled “A New Generation Reinvents Philanthropy” with the subtitle: “Blogs, Social-Networking Sites Give 20-Somethings a Means to Push, Fund Favorite Causes.” Ms. Silverman mentions a slew of top-notch sites, including: “a nonprofit that allows people to make zero-interest ‘microfinance’ loans over the Internet to needy entrepreneurs in developing countries.” a blog “devoted to Kiva enthusiasts.” “a social-networking site” whose visitors “can join ‘virtual foundations’ of peers dedicated to specific causes, such as fighting AIDS in Africa, and raise money for the charities or political candidates that support those issues.” A nonprofit which “seeks to get young people involved in social action.”

“Some young philanthropists are turning to ‘viral fund raising’—sending appeals to their network of contacts that are forwarded on to others—to maximize the power of small donations,” the article states. Users of, “a program launched by nonprofit site Network for Good, can create a ‘charity badge’ listing their favorite cause and send it out to their acquaintances. The badge keeps a running tally of how much has been raised and how many donors have contributed. Since the program was launched in January (2007), users have created some 6,000 charity badges, raising some $740,000.”

I learned of the Silverman article through the blog, Blog for Change. In a post also dated August 21, Founder and CEO Ben Rattray discusses the importance of this article in a journal as prestigious as the WSJ, but laments the article’s emphasis on the involvement of youth in social networking sites that impact philanthropy. “The movement that we’re helping to drive forward to empower donors and radically improve the giving experience does not appeal only to a younger generation of donors,” Rattray notes, “and we’re therefore not going to have to wait 10 or 15 years to see it become fully mainstream. Rather, I think it will be increasingly embraced by donors across generations, and that it has the potential to truly transform traditional philanthropy for the better.”

Isn’t it exciting to read about organizations like,, and One theme of a recent meeting I attended turned from an emphasis on individual artistic efforts to an overall feeling of hope for humanity. While legitimate powers-that-be along with the dictators and tyrants and terrorists hell-bent on destroying everything within reach continue to operate on a level far beyond the mainstream’s influence, every-day people are reaching out to help one another in outstanding, creative ways, regardless of superfluous associations such as nationality, race, religion, gender, or age. These people sometimes can’t give much and often operate under the radar of the mass media, but organizations like and and offer them easy ways to connect and contribute to a real movement for good. Why we participate goes beyond the fact that we’re human and finally realize it’s unhealthy for everyone involved if the well-to-do (and we’re ALL well-to-do compared to the poorest of the poor) continue to turn a blind eye to the suffering that exists in this world. The need to somehow contribute to the healing in the face of monumental, at times incomprehensible, suffering has become severe, we’ve realized, and can be accommodated in only one way: through simple acts of kindness. Through organizations like and and, those simple acts can have a huge impact. What an easy way to truly effect positive change in our world.

“Charity” © 1989 Joseph Holston as viewed on the D.C. Public Library site.


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