I believe the big opportunity is more than just money. Concentrating on connecting serious passionate people to others with similar areas of philanthropic interests, such as educational reform, global health, nutrition, job creation, early childhood, social and emotional learning will produce more long lasting, positive change.
It’s time for us to turn our attention to building and growing Generosity Networks that link the philanthropic passions of major donors with others who share those passions and are willing to work, collaboratively, to address the major causes of our day.
Bringing these interest groups together and providing the “glue” to hold them together for common outcomes (see my earlier blog on Leading Collaborations) will lead to a more effective allocation of time and capital. These collaborations will identify the best non-profits to support, will give them the combined resources needed to be leaders in their focused areas of interest, and will give them a stronger voice when dealing with local, state and national governments, multi-laterals and foundations.
Once these donors see they can be impactful they will naturally want to give more of their money and time. It will be seen to be a good investment! Matching their passions with their philanthropy and linking them with others of similar passions increases the fun of giving, and linking them together with an appropriate curator for their joint efforts increases their impact.
Barriers that Inhibit Collaboration
Generosity Networks are the next great frontier in philanthropy. Unfortunately, there are barriers that slow down the connections among philanthropists and the many who are working on the same vital causes. These barriers include:
Fear that those with funds to give will be inundated with solicitations and requests that they will have to filter
A plethora of activist groups, each with its own agenda, goals, and metrics, many apparently in conflict with one another
Lack of consistently reliable tools to find potential partners
The "quid-pro-quo" of giving. If I ask someone to give then they will expect me to give when they ask no matter what the cause.
What can we do to help lower those barriers?
Identify honest brokers who can bring people and organizations together
Create common measurable goals that unify different groups focused on key causes
Set up social enterprises that have goals focused not just on their own success but in bringing together others for unified success
Moving from talk to action
Some of the preliminary steps to create the Generosity Networks of tomorrow are already taking place. There are thousands of wealthy individuals from around the globe, who may not be wealthy enough to be among the 114 pledge signers, but who are also very interested in giving back in an impactful way. JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley and UBS private banks have brought together their high net worth clients to discuss philanthropy and compare notes. However, these connections are still in the stage of large groups listening to speakers and moderated panels; candid, open, connective conversations among the donors themselves are only beginning. The Global Philanthropy Forum, Legacy Ventures, Synergos and others are organizations where these conversations are continuing.
There are groups of wealthy individuals coming together in targeted areas of interest for common purpose, such as Oceans Five, Pew Foundation’s Ocean Legacy, Bridgebuilders Collaborative and New Profit. Specifically, New Profit has one of its domains focused on finding great enterprises in the learning disability and social and emotional learning areas. Four families have come together to share resources ($25 million commitment), network, and knowledge and act together. New Profit is the collaborative glue, the honest broker, that ensures the sharing of information, opportunities, and identification of resource needs.
Harvard Business School is bringing together its alums who are interested in educational reform (many of whom are already giving in this area and related boards such as Teach for America and Kipp Schools) and linking them up with the key professors and active foundations (such as the Gates Foundation) to identify ways they can integrate their efforts.
In many cities and countries, local business people are rising up and starting to work with their local officials and their peers – from , The Partnership for New York City here in the U.S., to multi-stakeholder, business led, groups being formed to focus on health initiatives in Nigeria and India.
Tools for Connecting
The leading social network services are beginning to connect like-minded individuals around social causes. For example, Meg Garlinghouse, who leads Linkedin For Good, is exploring ways to identify philanthropic passions of the Linkedin members so they can be matched up with non-profits that need their time and talent. These linkages can be a great way for non-profits that need board members to get to know potential candidates.
There are several peer-based (equal, personal, relationship focused) efforts underway to organize individuals around the world, leveraged by donors, to build grassroots connections that can help create the sustainable, proactive, change tools needed for large-scale philanthropic efforts to succeed. For example, Marshall Ganz at Harvard’s Kennedy School teaches a popular course on community organizing and the public narrative. A non-profit called The Leading Change Network, has been set up to train others around the world in these collaboration skills. Other groups such as Tostan.org and Centering Healthcare are using these peer-based tools to build such networks.
Please visit the Generosity Network site (http://www.thegenerositynetwork.com) and join us to discuss the best way to build and reinforce these collaborative networks. As these networks grow, more resources will be brought to targeted causes and the collaborative partnerships that are built will produce models that others can learn from.