This post is part of a series looking at the history and future of Tactical Philanthropy. The series is in preparation for a number of new initiatives we’re preparing to roll out soon.
When I started this blog, I really wasn’t sure what I would write about. Each day I would scour blogs and the news media to find items to write about. One of the major themes was pointing to the increasing coverage of philanthropy and how it was becoming “cool”. In some ways, I hoped to make this blog “Fast Company” for philanthropy. Fast Company is a magazine that looks at innovation, digital media, technology, change management, leadership, design and social responsibility. In the late 1990’s, it was one of the defining media outlets of the dot-com boom. But looking at “what’s new” or “what’s cool” is a little bit like eating candy. It can be fun, but after awhile you want a more complete, satisfying meal.
A new months after I started the blog, the Council on Foundations made the decision to invite bloggers to cover their annual meeting and issue them press passes. When this happened, I suddenly got a surge of readers who worked at major foundations. This was new. For the most part, prior to this invitation, I found that while the occasional foundation employee was reading my blog, they rarely left comments or were willing to be public about their opinions. When I got to the conference, the most frequent question I got was from people who wanted to know what a blog about philanthropy would write about every day.
It was at the conference that two major themes got attached to my writing.
1) I found that I rather enjoyed finding and highlighting the opinions of people who disagreed with me such as in this post I wrote about seeing William Schambra speak.
2) I discovered my interest in the value of knowledge sharing within philanthropy and how it was driven by an entirely different set of issues than sharing in a for-profit setting. My post on a session about sharing information became my most read post of my short blogging career.
In the post on Schambra, I also enunciated something that hadn’t occurred to me until then:
This has to be the only philanthropy blog that never discusses any particular cause. It’s not just that I don’t advocate for particular causes, it’s that causes just don’t even make it into the daily discourse. That’s because I’m interested in the practice of philanthropy. Sure, I have causes that I personally care about, but what interests me more than anything is the way that philanthropy works.
What I was discovering about myself was that the “cause” I cared most deeply about was helping to advance the field of philanthropy. To my way of thinking, there are so many important causes in the world, that the best thing I could do as someone who was trained in how money works was to help other people use their financial resources to make a difference in the causes they cared about. I realize that for some people, this wouldn’t be particularly satisfying. But for me, it gave me an opportunity to be exposed to the huge, multifaceted world in which we live and gave me a chance, in some small way, to help make progress in far more issue areas than I ever could on my own.
I have a strong conviction that for the most part people are good. I believe that the reason so much charitable giving doesn’t seem to really make a difference isn’t because of any flaw in human nature, but because the system of philanthropy is dysfunctional. I think that fixing the system is within our reach. It is something we can do over the next decade or two. If we pull it off, it is going to cause a massive positive shock to our society and affect every issue area.