Buzzword Bingo

My brother writes for the San Francisco Chronicle. I ask him to critique my writing a lot. Sometimes he accuses me of playing Buzzword Bingo (Web 2.0! Tactical Philanthropy! The Second Great Wave! Ding, ding, ding! We have a blog post!). Is all of the hype and buzz around philanthropy nothing but the hot concept of the moment? I don’t think so, but I admit that I can’t predict the future. Maybe the explosion in new media coverage is a sign that all of this is just a fad.

In the financial markets there is a concept that when an emerging trend makes it onto the front cover of general (not industry) publications, you know the trend is dead. Time Magazine’s June 2005 cover, titled “Home $weet Home”, signaled the end of the housing boom, they asked “Is The Boom Over” in 1998 just before the stock market shot through the roof, and then called CEO Jeff Bezos their Person of the Year in December 1999, uncannily calling the top in the stock market and the end of the Dot-Com bubble.

But what about their July 2000 cover, titled "The New Philanthropists"? Clearly, the trends in philanthropy have only strengthened since then. Maybe we are at a short-term peak in philanthropic awareness due to Buffett and Gates. However, I don’t think we’re playing Buzzword Bingo. I think the Second Great Wave of Philanthropy will be a multi-decade long event. We’ll have peaks and valleys, but I think we’re only at the beginning of a very long trend.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Interesting to hear you talk about the explosion of media coverage. Some observers, like Vikki Spruill of FoundationWorks, say the coverage, while almost all positive, is mostly “transactional”–ie, characterized by the size and amount of grants, but missing the bigger story and/or discussion about philanthropy. The Foundationworks report can be downloaded at

    On the subject of buzzwords–how about foundation jargon words, which continue to proliferate shamelessly. Great collection of those at

  2. Thanks for pointing out these resources. I love the Jargon Finder!

    I think a lot of the coverage is transactional as you point out. But more and more of the coverage also seems to revolve around new ways of practicing philanthropy.