Social Media Tools for Philanthropy

I’m on vacation this week. This post originally appeared on February 22, 2007. The interplay between social media tools (web 2.0) and philanthropy has been a continued theme here. This post ended up being one of my most widely read posts and was one of the first posts featured by the Chronicle on Philanthropy’s Give and Take blog when they first launched.

Social Media Tools for Philanthropy

Earlier this week I asked for examples of “donor-created social media on philanthropy research” after Maryann Devine at SmArts & Culture suggested that GiveWell was the first social media of its kind.

So far, I’m inclined to point to GiveWell as the first real attempt by donors to utilize social media tools. But I doubt they will be the only ones for long. In response to my request for examples, Philanthropy Australia dropped me this comment:

The Australian philanthropy sector is in a unique position because unlike the UK, USA, Canada and New Zealand there is no mandatory reporting and no overarching body with responsibility for the endorsement and regulation philanthropic bodies (foundations & trusts, namely). What this means is that more often than not, foundations are very private and reluctant to become transparent, share information in a more public field (though they do enjoy collaborating with each other on projects). The history of the sector, to date, has not been recorded in a central location, and this means that rather than sharing what they’ve learned from their mistakes, each individual foundation has a tendency to re-invent the wheel.

And this is something that they’ve identified as a problem that needs solving. We’re currently working on adopting social media tools to develop solutions to these issues – namely, a project we’re developing at the moment is a knowledge bank of Australian philanthropy – which encompasses a database of previous grants, a database of projects seeking philanthropic funding, as well as our key piece, a collation of resources using wiki software that documents the philanthropy sector – the ‘nuts and bolts’ of grantmaking, primarily, but also mapping the sector and recording its stories and history.

It’s a huge project but one we feel will be invaluable. Of course, building its content will require a shift of attitude/culture in these foundations (see above comment about privacy!), and a lot of the resources will be password protected to our members (one of the reasons they find membership valuable is that they can network with other grantmakers in a secure/private environment through us). The wiki software will also allow them to collaborate on resources themselves, again in a secure environment.

You can read the entire comment here.

There is a whole network of people who are bringing social media tools to nonprofits, such at CompuMentor, the NetSquared Community, NTEN, and blogger/consultant Beth Kanter. Can a similar movement be started to bring these tools to donors (individuals, foundations, etc)?

It may be a scary concept to some people to think about donors being able to say anything they want online and asking tougher and tougher questions of nonprofits. But I encourage everyone to look to Katya Andresen’s take on this issue. She experienced first hand the impact of GiveWell posting negative comments about Network for Good, where she is head of marketing. Her response, in my opinion, was an amazing example of how to deal with “Donor 2.0” issues.