In response to my post lamenting Google.org’s decision to not allow comments on its blog, Tom Williams, CEO of Give Meaning writes:
I think different practices ought to exist for grant-making foundations and charitable orgs and for orgs of different sizes.
Given the number of people looking for grants from Google.org, I could envision comments quickly becoming filled with "hey, look at my great organization, how can I get in touch with you."
For the mandate and size and time that it has been in existence, I’m pretty impressed with their progress to date.
I think they’ve _started_ the exact right way. Get people learning more about the impact of their grants and ongoing work, get a feel for their team’s attitudes and aspirations.
I think the only way that a Google.org blog would be able to truly invite two-sided conversation in their blogspace would be to have "blog officers" that work as grant officers moderating and reacting to comments based on a set of officially defined blog guidelines but I’d rather they allocate those resources to actually continuing to make innovative grants.
Meanwhile, Bruce Trachtenberg, executive director of The Communications Network, whose mission “is to improve the effectiveness and accountability of foundations by promoting and strengthening the strategic practice of communications in philanthropy.” Says:
I couldn’t agree more that it is a shame that the blog isn’t taking comments. Seems to defeat the purpose, and runs the risk of contributing to the perception that foundations are impenetrable fortresses surrounded by alligator-filled moats. The more that foundations find ways to open themselves up and not be afraid to invite comment, the greater the opportunity for real civic discourse about issues that we all need to think about and care about and not just leave to others to do.
Here’s the thing, Google.org doesn’t have to let any feedback in. I just think it would be great if they did. Some of the very best content on this blog has been generated by readers. Tactical Philanthropy readers make this blog better. I understand that the Google.org blog is going to attract a lot of readers and the comments section may quickly get unwieldy. But isn’t this the exact sort of problem that Google.com should be able to solve? Without giving it more than two minutes of thought it seems to me that Tom’s worry that grantseekers would deluge the blog with requests could be solved by simply making it policy that anyone who requested funds via the blog would be blacklisted from ever receiving a grant. Before we start worrying about too many people talking, let’s at least let the conversation get started.
My main reason for caring about this issue is because of the power that Google.org has to set precedent in how foundations use social media tools. Right now, we’re just beginning to see these tools being put to use by foundations. My concern is that if Google decides to use their blog as a one-way communication tool, other less technologically savvy foundations are going to see blogs as a way to keep people updated on what they’re doing, rather than their potential as a robust knowledge sharing platform.