Top Five Ways to Know Everything About Philanthropy

Philanthropy is changing fast. We’re use to technology changing fast, and business, and politics. But philanthropy? The philanthropic sector began seeing an increase in the rate of change during the 1990’s, fueled by for-profit entities entering the field and the emerging influence of the internet. Things came to a head in the early part of this decade and now the community-focused nature of Web 2.0 has turned up the heat in the community-focused field of philanthropy. We are now seeing the growing power of The Second Great Wave of Philanthropy.

So how do you keep up with all the change? If you don’t want to be the last foundation to hold a conference in Second Life (or don’t even know what that means). If you aren’t ready to explain why an organization like Green Dimes can improve the world more and faster as a for-profit than as a nonprofit (or don’t even know that is a for-profit foundation). If you’re not LinkedIn, ego searching and getting Xigi with it (or think that sounds like your teenager talking). Than this post will show you the Top Five Ways to Know Everything About Philanthropy.

  1. Start reading the blogs: Most people think of bloggers as people who have an opinion about something. That’s true, but bloggers in niche areas like philanthropy (which does not have much mainstream media coverage) also act as your personal crack research team. Reading blogs will lead you to great articles and research from such mainstream sources as the New York Times and such obscure, but important sources as Angela Eikenberry of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Give & Take blog offers a daily round up of important blog posts as well as links to just about every blog in the sector. If you read the blogs, you’ll stay up to date. If you enter the blog conversation (via posting comments, emailing the authors or even… gasp… starting your own blog), you’ll find yourself making a ton of new contacts and building your network.
  2. Get LinkedIn: If you work in the nonprofit or philanthropy field then I’d guess you’ve been to one or two conferences. You hear great presentations, meet neat people, then get back to the office and file your notes away. The info you learn at conferences might stick with you, but what about all those people? If you’ve got an email address you can use LinkedIn, a social networking site for “grownups”. Rather than being used to share your silly photos from last weekend, the way most social networking sites are used, LinkedIn let’s professionals connect with each other and each other’s contacts. Think Six Degrees of Separation and you’ll understand why my relatively small network includes 180,600+ people. What can you do with this network? Ask questions to the group and get answers from experts, find a new job, hire someone, and stay in touch with that super smart consultant you met at that conference you can’t remember the name of anymore.
  3. Use Google Alerts: Want to stay on top of trends, your organization’s reputation, or a specific topic? Until we have 24-hour, philanthropy focused news (which we’ll see in the next decade, seriously), you can use Google Alerts. This super simple, email powered service scours news sources, websites and blogs for any mention of the words you specify. You’ll have links and summaries delivered to your inbox the instant your topics show up, once a day or once a week. In a world where information is worthless and relevant information is priceless, Google Alerts helps you focus in on what is most important to you.
  4. Get Xigi With It: Are you on the map? In their own words, “xigi (pronounced "ziggy") is a social network providing market intelligence and mapping tools to make sense of the capital market for good.” Xigi let’s everyone and anyone find the connections between various players
    in the fields of philanthropy, social enterprise, and the other
    constantly evolving fields of “doing good”. Find the people and
    entities participating in the philanthropic capital markets and
    identify the deals they’re working on together. Try browsing the
    various member of the network and you’ll quickly find people and
    organizations you’ve never heard of who are working on amazing projects.
  5. Uh… Read Books: OK, I hate when people say things like, “This changes EVERYTHING!” The impact of the internet and web 2.0 technologies on the social sector is huge, but it is just beginning to be felt. If you really want to be well informed, you need to be well read… of books. The ability of anyone and everyone to put their thoughts online is great. But if you want thoroughly researched, deeply explored ideas by established experts, nothing beats books. You can find a great list to start with here. The list was put together by philanthropy bloggers, that crack research team I was telling you about.


  1. Sean,

    Thanks for this list, especially the list of books to read. I’m a fundraiser, but have been using 2 of these methods – blogs and Google Alerts – to learn more about the field of philanthropy as a whole. I have already learned a great deal by reading Tactical Philanthropy and the lively discussions here, so thank you many times over!


  2. Thanks Rosetta. That list of books has been a regularly read post, even months after I posted it. Glad you like it (feel free to add your own in the comments section of that post).

  3. The wonk of life says:

    Peter Frumkin’s On Being Non-profit doesn’t make the top 20 books? No policy wonks on these sites?