Reader Bruce Trachtenberg leaves me this comment on my post titled Tactical Philanthropy: The Next Buzzword?:
Maybe we should just steer clear of buzzwords altogether and just focus on getting the job done. Then, if necessary, we can call it “successful philanthropy.”
Bruce’s website features the Jargon Finder: an online collection of foundation and nonprofit jargon. He and I have spoken a number of times about buzzwords (Yes Bruce, I still think “robust” is a useful, meaningful word!). I thought I should revisit my Buzzword Bingo post, which I wrote in November of 2006.
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 Amazon.com 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.