This entry to the One Post Challenge comes from Dorian Adams. Dorian is the Publisher of Just Cause and the founder of Benefit Magazine.
By Dorian Adams
I’m Moving to Erie PA!
For the last four years I’ve channeled my publishing background in creating media about philanthropy, making a difference, giving back, volunteering, social entrepreneurs, corporate social responsibility, socially responsible investing, etc. The result has been Benefit, the Bay Area magazine about the philanthropic lifestyle and, just recently, Just Cause, (www.justcauseit.com) the social-networking website dedicated to the greater good. It’s been a great ride so far and I’m inspired daily by the good news that people make in their chosen fields—be it the environment, education, the arts, health, civic causes or international affairs—and the opportunity to bring these stories to light.
Reader interest is undeniable. But media coverage about the passionate people who give time and money to good causes is limited. Sure the media-at-large will cover Bill Gates and Warren Buffett whenever they make news with their largesse. But most individual stories go unnoticed. That’s why I was bucked up by the one-off story about the $100 million mystery donation to the town of Erie, PA. What a grand gesture. And how intriguing that the donor insists on anonymity!
Happily, the mysterious donor of $100 million to the Erie Community Foundation has caught the attention of major media outlets. “There has been amazing interest across the world,” foundation President Mike Batchelor said Tuesday. “I’ve been contacted by lots of national and international press. They are interested in this story, from the BBC to San Antonio to Buffalo, Boston, Cleveland.” (reported on the Go Erie website)
The Associated Press picked up the story, which first appeared in the Erie Times-News on Oct. 6, and Batchelor started getting calls on Monday from news organizations wanting to know more about the donation. Batchelor was on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and has been contacted by Fox News, CNN and MSNBC. “The bottom line, it’s a great story, and people are looking for great stories,” Batchelor said. “They’re happy to see success and charities benefiting.”
Here is the original AP story as reported by Jennifer C. Yates: “Mike Batchelor invited the heads of 46 charities into his downtown office for one-on-one meetings to personally deliver the news. Nearby, on a small table, sat a box of tissues. And then he proceeded: A donor had given a staggering $100 million to the Erie Community Foundation, and all of the charities would receive a share. That was when the tears began to flow—and the mystery began—in this struggling old industrial city of 102,000 on Lake Erie, where the donor is known only as “Anonymous Friend.” Continue reading Mystery $100M Donation Lifts Pa. City
Two Related Topics:
What does the future of Philanthropy Media look like? Since the 2000 election, the public sector has failed to provide the social resources and the support that America needs. This has spurred the civic sector, private individuals and corporations to expand their support for nonprofits across the board. The business sector has found that corporate social responsibility resonates with consumers—CSR has grown dramatically and will continue to do so. In turn, this has created the need to communicate this goodwill to the public. Corporate advertising, whose message is “we are good citizens,” has increased both on television and in print. This is most evident around the subject of the environment, but I predict that editorial coverage about philanthropy, CSR, and giving back will grow apace. Most magazines will continue to have their April Green Issues (Earth Day is April 22nd) but coverage of health, education and international issues will grow as well. Additionally, visionary entrepreneurs who made their fortunes in the last decade recognize the power of the media to act as a catalyst for change. They are the impetus behind the new magazines and websites dedicated to the greater good like Benefit, Contribute and Good magazines. Moreover, social entrepreneurs like Jeff Skoll are bankrolling movies and documentaries aimed at raising public awareness about the environment, health issues and global concerns. Skoll’s Participant Productions is behind An Inconvenient Truth, Darfur Now, Fast Food Nation, Jimmy Carter A Man from Plains, Syriana, Good Night and Good Luck, Luna, and American Gun among others.
Anonymity: What are the pros and cons? The Mystery Donor of Erie PA is a wonderful story, but without names on museum wings and university buildings, modern philanthropy would suffer. What’s your opinion?
Great comments, Dorian-
I think that “modern philanthropy” does not require the names and the baggage that comes with it. Perhaps the traditional philanthropy enjoys the badge of honor in seeing a person or institution’s name on a wall/plaque/buildling; but, people are now becoming more analytical and reflective, not wanting to buy a product because it is tied somewhere to a cause or another product they do not like or only donating to organizations that can prove exceptionally low administrative costs taken from donations. If there is no name, no tie, no baggage, then it is simply the program and organization that are in the spotlight. And who better to be on the news than the organization on the front line providing services? Giving away the money shouldn’t be the news, but what that money is doing certainly should!
The more that impact can be demonstrated, the more that it will be the feedback people need. Everyone still will want to be thanked (never forget that donors are simply giving away hard earned money) and thanked publicly, but demonstrated impact does a lot to help donors feel like their donation did something.