Should Foundations Fund Philanthropic Information?

An interesting conversation is beginning to unfold in the comments to Phil Buchanan’s podcast. The point I’m making is not that foundations have some sort of obligation to fund nonprofit information for public use, but that doing so is in their best interest. This conversation ties in directly to the conversation we’ve been having about Google Finance and

If a foundation can give $1 that creates $2 of social benefit, or give $1 that spurs the public to give $10, which creates $20 of social benefit, which one should they choose? This ability to give $1 and get $10 of social benefit instead of $2 is the “leverage” that so many philanthropist and foundations say they want to employ.

Here’s the big leverage opportunity of this decade: Provide the individual donors (who every year give seven times more than all the foundations in the country combined) the information they need to make better donation decisions.

Join the conversation with Phil Buchanan and let’s work this problem out!

PS: As background it might be useful for readers to note the essay by Paul Brest, the president of the Hewlett Foundation, in which he discusses “the advantages of good information” in philanthropy. In the essay he mentions Great Nonprofits, whose founder Perla Ni is participating in the conversation with Phil Buchanan. Hewlett is, to my knowledge, the most forward thinking foundation on these issues. Hewlett is also considering funding GiveWell.