Peter Deitz Introduction

(This is a guest post from Peter Deitz,
Founder of Social Actions, who is covering the Council on Foundations Conference for Tactical Philanthropy)

By Peter Deitz

Depending on how you look at it, my journey to this year’s summit started yesterday morning, when I boarded the Amtrak train from Montreal to Washington DC, or last year, when Sean of Tactical Philanthropy delivered the excitement of the 2007 annual conference direct to my computer screen.

At the time, I thought to myself, “How cool would it be to blog about next year’s conference from my unique interest in micro-philanthropy?” Here I am one year later, tasked with that very purpose.
Micro-philanthropy eludes any simple definition. If pressed, I would define it as an inter-generational movement that is using new technology to broaden participation in grant-making.

Micro-philanthropy includes online platforms that we’ll no doubt hear from and about during the sessions this week. Online platforms such as Kiva, DonorsChoose, and Facebook Causes are leading the way in democratizing participation in philanthropy.

As a micro-philanthropy consultant and blogger, I have focused most of my attention on the tools that make small-scale grant-making possible, including the ones mentioned above. But micro-philanthropy also encompasses new ways of thinking about donor engagement, the grant-making process, and program evaluation. I’m looking forward to using this summit as an opportunity to focus on these other issues.
Here are a few questions I have going into the conference:

  • What interest do brick and mortar foundations have in using technology to broaden participation in grant-making?
  • How can we overcome the perception that technology-assisted philanthropy is a phenomenon for the next generation to figure out?
  • In what ways can micro-philanthropy facilitate co-funding opportunities and unlikely partnerships among activists, foundations, and the corporate sector?
  • Is there interest on the part of foundations to use technology to collaborate, or at least create the appearance of collaboration?
  • I expect to find some clues in the next few days that will help me piece together a few initial answers to these questions.

For the duration of the conference, I will be wearing my blogging hat only. I’ve committed myself to asking questions, listening, and learning from the incredible gathering of people. Of course, I have my own experiences and ideas to bring to the debate. I’ll be leaving my preconceptions at the door. I’m entering the conference with fresh eyes on an issue that’s very dear to me.

Amtrak train #143 is fast approaching the capital region. I’ll conclude my introduction with a simple thank you to Sean of Tactical Philanthropy. Thank you for organizing this blogging team and for covering last year’s conference so well. Your efforts have inspired an entire community of philanthropy bloggers, including me.