Tactical Philanthropy Forum Tonight

Well, the Forum is finally here. We had the venue swap out their nice armchairs and replace them with metal folding chairs so we could bring the seat count up to 100. I’ve closed down the wait list and the event is totally sold out.

The best advice I’ve gotten regarding how best to moderate the debate is “[do not] let these two congenial gentlemen get away without a clear joining of the issues, because they really are the two best spokesmen at the moment for top-down vs. bottom-up philanthropy. And don’t let it go with “both approaches are needed.””

That will be my operating model for the evening.

I just finished reading Tom Watson‘s excellent book CauseWired. I’ll have a full review soon. But I want to share something he writes with you now. In the book, Tom writes about an online project called NewCritics.

Moving from online to in-person cemented the cause. Before we began planning our real-world gatherings, NewCritics was a nice little blog. After we met in person, it became a community.

This is why I’m so excited about the Forum, why I’m glad to know that so many people wanted to attend and many more encouraged me to host an event in their city, and why I plan to keep hosting these events next year.


  1. Thanks for organizing this event, Sean. I really enjoyed seeing two titans of the Bay Area philanthropy scene debating strategies for social change!

  2. Thanks Jim and thanks for attending. there were so many “titans” in the audience that we could have had Paul and Bill sit down and start a new debate between two of the audience members!

  3. Robert Kent says:

    Indeed – thanks for catalyzing a very useful discussion – not just at last night’s forum, but with this blog more generally.

    As someone just offered the helm of a nonprofit, I found it very useful to hear the perspective from the folks on the other side of the room exactly what they find exciting about philanthropy, and what kind of people they look for in the organizations they choose to invest in.

    We can heal the planet, cure hunger, eliminate violence, and conquer the political and rhetorical divisions that seem insurmountable . . . only if enough of us are moving in harmony towards those ends. Fostering more effective philanthropy and thereby empowering more efficient nonprofit action and advocacy – is the only way it is going to happen.

    This blog seems to attract a number of the most thoughtful strategists in modern philanthropy – so here’s a question: What are your favorite online sources of wisdom that you regularly share with the non-profits you work with? A Google search for “effective non profit leadership list” returns more than 12 million hits, so I’d love some help separating the wheat from the chaff . . .

  4. Just to be clear Robert, I work with philanthropists, not nonprofits. Re: favorite online resources, when you say sources of wisdom, do you mean other blogs or opinion focused sites, or informational sites?

  5. Robert Kent says:

    Sean – I understand your focus is helping philanthropists be more effective – which is why they read this blog.

    My question was directed to them – as I expect that they have some recommendations and might be kind enough to share them. Those sources of wisdom might be blogs, might be “The five rules of outstanding leadership” sites, and might be something else entirely – particular books, essays, a lecture series archived online, a speech at a recent TED conference, etc.

    Perhaps a useful rephrasing of my question would be “What resource do you (the philanthropist) find most likely to help the nonprofit leaders that you support be more effective?”