Today I’m making an investment of $1,000 into FORGE (via the widget at the bottom of this post).
Over the last 6 weeks, we’ve seen the story of FORGE unfold. We’ve seen the Tactical Philanthropy Community engage with FORGE, not as cheerleaders for a cause, but as a group of people who care deeply about how philanthropy is practiced.
After reviewing the report prepared by Curtis Chang, I’m making my investment in FORGE for the following reasons:
- I think believe that FORGE offers high impact programs and their current financial crisis is a function of identified, fixable problems with their fundraising model. I believe that FORGE is well on their way to closing their short term funding gap and I believe that they have the ability to restructure their fundraising model so as to create a sustainable organizational profile.
- Like Bill Somerville, I believe that one key element of philanthropy is finding outstanding people and funding them. I believe that FORGE’s executive director Kjerstin Erickson is an outstanding person.
- While I cannot predict FORGE’s future, the organization’s embrace of radical transparency makes me believe that I am aware of all knowable, material information regarding the organization.
- Due to the organizations transparency, I also know that many other people have access to FORGE’s information and are able to come to their own conclusions. To date, I have not been made aware of any other person’s analysis of FORGE that has made me change my own view.
- While the potential return on my investment is high (potentially saving an organization offering high impact programs), the risk is actually relatively low. At first, it seems that the failure of FORGE would result in zero social impact from my gift. However, I see two ways in which my investment can produce impact even in the face of FORGE’s potential failure, 1) I’m investing in Kjerstin Erickson, supporting her now will help her land at another organization should FORGE fail, 2) I’m supporting the broader concept of transparency in a way that I hope impacts the field (see next paragraph).
Finally, I am making this investment as a way to encourage other nonprofits to embrace transparency. A year and a half ago I wrote a post titled Demonstrating Impact: Philanthropy’s Urgent Call to Action. For a long time, the post was one of the most read posts I had ever written. In the post I wrote about a Council on Foundations conference session in which the value of transparency as a core value of philanthropy was made clear. In the post I wrote:
Humans don’t like to talk about their own “failures”. But halfway through the session, someone from the audience who identified herself as a professor of marketing stood up to say that people who admit their mistakes publicly are viewed with more trust afterwards. We need to reframe transparency away from some sort of thing that philanthropy is being forced to consider by outside forces and instead celebrate transparency as the mark of an organization that is truly committed to improving the field.
It is incredibly important that we build more trust within philanthropy. It is incredibly important that we move away from soliciting donations via a “sales pitch” and shift it towards a process of making a well reasoned argument centered on impact potential. FORGE hasn’t sugared coated things for us. They haven’t pushed pictures of the refugees they help at us. They’ve explained their situation, made a well reasoned argument for why they think they deserve funding and they’ve openly accepted any and all criticism with grace and humility.
FORGE gets my money.