Saving Philanthropy: The Documentary

A documentary film called Saving Philanthropy is currently under production. The subtitle is “Moving from charity to social investing before it’s too late.”

From the website: “Saving Philanthropy is a documentary film exploring the issues confronting effective philanthropic giving, specifically those involving the funding of direct service organizations.

The film contends that direct service organizations must be funded based on their performance and that this performance must be clearly tracked and demonstrated.  “Performance Management” then, is the backbone of effective social investing (philanthropy).”

Click here to view the video if you are reading this post via email.

Update: Consider this a super sneak peek. The trailer is unfinished and is still under production. The producers would love to hear what you think of the trailer. Just leave a comment below.


  1. Paul Brest says:

    A great sneak preview, wonderfully direct. Can’t wait for it to hit my local multiplex theater.

  2. Jeff Mowatt says:

    Seems sound enough to me.

    An argument made in the 1996 pitch for replacing the not-for-profit model with a profit-for-purpose alternative is that rather being spent and gone, social investment put into practice by a minority of businesses could spin off new enterprises to change the flow of wealth,

    If the producers need proof of concept cases, I can provide the evidence.

  3. Kate Cochran says:

    I love this trailer and its message–and am not taking the “investing” side too literally– but who are these people? Or should I just recognize their faces??

  4. Laura Deaton says:

    The message is good (and thankfully toned down from the “end/death of Charity” stuff), the delivery is a little “wonk-ish,” especially since the “experts” aren’t identified as Kate mentioned.

    IMHO, to appeal to a broader audience, it will need to definitely include some of the “heart messages” instead of just stats. Hook them first with the importance of the sector’s work. In addition to the homeless folks standing in line, add kids in an after-school program, a symphony orchestra, an environmental program, a medical clinic. They’ll need to meet donors where they are now, first, and then sway them away from charity and toward more planful giving.

    Finally, it will need a call to action. What will people be asked to do as a result? The trailer needs to at least hint at the “what’s-in-it-for-me-to-watch-this-all-the way through?”

    Glad to see less sector-bashing and more positive messages coming from these folks.

  5. John G. says:

    Thanks for sharing. Thank you Laura, I couldn’t come up with the word I was looking for and you are right on, wonkish. The trailer might engage the geeks among us who find it fascinating that philanthropy in the US is bigger than the economy of Brazil, but most people will tune out. And maybe this is aimed at wonks, I don’t know.

    I look forward to hearing and seeing more.

  6. I think the video is fresh and to the point. It is exciting to see the action around this topic continue to grow.

  7. Jeff Mowatt says:

    It is growing indeed Bridget. Recently I put together a page which illustrates how the concept of investing in social outcomes has grown. For us, it began with a project to tackle poverty in Russia in the wake of their 1998 economic collapse and has proceed in activism for domestic adoption in Ukraine.

  8. Thanks so much for the thoughtful and constructive feedback. It’s extremely helpful to hear how the trailer is being received by those in the philanthropic community – and these discussions will certainly go a long way in informing the project as it moves forward.

    -Robby Robinson
    Co-Producer, Saving Philanthropy

  9. Alan Sorkin says:

    Let me know what we can do to promote this video. 2000+ Social Venture Parnters believe that a $1 given to an ineffective organization is a $1 wasted for an effective organization.

  10. Thanks Alan,
    I’m sure Robby would love your help.

  11. Indeed! Thank you Alan. We are in the process of finalizing the trailer for the movie – and once it’s complete we would love your help with promoting the project.

  12. Aaron Stiner says:

    In the spirit of constructive feedback, the first things I thought are:

    Who is the target market for this video exactly? Is it current philanthropists? Individuals, foundations? High wealth folks or donors of all level? What is the intended outcome of someone seeing this video? Awareness? Action? For a movement that desires measurement, how will you measure success?

    Also, the lead in says something to the effect of, “With so many resources being directed at social issues, why do the seem to be getting worse than getting better?” Are they getting worse? Which problems are getting worse? All of them? And even if a problem is getting worse, will effective philanthropy reverse that tide?

    Good luck!

  13. Great questions Aaron!

    Let’s see; 1) Our target audience is really any funder or service provider (organization/individual) that is not committed to the idea of accurately measuring effectiveness (performance management). For instance, the funder that believes the program they are supporting to increase children’s interest in the arts is effective simply because it boasts a high number of participants – this is who we want to reach.

    2) We believe that seeing the film will inspire our target audience to question their assumptions about what makes an organization successful and to learn more about the absolute necessity of tracking and evaluating outcomes.

    3) We are committed to holding ourselves accountable and are creating a tracking mechanism for the outcomes we expect the project to produce.

    4) Regarding the “seem to be getting worse” statement, our point is that over the past 25 years the amount of resources (money, really) directed at our social issues has increased tremendously, while the issues themselves haven’t decreased in a commensurate manner.

    And 5) We believe that deliberate, strategic social investing can positively impact these issues.

    Thanks again Aaron.

  14. Jed Emerson says:

    Well, uh….

    Let’s hope the documentary is a little more nuanced than the trailer! 🙂

    I fully appreciate the intent and goal of advancing this issue… and having advanced this issue for a good many years I’m afraid the devil is in the details and demanding more metrics will not translate to greater accountability and demonstrated impact. Life (and the work we care about) just isn’t that easy. I hope the producers of this piece take their opportunity to actually move the ball down the field as opposed to side ways…

    I don’t think the “issue” is whether or not to measure, but rather what should be measured, how best to do it and with what understanding of relative value (that last one is especially tricky, critical to the ulimate worth of metrics and yet seldom addressed…).

    And, of course, until foundations/government view management information systems as equally important to “proven programs” and “metrics,” we won’t have the operating capacity to actually use metrics to inform our decision making and program development–which i would hope is a large part of our goal here, yes?

    Social Edge is having an interesting debate on this, asking whether we have created metrics as the new philanthropic fetish… perhaps you will invite some of the doubters/discussants to present (in an unbiased, modestly unedited manner) their concerns regarding our band wagon?

    Best wishes to each of you and remember…
    Celebrate the Struggle!