Tactical Philanthropy at Social Capital Markets Conference 2010

Today I’m happy to announce that Tactical Philanthropy Advisors is working with the team that produces the Social Capital Markets conference to curate a Tactical Philanthropy Track at this year’s conference (October 4-6 in San Francisco).

The Social Capital Markets conference has fast become one of the few must attend conferences in the social investing space. As I wrote last year, the conference drew over 1,000 people (up 70% from the year before), which compares to the 1,200 people (down 35% from the year before) who attended the Council on Foundations conference. The premise of the conference is to encourage and examine a new form of capitalism that recognizes both the power and efficiency of market systems and the ability to direct them toward social and environmental issues leading to a more balanced set of social and financial returns.

The idea for a Tactical Philanthropy Track at the SoCap conference came out of a review of last year’s conference I wrote for Alliance Magazine. In the piece I commented:

“One of the fascinating aspects of the SoCap conference is the way the starting point for conversations seems to be for-profit organizations. In fact, my greatest criticism is that it almost seems that someone threw a social change conference and forgot to invite the non-profits and foundations. I don’t believe that ‘philanthropic capital markets’ are separate from ‘social capital markets’.

There is a single spectrum of capital that runs from pure philanthropic grants to pure market-rate investments. But all of that capital results in positive or negative social impact. Personally, my interest is focused on how philanthropic capital can be provided to non-profits to produce social impact. But that’s just my entry point for exploring social capital markets. People like SoCap organizer Kevin Jones might be more interested in how for-profit or ‘low-profit’ enterprises can affect social change, but again that’s just a frame of reference for viewing the integrated social capital markets.”

With the creation of the Tactical Philanthropy Track, I hope to bring more donors and nonprofits to the “social capital markets table.” To that end, we’re building a series of panel sessions that examine the way in which philanthropy is an integrated part of the social capital markets, not a separate activity. Our sessions will give donors, nonprofits, investors and for-profits the opportunity to examine together the role that philanthropy plays in social capital markets.

This weekend, Lucy Bernholz named “sector agnostic” an emergent philanthropy buzzword for 2010. The term comes from Ralph Smith of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, who was quoted in Nonprofit Quarterly saying:

“Foundation philanthropy is increasingly sector agnostic. [It] is in the solutions business and can succeed only if and to the extent it is willing to pursue solutions wherever it finds them, regardless of whether they are in the public, private, or social sector. As a consequence, the assumed exclusive relationship between foundations and nonprofits has become much less so. Foundations are going to support and invest with a much wider range of partners than in the past.”

This sentiment is one I share and the reason I support the concept of the Social Capital Markets conference. But after two years of attending, I realized that the conference wasn’t doing enough to include the philanthropic sector in the conversation. So I’m very happy to say that Kevin Jones and the rest of the SoCap team agree and this year’s conference will feature a fully integrated track highlighting the opportunities and challenges for philanthropy in the emerging social capital markets.