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Venture Philanthropy Comes to Politics

By Tom Watson on April 16, 2007No Comment

Fascinating piece in this week’s BusinessWeek about the arrival of the venture philanthropy model to political causes, particularly on the left. Jessi Hempel reports on relatively new organizations like the New Progressive Coalition, a for-profit fund founded by August Capital general partner Andy Rappaport and his wife, Deborah:

To build powerful progressive-thought leadership, "We need to
experiment by supporting a large number of small efforts," says
Rappaport. "Some will succeed, and we’ll be able to throw more money
and effort at them and build them to scale." As with the philanthropic
venture organizations, shareholders will be able to measure their
profits using a double bottom line—the monetary return that will keep
the business afloat and the political return that will eventually build
powerful think tanks that can keep step with the right.

Here’s how the coalition works: Member organizations pay annual dues
of up to $5,000 on a sliding scale, based on the size of their budgets.
This allows them to be listed in the online "marketplace" and also
gives them access to technical assistance and professional advice from
NPC’s 58-person advisory team, drawn from a variety of fields including
marketing and finance.

So far, about 200 groups have signed on, including national
pro-choice group Choice USA and independent online rag
Meanwhile, investors—so far, just 220—pay an annual membership fee of
$250 for networking, events, publications, and help connecting to
groups to which they can donate money and time. They can search the
database online, or they can get more focused advice from NPC

The coalition will include 54 measurements that cover everything from the average
years of experience among the senior leaders to the percentage increase
in the budget or revenue from the previous year. Interesting trend, what’s the impact on philanthropy…

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