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onPhilanthropy Linkage: Ideas on Engagement

By Tom Watson on April 27, 2010No Comment

Here’s a bit of what we’ve been reading here at onPhilanthropy over the last week or so – feel free to add your own links in comments.

Allison Fine wrote an interesting post on donations as a measure of social engagement: “The assumption is that writing a check is too passive to be considered engagement. In the same way that some folks think that clicking to raise awareness of an issue, such as clicking to support breast cancer, is too small, light, passive to be considered by some to be true participation. I reject both of these arguments. I think any time someone does something for a cause, no matter how light, it is an opening and an opportunity for developing a stronger relationship with them.” We agree, any measurable interest in a cause can be the spark on dry tinder that builds engagement and – possibly – leadership.

Lucy Bernholz reacted to a story in the Chronicle of Philanthropy about the Mississippi Secretary of State and her plan to review all of the state’s 38,000 registered nonprofits. As she usually does with philanthropy’s scarce data points, Lucy sees real opportunity – and not just regulation – in the survey: “What would you ask of nonprofits in your state if you could survey them to find out if they are “doing right by [the people of your community]?” What a great opportunity to crowdsource questions from the people of Mississippi (and elsewhere) to inform such a survey.”

Didn’t get to the Skoll World Forum this year – I avoided the ash cloud and spoke in Miami at CGIU instead – but it sounds like things were really popping in Oxford. Particularly enjoyable was this post by Kjerstin Erickson, the founder of FORGE, who I met last year at Skoll. A bit starstruck in her first immersion in Skoll (by her own admission), Kjerstin clearly isn’t now: “Whereas I used to look at the sector and see the famous faces swirling in the stardust of their own mythologies, now I see a burgeoning movement of tens of thousands of ordinary people with extraordinary convictions.  Rather than worry about my own level of inclusion, I’m now concerned with tearing down that wall of exclusion for the rest of the world.  Because social change needs all the manpower it can get.” Exactly so.

Finally, the prolific Sean Stannard-Stockton takes on the dismissal of “fill in the blank philanthropy” by hil Buchanan and Ellie Buteau’s in the Chronicle. Sean says the authors  “are engaging in a simple debating trick. They are suggesting that by arguing in favor of a certain approach, someone is insisting that their approach is applicable to everyone, all of the time.” Later, he added: “Frankly, I’d like to hear more people arguing in favor of more “Fill In the Blank” approaches to philanthropy! The discussions are healthy. The debates help everyone refine their own thinking. But let’s all maintain a healthy skepticism of anyone who proposes to know what is best for everyone else.” Sure, buzzwords can occasionally be distracting and annoying – this from a guy wrote a book called CauseWired – but Sean’s right about the discussion: if they make us turn the ground over a bit more, we can see what’s fertile and what’s not.

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