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Modern Philanthropy

Modern Philanthropy

Jan Updike

In the past, wealth people tended to “give back” towards the ends of their lives. Careers over, kids launched, sated with goodies, their attention would turn to the matter of a legacy. Now there is a class of much younger people, in their 50s,40s, 30s, even 20s who have made fast bucks in high-tech industries. These “well-to-do” are accustomed to making things happen in the world. To them, the old model of giving – dashing off annual checks to charities – is uninvolving and unappealing. A new form of philanthropy is necessary to place the resources and skills of these younger people in service of the world of need.

Philanthropy made modern, for them , is a blending of the social consciousness of the 60s with the venture capital business mode of the 90s. It is championed as entrepreneurial philanthropy that aspires to more than just writing a check.

Social Venture Partners (SVP) founded by the inventor of Pagemaker Paul Brainerd is an example of this new model of philanthropy. There are now over 130 people in Seattle area who pledge at least $5000 annually. They meet several times a year to become informed and examine strategy, having voted early in the process to concentrate effort upon a particular sector for focus. They donate more than money. Using the skills that have served them, they research, finance, and provide “hands-on” work on behave of recipients.

Like traditional foundations or traditional NGO’s, they invest in the well-being of people and their social order; but, unlike traditional foundations and traditional NGO’s – and much more like venture capitalists – they look for significant result in five years or so. They operate as developers of “human capital.”

These “new investors” seek opportunities which demonstrate the probability that if one person engages with the world that person will make a difference and acquire for themselves hope, optimism, and the sense of a locus of control that resides within. These “investors” require the demonstration of need (market), strategy, objectives, and measures of effectiveness. They also wish not only to solve problems; they want to support the provider-organizations ability to achieve.

These “new investors” not only have resources to finance programs but also knowledge, skills, “connections”, and energy to confront problems directly using their brain power in addition to their check books. They take a longer perspective – investing more than just money. They commit time and expertise (or learn what is necessary), building organizational capacity as well as programs. They want contact with “their program” on a week-to-week basis the same way that a venture capitalist would.

To awaken the sense of responsibility for SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP in a new generation of philanthropists, it is essential for them to be introduced to people who are doing innovative things. And, they need to be “infected” not only with the “facts” about the benefits to others because they “gave back”; rather also, they need to be “infected” with the “facts” about the direct benefits to them which they accrued because of their giving of time, talent, treasures. BUT, if they are to give of time, talent, and resources they will want to do it in the “smart business ways” which are their self-caricatures.