Archive for May 2012

Why Skoll Pushes Impact Investing

Social Benefit + Dollar Return

One of my favourite expat Canadian billionaires is Jeff Skoll. He was featured in Saturday’s Globe and Mail where he is described as giving away over one billion dollars already while shunning the limelight.

Yes he has signed the Gates/Buffett and is so far the only Canadian to have done so.

I am not sure I would agree that Jeff shuns the limelight. No one as involved in movie making as he is can be said to be really out of the news.

However, he is a very important example of entrepreneurship married to social vision and generosity. When he advises fellow billionaires, he does not tell them just to write cheques. He suggests instead that they invest in the kind of change they want to see.

This is another aspect of social enterprise. Will it eventually replace traditional philanthropy altogether?

On another note that might be related, a colleague was commenting this week on the kind of road cyclist who signs up for the long distance bike rides many charities hold. They remain popular and each rider hits up their friends for sponsorship. Profits go to the charity of course and they are good fundraisers using  third parties as the source of funds.

He fretted that these kinds of donors are not being stewarded for continuing support. After thinking about his comments, I question whether these riders (who are motivated more by the chance to do the ride than a desire to help the charity) are really donors at all.

Perhaps as charities, we should recognise them less as donors and more as customers. By providing a high quality event we may get them as repeat customers. Rather than seeking donations, perhaps they will eventually just pay a hefty entrance fee. They can fundraise for it of course. What would be the downside of turning some of these events into straight business propositions?

Increasingly where do we draw the line and is it important for us to do so?


Why Diversity Matters For Fundraisers

Today I had the pleasure of hosting a webinar at on African American Giving. Diversity is one of my passions and I have been looking forward to hosting the session with Marybeth Gasman and Nelson Bowman III for some time. They are two of the America’s leading experts on the subject, and have published and present frequently.

They lived up to expectations, presenting thoughtful well resourced material on the potential and practice of African American Philanthropy.

Not too surprisingly, there is a wide diversity in the incomes and capacity to give in Black America and in many cases African Americans want to be seen and approached as philanthropists not just recipients of charity.

It turns out that in proportion to income, African Americans are the most generous group in America.

Why does this matter? I apply this to fund development because that is the sector I work in but it is really much bigger than that.

By inviting in those that are not already inside, we increase opportunities for ourselves. (In this context, identifying new supporters) Even more important, we create community and increase understanding and compassion in our world. We can’t afford not to do this!

I have been invited to join the Diversity Committee of AFP Vancouver and we meet for the first time next week.

What is the most valuable activity we could be doing? Stay tuned!

Proteus Fund Supports Non Profit Diversity

There is an interesting article in Today’s Chronicle of Philanthropy that highlights the Diversity Fellowship program provided by the Proteus Fund.

This is how Proteus describes the program’s goals.

‘The Diversity Fellowship is designed to increase the number of people of color in positions of leadership within philanthropy who are skilled grant makers using a lens of equity and inclusion, and to support grant making to communities of color that is more representative and effective.’

The Chronicle article highlights the experience of one fellowship recipient.

‘While running a program to help low-income students get mentors, Marie-Frances Rivera grew fascinated by how foundations decide whether to keep charitable endeavors like hers afloat.’

Ultimately she opts for a career as a grant writer putting into practice her insights from having worked ‘inside’.

This seems like a great approach. What else could we do to increase participation of persons of color in positions of leadership with non-profits and charities.

What will the impact of diversity leadership have on diversity fundraising?

Tune in to ‘African American Giving’ this Thursday May 24 for an up close look at what this may mean for Black Americans.