Archive for October 28, 2011

The Launch of Giving 2.0 by Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen

The launch of Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen‘s new book Giving 2.0 was a festive event at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business yesterday.  It was open to the community, and I’d guess I was one of the first people to sign up to attend.

The Talk

(I’ll go a little out of chronological order, to get to the “meaty” part first.)

Challenging the notion of philanthropy as “something rich people do,” Laura offered her own definition of a philanthropist:


Laura started off with her personal inspiration for giving, the example of her parents Frances and John. She talked about the challenge of losing her mother to cancer, and the transformative experience that providing care to her had been.  She also talked about the significance that giving has in her new family, with her marriage to (Netscape, Opsware, and Ning founder) Marc Andreessen.

She wove in examples from the book from givers of different stages and scales:

  • Hector Chau, a retiree in Southern California, who uses his CPA skills to help needy people prepare their tax returns through Tax-Aide
  • Seema Bhende, an engineer in Seattle, who uses the Jolkona platform to support girls receiving computer training in South America (where $40 covers the expense of such a class).
  • Joon Yun ‘s support of Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative through Silicon Valley Social Ventures.
  • Her own family giving
The key thesis was the need for philanthropists (by her definition, all of us!) to move from “Giving 1.0” to “Giving 2.0” where the key is not *how much* you give, but *how* you give.  (“If the gift is significant to you as the giver, it has the capacity to be significant to the recipient as well.”)  She contrasted the change in giving style:
“Giving 1.0” “Giving 2.0”
Reactive Proactive
Sympathetic Strategic
Isolated Collaborative

She encouraged each of us to think about the causes that we were passionate about, to research them on the web, and make sure that the gifts that we were giving were going to organizations that tracked their impact and reported it back, so that we as givers would also feel a greater connection to the outcome.

She talked about the current times of economic challenge, and pointed out that this was when were called to be most generous, when the need was the greatest.  She provided examples at different scales:

  •  Global:  2 Billion people live on less than $2/day
  •  National (US):  1 in 8 people received emergency food aid last year
  •  State (CA):  1 in 4 children live in poverty (Family of 4 making less than $22,000/year)
  •  Local (Palo Alto / East Palo Alto):  Of the population over age 25 in East Palo Alto, only 18% have a high school diploma
She closed with a plea for the audience members to think about how they could move their giving to the “2.0” model, and also use their influence (networks and advocacy) to make the world a better place.  Laura did some giving of her own:  In addition to sharing her wisdom and ideas, she gave each of the event attendees a copy of the book.

The Event

Held in the CEMEX auditorium of the Knight Management Center of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the launch attracted several hundred people to witness the contributions that Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen has made to philanthropy, especially her latest, the authoring of this new book.

In her brief welcome, Kim Meredith, the director of the Stanford Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS) center, gave some high level statistics about the importance of philanthropy and acknowledged the extensive list of luminaries and major philanthropic organizations that were attending as co-sponsors of the event.

Jim Canales, the President and CEO of the James Irvine Foundation introduced Laura.  Laura needed little introduction in this venue, as she is a respected and beloved member of the philanthropic community, both as a seasoned giver and an academic who has had a significant impact in helping to shape how philanthropy is researched and presented.

A few key highlights:

  • Earned 4 degrees from Stanford (undergraduate, two masters, and an MBA from the GSB).  While the whole Knight Management Center is new since the time she was a student, it was still something of a “home coming” to present at the GSB.
  • Served as President of two family foundations:   Arrillaga Family Foundation and the newly created Marc and Laura Andreessen Foundation.  The first has transformed Stanford campus (Arrillaga Alumni Center, Arrillaga Family Dining Commons, Arrillaga Family Sports Center, Stanford Stadium) and made significant donations to other schools and athletics.  The second has supported medical emergency services and transformation of the field and practice of philanthropy.
  • Created Silicon Valley Social Venture (SV2) an early “giving circle” to help the new generation of tech entrepreneurs and workers get engaged in philanthropy, giving both of their material wealth and the skills that helped them achieve that wealth.
  • Joined the faculty of the Stanford GSB, teaching courses about philanthropy, and helping to establish the academic grounding, by writing case studies and convoking conferences on the topic. (I was able to audit her course when I was a visiting scholar in 2004.  She gave informative lectures, and brought in great guest speakers.  I blogged about many of the class meetings (for example, the first lecture)  in my previous RDVP-focused blog, newly re-constructed at .  This course certainly influenced my own thinking about giving, and introduced me to key concepts and people  especially in the strategic, venture philanthropy tradition.)
  • Established the Stanford Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS) Center, and serves as its Chair.

The Future of Giving 2.0

Although the book is building on a decade of scholarship and practice, it seems clear that this is just the first step of a bigger project for Laura.  The bookmark included with our free copies read “Giving 2.0:  a book / a website / a movement”.  While the website  is live, there are lots of features that are “coming soon,” like Giving Circle startup materials (and hosting platform, perhaps?), your online giving journal, a how-to for sharing the values with your children.

Laura has also pledged to give 100% of the author royalties of the book to proactive, strategic, collaborative non-profits.  Information is still forthcoming, but I’d imagine there will be a crowd-sourcing aspect to it.

Given the technical savvy level of Laura (and her husband) I’d assume that the Giving 2.0 will either launch as or morph into a major resource for sharing information about non-profits, giving strategies, and the key information that philanthropists (all of us) need to make the world a better place.

Congratulations, Laura!

Mission 1: Letter Writing Campaign

A lot of the volunteer work that I do is coordinated through my church, First Congregational Church of Palo Alto, which is a church in the United Church of Christ (UCC) denomination.  This year, the UCC is launching an initiative called “Mission 1,” covering the 11 day period from 11/1/11 – 11/11/11.

One of the 3 aspects of it is a letter writing campaign, augmenting Bread for the World with their 2011 Offering of Letters.  Their focus is on improving the effectiveness of US foreign aid, through accountability and transparency, streamlining redundant, overlapping aid agencies, and giving local people what they want.

For the Mission 1 campaign, we’re hoping to send 111 letters from our church.  To participate:

  1. Learn about the issue.
    1. Read a two-pager of facts about poverty and hunger (and USAID)
    2. Watch the overview of the campaign, including stories from Haiti and Liberia  (YouTube Video 7:51)
  2. Compose your thoughts.
    1. Start from a sample letter from Bread for the World (or download the Microsoft .doc version)
    2. Or, if you want to be more free-form (and effective) say it in your own words.  Be sure to include your name and address at the bottom of the letter (so your representative knows that you are in his or her district).
  3. Send the letter.
    [UPDATE:  The UCC has set up a nice page which lets you submit a single form, and figures out from your zip code which members of Congress should receive it.  So you can send all 4 (2 Senators, 1 Representative, Pres. Obama) with a single form submission.]
    1. Via the legislator’s web contact form:
    2. Via Snail Mail:
      • Representative Anna Eshoo, 205 Cannon Building, Washington, D.C. 20515
      • Office of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, 112 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510
      • Senator Dianne Feinstein, United States Senate, 331 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510
  4. Let us know you’ve sent your letter (to count toward our goal!)
    • Email givingbackbook  at gmail , or better still
    • Comment on this post, include a copy of your letter, if you like, and let us know where you sent it.
  5. Invite a friend to participate in the letter writing campaign. Share this blog post. Bring the letter writing campaign up in a conversation.

Kids and Money, Part 1, “Giving”

Yesterday, I participated in a workshop for families organized by financial planner Cheryl Young and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.  This was a new project for them, and for the first time being offered, I thought they struck a good balance between content for the kids with activities to keep them engaged, and content for the parents.

The two-hour program featured:

  •  A brief introduction
  • A testimonial from one of the parents, talking about the types of volunteer experiences she and her kids had engaged in, along with some cues about what activities might be “too early” for some of the younger ones
  • Michelle Berg, community relations and events coordinator from the Second Harvest Food Bank, spoke about her own experience as a client of the food pantry growing up, and the alarming level of need (nearly 10% of the people in these counties, nominally one of the richest parts of the world, used the services). SHFB is able to leverage donations of imperfect/hard-to-sell fruits and vegetables, plus relationships with major grocery chains to really stretch their resources, providing lots of meals (100,000/day (!), 45 million pounds/year(!!!)) at just 50 cents per meal.
    After the talk and a very short video about an elementary school student  who organized a food drive  (1:50 YouTube video), we did a short food-sorting project, helping to pack healthy snack bags.  Our group of about 30 people (more kids than adults) made short work of the packing project, and had a snack break of our own.
  • Jennifer Yeagley, the Executive Director from My New Red Shoes, described the importance of letting poor and homeless children start school with the sense of pride and belonging that comes from a new outfit and school supplies.  Recipients get a pair of new sneakers, a $50 Old Navy gift card, school supplies appropriate to their age, and a card from a volunteer who helped make and pack the gift bag.  The kids split off to decorate cards for the bags (which ended up being a favorite activity of the day for most of them).
  • Meanwhile, the adults learned a bit more about Silicon Valley Community Foundation and the 5 major initiatives for our community.  Gina Dalma, the Program Officer for SVCF’s education initiative spoke about the inequality in the schools in our counties, as well as the hope for advancing the laggard schools with appropriate leadership and teacher training.  She answered questions from the very education-focused parents.
  • I got a chance to describe my book project, and appreciated the friendly reception for what was essentially the first public presentation of the work in progress.
  • Cheryl Young finished off with a plea to the kids to engage their parents in conversation about what they could do.  I was impressed that even as a financial planner, Cheryl felt it was more important to have “Give” come before “Save” in the workshop series.  I think her comments and mine struck a very similar tone, even without any advance planning.
  • Marie Young, Director of Donor Learning and Engagement of SVCF, prepared packets for the adults, with a bibliography of family-friendly books on giving, some tips for starting conversations, and a reprint from a Scholastic Family article, as well as a bunch of SVCF background information.  The kids’ goody bags were more fun:  a t-shirt and stuffed animal from Cheryl, and a pen that looked like a fork from Second Harvest Food Bank.
Overall, it was a nice event, engaging both kids in the 6-12 year old range, plus their parents, to learn more about the needs of the local community, and the organizations that are helping to fulfill those needs, and what they can do to contribute.

GuideStar Webinar: “The Second Great Wave of Philanthropy” by Sean Stannard-Stockton

Bottom Line:  Sean Stannard-Stocktongave an insightful discussion of how today’s “value-creating” second-wave of philanthropists (Gates, Zuckerberg) differ from yesterday’s “value-extracting” first-wave (Carnegie).  They’re more concerned about impact, but it’s still the emotional appeal that brings in the most dollars.  5 great questions to ensure your non-profit is metric driven.

The Changing Face of Today’s Philanthropists

The entrepreneurs who have made a fortune and intend to give a big chunk of it back are taking the same approach to their philanthropy that they took to their businesses:  deep involvement, relying on data, metrics, and experimentation to reach a good outcome.  A less-well known example is the Aldermans, who, as a testament to their son killed in 9/11, set up a foundation that offers mental health treatment to victims of terror and mass death world-wide.  Their clinics have treated over 100,000 people, in countries like Haiti, Uganda and Liberia where other mental health professionals are few and far between (1 per 1.25M people in Uganda).

Evaluating non-profits

The “second wave’s” emphasis on results was shown in a survey that said that 85% of donors do care about the impact that their gift has. But only 32% did any kind of research, and only 21% did performance-based research, and just 3% used the relative performance to make their grant decisions.

This distinction between performance research and more general research (generally fund-raising expense ratios) was a key point. Stannard-Stockton was highly critical of the over-reliance of non-performance metrics, implicitly endorsed by the main rating agencies like Charity Navigator and GuideStar, because the financial metrics are so much easier to get than the performance metrics. I’d written a blog post about this before, but Sean convinced me that I need to move even more in this direction, and support efforts that do get at performance metrics (like and Philanthropedia both of which are presented in GuideStar’s TakeAction portal.)

How to motivate giving:  Stories vs. Statistics

You might think that this impact-driven generation of philanthropists would be hyper-rational about their giving, and look to the statistics to choose their donations.  You’d be wrong.  “Spreadsheets are not going to trigger giving,” Stanndard-Stockton said.  He cited a study on a donation appeal where one group got an “identifiable victim” (a person’s story with a name that the giver could relate to); a second group got the “statistical victim” (I took it to be a series of bullet points of facts and stats about the need for giving); a third group got both.  The results:

Treatment Average Given
Statistics $1.14
Identified Victim $2.38
Both $1.43

So, the “story only” did the best, by more than double the “statistics only”. Adding statistics to the story pulled the average level of giving down by about one-third. Sean didn’t talk about the particular audience for this experiment, and I expect it was a general audience, not specifically the “impact-driven” givers, but the point is well worth noting. There is further evidence that “activating logical thought processes in the brain dampens empathy.” Sean talked about an experiment where subjects were primed with simple arithmetic tasks, and then given the “story only” treatment. Their response was similar to the “story plus stats” case. That is, doing math before hearing the story made people less generous in their response, whether the math was stats about the giving need or entirely unrelated.

Sean said that doesn’t mean that non-profits should exclude the logical, evidence-based information from their appeals, they should just think about the narrative, and present it as a story, rather than math. (I *really* need to remember this, personally.) He offered a couple of resources that can help:

Cause-based “mutual funds”

Given the challenge of doing your own research, shouldn’t there be a way of having donor advisers allocate your money the same way that mutual fund managers allocate your investments? This is an idea that I’d toyed with a bit 7 years ago, but never did anything substantial. Sean said that others have tried it, with varying degrees of success.

  • Calvert Giving Folios were already around when I thought I was breaking new ground, but they have since gone defunct
  • describes a portfolio approach, and lists 4 sectors (education, workforce development, public health, or poverty alleviation) but you have to “invest” when they are “raising a fund” and it’s not clear what the minimum level of participation is.

5 Questions to Ensure your Non-Profit is Improving

  1. What research or evidence did you use to design your program?
    (Unless you are intentionally an R&D project, you should be using the best known approach to tackle your problem…)
  2. What information have you collected about the the results of your programs?
    (It may be hard for a non-profit to establish direct causality, but you should be showing contribution. And as a funder, if you’re asking for stats that the non-profit wasn’t already collecting, are you sure the stats are worthwhile? Your grantee didn’t think so before you showed up on the scene….)
  3. How do you systematically analyze the data you do collect?
  4. Have you adjusted your activity in response to your analysis?
  5. Do you have absolute focus on producing results?

Al Gore on the “Power of Philanthropy” at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation Regional Meeting

Bottom Line:  Al Gore’s talk was one of the more inspirational I’ve heard.  He indicted the short term thinking found in “Quarterly Capitalism” which is infecting “Quarterly Democracy,” and leading us to make poor choices about necessary investments for our future (yes, mostly environmental).  Will our children be asking us “What were you thinking?” (if we ignore the warnings of 98% of climate scientists who say the time for action is now) or can we avert a crisis, and have them ask instead “Where did you find the moral courage to act?”

Silicon Valley Community Foundation Turns 5

I’ll admit that I’m biased against Community Foundations.   I favor a global outlook in my charitable activities and I typically assume Community Foundations are about, well, the community.  The “Regional Meeting” held by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation today caused me to take a bit broader perspective.  One way they serve the community is by being a resource to donors in the community, even if those donors choose to give internationally.

Things I admire about Silicon Valley Community Foundation

  1. They do a great job with donor education.  They’ve got programs targeted at kids, they’ve got an informative web site, a print magazine, and events (like today’s) open to the community for free.
  2. They raise the awareness of the role of philanthropy in the community.  Their presence is a gravitational center that pulls in people who are interested in or are thinking about philanthropy.  They do a good job of marketing and outreach to bring more donors into the fold.
  3. They have a good staff (79 employees!) and know the community issues.  Grants made by the foundation (in contrast to the donor-advised or corporate-advised funds it administers) address the strategies of:
    • Economic Security
    • Education
    • Immigrant Integration
    • Regional Planning
    • Safety-net Services  (85M pounds of food distributed to 9M clients in 2010)
  4. They’re metric-driven.  They shared some impressive numbers today, and I believe that they obtained those impressive numbers because they’re watching them.  That is, they’ve found important objectives, and the numbers to track to make progress on those objectives.

Silicon Valley Community Foundation Scoreboard:

In the 5 years since the merging of the Peninsula Community Foundation and the Community Foundation of Silicon Valley (which they admitted had some rough patches, including the financial meltdown of 2008 and subsequent recession):

  • $1B worth of grants have been made (nearly matches the total dollars granted by both parent organizations in their ~50 year histories prior to the merger)
  • $1B worth of donors funds have been raised
  • $500M have been added to the asset base, bringing the total assets under management to $2B
  • $150M of contributions in 2010 alone

Al Gore’s Keynote Address

[Although I had registered late and only had a “live simulcast” ticket, there were enough no-shows for the main ballroom that they let us dozen-or-so procrastinators join the other thousand-or-so people at the main event.  Thanks SVCF!]

Al Gore gave a good talk.  I suspect that he has had a lot of practice at it–this was probably pretty similar to other talks that he gives, two or three times a day, probably 15 days/month.  It was a good mix of humor, scientific evidence, collective questioning of how we got here and encouragement on choosing a new path forward.

What was most surprising to me was the sharpness of the rebuke of politicians, fund raising, and the impact of special interest money.

“American Democracy has been hacked,”  Gore said.

[From my notes, not a transcript, so what follows are not exact quotes….]

“To add to the problem of ‘short-term-ism’, there is the tendency of too many officeholders to think not as much of what the long term impact to the country will be–but human nature being what it is, and the need to raise ever-increasing amounts of money per election cycle, at levels provided only by special interest lobbies–what will be the impact of my vote at tomorrow’s fundraiser?”

Gore had started off by decrying our lack of long term thinking, wondering “What has caused us to lose our abundant ability to look ahead?” and longing for the wisdom of an (unnamed) World War II general who said that it was “time to steer by the stars, and not the lights of each passing ship.”   He said that short-sightedness had afflicted our corporations, citing a study where 80% of the CEO’s and CFO’s said that they would not make an investment that would meet their internal rate of return goals over the long term (and all other criteria for being a good investment) if it would cause them to slightly miss their current quarterly earnings estimate.  That short term view of “quarterly capitalism” causes our corporations to bypass many investments that they should, rationally, make.

The quarterly time horizon is infecting politics as well, with incumbents having daily fund-raising goals from the day they take office. The quarterly Federal Election Commission reports are deemed as snapshots to show momentum, so the days before a report deadline become a flurry of solicitations.  More worrying, the special interest lobby fund-raisers are scheduled the day after key votes, so politicians are held hostage by the prospect of losing key financing if they don’t support a particular position on a vote.

Gore cited some examples from the business world suggesting that we really have become over-dependent on speed.  In the “Flash Crash” of May 2010, the market lost 20% of its value in 20 minutes (and recovered most of it before market close).  The investigatory committee considered adding the requirement that any buy or sell order would be required to remain open for at least one second (presumably would be closed before that if filled).  That duration was determined to be too hazardous, since 55-60% of the volume is high-speed, high-frequency trades.  A second example was an investment opportunity for a $1B capital investment laying fiber optic cable to lower Manhattan so that the orders would have a 2 millisecond advantage over the alternative.

He next trained his criticism on the banking sector and its behavior during the subprime mortgage crisis, with the emblematic email acronym of “IBGYBG”  standing for “I’ll be gone; You’ll be gone [before the problems caused by this proposed transaction surface].”  But, he implied, we are all taking that excuse when we deal with the environmental problem we are causing with carbon emissions.   We have $7 Trillion in “subprime carbon assets” (in the coal and gas industry) keeping us from taking the action we need.  (Gore’s recommendation which he made implicitly rather than explicitly, was a carbon tax, offset by tax cuts in other areas.  Here he is consistent with suggestions from his tenure as Vice President.)

But the “IBGYBG” assumption is a fallacy in the environment case, he argues.  We’re already seeing extreme weather, species extinction, and the first environmental refugees, with more of each yet to come.  While individual weather events can’t be tied to climate change, our actions are impacting the odds that they occur.  “We’re not just loading the dice…  We’re painting more dots on them.  We’re rolling 13’s and 14’s now…”  The 235 km/hour wind speeds in the Philippines storm, the second in a week are causing climatologists to wonder how to add a “Category 6” to our current 5-point scale.

He cited other extreme weather examples:

  • 95% of Texas in “extreme” or “exceptional” drought, fires in 252 of 254 Texas counties
  • an Australian region the size of France & Germany combined entirely flooded
  • 20M Pakistanis driven from homes due to flooding last year, it doesn’t even make the news when 8.5M are affected this year
  • worst Russian drought/fires on record

and then traced the chain of impacts of the last one:

  1. Due to the drought, the Russian wheat crop failed;
  2. Russia (and surrounding former republics) pulled their production off the global market for domestic use
  3. Food prices spiked, stressing lower income people who spend a greater percentage of their income on food;
  4. One particular Tunisian food vendor was particularly affected (leading to the Tunisian protests and the start of the Arab Spring).

He closed with some reason for optimism:

When President John F. Kennedy challenged our country to go to the moon, many doubted our capability.  Eight years later, when Neil Armstrong landed, the average age of the engineers in the control room was 26, meaning that they had been only 18 when Kennedy issued his challenge.  We have similar potential today, we have the financial resources to address the problem, the only thing that we lack is the political will to do it.  “And that,” Gore closed, “is a renewable resource.”