The following post is part of TriplePundit’s coverage of the 2011 Net Impact Conference in Portland, Oregon. To read the rest of our coverage, click here.
By Eliza Huleatt
With more causes, more donors, and more philanthropic platforms than ever, who is overseeing the $300B philanthropy market and how are investors and donors kept informed? A panel discussion at the 2011 Net Impact Conference addressed these questions about “markets for good.” Moderated by Brian Walsh, Executive Director of Liquidnet for Good, the panelists explained that by incorporating a mix of old tools (market research and data analysis) with new tools (online platforms and new metrics), different organizations are working toward improving donor education, in hopes of creating more effective nonprofits and really taking advantage of this large market opportunity.
Part of what makes the philanthropic market so complex is the number of channels that individuals can use to make a donation. In recent years, many new innovative online portals have popped up, facilitating charitable giving for donors. GlobalGiving is an online donation platform that aims to directly place donor funds into the hands of social entrepreneurs and nonprofits around the world. John Hecklinger, GlobalGiving’s Chief Program Officer, explained the web platform as an “eBay for philanthropy” and demonstrated how sites like GlobalGiving are making much-needed connections between donors, projects, and external partners. An enterprising nonprofit, GlobalGiving helps donor funds reach the local level projects that need them most. Sites like GlobalGiving also help bring new types of donors to the market, individuals who might not have a lot of money to give away but still want to participate in philanthropy.
But are there now too many online platforms for donors? Jacob Harold from the Hewlett Foundation, asked the question, “How can we make sure that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts?” Passing around an overwhelming spreadsheet of over 100 different online platforms, Harold confirmed that the sheer number of online forums might be creating a chaotic giving environment. Although all the parts are there, there are still gaps in what Jacob calls the “supply chain of nonprofit organizations.” Getting the right information into the hands of the right people who are able to make the right kinds of donations is still a challenge.
Greg Ulrich, Project Manager of the Money for Good initiative at Hope Consulting, intends to change this by giving donors the tools and information they need in order to make better-informed investments. Greg spoke about the new Money for Good report, which analyzes donors’ interests and philanthropic trends. The report tries to find “what makes donors tick,” in hopes of better maximizing the impact that donations and philanthropic investments can make.
What’s the overall goal? The name of the panel discussion sums it up pretty well: Helping Americans Give Smarter. New metrics and reports like Money for Good can help identify what donors need and want, and new online platforms like GlobalGiving can help donors reach those projects; however, the challenge still remains in educating donors about making the best decisions and supporting the best organizations. Looking forward, this needs to be a key focus in the philanthropy space. As Greg Ulrich pointed out, “changing donor behavior is hard, but hard doesn’t mean impossible.”
Eliza Huleatt is a 2012 MBA Candidate at Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School.