These days, donating a portion of one's own savings or company dollars to charity is to look at philanthropy in its most primitive form. Now, the big players of Silicon Valley are applying their venture capital, social ingenuity and tech savvy to the task of rebooting philanthropy.
There is an impression among some, however, that this next generation of social media innovators and tech luminaries isn’t doing enough, at least not in the traditional sense. That’s what founder of Limited Brands, who donates 10 percent of his own personal time and income to charity, Leslie H. Wexner, tells the New York Times, “Society can’t wait. It’s sad there are so many entrepreneurs, business successes and venture capitalists who give no thought to society.”
Or is it that they are, in fact, giving thought to society, but typical of the entrepreneur/innovator crowd, they just have to do it their own way? Maybe that’s why online philanthropic investment businesses and microfinancing nonprofits have exploded in the last decade. DonorsChoose.org, Kiva, Samasource, Kickstarter, Omidyar Network, Scoll Foundation, Causes and the like are making the connection between social entrepreneurship, networking, market driven methodology and microfinance in order to bolster all sorts of worthy issues.
Causes’ stated vision particularly sums up this new movement, “We’re a for-profit tech company changing the face of online activism and philanthropy by bringing the best of Silicon Valley engineering and product design to the cause community. We think that a lively start-up culture, life-changing issues, and an inspiring mission go hand-in-hand.” Much in the same way that social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter have changed the way society interacts, these tools are altering the way that individuals and companies can give back – making it easier and more accessible than ever to the average Jane or small business to contribute their cash and/or talents in new and different ways.
While these innovators may have the tech side figured out, they still need some help from the “giving” experts. There are groups supporting this wave of philanthropy amidst the successful, young entrepreneurial crowd, like 21/64 where seasoned philanthropists advise green ones, or the Council on Foundation’s Next Generation Task Force who direct the “Next Gen” of philanthropists on how to maximize their impact (and whose members are all under 40).
One of the guiding lights who is dramatically reworking the landscape of corporate philanthropy 2.0 amongst Silicon Valley’s elite is Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, wife of Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen and daughter of commercial real estate developer John Arrillaga Sr., who was famed for turning Silicon Valley into a tech center. In 1998, she was ahead of the curve, founding the Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund (SV2), a group that takes tactics from both venture capitalism and philanthropy to provide grants to beginning non-profit organizations which address education, the environment and international development. SV2 now has almost 400 investors and just this past year donated more than $500k.
Arrillaga-Andreessen produced and teaches Stanford’s first ever course on “Strategic Philanthropy” and “Philanthropy and Social Innovation.” With her blog on corporate philanthropy 2.0 www.giving2.com, her recently published New York Times bestseller, Giving 2.0: Transform Your Giving and Our World, and an exhausting list of philanthropic board positions and accolades, one may wonder when this woman sleeps. Her dedication and connections brought her face to face with SV powerhouses from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to Hewlett-Packard’s Meg Whitman offering them philanthropic counsel, and she is poised to direct her friend Laurene Powell Jobs, who might take charge of her family's giving efforts.
She opines to the New York Times, “The word ‘philanthropy’ brings up an image of somebody who’s had an illustrious career, has retired and is giving to highly established institutions that may or may not have ivy growing up their walls. I personally have felt the need to give philanthropy a reboot.” Arrillaga-Andreessen’s giving know-how and the creativity of SV’s next generation of innovators appear to be recharting business into more philanthropic waters.
Giving 2.0: Transform Your Giving and Our World from Giving 2.0 on Vimeo.
Lesley Lammers is a freelance sustainability consultant and journalist, focused on the intersection between the environment, food, social impact, human rights, health and entrepreneurship.