At our recent Web 2.0 event we asked the panel to cover a lot of ground, but perhaps we didn’t dwell long enough on the basic questions, “Why should I care? What’s the point?”
This recent post from Sean at Tactical Philanthropy nails the point:
“The best philanthropist is not the one who makes the best grants… It is the one who most effectively share[s] high quality information.”
That’s because one foundation’s grants are a drop in the bucket of philanthropy. But one foundation’s information/ideas/knowledge/”lessons learned” can influence where philanthropy empties the bucket.
Nevertheless, foundations are staying away from the interactive internet in droves. A recent Communications Network survey found that “only 25% of private foundations and 16% of community foundations have waded into the area of interactive tools such as blogs and social networks, where the opportunity to build and deepen relationships with grantees and others is greatest.”
The author then adds that “Foundations shouldn’t feel badly about this. The adoption of Web 2.0 tools in the corporate world isn’t too far ahead of where foundations are – even with budgets that are sometimes vastly bigger.”
I’m not so sure about that. 1) Budgets are largely irrelevant when it comes to Web 2.0. It takes some staff time, but most tools can be found for free. 2) Foundations aren’t like corporations. Companies have to worry about their own bottom line, while in philanthropy, as Stannard-Stockton puts it, “all ‘returns’ accrue to the public at large.” In the philanthropic world we have far more and better reasons to communicate.
With that, here’s something else from the Communications Network: Come On In. The Water’s Fine. (“An exploration of Web 2.0 techonology and its emerging impact on foundation communications”). Lots of good stuff here, including these nuggets:
- whatever is “lost in message control will be more than made up for by the opportunity to engage audiences in new ways, with greater programmatic impact.”
- All of these steps first require leadership, arguably a new type of leadership, not only at the top but also from the ‘bottom’ up, since many of the people with the requisite skills, attitudes, substantive knowledge and experience are younger, newer employees, and occupy the low-status end of the organizational pyramid, and hence need strong allies at the top.