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A New Effort to Empower Individual Giving

Take a look!

I've been helping run a publication called Humane Pursuits for five years now. We explain part of the reason for its existence this way: "The technocratic politics, big businesses, sprawling cities, and mass media of the 20th century gave birth to a Millennial generation whose members are more isolated and more confused about their roles than perhaps any young people in history. As a result, though, they tend to question a lot of bad ideas that their parents and grandparents took for granted."

Humane Pursuits seeks to help people, especially young people, explore how to live rich, meaningful ("rounded") lives in the context of modern settings and demands ("boxes") that often seem structured to make it difficult.

We have a whole section of the site, the Give channel, dedicated to helping individuals think through how to give back in ways that are sustainable, effective, and meaningful. It's not a conversation about philanthropy, or even about nonprofit work per se; it's addressed to individuals and seeks to delve into questions of how they might interface better with groups, communities, and organizations to make a difference. The vision is for this to become a tremendous resource not only for people who want to think about how to give back, but also for organizations seeking to better understand the rising donor base.

It'll deal with questions that resonate with younger potential givers; questions like:

  • Is fundraising always bad?
  • If results aren't all about numbers, what should we measure?
  • Have we left service to the professionals?
  • Is "giving back" an opportunity or a responsibility?
  • Should a big problem have a big solution?
  • What keeps you from giving?

Editor Ashley May, who runs the channel, works at Philanthropy Roundtable in D.C. and has a superb vision for what this channel can be. But she has just started building it, and can use a lot of input, advice, writers, etc. I invite you to visit the channel and send Ashley your feedback (or writing submissions!).

She's also organizing a symposium of sorts, on which you may want to weigh in:

August 4 conversation:

"Our topic is the following question: "Is there anything good about the one percent?"

Stories abound on the one percent and its evils. One article in The Atlantic claims it isn't even the 1% versus the 99%--it's the .01% versus the 99.9%. Is this a moral problem for our country? Does this unprecedented wealth move our whole society forward, or allow greed to reign? Is the social sector dependent on massive amounts of wealth to solve our most important problems?

Humane Pursuits is accepting 300-400 word responses on this question, "Is there anything good about the one percent?" Entries should be sent to Ashley May at ashleyjoycemay@gmail.com by July 28. Longer entries may be considered as well; please submit a brief proposal."

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Saving Nonprofits

It's time to reinvent American civil society.

If you’ve opened a direct mail solicitation from an unfamiliar nonprofit, chances are I know a few things about you. One, you’re over 50 years old, probably over 60. Two, you may very well end up in the 2.5% of recipients of that letter who write a check to that organization.

More likely, you’re in the much larger percentage of Americans who throw away the letter unread and won’t donate to that organization--a percentage that is growing, along with the percentage of first-time donors who never donate again.

What do nonprofits need to do to survive amid these shifts?

I'm pleased to share with you that The Statesman has just published an essay I wrote that explores exactly what a reinvented nonprofit sector could look like, and how I think we can get there. Hope you enjoy it--leave a note in the comments and let me know what you think!

Read it now

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