Using Technology Platforms to Digitally Transform Philanthropy
For those of you that follow me, you are likely already aware that I launched a new business in the past few days. So, I am using this opening paragraph both as an introduction and a disclosure to ensure you are aware of my interests as you read the remainder of this piece.
Transformative (new company) will develop, integrate and deploy intelligent edge solutions to serve the needs of vertical markets and business scenarios. The ‘edge’, for Transformative, is intentionally defined as the ‘point of impact’ where new software solutions, new data / knowledge and new business models converge to create a new and compelling experience.
With the launch of a new business comes the responsibility of defining and living a culture that will attract people and continually motivate and challenge team members to do their best work and live their best life. And with that objective, I am excited to tell you a story about company culture. A culture that includes Goodwill Driven Growth. For me, this topic is close to my heart, because it allows me to focus on my cause! My passion! So, let’s spend a bit of our transformative energy focused on the value and purpose behind Goodwill Driven Growth.
Asking Questions and Finding Purpose
Insights and actions are usually driven by great questions. So, that is where we will start.
Where do you publish your ‘third profile’. You likely have a social profile on Facebook. And most folks have a professional profile on LinkedIn. Where is your philanthropic profile?
What if every non-profit had an integrated, automated and best-practice driven operating system to connect with their community, solicit donations, engage volunteers and manage operations?
I have a deep appreciation for Not-for-Profit organizations not only for what they do, but also how they do it. Take a look at the majority of NFP organizations and you will see many operating traits and tactics that are akin to a start-up commercial business. Limited revenue, thin margins, constant need for additional team members and talent. But then, separate and clearly distinct from everything else, there is a purpose. In any great start-up business, there is a focus. There is a mission. And along with that mission comes a deep sense of commitment and passion. Now, multiply that business mission by your personal sense of commitment and vision for a better world and you have it. The equation for charitable commitment and value. The philanthropic spark that drives volunteers and NFP team members who are doing well by doing good.
Building on this spark and engaging an eager audience of volunteers, how do we digitally transform the NFP world with a new operating environment? How do we leverage organizations, networks, teams and talents more effectively to contribute to the great causes that bind us all together? To answer this question, I took two steps back and asked another question.
Who is the most philanthropic person in this world?
You may respond with ‘Bill and Melinda’ as two of the most published names in philanthropy for their amazing work at the Gates Foundation. And, while I agree that their work ranks in the top tier of the most philanthropic category, I would ask a couple of additional questions. What about the people who have foregone fortune and dedicated their lives to the well-being of others? What about the volunteers who have existed on passion and purpose in each of their pursuits? It is this line of questioning that led to my search for the digitally disruptive philanthropic platforms of the future.
Goodwill Driven Growth
You would think that in this age of connected everything, social collaboration and big data analytics that this simple question (Who is the most philanthropic person in the world?) would be a bit easier to answer. Unfortunately, that is not the case. I looked far and wide across many NFP and volunteer sites trying to find the best source of information for both philanthropic organizations and individuals. The results were, in my opinion, rather dismal with most sites publishing active membership in the thousands or low millions and most organizations operating on a budget and with a team of resources that pale in comparison to ‘best practice’ models in the corporate world. And, in my search for philanthropic profiles, I found very little.
Let me take one measure of philanthropic identity to expand on this point. The most advanced ‘philanthropic platform’ for personal profiles that I’ve found is hosted by the folks at LinkedIn. LinkedInforGood is an initiative within the LinkedIn organization to leverage all the benefits of LinkedIn for philanthropic organizations. The operating requirements of a charitable organization and commercial business are clear. The need to market a non-profit organization, solicit donors, find volunteers and communicate with a connected community all require the same technology and services that are used everyday to support users & companies on LinkedIn’s commercial site. Moreover, if a LinkedIn member chooses to augment his/her profile with volunteer work and charitable efforts, their profile typically accrues additional value when seeking a commercial position.
With all the capability and the attention that LinkedIn has received in the commercial market, what should we expect in terms of philanthropic activity & impact? Based on the rough numbers published for profiles with charitable activity, the level of philanthropic engagement amounts to about 1% of the total LinkedIn community. If it’s higher than that, OK, I won’t argue. But all the numbers point to participation in the very low single digits.
Looking beyond individual profiles and philanthropic interests, many corporations have established ‘Goodwill driven Growth’ as a cornerstone in their organization. The team at Salesforce carves out dedicated time each year for volunteer work. In between cups of coffee, the team at Starbucks advances several philanthropic causes and the high-tech teams at both Oracle and Microsoft provide significant funding and technology offerings that help effectively equip non-profit organizations.
The Platform for Philanthropy
Since our objective is to scale philanthropic activity for all organizations, donors and volunteers, we set out with the goal of selecting or building the philanthropic platform(s) of the future. The goal for our philanthropic platform:
Engage everyone and enable every organization to effectively invest their time, talents and dollars to improve lives across the world.
Based on my assessment of philanthropic platforms, I would suggest that we look at both LinkedIn & Salesforce as the two long-poles in the tent. Who will provide the 3rd platform and create the defacto repository for individual philanthropic profiles in this world? I would suggest that LinkedIn, with a little extra help from You and I, is well positioned to be the destination to document and share our philanthropic interests.
At an organization level, I believe that Salesforce has established themselves as a clear leader and the platform of choice to advance philanthropic causes for NFP organizations. By connecting organizations, volunteers and funding, Salesforce enables the charitable ecosystem. And, taking that one step further with marketing programs, analytics and best practices, Salesforce underscores their position as a leader for philanthropic organizations.
This ‘better together’ approach combines the power of individual profiles (LinkedInforGood) with the vision, communication and execution required by NFP organizations (Salesforce). The power of your ‘third profile’, highlighting your charities and volunteer preferences, combined with scalable philanthropic outreach driven by organizations has the power to disrupt the philanthropic landscape, in a very good way.
My Challenge to You
This is for You! If you do not have a clear path defined for your philanthropic journey, I would suggest the adoption and implementation of these philanthropic platforms as a great place to start. If you’re reading this article, you likely have more technical capability than the average joe or joanne. So, I challenge you to become a Philanthropic Platform Partner and leverage the capabilities highlighted here for the charity of your choice.
- Pick a charity.
- Build out the platform required to support their ongoing, online operation.
- Engage and encourage your community to create their individual philanthropic profile
Let’s see if we can digitally enable a few thousand charities with platform driven volunteering, funding, marketing and communications. And, lets publish a few thousand philanthropic profiles that serve as a catalyst to downstream engagement and giving. I appreciate your action and comments. And, most of all, I appreciate the transformative change you will drive for the charity of your choice.