Adventures in New Giving: A Request for Collaboration

I’ve been cooking up a new project idea. Please read the whole piece for the background on “New Giving” and the genesis of the idea, but here is the core concept and request for collaboration…

Adventures in New Giving: Exploring the Frontiers of the Altruistic Economy

What is it?

  • A 10-city, 90-day tour to the hotbeds of New Giving in the US (and maybe Canada) this summer.
  • Collecting stories (interviews and case studies in text, pictures and video) from New Givers and New Giving grantees, as well as Big Givers, non-profit leaders, and social entrepreneurs with insights to share.
  • Hosting micro-summits of the local New Giving community at each stop to help weave the local networks, while connecting them to the national narrative.
  • All gathered on a new web site that I hope will become a resource hub for current and potential New Givers, their supporters and project fundraisers.

I can’t do it alone.  I need lots of collaborators to help me find and tell those stories.

I also can’t pay for this project alone.  If I can sublet my apartment (and find a long-term cat sitter), I still need to cover some basic bills to stay focused on the project, pay for the travel (while couch surfing to save money), and buy some equipment.

I think the whole thing would come to $10,000.  I hope it will be worth much more to the growing New Giving community.

In true New Giving form, I am considering running a Kickstarter campaign to gather the funds.  For those who haven’t seen it, Kickstarter helps people fund creative projects in small increments coming from friends, family and friendly strangers.

I’m writing this post to find out if people think this Kickstarter campaign and project idea will fly.  Is $10k reasonable?  Would you kick in a contribution and share it with your network?  Do you have ideas to improve the concept?

Let me know what you think:  below in the comments, via email (james.nathaniel [at] gmail [dot] com) or on Twitter @nj140.

I’ve even set up an announcement email list.  I won’t hit send emails more than once a week.  If you want updates, sign up here.

Thanks for considering this and thanks in advance for the feedback.

The Background

It’s been about a year since I started organizing Awesome Foundation Seattle, pulling together conversations with other young philanthropy leaders and writing about their work.

I have met amazing people and had a number of inspiring and challenging insights shared with me.  I believe there is a new movement coming together: philanthropy is now cool.

Take my home base of Seattle, for example.  There are at least six young philanthropy projects, including Awesome Foundation, Sprout, the local Philanthro Chapter, Agency (aka Party with a Purpose), Service Girls, and Social Justice Fund NW’s Giving Projects.  And I’m still learning about more efforts here and around the world all the time.

And I’ve been looking for a name – what to call this movement?   Last November, Awesome Foundation founder Tim Hwang wrote a blog post where he defined it as “New Giving,” something apart from Big Giving (think traditional foundations).

For Tim, New Giving is marked by small-scale funding that permits “organic growth… for a critical level of expertise and experience to congeal.”

I believe New Giving has at least 3 strains:

  • Crowdfunding.
  • Grassroots, community-driven philanthropy that relies on collective action, rather than individual wealth, to take action.
  • The changing role of technology in giving and the webby culture of sharing it engenders.

I also believe New Giving builds social capital through the sharing of financial capital.  It is a new form of civic engagement in an era of deep skepticism of governments and the political process.  People are supporting solutions directly with their cash and their time.

Why is this happening now, especially given our ongoing economic uncertainty?  What does this young movement need to flourish?  What can I do to catalyze the next wave of growth?

I want to find out.  I want to help tell the story of New Giving and build a more robust community of New Givers who can support each other and make it easier for more people to join in.

As I said above, please let me know what you think about Adventures in New Giving: below in the comments, via email (james.nathaniel [at] gmail [dot] com) or on Twitter @nj140, and/or by signing up for the updates list here.

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5 Responses to “Adventures in New Giving: A Request for Collaboration”

  1. My new startup (as yet unnamed) would *love* to pitch in. We’re broke, but do you need help getting that website built? I’d offer couch-space, but I may not be back stateside for a while :)

  2. Billy Shih says:

    Kevin Wong (of Philanthro) sent this over to me. I’m the CMO of the Seattle Philanthro Chapter and definitely did a “New Giving” project for my birthday a few years back (http://billysbirthday.tumblr.com/) and what I’m doing with Philanthro now falls into that realm too.

    Love the idea and would love to help you out with a case study if you need it.

    If I didn’t just quit my job to follow my own dreams, I’d try to do more. Otherwise hope you can get this to come together, sounds like an amazing idea!

  3. Hi Nathan,

    I applaud you in your effort to think big, make sense of this new landscape, and find a way to serve it! I present you with some ramblings and thoughts:

    I guess that would be my first question or point of clarification: what is the need that is being met in 1-2 sentences? Is it about networking? Harnessing the power of a similar community? Technical capacity building? Finding solidarity in similar lifestyles or values?

    In practical terms for Kickstarter (and I know this is probably in your plan in your head), do you have stakeholders and champions in each of the cities you have identified? Do they themselves feel part of this New Giving identity?

  4. nathanj5 says:

    Thanks Katie. It’s about discovery, storytelling and network-weaving. Or community-building. I’ve never decided which phrase I prefer. On the discovery side, it’s a field research project. What is going on? Who are these New Givers? Why are they giving? And what can strengthen their impact?

    I believe this is a compelling story. Why are people doing this in the depths of a recession? How can we help anyone follow their lead?

    On community, yes it’s about the network. Based on what I know, people are not networking beyond their New Giving project circle. How can we build a mutual aid network?

  5. Hi Nathan,

    I applaud you in your effort to think big, make sense of this new landscape, and find a way to serve it! I present you with some ramblings and thoughts:

    It is not clear to me what the term “New Givers” encompasses? Are New Givers the organization that culls together the many donations (like Awesome Foundation), or the micro-donors themselves?

    Perhaps due to my confusion of the above, I’m unable to identify what specific need(s) is/are being met by collecting these case studies/stories and weaving them into a narrative. Is it about networking? Harnessing the power of a similar community? Technical capacity building? Finding solidarity in similar lifestyles or values? Maybe if you could break out the different players/roles you see in the community and how you will serve them, I’d have a clearer sense as to why I’d fund/help you…
    –> If you are having a hard time defining this need, maybe throw a quick survey together and ask the community what its pain points are?

    Do you have stakeholders and champions in each of the cities you have identified? Do they, themselves, feel part of this New Giving identity? If not, is that part of the how the tour will serve this community?
    –> In practical terms for Kickstarter (and I know this is probably in your plan in your head), have you estimated the size of this community? I would count on the New Giving champion community providing the bulk of funding, with their peripheral network helping out marginally. This could help you determine whether you’ll meet your goal.

    How does the current movement differ or resemble the establishment of community foundations? http://www.communityfoundations.net/page14094.html
    Can you learn from their travails and successes? How will New Givers distinguish themselves? (Maybe that isn’t even necessary…)

    Oh- and I just re-read your email that you sent: this is AWESOME: “Basically, it’s a storytelling tour over this summer to gather case studies and other resources for all of the community philanthropy and web/mobile-powered giving projects that are happening in the US.” Maybe you should include that above?

    I know you are still in gathering data mode, so I think this is a great start. For the kickstarter campaign and in wide solicitation, I would like to see this broken down more poignantly so that people completely outside the network aren’t tripped up by new jargon or abstract value.

    Would be happy to talk through any of this!

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