26 June 2007

Social Entrepreneurs: Philanthropy and the Changing Business of Giving

Over on the Enterprising Ideas blog, part of the PBS NOW series on social entrepreneurs, they are talking about the latest report on giving in America. According to the report, charitable giving by Americans rose 4.2% to $295.02 billion in 2006, setting a record for the third-straight year.

Great news, of course. But what really got my attention in this blog post comes from blogger Lucy Bernholz, who writes the excellent blog about the "business of giving" called Philanthropy 2173. I track Lucy's blog and am always intrigued by her observations.

The blog post begins with commentary from the Enterprising Ideas staff, following up on a description of "product and service innovation" and the "commercialization of philanthropy."

"Not surprisingly, social entrepreneurs —- entrepreneurs with a humanitarian mission -— are also behind many of the new projects that facilitate donations and investments. Bernholz said social entrepreneurs are playing a major role in how the tools and mission of philanthropy are changing:

'There’s this whole industry of giving that social entrepreneurism is a part of largely because very smart businessmen have entered the field and are very excited about it.'

The post goes on to say, "Now that it's becoming 'more and more possible to make money by doing good,' as Bernholz puts it, there should be more willingness to invest in social entrepreneurs and their projects. After all, the social entrepreneurs are the people who are creating financial opportunities for doing good, says Bernholz. Like Muhammad Yunus’ Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and South Shore Bank in the Midwestern United States."

“'We’ve entered a period of philanthropy like no other,' explains Bernholz, 'because the federal government has gotten out of the business of funding domestic programs.' Foundations and individuals are picking up the slack by providing resources to projects—and many social entrepreneurs. Even if the government increases its commitment to domestic programs, Bernholz believes social entrepreneurship and its hybrid approach—drawing on strategies from the market as well as the public sector—to solving serious problems is here to stay:

"'The problems people are trying to solve are not caused by any single sector so no single sector can solve them.'"

Read the full blog post (and check out other posts and information about the program): Enterprising Ideas and Better Ideas.

And check out Lucy Bernholz's Philanthropy 2173 (You can also find out why it's called what it is...although Woody Allen fans can probably make a good guess.)

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