Friday, November 17, 2006

Russell Strikes Again!

My beloved entrepreneurial idol, Russell Simmons, is once again in the headlines for an innovative business and philanthropy venture. The Washington Post, in today's article, "Hip-Hop Mogul to Tour African Mines," reports that: "Simmons sets out this month for South Africa and Botswana on a fact-finding mission as he starts the Diamond Empowerment Fund to teach Africans how to cut and polish diamonds rather than simply mining them. 'We want more of black Africans to become executives,' the the 49-year-old hip-hop mogul told the Daily News in Friday's editions. 'The diamond industry should be the leader of African empowerment.' Most African diamonds are cut by people in Belgium and Israel."

Seriously, could I love Russell Simmons any more that I already do?! He's the best.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What's Wrong With Profit?

In the November 13, 2006 New York Times, the article What's Wrong With Profit? highlights a new breed of "philanthropreneurs" who are creating profit-making ventures that also serve the greater good. For example, Richard Branson investing $3 billion to develop greener fuels, Steve Case investing in FlexCar (more people sharing, instead of owning, cars means less waste and pollution), or Pierre Omidyar investing in micorlending in the developing world. (did anyone notice that there are no women in the Times article?)

If a for-profit venture gets the job done and makes a profit for investors, I'm all for that. If it works for the clients - the people being served - or generally makes life better, than it shouldn't matter if it's a non-profit or a for-profit delivering the services.

But what about the question of accountability? Let's take the greener fuels example. What if the business that is created to develop greener fuels makes a profit for the investors, but the fuels are not really greener or are of low quality? What if the fuel innovations are fantastic, but the company doesn't make any money? In traditional philanthropy, the non-profit organizations are accountable to both their clients and their funders - if the tutoring program is failing, the funders will pull the plug and/or the clients will stop showing up. What if one of these ventures is failing - will the investors pull the plug on a venture that is earning profits but not "doing good"?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Give time or give money?

In the October 14, 2006 edition of Slate magazine, Tim Harford writes in his article, Charity is Selfish: The Economic Case Against Philanthropy:

"If these do-gooders really were motivated by the desire to do good, they would be doing something different. It would almost always be more effective to volunteer less, work overtime, and give more. A Dutch banker can pay for a lot of soup-kitchen chefs and servers with a couple of hours' worth of his salary, but that wouldn't provide the same feel-good buzz as ladling out stew himself, would it?"

Is it better, or more effecitve, to give time or to give money? Should that question matter - is it really about what will help the recipients most, or what will make you feel better - or some combination thereof? And who said that charity has to be selfless? I think of charity not as an option, but as an obligation, so it's really not a selfless act for me. What do you think?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Don't Almost Give

From The Chronicle of Philanthropy (Oct 12, 2006) - "The Ad Council, a New York charity that produces public-service advertisements, has started a campaign to encourage Americans to support good works. Instead of promoting a specific charity or cause, as is the norm with such efforts, the charity says its Generous Nation campaign is designed 'to motivate and inspire Americans to translate their everyday compassion and good intentions into action by giving more often, not just in times of crisis but throughout the year.'"

Check out the campaign's website at I think the best sections are "Tips for Giving Wisely" and "Tips for Volunteering Wisely" in the "Explore Resources" section. What do you think? Will this website, and the TV ads associated with it (you can view the ads on the website) really encourage people to give more? Why DON'T people give?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Hip-Hop Philanthropy

I'm totally intrigued by celebrity philanthropy. I just got an email about Eminem's (a rapper) philanthropy, his charitable foundation, and his collaboration with Nike to create a limited edition sneaker to be auctioned off for charity. While I'm not a huge Eminem fan (but I AM a huge hip-hop fan), I was happy to see that the organization partnering on this project,, helps kids in Uganda and Thailand, two countries I've visited which are very close to my heart.

I'm fixated on my entrepeneurial hero, Russell Simmons, otherwise known as the "Godfather of Hip-Hop." Business leader, community activist, philanthropist... and a dedicated yoga practioner to boot! His foundation is Rush Philanthropic. Rapper Ludacris also has a foundation, which sounds terrific. And of course, there are my absolute favorites, the BEASTIE BOYS - major human rights and political activists.

Have anything to add to the hip-hop philanthropy list?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Give $50 per year - a no excuses guide!

What does $50 per year really mean?

It's 96 cents per week. Yes, that's right, 96 cents.

That's your pocket change at the end of the week.
That's 1/3 of a latte.
That's a can and a half of soda.
That's one Subway sandwich per month.
That's two parking tickets (park legally! make a donation!)
That's five or six pizzas... per YEAR.
That's less than the extra minutes on that really big cell phone bill a few months ago...

Now think about what a $25 donation per year would really cost you...

Why give?

Why should you make a charitable donation? (Other than "because you should..." Hey, I'm not your mother!)

  • Charity events give you an opportunity to socialize, network, and make new connections with likeminded folks
  • You can honor, thank, or remember special people in your life (friends, family, clients, the barrista who puts the extra shot of foam in your latte) with a donation in their honor
  • When you give away some of your money, you will feel richer (trust me on this)
  • Tax benefits (if you itemize - more details at
  • Donor benefits are "swag" for the rest of us! (e.g. tickets to special events, discounts on merchandise, fun magazines and publications, etc.)
What other ideas do you have?