Trickle Down Philanthropy

I’m fascinated by the changing trends in philanthropy, particularly as it relates to innovation. Every day we are introduced to some new technology that promises to encourage our well-being up the positive vector.  Maybe you’re wondering, Why am I reading about technology and innovation in a Philanthropy blog—stay with me.

This past summer I was amazed at the story regarding Dr. Atul Gawande, who was appointed CEO of a yet to-be-named nonprofit healthcare venture established by Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, and Jamie Dimon. Yes, that’s Berkshire Hathaway, Amazon, and JP Morgan!

Let’s start by considering that in their own right, each of these dynamic leaders is a significant philanthropist. Now, let’s consider their motivation for hiring Dr. Gawande and setting up this nonprofit venture.

It’s not greed; it’s the desire to fix something that is broken—to make healthcare better, more accessible, and less expensive. Isn’t that what we are all doing in our respective areas—attacking a challenge, preserving, advocating, protecting, or just making something better? We seek donors, who share the passion for our purpose and “invest” in making it better.

A couple of items to note: According to a statement from the group Dr. Gawande is “free from profit-making incentives and constraints” and is charged to utilize technology, create new systems, and innovate the Healthcare space.

The first group to benefit from these transformational disruptions will be the employees of the respective companies, which are more than 100,000. Imagine this: When new systems, programs, and the like are vetted and proven to move the needle (pun intended), they are going to give it away so that others have access to the same tools. Doesn’t that qualify as philanthropy, too? I think it does.

We live in an amazing time where the world’s largest bank can partner with the world’s largest on-line retailer and invite their billionaire disruptor to pool their resources on behalf of the entire US population and help us to live healthier lives.

Venture philanthropy is gaining momentum in institutions across the country, and we are seeing it leveraged often by many of our firm’s clients. This is a powerful tool available to almost every not-for-profit.

I encourage you to think about your cause, your case, and how you can position your organization to take advantage of these amazing opportunities. If you would like to discuss how to build a giving strategy around innovation, give us a call.