In June of 2015, Giving USA announced another year of successful giving to the tune of an astounding $358.38 billion. The report noted a trend of wealthy individuals, specifically from the tech industry, playing an increasingly prominent role in philanthropy. Sean Parker’s recent article, “Philanthropy for Hackers” in the Wall Street Journal, reinforces that point. While tech philanthropists may potentially represent a small number of donors, the strategic, entrepreneurial mindset they share is not uncommon.
Self-proclaimed “hacker” Sean Parker advocates for a model of philanthropy meant to “disrupt“ traditional giving in favor of purposeful, impact-driven giving focused directly on solving real problems. Parker’s approach calls for definable objectives, measureable success on investments, metrics, data, and analysis to quantify results and impact.
Strategy and Entrepreneurship
Giving USA commented that organizations are not only being asked to be more transparent, but donors are increasingly interested in learning about the strategies of organizations they support, as well as the impact their contributions are having.
Donor-led changes of the magnitude suggested by Parker will require a deeper level of engagement by both the philanthropist and the recipient organization. Philanthropists will need to communicate clearly what they expect and how they want to measure the impact of their philanthropy. Organizations will need to determine if they can support this level of deeper engagement and respond accordingly. Those organizations that can adjust to this new paradigm will be able to more quickly match the entrepreneur’s enthusiasm, passion, innovation, and philanthropic investments to projects, programs, and initiatives that will be meaningful and rewarding.
It’s Still Not About Money
Entrepreneurs, tech philanthropists, hackers—whatever you call them, they’re still people, and they want their money to make an impact and effect change in meaningful ways. The donor’s life experience and passion will continue to drive how he or she decides what causes are important. Parker’s $24 million contribution to Stanford to build an allergy research center attests to this fact.
Ultimately, it still comes down to one truth: it’s not about the money. It’s about the meaning.