Nonprofits I’ve Donated to in 201108.02.11
A few years ago, I had this idea for a nonprofit / startup. I wanted some sort of social way to be able to see what nonprofits my friends (and well-known individuals) are supporting.
Over the years, I've been involved with nonprofits (and philanthropic organizations) in various capacities -- as a donor, advisor, and a board member. I've found it very challenging to get information on good nonprofits (however you want to define it). This idea tackles this through a number of different ways -- partially through social proof (if X person, who I think is good, supports Y nonprofit -- maybe I should look into them) and partially by giving me a conduit for finding out more information (I can simply ask he/she what their experience with them has been.) They could also write testimonials, I can see what respected, famous people are involved, etc.
Since that idea doesn't exist yet, I thought I might do something similar -- which is (to the extent it might be useful to others) to simply write about all the non-profits I've donated to in 2011. I've long been kind of hesitant to do things like this (in fact, I've historically been a little secretive about my nonprofit work) -- partly because I didn't want to draw any attention to myself for doing "good" things or at least then be divided internally about my own motivations over my nonprofit work. That being said, I recently read Mark Suster's blog about DonorsChoose.org -- an organization I've also supported in the past. [link] Even though Mark's influence is far wider than mine, I thought in the spirit of promoting good nonprofits (or at least ones I like) -- I wanted to list them out here.
Acumen Fund [link]: A nonprofit that invests in social entrepreneurs. A really well respected international nonprofit founded by Jacqueline Novogratz who wrote "The Blue Sweater" [link]. A friend of mine from my amazon.com days currently works there. Highly recommended.
Carolina for Kibera [link]: Founded by my friend Rye Barcott. Rye wrote a really excellent book about its founding called "It Happened on the Way to War" [link]. They're a non-profit that serves one of the worst slums in Nairobi -- a true testament to the power of human will -- Rye founded a nonprofit halfway around the world while an undergrad at UNC.
First Descents [link]: A nonprofit that helps young adults with cancer through free outdoor adventure camps. I'm close to this nonprofit (I know both their founder and one of their board members well) -- it's probably one of the best run nonprofits I know with a very active and supportive board.
Color of Democracy Fund at the Tides Foundation [link]: I think one of the things that I've particularly bemoaned over the past few years is the lack of more thoughtful and reflective politicians. I detest the partisan politics that permeates our nation currently. Several months ago, I went to an event where this organization presented and I met with the founders afterwards. They are biased towards Democrats (I would broadly consider myself a moderate -- though probably conservative when it comes to fiscal issues and liberal when it comes to social issues) -- but they're focused on both voter outreach and helping develop a support infrastructure for the type of candidates I mentioned (Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, NJ, is an example of an up and coming candidate they support.)
Los Angeles Social Venture Partners [link]: A philanthropic organization that supports L.A. based non-profits. They're also part of the Social Venture Partners network. One of the great things about LASVP is that they serve as an excellent funnel for L.A. nonprofits -- so as a consequence, I get a very fast snapshot of a huge percentage of very good nonprofits in the area. For those in Silicon Valley, SV2 [link] is their equivalent and I used to be on its board. Both are great places to learn more about nonprofits and philanthropy.
GiveWell [link]: Started by two folks from Bridgewater Capital (one of my college classmates who used to work with them referred me to this organization) -- they take a highly analytical and quantitative approach to nonprofits and who is doing well and not. They're rigorous and tough. I'll be blunt -- I'm not as rigorous as they are and often prefer to support organizations that are doing "good work" which may or may not meet their very high bar. Frankly, very few organizations meet their bar. But their work and analysis is good and I hope their influence grows over time because they're doing excellent work.
U.S. Public Interest Research Group - Education Fund [link]: A very thoughtful friend of mine referred me to them a number of years ago and I've been following them via their newsletter since then. They work on a wide variety of public interest issues and help mobilize people to either donate to specific causes or otherwise write to their representatives when it's something that's important to them. The issues range from Wall St. abuses to Big Oil to junk food. A big reason I like them is that even though I read a lot, they often raise up issues that I previously wasn't aware of.
Amnesty International [link]: I've supported Amnesty International a number of times over the years. One of the things about organizations that I've previously supported is that I often get a little bit of donor fatigue. There was a news story about some reported atrocities in the middle east and Amnesty International was there working and trying to help. I thought to myself, "I'm really glad Amnesty International exists." So I donated.
Beauty Bus [link]: A local L.A. nonprofit that helps terminally ill individuals by providing free beauty services. I had lunch with the founder and very much like their work and approach. A touching and moving service.
Mercy for Animals [link]: I've been quite distressed over the years at how our food is produced. (For a great documentary on the subject, check out Food Inc.) I would not describe myself as an animal rights activist by any stretch, but after seeing a lot of the videos on their website -- I'm glad that organizations like Mercy for Animals exist and expose and publicize some of these practices and conditions.
Hospital for Hope [link]: I just found out about this organization yesterday. It was started by an office mate of mine from Google (who had never once mentioned it to me in all the years I've known him.) They're building a hospital in one of the poorest areas in India (and probably the world.) For $100,000, they estimate they'll be able to build and run a self-sustaining hospital. Besides my personal connection, I love the fact that they started this organization while undergrads in Stanford and have continued to work and build this organization while they all got full-time jobs.
I'm happy to chat more about any of these non-profits -- feel free to comment here or otherwise message me privately. I'll probably aim to write a post like this maybe every quarter or so. Feel free to pass along non-profits that you're particularly passionate about as well.