Conference to Explore Achieving Effectiveness in Philanthropy, November 16-17
The theme for this year’s Yale SOM Philanthropy Conference is “achieving effectiveness in philanthropy.” The speeches and panels will focus on how to apply business models to achieve results and measure the impact of giving. One unexpected sub-theme of the conference is that if you go about setting up a philanthropic organization right, you can become buddies with Stephen Colbert.
Since Colbert, the popular cable TV satirist, declared his candidacy for the presidency, he’s been promoting a website called DonorsChoose.org, which allows people to view requests from school teachers and give money directly to whomever they choose. So far, more than 700 people have donated more than $50,000 in Colbert's name. Charles Best YC ’98, who founded DonorsChoose.org in 2000, will be the conference’s keynote speaker, describing a new approach to an old problem: How can just a little amount of money make a real difference?
“What’s great about Charles Best is that he’s at the forefront of this movement in e-philanthropy,” said Sheryl Linsky ’08, a conference co-leader. “It’s all about the democratization of the philanthropic movement. This is about the person sitting in their living room with $25 to give. Now you can see the teacher’s face and see the teacher’s project and buy frogs for a science project in South Carolina. Giving isn’t an abstract idea. It’s tangible.”
The panels and discussion part of the conference will be held Nov. 16 on the Yale SOM campus, with a tailgating event Nov. 17 at the Yale-Harvard football game. Linksy and her co-leader, Seanne Hanke ’08, expect 120 attendees at the day-long event, which will host panels titled Innovative Models in Philanthropy, Funder/Grantee Relationships, Measuring Impact, Democratization of Philanthropy, Supporting Economic Development, and Trends in Corporate Giving. Hanke said that unlike other philanthropy conferences, the SOM version is aimed at those unfamiliar with the industry. “It’s going to be helpful for students who are going into nonprofits and will be writing grants to philanthropic organizations,” she said. “It’ll be a great way for the funders and the grant-seekers to peek at each other’s playbooks, which should make the process less intimidating.”
Linsky said the emphasis on impact, which has become a leading trend in corporate giving, is good for a number of reasons. For one, it helps organizations know their money is being used properly and not wasted on unnecessary expenses. “But it’s also about what good we are doing,” she said. “That’s ultimately the whole point of bringing business models to philanthropy. It’s why we’re doing this in the first place.”
Julie Koo ’06, executive director of the Program on Social Enterprise at the Yale School of Management, started the conference as a student three years ago. She said the idea came from a panel on donors at a Net Impact conference that became a frank dialogue on the frustrations of the philanthropic process. Inspired, she and a classmate, Amy Blankson ‘06, organized what they expected to be small conference. “But when we started talking to some of our classmates, we realized that there was a critical mass of people interested in this topic and willing to help organize a major event,” she said. “It shouldn’t have been surprising since it fits in so well with SOM's mission and also since philanthropy touches every aspect of work in the nonprofit sector. It’s gratifying to see the conference continue to be so popular and relevant to the SOM experience.”
For a full conference schedule and to register, visit the conference website.