Entries in Information (6)


Nonprofit Tech Companies

This weekend I hosted a party and one of my guests recently started working at Twitter. We had a nice conversation about social media and technology, and how in light of recent high-profile public offerings (Facebook, Groupon, LinkedIn, Pandora, Yelp, Zynga, etc.), little has been known about how these technology companies are turning a profit, like the recent 60 Minutes profile of Groupon.

I live two blocks away from the Zynga headquarters and walk past the Twitter's new building on my way to work each morning, so technology is a community interest for me, in some ways.

And for those tech companies that offer information or tools, it's fascinating to see some great examples of non-profit tech companies that serve a social mission, making the internet more of a nonprofit space, where ads and marketing aren't influencing the user experience.

I've been thinking more and more about this conversation and so I decided to explore the mission statements of my top 10 favorite nonprofit tech companies.

They are (in alphabetical order):

1. Bay Area Video Coalition (San Francisco, CA)
Mission: The Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC) inspires social change by enabling the sharing of diverse stories through art, education and technology.

2. Craigslist Foundation (RIP, San Francisco, CA)
Mission: to empower people to strengthen their communities by connecting them to the resources they need to effectively engage in community building.

3. Creative Commons (Mountain View, CA)
Mission: Creative Commons develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation.

4. Electronic Frontier Foundation (San Francisco, CA)
Mission: The Corporation was formed for the purpose of understanding and fostering the opportunities of digital communication in a free and open society.

5. Internet Archive (San Francisco, CA)
Mission: to offer permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public to historical collections that exist in digital format.

6. Kahn Academy (Mountain View, CA)
Mission: to provide a free world-class education to anyone anywhere.

Note: Kahn Academy was recently featured on 60 Minutes.

7. Mozilla Foundation (Mountain View, CA)
Mission: to promote openness, innovation and opportunity on the web,

8. TechSoup Global (San Francisco, CA)
Mission: TechSoup Global is working toward a time when every nonprofit and NGO on the planet has the technology resources and knowledge they need to operation at their full potential.

9. Tehnology, Entertainment, Design (New York, NY)
Mission: Spreading ideas.

10. Wikimedia Foundation (San Francisco, CA)
Mission: to encourage the growth, development, and distribution of free, multilingual content, and to provide the full content of these wiki-based projects to the public free of charge.

Please share your favorite nonprofit tech companies with me! I can be reached at


Cooperation Makes It Happen!

Yesterday's post made me think of a song that I remember loving from my childhood: "Cooperation" by Sesame Street. It's also a good reminder that Sesame Workshop is a nonprofit organization with a mission "to use the educational power of media to help children everywhere reach their highest potential."

Their projects bring critical lessons in literacy and numeracy, emotional wellbeing, health and wellness, and respect and understanding to children in 150+ countries.

Co-operation... makes it happen!

Co-operation ... working together!

Dig it!


Cultivating New Community Leaders

Full Circle Fund logo


New Full Circle Fund Members, July 2011

After three consecutive weeks of attending Full Circle Fund events on any given night – and another event on my calendar for next week – it’s clear to me that this is an organization that I need to tell others about.

There are a few reasons I’m involved with Full Circle Fund that map directly to my core values: community, contribution, and camaraderie. Or, to use another alliteration, I value impact, investment, and inspiration. So please indulge me to align the alliterations and say more about each.

Community and Impact

First, an introduction from the website: “Full Circle Fund is an engaged philanthropy organization cultivating the next generation of community leaders and driving lasting social change in the Bay Area. Full Circle Fund members leverage their time, money, skills and connections to the service of nonprofits, businesses and government agencies in partnerships that result in significant impact on the community.”

Although I’ve come across many civic and social organizations that seem to be a platform for elitism and exclusivity, Full Circle Fund is the kind of philanthropic group that directly engages in the community – and by that I mean, the place where its members live and work across a wide region in the Bay Area. I’ve always been struck by the phrase “think globally, act locally,” and it makes sense to me that we can all do much to improve the immediate needs that surround us.

But in addition to occupying or pursuing an occupation in any given area, Full Circle Fund members participate in an organization that values substantive change.  Even with an acknowledgement that we cannot do everything for everyone, our members come together because we believe that we can make a contribution that is meaningful and measurable.

"Impact” a buzz word that I hear often in the nonprofit sector, but usually it means something that is pre-defined. Sometimes it leads to square pegs in round holes. At Full Circle Fund, “impact” can mean many things, including innovations unknown. We are willing to look at our community and make a difference – or take a chance – that matters. If we leave our grantees better than when we’ve found them, we’ve done our best to contribute to positive change. Risk does have results, intentionally for the better.

Contribution and Investment

Second, Full Circle Fund members each have a stake in the outcomes. Instead of only writing a check to a grantee, we engage with nonprofits through strategic partnerships. I’ve often been told that philanthropy includes contributions of “time, talent, and treasure” and it's clear to me that Full Circle Fund members give it all. The combination personal, social and financial resources is powerful. Each member contributes a bit of each.

And let me be clear, as much as I admire the time and talent of members, there is a financial contribution that gives each member of the group a fiscal stake. Full Circle Fund is not a charity; it’s a venture philanthropy partnership.

Camaraderie and Inspiration

Finally, the members are the best part. As a nonprofit professional, my work-related circles are somewhat limited. At Full Circle Fund, I learn from people that don’t do the same things as me professionally or personally. Many of us are leaders in our respective areas, but a big part of the investments we pursue are based on a collaborative spirit. Full Circle Fund is a place where bankers talk to lawyers, that talk to techies and social entrepreneurs, that talk to nonprofit leaders and public servants. We have much to learn from one another.

And, I admire the sense of leadership that each member exemplifies. “Cultivating new community leaders” is the true essence of our membership. Quarterly Inspiring Leaders Series Events feature speakers who are experts in a social change field. The series provides an opportunity to learn from compelling visionaries, develop leadership and teamwork skills, share best practices, report on grant project milestones, and celebrate team successes.

In conversation with Bill Draper at the "Inspiring Leaders Series" eventA while back, I attended a series event with Bill Draper, co-founder of Draper Richards LP, a venture capital fund that invests in early-stage technology companies in the U.S. and founder Draper Investment Company. He also is co-founder of the Draper Richards Foundation, which invests in entrepreneurs starting new non-profit organizations. Run much like a venture capital fund, in addition to financial support, the foundation also provides expert guidance and coaching to its fellows and fosters their growth from a start-up non-profit to a successful venture.

At the event, he told us about his experiences in venture capital and venture philanthropy. He shared insights about success in each area, but also how the two are not necessarily mutually-exclusive. Investment skills can transfer across sectors – and better yet – they require a wise investor. And a talented investor in any area is skillful with their resources. At this event, I learned that innovation is not just thinking outside the box; it’s thinking across boxes and beyond.


Community and impact; contribution and investment; camaraderie and inspiration: Full Circle Fund has it all.

Partners in Philanthropy

Watch a video about Full Circle Fund:


Reading Recommendation: The Raising of Money

It’s simple, yet all too true: “Organizations Have No Needs” is the first small chapter in the book The Raising of Money: 35 Essentials Trustees Are Using to Make a Difference by Jim Lord.

I’ve never thought about it before, but he’s obviously right.  The organization doesn’t have needs; people do. I’ve never heard an organization beg.  I’ve never heard an institution say “I’m hungry!” 

It’s what we so commonly assume about organizational behavior is that somewhat ironically, organizations are not literally alive, nor does one behave.

But when you want something to grow, much like a person, an organization requires essential nutrients and significant investment. We invest in people, for causes, that are approached in a strategic and organized manner.

As a reminder, civil society is really people asking for support and essential resources, for causes that are important to them for any number of reasons. Somewhat like requesting nourishment, the heart of philanthropy is based on personal relationships.

The book is divided into seven sections:

  1. Working from the Perspective of the Donor
  2. Getting People Involved
  3. Setting the Pace for Giving
  4. Applying the Campaign Principle
  5. Asking for Money
  6. Practicing Stewardship
  7. Kindling the Spirit of Philanthropy

Each section has a number of small chapters, each filled with tips and strategies, targeted to trustees and development professionals; or in the case of smaller nonprofits, the board of directors and fundraisers.

The book was recommended to me by my mentor as a fellow with the Association of Fundraising ProfessionalsGolden Gate Chapter. I was excited to read the book for professional and personal reasons.

For example, I was recently elected to the Board of Directors at Stanford Pride, a nonprofit networking organization affiliated with the Stanford Alumni Association. Without being preachy, the book had many pages that directly apply to my leadership and volunteerism. The book addresses both sides of the philanthropic coin – the donor and volunteer, or in many cases the donating philanthropist and development professional.

I’m definitely grateful that this book is fresh in my mind as I begin this service commitment!

The book is also filled with inspirational quotes – some from creative works, others from passionate philanthropists, such this inspiring quote on page 76 from John D. Rockefeller, Jr.:

“When a solicitor comes to you and lays on your heart the responsibility that rests so heavily on his; when his earnestness gives convincing evidence of how seriously interested he is; when he makes it clear that he knows you are no less anxious to do your duty in the matter than he is, that you are just as conscientious that he feels sure all you need is to realize the importance of the enterprise and the urgency of the need in order to lead you to do your full share in meeting it – he has made you his friend and has brought you to think of giving not as a duty but as a privilege.”

In all honesty, this rather long quote resonates with my passion for my work and personal alignment with the mission of the California Academy of Sciences, where I spend my day job as a part of the development team. Each day, I aspire to work with donors in such a way that they will see my personal and professional missions as one in the same, and something they can be a part of as investors.

In conclusion, the book is also an important reminder that all forms of philanthropy (time, talent, treasure) is based on people helping people (also the title of chapter 26!). The book is dedicated “The the Volunteer… the heart and soul of philanthropy.”  Its insight-filled pages had many practical implications that apply to my work, my board service, and all other areas of my involvement in civil society.

Colleagues and comrades, this book is a must-read if you want to take your work in philanthropy seriously. 


An Evening with Yann Arthus-Bertrand

As part of the first San Francisco Green Film Festival, I recently had the pleasure of spending an evening with one of the most inspiring activists and artists of his generation: Yann Arthus-Bertrand.

En route to France via San Francisco, he was in California for another TED Talk in Monterey and I had the pleasure of watching him present his recent film, HOME, followed by a Q&A discussion, time with attendees, and a gala reception downtown.

The film highlights the dangers human activities create to planet earth. Produced by Luc Besson and financed by the PPR Group (a French multinational company), it was Yann Arthus-Bertrand's intention to show the state of our planet and the challenges humanity faces, using aerial photography to document images of nature in a captivating narrative.

Following the show, he spoke with an enthusiastic energy about the importance of raising awareness of the impact/relationship between people and the planet. With a characteristically French charm and thick accent, he confessed, "I am only a film-maker" in admitting that he does not have all the answers to the questions raised by the film.

However, his artistic perspective shined when he suggested that the world is in need of a "spiritual revolution" in contrast to political or market-based solutions. Politicians and corporations, in his view, are often too narrow in focus and objectives to think about the future. He cited the culture of corruption and consumption as contributing factors to an imbalance of wealth and power that, unchecked, cannot be expected to effectively respond to the planetary crisis on our hands.

Instead, he used the film and its powerful images in tandem with statistics, science, and an evolutionary story-telling narrative to evoke some of the most basic messages about humanity and nature.

It was an absolute honor to meet him!

Planetary Philanthropy

Yann Arthus-Bertrand is much more than an artist and activist. A man with many facets, he’s also a planetary philanthropist, as his work is widely available, shared freely, and with no commercial sponsorship. Today, HOME is available on DVDs and free, via streaming on the internet (Arthus-Bertrand gave up his author's rights).

In my view, his work is an inspiration in the ways that it contributes to an exchange of ideas. Free of cost and wide in distribution, his work has a sense of accessibility that inspires action.

He explains in a statement from the Home Project s YouTube Channel:

We are living in exceptional times. Scientists tell us that we have 10 years to change the way we live, avert the depletion of natural resources and the catastrophic evolution of the Earth's climate. The stakes are high for us and our children. Everyone should take part in the effort, and HOME has been conceived to take a message of mobilization out to every human being. For this purpose, HOME needs to be free. A patron, the PPR Group, made this possible. EuropaCorp, the distributor, also pledged not to make any profit because Home is a non-profit film. HOME has been made for you: share it! And act for the planet.

-Yann Arthus-Bertrand, GoodPlanet Fundation President

2011 Year of the Forest

For one of his most recent projects at the GoodPlanet Foundation, the United Nations appointed Yann Arthus-Bertrand to produce an official film for the launch of the International Year of Forests, 2011. Of Forests and Men is a 7-minute short film on forests filled with aerial images from Home and the Earth from Above television series.

The film was shown during the plenary session of the Ninth Session of United Nations Forum on Forests (24 January - 4 February 2011) in New York. It s currently available to the public, at no charge, for worldwide distribution.

The images are absolutely stunning and make me miss the mountain forests where I grew-up in Montana. If you've got 7.5 minutes, watch it here:

Of Forests and Men from GoodPlanet on Vimeo

You can download the film for free - I even uploaded it to my iPhone for regular viewing. Much like his personal sites, the GoodPlanet Foundation s other websites are loaded with information, all of which is freely available:

J’adore son site Internet!

Finally, in researching his accomplished career, I am seriously impressed with the content of his personal websites. It features thousands of photos, including free wallpaper images, along with enough reading and digital images to make a geek like me happy for so small amount of time!

Check it out and you’ll see the work of a living luminary.


Carbon Consciousness & Carefree Clicking

Believe it or not, websites like this one actually contribute to climate change and carry a carbon footprint. Thankfully, there's a nonprofit organization that can help!

The mission of the Carbon Fund is to lead the fight against global warming, making it easy and affordable for any individual, business or organization to reduce & offset their climate impact and hasten the transition to a clean energy future.

Their trademark is effectively straightforward: Reduce What You Can, Offset What You Can’t™ — and they encourage everyone to continually strive to reduce their carbon footprint through sensible energy reductions, combined with cost-effective carbon offsets. Their offsets support third-party validated renewable energyenergy efficiency and reforestation projects globally that reduce carbon dioxide emissions and the threat of climate change.

Carbon-Free Commitment 

According to their delightfully informative website,, all websites have a carbon footprint. This footprint is created by many factors including operation of web servers, networks, and the computers visitors use. For example, the average small personal blog creates nearly a tonne of CO2 per year! Furthermore, the Internet is responsible for about as much CO2 as air travel, or about two percent of total global emissions!

I've decided to go carbon neutral in support of the Carbon Fund's  projects, thanks in large part because they are a nonprofit organization,  meaning their priority is fighting climate change, not profiting from it. Some for-profits charge more than twice as much, including for offsets that come from the same projects with the same certifications. 

Additionally, my contribution is tax-deductible, making it even more cost-effective to reduce the carbon footprint of this here website. Sounds great to me!

I also appreciate how their website provides much more than carbon offsets — they offer practical knowledge and resourceful online tools that educate people about how carbon offsets work, how carbon calculation are figured, and other ways to reduce your carbon footprint with energy efficiency and conservation. 

 And yes, there's an app for that!  It's available for Iphone and Android — cool!