Thursday, December 18, 2008

Humble Beginnings

Under the old rules of the game, a lucky winner in the shareholders' sweepstakes might endow a foundation and have philanthropic activities carried out in his or her memory and name. Fred Meyer comes to mind, a local grocer who earned a fortune, endowed a foundation.

In the meantime, most scrabble to get by, manage a few acts of charity, maybe have good enough accounting to take the tax deduction. However taxes, like tolls, supposedly feed the public good (sometimes we're skeptical), and you have to pay them, so that those valving these funds on your behalf (you elected them maybe?) might do your bidding, in terms of funding worthy programs.

Given the point of sale already features a sales tax in many states (not Oregon), and that vendors have their good will building campaigns (in addition to advertising) it's not a big leap to give customers an opportunity to practice philanthropy and have this go on their record (anonymous donations still an option). Instead of invisible others channeling funds on your behalf, you make your own decisions, more like a stock buyer, investment banker.

In the world of foundations, boards sometimes look for those tiny, esoteric operations that will earn them a reputation as intelligent social networkers, good at leveraging. Just as NGOs boast of their funders, so do funders tout their more signature success stories (a two way street in other words).

A philosophical (contemplative) ambience, well provided with study materials, is conducive to creative philanthropy, gives customers an opportunity to really think about what programs they want to help sponsor. There's lots of software in this picture, much of it open source.