What Is Next After the Gates/Buffett Giving Pledge? Building Generosity Networks

07/18/2013 12:01 pm ET | Updated Sep 17, 2013

2013-07-18-GivingHands.jpg 114 billionaires from around the world who have signed the Giving Pledge (committing to give away more than half of their wealth in their lifetime) meet a couple times a year to find ways to share information and ideas with each other. They are great role models for how others can have a positive impact on the world. Some have set up their own foundations; others are still exploring ways they can best give. But several of the signers I have spoken to are looking for more. They want to know how they can partner with other individuals, foundations, non-profits and government agencies to have the most significant impact? How can they connect and collaborate effectively with the many others in the world who are also committed to impactful philanthropy?

I believe that the big opportunity is more than just money. Concentrating on connecting serious passionate people to others with similar areas of philanthropic interest, such as educational reform, global health, nutrition, job creation, early childhood, and social and emotional learning, will produce more long lasting, positive change.

It's time for us to turn our attention to building and growing Generosity Networks that link the philanthropic passions of major donors with others who share those passions and are willing to work, collaboratively, to address the major causes of our day.

Bringing these interest groups together and providing the "glue" to hold them together for common outcomes (see my earlier blog on leading collaborations ) will lead to a more effective allocation of time and capital. These collaborations will identify the best non-profits to support, will give them the combined resources needed to be leaders in their focused areas of interest, and will give them a stronger voice when dealing with local, state and national governments, multi-laterals and foundations.

Once these donors see they can be impactful they will naturally want to give more of their money and time. It will be seen to be a good investment! Matching their passions with their philanthropy and linking them with others of similar passions increases the fun of giving, and linking them together with an appropriate curator for their joint efforts increases their impact.

Barriers that Inhibit Collaboration

Generosity Networks are the next great new frontier in philanthropy. Unfortunately, there are barriers that slow down the connections between the philanthropists and the many who are working on the same vital causes. These barriers include:

• Fear that those with funds to give will be inundated with solicitations and requests that they will have to filter
• A plethora of activist groups, each with its own agenda, goals, and metrics, many apparently in conflict with one another
• Lack of consistently reliable tools to find potential partners
• The "quid-pro-quo" of giving. If I ask someone to give then they will expect me to give when they ask, no matter what the cause.

What can we do to help lower those barriers?

• Identify honest brokers who can bring people and organizations together
• Create common measureable goals that unify different groups focused on key causes
• Set up social enterprises whose goals are focused not just on their own success but in bringing together others for unified success

Moving from talk to action

Some of the preliminary steps to create the Generosity Networks of tomorrow are already taking place. There are thousands of wealthy individuals from around the globe, who may not be wealthy enough to be among the 114 pledge signers but who are also very interested in giving back in an impactful way. JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley and UBS private banks have brought together their high net worth clients to discuss philanthropy and compare notes. However, these connections are still in the stage of large groups listening to speakers and moderated panels; candid, open, connective conversations among the donors themselves are only beginning. The Global Philanthropy Forum, Legacy Ventures, Synergos and others are organizations where these conversations are continuing.

There are groups of wealthy individuals coming together in targeted areas of interest for common purpose, such as Oceans Five, Pew Foundation's Ocean Legacy, Bridgebuilders Collabortive and New Profit. Specifically, New Profit has one of its domains focused on finding great enterprises in the Learning Disability and Social and Emotional Learning area. Four families have come together to share resources ($25 million commitment), network, and knowledge and act together. New Profit is the collaborative glue, the honest broker, that ensures the sharing of information, opportunities, and identification of resource needs.

Harvard Business School is bringing together its alums who are interested in educational reform (many of whom are already giving in this area and related boards such as Teach for America and Kipp Schools) and linking them up with the key professors and active foundations (such as the Gates Foundation) to identify ways they can integrate their efforts.

In many cities and countries, local business people are rising up and starting to work with their local officials and their peers -- from Strive, The Partnership for New York City here in the U.S., to multi-stakeholder, business led, groups being formed to focus on health initiatives in Nigeria and India.

Tools for Connecting

The leading social network services are beginning to connect like-minded individuals around social causes. For example, Meg Garlinghouse, who leads Linkedin For Good, is exploring ways to identify philanthropic passions of the Linkedin members so they can be matched up with non-profits who need their time and talent. These linkages can be a great way for non-profits to get to know people who could be future board members.

There are several peer-based (equal, personal, relationship focused) efforts underway to organize individuals around the world, leveraged by donors, to build grassroots connections that can help create the sustainable, proactive, change tools needed for large-scale philanthropic efforts to succeed. For example, Marshall Ganz at Harvard's Kennedy School teaches a popular course on community organizing and the public narrative. A non-profit called The Leading Change Network, has been set up to train others around the world in these collaboration skills. Other groups such as and Centering Healthcare are using these peer-based tools to build such networks.

Please visit the Generosity Network site ( and join us to discuss the best way to build and reinforce these collaborative networks. As these networks grow, more resources will be brought to targeted causes and the collaborative partnerships that are built will produce models that others can learn from.