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Robert J. Rosenthal

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Craigslist Foundation Winds Up Its Good Work... And Demonstrates the Meaning of Community

Posted: 01/12/12 10:58 AM ET

This week the Craigslist Foundation announced it is ceasing operations after more than a decade of working to strengthen the work of grassroots community organizations and activists.

While the specifics of their situation are still being held closely, the immediate question on most people's minds is what'll happen with its well-known programs like the popular Nonprofit Boot Camp series and LikeMinded, the Foundation's recently launched resource-sharing platform for social change.

I haven't had a chance to talk to the folks at Craigslist Foundation. But the good news is that the search has begun to find new homes for those programs. As president and CEO Lynn Luckow wrote:

In the coming weeks, our staff will work diligently to distill the lessons learned over ten years, and to find appropriate homes for our three key programs: Nonprofit Boot Camp (ready for its 9th Annual event), LikeMinded (ready for its next iteration after nine months of user experience), and Alliance Building (building a network of community builders).

As most know, Craigslist Foundation was launched with the financial support and connections of Craigslist.org (which, despite the .org name, is a for-profit). That was one reason the Foundation quickly became a fixture on the Bay Area's nonprofit scene. However, as an operating foundation, Craigslist Foundation wasn't giving away grants from an interest-bearing account; instead, it was a shoe-string operation run from modest offices here in San Francisco, raising most of its own money to run its programs.

For many years, former E.D. Darian Heyman Rodriguez was the Foundation's best-known team member. Darian moved on a few years back and is now making change through his Social Media for Nonprofits event series. Meanwhile the foundation continued on... creating impact through its own events and its new platform for resource sharing.

Over the years, it became pretty obvious that many of the Foundation's signature programs were competing for participation and mindshare with the work of other social ventures. For example, even while their Boot Camp series struggled to grow into new locations, it shared a lot in common with similar events for activists and nonprofits. LikeMinded, launched in 2011, now treads where existing services like IdeaEncore and Issuelab already go.

The Foundation also crossed over into volunteer engagement through its fiscal sponsorship of allforgood.org, which replicated many of the functions of SocialActions and my own organization, VolunteerMatch, while struggling to find a revenue model. (Allforgood.org moved under the umbrella of the Points of Light Institute last year.)

And yet there is certainly no doubt that Craigslist Foundation changed lives. Thousands of activists and nonprofits connected with each other through their programs, creating real change on the ground in our communities. The organization also helped spark a larger trend of making "being involved" both cool and accessible for people from coast to coast.

So yes, hats off to Craigslist Foundation for 10 great years of making a difference. But credit too, to the staff and board for recognizing the strengths of other organizations that were doing good work too -- and being bold enough to say: "Enough. We've done our part."

 

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