05/28/2014 11:46 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark On Helping Others


I am one of the co-organizers of the NonProfit 2.0 Conference in Washington, DC this June 26. One of our keynotes is Craigslist Founder and philanthropist, Craig Newmark.

I've met Craig a few times, and he is one of the most giving people you could know. So it made sense to ask him a few questions in advance of the conference to learn more about his philanthropic approach via Craigconnects and why he gives. Here's what Craig had to say...

GL: What is the primary thrust of CraigConnects?

CN: It's a way for me to focus on stuff I believe in, by supporting the people
who are good at supporting those causes.

My deal is to find groups who're really good at what they do, and then to affirm their work with the limited resources at my disposal, mostly a small amount of influence, via networking and social media, and a smaller amount of cash.

GL: How do you choose a nonprofit activity to participate in?

CN: Mostly I rely on a team of people smarter than myself, including Susan Nesbit, Bruce Bonafede, the folks at RAD Campaign, and Jonathan Bernstein.

I've learned a lot from them about public service and philanthropy, but there's always more to be learned, and more to be done.

Teamwork is essential:

- Finding nonprofits who're really good at getting stuff done

- Screening out nonprofits whose primary skill is telling a good, possibly fake, story, and then cashing checks

GL: Military families remain an overarching cause area for you. What is your vision for our vets and their families?

CN: My vision is figuring out what they have to tell us, like:

- Military families also serve during the deployment of their family service member

- We owe them a lot, need to follow through, even as the current overseas wars wind down

- Never forget that

We just launched the Veterans Charity Challenge 2. Last year we raised over $445K for vets and military families.

GL: Government is also an issue you invest in. Do you think we can reform government?

CN: I figure we need to help good people in government empower themselves, with programs like employee innovation. That derives from the observation that line workers often know a lot more than agency management, but have no way to communicate that intel along with suggestions for doing things better.

Also, we need to affirm good work in the face of frequently inaccurate news coverage, which in increasingly common.

This is proving challenging, but a nerd's gotta do what a nerd's gotta do.

GL: Finally, how do you see nonprofit advocacy evolving now that data and visual media are becoming central to communications?

CN: Well, I feel we all have a need to bring attention to fact and evidence based reporting, and to discourage people from making stuff up.

That is, much reporting is focused on the sensational, which is often wrong. There's also a lot of fake surveys running around, without any fact checking. danah boyd, maybe the leader in evidence-based work regarding the Internet, says it way better than me in "Rule #1: Do No Harm and Rule #2: Fear-mongering is harmful."