Over the course of two and a half days last month, leaders from 36 organizations playing a role in the global philanthropic ecosystem—including GuideStar, CharityNavigator, GlobalGiving, and Network for Good, as well as GreatNonprofits—met at the New York City offices of the financial technology firm Liquidnet.

This diverse group came together to focus on how we might join forces to create greater social impact throughout the philanthropic ecosystem.

Over the course of this “Markets For Giving” workshop, a consensus view of how the philanthropic ecosystem should look in the future emerged.  A few key aspects of this future vision of the philanthropic ecosystem include:

  • Beneficiaries at the center, with a cost-effective, scalable mechanism for obtaining beneficiary feedback
  • Free flow of quality information throughout the ecosystem (that is standardized, commonly accepted, placed in human terms, with clear global standards)
  • Nonprofits that use the information to improve their performance
  • Resource providers that use the information to make more impactful donation decisions
  • A global philanthropic “platform” that facilitates the collection, aggregation and exchange of information and resources

Interspersed throughout the workshop were speakers (either in person or via video) who offered their perspectives on how we might solve some of the challenges before us. 

Jacob Harold of the Hewlett Foundation challenged us to find opportunities to collaborate, since the current ecosystem—with too many players engaged in duplicative efforts chasing too few resources without essential scale—is not sustainable.  Paul Brest from Hewlett also shared his view on theories of change, especially in the philanthropic sector.

Liquidnet Founder and CEO Seth Merrin shared his entrepreneurial insight on how he started his company, which began with the premise that by leveraging technology and the power of collaboration, a broken marketplace comprised of disparate competitors could be transformed into a highly efficient and effective community.

Hope Neighbor presented her market research on the donor landscape so that we might improve the quality of giving.  One keen challenge presented was the challenge of transitioning the 85 percent of donors who say they care about nonprofit performance into actors who actually research nonprofit performance, a category currently comprised of only 21 percent of donors. 

Chris Hughes of Jumo shared his vision for a network that leverages the power of the social web to facilitate connections between individuals and organizations that are making an impact.

The workshop team was intentionally diverse but it wasn’t exhaustive, and the group will most likely evolve into new configurations as we move forward.  With a rough outline of an agreed upon vision for tomorrow, certain sub-sets of this group can work together to build the various components that will ultimately add up to the future vision we all helped create. 

Brian Walsh runs Liquidnet For Good, the corporate social engagement platform for Liquidnet, a global financial technology firm based in New York.  Since 2007, Liquidnet has devoted a portion of its annual revenues towards social causes, winning the 2009 Excellence Award from the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy for its signature partnership , a youth village for orphans in Rwanda.