Yesterday at the Council on Foundation’s annual conference, the session entitled Philanthropy 2.0 featured a star-studded panel. The founders of DonorsChoose, Facebook Causes, and The Motley Fool were joined by the East Coast Development Manager of and the Director of Social Investment for The Case Foundation.

Roughly 150 people attended the session, choosing Philanthropy 2.0 over a host of other really awesome sessions.  Session facilitator Sharna Goldseker, vice president of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, took a quick survey of the audience. The attendees consisted of 30 percent family foundations, 40 percent community foundations, 5 percent corporate foundations, 10 percent private foundations, and 15 percent foundation consultants and advisors.

For the first hour of the session, the presenters showcased what they have been doing with web 2.0 and philanthropy. For those who aren’t familiar with the platforms listed above: – A donation site that connects teachers who need supplies for classroom projects with citizen philanthropists interested in funding the projects. (67,400 donors, $1.2 million since 2000)

Facebook Causes – A popular application on Facebook that permits anyone to start a fundraiser on behalf of a registered 501c3 organization. (12 million users, $2.5 million raised since 2007) – A community of advocates of micro-finance that permits individuals to make loans to small-business owners in the developing world. (270,000 lenders, $28 million lent since 2004)

The Motley Fool – A web 2.0 financial investment community that also runs an annual program in which investors make donations to a select list of charities.

The Case Foundation – A family foundation started by AOL founder Steve Case that has invested heavily in the tools that make micro-philanthropy possible and has run several contests that encourage individuals to become citizen philanthropists.

After the presentations, the conversation gave way to a “Q&A” session, in which foundation representatives asked the panel how philanthropy 2.0 could impact their own work.

Here is a video of the Q&A. (From left to right: Michael D. Smith, director of social investment, The Case Foundation; Rupa Modi, East Coast development manager,; Tom Gardner, co-founder, The Motley Fool; Charles Best, founder,; Joe Green, founder, Facebook Causes)

Yesterday morning I also attended a session entitled Social Entrepreneurship: New Approaches to Changing the World. The session featured several notable speakers including: Bill Drayton, CEO and chair of ASHOKA; Brian Trelstad, chief investment officer for Acumen Fund; Erich Broksas, vice president of business development for The Case Foundation; J. Gregory Dees, professor of the Practice of Social Entrepreneurship at the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship; and Jed Emerson, project manager of Strategy and Performance for The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation.

By the end of the day, I felt compelled to draw up a list of seven tips I had heard for foundations looking to “push the envelope” of philanthropy. The following ideas come from the two sessions I attended and an interview with Bill Somerville, author of Grassroots Philanthropy: Field Notes of a Maverick Grantmaker.

Here are the suggestions, in no particular order:

  1. Put young people on your board, or consider creating a junior board for generating new ideas in grant-making, program evaluation, and technology-assisted philanthropy. (Source: Participant in the “Social Entrepreneurship” session)
  2. Create room for “high risk/high reward” grants, and learn from any failures. As a foundation, having philanthropic “scar tissue” could be a good thing. (Source: Presenter in the “Social Entrepreneurship” session)
  3. Open source the design of micro-philanthropic solutions, ie, integrate your constituents’ ideas and preferences into the planning and implementation of grant-making programs. (Source: Charles Best,
  4. Use social networks to tell people what organizations your foundation is funding, and why. This will permit you to serve as a scout for citizen philanthropists looking to make informed decisions about where they can direct their philanthropic dollars. (Source: Joe Green, Facebook Causes)
  5. Experiment with using social media. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work out. On the Internet, you can always maneuver quickly when something isn’t having the results you expected. (Source: Rupa Modi,
  6. Commit your foundation to funding nonprofits and to creating more change-makers in the world. A society of change-makers will solve the problems your foundation cannot solve on its own. (Source: Bill Drayton, Ashoka)
  7. Trust your program staff to make grants. This will speed up the process of moving money to where it’s needed most. Board members can confirm the grants after the fact. (Source: Bill Somerville, Philanthropic Ventures Foundation)

imagePeter Deitz is a micro-philanthropy consultant and the founder of Social Actions, a website that helps individuals and organizations use social media to plan, implement, and support peer-to-peer social change campaigns so that grassroots solutions to local and global problems can flourish.  He also writes a blog about micro-philanthropy.