By my count there have been at least six killer apps* in American philanthropy since the founding of Jamestown:

1.  The not-for-profit corporation
2.  The foundation
3.  The donor-advised fund
4.  The Foundation Directory
5.  GuideStar
6.  The common grant application

I’m excluding from my list individual organizations, as well as innovations not specific to philanthropy (e.g., the Internet and QuickBooks).

Once the Foundation Center’s PubHub becomes more robust, by adding, for example, user comments and ratings, I believe it will join the list.  Equally important to the field will be the curricula for program officers being developed by The Grantmaking School.

A more telling list, perhaps, would be “Philanthropy’s World-Transforming Ideas.”  Would the list be embarrassingly short? self-promoting? Or would our laptops run out of power before we could finish typing it?


* Used here in the sense of a great innovation that is used widely and adds enormous value to the field.


Albert Ruesga blogs the Third Sector at White Courtesy Telephone.