Embedded Philanthropy: A New Age of Giving

Philanthropy has become more than gifts to charity and is now a form of self expression. This can be best seen as businesses have started to use philanthropy to sell their products and improve their world.

We are at the beginning of a new age of giving and embedded philanthropy is one of the first signs. Everyday people are starting to see and understand that regardless of the amount of money they make they can make an impact in their world. As people have started to realize this businesses are following suit allowing people to give back through ordinary purchases.

But more can still be done, when I look at the value of some of the major players that participate in the RED campaign or the percentage many businesses give it is relatively small. I get more excited when I see a business that is willing to tackle a problem than one is using philanthropy as a tool to increase sales.

I think more can be done on the individual and consumer side too. A small case can be made that embedded philanthropy encourages giving but we should not stop at buying yogurt for the cure, or purchasing RED clothing. We should make philanthropy a part of our everyday lives. I think everyone should be volunteering with a nonprofit, everyone who can should be giving even if it’s just $10 a month, and everyone can be encouraging their friends to give back too. My biggest fear regarding embedded philanthropy is that we will think we no longer have to give because we are “purchasing responsibly.”

As I’ve said before I think embedded philanthropy is the first sign of a new wave of philanthropy. The second sign starts when we, the little people, realize we can make a difference.

This blog post is part of the Embedded Philanthropy Blog Series, sponsored by Telecom for Charity. The blog series was launched in May 2009 to highlight expert thinking and encourage discussions on the state of embedded philanthropy in today’s economy.

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3 Responses to Embedded Philanthropy: A New Age of Giving

  1. FokusLop says:

    Good article, Thanks. my name Philip.

  2. I agree, a whole new age of people giving. I think the generation that is coming into money now, does not have the need so much for “bling” as they do have the need to feel like they contribute, that in some way they can help. Exciting.
    Thanks for your post,
    Ines Q Compton

  3. Jason, thanks so much for your contribution to this series — one of the few (only?) that draw explicit postmodern attention to philanthropy as self expression. The challenge is: just what do we want to express with our philanthropic activity? Engagement or nonchalance? Generosity or tokenism? Personal responsibility or outsource-to-the-nonprofit-or-corporation-making-the-ask?

    Holden Karnovsky’s contribution to this Series (http://blog.givewell.net/?p=387) argues that the design of embedded philanthropy encourages the second of each of those pairs. But when this method is woven into our lives with many others — opportunities to volunteer, get involved, build conversation with our friends about the issues and the impact — I have to think it contributes to something good, something larger than the dollar amount, company, and nonprofit involved in one specific transaction.

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