Hmm… this round-up is definitely taking on more of a fortnightly than weekly feel, isn’t it? Anyway, regularity issues aside, here is a new dollop of the web’s best philanthropy and social investment news and comment from the last two weeks. Enjoy!
1) There is only really one contender for the number one spot this week, and that is the Ice Bucket Challenge. The online video fundraising challenge started by a US Motor Neurone disease charity has gone viral beyond all precedent this week, and it has been impossible to turn on the TV or go on the web without stumbling across news of another celebrity or major world figure having thrown ice-cold water over themselves. We reached what might come to be seen as “peak ice bucket challenge” this very morning, when the news that President Obama had declined the challenge of former president George W Bush to soak himself, and has instead pledged to give to charity.
This story has had all sorts of angles: big-name celebrities doing the challenge, surprising take-up in china, the shock death by drowning of one of the founders of the challenge, and, inevitably, a backlash. Some of the crticism echoes questions I raised myself in a blog this week; in particular the concern that the message of the ice-bucket challenge seems to be that giving to charity is a punishment worse than being soaked in freezing water. Many have also questioned whether the whole thing is more about the narcissism of social media than raising awareness and money for a charitable cause. You can read my thoughts here.
2) LIST! A LIST OF PHILANTHROPISTS! That’s right, it’s another list at number three. Despite having sworn off lists of donors, I couldn’t resist including Inside Philanthropy’s list of the “18 Most Generous Philanthropists in Finance”. I love lists of financial services donors, as when they are done well, they usually provoke two simultaneous reactions: “Wow, that’s a lot of money” and “Why have I never heard of these people?” It’s a salutary reminder of the need to engage the finance world with philanthropy. As American bank robber Willie Sutton apocryphally said in explanation of why he robbed banks: “because that’s where the money is.”
3) A little story about social enterprise that made me prick up my ears at number three, with news that private equity firm Bain Capital (of links to Mitt Romney fame) is to buy half of US ethical footwear company Toms. What is particularly interesting about this story is the comments from Bain Capital about committing to maintain Toms’ philanthropic ethos and their justification for why this makes good business sense. In a world where buyouts by commercial operators who subsequently abandon social principles are a big threat to successful social enterprises, this is an intriguing development.
4) At number four, following the tragic suicide of Robin Williams last week, many chose to remember his philanthropic work alongside the many highlights of his incredible career as comedian and actor. It was clear from these articles that in addition to the many big charitable organisations he supported through donations and fundraising, he was also generous in giving his support to much-smaller charities and arts organisations in his local community, and sought little or no recognition for this. This philanthropic angle is obviously far from being the main point of the coverage of William’s life, but it is another element of the story that can make us both thankful for all he did during his life, and sad that it ended too soon and in such unfortunate circumstances.
5) And finally… a difficult fortnight to find an “and finally story”, both because there is too much proper news around and also because the ice-bucket challenge (whose natural home would be in this slot) became too big to ignore as a main story.
However, one story that caught my eye is the news that the National Football Museum in Manchester has declared an “amnesty” on old football shirts. It is calling on footie fans to donate their old kits, that they might have grown out of or simply worn out, and they will distribute them to homeless children around the world through the charity Street Child World Cup. They have set the ambitious target of getting a shirt for every one of the 92 Football League teams, so hopefully they will get a great response. It remains to be seen whether anyone will admit to owning Chelsea’s mid-90s away kit monstrosity. Brrr…