Help for Victims of Madoff

The collapse of the $50 billion Ponzi scheme run by Bernie Madoff has hurt many philanthropists and the organisations they support. There will be plenty of time to reflect on how to avoid similar disasters in future, especially by improving the financial due diligence of donors and some of their beneficiaries. But the immediate priority is to limit the damage done to the affected non-profits, whose work is of huge importance. Happily, some philanthrocapitalists are coming to the rescue.

Yesterday, a coalition of two philanthropic organisations who we write about in the book, Atlantic Philanthropies and George Soros’s Open Society Institute, and the left-of-centre political activism network,, announced an imaginative scheme to provide emergency funds to four non-profits hit by the Madoff affair. These are the Brennan Center for Justice, Advancement Project, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and one of our favourite non-profits, Human Rights Watch – an organisation that first drew the attention of the world to the genocide in Darfur and is now highlighting the alarming problems in Congo and Zimbabwe.

The philanthrocapitalists have devised an approach to leveraging mass-market philanthropy that deserves to succeed. Here’s the deal. Atlantic Philanthropies and OSI will each match dollar for dollar any gift (up to $300,000) made to any of these four non-profits between now and the end of the year. So every dollar you give is worth three dollars to the non-profit. You have until midnight.