The Year of Giving Dangerously

2009 showed that the philanthrocapitalism revolution is here to stay, as mega-giving by the likes of Bill Gates and the mass philanthrocapitalism of organisations like and donorschoose surged ahead despite the economic downturn. So what does 2010 hold in store?

Gazing into our crystal ball, we see philanthrocapitalism continuing to surge ahead as givers and governments realise that philanthropy is going to be the driver of much of the social innovation that tackles the symptoms and causes of our current economic mess. This surge in activity will be increasingly controversial, as philanthrocapitalists take on more challenges that are inherently political, at home and overseas. So, recognising that most of these forecasts will be wrong (though we can only hope!), here are our specific predictions for the year ahead.

1) A wave of mega-gifts from a new cohort of American philanthrocapitalists. In the United States, the IT sector has created scores of billionaires, some of whom have got the giving bug but there are still plenty who haven’t, yet. We think Apple founder Steve Jobs is ripe to join the movement: the icon of cool is starting to get some bad press for his lack of generosity (something that happened to both Bill Gates and Warren Buffett shortly before they made their first big gifts); he is a cancer survivor, which as well as giving him a sense of his own mortality, is also an experience that has motivated the giving of a number of other wealthy donors such as Michael Milken and Lance Armstrong; most of all, he is a born problem-solver, so would probably love it. 

An outside bet for a new tech philanthrocapitalist is Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer – yes he’s still busy with his day job and has no time for philanthropy but why not follow Warren Buffett’s example and hand a slice of his fortune to someone he trusts to give it away.

2) New giving by American billionaires will be outstripped by donors from emerging markets. 2010’s biggest donor will probably be a Chinese billionaire that none of us has yet heard of. Or maybe one of India’s super-rich, steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal perhaps, will leap to the top of the giving tables. Perhaps Mexican telecoms tycoon Carlos Slim will start to do something really substantial with the $10 billion he has already pledged to give away. We’re not sure where exactly it’s coming from but something big is going to come from the emerging markets. It would be great to see a new wave of philanthrocapitalists in Africa. Sudanese mobile phone guru Mo Ibrahim is looking a bit lonely at the moment, so here’s hoping that the super-rich of Africa decide that it’s time to do their part – 2010 would be a great opportunity for South Africa’s billionaires as the eyes of the world will be on their country due to the soccer World Cup.

3) Malaria will be the cause of the year, centred on the World Cup in South Africa. The Malaria No More campaign, backed by Bill Gates and a bunch of corporate sponors including Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp, has been gathering momentum in 2009 and its publicity is due to peak around the global media event of the year in the summer of 2010. With the world focused on Africa, political leaders and the continent’s super-rich will be under pressure to show that they are committed to the fight to stop this preventable disease that kills a million people a year.

4) Football may be the big sporting event of the the year but the big celebrity philanthropist of 2010 will be a golfer, as Tiger Woods redeems his reputation by spending far more time with his foundation – which is already quite impressive, but could be far bigger. His private life may be a mess but Tiger is certainly a fighter, so we expect him to come back in 2010 with some big giving to rescue his reputation.

5) On the theme of redemption, we’re expecting a bumper year of giving from the financial sector. Goldman Sachs made a good, but far too small, start in late 2009 by pledging half a billion dollars to help small businesses in America. But far more is needed if the reputation of bankers as a force for good is to have any chance of being restored. The public outcry over financiers’ pay isn’t going to go away and the bankers need to show that they’re doing their bit, corporately and personally, to take on the challenges of the economic crisis.

6) 2010 is the year when for-profit philanthropy and social investing goes to scale. 2009 saw the creation of Global Impact Investing Network, bringing together philanthropists, ethical banks and mainstream banks to push the cause of social investing. 2010 will see the flotation of Indian microfinance company SKS, a landmark in the development of ‘bottom of the pyramid’ businesses that serve the needs of the poorest and turn a profit for investors. More philanthropists are likely to focus on how to take the lessons of microfinance and apply them to supplying other services demanded by the poor. Watch this space.

7) Another major celebrity will join the list of those known as much for their commitment to giving as for what made them famous in the first place. In the book we profile Bono, Angelina Jolie, Shakira and Chinese film star Jet Li as examples of effective “celanthropists”, who are allying their celebrity with professional philanthropic support organisations in partnership with mega donors, big business and even governments. Our top tip to go big in 2010? Matt Damon, who lately has been spending a lot of time getting to grip with the details of what is going to be one of the biggest issues facing the planet in the coming decades, access to water.

8) Mass philanthrocapitalism will go from strength to strength. will get over its recent difficulties and sites like GlobalGiving will find new ways to enrich the donor experience to stimulate giving. But the big story in 2010 will be Facebook Causes as millions of people use their social networks as a force for good by, say, ‘giving’ their birthdays – celebrating another year by getting their friends to donate to charity rather than buying them a new pair of socks.

9) Philanthropy will start to take on tougher foreign policy challenges in 2010, increasingly in partnership with government. Afghanistan and Pakistan are top of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s ‘to do’ list next year but have so far received little attention from philanthrocapitalists. In 2009 this started to change as the State Department hooked up with social media gurus to think about how to use the internet to take on extremism in the Middle East. Afghanistan and Pakistan are crying out for aid that actually gets kids educated, supplies villages with water, gives people jobs, empowers women – the list goes on. Here’s a cause that’s ripe for innovation from the philanthrocapitalists.

10) Getting involved in the ‘war on terror’ is going to be controversial but so will much of the best philanthropy in 2010. From Bill Gates’s efforts to reform America’s schools that are annoying the teaching unions to George Soros’s new initiatives to remake economics, philanthrocapitalists will increasingly court controversy. But if it helps create a better world, that is the sort of controversy worth having.

Happy new year!