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Charity 2.0? Silicon Valley reinvents philanthropy.

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Many experts say it works. In Montana, where the project was started in 2005, the program reduced adult use of methamphetamines by 72 percent, and teen use by 62 percent (although some researchers dispute those figures and the program's overall impact). The state has dropped from fifth in the rate of meth abuse in 2005 to 39th a few years later, according to the foundation. The White House cited the program as one of the country's most powerful and creative antidrug programs.

"He applied a business approach to solving a social problem and it worked," says Ms. Arrillaga-Andreessen.

While some nonprofits are being nudged to adopt more for-profit-like approaches, other social entrepreneurs are guiding nonprofits to narrow their focus and do only what they do best, according to Beth Kanter, a nonprofit scholar and author of "The Networked Nonprofit," a 2010 book on using social media to advance philanthropy.

She points to one example,, which advocates for family-friendly laws. "MomsRising didn't reinvent the wheels and instead just focused on what they were enthusiastic about – mobilizing people," says Ms. Kanter. Instead of operating as a traditional nonprofit, the group outsourced much of its operations, allowing it to run virtually and more nimbly.

Founded in 2006, the group grew to more than 1 million members in its first three years and helped push through state-mandated paid family leave in Washington State and New Jersey.

Education is one of the hot areas getting attention from social entrepreneurs because it can benefit from technology, according to Arrillaga-Andreessen.

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