The New Philanthropy – An Open Letter to Jeff Bezos
You’ve bought Whole Foods; you have an enormously successful company with Amazon. So now it seems like the right time to get involved with changing the food system to one in which healthy, safe, delicious food is available to everyone – both in the U.S. and around the world.
You recently tweeted that you wanted ideas regarding how to undertake your philanthropy. I have an idea – an idea that has 20 years of experience and expertise behind it. An idea that I’m working to bring to reality.
The best way to undertake effective philanthropy in the 21st century is to solve short-term problems while at the same time working toward long-term solutions. Change Food is working to do just that. In addition, for profits and nonprofits are becoming more and more aligned and are working more closely together.
Let’s look at the food movement, using Green Bronx Machine as an example.
Green Bronx Machine is home to the National Health Wellness and Learning Center in PS55 in the South Bronx, the poorest Congressional District in the country. The Founder Steve Ritz teaches at risk youth STEAM subjects, all while growing food that they cannot find in the area. The Center even has obtained certification to donate food grown in the classroom to the cafeteria to help all children in the school eat healthier meals.
In a short time, this effort has decreased behavioral incidents at the school by 50% since 2014. Attendance has also increased from 50% or less to an astounding 95%. Passing rates in science exams have increased 45% from school year 2014-15 to 2015-16.
Yet with all this success, Green Bronx Machine does not receive adequate funding. Many grassroots nonprofit groups like this are not getting the support they need – philanthropic dollars are going to large, bloated bureaucratic organizations while smaller, more successful grassroots groups are working for little to no funding – even though they are more successful at creating real change in a community. This is becoming ridiculous.
I’m sure Mary’s Place in Seattle is the same.
How can this change? Suggestions include:
- Don’t give – or stop giving – money to large, bureaucratic organizations that are simply spinning wheels. (There are a lot of them.)
- Support smaller, nimble groups like Green Bronx Machine, and Mary’s Place. There are thousands around the U.S. alone. And these nonprofits are successful – they just aren’t funded and could be more successful with more expertise and resources.
- Support programs like Change Food, which is an effort to help organizations like Green Bronx Machine, Harlem Grown and A Growing Culture. Change Food will provide expertise and marketing support so Green Bronx Machine and other groups can continue doing what they’re doing while Change Food helps them grow, expand and replicate their programs elsewhere.
Looking Long Term
While you support these types of grassroots groups, you also need to look longer-term so solutions are developed and implemented. For example, Green Bronx Machine has solutions to problems with education, so while they should be supported to continue what they are already doing, a group like Change Food should be supported to help Green Bronx Machine support their current work and replicate their program around the country and possibly world.
This means you can effectively solve problems both in the short and long terms – that is the only effective way to truly solve a problem.
Did you know that there are nonprofits that do not want to solve the problems they focus on? There are hunger groups who don’t really want to end hunger because they’ll be out of business. Homeless groups who ultimately don’t want to house everyone. These large organizations now exist to support themselves, and they take most of the philanthropic dollars that are offered. Change Food looks forward to the day it has no more work to do.
The Changing Landscape of Philanthropy
In addition, philanthropy is changing as the lines between for profit and nonprofit begin to blur, and as for profits and nonprofits begin to develop relationships and work closer together. (See Change Food’s upcoming dinner with RISE for an example.) Many nonprofits, the smaller ones not getting the massive funding large organizations receive, are looking at ways to develop an income stream to support their work because fundraising is too time consuming, frustrating, and takes away from real work.
In addition, futurists are predicting that companies will have to be beyond sustainable in the not-too-distant future. In fact, companies have already started – do you know what Daniel Lubetzky, the founder of KIND, has done? Have you heard of REBBL? GIVN? Bambos?
Jeff, donate your philanthropic dollars into smaller nonprofits who really need your help now while you help set up long-term for profit funding streams for these types of organizations. You could effectively use your money to both help underserved communities now while creating profitable businesses and long-term solutions for the future. And Change Food wants to help.
You really could change the face of philanthropy.
And someone needs to.
Respectfully – and with hope –
Founder & Executive Director
diane (at) changefood (dot) org
PS: I am available to help you.