Dear Mr. Bezos –

The New Philanthropy

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, specifically Green Bronx Machine.

Green Bronx Machine is home to the National Health Wellness and Learning Center in CS55 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 groups like this are not getting the support they need – philanthropic dollars are going to the large, corporate, 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 the same as Mary’s Place in Seattle.

How can this change? Several suggestions include:

  • Don’t give – or stop giving – money to the large, bureaucratic organizations
  • Support smaller, nimble groups like Green Bronx Machine, Change Food and Mary’s Place
  • Support programs like the Change Food, an effort to help organizations like Green Bronx Machine and Harlem Grown.  The Change Food will provide expertise and marketing support so Green Bronx Machine can continue doing what they’re doing while Change Food helps them grow, expand and replicate their programs elsewhere

    Photo by Brendan Van Meter, Beaconhouse Media LLC. Courtesy of Green Bronx Machine.

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 term.

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.

Mr. Bezos, you could contribute best by donating 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.

You could change the face of philanthropy.

Someone needs to.

Steve Ritz showing Change Food’s Diane Hatz some love