Posts from hacking philanthropy

Earthjustice

We are doing a $40k match offer this weekend for Earthjustice. It was $30k as of yesterday morning, but this tweet changed that number yesterday afternoon:

So we are now matching up to $40k in donations to Earthjustice this weekend. If we fill up the entire match, we will raise $80k for Earthjustice this weekend.

So what is Earthjustice?

It is an organization that pursues legal cases against those who are doing things against the interest of our planet.

Here are some examples:

  1. Earthjustice recently won cases in New Mexico and Nevada in which utility companies were trying to reduce the amount of money they pay consumers for their solar power.
  2. Earthjustice litigation led to the shutdown of the Big Sandy coal plant in Kentucky.
  3. In 2014, Earthjustice helped to secure a landmark Supreme Court ruling that upholds the EPA’s authority to limit carbon pollution.
  4. Earthjustice is currently litigating to halt illegal dumping of oil waste into California’s water supplies.

These are just a small sampling of the legal work that Earthjustice does. You can read more here.

If not Earthjustice, who would file and work on these cases? The interested parties, the polluters, utilities, carbon industry, etc have massive balance sheets that allow them to work the system in their favor. Society needs well funded organizations to fight back for all of us. And that is what Earthjustice does.

Our match offer is good all weekend. If you want to participate, please do so today.

Here is how you can do that:

  1. Go to our EarthMatch page on Crowdrise and give any amount (minimum is $10).
  2. After you complete the donation, tweet your donation out using the blue Tweet button on the post donation page. That will register it for our match.
  3. If you don’t use Twitter, you can forward your email receipt by following the instructions on the post donation page. Tweeting is much better though as it will amplify the campaign.

And please post this match offer [https://www.crowdrise.com/EJMatch] on social media and wherever else you might find people who want to support Earthjustice.

EarthMatch

It’s time again for our monthly match, our once a month team match offer for a cause that is helping to protect the country and the world from the current administration.

It was hard to pick a cause this month because the administration has done so many awful things recently (executive order rolling back climate change efforts, working to defund Planned Parenthood and Meals On Wheels, etc, etc). But we’ve landed on climate change because our team this month, Susan, Albert, Amy, Brad, Joanne, and me, feel that our planet needs our help right now and we are going to do something for it today. Plus its going to be Earth Day soon. It is April. And this is no April Fools except for the fool in the White House.

Our cause this month is Earth Justice, an organization whose tag line is “the earth needs a good lawyer” and god knows it does now with these carbon lovers running things in the US.

We are putting up a combined $30,000 match ($5k from each of us) to raise money for Earth Justice this weekend.

Here is how it will work:

  1. Go to our EarthMatch page on Crowdrise and give any amount (minimum is $10).
  2. After you complete the donation, tweet your donation out using the blue Tweet button on the post donation page. That will register it for our match.
  3. If you don’t use Twitter, you can forward your email receipt by following the instructions on the post donation page. Tweeting is much better though as it will amplify the campaign.

All of us will be posting and tweeting about this campaign today. Please join us in doing that to get the word out. And please donate to EarthJustice. We will match your donation up to $30k of total donations this weekend.

Let’s go.

Scratch’s 10th Anniversary

The Scratch programming language and community is ten years old and we celebrated that last night at a gala in NYC where the Scratch Foundation raised funds to support their work and they chose to honor me for our K12 CS Ed work in NYC.

Here’s what I said to those who were there, I thought it would be nice to share it with the world.


If you want to be filled with joy, take off the morning, head off to one of hundreds of middle school or high school buildings in NYC, and check out an introduction to software engineering class. Or go visit an elementary school home room where the teacher is doing a computing module in a history or science lesson.

Here is what you will see. Roughly thirty young students, slightly more than half girls, and a rainbow of race, religion, and means. You will see girls in hijabs, boys with afros, kids who speak Spanish or some other language at home, all sitting together working on some sort of creative project, often in teams, solving problems, getting excited, and doing something that challenges them and interests them.

And there’s a good chance that the software they are running on their computers will be Scratch, a visual programming language that makes building software as easy as building a Lego project. But Scratch is way more than a programming language. It is a community, free for everyone to use, now more than 70mm large, where the software creators share what they made with others and let others reuse and remake what they made. It is remix culture for making stuff on a computer.

Scratch is also a gateway drug to serious software engineering. I know many young adults who started on Scratch and now work on some of the most serious programming challenges in computer science at big tech companies, startups, and the top research labs and universities.

Scratch is a gift to the world from Mitch Resnick and his team of colleagues at the MIT Media Lab. You all know the saying, “don’t give someone a fish, teach them to fish”? Well that is what Mitch and his colleagues are doing with Scratch and they are doing it for tens of millions of people all around the world. I suspect the magnitude of this gift they have given the world is on the order of things like the personal computer, the smartphone, and the web. It’s that big.

When I got interested in making sure every young person in the NYC public school system could learn to instruct a machine about seven or eight years ago, I didn’t really know how we were going to make that happen. Like most things I do, our organization, called CSNYC, just threw ourselves at the problem, listened and learned from those, like Mitch, who had been working on the problem for a long time, and we tried lots of things.

One of the things we tried early on at The Academy For Software Engineering was Scratch. AFSE is a new public high school we started five years ago where students learn computer science and which has a few students in attendance tonight. And it has become an essential tool in our CS4All curriculum all over NYC. I see it in elementary school classrooms, I see it in middle schools, and I see it in high schools. I don’t know of a better way to get a student programming a computer than firing up the browser and pointing it to scratch.mit.edu.

There are certainly other tools that are used to teach programming in K12 classrooms across NYC and across the country and the world. Scratch can’t teach everything. But it can get the student going, excited, productive, and hooked. And that is the biggest step.

So while I am honored to be recognized this evening for the work we are doing in NYC and around the country, I want to make sure that everyone knows that our work would be impossible without the fundamental building blocks that have been put in place over the last 15-20 years, and Scratch is right up there at the top of that list.

So thank you to the Scratch Foundation for this honor but mostly thank you for doing what you do and let us all help them keep doing that.

PS – Michael Preston, who runs CSNYC, sent me this photo of the students who sat with us at our table last night and Sean Stern who left a good paying job writing software for Amazon to teach them. A picture tells the entire story.

Audio Of The Week: Three Time Social Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship is not only about making money. It can also be used to create social change. Three time social entrepreneur Nancy Lublin has made a career out of starting non-profits to do exactly that. Last week she sat down with the Gotham Gal and talked about lessons she has learned along the way, most of which apply as much to for profit startups as non-profits.

Giving Back

Yesterday was Giving Tuesday. I hope everyone participated. I backed my friends Bijan and Lauren’s Crowdrise campaign for Charity Water. They made it easy for me. Technology makes it easier to give back.

I spent most of yesterday raising money for CSNYC and CS4All. It started with my blog post and ended with a pitch for a big gift. There were a number of other meetings in between. I have never chaired a big philanthropic campaign before. It’s an interesting experience. It reminds me a bit of raising our first fund at USV. But we get more yeses. And these people aren’t getting a return. It’s very gratifying to have another person or organization support your philanthropic work.

As I was on the subway yesterday evening headed to an event in Harlem where a non-profit called Hot Bread Kitchen thanked the Gotham Gal for five years of service as Board Chair, I got a text from my daughter Emily. She said “did you see the news about Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan?” I had not seen the news, so she sent me the link. I texted Emily back “giving back is a wonderful thing and I’m so pleased to see news like that. It makes me so hopeful for the world we live in.”

I like the dual focus of the work Mark and Priscilla will support, advancing human potential and promoting equality. Most of what ails our world is a result of not doing those things.

Giving Tuesday has come and gone. But hopefully our charitable giving has not. Whether it is giving money or giving time or just caring about something or someone, giving back feels great and is great.

Aid Refugees

Kickstarter and the UN Refugee Agency are launching something important this morning. It is called Aid Refugees and its an attempt to leverage the power of the leading crowdfunding community to raise funds to deal with the global refugee crisis.

As many of you know Kickstarter is a USV portfolio company and it has traditionally avoided getting involved in charitable efforts, choosing to stay focused on helping creative projects come to life. But like other big Internet companies, it gets asked from time to time to leverage the scope of its reach and community to tackle big problems. Until now, Kickstarter has chosen to decline those invitations but the scope of the global refugee crisis is so large and the mission is also consistent with Kickstarter’s recently filed public benefit corporation charter in which they committed to fight inequality. So this time they said yes. This doesn’t mean Kickstarter will start allowing charitable projects on its platform. It does mean it will do this sort of thing when the company feels like it can help make a difference.

Here’s how Kickstarter explains this effort on their blog post this morning:

Two weeks ago, the White House reached out to us with an idea: what if you could use Kickstarter to help the millions of refugees seeking safety in the Middle East and Europe?

We immediately told them yes — and at the White House’s invitation, Kickstarter is working with the UN Refugee Agency to raise money and deliver aid to those in need of it. We’ve all seen the images of people fleeing for safety, on foot and in boats, with nowhere to go and precious few resources. It’s not a crisis that can be solved overnight, but the White House, the United Nations, and Kickstarter all believe that a strong outpouring of support can provide crucial assistance for people fleeing their homes and risking their lives to find a safer future.

To learn more about how we can provide that support, just visit this campaign. It’s not a typical Kickstarter project. There’s no all-or-nothing funding goal. The rewards are all about giving, not getting. And we’ll be donating 100% of our usual fee to support these aid efforts. Most days, this site is a home for people working together to create new things, but this campaign is about something else: working together to bring the most basic of necessities to people who need them dearly. Even a little support can give a family dry clothes, fresh water, or a place to sleep — those “small” things that become everything as soon as you’ve lost them. We’d love your help.

Thank you,

Kickstarter

If you have been looking for a way to engage in the global refugee crisis, check out Aid Refugees. I plan to “back this project” and I hope you will too.

Well That Sucked

I just wrote a longish post on the plane to SF this morning, hit publish, and lost everything.

Normally WordPress autosaves the post when an error happens but it did not this time.

So I’m not going to have time to rewrite that post today.

So maybe we can talk about the topic instead.

I wrote about the best legal/tax structure for social entrepreneurs. I am seeing more and more social entrepreneurs adopt the for profit corporation for their social enterprise. With innovations like the B Corporation for aligning interests, and with more investors understanding that financial returns and social impact are not mutually exclusive, it seems like this may be the better structure for social enterprises that can create a sustainable business model.

Why be civically engaged if you’re in tech?

Tomorrow, Ron Conway and I are going to kick off Disrupt NY 2015, with a fireside chat with Kim-Mai Cutler. We plan to discuss philanthropy and civic involvement. I’m looking forward to this talk. I think folks in the tech sector need to embrace philanthropy and civic involvement and I look forward to making the case for that.

I’ve been working in the VC business since the mid 80s. And for most of that time, I’ve felt that the tech sector was surprisingly uninterested and uninvolved in things outside of the tech sector. That’s a great strength of the tech sector, it’s is focused on innovation, making things, and building companies. And it does not get distracted by things outside of that realm.

But we know that the things we make and the companies we build have great impact on those outside of the tech sector. It can be for the good, like building cars that don’t use carbon fuels and showing the auto industry that it can be a good business to do that. It can be for the bad, like automating away jobs that once paid the way for a middle class lifestyle.

It feels to me that our economy and our society is now deeply entwined with technology and being significantly impacted by it. If that is true, I believe it is shortsighted to avoid getting engaged in the discussions and debates about what kind of world we need to work toward. I think one way or another the tech sector is going to get pulled into these debates. It will be one thing if that happens thoughtfully and positively and another if the tech sector is pulled into them kicking and screaming.

Regular readers of this blog know that my partners and I have been involved in these discussions since we started USV over a decade ago. We spend our time, energy, and capital in areas like policy debates, philanthropy, and civic engagement. There are others in the tech sector who do the same. Ron Conway comes to mind as someone who has spent a similar amount of time, energy, and capital on this stuff. And I am thrilled to share the stage with him tomorrow as we discuss these issues.

We go on stage at 9:05am eastern tomorrow. I’m hoping the talk will be livestreamed and you can watch it live. If it is, it will be somewhere like here.

Using CrowdRise To Help People In Nepal

When a disaster strikes, caring people all over the world seek ways they can help. Usually that means giving funds to a global relief organization like the Red Cross. But in the age of crowdfunding, giving to relief efforts takes on an entirely new flavor. You can see that in action on our portfolio company CrowdRise’s service this morning.

nepal

Crowdfunding means you can target your giving with more granularity.

You can give to this family in the US raising money to help their relatives in Nepal, who are now living in a temporary tent and are in desperate need for help.

You can give to this campaign where CrowdRise employee Mallory is raising funds to go to Nepal and help.

You can give to this campaign that celebrates Google engineer Dan Fredinburg who was killed while climbing Mount Everest this weekend.

You can give to this campaign that benefits a local relief effort.

The Gotham Gal and I have given to all of these campaigns and I hope you will consider giving to something as well.

All of the Nepal relief efforts on CrowdRise can be seen here.

Get Fit Or Be Hacking

Technology often involves a lot of intense brain work behind a desk or computer. I’ve learned over the years how important it is to move your body to relieve it from all that stress and strain. And so it was interesting to me when my friend Rob said he wanted to do a fundraiser for CSNYC at a CrossFit gym.

The event Rob envisioned is now happening. It’s called “Get Fit or Be Hacking” and is taking place on May 2nd from 2pm – 8pm at CrossFit South Brooklyn in Gowanus. Participants will compete in teams of four to complete various coding and fitness challenges. Each four person team will also raise money for CSNYC via CrowdRise in the weeks leading up to the event. Awards will be given out for the most creative fundraising approach and most money raised as well as in the fitness, coding, and overall categories based on team performance May 2nd.

One of the coding challenges will be in JavaScript. Another challenge will be in a “pick ‘em” scripting language (e.g., Python, Ruby). Rob assures me that there will be no “barbell stuff” during the fitness portion. The workouts will be accessible to any developer who works out regularly. Perhaps best of all there’s an after-party planned at Three’s Brewing. They serve tasty beer and the Gotham Gal and I are investors in it.

If you’re a software developer who also likes to work out, this event is for you. More info can be found on the CrowdRise page here; if you’d like to donate to CSNYC by supporting one of the competing teams, that’s also where to go. More information on the event overall is available from CrossFit South Brooklyn.

This should be a great event.