This has been brewing for some time, but it seems that people are wanting much more of a hands on approach when it comes to philanthropy. This is clearly evidenced by all of the ad-hoc Katrina relief efforts that Nancy White documented, and now it's getting some nice play in the New York Times. As if that were not enough, NBC Nightly News did a story last night on a teacher inspiring kids to give back, not just through money, but with their own time and energy.
"the kids realize, dollar for dollar, their money is going to be spent where they intended — to buy cows"
This whole notion of getting more hands on, of directing and driving where the money goes specifically illustrates how much people want to get involved and give back. Going back to my MindCamp experience, people are wanting to work on citywide Wifi plans to democratize and empower people with information. Others are wanting to provide tech assistance to nonprofits. All of these are very hands on means by which a person gives back to the wider community. Indeed, it's a model not unlike Social Venture Partners where people who donate become partners in the organization and then help nonprofits with different projects.
This drive for more of a hands on approach to connecting with communities is interesting. In some ways, it seems to be a response to the cynicism that has pervaded previous generations in that it says, "Ok, we don't trust the institutions but we trust that we can do this ourselves, and possibly even better." Call it one part exuberance with one part entrepreneurship. No matter what you call it though, it is a very powerful mix.