Monday, July 6, 2009

Old Paradigm: New Paradigm in Giving

Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people.
~ George Bernard Shaw

I had a conversation with a nonprofit recently that got me thinking about how times are changing and what an amazing paradigm shift we are going through. It made me wonder how many people, organizations, nonprofits and others will make it through this paradigm shift? And what will be the tipping point in this shift?

There have been a lot of recent articles and blogs about the changes in the giving industry and how giving has declined, nonprofit numbers are up, how philanthropy is changing and where we are headed (,,,,, What seems apparent to me is there are two camps – which I am calling the old paradigm and the new paradigm.

The old paradigm: In this paradigm, there is a lot of gloom and doom about the economy, the lack of dollars and increasing competition for those resources. Interestingly enough most of these people and organizations are utilizing the old systems and are more resistant to explore and take advantage of new systems – such as online fundraising, cause marketing partnerships and other social media and opportunities. Partially, the question they ask is, “Where is the proof that these mechanisms work in fundraising? And what if these mechanisms are just the next sexy fad that blows by with little to no real measurable gains for nonprofits and change?” Excellent questions that absolutely still need to be answered. Yet, it is amazing to me the focus on the skepticism rather than the opportunity.

The new paradigm: From my experience, the people who have already shifted into the new paradigm have a certain energy, enthusiasm and excitement to them. These are the early adopters of social media (relatively speaking) who are on Twitter, Facebook and otherwise, testing out these new applications and, possibly, more importantly, spreading some extremely positive energy to engage people, corporations, and others to give and create change on the planet. Just in the last week I have seen several opportunities on line in which funds are available through these social media (,,,, Research has even shown that nonprofits are adapting social media faster than business and education ( and So there is definitely movement in this direction.

The reality is that – whether you like it or not, trust that it will be beneficial or not – the internet and social media are here – and all signs point that they are here to stay and are connecting people like never before. Currently, online giving makes up less than 10% of the over $300 billion dollar giving industry ( Yet, in the 2008 Presidential election, Obama raised 33% of overall campaign dollars online – and in under $200 increments – that means there is still a significant amount of untapped potential to be reached online ( and Additionally, while giving decreased for the first time in many years ( and and maybe will continue to decline this year, these losses won’t continue forever as it has been estimated that giving will reach $600 billion by 2020 and that by then over 50% of giving will be online ( and That means there is a lot of room for growth and opportunity to take advantage of.

Yet if you have studied paradigm shifts or know anything about them, change usually doesn’t come by working within an existing system and trying to change it from within. Rather, change comes by identifying a problem and then stepping outside the system to create new parallel systems and ideas that eventually replace the old paradigms, e.g. tape, to cd/dvd, to ipod; typewriter to word processor to computer and beyond.

I learned this the hard way, by working within the system, with nonprofits, policymakers, businesses, foundations and others, for many years trying to change the systems from within and feeling like I was banging my head against a wall every day in that process. Since then, I have stepped away from the immediate center of the problem to gain a fresh perspective and find new solutions outside of the way things were being done that can perhaps begin to provide new solutions (and paradigms) to old problems (and paradigms).

While this is exciting, there are definitely some limitations and issues to explore further as we adopt social and other media to expand nonprofit visibility and efforts to create change. But I’ll touch on those in one of my upcoming blogs!

In the mean time, the question is, will you be part of the new paradigm or will you get left behind? Will you be one of the reasonable or unreasonable people? What can you do to catch the wave and be sure to utilize the web and social media to gain resources not lose them? Check out my blog and that of others out there, as they may just help you get pointed in the right direction and so that we may all begin working together to create change on the planet and move our world in the right direction.

You can find me on Twitter @pilarstella and Facebook at

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