Thursday, December 31, 2009


As many of you know, I am a pro-business kind of guy. Entrepreneurship... capital... new business models... sustainable product design- these are the topics I write about with respect to tackling the challenges of the BOP. My bleeps know I also believe there is a role for charity (see my "Matrix" post).

So, what does my family do for charity? Where do we "invest"? What organizations do we support?

We focus our charity in 5 areas, which I list below, along with the specific organizations to which we gave, and my twitter length rationale. Careful readers will also note that many of these organizations are BOPreneurs, or directly support BOPreneurs. But not all. It's a theme, but not a screen.

1) Environment: because we can't live without it
-Nature Conservancy: an innovative leader in conservation; preserves threatened ecosystems; builds strong, sustainable local partnerships.
-Envirofit International: reduces air pollution with energy efficient products in developing world. Has sold almost 100,000 improved cookstoves in India, which use less fuel for cooking and make for healthier homes.

2) Health: because health is the cornerstone of development; it's hard to work or go to school if you are sick or dead.
-Rotary Foundation: Working to eradicate polio and build infrastructure (schools, clinics, libraries, water systems), a service organization of which I am proud to be a part.
-One World Health: Developing affordable medicines for the developing world, a non-profit pharmaceutical company.
-Doctors Without Borders: Nobel Award winning org who perhaps best fits the needs of delivering aid in times of crisis. Truly inspiring work.
-VisionSpring*: VisionSpring is working on innovative, scalable models to help people see. The answer is simple, inexpensive eye glasses, but the implementation is difficult. Vision problems are common reason for loss of livelihood.

3) Social/International Development: Admittedly, a catch all category. But basically for organizations that are working on innovative, primarily private sector approaches.
-Ashoka: they coined the phrase "social entrepreneur" decades ago, and now support thousands of them around the world. An army of change-makers (and quite a few BOPreneurs).
-Acumen Fund*: A non-profit venture capital fund. We like to invest in oxymorons. But seriously, they are breaking new ground in financing BOPreneurs and priming the social enterprise sector for investment. Seems like I should pitch in.
-One Acre Fund: a bottoms up approach to helping over 10,000 small farmers "grow their way out of hunger." A BOPreneur for sure.
-Ayllu Initiative*: a start up venture in Brazil, working on an innovative approach to launching and scaling social enterprises. I used them for an exam question, and so many students liked what they do, I thought I should make a donation.

4) Education: We are fans. Much positive change comes from education. Of course, we are "contributing" less to this category now that all our kids are out of college!
-CSU College of Business: Weird. Why give money to your employer? Well, we think CSU is doing some of the more innovative things in public education and sustainability. Land Grant University 2.0, baby.
-Central Asia Institute: building schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But don't read my tweet, read the book. Mortenson was a BOPreneur before I knew what one was.
-Bainbridge Graduate Institute*: a leader in sustainable business education- "we are changing business for good." We support their scholarship fund for enhancing diversity.
-Vittana: another start up venture I used in my exam. They are the Kiva of student loans for BOP. I like that. I hope they go BIG.

By the way, we have stopped giving to the schools we attended. Each year, we consider it, but with limited funds, they don't make the cut.

5) Local Charities: there are so many needs in our own communities.
-Colorado Combined Campaign- Larimer Co. United Way- we think of them as a portfolio manager for investments in local non-profits.

I hope that by sharing our choices with you, we inspire you to give to those organizations you think are doing good work. Really, every donation counts!

Happy New Year!

*indicates new organizations we began supporting in 2009


Joost Bonsen said...

Great list, Paul, thanks for sharing this, plus especially your reasoning.

I wonder how much our thinking about investments of our money is warped by the tax/legal status and/or the perception of financial vs non-financial returns. For instance, so many of my Development Ventures alumcos are challenged by whether to structure as non-profit or for-profit when really it's more a matter of timing -- in the beginning, non-profit, then later for-profit. But legally they're different, donor/investors see them as either-or, and -- as you've warned -- changing status later is difficult.

Similarly, would we really think of investing in our children as "charity"? And yet we do so with an appreciation for multiple kinds of returns, all important, but rarely financial.

Anyways, that's a bit of a rant, but wanted to say I appreciate you thinking of all those activities as worthy of your charitable investment!


Joost Bonsen

Bopreneur said...

Hey Joost- I like your term "alumcos"! hope we both have more good ones in 2010!

Unknown said...

Paul, this is great list, and we're proud to be the oxymoron that you included. Thanks truly for being a great thought partner and a supporter.

Best wishes for the New Year!
Yasmina Zaidman
Acumen Fund

Bopreneur said...

You guys do great work. Hope you have a great 2010. BTW, I am hearing good reports from Delhi and Sule.

Paul Rigterink said...

By far, I believe that the organization that provides the most benefit to international development workers in the field is ECHO. See

Other organizations I like are at the following websites:

Ayllu said...

Paul, Thanks so much for your support this year. Also it doesn't hurt that you are hilarious and keep us laughing!

- Ayllu

Bopreneur said...

Paul- thank you for the link to Echotech. I was not aware of their work.

Here is a link to Peter Singer's list of charities he supports in his effort to get people to pledge to donate to poverty eradication:

In addition, Nicholas Kristof wrote an end of year column on the organizations he believes are "tackling global poverty in innovative ways."

Bopreneur said...

To evaluate charities, Peter Singer recommends:

Bill Easterly recommends: "Beyond Good Intentions" which is a blog (but hasn't been updated since August 09):

Interestingly, this group is using the same phrase as Tori Hogan has for her excellent film series looking into the same issues:

Tori is also blogging at Social Edge (last update August 09) about organizations she has investigated:

When it comes to evaluating aid, JPAL at MIT also is worthy of mention. Here are their suggested "Seven Best Buys" for accomplishing the Millennium Development Goals:

My bleeps know I have my issues with JPAL, and some of the tactics being used in the MDG efforts, but I think much of their work is informative (e.g., we agree on many things, just not all things).

Unknown said...

Great post. I think it undermines the important of collaboration- or more correctly the lack of collaboration. We are on a mission to improve the collaborative ways of every business and charity. We publish the latest and greatest ways to work together as well as historical experiences.

Is there one list of every charity working by topic/area of expertise and by geographic location? How much overlap is there. Why can't we collaborate any better to help save lives?

Connect To Charity said...

2011 presents many challenges for nonprofits. Today, nonprofits face a reduction in grants; an economy that is stretching their nonprofit dollars to the max; an increase in demand for their services; all while trying to reach new donors in a very competitive industry. Nonprofits are trying very hard to "get the word out about what they do for others", while growing their organization for long-term success.

Jim said...

Great list indeed. One good thing in donating is the incentive that you get from doing it. Like when I donated my old Toyota Aristo, I got a tax deduction at the end of the year. Nice bonus.

There are a lot of car donation programs out there, choose one that is reliable and effective.