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Digital philanthropy: Part 2 – The medium’s message – Sharing resources

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By Todd Cohen

The way we communicate defines who we are and shapes what we do.

That’s the big idea that media philosopher Marshall McLuhan compressed into his enigmatic phrase, “The medium is the message.”

For generations, philanthropy has built a powerful message – people helping people — rooted in the strategy of building relationships to help make our communities better places to live and work.

In the digital economy, however, philanthropy risks losing its message and effectiveness by failing to embrace new media.

Technology can transform philanthropy by seamlessly connecting charities, donors, volunteers, clients and partners.

What’s more, the very act of using technology to create those connections can tell a powerful story about a new kind of philanthropy that aims to harness the tools and strategies of the new economy.

This new philanthropy will rearrange traditional relationships of philanthropy in which gatekeepers have controlled how money and other resources are given, received and used.

Digital and wireless media promise to foster a much more democratic, enterprising and responsive philanthropy.

Computers and the Web are making it easier to raise and contribute money, volunteer, deliver services, manage data and people, push for causes, communicate and team up with other individuals and organizations.

Technology also makes it much easier to take stock of philanthropic activity, measure its impact and adapt when needed to serve more people more effectively.

Philanthropy is about serving people. Those who practice philanthropy cannot afford not to embrace new media and build its powerful message into their work.

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