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Networked Philanthropy [Updated]

December 1, 2010 - 7 Comments

How the networked platform is changing the face of philanthropy.

Many social media professionals are already familiar with Chris Anderson’s Long Tail, but if you’re not, here’s the concept in a nutshell. Traditional markets have tended to follow an 80/20 distribution, e.g. 80% of the populations are going to love 20% of the available bands (think the Beatles). That’s your macro market. The introduction of e-marketplaces has added infinite shelf space to many industries, the most obvious being the music industry. Enter the age of Indie bands, and infinite Micro markets. The interesting thing about the 80/20 rule is when the networked platform is introduced is that 80% of the potential market rests on lower end of the individual market size, i.e. the success of Rhapsody and iTunes.

As a member of Cisco’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) team, I began to wonder what this meant for philanthropy. A few weeks ago, the NY Times published an interesting article about D.I.Y Foreign Aid.

This peaked my interest and after digging around for more information I stumbled onto the work of Katherine Fulton. For a few years, Katherine has been speaking about the potential of the Internet combined with social good and philanthropy. In March of this year, at Northern Calfornia Grantmakers, Katherine shared an astonishing graph that plotted the history and evolution of philanthropic organizations in the United States.

This is almost an exact invert of the long tail graph, suggesting that the long tail had officially hit philanthropy. I’m still investigating this concept, and working with some of our non-profit partners, but I felt compelled to share these findings.

Please let me know what you think, or share any similar observations.


Thanks Sean Stannard-Stockton for sharing the link to New solutions from data on crowds and this awesome data on the long tail of giving and receiving.

Please keep it coming, this is great stuff!

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  1. Charlie, here’s an independent source of research about the global leaders in national philanthropy

    Granted, government foreign aid is not the same as individual giving, but a nation’s aid policy is likely very indicative of the “culture of giving” within that country.

  2. There has been some interesting work done on the Long Tail dynamics in philanthropy. See this post and scroll down for charts of the Long Tail of Giving and the Long Tail of Receiving.

    • Thanks Sean, I’ll take a look!

    • Sean, revised this post with the info you provided. I had a theory that this was the case, but did not have any data to back it up. I even used the example that 1 Gates foundation doesn’t have nearly the power that the long tail has. I’m going to be writing another post today to pull all of this together. Thanks again for sharing, and keep up the great work on your blog!

  3. Charlie, point taken, the Internet can provide the opportunity to reach exponential exposure for a good cause. That said, the cause still needs a compelling story to engage a following on concerned citizens.

    BTW, did you know that certain countries and cultures are more prone to philanthropy — relative to their peer group? The size or GNP of the nation is not the most defining factor. As an example, I recall reading that Scandinavian countries provide more aid per-capita than much wealthier nations.

    • @David This data was from the US only, and I’ve done quite a bit of work in developing countries and would have to agree with you. I wonder if we can get this data for the globe? It’s easier for the US since 501(c)3’s have to register.