The concept of "e-philanthropy" involves finding ways to make charitable giving easier using the internet, much as "e-commerce" is making it easier to buy things. "Venture philanthropy," modeled on internet business experience, involves investing in internet programs that will bring about long-term change in fields like education and the environment.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has assets over $22 billion. The Gordon-Lovejoy Foundation has assets of about $2.5 million. With the soaring numbers of small family foundations being created around Seattle and the Silicon Valley in California, there has been a burst of philanthropic activity. Among the most forward-looking of these Internet philanthropists is Rob Glaser, the billionaire founder of RealNetworks in Seattle, whose Glaser Family Foundation has assets of about $200 million.
Social Venture Partners, which was founded in 1997 by Paul Brainerd, a desktop publishing pioneer who sold his Aldus Corporation for $450 million in 1994, has largely concentrated on children's and educational programs. Donors typically spend 5 to 10 hours a week working directly with the groups that Social Venture Partners is supporting. Offshoot organizations with a similar mission have sprung up in Austin, Tex., and Phoenix.
The nonprofit Community Foundation Silicon Valley has seen its assets grow 25 percent to 40 percent in each of the last three years, and expects contributions to double in 2000. It is now administering about 675 different philanthropic funds that have been established by donors in the area, most of whom are tied to the high-tech industry in some way.