Craig Newmark has a new gig: As well as working on his famously successful Craigslist, he’s dabbling in philanthropy. But since he doesn’t have Bill Gates’ piles of cash, he’s using a different asset–his voice.
Newmark’s just published “A Personal Call to Service” in The Huffington Post. It’s straightforward, to say the least. “Like most humans, I’d like to save the world, but I figure I need a nap. So, I figured it’d be much easier to talk you into doing it, by talking up the efforts of people who are really effective at helping others,” is how he starts the article.
Newmark goes on to note that being a nerd he usually likes to get things done, versus merely talking about them, but that people he would like to help really need him to be a promotional “talker abouter.” It’s an interesting stance, but it makes sense when you look at Newmark’s history. He founded Craigslist as a community service to promote local events, taking cues from helpful behavior he’d observed online and the growing popularity of email. In 2001 the company even created the Craigslist Foundation, a charity that’s designed to boost the chances of nascent nonprofit organizations.
Newmark is also promoting his AllForGood.org Web site–the “Craigslist for service” as he calls it. It’s a central portal that’s designed to help volunteers get into action–inspired by President Obama’s call to action. Through the site you can find people needing volunteer help nearby, share and promote volunteer activity through a social net-type system, and track volunteer activities that you may be attracted to. It’s a central gathering place for charitable types, and as such it’s not really a promotional vehicle designed to stir people into action–to use the site you have to want to volunteer in the first place.
Which is why Newmark is promoting the site vocally, along with Iava.org, the Sunlight Foundation and the Consumer’s Union. The first is an organization that helps Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, while Sunlight is pushing for proper government transparency and accountability, and Consumer Union is also busy pushing for public health care reform. Newmark’s putting his actions where his mouth is, and has joined the board of all three.
Interesting stuff. Newmark isn’t the first high-tech name to turn to charity, but maybe his actions signal a new trend: Tech entrepreneurs adopting high-profile charity work, just like the guys and gals of Hollywood are wont to do.