Brad Feld

Category: Philanthropy

I’m pleased to announce that the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra ended their fiscal year in positive net worth territory for the first time since 1996. The Boulder Daily Camera just ran a nice article about how it overcame its debt.

Why should you care, you ask?

My wife Amy and I pick one major non-profit to have as our “major initiative” for the year. We give to a wide range of organizations – both money and time – but pick one to “go over the top” with each year. Last year we gave a major “seed gift” to help jump start the The Community Trust of the Community Foundation Serving Boulder County.

This year we decided to help the “new Boulder Philharmonic” get solidly on its feet after a near death experience in the hands of the now defunct Peak Arts. Mission accomplished! It feels great to be able to say this in today’s era of declining financing for arts organizations.

Google just announced the 2004 winners of the Google Anita Borg Memorial Scolarships. The scholarship was awarded to female undergraduate and graduate students earning computer science degrees during the 2004-05 academic year, who were selected based on academic performance, responses to essay questions, and letters of recommendation. Eight received $10,000 awards; eleven received $1,000 award.

The mission for the Anita Borg Institue for Women and Technology is to increase the impact of women on all aspects of technology, to increase the positive impact of technology on the lives of the world’s women, and to help communities, industry, education and government benefit from these increases.

I first heard about the Anita Borg Institute through my work with the National Center for Women and Information Technology. The Anita Borg Institute is one of the hubs for NCWIT which is headquartered out of the Atlas Institute at the University of Colorado Boulder. NCWIT is run by Lucinda Sanders – the retired CTO of Lucent Bell Labs / Avaya Labs. The NCWIT mission is similar – it is to ensure that women are fully represented in the influential world of information technology. Through a nationally connected effort of programs, networks and research, the Center will work to guarantee that women’s perspectives and skills contribute significantly to the creation and application of information technology.

I’ve been on the board of trustees for about a year, along with some other great people including Marie Alexander – CEO of Quova (one of my portfolio companies). Halley Suitt – who has a great blog called Halley’s Coment – is also involved.

Both NCWIT and the Anita Borg Institute are outstanding organizations being run by people dedicated to increasing and advancing the role of women in the field of information technology. Hats off to everyone involved, and kudos to Google for their support of these initiatives.

I had lunch today with Gary Zeff who runs Boulder Open Studios. In addition to talking about Open Studios – which is a very cool thing for the local Boulder art community – we got into a long discussion about why my generation (Generation X – born between 1965 and 1980) is so light on the philanthropic scene.

My wife Amy and I have been very active with our philanthropy for the past five years. At some point, we realized that – at least in our community (Boulder, CO) there was a surprising lack of philanthropic focus. This was even more ironic since Boulder County has a population of 300,000 yet purportedly has over 1,000 individual non-profits (or – one non-profit per 300 people).

We’ve been strong supporters of one of the organized meta-non-profitsThe Community Foundation Serving Boulder County. When we got involved, it surprised me that many of my cohorts both didn’t know about The Community Foundation or – if they had heard about it – weren’t terribly interested. The Community Foundation spawned two organizations – Boulder County Culture of Giving and Social Venture Partners Boulder County – both of these were more accessible to my fellow Gen-Xers. However, it was still hard to get my generation to engage.

At lunch, I said out loud for the first time that I think it’s a result of the values instilled in us from our parents. Many GenX parents are not baby boomers (1945 – 1960)(e.g. my folks were born in 1938 and 1942). They are children of depression era parents. It’s a complicated lineage, but it’s one that missed the 1960s ethos by a few years.

I came across a great article on this called Generation mY: Not Seeing your Xer Garden Grow? The telling paragraph is:

“This generation as a whole can’t see the need in making an annual fund gift while they are paying back a student loan, buying a house, or starting a family. Most development officers have picked up on this to some degree and have written Xers off- because hey, the development officer will probably be on to several more posts before it is a real issue for them. Wrong! Case in point using college and university trends: most schools are graduating larger classes of students, so if the institution hasn’t already realized it- the young alumni crowd is quickly becoming the largest segment of the alumni body and alumni non-participation in giving is eating away at those participation rates we all like to tout so much.”