Honest Reflections

In Lieu Of has been a whirlwind adventure. Over the last several months, I’ve peeled back the curtain and taken a peek at the Bay’s most inspiring people, stories, and organizations. Friends, family, and even a few strangers have come along for the ride. Together we have been donating $5 per week to nonprofits that are making the world a better place.

In Lieu Of has featured 21 organizations and donated over $2000. By many measures it has been a success, but by others it has fallen short of my hopes to make a serious impact in my community.

I’ve received feedback from friends, family, and featured nonprofits on what has worked well and what could be improved. In parallel, I’ve been auditing a course on strategic philanthropy (thanks Stanford!) that has been influential to my understanding of how to drive real change.

Here are a few summarizing thoughts:

  1. Great philanthropy is intentional - Built into In Lieu Of’s model is an element of absenteeism. ILO is rooted in the idea that you can put good karma on autopilot and make gifts automatically. While I certainly hope everyone is checking their email each week and learning about great organizations, that isn’t always the case. A better version of In Lieu Of will drive awareness on important issues and let people think critically for themselves about how to act or donate.

  2. Community should be central - In Lieu Of was designed to be a somewhat hands off experience for donors. I figured that life is busy and people would welcome the chance to do some good without much effort. I was wrong! In Lieu Of members have been asking for ways to get more involved.

  3. Donations are spread thin - At $5 per week, many contributors are needed to make an impactful donation. If In Lieu Of were to feature one organization per month, an organization might see a more tangible benefit from a larger donation.

  4. Partners can extend ILO’s reach - Sadly, I am not famous by any stretch of the imagination. In order to reach a larger number of people, I need to invest time into creating partnerships. It has been difficult to find partners because In Lieu Of has such a broad mission and features a variety of organizations.

So, where does In Lieu Of go from here? It will continue in it’s current state for another few weeks. I won’t be accepting payments going forward, but want to make sure the donations that have been accepted are used appropriately and as promised.

After that, I’m going to take a month or two off and rebuild In Lieu Of 2.0. It may branch into several different experiments housed under the In Lieu Of name. Right now, I’m circling around two ideas:

  1. A free weekly email that takes a deep dive into a new issue each week. The email would outline a problem, talk about how people and orgs are working to fix it, and outline specific actions that you can take. This would be geared towards education, awareness, and community building.

  2. A monthly giving club that focuses on a specific cause. This is modeled after Fund Club, a wonderful organization that I greatly admire. In Lieu Of wouldn’t be responsible for accepting payments, but would instead be run on pledges. This model allows people to learn about an organization and then choose whether or not they would like to opt in.

Have any other ideas? I’d love to hear them as I look to write the next exciting chapter of In Lieu Of.

Thanks for being awesome,

Sam