Launched a year ago and funded primarily by a seed grant from the Raikes Foundation — established by former Microsoft executive and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation CEO Jeff Raikes and his wife, Tricia — the site provides information about charities and charitable giving and is developing ways to build community around philanthropic activity. To that end, it posts news stories, studies, and research about nonprofits and effective giving; connects like-minded donors and charities; and shares information about philanthropy-related events and volunteer opportunities.
"The amount of money being given in this country is mind-blowing," Giving Compass CEO Luis Salazar, a co-founder of Office 365, told GeekWire. "What is the impact of that is the core question, and how do we make it more impactful?"
It has become a familiar philanthropic refrain over the last decade or so, and one that has been embraced by a younger generation of tech-savvy givers. "It's easy to give money away, but it's hard to make an impact," said Katherine Lorenz, the thirty-something president of the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation and board chair of the Philanthropy Workshop. "If you really care about a special issue or want to leverage those resource to have more of an impact, it's hard."
Lorenz notes, however, that while one popular metric, the nonprofit overhead ratio, is useful for sniffing out excess spending and fraud, it's a terrible indicator if used as the sole factor in determining the value and performance of an organization. "That is where people go wrong when they're trying to have impact," Lorenz said. "They're starving the whole sector."
Lorenz is not alone in her assessment, and the Giving Compass team — which includes Paul Shoemaker, founding president of Social Venture Partners; Stephanie Gillis, a senior advisor for the Impact Driven Philanthropy Initiative at the Raikes Foundation; and Shelly Kurtz, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Giving Tech Labs — hopes to attract large and small donors alike who are eager for a variety of giving-related information. To that end, the organization is approaching companies in the region about including the site on internal company webpages as an employee resource.
"A lot of people don't know what they're interested in, and coming into philanthropy for the first time it can be overwhelming," said Sarah Hopper, founder of Sound Philanthropy, a Seattle-based business that advises people in their giving.
Which is where Giving Compass is eager to help, providing donors with performance information and building a more complete picture of a charity's impact. "We're asking people to give us five minutes a week to spend on outcome-driven philanthropy," said Kurtz. "You can break that down to bite-size pieces."