How Silicon Valley Has Disrupted Philanthropy


Mega Pixel / Stas Malyarevsky / Shutterstock / Paul Spella / The Atlantic

For more than a century, the Boys & Girls Club of America has had a pretty simple mission: providing somewhere for kids to go after school so they stay out of trouble. A 1982 PSA put it simply: “It’s a place to go besides the streets,� a man sings, as a video plays of (mostly black) boys running into a club.

But in 2018, that message isn’t enough to attract local money to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula, which serves Silicon Valley, where the biggest donors tend to favor causes that use novel solutions to “disrupt� poverty, or that can employ data to show just how many problems their money solves. Many are fans of effective altruism, a philanthropy philosophy that espouses “evidence and careful analysis to find the very best causes to work on� rather than “just doing what feels right.�

So Peter Fortenbaugh, the executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula (BGCP), started thinking about what his organization could do to win local support. “Traditionally, we were a safe place to hang out,

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