Monthly Archives: October 2009

Aid: We Need It All

I recently read a post on the Philanthrocapitalism blog, When Aid Shrinks, which inspired some interesting thoughts about what kinds of Aid the world needs.  I wrote to the author, and wanted to share with you as well:

Thank you for this clear piece on our current situation of Aid, and the need for more investments, and socially conscious investments.  The developing nations’ middle class has jumped to 50% of the world population over the past 10 years, as opposed to 24%.  This is an amazing testament to numerous factors which are all part of the process.  Some populations of poverty need direct aid to simply eat. Others can eat, but need direct investment, and donations, to attain an education and solid healthcare.  On the next level, many can receive microfinance investments to start a business.  Furthering the process, a person formerly in steep poverty can attain solid job training and employment opportunities. Which then leads to the developing a middle class: A Middle Class that can care about voting, health, education and being a participatory citizen caring not only about survival, but also contributing to the growth and positive development of their community.
However, this could take generations; this trajectory does not happen rapid fire in every person’s life. We need it all: direct aid, for profit investment and philanthropy — invested at different times, and different ways, across different life times, before we can get out of the woods of poverty.

Ask Pamela: How do I Manage Interns?

“Ask Pamela” is a collection of real life conversations between Pamela Hawley, an established social entrepreneur, and Mike Del Ponte, an up-and-coming social entrepreneur. Pamela was a co-founder of VolunteerMatch and is the founder and CEO of UniversalGiving. Mike Del Ponte is founder and CEO of Sparkseed.

Great news! Thanks to your advice, we found office space in San Francisco and the whole team is here.  I’m now finding that the learning curve is steep for new managers. What advice can you give me about managing interns? I want to make it a valuable experience for them and for Sparkseed. <4:27pm July 9, 2009>


Mike, this is a big one and we’ll have to talk about this over the long-term.  For now, read this article entitled “Rotten? Or Right? Internships that Rule” on my blog.  But what I would say, is that whether it be volunteers, interns, consultants or employees, you must keenly listen to and assess each person to understand two things: how they want to grow and contribute, and how that fits with Sparkseed’s goals and vision.  You can never let go of this. People management is ongoing.  You must always commit to caring, each and every day, about their growth and Sparkseed’s growth, always looking for the overlapping area of relevance.

I think it’s amazing that some of your interns are starting to manage their own projects. Make sure you strike a balance between clear direction and independent ownership. It’s not easy.  You want to empower people, but also let them know there is a community behind them.

Tactically, do ensure you begin compiling a manual of helpful tips.  Your interns can help you build this and add to it.  Let them contribute based on their experience, which is so very relevant.  But first, I would start with Job Descriptions for each one. Speak with them about their role, agree to defined activities, and have them write the description. Then you know the intern has “heard” the same conversation as you.  Keep this Job Description ‘live’ and ‘active.’  It is not to be put away, but added to regularly. Review every quarter.

As you can see… there is a lot more we can cover here. This was a great question. Keep them coming!

Ask Pamela: How do I Find Office Space

“Ask Pamela” is a collection of real life conversations between Pamela Hawley, an established social entrepreneur, and Mike Del Ponte, an up-and-coming social entrepreneur. Pamela was a co-founder of VolunteerMatch and is the founder and CEO of UniversalGiving. Mike Del Ponte is founder and CEO of Sparkseed.

Pamela, thanks for your advice. The interns have made a big difference. Our applications went up 46% this year! I’m now recruiting full-time summer interns and the response has been terrific. Now I just need an office for them. Any advice on how to get free office space in San Francisco? Is it worth paying for space? We’re still operating on a shoestring. <9:30pm, April 19, 2009>

Mike, you’re right to look at office space. As entrepreneurs, we’re pretty much willing to work anywhere. I worked out of my home for two years. Then I “cafe hopped” for many months, as I developed business plans, created marketing strategies, and managed a virtual team. Doing this is fine, but remember, many of your team members will need your presence and your vision near them. They need your leadership in palpable form. Additionally, a professional environment does provide energy and a connection to a larger, vibrant community.

In this economy, I’d definitely try to find a company that has extra workspace. The economic downturn has affected the residential market; the next sector to be hit will be office space. I am sure many of these companies have extra space. Try to see if they are willing to host you. They could provide desks, office supplies, and a headquarters for your venture.

Remember, Mike, you bring a lot to these companies. Many of them have gone through severe cuts and employee morale is low. You are vibrant, positive, and have a ‘product’ that is here to positively impact the world. They need your positive energy, too! It’s a win-win for all.

Philanthropy: Love Others, Right Now

I recently read an article on the Huffington Post written by Deborah Richardson, about NBC’s TV show, The Philanthropist.  The show followed the adventures of millionaire philanthropist Teddy Rist, and was inspired by the real life story of Bobby Sager.  I’d like to share with you the thoughts this post inspired for me, and which I emailed to Deborah:


Dear Deborah,
I recently saw your writing on the Huffington Post about NBC’s show, The Philanthropist.  Thank you for an insightful article.  So much can be learned from Bobby Sager’s work which extends beyond The Philanthropist. I am glad such a TV show made it so that we begin thinking more about philanthropy in our lives, even if the show was considered controversial by some.  I am glad it got the word out, and the discussions flowing!
For me, I am saddened to see philanthropy mean ‘money.’ It’s the love of people; I think you’ve stated something similar. And what I love about this definition is that it is accessible to anyone, at anytime. We can all be philanthropists. Whether you are getting the drycleaning, having a conversation with your boss or coworker, or saying a kind hello to a homeless person.
Philanthropy should be, and is, accessible to all.  I love that we can start loving others now!  You can read more about that on my blog Living and Giving (
Bobby Sager’s work continues, as he is launching a book and a worldwide tour.  The Sager Foundation has chosen UniversalGiving to be its premiere provider of qualified, vetted volunteer opportunities.  Bobby Sager believes as we do, that much of philanthropy and giving has to do with giving of oneself. One of the best ways to do this is to volunteer! 
Thank you again for an insightful article and wonderful questions. Let’s keep the positive dialogue of giving — in so many wonderful forms — going!
All my best!
Pamela Hawley
Founder and CEO

Ask Pamela: Should I hire a partner?

“Ask Pamela” is a collection of real life conversations between Pamela Hawley, an established social entrepreneur, and Mike Del Ponte, an up-and-coming social entrepreneur. Pamela was a co-founder of VolunteerMatch and is the founder and CEO of UniversalGiving. Mike Del Ponte is founder and CEO of Sparkseed.

Pamela, I have an idea I’m passionate about, but it seems like there are just not enough hours in the day to implement it. I’m trying to raise funds so I can bring on a full-time partner to help me. What do you think about this? <3:58pm, February 4, 2009>

Mike, first of all, you are doing a great job. You have one of the most critical elements of success: A sincere desire, and relentless passion to turn your initiative into reality. I can hear it in your voice how important this is to you, and that’s the first necessary ingredient to leadership, your passion and commitment.  I can also hear that your motives are good. You feel this is the best way to use your life to change the world.  So do take a moment to give yourself credit for having gotten this far.

On building a team, you mentioned hiring a partner right now.  I am not sure you can always hire a partner immediately.  Remember, partners are special.  Sometimes you can; sometimes they are developed over the course of your career.

Many times you meet partners in the stream of life. They might start out slower with you, and then grow into that role.   Hiring a partner — a true strategic or operational  partner — is usually best based on people with whom you have had a strong track record and experiences.  It’s so important because you can usually work out some of the day-to-day kinks in how you work together. Ensure that your values are synergistic, and ensure that your skills are truly complementary (and not just on paper).  Hiring the wrong partner could sap your energy, so beware.   But do know that finding and maintaining the right partner takes time and is special.

What you can do to get started, which doesn’t require waiting on funding — is get interns involved. They can be paid or unpaid. Regardless of your decision of hiring a partner, they will be necessary to have on an ongoing basis, especially as your operational needs increase. I’d make this part of your immediate and ongoing strategy.  People want to be involved with your movement, Mike. They agree with your passion.  They want the experience.  And as you get these interns involved, they could be converted to more substantial team members, with proven execution, over the longterm.

So even if you don’t have the funding now, that doesn’t mean you are held back. You can begin building your team now.