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From farmers to company men to free agents | Generosity Gameplan

Aug 8, 2014 at 10:56 AM

Generosity superheroes in the modern ageThere’s a reason that generosity needs to be done differently at this point in history. Economic change is driving social sector change.

The United States was founded during the Agricultural Age, with an economy that was small, local, and independent because of the restraints in place when using wooden tools and animals to cultivate food.

Then, for decades, the Industrial Age shaped our economic structures. Factory production required centralization of labor and resources as well as continued expansion, so this age promoted the growth of cities, increased regulation, and the concentration of capital.

But now we are moving further into the Information Age—the age of the microchip—and economic structures are becoming more open, horizontal, and decentralized again. Farmers became company men, and now company men are becoming free agents. Anyone can reach into a pocket, order goods and services from anywhere on the planet, and have them delivered in a few days. The workforce is much more mobile, and smaller enterprises can have a significant reach.

Just as business and government needs to adapt to the changing economic landscape, so too does the social sector. Sometimes larger organizations can deliver on big ideas because of their capacity and reach, but other times large means less agility and less connection with donors and people being served.

Bigger is not necessarily better, but better is better.

Organizations that are local, small, quick, and decentralized will hit their stride in this environment. And donors can act more like entrepreneurs, taking responsibility for setting the vision and evaluating the effectiveness of nonprofit efforts.


The Generosity Gameplan process supports donors and grant-makers in becoming more like free agents than company men. Together we can search out organizations with better staff, better programs, better facilities, and better evaluation—organizations that create effective change. Let’s set up a conversation today.

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