Lend Us Your Brains

The year 2005 will go down in the history books as being one packed full of relentless natural disasters of catastrophic proportion. The headline stories were nightmarish and the scope of destruction hard to comprehend.

A massive Category 5 hurricane razes the Gulf Coast and drowns the city of New Orleans, followed by another major hurricane that destroys the rest of the state of Louisiana and parts of Texas. A 7.6-magnitude earthquake in Pakistan kills over 18,000 people and leaves millions homeless at the onset of winter.

And those are just the headlines that held the media's attention for weeks at a time. But what about the untold number of people affected by the year's other hurricanes, deadly mud slides in Guatemala, wildfires in California? What about those still reeling from last December's tsunami? And what about all the tragic stories that never made it onto the front page of the paper?

The year 2005 has really, really been rough. Not since 2001 have I had this kind of empty and sad feeling about the world around us.

I know that I, for one, feel like we should stretch a bit extra this year and give. Give more than usual. In just a few paragraphs below, I'm going to ask you to tell me where you think I should give it. So get your single best idea ready for me. But first, a bit of Foolish perspective.

At The Motley Fool, we're working hard to be your favorite advice company. We believe that if you spend 30 minutes with us today looking for a new winning stock, you'll find it. Not only that, but we think you absolutely should take a day off here and there and sit down with our Motley Fool Rule Your Retirement advice and get your financial house in order. Really in order. Is it? Are you on target? If not, can we help?

This broad mission of financial education drives us to think through all aspects of your financial life and come up with solutions. Charitable giving, on our minds here as we approach the end of the year, is no exception.

But here's what I need from you: I don't have enough "idea flow."

You know -- "idea flow," right? The high-stakes world of venture capital, for instance, is all about idea flow. If you're a venture capitalist, you want to get in the know with as many people, technologies, and trends as possible so that you're awash in the stuff. Hooked up to the network. You'll make more money that way and be far more effective if you're meeting the right people and investing your money in the right ideas.

But you gotta know 'em to buy 'em.

We can apply something from the venture capital model to our charitable giving, too. Where do your charitable ideas come from? Your church? Your kids' schools? Your friend's medical difficulties? A hungry person you pass on the street?

Me, too. And because of that, it seems to be the "same old, same old" more often than not, from one year to the next. In the past, I'd say I've significantly lacked charitable "idea flow." It makes me a bit insecure in my giving, knowing that my dollars may not be going to work in a way that brings the most help to the most people in the most need.

In other words, I need to get hooked up to the right network to be an effective "venture philanthropist." That's where your best idea, as a member of The Motley Fool community, comes in. Fool.com is home to the most diverse collection of helpful and brilliant financial minds on the Internet, in my humble opinion. I will stack my fellow Fools' community intelligence up against any grouping of minds anywhere online (or off!) -- not just for their stock-picking savvy or personal financial expertise, but for something even more important: caring about improving the world around them.

In the dark days before the Internet, I never could have imagined you could find so many people so willing to give of themselves to help others make better financial decisions. Thanks to our website, I now know otherwise. You think I'm bragging? You'd better believe it.

With so many great financial minds together, it would be almost negligent if we didn't ask them -- all of us -- you -- to come up with collective intelligence for the best charitable ideas out there.

We do it every year. We're doing it now. We here at Fool.com, especially the volunteer steering committee for our annual Foolanthropy charitable drive, earnestly invite you to click here right now and type out two or three paragraphs nominating the best charity you can think of.

Do you know of a charitable organization that:

  • Creates sustainable solutions?
  • Jazzes the public at large?
  • Operates most typically on a national or international (as opposed to a local) scale?
  • Communicates its mission and its finances transparently and effectively?

In short, what charity do you know of that you think the most Motley Fool members would love to know about and be inclined to support? That's exactly the sort of collective intelligence we're looking for.

The call for nominations ends Sunday, Nov. 6. We have a few good nominations already, but we're looking for at least a few more. Help us with our idea flow. Actually, forget about Sunday, Nov. 6. Give us two minutes of your time and your best idea right now -- click here to educate us.

Fool on!

David Gardner is co-founder of The Motley Fool and co-chair of Foolanthropy 2005. He is also advisor for theMotley Fool Rule Breakersservice.


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