Welcome to another year of Foolanthropy, our 10th! Today we open the discussion board up with a call for your best nominations.

In case you don't know what Foolanthropy is, here's a little history. Basically, it's The Motley Fool's own interactive, cooperative charity drive -- the Internet's first and longest-running.

How does it work? You nominate a charity that you think is a worthy cause on our board, and we'll monitor the posts, gauge public support, and select five out of the pool that we think are the most Foolish. We'll announce our selections on Nov. 20, when we'll have sites set up with links to begin taking in money that goes directly to their coffers. The race is on then and continues through Jan. 7, 2007! Whichever charity raises the most support from our Fool community gets an extra $10,000, chipped in by The Motley Fool.

As lagniappe, we also sweeten the pot with the proceeds from our "My 2 Cents Campaign." For every single post to all of our Fool boards in the month of December (and we have many, many boards with very vocal posters), we'll donate $0.02 to the pot, to be divided equally among the four charities not winning the $10,000 prize.

So, what makes a charity Foolish? In keeping with our general goal at The Motley Fool to educate, amuse, and enrich, we look to support charities with long-term, sustainable goals and transparent, sound finances -- the very same thing we would expect of any of our stock picks. And we're proud to offer advice on wise charitable giving, through our discussion board and articles, as part of our commitment to helping you with every aspect of your financial life -- from picking stocks, to planning for retirement, to giving to charity.

To help guide you in your nominations, these are the questions we ask ourselves about whether a charity is Foolish:

1. Does it offer a long-term, sustainable solution to a social problem as opposed to a Band-Aid? We tend to favor charities that have programs that encourage self-sustaining solutions, enabling people to get out of poverty for good, for instance, or helping rebuild areas that have been destroyed by recent natural or man-made disasters.

2. Are its finances transparent and sound? We conduct due diligence on our charities, and we expect them to have sound financials. The management team should have the background needed to run the organization, for instance, and the board of directors should have qualified experts, not just celebrities or major donors. We also look at financials, with an eye toward excessive overhead, egregious CEO compensation, and any other red flags that point to a lack of stability within the organization.

3. Is the charity small enough for our support to make a difference, yet established and broad-minded enough that we can be certain of its reputation, effectiveness, and appeal? We like to know that we're making a real difference in a charity's ability to operate effectively, but we also want to make sure we choose organizations that are established and that have broad appeal to as many Fools as possible.

4. Do our readers support it? Our system of nomination is democratic. Simply log on to our discussion board and nominate a charity, and make the best case you can for why we should support it. Unless you nominate it, we won't consider it. We try to be fair in assessing reader support for each charity before weighing each with our own due diligence.

5. And finally, does it educate, amuse, and enrich? As everything we do at the Fool, we like to have fun while we educate and enrich. Is the charity innovative in its approach to problem-solving, or working in a unique way that merits enthusiasm and attention? If it is, it's probably a good candidate.

This year, we're also reserving one place for a financial literacy-related program, in keeping with our commitment to educating as many people as possible on financial fitness. We'd love to hear your best ideas on ways to promote financial literacy, whether it's supporting affordable micro-loans in developing nations or educating young Americans about how to avoid credit card debt. We're open to all suggestions.

To see which charities were successful last year and get a better idea of what we look for, read up on Foolanthropy 2005. Last year, we raised $289,597, pushing us over the $2.5 million mark in total. See where that money went in our follow-up article, "Where Are They Now?" An example we're particularly proud of comes from the Humane Society of Louisiana:

The Motley Fool's Foolanthropy gifts represent the biggest single source of gifts to our agency since Katrina, and they have helped us remain in operation. The Foolanthropy gifts funded the entire cost of all of our routine and emergency veterinary expenses during the first eight months of 2006.

And finally, we're very proud to be partnering with Hilton Family Hotels (NYSE:HLT) and its "Be Hospitable" campaign to make the 2006 campaign as successful as possible.

Foolanthropy Discussion Board
Here's where you put your nominations, as well as thoughts or questions you have on charitable giving in general. We encourage you to discuss any ideas, news, or thoughts you may have on the topic of Foolanthropy, or philanthropy in general.

So to recap, here are the three ways Foolanthropy supports the charities you nominate:

  • Direct donations, as well as awareness about the charities and their causes, from Fools worldwide.
  • $10,000 award contribution from The Motley Fool, Inc.
  • Proceeds from the "My 2 Cents" campaign.

Thanks in advance to everybody who decides to join us in nominating and supporting Foolish charities that will deliver dramatic returns on even the smallest investment. Just think how astounding the results can be if each of us, more than 5 million Fools strong worldwide, gives just $1!


David Gardner and Carrie Crockett, co-chairs

... on behalf of The Motley Fool's Foolanthropy Committee