Dan Palotta TED Talk:  How it Relates to Fusion Philanthropy

Posted by Rezwan Razani on Aug 06, 2013 at 11:17 AM
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Dan Palotta’s TED Talk inspires us to rethink fusion philanthropy.

Watch the Video

How This Relates to the Fusion Energy League

Per the TED Talk summary:

Activist and fundraiser Dan Pallotta calls out the double standard that drives our broken relationship to charities. Too many nonprofits, he says, are rewarded for how little they spend—not for what they get done. Instead of equating frugality with morality, he asks us to start rewarding charities for their big goals and big accomplishments (even if that comes with big expenses). In this bold talk, he says: Let’s change the way we think about changing the world.

Watching this video, recognition sets in.  The Fusion Energy League has a bold vision for the future.  We have a range of goals: some big and hairy, some modest and conservative.  We could do with a shift in funding attitude as described by Dan. 

And we’re not alone!  There are several other fusion nonprofits flatlining out there.  Our (unfunded and currently only conceptual) Fusion Philanthropy App would help connect people to those organizations, and then help those organizations connect people to fusion research projects.  Fund the Fusion Energy League today

Fear of Failure

At about ~7:45 into the video, Dan notes that charities are not allowed to pursue innovation for fear of failure.  “When you prohibit failure, you kill innovation.  If you kill innovation in fundraising, you can’t raise more revenue.  If you can’t raise more revenue you can’t grow,” and if you can’t grow, you can’t possibly solve major problems.

The Fusion Energy League is quite innovative and has a lot of untested approaches to creating a pro-research environment.  Some of these don’t at first appear relevant to fusion (we are pro fission, for example.  We’re irreverent, “By fusion or fission, we’ll nuke fossil fuels”).  Rather than pulling back, we encourage funders to engage.  Try out these ideas to let the innovations evolve, and effectiveness emerge.  Fund the Fusion Energy League today

Startup Time

Dan points out that Amazon went six years without turning a profit.  Investors realize you need to build the platform in order to get a bigger payoff down the line.  That’s what we need to do with this nonprofit.  Fund the Fusion Energy League today

Allocating Risk Capital and Increasing the Size of the Pie

At minute ~12:35 Dan talks about Risk Capital.  By spending 50K in an AIDS ride fundraising innovation, they were able to generate many millions in revenue.  Full page ads in major papers go a lot further than flyers in the laundromat.  The size of the pie increased. 

Later, by spending $350K on a cancer fundraiser, they raised $190 Million+ in revenue.  So Dan asks, which would be better:  To spend the $350,000 to fund a single cancer researcher, or to spend that on a fundraising idea that generates $190 million dollars that can then fund many more researchers? 

Likewise, with the Fusion Energy League - you can allocate money to a few months of fusion research directly, or you can fund an organization like this that eventually has an impact on generating many years worth of funding.  Fund the Fusion Energy League today

Micro Finance

Dan concludes his talk by pointing out that the nonprofit sector as a whole, discouraged from the ability to advertise, has not been able to wrest away market share from the for profit sector.  Charitable giving is about 2% of GDP in the US.  To simply increase this to 3% would bring another 150 BILLION dollars on line for charities.  This is a great factoid to add to the Billion Dollar Gram.  Keep in mind, fusion research is at around $800 Million per year. 

Every little bit matters.  Opening up sources of revenue would have a big impact on the field.  But you won’t be able to open up those additional sources of revenue without making the case to the people whose funds they are.  To make that case takes action, communication, outreach.  That takes time and money.  Fund the Fusion Energy League today

You can look to government for funds and ride that roller coaster.  You can look to billionaires.  All of this is well and good.  Just don’t forget to look to everyone else.  1% more of the philanthropic, pro science public.  Fusion is about bringing the nuclei of light atomic particles together to release a great amount of energy.  Let that be a guiding metaphor in broad reaching fundraising campaigns. 



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