Social causes, philanthropy, activism, nonprofits, development, organizing, volunteering, fundraising – these are the forces that represent private efforts for public social good. I’m proud to be part of this sector, I love to write about it, and I enjoy working in it every day. But I really love to teach other professionals who want to see their efforts rewarded not just with a paycheck but with few hungry and homeless, a cleaner environment, a fair and more just society, a safer world. That’s because by teaching, I learn more about what makes us all want work in this vital slice of our economy. The world is a smaller, more tightly networked place – and those networks matter, even more than the technology that created them. That changes philanthropy and fundraising, and those changes are fascinating and worth deep exploration. It’s my privilege to work with committed professionals who are also committed to that exploration – and to do it at Columbia, where I first arrived as a callow freshman 35 years ago.
Tom Watson is the president and founder of CauseWired, a consulting firm advising clients on the social commons: nonprofits, foundations and companies. He is a journalist, author, and consultant who has worked at the confluence of media technology and social change for 25 years.
Watson contributes the Social Ventures column to Forbes and is the author of CauseWired: Plugging In, Getting Involved, Changing the World (Wiley, 2008) a best-selling book that chronicled the rise of online social activism.
As a consultant over the last decade, Watson has worked with many clients in strategic planning, case development, communications, branding development and marketing, as well as fundraising and development planning, including organizations such as the The Innocence Project, Sidney Hillman Foundation, The Safe Center, Amnesty International, Cabrini Mission Foundation, Carver Foundation of Norwalk, TrickleUp, North Shore-LIJ Health System Foundation, the International Center for Journalists, the Case Foundation, Save Ellis Island, the Tiger Woods Foundation, the Tuskegee Airmen, Catholic Relief Services, the Wealth & Giving Forum, and many others.
He is a frequent speaker on social issues and philanthropy, and has appeared at venues including the Clinton Global Initiative, Global Philanthropy Forum, Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Symposium, Skoll World Forum, MIT Enterprise Forum, Conference Board, Boardsource Leadership Forum, the Forum on Philanthropy, Association of Fundraising Professionals, Association for Healthcare Philanthropy, and the Performance Institute as well as in university settings, including Harvard Business School, Columbia Business School, New York University (where he currently teaches), Syracuse University, and City University London. He previously served as an adjunct instructor in the master’s program of New York University’s Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising and as an adjunct professor of new media at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Before launching CauseWired, Watson served for nine years as chief strategy officer of Changing Our World, Inc., the international philanthropic services company he co-founded and guided to its acquisition by the Omnicom Group, a global holding company and member of the Fortune 200. He also served as founder and publisher of onPhilanthropy.com, an extensive online resource for philanthropy professionals.
Before joining the social sector, Watson was cofounder and co-editor of @NY, the pioneering Internet news and information service that chronicled the rise New York’s Silicon Alley new media in the mid-90s. Early in his career, he was the executive editor of The Riverdale Press, a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper in the Bronx, where he covered politics as a muckraking journalist and won more than a dozen state and national awards for excellence.
During his long career as journalist, Watson has written for The New York Times, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, USA Today, techPresident.com, Social Edge, Industry Standard, Inside, Wired, Worth, Contribute, and Ms. magazines, among many other publications.
He serves on the Board of Directors of BronxWorks, a social services agency serving the nation’s poorest Congressional district, and previously as a member of the La Pietra Coalition to Advance Women in the World, an international group of activists working to change the perception of women’s status in society., and the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, a progressive think tank. He holds a degree in English literature from Columbia University.