Wall Street donates its wisdom

Jill Barshay Nov 2, 2007

Wall Street donates its wisdom

Jill Barshay Nov 2, 2007


Lisa Napoli: If you’re the kind of person who’d be interested in a book called “Stock Markets for Charity-Minded Dummies,” this next story’s for you. Here’s Jill Barshay.

Jill Barshay: Jeff Tuller spent eight years on Wall Street. When he left the financial world, he decided to go into charity work.

Jeff Tuller: I used to work for the dark side. I started out doing mortgage-backed securities at Bear Stearns. I’m buying my soul back in stages — on layaway.

But he says it was impossible to figure out which nonprofits were any good. Many are secretive and don’t report exactly what happens to their money. So Tuller decided to bring a little Wall Street into the nonprofit world.

He calls his new idea Social Markets, the first ever nonprofit stock exchange. It’s certainly nonprofit — Tuller’s using his own money and charities don’t have to pay to list. They feed Tuller data on their projects, and he assigns dollar values to all of their activities. The ones that accomplish their goals will rise in value, he says. The ones that fail will tank.

Tuller: The idea is people are going to be funding. They’re going to say, you know what, I’m willing to quote, unquote invest in that project, because I like the Sierra Club’s return on investment.

Social Markets rings its opening bell on November 21.

Brandy Cruthird of Fit Kidz is one of five charities that are listing a total of 70 projects. She’s hoping her listings will lure donors.

Brandy Cruthird: I’m excited. What it does is it holds me accountable. Eventually, everyone’s gonna be held accountable. People want to know what they’re giving to, and want to see outcomes.

But not everyone is sure that charitable outcomes can be quantified.

Trent Stamp doesn’t think they can. He’s president of Charity Navigator, which rates how well charities are managed.

Trent Stamp: There is a fundamental difference between charities and Wall Street. We can’t just measure the bottom line when it comes to charities. We have to measure whether they’re doing the work with passion, with purpose, whether they’re honoring people, whether they’re keeping up with the public trust.

Tuller wants to find a way to put a dollar value on these qualities, too. He’s hoping that once donors have a real idea of a project’s value, they’ll be able to trade their investments — and make Social Markets a true nonprofit exchange.

In New York, I’m Jill Barshay for Marketplace.

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