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15 posts from September 2007

Clinton Global Initiative -- MyCommitment.org (update)

September 28, 2007

The CGI folks have announced that the MyCommitment.org site, which they launched on Wednesday, has been visited by 40,000 people who, collectively, have commmitted 200,000 hours of volunteer time and more than $130,000 to projects and initiatives on one of the four CGI tracks (education, energy & climate change, global health, and poverty reduction). Amazing.

Clinton's people have also announced that, in the coming year, CGI will be launching CGI-U, an effort to expand the initiative's efforts to college campuses. The idea is to have a CGI annual event on a single college campus and to Webcast it to college campuses aroud the country. The inaugural CGI-U event will be held, in 2008, at Tulane University in New Orleans, because, as Clinton just said in announcing the event, "We're not done there." 

A housekeeping note: I'll be posting a Q&A with Maya Ajmera, president of the Global Fund for Children, later today.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Clinton Global Initiative -- Q&A with Chuck Harris, SeaChange Capital Partners

As I've learned over the last few days, the Clinton Global Initiative is all about partnerships, hybrid funding models, and blurring of lines. One such model, SeaChange Capital Partners, is being developed by Charles Harris, a former managing director at Goldman Sachs. I met Harris on the first day of the conference, and we spent ten minutes chatting about his new venture.

Philanthropy News Digest: How did you got interested in the nonprofit sector?

Chuck Harris: Well, the first thing I would say is that education opened up a world of opportunities for me. So I come to this with a deep appreciation of what educational opportunity can do for somebody.

But as I was getting to the end of my banking career, I became more active philanthropically, mostly giving to educational programs and schools. After I left Goldman Sachs, I decided to put my time where my money had been going and started to become more engaged in organizations I’d been supporting, attending conferences, joining a number of boards and, in the process, seeing at closer hand the funding dilemma that a number of fine, growing organizations faced. It was that experience that led me to search for some alternatives.

PND: What do you mean by “funding dilemma”?

CH: I was involved with a couple of nonprofit organizations that had fantastic management, good results, a fair amount of financial discipline, and were ambitious. And if they had been for-profit businesses at a similar stage of development, they would have gone out and raised a multi-million-dollar, multi-year round of funding tied to their business plan. Instead, they were sending out scattershot proposals for relatively small amounts of money over short periods of time. In other words, there was no financial certainty in the system -– not to mention that the most senior people in the organization were spending a disproportionate amount of their time fundraising.as opposed to driving the ship. It seemed to me to be a very ad hoc, inefficient, and restrictive way to grow an organization.

PND: What was the mechanism you came up with to address the problem?

CH: The fundamental piece of the mechanism is to seek to fund the business plans of these nonprofits rather than fund a piece of their program. We plan to do that by going out to high-net-worth individuals and family foundations with a well-crafted story and growth possibilities, with detailed modeling of future possibilities for the organization and lots of disclosure about what they’ve done in the past. We plan to conduct the financing much like a private placement in the business sector, with the goal of raising $5 million, $10 million, $15 million for organizations on the threshold of a growth phase. As I say, what we hope to do is most closely analogous to an equity private placement where you do a document, you take the management on the road, you meet with philanthropists, either individually or in groups, and you ask for significant contributions to fund the business model.

PND: How will you identify the nonprofits you plan to help?

CH: We’ve done two pilot projects -– one for College Summit and one for Teach For America. In both cases we’re looking at K-12 education reform interventions. That’s really the sector I’m focused on. Once we get ourselves funded and appropriately staffed, we’ll proactively seek out the best managed educational reform and youth development nonprofits we can find who also have an aspiration to scale, and we’ll try to help them do that.

PND: Will you do the due diligence piece, or do you plan to contract that out?

CH: We’ll do that. We’ll also try to take advantage of good due diligence that others have already done.

PND: Obviously, in the business world profit is the primary driver of most investments. What’s the equivalent in your model?

CH: Creating tangible social change is the primary return from the kinds of activity we want to fund. There are other motivations, of course. We’ll be able to offer donors personal engagement opportunities with the nonprofits they choose to fund. And we also hope to build a spirit of membership among our donor network so that there’s the additional attraction of coming together as a group and learning from each other. Hopefully, they’ll learn a few things from what we’ve done, as well.

PND: How does your model differ from the Social Venture Partners model?

CH: I think there are a lot of similarities between the two. The principle difference, however, is that we hope to build a single nationwide donor network that focuses its resources on bringing good organizations and.programs to national scale. So rather than being focused on a donor’s own community, we’re going to try to find folks who want to take the best programs, regardless of where they originated, to as many other cities as makes sense.

PND: Have you been surprised at how hard this work is?

CH: Not surprised. But it is really hard. As you alluded to a minute ago, in the absence of financial returns, one of the big paybacks for folks who are active philanthropically is a sense of ownership and connection to a great project. And I think that drives both individual philanthropists and foundations to want their own projects. It’s the exact opposite of the co-investment model that’s popular in the business sector. What we need to do is to get people, at least some of the time, to think about doing things differently. Take Teach for America; it’s in twenty-two cities and would like to be in thirty. No one of us alone can do that for them, but together we can do it.

PND: Is what we’re seeing here at CGI philanthropy?

CH: Oh, I think it’s a mix. But I’m very encouraged by the blurring of the lines, because in the end what I care about, and what most folks at this conference care about, is creating social change. I think it’s pretty well accepted at this point that there are for-profit and nonprofit ways to do that, and the more we talk to each other, and work with each other, the better off we’ll all be.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Clinton Global Initiative -- Day Three

A reminder that the third (and final) day of the 2007 CGI Annual Meeting is being Webcast by Kaisernetwork.org, the online media arm of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Cgiimage006 Today's lineup (all times ET):

  • Special Session: Promoting Growth and Fairness
  • Special Session: Successful Models for Sustainable Development
  • 9:30 a.m.: Plenary: Building a Global Multi-Ethnic Community (featuring Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland; Recep Tayyip Erdogan, prime minister, Republic of Turkey; Jose Ramos Horta, president, Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste; and Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO, News Corp.)
  • 11 a.m.: Working Sessions 5:
    • Education: Excellence in Education
    • Energy & Climate Change: Accelerating Green Building
    • Global Health: Addressing Under and Over Nutrition
    • Poverty Alleviation: Filling the Financing Gap
  • 1:30 p.m.: Summation and Closing

Later this morning I'll be posting a Q&A with Charles Harris, executive partner of SeaChange Capital Partners, a nonprofiit venture fund that aims to support the growth and build the capacity of nonprofit organizations.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Clinton Global Initiative -- overheard

September 27, 2007

"Afghanistan is the place for business -- risk is everywhere but the returns are great." (Hamid Karzai, president, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan)Quotemarks

"We need to invest in people -- peace doesn't come from the barrel of a gun." (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, president, Republic of the Phillippines)

"To paraphrase an old African proverb: If you want to travel quickly, travel alone; if you want to travel far, travel together. When it comes to climate change, we have to travel far, quickly." (former Vice President Al Gore)

"We need to be courageous, and we need to aim high." (Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, CEO, Masdar, Abu Dhabi Future Energy Co.)

"This week in New York City we're particularly aware of global warming as the Mets melt down." (former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw)

"The president is taking global warming very seriously....He knows the seriousness of the problem, he knows it needs to be solved globally...and he knows the U.S. has to take a leadership role." (Hank M. Paulson, Secretary of the U.S. Treasury)

"Africa contributed nothing to global warming; Africa is going to suffer disproportionately from global warming;...Africa deserves the right to sell carbon credits to the developed world." (Meles Zenawi, prime minister, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia)

"Just as the rest of the world is beginning to open up, we [the U.S.] are starting to close ourselves off." (Fareed Zakaria, editor, Newsweek International)

"Our position [with respect to climate change] is a case of putting our mouth where our money was." (Jacques Aigrain, CEO, Swiss Re)

-- Mitch Nauffts

Clinton Global Initiative -- Energy & Climate Change

Every three days, somewhere in the world a new coal-fired power plant comes on line. At current melt rates, the arctic ice sheet could be completely gone in twenty-three years. The United States accounts for 25 percent of the world's carbon emissions but will soon be overtaken as the leading source of carbon emissions by China.

All four issue areas at this year's CGI event -- Education, Energy & Climate Change, Global Health, and Poverty Alleviation -- are important and require urgent action. But according to many of the politicians, business leaders, and experts present, only one of these challenges, climate change, has the potential to fundamentally alter life on the planet. From former Vice President Al Gore calling global warming a "planetary emergency" at yesterday's opening plenary and his call for a Global Carbon Marshall Plan focused on building twenty-first century economies on a carbon-reduction platform, to Woods Hole Research Center director John Holdren stating flatly at a working session this morning that the question is not whether we can stop global warming but whether we can "reduce catastrophic global climate disruption," the urgency of this issue, for this group of people, is palpable. (Holdren went so far as to say that global C02 emissions need to peak at 450 parts per million by 2020 -- and steadily decline thereafter -- if we are to avoid catastrophe and preserve the integrity of the global environment; unfortunately, emissions since 1990 have been accelerating.)

You can learn more about what CGI members have pledged to do about the climate challenge here.

-- Mitch Nauffts

'07 CGI (Day One) commitments announced

Four new commitments were announced at yesterday's closing plenary, pushing the number of commitments announced in four areas (Education, Energy & Climate Change, Global Health, and Poverty Aleviation) to more than forty. New commitments announced by former President Clinton included:

The Education Partnership for Children of Conflict
The partnership will bring together leaders of various industries to create eighteen global projects that fund educational initiatives for children in conflict, post-conflict, refugee, and emergency situations. In its first year, the partnership will work to place 350,000 out of school children in school and improving the learning environment, safety, materials, and teacher quality for another 650,000 students — including 200,000 Iraqi refugees and 300,000 children affected by the crisis in Darfur.

Procter & Gamble (Pampers)/UNICEF
Through its Pampers brand, Procter & Gamble will commit a minimum of $2 million to the elimination of maternal & neo-natal tetanus in developing countries by supporting the procurement of roughly 45 million tetanus vaccines. By joining forces with UNICEF, the company will maximize its resources and provide millions of mothers and their babies with life-saving tetanus vaccines through 2009.

Proctor & Gamble: Children’s Safe Drinking Water
Proctor & Gamble, working with partner organizations in the Children’s Safe Drinking Water program, will provide sachets to purify an estimated two billion liters of water. By using the easily accessible system, the program will help prevent 80 million days of diarrhea illness and save 10,000 lives by 2012. The $20 million project follows a 2006 commitment by P&G to work with partners to provide safe drinking water and hygiene education to one million children in Africa by 2009.

1Sky
Working with partners 1Sky will raise $50 million to advocate for a simple set of goals and policy proposals to improve the federal government’s policies on climate change. All partners working in this coalition are committed to making the government of the U.S. develop climate change targets that match those of the European Union. The EU is committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent compared to 1990 levels.

In its first two years, CGI generated more than $10 billion in commitments ($1.25 billion in '05 and $7.3 billion in '06) and looks to be on track to generate more than $10 billion in commitments in '07. For a list of additional commitments announced on day one, go here.

The CGI folks also announced the launch of MyCommitment.org for individuals who want to take action and make a commitment in one of the four action areas. In addition to a pledge/donation mechanism, the site offers recent news from CGI and a couple of user-generated content features.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Clinton Global Initiative -- Day Two

The CGI annual event is being Webcast live by Kaisernetwork.org, the onlime media arm of the Cgiimage006 Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Coverage of Day Two begins at 9:00 a.m., EST, with the morning plenary, "Economic Growth in the Face of Resource Scarcity and Climate Change," featuring Tony Blair, former prime minister of the United Kingdom; Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, former prime minister of Norway and United Nations special envoy on climate change; Hank Paulson, secretary of the U.S. Treasury; and former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, who will moderate.

Here's the rest of the day's Webcast schedule (all times EST):

  • 10:30 a.m.: Working Sessions 3:
    • Education: Avoiding the Access-Quality Tradeoff
    • Energy & Climate Change: Stabilizing the Climate: Pathways to Success
    • Global Health: Overcoming Drug Resistance
    • Poverty Alleviation: Emerging from Crisis and Investing in the Future
  • 12:30 p.m.: Plenary: Latin America and the Pressures of Globalization
  • 2:00 p.m.: Working Sessions 4:

    • Education: Brain Drain, Brain Gain, and Brain Circulation
    • Energy & Climate Change: Expanding Clean Energy Around the World
    • Global Health: Strengthening Health Systems
    • Poverty Alleviation: Women as the Leaders of Change
  • 4:00 p.m.: Plenary: Expanding Profitability While Confronting Global Challenges
  • -- Mitch Nauffts

    Clinton Global Initiative -- Day One

    September 26, 2007

    So, Cgiimage006_2I'm here, and I'm impressed. This year's event has drawn more than 1,300 CGI members -- foreign ministers and heads of state, NGO officials, top business leaders, academics, social entrepreneurs, and more than a few Nobel laureates -- not to mention hundreds of members of the media and foreign press. (Great Britain, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Finland, India, Spain, and Mexico are some of the countries represented.) Security is tight, and the CGI people do a fantastic job with the logistics.

    The annual event -- this is the third -- is the flywheel of the CGI effort. It's where CGI members and global leaders from the public, private, and NGO sectors come to network as well as devise innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Those solutions take the form of CGI member "commitments to action" -- practical, effective problem-solving measures that can be taken now to address a specific need in one or more CGI areas of focus. Areas of focus change annually to address the most imperative global issues requiring attention. The areas of focus for 2007 are education, energy & climate change, global health, and poverty alleviation.

    To kick off this year's event (and inspire those in attendance), former President Clinton announced four new commitments at the start of the opening plenary:

    • Florida Power & Light will invest $2.4 billion in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in the state. As part of the project, FP&L will build new solar power plants that are expected to reduce CO2 emissions by more than two million tons over five years, and will also provide smart meters to their customers along with an education program designed to help customers reduce their carbon footprint.
    • The PNC Foundation, Blue Mountain Capital, TONIC, the Bridge Foundation, the Goldman Sachs Foundation, and Merrill Lynch are partnering in a $2 million commitment to fund eight airlifts to bring humanitarian relief to Darfur and Chad. The flights will be made available to partner organizations wanting to send essential supplies, with the first four flights completed by the end of the year and the second four to be completed by April 2008.
    • The Scojo Foundation will spend $1.57 million to expand to ten additional countries its Scojo Reading Glass Microfranchises program, which trains entrepreneurs in developing countries to sell affordable reading glasses. The expanded program will enable an additional 3,000 entrepreneurs to develop new sources of income, providing 300,000 people with new glasses and other eyecare products.
    • Partnering with President Ramos-Horta of Timor and the Peace and Democracy Foundation, Interpeace is investing $1.2 million to implement a nationwide program designed to enable the Timorese to become the architects of their own future by empowering them to identify the underlying drivers of the violence and unrest in their communities and to find ways of addressing them in a nonviolent and sustainable manner.

    Subsequently, Clinton announced that the governments of Norway (represented here by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg) and the Netherlands (represented by Prime Minister Jan peter Balkenende) will commit $1 billion and $175 million, respectively, over ten years to launch a global advocacy campaign, "Deliver Now for Women and Children," to reduce maternal and child deaths in developing countries -- and, not coincidentally, to renew the developed world's commitment to the fourth and fifth Millennium Development Goals -- by 2015.

    Clinton himself is the impressario of the whole thing, and his performance is a thing to behold. As a friend of mine who is a managing director at Goldman Sachs and is also attending the event said, he seems to know everything, know everyone, and to have been everywhere. When he was in office, people used to talk about Clinton's charisma, and sharing the stage with Hamid Karzai, president of Afghanistan; Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, president of the Philippines; Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank; H. Lee Scott, president and CEO of Wal-Mart; former Vice President Al Gore; and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu -- as Clinton did this morning at the opening plenary -- you definitely get a sense of what people are talking about. So, who cares if he hogged the mike a little; it's his mike (as Ronald Reagan might have said), and he's a big part of the reason why CGI works as well as it seems to.

    Which leads me to a question I hope to get others to address before the event wraps up on Friday: Is it philanthropy?  To be continued.

    -- Mitch Nauffts

    GiveWell, Think Hard

    September 25, 2007

    Holden Karnofsky and crew have unveiled their redesigned GiveWell blog. Looks great!

    Are foundations as innovative as they could/should be?

    In case you missed it, a fascinating discussion has been unfolding over at Sean Stannard-Stockton's Tactical Philanthropy blog. Sean got things started when he interviewed Cheryl Dahle, employee number 24 at Fast Company magazine and a driving force behind the Fast Company Social Capitalist Awards. Smart, opinionated, and a long-time denizen of Silicon Valley, Cheryl had much to say in the interview and her replies to Sean and others' comments about the willingness of foundations to take risks and/or innovate, the mainstream media's tendency to view philanthropy almost exclusively through a wealth/celebrity lens, and what staff at foundations might do to change the equation. Here's Cheryl's (partial) reply to a comment posted by Bruce Trachtenberg, himself a long-time philanthropoid and now executive director of the Communications Network:

    Ok, I'll admit to straying into a bit of a rant there. I do not mean to say that foundations do not play a worthwhile role or their work is not meaningful and worthwhile. What I'm saying is that foundations doing business as usual is a tough sell as a story. Business as usual means that the organization is giving away money and it's having an effect...that is the EXPECTED course. That makes it a tough sell, as the whole premise of newsworthiness is based on:

    -- is it unexpected?
    -- is it unique?
    -- is is biggest or first?
    -- are there famous or celebrity players involved (I hate this one, but is IS a lens)
    -- is the impact greater/better/different?

    That last one is the toughest to prove, which is why you'll see more reporters hanging stories on the other four criteria. (And, by the way, that is why the scandal story is the easiest sell. The counterintuitive hook of a "do-good" organization running afoul of ethics in some way is a slam dunk.)

    As I said, a fascinating interview and discussion. Be sure to check it out.

    Speaking of wealth/celebrity lenses, it's amazing what happens when the Former Leader of the Free World and a thousand global business leaders set up shop in the Media Capital of the Universe for three days of speeches and networking. I'm talking, of course, about the third annual Clinton Global Initiative, which kicks off tomorrow in midtown Manhattan and has already generated tons of buzz, including three articles in The Economist, a long piece in the October issue of The Atlantic Monthly, and a related cover story in this week's edition of Newsweek. Never one to swim against the tide, I'll be on-site at the event for the next three days (along, I'm sure, with a few hundred other journalists) to share my impressions and any news that breaks. Stay tuned.

    -- Mitch Nauffts

    October 2007 Giving Carnival

    September 17, 2007

    PhilanTopic has learned that the question for the October Giving Carnival blog event, to be hosted by Arlene Spencer's Seeking Grant Money Today blog, is, "Are relationships everything in philanthropy today?"

    What, pray tell, is a Giving Carnival? As Holden Karnofsky at the GiveWell blog explains, it's

    a horrible name for [an exercise in which] the host chooses a topic, anyone who wants to writes/submits a post on that topic, and the host posts links to the ones he wants to.... It’s like a periodical, but with the advantage that it’s much more of a pain in the neck to read....

    The concept was launched in January by Sean Stannard-Stockton's Tactical Philanthropy blog with a discussion of the debate surrounding the LA Times' coverage of the Gates Foundation investment policy. After a brief hiatus, it returned in July on GiveWell (“What charitable cause are you personally most passionate about?”) and moved in September to Gayle Robert's Fundraising for Nonprofits blog ("Predicting the Future of Fundraising").

    Now it's Arlene's turn, and she's posted some questions to get us all thinking: If philanthropic relationships are not everything, what is critical to the success of modern philanthropy? How are relationships in philanthropy today different than in the past? How do modern relationships in philanthropy begin, and how are they maintained? Who or what do they matter for? What effect, if any, do philanthropic relationships have on the causes they serve? Are there situations in which funders or grantseekers should recuse themselves from a relationship? etc. etc.

    Feel free to pose and answer your own questions. To be included in the group event, all responses must be e-mailed to Arlene by October 15, 2007.

    Arlene is also looking for a volunteer(s) to host the November Giving Carnival. E-mail Arlene if you'd like to take it on (you must have a blog in order to host a carnival).

    -- Mitch Nauffts

    Teaching 'The Levees'

    September 14, 2007

    New_orleans_flooded "I think when we look back on this many years from now, I'm confident that people are gonna see what happened in New Orleans as a defining moment in American history. Whether that's pro or con is yet to be determined. And that's one of the reasons why I wanted to do [the] film...."

    -- filmmaker Spike Lee

    Katrina made landfall on the morning of August 29, 2005, and by afternoon had caused major breaches of the levees in New Orleans at the 17th St. Canal, the London Avenue Canal, and the Industrial Canal, leaving 80 percent of the city under water.

    Over the next few days, as images of unimaginable destruction and suffering were beamed to television sets around the world, Lee, who was attending a film festival in Italy, was outraged. "It was a very painful experience," he said later in an interview,

    to see my fellow American citizens, the majority of them African-Americans, in the dire situation they were in. And I was outraged with the slow response of the federal government....

    Lee returned to the States and, with backing from HBO's documentary unit, was in New Orleans with a crew by October, shooting footage of the devastation and conducting interviews with officials and residents of the city.

    The result of those efforts, the Emmy-nominated When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, first aired on HBO in August 2006 and again this past August.

    Earlier this month, Teachers College at Columbia University, in collaboration with HBO and the New York City-based Rockefeller Foundation, launched "Teaching The Levees: A Curriculum for Democratic Dialogue and Civic Engagement," a 100-page teaching tool developed by TC faculty, students, staff and alumni that is cued to Lee's documentary.

    The curriculum, which is being distributed free of charge to 30,000 teachers nationwide, together with a DVD of the film, is divided into five components geared for high school, college, and adult audiences and features units on media literacy, civics, economics, geography, and history.

    Ultimately, the aim of the project is to use the opportunity provided by the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina to renew the American conversation on the subject of race and class and to provide an opening for dialogues that are central to the concept of democratic citizenship.

    If you haven't seen the documentary (rated TV-14), I urge you to. And to learn more about the curriculum, New Orleans, or any of the many issues raised by Katrina, check out the "Teaching The Levees" Web site.

    -- Mitch Nauffts

    Max King Fires Back

    September 13, 2007

    Maxking_0123It took a week, but someone from the foundation world has decided to respond, in public, to Stephanie Strom's long (2,100 words), front-page article in last Thursday's New York Times ("Age of Riches: Big Gifts, Tax Breaks, and a Debate on Charity," Sept. 6). In her article, Strom suggests that while the rich are giving more to charity than ever, the "bill for such generosity" may be too high, given that "the federal government typically gives up a dollar or more in tax revenue, because of the charitable tax deduction and by not collecting estate taxes," for every three dollars donated to charity.

    In classic "he said, she said" style, Strom posits "a growing debate" over the value of the tax break for charitable deductions, with L.A.-based philanthropist Eli Broad speaking for the status quo and billionaire bond investor Bill Gross cast as the gimlet-eyed accountant. The public benefit of the charitable deduction, Broad says in the article,

    is significantly greater than the tax benefit an individual receives. I think there’s a multiplier effect. What smart, entrepreneurial philanthropists and their foundations do is get greater value for how they invest their money than if the government were doing it.

    To which Gross, a genius at making money but not, the last time I checked, a pollster, "replies":

    I don’t think we’re getting the bang for the buck for gifts to build football stadiums and concert halls, with all due respect to Carnegie Hall and other institutions. I don’t think the public would vote for spending tax dollars on those things.

    In the article, Strom seems to equate the public benefit test with the "common perception" that one of philanthropy's "central purposes"

    is to alleviate the suffering of society’s least fortunate and therefore promote greater equality, taking some of the burden off government.

    "In exchange," she adds,

    the United States is one of a handful of countries to allow givers a tax deduction. In essence, the public is letting private individuals decide how to allocate money on their behalf.

    That notion, says Maxwell King, president of the Pittsburgh-based Heinz Endowments and current chair of the Council on Foundations, is "just plain silly." Big-government initiatives, writes King in a letter to the editor in today's Times ("Private, Efficient Charity," Sept. 13), "are all too frequently done in by intransigent bureaucracies, wasted resources and politicized management." In an age that celebrates the "value created by entrepreneurship, innovation and competition," King adds,

    It is no stretch to suggest that the nation benefits as well from the inventiveness and creativity of a private philanthropic sector that uses all its resources — the 75 percent from donors and the 25 percent from foregone taxes — more entrepreneurially and effectively than big government ever would.

    What do you think? Is there a growing debate over the benefit the public receives from private philanthropy? And does the philanthropic sector use its resources more entrepreneurially and effectively than government?

    -- Mitch Nauffts

    September 11, Six Years On

    September 11, 2007

    Groundzero_18sep07_3 Today is the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and the weather in NYC -- damp, cloudy -- somehow seems appropriate.

    Millions of words have been written about that day and its aftermath and yet closure, for many of us, is as elusive as ever. It's interesting to me that, six years on, 60 percent of the people who voted in our most recent weekly poll answered "yes" to the question, "Did the attacks of September 11 change everything?" That was one of the thoughts that kept looping through my mind in the hours after I'd watched the towers crumble from the sidewalk in front of our building, and while my view of that day has become more nuanced, the emotions it triggered are still thisclose to the surface.

    Memories of that day notwithstanding, there are reasons for hope. As New York Post editor Steve Cuozzo recently noted, "nowhere in the five boroughs, maybe not in the nation, is there a place [i.e., downtown Manhattan] where energy and optimism so tangibly fill the air." The population south of Chambers Street has almost doubled, from 22,961 to 44,700, since (pre-9/11) 2001; new businesses, restaurants, and hotels are popping up all over the neighborhood; and construction at the old WTC site is, at long last, kicking into gear. "Downtown today," writes Cuozzo (in his best tabloid-ese), "has something of the feel of London in the 1950s -- a great city still scarred by war, but pulling itself off the floor and putting its dukes up again."

    As the Christian Science Monitor reported, Sept. 11 also has inspired the creation of dozens of charities and charitable efforts. One of them, myGoodDeed.org, is dedicated to turning 9/11 into a day of service, charity, and good deeds -- an idea that has been endorsed by members of Congress and President Bush. "It was the worst possible day imaginable, and in some ways, a remarkable day, too, in the way in which people responded," David Paine, co-founder of the organization, told the Monitor. "We need to rekindle the way we came together in the spirit of 9/11: It would be almost as much a tragedy to lose that lesson."

    And what of philanthropy? What did it learn from 9/11 and its aftermath? We captured many of them in the interviews we conducted in 2001 and 2002 and subsequently published as September 11: Perspectives From the Field of Philanthropy and September 11: Perspectives From the Field of Philanthropy, Volume II. (Both volumes, as well as September 11: The Philanthropic Response, are available as free downloads on the Foundation Center's Web site.) Is philanthropy better prepared and organized to respond to another 9/11 than it was six years ago? Is it too willing to rely on the Red Cross and the Salvation Army as default first-responders in disaster situations? And have public expectations of what philanthropy can do outpaced its actual ability to respond? We'd like to hear what you think....

    -- Mitch Nauffts

    Three, two, one...liftoff

    September 10, 2007

    Okay, it's not exactly a moonshot, but we're pretty excited about the launch of our new blog, PhilanTopic. For those who don't know, Philanthropy News Digest is an online service of the New York City-based Foundation Center, the nation's leading authority on philanthropy. We've been publishing PND, online and as an e-newsletter, since 1996, and this blog is our latest effort to provide quality content and useful services to our readers.

    We envision PhilanTopic as an interactive platform for a broad range of opinion and commentary from foundation staff, nonprofit practitioners, and those who simply enjoy a good debate -- and we hope, in short order, to have a lineup of six to ten regular contributors. We also welcome guest contributors. If you have a question or are interested in becoming a contributor (regular or otherwise), drop me a line. I can be reached, via e-mail, at mfn@foundationcenter.org, or, by phone, at 212.807.2433.

    -- Mitch Nauffts

    Contributors

    Quote of the Week

    • "[W]hat struck me was the startled awareness that one day something, whatever it might be, was going to interrupt my leisurely progress. It sounds trite, yet I can only say that I realized for the first time that I don't have forever...."

      — Anatole Broyard, book critic/editor/essayist (1920-1990)

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