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22 posts from July 2008

Literacy for a New Generation

July 31, 2008

(Amit Shah, a long-time publishing executive based in Somerville, Massachusetts, is an avid reader of print newspapers, magazines, books, blogs, and anything else written with verve and wit. This is his first post for PhilanTopic.)

Digital_literacy_sam_2Sunday's front-page article in the NY Times ("Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading?") has already generated more than 180 posts. That there's interest in the topic should come as no surprise. The debate reflects the enormous changes that have occurred over the last ten years with respect to how we access information; what the meaning of "literacy" is in the 21st century; and what yardsticks we use to determine who is and is not literate. If, like me, you've spent a good portion of your career working for textbook publishers, have teenagers of your own, and have derived joy every day of your life from books, magazines, and newspapers, your interest in the topic is especially keen.

It also should come as no surprise that the single biggest issue today in any classroom in the country (and that includes college classrooms) is the inability of too many students to effectively decode text and glean information from age-appropriate materials. Or, as many of the teachers I have worked with put it: "My kids don't read; won't read; can't read.” Indeed, Isabel Beck, a professor in the Department of Instruction and Learning at the University of Pittsburgh and one of the most-respected reading researchers in the nation, has said that most students leave a text without any understanding of the author's intent or ideas.

Understanding and deriving meaning from texts is not only key to the enjoyment of literature -- it is an essential skill for anyone who hopes to succeed in the 21st century knowledge economy. But first you have to get people to read. Not just road signs and short informational pieces but narratives of various complexity.

It's not clear, however, that the digital media tools increasingly used to convey information and ideas -- text messaging, blogs, Twitter, PowerPoint, etc. -- provide the "keys to the kingdom" -- the ability to analyze, synthesize, compare, and evaluate ideas and draw inferences -- in the same way or as effectively as frequent exposure to print texts did for earlier generations. And while state, district, and private school curricula standards have started to specify proficiency levels for various types of informational texts, digital as well as print, the jury is out with respect to whether standards-based curricula can create proficient readers through strict adherence to text-based outcomes (i.e., paper-and-pencil tests).

At the same time, the literacy debate in pedagogical circles has already moved to the next stage: Defining and encouraging "21st century literacies." Or, as Sara Kajder, assistant professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, puts it: "[We need to expand] the technology toolset students use as readers and writers....We must teach them how to synthesize a range of texts that appear on a screen at lightning speed and communicate to authentic, wired, global audiences with the explosion of new tools, modes, and media now made readily accessible by Web 2.0."

The fact that standard secondary school literature anthologies contain graphic novel selections of a classic such as Beowulf simply underscores what many of us already knew: There are many ways to teach students about archetypes and epic heroes. Whether they are "writing" via digital storytelling formats, creating summaries via electronic portfolios, comparing hip-hop lyrics with poems by Langston Hughes, today's readers are indeed reading. And that gets to the key issue of literacy in the 21st century: Using any and every tool at hand to get students to engage with literature and complex texts. We need to do more of it.

-- Amit Shah

Beta Version of New Gates Foundation Web Site

The Gates Foundation has released a beta version of its next-generation Web site. (Made on a Mac?) Not a lot there right now -- mostly templates and placeholders. But it's apparent that mapping, segmenting content by topic and region, and interactivity will be emphasized in the new site.

The Redesign Team at the foundation would love your feedback about the beta and have posted an online survey to capture that info.

-- Mitch Nauffts

PND Poll (July 22-July 29, 2008) -- Results

July 29, 2008

Only a few hours left to weigh in on our current poll question (we'll be rolling out a new question this afternoon). Here are the results as of 10:40 EDT.

Should foundations do more to address the needs of low-income communities? [248 votes total]

Yes (218) 88%
No (15) 6%
Not sure (15) 6%

Comments?

-- Mitch Nauffts

Resources for the Field: PubHub/FOLIO

July 28, 2008

The Foundation Center launched its online PubHub application four years ago and has been working steadily ever since to create the most comprehensive, fully searchable catalog of foundation-sponsored reports on the Web. As of this writing, there are more than 2,400 reports (300 of them annual reports) in the PubHub database.

Here's a more detailed explanation of the project and its goals:

What is PubHub?

Housed on the Foundation Center's popular Web site, PubHub (http://foundationcenter.org/gainknowledge/pubhub/) is a searchable online catalog of annotated links to thousands of research reports, case studies, issue briefs, literature reviews, and annual reports published or funded by U.S. foundations. It is updated daily with the latest publications on a wide spectrum of specific issues, from Aging, Arts and Culture, Children and Youth, and Education, to Health, Human Services, Philanthropy/Voluntarism, and Public Affairs.

How does PubHub work?

PubHub makes a diverse and rapidly expanding sphere of knowledge easily accessible through user-friendly keyword search and browse functions. Each listing includes the report's title, publisher, publication month and year, a brief abstract, funders(s), related organization(s), and subject(s). The ten most recently uploaded reports are listed in Recent Additions. PubHub links point directly to the PDFs of reports on foundations' or nonprofits' own Web sites.

Users can sign up to receive e-mail alerts when a report on a topic of interest is added to PubHub, enabling them to stay up-to-date on the knowledge being created in their fields.

What's the purpose of PubHub?

PubHub was created to showcase the knowledge generated and/or funded by foundations, and to foster the exchange of best practices and lessons learned among foundations, nonprofits, and other institutions. It helps raise the profile not only of the research funded by foundations, but also of the foundations and nonprofits themselves.

By bringing foundation-sponsored reports out of narrow organizational "information silos" to a broader audience, PubHub helps maximize the impact of a diverse spectrum of insights and findings. We believe that knowledge is infinitely more valuable when it is shared -- especially knowledge upon which the philanthropic sector can help build a better society.

What is FOLIO?

FOundation LIterature Online, or FOLIO, is a permanent digital archive of foundation-funded publications housed at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) University Library. The Foundation Center and IUPUI are working in collaboration to develop the collection in order to preserve these reports and to maintain public access to them over the long term. With the permission of the publishers, FOLIO archives digital copies of the publications and makes them freely available to the public. Organizations can also register to upload their reports directly via the FOLIO Web site.

FOLIO is searchable by keyword, and its home page highlights new submissions and featured reports, increasing their exposure and impact.

What is the Foundation Center's relationship to FOLIO?

The Foundation Center and IUPUI are partners in the FOLIO project. While the collection is housed at IUPUI, the Center serves as a link between foundations and the project. Because we believe strongly in the value of these reports being made available to a wider audience, and in the importance of a permanent archive that will remain accessible to the public for decades to come, we encourage foundations with reports in PubHub to participate in the FOLIO project.

PubHub itself is not a permanent archive, in that the links in PubHub point to reports on other Web sites. Many report listings in PubHub have both a PubHub link and a FOLIO link. The FOLIO link points directly to the permanently archived digital file in the FOLIO repository. If a report is ever removed from a publisher's Web site, the PubHub link will be removed from the PubHub entry, while the FOLIO link will continue to provide public access to the report.

For more information about PubHub or FOLIO, or how your organization can participate in the project, contact Kyoko Uchida at kyu@foundationcenter.org.

--Kyoko Uchida

ANNOUNCEMENT: The Health Blogosphere -- What It Means for Policy and Journalism

This should be of interest to many of you...

The Kaiser Family Foundation is sponsoring a discussion about the growing influence of blogs on health news and policy debates. The briefing will highlight how the traditional health policy world has embraced blogging and will feature a keynote address by Dept. of Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Levitt, the first cabinet officer to author an official blog. Questions to be explored during the program include: Why do individuals and organizations blog? How does blogging impact the broader work of an organization? Are there different standards used when blogging versus other writing? Have blogs impacted the news business significantly? What kind of influence are blogs having on the political and policy debates?

WHEN: Tuesday, July 29, 1:00 EDT

WHERE: http://kaisernetwork.org/health_cast/hcast_index.cfm?display=detail&hc=2847

Weekend Link Roundup (July 26-27, 2008)

July 27, 2008

Here, a little late and short, is this weekend's roundup....

Environment

In this summer of our discontent, we should take comfort from the fact that the only inexhaustible resource on the planet is human resourcefulness. Exhibit A: Giant Sail Technology, a new fuel-saving technology in which giant parasails are harnessed to ocean-going cargo ships. As the Idealist blog puts it: "With sails as large as a football field, the parachute works something like a tugboat, flying up to 1,000 feet in front of the ship and cutting the vessel's use of fossil fuels by 30-35 percent."  Cool.

Health

One third of American children are overweight and 70 percent of those kids will become overweight adults. What happened? When did we become one with our couches? Why do our children play outdoors so much less? The next online discussion at NewTalk ("Where experts discuss America's toughest issues") will address the obesity epidemic in the United States. Participants in the two-part series, which starts July 29, include Stuart L. Brown, National Institute for Play; William H. Dietz, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Darell Hammond; KaBOOM!; Kevin Jeffrey, New York City Parks and Recreation Department; Lee M. Kaplan, MGH Weight Center and MGH Obesity Research Center; Dwayne Proctor; Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; and Jean Wiecha, Harvard School of Public Health.

Marketing/Communications

On the NTEN blog, Holly Ross argues that, more than ever, the job of the nonprofit marketer is about building community, engaging in conversations, and developing relationships.

And in a world of too many things to do, Nancy Schwartz has some great advice about how to tackle those big projects that have been hanging over your head.

Nonprofits and Social Media

In an excellent summary of the current social networking landscape, Beth Kanter argues that nonprofits and social activists still have a lot to learn about leveraging social networking applications for good causes and that "a couple of things need to happen before we get to best practices and knowing precisely what works":

Nonprofits need to look at objectives and resources, target their audiences, and think about multi-channel efforts before  jumping on the Let's Use Facebook bandwagon.... Activists need to better understand the psychology of Facebook apps and perhaps revise their campaign strategies. Facebook application developers who want to help change the world and work with nonprofits and activists need to better understand how Facebook culture and behavior meshes with activism and fundraising behaviors and workflow....

Beth and her friends at NTEN (the Nonprofit Technology Network) are also hard at work on the fourth module (The Art of Storytelling) of the We Are Media Project, a wiki-based social media "starter kit" for nonprofits. Be sure to check out what they've created to date -- it's is impressive. Aand if you're not already familiar with the project, this is a good place to start.

Philanthropy

Tim Ogden, an executive partner at Sona Partners and co-editor (along with Laura Starita) of the Philanthropy Action blog, addresses the thorny issue of donor intent raised by the recent revelation that before her death Leona Helmsley charged her multi-billion dollar charitable trust so that the bulk of the funds would be used to attend to “the care and welfare of dogs.”  Ogden, like most commentators who have weighed in on the debate, seems perplexed that U.S. tax policy gives donors "nearly unchecked ability to designate a philanthropic cause [that] serves the public good." What he finds most puzzling, however, is the lack of discussion of the issues surrounding the Helmsley trust in the nonprofit/philanthropic blogosphere. Maybe, he writes, it's because some

consider the Helmsley gift an aberration, and unworthy of deep discussion. [but given] that the amount of wealth held in the upper tiers of society continues to grow, and the forecasted wealth transfers as the pre-boomer generation passes away, aberrations like Ms. Helmsley’s will likely become more common. Now is the time to begin a conversation on whether our public policy on this issue is appropriate.

We couldn't agree more.

In response to a post ("Inspiring Young People About Civic Engagement") by PhilanthroMedia blogger Robert Thalmeimer, Janis Foster of Grassroots Grantmakers reflects on the words, volunteer, volunteering, and citizen.

Odds and Ends

Tactical Philanthropy's Sean Stannard-Stockton, the man who never sleeps, is taking vacation this week. In Sean's absence, Jacob Harold, a program officer at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, will share his and his colleagues' thoughts about the practice of philanthropy. You can read Jacob's first post here.

Last (but not least), the Nonprofiteer is taking a hiatus from blogging until after the November elections so she can volunteer full-time for the Obama campaign in Illinois and Iowa. We'll miss her.

That's all for now. Have a great week.

-- Mitch Nauffts and Regina Mahone

In Memorium: Randy Pausch (Oct. 23, 1960 - July 25, 2008)

July 25, 2008

"The inspiration and permission to dream is huge."

-- Randy Pausch

Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon professor whose "last lecture" on Sept. 18, 2007, inspired millions, has lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. If you haven't seen Pausch's lecture or read the book he wrote with fellow CMU alum Jeff Zaslow, you should.

To learn more about the life and legacy of this remarkable man, click here.

-- Mitch Nauffts

FORA.tv's 'Giving' Channel

In a YouTube world where more and more people are famous for...well, nothing, it's refreshing to come across a site like FORA.tv.

The word fora is the plural form of the Latin word forum ("the public square or marketplace of an ancient Roman city forming the center of judicial and public business"), and that's what FORA.tv provides -- a public online forum for discourse, debate, and discussion of the world's most interesting political, social, and cultural issues, with viewers invited to join the conversation.

Aggregated daily from public venues around the world, the content on the site is organized into channels -- Politics, Business, Tech/Science, Culture, The World -- and sub-channels. Our favorite, of course, is the Giving Channel, which is executive produced by nonprofit blogger Lucy Bernholz and presents "provocative, pragmatic, and inspiring discussions about the changing nature and roles of philanthropy in our global society."

One of those interesting discussions took place in April at the New School here in New York City. The fourth installment in the school's annual Philanthropy Today series, the panel discussion featured Andrea Soros Colombel, daughter of George and president of the Trace Foundation, which works to support the continuity of Tibetan culture and language; Abigail E. Disney, grand-niece of Walt and founder and president of the Daphne Foundation, a progressive social change organization which supports programs that address the causes and consequences of poverty in New York City; and Peter G. Peterson, senior chairman and co-founder of the Blackstone Group and founder of the recently launched Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which works to increase public awareness of the nature and urgency of key challenges threatening America's future. Clocking in at a little over an hour and touching on a dozen topics, the Webcast of the discussion (below) is a stimulating look at three very different but equally passionate philanthropists.

00:20 New Face of Philanthropy
05:36 Origin of Foundation Names
07:56 Foundation Giving vs. Philanthropic Giving?
10:17 Meaning of Having Enough
13:15 'America’s Future is Imperiled'
17:34 Daphne Foundation’s Focus on New York City
20:10 Community Orientation
23:32 Youth Engagement
28:48 'Political Giving is Corrupt'
32:25 Personal Passions and Philanthropic Giving
39:59 Accountability and Due Diligence of Foundations
44:13 Caution Getting Political
47:24 Giving to Spend Out?
51:45 International Giving and Tax Deductions
54:12 Ensuring Money is Used Well
57:15 Other Worthy Organizations

-- Regina Mahone and Mitch Nauffts

Climate Change: The Good News

July 24, 2008

From today's New York Times ("Oil Survey Says Arctic Has Riches," July 24, 2008):

The Arctic may contain as much as a fifth of the world's yet-to-be-discovered oil and natural gas reserves, the United States Geological Survey said Wednesday as it unveiled the largest-ever survey of petroleum resources north of the Arctic Circle.

Oil companies have long suspected that the Arctic contained substantial energy resources and have been spending billions recently to get their hands on tracts for exploration. As melting ice caps have opened up prospects that were once considered too harsh to explore, a race has begun among Arctic nations, including the United States, Russia, and Canada, for control of these resources.

The geological agency's survey largely vindicates the rising interest. It suggests that most of the yet-to-be found resources are not under the North Pole but much closer to shore, in regions that are not subject to territorial dispute....

The assessment, which took four years, found that the Arctic may hold as much as 90 billion barrels of undiscovered oil reserves, and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas....

At today's consumption rate of 86 million barrels a day, the potential oil in the Arctic could meet demand for almost three years. The Artic's potential natural gas resources are three times bigger....

Tell me again, how do I get a drink around here?

Arctic_warming04_2 

--Mitch Nauffts

Strategic Philanthropy and the Bush Foundation

Bushfdn_logoThe announcement yesterday by the St. Paul-based Bush Foundation reminded me of a session I attended at the 2008 Philanthropy Summit (the name given to this year's all-in-one Council on Foundation's conference). The session, "Strategic Philanthropy: Theory and Practice," featured Paul Brest, president and CEO of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and was based on Brest and Hal Harvey's forthcoming book Money Well Spent: A Strategic Guide to Smart Philanthropy.

In the session, Brest presented what he called the "essential tenets" of strategic philanthropy:

  • It starts with clearly defined goals; the more specific the goals, the greater the risk of failure;
  • Goals can change over time;
  • It must be based on theory -- in philanthropy, called a "theory of change";
  • If your theory of change is wrong, your philanthropic intervention is not going to succeed;
  • Tracking progress toward outcomes is critically important;
  • Mid-course corrections are part and parcel of any effective philanthropic intervention;
  • Publicly stating your goals and sharing information about successes and failures is critically important ("One of the reasons there is so little information about the unintended or unanticipated consequences of philanthropic interventions is that there are so few foundations -- let alone philanthropists -- that talk about what they hope to accomplish").

Or as he and Harvey put it in their book (I have an advance copy):

"[Philanthropy] is difficult work not just because social change is the product of a large variety of forces that are hard to identify, much less affect with any certainty, but because, unlike the financial returns of a business or even the electoral returns in politics, philanthropy has no common measure of success. Philanthropy is a field with poor feedback and messy signals -- and those signals are often distorted by the pervasive flattery that colors many transactions in the money-giving business.

"All of this means that accomplishing philanthropic goals requires having great clarity about what those goals are and specifying indicators of success before beginning a philanthropic project. It requires designing and then implementing a plan commensurate with the resources committed to it. This, in turn, requires an empirical, evidenced-based understanding of the external world in which the plan will operate. And it requires attending carefully to milestones to determine whether you are on the path to success, with a keen eye for signals that call for mid-course corrections. These factors are the necessary parts of what we regard as the essential core of strategic philanthropy -- the concern with impact..."

Although Bush Foundation president Peter Hutchinson and his board have been engaged in conversations about the foundation's programs and future direction since 2006, you'd think, reading yesterday's announcement, that they had an advance copy of Brest's book as well. "As we looked to the future," Hutchinson says, "we concluded that we needed to focus our energies in order to have even greater impact....In everything we do we want to foster leadership, continually build on the knowledge we gain, and choose activities that have a high potential to make a significant impact."

To that end, the foundation has chosen three goals that it intends to pursue for at least the next decade:

Develop Courageous Leaders and Engage Entire Communities in Solving Problems -- with a goal that by 2018, 75 percent of people in all demographic groups in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota say their community is effective at solving problems and improving their quality of life.

Support the Self-Determination of Native Nations -- with a goal that by 2018, all 23 Native nations in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota are exercising self-determination and actively rebuilding the infrastructure of nationhood.

Increase Educational Achievement -- with a goal that by 2018 the percentage of students in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota, from pre-kindergarten through college, who are on track to earn a degree after high school increases 50 percent and disparities among diverse student groups are eliminated.

Clear. Specific. Measurable. Risky. Although, as Paul Brest might say, the potential payoff more than justifies the risk.

We'll be watching with great interest as the foundation pursues its ambitious goals and, along the way, communicates its successes, failures, and lessons learned. As we noted here, Hutchinson and Bush Foundation board chair Kathy Tunheim will discuss the foundation's strategic planning process and future direction during a live Webcast on July 29 (2:00 CDT | 1:00 MDT | 3:00 EDT; pre-registration required).

What do you think? Are independent foundations like Bush uniquely positioned to play a catalytic role with respect to social change? Do you agree with Paul Brest? Does your own organization practice (or benefit from) strategic philanthropy? And if so, what are its "essential tenets"?

-- Mitch Nauffts

Quote of the Day (July 23, 2008)

July 23, 2008

Quotemarks"...Without a doubt there is ample evidence to support the contention that the power of liberal philanthropy has been harnessed to protect the powerful. But liberal foundations and private philanthropists...are not all powerful (despite their wishes to be so), and the question remains: Who is really the most powerful, the elites or the general populace? In answering this question it is clear that I am in agreement with the power elites who understand that the power of the mass public is greater than their own; however, while I seek to encourage people power, elites more than anything fear the democratic power of the people, and do everything in their means to diminish it...."

-- Michael Barker, "The Soros Media 'Empire': The Power of Philanthropy to Engineer Consent"

Peak Performance -- Q&A with Jean Lobell, Managing Director, Community Resource Exchange

July 22, 2008

Late last year, Community Resource Exchange (CRE), one of New York's most respected nonprofit management consulting organizations, released a study that compared the leadership practices of executives in the nonprofit and corporate sectors. Recently, PhilanTopic contributor Michael Seltzer sat down with Jean Lobell, a CRE managing director, to discuss the report's findings.

Michael Seltzer: Over the years, some have argued that nonprofit organizations are poorly managed, poorly led, and that all they need is an infusion of business discipline. The logic is that if nonprofit organizations operated more like for-profit businesses, they would be in a much stronger position to tackle the problems and challenges they were established to address in the first place. Your research reveals a different picture. What are the key findings of the report?

Jlobell_imgJean Lobell: The conventional wisdom is what makes the findings of the study so eye-opening. The report showed that nonprofit leaders scored higher than for-profit leaders on leadership effectiveness. Using a 360-feedback survey that measures seventeen leadership best practices, we compared the scores of hundreds of corporate and nonprofit leaders and found that the nonprofit leaders scored substantially higher than their business counterparts in fourteen of the seventeen areas. The six practices where nonprofit leaders had the greatest edge are encouraging participation, persuasiveness, openness to feedback, sharing credit, demonstration of effectiveness (i.e., getting the desired outcomes), and use of lasting power. The differences between the scores are statistically significant, so the results are not a fluke.

MS: Three areas where nonprofit leaders had comparatively lower ratings were in what you called push/pressure, energy, and coping with stress. The findings also indicated that nonprofit executive directors may suffer from a fair degree of self doubt.

JL: It's quite impressive, actually, that nonprofit leaders scored lower than their for-profit counterparts in only three areas of practice. The first, push/pressure, is defined as pushing for results and applying pressure on others until a task is successful. Nonprofit leaders also ranked lower on energy level, which is defined as a desire to achieve results quickly with high consciousness of time. The third area where nonprofit leaders scored lower is their ability to cope with stress, which we defined as maintaining command control, managing difficult situations calmly, and handling unforeseen trouble with confidence. So it appears that nonprofit leaders may not exert enough pressure and energy to get the desired results, and they tend to have difficulty coping with stressful situations.

The self-doubt observation is a hypothesis based on the finding that nonprofit leaders consistently rated themselves lower than those providing them feedback. Explanations for that finding are many. Are they harder on themselves? Might stress and burnout lower their perception of what they can accomplish? Given the complexity of their roles, might they find it hard to imagine that they could do well? We're not entirely sure.

Continue reading »

Sign of the times?

July 21, 2008

Bushfdn_logo_2The folks at the St. Paul-based Bush Foundation, one of the largest private foundations serving Minnesota and the Dakotas, have announced a Webcast conversation with the foundation's president, Peter Hutchinson, and board chair, Kathy Tunheim, in which the results of a two-year planning process designed to shape the foundation's future direction will be discussed. Questions will be taken live via the Internet.

The Webcast is scheduled for July 29 at 2:00 CDT ( 1:00 MDT | 3:00 EDT), and pre-registration is suggested. To register, click here.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Weekend Link Roundup (July 19-20, 2008)

July 20, 2008

Interesting piece by Kurt Andersen in last week's New York magazine ("Meet the Press Now," July 21). Starting with the observation that the reason people responded so emotionally to the death of "Meet the Press" moderator Tim Russert was because his passing "felt emblematic of the decline and fall of serious-minded, voice-of-God mass media," Andersen offers a compelling overview of the current media landscape, including the proliferation and rise to prominence of cable outlets and blogs. "The commentariat has never been larger," he writes. "But for all the new pundits,

my hunch is that it possesses no more aggregate power than it did in the past. Instead, the same pie has been cut into smaller slices, with many more people scrambling to claim their little piece of visibility and influence. It's a version of Warhol's twisted insight, twisted a little more: In today's commentariat, everyone is famous not for fifteen minutes but across fifteen micrometers of the bit of the celebrity bandwidth reserved for journalists....

I don't know much about visibility, influence, or celebrity, but I can tell you the blogosphere -- even our little nonprofit neck of it -- has never been more crowded. So, without further adieu, here's this week's attempt to put a circle around that portion of it dedicated to helping, understanding, and encouraging those people working to make the world a better place.

Civil Society

In Audacious Ideas, a blog "created to stimulate ideas and discussion about solutions to difficult problems in Baltimore," Lauren Abramson, founder and executive director of the Community Conferencing Center urges all of us to embrace an old idea: Taking more responsibility for our own health as well as the health of our communities.

Responding to a recent editorial in the Christian Science Monitor by Sally Kohn, senior campaign strategist at the D.C.-based Center for Community Change, Allison Fine (A.Fine Blog) argues that social change

isn’t about taking old forms of ['60s-style] protest and layering some blogs and emails atop. It’s a new way of people connecting with another, of creating scalable networks of activities with enormous capacity to share information, organize and mobilize, raise money and influence the debate in the media. By the very nature of network theory and social media, the way we connect, the way issues arise and are dealt with, will be fundamentally different in this new century. It’s time to leave the 1960s where they belong, in the history books.

Diversity

Bob Ross, president and CEO of the California Endowment, one of the signatories to the agreement that effectively scuttled AB 624, responds to critics (on both the right and left) of the deal and addresses the coalition's future plans.

Economy

Yesterday's New York Times includes an excellent dissection by reporter Peter Goodman of our current economic malaise ("Uncomfortable Answers to Questions on the Economy," July 19).

Something has clearly gone wrong with the economy. But how bad are things, really? And how bad might they get before better days return? Even to many economists who recently thought the gloom was overblown, the situation looks grim. The economy is in the midst of a very rough patch. The worst is probably still ahead.

Job losses will probably accelerate through this year and into 2009, and the job market will probably stay weak even longer. Home prices will probably keep falling, shrinking household wealth and eroding spending power.

“The open question is whether we’re in for a bad couple of years, or a bad decade,” said Kenneth S. Rogoff, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, now a professor at Harvard....

Over at Don't Tell the Donor, "a fundraiser" is back from his/her visit to the future and wants everyone to know that, in terms of the economy, things are going to get worse, a lot worse, before they get better.

And just when you think it couldn't get worse....Tim Kane, co-author, with Bob Litan, of Growthology, one of my new favorite blogs, has posted the results of their Superpower Survey. The big surprise? The majority of respondents think the U.S. will continue to be a leading source of innovation and economic dynamism for decades to come.

Education

The GiveWell boys, Holden and Elie, soldier on (despite frequent attacks by trolls and asshats) with a good post on the Career Academies initiative.

Higher Education

The ever-skeptical Nonprofiteer questions the need for, if not the motivations behind, GreenNote.com, the new peer-to-peer lending site that connects small lenders to college-bound students looking to secure loans to help pay for their education. (We wrote about it here.) While she hedges her bets on the near-term prospects for the American economy, she makes some good points.

Marketing/Communications

Best summer reads for nonprofit marketers -- as if you didn't have enough to read. (Hat tip Kivi Leroux Miller)

Nonprofits and Social Media

The folks at Social Actions, a nonprofit virtual organization that works to connect individuals to "actionable opportunities" aggregated from nineteen social action platforms (e.g., Kiva, GlobalGiving, DonorsChoose.org, etc.), have launched a Social Action wiki as a way to generate new development ideas for Social Action programmers. (Hat Tip Phil Cubeta)

Britt Bravo has a nice nonprofit blogging FAQ over at the Net Squared site. Topics include: How do we decide if our organization should have a blog? Should your organization's blog have editorial guidelines? How do you deal with issues of fear and control? How do you compete in the inceasingly crowded nonprofit blogosphere? (Hat tip Jeff Brooks at the Donor Power Blog)

Speaking of Jeff Brooks, he and Steven Screen, founder of UberDirect, an advertising agency specializing in direct response marketing and fundraising, have launched Fundraisng Is Beautiful, a free weekly podcast dedicated to all things fundraising. Since the program's launch in May, the guys have covered such topics as the Myth of Donor Burnout, How to Deal With Donor Complaints, Fundraising in Times of Disaster, and Fundraising as Courtship.

Philanthropy

Last but not least, Todd Cohen, editor and publisher of Philanthropy Journal, points to the multi-billion-dollar bequest that the late Leona Helmsley created for the care and welfare of dogs to argue that the regulation of private foundations and charitable giving is broken. I disagree with him -- and with Ray D. Madoff, the Boston College law professor whose recent op-ed piece in the New York Times ("Dog Eat Your Taxes?", July 9) sparked the current debate about payout, perpetuity, and the tax deduction for charitable gifts -- on most points and will detail why in an upcoming post.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Nonprofit Tagline Award Winners

July 17, 2008

Tagline_winner_2Back in June, we told you about the first annual Getting Attention Nonprofit Tagline Award Competition, the brainchild of our friend and former colleague Nancy Schwartz. Earlier today, Nancy announced the twelve winners of the competition. Selected with the help of more than 3,000 nonprofit professionals from a pool of 62 tagline finalists, the winners underscore "how powerfully taglines can work as a first step in branding or as a highly-effective to refresh a nonprofit's messaging, emphasize its commitment to its work and/or revive tired positioning."

The winners include NYC Theatre Spaces (in the Arts & Culture category), LandChoices (Environment & Animals), the American Lung Association (Health & Sciences), and EngAGE. You'll have to visit Nancy's blog, though, for the actual taglines and to download an advance copy of the Getting Attention Nonprofit Tagline Survey, which includes a list of the 1,000+ taglines from which the finalist candidates were drawn.

-- Mitch Nauffts

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