Here's this week's roundup of noteworthy posts and articles from and about the nonprofit sector....
Arts and Culture
By signing the $785 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 into law last week, President Obama ensured that some funds will be allocated to the nonprofit sector. On the Modern Arts blog, Tyler Green writes that the $50 million appropriation to the National Endowment for the Arts is a Pyrrhic victory at best. Writes Green, "The NEA is supposed to be the primary arts protagonist for the American people, yet...the J. Paul Getty Trust spent 50 percent more than the NEA did in the Getty's most recently reported year." Green goes on to argue that arts policy think tanks that can "develop new ideas about how government should be involved in the arts" should get funded instead of the "timid and ancillary" NEA. (H/T: Give and Take)
Last month, Bradford Smith, president of the Foundation Center, asked in a post here at PhilanTopic whether there are too many nonprofits and concluded that, in fact, there are not enough. Revisiting the topic, Nathaniel Whittemore on the Social Entrepreneurship blog writes:
The thing that drives me ABSOLUTELY NUTS about the "we don't need more nonprofits line" is that it contains an embedded argument that because the field is congested...new entrants aren't welcome.
The question, says Whittemore, should not be, Are there too many nonprofits? but rather, Are existing nonprofits working effectively to solve the nation’s problems? If the answer is no, he concludes, then there are certainly not enough.
In a guest post on Sean Stannard-Stockon's Tactical Philanthropy blog, Renata Rafferty writes that "those of us on the cutting edge of philanthropy may be too busy navel gazing to realize that the majority of philanthropy is being practiced by "dinosaur philanthropists." That may be, writes Stannard-Stockton in response, but what Rafferty may be overlooking is that "unlike in the for-profit space, where only returns on your financial capital benefit you,"
in philanthropy the returns on all invested philanthropic capital accrues to the public at large. That means that if you can utilize your social capital to influence how money flows in the sector, you can have a larger impact than you ever could investing your own philanthropic capital....
For another perspective on the current giving environment, check out this Forbes.com discussion with Betsy Brill of Strategic Philanthropy, Matthew Bonaguidi of Gresham Partners, and Patricia Angus of Angus Advisory Group. (H/T: It's Your World blog)
And in an irony worthy of Orwell, billionaire philanthropist Allen Stanford, who was identified on the cover of the Jan/Feb 2009 issue of World Finance magazine as the "original philanthrocapitalist," has been implicated in what could turn out to be an $8 billion fraud. Over at Portfolio, financial journalist Felix Salmon suggests that "a few more stories like this...and philanthrocapitalism's name...will be irreversibly tarnished."
Matthew Bishop and Michael Green, who coined the term philanthrocapitalism in their 2008 book of the same name (click here for a PND interview with Bishop) argue that neither Stanford nor Bernie Madoff share the characteristics of a true philanthrocapitalist. Write Bishop and Green: "[N]ot only does a good billionaire’s philanthropy need to be effective...he also has an obligation to pay his taxes and to make his money in a legitimate, non-exploitative way."
On the Reimagining CSR blog, Jessica Stannard-Friel, who has been tracking how corporations are changing their giving programs in light of the recession, notes that "the communities that are hardest hit by this downturn may also be those with the biggest reduction in capacity to deal with it."
And commenting on a recent report issued by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations which argues that grantmaking is getting smarter, The Nonprofiteer admits to scoffing
when she hears people ask whether the nonprofit model even makes sense anymore....But when in the midst of crisis the institutional funders continue to operate as though they haven’t heard a thing the operating nonprofits have been saying, maybe it’s time to question the entire [philanthropic] structure....
"All grants, whether from government, foundations or corporations, should include a percentage to fund outcome measurement," writes Ken Berger, president of Charity Navigator, in a recent post. After noting that a large percentage of charities are too busy just trying to survive to measure outcomes, Berger suggests that, whether nonprofits like it or not, "objective data will become more and more important for the public's perception of a charity's ongoing legitimacy."
Recently, Beth Kanter interviewed Amanda Rose, the organizer of Twestival, a recent global offline fundraising campaign that leveraged the power of Twitter to raise over $250,000 for charity:water. Writes Kanter, "[Rose] is thrilled with the way the event turned out, but says she would do things differently next time around." Here are some of the lessons Rose learned:
- Don’t spearhead a worldwide event alone.
- Provide a better virtual hub to support volunteers.
- Be more prepared to work internationally.
- Set up a system for incoming donations to be aggregated quickly and easily.
- And extend the planning timeline 2-3 months.
"It is very aggravating," writes Allison Fine on her blog, "when companies or organizations hide behind social media tools and make it difficult to figure out who they are." Take ActiveCause, a "slick" new social networking site that intends to "take philanthropy to a higher level" but gives no information about the people running it -- "no Twitter feed, no blog, no About Us," notes Fine. "It used to be that all you needed was a heart-tugging cause," she adds. But there "are too many causes and too much need to rely only on that strategy now. We need to know why you need money, how you use it, and, most importantly, who you are to make our giving decision."
And that's it for this week. Enjoy the Oscars!
-- Regina Mahone