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Weekend Link Roundup (March 21-22, 2009)

March 22, 2009

Chain-links Here's this week's roundup of noteworthy posts and articles from and about the nonprofit sector....

Arts and Culture

The economy and markets are a mess, giving is flat or down, and a growing number of nonprofits face uncertain futures. Indeed, last week Americans for the Arts, the nation's largest arts advocacy group, warned that as many as 10,000 arts organizations, or 10 percent of the total, are at risk of folding. In an impassioned post that sparked a lively conversation, Allison Fine compared the situation arts organizations find themselves in to the meltdown of the newspaper industry and suggested that while the "loss of newspapers and arts organizations creates an enormous, perhaps irreplacable, loss of social capital for local communities," the problem of trying "to figure out a new business model for arts organizations is much more difficult." In part, says Fine, that's because

the cost of delivering the product is largely fixed; there is no way around the fact that orchestras need violinists and cellists. Consumers of news exist in large numbers, some say even growing numbers, but many arts organizations...face the prospect that there may not be enough patrons to support their efforts -- ever....

Great comments and posts in response from Tom Watson, Brian Reich, Beth Kanter, Katya Andresen, Gayle Thorsen, and others, as well as a follow-up post by Fine, make this a conversation worth tracking.

Economy

Buzz Machine blogger and all around wise man Jeff Jarvis follows up his excellent post on the great economic restructuring we are living through with more thoughts about the true dawn of the post-industrial age. Both are well worth your time.

How bad are things out there? According to an article by Eyal Press in the Nation, the "most expensive presidential campaign in history and the cataclysmic financial meltdown of the past few months" has combined to produce a "perfect storm" on Nonprofit Street. Sadly, that's true, writes the Nonprofiteer. But let's not forget that the things "we can't do as members of the nonprofit community are precisely the things we can and should do as citizens." To wit:

[F]or years we've indulged in a widespread pretense that private charity by itself can provide the safety net society owes to its poorest. Great Depression II is proving once again that this is nonsense -- that the resources of the charitable sector are dwarfed by those available to the government, and always will be. So, as citizens concerned with social justice, now is the time for us to raise our voices in support of public policies to advance it -- including the taxation necessary to support it. Charities can beg, and we do; but only the government can compel the entire polity to step up and pay what’s needed, and it must....

Fundraising

Target Analytics, a unit of nonprofit software provider Blackbaud, recently released its 2008 donorCentrics Internet Giving Benchmarking Analysis, which found that people who go online to donate to charity for the first time often do not return to make additional gifts. Robin Hood Marketing author Katya Andresen offers her take on some of the other findings from the report.

In a recent live chat hosted by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Charity Navigator president Ken Berger suggested that "wise giving decisions" can only be made after donors have evaluated an organization's financial health, its transparency and accountability, and the outcomes it achieves through its work. The same goes for online charities, says Berger. "However, if the charity is soliciting solely online you would hope to see lower fundraising costs and a great percentage of revenues plowed into program services." Adds Berger, "I think you should also expect to see a high degree of transparency of information on their Web site...[and] they should also afford you the opportunity to interact with them, so you can provide feedback and commentary."

Nonprofit Management

On the Fast Company blog, Alice Korngold reviews the pros and cons of using bonuses to drive the performance of nonprofit execs and concludes that the difficulty of tying bonuese to "measurable performance indicators" argues against the practice. It would be better, she concludes, for nonprofit boards "to provide fair and reasonable compensation packages in order to attract and retain outstanding candidates."

Philanthropy

In the latest installment of the Cohen Report, Rick Cohen explores the nuances of foundation payout, including the practice of averaging asset values over a multiyear period. His conclusion: Payout is a complex issue, "with aspects that most people don’t realize."

Social Media

Have you been curious about Twitter but at a loss as to its utility? Perspectives From the Pipeline blogger Rosetta Thurman has a nice post about how to get started and what to "tweet" about after you've taken the plunge. It's the first post by Thurman in a new series called Shine While Your Lights On that willll focus on personal branding for young nonprofit professionals.

Last but not least, Beth Kanter reflects on the Social Media for Social Good panel event at last week's South by Southwest conference and wonders whether early adopters of social media have become too focused on "social media for charity" at the expense of "social media for social change." Should they be treated as two separate systems, asks Kanter, or is charity just another tool for bringing about social change? Great question, Beth. (And the comments it sparked are great, too.) We look forward to following the conversation as it unfolds.

And that's it for this week. Have a great week.

-- Regina Mahone and Mitch Nauffts

Comments

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"Charities can beg, and we do; but only the government can COMPEL the entire polity to step up and pay what’s needed, and it must...."

Yeah, "Social Justice" at the point of a gun! That's the ticket!

Color me unimpressed. I wonder how quickly the Nonprofiteer screeches when Govt. decides to COMPEL the "entire polity to step up and pay what's needed"- but he doesn't agree with the definition of "what's needed"

Honestly, the "stimulus" and the earmark laden budget aren't enough yet?


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