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Weekend Link Roundup (April 25 - 26, 2009)

April 26, 2009

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

Communications/Marketing

In response to the Dominos Pizza Web 2.0 fiasco -- two employees posted a gross-out video on YouTube that included one of the employees putting cheese up his nose and then on a sandwich -- Katya Andresen offers five recommendations should that kind of disaster ever happen to your organization.

Diversity

Rosetta Thurman has assembled a list of twenty unaffiliated nonprofit bloggers of color who write about philanthropy. Like Thurman, we hope the list continues to grow.

Economy

How is the economic downturn affecting chambers of commerce, economic development groups, and professional associations? McKinley Marketing recently surveyed 2,500 members of the American Society of Association Executives -- the trade association for trade associations -- to gauge the impact of the economy on ASAE members. Rick Cohen, Nonprofit Quarterly’s national correspondent, examined McKinley's findings and arrived at a couple of conclusions:

  1. Membership and constituency development activities strengthen organizations in normal times and sustain them through financial challenges. As membership rolls shrink, however, the strength of associations tends to wither.
  2. To survive this economic downturn, associations may have to spend money on strategies that build short- and long-term organizational sustainability.
  3. This is one deep, sweeping recession, and its reverberations clearly will extend into 2010, with 501(c) organizations of all sorts suffering.

We think Cohen is right on that score, and would love to hear what other nonprofits are doing to prepare for a recession that could persist into 2010. Leave your comments and suggestions below.

The arts groups that survive this downturn will not necessarily be those who produce the best product, the Nonprofiteer writes, but rather the ones that are able to combine a reasonably good artistic product with skillfully managed resources.

Philanthropy

Fascinating discussion on the Tactical Philanthropy blog a few days ago about finding a better word for philanthropy. In response to a question posed by Sean Stannard-Stockton about the meaning of philanthropy, Jeff Trexler, the Wilson Professor of Social Entrepreneurship at Pace University, wrote:

One reason why the word “philanthropy” may no longer resonate is that it is a word out of its time. A few hundred years ago, using a Greek derivative to convey a regard for humanity had ethical, philosophical and class connotations that are now all but lost. The narrowing of the term by the late 19th century reflects, in part, a subtle mode of legitimizing new mercantile and industrial wealth by associating it with the language of the educated elite. In short, the cultural factors that gave the word a distinct valence have long since receded, leav[ing] us with a term that has relatively weak signaling value....

The rest of the post and accompanying comments are just as much fun.

"We don't pretend to be able to be all things to all nonprofit organizations. During a time of economic challenge that is unprecedented for many of us, MMT's resources are too limited to solve the many fiscal difficulties all our communities are facing. But we plan to keep challenging ourselves to find ways to do more," writes Meyer Memorial Trust CEO Doug Stamm in a recent post on the Portland, Oregon-based foundation's Web site. He continues: "We understand the value of core support. In fact, we know that -- now more than ever -- many organizations are financially challenged to maintain their core work, [and over] the next year, organizations displaying the following characteristics will likely be best positioned for core support through our Responsive and Grassroots Grants programs":

  1. well-established in its community
  2. plays key roles in and provides important services for its community
  3. has a demonstrated history of well-managed organizational development (e.g., board development, strategic planning, strong fiscal management)
  4. has established clear and reasonable organizational goals for the coming year
  5. has been thoughtful in its approach to the economic downturn
  6. is requesting support of an amount and for a duration that aligns with MMT’s current grantmaking approach

Strikes us as a pretty good description of what funders are looking for most of the time.

Nonprofits spend plenty of time asking donors to support their missions, but can a grantmaker request the same in return? Chris Murakami Noonan, communications associate at the Minnesota Council on Foundations, interviewed several corporate grantmakers for the spring issue of MCF’s Giving Forum and asked them that question. Their answers may surprise you.

Excellent post on the South Asian Philanthropy Project blog about giving to charitable causes by Pakistani-Americans.

Social Media

Stan Schroeder on the Mashable blog has dubbed 2009 the year of social media. And if his statistics don't convince you Twitter is worth the fuss, maybe Hugh Jackman can. The Australian actor made news last week after he asked his followers on the popular microblogging site to help him choose a chaity to donate $100,000 to. The catch? You had to make your case in 140 characters or less. (Jackman ended up splitting the $100,000 between two organizations, Charity:Water and Operation of Hope.

Beth Kanter urges nonprofit organizations that are struggling to develop a social media policy to first have a discussion about their social media strategy. Writes Kanter:

There needs to be discussion. Not only about the potential concerns and how to respond, but how the organization or its internal culture can embrace social media....

A policy in of itself does not guarantee effective social media use, and if the policies magnify dysfunctional internal communications issues or silo culture, a policy may even get in the way of the organization owning social media.

As part of effective social media strategy development, the internal conversation must take place. But the policy can only be effective if the organization's culture can become agile enough to allow the rapid response to stakeholders and accommodate experimentation. The conversation is the first step. And it probably won't happen unless the organization's leadership facilitates the conversation and using social media to have that internal conversation is also a great way to improve understanding.

Excellent advice, as always.

On the NetSquared site, Amy Sample Ward has posted the twenty-four finalists in the Change the Web challenge, a competition designed to encourage the building of innovative online tools that help people find and share opportunities to take action for social change. The top three winners will be announced at the NTEN Nonprofit Technology Conference in San Francisco on April 28.

The response on Twitter and in the nonprofit blogosphere to an article in the Washington Post on Wednesday ("To Nonprofits Seeking Cash, Facebook App Isn’t So Green") that painted a rather grim picture of the popular Facebook Causes application was immediate and almost universally negative. According to Allison Fine, the Post article repeated many of the same criticisms of the Causes app featured in an earlier WaPo article and included a number of inaccuracies. For a different take on the controversy, read this post by We Media blogger Brian Reich.

And that's it for now. Have a great week!

-- Regina Mahone and Mitch Nauffts

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