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Weekend Link Roundup (April 28-29, 2012)

April 29, 2012

May_flowersOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Advocacy

Responding to news that "Covering the Night," Invisible Children's offline event in support of its KONY 2012 campaign, was less than a rousing success, Allison Fine writes on her blog that the organization failed to attract widespread support because it "overlooked a fundamental tenant of networked activism: do what you do best and network the rest." Adds Fine:

Invisible Children has spent years honing its expertise in online organizing. And it showed in the initial outburst of support associated with the video and [the fact that] tens of thousands of people signed up to participate [in] Cover the Night....I think [the event] fizzled because on land organizing is simply not what Invisible Children does best. A better approach would have been to partner with an organization with the core competency of on land organizing, a group like Oxfam perhaps...."

In a guest post on the Communication Network's blog, Spitfire Strategies senior vice president Erin Campbell Boltz and former Greenpeace USA executive director John Passacantando offer a checklist for nonprofits that are planning issue campaigns. Their recommendations include: set a clear goal, know the opposition and arm yourselves to face them, play to your strengths, and engage the right coalition partners. Developed by Spitfire and the Communications Leadership Institute with funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Just Enough Planning Guide provides an interactive step-by-step framework for mapping out a public advocacy campaign strategy.

Economy

Courtesy of the Browser, MIT economics professor Daron Acemoglu, co-author (with James Robinson) of the book Why Nations Fail, discusses four books and one paper that explain how and why the United States and other Western societies have become less equal over the last thirty years and what it means for the future.

Fundraising

"The charitable marketplace is consumed with big talk about the need for transparency, yet many nonprofits, along with their boards and their funders, operate with their heads in the sand," writes Todd Cohen on his Inside Philanthropy blog. "If nonprofits, boards, and funders do not wake up soon, nonprofits will continue to struggle, leaving as victims the clients who count on them to provide the programs and services they need more than ever in our shattered economy...."

Innovation

Guest blogging at Beth's Blog, Laura Quinn and Chris Bernard of Idealware share a case study included in the report Unleashing Innovation: Using Everyday Technology to Improve Nonprofit Services that demonstrates how technology can spur innovation and improve service delivery.

Philanthropy

In a long piece on the National Education Association site, Alison R. Bernstein, director of the Institute for Women's Leadership and a former vice president at the Ford Foundation, looks at the growing corporatization of philanthropy -- and doesn't much like what she sees. Writes Bernstein:

Corporatization is important because it is rapidly becoming the preferred way of doing the "business" of grant making and it is influencing both new and older foundations, large and small, in ways that I believe may undermine the diversity of the philanthropic world. Just to put all of this in context: there are approximately 72,000 foundations in the U.S., half of which have been created in the last 30 years. This explosive growth in philanthropy is proof that numerous individuals got very rich during the Reagan Revolution. In looking for models of how to give away money, more and more corporate givers, family foundations, and community trusts are modeling themselves along the lines of Gates, not Ford or Mellon. The question is why? Why do they think Gates is a more effective model? Why is large-scale grantmaking intrinsically better than carefully scaled efforts to make a difference? Why are leaders and practices from the corporate sector preferable to those of the nonprofit sector? Why are phrases like "strategic grantmaking" dominating the discourse of the day? (Parenthetically, would anyone proudly claim to be an unstrategic donor?) And where is evidence that this is happening?...

On the White Courtesy Telephone blog, Greater New Orleans Foundation president/CEO Albert Ruesga proposes a set of principles that would govern the way progressive funders collaborate so as to strengthen their collective efforts. Inspired by the Sullivan Principles, which were adopted voluntarily by more than a hundred companies with operations in apartheid-era South Africa, Ruesga's principles include: the Do 'With' Rather Than 'To' Principle; the Maximize Coordination Principle; the Drop Everything Else You're Doing Principle; the Get the Money Out of Politics Principle; the Everything Is Connected Principle; and the Empowerment Principle. With the hope that his post sparks an actual conversation, Ruesga writes, "I see the development of these principles as much more than another idle flipchart exercise."

Manwhile, over on NCRP's Keeing a Close Eye blog, Niki Jagpal commends Ruesga for his post and adds two principles to his list:

  • The provision of unencumbered long-term support -- i.e., core support of sufficient duration to address pressing social needs.
  • Bolstering the capacity of our (limited) think tanks because conservative funders have succeeded at moving a policy agenda by funding similar institutions that feed policy to the Hill.

In a recent Forbes article, Rahim Kanani interviews Rockefeller Foundation president Judith Rodin about the foundation's centennial celebrations and how the foundation views its anniversary as a critical opportunity to raise the effectiveness of its work and advance solutions to pressing global challenges.

On Health Affairs' GrantWatch Blog, Tom David challenges foundations to take the information shared at their annual conferences and networking events -- many of which are held in the spring -- and "actually go out and make them happen." Writes David:

Whether it's collective impact or impact investing or whatever the big idea of the moment is, considerable buzz is generated [at these events], blog posts are published, tweets are tweeted, and then we return to our respective corners of the country. What's waiting when we arrive home is often a pile of grant applications and files awaiting action. The pressure to meet the deadline for the next board meeting too often trumps our best intentions to apply those new ideas from the conferences to the way we do business.

Meanwhile, the context in which we operate is...chronic crisis mode. The economy may be slowly recovering, but the human toll of unemployment and foreclosure and lack of health insurance and underperforming schools continues to mount. Governments are stretched to the limit in their ability to maintain even basic services. To someone observing the situation in the United States from afar, it would be clear that this is not a time for business as usual....

Social Media

On her Nonprofit Marketing blog, Network for Good's Katya Andresen shares an infographic that highlights the most popular social networking sites and how best to use them.

That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at rnm@foundationcenter.org. And have a great week!

-- The Editors

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