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Weekend Link Roundup (February 23-24, 2013)

February 24, 2013

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

Communications/Marketing

On her Non-Profit Marketing blog, NTEN's Katya Andresen looks at new data from eMarketer.com that confirms what a lot of us already know: Nonprofits have been quick to adopt social media.

Diversity

"It is imperative that women of color invest in young girls through volunteering and mentoring to ensure the success of our younger generation," writes Shae Harris on the Washington Area Women's Foundation blog. "Use this Black History Month to begin or continue 'paying it forward.' Our girls are counting on you."

Impact/Effectiveness

In a post on her blog, Beth Kanter, co-author most recently of Measuring the Networked Nonprofit, considers the difference between being data informed and data driven. "The term 'data-driven' has been used to describe organizations that rely solely on cold hard data to make decisions. Being data-driven sounds great -- in theory. But, because it doesn't acknowledge the importance of basing decisions on multiple information sources, it can doom an organization to epic failures," Kanter writes. Data informed, on the other hand, "describes agile, responsive, and intelligent businesses that are better able to succeed in a rapidly changing environment....Data-informed cultures are not slaves to their data."

On the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Sterling Speirn, president and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, describes the foundation's efforts over the last five years to boost its impact by allocating $100 million to a program called Mission Driven Investing, giving, as Speirn writes, "equal weight to both social impact and financial returns." The results have been encouraging:

Insisting that financial success and mission impact are not mutually exclusive has enabled our organization to accomplish a great deal -- with more on the horizon. In these first five years, the foundation's investments have yielded high-impact social and financial returns -- ushering in new mobile technologies and innovative tools for educators; providing healthy, affordable school lunches for vulnerable children in New Orleans and other priority places; and expanding access to capital to underserved communities through community banking, to name several.

Yet successful investments such as those above have not only resulted in significant social impact and market returns, they’ve provided a learning return for our entire organization. Much as our grantmaking legacy provided us with guidance for our entrée into impact investing, now we’re using the lessons learned from our investments to inform our ongoing grantmaking efforts....

Philanthropy

On her Philanthropy 2173 blog, Lucy Bernholz wonders whether "3D printing" and/or "privacy" will end up on her list of philanthropy buzzwords for 2013. In a departure from past practice, Bernholz asks readers to offer their take on which of the two "we'll all be talking about, experimenting with, reading about, possibly funding, possibly failing to comprehend in 2013." What do you think? Share your thoughts on Lucy's blog here.

The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy's Yna Moore shares a video featuring YouTube sensation Kid President to help illustrate how philanthropy can up its "awesomeness" quotient. "It's not enough to set clear goals, utilize evidence-based strategies and solicit feedback," writes Moore. "To be truly effective, strategic philanthropy must turn to practices familiar to social justice philanthropy: understanding who will benefit from your foundation's programs and how, recognizing the need to influence public policy by funding nonprofit advocacy and community organizing, and seeking input from nonprofit grantees and the communities they serve."

In a post on the Huffington Post's Impact blog, Sonal Shah, senior fellow at the Case Foundation, suggests that in order to solve the world's most pressing problems, both the public and private sectors need to put more money into things like the administration's Social Innovation Fund (which she ran for a while) and the Department of Education's i3 Fund, social impact bonds, prize and challenge philanthropy, and interactive technologies.

Social Good

We noted above that Lucy Bernholz is taking steps to crowdsource her next philanthropy buzzword list. She also wrote a really interesting post during the week that pushed back a bit against a Mark Rosenman post that appeared here on PhilanTopic (as well as at the Chronicle of Philanthropy) about the growing movement to quantify the value of higher education (and other traditionally nonprofit goods) through things like "college scorecard" mechanisms. Writes Bernholz:

[T]he most interesting thing about the scorecard -- in my opinion -- is that it puts for-profits on the same footing as nonprofits and allows them to be compared on equivalent data. What could be a clearer acknowledgement that we are in fact operating in a social economy -- in which every type of social good from education to healthcare to eldercare to cultural expression to volunteer mobilization -- is available from either a nonprofit or a commercial enterprise or a hybrid of the two? This is the key "reality check" for nonprofits -- in most cases they no longer are the sole purveyors of the "good" they provide. Rosenman argues that comparing nonprofits to each other on the basis of their individual outcomes is bad for colleges and bad for nonprofits -- but his article misses the bigger picture -- college education is not just a nonprofit "good" anymore (if it ever really was)....

Is she right? Have the lines between the two sectors blurred to such an extent that the differences between them are, if not yet meaningless, less important than their similarities? Or, as Center for Effective Philanthropy president Phil Buchanan argues in a comment on Lucy's blog, is the role that nonprofits play in this country "unique and vital" and not easily replicated by for-profit and hybrid organizations? What do you think? Leave a comment below or hop on over to Lucy's blog and join the conversation already under way there.

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

-- The Editors

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