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Weekend Link Roundup (April 27-28, 2013)

April 28, 2013

Kontiki2Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Communications/Marketing

Our friends at the Communications Network have a nice Q&A with Lucas Held, director of communications at the Wallace Foundation, who, among other things, calls Diffusion of Innovations, a theory developed by the late Everett Rogers, "the most useful tool I have ever encountered for communications."

Data

In a long, fascinating piece in the May/June issue of Foreign Affairs, Kenneth Neil Cukier and Viktor Mayer Schoenberger look at the emergence of "big data" and how it's changing the world. "Using great volumes of information," they write,

requires three profound changes in how we approach data. The first is to collect and use a lot of data rather than settle for small amounts or samples, as statisticians have done for well over a century. The second is to shed our preference for highly curated and pristine data and instead accept messiness: in an increasing number of situations, a bit of inaccuracy can be tolerated, because the benefits of using vastly more data of variable quality outweigh the costs of using smaller amounts of very exact data. Third, in many instances, we will need to give up our quest to discover the cause of things, in return for accepting correlations. With big data, instead of trying to understand precisely why an engine breaks down or why a drug’s side effect disappears, researchers can instead collect and analyze massive quantities of information about such events and everything that is associated with them, looking for patterns that might help predict future occurrences. Big data helps answer what, not why, and often that's good enough....

Philanthropy

Kevin Bolduc, vice president of assessment tools at the Center for Effective Philanthropy, shares some lessons from the organization's efforts to scale up a data visualization tool called "Strategy Landscape" and the reasoning behind its decision, announced earlier this week, to pull the plug on the tool. "A few...in particular stand out," writes Bolduc:

The incredible motivation and interest of a few early groups of funders that really craved this kind of information led us to overestimate the demand and believe that examples of use would snowball and generate further enthusiasm. We were wrong. (We should have realized that earlier, and avoided turning a little bet into a somewhat bigger one.) We also didn’t accurately anticipate the level of technological flexibility the tool would need when, inevitably, groups wanted to use the tool differently than we had anticipated. We fell down on both of those counts....

We still believe that visualizing customized information about how grants across foundations roll up into common categories of strategy, geographic targeting, and tactics (policy, direct service, etc.) could be very useful as funders work to address common issues. But this just wasn’t the right tool at the right time....

On the GrantCraft blog, the European Foundation Centre's Rosien Herweijer chats with Luc Tayart de Borms, managing director of the Belgium-based King Baudouin Foundation, about Lucy Bernholz' annual industry forecast, Blueprint 2013, and how it relates to European foundations.

Writing on her own Philanthropy 2173 blog, Bernholz highlights a new Sunlight Foundation article in which the government watchdog argues that e-filing of 990 forms is important because "990 data helps to ensure that the system isn't being abused." Bernholz says there is another reason the data should be made readily available in machine-readable form: American patriotism and pride. "[T]he Canadians do it," she writes, so "shouldn't we?" Indeed, adds Bernholz, the Canadian company Ajah.ca offers both "both federal AND provincial open data on charities, government contracts, and foundation funding."

Social Media

Beth Kanter, co-author of Measuring the Networked Nonprofit, discusses a recent Twitter chat on social media measurement hosted by Zoetica Media and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In her post, Kanter focuses on mapping your network to measure the engagement of network members. As Kanter explains, "Social network analysis maps are useful for helping you understand your network, developing a baseline visual, and identifying strategies for making your network stronger."

Social Media for Social Good author Heather Mansfield has some advice for organizations looking to make their press releases shareable. "I have no proof these tips will help your nonprofit get more media coverage," writes Mansfield, "but at the very least they will help your nonprofit’s press release get more exposure on the social Web." Among other things, Mansfield suggests organizations include their Twitter handle, a photo, and add social networking icons on press releases.

Transparency

Over at Transparency Talk blog, our Foundation Center colleagues share a number of videos from this year's Global Philanthropy Forum that relate to philanthropic transparency in a digital age.

Last but not least, Pablo Eisenberg, in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy remember Bob Edgar, president and CEO of Common Cause, who passed away unexpectedly last week at the age of 69. "We are truly grateful that Bob Edgar served on NCRP's board," writes NCRP board chair Diane Feeney. "He was relentless in his work to clean up money in politics, but also to ensure that philanthropy benefited the underserved and marginalized. We will miss him sorely."

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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