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(Long) Weekend Link Roundup (May 25-26, 2013)

May 24, 2013

2013_05_MemorialDayOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Advocacy

Change.org founder and CEO Ben Rattray proudly announces that the organization, a certified B-corp, recently raised $15 million in investment capital through its first outside financing round, with the bulk of the funds provided by Omidyar Network. Rattray, who has said the organization will never go public, plans to use the investment to build tools that "more effectively empower hundreds of millions of people around the world;...enable people to build long-term movements on our platform; [and] personalize each user’s experience to better connect people to the issues and organizations they care most about....'

Communications/Marketing

On her Getting Attention blog, Nancy Schwartz shares a few tips from Amy Sample Ward and Allyson Kapin's new book Social Change Anytime Everywhere for nonprofits looking to improve their next multichannel campaign.

Community Improvement/Development

Ed Skloot, director of the Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society at Duke University, announces the publication of a new installment in a series of "occasional essays" written by thought leaders in the sector. In Changing the Game (48 pages, PDF), Boston Foundation president/CEO Paul Grogan reflects on the state of philanthropy and "the compelling strengths of community foundations as seen from his perch." Among other things, Grogan, who has served as president of the Boston Foundation for more than a decade, explains how "contemporary community foundations can become more agile, energized, relevant, and not least, consequential in their communities."

And on the CNN site, John Bare, vice president of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation and executive-in-residence at Georgia Tech's Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship, looks at how foundations, the Hudson-Webber Foundation among them, are rethinking their giving in Detroit to achieve maximum impact.

Education

For anyone who spends time training others, Beth Kanter has a fascinating post on her blog about "learning design." In her post, Kanter shares a few principles from Sharon Bowman's Using Brain Science to Make Science Stick that you'll want to incorporate into your next training session:

  • Movement is better than sitting.
  • Having participants talk is better than listening.
  • Images are better than words.
  • Writing is better than reading.
  • Shorter is better than longer.
  • Different delivery options are better than the same old.

Impact/Effectiveness

Our colleagues over at the Transparency Talk blog share a transparency-focused call to action from Hallie Preskill, managing director at FSG Philanthropy Advisors, that was included in the D5 coalition's annual State of the Work report (34 pages, PDF). In her article, Preskill notes that while she is excited to hear that foundations are paying lip service to the idea of being more transparent, she has yet to see "much evidence that many are truly embracing th[e] idea of transparency when it comes to sharing evaluation findings and other types of grantmaking data." Although "there are many reasons organizations may be hesitant about sharing evaluation results," adds Preskill,

a true learning organization will understand that with any good evaluation, there are important insights and lessons that deserve to be shared both internally and externally. A learning organization also knows that a good evaluation must start with sound data on who the organization is trying to impact and the contexts in which they operate, including data related to demographics.

This doesn't mean foundations have to publicize mean scores, quotes from those interviewed, or volumes of evaluation findings. Instead, it means being committed to collecting relevant, credible, and useful information that is strategically informative; being open to sharing what was learned from engaging in the evaluation process in ways that that help others think about their own work more critically; growing and adapting their practices to be more effective; and finding ways to achieve greater social impact. When evaluation and research activities and findings are made transparent, they can be a powerful catalyst for facilitating individual, group, organization, community, and field learning.

Philanthropy

On the Philanthropy Potluck blog, MCF communications associate Susan Stehling shares a few highlights from Practices That Matter (34 pages, PDF), a new report from the Grants Managers Network and Project Streamline that provides, among other things, a number of tips designed to help grantmakers improve their application and grantee reporting processes.

Commenting on the release of a new set of fact sheets in his organization's Philanthropic Landscape series, NCRP executive director Aaron Dorfman sees "hopeful signs that more foundations are giving in ways that benefit those that need philanthropic support the most," before adding that "only time will tell [whether] the...trends will hold."

Regulation/Oversight

The disclosure last week that the Internal Revenue Service had subjected to extra scrutiny a hundred and thirty or so groups applying for tax-exempt status as "social welfare" organizations because they had "tea party," "patriot," or some other politically charged word or phrase in their name certainly created a stir. But before we tear up the tax code and get rid of the IRS, write ProPublica's Kim Barker and Justin Elliott, let's keep in mind six facts that seem to have been lost in the scandal:

  • Social welfare nonprofits are supposed to have social welfare, and not politics, as their “primary” purpose.
  • Donors to social welfare nonprofits are anonymous for a reason.
  • The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision meant that corporations could pay for political ads, anonymously, using social welfare nonprofits.
  • Social welfare nonprofits do not actually have to apply to the IRS for recognition as tax-exempt organizations.
  • Most of the money spent on elections by social welfare nonprofits supports Republicans.
  • Some social welfare groups promised in their applications, under penalty of perjury, that they wouldn’t get involved in elections. Then they did just that.

Social Media

And in the middle of writing a new book, tentatively titled Our Biggest Small Towns, Allison Fine wonders whether digital acts of kindness are making society as a whole kinder and more generous. What do you think? Share your thoughts here or in the comments section below.

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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