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21 posts from January 2014

PND Talk: Why Give to the Arts When People Are Starving?

January 31, 2014

Long-time readers of Philanthropy News Digest may remember PND Talk, the message board we launched back in 2004 and maintained for the better part of a decade (until the launch of our new site in November).

During its heyday, PND Talk was a lively community frequented by a regular cast of generous, knowledgeable nonprofit professionals — people like Susan Lynn, Sheryl Kaplan, Rick Kosinski, Julie Rodda, Tony Poderis, and the late (and much missed) Carl Richardson and Linda Procopio.

Recently, some of us were reminiscing about PND Talk and the friends who made it such a valuable resource for so many years. And that got us thinking: Wouldn't it be great if we could share some of their advice and wisdom with our readers here at PhilanTopic?

Well, we can and we're going to — starting with the post below by author and fundraising consultant Tony Poderis, who for twenty years served as director of development for the world-famous Cleveland Orchestra. In it, Poderis addresses the longstanding dilemma faced by all development professionals in the nonprofit arts world: How do you justify philanthropic support for the arts and culture when so many people, here and around the world, struggle to secure the basic necessities of life? It's an interesting and provocative post, and we think many of you will want to add your thoughts in the comments section below....

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Arts_jobs_buttonFor those of you laboring — with love — in the nonprofit "field" of arts and culture, I can guess, with reasonable certainty (I come from that background, too), that you are challenged at times to justify your organization's existence, particularly at a time like this, when so many other, "more worthy" societal needs are crying to be met. How do you respond?

I've had to address that difficult question many times over many years. And for many arts and culture organizations, it continues to be a pressing one. I hope what follows is of some help the next time you are so challenged.

Why give to the arts when people are starving?

I actually saw that question scrawled among the marginal notes in a funding proposal for an orchestra. The notes were penned by a trustee of a grantmaking foundation during a meeting to review the proposal. Another trustee of the foundation, the one who presented the proposal on behalf of the orchestra, later shared the notes with me and asked what I could do to help counter his colleague's questioning remark.

Arts and cultural institutions are often forced into such defensive postures. They're accused of benefiting only the elite. The needs of the hungry, the homeless, the physically, mentally, and emotionally challenged are cited as being so overwhelming that something as frivolous as the arts should not be allowed or encouraged to draw from the limited pool of private funding available to support the work of nonprofit organizations. Those of us who work with and passionately support the arts are asked how we can justify "diverting" funds to the arts when such need exists.

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For the Success of Boys and Men of Color, A Call to Action

January 29, 2014

(Kenneth H. Zimmerman is director of U.S. programs for the Open Society Foundations. This post was first published on Open Society's Voices blog.)

Headshot_Ken_ZimmermanIn this year's State of the Union address, President Obama opened the door to an opportunity that may be a game changer for millions of boys and men of color in America.

In his speech, President Obama said he believes in the fundamental importance of transforming the lives of young men and boys of color and is committed to bolstering and reinforcing government and private partnerships to work on the issue.

We welcome and are heartened by the president's commitment and recognition that a key part of the effort to increase opportunity for all Americans, regardless of race and gender, is to focus explicitly on helping boys and men of color succeed.

Young men of color face systemic economic, social, and political barriers in their everyday lives. As a result, too many of them are denied educational opportunity, become unemployed, or, worse, face incarceration.

In spite of these barriers, we see men and boys of color overcome the odds on a regular basis —graduating at the top of their classes, achieving leadership positions in corporations, becoming business owners, and being wonderful fathers to their families and valuable members of their communities. They are vital assets to our country, and investing in pathways to build opportunity for them will deliver significant economic and civic benefits to the nation as a whole.

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Bipartisan Senate Group Declares Support for Charitable Deduction

January 28, 2014

Charitable-donationsLast week, the PND news team ("News team, assemble!") picked up an item from the Chronicle of Philanthropy which suggested that the charitable deduction will be preserved in its current from by the 113th Congress.

More support for that idea arrived a day later, when 33 members of the U.S. Senate — 17 Republicans and 16 Democrats — signed a letter authored by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and John Thune (R-SD) calling for the protection of the "full value and scope”" of the deduction. Addressed to Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), chair and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Finance Committee, the letter applauds the "uniqueness" of the charitable deduction and notes that it "is the only provision [in the tax code] that encourages taxpayers to give away a portion of their income for the benefit of others. For this reason," the letter continues,

it is not a loophole but a lifeline for millions of Americans in need. Analysis has repeatedly shown that proposals to cut, cap, or limit the charitable deduction could cause charitable donations to decline by billions of dollars annually. Worse yet, weakening the charitable deduction would most hurt the adults and children who receive vital charitable services from organizations like soup kitchens, after-school programs, and medical research projects, just to name a few. In many cases, the government would be required to step in and fund those services now being provided through private generosity. Accordingly, preserving the charitable deduction is also prudent as a matter of broader fiscal policy.

Indeed, charitable giving is an integral part of our society. In 2012 alone, Americans donated more than $300 billion to charitable organizations and itemized giving accounted for nearly $229 billion, according to Giving USA. The organizations that received those donations then leveraged their contributions through volunteers and other in-kind aid to generate $1.1 trillion in jobs and services, employing nearly 10 percent of America's workforce.

We believe the federal government must affirm its long-standing dedication to encouraging private acts of charity and compassion, especially when our charities and the people they serve are facing so many challenges.

As you contemplate a comprehensive tax refrom bill, we understand that all tax expenditures must be reviewed and considered. However, in this context, we ask that you keep our views on this important tax deduction in mind.

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Weekend Link Roundup (January 25-26, 2014)

January 26, 2014

Climate-strat-vortexOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Environment

Nature Conservancy president Mark Tercek and Brett Jenks, president and CEO of conservation organization Rare, explain in a post on the Huffington Post's Green blog why a planned merger of their respective organizations, announced to great fanfare in the fall, was scuttled.

Evaluation

On his Evaluation Reflections, Riffs & Rants blog, Tom Kelly, vice president of knowledge, evaluation and learning at the Hawaii Community Foundation, expresses a widely shared frustration "that most performance dashboards are not getting at the 'right' data" -- and what he and his colleagues hope to do about it in 2014.

Fundraising

On Network for Good's Non-Profit Marketing Blog, Caryn Stein, NFG's director of content strategy, shares six things that every nonprofit should focus on when seeking major gifts:

    1. Success starts at the top.
    2. The board must be all in.
    3. Results matter.
    4. Experience and infrastructure make a difference.
    5. Endowments count.
    6. Reputation and good publicity (for the organization and the donor) are critical.

International Development

In The Lancet, Angus Deaton, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, reviews Nina Munk's The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty, calling it "a deep and important book about foreign aid and development" that reads like "a fine novel [rather than] the usual tract in social science."

And in Foreign Policy, NYU economics professor and Sachs' antagonist William Easterly takes another shot at Sachs' "original vision for Big Aid," before declaring the "endless back-and-forth" between himself and Sachs over:

On one hand, Sachs has said that aid can end poverty, but in his FP piece he says that it isn't a driver of development. It sounds like Sachs and I both need to move on. For myself, I'd prefer participating in the bigger debates on development. Why does the development discussion show so much indifference to the most basic political and economic rights of the poor? Could the "benevolent dictators" such as the late Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia -- who Jeff Sachs often praises (he even thanked Meles in the acknowledgements to The End of Poverty) -- be the problem and not the solution? Don"t we see individual rights in our own societies as both desirable in themselves and how we escaped our own poverty? Why do we see things so differently for poor societies?

These questions are a lot more important than the now passé aid debate. I think I might even publish a whole book on them.

[Ed note: Easterly's new book, The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor, will be published in early March.]

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[Infographic] 2014 Nonprofit Communication Trends

January 25, 2014

This week's infographic, which first appeared on Kivi Leroux Miller's Nonprofit Communications Marketing blog and is based on responses from more than twenty-one hundred nonprofit professionals to Leroux Miller's annual communications trends survey, is packed with interesting (and sometimes surprising) findings.

Who would have guessed, for instance, that engaging one's community (49 percent) and building general brand awareness (40 percent) would be mentioned by nonprofit communicators as higher priorities in 2014 than retaining current donors (30 percent)? Or that e-newsletters continue to be the most popular vehicle for communicating with one's supporters, ahead of both email and direct mail appeals? Or that Facebook is still viewed, by a large margin, as the most important social media site for nonprofits?

But don't take our word for it:

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Why Is Rebranding So Hard?

January 24, 2014

(Sarah Durham is the president of Big Duck, a communications firm that helps nonprofits connect with supporters, build awareness, and raise money. This post originally appeared on the Philanthropy Front and Center - Washington, D.C., blog.)

Headshot_sarah_durhamRebranding processes can be miraculously transformative or deeply unproductive; I've seen several examples of both. In a few (rare) cases, I've even heard stories about rebrands that set an organization back — usually by alienating donors, clients, and staff people. Perhaps the worst story I've heard was shared by a participant in a workshop I gave years ago: her organization had changed its name, logo, and tagline abruptly, losing most of its donors and clients. The rebranding had alienated them by leaving them out of the process, changing something that wasn't broken, and failing to explain any of the reasons why they did what they did.

Of course, every nonprofit wants its rebrand to happen as quickly, painlessly, and inexpensively as possible. They want the work to be excellent, and to have it stick, delivering the results the organization hoped to achieve at the outset.

In truth, rebranding is very much like renovating your home — while you and your large family are living in it. Sometimes, doing it right can mean it takes longer, costs more, and is more messy or disruptive than you might have imagined.

Because Big Duck takes nonprofits through rebranding processes all the time, we're always looking out for ways to avoid disaster and ensure success for our clients.

Here are three of the key ingredients we've noticed exist at the nonprofits that sail through the process largely unscathed:

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‘Shored Up’ and the Hilton Worldwide LightStay Sustainability Fund & Award

January 22, 2014

(Kathryn Pyle is a documentary filmmaker and a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. To view her latest effort, a short doc titled Apple Forecast: Immigration Reform, click here.)

Shored_up_posterShored Up, a documentary about rising sea levels, received the Hilton Worldwide LightStay Sustainability Fund & Award for feature documentary this week at the Sundance Film Festival. Philadelphia-based director Ben Kalina accepted the award, which was established in 2011 as part of a three-year agreement between Hilton Worldwide and the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program, at a ceremony in Park City, Utah, the festival site.

The award includes a $25,000 grant for creative marketing and audience-building. Finished in May 2013, Shored Up won in the completed documentary category; one other feature film in production received the same level of support, while three shorter films received $5,000 each. The winning films will be offered on Hilton Worldwide's in-room channels at 3,800 hotels in 88 countries, as well as on the hotel chain’s various Web properties.

Shored Up is the first feature-length film to explore the impact of rising sea levels on coastal communities in the U.S. – The Island President, a documentary on the same theme set in the Maldives, won the award in 2012 -- and as such is an important contribution to policy debates about this critical  issue. The project also is a model of how foundations can advance their priorities through social issue documentaries and partnerships with community groups.

Prior to making Shored Up, Kalina, who became interested in human efforts to engineer dynamic, natural systems after reading John McPhee's The Control of Nature, worked as associate producer on two films about the environmental impact of current development and economic policies: Two Square Miles and A Sea Change, the latter based on Elizabeth Kolbert’s 2006 New Yorker article "The Darkening Sea," which explored the impact of rising global carbon emissions on ocean chemistry.

"I thought of the barrier islands: a pile of sand in the ocean that we're trying to hold in place," says Kalina. "This film deals with adaptation to climate change as opposed to how do we stop climate change. It lends itself to people talking about things that are local and regional, places where people can actually create change – in local land use decisions, development policies and environmental regulations."

Shot before and after Superstorm Sandy, Shored Up features two barrier island communities – Long Beach Island, New Jersey, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina – as they struggle to address beach erosion. The arguments advanced in favor of beach preservation are thrown into sharp relief when the film crew returns to LBI after Sandy to explore the devastating impact of the 2012 storm on the Jersey Shore.

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Nonprofits Must Speak Out Against Poverty and Income Inequality

January 21, 2014

(Mark Rosenman, professor emeritus, Union Institute & University, is a frequent contributor to PhilanTopic. In his previous post, he argued that the rush by many to embrace social impact bonds is another example of private profit crowding out a public good.)

Rosenman_headshotIn the battle to stem and reverse widening economic inequality in the United States, too many tax-exempt organizations are either missing from action or are part of the problem. While charities and foundations in general do much to help the poor and indigent, some organizations and institutions actually make the problem worse through their own compensation practices. At the same time, these organizations and others often go out of their way to disassociate themselves from policy debates on a host of related issues, from increasing the minimum wage to preserving government programs for needy families.

The good news is that both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have started to pay more attention to poverty and economic inequality. Given the profound ideological differences between the parties, however, there is a great deal of disagreement about how government ought to address these problems and what kind of nonprofit programs it ought to support. Unfortunately, charities and foundations cannot truly serve the public interest unless they engage in these debates — today and into the future.

First, though, let's consider the deteriorating economic circumstances of many Americans. While most of the 15 percent of Americans living in poverty are children or adults who do not participate in the labor market, close to 1 in 4 of the 46.5 million people in the United States who are poor do work; that's 7 percent of the country's total workforce, and among other things it means the poverty rate today is as high as it has been since 1965.

What's more, income inequality in the U.S. has reached historic levels. Based on something called the Gini coefficient, the United States now ranks 32 out of 34 OECD member countries in terms of inequality; in fact, we haven't seen these levels of inequality since the 1920s, just before the onset of the Great Depression.

It gets worse. In the three decades prior to 2010, the top 1 percent of Americans increased their share of the national income by 66 percent, while those at the bottom of the economic ladder actually lost ground. Meanwhile, 95 percent of income gains since 2009 have gone to the top 1 percent, who now claim 22 percent of the national income, while the richest 5 percent of American households control more than 60 percent of the country's wealth.

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Fifty Years After the War on Poverty, Americans Want to Renew a National Commitment

January 20, 2014

(Deborah Weinstein is executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs, a partner in the Half in Ten campaign.)

Headshot_deborah_weinsteinIf your refrigerator is empty and you’re not sure when you’ll be eating your next meal, reflecting on the fiftieth anniversary of the War on Poverty may not be your first priority. Unfortunately, a recent survey conducted by Half in Ten, an organization dedicated to cutting the poverty rate in America by 50 percent within ten years, finds that having trouble paying for necessities is a fact of life for at least a quarter of all Americans. And more than half of all Americans say that someone in their immediate or extended family is poor. For millions of struggling families, building a pathway out of poverty is an urgent matter.

Americans, regardless of socioeconomic status, should share this sense of urgency. But wanting to do something about poverty isn't enough. We need to take a hard look at why poverty persists and what works to reduce it. At a time when people increasingly are aware of growing inequality and hardship in America, the fiftieth anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson's speech launching the War on Poverty is a good opportunity to do so. In the survey conducted by Half in Ten, nearly two-thirds of respondents said they believe poverty stems from jobs that do not pay enough and/or from lack of education and health care, while only one in four ascribed poverty to bad personal choices or irresponsibility. Many see — in their own lives or in the experiences of friends and relatives — that the economy is failing to provide people with opportunities to move up, let alone support a family. They are correct. According to a new report from the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, in the three years after the "official" end of the Great Recession, 99 percent of Americans saw their incomes grow by less than 1 percent, while income for the richest 1 percent rose 31 percent. Yes, the economy has grown since the recession, but most Americans are not sharing in the gains.

What's more, an overwhelming majority of Americans (86 percent) agree that government has a responsibility to take action to reduce poverty, while at least eight in ten survey respondents support expanded nutrition assistance, affordable quality child care, universal pre-K education, and raising the minimum wage as steps toward that goal. The War on Poverty introduced many initiatives in these areas that did help to reduce poverty in America. Over a period of four years, LBJ and his team managed to push a stunningly comprehensive package of legislation through Congress, creating the food stamp program, Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, college affordability programs, job training, housing, and civil rights laws, as well as increasing Social Security benefits. Indeed, a recent Columbia University study shows that when income from food stamps and low-income tax credits is included in poverty calculations, the U.S. poverty rate declined from 26 percent in 1967 to 16 percent in 2012. Similarly, a long-term look at Head Start program participants found they were more likely to finish high school and less likely to turn to crime than low-income children who didn’t participate in Head Start.

Thanks to Johnson's War on Poverty, the official poverty rate in America was cut in half over little more than a decade, bottoming out at 11.1 percent in 1973. Then it began to rise again. Some in Congress who oppose spending federal dollars on programs for the poor point to today's unacceptably high poverty rate to argue that the War on Poverty failed. That is not true. Substantial progress was made, but it wasn't enough to overcome the changes that have transformed the American economy over the last thirty years.

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Weekend Link Roundup (January 18-19, 2014)

January 19, 2014

Mlk_B&WOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector.

Communications/Marketing

Nancy Schwartz has a good post on her Getting Attention! blog laying out three steps to get data working for your nonprofit marketing efforts: catalogue the useful data you already have; set up systems, roles, and responsibilities to harvest, share, and analyze these data points; and make the changes -- in marketing content, format, and/or channel -- as indicated.

Education Reform

Despite the fact that they have been "relentlessly marketed to the American populace as a silver bullet for 'failed' public schools, especially in poor urban communities of African-American and Latino/a students," charter schools are creating as many problems as they are solving, writes Jeff Bryant, director of the Education Opportunity Network, in Salon.

Environment

What ended up scuttling the much-publicized merger of the Nature Conservancy and grassroots enviromental organization Rare? Arabella Advisors' Bruce Boyd shares his thoughts.

Giving

Writing in Roll Call, William Daroff, vice president for public policy at the Jewish Federations of North America, argues that should "the charitable contribution deduction be cut, capped or limited, the results could be catastrophic for those who need it the most."

Impact/Effectiveness

In the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Ken Thompson, a program officer in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Pacific Northwest Initiative, shares his thoughts about collective impact and whether funders are -- or could be -- playing roles that lead to wider adoption of a collective impact approach.

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The Power of Digital Fundraising

January 18, 2014

(Charise Flynn is the chief operating officer at Dwolla, a payment network that allows any business, organization, or person to send, request, and accept money. Dwolla reduces transaction costs and offers free tools, making it a popular option among a new generation of nonprofits.)

Digital_fundraisingA few clicks on a screen brings up a familiar face — your sister, two thousand miles away, ready with her weekly update. With a few taps on your smartphone, a taxi pulls up and speeds you to your favorite restaurant to meet your spouse. Another few taps, and you deposit a little extra in your babysitter's account after she agrees to stay late with the kids.

Smartphones, instant access to information and entertainment, and a host of digital technologies are changing the way consumers think, feel, and act. This poses unique challenges and opportunities for many industries, including the nonprofit sector.

According to a recent survey by the Nonprofit Finance Fund, 42 percent of nonprofits say they lack the right mix of financial resources to thrive and be effective over the next three years. It's a finding which strongly suggests that nonprofits need to rethink the way they raise funds.

Let's face it: the Internet is everywhere and with all the connectedness comes new, affordable opportunities for nonprofits to expand their reach, reduce the friction associated with fundraising, and collect more donations from more people.

Spontaneous Donations and Social Media

Everything about direct mail and sending a donation to a nonprofit via paper check screams friction — and the steadily falling number of checks cut, from 37.8 billion in 2002 to 18.3 billion in 2012, illustrates the point.

But if paper checks are an analog technology whose time has just about gone, the Internet is enabling nonprofits to reach new donors and provide them with a quicker, safer, and more pleasant donation experience. For instance, a Donor Perspectives white paper from Blackbaud recently noted that 80 percent of survey respondents make "one-off" donations online, underscoring one of the most important aspects of digital technology — its ability to reach people "in the moment."

Did you see President Obama's video on Vine thanking the Batkid for "saving" Gotham City? A growing number of businesses and influencers are using Instagram and Vine to market their products and services, and nonprofits can learn from those efforts – showcasing inspiring photos and videos that illustrate your organization's impact can be a powerful way to move followers to action. In addition to the traditional social media tools, nonprofits should also look into new platforms such as Thunderclap, which uses crowdsourcing to amplify a nonprofit's message and make sure it reaches the right audience.

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To Create Change in America, Think Local

January 17, 2014

(Kenneth H. Zimmerman is director of U.S. programs for the Open Society Foundations. This post was first published on Open Society's Voices blog.)

Headshot_Ken_ZimmermanWe live in an age defined by profound change: New technology has revolutionized how we communicate and get our work done. The Great Recession has left many of us searching for jobs or struggling to gain skills that make us employable in the "new" economy. Shifting demographics offer promise and challenges as our neighborhoods transition. Federal and state funding cuts have left services previously taken for granted on shaky ground.

These changes have particularly affected the U.S. nonprofit sector, especially that portion focused on promoting equitable development, effective and transparent government, and smart and fair criminal justice policies. As anyone who works with these groups knows, nonprofits have been devastated by reductions in public and philanthropic funding.

At a time of rapid change in both the public and private sectors -- some of it driven by federal budget realities and some by how organizations are evolving to meet the demands of new technology and public expectations -- the cuts have limited nonprofits' ability to shape policy, provide services, and engage in collaborative partnerships.

The Open Places Initiative grows out of the realization that the ability of communities to respond to these challenges requires increased civic capacity, especially for efforts that attempt to further the inclusion and participation of those with low incomes, people of color, and other marginalized communities in civic, economic, and political life. By investing in nonprofit collaborations -- and supporting nonprofit groups in their partnerships with government, business, and local communities -- Open Society aims to expand nonprofits' potential to pursue effective responses to the demographic, economic, and technological changes that are re-shaping the country.

As part of this new initiative, we have awarded nonprofit collaborations in Buffalo, San Diego, and Puerto Rico $1.9 million each over two years.

Our commitment to these collaborations is long-term. Indeed, we plan to continue funding each site for at least three years -- and potentially for as many as ten. What's more, each Open Places site is taking the lead in determining the issues it will address and the form of collaboration it will pursue.

Here are a few examples:

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5 Questions for...Marissa Sackler, Founder and President, Beespace

January 16, 2014

Marissa Sackler established Beespace in New York City in 2013 to provide social entrepreneurs with experienced mentorship; in-house PR, tech, development, fundraising, and design assistance; and the support of an innovative entrepreneurial community. Beespace does not accept payment from its "Incubees" and requires that they secure at least four months of operational income before they head out on their own.

PND spoke with Sackler, founder and president of Beespace and a founding sponsor and activist for charity: water, in November about the incubator concept, how Beespace works for and with its Incubees, and her ambitions for the organization over the next few years.

Headshot_marissa_sacklerPhilanthropy News Digest: Although the concept of accelerators and incubators is fairly well established in the for-profit world, it's still relatively new in the nonprofit space. Why have nonprofits and funders been slow to embrace the concept?

Marissa Sackler: There are nonprofit incubators out there doing good work, but we think we've developed a more comprehensive model that's going to help organizations grow and achieve their potential. We use a three-pronged approach. The first prong is what we call our co-working space. It's important that we have a diversity of organizations learning and working side by side. The second prong is the internal agency we provide — our executive director, PR, tech, design, development, and fundraising experts — all of whom work to help the organizations grow and reach their potential. We also have people from social media, marketing, and accounting backgrounds visiting for weekly office hours with each organization. Finally, the third prong is the broader Beespace community within the nonprofit world. Beespace connects each Incubee with a nonprofit and for-profit mentor who then works with the organization to guide and support its growth.

PND: You’re currently working with three nonprofits -- the Malala Fund, the Adventure Project, and Practice Makes Perfect -- and you're planning to add three more. What do you look for in an Incubee?

MS: We look very closely at the leader, at the issue they're working to address, and at the nonprofit's overall organizational structure. We’re geography- and issue-neutral — we take organizations that are working both domestically and internationally. They can be working on any issue, but we want to identify groups with a strong organizational vision and an innovative strategy that have the ability to create real change and that are attempting to solve issues at scale. We look at scale in two ways: horizontally, in terms of expanding programs to effectively help solve an issue in multiple communities or even countries, but also vertically, making sure an organization is always maintaining the strongest quality and depth of programming while expanding.

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The Value Add of Engagement

January 15, 2014

(Jay Ruderman is the president of the Ruderman Family Foundation. You can engage with him on Twitter and/or follow the foundation to learn more about inclusion. A version of this post appears on our sister GrantCraft blog.)

Headshot_Jay-RudermanThere are over 500,000,000 users on Twitter – and I am one of them.

As president of a family foundation, I spend my day managing the foundation's operations and staff, working with partners in the philanthropic and organizational world, and searching for new, innovative projects to invest in. Our foundation advocates for and advances the full inclusion of people with disabilities into the Jewish community. Our focus is on creating lasting change and I work tirelessly in pursuit of creating a fair and flourishing community.

I speak at conferences, conduct interviews with journalists, meet with legislators, and do whatever is necessary to push the issue of inclusion onto the agenda. Like you, I have a very full schedule filled with meetings, phone calls, site visits, and still more meetings.

And then I started tweeting.

Most of my philanthropic friends and foundation colleagues do not use social media, for a variety of reasons. I myself was unsure of how effective Twitter could be in helping to change the status quo. But I embarked on this experiment six months ago to see if I could build community around the issues the foundation advocates for. I understood that it takes time to build an audience and find one's voice online. Change does not happen overnight.

Of utmost importance was having a Twitter strategy in place. I knew in advance whom the influencers I wanted to engage were, how to connect with them, and what type of content to push out. Certainly I had much to learn:  how to engage, how to effectively use the platform, when and how to post, and how to conduct conversations. I have learned through trial and error and the early results are encouraging – there has been a definite increase in the number of conversations I participate in, retweets, and mentions. (Notice I didn't mention number of followers – that's not a metric I'm using to measure success.) Additionally, my tweeting has brought increased exposure for our foundation's official account, and we have seen a marked upswing in traffic to our blog.

So far, so good.

People ask me why I tweet – especially those who think Twitter is where people post about their morning coffee! I see Twitter as an integral tool to furthering our mission. Here's why:

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Weekend Link Roundup (January11-12, 2014)

January 12, 2014

Calendar01_JanuaryOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector.

Communications/Marketing

Kivi Leroux Miller has a nice infographic on her Nonprofit Communications Blog illustrating key findings from her 2014 Nonprofit Communications Trend Report.

Interesting post on the Open Democracy blog by Janey Stephenson, an activist and filmmaker, about the language of activism and how word choices subtly shape the way activists position themselves with respct to contentious social issues.

Data

The Markets for Good team has announced the launch of its first reader-proposed theme, "Beyond Data Silos," which was suggested by Andrew Means, founder of Data Analysts For Social Good. Means frames the conversation, which is open to contributions from all comers, thusly:

[W]hether they hold grain or information, silos are stores of value. Recognizing that, and without parsing this metaphor to death, we can ask new questions. Chief among them is how to get the most value from data that lies in different parts of an organization and from data that could be shared for greater good between organizations. Also, how can we ensure faster communication of key information across an organization, across the sector?

Looking forward to reading what others have to say about these and related questions over the next three weeks or so.

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