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4 posts categorized "Animal Welfare"

Weekend Link Roundup (December 3-4, 2016)

December 04, 2016

Traditional-WreathOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Aging

America is aging rapidly, and for "elder orphans" — the growing number of seniors with no relatives to help them deal with physical and mental health challenges — the future is a scary place. Sharon Jayson reports for Kaiser Health News.

Animal Welfare

Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther looks at the animal welfare movement, which, he writes, "is energized these days by the commitment, brainpower and moral fervor of a impressive group of activists in their 20s and 30s...crying out in opposition to what they see as an evil but widely-accepted practice."

Data

On her Philanthropy 2173 blog, Lucy Bernholz explains why, given the threats the incoming Trump administration poses "to free assembly, expression, and privacy," the nonprofit and philanthropic communities need to do more to manage and protect their digital data.

Education

Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump's pick to be U.S. Secretary of Education, is a wealthy supporter of "school choice" and, as "one of the architects of Detroit's charter school system,...partly responsible for what even charter advocates acknowledge is the biggest school reform disaster in the country." In an op-ed in the New York Times, Douglas N. Harris, a professor of economics at Tulane University and founding director of the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans, explains why her "nomination is a triumph of ideology over evidence that should worry anyone who wants to improve results for children."

In a letter to the editor of the Washington Post, Paul J. Deceglie of Fairfax, Virginia, argues that poverty, not school choice (or lack thereof), is the chief driver of poor student performance.

In a new installment of The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Re:Learning podcast, Goldie Blumenstyk chats with Jim Shelton, who recently was hired by the hired by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to head up its education work.

Fundraising

Guest blogging on Beth Kanter's blog, Rob Wu, CEO and co-founder of CauseVox, shares six insights the so-called sharing economy tells us about the future of fundraising.

Giving

In the Washington Post, Albert R. Hunt looks at the impact various tax changes proposed by the incoming Trump administration could have on charitable giving.

The Bible tells us it is better to give than receive. So why are Americans so stingy when it comes to charitable giving? On the Vox site, Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson, co-authors of The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose, share key takeways from their research.

Just in time for the holiday giving season, GiveWell, the data-driven charity evaluation site, has released an updated list of its top charity rankings and recommendations.

Philanthropy

László Szombatfalvy, an 89-year-old Swedish philanthropist who fled his native Hungary in 1956 and subsequently made a fortune in the stock market, is offering a $5 million prize for "the best idea to create a new international decision-making system capable of tackling the world's intractable issues, from extreme poverty to the spread of nuclear weapons and growing environmental damage." Laurie Goering reports for The Wire.

In the latest installment of his "Business of Giving" podcast, Denver Fredericks chats with Kresge Foundation Rip Rapson about Kresge's recent evolution from a foundation specializing in capital challenge grants to a more strategic approach and the changing role of philanthropy nationwide.

Forbes staff writer Kerry A. Dolan checks in with a piece that looks at how a growing number of high-net-worth donors are making "big bets" in an effort to solve some of society's most pressing problems.

It isn't the first and won't be the last, but BuzzFeed reporter Natasha Tiku's take on the "new" philanthropy, Silicon Valley style, is worth a read.

Social Entrepreneurship

On the Skoll Foundation site, Sally Osberg, the foundation's president, and Bill Drayton, the founder and CEO of Ashoka, sit down with Suzana Grego, Skoll's director of public engagement, for a wide-ranging conversation about social entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurship.

Social Innovation

And don't forget to check out Nell Edgington's ten great social innovation reads form November.

Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org or share it in the comments section below....

Building Nonprofit Sustainability Through Digital Apps

June 07, 2016

NPO-Mobile-AppsProduct-based income strategies are challenging for nonprofits because of the costs associated with inventory. Either your organization has to shell out significant capital to keep the products you hope to sell in stock, or you have to partner with a company that will manage the inventory for you. In most cases, the company will take a portion of your sales to cover their costs and turn a profit before turning over the remainder of the proceeds (if any) to you – in effect, turning your carefully cultivated army of volunteers into a second sales team working to boost its own P&L statement.

With a digital product like an app, on the other hand, a nonprofit bears the one-time cost of product development and then is able to sell the product in perpetuity – or what passes for perpetuity in the digital age -- without having to worry about costs associated with building and maintaining inventory. In the digital marketplace, once an app has been created, selling a hundred thousand copies doesn't cost you any more than selling ten thousand copies.

What's more, having an app on a supporter's mobile device creates a new channel through which you can communicate with that supporter as conveniently as you can with email but without the "noise" created by the hundreds of emails most of us receive on a daily basis. Push notifications that directly target users of an app can quickly mobilize your user base, alerting them to new petitions, challenge grant opportunities, and other kinds of events designed to deepen donor engagement. (Note: while nonprofits are allowed to make money from the sale of digital apps, they cannot collect donations through an app. If you want to use the app to generate donations, you need to get potential supporters to click a "Donate" button that sends them to a mobile-friendly Web page where the transaction can be completed.)

So how much does it cost to develop an app? In 2014, when the team at RedRover first hit on the idea of building a digital version of our RedRover Readers program, we didn't have a clue. And asking a developer how much it costs is like asking an architect how much a new house will cost – the answer can range anywhere from hundreds of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on what you want the app to do. The more complex the functionality, the more it's going to cost.

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What a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak Can Tell Us About Our Stewardship of the Planet

October 07, 2014

Audobon_passenger_pigeonOn my morning walk the other day, I happened on a small bird in obvious distress lying on the sidewalk. Apparently, it had flown into a building and injured itself – or that's what staff at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education said when I called them to see what I could do to help the poor thing. Rick Schubert, director of wildlife rehabilitation at the center, said the bird was probably migrating south, since it didn't sound, from my description, like a bird that was native to the area. Schubert went on to say that migrating species of birds established their migratory routes long before cities were a feature of the landscape and that they are not particularly good at navigating around tall buildings.

Soon enough, the bird died, and I was overcome by grief – not just for the little voyager that never made it to its destination, but for the precarious state of all our birds. As I learned from the Audubon Society's Audubon Birds and Climate Report, which was issued last month, half of all North American birds are severely threatened by climate change.

One of the most dramatic illustrations of the phenomenon can be seen near my home in Philadelphia. The rufa red knot, a bird smaller than a robin, migrates more than nine thousand miles every spring from the tip of Patagonia to the Canadian arctic, and makes the return journey every fall. The birds time their three-month trip north to arrive at the southern Jersey shore for the horseshoe crab spawning season; the abundance of food enables them to double their weight in preparation for the remainder of the journey north. Sadly, horseshoe crabs were overfished for bait in the 1990s, and that has resulted in a 70 percent drop in the rufa red knot population. Better crab harvest management since then has stabilized the declining bird population, but according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the red knot is "particularly vulnerable to climate change."

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What Did Leona Want?

August 12, 2009

Trust_instrument Word that three prominent animal welfare organizations have petitioned Manhattan Surrogate Court to intervene in the matter of Leona Helmsley's $5 billion estate shouldn't surprise anyone who has followed the story in PND or here on PhilanTopic.

According to the suit, a two-page "mission statement" drawn up by the hotel heiress before her death in 2007 expressly stated that her trust be used for the care of dogs and general charitable purposes. She also left $12 million for the care of Trouble, her beloved Maltese.

After her death, the five trustees -- Helmsley's brother, two grandsons, her lawyer, and a longtime friend -- and the New York attorney general's office filed separate motions in Surrogate's Court arguing that the so-called mission statement did not limit the trust to the purposes stipulated by Mrs. Helmsley. Earlier this year, Judge Troy K. Webber agreed, ruling that the trustees could "apply trust funds for such charitable purposes and in such amounts as they may, in their sole discretion, determine."

And that's what they did. In April, the trustees announced the first round of grants from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust -- $136 million to a variety of tax-exempt institutions and nonprofits, including $40 million to support the creation of a digestive diseases center at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center; $15 million to various healthcare systems in South Dakota; $6.6 million to Joint Aid Management USA to support construction of a food factory and warehouse to help provide food aid to local communities in southern Africa; $2 million to the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration to create a Helmsley Scholarship; $750,000 to the National Geographic Society to help create a conservation fund for the Galapagos Islands; and $350,000 to the Rabbi Arthur Schneier Park East Day School. The trustees also awarded a total of $1 million to ten dog-related organizations -- $900,000 of it to groups that work with seeing-eye dogs.

Animal welfare groups cried foul. "Mrs. Helmsley's Trust Agreement and Mission Statement were clear: Help dogs. And the trustees have not done this, and instead pursued their own agendas with Mrs. Helmsley's money," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, one of the groups (along with Maddie's Fund and the ASPCA) filing the suit.

In other words, the suit is about donor intent. Okay, it's about money, too. But more importantly, it's about whether "the courts are willing to enforce donor intent," especially when it involves dogs and their welfare. Or, as Rich Avanzino, president of Maddie's Fund, the nation's largest animal welfare organization, put it in the same statement: "Literally hundreds of millions of dollars that have been willed by people nationally who cared about dogs have not gone to provide for dogs as was intended. The ignoring of donor intent in this country has become an unspoken national shame."

I'm sympathetic to that argument -- even if it's weakened by the fact that the three animal welfare groups involved in the suit are at pains to distance themselves from the eight-figure bequest to little Trouble. That's a totally separate issue, said Pacelle in a press conference yesterday to announce the legal challenge, leaving unsaid what many people no doubt think: Directing $5 billion to animal welfare groups -- or even a "significant" portion of that amount, say, $2.5 billion -- might be as irresponsible as leaving $12 million to a single dog. (In June, it was revealed that Manhattan surrogate court judge Renee Roth, with support from the New York AG's office, had knocked $10 million off the $12 million award to Trouble.)

Not surprisingly, the trustees of the Helmsley Trust agree that it all boils down to donor intent; they just don't agree on the petitioners' interpretation of Mrs. Helmsley's intent. Indeed, a statement on the trust's Web site goes to some length to make that point:

Did Leona Helmsley intend for this charitable trust to focus on the care and help of dogs, rather than people? Absolutely not. Have the trustees of this vast fortune acted improperly and ignored Mrs. Helmsley's instructions? Again, absolutely not....

Then, after seven paragraphs detailing evidence and arguments in support of this assertion, the statement closes thusly:

One final thought. Mrs. Helmsley was not known for reticence. Here, her actions spoke as clearly as the words of the Trust documents. In the eight years between the formation of the Trust and her death, Mrs. Helmsley contributed (as the sole trustee of this Trust and otherwise) over $55 million to charitable causes; of that amount, she made only one gift to a dog-related charity, for one thousand dollars.

Even more telling is this: The claim that the Trust was established for dog-related purposes relies on a document entitled "Mission Statement" signed by Mrs. Helmsley in 2004. Between her signing that document and her death -- during which time she alone controlled the Trust -- Mrs. Helmsley and the Trust gave over $29 million to charities; of that, the amount she and the Trust gave to dog-related charities was exactly zero.

Okay, so these kinds of disagreements are not unusual when large fortunes are at stake. And Pacelle and Avanzino raise an important point when they argue, as they did in their press conference, that judges, lawyers, and trustees -- most of them men -- are often quick to ignore the wishes of wealthy heiresses, especially when those wishes involve large amounts of tax-advantaged dollars being directed to the care and succor of animals.

But this particular situation is not casting any of the parties involved in a particularly flattering light. It's time for the New York AG's office, the Helmsley trustees, and the animal rights groups that filed suit to sit down and work out a compromise.

-- Mitch Nauffts

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    — Lao Tzu (605-531 BCE)

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