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40 posts categorized "Higher Education"

[Review] 'Abusing Donor Intent: The Robertson Family's Epic Lawsuit Against Princeton University'

April 16, 2014

(The newest book by Doug White, a well-known expert in the fields of philanthropy and nonprofit management, is "equal parts thriller and cautionary tale," writes Daniel Matz, Foundation Web Manager at the Foundation Center. Click here for more from PND's long-running Off the Shelf series.)

What is a gift? In an ordinary sense, a gift is something — money, property, advice — given freely by one party to another without the expectation of receiving something in return. We all like gifts, and so, too, do the 1.4 million nonprofits in the United States that benefit from private donations, large and small. But in the calculus of large-scale institutional philanthropy, a gift isn't really a gift; it's a gesture with a purpose — a purpose informed, to varying degrees, by the intent of the person or institution that gave the gift. And therein, as Shakespeare might say, lies the rub.

Cover_abusing_donor_intentIt's no surprise that wealthy donors and foundations seek out organizations and institutions that share their own passions and interests. But what do donors really expect from a nonprofit grantee in the long run? In the performance-measured, accountability-driven world of twenty-first century philanthropy, grantee reporting is de rigueur. For most nonprofits chasing after scarce dollars (and hoping for future gifts), the willingness and ability to demonstrate that they've aligned themselves with a donor's intent goes without saying. But what happens when a donor, after many years of happy engagement with an organization or institution, begins to believe that the original intent of the gift is no longer being honored? Our intuition tells us that, at some level, gifts/grants/donations involve a leap of faith, and that when the trust between donor and recipient is compromised, the recipient is unlikely to receive additional future gifts from that donor. A donor or foundation might even go public with its disappointment in order to discourage others from making gifts to the recipient. But rarely does a foundation or donor who has become disenchanted with a recipient ask for their money back. Which raises the question: Should they be able to? And does a statute of imitations ever apply in such a situation?

Those are two of the questions Doug White, a well-known expert in the fields of philanthropy and nonprofit management, tackles in Abusing Donor Intent: The Robertson Family's Epic Lawsuit Against Princeton University. Just as White earlier explored a rogues' gallery of swindlers and incompetent trustees in Charity on Trial, here he invites the reader to look behind the curtain of privilege and wealth, this time to learn just how bad things can get when a donor and beneficiary no longer see eye-to-eye. Informed by the slow burn of a decades-old frustration, not to mention the disposition of hundreds of millions of dollars and the reputation of one of America's oldest and most respected universities, Abusing Donor Intent is equal parts thriller and cautionary tale.

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Weekend Link Roundup (February 1-2, 2013)

February 02, 2014

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

Communications/Marketing

The 2014 Nonprofit Blog Carnival is off to a roaring start, having pitched its tent on Beth Kanter's blog during January. The topic for the month was how do you measure your nonprofit's marketing or communication strategies, and close to twenty posts were submitted, including contributions from Niki Kidd, a principal at Social Change Consulting ("Using Data to Assess Your Peers"); David Hartstein, WiredImpact's "storyteller and measurement guy" ("8 Metrics To Measure Online Fundraising"); Lori Jacobwith ("If You're Only Sharing Boring, Unclear Data, What's the Point?"); Cassie Bair, vice president of marketing at Mobile Accord ("Measure the Love in Your Mobile Communication Program"); and the Ad Council's Anastasia Goodstein ("Nonprofits and Big Data: An Inside Look at How the Ad Council Is Leveraging Data for Social Change"). Good stuff.

Fundraising

In a post on her About.com site, Joanne Fritz highlights six mistakes that nonprofits make in their online fundraising. Based on responses to something called the Online Fundraising Scorecard survey, they include not personalizing emails with a person's first or last name, forcing potential donors to navigate three or more pages before they can actually make a gift, and not suggesting a next step for donors once they've made a gift and had been thanked.

Higher Education

If you only have time to read one longish post this weekend, make it Clay Shirky's latest, "The End of Higher Education's Golden Age." In it, Shirky, a Distinguished Writer in Residence at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University, argues that the model of higher education that developed in the U.S. in first half of the twentieth century was "perfectly adapted to an environment that no longer exists." What's more, writes Shirky, higher education's present difficulties -- its growing unaffordability, dependence on "contingent labor" (i.e., poorly paid grad students), unhelpful focus on elite institutions, inability to adapt to changing demographics -- are "the bill coming due for forty years of trying to preserve a set of practices that have outlived the economics that made them possible." As always from Shirky, a well-researched and thought-provoking essay.

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Weekend Link Roundup (December 28-29, 2013)

December 29, 2013

New_year_2014_shutterstockOur final roundup for the year of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector. See you in 2014!

Giving

In a Q&A on the Harvard Business Review blog, Michael Norton, an associate professor at Harvard Business School and co-author of Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending, suggests that the way corporations and individuals approach charitable giving is starting to change -- for better and worse.

Higher Education

On the Inside Higher Ed blog, Dan Greenstein, director of postsecondary success at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, argues that "higher education is at a tipping point, and that it will soon look nothing like it does today, except perhaps at a few ivy-covered, well-endowed institutions." Lots of pushback in the comments section.

Impact/Effectiveness

Tracy Palandjian, co-founder and CEO of Social Finance US, and Jane Hughes, director of Knowledge Management at the organization, have an excellent piece on the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog that looks at three possible future scenarios for the social impact bond market. They are:

  1. Boom-Bubble-Bust
  2. SIBs Are the Wave of the Future — and They Always Will Be
  3. A Successful Market for Social Outcomes

Palandjian and Hughes then examine some of the factors that will determine which scenario plays out. If you're at all interested in the impact investing space, this is a must-read.

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Newsmakers: Darren Walker, President, Ford Foundation

December 18, 2013

Headshot_darren_walkerIn September, Darren Walker became the tenth president of the Ford Foundation. Before coming to Ford, where he was vice president of the foundation's Education, Creativity, and Freedom of Expression program, Walker served as vice president for foundation initiatives at the Rockefeller Foundation and as chief operating officer of the Abyssinian Development Corporation, where he guided the organization's efforts to develop housing for low and moderate-income families in Harlem.

Recently, Michael Seltzer, a frequent contributor to PhilanTopic, spoke with Walker about the current social change environment, the influence of the foundation's activities on his life, and his hopes for the foundation going forward. Seltzer is a distinguished lecturer at the Baruch College School of Public Affairs and an affiliated faculty member of its Center for Nonprofit Strategy & Management.

Philanthropy News Digest: What is it like to be president of the Ford Foundation?

Darren Walker: Although I've been at the foundation for more than three years, in many ways I still have a lot to learn. I certainly didn't arrive here with any idea I would end up as president. When I walked through the doors of this institution for the first time, it was a transformational experience, because the Ford Foundation represents the ways in which my own life has been changed by philanthropy.

I'm a graduate of public schools. I attended public school in a small town in Texas, and I am also a graduate of the first Head Start cohort, a program that was developed out of Ford Foundation-supported research on early child development at Yale University. After high school, I attended a large land grant university -- thanks to Pell grants, another Ford Foundation-supported intervention -- so I know all about Ford's commitment to public education in this country.

After college, I worked on Wall Street and one day found myself at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, which was hosting a representative of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a creation of -- you guessed it -- the Ford Foundation. LISC had awarded a grant to the Abyssinian Development Corporation for capacity-building initiatives that would allow it to realize the aspirations of the organization's founders, who had a dream in the mid-'80s that Harlem could be a community that could regenerate itself from within. And the Ford Foundation, through LISC, believed in that dream and invested in it. And that capacity-building grant made it possible for ADC to hire me. So my journey, like the journeys of so many others, has been deeply influenced by the Ford Foundation.

I was thrilled to receive a call from the foundation's board chair, Irene Hirano-Inouye, and have her tell me that the board had voted to appoint me president. Actually, I wasn't sure how to respond, beyond saying, "Yes!" because I know that with this job comes huge responsibility, and that I stand on the shoulders of some extraordinary people.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (October 2013)

November 01, 2013

A shutdown of the federal government that lasted sixteen days, the botched rollout of HealthCare.gov, a well-deserved (!) Red Sox win in the World Series -- October was nothing if not eventful. And now that it's history, it's time to look back at the most popular posts on PhilanTopic during the month:

What have you been reading/watching/listening to that PhilanTopic readers should know about? Share your favorites in the comments section....

Creating Paths to College and the Urgency of Now

October 29, 2013

(Rhonda Tsoi-A-Fatt Bryant is the interim director of the Youth Policy team at the Center for Law and Social Policy, a D.C.-based nonprofit advocacy organization that works to improve the lives of low-income people. This is her first post for PhilanTopic.)

Headshot_RhondaTI was a STEM whiz as a child — a seemingly unlikely thing for a girl, and an African-American girl at that, to be. In middle school, I attended a magnet program and learned computer programming while taking advanced math and science classes. In high school, I took calculus and physics and learned a computer programming language. My primary interest was engineering, so my school district helped me attend summer programs at area universities. That experience landed me a job at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at the age of 17.

Although I chose public policy instead of engineering as my life's work, those were the opportunities that put me on a path to college. My middle school and high school offered classes that nurtured my interests in mathematics and science. I had great teachers who used hands-on learning to take basic lessons to the next level. I remember our physics teacher explaining the science behind breaking boards martial arts-style and wading in the Chesapeake River in hip-high boots to learn about plant life. I also had guidance counselors who knew me personally, connected me to summer opportunities that allowed me to cultivate my academic interests, and walked me through the college application process. My family couldn't afford to pay for college. Without these opportunities, it would have been far more difficult to continue my education.

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New Initiative Moves Beyond College Access for Low-Income Students

October 22, 2013

(The following post was written by AiLun Ku, a program director at the Opportunity Network, which works to put high-achieving low-income New York City high school students on the road to college and a good career, and Greg MacDonald, dean of admissions and financial aid at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania.)

Headshot_ailunku_gregmacdonaldEvery college economics professor can tell you about the multiplier effect, but when they do they usually focus on the income side of the equation. In contrast, Lafayette College and the Opportunity Network have developed a multiplier effect in the form of an investment that expands diversity at a highly competitive liberal arts college and enriches the experience for low-income, first-generation students.

Issues of college access continue to make headlines. The Lafayette College-Opportunity Network partnership moves beyond the debate about access by supporting students not only through the admissions process but throughout their college careers.

Through the partnership, Lafayette will admit, with each incoming freshman class, three to six well-qualified applicants from the Opportunity Network and provide them with financial aid to fully meet their needs during their college years. Students attending Lafayette through the partnership will be spared having to overcome the major obstacles to higher education faced by so many first-generations students — cost and a lack of information and guidance needed to navigate the admissions process.

But gaining admission to college is only half the battle. Today, even high-achieving high school students are graduating without the tools needed to excel in a college environment that often is dramatically different from their home and high school. Too many students need to learn how to manage time and money, how to advocate for themselves, how to find and ask for academic help, how to adapt to life on a college campus where most students come from higher-income backgrounds, and how to build a network of people willing to support them in school and beyond.

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The Next Affirmative Action

August 02, 2013

On August 28, 1963, America witnessed what was arguably the greatest demonstration for racial justice in the history of the country. Half a century after the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the looming question of racial equality in America remains.

In the lead-up to the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington, PhilanTopic is publishing a ten-part series, sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, in which some of America's most important writers explore our race issues, past and present.

In the fourth installment of that series (click here for the third, "A House Divided," by Thomas J. Sugrue), Kevin Carey, director of the Education Policy program at the New America Foundation, argues that while affirmative action "as we know it is dying," the Supreme Court's targeting of current policies may be "an opportunity to change the way people think about race and higher education." The essay below first appeared in the Washington Monthly and is reprinted here with the permission of that publication.

Affirmative-actionAffirmative action as we know it is dying. A growing number of states have moved to prohibit public universities from considering race in admissions, and the U.S. Supreme Court recently heard arguments in an anti-affirmative action lawsuit that left little doubt about where the Court's conservative majority stands. Less than a decade after the Court upheld racial admissions preferences in Grutter v. Bollinger, newer jurists like Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts seem ready to render unconstitutional a policy that has helped generations of minority students grab a rung on the ladder of opportunity.

The Court's likely decision is particularly odious given the college admissions apparatus it will leave in place. Elite colleges warp and corrupt the meritocratic admissions process in a wide variety of ways. Academically substandard athletes, for example, are allowed in so they can play for the amusement of alumni and help shore up the fundraising base. While some men's football and basketball players come from low-income and minority households, many athletes at the highly selective colleges where affirmative action really matters engage in sports like crew and lacrosse that are associated with white, privileged backgrounds. Colleges also give preference to the children of legacies, professors, celebrities, politicians, and people who write large checks to the general fund. All of these groups are also disproportionately wealthy and white.

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Weekend Link Roundup (July 27-28, 2013)

July 28, 2013

Corn-on-the-cobOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Community Development

The declaration of bankruptcy by the City of Detroit, though not unexpected, was a shock to those of us old enough to remember the heyday of Motown and the Motor City. In the most recent issue of the Cohen Report, NPQ's Rick Cohen argues that "the nation has to confront...persistent racial and social inequity and what it has done to this city. [The] nation was quick to come to the aid of the automakers," writes Cohen,

with past presidents and the current one promising not to let Detroit (read: Detroit business) slide into financial oblivion. The same commitment must now be made to the 700,000 people of Detroit, with the message that this nation cares about their future opportunities as much as it cares about GM's and Chrysler's. But the terms of the deal have to be different, and that’s where nonprofits and foundations have a crucial, inescapable role to play....

Higher Education

Seemingly overnight, digital disruption in the form of MOOCs (massive open online courses) has set its sights on higher ed, and many universities have felt obliged "to join the...revolution to avoid being guillotined by it," writes Matthew Bishop in the latest issue of the Economist. But is there a viable business model in MOOCs for existing institutions (many of which have been around for centuries), or are they a lose-lose proposition "in which cheap online providers radically reduce the cost of higher education and drive many traditional institutions to the wall"?

Nonprofits

On the GuideStar blog, Jacob Harold cites the parable of the three blind men and the elephant to argue that it's time for funders and nonprofits alike to move away from a sole focus on the overhead ratio and toward a more "holistic" view of nonprofit effectiveness.

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Weekend Link Roundup (July 20-21, 2013)

July 21, 2013

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

Data

This is the era of big data, and that's a good thing, argues Matthew Scharpnick, co-founder and chief strategy officer at Elefint Designs, in the Chronicle of Philanthropy. But, he adds, "for every new piece of valuable data, a much larger pile of useless data surrounds and obscures it. It's tough work to sift through it all to find the pieces that lead us to greater insights." Which is why,

Organizations need to understand what stories they want to tell with their data -- ideally before those data sets are even gathered. While it's important to let the data collections speak for themselves --being careful not to manipulate them to present stories that are not there -- it's equally important to gather the right kinds of data and to do so with a strategic understanding of how they can become insightful information tied to the larger narrative of the organization. When the right data are gathered in the right way and presented intelligently, that is where the magic of data begins to fulfill its promise...."

Diversity

Writing on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Kelly Brown, director of the D5 Coalition, a five-year initiative to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in philanthropy, reflects on the initiative's progress at midpoint and suggests that it's a bit of mixed bag. "Those who question whether the effective inclusion of diverse perspectives has a positive influence on smart decision-making should look closer at the evidence," she writes. But at the same time, recent events

make it clear that building philanthropy's capacity to fully include diverse perspectives must be as salient and pressing for foundations as dealing with the much-buzzed issues of "big data," managing "networked organizations," "scaling what works," or fostering "collective impact." None of these approaches will reach their fullest potential if they cannot effectively manifest in a diverse and complex world that is yearning for equity....

Higher Education

Responding to a special report in the Chronicle of Higher Education that examined the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's postsecondary education strategy and outisize influence on the postsecondary debate, Daniel Greenstein, director of the Postsecondary Success program at the foundation, writes that while he and his colleagues welcome a rigorous public conversation about the challenges facing our education system, the report "missed the big picture." Namely, "that nearly three out of four students aren't enrolled in full-time, four-year degree programs and that the current system doesn't work for adults who are juggling jobs, family and other priorities while they also work toward a degree."

Nonprofits

Looking to start a nonprofit or social enterprise to address a critical community need, one that will be more than just a flash in the pan? Ayesha Khanna, president of Civic Incubator, shares some practical tips to help you do just that:

  • Define your objectives and what you want to accomplish.
  • Develop a business model and test your assumptions.
  • Find seed funding to allow you to make little bets.
  • Develop diverse funding streams.
  • Enroll others in your mission and work.
  • Create a public relations strategy.

Has all the recent talk about overhead myths and ratios left you a bit confused? If it has, hop on over to the Charities review Council's Smart Giving Matters blog, where you'll find five surefire ways to get the full picture of a nonprofit's effectiveness.

Philanthropy

In a new paper ("Beauty and the Beast: Can Money Ever Foster Social Transformation?") written for Hivos, a foundation in the Netherlands, Michael Edwards, one of our favorite contrarians, argues that instead of its current fixation on market-based revenue generation for social change, philanthropy should be directing more support to what he calls "democratic" and "transformational" funding models. (Back in 2012, we published a terrific series of posts by Edwards on more or less the same topic.)

In a similar vein, Josh Mailman, founder of the progressive Threshold Foundation, argues in a video on Bridgepsan's GiveSmart site that philanthropy is missing a great opportunity to "advance business accountability and business responsibility." Mailman, who was among the first investors in yogurt maker Stonyfield Farms, the Utne Reader, and household products maker Seventh Generation, believes that movements drive social change, and that "getting wealthy people involved in building movements is a really good idea, because movements are mostly people that don't have money."

"Orthodoxies are those [assumptions] we are so accustomed to that we barely think about them, let alone question them," writes Lucy Bernholz on her Philanthropy 2173 blog. In the social sector, they include things like the inviolability of property tax exemptions and the charitable deduction, intellectual property rights, and the right to privacy in the digital sphere. The problem with that approach, Bernholz adds, "is in thinking that the rules that have worked for the last century will stay the same, will work the same, will still be useful or needed for the next century. Some might. Some won't. Some shouldn't...."

In a post on the GrantCraft blog, Lisa Suchet, CEO at the UK-based Nationwide Foundation, shares some interesting learnings from the foundation's Money Matters, Homes Matter and Families Matter initiative, which awarded three-year grants to nine charities working with disadvantaged groups to address housing and homeless issues n the foundation's service area.

Writing on their Philanthropy Potluck blog, the folks at the Minnesota Council on Foundations share some findings from a new Council on Foundations report that looks at staff demographics and compensation levels at foundations around the country. Among the findings:

  • The graying of foundation staff has accelerated significantly.
  • There is still a large gender gap at the top of large foundations.
  • Twenty-nine percent of private foundations reported that they employ people of color, while only 19 percent of community foundations said the same. 

Social Good

Trevor Neilson, president of the Global Philanthropy Group, advises readers of the Huffington Post Impact blog to ignore those who disparage Millennials as "lazy, entitled and narcissistic." Not true, says Neilson, who suggests, to the contrary, "that Millennials have more power than any generation in modern history to drastically improve our world for the better...."

Transparency

Last but note least, kudos to the Blue Shield of California Foundation, which earlier in the week posted a downloadable version of its 2012 Grantee Perception Report -- along with a frank assessment of the dimensions in which it has improved since 2010, as well as areas where improvement is still needed.

That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org. And stay cool!

--The Editors

Weekend Link Roundup (July 13-14, 2013)

July 14, 2013

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

Civic Engagement

On the Knight Foundation blog, Scott Warren, co-founder and executive director of Generation Citizen, a nonprofit that promotes civic engagement by educating students on how they can work with local leaders to solve community problems, explains how a grant from Knight -- the largest one-time grant ever awarded to Generation Citizen -- will enable the organization to evaluate what it does, demonstrate that action civics works, and make a difference in classrooms across the country.

Communications/Marketing

People are reading less, skimming more, and relying more on social media for their news -- all of which means you should craft shorter articles for your Web site, right? Not necessarily, writes Kivi Leroux Miller on her Nonprofit Communications blog. Indeed, longer content, in the right place and context, can improve both conversions (people doing the thing you want them to do on a Web page) and SEO rankings. With that in mind, Miller offers the following common-sense recommendations:

  1. Use as many words as you need, but only as many as you need!
  2. Hire good writers who understand the difference.

"With 43 percent of all emails now being opened on a mobile device, nonprofits need to start thinking differently about the way they approach their email marketing," writes Ryan Pinkham on the Constant Contact Email Marketing blog. Pinkham goes on to share four nonprofit email newsletters that look great and work well on mobile: Pajama Program (single-column template); Alex's Lemonade Stand (a clear call-to-action); Strong Women, Strong Girls (clear and concise); and Astoria Performing Arts Center (APAC) (mobile-friendly links).

Education

Public pushback against Teach for America's efforts to place recent college graduates in low-performing schools isn't news, writes Zach Schonfeld on the Atlantic Wire. But the fact that the anti-TAF "movement is now largely originating from the organization's own alumni base" certainly is. Indeed, writes Schonfeld,

many of Teach for America's...opponents point out that the high turnover of trainees being dispatched to some of the country's most challenging school districts -- often without any long-term plans to be teachers -- is precisely the problem. Anthony Cody's experiences in Oakland corroborated this critique. In a typical cycle, the school would lose about half of its corps members after their second year. By the third year, half of those who had remained after the second year would be gone. The problem, Cody explained, is that many who join Teach for America don't actually want to be teachers in the first place, instead using the program as a prestigious stepping stone for policy work, law school, or business school....

Fundraising

On the Huffington Post's Impact blog, Nell Edgington, president of nonprofit consulting firm Social Velocity, weighs in with a "radical" fundraising idea: that every nonprofit board should be responsible for bringing in 10 percent of the organization's annual operating budget. And to get there, writes Edgington, boards need to do three things: take the time to understand the organization's "money engine"; share the financial burden; and tap into their unique assets.

Higher Education

Writing in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Jenna Cullinane, higher education policy lead at the Charles A. Dana Center at UT Austin, argues that in order to move the "elusive achievement needle...change at scale is what matters." Yet scaling innovation in higher education "is especially challenging because of decentralized decision-making, antiquated incentive systems, and increasingly unpredictable funding challenges." Indeed, writes Cullinane, one could argue that "the basic premise of 'scaling up' -- that one starts with small pilot projects, and then grows the numbers of colleges or individuals served -- is untenable. An alternative might be to work at scale" -- i.e., design for scale from the beginning by looking at the whole system and minimizing the cost of the transition; plant the seeds of scale at all target institutions from the outset while creating multiple levels of engagement; and seek permission to scale from all levels of the system.

Impact/Effectiveness

Our friends at the Social Impact Exchange have posted a nice roundup of blog posts from and about the 2013 Scaling Impact Conference, with contributions from the Philanthropy Roundtable's Ashley May, the John A. Hartford Foundation's Christopher Langston, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Andrea Ducas.

Journalism

Guest blogging on the Committee to Protect Journalists site, Alan Pearce, author of the e-book Deep Web for Journalists: Comms, Counter-Surveillance, Search, says that in light of Edward Snowden's revelations about the National Security Agency's global monitoring of electronic communications, it's time for journalists to get smart about counter-surveillance tools and how to use them.

Philanthropy

In a series of short videos on Bridgespan's GiveSmart blog, Paul Brest shares three lessons he learned about strategic philanthropy during his twelve-year tenure as president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation: 1) provide nonprofit overhead support; 2) take risks, but be clear about goals; and 3) promote learning by being open about failure.

Social Entrepreneurship

Writing on the HBR blog, Rosabeth Moss Kanter cautions entrepreneurs to steer clear of "pop-up opportunities that look like short cuts to success" but turn out to be costly distractions. To help entrepreneurs avoid such distractions, Moss Kanter offers the following advice:

  • Establish clear principles by which opportunities are judged;
  • Prove the concept you want to prove;
  • Put the right words around the project and stick with them; and
  • Don't be insular.

Social Media

Texas state senator Wendy Davis's well-publicized filibuster of a draconian anti-abortion rights bill was a "singular feat of courage and stamina," writes Allison Fine in The American Prospect. But Davis's filibuster, adds Fine, "was the last piece of tile fitted into a much larger mosaic of people and actions that brought Texas progressives back to life" -- an effort whose success "hinged not just on the existence of outstanding grassroots organizing and social media activism, but on their integration" as well.

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

--The Editors

Weekend Link Roundup (March 23-24, 2013)

March 24, 2013

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

Black Male Achievement

On the GuideStar blog, Zeina Fayyaz, manager of the Social Innovation Forum and Social Innovation Accelerator at Root Cause, announces a call for applications to the 2013-14 Black Male Achievement Social Innovation Accelerator. Modeled after the Social Innovation Forum, the accelerator program will provide, over twelve months, capacity-building and coaching support totaling more than $150,000 to five BMA Innovators, along with opportunities to network with funders and the chance to become a national leader in the field of black male achievement.

Higher Education

Is student debt the new subprime? Writing on the Demos blog, Thomas Hedges thinks it may be. "Education itself, which many considered a right thirty years ago, has become a market product," writes Hedges. "University presidents are, in the end, fundraisers, soliciting large donations and encouraging students to take out loans that will take decades to pay back. The costs of tuition, which are cleverly obscured for low-income students, slam students years after they graduate, once they realize what paying off, say, $30,000 in student debt means." As one 30-year-old woman with $120,000 in student loans tells Hedges: "The grim truth is that universities and student loans are no longer creating the American dream, they are destroying it, one wide-eyed dreamer at a time.”

Impact/Effectiveness

On the Arabella Advisors blog, Cynthia Muller, director of the firm's impact investing practice, is encouraged by signs that the strategy is gaining traction.

Continue reading »

What We Value

February 19, 2013

(Mark Rosenman is an emeritus professor at the Union Institute & University and directs Caring to Change, an initiative that seeks to improve how foundations serve the public. In his last post, he wrote about accountability -- or the lack thereof -- in government, business, and the nonprofit sector.)

Rosenman_headshotIn his State of the Union address, President Obama called for government-provided student financial aid to somehow be tied to the value of the education which it helps underwrite. While it's an interesting idea, it presents a challenge not only to institutions of higher education, but to every nonprofit organization in the country. Put simply, who gets to measure the value of any charitable program? Who gets to stipulate their purposes and assess their performance and the outcomes they deliver?

Although such data are not readily available, we know that the White House believes that how well a particular college or university's graduates do in the job market after graduation ought to be a part of a "college scorecard." We also know that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who gave the Republican rebuttal to the president's State of the Union address, feels even more strongly about the idea and has joined with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) to push The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act, which requires colleges and universities to provide detailed information to prospective students about how much one can expect to make in any given field post-graduation.

Given the state of the economy and students' understandable concerns about their futures, that makes a lot of sense, practically and politically. But should that be the principal measure of the value of higher education? When did we decide that the value of an associate's, bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree should be quantified and measured in vocational education terms? And who decided it?

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Newsmaker: Shawn Dove, Campaign Manager, Campaign for Black Male Achievement, Open Society Foundations

December 17, 2012

Headshot_Shawn Dove_In October, the Open Society Foundations and the Foundation Center released a report, Where Do We Go From Here? Philanthropic Support for Black Men and Boys  (40 pages, PDF), which found, among other things, that philanthropic support for African-American men and boys has risen steadily over the past decade, from $10 million in 2003 to $29 million in 2010. At a time when nearly every major indicator of economic, social, and physical well-being shows that African-American males do not have access to the opportunities they need to thrive, the philanthropic sector is working to address this critical need on two fronts: by supporting organizations in the "black male achievement field" and by spotlighting the fact that more needs to be done to tackle racial and economic inequality in America.

In the foreward to the report, Shawn Dove, manager of the OSF-based Campaign for Black Male Achievement, noted that former Open Society board member Lani Guinier has long argued that African-American males are not unlike "canaries in the coalmine," in that their socioeconomic plight foreshadows many negative trends that eventually will affect the broader society. That explains why, for many, the well-being of African-American men and boys is not a "black issue." It is, as Dove said when we spoke to him recently, "an American issue." Moreover, he added, "[g]rantmakers should not enter th[e] field with the expectation that they can parachute in and save the day....We need to look at what's working, and to spread the word about what success looks like."

After more than twenty years working in the fields of youth development, education, and community building, including stints as a director of a Beacon School in Harlem, as creative communities director for the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts, and as vice president for MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, Dove joined OSF in 2008. PND spoke with him in November, shortly after the release of the report.

Philanthropy News Digest: We've been told that America in 2012 is a post-racial society. Is it?

Shawn Dove: I guess that depends on one's definition and interpretation of "post-racial." If one's definition is a society in which there are no racial disparities when it comes to opportunity, access, and equity, I would say, "Not so much." In 2012, America aspires to be post-racial. But judging by the wealth gap, ethnic and racial disparities in access to high-quality education, and the number of people of color in the House and Senate, I'd say we still have some work to do.

PND: Countless studies and papers have outlined the many root causes of racial inequality in America. If the causes are clear, why do large portions of the African-American community continue to be adversely affected by disparities in education, health care, and employment?

SD: You know, that is the billion-dollar question. Two of our grantee partners, the American Values Institute and the Opportunity Agenda, have done extensive research on implicit bias in America, and what their research revealed was that far too many people hold unconscious racial prejudices that affect their decision making when interacting with races other than their own. So while retail sales managers, for example, will say they don't have racist attitudes or are not prejudiced, they'll also resist putting people of color, specifically African-American males, in roles that have direct contact with customers.

Americans of all ethnicities still have an exceedingly difficult time having honest conversations about race. There are a number of organizations and leaders who are organizing people to have discussions about racial disparities in our society, but a lot of work still needs to be done to change the behaviors that perpetuate inequality in this country.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (October 2012)

November 01, 2012

Here in Manhattan, things post-Sandy are slooowly getting back to normal. For tens of thousands of people in Queens, Staten Island, and New Jersey, "normal" will never be the same. Our thoughts and prayers are with all who lost loved ones. For everyone else, these were the most popular posts on PhilanTopic in October:

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