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98 posts categorized "Journalism/Media"

Weekend Link Roundup (December 8-9, 2012)

December 09, 2012

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

Arts and Culture

On its Web site, the James Irvine Foundation unveils a snazzy new infographic format to share what it has learned about arts and arts organizations in California through the work of its Arts Innovation Fund.

Climate Change

In an impassioned post on the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy's Keeping A Close Eye blog, Lisa Ranghelli urges foundation leaders to get involved in the fight against a warming planet.


On his Future Fundraising Now blog, Jeff Brooks, author of the Fundraiser's Guide to Irresistible Communications, provides a timely reminder to fundraisers to "keep calm."


On the Philanthropy Potluck blog, Minnesota Council on Foundations research manager Anne Bauers shares findings from NTEN's The State of Nonprofit Data report, which found that a lack of expertise, issues of time and prioritization, and challenges with technology, among other things, are holding many organizations back from tracking and using data more effectively.

To help organizations looking to close their data skills gap, Beth Kanter, co-author (with KD Paine) of Measuring the Networked Nonprofit, shares some data visualization resources that she's come across recently.

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'Latin Side of the Docs' in Mexico City

November 27, 2012

(Kathryn Pyle recently marked her fourth anniversary as a PhilanTopic contributor. In her last post, she wrote about Reportero, a new documentary by Bernardo Ruiz about embattled investigative journalists assigned to cover the drug wars in Mexico.)

LSD-MexicoCityLatin Side of the Docs, an annual marketplace and producers forum for documentary filmmakers, came to Mexico City earlier this month, attracting more than two hundred and fifty filmmakers and fifty industry representatives.

Filmmakers, broadcasters, and film distributors, most of them from Latin America, converged on the Spanish Cultural Center in the historic center of the city for the event. The center, which offers a variety of programs in a modern light-filled building, is located just behind the colonial-era Metropolitan Cathedral and ruins of Aztec pyramids bordering the Zócalo, the huge open plaza at the heart of the old city built by the Spaniards.

The three-day event was organized by DocsDF, a documentary film festival founded seven years ago in Mexico City, in collaboration with Sunny Side of the Docs, a longstanding international event/forum that matches documentary filmmakers seeking funds with broadcasters and distributors seeking good films. The organizers of Sunny Side now help stage similar events in Asia and, for the past four years, in Latin America -- the first three in Buenos Aires and now this year in Mexico City. Inti Cordera, a founder and the executive director of DocsDF, and Yves Jeanneau, a French filmmaker who created Sunny Side of the Docs, share a commitment. As Cordera put it, "We believe that documentary film is important and necessary, not just in terms of cinematic quality but also for the messages delivered."

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Weekend Link Roundup (October 13-14, 2012)

October 14, 2012

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


In a guest post on the Communication Network blog, Hattaway Communication's Doug Hattaway shares a couple of insights based on psychology and neuroscience into how people make decisions:

Insight 1: Two mental systems work together to drive decision-making and behavior. Effective communications influence both intuition and cognition -- encouraging instant intuitive judgments and enabling fluent cognitive reasoning.

Insight 2: People are more likely to trust information that they easily understand. "Fluency" theory holds that if people readily comprehend an idea or information, they are more likely to believe it. Being easy-to-understand obviously doesn't mean the information is more reliable, but people are more likely to perceive it as true. Hattaway's advice for nonprofit communicators: "It's smart to dumb things down."

In a post on her Non-Profit Marketing blog, Network for Good's Katya Andresen shares seven tips designed to improve the stories that nonprofits tell about their impact, the people they help, and their generous supporters.

Disaster Relief

Eye-opening article by Deborah Sontag in the New York Times about Yéle Haiti, the charity created by Haitian-American hip hop artist Wyclef Jean in the wake of the January 2010 earthquake to help the people of that impoverished country.

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Social Impact Documentaries: 'Reportero'

September 10, 2012

(Kathryn Pyle recently marked her fourth anniversary as a PhilanTopic contributor. In her last post, she returned to the subject of her very first post, the Adams County Library system in a rural part of south-central Pennsylvania, to check on its progress in improving services for the growing Latino population in the area.)

Reportero_posterAs the audience for social issue documentary films grows, the intersection between a film and its impact is of increasing concern to media funders, media organizations, and filmmakers themselves. There is general agreement that documentary films are an important source of information and opinion in our corporate-dominated media landscape and that they often provide the in-depth analysis of complex issues lacking in most mainstream media coverage. But how one measures the impact of individual films or the field as a whole is still very much a work in progress. As in other spheres, grantmakers are interested not just in the quality of the project (the film, in this case) but also in the results it leads to. And nongovernmental organizations, most of which are still learning how to best use the documentary format, are looking for models.

Two sessions at the annual "Funders Conversation" hosted by Media Impact Funders earlier this summer addressed these concerns. Indeed, the recent rebranding of the organization, which had been known since its inception as Grantmakers in Film and Electronic Media (GFEM), is testament to the trend.

"Very few of our members define themselves as film funders," explained MIF executive director Vince Stehle in a conversation at the affinity group's new office in Philadelphia. "Documentary film will continue to be as important, if not more so, than it's ever been. But it's only one feature of the media landscape, along with journalism, public media, community media, social media, and technology. MIF reflects all those communitiess as they work to achieve positive social impact. And we support the growing interest in measuring impact and understanding engagement."

One session, on "Documentary Film Impact and Outreach," focused on partnerships between filmmakers and Facing History and Ourselves, an international organization founded in 1976 that uses film to combat racism, anti-Semitism, and prejudice. In partnership with Skylight Pictures (also a presenter at the session), the organization developed three video models and a study guide (available online) based on the Skylight film The Reckoning: The Battle for the International Criminal Court.

Another session, "Measuring Media and Philanthropy," reported on a new initiative led by the Foundation Center's GrantCraft project and GuideStar to track and map funding for media. The session also described an inquiry into measures of engagement with, and the impact of, grantmaker-funded media projects headed by Jessica Clark of AIRmedia.

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Weekend Link Roundup (September 8-9, 2012)

September 09, 2012

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


On his Harvard Business Review blog, Dan Pallotta, author of Uncharitable and the just released Charity Case: How the Nonprofit Community Can Stand Up for Itself, makes the case for "an Apollo program for American philanthropy and the nonprofit sector." In the book, Pallotta outlines plans for a "national Charity Defense Council" that would provide "five vital grassroots organizing functions" for the sector, including an anti-defamation mechanism and a legal defense fund.


When it comes to nonprofit Web sites, presentation matters. Indeed, writes Katya Andresen on her Non-Profit Marketing Blog, charities "with a branded donation page -- a page that shows off the organization's personality and makes giving tangible for donors -- can see up to seven times more in donation dollars than a nonprofit with a generic, e-commerce page for donations." For more stats about the state of online philanthropy, check out the Q2 update of Network for Good's Digital Giving Index.


At the Future Fundraising Now blog, Jeff Brooks announces the release of his new book, The Fundraiser's Guide to Irresistible Communications. As Brooks explains, the book "zeroes in on the hard stuff, the surprising, counterintuitive things that most often trip up fundraisers. You won't find wild-eyed, speculative theories in this book. Just the solid, experiential practices."

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Weekend Link Roundup (August 18-19, 2012)

August 19, 2012

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


On the Communications Network blog, Courtney Williamson talks to Allyson Burns, vice president for communications at the Case Foundation, about the foundation's Be Fearless Campaign. The initiative, which aims to "[encourage] all organizations trying to improve people’s lives 'to take risks' in how they approach their work," was inspired by a request from Case Foundation CEO and co-founder Jean Case for "a new messaging strategy that reflected how the foundation’s work has evolved since its inception." With the help of branding firm BBMG, Burns says, the foundation identified two themes, experimentation and partnership, that became the linchpin of the new strategy. "It doesn't mean we're always fearless," says Burns, "but I'm trying to do better every day."

On her Non-Profit Marketing Blog, Katya Andresen introduces a mini-guide created by her organization, Network for Good, that walks readers through the basics of e-mail engagement.


On the GiveWell Blog, Holden Karnofsky explains how GiveWell differentiates between strong and weak evidence when it evaluates charities. "By 'evidence,'" writes Karnofsky, "we generally mean observations that are more easily reconciled with the charity's claims about the world and its impact than with our skeptical default/'prior' assumption." General properties that make for strong evidence, Karnofsky adds, include relevant reported effects, attribution, representativeness, and consonance with other observations.

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Weekend Link Roundup (August 11-12, 2012)

August 12, 2012

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


Welcome to the Fifth Estate author Geoff Livingston has a list of tips for artists and writers seeking to brand and market themselves. The list includes:

  • Focus on actions.
  • Go beyond Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
  • Monitor social media conversations.
  • Let your fans embrace your experience.

Disaster Relief

GiveWell's Holden Karnofsky shares findings from a recent evaluation of charities working to help people in Japan recover from the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the northeastern part of the country in 2011. After reviewing reports about their activities over the past twelve months, Karnofsky concludes that he and his partners "stand by the conclusions we reached last year: that the relief and recovery effort did not have room for more funding, that those interested in emergency relief should have donated to Doctors Without Borders, and that those determined to help Japan specifically should have donated to the Japanese Red Cross."

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Emoti-Con!: Digital Learning Comes to NYC

July 12, 2012

(Laura Cronin is a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. In her last post, she chatted with Kimberleigh Smith, board president of the New York City-based Paul Rapoport Foundation, about the foundation's decision to spend down by 2015 and what the foundation is doing to help grantees navigate that transition.)

Elearning_imageWhat if a bunch of nonprofits and funders found ways to work together on new projects that furthered their respective missions while also creating outcomes that were larger than the sum of the new parts?

Productive collaboration among organizations is one of those textbook goals that funders love to promote. Many an executive director has heard from a major funder about some like-minded nonprofit she should find a way to work with, sometime in the future. But too often, such suggestions lead to circular conversations, mission drift, and/or wheel spinning.

Lately, however, several New York City nonprofits have discovered that young people's interests are a key that can unlock the secrets of successful, mission-driven collaboration.

Hive Learning Network NYC is a coalition of youth-serving organizations that encourages young people to explore their interests and further their learning through the use of digital media and technology. Fueled by grants from the New York Community Trust, MacArthur Foundation, and others, students from all five boroughs participate in a lively system of out-of-school time (OST) programs that use digital tools to help them dig deeper into subjects they're passionate about, from science and art to creative writing and filmmaking.

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Which Nonprofits Are Most Ready for Capacity Building?

June 20, 2012

(Alice Hill, a senior consultant at the TCC Group, has over twelve years of experience in the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors, with specific expertise in program design and implementation and nonprofit organizational capacity building. Hill served as project manager of the Challenge Fund for Journalism initiative.)

Alice_hill_TCCWith funds limited, foundations must constantly assess how their money is best spent -- and support for organizational capacity-building support is no exception. How can a funder determine which nonprofit is most likely to benefit from this sort of investment? After all, change is something many talk about, but few actually accomplish. It turns out that, at least in the nonprofit world, desire to change trumps many other factors that are used to gauge "readiness."

A recent study of an initiative to strengthen nonprofit journalism organizations found that mindset matters most. It is not just a willingness to change, but an embrace of the often-messy work of transformation that is the most important indicator of capacity-building success.

The Challenge Fund for Journalism, which I managed, was an innovative funder collaborative that provided matching grants and capacity-building support to fifty-three nonprofit media organizations. Launched in 2004, the initiative brought together and pooled funding from the Ford, Knight, McCormick, and Ethics and Excellence in Journalism foundations and enlisted the management consulting firm TCC Group to provide one-on-one coaching and other resources to participants to guide them on a journey of change.

Collectively, CFJ helped the organizations leverage $3.6 million in grants into almost $9.5 million in matches. Eighty-five percent of the grantees reported that they experienced some positive organizational change, and 90 percent stated that they were able to maintain the progress they had made in diversifying revenues.

My colleagues at TCC and I decided to dig deeper to understand which factors were most important to success. We examined nine criteria that were used to determine readiness at the beginning of the initiative, such as turnover in leadership and management, financial stability, and prior experience with organizational development efforts. Based on experience, we had a sense of what we would find, and our hunch was confirmed. Only one factor significantly correlated with positive outcomes: leaders' motivation to change. The initiative achieved the greatest impact with nonprofit media groups that were ready for transformation at the outset of our engagement with them.

What did this motivation look like? Those groups that flourished most had at least one leader who embraced adaptation and was able to give voice to the need to overhaul business models. He or she was able to turn this recognition into a bold vision for the organization's future. Just as critical, these leaders had the ability to inspire this mindset in others and mobilize teams of supporters. In other words, a leader who could do what so many have found elusive: take the idea of change and turn it into action.

One group I coached, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, was one of these success stories. The center's leaders were highly motivated to confront difficult questions, listen to new ideas, and engage in the complicated work of shifting their practices. They devised innovative approaches to both fundraising and earned income. They articulated a compelling vision and worked at better involving their board, building their networks, and engaging in planning. Executive director Andy Hall notes that "the greatest value of the initiative was that it enabled the center to try out new strategies for growth. Ultimately, we wound up changing our business model."

So, how can funders screen for something as hard to pin down as motivation? At TCC Group, we start with listening. During an in-depth conversation, one can begin to detect whether a nonprofit leader wants a check -- or "seal of approval" from a foundation -- as opposed to being genuinely interested in improving organizational effectiveness. For example, does he or she resist the results of an organizational assessment or challenge the validity of the tool or process? Does a leader invite senior staff and board members to join the conversation? Does a leader demonstrate at the outset a basic understanding of how the organization could grow and improve

In our experience, having a competitive process to select grantees, even if it involves a few relatively simple steps, goes a long way toward weeding out groups and leaders who lack motivation. It's helpful to conduct an organizational assessment upfront, talk about the findings with key leaders, and agree on what needs to be addressed. In this way, funders can be more intentional about looking for the mindset that will put an organization on the path to success.

-- Alice Hill

Weekend Link Roundup (June 2-3, 2012)

June 03, 2012

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


In a guest post on the Getting Attention blog, Kimberlee Roth shares eight tips for nonprofit communicators interested in conducting "better interviews and accurately captur[ing] the most compelling stories."


NCRP's Kevin Laskowski commends the D5 coalition of philanthropic organizations working to make philanthropy more diverse, equitable, and inclusive for "creating some urgency by...focusing philanthropic attention" with its recently released State of the Work report. But Laskowski goes on to ask, "What's taking so long?" "Foundations are supposed to be turn-on-a-dime social innovators," writes Laskowski. "Unencumbered by the pressures of bottom lines and ballots, they can provide much-needed sources of flexible, catalytic capital to communities in need around some of the biggest issues of our time. And yet, here we are at the confluence of issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, wealth, power, and community, and the pace of foundation movement is simply geological...."


Responding to news that the Los Angeles Times was awarded $1 million from the New York City-based Ford Foundation to expand its coverage of neglected beats, Peter Osnos, writing in the Atlantic, wonders whether the grant represents a larger trend of foundations "supporting newspapers as they move increasingly towards digital delivery." If so, writes Osnos, "then the prospects for traditional news could take a turn for the better."


On her blog, Joanne Fritz has a few suggestions for nonprofit professionals looking to hone their skills this summer.


In the third installment of a promised six-part series, Center for Effective Philanthropy president Phil Buchanan urges those who work in the social sector to embrace the term "nonprofit," because, as Buchanan writes, "in describing what it isn’t, the sector differentiates itself in a fundamental and important way...."

Social Media

Networked Nonprofit co-author Allison Fine waxes nostalgic about life before the Facebook IPO, when social networking was "free and open and easy to use -- and fun...."

Fine's co-author, Beth Kanter, explains that while social networking has become commonplace in the nonprofit sector, "the competency of having a networked mindset [still] is developing." Kanter goes on to share six takeaways from a recent Packard Foundation report, Ideas Into Action: Reflecting on Three Years of Building Network Effectiveness (44 pages, PDF).


New York Times reporter Kelly Slivka discusses how scientists are using crowdfunding platforms to raise money for research projects on her Green blog. Through the #SciFund Challenge, for example, "any interested scientist with a feasible project and a fundraising goal can sign up." In fact, more than $75,000 was raised by forty-nine participants during the first challenge, which ran from November 1 to December 15.

On the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation's blog, Ben Wirz, director of business consulting at the foundation, writes that audience measurement technology "creates a real opportunity for publishers to better understand their audience and approach brands directly, thereby boosting their digital ad revenue." Knight is investing in Umbel, which "does this by correlating audience social information (Facebook, Twitter, Flurry, etc) with Web analytics (Google Analytics, Omniture, etc.) and other data to create anonymized, rich user profiles."

That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at And have a great week!

--The Editors

Weekend Link Roundup (April 14-15, 2012)

April 15, 2012

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


Thanks in part to the proliferation of social media and a loss of faith in institutions of every kind, foundations and nonprofit organizations must rethink how they communicate and hold themselves accountable, argues Lucy Bernholz on her Philanthropy 2173 blog. "The kind of organizing that led Komen to change its decision and that is now calling for change from Gates is easier than ever," writes Bernolz.

It can be turned on in an instant and reach unprecedented scale at unprecedented pace. Boards of directors of nonprofits and foundations need to know this, they need to expect it, and they need to engage with both critics and supporters. They need, in other words, to govern in a new landscape in which each and every decision they make may be the one that transforms supporters into critics (Komen) or turns educational policy grants into part of national outrage about gun laws and racial justice [i.e., Gates Foundation support for a conservative advocacy organization known as ALEC].

Is this about a social media policy? I don't think so. Is it about governance, engagement, conversation, accountability, structural consistency, clarity of mission, and a willingness to remain civil while participating in difficult areas of work riven with disagreement? Yes. Nonprofits are part of civil society which thrives only when it is filled with multiple points of view and diverse approaches to problem solving. The "public" will not agree with every decision a foundation or nonprofit makes and they have a right to express that disagreement. Foundations and nonprofits have a right (and a responsibility) to make their decisions and expect a public response to them....


On her Getting Attention blog, Nancy Schwartz "nonprofitizes" a list of content marketing tips from top chefs originally compiled by Her list includes:

  • Use fresh ingredients. Fresh content retains its natural flavor. Avoid stale or processed content -- your supporters will know it and hate it.
  • Keep the menu simple. Don’t overcomplicate content or muddy the dish with too many flavors.
  • Experiment in the kitchen. Try new forms of content and solicit feedback so you know what's not working -- and what is.

Visit for the complete list.


On the HuffPost Media site, Kevin Murphy, president of the Berks (PA) County Community Foundation, suggests that the death of traditional journalism is going to force philanthropy to step up and fund alternatives. "[A]s foundations realize the profound impact of losing the communications vehicles that tie our society together," writes Murphy,

they're going to recognize the imperative of supporting journalism in their field or community. At a global level, funders rely on journalism to help the public understand challenges like world wide poverty, climate change and human rights violations.

Without the ability to hear from, and communicate with the populations they serve, foundations will find their mission nearly impossible to accomplish. So, they'll solve that problem....


On her Non-Profit Marketing blog, Katya Andresen shares management lessons from Steve Jobs included in a recent Harvard Business Review article by Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson. Her favorite -- "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." -- was something Jobs told Isaacson he had first come across in that icon of '70s counterculture, the Whole Earth Catalogue.

On her blog, Rosetta Thurman offers a few suggestions for organizations interested in supporting the next generation of nonprofit leaders. Among other things, Thurman advises nonprofit executives to increase the number of professional development opportunities availble to young staffers and to require each employee to draft a career development plan.


In advance of the annual conference of the Global Philanthropy Forum later this week in Washington, D.C., Jane Wales, president and CEO of the World Affairs Council and vice president of philanthropy and society at the Aspen Institute, considers the philanthropic legacy of Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller and connects it to some of the tools and approaches championed by a new generation of philanthropists.

On the BlackGivesBack blog, Tracey Webb announces the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's Cultures of Giving Donor Challenge, a ten-day online competition designed to boost funding for nonprofits working to address the critical needs of communities of color.

Social Entrepreneurship

Writing on the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog, Jason Saul, the founder/CEO of Mission Measurement, shares five takeaways from the 2012 Skoll World Forum: it's okay to make an economic return from trying to solve a social problem; measurement is no longer optional; it's cool to be corporate; people want to move the needle; and we're entering a new age of social entrepreneurship.

Social Media

In a guest post at Beth's Blog, Frank Barry, Internet strategy manager at software company Blackbaud, shares findings from the 2012 Nonprofit Social Networking Benchmark Report. Writes Barry: "We learned a lot of things, but one prevailing theme stood out -- despite limited budgets and staffing, nonprofits continue to find great value in their fast-growing social networks."

In the latest installment of her Chronicle of Philanthropy Social Good podcast series, Allison Fine chats with Alliance for Youth Movements co-founder Stephanie Rudat about how and why a few recent social action movements, including Kony 2012 and's Trayvon Martin petition, went viral.

Social Media for Social Good author Heather Mansfield discusses hashtag spamming, which "can do more harm to your nonprofit's brand on Twitter than good." Writes Mansfield: "Too many hashtags in one tweet can look messy or nonsensical, decrease click-through rates, and subtly communicate to your followers than you are a hashtag spammer -- i.e., you're not really monitoring or participating in the conversation around a certain hashtag, just spamming it in hopes of getting more followers, which doesn't work by the way." What do you think? Is less more when it comes to hashtags in tweets? Use the comments section below to share your thoughts.

That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at And have a great week!

-- The Editors

Weekend Link Roundup (March 10-11, 2012)

March 11, 2012

Spring-EquinoxOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....


Social media guru Seth Godin has released "Stop Stealing Dreams: What Is School For?", a free 30,000-word manifesto and experiment in what Godin calls "firestarting." As he writes on his blog,

I'm hoping that removing friction from the sharing of this idea will help it spread. If you're interested in the topic (and I hope you are), please tweet or like the project page, download the files, post mirror copies on your own blog and if you can, email them to every teacher, parent and citizen who should be part of the discussion about what we do with our kids all day (and why). If just a fraction of this blog's readers shared it with their address book, we'd reach a lot of people....


Based on his organization's research and his own observations, Center for Effective Philanthropy president Phil Buchanan offers a sharp take on the 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Foundation Boards.

Human/Civil Rights

In a guest post on the Open Society Foundations blog, filmmaker Doug Liman calls on ordinary Americans to fight torture by participating in his current project, Reckoning With Torture: Memos and Testimonies from the “War on Terror". "What I'm asking people to do is both simple and profound," writes Liman. "[T]o film themselves reading one of the eleven documents that make up the script of the movie and send me the footage." The documents in question were among the 140,000 the ACLU uncovered through a Freedom of Information Act request, and to date actors, writers, a former CIA officer, a former interrogator, and the chief prosecutor of the military commissions at Guantanamo have been among those who participated in the project.


In a new post on the GiveWell blog, Holden Karnofsky considers the case of mothers2mothers, a nongovernmental organization based in South Africa that has been criticized for publishing what Karnofsky calls erroneous figures about the number of women it serves. Writes Karnofsky:

We certainly don't think the anomalies we've found show that m2m isn't doing great work, or that its support and awards are undeserved (and we are still considering the possibility of further investigating m2m as a potential GiveWell-recommended group). Still, seeing this sort of problem from an organization that gets as much attention as m2m seems significant. It's another piece of evidence that the philanthropic world -- including many of the largest and best-resourced funders -- is not asking all of the critical questions that it could be asking....

On his Harvard Business Review blog, Uncharitable author Dan Pallotta offers a "unified theory of social change" for nonprofits and institutions seeking to "change the world." The plan, in three parts, looks like this: 1) set big, hairy, audacious goals and deadlines for each problem you want to tackle; 2) collaborate and communicate like there's no tomorrow; and 3) invest in fundraising to dramatically increase the capital available to solve those problems. "It's not rocket science," adds Pallotta. "So let's get on with it."


Philanthropy 2173 blogger Lucy Bernholz has released a new toolkit for foundations and nonprofit organizations based on Philanthropy and Social Investing Blueprint 2012, her annual look at the trends shaping the philanthropic and social change landscape.

Social Media

Beth Kanter looks at the role of transparency in the incredibly viral response to -- and debate over -- the KONY 2012 video, which was posted to YouTube on Monday and quickly racked up fifty million views. Although the video quickly galvanized tens of thousands of young people to pledge to "stop" Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony, whose guerrilla army filled with child soldiers terrorized Ugandan villagers for the better part of two decades, the video also generated a backlash among African journalists and others who question its accuracy and the intentions of Invisible Children, the U.S.-based NGO that produced and released it.


Allison Fine celebrated International Women's Day on Thursday by reflecting on a recent development in the human rights arena: the fact that in most cases "protests were started by individuals [on social media channels], not organizations." And while there may be no "Nelson Mandalas or Lech Walesas speaking on behalf of protestors," writes Fine, "social networks aren't leaderless, as critics say, but leaderfull with individuals defining their own roles, uploading videos, [and] posting news without being asked or tasked or targeted...."

That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at And have a great week!

-- The Editors

Geena Davis Institute Asks: Where Are the Good Roles for Women?

February 24, 2012

(Laura Cronin is a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. In her last post, she wrote about the Wikimedia Foundation's first Public Policy Initiative.)

Seejane_250As we get ready for the Academy Awards on Sunday, it's interesting to think about the relationship of pop and celebrity culture to social change.

The average foundation manager working to move the needle for a cause can only envy the ways in which celebrities are able to generate attention for their favorite issues. A short speech from a prominent figure on the red carpet is a surefire route to getting your cause trending on Twitter.

This year's Academy Award-nominated films are packed with issues that foundation and nonprofit people are concerned about: inequality, children and families, race, gender, sexual violence, politics. And I'm not just talking about documentaries.

Unfortunately, good roles for strong women are rare. That depressing fact turned Oscar (The Accidental Tourist) and Golden Globe (Commander in Chief) winner Geena Davis into an advocate. Watching television and movies with her young daughter a decade ago, Davis became concerned about the representation of women in most children's media. In 2004, the actress founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in the Media and commissioned a study by Dr. Stacy Smith of the USC Annenberg School of Communications & Journalism which found a huge, 3:1 gender gap in roles for men and women. The study also concluded that even G-rated films transmit negative messages about girls -- messages which not only affect children in the U.S. but, given Hollywood's global reach, are exported to the rest of the world. The institute raises money for research, advocates for change, and develops educational materials that schools can use to help children think beyond stereotypes, including a recently piloted video learning series about gender and the workplace called Guess Who?

It also believes that pop culture is not just a mirror of our world but a driver of attitudes, and that positive gender portrayals break down stereotypes and broaden children's aspirations. According to the institute's executive director, Madeline Di Nonno, what children see on a screen truly matters. It shapes their emotional and social development and their beliefs. The more they see female characters who are hyper-sexualized, sidelined, or not present at all, the more boys and girls will think that's the way it's supposed to be.

So whether you stay up all night with Billy Crystal to see who gets to bring home a golden statue or turn in early, the Geena Davis Institute hopes you'll spend a few minutes thinking about how women and girls are portrayed on the silver screen.

-- Laura Cronin

Weekend Link Roundup (December 3 - 4, 2011)

December 04, 2011

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


On the Mother Nature Network, author Chris Turner (The Leap: How to Survive and Thrive in the Sustainable Economy) suggests that the problem with the modern environmental movement is "a maddening combination of Much Too Big and Way Too Little": Rio, Kyoto, Copenhagen, and Durban -- "the entire international emissions treaty process...[is] predicated...on convincing essentially the whole world to take [the first step] all at once, in unison," while our individual decisions to use eco-friendly products at home just aren't going to change the world. In his post, Turner offers advice about how to nurture your own activism and points to the solar energy boom in Gainesville, Florida, as an example of right-sizing a community sustainability effort.

As part of Occupy the Future, a forum on lessons to be drawn from the Occupy movement hosted by the Boston Review, Paul and Anne Ehrlich (co-authors, most recently, of The Dominant Animal: Human Evolution and the Environment) offer a much darker view of the "conflict" between capitalism and the environment. "It is clear that we must redesign governments to regulate the marketplace so that most externalities are internalized for the good of society," write the Ehrlichs. "Everyone should recognize that old-time capitalism, like socialism and communism,

simply has not and cannot generate the sustainable redistribution and material and population shrinkage that are essential to creating an environmentally sound and equitable global society. The challenge is immense and unprecedented, with the dilemma exacerbated by plutocrats buying politicians and funding a powerful and effective disinformation machine programmed to lie about environmental threats. Overcoming that machine will require much cooperation, which won’t likely be achieved without new institutions and a broad increase in social justice. And these will require what the Occupy movement apparently demands: that we step back and consider whether the society we’ve built is indeed the one we want. But we have no choice but to meet the challenge. Either we will change our ways, or they will be changed for us.


Future Fundraising Now blogger Jeff Brooks explains why the advent of Web 2.0 fundraising tools has not killed direct mail. "Direct mail is the greatest fundraising medium ever created -- after the church collection plate," writes Brooks. "It's changing, getting more complex and more expensive. But it's not dying."


On the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Impatient Optimists blog, Dr. Bart Haynes, head of the NIH NIAID Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology (CHAVI), marks the thirtieth anniversary of the global AIDS epidemic by reflecting on the progress that has been made in developing a safe and effective AIDS vaccine.

In an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal ("No Retreat in the Fight Against AIDS"), George W. Bush recounts the successes over the last decade of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis and the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). More than 4.7 million people have received AIDS treatment through the Global Fund and PEPFAR, Bush notes, while some 450,000 children have been born HIV-negative due to the latter's programs to disrupt mother-to-child transmission. And while acknowledging that "in lean budget times the U.S. and developing world must prioritize," the former president closes by urging Congress to think twice before it cuts funding for the programs.

On the same topic, Open Society Foundations program officer Shannon Kowalski gives two reasons why it's unlikely AIDS will be eradicated: "political will and the money to do it." Writes Kowalski:

These two barriers came into painfully clear view last week when the board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria announced that it was cancelling its latest call for applications for funding and adopted a set of drastic measures so that it could maintain funding for the essential services that it is currently supporting. At precisely the moment we've realized how to curb HIV, donors have left the Global Fund treading water, struggling to keep funding flowing to preserve the lives of those who are already on treatment....

And in "World AIDS Day: The Role of Religion," the Council on Foreign Relations' Isobel Coleman writes that "[t]he obstacles to achieving an AIDS-free generation -- and the benefits of this achievement for humanity -- make the constructive involvement of religious institutions crucial." While religious leaders have "contributed to the epidemic by denying the importance of condoms in HIV prevention and contributing to the stigma that AIDS patients already confront," Coleman writes, USAID is partnering with religious leaders in places like Indonesia to "facilitate the implementation of HIV policy statements" and "share a compilation of fatwa (religious guidance) on HIV prevention."


Author, NYU professor, and new media deep thinker Clay Shirky (Here Comes Everybody: The Power Of Organizing Without Organizations) brilliantly rebuts a lengthy piece in the Columbia Journalism Review written by Dean Starkman in which Starkman argues "for the continued relevance of existing news organizations, especially newspapers, in something very close to their current form." It's long, well worth reading, and includes this observation: "No medium has ever survived the indifference of 25 year olds...." Indeed.


The folks at the BlackGivesBack blog need your help selecting the top ten celebrity philanthropists of 2011. Anyone can vote, as long as they do it before Sunday, December 11.

Social Justice

At the Foundation Center's Transparency Talk blog, Sara K. Gould, former president and CEO of the Ms. Foundation for Women, shares key findings from Diminishing Dollars: The Impact of the 2008 Financial Crisis on the Field of Social Justice Philanthropy (35 pages, PDF), a new study which she authored with help from colleagues at the Cricket Island Foundation, the Foundation Center, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, the Wagner School of Public Service at New York University, and the Social Justice Philanthropy Collaborative.

That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at And have a great week!

-- The Editors

ANNOUNCEMENT: Funder-Only Event With Rebecca MacKinnon, Author, 'Consent of the Networked'

October 17, 2011

Rebecca-mackinnonBack in March, we chatted with Helen Brunner, director of the Media Democracy Fund, about social media and the Arab Spring uprisings, net neutrality, and the role of nonprofit advocacy groups in ensuring that every American continues to benefit from an open Internet.

This Wednesday, October 19, at 11:00 a.m., MDF is hosting a funders-only talk featuring Rebecca MacKinnon, author of the soon-to-be-published Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom. In the book, MacKinnon argues that freedom in the Internet age depends on whether we defend our rights on digital platforms and networks in the same way that people fight for their rights and accountable governance in their actual communities and nations. It's time, in other words, to stop thinking of ourselves as passive "users" of technology and instead act like citizens of the Internet -- as netizens -- and take ownership and responsibility for our digital future.

Interested funders can sign up for the event here.


Quote of the Week

  • "The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity...."

    — Amelia Earhart

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