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15 posts from October 2007

More Info on Southern California Wildfire Relief

October 30, 2007

Apologies for the lack of posts the last few days -- I've been Ohio helping out with a family emergency. I'll be posting regularly starting tomorrow and back in the office on Thursday. In the meantime, my colleague Janet Camarena in San Francisco asked me to post the following.

-- Press Release --

Victorville, CA -- High Desert residents wanting to aid the victims of the current fires in San Bernardino County are encouraged to contact the Victor Valley COAD at 760-242-5370. Items including prepackaged food and bottled water are currently needed. Donations of cash are also needed for the American Red Cross and Salvation Army who are the lead agencies working with the victims.

The COAD, spearheaded by Desert Communities United Way (DCUW), is a collaborative of local voluntary organizations (nonprofits, county agencies, schools, clubs, and ministries) that are active in all phases of disaster. According to Christine Briggs, DCUW Executive Director, "The mission of the COAD is to foster efficient, streamlined service delivery to people affected by disasters, while eliminating unnecessary duplication of effort, through cooperation in the four phases of disaster: preparation, response, recovery, and mitigation." This COAD includes organizations from the communities of Adelanto, Apple Valley, Baldy Mesa, El Mirage, Helendale, Hesperia, Lucerne Valley, Oak Hills, Oro Grande, Phelan, Pinon Hills, Summit Valley, Victorville, and Wrightwood.

Readers are cautioned to beware of other fundraising appeals related to the fire disaster. "I just came from a national conference of nonprofits and one of the topics was the proliferation of new nonprofits that spring up after disasters," stated Vici Nagel, CEO of High Desert Resource Network. "We want to warn local residents about this and we strongly encourage them to make any disaster related donations directly to the local chapters of the American Red Cross (760- 245-6511) and Salvation Army (760- 245-2545). In doing so donors can be sure that the money raised will stay in the community and will be distributed to those agencies playing key roles in the recovery efforts."

In addition to donations, volunteers are needed for a variety of positions. To join the "Wildfires 2007 Response Team" or for the most accurate and up-to-date information about volunteer needs readers are encouraged to visit www.handsoninlandempire.org. Officials are asking that people do not go directly to evacuation sites. Residents needing assistance related to the fire disaster can find help by calling 2-1-1 on their telephone toll-free, 24 hours a day. At 2-1-1 they can also find information about volunteer opportunities and needed donations throughout the County of San Bernardino.

For more information:

Chris Briggs, COAD Chair, 760-242-5370

Vici Nagel, COAD Vice Chair, 760-949-2930

Information on Southern California Fire Relief Funds

October 26, 2007

The information below on special funds established to respond to the fires in Southern California was put together by the folks at San Diego Grantmakers and Southern California Grantmakers and forwarded by Northern California Grantmakers to Janet Camarena, the director of the Foundation Center's San Francisco office. Thanks to Janet for the head's up.

Quick Links

Los Angeles Funds

San Diego Funds

General Information

Please note: This list is not exhaustive. To add a resource to the list, contact me. Or better yet, contact San Diego Grantmakers or Southern California Grantmakers. Our thoughts are with all those in California affected by this week's fires.

-- Mitch Nauffts

2007 John W. Gardner Leadership Award

October 25, 2007

"Leaders come in many forms, with many styles and diverse qualities. There are quiet leaders and leaders one can hear in the next county. Some find strength in eloquence, some in judgment, some in courage."

-- John W. Gardner

Established by Independent Sector in 1985, the John W. Gardner Leadership Award is presented annually to an outstanding American who exemplifies the leadership and ideals of founding IS chairperson John Gardner (1912-2002). Berresford_lg_2

On Monday evening, IS presented Ford Foundation president Susan V. Berresford with the  award at a ceremony in Los Angeles. Berresford, who earlier this year announced her decision to retire from the foundation after thirty-seven years, joined Ford's division of national affairs in 1970 and subsequently served as head of its women's programs, vice president for U.S. and international affairs programs, vice president in charge of worldwide programming, executive vice president and chief operating officer, and -- for the last eleven years -- as the foundation's president.

According to the press release announcing her selection as this year's Gardner Award winner

Berresford has played a pivotal role in many of the Ford Foundation’s signature accomplishments. Early in her career, she was the driving force behind grants to organizations leading the fight against gender bias. She also helped guide the foundation’s landmark efforts to build a broad civil rights network in the United States, steering critical resources towards programs that increased minority voter registration and reduced housing discrimination.

Ms. Berresford oversaw the creation of a national loan program that has brought home ownership to tens of thousands of minority and low-income Americans. In 2000, the Ford Foundation launched the International Fellowships Program with the largest grant in its history -- $280 million -- to enable talented community leaders in poor countries to obtain graduate education at the best universities in the world. To date, more than 2,500 men and women have been selected for the program from Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Russia. More than 1,000 fellows have completed their study and many already have returned to their home countries to infuse their leadership skills in bettering their communities.

Under Ms. Berresford’s stewardship, the Ford Foundation has established institutions that promote international cooperation and support philanthropy throughout the world. In 2006, the Ford Foundation, with a $30 million commitment, launched TrustAfrica, an independent philanthropic foundation based in Senegal. The organization promotes peace, economic prosperity, and social justice throughout the continent and gives Africans a voice in the international donor community. The Ford Foundation also was a prime funder of the International Center for Transitional Justice, which has helped more than 30 countries emerging from conflict foster justice and secure sustainable peace. In addition, the foundation has supported the creation of two dozen new foundations around the world, which are now improving the quality of life in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

I interviewed Susan (as everyone calls her) in 2002, eight months after the September 11 attacks, and was impressed then by her directness, collegiality, and sense of humor. Those qualities were on display again Monday night as she accepted the Gardner Award and shared her thoughts with those in attendance.

After starting with a few anecdotes from her travels in Africa to illustrate the fact of our growing global interdependence, Berresford expressed her conviction that "we have new opportunities to come together and create community and safety on a wide scale." She then laid out three challenges -- in effect, a call to action -- for the independent sector:

First...we have to ensure that economic opportunity is open to all in societies around the world. In the next decade, for the first time in human history, the majority of the world's population will live in cities. And unless we generate far greater living and earning opportunities than our urban landscapes currently provide, tragedy is surely in store for all of us.

We already see in the U.S. growing proportions of our working-age population in dead-end, low-reward jobs, [even though] our social contract taught us that if you play by the rules and work hard, you can get into the middle class, you can pay for college, you can cover your health costs, and you can have a decent retirement.

I think if we tolerate the growing concentrations of compound disadvantage, we make a dangerous mockery of that idea. And I hope as we think about that, we'll remember that huge advances in well-being our country occurred not just when the economy was rising or expanding. They also came when the U.S. made ambitious investments in people and in public moral standards. Think of the Homestead Act of 1862, signed by Abraham Lincoln; the GI Bill, signed by Franklin Roosevelt; the Federal Home Mortgage Act, which created a whole generation of homeowners who had a stake in their communities; recall the Civil Rights Act of 1957 that Wade Henderson reminded us was an Eisenhower innovation; and then the more familiar 1964 Civil Rights Act and the American for Disabilities Act of 1990; and many such sweeping laws.

I believe it is the time for us to consider dramatic public investments that will have significant inter-generational payoffs. Over the last decades, lots of you in this room have been working on ideas and programs that will become the base of new, ambitious, generation-boosting investments. Just to take one example from the Ford Foundation's experience, we and other foundations have tested a variety of ideas around accounts -- children's savings accounts, individual development accounts, college accounts, life-long-learning accounts. These programs could be knit together into a national system of publicly and privately supported, individually earned asset accounts. And that could have a very dramatic effect on the ambition and aspiration and economic opportunity in disadvantaged communities. That's really the first challenge I see for all of us.

A second and closely related challenge is to show that our organizations support the worth and dignity of every single human being. That means ensuring that differences based on gender, on ethnicity, on race, on sexual orientation, on disability, on geography do not marginalize the other. But I think inclusiveness is something that far too few of our organizations think about, or are very creative about. Think of all the debate we now have in our field about new philanthropy, or the buzz we hear about combinations of nonprofit and business efforts. We have far less buzz and far less dialogue regarding inclusion. Leaders in our sector need to show that we know how to make a real asset out of our differences. In the U.S. this means intentionally including in our hiring pools, in boards, and in decision-making bodies people who have been marginalized. It means examining what may be out-of-date concepts of qualifications. And it involves seeing that formerly underrepresented people, when they come in, are welcomed and helped to succeed.

And I believe we still need affirmative action. For one thing, we have very clear evidence of prejudice that remains from paired studies of black and white job applicants, health care, and housing-seekers. So declaring that we want to be a color-blind society doesn't make it so. We have to take many kinds of difference into account to ensure equal opportunity, and when we do that we must be sure to embrace our full diversity. Bishop Tutu said this wonderfully when he said, "We can't pick and choose for justice."

Affirmative action, in my view, is a very modest measure when compared to the power of excepted advantage. We need to reveal how many people have advantages that they don't recognize. How many of us have heard someone say, "I made it they hard way; why can't everybody else?" Often that person doesn't see what really helped them along the way -- perhaps being in a family that had a tradition of work and knew how to smooth the way for [young family members] into work, even though the family was very poor. Maybe the advantage was a school teacher or a relative who reached out and plucked a child out of a very disorganized and dysfunctional neighborhood or family. Or the advantage of having a family member who can just make a loan at an important moment, on an emergency basis.

The truth about advantage is complicated; it's not just about being rich. And I think we have to help people see how advantage works, and then extend to others the advantages that we all know make an enormous difference.

The third challenge I see is ensuring that our sector's organizations are effective and accountable. I think our sector is making tremendous gains here, particularly in standard-setting. Civil society organizations across the nation and in many different subfields have now developed standards of governance and operation, and Independent Sector has made a wonderful effort to try to pull them together and consolidate the core principles.

But I think the question is whether we will vigorously promote those standards. We need to make them so widely understood that people feel pressure to live up to them and embarrassed if they don't. And that will not happen if we try to do this on the cheap. So I hope everybody in this room will dedicate time and funding to make the kinds of standards that you all have in your own fields, and that the independent sector now has, vivid and powerful.

And in that connection I have to say that I remain disappointed by what I see as a lack of commitment to our field's general well-being by many people in it. For example, in the foundation field I think too few foundations support research and analysis about philanthropy. We should be banding together to make sure we have sophisticated and accurate research and data on our field, because we need to be sure that when policy makers come to us and try and figure out how to regulate us, we have good information that informs their decision making. Part of our difficulty, I think, in the legislative arena today is that we have lousy data and it sets up damaging norms and benchmarks. We are responsible for that ourselves.

I think the same is true of the broader independent sector. We need to know about the diversity of our field's leadership and who is in the talent pipeline. Are poor people really being served by organizations set up for that purpose? We should be asking those questions, not waiting for our regulators to do that.

We will be better off if we band together and generate sophisticated research that helps us reform our field. Putting it simply, I guess I would say that if we don't take ourselves seriously, I don't know why anyone else should.

Finally, as we put our standards to work, I think we need to be willing to critique and repair organizations that fall short. Critique and repair. Let's not gossip about them; let's engage with them. I think we have a corresponding obligation to support those that are unfairly criticized, and not just feel relieved that we are not in in the crosshairs. I think the Council on Foundations and Independent Sector have done a marvelous job in this area, citing missteps and chastising bullies. And I bless them for that.

John Gardner expected us to aim high, and I don't think we want to disappoint him. Let us not leave people behind, and let us beseech our country to invest in dramatic generation-boosting investments, earned by striving. Let us keep difference and equality in the forefront. And let us take our sector very, very seriously.

Classic, no-nonsense Berresford, especially with respect to her suggestion that foundations need to do more to demonstrate their -- and their grantees' -- impact and effectiveness. As Susan said, paying lip service to the idea is not enough; it will take time, effort, creative thinking, and money -- lots of money. And, quite frankly, it may not be possible, in any meaningful way. But if the independent sector wishes to remain relevant -- and largely free of onerous regulation -- we need to try.

(Ed. note: I'll be posting a new interview with Susan in the coming weeks as part of our Newsmaker series.)

-- Mitch Nauffts

IS Conference -- Day Two

October 22, 2007

Attending a big nonprofit sector conference can be a test of one's resolve. There are the usual travel issues, the constant pressure to be witty, smart, and charming, and the stress associated with CPO -- conference program overload -- which usually kicks in during the second day. (It's no coincidence that the amount of informal networking that happens at an event like this increases as the conference itself moves toward the finish line.)

Of course, conference planners long ago learned that the best way to keep a captive audience captive is to feed it. Which is why they invented plenary sessions.

Don't get me wrong: I love a good plenary. For starters, the room is usually large enough to allow everyone except the speakers and clumsy wait staff to remain anonymous. And rubber-chicken-circuit jokes notwithstanding, the food rarely is inedible. Throw in a good speaker or a lively panel discussion and you have a recipe for an entertaining (and often informative) hour or two.

We've had two good plenaries here. Yesterday's opening plenary featured remarks by IS president and CEO Diana Aviv on the subject "What Do We Stand For?", followed by an interactive session in which "instantaneous public opinion analysis" technologies were used "to help create a platform from which the nonprofit community can, during the 2008 elections and beyond, speak about the critical challenges the sector faces in improving lives and strengthening civil society."

Today's luncheon plenary, "A Changing America: Bridging the Divide," was similarly thought-provoking. Moderated by former Carter administration official and Knight Foundation president Hodding Carter III (who is to panel moderating what Peyton Manning is to NFL quarterbacking), and featuring a remarkably diverse group of panelists -- including Ismael Ahmed, director of the Dept. of Human Services for the State of Michigan; Ralph Everett, president and CEO, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies; Rabbi Douglas Kahn, executive director, Jewish Community Relations Council (San Francisco); Stewart Kwoh, president and executive director, Asian Pacific American Legal Center of Southern California; Dr. Richard Land, president, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist Convention; and Janet Murguia, president and CEO, National Council of La Raza -- the discussion, in one short hour, managed to touch on and even illuminate issues of race, religion, culture, class, and politics in America -- without anyone getting hurt. As I said, I love a good plenary.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Independent Sector Annual Conference (Day One)

October 21, 2007

Is_logo_color_horizontal_2 Greetings from Southern California, where the temperature is in the 70s, the sky is sapphire blue, and the Santa Ana winds have sparked wildfires from San Diego to Malibu. I'm in Los Angeles for Independent Sector's annual conference, the theme of which is "Opportunity and Responsibility." Los Angeles County is home to more than 10 million people and 30,000 tax-exempt organizations, and in many ways is ground zero for the demographic, economic, and social trends that will shape American society over the coming decades.

As the wildfires that scorched Malibu and other locations overnight show, it's also a place whose abundant natural beauty masks an unforgiving and at times extreme physical environment. (For an entertaining critique of the human activity that has reshaped the Southern California  landscape, read Mike Davis's Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster.)

In conjunction with the conference, IS on Thursday released Principles for Good Governance and Ethical Practice: A Guide for Charities and Foundations, the result of an eighteen-month effort by the Panel on the Nonprofit Sector to develop principles of ethical conduct, accountability, and transparency that organizations in the nonprofit sector should aspire to and encourage other organizations to follow.

According to the Panel's Web site, the Guide "outlines 33 practices designed to support board members and staff leaders of every charitable organization as they work to improve their own operations." The principles are organized under four main categories -- legal compliance and public disclosure, effective governance, strong financial oversight, and responsible fundraising -- and include things such as:

  • "A charitable organization should have a formally adopted, written code of ethics with which all of its directors or trustees, staff, and volunteers are familiar and to which they adhere" (#2);
  • "A charitable organization should establish and implement procedures that enable individuals to come forward with information on illegal practices or violations of organizational policies. This "whistleblower" policy should specify that the organization will not retaliate against, and will protect, the confidentiality of, individuals who make good-faith reports" (#4);
  • "The board of a charitable organization should meet regularly enough to conduct its business and fulfill its duties" (#9);
  • "The board should review organizational and governing instruments no less frequently than every five years" (#18);
  • "A charitable organization should not provide loans (or the equivalent, such as loan guarantees, purchasing or transferring ownership of a residence or office, or relieving a debt or lease obligation) to directors, officers, or trustees" (#23); and
  • "Contributions must be used for purposes consistent with the donor's intent, whether as decsribed in the relevant solicitation materials or as specifically directed by the donor" (#28)

I'll have more to say about the Guide after I've had a chance to gauge its reception among conference attendees. In the meantime, I'll leave you with this thought: It should be considered a success to the extent that most people find at least one thing in it with which they disagree.

More tomorrow.

-- Mitch Nauffts

The Giving Carnival Has Landed

October 19, 2007

The October Giving Carnival is now online. Arlene Spencer, author of the Seeking Grant Money Today blog, hosted this month's carnival, the topic of which was, Are relationships "everything" in philanthropy?

(Don't know what a Giving Carnival is? This post explains it.)

The carnival generated thirteen responses, including posts from Phil Cubeta (author of the GiftHub blog), Gayle Roberts, (author of the Fundraising for Nonprofits blog), Holden Karnofsky (co-author of the GiveWell blog), Jeff Brooks (author of the Donor Power blog), Trista Harris (a program officer at the Saint Paul Foundation and author of the New Voices of Philanthropy blog), Andrea Learned (author of the Learned on Women blog), Carrie Rothburd (a principal at Grant Central Station), and Richard Marker (author of the Wise Philanthropy blog). Congrats to all on a job well done.

The nonprofit blog community is still looking for a host for the November Giving Carnival. If you're interested, contact Arlene.

Did You Know | Shift Happens

October 16, 2007

Greetings from Pittsburgh, the city of the two Andys -- Carnegie and Warhol. (More on that in another post.) I'm here for the presentation of the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy, which was inaugurated in 2001 by more than twenty of the institutions which Andrew Carnegie established in his lifetime. The award is given every two years to one or more individuals who have dedicated their private wealth to the public good. According to the official program, medalists must have a vision of philanthropy that reflects the ideals and breadth of Andrew Carnegie; have a proven track record; and have made a significant impact on a particular field, nation, or group of people, either national or internationally. The 2007 awardees are Eli Broad, the Heinz family, the Mellon family, and the Tata family of India.

But all that happens tomorrow.

I've been en route today and haven't had a lot of time to meet with or think about the awardees. Earlier today, however, I got an e-mail from my friend Margaret Egan, a seasoned nonprofit and foundation pro, that included a link to a great Power Point-link video on YouTube. Now, if I was a younger, hipper guy, I'd just give you the link and send you off to check it out whenever the spirit moved you.

But I'm not.

So what follows is a transcription of the presentation, which was created by someone named Karl Fisch. A warning: It's kind of geeky and tech-centric, and not exactly related to philanthropy. But if you care about globalization, education reform, the impact of accelerating technological change on humankind, and America's place in the world, I think you'll find it of interest. Enjoy.


Did You Know?

Sometimes size does matter.

If you're one in a million in China...there are 1,300 people just like you.

In India, there are 1,100 people just like you.

The 25 percent of the population in China with the highest IQs...is greater than the total population of North America.

In India, it's the top 28 percent.

Translation for teachers: They have more honors kids than we have kids.

Did you know?

China will soon become the number-one English-speaking country in the world.

If you took every single job in the U.S. today and shipped it to China...China would still have a labor surplus.

While you are reading this:

  • 60 babies will be born in the U.S.
  • 224 babies will be born in China
  • 351 babies will be born in India

The U.S. Dept. of Labor estimates that today's learner will have 10 to 14 jobs...by age 38.

According to the U.S. Dept . of Labor, 1 out of 4 workers today is working for a company for whom they have been employed less than 1 year.

More than 1 out of 2 are working for a company for whom they have worked less than 5 years.

According to former Secretary of Education Richard Riley, the top 10 jobs that will be in demand in 2010 didn't exist in 2004.

We are currently preparing students for jobs that don't yet exist...using technologies that haven't yet been invented...in order to solve problems we don't even know are problems yet.

Name this country --

  • Richest in the world
  • Largest military
  • Center of world business and finance
  • Strongest education system
  • World center of innovation and invention
  • Currency the world standard of value
  • Highest standard of living

Answer: England...in 1900.

Did you know?

The U.S. is 20th in the world in broadband Internet penetration (Luxembourg just passed us).

Nintendo invested more than $140 million in research and development in 2002.

The U.S. federal government spent less than half as much on research and innovation in education.

1 of every 8 couples married in the U.S. in 2005 met online.

There are over 106 million registered users of MySpace (as of Sept. 2006)

If MySpace were a country, it would be the 11th-largest in the world (between Japan and Mexico).

The average MySpace page is visited 30 times a day.

Did you know?

We are living in exponential times.

There are over 2.7 billion searches performed on Google each month. (To whom were these questions addressed B.G. -- before Google?)

The number of text messages sent and received every day exceeds the population of the planet.

There are about 540,000 words in the English language...about 5 times as many as during Shakespeare's time.

More than 3,000 new books are published...daily.

It is estimated that a week's worth of the New York Times...contains more info than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime in the 18th century.

It is estimated that 1.5 exabytes (1.5 x 1018 ) of unique new information will be generated worldwide this year.

That's estimated to be more than in the previous 5,000 years.

The amount of new technical information is doubling every 2 years.

For students starting a four-year technical or college degree, this means that half of what they learn in their first year of study will be outdated by their third year of study.

It is predicted to double every 72 hours by 2010.

Third-generation fiber optic has recently been tested by both NEC and Alcatel that pushes 10 trillion bits per second down one strand of fiber.

That's 1,900 CDs or 150 million simultaneous phone calls, every second.

It's currently tripling about every 6 months and is expected to do so for at least the next 20 years.

The fiber is already there. They're just improving the switches on the ends, which means the marginal cost of these improvements is effectively $0.

Predictions are that e-paper will be cheaper than real paper.

47 million laptops were shipped worldwide last year.

The $100 laptop project is expecting to ship between 50 million and 100 million laptops a year to children in poor and developing countries.

Predictions are that by 2013 a supercomputer will be built that exceeds the computational capability of the human brain.

By 2023, when 1st-graders will be just 23 years old and beginning their first careers...it will only take a $1,000 computer to exceed the capabilities of the human brain.

And while technical predictions farther out than about 15 years are hard to make...predictions are that by 2049 a $1,000 computer will exceed the computational capabilities of the human race.

What does it all mean?

Shift happens.


Here's the link to the original.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Foundations and Journalism in the Digital Age (part 2)

October 15, 2007

In a previous post, I referenced an opinion piece by Dan Gillmor, director of the Center for Citizen Media, in which Gillmor offered a number of fundable ideas for community foundations and donor-advised funds interested in preserving and enhancing the vitality of local journalism. One of them was to pay the salary of an investigative journalist at a local newspaper.

Well, as the New York Times reports ("Group Plans to Provide Investigative Journalism"), someone has decided to do something a lot like that.

The "someone" in this case is Herbert and Marion Sandler, the husband-and-wife team that, over the course of 43 years, transformed a small Oakland-based savings and loan with 25 employees and $34 million in assets into Golden West Financial Corporation, one of the nation's biggest mortgage lenders. Last year, the Sandlers pocketed $2.6 billion when they sold Golden West to the Wachovia Corporation for $25 billion.

According to the Times, the Sandlers have hired Paul Steiger, a longtime editor at the Wall Street Journal, to assemble a team of up to two dozen investigative reporters to uncover misdeeds and corruption in government, corporate America, and the nonprofit sector. Under the name Pro Publica, the group will pitch each project to a print or media outlet where it is likely to make the biggest impact. The Sandlers, who are active in Democratic politics, have committed $10 million a year to the effort, which will be based in New York City and operated as a nonprofit.

Steiger, who will be the group's president and editor-in-chief, said Pro Publica plans to provide salaries and benefits that are comparable to those paid by the biggest newspapers in the country.

Richard Tofel, a former assistant publisher and assistant managing editor of the Journal, has been hired to manage the effort, and foundation leaders who have agreed to serve on the board include Alberto Ibarguen, president/CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (and a former publisher of the Miami Herald) and Rebecca Rimel, president and CEO of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Annals of Wealth (part 1)

October 12, 2007


Further evidence ours is a new Gilded Age.

In today's Wall Street Journal, Greg Ip reports ("Income-Equality Gap Widens") that "the richest Americans' share of national income has hit a postwar record, surpassing the highs reached in the 1990s bull market, and underlining the divergence of economic fortunes blamed for fueling anxiety among American workers."

Based on an IRS analysis of tax returns, the numbers show that

The wealthiest 1% of Americans earned 21.2% of all income in 2005...up sharply from 19% in 2004, and surpass[ing] the previous high of 20.8% set in 2000, at the peak of the previous bull market in stocks.

The bottom 50% earned 12.8% of all income, down from 13.4% in 2004 and a bit less than their 13% share in 2000.

While the IRS data did not identify the source of this widening gap, Ip and his editors, citing scholars," suggest that "the boom on Wall Street likely played a part" (as it did in the 1990s), along with "technological change that favors those with more skills," globalization, and "advances in communications that enlarge the rewards available to 'superstar' performers, whether in business, sports or entertainment."

Great wealth, as anyone who has read Wharton or Fitzgerald knows, often creates big headaches, if not great problems, as another item from today's Journal reminds us. In his weekly "Wealth Report," Robert Frank reports that

A growing number of multimillionaires and billionaires, hoping to stave off costly feuds, are drawing up family mission statements -- lofty treatises filled with words like "legacy," "values" and "stewardship" that aim to carry rich families (and their fortunes) safely through the ages.

The goal of such statements, writes Frank, is

to help keep the peace in affluent families. By agreeing on a basic set of principles, families hope to avoid lawsuits between relatives about money. They also hope to draw up moral guides for future generations, so that kids and grandkids will inherit values as well as wealth.

We know that wealth and philanthropy, in America at least, are two sides of the same coin. And as Paul Schervish and others have argued, the U.S. is almost sure to see an unprecedented generational transfer of wealth over the coming decades. That, in turn, is likely to give rise -- in fact, already has -- to a Second Great Wave of Philanthropy.

One of the most astute chroniclers of the "new" philanthropy is Sean Stannard-Stockton, author of the Tactical Philanthropy blog, who in his very first post wrote:

[A]s we embark on the 21st century, the traditional hierarchical structures are collapsing. While the traditional top-down hierarchical system describes the way [John D.] Rockefeller’s foundation distributed grants to charities, which then provided services for the public, a flat organizational system is the model of the Second Great Wave.

This shift acknowledges that no one person or entity has all the answers and instead leads to a virtuous cycle of information feedback. The philanthropists of the 21st century will be smaller in size, but much larger in numbers than the philanthropists of the last century.

I agree with the first part of Sean's analysis, but have yet to see much evidence to support the second. Indeed, just as the rich are getting richer, big organizations, of all kinds, are getting bigger. I think this has a lot to do with network effects, the compounding "returns" that accrue to reputation in an attention-based economy, and other externalities.

What about you? Are we moving toward a flatter, more distributed and disaggregated philanthropic culture in the U.S., or will that culture increasingly be characterized by a few "red giants" (think Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation or the American Red Cross) surrounded by countless smaller foundations and nonprofits?

-- Mitch Nauffts

Tell us what you think!

October 11, 2007

My colleagues in Web Services would like your feedback on our main site (http://www.foundationcenter.org/). Would you please take a few moments to complete a short, 20-question survey?


-- Mitch Nauffts

Foundations and Journalism in the Digital Age

October 10, 2007

Lucy Bernholz was the first to flag the excellent op-ed piece by Dan Gillmor, director of the Center for Citizen Media (a project of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and the Berkman Center for the Internet & Society at Harvard), in the September 17 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle.

In the piece, Gillmor notes that newspapers around the country are shedding editorial staff at a rate that "spells trouble for a well-informed citizenry," and then cuts to the chase:

...ensuring a vibrant press is a questionable role for government, when a key role of journalism is to question power and hold it to account. Nor...can it be the sole responsibility of the private sector, not when an eroding business model for community journalism leads private owners to favor the bottom line above all other values.

In Gillmor's view, that puts the ball squarely in philanthropy's court:

By helping to encourage innovation and sustainable business models -- especially creating partnerships that explain local problems and generate communitywide efforts to solve them -- foundations can apply great leverage at a critical moment.

Community foundations, which pool resources from local donors and make it possible for donors to direct funds to specific projects, are particularly suited for this role, says Gillmor. Is it a good use of their resources? That's up to individual foundations and donors to decide, but "if we are to have an informed, and engaged, society that understands its problems, we need to recognize that thorough understanding is the basis for any solution."

I think Gillmor is onto something -- although I'm not convinced community foundations, which historically have been all about addressing social and educational needs, will be eager to help re-invent community-based journalism. Time will tell.

Gillmor's piece was published the same week that community foundation leaders from around the country gathered in San Francisco for the Council on Foundation's annual community foundations conference. I can't say whether he shares my concerns, but clearly Alberto Ibarguen, president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which has invested $300 million since 1950 to advance freedom of expression and excellence in journalism, had read Gillmor's piece. In plenary remarks to conference attendees, Ibarguen said he, too, believes that community foundations have a critical role to play with respect to information needs in the digital age. And so he made this offer:

Here's something else I think we should do: if there's sufficient interest, the Knight Foundation will organize a conference — possibly in Miami, sometime this winter — specifically for community foundations. The subject will be you and media and community. How might community foundations help ensure that their communities have the information they need? There's more to come on that subject, and if you have ideas about how we might do this and what areas to focus on, send them to me at ibarguen@knightfoundation.org.

You can read an abridged version of Ibarguen's remarks, which we've just posted to PND, here.

I'll close with this. One of the smartest people currently commenting on the changes roiling the media world is Peter Osnos, the veteran journalist, publisher, and now senior fellow at the New York City-based Century Foundation. In "Goodbye to Newspapers?," the Aug. 21 edition of "The Platform," his weekly column on all things media, he reminds us that the

transformations of the past decade [in journalism] are comparable to any number of other technological changes over the past century — the spread of telephones and photography, the evolution of film from silent to talking, the rise of radio and then television. Each of these upheavals led to new business models that reflected the way information was delivered, taking advantage of efficiency to make money and supplying content that was appealing. For a very long time, the prime end product was a printed page, and then various kinds of audio-video receivers. Today, the printed page has been decisively challenged by the screen and the range of receivers has expanded to all sorts of wireless gadgetry....

[The] trick is to know how to attract readers and viewers in all the places they now turn for information with the same kind of breadth and enterprise that characterized reporting in the past. The emerging formats obviously pose different challenges, but that is nothing new either....

Again, I think Osnos has got it right, and we'll see journalists and journalism rise to the challenge. It won't be easy, and there will be disappointments, missteps, and casualties along the way. But we'll figure it out.

In the meantime, see you in Miami?

-- Mitch Nauffts

Does the Universe Have a Purpose?

October 08, 2007

Templeton_logo_sm Don't know how many of you saw the two-page Templeton Foundation spread in the Week in Review section of yesterday's New York Times (print edition only), but I was struck by both its subject matter and what it must have cost. It's not unusual to see an ad purchased by a global oil company or large multinational displayed prominently within the op-ed/commentary section of the Times, but I can't ever recall seeing a two-page spread from a private foundation -- let alone one devoted to a discussion of metaphysics. As for cost, based on figures that surfaced after last month's MoveOn.org/"General Betray Us" controversy, I'm guessing the Templeton folks spent upwards of $250,000 on the ad -- not a lot for ExxonMobil, perhaps, but a good chunk of change all the same.

The ad presents excerpts from what it calls a series of conversations about the "big questions" -- everything from explorations into the laws of nature and the universe to questions on the nature of love, gratitude, forgiveness, and creativity. In 54-point type, it poses the question, "Does the universe have a purpose?" and then presents the wide-ranging views of leading scientists and scholars -- people like Elie Wiesel, Jane Goodall, the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the essayist and computer scientist David Gelertner, and the cosmologist Paul Davies. In an age increasingly characterized by reductionist views of complex problems, it's a heartfelt and strangely old-fashioned attempt to promote dialogue and understanding between two seemingly irreconcilable world views, science and religion.

Oh, and if you're keeping score, the dozen essayists responded to the question with three "yeses," two "no's," an "unlikely," a "very likely," one "certainly," one "not sure," an "indeed," a "perhaps," and one "I hope so."

To read the essays in their entirety and/or to learn more about the authors, go here.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Diversity in Philanthropy: The Research Perspective

October 05, 2007

Larry McGill, senior vice president of research at the Foundation Center, writes:

What happens when you put fifteen researchers and fifteen grantmakers in a room together for a day and a half and ask them to talk about the state of research on diversity in philanthropy? Well, we found out, September 27 and 28, when just such a group was convened at the beautiful Penrose House conference facility at the El Pomar Foundation in Colorado Springs.

The Council on Foundations, ARNOVA, and the Foundation Center joined forces to organize the first in what we hope will become a series of annual forums to bring the worlds of grantmaking and academic research into closer dialogue with each other. Imagine, research that might actually help to inform practice!

Through a series of guided discussions in large and small group settings, we emerged from the meeting with a tentative consensus on a research agenda for moving the field forward on questions related to diversity in philanthropy and some suggestions for undertaking specific research projects. The biggest question begging for an answer is how diversity (or inclusiveness) at the board and staff levels in foundations leads to more effective grantmaking. Can a research strategy be designed that would begin to answer this question? How extensive and potentially costly would such a program of research be?

Other questions raised at this meeting: How does organizational culture and organizational leadership contribute to or inhibit the diversification of boards, staffs, and decision-making practices at different foundations? What determines whether foundations are successful or unsuccessful at retaining staff members of color? What do we actually know about the people who govern the activities of foundations -- where do board members come from, what kinds of diversity do they represent, and how do they make decisions?

So what happens when you put fifteen researchers and fifteen grantmakers in a room together for a day and a half? From what I saw at this meeting, you get high-energy conversation; a willingness, even an eagerness, to work together to solve problems; and a sense of emerging communal responsibility for carrying the discussion forward beyond the meeting.

Let’s keep talking.

-- posted by editor

Meet the Press: Diana Aviv Q&A with the L.A. Times

October 03, 2007

Aviv_lg_3 In a previous post, I questioned New York Times reporter Stephanie Strom's assertion that there's a growing debate in the U.S. "over what philanthropy is achieving at a time when the wealthiest Americans control a rising share of the national income and, because of sharp cuts in personal taxes, give up less to government." Credit my skepticism to DNA and experience: having covered the field for a while, I've made peace with the fact that most Americans know little about philanthropy and spend less time thinking about it.

The same can't be said of denizens of Capitol Hill or editorial board rooms around the country. Philanthropy -- as media coverage of last week's annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative demonstrated -- is a big story, and scrutiny of foundations, nonprofits, and other tax-exempt organizations, by the media and Congress, is likely to increase as more dollars flow into and through the sector.

That will lead to some tough questions, as Diana Aviv, president and CEO of Independent Sector, learned earlier this week on a visit to the City of Angels. Aviv, who was in L.A. getting ready for IS' annual conference (Oct. 21-23), was invited to drop by and speak with editors of the Times, who had a few things on their mind. Such as: What is a charity and what is a tax writeoff? Why should donations to fabulously well-endowed organizations be tax deductible? Should Congress be taking more interest in who gets tax-exempt status? How does one measure the effectiveness of nonprofits and foundations?

You can read an extended excerpt of that conversation here.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Clinton Global Initiative -- Q&A with Maya Ajmera, Global Fund for Children

October 01, 2007

Lg_miniajmera_4 Maya Ajmera was born and raised in North Carolina. The daughter of Indian immigrants, she was on her way to medical school after graduating from Bryn Mawr when she received a fellowship that allowed her to travel in South and Southeast Asia. It was there, on a train platform in Bhubaneshwar, India, watching forty kids sitting in a circle learning how to read and write, that she experienced what she calls her "moment of obligation." Ajmera learned that, for only $300 a year, the train-platform school not only taught the kids, it fed and clothed them and, most importantly, instilled in them a sense of worth.

She returned to the States and, instead of going to medical school, decided to study public policy at Duke. A few years later, at the age of twenty-five, she founded the Global Fund for Children to, as she says, "put small amounts of money into innovative grassroots groups serving the most vulnerable children around the world." 

Philanthropy News Digest spoke with Ajmera on Friday about GFC and the $10 million initiative it announced on the opening day of this year's CGI event. (Editor's note: We planned to post this on Friday but had some problems with the tape.)

Philanthropy News Digest: The Echoing Green Foundation, here in New York, provided the seed capital for what became the Global Fund for Children. How did that come about?

Maya Ajmera: Well, back when I applied for an Echoing Green fellowship in the '90s, it all started with a four-page application and your mission statement. Basically, the folks at Echoing Green had two questions: "What do you want to do? And how do you want to do it?" Eventually, they invited me to an interview with four venture capitalists that I thought were really mean to me. [Laughs.] I'll never forget one of them saying to me, "So are you telling me that what you want to do is to invest in small literacy organizations around the world and start a children's book-publishing venture and redefine what literacy means in the twenty-first century?" And I said, "Yeah."

I walked out of there thinking, "Well, that's that." But I day later they called me and said, "You got the money -- $100,000 over four years, $25,000 a year." I think they must have thought I was hallucinogenically optimistic. But you know something, you make bets on people, and they made a bet on me. And that's what the Global Fund for Children does. We make bets on leaders.

PND: Why literacy? Why not vaccines? Why not affordable housing? Why not something else?

MA: There are three hundred million children in the world who have slipped through the cracks. They are not being serviced by systems or governments. Who's going to take care of these kids? The answer is CBOs -- community-based grassroots organizations. We see the kind of impact these organizations can have. They go deep in their communities, they do great things with small amounts of money, and they need to be recognized by the broader world for their innovations. And I'm not just talking about what they do in terms of education. CBOs tend to work holistically; they do nutrition, they do health, they do skills training, they provide the foundations of a decent life to kids who would otherwise have nothing.

PND: And you only support CBOs working in India?

MA: Oh, no. We're in sixty-two countries.

PND: Working with how many different NGO and CBO partners?

MA: Over three hundred at this point.

PND: Tell us about the CGI commitment you announced a few days ago.

MA: It's called the Under-8 Initiative. It's a $10 million commitment over five years to invest in a hundred grassroots organizations globally working in the area of early childhood education. Over the years, we've seen some incredible grassroots organizations doing great work with very young children, and what we've learned is that if those kids are not healthy, are not eating properly, are not stimulated, they are not going to learn. So we want to get those kids early. It's preventative. We know in this country how important early childhood education is -- look at the success of Head Start -- and we want to provide the same kind of advantages to kids in poor countries. I personally think if we're able to develop a big network of these groups, we can generate some real momentum around the issue of early childhood education in developing countries.

PND: Why announce your commitment here, at the CGI annual event? What makes CGI a good platform for you?

MA: Because I'm talking to you. [Laughs.] Clinton brings people together, and we've been mentioned in a lot of different places over the last couple of days. It's also a place where a lot of donors are looking to invest their philanthropic capital. I couldn't think of a better venue to announce something like this.

PND: After you leave here today, what are your obligations to CGI?

MA: The CGI people are going to stay in touch with us -- that's my understanding, at least. Every three or six months they're going to be in touch to find out where we are against our first-year goals, which is great. My hope, also, is that they will be helpful in terms of relationship building. It's my first year here, and I'm still learning. [Laughs.] But it's interesting to see how these deals are made.

One of the things that makes me nervous about CGI is that when you're making a $10 million commitment, a $25 million commitment, you need to raise money in big chunks. Twenty-five-thousand-dollar donations are great -- yea for people who make those kinds of gifts -- but larger donations are really important.

PND: Are you worried about becoming too big?

MA: Well, we're in a scaling-up mode; we awarded over $2.7 million in grants last year, we plan to give $3.4 million in grants this year, and we want to get to $10 million a year, with over six hundred NGO partners globally. We want to become the largest network of NGOs that support children and youth in the world. I think if we got to $20 million or $30 million it would change our model and the way we work. But I think we can remain true to ourselves and our vision if we keep it around $10 million.

PND: Well, thanks for chatting with us this morning, Maya.

MA: Thank you.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Quote of the Week

  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."

    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

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