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21 posts from March 2008

RFP to Establish and Maintain a Centralized Repository of Information on Non-US Based NGOs

March 31, 2008

This press release will be of interest to many of you...

Arlington, VA — The Council on Foundations, the Foundation Center, Independent Sector, and InterAction (with 160 members the largest alliance of U.S.-based international development and humanitarian organizations) are soliciting proposals to establish and maintain a centralized repository of equivalency determination (ED) information on non-U.S. NGOs. The entity that hosts the repository will be responsible for reviewing ED requests to determine if an NGO is the equivalent of a U.S. public charity under IRS rules.

Currently, this information is collected independently by individual grantmaking organizations, at considerable time and expense. At the same time, NGOs are often asked to provide the same information over and over to multiple potential U.S. donors.

"The current system of gathering legal and organizational information necessary to determine whether a foreign NGO is the equivalent of a U.S. public charity is vastly inefficient," said Rob Buchanan, managing director of International Programs at the Council on Foundations. "International grantmaking by U.S. foundations is growing rapidly, and a centralized database where ED information can be collected and shared would be helpful to both grantmakers and grantseekers."

The organization selected to be the host will be provided with assistance to secure the required approvals from the IRS to enable operations and collaborative use by grantmakers and also to raise the necessary startup funds to establish the repository. The host of the repository may either be a single organization or a partnership of organizations with complementary strengths.

For more information, visit www.iaa.com/NGORepositoryRFP.html for a copy of the full RFP plus the process and timetable for receiving answers to clarifying questions.

The deadline for submitting a letter of intent to submit a proposal is May 19, 2008, and the proposal deadline is June 20, 2008. Send all RFP submissions and email inquiries to NGORepositoryRFP@iaa.com or contact Martin Schneiderman at 609-924-6936.


Weekend Link Roundup (March 29-30, 2008)

Better late than never...

Current Events

Nancy Schwartz has a nice post on the ongoing effort by WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show, a public radio and New York City institution, to "crowd-source" research on 11,000 recently released pages of Hillary Clinton's schedule as First Lady.


Oops, They Did It Again. Citing a just-released Chronicle of Higher Education survey, the New York Times reports that "Congress set aside a record $2.3 billion in pet projects for colleges and universities last year for research on subjects like berries and reducing odors from swine and poultry..."

The sum, notes the Times, was $300 million more (in non-inflation-adjusted dollars) than the last time the Chronicle conducted its survey, in 2003. (Interesting footnote: The first time the Chronicle analyzed education earmarks, in 1990, the total was $270 billion. So, in real-dollar terms, the total, though large, appears to be trending lower.)

The Times also noted that "Mississippi State University got the most money over all, $43 million for more than 30 projects [while the] University of Mississippi received $37 million from 27 earmarks." Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi is the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Speaking of the Chronicle of Higher Education, be sure to check out Eduwonkette's posts -- here, here, here, and here -- from last week's American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference.


At Beyond Philanthropy, Tim Ogden adds a relatively new phenomenon called "white nose syndrome" that is causing major die-offs in bat colonies to his list of high-impact philanthropic opportunities.


The Donor Power Blog's Jeff Brooks has some advice for nonprofits with blogs: "Stop talking about yourself. It's boring. Talk about the world your donors live in. That's interesting. That's how you inspire donors to support you."


The Life and Death of the American Newspaper. News junkies will want to check out Eric Alterman's piece ("Out of Print") in the March 31 issue of The New Yorker. Though he's made a nice career for himself as an ink-stained wretch, Alterman is pessimistic about the long-term prospects for the newspaper business:

Few believe that newspapers in their current printed form will survive. Newspaper companies are losing advertisers, readers, market value, and, in some cases, their sense of mission at a pace that would have been barely imaginable just four years ago. Bill Keller, the executive editor of the Times, said recently in a speech in London, “At places where editors and publishers gather, the mood these days is funereal. Editors ask one another, ‘How are you?,’ in that sober tone one employs with friends who have just emerged from rehab or a messy divorce.”

Keller has reason to be worried. An AP item in this morning's Times says that newspaper ad revenue fell 7.9 percent in 2007 -- the second-worst year in more than half a century. And revenue from ads in printed newspapers took an even bigger hit, dropping some 9.4 percent for the year, the biggest drop in any year since 1950.

None of this is good news for democracy, writes Alterman -- a view seconded by Tom Belford over at The Agitator. Citing an article in the Times about the news habits of young Americans (30 and under), Belford concludes:

Voices of authority -- in the sense of informed, seasoned media intermediaries who help us discovery what of importance is going on in the world ... and its context -- are fast disappearing. Or at least becoming totally irrelevant to younger citizens....

As much as some of us would like to see these trends reverse themselves, Belford is not hopeful:

Maybe it isn't just a phase. Because for most [young people], political engagement just isn't that important in the scheme of things. Current events are of casual interest. There's no civics test anyone needs to pass. There's no need to be "right" or even correct. There's no need to master complicated issues....

The implications of this for advocacy-oriented nonprofits, notes Belford, are profound. "For at bottom, what do cause groups do other than interpret current events and package and spin that information to mobilize supporters around the threats and opportunities represented by those events?"


Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisers has just published Philanthropy's New Passing Gear: Mission-Related Investing (134 pages, PDF), which it bills as "a comprehensive, practical guide that translates the concepts, ideas, and philosophy of Mission-Realted Investing (MRI) into useable policies and practices for foundation trustees."

Lucy Bernholz comments on a joint effort by Yahoo! Google, and MySpace to create an OpenSocial Foundation, which would work to further open up OpenSocial intellectual property (IP) to the public, making it easier for everyone to use and create social applications.

What does that mean for philanthropy? Two things, says Lucy:

  1. Intellectual property is the key asset of these organizations. This embodies the trend I've been writing about since 2000 -- knowledge is the base of the new philanthropy and will be at the core of emerging philanthropic capital markets -- how they work, how they set value, how people use them, etc.
  2. Each of these organizations is a blend of tech money and products, commercial interests, and nonprofit structures. They embody the hybrid structural organizations and priorities that we will see become ever more common.

Lucy has more to say in her post.

Over at the GiveWell blog, Holden Karnofksy weighs in on the metrics debate and, in the process, offers this mea culpa:

Bottom line, both the metrics we used and the ways we used them (particularly the weight of metrics vs. intuition) ended up depending, pretty much entirely, on exactly what decision we were trying to make. We took one approach when all we knew was our general areas of focus; we modified our approach when we had more info about our options; we frankly got nothing out of the completely abstract discussions of whether metrics should be used “in general.” There are as many metrics as there are charities, and there are as many necessary debates about metrics as there are giving decisions....

And White Courtesy Telephone's Albert Ruesga -- who seems to have returned (?) from his blogging hiatus -- shares his thoughts on the drive for more evaluation and metrics in philanthropy, or what he calls the Impact Revolution:

...from the perspective of many people working in community-based organizations, this so-called revolution has brought with it new sources of irritation, new ways of adding meaningless make-work to already overburdened nonprofit staff members.

It has not been a people’s revolution, in other words, but rather one championed by elites --- like myself, I’m afraid -- unable to see far enough beyond our own measuring sticks to understand the limitations of formal evaluation techniques, and the trade-offs in staff time and other resources that these formal techniques require....

Welcome back, Albert.

-- Mitch Nauffts

When Will This Media Bubble Burst?

March 27, 2008

(Rich Polt is president of Louder Than Words, a Boston-based PR firm serving foundations, nonprofits, and related businesses. His previous posts for PhilanTopic can be found here and here.)

I burst bubbles.

In September of 2000 I moved from Baltimore to Boston to take a job with a technology PR firm. The large "BANG" that I heard as I was driving north on Interstate 95 was the sound of the tech bubble exploding. In August of 2005, I purchased my first home just at the crest of the seller’s market. The week after our closing, the Boston Globe ran this story about the possibility of an inflated housing market. Whoops.

These days, I live and work in an ever-expanding bubble that is the love affair between big media and big philanthropy. This is not the self-congratulatory, photographers-snapping-photos-at-galas kind of media coverage. I'm talking about that rarer kind of coverage that says, let's drill down into the nuanced issues and see what we can learn. In the last few months alone, we have seen a spate of in-depth philanthropy "round-ups" from big-name media outlets such as the New York Times Magazine, Forbes, Slate.com, the Financial Times, and PBS. The media's hunger to cover philanthropy is voracious and there are seemingly endless numbers of foundations, nonprofits, wealth-management consultants, and advocacy groups ready to step up and speak out on the subject. It's an exciting time to be in communications and philanthropy.

So -- not to be a pessimist or anything -- but when is this bubble going to burst? When is the media finally going to lose interest in the goings-on of the philanthropic set and get more serious about that which sells news: athletes a-doping, politicians a-stumping, and Britney Spears a-parenting?

Good news, folks! Philanthropy will remain a permanent fixture of the media universe. Here are three important reasons why (each a topic worthy of further discussion):

  1. Sex sells, and apparently so does philanthropy. Yes, it's true. The images we see and the stories we read are a direct reflection of what society demands. And in this day and age, people are all about giving. Whether driven by global disasters, technology's ability to make giving a one-to-one experience, or the financial windfalls of the '90s, everyone is interested in how they can do their part to give back. It's funny, but I never hear anyone talking about "charity" anymore. Even a gift of $25 dollars to support a friend doing a walk for cancer is now thought of as personal philanthropy. There has been a major culture shift and the media is simultaneously covering it and selling advertising against that demand. Check out Sean Stannard-Stockton's recent column in the Financial Times about "social capital markets" in the year 2033. It provides another interesting viewpoint on how philanthropy is becoming more entrenched in the fabric of our society.
  2. Philanthropists are rock stars...and rock stars are philanthropists. This cover image from Time magazine says it all. As philanthropy increasingly becomes a pastime and passion for athletes, politicians, and celebrities, the paparazzi and "personality media" will continue to infuse their reporting with coverage and images of how their subjects are giving back. Conversely, since business success coupled with giving back have become such great fodder for media coverage, we will only see more in-depth interviews and personality pieces on those who are passionate about philanthropy.
  3. Foundations are open to being open. Over the last few decades, donors and foundations have become increasingly comfortable using external communications to complement and even strengthen their giving activities. Much has been written about this already (read Joel Fleishman's recent book, The Foundation, check out this article by Bruce Trachtenberg and Grant Oliphant, or this piece that I wrote). In the old days, a newspaper would assign a private foundation story to its investigative reporter -- a reflection of how easy it was to obtain information. Today, those same stories are handled by business reporters, financial reporters, lifestyle reporters, and even (you guessed it) philanthropy reporters.

We will always be able to rely on journals like the Chronicle of Philanthropy and the Nonprofit Times to cover this sector, but don't be surprised to find more stories about philanthropy in sports magazines, celebrity rags, and the financial pages. Philanthropy and the media are here to stay. Do I think my streak of bubble bursting is over? Well...not really. But the media's coverage of philanthropy is not a bubble. It's real.

--Rich Polt

OSI Announces Fellowships for 'Idea Entrepreneurs'

March 26, 2008


Just in...

The New York City-based Open Society Institute, a private grantmaking and operating foundation created by George Soros, has announced a new fellowship program "to enable outstanding individuals from around the world to pursue projects that will inspire meaningful debate and shape public policy."

From the e-release:

"The Open Society Fellowship will award $2 million in 2008 to scholars, journalists, activists and others working on national security; citizenship, membership and marginalization; authoritarianism; and new strategies and tools for advocacy.

" 'The Open Society fellows will be idea entrepreneurs,' said George Soros, founder and chairman of OSI. 'The fellowship will generate new thinking to tackle some of the most pressing questions of our day.'

"Fellows’ projects may include books, articles, documentary films, online media, and efforts to seed new campaigns and organizations. OSI seeks fellows who will engage with its staff and inform its thinking.

"OSI will provide fellows with competitive stipends and communications assistance, and will integrate them into its networks of partners and grantees. Most fellowships will be awarded for one year."

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. For more information, visit: http://www.soros.org/initiatives/fellowship.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Case Foundation Opens Online Voting for 'Make It Your Own Awards'

The Case Foundation, the family foundation started by former AOL exec Steve Case and his wife, Jean, has announced the top twenty finalists for its Make It Your Own Awards, an online grants program that "calls on people to join together to create ideas and solutions for long-term social change in their communities."

The finalists have already received $10,000 each, and now the foundation is inviting the public to vote online for the "Final Four" awardees. The twenty finalists in (alpha order) are:

  • Child/Youth Friendly City (Nancy Gilder), Denver, CO
  • Citizen Participation (Keith Twitchell), New Orleans, LA
  • Community Conversations (Kate McPherson), Vancouver, WA
  • Community Vision Project (Imre Kepes), Pelham, MA
  • Conversations for Change (Lisa Harper), New York, NY
  • Crossing Borders (Nan Kari), St. Paul, MN
  • DCCV (Bridget Murphy), Menomonie, WI
  • Deliberative Democracy (Mark Shoul), Royalston, MA
  • Five Two Eight O (Janna Goodwin), Denver, CO
  • Front Porch Forum (Michael Wood-Lewis), Burlington, VT
  • In Search of the Commons (Jim Barrett), Livingston, MT
  • Juveniles 4 Justice (Jessica Feierman), Philadelphia, PA
  • Leaders of the New School (Asad Jafri), Chicago, IL
  • Madison SOS (Natalia Thompson), Madison, WI
  • Making Health Our Own (Susan Sloan), Bellingham, WA
  • My School Is Your School (Dominick Maldonado), New Haven, CT
  • Re-Imagining Our City (Fiona Cheong), Pittsburgh, PA
  • Summit for Environmental Action (Kate Irwin), Sarasota, FL
  • UNCommon Council (Keith Herring), Syracuse, NY
  • Wilson for the Ages (David Criswell), Wilson, KS

Each of the four finalists will receive a $25,000 grant from the Case Foundation to implement their project. In addition, the foundation has provided all twenty projects still in the running with an "outreach ambassador" to help them expand their networks and mobilize volunteer and financial support in their communities.

Voting for the Final Four ends on April 22. To learn more about the Make It Your Own initiative, take a look at this NYTimes article. To cast your vote for the Final Four, visit:


-- Mitch Nauffts

Weekend Link Roundup (March 22-23, 2008)

March 23, 2008

Apologies for the delay; it was a nice day here in the Northeast.

Annals of Wealth

A new report from the Spectrem Group suggests that while the number of affluent and millionaire households in 2007 grew for the fifth consecutive year, the rate of growth slowed considerably. (Hat tip to Lucy Bernholz.)

The Rich Aren't Like You and Me; They Have a Lot More Dough. Still, if you thought $10 million would secure you a place among the ranks of the wealthy, think again. An article in Barron's says you need $25 million these days to be considered rich:

"Thanks to a global explosion of wealth over the past 10 years or so, the number of U.S. households with $1 million to $25 million in wealth has more than doubled. Households with $500 million and up have roughly tripled. 'Heck, $1 billion isn't a lot of money,' says Bill Sanderson, a broker of mega yachts in Palm Beach, Florida....Sanderson could be on to something: Billionaires now occupy every slot on the Forbes 400, and that list, some bankers and consultants say, may be overlooking 100 billionaires-next-door whose financial dealings are too private to track...."

My Carbon Footprint Is Bigger Than Your Carbon Footprint. Recently, the biggest yacht in the world, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's 198-foot Medusa, was moored off Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands. Necker is the private getaway of Virgin Airlines founder Sir Richard Branson, and Branson had invited a high-profile roster of global elites -- former British PM Tony Blair, Google co-founder Larry Page, famed Silicon Valley VC Vinod Khosla -- to discuss whether planet earth really was "on fire." The verdict: Yes.

"With no naysayers on the island, the weekend, which was organized in part by the Climate Group, a nonprofit, was filled with hopeful talk about the 'war against carbon,' as Mr. Branson put it. But there was also talk of money, which most of the attendees had plenty of. And to make any of these technologies successful, they all agreed the solutions had to be profitable without subsidies...."

The NYT's Andrew Ross Sorkin reports.

"Want to Be Happy? Give Your Money Away." A new study by Elizabeth Dunn, a professor at the University of British Columbia, and colleagues found that "how people spend their money is at least as important as how much of it they earn in the first place. The greatest joys of all, they discovered, can be attained by giving money away, either to someone they know or to charity...." (The Independent, 3/21/08)


Bill Schambra, director of the Hudson Institute's Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal, argues that "in contrast to the early decades of the 20th century, foundations tend to be bit players on the American policy scene, drastically diminished in influence, disorganized, dispirited, and lacking a common vision or intellectual framework for their undertakings." Given their diminished role in a social landscape that is "too complicated, too cluttered with other actors [who have] far more impact" on outcomes, adds Schambra, foundations need to re-imagine "strategic philanthropy in a radically different way."

Jeff Trexler, the Wilson Professor of Social Entrepreneurship at Pace University, brilliantly deconstructs a recent op-ed piece by NYT columnist David Brooks on social entrepreneurship:

"In a nutshell, what we have in Brooks' column is not an emblem of triumph for social enterprise but a signal of an ideology in retreat. Brooks is writing this now because free-market capitalism and conservative federalism are in desperate need of validation outside politics and pundits. McCain, Obama, Clinton, Congress, the mainstream media -- no matter where you look, the future seems to trend more toward government control than the Reagan Revolution. In this context Brooks' appeal to social enterprise is similar to the use of charity in commercial advertising. It's an attempt to borrow goodwill -- if you're not going to believe the American Enterprise Institute, listen to social entrepreneurs...."

Following up on a February post, Beyond Philanthropy's Tim Ogden considers emerging opportunities for high-impact philanthropy in the U.S., including back-stopping the student loan infrastructure, which has taken a hit in the ongoing credit crunch; working with so-called payday lenders to increase short-term uncollateralized loans for low-income workers without access to credit; and working to reduce energy consumption in the U.S. by funding the purchase of new gadgets that provide real-time energy use information.


Excellent post on blogging and the threat of defamation lawsuits by Jeff Trexler (see above) at his Uncivil Society blog. (Hat tip to Phil Cubeta.)

How did a "relative unknown" win $50k on Facebook? Lessons in Web 2.0 fundraising, with a hat tip to "A Fundraiser" at the Don't Tell the Donor blog.

Katya Andresen, author of the book Robin Hood Marketing and the Non-Profit Marketing blog, argues that at the end of the day social media is about three things: the desire to be heard; the desire to be seen; the desire to connect to others.

Odds and Ends

The Century Foundation has launched Taking Note, a "group blog" featuring "topical opinions and analysis by TCF fellows and staff."

And over at The Big Picture, Barry Ritholtz wonders whether truthiness has replaced truth in a "post-fact" America.

-- Mitch Nauffts

PhilanTopic (Still) Wants You!

March 22, 2008


Dear Reader:

PhilanTopic is six months old, and we're as proud of our little blog as could be.

But spring is here and we're getting antsy. Conference season is in full bloom, the economy appears to be heading south, and we're in the midst of an historic presidential election with potentially huge implications for the charitable sector. Against that backdrop, we want to broaden and deepen the conversation about philanthropy we've begun here, and to do that we need you. And you. And you.

We're not looking for much: A post every other week if you're interested in being a full-fledged contributor -- or every once and a while if you just want to be a guest contributor. Take it from Uncle Sam: Once you get started, you won't want to stop.

To learn more, drop me a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Quote of the Day (March 21, 2008)

March 21, 2008


"The more the individual in an organization grows as a person, the more the organization can accomplish -- this is the insight underlying all our attention to manager development and advanced manager education today. The more the organization grows in seriousness and integrity, objectives and competence, the more scope there is for the individual to grow and develop as a person."

-- Peter Drucker, Landmarks of Tomorrow

Making Hope Real

March 19, 2008


I like Rich Harwood. In an age that applauds cynicism and celebrates snarkiness, Rich is a throwback to a more idealistic time. As the founder and president of the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, he has worked for twenty years to change "the negative conditions in society that too often divide people and keep them from making progress in their neighborhoods, communities, and the nation as a whole."

To use terms long out of fashion, Rich is both a pamphleteer and a public intellectual. Long before Hillary Clinton hit on the idea of a listening tour, Rich was traveling the country, listening to and talking with ordinary Americans about their fears, hopes, and aspirations.

In his latest essay, Make Hope Real: How We Can Accelerate Change for the Public Good, Rich asserts that the nation's public life and politics are undergoing "radical change." Indeed, the

very nature of our relationships to one another as individuals; to public, private, and civic groups and institutions; to our communities and the larger society; and to our very notion of what is "public" and what is "private" have all been shaken loose and are up for re-negotiation....

According to Harwood, the turmoil in American society is driven by four "broken covenants":

  • Lost faith in the American dream
  • A free-for-all on basic values
  • Materialism and consumerism run amuck
  • A breakdown in community

He's an optimist, however. The mostly bottom-up effort to rebuild devastated neighborhoods in New Orleans, the proliferation of policy-related blogs and citizen journalists, the candidacy of Barack Obama -- all point to Americans' growing disenchantment with the politics of paralysis and their impatience to get on with the important work at hand. The question now, he says, is to understand the change that is occuring and figure out what we, as ordinary citizens, can do to accelerate it. 

Make Hope Real attempts to provide a framework for that discussion based on four or five key ideas: finding the "sweet spot" of public life; embracing citizen-based values; supporting a new breed of leader; and promoting a renewed sense of civic engagement.

Rich has a lot more to say about these issues in the essay, on the Harwood Institute site, and in a series of articles he wrote for PND in 2004. To download an electronic copy of Make Hope Real (or to order a hard copy), click here.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Nonprofits and Student Loan Debt

March 18, 2008

(Regina Mahone is new to the nonprofit sector. She worked as a freelance writer in Southern California before becoming the special projects assistant for institutional advancement at the Foundation Center in New York. This is her first post for PhilanTopic.)

Last fall, the Nonprofit Sector Workforce Coalition published an article by Lauren Asher, associate director of the Project on Student Debt, titled "Financial Barriers to Nonprofit Careers." In the article, Asher cited rising student loan debt as a significant obstacle for recent college graduates looking to join the nonprofit workforce.

"To recruit and retain the next generation of leaders," wrote Asher, "nonprofit organizations rely not only on young people's interest in serving others, but also on their financial capacity to enter and remain in this critical but lower paying sector. That capacity is increasingly limited by rising student debt burdens."

In the past, young people entering the nonprofit sector have been willing to accept modest salaries in return for the opportunity to "do good." But as living expenses (especially in major metropolitan areas, where nonprofit services tend to be most in demand) rise and student loan burdens continue to increase, nonprofit employers may need to find new ways to retain young idealistic professionals.

The numbers are sobering. "Three-quarters (74.5%) of new college graduates who take jobs with nonprofits have student loan debt," reports Asher. "Over the past decade, the average debt for graduating seniors with student loans more than doubled from $9,250 to $19,200 -– a 108% increase (58% after accounting for inflation). For graduates of public universities, the debt level rose from $8,000 to $17,250 -– a 116% increase (65% after accounting for inflation)."

What can nonprofits do to change the equation? Asher outlines a number of "common-sense" first steps:

  • Write an op-ed about the impact of rising student debt on nonprofits -– as both employers and essential community resources -- and submit it to your local newspaper, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and other publications.
  • Ask the U.S. Department of Education to make student loan payments fair and manageable.
  • Support an increase in need-based grant aid for college undergraduates so that students of modest means graduate with less debt and more options.
  • Encourage colleges and universities to adjust their financial-aid policies to limit student loan burdens, especially for lower-income undergrads and graduate students training for careers in the social sector.
  • Document practices and provide benefits that help reduce employees’ student debt.

These are terrific suggestions, but how many nonprofits have even thought about the issue? Has your nonprofit? If so, we'd love to hear what you're doing to keep your young employees -- with or without student loan debt -- motivated and loyal to your organization and the sector.

-- Regina Mahone

Quote of the Day (March 16, 2008)

March 16, 2008


"I am today announcing my candidacy for the presidency of the United States.

"I do not run for the presidency merely to oppose any man but to propose new policies. I run because I am convinced that this country is on a perilous course and because I have such strong feelings about what must be done, and I feel that I'm obliged to do all that I can.

"I run to seek new policies -- policies to end the bloodshed in Vietnam and in our cities, policies to close the gaps that now exist between black and white, between rich and poor, between young and old, in this country and around the rest of the world.

"I run for the presidency because I want the Democratic Party and the United States of America to stand for hope instead of despair, for reconciliation of men instead of the growing risk of world war.

"I run because it is now unmistakably clear that we can change these disastrous, divisive policies only by changing the men who are now making them....

"At stake is not simply the leadership of our party and even our country. It is our right to moral leadership of this planet."

-- Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, Washington, D.C., March 16, 1968

Weekend Link Roundup (March 15-16, 2008)

So you think you're well informed? You might change your mind after you take the Pew News IQ quiz at the Pew Research Center site. (Hat tip to Tom Belford.)

The electronic mob strikes again: Pam Ashlund, who blogs at the Nonprofit Eye, has decided that discretion is the better part of valor. (Hat tip to Rosetta Thurman.)

Alison Fine argues (correctly, in my view) that there "has been an overreaction in the nonprofit sector to critics of overhead and administrative fees...."

Noting the decline in public sector support for critical infrastructure projects, Underalms, the charity industry observer behind the the Where Most Needed blog, says it is time for universities and nonprofit hospitals in America's second-tier cities (Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Baltimore, New Haven) "to step up to their responsiblities to the cities that host them."

GiveWell co-founder Holden Karnofsky addresses the frequently heard charge that GiveWell is merely "reinventing the wheel" -- and doing it with limited resources and expertise. Not true, says Holden. "GiveWell's uniqueness is not in its ability to conduct thorough research, but in its willingness to share it."

FLIP (Future Leaders in Philanthropy) has a nice Q&A with Peter Dietz, the founder of Social Actions, "a search engine of peer-to-peer social change campaigns and a training resources for individuals, organizations and foundations that want to use social media to creat social change."

The Nonprofiteer has some sage advice for those in the first or second phase of their nonprofit careers.

The Nonprofit Blog Carnival lands on Sam Davidson's doorstep on March 17, and in honor of St. Patrick's Day Sam will be looking for posts that relate the nonprofit world to anything "green."

Finally, I had high hopes for the World's 50 Most Powerful Blogs, which appeared in the U.K.-based Guardian earlier this week. (Hat tip to "A Fundraiser" at Don't Tell the Donor.org.) Alas, a scan of the list reaffirms the depressing conclusion that global popular culture increasingly is synonmous with junk culture.

However, the list did lead me to Phil Gyford's brilliantly executed blog version of the diaries of Samuel Pepys -- certainly the longest, and maybe the greatest, diary ever written. If you thought you were obsessive in pursuit of your objectives, you owe it to yourself to check out Gyford's creation. As gossip columnist Cindy Adams might say, "Only on the Web, kids, only on the Web."

-- Mitch Nauffts

CGI University (Day One) -- A.M. Working Session

March 15, 2008


("Live posts listed in reverse chron order; read from bottom up.)

12:45 p.m.: Breakout sessions over, panelists back with answers to three questions:

1. How do you keep students motivated when they see little evidence of change happening?

Stephanie Nyombayire: You have to remember that change will come, even if it comes slowly. Don't forget to list your accomplishments, however small, on a regular basis. And don't forget to thank people for their good work and participation.

Courtney Spence: Keep your eyes on the goal. And don't forget about the people coming up behind you -- think of it as a relay race.

2. What advice can you give students tackling issues too large to have easy solutions but too important to ignore?

Stephanie Nyombayire: You have to believe in your cause -- that's the starting point. After that, the Big Three are: Educate, Advocate, Fundraise

Courtney Spence: Advice from dad -- "You get to be big by thinking small"

Gideon Yago: Be encouraged that America truly is the world's melting pot.

3. With so many organizations already doing good work, how do you know whether to join an existing effort or to launch something new?

Stephanie Nyombayire: If you don't see something happening, then you know it's up to you to make it happen. If you think yu can invent a better mousetrap, go ahead and do it. Regardless, don't forget to work with others.

Eboo Patel: The "hardship-to-hero ratio" in starting any organization is at least 100-to-1 -- and your parents are sure to give you hell. If you are meant to start an organization, you must do it. But if you do start an organization, be sure to network it.


And, except for announcements of additional commitments, that wraps it up for the morning. The afternoon working sessions are scheduled to start at 4:30 (ET), but it doesn't look like they'll be Webcast.

Hope you enjoyed our little experiment. Back tomorrow with the weekend roundup.

12:05  p.m.: After Yago, the moderator, gives the panelists a chance to talk about their organizations and why they were drawn to social-change work, he poses the "how" question. How do you do this kind of work? How do you get started and how do you sustain it? Here, briefly, is their advice:

Stephanie Nyombayire:

  1. Seek out information
  2. Enlist support of fellow students
  3. Remember, it's a marathon, not a sprint -- "Arm yourself with patience and persistence"

Eboo Patel: Think like a social entrepreneur ("Somebody who turns an idea for social change into reality"); look for the patterns underlying a persistent problem and, as Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus did, figure out a way to alter those patterns.

Courtney Spence:

  1. Don't be afraid to talk to -- to talk with -- anyone; it doesn't have to be about anything specific. Be a sponge. Make connections.
  2. Yes, you have to be in it for the long haul and focus on the end result. But you also have to take the time to enjoy the journey, because in the end it's all about the journey.

Good advice. Next up, working groups in which the What? question will be addressed. The webcast will resume in twenty minutes.

11:45 a.m.: As I supected, blogging the concurrent working sessions is going to be impossible. (At the big annual CGI event, the Clinton folks provide simultaneous closed-circuit feeds of all working sessions for the media.) So I've decided to "attend" the peace & human rights session, "Building Peace on Campus and Beyond," in part because, as panel moderator Gideo Yago, a journalist, says: Peace and conflict resolution is "the most difficult" of all the topics tol be discussed at CGI U.

In addition to Yago, the panelists are:

  • Stephanie Nyombayire, Swarthmore senior and spokesperson, Genocide Intervention Network
  • Eboo Patel, Ph.D., founder/executive director, Interfaith Youth Core
  • Courtney Spence, founder/president, Students of the World

-- Mitch Nauffts

CGI University (Day One) -- Opening Plenary


("Live" posts listed in reverse chron order; read from bottom up.)

11:25 a.m.: Good advice from Dr. Skorton to all young people interested in making change:

  1. Listen. Learn everything you can about your issue or cause.
  2. Make a plan.
  3. Do whatever you can on your own.
  4. After you've done the first three, enlist the help of others.

That ends the opening plenary session. Breakout sessions in four areas -- global health ("Starvation Amidst Plenty, Obesity Amidst Poverty: Malnutrition's Devastating Toll on Children"), energy and climate change ("Seizing the Economic Opportunity"), human rights and peace ("Building Peace on Campus and Beyond"), and poverty alleviation ("Students Ending Poverty: Start From Where You Are") -- to begin at 11:45 a.m. (EST).

11:16 a.m.: Lance Armstrong cites a statistic in a study he recently came across which says that China is anticipating losing 1 billion people to tobacco-related illness in the 21st century.

10:44 a.m.: Opening remarks concluded. On to opening plenary panel, "Working Together: Students and Universities Take the Lead on Global Challenges," moderated by Clinton and featuring:

  • Lance Armstrong, founder and chair, Lance Armstrong Foundation
  • Betty Bigombe, Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow, United States Institute of Peace
  • Brittany Cochran, graduate student, Xavier University of Louisiana
  • David Skorton, M.D., president, Cornell University

Format is tailor-made for Clinton, a master of extemporaneous speaking. Contrast with George Bush's performance yesterday before the Economic Club of New York (which I happened to catch in its entirety on CNBC) is striking.

10:38 a.m.: Press release from CGI hit my mailbox as I was typing the last bit. Notes that nearly 700 college students from more than 250 colleges and universities, representing almost every state and continent except Antarctica, have travled to the campus of Tulane University for the evnt. They have been joined by 29 university presidents, 11 national youth organization directors, social entrepreneurs, and college and university faculty and administrators.

Clinton quote: "Today’s generation of young people has more power to change the course of our future than any previous generation," President Clinton said. "Whether it’s from their computer in a dorm room or through student groups on campus, they are seizing opportunities to put their innovative ideas into action. I hope CGI U will embolden more students to help solve the great challenges we all face in the 21st century."

The following first-day "commitments" were announced (read this to learn more about commitments). All language lifted directly from the CGI press release:

Mambidzeni Madzivire, Student, Mayo Graduate School: This commitment will repair medical equipment in the developing world by pairing engineering graduate students with faculty service trips. These groups will hold trainings in Ghana and Jamaica, where the school has pre-existing relationships.

Tony C. Anderson and Marcus Penny, Students, Morehouse College: This student group will raise funds to install one million energy efficient light bulbs including compact fluorescent bulbs over four years in low-income households. The pilot program will take place in Atlanta's West End.

Jokom Riak, Student, Salt Lake City Community College: This commitment will support returning farmers to Southern Sudan following the peace agreement by providing farming equipment, seeds, and pesticide. Riak, a Lost Boy, came to the United States as part of the Clinton Administration's decision to grant the Lost Boys refugee status. President Clinton's resettlement initiative, has already created a website to assist in the collection of funds and will reach out to other Lost Boys to spread awareness and combine efforts.

Lu Hardin, President, University of Central Arkansas: The University is creating a new program that will leverage faculty and student research relating to poverty alleviation. Undergraduate researchers will identify best practices that can be applied in rural Arkansas. These students will work towards the implementation of their research by collaborating with think-tanks and non-profits working in the region.

Elizabeth Coleman, President, Bennington College: Bennington College will create a center on campus that will house problem-based educational programs in five subject areas: education, energy and climate change, international health, human rights, and poverty. Visiting interdisciplinary scholars, practitioners and activists from diverse disciplines and backgrounds will spend semesters at this center, and new classes will be launched to introduce students to these issues and identify promising solutions to them.

Julie Carney, Student, Yale University: Through this commitment, The Artemis Project will create an online network to allow truth commissions and their successor organizations to upload, store, and share materials. In countries with the technological capacity, truth commissions can upload digitized documents to a central database. Where this capacity is not available, The Artemis Project staff will work alongside local truth commissions to help digitize documents on the site.

Scott Cowen, President, Tulane University: This commitment will create neighborhood-based health centers throughout New Orleans for residents without health insurance. Each center will employ five to eight primary care physicians, and will service up to 20,000 distinct patients.

Elliott Sanchez, Student, Loyola University - New Orleans: This commitment will create a student-sponsored microfinancing fund for community members to purchase income-building assets, such as painting supplies.

Anna Monhartova, Student, Tulane University Student: This commitment will create a tennis-based after-school program in New Orleans, which will give students an opportunity to develop as student life and ease community tensions through sports.

Laurie Gonzalez, Katherine Reeves, Kavinda Udugama, Students, Lafayette College: These students are working on an entrepreneurship and development project with the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans and the Center for Bio-Environmental Research (CBER) at Tulane and Xavier Universities to help the community build a "green" urban economy. This student group has conducted similar programs worldwide.

Qian Xiao, Student, University of California -San Diego: In partnership with Peking University, this commitment will collect and distribute 7,500 children's books for primary and middle school students in rural China. They will also compile a guidance package with instructions on how to develop and maintain school and community libraries. This commitment will target 8 rural villages and help 800 students and 100 rural teachers.

Di Ling and Jenna Hook, Students, Rice University: This commitment will create medical diagnostic backpacks for nomadic doctors in sub-Saharan Africa. Jeannie’s commitment will customize and prepare the backpacks for doctors working with the Pediatric AIDS Corps in Tanzania, Botswana and Malawi. Jenna will work with Jeanie’s team to develop a backpack to bring with her to Lesotho.

Ruth Simmons, President, Brown University: Brown University will build on the current partnership between Princeton, Brown and Dillard Universities to "green" Dillard University facilities and promote sustainability on campus. These institutions will also collaborate on educational opportunities for students and faculty research.

10:13 a.m.: I'm going to attempt to "live" blog the opening plenary/early sessions of the first CGI University. (Hat tip to Barry Ritholtz of The Big Picture for the idea.) I'm in NYC, of course, so my "attendance" at the event will be courtesy of the Kaisernetwork webcasts.

Things just got started, with Samuel Anei, a Truman College student and co-founder of the Lost Boys of Southern Sudan, introducing former President Clinton.

Clinton enters to big round of applause and rolling Zydeco music; resplendent in dark suit and kelly green tie (for St. Patrick's Day). Immediately introduces New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin, who takes the stage tie-less and looking like he was up late. Hails New Orleans as "one of the most interesting cities in the world...the birthplace of jazz." Calls post-Katrina New Orleans "an incubator" for solutions to many of the society's most pressing problems -- global warming, social and ethnic inequities, drug abuse and gang violence, etc. Reminds the audience before exiting "to pay your New Orleans taxes at Harrah's casino." Big laugh give way to rueful chuckles.

Clinton quote: "Today’s generation of young people has more power to change the course of our future than any previous generation. "Whether it’s from their computer in a dorm room or through student groups on campus, they are seizing opportunities to put their innovative ideas into action. I hope CGI U will embolden more students to help solve the great challenges we all face in the 21st century."

-- Mitch Nauffts

CGI University on the Web

March 14, 2008


Coverage of the inaugural meeting of CGI U, a project of the Clinton Global Initiative, will be Webcast over the weekend by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Kaisernetwork.org. The event, to be held on the campus of Tulane University in New Orleans, will bring together students, university officials, and business and political leaders to discuss and explore solutions to challenges in four areas: global health, energy and climate change, human rights and peace, and poverty alleviation.

The following sessions will be webcast live (all times Eastern):

Saturday, March 15

10:00 a.m.: Opening Plenary: Working Together: Students and Universities Take the Lead on Global Challenges

11:30 a.m.: Four Concurrent Working Sessions

  • Energy & Climate Change: Climate Change: Seizing the Economic Opportunity
  • Global Health: Starvation Amidst Plenty, Obesity Amidst Poverty: Malnutrition’s Devastating Toll on Children
  • Human Rights & Peace: Building Peace on Campus and Beyond
  • Poverty Alleviation: Students Ending Poverty: Start from Where You Are

3:00 p.m.: Special Session: Rebuilding a Sustainable New Orleans

4:30 p.m.: Four Concurrent Working Sessions

  • Energy & Climate Change: Building the Groundswell for Change
  • Global Health: The Overlooked International Emergency: Mental Health in Post-Crisis Communities
  • Human Rights & Peace: Protecting and Promoting the Rights of Women through Empowerment
  • Poverty Alleviation: A More Employable Future: Educating Our Global Youth

6:30 p.m.: Closing Plenary, with remarks from President Clinton

For the complete guide to coverage, visit http://www.kaisernetwork.org/cgiU2008.

-- 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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