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Weekend Link Roundup (April 12-13, 2008)

April 13, 2008

After a one-week hiatus, the weekend link roundup is back. Enjoy...


With the "R" word on everyone's lips, New York Times economics columnist David Leonhardt explains why an economic downturn could spell trouble for many middle-class Americans ("For Many, A Boom That Wasn't," April 9, 2008). The problem, writes Leonhardt

is that the now-finished [economic] boom was, for most Americans, nothing of the sort. In 2000, at the end of the previous economic expansion, the median American family made about $61,000, according to the Census Bureau's inflation-adjusted numbers. In 2007, in what looks to be the final year of the most recent expansion, the median family, amazingly, seems to have made less -- $60,500.

This has never happened before, at least not for as long as the government has been keeping records. In every other expansion since World War II, the buying power of most American families grew as the economy did. You can think of this as the most basic test of an economy's health: does it produce ever-rising living standards for its citizens?

Leonhardt's article was based on the results of a new national opinion survey by the D.C.-based Pew Research Center ("Inside the Middle Class: Bad Times Hit the Good Life"), which found, among other things, that:

  • Fewer Americans now than at any time in the past half century believe they're moving forward in life.
  • For decades, middle-income Americans had been making absolute progress while enduring relative decline. But since 1999, they have not made economic gains.
  • Almost half of all Americans think of themselves as middle class.
  • For the past two decades middle-income Americans have been spending more and borrowing more. Housing has been the key driver of both trends.
  • At a time when these borrow-and-spend habits have spread, Americans say it has become harder to sustain a middle-class lifestyle.
  • Economic, demographic, technological, and sociological changes since 1970 have moved some groups up the income ladders and pushed others down.

To paraphrase that famous economist Bette Davis, "Fasten your seatbelts; it's going to be a bumpy ride."


Citizen journalist Annie Leonard, coordinator at the Funders Workgroup for Sustainable Production and Consumption, relates The Story of Stuff, a "fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns."  (Hat tip to Alison Fine.)

Doubt Thrown on Global Warming-Hurricane Link. At The Daily Green, Dan Shipley notes that Kerry Emanuel, a well-respected hurricane expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has unveiled a new technique for predicting hurricane activity which "suggests that, even in a dramatically warming world, hurricane frequency and intensity may not substantially rise during the next two centuries." (The Houston Chronicle first reported the story here.)


The tireless Beth Kanter shares what she has learned to date about fundraising on Facebook, including some very interesting numbers.


The Project for Excellence in Journalism, an initiative of the Pew Research Center, has released its fifth annual State of the News Media report. This year's reports highlights the following trends:

  • News is shifting from being a product -- today's newspaper, Web site, or newscast -- to becoming a service -- how can you help me, even empower me?
  • A news organization and a news Web site are no longer final destinations.
  • The prospects for user-created content, once thought possibly central to the new era of journalism, for now appear more limited, even among "citizen" sites and blogs.
  • Increasingly, the newsroom is perceived as the more innovative and experimental part of the news media.
  • The agenda of the American news media continues to narrow, not broaden.
  • Madison Avenue, rather than pushing change, appears to be having trouble keeping up with it.

These trends join others that PEJ has identified over the last five years: Journalism is not disappearing, it is changing; consumers trust and rely on journalists less while expecting more of them; many traditional news outlets are moving toward becoming niche products; and the once-bright future of online advertising is looking a little less bright. Good stuff. (Hat tip to Tom Bedford at The Agitator.)


Conventional wisdom has it that the looming retirement of baby boomer execs en masse portends a leadership crisis in the nonprofit sector. Not so, says Robert Thalhimer, in PhilanthroMedia:

Each generation, in my view, is guilty of an aggrandized sense of self-importance….Look at the facts. Each succeeding generation in modern times has brought fresh ideas and energy to lead and support worthy charitable causes. Each generation has groomed leaders for whom the daily satisfaction of making the community a better place in which to live outweighs industry's higher pay scale.

According to Thalhimer, boomers preparing to pass the torch of leadership are already grooming the sector’s next crop of leaders, just as members of the Greatest Generation before them groomed the boomers.


Nancy Schwartz has posted a very thorough primer on nonprofit branding on her Getting Attention blog. In it, you'll learn: why nonprofits should care about branding; how to bring a brand to life; the best workplan for developing an effective brand; and how to spread the word about your new or updated brand.


Blogging from Silicon Valley, the site of the seventh annual conference of the Global Philanthropy Forum, Lucy Bernholz reflects on how the meta-discussion among philanthropy movers and shakers is shifting from "unto" and "for" to "with" -- as in, "How can we work like we're all in this together?"

Trista Harris, who blogs at New Voices of Philanthropy, identifies five change "waves" that foundations ignore at their own peril: generational/demographic trends; increased regulation; the growing popularity of donor-advised funds; increased scrutiny of endowments/investments; and call for accountability with respect to the diversity of boards and staff.

Richmond, California-based Kordant Consulting has launched a blog dedicated to Asian American philanthropy. According to Dien Yuen, a director at Give2Asia and the blog's editor, Asian American Giving will promote stories of Asian American philanthropists, draw attention to issues in the Asian American community, and highlight trends and patterns in Asian American giving.

Social Entrepreneurship

In the NYTimes John Markoff reports ("When Tech Innovation Has a Social Mission," April 13, 2008) on the Silicon Valley love affair with "a new style of 'hybrid' technology organization...that is trying to define a path between the nonprofit world and traditional for-profit ventures." Nothing new here, though lots of familiar names: Jim Fruchterman, president, Benetech; Brewster Kahle, founder, Internet Archive; Rebecca Masisak, co-CEO, TechSoup; Mitchell Kapor; etc.

And here's Times columnist David Brooks' recent take on the social enterprise movement.


Last but not least, Katya Andresen has a great post on three personality traits we all would be wise to cultivate. This one's going on the bulletin board.

-- Mitch Nauffts

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