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Weekend Link Roundup (July 26-27, 2008)

July 27, 2008

Here, a little late and short, is this weekend's roundup....


In this summer of our discontent, we should take comfort from the fact that the only inexhaustible resource on the planet is human resourcefulness. Exhibit A: Giant Sail Technology, a new fuel-saving technology in which giant parasails are harnessed to ocean-going cargo ships. As the Idealist blog puts it: "With sails as large as a football field, the parachute works something like a tugboat, flying up to 1,000 feet in front of the ship and cutting the vessel's use of fossil fuels by 30-35 percent."  Cool.


One third of American children are overweight and 70 percent of those kids will become overweight adults. What happened? When did we become one with our couches? Why do our children play outdoors so much less? The next online discussion at NewTalk ("Where experts discuss America's toughest issues") will address the obesity epidemic in the United States. Participants in the two-part series, which starts July 29, include Stuart L. Brown, National Institute for Play; William H. Dietz, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Darell Hammond; KaBOOM!; Kevin Jeffrey, New York City Parks and Recreation Department; Lee M. Kaplan, MGH Weight Center and MGH Obesity Research Center; Dwayne Proctor; Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; and Jean Wiecha, Harvard School of Public Health.


On the NTEN blog, Holly Ross argues that, more than ever, the job of the nonprofit marketer is about building community, engaging in conversations, and developing relationships.

And in a world of too many things to do, Nancy Schwartz has some great advice about how to tackle those big projects that have been hanging over your head.

Nonprofits and Social Media

In an excellent summary of the current social networking landscape, Beth Kanter argues that nonprofits and social activists still have a lot to learn about leveraging social networking applications for good causes and that "a couple of things need to happen before we get to best practices and knowing precisely what works":

Nonprofits need to look at objectives and resources, target their audiences, and think about multi-channel efforts before  jumping on the Let's Use Facebook bandwagon.... Activists need to better understand the psychology of Facebook apps and perhaps revise their campaign strategies. Facebook application developers who want to help change the world and work with nonprofits and activists need to better understand how Facebook culture and behavior meshes with activism and fundraising behaviors and workflow....

Beth and her friends at NTEN (the Nonprofit Technology Network) are also hard at work on the fourth module (The Art of Storytelling) of the We Are Media Project, a wiki-based social media "starter kit" for nonprofits. Be sure to check out what they've created to date -- it's is impressive. Aand if you're not already familiar with the project, this is a good place to start.


Tim Ogden, an executive partner at Sona Partners and co-editor (along with Laura Starita) of the Philanthropy Action blog, addresses the thorny issue of donor intent raised by the recent revelation that before her death Leona Helmsley charged her multi-billion dollar charitable trust so that the bulk of the funds would be used to attend to “the care and welfare of dogs.”  Ogden, like most commentators who have weighed in on the debate, seems perplexed that U.S. tax policy gives donors "nearly unchecked ability to designate a philanthropic cause [that] serves the public good." What he finds most puzzling, however, is the lack of discussion of the issues surrounding the Helmsley trust in the nonprofit/philanthropic blogosphere. Maybe, he writes, it's because some

consider the Helmsley gift an aberration, and unworthy of deep discussion. [but given] that the amount of wealth held in the upper tiers of society continues to grow, and the forecasted wealth transfers as the pre-boomer generation passes away, aberrations like Ms. Helmsley’s will likely become more common. Now is the time to begin a conversation on whether our public policy on this issue is appropriate.

We couldn't agree more.

In response to a post ("Inspiring Young People About Civic Engagement") by PhilanthroMedia blogger Robert Thalmeimer, Janis Foster of Grassroots Grantmakers reflects on the words, volunteer, volunteering, and citizen.

Odds and Ends

Tactical Philanthropy's Sean Stannard-Stockton, the man who never sleeps, is taking vacation this week. In Sean's absence, Jacob Harold, a program officer at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, will share his and his colleagues' thoughts about the practice of philanthropy. You can read Jacob's first post here.

Last (but not least), the Nonprofiteer is taking a hiatus from blogging until after the November elections so she can volunteer full-time for the Obama campaign in Illinois and Iowa. We'll miss her.

That's all for now. Have a great week.

-- Mitch Nauffts and Regina Mahone

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Posted by DJ  |   July 28, 2008 at 10:26 AM

"Ogden, like most commentators who have weighed in on the debate, seems perplexed that U.S. tax policy gives donors "nearly unchecked ability to designate a philanthropic cause [that] serves the public good"

Perplexed? It is something to be celebrated, quite frankly.

It is simply something that the government has zero business weighing in on, like so many other areas (but they do so constantly anyway)

I also don't buy the argument that because the gift is tax free and "society is denied the benefits" of that missing tax they have a reason to grouse about intent of a gift that may not "serve the public good" enough for some people.

Taxes are not meant to "benefit society" (at least not in the way implied in the article) and the fact that X-number of Head Starts won't be funded because Uncle Sam didn't raid Leona's wallet is regrettable, but beside the fact.

Wealth does not belong to the government, it belongs to the individual, and that includes after death if they clearly state their intent.

Posted by Professor Adam  |   October 10, 2008 at 10:52 AM

Yeah, I definitely agree with the commenter, DJ. Their wealth absolutely doesn't belong to the Government.

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