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Weekend Link Roundup (July 19-20, 2008)

July 20, 2008

Interesting piece by Kurt Andersen in last week's New York magazine ("Meet the Press Now," July 21). Starting with the observation that the reason people responded so emotionally to the death of "Meet the Press" moderator Tim Russert was because his passing "felt emblematic of the decline and fall of serious-minded, voice-of-God mass media," Andersen offers a compelling overview of the current media landscape, including the proliferation and rise to prominence of cable outlets and blogs. "The commentariat has never been larger," he writes. "But for all the new pundits,

my hunch is that it possesses no more aggregate power than it did in the past. Instead, the same pie has been cut into smaller slices, with many more people scrambling to claim their little piece of visibility and influence. It's a version of Warhol's twisted insight, twisted a little more: In today's commentariat, everyone is famous not for fifteen minutes but across fifteen micrometers of the bit of the celebrity bandwidth reserved for journalists....

I don't know much about visibility, influence, or celebrity, but I can tell you the blogosphere -- even our little nonprofit neck of it -- has never been more crowded. So, without further adieu, here's this week's attempt to put a circle around that portion of it dedicated to helping, understanding, and encouraging those people working to make the world a better place.

Civil Society

In Audacious Ideas, a blog "created to stimulate ideas and discussion about solutions to difficult problems in Baltimore," Lauren Abramson, founder and executive director of the Community Conferencing Center urges all of us to embrace an old idea: Taking more responsibility for our own health as well as the health of our communities.

Responding to a recent editorial in the Christian Science Monitor by Sally Kohn, senior campaign strategist at the D.C.-based Center for Community Change, Allison Fine (A.Fine Blog) argues that social change

isn’t about taking old forms of ['60s-style] protest and layering some blogs and emails atop. It’s a new way of people connecting with another, of creating scalable networks of activities with enormous capacity to share information, organize and mobilize, raise money and influence the debate in the media. By the very nature of network theory and social media, the way we connect, the way issues arise and are dealt with, will be fundamentally different in this new century. It’s time to leave the 1960s where they belong, in the history books.

Diversity

Bob Ross, president and CEO of the California Endowment, one of the signatories to the agreement that effectively scuttled AB 624, responds to critics (on both the right and left) of the deal and addresses the coalition's future plans.

Economy

Yesterday's New York Times includes an excellent dissection by reporter Peter Goodman of our current economic malaise ("Uncomfortable Answers to Questions on the Economy," July 19).

Something has clearly gone wrong with the economy. But how bad are things, really? And how bad might they get before better days return? Even to many economists who recently thought the gloom was overblown, the situation looks grim. The economy is in the midst of a very rough patch. The worst is probably still ahead.

Job losses will probably accelerate through this year and into 2009, and the job market will probably stay weak even longer. Home prices will probably keep falling, shrinking household wealth and eroding spending power.

“The open question is whether we’re in for a bad couple of years, or a bad decade,” said Kenneth S. Rogoff, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, now a professor at Harvard....

Over at Don't Tell the Donor, "a fundraiser" is back from his/her visit to the future and wants everyone to know that, in terms of the economy, things are going to get worse, a lot worse, before they get better.

And just when you think it couldn't get worse....Tim Kane, co-author, with Bob Litan, of Growthology, one of my new favorite blogs, has posted the results of their Superpower Survey. The big surprise? The majority of respondents think the U.S. will continue to be a leading source of innovation and economic dynamism for decades to come.

Education

The GiveWell boys, Holden and Elie, soldier on (despite frequent attacks by trolls and asshats) with a good post on the Career Academies initiative.

Higher Education

The ever-skeptical Nonprofiteer questions the need for, if not the motivations behind, GreenNote.com, the new peer-to-peer lending site that connects small lenders to college-bound students looking to secure loans to help pay for their education. (We wrote about it here.) While she hedges her bets on the near-term prospects for the American economy, she makes some good points.

Marketing/Communications

Best summer reads for nonprofit marketers -- as if you didn't have enough to read. (Hat tip Kivi Leroux Miller)

Nonprofits and Social Media

The folks at Social Actions, a nonprofit virtual organization that works to connect individuals to "actionable opportunities" aggregated from nineteen social action platforms (e.g., Kiva, GlobalGiving, DonorsChoose.org, etc.), have launched a Social Action wiki as a way to generate new development ideas for Social Action programmers. (Hat Tip Phil Cubeta)

Britt Bravo has a nice nonprofit blogging FAQ over at the Net Squared site. Topics include: How do we decide if our organization should have a blog? Should your organization's blog have editorial guidelines? How do you deal with issues of fear and control? How do you compete in the inceasingly crowded nonprofit blogosphere? (Hat tip Jeff Brooks at the Donor Power Blog)

Speaking of Jeff Brooks, he and Steven Screen, founder of UberDirect, an advertising agency specializing in direct response marketing and fundraising, have launched Fundraisng Is Beautiful, a free weekly podcast dedicated to all things fundraising. Since the program's launch in May, the guys have covered such topics as the Myth of Donor Burnout, How to Deal With Donor Complaints, Fundraising in Times of Disaster, and Fundraising as Courtship.

Philanthropy

Last but not least, Todd Cohen, editor and publisher of Philanthropy Journal, points to the multi-billion-dollar bequest that the late Leona Helmsley created for the care and welfare of dogs to argue that the regulation of private foundations and charitable giving is broken. I disagree with him -- and with Ray D. Madoff, the Boston College law professor whose recent op-ed piece in the New York Times ("Dog Eat Your Taxes?", July 9) sparked the current debate about payout, perpetuity, and the tax deduction for charitable gifts -- on most points and will detail why in an upcoming post.

-- Mitch Nauffts

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