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Weekend Link Roundup (October 4-5, 2008)

October 05, 2008

Better late (we hope) than never. Here's this week's roundup of noteworthy blog posts:


In a recent presentation at the National Human Services Assembly Summit, Rosetta Thurman reminded attendees that while the racial composition of the nation continues to change, the nonprofit sector "isn't keeping pace with the cultural shift in America, nor making enough of an effort to recruit, retain, and promote people of color to top executive positions in our field." She also offered a short list of things each of us, as "agents of nonprofit culture," can do to improve the situation, including prioritizing cultural competency, expanding our networks beyond our comfort zone, avoiding "tokenism," and speaking out.

Nonprofits and Social Media

In response to B.L. Ochman's article "10 Reasons Why Your Company Shouldn't Blog" on the Ad Age site, onLine's Jenn Thompson offers "10 Reasons Why Your Nonprofit SHOULD Blog".

To blog or not to blog isn't the only important question nonprofits are asking themselves. As Beth Kanter, our favorite social media maven, points out, resource-constrained nonprofits are keenly interested in knowing how much time it takes to implement social media. After defining the key elements of any social media strategy — listening, participating, generating buzz, sharing your story, community building, and social networking -- Kanter takes a stab, with caveats, at quantifying the actual time involved and comes up with a number -- 30-35 hours a week -- that's sure to give more than a few executive directors pause.


According to some, the next big thing in the nonprofit software space was announced at the Clinton Global Initiative a week or so ago. Developed by the Acumen Fund, a venture philanthropy organization, with the help of engineers from Google and Salesforce.com, the Portfolio Data Management System is designed, as Claire Cain Miller writes in the New York Times' technology blog, to help foundations and grantmakers set benchmarks for measuring social impact, track grantees' performance, and compare the performance of grantees to other nonprofits doing similar work. Indeed, no less an authority than Jed Emerson says that while the social sector is still "grappling with many of the aspects of what it means to track social value and performance," PDMS has the potential to be "very significant." (Hat tip Lucy Bernholz.)

Matthew Bishop, The Economist editor credited with coining the term "philanthrocapitalism," and co-author Michael Green have launched a new Web site, Philanthrocapitalism.net, to support their newly published book, Philanthropcapitalism: How the Rich Can Save the World. These days, of course, it's increasingly looking like capitalism may not be able to save itself, let alone the world. But Bishop and Green remain optimistic:

Does a bad time for capitalism spell trouble for philanthrocapitalism? Not necessarily. Certainly, a few wealthy philanthropists have taken a nasty hit….But we are betting that when the dust settles — and assuming the powers that be do not repeat the huge policy errors after the 1929 Crash that led to the Great Depression — most of today's super rich will not be much worse off, and many of them will be considerably richer....

Not sure whether that's a good thing, but at least we can all agree that another Great Depression would be a very bad thing....

Lucy Bernholz (see above) also found time this week to review Money Well Spent, the new guide to "strategic" philanthropy by Hewlett Foundation president Paul Brest and co-author Hal Harvey. After calling publication of the book "a significant moment in the marketization of philanthropy," Bernholz praises the authors' synthesis and presentation of the key elements of rational, strategic giving. But she admits to being troubled by what they leave out of that presentation: the heart. Yes, philanthropy is an industry, Bernholz writes, but it's also

a labor of love. It is perhaps the only business where passion and volunteerism play major roles. No matter how strategic a donor or foundation becomes, they may still pursue what some will consider to be foolish, frivolous, or redundant goals. No matter how strategic or effective (or neither) a foundation may be, at any point in time for any number of reasons (some rational, others perhaps not) the donor may pull the plug, redirect the resources, or simply decide to no longer participate. There is little to put an endowed foundation out of business, nothing to tell a donor "don't do that, it is actually harmful," or little that can keep someone from packing up her philanthropic playthings and going home. The most strategic foundation, the most carefully evaluated program strategy, and the most well-weighted goals will still be pre-defined by the donor's interests -- be they environmental, health related, artistic, justice oriented, equality-seeking, or none of the above. So while the focus on strategy and measurement are in sync with two of the defining forces of philanthropy (markets and regulation), they are out of sync with the third, the heart and human nature.....

To which we would only add: Wish we had said that.

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

-- Regina Mahone

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

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