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37 posts from January 2009

Jacqueline Novogratz at TED: Ending Poverty in the Developing World

January 31, 2009

I only recently learned that the folks behind the long-running annual conference known as TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) are putting videos of some of the best talks from the conference online. (The challenge of a TED talk is that you have to say what you want to say in eighteen minutes or less.)

In the video below, Jacqueline Novogratz, the founder and CEO of the Acumen Fund, a nonprofit global venture fund, argues for a new approach to ending poverty in the developing world.

I hear that TED has quite a following online, with devotees of the conference sharing their favorites talks (two hundred or so have been posted to date) with friends and colleagues. So what are your favorites? Inquiring minds want to know....

-- Mitch Nauffts

'Luminaries and Family': Honoring the Scurlock Studio and Black Washington

January 30, 2009

(Kathryn Pyle is a frequent contributor to PhilanTopic. In her last post, she wrote about watching the inauguration of Barack Obama from Independence Mall in Philadelphia.)

Scurlock_exhibit "Washington is a treasure trove of black history and culture," remarked Eleanor Holmes Norton at the opening earlier this week of the National Museum of African American History and Culture's gallery in the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Several hundred people, including foundation and nonprofit leaders, were welcomed by director Lonnie G. Bunch III and viewed the first exhibit in the gallery -– the museum's home base until its building opens on the National Mall in 2015.

The show is a selection of one hundred photographs, plus cameras and other objects, from the Scurlock Studio, established in 1911 by Addison Scurlock, a teenager when he arrived from North Carolina with his camera bag. The pictures are from the Scurlock Studio Collection, housed at the American History museum. Howard University, the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., and the Scurlock family loaned the artifacts.

Continue reading »

Strategies for Hard Times: How to Downsize a Nonprofit

January 29, 2009

(Michael Seltzer is a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. In his last post, he wrote about the "new era" launched by the inauguration of Barack Obama.)

Storm_clouds03 In recent days, a number of nonprofits have been forced to make painful financial decisions. The trustees of Brandeis University voted to close their art museum. The Bolshoi Theater of Moscow cancelled their upcoming overseas tour to Mexico. AARP has mandated that all their D.C.-based employees take three-week unpaid leaves. United Ways around the country have laid off staff. Pick up your local newspaper and you're likely to find more bad news from Nonprofit Street. And this is only the start of what is likely to be the most widespread belt-tightening in the history of the sector.

When nonprofits are forced to cut back, the human costs borne by employees, clients, communities, and the organizations themselves are often incalculable. How do you calculate the cost of higher student tuition fees in terms of their impact on families and kids forced to make different choices? Or the cost of cuts at soup kitchens serving homeless men, women, and children? Or of longer waiting lists at domestic violence shelters? How do you calculate the cost of damage to mission, reputation, and morale at a nonprofit forced to cut services even as demand for its services soars?

The short answer: It's difficult, if not impossible. Which makes it all the more important for nonprofit leaders to employ practices that mitigate, as much as possible, the negative consequences of any downsizing. If you're a nonprofit leader, I hope you never find yourself in that position. But if you do, here are five things you can do to minimize the cost to others:

Continue reading »

Quote of the Day (January 28, 2008)

January 28, 2009

Quotemarks "I am impressed by individuals who continue to give generously even in these difficult times. I believe that the wealthy have a responsibility to invest in addressing inequity. This is especially true when the constraints on others are so great. Otherwise, we will come out of the economic downturn in a world that is even more unequal, with greater inequities in health and education, and fewer opportunities for people to improve their lives. There is no reason to accept that, when we know how to make huge gains over the long term...."

-- Bill Gates, co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Grants That Make a Difference: Community Alliance for Learning

January 27, 2009

Several grantees have come forward to share their stories through our new Grants That Make a Difference series. Last week we posted the story of Atlanta-based Reach for Excellence, a nonprofit educational enrichment program that works to provide talented, limited-income students with opportunities to achieve their full potential. This week's post, from Kathleen Kahn, board chair of the Community Alliance for Learning in Albany, California, north of Berkeley, illustrates the critical role that basic operating support plays in program development and expansion.

Grant Recipient
Community Alliance for Learning
Albany, California

Clear writing and critical thinking are essential to students' success in school and in life. WriterCoach Connection™, a project of the Community Alliance for Learning, brings trained volunteers into the classroom to give students at all levels of ability the one-on-one help they need to master these skills.

Y & H. Soda Foundation
Moraga, California

About the Grant
$40,000 over one year (2007-08)

The community Alliance for Learning had been working on a shoestring budget in Berkeley and Albany schools since 2001. The grant from the Soda Foundation allowed us to expand our staff from two to three people (1.8 to 2.5 positions) and research and plan a long-desired expansion that could not have been attempted with a smaller staff.

While other funders indicated they would fund an expanded program, we didn't have the resources to start one. The Soda Foundation understood that we needed a planning grant a year before we could actually expand the program to other sites. The grant freed up enough of our executive director's time to allow him to meet with staff of nearby school districts and to determine where we had the greatest chance to launch a successful expansion of the program. The expanded program went into operation toward the end of the grant year.

Impact of the Grant
CommAlliance_Oakland When we received the grant, we were contemplating an expansion into the Oakland, West Contra Costa, or Emeryville school districts. The grant gave us the time to select a district, a school, and funding sources that offered the best promise of a successful expansion of the program.

WriterCoach Connection™ began working at Media Academy in Oakland in the fall of 2008. With the enthusiastic support of the principal, the tenth-grade English teacher, and school district officials, we recruited enough volunteers (and secured enough additional funding) to coach the entire tenth grade and have begun working with students.

A professional assessment of our work with Media Academy will be done at the end of the school year. Meanwhile, the program has been well received by students and the teacher, and we hope to expand to the ninth grade in the near future. Other schools in the district have also indicated an interest in the program, and we have received additional funding from the Dreyer's Foundation, the Fleishhacker Foundation, and the Thomas J. Long Foundation.

What makes this grant a good example of effective use of philanthropic funds?
The grant gave a tiny organization whose staff was working full time on current operations breathing space to plan for an expansion. Other funders had indicated they would fund a program in Oakland if we could start one; the Soda Foundation was willing to take a chance on an idea that had great promise.


Do you have a story about a grant that made a difference? We encourage you to share them with our readers by submitting them through the handy form we've provided for that purpose. We'll feature a selection of grants regularly here on PhilanTopic, at one or more of our regional Philanthropy Front and Center blogs, and at other areas of our web site. During these tough economic times, we also encourage you to submit stories of grants that are addressing basic needs such as food, shelter, and foreclosure assistance.

Too Many Nonprofits -- or Not Enough?

January 26, 2009

(Bradford Smith is president of the Foundation Center. This is his first post for PhilanTopic.)

Strength-in-Numbers In my travels around the country as the new president of the Foundation Center, I've heard a number of pundits and philanthropic leaders suggest that there are too many nonprofits in America. Some argue that 1.3 million nonprofits is simply too many for funders and the public sector to support; others point to examples of multiple organizations working on the same issue in the same neighborhood, or lament what they see as the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of many nonprofits.

In my view, some of that frustration is driven by the very real pressures funders feel at a time when their assets have been ravaged by turmoil in the markets and many nonprofits are looking to them for a lifeline. But it's also a reflection of the growing influence of market-based thinking within the nonprofit sector. In its ideal form, a nonprofit marketplace assumes a mechanism by which foundation and individual donations are allocated to the highest-performing nonprofits as measured by a set of reliable, generally accepted metrics. Many good minds, a great deal of innovation, and growing resources have been applied to the creation of such a marketplace; that it will become a reality, either by design or through a more fluid, open-source process, is a given.

There are limitations, however, to the market framework, the most important of which is the fact that the nonprofit sector exists precisely to deal with challenges that are the result of what economists would call market failure. If markets never failed and always allocated resources efficiently, we would live in a society where everyone had access to quality health care, adequate housing, and a decent income; felt safe in their homes and communities; and took clean air and pure water for granted. It is precisely because markets do fail and aren't perfect that we have as many nonprofits as we do.

According to supporters of the nonprofit marketplace concept, the goal of such a market is to create maximum social value from every philanthropic dollar so as to ensure continued progress in solving a range of social issues. As the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter famously observed, however, markets reward winners -- sometimes extravagantly so --and punish losers (sometimes harshly) through what he labeled a process of "creative destruction." In theory, a well-functioning nonprofit marketplace would efficiently allocate philanthropic resources to fewer nonprofits working at near-maximum efficiency to make the world a better place.

Unfortunately, reality has a tendency to trip up theory. Today, for example, we find ourselves mired in a deepening economic crisis that, among other things, has caused the collapse of many of yesterday's most spectacularly successful firms. Unemployment is rising and predicted by many to reach 10 percent or more. People in growing numbers are in need of jobs and the services nonprofits provide. Indeed, a recent article in the Wall Street Journal suggested that financial sector professionals who had been laid off should consider taking a course at the Foundation Center!

No one would argue that nonprofits shouldn't strive to be more effective and efficient. But in my view, the most constructive time to have that conversation is when resources, opportunities, and employment in other sectors are abundant -- not in the midst of a worsening recession. Right now, instead, we need to be doing everything in our power to support and strengthen this country's nonprofit sector. A nonprofit job is a job, plain and simple. Even if it's a job at an underperforming nonprofit, that job is giving someone an opportunity to learn skills of trust and cooperation, foster social solidarity, and contribute to the public good -- precisely those civic values that serve to underpin a robust democracy.

I asked a friend the other night if he thought America had too many nonprofits. Without hesitating, he shot back, "Are you kidding, we don't have enough."

-- Bradford Smith

Weekend Link Roundup (January 24 - 25, 2009)

January 25, 2009

Here's this week's roundup of noteworthy posts and articles from and about the nonprofit sector....

Civil/Human Rights

A day after the election of the country's first African-American president, Rick Cohen, national correspondent for the Nonprofit Quarterly, interviewed Benjamin Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the nation's oldest civil rights organization, about the relevance of that venerable organization at this pivotal moment in history. "Despite his long experience in the social justice shortcomings of foundation grantmaking," Cohen writes,

Jealous doesn't appear to be asking the NAACP to join the burgeoning call of some for changing the structure of charitable and foundation giving to prioritize the needs of the poor and minorities. "Our focus right now is on three big things," Jealous said, "Getting a bailout not just for Main Street, but for 'Back Street', ensuring that each child in this country receives a quality education, and ending mass incarceration."

Both Ben Jealous and the new occupant of the White House face the most challenging economic circumstances in the U.S. since the...Depression.... According to Jealous, "the hard part with [Obama] on the inside as opposed to a leader of an insurgent campaign is going to be [that] the power of his operation could potentially backfire, it could insulate him from the sorts of pressure and critique that would ultimately create the space for him to do the right thing. The challenge for us who lead mass membership organizations," Jealous added, "is to both embrace this president who inspired us as a candidate and keep the pressure on him at the same time....What you bring is high expectations...; we're all willing to compromise, but we’re not willing to compromise too much...."

Click here to read the complete interview.


Inspired by the inauguration of our first African-American president, eduwonkette and her blogging partner skoolboy are almost finished presenting five wishes for education policy under the new administration. In reverse order, they are:

#5: Education Policy Based on Averages, Not Outliers -- "Please, dear policymakers, don't craft your policies -– or your expectations about the effects of policies -– based on outlier schools or teachers...."

#4: Better Alignment of Accountability Systems to School Outcomes -- "[I]'s...critically important for U.S. children and youth to prepare to assume the responsibilities of citizenship in a democracy that depends on a tacit social contract which binds us together, and we count on schools to do this and much more. Our wish is for accountability systems in education that are designed to measure and promote genuine growth and development in children and youth...."

#3: Asking More "Why?" Questions -- "Our wish...is for asking 'why?' more loudly, and earlier in the lifecycle of a policy or program. Why might achievement be higher in charter schools? Why do children learn more in smaller classes? Why are some teachers more successful in teaching low-achieving students than high-achieving students? Why don't school expenditures have a stronger association with student outcomes...?"

#2: The End of Proficiency Only Accountability Systems -- " 'No excuses' is great rhetoric, but in the end it's just that. So...wish #2 is that we move past this bravado in the next four years and develop a more reasonable and effective way of identifying and supporting low-performing schools in getting better...."

The series concludes on Monday.


In response to a "desperate" nonprofit executive director who's getting more turn-downs, the always-fiesty Nonprofiteer advises said ED to "get the chip off your shoulder," take a day or two off, and "come back ready to rumble with the problem rather than with people who constitute the solution...."

The eJewish Philanthropy blog has a nice list enumerating the ROI of online giving. Among other things, says eJP, an online presence delivers immediate assistance, extends your reach globally, and is eco-friendly. (H/T: AFP Blog)


With the newspaper industry's decades-old economic model crumbling before our eyes, the time has come for government to step in and lend a hand, write Geneva Overholser, director of the Annenberg School of Journalism at USC, and Geoffrey Cowan, the school's emeritus dean. Mike Burns, who blogs at Nonprofit Board Crisis, thinks the solution to the industry's plight is obvious: Newspapers should convert themselves into not-for-profits. "Yes, there are logistical challenges," writes Burns, "but being nonprofit in some form makes the most sense." Do you agree?

Nonprofits and Social Media

Geoff Livingston, who has his own communications firm in Washington, D.C., and blogs at the Buzz Bin, casts a gimlet eye on the sudden influx of "Government 2.0" gurus and argues that most social media evangelists in the public sector overlook the key to Web 2.0 success: First, listen. Says Livingston:

In a media environment where people talk back, and expect to be listened to, simply talking won't work. It won't. Social media is relational, it's two-way! If donors, volunteers and tax payers want messages, they'll read your brochure, watch your educational video, etc. Not here. We want to talk. That's why we've forsaken our roles as simple consumers of media and engaged in this vibrant online world, a veritable bazaar of ideas, conversations and yes, even products....

Nonprofit and government communicators may object and say, "Well, we are cause based, we are the essence of heart in life. We are bettering society." But are you? Or do you just want to increase donations? Or "educate" the masses? Perhaps garner votes for your platform? Or even spread the word about your cause, movement or political reform?

Mass communications vehicles have lost a great deal of their strength and trust. Here on the social web those things live again. But to achieve them we must listen. That's why so many organizational blogs fail. They talk first, and may never listen or let other voices be heard. In reality, it should be the other way around....

Good stuff.

Beth Kanter has posted a list of the most influential women in nonprofit technology. And while you're at it, be sure to check out Kanter's excellent guide to developing a social media strategy and integrating it into your organization's communications planning.

The Nashville-based Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee has won a YouTube video contest sponsored by Renew America Together, the Obama administration's new community-service initiative. The winning video, "Yes, We're Cans," follows a can of chili from its purchase at a Kroger’s supermarket to being donated to a local foodbank, where it is distributed to a needy family. (H/T: Give and Take)


The folks on the Philanthrocapitalism blog argue that "there is no better time than now for a bit of audacious hope." One of their hopes? "[T]hat [the government] will see the potential for scaling up what they learned about social innovation whilst working with non-profits, social entrepreneurs and philanthropists, and that the result will be smarter, more effective government."

On Wise Philanthropy, Richard Marker offers a few thoughts on how the "Obama moment" may affect the way people do their philanthropy. Among other things, Marker thinks we'll see greater emphasis placed on accountability and transparency, collaboration, commitment to voluntary service, and the linkage between domestic and worldwide need.

New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof offers an even-handed assessment of the work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on the eve of the publication of Bill Gates's first "annual letter" to stakeholders. Writes Kristof:

Look, I'm a cynical journalist, and I don't want to sound too infatuated. I think the Gates Foundation has missed the chance to leverage the revolution in social entrepreneurship, hasn't been as effective in advocacy as it has been in research, and has missed an opportunity to ignite a broad social movement behind its issues.

But if Mr. Gates manages to accomplish as much in the world of vaccines, health and food production as he thinks he can, then the consequences will be staggering. Squared. In that case, the first few paragraphs of Mr. Gates's obituary will be all about overcoming diseases and poverty, barely mentioning his earlier career in the software industry....

The letter will be available on the Gates Foundation Web site starting Monday.


Somwhat incredulously, the Nonprofiteer notes that "the IRS now requires every [nonprofit] organization to include in its bylaws a series of statements pledging to abide by the law....Apparently the concern is that, without these statements, 501(c)(3)s would organize themselves for non-charitable purposes, distribute profits to their Board members, engage in electoral politics, conduct forbidden activities and fail to distribute their assets to other charities on dissolution...."

That's it for now.

-- Regina Mahone and Mitch Nauffts

Inauguration Day: The View From Philadelphia

January 24, 2009

(Kathryn Pyle is a frequent contributor to PhilanTopic. In December, she blogged about the similarities between the Bernie Madoff and New Era Philanthropy scandals.)

Inauguration_philly2 Freezing cold, ice and snow on the ground, but four hundred people gathered on Independence Mall in Philadelphia, where the Liberty Bell and the Constitution are displayed, to watch Barack Obama's inauguration on a giant screen. Some in wheelchairs, some on lawn chairs, lots with cameras; people of all ages and looks bundled up under a blazing blue sky and delirious sunshine. We clapped, we screamed, we whistled, we laughed, we held babies up to see; we cried with joy and savored the monumentalism of the moment. Some drifted off before the very end; we who stayed were rewarded by Reverend Lowery's prayers of thanksgiving and hope, said plain.

Nearby, close enough to catch our cheers, is the site of the President's House, which was occupied by George Washington and John Adams from 1790-1800, when Philadelphia was the capital of the brand-new United States. Washington brought nine enslaved Africans from Mount Vernon to work there, a piece of history uncovered only recently and the subject of controversy over how best to reconstruct the building and represent that past.

Two of Washington's servants, apparently underwhelmed by the opportunity to serve in the first White House, escaped into free Pennsylvania. Surely somewhere, maybe on Independence Mall, some of their descendents were in a crowd on Tuesday, watching a giant President Obama lead our still-being "brought forth" nation into the future.

For more information about the President's House:

-- Kathryn Pyle

Wordle: Foundations Respond to the Economic Crisis

January 23, 2009

A picture worth a thousand words....?

We created this word cloud by running the official statements of eighteen foundations in response to the crisis -- Boston, Bush, Cleveland, El Pomar, Gates, Gund, Hewlett, Irvine, Knight, Kresge, MacArthur, McKnight, Otto Bremer, Piper Trust, Rasmuson, Silicon Valley, and California Endowment -- through Wordle. Pretty cool.

(click for larger image)


(Source: http://www.wordle.net/.)

-- Mitch Nauffts

Another Day at the Office

January 22, 2009

Shoes will be shoes...


Anyone know who snapped this?

-- Mitch Nauffts

Foundations Commit Over $100 Million to Address Economic Crisis

That's one of the takeaways from a new research advisory issued by the Foundation Center (the parent of Philanthropy News Digest and PhilanTopic). Written by Steven Lawrence, the center's senior director of research, the advisory, "A First Look at the Foundation and Corporate Response to the Economic Crisis," looks at giving totaling more than $100 million by close to fifty institutional donors. The $100 million includes grants and a number of large program-related investments for efforts ranging from foreclosure prevention/mitigation to shoring up foodbanks to services for the homeless.


Source: Foundation Center

The support tracked to date reflects a strong (but by no means) exclusive focus on local needs, with community foundations playing a critical role in directing resources to "safety net" nonprofits in their communities. "We have been told by multiple providers in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties that they are seeing double-digit increases in demand for their services," said Emmett Carson, president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which has committed close to $3 million in response to the crisis. "In many cases, the need is greater than anything these organizations have seen in their histories. Increasingly, it is residents on Main Street -- not the side streets and back alleys of our communities -- that are being affected."


Source: Foundation Center

"The new administration will have to take the lead in restoring America's badly tattered social safety net," added Bradford Smith, president of the Foundation Center. "In the meantime, foundations are doing what they do best: acting swiftly, reaching those too often forgotten, and piloting new approaches to deepening challenges."

The data on which the advisory is based can be accessed via a regularly updated interactive map (supplemented by a daily RSS grant feed) at the center's Web site. The first two research advisories in the series -- "Past Economic Downturns and the Outlook for Foundation Giving" (October 2008) and "Do Foundation Giving Priorities Change in Times of Economic Disaster?" (November 2008) -- are also available on the site, along with a variety of resources designed to help nonprofits and foundations deal with the continuing economic turmoil.

Comments and/or suggestions for future advisories are welcome and appreciated.

-- Mitch Nauffts

'A New Era'

January 21, 2009

(Michael Seltzer is a veteran of the nonprofit and foundation worlds and a regular contributor to PhilanTopic.)

Obama_inaugural_speechBarack Obama hit a number of high notes in his sober but stirring inaugural address. For those of us who were drawn to a life of service in the 1960s, however, the phrase "re-imagining America's solutions" had particular resonance.

Like many of my fellow boomers, the social problems I saw all around me in the '60s pushed me toward ideology in a search for solutions. But after stints in Operation Crossroads Africa (1966) and VISTA (1967, 1968-69), I soon realized that the quickest road to workable solutions started with an understanding of the life experiences of others. If we were able to bring about real change in this country and elsewhere, as we did, it was because we understood and related to the aspirations of those who were disenfranchised, marginalized, and most vulnerable.

Barack Obama is an heir to and believer in that legacy. And he shares our desire for new responses to old problems, whether the issue is poverty, injustice, or intolerance. In Barack Obama's world, ideas, even unpopular ones, are treated with respect. But the goal is solutions, and for our new president solutions grounded in and shaped by practice are better than those informed by ideology alone. 

His inaugural speech made that clear and serves, in effect, to re-establish the partnership between the nonprofit and public sectors. Voluntary organizations have always served as vehicles for concerted action in this country's civic arena. They embody our nation's most noble ideals and do much, on a daily basis, to make America a better place, for all Americans. In calling for a "new era of responsibility," President Obama is asking us --nonprofits, foundations, and faith-based organizations -- to find new ways to engage the public in the continuing struggle for peace, social justice, and equal opportunity, and to communicate our efforts more broadly and effectively to our fellow citizens.

That this challenge has been presented to us at a time when many more people are in need and our staffs and budgets are strained is unfortunate. But we can ill-afford to ignore the path that our president has pointed to. As he took pains to note yesterday, "it is the both the price and the promise of citizenship."

-- Michael Seltzer

Grants That Make a Difference: Reach for Excellence, Inc.

January 20, 2009

Right before the holidays, we asked grantees and foundations to share their stories of grants that have had a positive impact for a new blog feature called Grants That Make a Difference. Since then, several of you have contributed stories that clearly illustrate the direct, transformative effect a grant can have. One such story, featured below, comes from Gigi Meyers, director of development at Reach for Excellence, an Atlanta-based nonprofit dedicated to providing educational opportunity for promising, underserved students.

As nonprofits and those they serve struggle with the fallout from the economic crisis, many foundations have responded with support for the most pressing needs, which may indeed make a critical difference to the survival of those who are faced with dwindling options. (The Foundation Center is tracking this support via an online interactive map.) We encourage you to submit stories like Amanda's, as well as stories of grants that are addressing needs associated with the crisis such as food, shelter, and foreclosure assistance. We'll feature a selection of those stories on a regular basis here on PhilanTopic, at one or more of our regional Philanthropy Front and Center blogs, and at other areas of our Web site.

Grant Recipient

Reach for Excellence, Inc.
Atlanta, Georgia

Reach for Excellence is a three-year, classroom-based academic and leadership enrichment program. Through its mix of academic, cultural, and community-based experiences, this tuition-free program prepares talented, limited-income middle school students to meet the challenges of college preparatory programs and high schools.


Sara Giles Moore Foundation
Atlanta, Georgia

About the Grant

$50,000 grant awarded for fiscal year 2006-07

Grant monies were used to fund scholarships for middle school students who had been accepted into the program. It costs approximately $4,000 per year, per student, to attend Reach for Excellence. The grant covered the salaries of certified teachers, supplies, subject-related field trips, a hot breakfast and lunch, and transportation to and from the program when necessary.

What makes this particular grant a good example of the effective use of philanthropic funds?

The difference that this grant made in the life of a student can be found in the example of Reach graduate Amanda Glover. Amanda came to Reach in the summer of 2005 when she Amanda_glover was a middle school student at Turner Middle School. Upon graduation, Amanda applied and was accepted to Marist School in Atlanta, Georgia, where she is currently a sophomore. Amanda's mother passed away at the beginning of her freshman year, and she and her four siblings live with their grandmother. In her short time at Marist, Amanda has been able to maintain a straight A average, is a member of the debate team and the French Club, is a color guard and a junior varsity basketball cheerleader, and was chosen as part of the Homecoming Court of 2008. Amanda admits she probably would not have considered attending Marist had it not been for her participation in Reach for Excellence. She is a shining example of how a donor's generosity can change a child's future.

Due to the kindness of supporters like the Sara Giles Moore Foundation, we are able to have 90-100 students participate in the program. After three years, our graduates are going on to attend some of the best public and private schools in and around Atlanta, as well as boarding schools throughout the United States. Many of our graduates are now of college age and are continuing their education at such fine institutions of higher learning as Georgia Tech, Emory, Brown, Yale, Georgia Southern, and Kennesaw State.


Again, we encourage you to share your stories of grants that made a difference by submitting them through the handy online form we've provided for that purpose. And if you have any thoughts about how a grant can make a difference, or what goes into an "effective" grant, we'd love to hear your thoughts. Use the comments below.

Weekend Link Roundup (January 17 - 18, 2009)

January 19, 2009

Here's our special MLK Day roundup of noteworthy posts/articles (mostly) from and about the nonprofit sector....

Arts and Culture

On the PhilanthroMedia blog, Dana Variano worries that the arts "are high up on the chopping block in this economic downturn" and asks, "If all of the arts programs are slashed in America, what will happen to our history of free speech, free expression, free dialogue?"

Isn't the hand-wringing over the National Academy Museum's recent decision to sell some paintings in its collection a little overdone, asks the Nonprofiteer. Sure, there are good reasons for the general prohibition against museums selling art except to pay for other art. But, she adds, the idea that a museum about to go under is to be deprived of the help it needs because its leadership has accepted an unpleasant necessity "is so foolish and unhelpful as to be destructive."

Wonderful Michael Kimmleman-penned obituary in the New York Times detailing the life and times of Andrew Wyeth, who passed away on Friday at the age of 91.


Former Vanity Fair and New Yorker editor Tina Brown says we are all freelancers now: Welcome to the brave new world of gigonomics.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman tells President-elect Obama what he must do to right the economy and restore the prospects of the American middle class. (HT: Lucy Bernholz)

On the Growthology blog, Tim Kane doubts whether a stimulus package focused on infrastructure will be enough to stimulate the economy. Writes Kane:

To understand why this won't grow the economy in any real way, just think about how many construction workers there are to do all the "shovel-ready" projects. The real economy shouldn't be converted into a Bob the Builder economy, because it won't last. Turning a recession into a temporary restructuring of fundamental patterns is probably going to do more long-term damage than good, plus blow a hole in the deficit....


As many as half a million nonprofits could lose their tax-exempt status in May 2010 for failing to file a Form 990-N, writes Guidestar director of communications Suzanne Coffman. Before that happens, says Coffman, "There's something we all can do to improve the situation: spread the word. If you volunteer with, work for, or give to a smaller nonprofit, make sure the organization's leadership knows about the 990-N....

All last week, nonprofit groups and coalitions met to discuss how the sector can work with the incoming Obama administration to mitigate the effects of the deepening recession and establish a progressive agenda for the future. Inside Philanthropy publisher Todd Cohen outlined many of those needs in a recent post. Writes Cohen:

[Although] President-elect Barack Obama's pledged emphasis on volunteerism and public service will be essential to help address those problems and challenges, it runs the risk of perpetuating a giving-sector mindset that for far too long has treated nonprofits as an underclass that should swallow low wages and hand-me-down resources.

Solving America’s big social problems will depend on a thriving giving sector.

That will require regulations that promote a charitable marketplace that is fair, that requires nonprofits and foundations to be more open, and that increases, from 5 percent, the share of assets foundations must pay out each year for grants and overhead....

Nonprofits and Social Media

Embracing the expanding possibilities of the "social Web," the folks at the Chronicle of Philanthropy's Give and Take blog have created a group on photo-sharing site Flickr to document what nonprofit and foundation staff attending the inauguration in Washington, D.C., are seeing and doing. Cool.

Kjerstin Erickson, the nonprofit executive director whose willingness to blog about her organization's financial woes last October led Tactical Philanthropy's Sean Stannard-Stockton to hail her experiment in "radical transparency," posts the first of the ten things she has learned about transparency.

Beth Kanter has a great post on how nonprofits can use metrics to refine their social media strategy. To start, writes Kanter, "you need to set overall goals for your blog and understand your audience. Next, you need to know the right metric(s), the tool or combination of tools to collect the data, and how the tools measure the metric. Most importantly, you need a thinking process -- either alone or as a team -- to harvest insights." You'll want to read the whole thing.


Seattle Times' writer Kristi Helms has started a new blog dedicated to the Business of Giving. Early posts about microfinance, the humanitarian situation in Gaza, and the Gates Foundation have us looking forward to more.

That's it for now. Enjoy the inauguration!

-- Regina Mahone and Mitch Nauffts

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" Speech

Magnificent (especially the end). If you have kids, be sure to share it with them.

-- 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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