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28 posts from February 2009

Quote of the Day (February 28, 2009)

February 28, 2009

Quotemarks "Our current situation is the result of the uncorrected obsolescence of old ideas. The Puritans could not have foreseen charity's expansion to the status of industry. It wasn't until the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries that economic thought began to take its modern form. The Puritans didn't relate their personal beliefs to any theory of macroeconomics. We cannot afford such a luxury in the twenty-first century. Our personal beliefs create our macroeconomics, whether we realize it or not. The micro belief that compensation in charity should be limited has macro implications. When held by a critical mass of people, as it is now, it has a macro effect. The Puritans lived in an age when poverty and suffering were inevitable. We live in an age where these problems can be solved. They lived in an age when the donor, so to speak, gave directly to the needy. We live in an age when the donor hires others to provide services on behalf of the needy. The ideology that sufficed for one age will not work for another.

"The Puritans' gift to us was a strong ethic of charity. Our system of charity is more developed than that of any other nation on earth. But they also gave us the beginnings of another gift -- capitalism. Our task is to reconcile these two and build a new construction for addressing the world's most urgent needs. It is time for a charity born of reason. Does this mean that our charity must be devoid of feeling? That there is no place for love? No. Why must the presence of self-interest mean there is no love in our hearts? This is a Puritan idea. Its time has passed...."

-- Dan Pallotta, Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential

Design Your Own Stimulus Package

February 27, 2009

(Steve Rabin is the CEO of a New York public affairs company and works in the field of economics and global health. This is his first post for PhilanTopic.)

Let's face it. Even in this post-Madoff, 7,000-on-the-Dow era, there's still some money in personal piggybanks that could be used to keep our fellow citizens -- and ourselves -- employed. The following is my own personal five-point stimulus plan to help keep the economy moving.

1. Target Your Spending

Spending money is well and good. But as the debate over the federal stimulus package illustrated, targeted spending is even better. Layoffs are hitting service and retail workers in the city the hardest, and unfortunately those are the folks least likely to have a financial cushion. The places where your money will do the most to save jobs are businesses with a high labor-to-capital/materials cost ratio. Topping the list are businesses such as restaurants and bakeries where ingredient costs are small and the number of host/hostesses, cooks, bakers, dishwashers, and wait staff needed to satisfy the paying customer are high. In the world of retail, look for shops that have moderately low costs (like shoes) but require a high degree of personal assistance or employ many low- and moderate-wage earners on commission. Even in the luxury category, buying multiple items from clerks working on 20 percent commission helps more people than buying one very expensive item (e.g., a piece of art or a condo) from a relatively better compensated and crisis-cushioned sales agent or gallery owner.

2. Invite the Relatives

Out-of-town visitors usually are a great stimulus to a local economy. They eat and shop at local establishments, and many of them stay in hotels that employ low-wage housekeepers, bellhops, and clerks. They also contribute to the tax revenues needed to keep police, teachers, healthcare workers, and other vital public-sector workers employed. If your out-of-town visitors can’t afford to stay at a hotel, open your home and then get them on the street to spend, spend, spend.

3. Spread a Few Extra Dollars of Hope Each Day

Recessions tend to feed on themselves. One way to stop the negative feedback cycle is to do what you can to inject daily doses of confidence into the system. Rather than snapping the purse shut, spread a few extra dollars a day around in the form of tips to your taxi driver, doorman, the coat check person, or waiter or waitress. Giving an extra dollar here and there on top of what you'd normally tip is an easy way of saying, “We are all in this together, and we’ll be there to help each other.” The little stimulus tip also packs a great multiplier effect. Without sweating it too much, most of us, in a calendar year, can personally lift the spirits and confidence of a thousand people, who in turn will do what they can to keep the economic wheels turning.

4. Become Your Own World Bank

Many of our lowest-paid and hardest-working neighbors remit a portion of their earnings to support family members in countries and regions that have been even harder hit by the global economic meltdown than the United States. Indeed, for hundreds of millions of people in developing countries, the day-to-day struggle to survive has taken on new urgency. Keeping our “aid-exporting” neighbors working is probably the most efficient international humanitarian assistance program you can support, and it involves no economists, executive directors, program planners, or annual reports.

5. Be Your Own Obama

Maybe it was my imagination, but the morning after President Obama’s first address to Congress it seemed as if people were in a better, more optimistic mood. Keeping and sharing a positive outlook with others is as important as opening your purse strings -- maybe more so. Friends in retail tell me that the day after the president's speech, sales in their stores were up for the first time since the holidays. Yes, most of us have a tale of woe or worry to share. But regular doses of "This is pretty bad but it's going to get better" administered to friends, family members, and the occasional stranger can actually play a critical role in easing fears and reviving the animal spirits so necessary to a functioning economy.

So don't wait for the benefits of the federal government's stimulus package to come knocking on your door. Get out there and do what you can to give your local economy a boost. Your neighbors will thank you, and we'll all be richer in many ways.

-- Steve Rabin

Panel Discussion: 'Emerging Trends on the Philanthropy Beat'

February 25, 2009

Extra I sat in on a great "reporters only" panel discussion in midtown this morning about emerging trends/stories in philanthropy. Moderated by Katie Smith Milway, a partner at the Bridgespan Group, the all-star panel featured Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times investigative reporter David Cay Johnston (Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense -- and Stick You With the Bill), The Economist's Matthew Bishop (Philanthrocapitalism: How the Rich Can Save the World), Chronicle of Philanthropy editor Stacy Palmer, and nonprofit blogger Sean Stannard-Stockton (Tactical Philanthropy).

As you'd expect, the panelists spent a lot of time talking about the economic meltdown -- "a once-in-a-generation moment," to quote Bishop -- and its impact on nonprofits and philanthropy. All agreed that 2009 would be a tough year for nonprofits -- and that 2010 was likely to be worse. Johnston was blunt in highlighting the vulnerability of organizations that depend on government contracts ("payments will be delayed, reduced, and/or cut altogether"), bank credit lines, and individuals' discretionary income. Palmer made the important point that those who think downsizing of the sector will be a "rational" process are kidding themselves. She also urged those present to link what are sure to be rising rates of homelessness, domestic violence, divorce, and other social ills to the downsizing of the sector.

For Bishop, one of the big stories in 2009 will be whether and what wealthy "philanthrocapitalists" -- and there are still many around, despite the $30 trillion that has been vaporized in the meltdown -- do to "reframe" the issue of growing inequality in society -- a trend, he noted, that "is not going away." "The rich," said Bishop, "are much more interesting in this kind of environment than when they are just splashing cash." But they'll have to be seen as being proactive and constructive -- or face a backlash of a kind this country hasn't seen in decades.

Re-framing was also on the mind of Stannard-Stockton. But rather than focus on what the rich are, or are not doing, he urged those present to talk and write about how social media and Web 2.0 technologies are catalyzing a new wave of citizen engagement and drawing power away from the usual suspects.

On that score, all four panelists were looking forward to the (imminent?) announcement of a new White House Office of Social Innovation, and all were confident that the creation of such an office was likely to be a plus -- though hardly a panacea -- in the current environment. Bishop even went so far as to suggest that nonprofits have an important role to play in teaching government how to use relatively small amounts of money effectively -- if government is willing to listen. Time will tell.

As I said, a stimulating discussion and a great way to spend a morning. Now it's your turn. What do you think the emerging trends/stories in philanthropy in 2009 will be? And how well do you think they'll be covered by the MSM and philanthropic press? Leave your comments below.

-- Mitch Nauffts

(For another perspective on this morning's discussion, see this post by my friend Bruce Trachtenburg, who heads up the Communications Network and was also there. Bruce's point about the relative invisibility of foundations in the discussion is spot on.)

Grants That Make a Difference: “Ladies Night Out” Breast Cancer Screenings

February 24, 2009

Thanks to all who have shared your stories to date -- keep 'em coming! This week's story comes from Ingrid Hansen of the Mission Healthcare Foundation in Asheville, North Carolina, which received a grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust making it possible for women in the region with little or no health coverage to receive free breast cancer screenings.

Grant Recipient
Mission Healthcare Foundation, Inc.
Asheville, North Carolina

Mission Healthcare administers all corporate, private, and state/federal grants to the Mission Hospital system. The organization's goal is to improve the quality and the breadth of services offered by Mission in western North Carolina.

Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust
Winston-Salem, North Carolina

About the Grant
$165,748 awarded for 2007-09

The grant was applied toward operating funds for a collaboration that provides breast cancer screenings, education, and treatment for low-income, uninsured, and underinsured women in Buncombe County.

About the Program
There are many reasons that low-income, uninsured, and underinsured women don't get regular mammograms: money, transportation, child care, work schedules. While all are understandable, none is acceptable when the issue is breast cancer and early detection can be the difference between life and death.

A community collaboration in Asheville has developed a program called Ladies Night Out to help women overcome whatever obstacles they face in seeking preventive care. The idea for the program began as an innovation of astute healthcare professionals in the region who recognized a gap in coverage between federally and locally funded programs that provide free mammograms to uninsured women. Those professionals realized that by pooling resources and recruiting help from other agencies, they could remove cost as an obstacle to regular screening. As the plan developed, they managed to bridge the funding gap and erase other practical and logistical obstacles to regular screening as well.

LadiesNightOutPhoto Ladies Night Out is a collaboration of the Breast Program at Mission Hospitals, the Buncombe County Health Center, Asheville Imaging, the YWCA of Asheville, the Housing Authority of Asheville, and the Asheville Buncombe Institute of Parity Achievement (ABIPA). ABIPA volunteers handle outreach; the YWCA provides child care and taxi vouchers if transportation is needed; Asheville Imaging sets aside one evening a month to provide mammograms at basic reimbursement rates and, along with the Breast Program, provides the facility; the Health Center nursing staff gives the exams; and volunteers from each of the organizations, along with community volunteers, staff the screening stations.

Through Ladies Night Out events, between three hundred and four hundred women are screened each year. All women who participate receive a general health exam and health education as well as a breast exam and mammogram. Diagnostic services and follow-up also are coordinated through the program. Ladies Night Out is a festive occasion complete with balloons and flowers, and pink is the color of choice -- a reminder that Ladies Night Out is serious business.

Impact of the Grant
The death rate from breast cancer is higher among underserved women because they are less likely to have it diagnosed during its early, localized stage. From October 2007 through September 2008, a total of 382 program-eligible women received breast cancer screening and health education services through the program. One hundred percent of women with abnormal results have completed follow-up diagnostics. Out of 382 women screened, 15 women were diagnosed with breast cancer and were qualified for treatment.

How did the funder and grantee work together effectively during the course of the grant project?
The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust has been receptive and flexible as new program needs emerged. For example, educational materials once provided at no cost by the state of North Carolina were discontinued, and grant funding was therefore reallocated to purchase these materials.

What makes this particular grant a good example of effective use of philanthropic funds?
The program has been a resounding success, and volunteers from the hospital, participant agencies, and the community have contributed immensely to that success. The flow of the program has been refined over the months so that participants are able to move seamlessly from signing releases to physical exams, mammograms, and sign-ups for re-screening. From the moment the ladies are greeted with a pink carnation to the fruit and veggie snacks offered while waiting for their mammograms, they are treated with dignity and respect. The program exemplifies good community collaboration, use of volunteers, and effective outreach into underserved populations. Most importantly, it saves lives through the early detection of breast cancer.


Do you have a story about a grant that made a difference? Submit your story here, and we will continue to feature new stories on a regular basis right here on PhilanTopic, at one or more of our regional Philanthropy Front and Center blogs, and at other areas of our Web site. We also encourage you to submit stories of grants that are addressing needs associated with the current economic crisis.

Paying For It

February 23, 2009

(Tony Pipa is a consultant whose twenty years of executive leadership span nonprofits, foundations, and global NGOs seeking to alleviate poverty. This is his first post for PhilanTopic.)

Leadership2 Compensation for nonprofit executives has been much in the news of late. Dan Pallotta has been attracting lots of attention with his book Uncharitable, which (among other things) asserts that the nonprofit sector could increase its impact if it did more to attract talent that now goes into the private sector by offering salaries that rival those offered by for-profit companies.

On the other side of the issue, public outcry in September regarding a $1.2 million compensation package for the chief executive of the United Way of Central Carolina forced her firing and the resignation of several board members. The IRS just released a report on nonprofit hospitals that prompted an aide to Sen. Charles Grassley to note that some of "those that provide very little charity are paying their executives the biggest salaries." And the caps on executive pay in the stimulus bill have prompted a few commentators to question whether nonprofits won't be next.

Whither the sector?

I don't agree with Pallotta that matching for-profit salaries is necessary or will necessarily result in an increase in impact by nonprofits. Indeed, there's a point at which higher and higher levels of compensation risk undercutting effectiveness by drawing attention away from the value- and mission-driven characteristics that give the sector its distinctive advantage in providing social benefit and driving social innovation. When you make it ALL about economics, you start making it ONLY about economics.

In fact, I have to admit that Pallotta's implicit assumption that "talent" is 100 percent transferable from the for-profit sector to the nonprofit sector raises my hackles (see the comments section on this post for how we disagree). While Pallotta bemoans the fact that the sector doesn't compete for graduates from elite MBA programs, I don't think more MBAs would necessarily mean better organizations or improve nonprofit management. Value-driven motivation and commitment to social change are key components of being a great leader in the nonprofit sector; they're not just valid reasons for wanting to be in the sector, they're a sort of skill. So it makes sense to me that nonprofit salaries are lower than salaries in the for-profit sector. After all, one element of nonprofit "compensation" is the fulfillment one reaps by helping to advance a social mission.

On the other hand, I agree that too many in the sector -- especially in small to mid-sized organizations -- are significantly underpaid. And the problem is not just compensation. Talent, no matter where it comes from, has to be developed to achieve its potential, and finding both the resources and breathing space -- the permission, really -- to properly invest in human capital and develop rational career paths are challenges that loom just as large as adequate compensation.

Pallotta is right when he points out that the attitudes of donors and the public are major barriers to changing the situation. The belief that donations should largely go toward "program" rather than "administrative" costs is a sort of sledgehammer that obliterates all reasonableness and flexibility, ignoring the complexities of an organization's situation and obstructing a more nuanced approach that leaves room for appropriate adjustments. Indeed, I have trouble imagining any move by policy makers to limit nonprofit executive compensation that wouldn't reinforce this tendency. Although nonprofit hospitals might be an example of what happens when financial considerations take too much precedence (and more research is needed to know), their size alone makes them an anomaly, and I wouldn't want policy affecting the entire sector being based on that very particular situation.

In the end, this should be about finding levels of compensation that maximize the impact of individual organizations (and the sector as a whole). That's a question of accountability, not legislation. It's stronger governance, rather than government prescriptions, that should be the safeguard.

-- Tony Pipa

Weekend Link Roundup (February 21 - 22, 2009)

February 22, 2009

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

Arts and Culture

By signing the $785 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 into law last week, President Obama ensured that some funds will be allocated to the nonprofit sector. On the Modern Arts blog, Tyler Green writes that the $50 million appropriation to the National Endowment for the Arts is a Pyrrhic victory at best. Writes Green, "The NEA is supposed to be the primary arts protagonist for the American people, yet...the J. Paul Getty Trust spent 50 percent more than the NEA did in the Getty's most recently reported year." Green goes on to argue that arts policy think tanks that can "develop new ideas about how government should be involved in the arts" should get funded instead of the "timid and ancillary" NEA. (H/T: Give and Take)


Last month, Bradford Smith, president of the Foundation Center, asked in a post here at PhilanTopic whether there are too many nonprofits and concluded that, in fact, there are not enough. Revisiting the topic, Nathaniel Whittemore on the Social Entrepreneurship blog writes:

The thing that drives me ABSOLUTELY NUTS about the "we don't need more nonprofits line" is that it contains an embedded argument that because the field is congested...new entrants aren't welcome.

The question, says Whittemore, should not be, Are there too many nonprofits? but rather, Are existing nonprofits working effectively to solve the nation’s problems? If the answer is no, he concludes, then there are certainly not enough.


In a guest post on Sean Stannard-Stockon's Tactical Philanthropy blog, Renata Rafferty writes that "those of us on the cutting edge of philanthropy may be too busy navel gazing to realize that the majority of philanthropy is being practiced by "dinosaur philanthropists." That may be, writes Stannard-Stockton in response, but what Rafferty may be overlooking is that "unlike in the for-profit space, where only returns on your financial capital benefit you,"

in philanthropy the returns on all invested philanthropic capital accrues to the public at large. That means that if you can utilize your social capital to influence how money flows in the sector, you can have a larger impact than you ever could investing your own philanthropic capital....

For another perspective on the current giving environment, check out this Forbes.com discussion with Betsy Brill of Strategic Philanthropy, Matthew Bonaguidi of Gresham Partners, and Patricia Angus of Angus Advisory Group. (H/T: It's Your World blog)

And in an irony worthy of Orwell, billionaire philanthropist Allen Stanford, who was identified on the cover of the Jan/Feb 2009 issue of World Finance magazine as the "original philanthrocapitalist," has been implicated in what could turn out to be an $8 billion fraud. Over at Portfolio, financial journalist Felix Salmon suggests that "a few more stories like this...and philanthrocapitalism's name...will be irreversibly tarnished."

Matthew Bishop and Michael Green, who coined the term philanthrocapitalism in their 2008 book of the same name (click here for a PND interview with Bishop) argue that neither Stanford nor Bernie Madoff share the characteristics of a true philanthrocapitalist. Write Bishop and Green: "[N]ot only does a good billionaire’s philanthropy need to be effective...he also has an obligation to pay his taxes and to make his money in a legitimate, non-exploitative way."

On the Reimagining CSR blog, Jessica Stannard-Friel, who has been tracking how corporations are changing their giving programs in light of the recession, notes that "the communities that are hardest hit by this downturn may also be those with the biggest reduction in capacity to deal with it."

And commenting on a recent report issued by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations which argues that grantmaking is getting smarter, The Nonprofiteer admits to scoffing

when she hears people ask whether the nonprofit model even makes sense anymore....But when in the midst of crisis the institutional funders continue to operate as though they haven’t heard a thing the operating nonprofits have been saying, maybe it’s time to question the entire [philanthropic] structure....


"All grants, whether from government, foundations or corporations, should include a percentage to fund outcome measurement," writes Ken Berger, president of Charity Navigator, in a recent post. After noting that a large percentage of charities are too busy just trying to survive to measure outcomes, Berger suggests that, whether nonprofits like it or not, "objective data will become more and more important for the public's perception of a charity's ongoing legitimacy."

Social Media

Recently, Beth Kanter interviewed Amanda Rose, the organizer of Twestival, a recent global offline fundraising campaign that leveraged the power of Twitter to raise over $250,000 for charity:water. Writes Kanter, "[Rose] is thrilled with the way the event turned out, but says she would do things differently next time around." Here are some of the lessons Rose learned:

  1. Don’t spearhead a worldwide event alone.
  2. Provide a better virtual hub to support volunteers.
  3. Be more prepared to work internationally.
  4. Set up a system for incoming donations to be aggregated quickly and easily.
  5. And extend the planning timeline 2-3 months.

"It is very aggravating," writes Allison Fine on her blog, "when companies or organizations hide behind social media tools and make it difficult to figure out who they are." Take ActiveCause, a "slick" new social networking site that intends to "take philanthropy to a higher level" but gives no information about the people running it -- "no Twitter feed, no blog, no About Us," notes Fine. "It used to be that all you needed was a heart-tugging cause," she adds. But there "are too many causes and too much need to rely only on that strategy now. We need to know why you need money, how you use it, and, most importantly, who you are to make our giving decision."

And that's it for this week. Enjoy the Oscars!

-- Regina Mahone

Quote of the Day (February 22, 2009)

Quotemarks "...Life is an endless unfolding, and if we wish it to be, an endless process of self-discovery, an endless and unpredictable dialogue between our own potentialities and the life situations in which we find ourselves. By potentialities I mean not just intellectual gifts but the full range of one's capacities for learning, sensing, wondering, understanding, loving and aspiring.

"Perhaps you imagine that by age 35 or 45...you have explored those potentialities pretty fully. Don't kid yourself!

"The thing you have to understand is that the capacities you actually develop to the full come out as the result of an interplay between you and life's challenges -- and the challenges keep changing. Life pulls things out of you.

"There's something I know about you that you may or may not know about yourself. You have within you more resources of energy than have ever been tapped, more talent than has ever been exploited, more strength than has ever been tested, more to give than you have ever given...."

-- John Gardner, "Personal Renewal" (Nov. 10, 1990)

Resource of the Day: Foundation Giving Forecast

February 21, 2009

Econ_forecast The global financial crisis continues to wreak havoc on foundation endowments and the broader economy, and nonprofits are understandably nervous. Using original sources, related news from Philanthropy News Digest, and Foundation Center data, In Their Own Words: 2009 Foundation Giving Forecast provides a snapshot of the responses of some the nation's largest (by assets) foundations to the economic crisis as well as summary forecasts (where available) for their giving in 2009 and beyond. The table, one of many resources offered through the center's Focus on the Economic Crisis portal, is updated on a regular basis, so be sure to check it often for the latest information. And, if you have a minute, let us know how we can make it better.

'The Castle': Redemption on Riverside Drive

February 20, 2009

(Michael Seltzer is a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. In his previous post, he offered some strategies for nonprofits that are downsizing.)

In my A to Z Survival Guide for Uncertain Times, I noted how important it is in these recessionary times for nonprofits to collect and tell the stories of the constituents they serve.

Last Saturday, I witnessed a particularly powerful example of this practice in action. The Fortune Society, one of New York City's most important criminal justice organizations, presented (in association with Eric Krebs and Chase Mishkin) the play The Castle, which is based on the life stories of four ex-convicts who actually perform their own stories.

Even before the play began, I quickly realized from browsing the playbill that this was not going to be a routine theatrical outing. Among other things, I learned that:

Continue reading »

Can Diversity Be Legislated?

February 18, 2009

(David Jacobs is senior editor of the Foundation Directory and related products at the Foundation Center. The views expressed in this post, his first for PhilanTopic, are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the center.)

Readers of this blog are no doubt familiar with the diversity initiatives being "voluntarily" undertaken by leading California foundations. Those initiatives were developed after the California Assembly passed a bill last January that would have required all foundations in the state with assets of more than $250 million to report not just the race and sex of their grantees’ board and staff members, but the race and sex of their own board and staff members as well.

Writing in the winter edition of Manhattan Institute's City Journal, Heather Mac Donald provides some much needed pushback ("Never Enough Beauty, Never Enough Truth") against the idea of government inserting itself into philanthropy and philanthropic decision making:

The legislation was steaming its way through the California Senate when California's ten largest foundations promised to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into minority-led nonprofits in exchange for the bill’s withdrawal. But the fuse had been lit. Similar diversity efforts have been spotted in various stages of development in Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Texas, and Pennsylvania. And at the federal level, Xavier Becerra, a congressman from Los Angeles who serves on the powerful House Ways and Means committee, has warned foundations: "If you don’t police your own, you’re going to be policed."

A foundation that remains colorblind in giving and hiring is suspect, even criminal, in other words. The congressman has threatened government intervention if foundations don’t spend more on minorities and the poor....

The current economic downturn makes the prospect of shaking down foundations even more alluring. Federal and state governments, increasingly deprived of tax revenue, will likely to cut back on their payments to nonprofits. Meanwhile, foundations made $43 billion in grants in 2007. As the Greenlining Institute [which supported the legislation] put it: "Just beyond the desert [of government funding] there is a rainforest flowing with philanthropic dollars."

Continue reading »

Jury Duty

February 17, 2009

Out of pocket this morning and...who knows after that. We're working on a few things and will try to get a new post up this afternoon.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Patty Stonesifer Chats With Tom Tierney

February 16, 2009

In the video below, Patty Stonesifer, former CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, talks to Bridgespan co-founder Tom Tierney about her experiences "bridging" from the private sector into the nonprofit sector. (Run time: 3:55)

Click here for an excellent summary of the full interview.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Weekend Link Roundup (February 14 - 15, 2009)

February 15, 2009

Our weekly roundup of noteworthy posts and articles from and about the nonprofit sector....

Animal Welfare

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) attracted the attention of many after dressing in Ku Klux Klan costume outside the Westminster Dog Show last week to protest the American Kennel Club's promotion of "the sport of purebred dogs and breeding for type and function." Writing on the Philanthromedia blog, Dana Variano criticizes PETA's tactics and argues that the use of "spoof" tactics can be effective -- but not when "coupled [with] insensitivity and sensationalism."

Arts and Culture

The discussion of public funding for the arts should be more focused on the arts audience, says the Nonprofiteer in a recent blog post. Public art "is simply public education on a grand scale" -- and should be recognized and defended as such:

Yes, yes, [I] know: education isn't well-funded either; but relatively few people argue that public funding for education is just a plot to spread disgusting lies, or to keep teachers from having to work. Let's get the discussion about public funding for the arts to the level of conceptual agreement we have for public education, and then we can engage in any further battles that might need to be fought....

In response to the economic meltdown, the Kennedy Center has launched Arts in Crisis to assist nonprofit arts organizations that have lost some or all of their funding and are struggling to stay afloat. Writing on the Nonprofit Board Crisis blog, Mike Burns expresses his disapproval of the new initiative. Along with the hefty $500,000 price tag, Burns criticizes the Kennedy Center for taking business from the local management support centers that already provide free consulting and emergency planning advice to nonprofits in their respective regions.


With the growing popularity of giving modules on well-trafficked social media sites -- Facebook and MySpace come to mind -- it's no surprise that individuals who spend a lot of time online are starting to feel issue fatigue. Last week, Jill Finlayson and Hildy Gottlieb hosted a live discussion on the Skoll Foundation's Social Edge site to help organizations "filter through the clutter and competition and build sustainable support" from exhausted supporters "who just don't have the bandwidth to be concerned about one more issue." Check out the comments section for a lively discussion of the many aspects of this timely topic.


Rosetta Thurman takes issue with the use of the term "minority" on her blog. Organizations that refer to a population or community as "minority," writes Thurman, evoke "images of people that are worth less than the majority....It [connotes] a group of people that get stuck on the bottom of society’s shoe." The reality, Thurman points out, couldn't be more different, as non-whites move ever closer to becoming the majority in the United States. Isn't it time, therefore, to "get rid of the antiquated language that remains a huge barrier to our cultural competence."

And in this video excerpt from an old "60 Minutes" episode, Morgan Freeman tells Mike Wallace that Black History Month is a "riduculous" concept. Freeman: "You're going to relegate my history to a month? Which month is white history month? Which month is Jewish history month?" (H/T RemixAmerica.org)


After a week of negotiations in Congress, the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 has passed both branches of Congress and is likely to be signed into law by President Obama on Tuesday. The legislation earmarks some (but not nearly enough, say nonprofit critics of the bill) money for the nonprofit sector, including:

  • $50 million for a new program designed to strengthen nonprofit groups that are working to help people suffering in this economic downturn
  • $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts to preserve arts projects and jobs threatened by the decline in foundation and individual donor support
  • $200 million for AmeriCorps, which will be applied to the Corporation for National and Community Service and National Service Trust.

Check out the Chronicle of Philanthropy's coverage for more details.

"Credit markets worldwide are tight, and charitable donations are down," writes Shelly Banjo, reporter for Dow Jones Newswire, "but Web sites that specialize in 'microlending' -- small loans mainly to the working poor -- say they're thriving." That's in part because microlending sites such as Kiva and MicroPlace.com enable users "to lend instead of give," which can be appealing to folks who may be a little strapped but still want to help. (H/T: Give and Take)


Trista Harris, executive director of the Headwaters Foundation for Justice, which works to catalyze social, racial, economic, and environmental change, has launched a redesign of her blog, New Voices of Philanthropy, where she writes about generational change in the foundation field. (H/T Rosetta Thurman)

Social Media

TopRank CEO Lee Odden has written a great post about the best and worst social media marketing practices.

And Allison Fine wonders whether "there [is] any benefit to organizations raising money through heavily promoted events such as Twestival, a coordinated global campaign in which Twitter users "meet up" offline to network and fundraise for a worthy cause. Instead, maybe it would make more sense for a group like charity:water, the recipient of last week's Testival proceeds, to use Twitter and other online tools to condition donors and potential donors to support it on a consistent basis. Sounds like a good idea to us. 

And that's it for this week. Enjoy the long weekend!

-- Regina Mahone and Mitch Nauffts

Quote of the Day (February 13, 2009)

February 13, 2009

Quotemarks "Suburbanization -- and the sprawling growth it propelled -- made sense for a time. The cities of the early and mid-20th century were dirty, sooty, smelly, and crowded, and commuting from the first, close-in suburbs was fast and easy. And as manufacturing became more technologically stable and product lines matured during the postwar boom, suburban growth dovetailed nicely with the pattern of industrial growth. Businesses began opening new plants in green-field locations that featured cheaper land and labor; management saw no reason to continue making now-standardized products in the expensive urban locations where they'd first been developed and sold. Work was outsourced to then-new suburbs and the emerging areas of the Sun Belt, whose connections to bigger systems by the highway system afforded rapid, low-cost distribution. This process brought the Sun Belt economies...into modern times, and sustained a long boom for the United States as a whole.

"But that was then; the economy is different now. It no longer revolves around simply making and moving things. Instead, it depends on generating and transporting ideas. The places that thrive today are those with the highest velocity of ideas, the highest density of talented and creative people, the highest rate of metabolism. Velocity and density are not words that many people use when describing the suburbs. The economy is driven by key urban areas; a different geography is required...."

Richard Florida, "How the Crash Will Reshape America," The Atlantic Monthly (March 2009)

Celebrate the Birth of Lincoln and Darwin

February 12, 2009

On this day two hundred years ago, Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin -- "two men whose ideas and actions continue to shape the course of the world" -- were born just hours apart, Lincoln in a one-room log cabin in frontier Kentucky, Darwin into upper middle class prosperity in Shropshire, England.

Lincoln, of course, eventually became the sixteenth president of the United States and steered the country through its greatest crisis. As the New York Post put it, "Without his singular Civil War leadership, the American experiment would have died less than a century after its birth -- with dire consequences for the nation, and for human liberty."

Darwin's achievement, while less dramatic, is no less important. The first of the evolutionary biologists, his principal works, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871), established evolutionary descent as the dominant scientific explanation of diversification in nature and provided the theoretical basis for the modern life sciences.

To celebrate their legacies, we've created two word clouds using Wordle. Join us in wishing Abe and Charles a happy 200th birthday, 21st century-style.

(Click for larger images)

Wordle based on Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address:


And a Wordle generated by an excerpt from Darwin's introduction to On the Origin of Species:


-- Regina Mahone

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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