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28 posts from March 2009

TED on Sunday: Hans Rosling on the Dimensions of Development

March 15, 2009

In this wildly compelling talk, Swedish researcher (and data visualization wiz) Hans Rosling argues that there many dimensions of development, that developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa have actually made dramatic progress over the last fifty years, and that the "seemingly impossible is possible." And then he does something truly amazing. Don't cut out before the end. (Filmed: March 2007, Monterey, California. Running time: 18:57.)

-- Mitch Nauffts

Quote of the Day (March 14, 2009)

March 14, 2009

Quotemarks The current financial crisis has demonstrated that the market excesses that develop in a period of intense leveraging are rapidly exposed when deleveraging sets in. Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme -- said to have involved up to $50 billion -- demonstrates that deleveraging reveals not only legal excesses, but also illegal activities that remained sub rosa in a speculative market. The Madoff event, where astute investors, including a number of private foundations (mainly donor-controlled), placed funds in a vehicle that no one understood and whose returns could not be explained, underscores the enduring value of the rule against investing in something that one does not understand. This scandal also reveals the disturbing extent to which even some foundations failed to undertake the due diligence that is essential before hiring any external manager or advisor....

-- John E. Craig, Jr., Executive Vice President/COO, Commonwealth Fund ("New Financial Realities: The Repsonse of Private Foundations")

FOLIO: Sharing Foundation Knowledge -- Today and Into the Future

March 13, 2009

Last July, I blogged about PubHub, the Foundation Center’s online catalog of annotated links to thousands of reports funded by foundations, and FOLIO (FOundation LIterature Online), a permanent digital archive of those reports. More recently, Mitch highlighted the latest enhancements to PubHub’s features and functionality. What follows is an update on FOLIO.

Housed at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) University Library, FOLIO is a free digital archive of research reports, case studies, issue briefs, literature reviews, program evaluations, and annual reports funded in whole or in part by independent, company-sponsored, or community foundations. With FOLIO's advanced search function, visitors can combine keyword searches of the full text, abstract, author, title, funder/publisher, subject, related organization, publication date, and type; or browse by subject, publication type, and year. Thanks to FOLIO, researchers, historians, program officers, nonprofit practitioners, and the general public will be able to find and access these reports quickly and easily, even after they've disappeared from publishers' Web sites.

To date, foundations that have granted IUPUI permission to add their annual reports and/or other publications to the FOLIO collection include:

Independent Foundations:

Annie E. Casey Foundation
California Wellness Foundation
Dyson Foundation
Eli & Edythe Broad Foundation
Frey Foundation
Hugh J. Andersen Foundation
James Irvine Foundation
Lloyd A. Fry Foundation
Lumina Foundation for Education
Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation
Public Welfare Foundation
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
San Angelo Health Foundation
Skoll Foundation
Stephen & May Cavin Leeman Foundation, Inc.
Tom S. & Marye Kate Aldridge Charitable & Educational Trust
William Penn Foundation

Company-Sponsored Foundations:

Nordson Corporation Foundation

Community Foundations:

Boston Foundation
Communities Foundation of Oklahoma
Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan
Community Foundation for the Twin Tiers
Community Foundation of Northern Colorado
Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley
Community Foundation of Western North Carolina
Four County Community Foundation
Homer Foundation
New York Community Trust
St. Croix Valley Community Foundation

Interested in being part of the FOLIO project? Here's what the process looks like: We provide you with a list of your organization's reports currently cataloged in PubHub, and you decide which reports IUPUI may include in the archive. Some foundations give permission for annual reports only, while others grant permission for all types of reports.

In agreeing to become a FOLIO contributor, your organization has the following options:

  1. Grant limited distribution rights, on an ongoing basis, for all reports that meet the FOLIO criteria;
  2. Grant limited distribution rights for an initial list of reports, then grant permission for subsequent lists that we will send you at agreed-upon intervals; or
  3. Register with the FOLIO Web site to upload your reports directly by entering the metadata yourself and granting permission electronically for each report.

For the first two options, we will archive the publications using the metadata in PubHub.

Once the report is archived in FOLIO, a "FOLIO link" will be added to the entry in PubHub. Should the report ever be removed from the publisher's Web site, the PubHub link will disappear while the FOLIO link will remain, providing access to the archived digital file for decades to come.

There is no minimum or maximum to the number of reports your organization can have in FOLIO, no restrictions with respect to publication date (FOLIO will be happy to archive any of your reports, as long as they're in digital format), and no fee. So what are you waiting for?

For more information on the FOLIO project, click here, or contact me, Kyoko Uchida, at kyu@foundationcenter.org. Looking forward to hearing from you!

-- Kyoko Uchida

Democracy Update: El Salvador

March 12, 2009

(Kathryn Pyle, a regular contributor to PhilanTopic, is producing a documentary film about the post-conflict period in El Salvador. She recently reviewed Paul Collier's new book, War, Guns and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places, for PND.)

FLMN_cheering_crowd Salvadorans who live in the United States don't yet have the right to cast absentee ballots in Salvadoran elections, so 35,000 have secured a special identification document that will permit them to vote in person in El Salvador's presidential election this Sunday, March 15. The ruling party, ARENA, is challenged by the FMLN, the political party created from the guerrilla forces that fought the government during a twelve-year civil war. For the first time since the war ended in 1992, the opposition has, by all accounts, a strong chance to win; polls have given the FMLN as much as a 17 percent advantage. But as the election nears, the spread has apparently eroded and there is widespread fear of fraud. "Every vote will count," says Oscar Andrade, consultant for American Jewish World Service for the Meso-American region.

Airlines have offered special discounts and flights are packed with Salvadorans returning home to vote, though it's impossible to predict how many actually will. About 4.2 million Salvadorans living in El Salvador are registered; 80 percent have said they intend to vote. The majority of the population is under 18, but to date youth have not participated proportionally in elections. This election could be different, as both parties have tried to bring them in.

Continue reading »

Equal Opportunity for All?

March 11, 2009

(Michael Seltzer is a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. In addition to helping found both Funders for Lesbian and Gay Issues and Funders Concerned About AIDS, Michael has served as the chair of the Council on Foundations' Committee on Affinity Groups and as president of the New York Regional Association of Grantmakers. He and his partner Ralph have been together for more than twenty-seven years.)

Supreme-court It's a sad commentary that many of the civil rights struggles of the last century still mar the fabric of American democracy. Nowhere is that more evident than in the battle raging across the country over the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender men and women who seek the same legal benefits of marriage currently available to heterosexual couples. Ground zero for that battle is the state of California, where by a narrow margin the state's residents passed the anti-gay-marriage legislation known as Proposition 8 last year.

Historically, a number of foundations and corporations have been in the forefront of providing the resources needed to advance the rights of constituencies which have not traditionally benefited from the promise of the American dream. Along with immigrants' rights, LGBT rights is the newest frontier for organized philanthropy -- though, of course, neither issue is new. Sadly, LGBT issues and openly "out" individuals were not welcome at the philanthropic table for many years. In fact, it was not until well after the Stonewall riots in 1969 that grants to LGBT organizations even began to appear on foundation grantee lists. Indeed, as late as the mid-1970s, one well-meaning foundation in Philadelphia went so far as to mask the identity of two lesbian and gay organizations in its docket so its trustees wouldn't know the true identity of the organizations or the purpose of the grants made to them.

Continue reading »

It's Later Than You Think

March 10, 2009

(Bruce Trachtenberg is executive director of the Communications Network, a stand-alone 501(c) dedicated to helping advance, promote, and encourage the adoption of effective communications practices in philanthropy. This post, his first for PhilanTopic, has been cross-posted to the Comnetwork blog.)

Sun_eclipse Reading a recent Urban Institute report by Francie Ostrower about donors that opt to limit the life of their foundations rather than establish them in perpetuity, I was surprised -- as apparently the report's author was -- by "how infrequently limited life foundations linked their longevity plans to their overall philanthropic mission, strategy, and impact." That observation called to mind two things. One, that for many foundations the oft-repeated quote "Nothing focuses the mind like imminent death" didn't apply. And the second was an exercise we once used to kick off a strategic planning session at a foundation I worked at in which everyone present had to answer the question: What if the foundation ceased to exist tomorrow? Who would miss us?

In light of the Madoff affair and the rapidly sinking stock market, one needs to be careful when talking about limited-life foundations, sunsetting, or spending down. That said, it can be helpful -- especially from a communications vantage point -- to think both retrospectively and prospectively about your foundation as if its time were limited. Imagine you were a communications director charged with coming up with the annual report to end all annual reports. What would it say? How would you describe your foundation's accomplishments? Would you have the evidence to back up your claims? Or would those achievements rest on a pile of anecdotes destined to fade over time? Could you tell a story rich with lessons? Would your foundation be remembered for the impact it created and in a way that positively highlighted what philanthropy can accomplish when done well?

If you work at a foundation, why wait for the final eclipse to grapple with these questions? They should be top of mind every day -– along with a host of others for which you should have ready (or regularly updated) answers should anyone ask what your organization has done, is doing, or hopes to accomplish.

Don't wait until it's too late.

-- Bruce Trachtenberg

Quote of the Day (March 9, 2008)

March 09, 2009

Quotemarks "...[W]e are entering a new period of national and global challenge; already, our society is being impacted by ecological, social, spiritual, and economic crises. To resolve them, the federal government must act boldly and comprehensively. A temporary tax credit here or there, briefly benefiting one or another clean-energy industry, is not enough to deal with the energy crisis. And a patchwork of job-training programs haphazardly assembled and rarely aligned with actual job opportunities is not going to move the needle on the jobs crisis.

"We need an entire suite of programs -- intelligently coordinated. We need a complete set of programs and policies that would accelerate a market-led transition to a cleaner, greener, and more just economy -- creating jobs, renewing hope, and strengthening community in the process. In other words, the time has come for a 'new' New Deal. And this time it should be a green one...."

-- Van Jones, The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems

Weekend Link Roundup (March 7 - 8, 2009)

March 08, 2009

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


Handling the press effectively can be one of the most valuable, cost effective, and efficient marketing strategies for any nonprofit. On her Getting Attention blog, Nancy Schwartz offers guidelines for doing it right.


The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy made news last week when it released Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best: Benchmarks to Assess and Enhance Grantmaker Impact (142 pages, PDF). The paper, which according to NCRP offers "the first ever set of measurable guidelines [designed to] help foundations and other institutional grantmakers operate ethically and maximize the impact of their dollars," urges funders to provide at least 50 percent of their grant dollars to lower-income communities, communities of color, and other marginalized communities; 50 percent of their grant dollars for general operating support and as multi-year grants; and 25 percent of their grant dolars for advocacy, organizing and civic engagement activities that "promote equity, opportunity, and justice in society." Writing on his blog, Hewlett Foundation president Paul Brest acknowledges the validity of the paper's underlying premises, but then takes NCRP to task. Writes Brest:

Even for someone who shares NCRP's concerns about marginalized communities, its hierarchy of ends is breathtakingly arrogant. Its prescriptions of means are more of a mixed bag. Many of the 70,000 foundations in the United States might actually contribute more to society if they followed some of the Criteria. But the tremendous social good done by others would be severely compromised. In aiming for the lowest common denominator, NCRP pushes the entire sector toward mediocrity....

Brest has much more to say in his post and promises, in a series of posts to follow, to repond to the issues raised by NCRP recommendations.


Author (What Would Google Do?), blogger (BuzzMachine), and j-school prof Jeff Jarvis argues that the economic crisis we are living through is not a recession, not a depression, not even a compression; it's a great restructuring "of the economy and society, starting with a fundamental change in our relationships -- how we are linked and intertwined and how we act, nothing less than that." (And don't miss Lucy Bernholz' great post, from a nonprofit perspective, on the same topic.)

NPR's Wendy Kaufman talks to executives at the Gates and Pittsburgh foundations, the Center for Effective Philanthropy, and the Center for Philanthropy at Indiana University about the challenges states and municipalities are likely to encounter in doling out large sums of economic stimulus dollars. Running time 3 min 45 sec. (H/T: Lucy Bernolz)

On the Business of Giving blog, Seattle Times reporter Kristi Heim talks to Kiva co-founder Matt Flannery about the impact of the economic crisis on the wildly popular microlending site as well as its future plans.


Several foundations have pledged $200 million toward efforts to improve the public school system in Washington, D.C. But as Ian Wilhelm points out on the Chronicle of Philanthropy's Give & Take blog, the funds are "contingent upon the district’s superintendent, Michelle A. Rhee, hammering out a labor agreement with the teachers union that gives the city the ability to reward high-performing individual teachers with increased pay and to quickly remove underperforming ones." Rhee has declined to name the prospective donors, although the Washington Post earlier reported that the Gates, Broad, Dell, Robertson, and Walton Family foundations are supporting the plan. The Washington Teachers' Union is uneasy with the foundations' involvement, saying teacher pay levels should not be driven by philanthropic money, and Jim Horn, an outspoken critic of foundation involvement in education reform, writes on his blog School Matters that the entire plan is a bad idea. All of which has Wilhelm wondering what the approriate role of foundations in assisting D.C. schools should be and whether they should remain anonymous.

Union Square Ventures partner Fred Wilson blogs about the "Hacking Education" event he and his partners hosted on Friday in New York City. (Click here for the list of participants and their CVs.) Here are some of Wilson's takeways from the event: students are increasingly taking control of their education; alternative forms of education are on the rise; teachers are more important than ever; credentialing and accreditation in the traditional sense will become less important as students' work product becomes more available to be sampled and measured online. Union Square will post the complete transcript of the six-hour session as soon as it's ready.


Based on a recent positive experience with a Save the Children canvasser, Robin Hood Marketing author Katya Andresen reminds fundraisers everywhere that "nothing beats the personal touch." "I'm not saying you need to hire a group of canvassers like Save to do face-to-face appeals," writes Andresen, "but do try to make your asks more personal."

Donor Power blogger Jeff Brooks offers some good advice to nonprofits hoping to attract gifts from donor-advised funds.

Nonprofit Management

In the second of two posts dedicated to Charity Navigator, "America's largest independent charity evaluator," Hewlett Foundation president Paul Brest offers a number of recommendations that the organization's president, Ken Berger, should consider if he wants to contribute to building an outcomes-driven culture in the nonprofit sector. They include:

  1. Gathering better programmatic data from nonprofits as a short-term substitute for the long-term goal of data on outcomes (DonorEdge is doing this)
  2. Gathering data from experts (Nonprofit Knowledge Network is working on this)
  3. Gathering data from other constituents (GreatNonprofits is working on this)
  4. Rating nonprofits on how transparently they report outcomes (IntelligentGiving in the UK does this

Brest also recommends that Charity Navigator partner with "other organizations that [already] gather and aggregate" this information so that nonprofits will not have to submit the same information to multiple rating sites.


Tactical Philanthropy's Sean Stannard-Stockton responds to an article ("Learning From the Farmer's Market") by Hewlett Foundation program officer Jacob Harold in the current issue of Alliance Magazine in which Harold suggests that those who argue for more market discipline in philanthropy could do worse than look to farmers' markets as a model. "The current crisis is not a condemnation of markets in general," writes Stannard-Stockton, "but of certain rules (or the lack thereof) that came to dominate the market over time." This is not the first -- and will not be the last -- time that "excesses of various types severely disrupt the market’s functioning." That said, Stannard-Stockton applauds Harold's analogy, which reminds us "that the core principals of markets is not financial derivatives, overpaid executives and excessive debt, it is people coming together to exchange those things which they value dearly."

In response to Stannard-Stockton's post, Gift Hub's Phil Cubeta provides his take on Harold's analogy. Cubeta:

If building a caring community is part of what philanthropy is about, the whole question of "scale" looks different. Marriage is hard. Children are hard, let alone several generations. Neighborhood is harder. Farmer's markets and small schools sort of work. But try markets and governments for State, Region, Country, and World. Giving for some of us is our way to participate in a local world, an intimate world, with those we like to think of neighbors, civic friends, and supporters of our own felt sense of identity. We vote, yes, for all the difference it makes, but giving and volunteering is a way to make a difference you can feel, touch and taste, like an apple in that farmer's market....

Social Media

Beth Kanter recommends that nonprofit organizations "set their content free" with a Creative Commons license. "I've always wondered whether or not when someone makes a gazillion dollars on one of my photos or my blog posts, will I be sorry? No....[What] is more likely to happen is that people will use the work, use the license honestly, and improve the work." Kanter ends her post with a few examples of how she has "remixed" other people's work or other people have remixed her work -- to everyone's benefit.

Last but not least, in the fourth installment of the Social Good podcast series, social media expert Allison Fine talks with Andy Carvin, National Public Radio’s social-media chief, about the NPR's social media strategy and how smaller nonprofit groups can incorporate social media into their outreach efforts.

That's it for this week. Have a great week!

-- Regina Mahone and Mitch Nauffts

ANNOUNCEMENT: First-Ever Collaboration Prize Contest Ends in Tie

March 06, 2009

Collab_prize_logo Back in January, we posted the names of the eight nonprofit collaborations selected as finalists in the first-ever Collaboration Prize competition, an initiative of the Phoenix-based Lodestar Foundation in association with the Arizona-Indiana-Michigan (AIM) Alliance. Yesterday, the winner -- actually, the winners -- of the prize were announced at a lunch in Scottsdale. The envelope, please...

And the winners are the Museum of Nature & Science, a collaboration of the Dallas Museum of Natural History; its next-door neighbor, the Science Place; and the Dallas Children's Museum; and the YMCA & JCC of Greater Toledo, a collaboration of the YMCA of Greater Toledo and the United Jewish Council of Greater Toledo. Each of the winning collaborations will take home $125,000.

For the Dallas Museum of Natural History and the Science Place, aging exhibits, declining attendance, and financial shortfalls drove the initial discussions about a possible merger. With the Children's Museum able to contribute pre-school expertise to the mix, the three organizations eventually decided to enter a fully integrated merger. The benefits of the merger include:

  • Expanded programming, including the scale necessary to attract world-class exhibits;

  • Substantial operating efficiencies, mainly from redundant and overlapping staff positions;

  • Position upgrades and an ability to attract employees with higher skill sets; and

  • Upgraded image as the basis for a succesful fundraising campaign.

For the Toledo UJC and YMCA, the immediate benefit of the collaboration was that the YMCA did not have to build new facilities to serve the growing northwest Toledo area. Other benefits included:

  • Facilitation of a better understanding of the Jewish and Christian faiths among members of those faiths in greater Toledo;

  • Elimination of duplicative and competing programs; and

  • A larger pool of potential donors.

"Financial crises and pressure from funders certainly come into play from time to time, but the Prize generated an overwhelming response [644 nominations] that demonstrated how nonprofit organizations deploy the entrepreneurial spirit not only in starting new organizations and new programs, but also by reinventing and renewing their work through collaboration," said Sterling Speirn, CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and lead competition judge.

Congratulations to the winners and all the other finalists. To learn more about the challenges and benefits of their collaborations, click here (12 pages, PDF).

-- Mitch Nauffts

Entrepreneurship and the World's Poor

March 04, 2009

(Alice Garrard is a staff writer for Philanthropy News Digest. This is her first post for PhilanTopic.)

TheBlueSweater_cover Some people know the words; some people know the words and music. The latter can be said of Acumen Fund founder and CEO Jacqueline Novogratz, who spoke earlier today at an Aspen Institute-sponsored book chat here in New York City. More than ten years in the writing and just published, Novogratz's new book, The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World, is already a popular topic of conversation -– and not just because its author is a born storyteller.

An avowed idealist in her twenties and now again in her forties, Novogratz fervently believes that individuals have it in themselves to change the world. At the same time, the realist/businesswoman in her tempers that idealism with the knowledge that we can't solve all the world's problems at once. Rather, we have to balance the audacity to think we can with humility about how we're going to get there. And that, says Novogratz, means that entrepreneurs have to be willing to focus on the "bottom of the pyramid" -- the roughly four billion people who live on less than $2 a day -- while their backers have to bring real money to the table.

Novogratz acknowledges that there are limitations to both charity and the market, including tradeoffs between efficiency, control, and equity. At the same time, the financial crisis has created a once-in-a-generation opportunity for leaders to rethink what it would take to extend the benefits of the global economy to the world's poorest. As she has traveled, Novogratz said, she has met bright young people wherever she goes who are determined to create change and make the world a better place. Yet more often not they have abandoned the traditional philanthropic route in favor of a more entrepreneurial, business-oriented approach to problem solving. To illustrate her point, Novogratz mentioned that she and her colleagues have been inundated by three thousand resumes for two jobs currently open at the Acumen Fund.

What to do with all this uptapped energy and optimism? Novogratz suggests creating a global Peace Corps. But "don’t cut it off at 25," she adds. "Let the 55- and 65-year-olds be part of it."

As for Acumen, even in this bleak economic climate its portfolio remains healthy at $40 million. And while the fund's customers may only make $4 or $5 a day, most are building good credit. Let's face it, Novogratz said, "you don’t have major mortgage markets in East Africa, India, or Pakistan."

All in all, a stimulating morning and a very inspiring woman.

To learn more about developing entrepreneurship among the world's poorest, pick up a copy of The Blue Sweater. And to read an extended excerpt from the book (courtesy of McKinsey & Company), click here.

-- Alice Garrard

Might and Right: The Shape of Philanthropy to Come

March 02, 2009

(Bradford Smith is president of the Foundation Center. In his last post, he wrote about the nonprofit equivalent of "too big to fail.")

An interesting fact leapt out at me from a 224-page document I downloaded today: when taking into account the twenty-seven EU member states, European philanthropy is mightier than American philanthropy by a considerable margin. According to the Feasibility Study on a European Foundation Statute:

Allowing for all data uncertainty and validity problems, we estimate that the European foundation sector has assets of between EUR 350 billion and EUR 1.0 trillion (!) and annual expenditures of between EUR 83 billion and EUR 150 billion. By contrast, US foundations have assets of approx. EUR 300 billion and expenditures of EUR 29 billion.

The study arose out of efforts by the European Commission, the European Foundation Centre, and others to cut through the maze of foundation tax laws that impede foundations in Europe from engaging in cross-border activities. These barriers exact a cost of somewhere in the neighborhood of EUR 100 million per year that could be avoided by allowing foundations to constitute themselves as European foundations as opposed to being registered in a single country.

Many will find the report to be a tough slog, but having lived and worked in Europe for the past three years I found it fascinating. I will admit to being a big fan of the European Union -- a remarkable achievement after centuries of conflict, ethnic cleansing, and two horrific world wars in the 20th century. Philanthropy in Europe is quite different than in the United States; it favors operating programs over grants, engages directly with governments and the EU while relying less on advocacy, and, as the report tells us, is simply bigger.

At the other end of spectrum lies the Dalit Foundation in India. During fiscal year 2007-08, the foundation's grants and fellowship budget totaled only $340,000 and the average grant size was $5,300. But what the Dalit Foundation lacks in resources, it more than makes up for in courage and ambition.

Dalits, sometimes called "untouchables," fall beneath the communities that are included in India's four main caste groups. They comprise a population of 160 million and, despite caste bias having been outlawed in l950, suffer daily discrimination and are relegated to degrading occupations such as "manual scavenging" —- being lowered into latrines to clean them out by hand.

The Dalit Foundation grew out of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights and represents the philanthropic arm of a social movement. Having made significant gains on the political front, the movement recognized the need to invest resources in proving that Dalits are no different than any other Indian, when given a chance. Their small projects are emblematic of the larger struggle: arming men who say "no" to manual scavenging with new job skills, a theatre group that helps Dalits out of alcohol and drug dependency, a leadership program that equips youth with "education about perspectives that are relevant to Dalit liberation, research and intensive participation in grassroots-level activities."

American philanthropy has provided critical support to the European Foundation Centre over the years as well as a number of European foundations, particularly in EU accession countries. But now that European philanthropy is more than its equal, how will U.S. philanthropy react? The Dalit Foundation received critical endowment support from the Ford Foundation. Yet many American foundations tend to see such efforts as "intermediaries" that add an extra layer of administrative cost in delivering grants to the poor, rather than an exercise in contributing to social justice by building viable indigenous philanthropies.

The might of the European foundations and the right of the Dalit Foundation show us the shape of philanthropy to come.

-- Bradford Smith

Weekend Link Roundup (February 28 - March 1, 2009)

March 01, 2009

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


With the economy on life support and endowment values melting faster than the Arctic, Rick Cohen wonders whether "racial equity in philanthropy, once described by leading figures at the Council on Foundations as the challenge facing the foundation sector, [has] taken a back seat to what some might think of as more fundamental policy and practice issues?" In particular, Cohen is perplexed by the reaction ("ho hum, almost negligible") to the program commitments put forward by ten of the largest private funders in California in response to proposed diversity legislation floated, and subsequently dropped, in the California state legislature.

Rosetta Thurman is also puzzled by the relative lack of debate since the "California ten" made their plans public. Writing on her blog, Thurman wonders "how many nonprofit conferences this year take diversity off the agenda, now that California foundations have agreed to invest more in 'minorities'." It would be a shame should that happen, she adds, because despite the election of Barack Obama the philanthropic community still has some racial barriers to overcome:

I’m not saying we should drop everything and run around hooping & hollering about race and diversity. We all have competing priorities in the work we do on a daily basis. But as agents of change and the keepers of our nonprofit culture, we do need to make it a point to consider race & diversity in every decision we make, or don’t make, in our work....This is our opportunity to show that we as a nonprofit sector can do better than mainstream America on this issue....


Tired of news stories focused on nonprofits struggling to survive in a deteriorating economy, blogger Heather Carpenter has decided to tag, via social bookmarking site Delicious, all the "POSITIVE stories of nonprofits that are saving money, improving their operations and thriving during this current economic downturn." Click here to see what she's found to date.

Not everyone in the nonprofit sector agrees with the Obama administration's approach to the economy, and that goes double for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (a/k/a the stimulus package). Writing in her blog, Cynthia Gibson explores some of the tensions the bill has raised between big and small nonprofits, service organizations and the larger nonprofit sector, social entrepreneurs and more traditional nonprofit leaders, and MBAs and non-MBAs.

Perla Ni, founding publisher of the Stanford Social Innovation Review and CEO of GreatNonprofits, suggests that the language and rhetoric of the sector may be shifting. As evidence, she notes that she was on a panel with, among others, Peter Frumkin recently, and that Frumkin shared his theory that nonprofits which have been using the "rhetoric of reason and rationale" may begin using the "rhetoric of emotion" to keep and attract donors. Makes sense to Ni. "During these difficult economic times," she writes, "it's much easier for us to relate to the appeals to our conscience and our heart."

Continue reading »

TED on Sunday: Sir Ken Robinson on Education and Creativity

In this funny and thought-provoking presentation, creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson challenges the way we educate our children. Robinson, an internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation, and human resources, is probably best known for leading a national commission in the United Kingdom on creativity, education, and the economy. The resulting report, All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education (244 pages, PDF), was published to wide acclaim in 1999. His new book, The Element: Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, was published earlier this year by Penguin. Enjoy. (Filmed: February 2006. Running time: 19:24.)

-- 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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