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24 posts from April 2009

Weekend Link Roundup (April 11-12, 2009)

April 12, 2009

Chain-linksAn abbreviated version of our weekly roundup of posts and articles from and about the world of philanthropy....


After offering a big shoutout to the Internet ("the greatest cultural achievement since the printing press, and quite possibly the greatest cultural achievement of all time"), Chris Bowers, who blogs at progressive news and advocacy site OpenLeft, bemoans the fact that it is destroying "tens of thousands of middle-class jobs [in] the newspaper industry" and replacing them with "tens of thousands of low-wage jobs in a new digital sweatshop...."

And this is where I have a lot of empathy for the decline of the newspaper industry. Even though it was pretty much inevitable that the rise of the Internet would put a severe dent in the newspaper industry, and despite the vast cultural outpouring the Internet has brought with it, making a living as an information producer is now more difficult than ever. Whether you work for a newspaper that is struggling financially, or whether you work for an emerging media outlet online, in both cases you are probably scrambling to find a way to make ends meet. Long-term, it seems unlikely that information production will be an industry that produces a lot of stable, middle-class jobs....


What can Milli Vanilli teach Gen Y about leadership? More than you'd think, says Rosetta Thurman.


Atlantic Philanthropies president Gara LaMarche argues that real change by both nonprofits and foundations "is needed to...ensure the long-term health of nonprofit organizations." Among other things, says LaMarche, foundations must be more rigorous in scrutinizing the budget management of the nonprofits they support, small nonprofits should consider merging with other like-minded organizations, and large nonprofits need to streamline their operations.

As he does every year at this time, Charity Navigator president Ken Berger offers ten predictions for the year(s) to come: More federal funding for nonprofits, reduced funding from private sources, more mergers, rising demand for information about impact, and lots more.

Tactical Philanthropy's Sean Stannard-Stockton and Pace University professor Jeff Trexler trade posts (here and here) about the approach and, well, effectiveness of the Center for Effective Philanthropy. Good stuff.

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TED on Sunday: Sylvia Earle on Saving the 'Blue Heart' of the Planet

Fifty years ago, as Rachel Carson was giving voice to a fledgling environmental movement, few people thought that humans could do irreparable harm to something as vast as the oceans. But, says famed deep-sea explorer and ocean researcher Sylvia Earle, that is precisely what we have done. Today, more than 90 percent of the big fish species have been eaten; more than half the planet's coral reefs have disappeared; hundreds of millions of tons of plastic are discarded in the sea every year, clogging the planet's circulatory system and poisoning our most important life support system. In this eloquent, beautifully filmed talk -- a TED Prize winner at this year's conference -- Earle reminds us that without healthy oceans, there can be no health, or, ultimately, survival for the human species. No water, no life; no blue, no green. (Filmed: February 2009. Running Time: 18:16.)

-- Mitch Nauffts

Broad Foundation Offers Support for Juilliard's Music Advancement Program

April 11, 2009

Broad_logo Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that the world-famous Juilliard School in New York City was planning to suspend its Music Advancement Program, a music-training program for poor minority schoolchildren, due to across-the-board budget cuts and the effect of the economic downturn on its fundraising.

This morning, the Los Angeles-based Eli and Edyth Broad Foundation announced that it would provide the funds needed to keep the program going. Here, in its entirety, is the foundation's statement:

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation has been in contact with The Juilliard School and committed $425,000 over four years to shore up the Music Advancement Program, allowing low-income, minority students across New York City continued access to this nationally acclaimed music education.

We are pleased to be able to help Juilliard continue to offer the Music Advancement Program while the school raises additional funds it needs to sustain the program.

I strongly believe that all children, regardless of their economic circumstances, deserve access to quality arts education programs. The Music Advancement Program is a model for bringing musical training to children who would not otherwise have access. Among other things, the program is successful because it provides students with a cutting edge music curriculum, highly regarded musical instructors such as Wynton Marsalis, and regular off-campus enrichment opportunities to experience music performances and rehearsals.

A number of philanthropic and community leaders here in Los Angeles, including myself, are willing to support a world class arts high school capable of delivering Juilliard-quality arts education to deserving young people across our city. Like The Juilliard School, the Los Angeles Arts High School needs a quality curriculum including programs like the Music Advancement Program, the best possible music, dance and fine art instructors available nationwide and stable funding revenue -- components that will be difficult, if not impossible, to secure unless the school receives fiscal and operational flexibility and freedom.

Great news for the kids who would've been affected by the program's suspension -- and a reminder to the rest of us that, in these difficult times, everyone needs to do what they can to help those less fortunate. Hats off to the Broads.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Q&A: Jane Wales, co-founder, Global Philanthropy Forum

April 09, 2009

This is a busy time for the always busy Jane Wales. Even as she prepares for the eighth annual meeting of the Global Philanthropy Forum, April 22-24, in the nation's capital, the Aspen Institute VP and public radio show host is helping to lay the groundwork for the Obama administration's engagement with the nonprofit sector. PND caught up with her last month to talk about the economic crisis, international philanthropy, and the administration's interest in social innovation. Here's an excerpt from that conversation:

Philanthropy News Digest: You've served in two Democratic administrations, advised businessmen and Nobel Prize winners, and worked in foundations and nonprofits. None of those sectors — public, private, or tax-exempt — is held in particularly high regard by the public at the moment. Indeed, by some measures, public confidence in institutions of any kind is at an all-time low. What can government, business, and the nonprofit sector do to regain the public's trust?

Wales Jane Wales: One of the key characteristics of the Information Age is the diffusion of decision-making and authority. And with that comes a decline in public trust in all institutions. So I think the premise of your question is correct. At the same time, it is not clear that there's a direct correlation between performance on the one hand and levels of trust on the other. That is to say, lack of trust in institutions could be a function of something much larger; it could, for example, be a function of the enormous amount of information that washes over everyone today — a flood that is both exhausting and, increasingly, unmediated. The contexts within which we used to evaluate information are eroding, and there are fewer and fewer people with the authority to set standards, to tell us what is good and what is bad, what is right and what is wrong.

In that kind of shifting, uncertain environment, the idea of success itself is up for grabs. And so the task for each sector, and for institutions of every kind, is to develop a shared view of what constitutes success, and to monitor, measure, and communicate our progress in achieving it. It's also essential to be willing to admit to mistakes and failures. I would argue that the nonprofit sector scores relatively high on the latter and has some work to do with respect to sharing its successes.

PND: It's funny you should mention mistakes and failures. It is the perceived mistakes and failures of Wall Street that are largely responsible for the current economic mess we find ourselves in, which in turn has created a tremendous amount of acrimony and finger-pointing. We are all taught to believe that robust debate and competing policy prescriptions are hallmarks of a vibrant democracy. Are we having healthy debates on big issues such as health care, energy, and the economy? And are you hearing anything in those debates that causes you concern?

JW: What is interesting about this moment is that we are not only in a crisis, but that it's a crisis that is widely recognized and acknowledged. In fact, it is broadly acknowledged that we are facing not a single crisis, but a series of crises — and that we must work together to address them. I would argue that democratic decision-making is based on an assumption of shared knowledge, the concept of the village green, and that implicit in the idea of democratic decision-making is the notion and art of compromise. Rather than seeing compromise as capitulation, healthy democracies see it as an essential element of decision-making. And nonprofits and NGOs provide the space for compromise, they provide the village green. That said, we have a lot of work to do as a society to regain our respect for the process of coming to solutions together.

PND: Over the last year, the condition of the global financial system has gone from bad to worse. Indeed, no less an authority than George Soros is on record as saying that the world financial system has disintegrated and that the economic turmoil we're experiencing is as serious as what the world went through during the Great Depression. Do you agree?

JW: Well, I would not presume to challenge George Soros on questions of global finance. [Laughs.] He's the expert and has the track record to prove it. What I would say is that one of the great ironies of the mess we find ourselves in is that while the financial systems of the developed world have failed us, systems set up for the developing world — that is to say the whole field of microfinance — did not fail. Here's a world in which collateral is not things or dollars, but a set of social relationships. And it turns out that that is a more resilient system than ours — and one from which we all could learn something.

PND: What are some of the lessons developed economies can learn from microfinance?

JW: That norms may be more important than things, that commitment to community may be the most important source of societal resilience, and that therefore the loss of social capital may be a fundamental one that can erode all else. If that is so, rebuilding social capital should be our priority. And that is where the nonprofit sector and the philanthropic sector have critical roles to play. And, of course, political leadership is key....

Click here for the rest of the interview.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Quote of the Day (April 8, 2009)

April 08, 2009

Quotemarks "...The United States is both a conservative power, defending the international status quo against those who would change it through violence, and a revolutionary power seeking to replace age-old power structures with market economics and democratic ideals. The political revolution that the United States supports involves radical change in countries as important as China, but even the political revolution pales before the economic revolution that the United States wishes to spread through the world. The United States seeks to make the world an ever more dynamic place -- a place where an accelerating pace of technological change leads the world ever faster through the power of ever more flexible and dynamic markets into an ever accelerating 'progress' toward an end we do not see...."

-- Walter Russell Mead, God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World

Weekend Link Roundup (April 4-5, 2009)

April 06, 2009

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


Sandra Miniutti, vice president of marketing at Charity Navigator, says it's time for nonprofit organizations across the country to follow this example from Texas, where fifty breast cancer charities have dropped their "competitive stance" and joined forces to reduce duplicative programs and find ways to collaborate on programs and fundraising.


On the Growthology blog, Dane Stangler, a senior analyst in the office of the president at the Kauffman Foundation, argues that the current economic downturn is no ordinary recession but rather "a large-scale structural shift in the underlying character of economic activity." What the new economic order might look like post-restructuring, however, is anyone's guess. "At these times, at varying degrees in different sectors, we can't tell what will eventually settle down or for how long," writes Stangler. "But of course this is the glory and agony of capitalism, reflecting the reach of human capability and our allergies toward change and uncertainty." 

Many of the same metaphors figure prominently in three recent posts by Jeff Jarvis, who wraps up his rumination on the "Great Restructuring" (first two posts here and here) with a post on the war over change. "I'm not talking about the post-9/11 resurgence of debate over Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations -- though that's certainly a front in this war," writes Jarvis.

Instead, I'm talking about the clash over change within civilizations, the attempt by some to forestall its inevitability, and their attacks on those who enable, predict, and embrace change as if any of those actions cause change. It's actually rather fatuous to set up a dispute between those who want and don't want change, those who think change is good or bad. Change is inexorable. The question is not what you think about it but what you do about it....

Our advice? Embrace it.

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TED on Sunday: James Howard Kunstler on the Death of Suburbia

April 05, 2009

April is Earth Month, and to celebrate we've lined up four Sunday morning "TEDs" related to the concept of sustainability. First up: author (The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape, The Long Emergency) and social critic James Howard Kunstler. In this funny and profane talk, Kunstler blasts the soulless suburban sprawl that has consumed huge swaths of the American landscape and warns that the end of cheap oil -- and the Happy Motoring culture it spawned -- will result in "epochal change." Forget hydrogen or alternatives as a replacement. In the twenty-first century, says Kunstler, life will be about living, eating, and working locally. (Filmed: February 2004. Running Time: 19:45)

--Mitch Nauffts

In Memorium: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

April 04, 2009

As we did last year on April 4, today we honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, on this day, forty-one years ago.

An embattled Dr. King had returned to Memphis a day earlier to resume his efforts on behalf of striking sanitation workers in that city. His nascent Poor People's Campaign, a march on Washington, D.C., to protest the plight of America's poor, had met with resistance among some of his aides and confidantes, who saw it as "too sweeping and strategically uncertain," and engendered fierce criticism and even outright hostility among his detractors. All too aware that the campaign "was...lapsing into logistical and financial dishevelement," King, according to former journalist and King biographer Marshall Frady, was in a fragile state of mind characterized by a "sense of embattled aloneness [and] growing fatalistic gloom."

Visitors found him "a profoundly weary and wounded spirit," with "a profound sadness" having settled over him....[A] former SCLC staffer in Los Angeles would recall that he kept maintaining "that his time was up," that "he knew they were out to get him." To another close aide, he seemed almost in a trance of "weariness, just weariness of the struggle." Yet he could get no more than an hour or two of sleep....

Sometime during the afternoon of April 3, King decided that his chief lieutenant Ralph Abernathy should speak in his place that evening at a rally of sanitation workers and their supporters at Mason Temple. When Abernathy arrived, he found a large and enthusiastic crowd and a battery of network news cameras. He phoned Dr. King at the Lorraine Motel, where they were staying, and urged him to reconsider. Frady again:

King shortly appeared, to jubilant cheers and clapping, for what was to be the last mass meeting of his life. When he took the pulpit, lightning was still flashing outside with claps of thunder. The night was so sweltering that "the fans were on"...and as King began speaking, the fans "would bang now and then, and each time they did, King gave a start. So they finally shut them off." King's heavy, measured voice knelled over the congregation, mounting in momentum to the accompanying surges of shouts and applause....

Martin Luther King was struck down the next afternoon on the second-story balcony of the Lorraine Motel by a single shot from a high-powered rifle. He was thirty-nine.

While Dr. King no doubt would be proud of how far we have come in realizing his dream of a nation in which his children, in which all children, are judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, he would be dismayed by how much work there is left to do. Till the last day of his life, he worked tirelessly on behalf of the poor, the weak, and the downtrodden and against hatred, violence, and injustice. He believed passionately in the promises inscribed in our founding documents and in what another great American leader called the better angels of our nature. In this troubled time, let us remember the brave and courageous example he set and the faith he had in us to do the right thing.

-- Mitch Nauffts

ANNOUNCEMENT: Call for Papers, AAGP Journal

April 03, 2009

The American Association of Grant Professionals' Journal is a resource for presenting research in the field and describing best practices in the area of grantsmanship. The Journal also provides a forum for the discussion of related issues and the expression of philosophical ideas related to grantseeking and philanthropy. 

AAGP is requesting submission of papers for inclusion in an upcoming edition of the publication. For topic ideas, feel free to refer to the "Table of [Grantsmanship] Competencies and Skills" on the AAGP Web site: http://grantprofessionals.org. (To view the table, follow these tabs: "GPC Credential" [on the home page]; "Visit GPC Institute" [sidebar in top right corner]; "The Examination" [left nav panel]; and "Competencies and Skills Tested" [mouse-over menu].)

Using APA format, interested parties should submit a proposal, in the form of an abstract, including the following details:

  • Title of the proposed paper 
  • Author(s) information: (title, organization, e-mail address)
  • Theme(s)
  • Description of paper: (100-300 words)

April 15, 2009: Interested individuals should submit proposal abstract
April 30, 2009: Invitations to submit full papers will be issued
June 15, 2009: Full papers submission deadline; letters to the editor deadline
August 15, 2009: Deadline for required edits

The Journal will be published in Fall 2009.

Please send abstracts and/or inquiries to: journal@grantprofessionals.org

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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