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Weekend Link Roundup (May 9 - 10, 2009)

May 11, 2009

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


Grantmakers in the Arts has relaunched its Economic Turmoil and Change blog to answer questions about how artists and arts and culture organizations are managing in the current recession. (H/T: Philanthropy Potluck)

Michael M. Kaiser, president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, sat down with editors from the Post last week to answer reader questions about how the economic crisis is affecting the arts community in Washington, D.C., and beyond.


Rosetta Thurman attended the annual Association of Black Foundation Executives conference last week and has posted a number of video interviews with ABFE board members on her blog. At a pre-conference luncheon, writes Thurman, Susan Taylor Batte, newly minted president of ABFE, outlined several ways that affinity groups can draw attention to the needs of black communities. Batte's list includes:

  • Build a database of promising strategies for what works in black communities.
  • Partner with the Congressional Black Caucus. Make yourselves known to the larger, national policy conversations.
  • Build a high-level diversity pipeline.
  • Pursue stronger relationships with executive search firms.
  • Do what you can to make sure 2010 census accurately counts communities of color.

"With so much 'talk' on diversity,” writes Natasha Desterro from the Council on Foundations' 60th annual conference, "I would have liked to see more action, starting with a more complete set of demographics of speakers and conference attendees in our packets." And, adds Desterro, "if you're white and male in this field, you should get an extra packet of information on why diversity matters."

And with a California Supreme Court decision on the anti-gay-marriage legislation known as Proposition 8 scheduled for May 19, the Alliance for Justice has compiled a list of twenty-five things you might not know about California ballot measures.


Dorothy "Dottie" Reynolds, former president of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint (MI) recently spoke with the Mott Foundation about the significance of community foundations, especially in these difficult economic times. Read the full interview here.


Lucy Bernholz says that as an amateur historian she has a tendency to put things into boxes. So statements like the one Greater New Orleans Foundation president Albert Ruesga made on the new Council on Foundations blog Re: Philanthropy to the effect that the lines between the sectors have blurred "and it's the IRS that forces incorporated entities into nonprofit and for-profit boxes" get her attention. It is indeed a scary thing, writes Bernholz, to have to deconstruct boxes to make sense of the world. The "fact" that

people of different ages or different backgrounds see things in different boxes can both explain some significant changes...[and] also heighten tension between groups, and make it harder to find common ground, not easier. It is not just the boxes we use to explain things, or the boxes that develop as part of our tax code. Our boxes of time, place, and access are also shifting....

The big changes can be too big for sense-making on a regular basis. My work is driven by my interest in the question, "What is public and what is private, who decides, and how is that changing?" But I can't consider that question in its entirety every day. Instead...I consider the different expectations that my 80-year-old mother had about the role of the government and those that my 8-year-old son might be developing. And I try to question my own assumptions about what is fixed, what can be changed, and which boxes might be breaking before my very eyes....

A lot of talk at the Council on Foundations conference last week centered on accountability. Guest blogging on Tactical Philanthropy, Paul Connolly, senior vice president at the TCC Group, noted how grantmakers increasingly have been eager to scrutinize the performance of their grantees. "Yet fewer funders are comfortable evaluating their own capacity, behavior, and impact." Writes Connolly:

With more and more people twittering on handheld devices these days, the amount of decentralized, real-time feedback for funders will inevitably grow. The power imbalance between funders and grantees will probably always exist, but dynamic technological tools will close the gap at least a little....

Connolly's right, of course, but it will be interesting as the digital revolution plays out to see what "at least a little" in this context looks like.

Social Media

Inspired by Lucy Bernholz's post "Metrics Are Good, Unless They Are Bad," Beth Kanter takes a closer look at existing metrics for social media efforts. In her post, Bernholz draws a distinction between measuring and measuring the right thing. And the right metrics for social media, writes Kanter, "are those that can help [your organization] understand engagement and relationships." She then points to a number of experts who are developing strategies for measuring the ROI of relationships. Good stuff.

Diana Scearce, a consultant with the Monitor Institute, shares some lessons Monitor has learned about "working wikily" from its partnership with the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. They include:

  • Design your experiments around a problem that needs to be solved, not the technology tools.
  • Experiment a lot, invest in understanding what works and what doesn’t, and try to make only new mistakes.
  • Set appropriate expectations for the amount of time and effort required.
  • Prioritize human elements such as trust and fun.
  • Understand your position within networks and act on this knowledge.
  • Push power to the edges.
  • Balance bottom-up and top-down strategies for organizing people and effort.
  • And be open and transparent; share what you’re doing and learning as a matter of course.

What would you add to the list?

With conferences in every sector experiencing declines in attendance, Kari Dunn Saratovsky asks whether "the days of rubber chicken lunches and long winded powerpoint presentations" are over? Maybe not yet. Saratovsky notes that there are a significant benefits to incorporating Web technology onsite -- better peer-to-peer, audience-to-presenter, and audience-to-public conversations during a conference -- but that "being there in person delivers the rich experiences that virtual meetings oftentimes cannot replace."

Presented by Allison Fine (and hosted by the Chronicle of Philanthropy), the latest installment of the Social Good podcast series features Jessica Clark, director of the Future of Public Media Project at American University, discussing the future of newspapers.

And that's it for now. Have a great week!

-- Regina Mahone

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Posted by Bruce Trachtenberg  |   May 11, 2009 at 04:41 PM

Just a quick note about the premature death of face-to-face conferences. In just 3 weeks, the Communications Network sold out its Fall 2009 conference, which doesn't even take place until October 14-16. But we also avoid rubber chicken and expect much more from our presenters than deadly dull slides.

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