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Weekend Link Roundup (June 6 - 7, 2009)

June 08, 2009


Our latest roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Arts and Culture

On the Philanthromedia blog, Dana Variano reviews The Philanthropist, a new play starring Matthew Broderick, and concludes that the moral of the drama is that we have to "listen to the parties to whom we are giving." Adds Variano: "Really listen, rather than just hear. And then, we have to give without any strings attached. Only then, I think, can the world begin to view philanthropy in a less skeptical manner, and give the act the credit which it deserves...."


On her Philanthropy 2173 blog, Lucy Bernholz asks readers to imagine a world in which data -- "high quality, informed, diverse, and meaningful data on nonprofits and change organizations, the work they do, and the impact they have" -- is available for free. What would you do with it? What value would you add to this type of information? Inquiring minds want to know.

With news of mergers and cutbacks in the nonprofit sector dominating headlines, everyone is speculating about the future of the sector. But before we bring in the bulldozers and dumpsters, writes Rosetta Thurman, we should take a deep breath and look at things that can be changed right now. Good advice, as always.

International Affairs/Development

On the Business of Giving blog, Kristi Heim asks whether "offshore farming," the practice of foreign countries buying or leasing land in Africa to produce food for the folks at home, is good for Africa. Citing a report in The Economist which found that nearly fifty billion acres of African farmland has been acquired by China, Saudia Arabia, and other countries in recent years, Heim writes: "Critics call it the newest form of colonialism and say the deals are destabilizing land grabs that push out local farmers, [while others] say that after decades of neglect and failure by international aid organizations to improve the situation, commercial investment might actually help." Regardless of your view, this is an issue that is not going away.


A new report from J-Lab, the Institute for Interactive Journalism, found that nearly $128 million in grants were awarded to at least 115 new media projects in 17 states and the District of Columbia from 2005 to mid-2009. On her blog, Allison Fine explains that the finding is significant for a couple of reasons:

  1. Although the Knight Foundation is the largest funder on the list, they are not the only funder of new journalism projects in the U.S.
  2. The projects funded are not only large and national in scope, but small and local as well
  3. The list of funders is a mix of household names -- like Gates and Hewlett -- and smaller, local foundations, proving that funders don't have to come from journalism or be born to new media to appreciate the need to invest in new ways of collecting, curating, and distributing news and information


The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently reported that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had received $10.4 million in unsolicited donations over the last year or so, prompting Tactical Philanthropy's Sean Stannard-Stockton to comment: "I think this is direct evidence of individual donors’ increasing interest in impact. Why did Buffett give money to the Gates Foundation? He thought they were better donors." But is Gates the only effective foundation out there? "If you were going to donate to a well known foundation," asks Stannard-Stockton, "which one would it be?"

Speaking of the Gates Foundation, Jeff Raikes, the foundation's CEO, reflects on his transition from a career in business (he was a longtime Microsoft exec) to one in philanthropy in his first annual letter as CEO. Writes Raikes:

As I was making the transition, I asked many people for advice. Over and over again, I heard a similar refrain: that the biggest difference between business and philanthropy is that in business, the market tells you exactly how you’re doing. In philanthropy, most people said, there is no market.

Gradually, I started to take some issue with this idea. Without a doubt, businesses do get pure market feedback in many cases. Costco generates a detailed sales report every single day....

[But] in a business like software, sometimes you have to invest in innovations that don’t reach the market for a decade or more. In those instances, you rely on the other tools at your disposal to determine if the potential reward is worth the risk. You do your homework before you take on a project. You gather feedback from others with experience and good judgment. You use whatever interim data are available to measure progress as rigorously as you can.

Foundations are in a similar position. Often, finding the best ways to help people improve their lives takes many years of research and experimentation....

Click here for the full text.

Social Media

With more nonprofit organizations using social networking sites to connect with donors and a wider audience, Social Citizens blogger Kristin Ivie wonders whether the young nonprofit staffers using these tools on behalf of organizations should create separate personae to avoid "letting the personal bleed into the professional"? Writes Ivie: "I agree that social media can be extremely valuable for organizations, and they help breathe new life into causes and missions. But does that mean pieces of our personal online personas need to die?" What do you think?

On the Mashable blog, Sharlyn Lauby, president of Internal Talent Management -- an organization that specializes in employee training and human resources consulting -- offers 10 things every organization should add to their social media policy. Her list of tips include:

  1. Introduce the purpose of social media
  2. Be responsible for what you write
  3. Be authentic
  4. Consider your audience
  5. Exercise good judgment
  6. Understand the concept of community
  7. Respect copyrights and fair use
  8. Remember to protect confidential & proprietary info
  9. Bring value
  10. Productivity matters

Last but not least, the Global Partnership Center earlier this month hosted [email protected], the first government-sponsored TED event, as a way to encourage more public-private partnerships. Speakers at the event included social-media expert Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everyone; Acumen Fund CEO Jacqueline Novogratz; futurist Stewart Brand, author of the Whole Earth Catalog; and "bottom billion" economist Paul Collier. The plan is to make video of the individual talks available free of charge on the TED Web site in the near future. We'll let you know.

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

-- Regina Mahone

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Posted by Archana  |   June 08, 2009 at 03:11 PM

I'm at the MyCharityConnects conference in Toronto today and one of the speakers just suggested exactly what you discuss under "Social Media" - having a group blog, Twitter feed, etc. for the 'brand' or organization, then personal accounts where you can certainly Tweet or write about work once in awhile, but the messages stay at least a little separate. I'm liveblogging parts of the conference...

Posted by Regina Mahone  |   June 08, 2009 at 03:32 PM

Hi Archana,

Thanks for checking in while at the conference. Although I agree with a lot of what Kristin Ivie and her readers said, I disagree with the notion that having two separate accounts makes you "two-faced" or "not genuine."

I think all of us have to be careful how we represent ourselves online so that the people we don't know get the right impression. I was chatting with a friend just the other day about how it's hard to convey a tone online. You may say something that is a joke, but those who have never met you, may take what you say the wrong way.

Sometimes, it's better to play safe (that is, having two accounts on Twitter, Facebook, etc.) than to be sorry.


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