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Weekend Link Roundup (August 15 - 16, 2009)

August 15, 2009

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

Communications/Marketing

Nonprofit marketing expert Nancy Schwartz is currently reviewing 1,700 taglines submitted to this year's Nonprofit Taglines Award competition and has this advice for organizations guilty of wasting "message real estate":

  1. Avoid repeating your organization's name in your tagline; and
  2. Feature your founding date only when it adds value.

What does it take to build a "great" Web site? Using the Children's National Medical Center's site as a model, Katya Andresen shares these tips.

Corporate Philanthropy

According to TCC Group vice president Thomas Knowlton, corporate foundations and giving programs have an added challenge in this economic climate that private foundations do not face: Their stakeholders also include internal executive management, boards, and far-flung employees. On the Philanthropy Potluck blog, Chris Murakami Noonan, communications associate at the Minnesota Council on Foundations, offers some great questions for nonprofits looking to "build a business case for continued corporate giving" in tough times.

Economy

On the Nonprofit and Foundation Advocacy blog, Melissa Mikesell offers advice and counsel to California nonprofits and safety-net providers blind-sided by a second round of budget cuts announced earlier this month.

Education

In a Washington Post op-ed, Sarah Fine, a former teacher, department chair and instructional coach at a Cesar Chavez Public Charter School for Public Policy in Washington, D.C., explains why she decided to leave the teaching profession after four years. One of her reasons? "[T]he American public sees teaching as a second-rate profession," writes Fine, "and without the kind of social recognition that accompanies professions such as medicine and law, it is even harder for ambitious young people like me to stick with it...." A must read.

Writing on Change.org's Social Entrepreneurship blog, Nathaniel Whittemore appreciates the irony of Fine's situation. Writes Whittemore:

We expect failure from students who grow up around drugs and without strong parental and community support. We expect failure from the teachers who would try to give them a different path forward.

In so doing, we cue society to look at our education system, and by extension the people in it, as broken; worthy of pity and perhaps even sad admiration, but fundamentally fighting an unwinnable battle and as such, naive.

And while our media machine holds up the Finding Forrester examples of unexpected success, the focus on exceptional individuals in the stories we tell ends up reinforcing the hopelessness of the system as a whole....

Impact/Effectiveness

Earlier this summer, Ken Berger, president and CEO of Charity Navigator, noted on his personal blog that the watchdog organization was beginning to overhaul its oft-criticized evaluation system "to include two additional dimensions (beyond financial health) -- accountability (including transparency) and outcomes." Since then, Charity Navigator has initiated a series of "open forums" to surface "the most important topics facing the nonprofit and philanthropic worlds today." (You can read a transcript of the first forum here.) In a followup post, Berger discusses the value of measuring outcomes with David Bonbright, co-founder of Keystone Accountability.

Journalism/Media

On the Growthology blog, Dane Stangler, senior analyst at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, asks whether we really need daily doses of news. Writes Stangler:

There is little room for reflection in the daily news, notwithstanding the superficial weekly attempt in the Sunday editions to reflect on the prior week's event and what they might mean for the future. The daily news is, by and large, superficial. This doesn't mean journalists are superficial -- it's the nature of the subject matter, not the interlocutors. And there are exceptions, of course: in-depth stories, long features, etc, are all more helpful and more interesting than the daily news.

A democracy doesn't depend on constant, up-to-the-minute news any more than it depends on 100 percent voter participation. But don't we need newspapers to hold our elected officials accountable? If that's the primary raison d'etre of newspapers, then it's (a) a thin reed, and (b) they've done a pretty poor job of it during the Bush and Obama (so far) administrations. But what would we talk about at cocktail parties and conferences if not for newspapers? Maybe the demise of newspapers will prevent people from thinking they're smart simply because they read that day's Times or Journal. In fact, they might be smarter for having ignored them. And look, if something really big happens, you'll find about it....

Philanthropy

In a world of uncertainty, writes Sean Stannard-Stockton on his Tactical Philanthropy blog, nonprofits that stick to strategic plans designed for a world of certainty are likely to underperform, if not fail. Instead, most organizations would be "better served by [embracing] adaptive planning," which involves things like continuous planning, planned redundancy, and decentralized decision making.

On the Business of Giving blog, Seattle Times reporter Kristi Heim looks at the Ripple Effect, a new Washington State University initiative that "gives [individuals] a chance to engage in philanthropy at a level they can afford" by purchasing concrete items such as trees, goats, stoves, treadle pumps, or crop seeds for rural communities in the developing world.

Social Media

Community Philanthropy 2.0, a new study authored by Beth Kanter, Qui Diaz, and Geoff Livingston, finds that "High dollar donors use the social web, but have yet to be engaged by strong, trustworthy philanthropic organizations." Some other key findings from the report:

  • The online world of charitable activity is highly social, but also fragmented.
  • Online conversations rarely evolve into meaningful discussions about how nonprofits are achieving their missions and impacting society. Donors don't advise other donors, and generally, philanthropic experts from foundations do not participate in these discussions.
  • 80 percent of Internet-savvy respondents aged 30-49 reported that they would participate in social media with nonprofits if the information was highly credible and of strong quality, and 77 percent said they would participate if it came from a trusted source.
  • Online community-oriented social media is a preferred tool over most other forms of online conversation.

Click here to download the executive summary.

Taking a "break" from other discussions she's leading or is involved in, Kanter looks at patterns related to content shared by foundations on Twitter.

While those of us in the developed world struggle to organize and keep up with with the flood of information available on blogs, Twitter, and traditional news sites, communities in the developing are struggling to gain access to "potentially life-saving information," notes Adrienne Villani on the Future Leaders in Philanthropy blog. Adds Villani: "[W]hen I think about those who lack access -- access to education, access to employment, access to a better life -- the common denominator being access to information -- I thank my lucky stars....

Last but not least, earlier this month the V Foundation for Cancer Research and ExperienceProject.com launched TwitCause, a "national marketing program designed to raise awareness [about]...social causes and aid in fundraising efforts utilizing the Twitter platform." Twitter users following TwitCause are encouraged to re-tweet the site's charity pick of the week and "spread the word and...[about] good causes via personal tweets."

That's it for this week. Enjoy your weekend!

-- Regina Mahone

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Thanks for mentioning Chris' blog entry on Thomas Knowlton's presentation! We rely on PND for great information on what's happening in philanthropy, and we're thrilled whenever one of our own entries are picked up in your round up.

While I was reading and clicking through this post, I noticed that the link back to our website isn't working. Here's the link in case you want to update it.

http://blog.mcf.org/2009/08/10/business-plan/

Thanks for sending the correct link! It has been updated.

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