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Weekend Link Roundup (August 29 - 30, 2009)

August 29, 2009

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


Mick Koster, senior consultant at Strategic Partners, suggests that development officers apply a right-brained approach when "selling" their organization to donors. Writes Koster, "Rather than listing 'ingredients,' uncover the emotional connection your donors and donor prospects have to your organization." (Thanks for the tip, Judy.)

Disaster Relief

To mark the fourth anniversary of the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes, the Foundation Center has launched a Focus on Gulf Coast Hurricane Relief page complete with maps, podcasts, news, and research related to ongoing recovery efforts.


In the lead up to International Literacy Day on September 8, the Digital Philanthropy blog will highlight a number of education-focused nonprofits that are working to improve literacy around the world.


Nonprofit bloggers have been paying homage to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy ever since the 77-year-old "lion of the Senate" passed away on August 25. (The Chronicle of Philanthropy's Give and Take blog has a roundup of posts.) One of those bloggers, Tim Foley, suggests on Change.org that the best way to honor Kennedy’s legacy is to finish what he started by "finally passing universal health care." Writes Foley:

Every time since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid that we have sought to expand health care coverage for our citizens, Ted was on the front lines. He bargained with the Nixon White House and nearly crafted a bipartisan compromise in the early 1970s. He feuded with Carter on health care, and launched his own run for the presidency in part to achieve that goal. When Bill Clinton's plan was moved in the Senate, Ted was sponsor and lead advocate. And, of course, his still-untimely death comes at a moment when his last great work -- one last bill to make good on the promise of his career, making quality, affordable health care a guaranteed right for every American, not a privilege based on income, or employment, or race, or class -- stands at the crossroads in the United States Senate.

As we take on the task of completing his unfinished work, we have ringing in our ears his final statement on what has truly been the cause of his career, delivered in writing to celebrate that bill passing out of committee....


A recent article on the UK-based Third Sector site notes that the English Charity Commission has accused two schools -- St Anselm's School Trust and Highfield Priory School -- of "offering too few scholarships and bursaries" to justify their nonprofit status. On the New Philanthropy Capital blog, John Copps argues that it is time for UK charities to "reclaim the debate on public benefit." But on this side of the pond, Matthew Bishop and Michael Green, co-authors of Philanthrocapitalism: How the Rich Can Save the World, suggest that "the debate has generated more heat than light." Write Bishop and Green:

In the end, we get the charity sector we deserve. If donors don't ask tough questions about real impact and put their money where it achieves the most, weak charities will muddle along and the growth of good charities will be stunted. That is why we think that impact-focused philanthrocapitalists, along with philanthropic intermediaries like NPC, Kiva.org, and GlobalGiving, have the potential to do more to drive a step-change in the effectiveness of charities than regulation....

In case you missed the debate about "slacktivism" -- "the act of doing something that requires very little effort and has only the perceived effect of impact" -- Ali Cherry, guest blogging on Beth Kanter's blog provides seven perspectives on the issue.

The recently released Civic Health Index found that 72 percent of those surveyed had cut back on civic engagement activities. But on the Social Citizens blog, Kristin Ivie notes that "social engagement through social networking sites, as well as through church and friends, can have a significant impact...." Writes Ivie:

This [would seem] to refute the arguments that social media is just encouraging slacktivism by allowing people to edit their avatar or join a Facebook group without really having engaged. The Civic Health Index shows that with each type of offline engagement -- from giving food or money to someone in need to volunteering to joining a public meeting to discuss an issue -- those who used social media for civic purposes were always more involved that those who did not....

Kate Barr, executive director of the Nonprofits Assistance Fund, argues on the Balancing the Mission Checkbook blog that donors should (and do) care more about the effectiveness of an organization, rather than the amount of money spent on overhead. Writes Barr:

I'm convinced that the reason that people care about the overhead ratio of charities is because we keep telling them that it’s important. I have an announcement to make: I am a donor to quite a few nonprofits, and I don't care what percentage of their budget is spent for overhead. I think that a lot of donors would agree....

I care that they are effective nonprofits that can tell donors what they do and why it matters. Why would a donor rather examine overhead? Before someone jumps on this point, I agree that 90% on fundraising is completely unreasonable, but that kind of organization can’t demonstrate real results anyway. So can we stop using overhead as the primary criteria for donors -- please?...


On her blog, Rosetta Thurman offers nonprofit leaders some timely advice on how to cultivate resilience when "there's no more business as usual." Here are a few of her recommendations:

  • Learn from new experiences
  • Develop a spiritual practice
  • Fail upward
  • Take a vacation

Nonprofit Management

On the Foundation Center-Atlanta blog, library director Pattie Johnson offers some good advice to anyone thinking about starting a nonprofit.


The Wall Street Journal talks to Eli Broad, founder of two Fortune 500 companies as well as the foundation that bears his name, about education reform, the democratization of the arts, and the "venture philanthropy business." (h/t Bruce Trachtenberg)

While people in general may be cutting back on their volunteering in this recession, a recent survey sponsored by the Hartford Financial Services Group found that individuals over the age of 50 are ramping up their volunteering and charitable giving. On the Philanthropy Potluck blog, Chris Murakami Noonan, communications associate at the Minnesota Council on Foundations, pulls out these key findings from the report:

  • 53 percent of consumers age 50+ participate in volunteer work, compared to 45 percent for those aged 49 and younger;
  • Of those who volunteer, almost 14 percent of AARP members volunteer one day per week as compared to 7.5 percent of non-AARP members;
  • 76 percent of those over 50 give monetary donations to causes they support. This compares to 83 percent of AARP members over age 50, and 60 percent of those under age 49;
  • The causes most favored by the 50+ group include Alzheimer’s disease, social services, the environment and military support.

On the Give and Take blog, Ian Wilhelm predicts that The Foundation, a new Canadian comedy show that "viciously" satirizes philanthropy, is likely to leave foundation executives already unhappy about NBC's summer-replacement series The Philanthropist "speechless."

In a review of the newly published Complete Idiot’s Guide to Giving Back, blogger Diane Bennett writes that the book "fails to provide enough guidance for idiots (or anyone else, for that matter) to truly evaluate the effectiveness of a charity."

On Foundations + Footings, blogger Julie White suggests that grantmakers consider providing "experimental grants" to produce more innovation in the sector. "I am not referring to the graduated grants we are used to, which start small but are intended to evolve into a larger grant," writes White. "But rather, small, focused curiosity-driven grants for the elusive 'good idea.'" (H/t: Tactical Philanthropy)


Citing a recent news item about a nonprofit that turned down a donation from a donor who wanted his money to go towards the nonprofit's annual golf fundraiser rather than the organization's clients, Donor Power blogger Jeff Brooks argues that nonprofit organizations cannot turn away donors whose money may be "tainted." Writes Brooks:

We are in no position to cut ourselves off from [donors]....In fact, by giving them the opportunity to give, we help them toward redemption and enlightenment. Even if they're seeking neither....


Last but not least, Lucy Bernholz takes a closer look on her Philanthropy 2173 blog at how technology might change philanthropy. Some things like "mutual aid, human kindness, and altruism are not technologically bound," writes Bernholz, while "organizational charts, job titles, and professional roles in philanthropy will see a great deal of re-structuring in the next phase of innovation." In a comment on the post, Foundation Center president Brad Smith suggests that, in addition to "How did we get here?" and "Where are we going?", we should be asking a third question: "Where do we want to be going?" The resulting exchange between Bernholz and Smith is fascinating. Be sure to check it out.

And that's it. Have a great week!

-- Regina Mahone

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Posted by The Bridge  |   August 31, 2009 at 10:10 AM

Always looking forward to the Weekend Link Roundup - thanks for this - certainly helps tackle all of the good advice and tips out their in the online universe! Keep it up!

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