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24 posts from October 2009

Ready for America's Giving Challenge?

October 12, 2009

Agc_logo When the first edition of America's Giving Challenge was launched in late 2007/early 2008, social networks and online giving were a still novelty for most people. Sponsored and widely promoted by the Case Foundation, PARADE Publications, and Causes on Facebook, the challenge did much to change that. Indeed, 71,000 people participated in the month-long campaign, which generated a total of $1.8 million in donations to nearly 700 charities.

Well, the challenge is back and expectations for the new campaign, which runs through November 6 at 3:00 EST, are high. The program has been designed to serve as "an example of how social networking is transforming the way people participate in philanthropy," and this year participants have the opportunity to compete for daily and overall cash awards totaling $170,000 ($150,000 from the Case Foundation and $20,00 from the Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation at the Aspen Institute).

Nonprofit organizations and individuals who wish to participate can get involved in one of two ways:

Champion a cause. Individuals who are passionate about a specific cause can become "cause champions" and compete to obtain the most donations for their cause through the Causes application.

Promote, donate, or join a cause. All individuals are encouraged to take part in the challenge by joining, promoting, or donating to causes they care about. (Facebook membership is not required to donate to a Giving Challenge cause.)

To learn more, to register to compete, and/or to donate to a cause, visit: http://www.americasgivingchallenge.com/

We'll keep you updated on the results as they are tabulated and released. Good luck to all!

-- Mitch Nauffts

Weekend Link Roundup (October 10 - 11, 2009)

October 11, 2009

Chain-links Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Corporate Philanthropy

Blogging at BlackGivesBack, Tracey Webb shares a recent item about the newly renovated Betsy Hotel answering President Obama's call to service by appointing Dr. Deborah Briggs as its first vice president for philanthropy. The hotel's "community-conscious" efforts will include backing education, medical research, nonprofit sustainability, the arts, culture, and African Relief initiatives. And let's not forget: next month the Betsy will host the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus.

Blogging at Reimagining CSR, Jessica Stannard-Friel spotlights the Boston College Center on Corporate Citizenship's report State of Corporate Citizenship 2009: Weathering the Storm. After sharing some of key findings from the report, Stannard-Friel suggests that the "recession might be a good thing for the field of CSR," in that "as companies are faced with both increased social needs and decreased resources...[one can hope] they will learn to build programs that are truly win-win."


Jeff Brooks, newly minted creative director at TrueSense Marketing, has moved his fundraising how-tos and marketing advice to a new domain: Future Fundraising Now. (H/t: Give and Take)


In the latest installment of her series celebrating Hispanic leaders in the nonprofit sector, Rosetta Thurman interviews Danielle Reyes, program officer at the Eugene & Agnes Meyer Foundation.

Nonprofit Management

On her Nonprofit Leadership 601 blog, Heather Carpenter shares her takeaways from the recent Nonprofit HR Conference on the future of recruitment and hiring in the sector.


Lucy Bernholz kicked off a fascinating crowdsourcing exercise on her Philanthropy 2173 blog last week by posting a map of the landscape of donors and do-ers and then inviting readers to submit comments and/or visual representations of their own. The results -- here, here, and here -- are really interesting. Be sure to check them out.

Gift Hub blogger Phil Cubeta compares the gift economy -- "the kindness done years ago that can be called upon in one's own hour of need" -- to the strategic grantmaking economy and concludes that "we need more of the true gift economy if we are to recover our humanity."

On the Foundation Center’s Philanthropy Front and Center–Atlanta blog, Stephen Sherman takes a closer look at the new Bridgespan Group study Nonprofits in America: Overcoming the Resource Gap, and shares strategies and recommendations from the report on how to help rural nonprofits succeed.

Are you thinking about participating in the second iteration of America's Giving Challenge, a month-long competition sponsored by the Case Foundation, in partnership with Causes on Facebook and PARADE Publications, designed to raise awareness of and increase interest in online giving? Before jumping in, read Katya Andresen's thoughtful list of reasons why you should and how to get involved.

Social Entrepreneurship

Twitter has added a number of social entrepreneurs to its list of suggested users -- and that, says Sean Stannard-Stockton on the Tactical Philanthropy blog, has nudged "evolving social capital markets into the mainstream." Peter Panepento, the Chronicle of Philanthropy's Web editor, wants to know which "tweeps" from the nonprofit world are missing from the list.

Being included in the “suggested users” list is "more valuable...than if [Twitter] had donated...$1,000,000 [to these social innovators]," says Nathaniel Whittemore on the Social Entrepreneurship blog. Do you agree? And how much would you pay to get your name on Twitter's suggested user list?


In preparation for the 2009 NMC Symposium for the Future, Beth Kanter has been asked to gaze into her crystal ball and answer these questions:

  • What role will social media play in the future for the nonprofit social change sector?
  • What do nonprofits need to do to thrive?
  • Is this a shiny future or a dire future?
  • What will be different about nonprofits in the future?

Conversations about the future of the sector, social change, and technology are taking place all over the Internet, and Kanter pulls a number of them together. Her conclusions?

  • To date, nonprofits have failed to maximize the potential of technology as a powerful force to effect transformational social change, to improve people's lives, and to mobilize their collective power. How, she then asks, can we assist organizations in moving from using technology to increase their internal productivity to using it to fuel social change?
  • The transformative power of technology has been successfully leveraged in the business community and has produced "game changing" models such as eBay and Google. How can we support innovation, invention, and adoption of transformative technology for the public good?
  • The barriers preventing the nonprofit community from harnessing the power of technology include lack of understanding and know-how, privacy concerns, institutional resistance, and real or perceived start-up costs. How can we overcome these, and other, barriers to widespread technology adoption?

What does your crystal ball say about the future of the sector, social change, and technology? Share your comments with Kanter and her readers here. Or leave them below....

Social Media

At the Have Fun Do Good blog, Britt Bravo lists ten questions your organization should ask as it jumps into the world of social media:

  1. What is the goal we're trying to achieve by using social media?
  2. Who is my audience?
  3. What are people already saying about our cause or organization?
  4. How much time do we have to spend on social media?
  5. How much money do we have to spend on social media?
  6. What skills do we have?
  7. What social media tool(s) should we use?
  8. How will we measure success?
  9. What is our growth plan and/or exit strategy?
  10. How can we have fun using social media?

As a recent article in the New York Times explains, the Federal Trade Commission has announced it will release a new set of regulations, effective December 1, that would require bloggers who review products to disclose any conflicts of interest they may have, "including, in most cases, the receipt of free products and whether or not they were paid in any way by advertisers...." On his Buzz Machine blog, Jeff Jarvis wonders whether the FTC has taken things too far. Writes Jarvis:

There are so many bad assumptions inherent in the FTC's rules:

First, Pay Per Post et al, as I realized late to the game, are not aimed at fooling consumers. Who would read the boring, sycophantic drivel its people write? No, they are aimed at fooling Google and its algorithms. It's human spam. And it's Google's job to regulate that.

Second, the FTC assumes -– as media people do -– that the Internet is a medium. It’s not. It’s a place where people talk. Most people who blog, as Pew found in a survey a few years ago, don’t think they are doing anything remotely connected to journalism. I imagine that virtually no one on Facebook thinks they’re making media. They’re connecting. They’re talking. So for the FTC to go after bloggers and social media -- as they explicitly do -- is the same as sending a government goon into Denny’s to listen to the conversations in the corner booth and demand that you disclose that your Uncle Vinnie owns the pizzeria whose product you just endorsed....

Insanity and inanity. And danger.


Last but not least, the Chronicle of Philanthropy has launched the VolunTV Challenge, a competition designed to engage readers in creating story lines for their favorite TV shows that highlight real-life volunteers and volunteerism. A grand-prize and two silver-prize winners will receive a donation in their name to a charity of their choosing. Entries must be submitted by October 26. For more information, visit the VolunTV challenge site. (H/t: Allison Fine)

That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at rnm@foundationcenter.org. And have a great week!

-- Regina Mahone

Quote of the Day (October 10, 2009)

October 10, 2009

Quotemarks "The main reason for [the] upsurge of volunteer participation in the United States is not an increase in need. The main reason is the search on the part of the volunteers for the search for community, for commitment, for contribution. The great bulk of the new volunteers are not retired people; they are husbands and wives in the professional, two-earner family, people in their thirties and forties, well educated, affluent, busy. They enjoy their jobs. But they feel the need to do something where 'we can make a difference', to use the phrase one hears again and again -- whether that means running a Bible class in the local church; teaching disadvantaged children the multiplication tables; or visiting old people back home from a long stay in the hospital and helping them with their rehabilitation exercises...."

-- Peter Drucker, "Citizenship Through the Social Sector," The Essential Drucker

Is Philanthropy Ready for the New Consumer?

October 09, 2009

It's a brave new world out there, one in which the rapid adoption and growing influence of social media is transferring ownership of brands to consumers and, as Seth Godin would say, giving rise to the power and influence of tribes.

That, at any rate, is the conclusion of From Legacy to Leadership: Is Philanthropy Ready for the New Consumer? (4 pages, PDF), a new white paper from branding and integrated marketing firm BBMG. (Full disclosure: the Foundation Center has worked with BBMG in the past.) According to the report, social innovation

has gone mainstream, moving into the halls of power under an administration that understands the value of collaboration and partnership. Social entrepreneurs are breaking boundaries and blurring lines between nonprofits and for-profits, combining social purpose with financial promise as they look to create innovative, sustainable revenue streams.

Consumers, too, are driving this transformation -- by holding nonprofit organizations to higher standards, asking tougher questions and seeking more impact for every dollar or hour they invest in social causes. The opportunity has never been greater for nonprofit organizations to re-invent themselves around the new innovation imperative. As competition for mindshare and resources reaches new heights and power shifts from the few to the many, the way forward starts by understanding, engaging and empowering the new consumer. They are, after all, your next donors....

The report goes on to suggest that any brand/organization that hopes to realize the promise of the social innovation imperative must ask and answer three questions:

  1. How does this brand improve my life?
  2. How does this brand help me make a difference in the world?
  3. How does this brand connect me to a community that shares my values?

In this new age, the report concludes,

Organizations will no longer be defined by pure altruism but by enlightened self-interest. They'll no longer be measured by the problems they address but by the solutions they deliver. And they will no longer be shaped by the power of the few but by the voices of the many....

Okay, we've heard it before, from the likes of Godin, Dan Pallotta, and others. But as I sit here on a Friday evening, toggling between Twitter, Facebook, Last.fm, and my blog reader, it begins to make sense. The networks each of us creates through these new tools are growing larger, denser, and more connected to other networks. That gives me, sitting at the center of my various networks, a lot of power to influence things that matter to me, both personally and professionally. It also subjects me to the influencing activities of many more people than would have been the case even fifteen years ago.

That's a good thing, right?

To be honest, I don't really know. Sounds like a good subject for a future post. In the meantime, be sure to check out the BBMG report. It's short, sweet, and to the point.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Publicolor: From Paint Can to College

October 08, 2009

IMG_0018 On a cloudy Saturday in Brooklyn, I found myself following circled pink "P"s in yellow triangles along Vermont Street. Beneath black scaffolding on an old building a poster announcing "Publicolor Day at JHS 292" pointed me in the right direction.

The day-long event, which would see students and adult volunteers paint the interior of JHS 292, was being hosted by New York City-based Publicolor, a nonprofit organization incorporated in 1996 that uses "color, collaboration, design, and the painting process to re-engage students in their education, schools, and communities."

I couldn't wait to get inside -- not only because it was about to pour, but also because I had a lot of questions for Ruth Lande Shuman, the organization's founder and president. Questions like, Where did you come up with the idea of painting school walls to re-engage students? And was it actually working?

By the time I found the school, a few students were already busy in the lobby: painting, chatting, and singing along to the top 40 hits playing on the boom box near the security desk. As I made my way toward the cafeteria, I found even more students coating hallway walls with bright yellow and green paint -- quite the contrast to the industrial-white walls I knew so well from my high school days.

A little later, Shuman, who was inspired to start the organization by a stint as a member of the Big Apple Circus' arts education outreach program as well as a six-month program on the psychological effects of color, explained to me over a cafeteria table that "color has huge power to impact," and that schools should be painted in colors that are "thoughtfully chosen to inspire students, not discourage their attention."


Moreover, by targeting low-achieving students, Shuman said, Publicolor could really make a difference. And it has: "This spring, 86 percent of our students graduated from high school on-time compared to 42 percent of the kids at the schools they attend. And almost all are the first in their families to go on to college."

So how does it work? Through a continuum of programs -- Paint Club, COLOR Club, Next Steps, Fresh Coat, and Next Steps Prep -- the organization works to engage at-risk students in their education and, at the same time, prepares them to become productive members of society. As students transform their schools and communities, they transform themselves.

"Each of our schools tells a different story," said Shuman. Not only hallway walls, but classroom, cafeteria, and entrance/exit doors are painted in warm, vibrant tones carefully chosen by students and voted on by the entire school.

LoResPubliColor_DSC2796 Jeffrey, an 8th-grade student at JHS 292, explained -- in between rubbing dry paint off his arms -- the best part of the program is that he can have fun and meet people. And because he's in the program, Jeffrey admitted, he works harder in school.

The trick is to convey to parents the value of a good education, said Shuman. In the future, Publicolor plans to increase parent involvement even as it works to re-energize its efforts in NYC. (A pilot program in Pittsburgh was suspended last year when the economy cratered.)

While heading back outside through the school's freshly painted doors, I wondered how many other nonprofits were offering students a unique opportunity that not only taught them some of the key building blocks of art appreciation but also boosted their interest in education. Do you know of any organizations outside of NYC with a similar mission? If so, we'd love to hear about them -- and so would our readers.

And don't forget, October is Funding for Arts Month at the Foundation Center. To learn more, visit our Focus on the Arts Web portal.

-- Regina Mahone

Managing in the Reset Economy

October 07, 2009

No_mediocrity_pin Unless you've been asleep for the last eighteen months, you know the economy stinks and folks are hurting. You've also probably heard that lots of people have been scared into a renewed appreciation for their hard-earned dollars.

This, in turn, has made things tougher for businesses and nonprofit organizations, many of which have cut hours, staff, and/or service offerings in an attempt to stay afloat until the storm ebbs.

In such an environment, managers who have been asked to do more with less are always on the lookout for advice about the challenge, as the Poynter Institute's Jill Geisler puts it, of managing people whose work is...well, mediocre. You know, the employees you might have carried in "fatter" times, even though their work is "uninspired, formulaic, lackluster, average, not awful but never great."

Before you give in to temptation and "jettison" that underperforming employee, says Geisler, ask yourself the following:

  1. Have I been clear with this person about roles and responsibilities?
  2. Have I communicated our standards of quality and how they are measured?
  3. Have I provided regular performance feedback?
  4. Have I avoided tough conversations with this person, and instead settled for "workarounds" of his or her performance?
  5. Have I provided training to help fill gaps in this person's skill set?
  6. Have I enlisted the help of managers or peers to help this person improve?
  7. Have I communicated the urgency of the need for better performance?
  8. Have I discussed the potential consequences of continued mediocre performance?
  9. Are there ways this person is contributing that I haven't taken into account?
  10. Might this person have skills that I haven't fully identified?

In an economy where listening and communication skills are more important than ever, the best place to start exercising them is your own shop.

For more advice about what great bosses know about mediocrity, check out Geisler's podcast on the subject here. And if you've got any timely tips for nonprofit managers trying to weather this tough economy, feel free to use the comments section to share them with others.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Weekend Link Roundup (October 3 - 4, 2009)

October 04, 2009

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

Chain-links Fundraising

Over at the Agitator blog, Tom Bedford says there are five questions you should ask before you allocate significant time and resources to a social media fundraising campaign:

  • What is the scale of the proposed effort relative to your overall fundraising program
  • Is your fundraising audience — the folks giving your organization money today — ready for a new approach?
  • What do you actually know about the new channel or technology?
  • Are there any opportunity costs?
  • What value will you get from this, and how will you measure success?

(H/t: Give and Take)


After attending a talk by a well-known new media expert at Philanthropy New York last week, Wise Philanthropy blogger Richard Marker was reminded that effective grantmaking is a teachable discipline with its own competencies, ethics, and best practices.


It's not enough to show funders where their money is going, says Katya Andresen on her Non-Profit Marketing Blog. You have to be able to "show real, measurable impact in a way that enables you to be judged on a social ROI or compared to other causes [in terms of] effectiveness." In the current economic environment, adds Andresen, "Donors expect something more than a receipt."

On his Free the Nonprofits blog, Dan Pallotta offers a different perspective on the idea of "taking organizations to scale."

How do you make sure that money donated to a good cause in a developing country gets to its intended beneficiaries when there is no recognized pipeline from donor to recipients? The Nonprofiteer offers a few suggestions.


On the Social Citizens blog, Kristin Ivie writes that she is tired of hearing Millennials say they are going to start their own nonprofit because they "can't get a job doing exactly what [they] want to do at exactly the level [they think they] deserve." If you, or someone you know, falls into this category, says Ivie, ask yourself these questions before you start designing your new logo:

  1. Is another organization already doing something like this?
  2. If there are others doing something similar -- and there almost always are -- how would you do it differently?
  3. What can you do to support existing organizations?
  4. Do you have a real sense of how hard this is going to be?
  5. Why do you want to do this?

Excellent advice.


Responding to a Sean Stannard-Stockton post about the desirability of staffed foundations doing more to share their knowledge to offset a decline in their assets, a Tactical Philanthropy reader asked whether increasing the foundation payout rate was a good idea in the current economic environment. Probably not, says Stannard-Stockton:

The 5% minimum is essentially the highest level that can be required of foundations without eliminating their option to exist in perpetuity.

I don't think that all foundations should plan to last forever. But I do think there are valuable benefits to institutionalizing knowledge and creating long lasting organizations. That being said, there are also good arguments to be made for foundations to elect higher payout rates. While doing so may force them to spend down and disband the organization, they may be able to achieve more impact through this strategy....

On the Inside Philanthropy blog, Todd Cohen applauds the publication of On the Money, a new report from Grantmakers for Effective Organizations that takes foundations to task for placing "'enormous burdens' on nonprofits through grantmaking practices such as 'duplicative' grant applications and demands for 'arbitrary impact indicators'." Given the fact that foundations "face little regulatory oversight [and] are free to do pretty much what they like," says Cohen, foundations should work harder to "address nonprofits' actual needs and challenges." Is he right?

Are we finished talking about embedded giving? Not yet. From Legacy to Leadership: Is Philanthropy Ready for the New Consumer?, a new report from marketing firm BBMG, argues "that our values and social goals are becoming as important in our consuming, donating choices as our practical needs."

Social Entrepreneurship

On his Aid Watch blog, NYU economist William Easterly (The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good) writes that when it comes to social change, a sure recipe for failure is to set big goals and stubbornly refuse to adjust them as circumstances on the ground change.

On the Social Entrepreneurship blog, Nathaniel Whittemore explains how graphical interfaces communicate essential information and big ideas better than non-graphic data. Citing as an example this recent presentation about the healthcare reform debate, Whittemore suggests that "this mode of thinking could be valuable for social entrepreneurs with disruptive models."

Social Media

Guest blogging on Beth Kanter's Blog, Kate Bladow admits to being a listener. And tools like Google Alerts help her "to separate signal from noise." Adds Bladow: "Listening helps me figure out where those good conversations are happening." Does your organization listen? If not, check out these steps on how to get started.

As part of the Case Foundation's Gear Up for Giving initiative, Kari Dunn Saratovsky talks to social media expert Beth Kanter about the live streaming platform Ustream.tv.


Allison Fine offers these takeaways from a recent conference call during which she discussed with other female bloggers key themes in the book Women Lead the Way, by Linda Tarr-Whelan. "Here's the bottom line," writes Fine, "when women make up 30% of the leadership of an institution, or organization, or sector, or board, things change....We need more, real, authentic conversations about the role of women in our society."

That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at rnm@foundationcenter.org. And have a great week!

-- Regina Mahone

The Benefits, and Limits, of Storybanking

October 02, 2009

(Thaler Pekar, a consultant specializing in persuasive message development, helps smart leaders and their organizations find, develop, and share the stories and organizational narratives that can rally critical support.)

Gold-bars As I noted in my previous post, stories are a critical vehicle for sharing knowledge within organizations and a vital means for organizations to nurture understanding, make sense of complexity, and embrace change. And, as communications consultant Andy Goodman notes, a storybank -- a central repository of stories about an organization and the work it does -- can be a powerful tool for organizations.

Indeed, David Beckwith of the Needmor Fund, which recently produced 50 Years, 50 Stories, a fine written collection of stories about the foundation, talks often about the critical importance of "collecting, codifying, and passing on" stories within an organization, while David DeLong, noted knowledge management expert and author of Lost Knowledge: Confronting the Threat of an Aging Workforce, notes that the nonprofit sector overall possesses tremendous "passion and energy" for sharing knowledge.

That said, most storybanks tend to be collections of narratives from and about the organization's clients, donors, founders, and staff. The stories themselves are most often about the impact of the organization and only occasionally about the unmet need that the organization seeks to address.

Continue reading »

ANNOUNCEMENT: Humanitarian Emergency in the Pacific

October 01, 2009

(The following was filed by Adele Waugman on behalf of the United Nations Foundation and Vodafone Foundation Technology Partnership and was posted on the UN Dispatch blog earlier today.)

Indonesian_earthquake This week has seen a devastating series of events in the Pacific.

Over the weekend a deadly tropical storm slammed into the Philippines, causing severe flooding in urban areas and affecting tens of thousands.

Tuesday, a powerful underwater earthquake triggered a tsunami with waves 15 to 20 feet high that crashed into the Samoa islands, destroying homes and taking lives.

Then yesterday and today two successive and devastating earthquakes struck the Indonesian island of Sumatra, leaving thousands buried in rubble and in desperate need of aid.

Groups funded by the UN Foundation and Vodafone Foundation Technology Partnership are deployed in all three Pacific Ocean emergencies to provide vital communications services that enable relief workers to deliver food aid and emergency supplies.

As [was] reported yesterday, both the World Food Program (WFP) and the nonprofit Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF) are in the Philippines ensuring that relief workers are connected and, on WFP's part, have access to radio communications to ensure workers' security.

Tropical storm Ketsana dumped the heaviest rains in more than forty years and has affected 2.5 million people, according to government estimates. The WFP has boosted its food aid relief program there and now aims to feed one million people in October.

TSF also deployed to Samoa, where after Tuesday's tsunami entire towns have been wiped out, over one hundred are dead, and many thousands more are now homeless.

TSF added to its roster of simultaneous deployments today when it announced it would also deploy to the Indonesian island of Sumatra to provide communications for aid workers and to conduct a "humanitarian calling operation," providing free three-minute phone calls so that those affected can give news to their family and ask for personalized assistance.

In situations of crisis such as these, a phone line can be a lifeline essential to delivering relief or reconnecting a family. Our thoughts are with all those whose lives have been affected by this deadly string of disasters, and with the relief workers working in difficult conditions to help save lives.

For more information on quake and tsunami relief and humanitarian efforts, visit the ReliefWeb site.

[Photo credit: Sulehka.com]

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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