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Weekend Link Roundup (October 17 - 18, 2009)

October 18, 2009

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

Climate Change

This year’s Blog Action Day, on October 15, saw bloggers from 155 countries contribute posts and resources related to climate change and the environment. For a roundup of featured posts, check out the Change.org site.

Communications/Marketing

On her Getting Attention blog, nonprofit marketing expert Nancy Schwartz shares a recent case study in which Tracy Mitchell, general manager of the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, New York, explains how she "tackled her marketing dilemmas, even before the recession hit in full force."

Community Improvement/Development

Referring to the recent incident involving ACORN workers who were caught on videotape allegedly advising individuals how to evade the law, Nonprofit Board Crisis blogger Mike Burns argues that as "in the public...and private sectors, mistakes...can be made by individual nonprofits." What is worrisome, says Burns, are the efforts by some members of Congress to use the incident as an excuse to repeal the Community Reinvestment Act, which, as Burns notes, was designed to end redlining -- the nefarious practice of "walling off" inner-city neighborhoods from mortgage loans. Adds Burns: "When [an organization’s] failing becomes a rallying cry to turn against parts of society that have limited voice, it's time for the nonprofit sector to take a stand."

Fundraising

After reading a new study from the Center on Philanthropy which found that donors who were asked to give in person by someone they knew were more likely to give than those asked by phone, mail or email, Todd Cohen says nonprofits need to "get back to basics" and "invest the time...to understand, cultivate, and engage their givers."

International Affairs/Development

A lively debate erupted early in the week as bloggers responded to an october 2 post by the Center for Global Development's David Roodman in which Roodman argued that popular microfinance site Kiva isn't quite what it seems. According to Roodman, that's because fewer than 5 percent of Kiva loans are disbursed after they are listed and funded on the Kiva site -- the way most people think the site works. After defending that practice in a separate post, Philanthropy Action editor-in-chief Tim Ogden raised other questions about the microfinance lender. Writes Ogden: "First, all losses from Kiva-securitized loans are borne by the Kiva user. Second, Kiva's monthly repayment reports are not based on actual repayment data." Then he asks: Will the "illusion...of person-to-person" giving lead to Kiva's demise, as it did for sponsor-a-child organizations in the '90s? Tactical Philanthropy's Sean Stannard-Stockton weighed in with his own thoughts on the controversy (here and here), as did Holden and Elie at GiveWell (here). By week's end, Kiva co-founder and CEO Matt Flannery had posted a thoughtful response to Roodman, and, as GiveWell reported, the Kiva team had made some changes to its donor-facing page.

On her Business of Giving blog, Seattle Times reporter Kristi Heim takes a closer look at Africa Rural Connect, an online community that uses crowdsourcing technology to find a "solution for Africa's development challenges."

Nonprofit Management

According to a recent article in the Wall Sreet Journal, the "Great Recession" is over. (And we have a bridge in Brooklyn we'd like to sell you.) If that's true, says Sean Stannard-Stockton on his Tactical Philanthropy blog, nonprofits should move quickly to "reset the future path of [their]...financial health." According to Stannard-Stockton, that means:

  • developing the next generation of your most effective program;
  • putting in place an outcome measurement system;
  • creating and starting to build a reserve fund;
  • upgrading your technology infrastructure; and
  • hiring a top notch fundraiser.

Uncharitable author Dan Pallotta argues on his Free the Nonprofits blog that the so-called psychic benefits of nonprofit work are overrated. Writes Pallotta:

Most nonprofits are small and starved for capital, preventing employees from fully capitalizing on their personal potential. Nearly every good idea is met with a dearth of resources, a prohibition on taking risk, or a broken donated computer. Whatever psychic benefit that theoretically might have accrued from putting those good ideas into action is outweighed by the grind of shoestring budgets and overstretched systems that is the reality....

If you work for a nonprofit, you'll want to read the rest of his post.

Philanthropy

In part three of her "Decoding the Future" series, Lucy Bernholz offers further insights into the possible future nexus of philanthropy and technology. The big issues front and center in any such discussion, notes Bernholz, include "networks + network governance, the [giving] commons, [and] cloud technology."

Social Media

Ten Gen Y bloggers, including Allison Jones, Rosetta Thurman, Elisa M. Ortiz, Tracey Webb, and Kevin Gilnack, have formed the Nonprofit Millennial Bloggers Alliance to help "young...bloggers reach wider audiences and collectively bring important issues...to the forefront." Congrats and best wishes to all involved.

Social media has moved beyond "shiny new object syndrome," says Future Buzz blogger Adam Singer, and that means the key to success for organizations (and individuals) hoping to establish a meaningful presence in an increasingly crowded landscape is to be the starting point of conversations. Adds Singer:

[T]hose who continuously start conversations in a niche become referential for the rest of that niche. And once people are conditioned to go somewhere on the web for certain type of content, it is a habit that may prove hard to break. If this place is your site, you’ll greatly benefit. This is because we have designed the web to be a very social place -- and so the places where people regularly converge will continue to grow....

On her blog, Beth Kanter explains how to put "social learning" (aka "learning in public") into practice.

Volunteerism

On Friday, President Obama visited former President George H.W. Bush in Texas to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Points of Light movement, which was created to bring "individual citizens together in their own organizations to solve problems in their own communities." Writing on the Huffington Post, Points of Light CEO Michelle Nunn argues that while the movement has been a resounding success, "the call to citizens to step up and make a difference has never been more important."

Women

Last but not least, Allison Fine offers her takeaways from the recent Voices Against Violence blogathon. Sponsored by the Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham and NBC Birmingham affiliate Channel 13, the event was designed "to raise awareness of the terrible toll of domestic violence on women and communities." And it was a success, says Fine, because

the importance of the partnership between broadcast media and social media was clearly highlighted....Rather than being threatened by the bloggers, NBC and the Women’s Fund recognized the importance of building a strong relationship with them. The future won’t be social media or broadcast, it will be social media AND broadcast -- in some combination that we are still developing....

We couldn't agree more.

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

-- Regina Mahone

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