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Weekend Link Roundup (October 24 - 25, 2009)

October 26, 2009

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

Arts and Culture

Social media guru Beth Kanter shares this nugget with arts organizations on her blog: "A successful social media strategy with arts audiences is more like an audience development or education program, not a straight ticket sales strategy."

Corporate Philanthropy

"While most U.S. companies are not making changes in their corporate citizenship practices...38 percent of those that are...have reduced their charitable giving, 27 percent have increased layoffs, and 19 percent have trimmed research and development for sustainable products," writes Todd Cohen, citing a recent study, on his Inside Philanthropy blog. And with "companies becoming more strategic in their giving," Cohen adds, nonprofits

should be working to team up with companies in ways that will generate not only the contribution of corporate dollars but also ongoing relationships that will build a pipeline of other resources that include in-kind support, employee volunteers and expertise, and corporate sponsorships and connections....

Social media site Twitter has announced a new partnership with Crushpad, a San Francisco company that tries to connect city dwellers with the resources and tools to make great wine. Through the Fledgling Initiative, Crushpad will help people "make awesome wine for the benefit of Room to Read," a nonprofit organization that works to increase the literacy of children worldwide. According to the ServiceNation blog, it's an interesting initiative "because it doesn't take the usual global approach to raising money....Instead, it...taps the passion of a small subset of potential donors, in this case wine lovers...."

To learn more, watch this video featuring Twitter co-founder Biz Stone; John Wood, the founder of Room to Read; and Crushpad founder Michael Brill:

Governance

Is the nonprofit governance structure flawed? Can board structures be eliminated altogether? Nonprofit Board Crisis blogger Mike Burns argues that the current system is flawed. And because "the IRS has not been willing to accept another construct," says Burns, only a new business structure, like the L3C, or low-profit limited liability company, may offer a solution to the problem.

Leadership

Rosetta Thurman offers this list of eleven tips for do-it-yourself nonprofit professional development:

  1. Find your own mentors
  2. Remember you can learn a lot from your peers
  3. Don't underestimate the power of reflection
  4. Join a board of directors
  5. Communicate your leadership involvement with your employer
  6. Be proud of the training you receive from your local YNPN chapter
  7. Become an expert
  8. Invite yourself to everything
  9. Do a really good job in the position you're in right now
  10. Ask a lot of questions
  11. Find your true passion

Philanthropy

On his Tactical Philanthropy blog, Sean Stannard-Stockton challenges a commenter's claim that a previous post of his advanced the idea that social investors know better than nonprofits how to run nonprofit programs. What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Poverty Alleviation

On the White Courtesy Telephone blog, Albert Ruesga, president and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation, shares his thoughts on class mobility and what it has been like to spend his adult life working for social justice after growing up poor. His conclusion?

I wish there were more people in the nonprofit and foundation sectors who would speak out about their experiences of having grown up in poverty. It would be a good tonic. I and others might be more likely to discard some of our questionable experiments in social engineering. If I were able to see the poor neither as super-beings nor as eternal victims, I might gain a truer picture of how they sometimes participate in perpetuating their own misery. I might spend less time feeding my sentimentalism and my self-righteousness, and more time feeding the hungry.

The next step for us is even harder. It’s to admit that even with our privilege and our education, in spite of all the learned men and women at our beck and call, we typically haven’t the slightest clue about how to change a system that not only keeps people in poverty but continues to create them in prodigious numbers....

Social Entrepreneurship

"Will the Social Innovation Fund fund social innovation?" asks Nonprofit Quarterly contributor Rick Cohen in a new essay commissioned by the Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal. Among other things, Cohen raises seven areas of concerns about the fund. Here are a few:

  • Will it stay true to its commitment to find "hidden jewels" in the nonprofit sector as opposed to falling prey to focusing on nonprofits that have the better public relations, substantial research "proving" their innovations, and resources with which to match the SIF and foundation funds they will be receiving;
  • Given that the fund is administered by the federal agency whose primary mission is to promote service and volunteerism, will it be able to avoid the reflexive tendency to over-focus on organizations that emphasize volunteers (or stipended volunteers);
  • Will it remain cognizant of the limitations of foundations as intermediaries for identifying nonprofit innovations; and
  • Will it be able to support and sustain innovative nonprofit organizations in light of the severe financial constraints that are affecting most nonprofits during this economic downturn.

Social Media

Heather Mansfield has compiled a list of 29 nonprofit bloggers to follow on Twitter.

#BeatCancer, a charitable campaign launched at the BlogWorld & New Media Expo, set a Guinness World Record last week for generating the most social media messages in a 24-hour period -- and in the process raised $70,000 from sponsors eBay/PayPal and MillerCoors Brewing Company, which donated a penny for each tweet, status update, or blog post that included the "#breastcancer" hash tag. (H/t: AFP blog)

A recent Financial Times article about MySpace "conceding defeat" in its competition with Facebook to become the largest online social network struck a chord with Allison Fine. Indeed, says Fine, nonprofits can learn a valuable lesson from MySpace, which "has changed its frame from competing with Facebook to focusing in what it does best." The lesson for nonprofits? Organizations that want "to be viable and effective in the digital age" should not wait to take the social media plunge.

Women

Last but not least, the World Affairs Council has posted an audio recording of a conversation between its CEO Jane Wales and Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, co-author (with his wife, Sheryl WuDunn) of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide.

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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