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25 posts from November 2009

Readings (and Other Stuff) -- Nov. 10, 2009

November 10, 2009

Here's what we're reading: What are you reading?

Readings (and Other Stuff) -- Nov. 9, 2009

November 09, 2009

Here's what we're reading:

How about you?

How to Fix Charitable Giving?

Puzzle_pieces The Wall Street Journal is out with its year-end philanthropy package, and long-time observer/critic of the sector Pablo Eisenberg steals the show with a section-heading article entitled "What's Wrong With Charitable Giving and How to Fix It?"

Those who know Eisenberg or follow him in the Chronicle of Philanthropy (where he's had a column for the past seventeen years) will recognize his concerns: "Much of current philanthropic giving, by foundations and individuals, neither meets the needs of...charitable organizations nor addresses some of our most urgent public needs." Foundations are "too bureaucratic, inflexible and cautious, and too focused on short-term objectives." Grantmaking processes and procedures "are more tailored to the needs of foundations and their trustees than to the requirements of nonprofits." And the depressed economy is making matters much, much worse.

To address these problems, Eisenberg offers nine recommendations that "would go a long way toward making philanthropy do what we all claim we want it to do":

1. Increase the payout rate. Currently set at 5 percent of foundation net assets (calculated on a rolling mutliyear basis) for grants and administrative expenses. Eisenberg would like to see it raised to 6 percent and limited to grants, which he says would add $10 billion to the roughly $40 billion awarded in grants by foundations annually.

2. Increase general operating support. Foundations allocate roughly 20 percent of their grant dollars to general operating (a/k/a unrestricted) support; Eiesenberg would like to see foundations up that to 50 percent.

3. Increase multiyear funding. Most foundations award grants on an annual basis, renewable for a year or two. But, says Eisenberg, excellent organizations pursuing long-term goals require financial commitments of five, ten, even twenty years.

4. Award grants on a rolling basis. Limiting grant decisions to biannual or quarterly board meetings serves trustees' interests first and foremost, says Eisenberg, not grantees'.

5. Allocate more funds to the truly needy. Most individual and institutional giving is directed to established charities and tax-exempt institutions in higher education, health, and the arts, while only "a small slice goes to those who require the greatest assistance." We can do better, says Eisenberg.

6. Reach out to local groups and underserved regions. Large parts of the country (e.g., the Mississippi Delta, rural areas) "are underserved by philanthropy." There are ways to remedy this, and Eisenberg mentions a few in his piece.

7. Simplify application and reporting procedures. Time is money, says Eisenberg, and time spent filling out "lengthy, exhaustive proposals with great detail" is money not spent on programs and advocacy.

8. Improve public accountability. Government doesn't have the resources to do the job and the collapse of the daily newspaper model means that soon no one will be around to hold nonprofits and foundations accountable. One answer, says Eisenberg, is to convert failing or at-risk newspapers into nonprofits. (Don't hold your breath, he adds.)

9. Fund watchdog groups. "Foundations," says Eisenberg, "are reluctant to fund activities that are controversial, generate inordinate publicity and create too much criticism" -- in other words, the very things that are the hallmark of a "healthy and vibrant democracy." If the public sector can't, or won't, fund them, philanthropy must.

As I say, a classic Pablo piece chockful of good ideas (general operating and multiyear support, more of a focus on underserved regions), a few controversial ideas (payout, diversity benchmarks), and a non-starter or two (foundation subsidies for newspapers).

But here's the question that has been nagging me all afternoon. Do his recommendations really address the problems of nonprofits and charitable giving in 2009? Or are they more of a backward-looking prescription for the problems of a sector that, like so many other industries, is in the midst of a fundamental restructuring and in five years, ten at the most, won't look anything like it does today?

Where are the recommendations related to what LaPiana and Associates, in a new report (30 pages, PDF), argue will be the trends that shape the nonprofit sector of the future (generational and other demographic shifts, the rise of social media and other new technologies, the growing importance of networks, the changing nature of volunteerism and civic engagement, and the blurring of sectoral boundaries)?

And is his critique too one-sided in its focus on the shortcomings of funders? In other words, isn't this crisis an opportunity for nonprofits willing and able to surf the five key trends outlined in LaPiana's report? Or are they forever fated to rely on the kindness of deep-pocketed strangers?

Use the comments section to share your thoughts.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Weekend Link Roundup (November 7 - 8, 2009)

November 08, 2009

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

Corporate Philanthropy

On the Reimagining CSR blog, Jessica Stannard-Friel shares examples of "companies identifying CSR activities that are relatively cheap for them to carry out, but relatively high value for the community at large."


On Friday, the National Bureau of Labor announced that the unemployment rate had jumped four-tenths of a percent, to 10.2 percent -- the highest level in twenty-six years. On the Kaufmann Foundation's Growthology blog, a downbeat Tim Kane puts the number into sobering perspective.


In her new book, Reliable Fundraising in Unreliable Times: What Good Causes Need to Know to Survive and Thrive, Kim Klein suggests that fundraisers need to expand their definition of "donor" to include "someone who gives time, shares ideas about how your organization can succeed, says nice things about the work you do, opens doors for you, [and] expresses gratitude for the services you provide." In addition to sharing other tips from Klein, Joanne Fritz, on About.com's Charitable Orgs blog, offers this advice:

Look for people who have a lot of relationships, who offer to help in all sorts of ways, and who are grateful for your services. Then get in contact with them and stay in contact. Say thank you frequently for whatever gifts they provide, and nurture those relationships....

Using language like "we haven't heard from you" or "we want you back," says John Thompson on the Donor Power Blog, is a sure way to weaken rather than strengthen your donor relationships.

Social networking site MySpace has announced that it is dropping the online fundraising application Causes "due to the lack of activity." Amy Sample Ward argues that this will negatively impact nonprofits on MySpace and their "communities of supporters," while Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb suggests that it might not matter at all.


On the WiserEarth blog, Diane Scearce, a consultant at the Monitor Institute, offers a few things to keep in mind when evaluating network effectiveness in terms of social impact.


In a two-parter at the Cohen Report, Rick Cohen looks at the looks at the emergence of online nonprofit news and investigative journalism venues and speculates about whether the Newspaper Revitalization Act introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) can save the industry.


Live blogging from Independent Sector’s annual conference in Detroit, Rosetta Thurman shares some questions for emerging sector leaders posed by panelists David Simms, managing partner at the Bridgespan Group, and Michael Watson, senior vice president at Girl Scouts of the USA .

And in a different post, Thurman recaps the breakfast plenary session featuring Jeff Raikes, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


"Got a story about how many times you were asked to give in one shopping trip?" If so, Lucy Bernholz wants to know. Click here to share the "embedded giving" story from 2009 "that made you scratch your head."

Speaking of embedded giving, Philanthropy Action editor-in-chief Tim Ogden says the real problem with the approach is the "near complete lack of transparency (who gets the funds? when? how much?) in the industry."

Guest blogging on Tactical Philanthropy, Charles Bronfman and Jeffrey Solomon, chairman and president, respectively, of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies and co-authors of The Art of Giving: Where the Soul Meets a Business Plan, argue that understanding WHY you give is just as important as figuring out how and where to give. Their post has generated a lively comments thread (thirty-plus and counting), and visitors to the blog can also read an extended excerpt from the book.

Riffing on that conversation, Nathaniel Whittemore at the Social Entrepreneurship blog asks, "Is there such a thing as selfless giving?" Whittemore doesn't think so but does believe that "giving can be much more self-aware -- and in the process, much more fulfilling, sustainable, and effective."

Social Media

Nonprofit marketing guru Nancy Schwartz shares three tips for managing your nonprofit's reputation on social networking sites that she picked up at the recent Communications Network conference in New York City:

  • Use what you hear: 1) To better serve your networks by knowing what they're saying to others and to you; 2) to respond to and/or engage critics; 3) to stay abreast of the latest developments in your area of work.
  • Overcome objections that listening is unnecessary: Compile and share online conversations related to critical keywords and themes over a week or a month. Provide some concrete examples of how not listening to or participating in those conversations meant that others spoke for (and defined) your organization.
  • Use the best free listening tools: 1) Google Alerts and RSS feeds for keywords (org name and URL, issues, leadership names, competitive/colleague org names); and 2) Twitter search/hashtags for real-time tracking.

Schwartz also recommends following Amy Sample Ward's advice about creating a one-stop listening dashboard.


"Just as we are phasing out snail mail a few decades after email first became popular," writes Kristin Ivie in an interesting post on the Case Foundation's Social Citizens blog, so may "many offline opportunities eventually be phased out as well."

In yet another information-packed post, Beth Kanter reminisces about the early days of the World Wide Web and offers her take on how nonprofits can use Twitter's new "Lists" feature to filter the growing flood of information that comes to us courtesy of the Internet.


Building on a recent blog post by Lucy Bernholz, Allison Fine takes a closer look at copyright expert Lawrence Lessig's claim in a recent issue of The New Republic ("Against Transparency") that "there is such a thing as too much transparency in government." While Fine doesn't buy Lessig's argument, she does agree with Bernholz that "requiring too much transparency of foundations may drive them into the dark, back rooms...of donor advised funds." Writes Fine:

Even with their enormous tax breaks, foundations are private entities that more than any other kind of institution have very little incentive to make their operations and programs more open and transparent except out of a noble assumption that by doing so they will be more effective....

Fine goes on to suggest that nonprofits, which are not public or as "private as foundations," should ask themselves the following questions as they try to strike the right balance between transparency and confidentiality:

  • Will sharing this information advance our mission?
  • How can others build on our content and make it better?
  • Will revealing this information improve morale and make staff feel better informed and able to make decisions on their own?
  • Will sharing this information better connect us to our network and help us build the relationships that we need to be successful?

Last but not least, on the Social Actions blog, Christine Egger rounds up a number of thought-provoking conversations on the topic of transparency and data standards in the sector.

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

-- Regina Mahone

TED on Sunday: Geoff Mulgan on Social Innovation and the New Capitalism

Two-plus years after the global financial system began to melt down, we find ourselves in a "strange twilight zone" characterized by paralysis and retrogade thinking, argues Geoff Mulgan in this talk from the 2009 TED Global conference. Even as governments around the world borrow trillions of dollars from future generations in an attempt to reignite economic growth, many measures of social and environmental health are deteriorating. Indeed, says Mulgan, director of the London-based Young Foundation, the financial crisis has made plain the fact that economic growth doesn't automatically translate into social progress or human growth. Too much of it goes into boosting unsustainable consumption; too much of it leaves people feeling they aren't allowed to be useful -- and when people aren't allowed to be useful, they soon start to think they are useless. The question is, What are we going to do about it? Mulgan's answer may surprise and inspire you.

(Filmed: July 2009; Running time: 17:57)

Liked this talk? Try one of these.

And for those who can't get enough of TED, check out Jim Simpson's post about a cool hidden feature of most TED Talks.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Jim Collins's Recipe for Greatness in Tough Times

November 07, 2009

Bighorn_head_butting Management consultant Jim Collins is best known as the author of Good to Great and Built to Last (co-authored with Jerry Porras).

In his latest book, How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In (click here for an excerpt), Collins explores what he calls the five stages of institutional decline: hubris born of success; the undisciplined pursuit of more; the denial of risk and peril; grasping for salvation; and capitulation to irrelevance or death.

The wild 60 percent snapback in the Dow notwithstanding, a lot of nonprofits find themselves sliding out of stage three and into stage four as they head into the critical year-end fundraising season. That's the bad news.

The good news is that it's not over till it's over. Indeed, says Collins, the signature of the truly great organization vs. the merely successful one

is not the absence of difficulty. It's the ability to come back from setbacks, even cataclysmic catastrophes, stronger than before. Great nations can decline and recover. Great companies can fall and recover. Great social institutions can fall and recover. And great individuals can fall and recover. As long as you never get entirely knocked out of the game, there remains hope....

The key to not just surviving but thriving, to being great not just good, says Collins, is to identify and hitch your organization's star to

those exasperatingly persistent individuals who are constitutionally incapable of capitulation. It's one thing to suffer a staggering defeat -- as will likely happen to every enduring business and social enterprise at some point in its history -- and entirely another to give up on the values and aspirations that make the protracted struggle worthwhile. Failure is not so much a physical state as a state of mind; success is falling down -- and getting up one more time -- without end....

There will be a lot of failure in the social sector over the next couple of years. The organizations most likely to emerge stronger after the dust settles are those with leaders, of whatever age, willing to run through walls to deliver on their organization's mission.

Are you one of them?

-- Mitch Nauffts

Sunk Costs and the Need for Social Innovation

November 06, 2009

(Farnaz Golshani is director of programs and services at the San Francisco-based Tides Center. This is her first post for PhilanTopic.)

Old_saab I've been thinking a lot lately about the concept of "sunk costs." In economics and business decision-making, sunk costs are unrecoverable past expenditures that, under normal circumstances, should not be taken into account when determining whether to continue or abandon a project, effort, or initiative because costs that are already "sunk" cannot be recovered.

Inevitably, thinking about sunk costs reminds me of my "Saab stories." I purchased a used Saab for $15,000 a number of years ago and then spent more than $5,000 on repairs for it over the next few years -- not to mention the considerable time I spent at the repair shop and the stress I experienced each time the "check engine" light would blink on. But I kept sinking dollars into that Saab, if only to justify all the money I had already "invested" in it.

Organizations and bureaucracies often behave in a similar fashion. Rather than innovate, they choose to stay the course and keep sinking money into existing projects and initiatives simply to justify their previous investments. Indeed, government does this all the time. Two glaring examples -- failing workforce development systems and inadequate treatment of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) -- are particularly noteworthy, given that we are fighting two wars and the unemployment rate is the highest it has been in decades.

On the workforce development front, the federal government continues to fund WorkSource Centers through the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). In 2009, the Department of Labor had a budget of $53 billion, a good part of which funded WorkSource Center "One-stops," even though the average WorkSource Center only has a 20 to 40 percent success rate.

In contrast, truly innovative workforce development organizations such as Chrysalis, the Delancey Street Foundation, and Rubicon have achieved phenomenal outcomes with the "hardest to employ" -- the homeless and individuals with multiple felonies. Even in this challenging economy, Chrysalis, a workforce development organization based in L.A.'s Skid Row area, helps more than 80 percent of its homeless clients secure jobs each year using transitional employment opportunities.

Sadly, the innovative workforce development models pioneered by these organizations receive only a pittance from DOL, forcing them to rely on variable and much more modest revenues donated by individuals, corporations, and foundations. Adding insult to injury, stimulus funds now going through DOL are simply getting dumped -- sunk -- into existing WIA programs and contractors/agencies already in place. This precludes workforce development programs lacking WIA contracts from receiving stimulus funds, even if those programs have been proven to be more effective.

It also pains me to see the government sinking funds into ineffective treatment for veterans rather than investing in proven models with better track records. The federally funded Veterans Affairs (VA) system offers a largely ineffective thirty-day Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) support program that leaves most of the young men and women who complete it with persistently high levels of anxiety and depression and often no recourse other than to turn to drugs, alcohol, violence, homelessness, or even suicide.

There are existing programs that actually help veterans with PTSD develop the coping skills they need to face their anxieties and reintegration challenges. One such program is the Pathway Home for Returning Veterans, an LLC of Tides. Most veterans entering Pathway are referred by other VA hospitals because their PTSD or traumatic brain injuries were so severe that they had attempted suicide or were still suffering from seizures. Through its holistic 90- to 120-day program, Pathway has helped veterans with PTSD overcome their fears, secure jobs, and live healthy lives with their families. Indeed, its graduates consistently attest that the program saved their lives, armed them with the coping mechanisms to deal with anxiety, and even helped their families to better understand their PTSD.

Pathway's successes could not have happened in the VA -- they are the result of innovative partnerships involving nonprofits, the state of California, and donors who are committed to doing right by those who put their lives on the line for our country. Yes, a 90– to 120-day program is more expensive, but the long-term cost of PTSD is far greater when you factor in the social costs of homelessness, violence, long-term medical issues, drug problems, and so many other problems plaguing our veterans.

In his first months in office, President Obama said it was time for the government to invest in social innovation. Most of us in the social sector were delighted to see our efforts and good work finally get some recognition -- even if it meant we had to ignore the fact that the federal government was willing to sink $85 billion into AIG to keep the giant insurer afloat or spend $13.4 billion on rescuing General Motors but was only willing to invest $30 million in social innovation.

That was then. The "official" unemployment rate in the U.S. is now over 10 percent. We continue to put the lives of brave young men and women on the line in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's time for the public, private, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors -- as well as individuals -- to invest in best practices and proven models of successful social innovation and to stop sinking money into organizations and efforts that no longer work, or never did.

Even I managed to learn that lesson. After four years of waiting in dealerships for more bad news, I finally bought a new car.

-- Farnaz Golshani

Foundations' Year-End Outlook for Giving

November 05, 2009

Spyglass_guy Our Research colleagues here at the Foundation Center have issued a new advisory (5 pages, PDF) that looks at how foundation thinking has evolved since the center conducted its last giving forecast survey in January.

Based on a follow-up survey of leading funders conducted in September, the advisory suggests that foundation giving will decline by more than 10 percent this year -- toward the middle of the 8 to 13 percent range estimated by that initial survey -- and that overall foundation giving will decline further in 2010. Indeed, consistent with findings from the January survey, a larger share of respondents expect their giving to be lower next year (26 percent) than higher (17 percent).

Other findings from the advisory:

  • More than two-thirds of respondents have reduced their operating expenses in order to shore up their giving or for other purposes, with cuts to staff travel budgets and conference attendance the most common action in the cost-cutting area, followed by freezing or reducing staff salaries, reducing staff training and professional development opportunities, reducing/cutting institutional memberships, reducing the number of publications produced, cutting staff and the use of consultants, and reducing staff benefits.
  • Grantmakers expect the field of philanthropy to become more strategic as a result of the economic crisis, with 78 percent of respondents agreeing with that statement, 7 percent disagreeing, and 15 percent opting for "no opinion."
  • The majority of funders believe that the nonprofit community in general was not sufficiently prepared to weather a significant economic downturn, but most (though not all) expect the sector to emerge stronger from the crisis. Still, skepticism that anything good will come of the crisis abounds, with one funder saying that "in a weak sector like the not-for-profit sector, crisis creates more weaknesses rather than increased strength," and another remarking that nonprofits "will lose good people with years of experience and will not be able to replace them."

What do you think? Will 2010 be an annus horribilis for nonprofits and the nonprofit sector? Will organizations, both good ones and those that are underperforming, fail in unacceptable numbers? Or will most find a way to muddle through and emerge stronger as a result? And what will be the most important quality or compentency for nonprofits in the new Reset Economy?

Use the comment section to share you thoughts....

-- Mitch Nauffts

Detroit: Back to the Future?

November 04, 2009

Urban_farming Yesterday afternoon, I had the chance to speak with a very busy Diana Aviv. Aviv, president and CEO of Independent Sector, was getting ready for her organization's annual conference, which opens today at the Marriott Renaissance in downtown Detroit and runs through Friday. (With a little luck, I'll post the transcript of our conversation tomorrow.)

The theme of this year's conference, "Challenging Times, New Opportunities," couldn't be more timely, and the choice of Detroit as host city -- a decision made four years ago -- was prescient. The pre-conference materials on the IS Web site describe the Motor City as "a laboratory for exploring how the nonprofit and foundation community, government and business can together respond to the new opportunities offered by these challenging times" and goes on to commend Detroiters for their "creativity, passion and entrepreneurship" in reinventing their city and the region.

Those qualities are certainly evident in the urban farming movement that has taken root within the city's 140 square (and often deserted) miles. Indeed, the "de-urbanization" of Detroit has become a fertile topic of discussion for the likes of Aaron Renn (a/k/a "the Urbanophile"), City Journal's Steven Malanga, and others.

The latest to explore the topic is Mark Dowie, the former publisher and editor of Mother Jones magazine (and the author of American Foundations: An Investigative History). As Dowie explains it, the phenomenon is largely driven by two things: Detroit has become a "food desert" -- i.e., "a locality from which healthy food is more than twice as far away as unhealthy food, or where the distance to a bag of potato chips is half the distance to a head of lettuce." And it has a lot of open space.

"Manhattan, Boston, and San Francisco could be placed inside the borders of Detroit with room to spare," Dowie writes,

and the population is about the same as the smallest of those cities, San Francisco: eight hundred thousand. And that number is still declining from a high of two million in the mid-nineteen fifties. Demographers expect Detroit’s population to level off somewhere between five hundred thousand and six hundred thousand by 2025. Right now there is about forty square miles of unoccupied open land in the city, the area of San Francisco, and that landmass could be doubled by moving a few thousand people out of hazardous firetraps into affordable housing....

Combine the two with old-fashioned American ingenuity and you have a recipe for...well, if not an urban paradise, then

something close to it. The most intriguing visionaries in Detroit, at least the ones who drew me to the city, were those who imagine growing food among the ruins -- chard and tomatoes on vacant lots (there are over 103,000 in the city, sixty thousand owned by the city), orchards on former school grounds, mushrooms in open basements, fish in abandoned factories, hydroponics in bankrupt department stores, livestock grazing on former golf courses, high-rise farms in old hotels, vermiculture, permaculture, hydroponics, aquaponics, waving wheat where cars were once test-driven, and winter greens sprouting inside the frames of single-story bungalows stripped of their skin and re-sided with Plexiglas -- a homemade greenhouse. Those are just a few of the agricultural technologies envisioned for the urban prairie Detroit has become....

It's an intriguing piece and well worth your time. Click here to read it in its entirety.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Weekend Link Roundup (October 31, 2009 - November 1, 2009)

November 01, 2009

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

Arts and Culture

“I do not think I believe anymore in forcing Eurocentric arts organizations to do diverse works or to put one minority on a board,” writes Michael Kaiser, president of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, in a recent Huffington Post blog entry. Adds Kaiser:

When large, white organizations produce minority works they typically select the "low hanging fruit," the most popular works by diverse artists featuring the most famous minority performers and directors. This almost invariably hurts the minority arts organizations in the neighborhood, most of which are small and underfunded, and cannot afford to match the marketing clout or the casting glamour of their larger white counterparts....

And when a single minority is placed on a board with no responsibility other than to represent a race, it does nothing to change the true mission, or audience base, of the organization. More is required....

Kaiser goes on to suggest that "we...build the board strength of these vital groups and work with them to build individual donor bases that match their white counterparts," and he concludes by stating, "I am not certain I am right. We need more discussion."

What do you think? Is he right? Share your thoughts below.


Given the state of the economy, it's impossible to know the particular circumstances of every one of your organization's donors, says Katya Andresen on her Non-Profit Marketing blog. To keep those all-important donor relationships intact, Andresen suggests a few "tweaks" to your fundraising appeals:

  1. Empathy is appropriate
  2. Show you are tightening your belt
  3. Demonstrate that all donations count
  4. Show your impact

As always, great advice.

According to fundraising guru Dr. Stephen Goldstein, there are at least seven things fundraisers can learn from a good panhandler:

  1. Tell the truth
  2. Have a plan
  3. Use psychology
  4. Be persistent
  5. Be creative
  6. Make your donor feel good
  7. Be upbeat and thankful

On her Nonprofit Blog at About.com, Joanne Fritz, host of this month's Nonprofit Blog Carnival, offers a selection of blog posts on the topic of fundraising. (H/t: Katya Andresen)


On his blog, Ken Berger, president and CEO of Charity Navigator, explains why donors should care about outcomes and impact. For starters, writes Berger, 98 percent of all nonprofits are unable to demonstrate that their programs create impact. In fact, all "the evidence we see," adds Berger, "shows that objective data on nonprofit performance is needed and desired now more than ever."

Nonprofit Management

In an opinion piece in the Christian Science Monitor, Paul Lamb, a former nonprofit executive, considers the question of whether there are too many nonprofits in America and concludes that the more important issue is the cost-effectiveness, or lack thereof, of the nonprofit service delivery model.

The Minnesota Council on Foundations has compiled a helpful list of resources related to partnering -- from collaborations to mergers and everything in between. (H/t: MCF's Philanthropy Potluck blog)


According to a recent study by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, regional trends and values have less of an impact on donor motivation than income and education. But as Sharon Schneider explains on the Philanthropic Family blog, not all donors feel that way. Writes Schneider:

Charity, for me, is about living up to my inner voice, about bridging the gap between the person I am today and the person I aspire to be. And that's also why check-writing isn't the pinnacle of charity, no matter how big the check. In fact, it's just the first step on a journey of a million steps....

Increasingly frustrated by how "profoundly segregated the people trying to change the world are from one another," Dan Pallotta argues on his Free the Nonprofits blog that it's

time for a gathering that will bring everyone in the nonprofit world together, every year, for four or five days of unbelievable 20-minute talks, a la TED, to introduce each of the silos to the others; to expose them to each other's frustrations, expertise, and potential. It should be held in the biggest indoor arena in the country. And it should be open to the world....

Social Entrepreneurship

Last week, twenty-five social entrepreneurs met at FailCon to learn how to turn their failed ventures into learning experiences. Shalyn Hockey, VP of Operations at Assetmap, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that creates Web tools to help other organizations leverage their social capital, summarizes the event on the Social Entrepreneurship blog and offers ten sure-fire "equations" for failure, as well as five equations for success.

Social Media

On the Chronicle of Philanthropy's Prospecting blog, Nicole Wallace notes that of the 587 people who responded to a recent Cone survey, nearly three-quarters agreed with the statement that "new media raise[s] their awareness about causes but do[es] not motivate them to do any more to help."

Guest blogging on Beth Kanter's blog, Michael Hoffman, CEO of See3 Communications, explains how nonprofits can make the most of the video-sharing site YouTube.

Twitter has rolled out a new "lists" feature that allows individuals to categorize and create public lists of other Twitterers. Lauren Cochrane, a "geek girl" who works for a nonprofit in Australia, shares a half dozen or so list building ideas for nonprofits on her blog, Geeking for Good, including: lists of your organization's chapters and campigns, related organizations and campaigns, and media types with an interest in your cause.

Following on Cochrane's post, Amy Sample Ward counsels nonprofits to also create a list of their supporters on Twitter.


At the Case Foundation's blog, Andrew Jensen, CEO and senior consultant for Sozo Firm, an SEO and Web marketing outfit, offers some advice to nonprofit organizations on how they can improve the visibility of their Web site.


A week or so ago, Greg Baldwin, president of VolunteerMatch, wrote a thought-provoking post about the Entertainment Industry Foundation's failed iParticipate campaign, which aimed to promote volunteerism by incorporating service themes into primetime television shows. Despite the cooperation of the industry, wrote Baldwin, the efforts did not result in a surge of visits to VolunteerMatch, VolunteerSolutions, Craiglist, 1-800-Volunteer.org, or Idealist. In fact, notes Baldwin, "Google and the long-tail of the Internet...out performed Hollywood on Thursday [the day of the event] 16 to 1."

In a thought-provoking post of her own, Allison Fine suggest that the iParticipate campaign was a case of "malmeasurement," of "hyperbole gone wild." Writes Fine:

We hear this kind of language so often. That the next campaign will be a "game changer," or create a "tidal wave" of interest, etc. The expectations that highlighting volunteerism within TV programs would be a catalyst for millions of people to volunteer was never realistic in the first place. The distance between raising awareness and action is too far through the light touch of a mention in a TV show. But that doesn’t mean that raising awareness isn't important....

The whole post is worth reading.

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 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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