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Weekend Link Roundup (December 12 - 13, 2009)

December 13, 2009

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


U.S. senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) have issued a report on "wasteful" projects that have received stimulus funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Nonprofit Quarterly contributor Rick Cohen highlights several of the senators' bete noirs, including Shakespeare festivals and jazz programs supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, and concludes that while it "contains some stuff we can all learn from," readers of the report should not get caught up McCain and Coburn's "ideological peculiarities."


On the Charity Navigator blog, one donor shares the findings from a recent experiment in which he recorded the number of requests for funding he received from charities December 1, 2008, to November 30, 2009. All of which leads CN to wonder, How many requests is too many?

Todd Cohen argues on his Inside Philanthropy blog that nonprofits are "missing out on digital giving." With the recession affecting everyone's bottom line, writes Cohen, "charities need to do more than throw information...on their Web sites. They need to understand how their givers and prospective givers are communicating...and then develop communication and fundraising strategies to connect with and engage those givers."


On his Free the Nonprofits blog, Dan Pallotta commends Charity Navigator, Guidestar, GreatNonprofits, Philanthropedia, and GiveWell for stating in a joint press release that "overhead ratios and executive salaries are useless for evaluating a nonprofit's impact." Pallotta also salutes CN for announcing plans to re-vamp its charity evaluation system, noting that it "takes tremendous courage to put the thing that has sustained you second to the things that can sustain real change in the world."


Are journalists storytellers? On his Buzz Machine blog, Jeff Jarvis says that maybe they shouldn't be. By assuming "that our role is that of the storyteller," writes Jarvis, "we risk closing ourselves off from forms of gathering and sharing information that do not end up in the form of stories...."


In a series of "Shine While Your Light's On" blog posts, Rosetta Thurman explains why young nonprofits professionals should use Twitter and shares some insights into how she was able to build her personal brand by blogging.


On the It's Your World blog, World Affairs Council president and CEO Jane Wales gives a shoutout to Steven Goldberg's new book Billions of Drops in Millions of Buckets: Why Philanthropy Doesn't Advance Social Progress. In the book, Goldberg makes the case for a nonprofit capital market that would "allow philanthropists to know what various nonprofits accomplish, through evaluation and transparency, and not just what nonprofits are trying to accomplish, through anecdotal reporting." Although Wales agrees with Goldberg, she notes that, given "the resilience of human nature," it will not be easy to change people's behavior.

On her Philanthropy 2173 blog, Lucy Bernholz has posted a new draft version of "Disrupting Philanthropy 2.0," a grand summing up of many of the memes she's been tracking over the last few years. Written with former Surdna Foundation president Ed Skoot and Barry Varela, the paper explores, in often fascinating detail, how technology is altering "philanthropic capital flows." Bernholz and company are soliciting feedback on the report via her blog: e-mail (lucy@blueprintrd.com), or twitter (@p2173) (be sure to include the hashtag #DisruptPhil).

Seattle Times' reporter Kristi Heim explains why donating to a charity directly may be more effective than purchasing a charity gift card this holiday season.

"Giving is an act of self-expression, and generosity is a practice," writes Sasha Dichter on his blog. "Each time I decide not to give [to a charity or a homeless person], I'm reinforcing a way of acting –- one that's critical and analytical and judgmental." Do you agree? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

On her blog, Heather Carpenter recaps the 2009 ARNOVA conference and offers a few takeaways on the future of nonprofit research.

Do professional athletes have an obligation to give back to their communities? That question has sparked a fascinating debate on the blog of Athletes for Hope, a nonprofit that works to encourage pro athletes to give more to charity.

Social Media

Last week, Google launched a real-time search engine that incorporates Twitter and Facebook updates on the results page of any query. In conjunction with the launch, Facebook changed its privacy settings. But not everyone is happy with the changes. Writes Brad Stone on the New York Time's Bits blog:

While Facebook has given people more refined controls over who can see particular pieces of information they post, one controversial move is that several pieces of data are now visible to all members on the service: your name, city, gender, photograph, the profile pages you are a fan of, and your list of friends.

For the record, it's easy enough to restore your old settings. On your Facebook profile page, click on Settings | Privacy Settings | Profile Information and use the drop-down menus to change individual settings as you see fit.

In a related post, Lucy Bernholz was quick to point out the ironies of Facebook setting up a foundation as a result of an earlier lawsuit against the company involving privacy issues. "Internet time may apply to product launches, but doesn't seem to apply to creating Internet-fueled, legally mandated foundations," writes Bernholz. "I won't even get into the irony of setting up a new foundation focused on Internet privacy rather than directing the money to any one or a combination of the existing nonprofits that already do that work."

Last but not least, Beth Kanter takes a close look at the Ocean Conservancy's recent social media efforts on Facebook and shares a few best practices. Kanter suggests that organizations getting ready to launch a social media campaign should use "very specific, narrow objectives...and specific metrics" to gain more tangible results.

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

-- Regina Mahone

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