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24 posts from January 2010

Weekend Link Roundup (January 30 - 31, 2010)

January 31, 2010

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


A recent Nancy Schwartz & Company survey of more than 900 nonprofit leaders found that most nonprofit messages don't connect strongly with the key audiences for those messages. The survey also found that 86 percent of nonprofits characterize their messages as difficult to remember. On her Getting Attention blog, Schwartz reminds readers that "messaging is the first step in effective marketing communications."

On IssueLab's Footnotes blog, Luise Barnikel, host of this month's Nonprofit Blog Carnival, offers a selection of posts on the topic of nonprofit communications on a budget.

On the Nonprofit Tech 2.0 blog, Heather Mansfield offers simple definitions of "Web 1.0," "Web 2.0," and "Web 3.0," and then explains what it all means for nonprofit communicators.

Disaster Relief

How fast are donors losing interest in Haiti? According to data gathered by Network for Good, the answer is quickly, though not as quickly as has been the case in other recent disasters. On her Non-Profit Marketing blog, Network for Good VP Katya Andresen offers some advice to charities working in Haiti who want to keep the attention of potential donors.

Responding to the increase in online donations following the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, Doctors Without Borders asked potential donors to give to its Emergency Relief Fund so that "funds pouring in for Haiti relief can be spent more flexibly." Not such a good idea, says Future Fundraising Now blogger Jeff Brooks, who thinks that designating future donations to a general fund serves to discourage individuals interested in supporting Haiti relief specifically.


On the Philanthropy Potluck blog, Minnesota Council on Foundations communications associate Chris Murakami Noonan highlights what a number of the largest foundations in the state are doing to address the economic downturn.

Last week, Idealist founder Ami Dar announced on Twitter the imminent launch of a "Save Idealist" fundraising appeal. In a recent post on her blog, Rosetta Thurman reflects on the news and wonders what the future holds for nonprofit infrastructure organizations now that the "pool of funding sources for non-direct service programs, [which] has always been slim,...is...getting slimmer."


Allison Fine reflects on the growing popularity of text message fundraising campaigns and identifies what could be a major shortcoming of such campaigns down the road: "relationship building...is going to be inherently difficult."


In an "open letter" on the Fast Company site, Do Something CEO Nancy Lublin shares with "her power[ful] 'friends' at foundations" four things she'd like them to stop doing:

  • Stop thinking you know everything
  • Stop mistaking marketing for overhead -- and stop hating on overhead
  • Stop funding redundancy
  • Stop thinking that newer is better

Lublin concludes her letter by offering one promise: "I [will] stop calling 'for advice' or 'just to check in' when...we both know what I really want: your check."

Over at Tactical Philanthropy, Sean Stannard-Stockton challenges the views articulated by Michael Edwards, former director of the Ford Foundation's Governance and Civil Society Program, in Why "Social Capital Markets" Could Be a Really Bad Idea, the second in a five-part series of posts by Edwards on the Intrepid Philanthropist blog. "The social capital market Edwards describes is a shallow, mechanical market that has little resemblance to how real markets work," writes Stannard-Stockton. "It is critical that as we build robust social capital markets, that we create vibrant, human markets, not some sort of mechanical sorting machine."

In a comment rebutting Stannard-Stockton's charge, Edwards writes:

As I said in my first blog post on Philanthropy Central on Monday, civil society and the social economy are very different things, animated by different mechanisms, fulfilling different roles, and requiring different forms of support from philanthropy. One cannot simply ignore the trade-offs that exist between competition and cooperation as you do. nor sweep under the carpet the difficulties imposed by the fact that social ‘goods’ are not commensurable or substitutable (now there’s a mouthful!). That’s the subject of today’s blog post, so I encourage you to check it out.

A "farmers market" is still a market, and markets are places where people buy and sell. Civil society is not, and that’s why we need more "meeting grounds," not markets....

You can find the other four posts by Edwards here, here, here, and here.

On the heels of the release of Bill Gates' second annual letter, Seattle Times reporter Kristi Heim shares this brief Q&A with the co-chair of the world's largest private philanthropy.

Here on PhilanTopic, Foundation Center president Brad Smith argues that foundations need to be more transparent and explains how the center's new Glasspockets initiative will facilitate greater transparency on the part of major U.S. foundations.

Social Media

Following lots of grumbling about the final outcome of the Chase Community Giving Contest on Facebook, the debate over the value proposition of such contests continues. Beth Kanter, for one, doesn't think they should be banned, just changed. To that end, Kanter offers three suggestions for designing better contests in the future: don't promote scarcity thinking; create (and clearly identify) a role for expert opinion; and strike an appropriate balance between social good and cause marketing to avoid tha appearance of "cause washing."


A recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that rates of volunteerism increased in 2009 -- but not by much. While a recent post at the New York Times' Economix blog takes a "pessimistic" view of the report, an upbeat Joanne Fritz says the report shows the glass is half full.

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

-- Regina Mahone

The Twisted Logic of Social Media

January 30, 2010

Jürgen Habermas, the important German sociologist and philosopher, has, apparently, started to tweet (@jhabermas). Whether it's the real Habermas or a Habermas groupie is hard to say. But, as the most recent series of tweets from the Habermas feed suggests, it may not matter:

It's true that the internet has reactivated the grassroots of an egalitarian public sphere of writers and readers.. | It also counterbalances the deficits from the impersonal and asymmetrical character of broadcasting insofar as... | it reintroduces deliberative elements in communication. Besides that, it can undermine the censorship of authoritarian regimes... | But the rise of millions of fragmented discussions across the world tend instead to lead to fragmentation of audiences into isolated publics....

As for me, when it comes to philosophizing I'm partial to the more homegrown, colloquial style of Becker Fagan (or is it Fagan Becker?).

I have never met Napoleon,
   But I plan to find the time
I have never met Napoleon,
   But I plan to find the time. Yes, I do.
'Cause he looked so fine upon that hill,
   They tell me he was lonely,
   He's lonely still.
Those days are gone forever,
   Over a long time ago...

Oh, yeah.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Foundations Need to Be More Transparent

January 29, 2010

(Bradford Smith is president of the Foundation Center. In his last post, he wrote about philanthropy, morality, and politics.)

"So far as there is a justification -- and I am sure there is -- for the existence of these institutions, it is that they serve the public good. If they are not willing to tell what they do to serve the public good, then as far as I am concerned, they ought to be closed down."

Philantopic-magnifying-glassThis statement -- the kind that would strike fear into the hearts of many foundation leaders -- did not come from Pablo Eisenberg, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, or an overly zealous Hill staffer. Rather, those words were uttered in 1952 by a Republican banker, Russell Leffingwell, during his testimony before the Cox Commission, convened to investigate foundations for alleged support for "un-American activities." Leffingwell, who was also chair of the Carnegie Corporation board, had an acute sense of how philanthropy's preference for maintaining a low profile could work against it: "...the welfare of these great constructive foundations with which I am familiar, and their opportunity for usefulness, are constantly threatened by a confusion in the minds of the people about what is a foundation."

It was out of the Cox hearings and the Reece Commission that followed that the Foundation Center was born in 1956 as a "strategic gathering place for knowledge about foundations." The vision of our founders can be summed up in the simple words of Leffingwell, who told his Congressional skeptics: "We think that the foundation should have glass pockets."

With the launch of a new public Web portal, www.glasspockets.org, the Foundation Center reaches back to its founding values. We believe strongly in philanthropic freedom, the kind of independence that allows foundations to be innovative, take risks, and work on long-term solutions to some of the world’s most vexing problems. But the best way to preserve philanthropic freedom is not to hide behind it; rather, foundations increasingly need to tell the story of what they do, why they do it, and what difference it makes.

Why transparency? Foundations use private wealth to serve the public good for which they receive a tax exemption in return. While some have argued that the tax exemption does not legally compel foundations to behave in any particular way, foundations' challenges are more perceptual than legal. No sector -- government, church, business, or charitable -- gets a free pass in the world of 24/7 media, blogs, YouTube, Twitter, crowdsourcing, and digital everything. Why should foundations? Collectively, America's foundations control more than $500 billion in assets, spend some $46 billion a year in grants and on programs, and, in some localities and on some issues, are the major players. And as foundations strive to become more strategic and effective, their impact and influence will grow -- as will the curiosity, praise, criticism, and scrutiny they attract.

Glasspockets contains basic facts about the nearly 97,000 foundations in the United States, illustrations of philanthropy's impact on the issues that people care about, and information on the many ways in which foundations are striving to become more transparent. Sections like "What are foundations saying now" and "Foundation Transparency 2.0" show which foundations are using social media and how. "Who has Glasspockets?" features profiles of foundations' online transparency efforts according to the kinds of information about governance, finances, grantmaking processes, and performance metrics they post on their Web sites. Glasspockets is intended to recognize foundations who are taking the lead in becoming more transparent while encouraging others to do the same. Any foundation that is debating about whether to create a searchable grants database, initiate a grantee feedback mechanism, or get its feet wet with social media will, on Glasspockets, find plenty of peer foundations with whom they can consult about how to build greater transparency.

The Foundation Center has been working on Glasspockets for over a year and we have learned a number of valuable lessons.

We couldn't have done it without partners. Glasspockets was developed in partnership with the Center for Effective Philanthropy, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, the Global Philanthropy Forum, the Communications Network, and the One World Trust in London. Each of these organizations shared their own experiences, suggestions, cautions, and content. As organizations that, to varying degrees, are dependent on foundation funding, the delicate task of positioning Glasspockets was first and foremost on everyone's mind. Their contributions have been invaluable and changed the direction of the site at various junctures.

When it comes to transparency, one size does not fit all. Many of the tools on Glasspockets measure online transparency, but according to one Foundation Center survey only 29 percent of foundations reported having a Web site or issuing publications or annual reports. Communicating what you do, extensively evaluating your projects and programs, using social media, or engaging in community outreach takes people, yet in the same survey 76 percent of U.S. foundations said they had four or fewer staff members. In cultural terms there is a long tradition in American philanthropy of not drawing attention to oneself and letting good works speak for themselves. There is also the very real concern of many living donors with protecting their own privacy and the safety of their children and grandchildren. A considerable number of foundations told us that their contribution to transparency was support for the Foundation Center, which takes data from their tax returns and other information, adds value, and makes it available to grantseekers. Transparency, it seems, is an ideal that each foundation has to approach according to its values and means. However, one thing seems certain: as the whole notion of privacy is being radically transformed by digital technology, choosing not to be transparent is an option whose days are numbered.

Transparency vs. Accountability. At the outset of developing Glasspockets, we used these terms almost interchangeably but soon found that while most everyone agreed on the definition of transparency there was considerably more concern about the notion of accountability. Many foundation professionals associate accountability with government control, particularly attempts that might go beyond the existing regulatory framework to dictate what issues should be addressed and which populations benefited from foundation dollars. We had been thinking of accountability more in terms of the relationship of philanthropy to its constituencies. For example, when a foundation decides to send out a Center for Effective Philanthropy grantee perception survey, that is an exercise in accountability, a strong signal that grantees are stakeholders whose opinions count. When the same foundation decides to display that report on its Web site for the world to see, that is an expression of transparency. The One World Trust was especially valuable in helping us sort through this issue. Their own Global Accountability Report ranks multinational corporations, multilateral government institutions, and international NGOs according to four dimensions of accountability -- transparency, participation, evaluation, and complaint and response mechanisms -- often with surprising results.

Why not rate foundations? Everything today is rated in one way or another, and most of us do not pick a restaurant, plan a vacation, or figure out which appliance to buy without consulting some kind of rating system, frequently of the online, consumer-based variety. So why not rate foundations? Foundations are increasingly funding organizations to analyze, evaluate, and, yes, rate nonprofits on the assumption that donors of all types have the right to know which are the highest-performing, most efficient, and best-managed organizations out there. Shouldn't that be a two-way street? Mario Morino and others have argued that it is only a matter of time before something like TripAdvisor comes to the foundation world. Indeed, when we were describing our plans for Glasspockets, one foundation encouraged us to jump into the deep end and devise an eBay-like user rating system for foundations.

In the end we decided that the best way to encourage greater transparency among foundations is not to rate them but to bring to light the wide degree of experimentation and innovation they already support. The "Who has Glasspockets" feature, a kind of transparency profile, allows readers to compare and contrast foundations on a range of criteria drawn from existing practice but does not issue scores or rankings. And we have already heard from foundations interested in suggesting new criteria and discussing how they might improve their own profiles based on the examples of others.

In the old days, the Foundation Center would release a print publication and then move on to the next project. With the launch of Glasspockets, we are just out of the starting blocks. How the site develops, in what ways, how it is used, and whether pieces of it spin off into other media are all open questions. We want it to serve as an important knowledge resource that can fuel the movement toward greater transparency in philanthropy. We have been joined in this effort by important partners and spokespersons such as Jim Canales, president of the James Irvine Foundation, and their ranks are growing.

Being transparent about what we do well, what we do poorly, where we exceed our expectations, and where we fall short cannot but increase the credibility of our institutions. Again, it was Leffingwell in 1952 who captured the essence of our profession:

"I think they [foundations] are entering into the most difficult of all fields. They have gotten their fingers burned, and they are going right straight ahead, knowing that their fingers will be burned again and again, because in these fields you cannot be sure of your results, and you cannot be sure that you will avoid risk; and you know that, if the boundaries of knowledge are pushed back and back and back so that our ignorance of ourselves and our fellow man and other nations is steadily reduced, there is hope for mankind...."

Greater transparency is the best means to protect the freedom that philanthropy needs to pursue this noble mission.

-- Brad Smith

Readings (and Other Stuff) - Jan. 26, 2010

January 26, 2010

Here are a few items that caught our attention today:

What are you reading?

Phil Buchanan Speaks Up for Philanthropy

January 25, 2010

"American philanthropy and the nonprofit sector it supports are under attack. The attack comes both from outside the boundaries of the sector and from within it...."

That's the provocative premise behind a series of blog posts written by Phil Buchanan, president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, back in November. In the opening post of the series, Buchanan writes:

With recent books from Philanthrocapitalism to Uncharitable receiving prominent play -- and their authors being feted by those within and outside the sector -- there is real danger that an appreciation of the nonprofit sector's distinctive identity and purpose will be lost.

Both of these books, though very different, contain some good ideas about how the sector can improve -- and some completely wacky ones too. But the real problem lies in the fact that both caricature the sector unfairly and look simplistically and misguidedly to the markets and "business practice" as the answers. Both lack sufficient appreciation for the fact that if free markets or the government could solve all our problems or fulfill our needs for expression, we wouldn't have any use for a nonprofit sector at all. But, alas, we do....

I agree with Buchanan on that score and was delighted to learn that our friend (and sometime PhilanTopic contributor) Susan Herr had recently interviewed Buchanan as part of her series of video chats for the Communication Network. It's a lively and interesting conversation, and well worth your time. (Running time: 29 minutes.)

  • Center for Effective Philanthropy: Right Place, Right Time (0:00)
  • "Philanthropy is under attack" (1:20)
  • What is motivating these attacks? (7:47)
  • How can we effectively deliver the message that the NPO sector is good but needs to be better? (13:42)
  • Why should I have to speak to what philanthropy as a whole is doing v. my own organization's efforts? (18:39)
  • Why is it time to start violating "communication commandments?" (22:42)

Weekend Link Roundup (January 23-24, 2010)

January 24, 2010

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


In a recent post, Getting Attention blogger Nancy Schwartz explains how nonprofit communicators can measure the impact of their media relations activities.

On her nonprofit marketing blog, Katya Andresen offers a glowing review of Seth Godin's new book, Linchpin, and shares a few takeaways on the importance of being indispensable not only to your organization but to your customers and donors as well.

Disaster Relief

"A quick glance at any number of newspapers this week [can]...challenge the [argument] that" there are too many nonprofits, writes Nonprofit Board Crisis blogger Mike Burns. For example, the New Tork Times profiled a handful of health organizations using methods "that had not been developed by the long-standing nonprofits with similar missions." Adds Burns: "As much as I firmly believe that there are many opportunities for partnerships, alliances and mergers, I am reminded that innovation often comes from newer and/or smaller groups. The donor sector must find a way to accommodate and support both for the betterment of society...."

On the Nonprofit Charitable Orgs blog at About.com, Joanne Fritz offers four reasons why the American Red Cross was able to raise such a substantial amount of money via its text-to-give campaign following the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

Yelé Haiti, a charity created by Haitian-American musician Wyclef Jean, received some negative attention after the Smoking Gun blog reported that the org "has a lackluster history of accounting for its finances." On Friday, Jean said the organization had hired a new accounting firm after he acknowledged that mistakes had been made. You can watch the musician defend his charity in this video on YouTube.

On the Philanthropy 2173 blog, Lucy Bernholz lists a few examples of "crowd-sourced tool developments" created in response to the earthquake in Haiti and suggests that "As we think ahead to the next disaster we need to keep in mind that well-directed crowds are likely to be an important part of the relief infrastructure."

In a related post, Allison Fine writes that, given the increasingly important role nonprofits and NGOs are playing in disaster relief efforts, it is time for the nonprofit sector, perhaps led by Independent Sector, to develop a Nonprofit National Disaster Gameplan.


"If you want more donors," writes Jeff Brooks on the Future Fundraising Now blog, "and especially if you want more from donors -- you're going to have to give more to donors. More choices, more say in how their money goes to work, more reporting back on what they've accomplished through you, more programs that make their hearts soar...." Good advice, as always, from Brooks.


"The main reason the dialogue on social outcomes is off track," writes Venture Philanthropy Partners chairman Mario Morino on the SSIR blog, "is because we have failed to keep our eyes fixed on the ends we are trying to advance...[namely] helping nonprofits create greater benefits for the people and causes they serve."

On the Open Society Institute-Baltimore's Audacious Ideas blog, 501(c) Solutions president Nancy Hall argues that there should be a "moratorium on starting nonprofits" in the region, not least because new nonprofits rarely are a good use of grant dollars. Adds Hall: "There are too many unmet needs to tolerate the squandering of time and dollars on unproven charities and ineffective and inefficient organizations...."


Guest blogging on Beth's Blog, marketing and digital strategist Anne Mai Bertelsen offers an insider's perspective on the debate over the value of online contests created to advance a good cause. Writes Bertelsen, "Those of us who have planned, executed, and evaluated these types of contests for good on behalf of major brands have done so with the best intentions, and not to 'cause wash' -- i.e., buy good brand karma under the guise of philanthropy...." What do you think about the proliferation and value of these kinds of online contests? Enquiring minds want to know...

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

-- Regina Mahone

Earthquake in Haiti: Leading U.S. Foundations Respond to the Crisis

January 22, 2010

Haiti_earthquake_10 In the immediate aftermath of the January 12 earthquake that brought widespread death and destruction to the impoverished Caribbean nation of Haiti, the Foundation Center surveyed members of its Grantmaker Leadership Panel to gauge the reaction of top funders to the unfolding crisis. More than half (53 percent) of current panel members responded.

Findings from the survey suggest that a number of leading funders are considering a direct response to the crisis, with a primary focus on providing emergency assistance. Most of these funders expect to provide this support to intermediary organizations headquartered outside of Haiti. Not surprisingly, leading grantmakers that have provided funding related to Haiti and/or responded to other disasters in recent years were more likely to consider responding to this crisis.


• Among the 120 foundations that responded to the survey, 42 percent are considering providing assistance for relief and/or recovery efforts in response to the earthquake in Haiti. Another 22 percent are "uncertain," while roughly 36 percent do not anticipate providing a direct response at this time.

• Among community foundations, 44 percent expect to provide assistance in response to the crisis, and nearly half have already established funds to collect contributions. Overall, nine of the twenty community foundations that expect to provide assistance have created funds, while another four are considering establishing such a fund.

• Foundations that have provided funding related to Haiti and/or direct support in response to other recent disasters are more likely to consider funding in response to the earthquake in Haiti. Among the nineteen respondents that have provided funding benefiting Haiti over the past decade (either in-country or through intermediaries), 74 percent are considering a response to the current crisis. Of the seventy-nine respondents that have provided funding in response to other recent disasters (e.g., the Indian Ocean tsunami, hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Pakistani earthquake, the September 11th terrorist attacks), 56 percent are considering offering support for relief and/or recovery efforts.

• Most of the fifty foundations that anticipate responding (60 percent) intend to direct assistance exclusively to intermediary organizations headquartered outside of Haiti. Among the remaining grantmakers, 14 percent expect to fund organizations based in Haiti, 12 percent anticipate funding both intermediaries and Haitian organizations and the remaining 14 percent are uncertain.

• The vast majority of leading foundations responding to the crisis (90 percent) expect to focus on providing "emergency relief." Among other priorities, half of responders (50 percent) expect to offer support for health and medical care.


• Among the fifty foundations considering a response to the crisis, 24 percent indicated that they would be interested in collaborating with other grantmakers, either directly or through regional associations or grantmaker networks.

• Close to one in five of the 120 foundations that responded to the survey (18 percent) have a formal plan in place to respond to these kinds of disasters. Twenty foundations (16 percent) noted that they had in-house expertise regarding disaster relief generally. Moreover, 37 percent of respondents indicated that they had in-house expertise regarding nonprofit organizations that may be particularly well-positioned to respond to this disaster.

To read/download the complete advisory (4 pages, PDF), click here.


The Foundation Center's Grantmaker Leadership Panel draws upon the expertise of chief executives at leading U.S. private and public foundations on critical issues of interest to the sector. Currently, 225 foundation leaders participate. The panel does not currently include leaders of corporate foundations, which had donated more than $103 million in cash and in-kind goods in response to the disaster as of January 22.

Readings (and Other Stuff) - Jan. 21, 2010

January 21, 2010

Here are a few items that caught our attention today:

What are you reading?

What Donors Can Learn From Past Disasters

(Michael Seltzer is a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. In his previous post, he wrote about the late Brooke Astor's many contributions to and generous support for neighborhood development efforts in New York City.)

By a twist of fate, I was president of the New York Regional Association of Grantmakers (now Philanthropy New York) during both the Indian Ocean tsunami and hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The New York City area has the greatest concentration of international donors in the world. Major international foundations such as the Atlantic Philanthropies, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Ford Foundation, Open Society Institute, and Rockefeller Foundation, and multinational corporations such as Citigroup, American Express, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson, among others, are all based in the metropolitan area.

As a result of their presence, it was clear to us at NYRAG that we had an important role to play in galvanizing a philanthropic response to disasters outside our area. At the same time, the efforts of NYRAG members after 9/11 had resulted in a number of important lessons for donors that could be applied to other disasters.

By the time the Indian Ocean tsunami devastated communities from Thailand to Kenya, private donors had recognized that traditional governmental mechanisms and "first-line" responders such as the Red Cross were no longer enough to respond effectively to a major international disaster. Individual donors, foundations, and corporate donors were all needed to ensure that affected communities had the resources at their disposal to rebuild. Indeed, much can be gleaned from the experiences of grantmakers that responded to those two disasters -- experiences that can serve as guideposts for the massive charitable effort under way to help the people and nation of Haiti.

Key lessons:

Continue reading »

Haiti Earthquake: Day 7

January 19, 2010

Like many of you, we're still trying to grasp the magnitude of the earthquake and unfolding humanitarian crisis in Haiti. Indeed, an article in the New York Times over the weekend called it "one of the worst natural disasters in a century." The following may help to put it into perspective. (Last updated: 10:30 p.m. EST.)

-- Mitch Nauffts

'I Still Believe We Shall Overcome'

January 18, 2010

The images of death and suffering coming out of Haiti have caused many to reflect on ideas and concepts such as justice, compassion, and mercy, while others have been tempted to look away or find comfort in the notion it couldn't happen here because we are richer, we have better infrastructure, we are American and therefore blessed.

But as Martin Luther King tried to teach us, distinctions such as "American," "Haitian," "black," or "white" mean little in the cosmic scheme of things. We are all creatures of the same universe.

As we honor Dr. King today, let us remember that while he had more reasons than most to walk away from the struggle for equal rights and justice, he had a deep and abiding faith in America and mankind, and would not accept despair as "the final response to the ambiguities of history." As he said in his 1964 Nobel Prize acceptance speech:

I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.

I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.


I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive goodwill will proclaim the rule of the land.

"And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid."

I still believe that we shall overcome....

We've come a long way and overcome much since 1964, thanks in part to the vision and efforts of great men like Dr. King. But let us not forget that there's work to be done -- here and, right now, in Haiti. Were he alive, you know that's where Dr. King would most want to be.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Haiti Updates: The Lede

If you're looking for a one-stop site for news and updates from Haiti, be sure to check out  The Lede, the news blog of the New York Times, where Robert Mackey and his NYT colleagues have been doing excellent work since Wednesday.

Weekend Link Roundup (January 16 - 17, 2010)

January 17, 2010

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

Corporate Philanthropy

Now you see her, now you don't. The Nonprofiteer was back this week with a blast at Goldman Sachs, which is thinking about requiring its executives and top managers to set aside a percentage of their earnings for charity. "If the big banks want to dampen public outrage over the enormous bonuses they're paying," said Ms. Kleiman, "they should take the simple step of not paying them. And...[if they don't], public criticism [of the bonuses] should be made law in the form of taxes and regulations to recapture the windfall profit the banks made with public money...."

Disaster Relief

The earthquake that devastated parts of Haiti, including Port-au-Prince, its densely populated capital, has spurred an outpouring of donations for relief and recovery efforts. Reflecting on the grim news coming out of the Western hemisphere's poorest country, Social Entrepreneurship blogger Nathaniel Whittemore argues that, as much as Haiti needs emergency aid now, over the longer term it deserves much more than that from the developed world.

Appearing on NPR's "Marketplace" program, Katya Andresen, chief operating officer at Network for Good, talks with Kai Ryssdal about why hundreds of thousands of people have chosen to donate to Haiti relief efforts via text message -- and what it means for relief and recovery efforts in the devastated country.

In a related post, Social Citizens blogger Kristin Ivie wonders whether the response to the disaster in Haiti will be a "game-changer" for mobile giving. Will service providers use the disaster as a CSR opportunity, asks Ivie, "dropping the commercials about...maps for a commercial about how they are funding organizations like mGive and the Mobile Giving Foundation?" What do you think?

Many bloggers and organizations provided advice on the best way to contribute to Haiti relief efforts, including Charity Navigator, which offered these tips:

  1. Avoid newly formed charities and instead give to established charities that have worked in the country
  2. Do not give to the government of Haiti
  3. Designate your contribution
  4. Do not give supplies
  5. Be careful of e-mail solicitations
  6. Donate through a charity's own Web site
  7. Consider the nature of the charity's work
  8. Be inspired by social media but do your homework
  9. Avoid telemarketers
  10. Do not expect immediate results but do keep tabs on what your donation accomplishes

And on a related topic, Rosetta Thurman weighs in on four common misperceptions about philanthropy.


On her Social Velocity blog, Nell Edgington wonders why organizations like the Nonprofit Finance Fund -- which published a survey last March on how the economic downturn is affecting the sector -- focus solely on the challenges and not the opportunities for nonprofits presented by this recession.


On the It's Your World blog, World Affairs Council president and CEO Jane Wales points to a recent report which found that "in just 20 years, demand for water will be 40 percent higher than it is now." According to the report, "enhanced agricultural productivity –- increasing 'crop per drop' -– is essential to closing the gap between demand and supply."


Responding to an article by New York Times reproter Stephanie Strom in which Strom argues that the high number of "frivolous" new applications for public charities is "depriving the federal budget of billions of dollars," Tides Foundation executive vice president Ellen Friedman writes, "There are plenty of reasons for concern about the federal budget, but singling out the nonprofit sector in this way overlooks some important points." Adds Friedman:

Not only is this sector working on innovative ways to make the world a better place and connecting people with a sense of common good, nonprofits also contribute billions in tax revenue through employee payroll alone.

Moreover, in an age of dwindling public resources, when the role of government in addressing social problems is feverishly debated, the American public is taking matters into their own hands. This heightened wave of community activism, volunteerism, and social entrepreneurship needs to be celebrated, not discouraged....


Over the last week or so, Tactical Philanthropy blogger Sean Stannard-Stockton invited members of the Tactical Philanthropy community to comment on a draft version of the application guidelines for the Social Innovation Fund (SIF) issued just before the holidays. Last week, Stannard-Stockton shared his own thoughts on the draft:

  • The draft seriously overestimates the availability of conclusive evidence in the nonprofit sector.
  • The model sub-grantee should not be an organization that has rigorous evidence of program effectiveness.
  • The model sub-grantee should be an organization that actively collects information about the results of its programs, systematically analyzes this information, adjusts its activities in response to new information, and has an absolute focus on producing outcomes.
  • The goal of the SIF should be to fund and build the evidence base of the next Nurse-Family Partnership (the nation's premier example of an organization that has "rigorous evidence" of effective programs).


Uncharitable author Dan Pallotta argues on his Harvard Business Review blog that "there's a direct correlation between leaders' nearness to suffering and public outrage over their compensation." Explains Pallotta, "high salaries can be paid to entertain high society without a question. But the moment the thought of a starving child or a struggling mother is introduced, all the rules change."

Social Media

Responding to a post by Jon Stancato of the Stolen Chair Theatre group, Allison Fine shares some thoughts about how nonprofit theaters (and other arts groups) can begin to transform themselves into social networks that would be "less expensive to run and maintain and more connected to its real and virtual communities." Her post is well worth a few minutes of your time.

And that's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at rnm@foundationcenter.org.

-- Regina Mahone

Haiti Relief: Media Lab Request Re Google People-Finding App

This was forwarded to us last night by Marc Fest, VP of Communications at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. I also noticed it's been picked up and re-posted by the NYT's David Pogue on his blog. FWIW, makes a lot of sense to us....

In the response to the earthquake in Haiti, many organizations worked to create sites where people could find one another, or least information about their loved ones. This excellent idea has been undermined by its success: within 24 hours it became clear that there were too many places where people were putting information, and each site is a silo. The site Haitianquake.com began "scraping" -- mechanically aggregating -- the most popular such sites, like http://koneksyon.com and American Red Cross Family Links. As people within the IT community recognized the danger of too many unconnected sites, and Google became interested in helping, they turned their work over to Google, which is now running an embeddable application at: http://haiticrisis.appspot.com/.

We recognize that many newspapers have put precious resources into developing a people-finder system. We nonetheless urge them to make their data available to the Google project and standardize on the Google widget.  Doing so will greatly increase the number of successful reunions. Data from the Google site is currently available as "dumps" in the standard PFIF format...and an API is being developed and licensed through Creative Commons. I am not affiliated with Google -- indeed, this is a volunteer initiative by some of their engineers -- but this is one case where their reach and capacity can help the most people.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the reasoning behind this request. Any questions about the widget or its functionality or features are best directed to Google.

Christopher P. Csikszentmihalyi
Director, MIT Center for Future Civic Media csik@media.mit.edu

Business Contributions to Haiti Relief Efforts Pass $122 Million

January 16, 2010


According to the Business Civic Leadership Center, a program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, $61 million in corporate pledges had been announced as of 3:00 p.m. EST, January 16, with 28 donors pledging $1 million or more in cash or a mix of cash and in-kind support.

Update: As of 5:00 p.m. Monday, January 18, corporate contributions (cash and in-kind)to relief efforts had passed $75 million

Update: As of 10:00 a.m. Thursday, January 21, corporate contributions (cash and in-kind) to relief efforts had passed $83.2 million.

Update: As of 9:00 a.m. Friday, January 22, corporate contributions (cash and in-kind)had passed $106 million -- the fifth-largest corporate response to a natural disaster on record -- with 43 companies having given $1 million or more.

Update: As of 9:00 p.m. Tuesday, January 26, corporate contributions (cash and in-kind)had passed $122 million, with 51 companies having donated $1 million or more.

Million-plus commitments include:

For a complete list of corporate donors to the relief effort, visit the BCLC Web site.

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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