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24 posts from January 2010

Coordinating Relief Aid: Is It Time?

January 15, 2010

(Tony Pipa is a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. In his last post, he reflected on the many things philanthropy did well in responding to Hurricane Katrina.)

Hands_together I've seen multiple thoughtful posts about how to donate to relief efforts in Haiti and the potential implications for philanthropy of the rapid and widespread charitable response. Here on PhilanTopic alone the posts and comments have been very informative. If you haven't already, give -- and give freely.

But looking at the wide array of choices available, and after fielding questions about appropriate organizations from family and friends, an outpouring like this prompts me to question whether we should revisit creating a joint appeal here in the United States. (I've written about this before here).

A joint appeal is an entity that manages a coordinated fundraising campaign for a specific emergency. Donors give to one place, and the proceeds are distributed among multiple organizations that are responding to the emergency.

Instead of numerous public fundraising campaigns, telethons, and events created and sponsored by different people and organizations (often put together spontaneously), the joint appeal has pre-established partnerships with major media and handles it all.

By creating one central location to collect and distribute the donations, the ease of giving is increased and overall administrative costs are lessened. Presumably donations flow to the organizations that can make best use of them at that point in time. And the kicker is accountability: now I, as a small-dollar contributor, have the support of an entity with much more firsthand knowledge and capacity to monitor and analyze how my contribution is used -- and more power to push improvements for the next time.

This is actually common elsewhere. The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) in Britain, the oldest and probably largest joint appeal, has become a well-known and trusted brand. When a disaster like the earthquake in Haiti strikes, it's the DEC that comes to mind of the general public -- not necessarily the specific relief agencies themselves. (The DEC is doing a live appeal today hosted by John Hurt and Kirsty Young on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Al-Jazeera.)

Yes, there are significant challenges to doing something like this in the United States. The media market here is fragmented, so achieving the saturation to reach most of the public is difficult. Add in new media companies and the level of difficulty increases. The number of relief agencies based here in the U.S. is also greater, making questions of membership and revenue-sharing very prickly. A high-profile disaster brings in significant revenue to aid agencies, so they would want to be assured that a joint appeal will grow the pie rather than reduce their particular share of it.

Yet the fact is that most major media outlets and even the government are disseminating advice on where to send your donations. These are not experts in vetting organizations or monitoring the use of your contributions.

Isn't there a better way?

-- Tony Pipa

Haiti Earthquake Situation Report

January 14, 2010

(The following was transmitted by a U.S. Fund for UNICEF employee to the fund's headquarters in New York earlier this morning.)



Latest intel is worse than expected. Needs severely outpace existing supplies. We do not have enough to keep the most vulnerable children alive. Desperately need more resources immediately. Please convey our dire need for help to all potential supporters. Children are dying.

Details on needs outlined below. More to follow.


Transmitted: 14 January 2010 06.35

  • 3 million impacted. Casualties estimate high, over 100,000 dead. Tens of thousands more injured.
  • Immediate needs [without more of the following, casualties will skyrocket, especially children]:
    • Emergency medical supplies and temporary facilities
    • Safe water
    • Nutrition packets
    • Temporary shelter systems
  • Children separated from families exceed existing temporary shelters. Many are roaming in debris, injured, at risk of greater injury or death.
  • Electricity not available. Widespread structural damage. Shanty towns leveled. Local government completely unequipped to aid those impacted.


To learn more about how you can help, visit our Earthquake Relief and Information page.

Haiti: Earthquake Relief and Information

January 13, 2010

Haiti_earthquake_10 The earthquake that rocked Haiti on January 12 and leveled much of Port-au-Prince, the country's densely populated capital, created one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent memory. More than two weeks later, the situation on the ground is improving, slowly, as aid groups and the United States military work to assist the injured and displaced and provide food, clean water, and shelter to hundreds of thousands of Haitians. Individuals and organizations that would like to contribute to ongoing relief and recovery efforts should check the Web sites below for more information. (Last updated: Friday, January 29, 11:30 a.m. Giving totals compiled by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.)

Organizations Working to Meet Urgent Needs

Emergency Supplies

• As of Wednesday, January 25, Action Against Hunger was working to establish multiple centers designed to provide a range of services to mothers with infants and young children, including a safe environment for breastfeeding, as well as medical, nutritional, and psychological support. The centers are also designed to provide a sense of security for mothers and children recovering from trauma.

• From a recent press release: "In an operation that has involved more emergency response teams than any other single-country disaster in global Red Cross history, the American Red Cross has  spent or committed more than $67 million to meet the most urgent needs of earthquake survivors in Haiti. The Red Cross is currently focusing on three areas through its emergency responders and partners: Sending food to those in need, including three million pre-packaged meals and funding for World Food Program efforts that will enable them to feed up to one million people for a month; providing clean drinking water, including 3.5 million liters distributed to date in sixty-eight settlements -- enough water for 100,000 people a day; and distributing shelter items such as blankets, tarps, sleeping mats and tents to families who have been left homeless." Text "HAITI" to 90999 from your mobile phone to donate $10 to the organization's relief efforts. (The Red Cross had raised $185 million as of 1/27, $29 million of that through its text message campaign.)

AmeriCaressecond emergency airlift carrying $500,000 worth of critically needed medical supplies landed in Cap Haitien on January 28. Cap Haitien is the home of Hôpital Sacré Coeur, where hundreds of seriously injured men, women, and children have been evacuated. To date, over $11 million worth of AmeriCares medical aid has been delivered to help earthquake survivors. (The organization had raised more than $7 million as of 1/27.)

• Catholic Relief Services has been working this week with soldiers from the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division to distribute more than two hundred tons of food, principally lentils and bulgar, to about 6,500 families camping out at the Petionville Club golf course east of downtown Port-au-Prince. CRS will also host/support a team of twenty-two doctors, nurses, and other health professionals from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the University of Maryland Medical Center expected to arrive in Haiti before the weekend. (The organization had raised more than $26.5 million as of 1/27, $13 million of that donated online.)

• The International Rescue Committee is teaming up with Management Sciences for Health, a global nonprofit health development organization, to assist Haitians who were displaced by the January 12 earthquake, as well as communities that are hosting homeless victims of the disaster. IRC and MSH plan to use their combined expertise to carry out a range of programs, including "Cash for Work" programs that will employ out-of-work Haitians; Rehabilitation of damaged health centers; Delivery of drugs and supplies to out-of-stock clinics and health facilities; Water and sanitation projects, with a focus on medical waste management; community health network training and expansion of basic medical services; and transportation of women with obstetrical emergencies (and other patients needing urgent care) to health facilities. (The organization had raised more than $4 million as of 1/25.)

Mercy Corps' team of emergency response experts is currently focused on immediate humanitarian needs: food to beleaguered hospitals, water and sanitation, trauma support for children, and job creation. The organization is working to provide clean water and safe latrines for 42,000 people in Port-au-Prince; jumpstart the decimated economy through cash-for-work programs and begin rebuilding efforts in earthquake-affected areas; and provide post-trauma help using Comfort for Kids, a counseling methodology first developed in New York by Mercy Corps and Bright Horizons, a global workplace childcare provider. (The organization had raised more than $8.6 million as of 1/27.)

• Los Angeles-based Operation USA's disaster response has focused on the most pressing medical needs due to the devastation of hospitals and medical facilities. With its partner, Honeywell Hometown Solutions, the organization has procured and delivered over $1 million in relief supplies, including high-priority medical supplies, water purification chemicals, shelter materials, and electric generators. Local partners on the ground include St. Damien’s Pediatric Hospital/St. Luke’s Schools, L’Athletique d’Haiti, Partners in Health, International Medical Corps, and the Hands and Feet Project (Jacmel). (The organization had raised $800,000 as of 1/27.)

• Oxfam America has received nearly ninety tons of water-supply, sanitation, hygiene, and shelter materials and is trucking clean drinking water to nine locations in Port-au-Prince and undertaking water treatment and delivery in other towns that were badly damaged by the quake, with the goal of reaching 110,000 people. The organization also has constructed latrines and washing areas to serve 55,000 people, with work under way to provide facilities for 20,000 more; is distributing a variety of relief materials and plastic sheeting to help meet the immediate needs for shelter; has launched a cash-for-work program; and is playing a key role in coordinating with other international agencies. (The organization had raised $10.4 million as of 1/27.)

• More than 700 Salvation Army workers permanently stationed in Haiti are being supported in their disaster response efforts by U.S. and International Salvation Army teams. Earlier this week, the organization was named by the United Nations as the "lead agency" responsible for the well-being of an estimated 20,000 earthquake survivors. The organization will continue to serve those survivors while coordinating with other agencies and planning its long-term recovery for the country. (The organization had raised more than $8.3 million as of 1/26.)

• Two days after the quake struck, United Nations Foundation Vice President of Global Health Dr. Daniel Carucci traveled to Haiti to assess the situation on the ground and determine the best way to assist the UN's emergency response. UNF is taking mobile donations through an Emergency Response Fund. Using your mobile phone, text "CERF" to 90999 to donate $5. (The foundation had raised more than $3.2 million for relief and recovery efforts as of 1/25.)

United Way Worldwide members in the Caribbean region have mobilized staff, volunteer leaders, and resources in response to the disaster and are working to meet critical basic needs such as shelter, food, and clothing as well as assess the most pressing long-term recovery needs. Donations to the United Way Worldwide Disaster Fund will support recovery and long-term rebuilding needs in devastated Haitian communities.

• The William J. Clinton Foundation -- As the UN's Special Envoy to Haiti, former President Clinton has issued a statement asking all Americans to support immediate relief and long-term recovery efforts in the devastated country. (Through its Haiti Relief Fund, the Clinton Foundation had raised more than $8.8 million as of 1/22.)

Health Services

CARE USA has deployed additional emergency team members to Haiti to help distribute and/or deliver high-protein food, hygiene kits, water, and emergency health services. The CARE Haiti team has begun planning for the longer-term response, including things like rebuilding homes and implementing a cash-for-work program that would enlist Haitians to help clear debris. (The organization had raised more than $10.3 million as of 1/25.)

Direct Relief International sent thirteen pallets of medical material aid to help Partners in Health staff treat injured people at its facility in Port-au-Prince. DRI is also deploying a consignment of medical aid for the Socio-Cultural Movement of Haitian Workers (MOSCTHA), a partner based in the Dominican Republic, to serve as a mobile medical clinic for refugees from the capital and is working in partnership with the Abbott Fund, Google.org, UN-SPIDER (United Nations Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response), and ESRI (ArcGIS) to compile comprehensive GIS mapping tools and assess damage to health facilities, roads, and public infrastructure in Haiti. (The organization had raised more than $2 million as of 1/21.)

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières teams are trying to ensure the safety and continued care of patients. Because all three of the MSF medical facilities have been partially damaged, most patients have been treated in tented clinics near existing facilities. Update: MSF now has six other locations in and around Port-au-Prince. (The organization had raised more than $36.5 million as of 1/27. The organization had also received $11.9 million for its general Emergency Relief Fund.)

Hope for Haiti sent four nurses, three doctors, 75,000 pounds of medical supplies, food, water, and construction materials to two hospital sites in Port-au-Prince. The medical supplies will form the basis of a distribution center supplying L'Hopital General and other hospitals in the area that came through the disaster relatively unscathed.

Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti (HAS), located 40 miles NW of Port-Au-Prince, suffered minimal damage and is currently operating with a full staff. As of Wednesday, there were 500 patients in this 80-bed facility.

International Medical Corps' emergency response team is providing medical care outside the general hospital near the Presidential Palace where hundreds of people have congregated for help. Other team members are conducting a rapid needs assessment and visiting hospitals around the city to explore their condition. (The organization had raised more than $3.2 million as of 1/25.)

Konbit Sante has started treating patients who have been airlifted by UN helicopters from Port-au-Prince to the Justinian University Hospital in Cap-Haitien, which the organization runs in partnership with the Ministry of Health. The 250-bed teaching hospital, which did not suffer damage from the earthquake, is the nation's second largest public hospital. To address short- and long-term term health needs related to the disaster, Konbit Sante has established an Earthquake Response Fund.

MAP International has assembled a $5.2 million aid package comprised of medicines and medical supplies.Fifty-three pallets were sent to World Vision's shipping facility in Miami and twenty-one pallets are going to Christian Aid Ministries, including ten pallets of Ensure, the protein drink. CAM in Haiti is also expecting an air-freight delivery that includes a Johnson & Johnson Emergency Module.

MedShare CEO A.B. Short and a team of doctors from International Medical Alliance brought medical supplies and are on the ground providing treatment at a 100-bed hospital on the Haitian border where hundreds of victims are being transported from Port-au-Prince for emergency medical treatment. The organization has already delivered five shipments (approximately 5,000 boxes) of requested medical supplies to organizations in Haiti and is planning, over the next week, to send additional shipments of medical aid supplies.

Partners in Health, which has been on the ground in Haiti for over twenty years, is ramping up its emergency medical relief efforts. Update: PIH has issued a call for surgeons, nurses, and other medical personnel to come to Haiti and has launched a special Web site to provide updates on the relief efforts there. (The organization had received more than $40 million as of 1/27.)

World Vision is on the ground distributing medical supplies to hospitals in Port-au-Prince. Among the items delivered to La Paix and L'Espoir hospitals were dressings, antibiotics, tetanus shots, and materials for the treatment of broken bones. (The organization had raised $18.4 million as of 1/26.)

Clothing, Food, and Shelter

Feed My Starving Children had 28,000 meals airlifted from its Coon Rapids, Minnesota warehouse last Friday. One million FMSC meals are currently on the ground in Haiti.

Food for the Poor is serving hot meals again at its main feeding center in Port-au-Prince. Ordinarily, the center provides 15,000 meals of rice, beans, and stew each day and the goal is to double that amount over the next day or two. At the same time, Food for the Poor teams are taking in additional food, medical, and building supplies into Haiti across the Dominican Republic border.

Foot Solutions, on behalf of Soles4Souls, the international charity dedicated to providing free footwear to people in desperate need, is asking the public to drop off gently used shoes at any of their locations.

Freeplay Foundation is seeking donations to provide its wind-up and solar-powered Lifeline Radios and Lifelights to the homeless earthquake survivors in Haiti.

ShelterBox tents are being used by hospitals in Port au Prince to provide emergency shelter for post-surgery patients in Haiti's capital.

Children and Families

Beyond Borders' work is focused on the population of Port-au-Prince and the isolated community of Jacmel. In response to the earthquake, it developed a two-stage strategy to coordinate strategic interventions and facilitate collaboration between local organizations and international aid agencies. In phase one, it will work to secure transport for medical teams and purchase critical such as medicine, satellite phones, mobile internet bases, excavation and clean up materials, and diesel fuel. In phase two, it will use funds raised to assist local partners who have lost school buildings, homes, and offices; support education, teacher training, sustainable agriculture, and investments in rural livelihoods; and continue its unique focus on child protection and welfare, especially for children who have lost parents and family or become separated from them.

Childcare Worldwide has launched an online fundraising appeal, Fill the Container Challenge, via Facebook to raise enough money to send one 20-ton container of fortified rice packets, water, and medical supplies to Haiti.

Save the Children has launched an emergency relief effort to assist children and families in Haiti. To provide children with a supervised place to play, the organization is establishing a child-friendly space on the grounds of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at Ruelle St. Cyr, Carrefour Ti-Four. For more information on the organization's work, watch its videos on YouTube, or read its Voices From the Field blog. Using your mobile phone, text "SAVE" to 20222 to donate $10. (The organization had raised more than $14.6 million as of 1/27, and the group's international affiliates had raised an additional $18 million.)

UNICEF and its partners are focused on providing for children who are lost or have been orphaned or separated from their families. Safe spaces for all children under the age of five should be available by the end of the week. Together with its partners, UNICEF is also setting up nutrition support for children under two years of age. (The U.S. Fund for UNICEF had raised $31.5 million of 1/27.)

New and Established Funds

• The AARP Foundation is providing a 1:1 match for any gift made to the AARP Foundation Haiti Relief Fund, up to $500,000.

• Through its Strategic Crisis Fund, ActionAid is supporting the relief and recovery efforts of its teams in Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas.

American Jewish World Service has created a Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund to support its network of grantees as they work to address the urgent needs of the affected population. (The organization had raised $5 million as of 1/27.)

• The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund is accepting donations to respond to unmet needs in the country, foster economic opportunity, improve the quality of life for those affected by the disaster over the long term, and assist the people of Haiti as they rebuild their lives and "build back better." Using your mobile phone, text "QUAKE" to 20222 to donate $10. (The fund had raised more than $17 million as of 1/26.)

• Global Giving is accepting donations through its Relief Fund for Haiti Earthquake. (The organization had raised more than $912,000 as of 1/27.)

• Friday's Hope for Haiti Now telethon, which benefits Oxfam America, Partners in Health, the Red Cross, UNICEF, United Nations World Food Programme, Yele Haiti Foundation, and the Clinton Bush Haiti Foundation, will continue to collect donations for six months. Text "GIVE" to 50555 to donate $10. (The fund had raised more than $58 million as of 1/23.)

• The United Nations Foundation is taking mobile donations through an Emergency Response Fund. Using your mobile phone, text "CERF" to 90999 to donate $5.

• The Tides Foundation's Relief and Reconstruction Fund has been re-activated to aid relief efforts in the devastated country.

Yelé Haiti, a charity created by the Haitian-American musician Wyclef Jean, is accepting donations via text message. Using your mobile phone, text "Yele" to 501501 to donate $5 to the Yelé Haiti Earthquake Fund.

Organizations Providing Long-Term Relief

Architecture for Humanity, which provides shelter for people forced to leave their homes after a natural disaster, has launched an fundraising appeal focused on long-term reconstruction efforts in the devastated country. 

• The Grameen Foundation will provide long-term support to help poor families in Haiti rebuild their lives.

Habitat for Humanity International has worked in Haiti for more than twenty-six years and will continue to serve the people there by helping them to rebuild. (The organization had raised more than $1.65 million as of 1/27.)

• The Lambi Fund of Haiti says it will be there to help Haitians rebuild "long after the relief service providers leave."

Government and Multilateral Agencies Efforts

• The UN World Food Programme began distributing food assistance within hours of the earthquake and has launched a $279 million relief operation to reach 2 million Haitians as well as providing logistical and telecommunications support to the entire humanitarian community. (Friends of the World Food Program had raised more than $3.9 million as of 1/27.)

USAID has deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team (USAID/DART) to Hait¡ comprising up to seventeen members and has activated a D.C.-based Response Management Team to support it. USAID/DART will assess humanitarian needs and coordinate assistance with the U.S. embassy in Port-au- Prince, the international community, and the Government of Haiti (GoH).

• The International Monetary Fund has announced that it will provide $100 million in emergency financing to Haiti.

• The World Bank has pledged $100 million toward relief and recovery efforts. A variety of other institutions have also committed funds to immediate and long-term relief efforts.

Community Foundations/Grantmaker Associations

A growing number of organizations have created relief funds and/or special sections on their Web sites with resources and information on how you can help:

Boston Foundation
Community Foundation for Greater New Haven
Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee
Council on Foundations
Delaware Community Foundation
Donors Forum of Chicago
Donors Forum of Wisconsin
Florida Philanthropic Network
Greater New Orleans Foundation
Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice
Oklahoma City Community Foundation
Philanthropy New York
Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors
Silicon Valley Community Foundation
Taos Community Foundation (NM)
Triangle Community Foundation (NC)

Social Media Efforts

Causes on Facebook has a Haiti relief page.
• The Center for International Disaster Information has launched a site with more information on emergency relief in the devastated country, including volunteering information.
Haiti/2010 Earthquake Wiki
• Search giant Google has teamed with the U.S. State Department to create an online People Finder gadget that allows people to submit information about missing persons in Haitia as well as  to search a database of that information. (See our post about the effort here.)
• The International Committee of the Red Cross has launched an online tool for finding and listing missing persons.
• The Miami Herald's Haiti Connect feature lets readers upload pictures of missing loved ones.
Network for Good has compiled a list of organizations providing emergency relief. (The organization had processed more than $5 million for relief efforts as of 1/27.)
The Extraordinaries has launched a site with tools for anyone to volunteer and help locate/identify missing persons.
• Ushahidi has adapted their platform for crisis reporting and mapping of the situation in Haiti.
We Have, We Need is a Craigslist-style site where nonprofits working in Haiti can post needs and requests and find donors.


CNN Report: Haiti Faces Devastation offers breaking news and a list of resources.
• The Consulate General of Haiti in New York provides a list of Haitian organizations and community centers in the New York metropolitan area.
• The Embassy of Haiti in Washington, D.C., has created an Earthquake Information and Emergency Response area on its Web site.
Global Voices is posting tweets and photos from Port-au-Prince.
Google's Crisis Response Page includes real-time updates on disaster relief efforts in Haiti.
Haitifeed provides Twitter updates, photos, videos, and more on what is happening on the ground.
InterAction lists more than fifty-nine well-vetted NGOs working to help survivors of the disaster.
• The Mobile Giving Foundation lists current donation options for giving via mobile phone on its Web site. (The foundation had helped facilitate $27 million in small donations made via moble phones as of Tuesday, January 19.)
• The U.S. Department of State has posted phone numbers for people asking for or providing information about U.S. citizens in Haiti, and for U.S. citizens in Haiti seeking assistance or reporting their status/whereabouts.

Advice to Donors

Haiti Emergency Update and Investing in Disaster Response (Arabella Advisors)
Giving in Times of Disasters (Charities Review Council)
Tips, Tips And More Tips For Funding Haiti Earthquake Relief Efforts (Charity Navigator)
• Tom McGhee: Donors Should Check Out Aid Groups Before Giving (Denver Post)
Haitian Earthquake Relief Fraud Alert (Federal Bureau of Investigation)
• William P. Barrett: How To Spot Dubious Haiti Charity Pleas (Forbes)
• David Randall: How to Make Sure Your Donation Helps Haitian Earthquake Victims (Forbes' Money Builder blog)
• Bob Ottenhoff: Helping in Haiti (GuideStar)
• Victoria Fine: Haiti Earthquake Relief: How You Can Help (Huffington Post)
Guidelines on the Most Appropriate Ways to Help (InterAction)
• Laura Starita: Advice for Donors to Haiti (Philanthropy Action News)
• Rosetta Thurman: Four Lies People Tell Themselves About Philanthropy (Or Why You Shouldn’t Send Canned Goods to Haiti)

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men?

January 11, 2010

Confessions-of-an-economic-hit-man Interesting piece by John Perkins (Confessions of an Economic Hit Man) in today's Huffington Post. In it, Perkins argues that Americans have been seduced by the news-infotainment media complex into accepting, even glorifying, the excessive wealth, lavish lifestyles, and unscrupulous business practices of far too many CEOs.

"For years," writes Perkins, "we have empowered these people (almost exclusively men) to create a system that is scandalously wasteful, overtly reckless, and -- we see now -- ultimately self-destructive."

Why do we let these "modern robber barons," as Perkins calls them, get away with such bad behavior? Because, he writes,

they contribute money to philanthropy and the arts. We pay tribute to a person who has accumulated billions of dollars and in doing so has caused others to lose their jobs, closed the doors of small businesses, or ravaged the environment, and then donates a small percentage of his fortune to correcting those problems or to the arts.

Perkins isn't impressed.

We must understand that [they] would have served the world far better by making fewer profits while increasing employment, supporting small businesses, and insisting that [their] executives practice good environmental stewardship.

You don't have to be a history major to know that Perkins has identified one of the perennial tensions in capitalism. But what, if anything, can we do about it?

Perkins' answer is that we have to insist on change. "We have," he writes, "a new opportunity to wake up to our role and to stop glorifying jets, yachts, mansions and modern day robber barons, and get back to the real work of creating sustainable resources and new jobs that will lessen our reliance on predatory capitalism."

Well...okay. That's what 2008 was about, in part. But as we've seen throughout this economic crisis, change is hard, leadership is critical, and when confronted with a choice between business as usual and the unknown, it's the familiar that usually wins out.

I hope this time is different. But I wouldn't bet on it.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Weekend Link Roundup (January 9 - 10, 2010)

January 10, 2010

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


On the Social Entrepreneurship blog, Nathaniel Whittemore argues that nonprofits need to spruce up their Web sites in the new year. "[Your site] doesn't have to be stunning," writes Whittemore, "but it does need to convey to people that you're serious about everything you do."

Getting Attention blogger Nancy Schwartz shares two pieces of advice (via John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway) with nonprofit communicators guaranteed to improve their "marketing effectiveness and productivity": embrace vacilando (taking one's time when tackling projects) and "never mistake motion for action."


On his Connections blog, Steve MacLaughlin, director of Internet solutions at Blackbaud, shares his company's analysis of online giving trends over the last twelve months. Among other things, the company saw online revenue grew 46 percent year-over-year, with the first three months of 2009 registering a 60 percent increase over the same period in 2008 and December and May coming in as the two busiest months for online giving.

Giving portal Network for Good reported similar 2009 results, with record increases in both total volume and dollar amount of donations made at year-end and throughout the year. Katya Andresen shares some of the stats on her Non-Profit Marketing blog.

Last month, Charity Navigator posted findings from an experiment in which an anonymous donor recorded the number of requests for funding he received from name-brand charities over the course of a year. Responding to that post -- which asked, How many times a year should a given charity contact you seeking support?" -- Future Fundraising Now blogger Jeff Brooks argues that relevance, not frequency, is the real issue. "Asking how many times a charity should contact people," writes Brooks, "is like asking How many holes should I dig? It's a meaningless question until there's more information. The question should be How can a charity be relevant in the life of a donor? Figure that one out, and the question about how many is virtually an afterthought...."


In the most recent installment of Ken Berger's "Open Forum on Outcomes" series, Hildy Gottlieb, president of the Community-Driven Institute and author of the Pollyanna Principles, offers her take on the future of outcomes measurement.

In a series of posts on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Bob Hughes, vice president and chief learning officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, considers why foundations haven't made more progress on becoming strategic. Writes Hughes:

Rather than being disappointed in the apparent lack of progress in foundations becoming more strategic, perhaps a better set of questions revolve around how strategic foundations are, and why? And how this has changed over time, and why? Answering these questions may lead to a better understanding of steps the field can take to make the progress so many are eager to see....

Responding to Gottlieb's and Hughes' posts, Allison Fine wonders if "working towards 'foundation effectiveness' and 'outcomes measurement' are simply unnatural ideas and processes for most people and organizations to absorb." Writes Fine:

Maybe it's time for a different kind of conversation. Perhaps we should start to talk about how we can encourage organizations and the people who run them to go with the flow and work in natural ways by following their passions and instincts, rather than trying to steer them into systems and processes that feel uncomfortable and artificial?


On his Wise Philanthropy blog, Richard Marker explains that those in the sector who give money or advise people on how to do so "have moved from raising the right questions to being soapbox advocates." Marker says that making people feel "skittish, insecure, or guilty about [their] choice" is a disservice to the philanthropic community.

Early in the week, Sean Stannard-Stockton invited readers of his Tactical Philanthropy blog to comment on application guidelines for the Social Innovation Fund issued by the Corporation for National & Community Service at the end of the year. Post-length comments were subsequently submitted by nonprofit consultant Adin Miller; Northern Virginia Community Foundation president Eileen Ellsworth, who noted that because all SIF grant awards require a 1:1 match, raising the minimum grant level from $1 million to $5 million, as the corporation has done, "constitutes an insurmountable barrier for our SIF application"; and Just Another Emperor author Michael Edwards, who blasts the fund for "empowering distant intermediaries, increasing the number of hoops that groups must jump through, and investing scarce resources in number-crunching in lieu of real evaluation."

Social Media

On the What We Give blog, Larry Blumenthal, director of social media strategy for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, shares six lessons learned from building an online community (as related by Thomas Kriese, executive director of the Omidyar Network):

  1. Don't restrict membership;
  2. Make sure you provide some sort of light, top-down structure/guidance;
  3. Consider giving the community some distance from the foundation's name and brand;
  4. Don't get so big that you lose the sense of intimacy;
  5. Make sure people are treated with respect; and
  6. Commit the appropriate resources.


Last but not least, Beth Kanter looks into her crystal ball and shares three words/concepts for 2010: networked, generosity, and "full of life."

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

-- Regina Mahone

Brooke Astor, the People's Philanthropist: Neighborhood Development

January 08, 2010

(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 public spaces in New York City.)

BrookeAstor_deskBrooke Russell Astor became president of the Vincent Astor Foundation on January 27, 1960, almost a year to the day after her third and last husband, Vincent Astor, the great-great-grandson of America's first multi-millionaire, John Jacob Astor, died of a heart attack at the age of 67. It was the beginning of what would turn out to be a tumultuous decade for America and the world, and the 59-year-old Mrs. Astor would use her position and fortune over the course of the decades that followed to become one of the most prominent and respected philanthropists in the country.

Along the way, she became an early proponent of a new form of urban development driven by community activists rather than all-powerful city planners (e.g., Robert Moses). Those activists rejected massive public housing projects as the answer to urban America's problems and sought to restore the economic and social vitality of New York City's four hundred-plus neighborhoods through genuine grassroots efforts.

The Astor Foundation's entry point into that work was its interest in youth. Although Vincent Astor himself never had children, he had a strong interest in what was then referred to as "disadvantaged youth." After his death, his wife honored that interest through an array of grants to youth development organizations in the city, including Project Broad Jump, Madison Square Boys & Girls Club, and Harlem Prep. In 1961 the foundation made its biggest grant up to that point, an award of $1.25 million, to United Neighborhood Houses in support of the latter's efforts to provide pre-teen programs at settlement houses throughout the city.

Grants like that were the catalyst for Mrs. Astor's increasingly frequent forays into the city's diverse neighborhoods. And as she traveled about, she witnessed firsthand the destruction inflicted on once-vibrant communities through ill-considered "urban redevelopment" schemes and came to learn how terribly misguided the then-favored approach to poverty amelioration was. Coney Island, where hundreds of one- and two-family homes were bulldozed to make way for multi-story apartment buildings, was, in her mind, the most egregious example of these wrong-headed policies. As she said on more than one occasion, "High rise, high crime."

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2009: Opinion & Commentary

January 07, 2010

Like many of you, we're still in summing up mode around here. In that spirit, here's a look back at the original opinion and commentary published in PND over the last twelve months:

Nonprofit Learnings From For-Profits (3/13/09)
Cass Wheeler, CEO (retired), American Heart Association

The Serve America Act: A Stimulus Plan to Rebuild America's Social Infrastructure (3/25/09)
Laurie Tisch, Founder and President, Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund

The Private Sector and the Economic Stimulus Package: Improving Our Nation's Community Health Centers (5/13/09)
Reed Tuckson, Executive Vice President and Chief of Medical Affairs, United Health Foundation

Students Face Uncertainty After Graduation (6/05/09)
Stacie Spector, Associate Vice Chancellor, University Communications and Public Affairs, University of California, San Diego

A New Era of Muslim-American Philanthropy Requires Fewer Obstacles to Giving (6/23/09)
Saima Zaman, Program Officer, GlobalGiving

Challenge to Our Workforce: Young Adults and Low Literacy (7/07/09)
Peter Kleinbard, Executive Director, Youth Development Institute

The Changing Role of Philanthropy and Aging (7/15/09)
J. Barry Griswell, President, Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines

A Philanthropist Reviews 'The Philanthropist' (7/31/09)
Diana Campoamor, President, Hispanics in Philanthropy

Make a Socially Responsible Investment in Young Black Men (8/14/09)
Cedric Brown, Director, Mitchell Kapor Foundation

Research Grants During a Recession: Putting Innovation Front and Center (9/03/09)
Tom Arnold, CEO, Concern Worldwide

Where the Healthcare System Falters, Philanthropies Step In (9/15/09)
Stephen Weiner, President, HealthWell Foundation

Performance Measurement: Put a Stake in the Ground (9/30/09)
Andrew Wolk, Founder and CEO, Root Cause

Social Media Can Open Door to Philanthropy's Future (11/04/09)
Larry Blumenthal, Director, Social Media Strategy, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The New Philanthropy (Giving Effectively in Challenging Times) (12/03/09
Lisa Eisen, National Director, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation

And don't miss the new piece by RWJF's Larry Blumenthal, A Helpful Guide to Failure in Philanthropy. Use Carefully.

Got an opinion or commentary piece you'd like to share with our readers? Drop me a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Readings (and Other Stuff) - Jan. 5, 2010

January 05, 2010

It didn't take folks long to get back into the swing of things. Here are some of the interesting posts/articles we've been reading:

What have you been reading?

2010: A Preview of the Year Ahead

January 02, 2010

Crystal_Ball We're not likely to forget the year just passed anytime soon. But what of the year ahead? The following are some thoughts I shared last week with readers of our PND newsletter.

How about you? What do you think 2010 has in store for nonprofits and the nonprofit sector? Use the comments section below to share your thoughts....

If the headlines in 2009 were dominated by a single story, namely the near-death and revival of the economy, 2010 is likely to see a renewed focus on efforts to meet the challenges — and leverage the opportunities — posed by globalization and accelerating techonological change.

Not that the economy, and certainly not the nonprofit economy, is out of the woods. In October, the Chronicle of Philanthropy's annual Philanthropy 400 survey found that large charities remain gloomy about their fundraising prospects, while the results of a recent survey by the Foundation Center suggest that foundation giving will fall further in 2010 after a 10 percent decline in 2009. The same survey suggests that most funders believe that nonprofits were not sufficiently prepared to weather a severe economic downturn and that the crisis is likely to take a toll on smaller, weaker organizations, leading to more collaborations and an emphasis on greater transparency and accountability within the sector. We shall see.

If the economy does recover and the federal government is able to stop and begin to reverse the alarming deterioration in its finances, nonprofits are certain to step up the pressure on the White House for more assistance and leadership on a range of issues, from tax and regulatory policy, to the environment, to encouraging public-private partnerships that truly support social innovation. With meaningful (if flawed) healthcare reform a near-certainty, attention will shift to the education arena, where hundreds of billions of dollars spent over decades have done little to close the educational achievement gaps between low-income students and their more affluent peers, between white students and students of color, and between the United States and other high-peforming nations.

Growing income disparities across regions and different socioeconomic strata are also likely to come to the fore — especially if the economy slows or falls back into recession. As Boston Foundation president and CEO Paul S. Grogan put it earlier this fall, "[G]rowing inequality...threatens our optimistic assumptions about the future. The American Dream, especially for urban families with children, is receding and the question...is: Can we rise to the challenge to heal the growing divide?"

One should expect to see foundations and nonprofits answer Grogan's call — and to employ every tool at their disposal in doing so. The use of social media to drive engagement, awareness, collaboration, and financial support for causes and organizations will accelerate, and it's quite possible we will see the release of a "killer app" during the year that galvanizes new enthusiasm for and investment in the work of the social sector. Of course, a higher profile for the sector will lead to calls for individual nonprofits to demonstrate their impact. There will be pushback, as there always is, against the "quantification" of social change work, but that train has left the station — and 2010 will see more people hopping on board.

As revenue-constrained organizations continue to look for ways to cut costs and create opportunities for their digitally savvy twenty- and thirty-somethings, an uptick in leadership transitions within the sector will be another trend to keep an eye on in 2010. The boomers have had a great ride and done more than anyone could have imagined to turn the nonprofit sector into a positive force for change. As more of them retire over the coming months and years, let's not forget the debt we owe them.

-- Mitch Nauffts

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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