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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

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