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Weekend Link Roundup (February 6 - 7, 2010)

February 07, 2010

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


On the Future Fundraising blog, Jeff Brooks explains how irrelevant images in fundraising appeals can "keep [your organization] from raising the funds [it] needs."

Disaster Relief

Writing on the Harvard Business Review blog, Uncharitable author Dan Pallotta argues that the reason people are giving so much money to Haiti relief efforts is simple: "They are hearing about it." And therein lies an important lesson for nonprofits, says Pallotta.

The media is creating a huge market for giving to Haiti. They are building demand for purchasing charity for Haiti on a massive scale. And, small wonder, massive purchasing is occurring. How much do we think would be given to Haiti if the story ended after one news broadcast on the day it happened?

Imagine if we gave humanitarian organizations the freedom to build this kind of demand for a cure for malaria or the end of breast cancer. Imagine if we relinquished our fixation on keeping short-term fundraising costs low and set our gaze on what it would take to "sell" enough charity to solve long-term problems.

I'm not talking about mimicking traditional corporate advertising, with dumbed-down jingles, adolescent humor, or inauthentic feel-goodism. I'm talking about investing massive resources in reimagined creative approaches -- serious, photo-journalistic, perhaps documentary-style educational ad campaigns with all the gravitas and dignity these urgent causes deserve....

Judging by the comments on the post, most people think Pallotta's on to something. Do you?

The New York Times' Stephanie Strom recently suggested that the large sums of money raised by the American Red Cross for Haiti relief efforts -- more than $200 million as of February 1 -- had prompted fresh talk among smaller, less visible aid groups about a disaster response model in which donations would be pooled and distributed to organizations in the best position to deliver emergency relief services in a disaster-stricken country. But on the GiveWell blog, Holden Karnofsky argues that a "top-down pooling of funds" is not necessarily an improvement over the current system. Writes Karnofsky:

We see potential in the idea of different charities' raising funds for different efforts, as long as they make it clear how much they are looking for and why; make it possible to hold them accountable for how they spend the funds they raise; and are explicit about the point at which they'd spend funds on other potentially worthy causes....

In a related post, Allison Fine wonders whether any organization is tracking the expenditure of donations for Haiti relief efforts. "Some entity, somewhere needs to provide an outside accounting of how these private funds [are being] used," writes Fine. "And it needs to start now."

On the Philanthropy Potluck blog, the Minnesota Council on Foundations' Stephanie Jacobs shares her takeaways from a recent conference call devoted to philanthropy's response to the disaster in Haiti.


In honor of Black History Month, Rosetta Thurman is profiling African-American nonprofit leaders on her blog during the month of February. Last week, Thurman highlighted the work of Twenty-First Century Foundation president Erica Hunt, Life Pieces to Masterpieces co-founder Mary Brown, and Silicon Valley Community Foundation president and CEO Emmett Carson.

"As nonprofits work to boost census participation and remedy the myopia that prevents us from truly 'seeing' one another," writes Melissa Mendes Campos on the Nonprofit Next blog, "will [the sector] also consider how we might better include those unseen faces and unheard voices in our everyday planning, decision making, leadership, and governance?"


The Tides Foundation has launched new a blog "written by and for people interested in creating strong infrastructure for the social change sector."


Philanthropy 2173's Lucy Bernholz suggests in a recent post that the tax-privileged status of 501(c)(3)s are "being challenged from numerous directions" and wonders whether nonprofits are "prepared to demonstrate their value in the face of changes in corporate and tax law, and, as importantly, changes in the cultural zeitgeist...." Adds Bernholz:

Currently, most of the innovation in the sector is around the edges of our existing corporate and tax frameworks -- we are developing "workarounds" to the 501(c)(3) or commercial corporate model to encourage social entrepreneurs and new investors or donors. This should be our first clue -- it is time to reconsider the entirety of the systems and policies for the production, financing and distribution of social goods and civil society in the twenty-first century....

On the Social Enterpreneurship blog, Nathaniel Whittemore applauds the Foundation Center's new Glasspockets initiative, which, he writes, "helps break down information that foundations make about themselves into more easily navigable and comparable chunks."

Social Media/Networking

On Monday, Pepsi opened the voting for the first round of its Pepsi Refresh Project. Visitors to the site can cast up to ten votes a day for projects/ideas submitted by nonprofits and social entrepreneurs in one of six categories: arts and culture, education, food and shelter, health, neighborhoods, and the planet. Ideas/projects receiving the most votes in each category at the end of the month will be awarded a grant ranging from $5,000 (for individuals) to $250,000 (for organizations). And then the process starts over again. Pepsi, a longtime Super Bowl advertiser, decided to opt out of this year's game and instead, over the coming months, will award millions of dollars to individuals and nonprofits through the Refresh competition.

Guest blogging on Beth's Kanter's blog, GreatNonprofits' founder Perla Ni explains how social media can help arts groups create visibility for their work and mission via GreatNonprofits' Arts Appreciation Campaign.

That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at [email protected].

-- Regina Mahone

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Posted by Dom Brassey  |   March 19, 2010 at 02:29 PM

Hey there, thanks for the Tides blog mention!

Our most recent post "A Defining Moment for Health Philanthropy" -- Ellen Friedman's mention of Tom David's rousing call to action for health foundations.


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