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29 posts from April 2010

Webcast: 2010 Global Philanthropy Forum Conference

April 19, 2010

For the second year in a row, the Foundation Center is providing the information platform for the Global Philanthropy Forum's annual conference. Using its research database and knowledge resources, the center has made targeted materials and a set of visual presentations organized around four central themes -- food security, global health, access to water, and climate change -- available to conference participants through a customized Web portal.

Many of the conference sessions are being streamed live. You can follow the proceedings on this page through the conclusion of the conference on Wednesday.

Watch live streaming video from gpf2010 at livestream.com

-- Mitch Nauffts

Weekend Link Roundup (April 17 - 18, 2010)

April 18, 2010

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

Communications/Marketing

Back from the 2010 NTEN conference, nonprofit marketing expert Nancy Schwartz shares some advice at her Getting Attention blog on the right way to use technology to enhance your marketing and communications efforts.

Diversity

Also back from NTC, Sokunthea Sa Chhabra of the Case Foundation shares some great takeaways from a conference panel on diversity, including how the increased focus on diversity affects all aspects of a business or organization and what it means for the nonprofit sector.

Economy

According to a new report from the Conference Board, consumer confidence is up 6.1 points since February. But while consumer confidence and spending track "pretty closely with giving," writes Future Fundraising Now blogger Jeff Brooks, "this is no time [for nonprofits] to lean back and put [their] feet up."

Philanthropy

Last week, the Foundation Center announced its plan to acquire Grantsfire, a Web-based system that captures and publishes grant information in real time using Web 2.0 tools and technology. Eugene Eric Kim of Blue Oxen Associates shares the story of the merger on his company's blog and offers a challenge to foundations.

Throughout the week, philanthropic leaders attending the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations conference shared their thoughts on the Tactical Philanthropy blog. Notable posts include those by Clara Miller of the Nonprofit Finance Fund, who argues that foundations need to "push much farther outside [their] comfort levels to achieve...real effectiveness"; Darin McKeever of the Gates Foundation, who suggests that grantmakers pay closer attention to "resilient" organizations; and Laura Callanan of McKinsey & Company, who cites the Robert Wood Johnson and Wallace foundations as examples of organizations that took the important step of facing their failures.

Social Entrepreneurship

In response to a New York Times article which looked at how the entry of new investors and institutions seeking profits on the backs of the poor is changing the field of microfinance, GiveWell co-founder Holden Karnofsky argues that the focus on steep interest rates is misplaced and that the sector should focus instead on the impact MFIs are having in the developing world. Writes Karnofsky:

What objection can be raised to a 100% interest rate, if the next-best alternative is a 500% interest rate (as I have been told some informal moneylenders charge)? What objection can be raised to a 500% interest rate, if there is no other way for people to get credit? When a loan could result in a sick child's being treated or a profitable micro-business, what fee is too high for that benefit?....

Microfinance exists to improve the lives of the poor. Ideally, then, microfinance institutions would be judged by their effects on people's lives. Instead, they're being judged by simplistic financial metrics that crudely attempt to get at the moral uprightness of the organizations. To me that's a very familiar situation....

Elsewhere, Social Entrepreneurship blogger Nathaniel Whittemore suggests that the Times may have overhyped the interest rate issue and that "the tone [of the article] played just a little too much into what makes for a good story for my taste." Still, Whittemore writes, "Microfinance has had such an unassailable position for the past few years, the temptation to now tear it down in the services of link bait and copies sold is not insignificant."

Social Media

Citing a recent study by social media consulting firm Vitrue that calculated the value to business of a single Facebook fan at $3.60, the Chronicle of Philanthropy's Peter Panepento suggests that "the idea that fans and followers can also bring what amounts to free advertising could make some [nonprofits] reconsider the way they measure the return on investment for creating and building social networks."

On the Social Citizens blog, Kristin Ivie wonders what would happen "if nonprofits could use public data from social networking sites like Twitter and foursquare to predict which demographics and individuals are likely to be interested in their organization or cause...."

A new study from the Kaptivate group finds that 10 percent of nonprofits are using mobile technology to communicate with stakeholders. But unless "you're working in response to a large-scale disaster or have a massive friends-to-friends fundraising campaign underway, you aren't missing out yet," writes Katya Andresen on her Non-Profit Marketing blog. "That will change soon -- but that change is not quite upon us."

And just when you thought you had seen the last word in crowd-sourced social media campaigns, USA Today has entered the fray with an "#AmericanWants Twitterthon that will reward the charity which receives the most tweets and retweets containing the hashtag #AmericaWants with a full-page full-color ad valued at $190,000. Nothing wrong with that, writes social media guru Geoff Livingston, if you overlook the fact that it's "another contest with no authenticity or theory of change." What could the newspaper have done differently? Livingstone has a few suggestions.

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

-- Regina Mahone

3rd Annual Clinton Global Initiative University Meeting

April 17, 2010

Cgi_logo2 The third annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) has descended on the University of Miami campus, where more than a thousand college students, dozens of university presidents, and various nonprofit leaders and social entrepreneurs will spend all or part of the weekend participating in workshops and meetings focused on five topics of importance to college students: education, the environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation, and public health. This year's meeting also will focus on reconstruction efforts in Haiti.

As at all CGI events, participants are expected to make "commitments to action" -- a comprehensive, formal commitment to address a specific problem on their campus, in their community, or somewhere in the world. This year, participating students volunteered a thousand new commitments, while various universities and national youth organizations offered an additional sixty. When fully funded, the value of those commitments is expected to total roughly $42 million and will improve the lives of more than 290,000 people around the globe.

The following commitments (among others) were announced today:

Maren Gelle, Kayla Johnson, Sarah Carlson, and Daniel Novas will offer bike rentals for students on the St. Olaf College campus. The goal of the project is to encourage a bicycle culture on campus while reducing traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. Gelle, Johnson, Carlson, and Novas also will work with the local community to donate bikes to Haiti to be used as bicycle ambulances.

• Syracuse University undergraduates Tim Biba, Gregory Klotz, Kate Callahan, and Allison Stuckless will launch a literacy and nutrition program -- Books and Cooks -- for children in low-income housing in Syracuse, New York. In addition to improving students' reading skills, the students will teach workshops devoted to cooking and nutrition.

• New York University student Michelle Pomeroy, in partnership with the Tibetan Women's Association, will lead a two-week leadership skills course in India for exiled Tibetan women. The course will train women in leadership, settlement officer responsibilities, conflict resolution, and gender sensitization, with the goal of preparing the women to be elected or appointed as settlement officers.

• University of Miami undergrads Kaitlin Birgenthal, Safia Alajlan, Kelley Winship, and Sara Johnson will work to expand Ocean Kids to Boston, Washington, D.C., the Bahamas, and Kuwait. Ocean Kids currently brings underserved elementary school students to the University of Miami campus, where they learn about marine life and science.

• Rockland Community College undergrads Mark Svensson and Tarik Abdelqader will work to combat the modern human slave trade in the U.S. by lobbying state officials in New York and urging them pass a resolution that aims to stem the flow of enslaved people into the country. Each year an estimated 14,000 to 17,000 people are brought to the U.S. to be traded as human slaves, with New York state functioning as one of the largest trafficking hubs. In 2009, the legislature of Rockland County passed a memorializing resolution co-authored by Svensson and Abdelqader, and the two plan to target other county legislatures as well.

• Bates College student Razin Mustafiz will create financial literacy workshops for the Somali and Somali-Bantu community in Lewiston, Maine. The workshops will cover the basics of financial planning, from opening a bank account to saving money for education. Mustafiz' commitment is supported by the Bates College Harward Center for Community Partnerships and Adroscoggin Bank.

• MIT student Christopher Moses will develop a course called "Sana Lab" to teach medical personnel and students in the Philippines how to adapt a mobile medicine system developed at MIT to poor, remote locations. His commitment ultimately aims to extend medical care to the conflict-ridden area of Mindanao.

• St. Lawrence University student Grace Ochieng will work to expand the Pads for the People Project that she started in her village of Lwala, Kenya, with the help of the Lwala Community Alliance and thirteen local women. Women who participate in the project are trained to sew menstrual pads and encouraged to sell them for a profit. Over the next six months, Grace will form partnerships and work to make the program more financially sustainable.

John Trimmer and Scott Teagarden, undergraduate engineering students at Bucknell University, will construct a rainwater harvesting system that will provide the three hundred residents of Tumaipa, Suriname, with reliable, clean running water year-round. Local labor and materials will be used in the construction of the rainwater catchment system, and a water committee will be established to take ongoing ownership for the project.

Cynthia Koenig, founder of Hippo Water International and a graduate student at the University of Michigan, in association with Hippo Water International, will work to expand Hippo Water Rollers to India, providing Rollers to women and families. The Hippo, an innovative water transport tool designed to alleviate the problems associated with lack of access to water, makes it possible to collect twenty-four gallons of water, five times the amount possible using traditional methods, in much less time and much more easily.

• Makerere University graduate student Divinity Barkley will build an energy-efficient recording studio for the Amagezi Gemaanyi Youth Association (AGYA) Learning Center, a community center she founded in Kampala, Uganda. Her commitment will provide digital technology training to the Ugandan youth at AGYA, empower them to produce and market their own music, and serve as a source of revenue for AGYA's arts and educational programs. In addition, the recording studio will utilize solar power for 35 percent of its energy.

• Wesleyan student Kennedy Odede, in conjunction with Shining Hope for Communities and American Friends of Kenya, will work to empower and educate women in Kibera, one of the largest slums in Africa. His commitment has two parts: a Home Birth Network, through which women will be trained as home birth attendants; and the Women’s Microfinance Empowerment Project, which will use sustainable gardening techniques to grow vitamin-rich vegetables that provide desperately needed sources of nutrition at affordable prices.

• Purdue University student Keith Hansen will create the iRead Foundation to deliver childrens books to community health centers in Indiana. As vice president of the Purdue Engineering Student Council, Hansen oversees a group that puts on the largest student-run job fair in the nation, bringing over 350 of the nation’s biggest engineering companies to campus and raising nearly $500,000 dollars annually. A portion of those funds will be used to set up the foundation.

• Miami Dade College student Ximena Prugue will distribute 10,000 solar-powered lamps in India's rural communities, with the goal of reducing and/or eliminating kerosene lamp use. The D.Light Design Company lamps will be provided by Bogo Light at wholesale price, and Ximena will work with PTK Honor Society at Miami Dade to raise the money neccessary to purchase the lamps.

• MIT student Sreeja Nag will work to bring renewable, sustainable, and affordable energy to rural regions of India. After consulting local citizens, NGO representatives, and staff at Selco Solar India, Nag has created a report outlining how to bring energy to these areas. One of her ideas, for example, is to create detachable table lighting systems for students to carry home from a solar-powered charger at school.

• University of Miami students Kristina Rosales, Arielle Duperval, Austin Webbert, and Lissette Miller will establish two new community centers in Cite Soleil, a slum located in Port-au-Prince. The community centers will provide educational progams, cultural activities, mentoring, and opportunities for intercultural exchanges between the south Florida community and Haiti.

Khushbu Mishra, an undergraduate student at Mount Holyoke College, will open an art institute in Mithila, Nepal, to display and sell the cultural folk art of local women, empowering and improving the lives of their families. After it's completed, the center will be run by local women who will then train other women in the arts, thereby expanding the reach of the program.

Jessica Yamane, an undergraduate student at the University of California-Riverside, will design an experimental course on how communities can promote healing for domestic violence victims. Partnering with Alternatives to Domestic Violence, Path of Life Ministry's King's Hall Transitional Housing Program, and With Her Strength, Yamane hopes to modify this curriculum for integration in K-12 health and wellness programs throughout the Riverside School District.

Christine Meling, an undergraduate student at Luther College, will purchase the materials and sewing machines for women in Yari, Sudan, to make school uniforms for families that cannot afford them. The women also will receive training on how to sew and use the profits from uniform sales to sustain the program.

An Thi Minh Vo, in association with the Office of Genetic Counseling and Disabled Children in Hue City, Vietnam, will provide microloans of $212 to thirty-five families with children disabled by Agent Orange. The project aims to increase borrowers' income and ease the hardship of families struggling to afford health care and other basic needs.

• University of the Pacific graduate student Harnoor Singh will work with local physicians to provide free blood sugar and basic cardiovascular health screenings for California's migrant worker and supply low-cost prescription drugs to those in need. The tests, which can be completed for less than $15 per person, are of vital importance to California's migrant laborers, the majority of whom lack access to basic healthcare services.

Nathan O'Hara, a graduate student at the University of British Columbia, in association with Makerere University and Vancouver General Hospital, will work to supply Mulago Hospital in Kampala, Uganda, with three hundred half-pins annually. Each year, there are unnecessary fatalities in Uganda due to a lack of vital medical supplies; half-pins, which are used to treat traumatic injuries involving fractured bones, are among those. A collection system in Vancouver-area hospitals will reprocesses the reusable pins, which will be delivered to Mulago Hospital twice a year.

Christina Newman, Sherley Codio, and Fabrice Marcelin, students at Virginia Tech, in partnership with Caritas and the Religious of Jesus and Mary in Gros-Morne, Haiti, will raise $60,000 and oversee the construction of a facility that can house more than 1,500 hens capable of producing 1,250 eggs per day -- 15 percent of the local egg supply. The three have already raised $23,000 and developed a business plan for the project. Their commitment will strengthen the local economy by reducing reliance on imports, and will empower local communities by providing much-needed employment opportunities.

Wow. As Margaret Mead famously said, "Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have." Hats off to those who have stepped up with commitments. You're an inspiration to us all.

To learn more about and/or view webcasts from the event, which ends tomorrow, click here.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Readings and Other Stuff (April 14, 2010)

April 14, 2010

Here are a few items that caught our attention today:

 Have anything you'd like to share?

NTEN 'Unleashes Technology' in New York City

April 13, 2010

Virtual_networking Over the last decade, the annual Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) conference has attracted tech-savvy folks from around the country to schmooze and talk about "transforming technology into social change in [our] work and communities." But this year, while the actual conference was held in Atlanta, techies in select cities were able to participate virtually with a little assistance and support from CauseCast and ReadyTalk.

Here in New York City, I connected with fourteen other participants on Friday at the NPower office in Brooklyn. A few minor tech issues notwithstanding, all of us were grateful for the opportunity to "attend" the event for a fraction of what it would've cost to fly to and stay a few nights in Atlanta.

First up was a keynote by uber-blogger Andrew Sullivan, who entertainingly discussed, among other things, what it takes to be a successful blogger (intense focus, the ability to go without food or sleep for long periods of time) and what distinguishes blogging from more traditional forms of media. After Sullivan spoke, some of us joined a discussion about Client Relationship Management (CRM) and how it can support development work, while others opted to learn how to create a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a Web site designer. Over lunch, we networked between bites of our sandwiches and salads, followed by concurrent discussions of the pros and cons of mobile fundraising and the use of technology to advance social and economic development.

The most popular session of the day (judging from the chatter on Twitter), however, was a program facilitated by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine, co-authors of the soon-to-be-published Networked Nonprofit: Connecting With Social Media to Drive Change. If you didn't track the session on Twitter or watch the live stream, be sure to check out Kanter's recap of the event here and Fine's take here.

Although NTEN plans to post videos of the recorded sessions at its site over the coming weeks, I encourage you to check out the coverage in the nonprofit blogosophere, starting with these posts:

As Jane Meseck of Microsoft noted during her session, nonprofits need to be involved in the technology conversation. And the key to that, said Meseck (and others), is to:

  • Increase not reduce your IT budgets;
  • Leverage the talents of your young staffers, most of whom are familiar and comfortable with new technologies, having used them in college;
  • "Focus on what you do best and network the rest." For example, if you have a cadre of fans on Facebook, ask them for help with your social media initiatives. Andrew Sullivan shared a great example of how he leveraged his network to create a new blog feature, "The View From Your Window," which invites readers of his Daily Dish blog to submit photos of what their world looks like.

In short, we managed to hear and swap a lot of great ideas in just eight hours, which made for a great day and a successful experiment. What about you? Did you attend the conference in Atlanta or one of the remote sessions in another location? What were your takeaways?

-- Regina Mahone

Good Stewardship in a Bad Economy

April 12, 2010

Seedling009 Last Thursday, the Foundation Center celebrated the publication of After the Grant: The Nonprofit's Guide to Good Stewardship, the newest title in its proposal writing book series, with an event at its New York library featuring Altman Foundation president Jane O'Connell and nonprofit consultant Marilyn Hoyt. Book editor Judi Margolin kicked off the event by talking about how the book came to life.

Over the years, the Foundation Center has published a broad range of sector-related guides and nonprofit management books, but nothing about how nonprofits can build relationships with funders after receiving a grant -- which, according to Margolin, "is just the beginning." After the Grant fills that gap with an in-depth look at what it takes to build and maintain lasting relationships with key funders.

While many of the development pros in the room had secured their fair share of grants over the years, a quick show of hands revealed that last year was a tough one for almost everyone. And, according to a recent Foundation Center research advisory and a separate survey by the Nonprofit Finance Fund, foundation giving isn't likely to rebound in 2010.

Speaking directly to that point, O'Connell said that "We may never get back to where we were" -- and that means everyone, foundations and nonprofits alike, needs to re-evaluate what they are doing and how they do it.

According to O'Connell, the economic downturn has caused many foundations that don't want "to waste a good crisis" to re-evaluate their giving. As a result, foundations are:

  • proceeding with caution and considering alternative forms of investment (including mission- and program-related);
  • looking more closely at outcomes;
  • looking more closely at who is sitting on their grantees' boards (and paying special attention to who is watching the organization's money);
  • looking more closely at their grantees' financials to see whether they have adequate reserves and/or are overly reliant on government grants;
  • not particularly enthusiastic about mergers because in many cases "they haven't panned out as we thought they would."

Bottom line: Nonprofits need to treat their funders "just like they were venture capitalists," said Hoyt. Foundations want to have good relationships with their grantees. Not only do they want to hear about the good things a grantee was able to do with their grant, they also want to hear about the things that didn't go as planned -- and, in many cases, may be willing to offer additional help, if it makes sense. "Our success is their success and our failure is their failure," said Hoyt, quoting a Wisconsin funder.

When reaching out to program officers, added Hoyt, think about the fact that they've already gone to bat for your organization. Be nice to them. Don't be a pest.

Here are some things you can do:

  • Hire a photographer to take pictures at your events. After every event, e-mail your program officer and ask whether he/she would like digital copies for their newsletter or annual report.
  • Set up Google Alerts. Each time your program officer or funder turns up in the news for a job well done, send them a brief congratulatory note.
  • Most importantly, have a conversation with your program officer and ask how often he/she would like to hear from you.

What other things can or are nonprofits doing -- both before and after the grant -- to cultivate solid, productive relationships with their funders? Use the comments section below to share your good stewardship tips.

-- Regina Mahone

Weekend Link Roundup (April 10 - 11, 2010)

April 11, 2010

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

Diversity

On the Philanthropy Potluck blog, Wendy Wehr, VP of Communications and Information Services at the Minnesota Council on Foundations, argues that "institutions and individuals must take joint responsibility for diversifying leadership" within the nonprofit sector.

Economy

"Nonprofit leaders need to take a bigger view of how their organizations and missions are financed," writes Nell Edgington at the Social Velocity blog. "It's not enough to manage money wisely," adds Edgington. "Nonprofit leaders need to create a comprehensive, fully integrated financial strategy for the social impact they want to achieve and then execute on it."

The dire situation of many cash-strapped nonprofits isn't solely due to the economic downturn, writes John Brothers of Cuidiu Consulting on the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog. In too many cases, he says, it's the result of "problems that have grown and festered over time, even when resources were more plentiful." How can you tell whether a nonprofit is in or heading for trouble? Brothers shares "six...tell-tell signs."

On the the Business of Giving blog, Seattle Times reporter Kristi Heim interviews Judy Pigott, an heir to the Paccar fortune, about the advocacy efforts of Responsible Wealth, a project of United for a Fair Economy, a Boston-based nonprofit.

Fundraising

Frogloop blogger Allyson Kapin and Network for Good's Katya Andresen share some takeaways from a new fundraising benchmarks study conducted by solutions provider Convio.

Impact/Effectiveness

On the new Community Research Exchange blog, CRE managing director Louisa Hackett argues that it is incumbent on nonprofits groups "to take back...evaluation language and explain to funders [that] this is how we define and measure success." (Thanks for the tip, Caitlin!)

On the Good Ideas blog, Great Nonprofits CEO Perla Ni shares four ideas that could help nonprofits and the nonprofit sector:

  1. Provide tax deductions for volunteer time
  2. Donate vacant office space at a discounted rate to nonprofits
  3. Eliminate tax deductability for donations to religious congregations
  4. Create localized Web sites that make it easy for people to contribute to various community-based groups and projects

Philanthropy

In a new post, Charity Navigator president and CEO Ken Berger looks back at ten sector-related predictions he made in 2009 to see how they worked out -- and offers a few more for 2010.

Following the Corporation for National and Community Service's announcement of Paul Carttar as director of the Social Innovation Fund, Gift Hub blogger Phil Cubeta shares his reservations about the growing involvement of government in the nonprofit sector.

On the Smart Assets blog, Philanthropy New York senior fellow Charles Hamilton takes a long and thoughtful look at the 5 percent "minimum" payout rate for foundations. You may be surprised by some of his conclusions.

And on the Philanthropy 2173 blog, Lucy Bernholz continues her musings on the disruptive impact of new technologies on philanthropy with a sharp post about cloud computing and the "infostructure."

Voluntarism

Last but not least, the Nonprofiteer is back with a bullet-point manifesto that addresses how organizations can make the most of their high-skill volunteers. "High-skill volunteers are...people with significant experience and leadership ability," she writes. "So the best way to deploy them is to give them an opportunity to lead."

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

-- Regina Mahone

Readings and Other Stuff (April 8, 2010)

April 09, 2010

Seems like everyone's at or on their way to a conference. Here are a few items that caught the attention those of us left behind:

Have any good reading lined up for the weekend?

This Week in PubHub: Advancing Global Health

April 07, 2010

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center’s online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her last post, she wrote about climate change mitigation and adaptation.)

As mentioned in my last post, the Foundation Center is providing grants data, research, and relevant news items for four plenary sessions ("Providing Food Security," "Advancing Global Health," "Improving Access to Water," "Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation") at the upcoming ninth annual Global Philanthropy Forum conference, April 18-21, in Redwood City, California. In the weeks leading up to the conference, PubHub is featuring reports on each of these issue areas. This week's focus is on "Advancing Global Health."

Global health challenges, caused or exacerbated by climate change, growing pressure on freshwater supplies, and/or food insecurity, are predicted to consume an ever-larger share of global GDP. So what is being done to address these closely linked issues?

The U.S. Global Health Initiative: Overview & Budget Analysis (Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation) examines the Obama administration’s six-year, $63 billion global health initiative, which advocates a shift in U.S. policy from a vertical, disease-specific approach to global health problems to a more horizontal, integrated approach that addresses multiple health issues in the same populations while strengthening underlying health systems. The initiative also includes continued commitments to the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis and a broader focus on maternal and child health, family planning, and neglected tropical diseases. The report points out the need to consider implications of ongoing reviews of U.S. diplomacy and development policy, reforms of foreign aid structure, and the U.S. Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative.

Building Healthcare Leadership in Africa: A Call to Action (Accordia Global Health Foundation) highlights the need to bolster public health systems in Africa — not only by hiring more workers, improving infrastructure, and introducing new technologies, but also through building leadership capacity. Based on discussions from an April 2009 conference, the report lays out a framework for building capacity and sustainability through leadership development at the individual, institutional, and network levels.

Proven HIV Prevention Strategies (Global HIV Prevention Working Group) describes effective strategies for preventing sexual, blood-borne, and mother-to-child transmission of HIV such as antiretroviral drugs, breast-feeding alternatives, and caesarean delivery. The issue brief emphasizes the need to complement prevention technologies with structural interventions that reduce the vulnerability of those at risk, including legal and policy reforms that empower women.

Empowering women is what Investing in Women for a Better World (BSR) is all about. The report offers case studies of HERproject, a six-country initiative that aims to improve women factory workers' health awareness, leadership skills, and employer relations though peer education and intervention networks. Given that women are more likely to invest their income in the education, nutrition, and health of their children, the authors argue that workplace health programs further empower them to break the cycle of poverty.

Clearly, the global health challenges of the twenty-first century cannot be tackled in isolation, and the above reports only begin to touch on the cross-cutting strategies that will be needed to bring about lasting change. What other strategies are being tried and/or are working? Use the comments section to share your thoughts. And be sure to check out some of the 1,400 other health-related reports in PubHub.

-- Kyoko Uchida

Readings and Other Stuff (April 6, 2010)

April 06, 2010

Here are a few things that caught our attention today:

 What have you been reading/watching/listening to?

Vartan Gregorian on Andrew Carnegie's Legacy

April 05, 2010

Carnegie I've interviewed Vartan Gregorian a couple of times over the years. And on both occasions, the Carnegie Corporation president made clear his admiration for American philanthropy and the enormous role Andrew Carnegie, an immigrant like Gregorian himself, played in shaping its ambitions and norms. As he tells Susan King in the first installment of a five-part interview just posted to the foundation's Web site, the Scottish-born industrialist "was a short man with big vision...a vision [he] accompanied with action. He did not speculate; he researched and acted upon his convictions and his vision of America as a vibrant democracy that needed education to become stronger."

Later in the interview, in response to a question about the impulse behind Carnegie's philanthropy, Gregorian says:

He knew about poverty, he knew about hard work. He knew the concept...of citizenship, and he saw inequality and unequal access to learning. He could not buy books because his family was poor, he could not borrow books because there were no organized libraries, and so he became aware of the denial of learning as a way of oppression....That's one of the things that differentiates him, that when he became rich, he made books available to all the others who were denied learning in similar situations. Another thing that affected him was seeing how hard his father worked and how little he accomplished, he attributed that to lack of educational opportunity. So learning and educational opportunity became two fundamental ideas for him. He came to the U.S. with practically nothing. And suddenly, age 30, he was one of the richest, if not the richest, man in the world. He was not dazzled by this; he was empowered by it. And he decided he was going to act on his wealth, the responsibility thrust upon him by a capitalist society in which he had earned [his] money, not inherited it....And that's what he did. He did not inherit anything except his name and his thirst for learning. He acted on his convictions -- and that's one of the great things that happens when individuals have the means to act on their convictions; they can have real impact....

To read the Q&A, click here. Subsequent installments will be posted over the next year as part of the lead up to the centennial celebration of the foundation's establishment.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Weekend Link Roundup (April 3 - 4, 2010)

April 04, 2010

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

Communications/Marketing

At the Getting Attention blog, Julia Hartz and Tamara Mendelsohn of Eventbrite for Causes discuss the benefits of integrating social media into live events. "It's the power of social media that strengthens live nonprofit events today," write Hartz and Mendelsohn, "enabling causes to come to life in a meaningful and tangible way."

Environment

In response to the Obama administration's announcement that it would open portions of the Atlantic continental shelf, the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and the north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling, Elliot Norse of the Marine Conservation Biology Institute has issued a call for a comprehensive national ocean policy. Writes Norse, "I wish we didn't need to drill for oil, but on the other hand we are addicted to it. I think we need to understand that our addiction has costs."

Fundraising

On the Future Fundrasing Now blog, guest contributor George Crankovic shares his thoughts about Atul Gawande's "remarkable" new book The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right and then applies some of its lessons to a typical direct mail appeal.

Jason Dick, host of the most recent Nonprofit Blog Carnival, offers a number of guest posts on the topic of getting your board members to fundraise.

Governance

A number of bloggers recently have written posts about the importance of including younger staff on nonprofit boards (e.g., here and here). On the Mission-Based Management blog, Peter Brinckerhoff argues that "We DO need to age down on our boards, and we need to do it soon." Adds Brinckerhoff, "Age diversity needs to have the same priority as other kinds, and it's just as difficult to achieve. But that doesn't mean we don't need to get to work and try."

Impact/Effectiveness

Weighing in on the ongoing debate over the "right ways to review, rate, measure, and analyze nonprofits," Lucy Bernholz suggests that organizations also need to take into account "executive leadership, transitions, succession plans, and what they say about [an organization's] current and future plans."

Journalism

Alan Mutter, who writes brilliantly about the current state of journalism at Reflections of A Newsosaur, addresses "the fantasy that philanthropic contributions can take over funding journalism from the media companies that traditionally have supported the press." It's a fascinating post, with all sorts of implications (as one commenter puts it) "for our kinda-sorta democracy."

Philanthropy

Charity Navigator president and CEO Ken Berger responds to critics of CN's plans to revamp its much-maligned rating system. Writes Berger:

It is no secret that over the years this rating system came under considerable censure. Critics charged that solely fiscal measures were flawed for a variety of reasons, and that CN’s ratings could be having the perverse impact of steering investment away from organizations that were actually effective, but which, because their particular circumstances -- considerations not readily apparent in the 990 data -- had overhead or fund-raising costs higher than CN thought prudent.

We have listened to these criticisms. That is why we have announced that Charity Navigator is moving to a triad rating system, one that will retain fiscal measures (which may well be revised), but also account for an organization’s transparency and accountability and, most importantly, its effectiveness.

Commentator Steve Lawry has countered that he does not believe that a “simple system for rating outcomes” is achievable. Here he joins the numerous naysayers who have, since the inception of the outcomes movement over a decade ago, argued that the work of specific charities, whole classes of charities, or the entire charitable sector itself, is too complex to be held to any standard of accountability as regards results and effectiveness. Mr. Lawry also states that “Many good charities strive mightily to measure outcomes for their own management purposes.” We believe that he is wrong on both counts....

The entire post is worth reading.

On the Tactical Philanthropy blog, Sean Stannard-Stockton shares a few takeaways from a recent conversation hosted by the Monitor Institute on the future of philanthropy:

  • Philanthropy needs to get comfortable with "creative tensions." It is not "innovation or effectiveness," it is how can we balance the internal tension between these two goals and many other competing priorities.
  • "Guerilla Philanthropy" was suggested as a way to think of the many new social impact efforts operating outside of institutional philanthropy. It was observed that the emergence of guerilla warfare dramatically upended thinking within established armies and that something similar may be happening in philanthropy.
  • One of Monitor's recommendations to increase impact was to "act bigger" by "understanding your ecosystem." The concept of Ambient Intimacy, which Stannard-Stockton wrote about here, was proposed as one key to understanding your ecosystem.

For the complete list, visit the Tactical Philanthropy blog.

Science/Technology

Weighing in with yet another brilliant post, writer and Internet/social media theorist Clay Skirky suggests that, whether one is talking about business or society, nature abhors complexity almost as much as a vaccuum. That's bad news for the status quo and its upholders. But for others, the silver lining is that "when the ecosystem stops rewarding complexity, it is the people who figure out how to work simply in the present, rather than the people who mastered the complexities of the past, who get to say what happens in the future."

Social Entrepreneurship

Guest blogging at the Case Foundation blog, Stephen Goldsmith, former mayor of Indianapolis and author of the The Power of Social Innovation: How Civic Entrepreneurs Ignite Community Networks for Good, discusses tools the public sector can use to engage the newest group of social innovators -- mobile citizens.

Social Media

Last but not least, Beth Kanter takes a look at the Brooklyn Museum's experiments with the mobile application Foursquare and discusses how other nonprofits can leverage geo-location tools.

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

-- Regina Mahone

Announcement: Foundation Center Seeks Host Orgs for Cooperating Collections Network

April 02, 2010

(Kief Schladweiler is coordinator of cooperating collections at the Foundation Center.)

The Foundation Center is looking for host organizations that are ready to join with us to meet the information and training needs of organizations and individuals whose grantseeking needs are not being met.

The center needs your help in identifying appropriate host organizations for our Cooperating Collection network. Cooperating Collections are free funding information centers located in libraries, community foundations, and other nonprofit resource centers that provide a core collection of Foundation Center print and electronic publications and a variety of supplementary materials, training, and services in areas useful to grantseekers.

We are particularly interested in reaching underresourced and underserved populations across the United States and in other locations around the globe that are in need of and can use this information and training to become successful grantseekers.

Watch the video below to learn more about the program and share it with your contacts and colleagues. And if you know of a potential host organization, feel free to use our handy online form to nominate them.

Thanks. With your help, we can continue to ensure free public access to these needed resources in the U.S. and around the world.

-- Kief Schladweiler

P/PV President Nadya Shmavonian on Evaluative Learning

April 01, 2010

Evaluation in a nonprofit context -- what it is and isn't; who should bear the costs; and whether it's even possible -- remains a much-debated topic. Earlier today, for example, Charity Navigator president Ken Berger responded to skeptics of his organization's plans to revamp its oft-criticized rating system. You might not agree with all of the arguments Berger puts forward in his post, but most people would find it hard to disagree with his contention that a charity ought to be able to answer the following questions:

  1. Is it using outcomes in the design, management, and measurement of its efforts?
  2. Are the targets it sets "reasonable" outcomes? In other words, are they, at a minimum, meaningful, sustainable, and verifiable?
  3. Is the organization achieving those outcomes?

Evaluation also is the subject of the latest Mott Conversation between the Mott Foundation's Duane Elling and Nadya K. Shmavonian, president of Public/Private Ventures, a nonprofit social research and policy organization based in Philadelphia, about the critical role of program evaluation in designing, testing, and sharing high-quality solutions that help low-income communities create meaningful and lasting change. Here's an excerpt:

Mott: How can the nonprofit sector best approach evaluation activities to ensure that they lead to genuine learning and innovation?

Nadya Shmavonian: Evaluation is not a thing so much as it's a way of thinking. Frankly, I believe if you are not asking what you want to learn from a given intervention or program at the beginning, then it isn't necessarily structured as strategically or thoughtfully as it could be. And if it’s not a shared value with the grantees who understand -- who are really trying to advance their own knowledge and best practices -- then I think the attention, use and consumption of evaluative information can be somewhat limited, and there is not the imagination for the next time.

In a place where you have continuity of programs, where you know that you're going to be in it long term, where you’re field-building and advancing, there's a sense of history and of how you can work evaluation in at the front end, but also at the back end. I think there are too many situations where foundations and their grantees have not reaped the collective benefit at the back end to reinforce that.

But, certainly, if you don't do evaluation, then there are enormous wasted resources. You don't ever systematically build an evidence base. What I also think is quite important is that in a good evaluation you can pull apart the component elements -- and the data will surprise you in many instances -- and then you can ask the next generation questions about, "Okay, so why did that work?" and think about the next intervention to advance that knowledge.

Particularly in these times, which are so resource-constrained, we should be focusing on these issues and getting smarter about what it means to evaluate, grow and potentially even replicate programs. But I worry that in the press for resources, we are actually limiting our targeting of thoughtful evaluative inquiry....

To view a video of the conversation, click here.

Or click here to read an edited transcript of the conversation.

Where do you stand? Is Ken Berger right in asserting that every charity should use meaningful, verifiable outcomes in the design, management, and measurement of its efforts? Do you agree with Shmavonian that a failure to do evaluation invariably results in wasted resources? And which nonprofits are using evaluation effectively to advance their mission and/or build a field of practice/knowledge? Use the comments section below to share your thoughts....

-- Mitch Nauffts

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  • "[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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