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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....


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.


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.


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."


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 [email protected]. And have a great week!

-- Regina Mahone

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