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19 posts from September 2010

Weekend Link Roundup (September 4 - 5, 2010)

September 05, 2010

Labor-day Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Communications

On her Getting Attention blog, Nancy Schwartz counsels nonprofits who want to increase their engagement with supporters to give supporters a "chance to go beyond -- whether behind the scenes, after the show, or standing in the shoes of."

"Many...nonprofits describe themselves in dull, bloodless, jargon-laden deadweight statements that will never move anyone to action," writes Future Fundraising Now blogger Jeff Brooks. Instead, says, Brooks, "Why not be lively, interesting, personable, and outward facing...[e]ven on your half-buried Web pages."

Disaster Relief

On the Nonprofit Blog at About.com, Joanne Fritz looks at a recent disaster giving survey which found that "people who never give to causes can be persuaded to give during an emergency; and that minorities are heavily involved in emergency giving."

Zoetica co-founder Geoff Livingston shares a few lessons from the CitizenGulf Day of Action, an effort launched by Zoetica and other organizations to assist families affected by the Deepwater Horizon spill.

Economic Development

On the Chronicle of Philanthropy site, Council on Foundation CEO Steve Gunderson looks at some of the tools organized philanthropy can use to help create jobs in a job-starved economy.

Nonprofit Management

On her new Money and Mission blog, the Nonprofit Finance Fund's Clara Miller deconstructs the myth of revenue diversification.

Philanthropy

The Nonprofiteer explains why she's not impressed by the Giving Pledge, the campaign launched by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett to encourage the nation's billionaires to give at least half of their fortunes to charity. "Even the best-intentioned best-directed private donations are a way for moneyed people to work their will on the public, while the rest of us have nothing but the vote," she writes. "And when the level of contributions is discussed in fractions of $1B, it's no longer charity within a democracy: it's benevolent dictatorship...."

Social Media

The Case Foundation's Joshua Tabb has some advice for organizations looking to host a nonprofit video contest.

Social media expert Beth Kanter suggests that good data collection "is like going to the gym."

That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at rnm@foundationcenter.org and enjoy the long weekend!

-- Regina Mahone

[Anti-]Social Media

September 03, 2010

(Reilly Kiernan recently started a year-long Project55 Fellowship at the Foundation Center. In her first post, she discussed her goals for a series of posts she plans to write over the coming months.)

Social-media Before I start, I want to acknowledge the fact I'm writing this for a blog. I say that because it seems like everyone in the nonprofit sector is talking about social media. That's been one of the biggest takeaways since I began my year-long fellowship at the Foundation Center nearly five weeks ago.

Many of the events I've attended at the center's New York library have highlighted the online tools nonprofits are using to further their missions or ones that young professionals in the sector are deploying to advance their careers. And much of the work I've been doing has involved the center's Web presence. (Coincidentally, the next event hosted by Princeton AlumniCorps, which holds a monthly seminar for Project55 fellows, is called "Non-Profits in the Age of Google: Innovations and Entrepreneurship in Philanthropy and Public Policy.")

Indeed, new forms of interactivity are making it possible for organizations with a social mission to reach and engage more people, more cheaply, than ever before. The implications for the nonprofit sector are enormous, which is why the sector-wide emphasis on new media technologies makes sense.

Based on what I've seen so far, the Foundation Center is doing a great job responding to the imperatives of the digital age. From maintaining the powerful and comprehensive Foundation Directory Online to offering instructive webinars, posting event coverage on its blogs, and maintaining an active presence on Twitter and Facebook, the center has created a robust digital presence.

With all the buzz surrounding social media, though, I'd like to suggest that everyone take a moment to consider what is being lost as nonprofits race toward the virtual future. I don't want to sound like a Luddite -- I certainly recognize how important digital tools and platforms have been and will continue to be for nonprofits. It just seems that the digital remaking of the sector won't be without costs. Of course, I'm new to the sector and don't have much firsthand knowledge of the interpersonal dynamics that prevail in so much of the nonprofit world, but I have spent enough time with computers and social media to believe that twenty-first century nonprofits will have different kinds of relationships with their stakeholders and constituents than their twentieth-century predecessors.

At its core, the nonprofit sector is about people and human interaction. Nonprofits are distinguished from their private-sector counterparts by their emphasis on social welfare and the betterment of society. Digital tools may provide the means to reach more people more cheaply, spread a message further, and raise donations from new supporters, but they do so by creating virtual relationships rather than personal ones.

The potential of these tools to advance the work of the sector is exciting, and I'm not suggesting that nonprofits stop using them. I merely want to call attention to what I see as a need to balance the new and shiny with the core values that have made the nonprofit sector such an important contributor to American life. The Foundation Center does a good job with this, making FDO and face-to-face reference assistance available for free at its libraries and through an extensive network of Cooperating Collections. Other organizations have also struck that balance.

What about yours? Do you worry about the balance between real and virtual worlds? Are you doing anything special or unique to meet the demands and opportunities of the digital age while maintaining your people-based relationships? Or is it all digital, all the time? Let us know in the comments section below.

-- Reilly Kiernan

Back to School With Superman and Friends

September 02, 2010

(Laura Cronin is director of the New York City-based Toshiba America Foundation. In her last post, she chatted with Boston College Law School professor Ray Madoff.)

Need_you Later this month, Inconvenient Truth director Davis Guggenheim will release a new documentary, Waiting for Superman, that aims to bring the contentious education reform debate to a broader public.

The filmmaker and his foundation backers are also using social media to invite viewers into the discussion. The Web site created for the film's launch features a clever tie-in with DonorsChoose, an online giving platform, that enables people who pledge to see the film to direct $5 to a classroom project of their choice. The site also calls viewers to action by urging them to write to their governor, state representatives, etc.

But while you're waiting for Superman to come to a theater near you (it opens September 24), don't overlook another foundation-funded peek behind the classroom door: Testing Teachers, a new radio documentary from American Radio Works that aired last week and is now available online as a podcast, radio stream, or in transcript form.

For me, the most compelling segment of the hour-long documentary, which was funded by the Chicago-based Spencer Foundation, is the description of reform efforts in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that've been spearheaded by the locally based Benwood and Public Education foundations. Among other things, the segment introduces us to Joe Curtis, a master teacher at a local elementary school, and gives us a glimpse of the many factors that get in the way of good teaching.

Kids all over the country will be heading back to school next week. Many of those schools and the teachers in them are excellent; too many others are not. We owe it to our kids to do better. So this Labor Day weekend, take an hour to listen to Testing Teachers and hear what some foundations and education reformers have learned about good teaching and what they are doing to boost teacher effectiveness, in their districts and across the nation.

-- Laura Cronin

This Week in PubHub: Child Well-Being

September 01, 2010

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center’s online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her last post, she looked at four reports that explore options for funding the news.)

Summer is over and America's children are heading back to school. How are they doing? This week in PubHub, we're featuring four reports that examine the well-being of our children and youth.

The 2010 edition of the Annie E. Casey Foundation's KIDS COUNT Data Book provides state-by-state data in ten categories, as well as an analyses of national trends. According to the report, overall child well-being has stagnated since 2000, with five indicators (including infant mortality and teen birth rate) showing improvement and three (percentage of low-birth-weight babies, children living in poverty, number of children in single-parent families) having deteriorated. Especially worrisome is the upward trend in the child poverty rate, which fell 30 percent between 1994 and 2000, but rose 6 percent between 2000 and 2008.

Nowhere is child poverty more dire than in the South, where 2.4 million children live in households with incomes below 50 percent of the federal poverty line, a recent study by the Southern Education Foundation finds. The Worst of Times: Children in Extreme Poverty in the South and Nation, a report based on the SEF study, examines the percentage of children in extreme poverty by state and county and estimates that, between 2008 and 2010, extreme child poverty increased by 25 percent in the South, 41 percent in the West, 19 percent in the Northeast, and 23 percent in the Midwest. An SEF analysis of more than 2,700 school districts also reveals the pronounced gap between the educational needs of disadvantaged children and federal funding and per pupil expenditures.

As seen in the distribution of students in high-poverty districts, communities of color are disproportionately represented among the poor. Childhood Poverty Persistence: Facts and Consequences, a new report from the Urban Institute, finds that while 37 percent of children experience poverty before age 17 and 10 percent are persistently poor, African-American children are about 2.5 times more likely than white children to experience poverty and seven times more likely to be persistently poor. How does childhood poverty affect adult outcomes? According to the report, the number of years spent in poverty as a child is closely correlated to lower high school graduation rates, higher teen birth rates, and reduced employment prospects over time. Focusing resources on low-income parents in the form of training, work supports, and/or home visiting programs, the report suggests, could improve children's future prospects.

America's Future: Latino Child Well-Being in Numbers and Trends, a data book from the National Council of La Raza, notes that, if current trends persist, Latinos/Hispanics, another minority group overrepresented among the poor, will comprise 44 percent of all poor children by 2030. The report found that 59 percent of Latino/Hispanic children are members of low-income families, and that by eighth grade 42 percent of Latino/Hispanic kids score below basic reading levels (while only 55 percent graduate from high school). Latino/Hispanic children and youth also fare worse than other racial/ethnic groups in terms of childhood obesity, teen pregnancy rates, and access to health care, and are disproportionately represented in the juvenile justice system.

Given these findings, the well-being of our children -- our future -- should be of concern to all. Indeed, many would argue that the situation can only be rectified by targeted policies and programs that address the persistent poverty and lack of opportunity confronting so many of our young people. Identifying strategies and practices that deliver concrete results is another story. Do you know of any programs/initiatives that are delivering positive outcomes for our children? We'd love to hear about them.

And don't forget to check out PubHub, where you can browse and search more than 650 reports related to children and youth.

-- Kyoko Uchida

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