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30 posts from October 2010

Weekend Link Roundup (October 16 - 17, 2010)

October 17, 2010

Fall_foliage Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Corporate Philanthropy

"When the Shell Foundation was created 10 years ago, the company was still near the top of the anti-globalization protestors 'hit-list', not least because of the rich resonance of the 'Shell to Hell' slogan," writes Matthew Bishop and Michael Green on their Philanthrocapitalism blog. "Has the Shell Foundation turned the company's reputation around and sent it to heaven? No....But it does show that corporate philanthropy that is run professionally and independently of the PR departments that still dominate much CSR, has a much greater impact...."

Environment

For this year's Blog Action Day, an annual event that this year invited bloggers around the world to weigh in on the global water crisis, Idealist.org's Diana Hsu compiled a list of water-related organizations that are working to assist underresourced communities. A handful of Foundation Center bloggers also contributed posts (here, here, here, here, and here).

Fundraising

On her Non-Profit Marketing blog, Katya Andresen shares a few takeaways from a recent Seth Godin webinar on what it means to be a "linchpin."

Future Fundraising Now blogger Jeff Brooks reminds fundraisers not to "mistake your psychology and preferences for your donors."

Philanthropy

On the Deep Social Impact blog, Maureen O'Brien explains why she doesn't think Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg's $100 million donation in support of the Newark public school system is representative of his generation, the Millennials.

In his latest Chronicle of Philanthropy column, Tactical Philanthropy's Sean Stannard-Stockton offers five questions "that donors should ask when they are considering a significant gift."

Social Entrepreneurship

Social Velocity founder Nell Edgington has a few suggestions for next year's Social Capital Markets Conference, including adding a session "about how we educate philanthropists about the need for capacity and growth capital in the nonprofit world."

On the Chronicle of Philanthropy-hosted Money and Mission blog, the Nonprofit Finance Fund's David Greco suggests that "instead of trying to create new models based on the private sector or create for-profit social enterprises that use market mechanisms to address social ills, maybe we should ask, 'How do we release the potential of the social sector?'"

Social Media

In the latest installment of her Social Good podcast series, Allison Fine discusses the power of social media with Jennifer Aaker, co-author (with husband Andy Smith) of the Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways To Use Social Media to Drive Social Change.

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

-- Regina Mahone

People in the News (10/17/10): Appointments, Promotions, and Obituaries

News_people_2010 The Mott Foundation in Flint, Michigan, has announced the appointments of MARK ABBOTT as program director of its Pathways Out of Poverty grantmaking team, GWYNN HUGHES as program officer for its afterschool-related grantmaking, ALICIA KITSUSE as program officer in its Flint Area program, and JENNIFER LIVERSEDGE as assistant to Mott president and CEO William S. White as well as program officer for the foundation's exploratory and special initiatives grantmaking portfolio. Abbott previously served as director of grant operations with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, worked in several capacities for the Corporation for National and Community Service, and was a program director at the Coro Center for Civic Leadership in San Francisco and Pittsburgh. Hughes was most recently executive director of the Massachusetts Afterschool Partnership in Boston and earlier served as chief of project management and policy support for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services and as chief operating officer of the state's Office of Child Care Services. Kitsuse joins the foundation with considerable experience in the fields of civic engagement, community development, and urban planning, and has served as a program manager, researcher, teacher, and consultant. Liversedge most recently was a mechanical engineer and patent examiner with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and earlier was a student teacher at middle and high schools in Genesee County.

The New York City-based Surdna Foundation has announced SHAWN ESCOFFERY as director of its Strong Local Economies program. Escoffery, most recently deputy director of the New Orleans Neighborhood Development Collaborative, was earlier director of workforce development at Empower Baltimore Management Corporation and at the New Community Corporation in Newark, New Jersey, where he also served as vice president of BCT Partners.

The Pittsburgh-based Alcoa Foundation has announced STEPHANIE A. WOLCOTT as director of its social responsibility and community outreach program. Wolcott, most recently director and marketing leader for Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management's KIN Global Summit, was earlier manager of corporate citizenship for Tyco International and held communication and marketing management positions at several branding and public relations firms.

The Community First Foundation in Arvada, Colorado, has named MARLA WILLIAMS as CEO. Williams, a partner at the law firm of Holme Roberts & Owen, earlier served seven years as president and CEO of the Women's Foundation of Colorado, where she remains an honorary trustee. She replaces Kenneth Eggeman, who will retire at the end of this year after twenty-three years with the foundation.

The Houston Endowment has announced the appointment of MEGHNA GOSWAMI as a grant officer in its human services program. Goswami, who has extensive experience with serving vulnerable populations, most recently provided administrative leadership to human services agency Daya, Inc.

In other news, PND notes the passing of SIDNEY J. WEINBERG, JR., a senior director of Goldman Sachs and an emeritus trustee of the Foundation Center. Mr. Weinberg, who died on October 4 at the age of 87, was, according to the New York Times, a member of a family dynasty that played a key role in the success of the investment banking firm during the twentieth century: His father, Sidney J. Weinberg, was chief executive of Goldman from 1939 until his death in 1969, while his brother, John, led the company from 1976 to 1990. Sidney Weinberg, who joined Goldman Sachs as a general partner in 1965, led its investment banking services department from 1978 to 1988, and became a senior director of the firm in 1999, was also a noted philanthropist. Since its establishment in 1979, the Sidney J. Weinberg, Jr. Foundation has awarded grants totaling almost $50 million to a range of nonprofits and educational institutions, including New York-Presbyterian Hospital, the Central Park Conservancy, Eisenhower Medical Center, the Purnell School, Claremont Colleges in California, and the Foundation Center.

Foundation Leaders Divided on Diversity Disclosure Legislation

October 15, 2010

Since 2008, two attempts have been made to pass state-wide legislation regarding the public disclosure of private foundation practices related to diversity; one succeeded and one failed. In California, AB 624, a proposition requiring foundations to report on the diversity of their staffs, board, and grantmaking practices, failed to become law in 2008. And earlier this year, in Florida, SB 998, a law that prohibits the state from collecting such information, passed.

In July, the Foundation Center surveyed members of its Grantmaker Leadership Panel to gauge the reaction of foundation leaders to these developments. Based on completed surveys from 73 of the 228 members of the panel (a response rate of 32 percent), the results showed that, on balance, respondents tend to have unfavorable opinions of both initiatives.

As shown below, a slight majority of foundation leaders (51 percent) disapproved of the California legislation. Overall, twice as many foundation leaders had an "unfavorable" opinion as had a "favorable" opinion (51 percent vs. 25 percent), while the remaining 24 percent were either "neutral" (20 percent) or "unfamiliar" (4 percent) with the legislation.

GLP_fig1 

The sentiments of the "unfavorable" camp were captured by a private foundation president who expressed concern that "federal intrusion and prescriptive models of giving and places to give will erode the genius and diversity of philanthropy," while the views of those who had a "favorable" opinion of the legislation were summed up by a foundtion president who said, "We expect and demand disclosure of demographic diversity from corporations, so why not philanthropy?"

When it came to the recently passed Florida legislation, almost three times as many foundation leaders had an unfavorable opinion as had a favorable opinion (42 percent vs. 15 percent), while a quarter (26 percent) were neutral and 16 percent were unfamiliar with the legislation.

GLP_fig2 

Only ten foundation leaders (14 percent of all respondents) disapproved of both initiatives, while nine (12 percent) were neutral on both. As one private foundation put it: "While I fully support self-governance and full disclosure as those issues relate to private foundations, I find it difficult to support legilstaion that requires and/or prohibits the gathering of any sort of information."

To download Foundation Leaders Divided on Legislation; Supportive of Field-Building Efforts (4 pages, PDF), the report based on the survey, click here.

What's your view of the recent attempts to pass, or prohibit, diversity disclosure legislation? Do you agree with the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, which labeled passage of the Florida law as "a major setback for grantmaker accountability"? Or do you lean more toward the Philanthropy Roundtable/Alliance for Charitable Reform view that the California bill was an overreach and a threat to philanthropic freedom?

Use the comments section to share your thoughts.

Blog Action Day 2010: Water

Blog Action Day (#bad10) is an annual event held every October 15 that, according to the Blog Action Web site, unites the world's bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking a global discussion and driving collective action.

This year, the featured topic is water and the worldwide water crisis, and more than 4,600 blogs from 135 different countries -- including our own Philanthropy Front and Center-Cleveland, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC blogs -- have registered at the Blog Action Day site.

Back in December, I found this graphic on Adam Singer's Future Buzz blog and re-posted it. It turned out to be very popular with readers, so here it is again.

 

Watersupply

 

To learn more, visit the Blog Action Day Web site, where, in addition to browsing hundreds of blog posts, you can donate to two of the best-known water-related nonprofits, charity:water and water.org; sign a petition in support of efforts to achieve UN Millennium Development Goal #7 (halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015); or download a petition widget for your site or blog.

--Mitch Nauffts

This Week in PubHub: The Essential Role of Arts and Culture

October 14, 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 examine issues related to mental health and juvenile justice.)

October is Funding for the Arts Month at the Foundation Center, and as we do every October PubHub is featuring arts and culture-themed reports. Since the onset of the economic downturn, however, the number of foundation-sponsored publications about arts and culture seems to have fallen off. Could it be that, in a world of reduced resources and growing demand for emergency assistance of all kinds, the arts are now perceived as a luxury? Let's hope not. As the four reports highlighted below show, the arts are essential to the civic health and vitality of society.

Neuroeducation: Learning, Arts, and the Brain, a 2009 report from the Dana Foundation, summarizes recent research that demonstrates a correlation between early exposure to the arts and improvements in cognitive ability, attention span, and learning. Among other things, a well-designed arts-based pedagogy is thought to enhance students' engagement with and retention of content, emotional involvement in the learning process, social awareness, and ability to apply abstract concepts across disciplines. The critical question is how to translate neuroscience into classroom strategies that maximize the benefits of arts education. The implications for education policy and practice, the report concludes, include more collaboration between teachers and researchers, greater dissemination of proven strategies, more cultivation of "lab" schools, and better analysis of individual art forms for measurable outcomes.

One measurable outcome is high school graduation rates. According to the Center for Arts Education report Staying in School: Arts Education and New York City High School Graduation Rates, data suggest a direct correlation between graduation rates and resources for and access to arts education. Indeed, the top third of high schools with the best graduation rates had significantly more certified arts teachers, more classrooms dedicated to the arts, more arts-related courses, more and deeper partnerships with arts and cultural groups, and more sponsored field trips than schools in the bottom third. Citing findings that arts education can deter delinquent behavior and improve academic performance among at-risk students, the report recommends expanding arts education offerings, enhancing student access to the city's arts industry, and ensuring that all schools have certified arts teachers and dedicated classroom space for the arts.

The arts do not exist in a vacuum, of course, and artists often face obstacles that affect their work and limit their freedom of expression. One of these, as described in Untold Stories in South Africa: Creative Consequences of the Rights Clearance Culture for Documentary Filmmakers, a report from the Black Filmmakers Network, Documentary Filmmakers' Association, and American University, is the culture of fear surrounding the use of copyrighted material such as news footage. Among other things, the authors of the report argue that artists must be informed of their rights and best practices for fair-use dissemination if diverse viewpoints are to be heard.

According to Promoting Public and Private Reinvestment in Cultural Exchange-Based Diplomacy, a new report from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, arts and culture are also an essential component of public diplomacy. The study reviews the decline of U.S. cultural engagement on the global stage since the 1990s -- of the fifty-one private and corporate foundations that supported international arts exchange in 1994, the report notes, thirty-two no longer do so -- and makes the case for renewed investment in cultural exchange as a means of promoting dialogue and greater mutual understanding.

What are your thoughts about the role of arts and culture in the current educational, social, economic, and global environment? Which benefits of arts and culture programming are most important to measure, and how should such measurement be funded? And how, if at all, is the role of foundations with respect to the arts and arts funding changing?

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below. And be sure to check out PubHub, where you can browse nearly four hundred additional reports related to arts and culture.

-- Kyoko Uchida

ANNOUNCEMENT: Edna McConnell Clark Foundation Launches Social Innovation Fund Grants Competition

October 13, 2010

The New York City-based Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, one of eleven intermediary organizations selected earlier this year to receive an inaugural grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service's Social Innovation Fund (SIF), has opened the competitive application process for $20 million in funds -- $10 million from SIF and $10 million in matching funds from its own endowment -- which the foundation plans to invest in high-performing nonprofit organizations that are delivering "a truly effective and transformative service to very disadvantaged youth."

According to an e-mail circulated by the foundation yesterday, EMCF anticipates making 8 to 10 investments in 2011, generally multi-year grants, for a minimum of $2 million annually. The funds are intended to provide "upfront growth capital to help grantees build their evidence base and organizational capacity to prepare for greater public and private investment that can propel them to scale and sustainability."

To be eligible for funding, nonprofits must be based in the U.S. and active in localities where poverty is widespread, including rural areas. Initially, the foundation will focus on nonprofits seeking to expand in communities of need in the Carolinas, Oklahoma, and California. In those states, the Duke Endowment, George Kaiser Family Foundation, and Tipping Point Community have committed $15 million over three years to help EMCF's SIF grantees fulfill the 1:1 matching requirement of the SIF grant. (The Open Society Foundations has made a similar commitment of $2 million.)

Th e-mail also notes that EMCF will extend to its SIF grantee portfolio the principles of the growth capital aggregation approach that its has pioneered with three EMCF grantees (Nurse-Family Partnerships, Youth Villages, and Citizen Schools), and that it is "actively seeking local, regional and national co-investors that can ease what will be an enormous fundraising challenge and increase the leverage and impact of SIF dollars."

Nonprofit organizations that meet EMCF's eligibility criteria are invited to apply online.

Organizations that intend to apply should e-mail a notice of their intent to sifapp@emcf.org with the subject "Notice of Intent to Apply" and the name of their organization by 8:00 p.m. EDT on October 25, 2010. Applications must be submitted by 8:00 p.m. EDT on November 1, 2010.

Visit the EMCF site to learn more.

GRAPHIC: The True Size of Africa

October 12, 2010

Once in a while you come across a picture or illustration that really is worth a thousand words. The eye-opening map overlay below -- billed as "a small contribution in the fight against rampant immapancy -- was created by Kai Krause, a user interface and software designer best known for his Kai's Power Tools series of products. (H/t @viewfromthecave via @chayling)

 

Africa_truesize

 

So, the next time you hear someone talking about "Africa" as if it were a large-ish (and largely homogenous) country, remind them: It's bigger than the United States, China, India, Japan, and all of Europe -- combined.

Weekend Link Roundup (October 9 - 10, 2010)

October 10, 2010

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

Cause Marketing

On her Getting Attention blog, Nancy Schwartz shares an interview with expert cause marketer Joe Waters in which Waters identifies the types of nonprofits most likely to benefit from corporate partnerships.

Guest blogging at Katya Andresen's Non-Profit Marketing blog, Network for Good's Kate Olsen announces the release of the organization's newest e-guide, Cause Marketing Through Social Media: 5 Steps to Successful Online Campaigns, which was created in partnership with communications/marketing consulting firm Zoetica.

Corporate Philanthropy

On the Social Citizens blog, Kristin Ivie takes a look the 2010 Cause Evolution Study, a new report from marketing and communications firm Cone which finds, among other things, that "purchasing and employment decisions [by consumers] are increasingly influenced by how corporations align themselves with a cause."

"There is no doubt about it -- cause marketing influences what we buy and from whom," writes Lucy Bernholz on her Philanthropy 2173 blog. "There is nothing but doubt, however, that the money that is raised this way goes where it is supposed to....We do not track these dollars, companies don't need to report them (nor even identify the organization to which they are giving them), no one is required to report them in aggregate form or any other way, and there is not, at this time, any way to know for sure that the money is going for good."

Education

On the Deep Social Impact blog, Joanne Duhl applauds Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and the new documentary Waiting for Superman for putting urban school reform back in the spotlight. "The problem is that the spotlight will once again move on to a new hot issue," writes Duhl, "while the children in these communities will be literally left behind."

Governance

On the Venture Philanthropy Partners site, VPP chairman Mario Morino takes another look at the trend toward greater transparency in the social sector and argues that "an organization’s performance...and its transparency are highly intertwined and co-dependent." Moreover, writes Morino, as the transparency revolution accelerates,

we must not allow skin-deep, compliance-driven transparency to become an acceptable substitute for values-driven, culturally ingrained efforts. One way to convince nonprofits to turn toward deeper transparency is to make transparency less scary. Today, transparency is not used enough as a tool for helping organizations to learn, improve, and adapt—to hold themselves accountable to themselves first! Far more frequently, it’s used to find fault and even punish.

...

Transparency is inevitable. New tools and often-well-deserved suspicion of our key societal institutions make that so. But transparency for transparency's sake -- or for punishment's sake --is ineffective and even counterproductive. We must use our society's focus on transparency to encourage a broader ethic and culture within the social sector that will build and reward true transparency. And just as we want to encourage organizations to be mission-driven and to "manage to outcomes," we want to encourage their being open and transparent for their own effectiveness -- so they can do the very best they can for those they serve....

Philanthropy

Guest blogging at Sean Stannard-Stockton's Tactical Philanthropy blog, nonprofit consultant Adin Miller provides thorough coverage of the Tactical Philanthropy track at last week's Social Capital Markets Conference in San Francisco.

Social Entrepreneurship

Nathaniel Whittemore shares a chart from technology research firm Gartner that illustrates the "hype cycle of emerging technology" and asks, two years after the global financial crisis, whether the social entrepreneurship field has "come through the trough of disillusionment."

Social Media

It's not enough for organizations to create a mobile app or mobile-friendly version of their Web site, says Zoetica co-founder Geoff Livingston on his blog. The key is "Understanding how mobile impacts your stakeholder....Whether that's easier experiences with less input because of the device, or actual hard location based use depends on the organization. What is clear is that this is a trend that companies and nonprofits can no longer avoid."

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

-- Regina Mahone

A Conversation With Margaret Coady, Director, Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy

October 07, 2010

Coady_cecp (In her role as director of the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, Margaret Coady leads the organization’s long-range strategic and operational planning, conducts research, and runs the annual Excellence Awards in Corporate Philanthropy Awards competition. CECP has just issued Shaping the Future: Solving Social Problems Through Business Strategy, a new report based on research by McKinsey & Co. The following Q&A was conducted by Laura Cronin, director of the Toshiba America Foundation. Cronin wrote about two new education-themed documentaries, Testing Teachers and Waiting for Superman, in her last post.)

Laura Cronin: Your latest report asks a really big question: What will corporate involvement in social issues look like over the next decade? Forecasting and generalizing across industries and national boundaries is pretty challenging, but you were able to come up with an organizing principle for business leaders charged with managing social engagement that you call Sustainable Value Creation. What does the term mean? And how is it being put into practice?

Margaret Coady: We define Sustainable Value Creation as a self-reinforcing state of corporate behavior that simultaneously delivers bottom-line results and community benefits. It's a dense definition, but the underlying concept is simple: Companies should take an active role in helping to solve social problems that are in the companies' best interests to solve.

In the report, Sustainable Value Creation is actually the best of four possible future scenarios that CECP and McKinsey think business and society face over the next decade. The three less-optimal scenarios we identify are called "Dangerous Mismatch," "Dual Capitalism," and "Vicious Circle." Which of the four scenarios comes to pass will depend on two things, in our view: the level and consistency of society's expectations of business; and the extent to which corporations take a leadership role in addressing societal problems.

A handful of cutting-edge companies have already taken the first steps toward Sustainable Value Creation, several of which are detailed in short case studies included in the report. One example is the Western Union Company, a global leader in money transfer services with locations in over two hundred countries and territories and winner of CECP's Excellence Award in Corporate Philanthropy in 2009. With over two hundred million people working outside their country of birth and sending billions of dollars to their families back home every year in the form of remittances, Western Union sees a clear business benefit from engaging in the immigration debate and helping these potential customers succeed in their new communities. The company convenes forums among policy makers, businesses, civil-society organizations, and academic institutions to advance the debate about immigration and migrant rights. It also supports leading-edge research that helps drive dialogue on the issue, which can promote positive effects on customers' quality of life, which in turn is good for business.

Continue reading »

ANNOUNCEMENT: Foundation Center Launches Online Learning Community

October 06, 2010

(Cynthia Bailie is the director of special information initiatives at the Foundation Center and heads the center's Cleveland office. She blogs regularly at the Philanthropy Front and Center-Cleveland blog and wrote about the center's Nonprofit Collaboration Database for PhilanTopic in May.)

GrantSpace Are you wasting time looking for resources, tools, and training needed to kick-start your fundraising and social change efforts? Good news. The Foundation Center has added a new online community to its portfolio of web properties that has everything you need in one place.

After a year-long process built on engaging with our audiences and five decades as the nation's leading authority on philanthropy, the Foundation Center is pleased to announce the launch of grantspace.org. GrantSpace places the best information about grants and fundraising within reach of organizations of all sizes, providing grantseekers with a one-stop shop for knowledge, community, and expert guidance. Complementing the resources on the Foundation Center's main site, foundationcenter.org, GrantSpace gathers, on a single convenient platform, recent news, reports, podcasts, videos, statistics, sample documents, and requests for proposals related to the most pressing social change issues of the day. Links to relevant FAQs are included throughout the site, and an "Ask Us" link on each page connects visitors to expert assistance from Foundation Center staff via live chat or e-mail. The site also offers a comprehensive calendar that lists and allows registration for upcoming Foundation Center training opportunities in classrooms around the U.S. as well as online.

GrantSpace's user-focused assortment of tools and resources is designed to get you up-to-speed on all it takes to finance and operate a nonprofit organization. Register now (it's free) and begin rating content and weighing in on what matters to you. New members can also grab a free 24-hour subscription to the Foundation Directory Online Professional, the center's searchable database of nearly 100,000 grantmakers and more than two million grants.



But wait, there's more. Over the coming months, we'll be introducing an online diagnostic tool for nonprofit practitioners looking to add to their knowledge base; a variety of community forums; live events; and additional must-have content from the Foundation Center and its growing list of partners.

In the meantime, we want to hear from you. What would you like to see in GrantSpace? Know of a cool tool or compelling content we should add? Drop us a line using the Feedback link and we'll see what we can do.

What are you waiting for? Click on over to GrantSpace to explore a growing range of in-depth content, engage with your peers and experts, and energize your fundraising efforts. And, of course, feel free to share your thoughts and feedback in the comments section.

-- Cindy Bailie

On Social Impact and Mark Zuckerberg's $100 Million 'Investment'

October 05, 2010

(Rachel Bellow and Suzanne Muchin are Partners at ROI Ventures, a strategic advisory firm that works at the intersection of social impact and market opportunity. This is their first post for PhilanTopic.)

Startup-education Although Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg made headlines for his recent $100 million donation to the Newark public school system, philanthropists and nonprofits alike would be wise to ask: Is "big check writing" really the best way to create social impact?

Zuckerberg, the first of his generation to make such a huge philanthropic gift, is to be commended for stepping outside his immediate circle of concern and committing a large sum to a critical issue.

The challenge, however, is figuring out how to lay a foundation for success. Often entrepreneurs make philanthropic investments in ways they never would in business. Zuckerberg's recent action, despite its magnanimity, raises some red flags:

Red Flag #1: Using Venture Capital Vocabulary for Social Impact Investing

Invoking the "We bet on people" chestnut from the venture capital world, Zuckerberg says he is betting on Newark mayor Cory Booker and New Jersey governor Chris Christie, as opposed to any particular strategy. The danger with this approach is that, as a donor, Zuckerberg has very little ability to ensure the impact of his donation -- especially if either Booker or Christie resigns or is voted out of office.

Red Flag #2: Writing the Check and Walking Away

Social impact investing is hard, so why would Zuckerberg feel confident about investing $100 million and then stepping back from the process? Would he invest in a software company without a tight feedback loop to track the performance of his investment? Businesses receive constant feedback from the market; think about the instant feedback Facebook received when it posted its new privacy policy last December and the impact that had on its business. In the case of his first major foray into philanthropy, Zuckerberg appears to be willing to invest $100 million and walk away, which could spell trouble for the investment.

Red Flag #3: Not Taking the Long View

Zuckerberg and others haven't addressed the question of how the infusion of money into Newark public schools will be sustained. In other words, what's the endgame? Even if the funds, spread out over five years, represent only 4 percent of the Newark school district's $940 million annual budget, they are likely to provide consistent support for much-needed programs -- until they run out. Then what?

Red Flag #4: No Talk of Incentives

An investment of this magnitude should be used in part to create incentives for other entities to engage with the problem of failing public schools. This means encouraging other people and institutions to become part of the solution in a substantive way.

Red Flag #5: A Weak Narrative

It's hard to imagine Zuckerberg making a business investment of this size without developing a solid rationale or narrative concerning the strategy itself, as opposed to just having a "vision." Since the ultimate impact of his investment depends on others coming in and matching it -- as well as providing the intellectual framework for the strategies and tactics to be funded -- one would think Zuckerberg would work with Mayor Booker to say more about the latter's approach to education reform: How are Booker's efforts in Newark different from reform efforts in other parts of the country? What aspects of his plan have the greatest potential for success? Which ones are more problematic, and why? Betting on vision is fine, but Zuckerberg knows from his own experience that, for any investment to succeed, the thesis behind it needs to be solid, clear, compelling, and subject to tough questioning.

Red Flag #6: Too Much Talk About Money

This is the most obvious flag, and it's a direct consequence of all the other flags. Social impact isn't about money. Mere check writing often leaves the most valuable resources -- the donor's intellectual capital and personal network -- out of the equation. Zuckerberg understands better than most how social media can be used to create and energize communities of practice. But he has yet to infuse any of his considerable knowledge into his gift.

"Checkbook philanthropy" is a vestige of twentieth-century philanthropy, and a new generation of donors is beginning to see it is a weak lever for social change. Those committed to achieving social impact with their philanthropic investments are discovering that the application of capital to complex social problems needs to be buttressed by intellectual capital and leveraged by networks to which the typical social sector organization doesn't have access.

To ensure that his $100 million investment in Newark public schools creates the greatest possible impact -- something we all want -- Zuckerberg (and other philanthropists) would be well served by committing the same amount of thought and energy to realizing his philanthropic vision as he does to his business goals.

-- Rachel Bellow and Suzanne Muchin

A Conversation With Brett Jenks, President/CEO, Rare Conservation

October 04, 2010

Jenks_lg Our planet has become very crowded, very quickly. According to economist and Earth Institute director Jeffrey Sachs, the world's population has grown by 4 billion, from 2.6 billion to 6.6 billion, in just sixty years. Over that same period, the population of sub-Saharan Africa has increased from 180 million to 820 million, while the population of Asia Minor has quadrupled, from 51 million to 220 million. Global economic activity has increased even faster, with gross world product having risen a staggering eight times since 1950 and a hundred times since the start of the industrial era.

All those people and all that economic activity have greatly stressed the planet's natural systems. In almost every region of the world, freshwater supplies, forests, arable land, and fish stocks are being depleted at an alarming rate. Deserts are expanding, endangered habitats are shrinking, and the oceans are becoming more acidic. And with world population predicted to hit 9.2 billion by 2050 — a nearly 40 percent increase — and world per capita income expected to rise 450 percent, the global competition for critical resources is predicted to have dire consequences. Unless, as Sachs writes in Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet, we "break some bad and long-standing habits" and learn to manage our resources sustainably.

Recently, Philanthropy News Digest talked with Brett Jenks, president and CEO of Rare Conservation, a U.S.-based conservation group, about the organization's work, the dynamics of behavior change, and the significance of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

For the past decade, Jenks has overseen Rare's global effort to equip people in the world's most biodiverse areas with the tools and motivation they need to protect their natural resource base. Under his leadership, the organization has grown over 1,000 percent; expanded its work to five continents; formed worldwide partnerships with leading environmental NGOs; and received four straight Fast Company Social Capitalist Awards.

Philanthropy News Digest: I'd like to start by asking you about the situation in the Gulf of Mexico. After three months and the release of millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf, BP was able to cap its damaged Macondo well in July and [last month] finally managed to plug the well for good. Beyond the economic toll on the residents of the Gulf region and the toll on turtles, sea mammals, sea birds, and other species, what concerns you most about what happened in the Gulf this summer?

Brett Jenks: It's clear to me the oil spill was a tragedy whose ultimate consequences we won't be able to assess for months, if not years, to come. But a spill like that, as devastating as it was, pales in comparison to the much less perceptible loss of habitat and species we are going to have to contend with once we realize what we've allowed to happen, in our lifetimes, to the planet's climate. For me, the oil spill is a symbol of our arrogance as a species, as well as the fact that we don't have a Plan B in the event something goes wrong when we drill that deep for oil. And my biggest concern is that people simply don't recognize or are unwilling to admit what is happening all over the world with respect to the loss of habitat, the loss of species, the loss of the natural resource base on which so many people's lives and the well-being of future generations depends. Sadly, I don't think we've learned very much from the spill, and I don't think it will lead to comprehensive climate legislation — or to a recognition of what's happening in terms of the global extinction crisis, the future scarcity of water, or climate change in general.

PND: Is Rare doing anything to address the after-effects of the spill

BJ: We aren't involved in any way with the spill. We're not a domestic conservation organization, we have no offshore drilling expertise, and we don't lobby. Instead, we spend every waking moment thinking about the small gains we can make with local communities in the world's richest habitats in the developing tropics. We work entirely abroad, in countries like China, Indonesia, Mexico, and Malaysia. Other groups are far better equipped to take on the government and the oil companies and industry lobbyists who spend all their time on the Hill. We want to work where we can make a difference, and that's what makes us an effective organization.

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Weekend Link Roundup (October 2 - 3, 2010)

October 03, 2010

Strong_weak_ties Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Communications/Marketing

A couple of months ago, Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced that it would challenge in court "kite fliers, kayakers and dozens of other themed fund-raisers" using its trademarked "for the cure" phrase. In response, Dan Pallotta on his Harvard Business Review blog writes, "Some would say it's wrong to sue a charity because it hurts the poor or those in need. It's going to hurt them a hell of a lot more if good companies avoid business with charity because trademark, patent, and contract law don't apply."

Fundraising

Guest blogging on Katya Andresen's Non-Profit Marketing blog, Joe Garecht of the Fundraising Authority offers five reasons why your supporters are not interacting with your nonprofit online.

Impact/Effectiveness

Guest blogging at the Tactical Philanthropy blog, Peggy Hill, chief strategic relations officer at Nurse-Family Partnership, has a few recommendations for foundations and government looking "to increase the odds of success in moving evidence-based programs into broader practice."

Social Entrepreneurship

In advance of the sold-out Social Capital Markets Conference in San Francisco, Social Entrepreneurship blogger Nathaniel Whittemore shares ten tips for those lucky enough to have snagged a ticket.

Social Media

New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell's article about technology and activism caused quite a stir last week. In the article, Gladwell argues that today's social media tools fail to engender the type of "strong ties" that fuel social movements and drive change. "More than misunderstanding the role and power of social media," writes Allison Fine, co-author of The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting With Social Media to Drive Change, on her blog, "what I found most disturbing and disappointing about the article was that Gladwell doesn't understand [the nature of] activism."

Elsewhere, Personal Democracy Forum's Nancy Scola says Gladwell's piece starts out well but eventually veers off "in the wrong direction in search of premature conclusions." Writes Scola: "Rather than comparing Woolworth sit-ins to the much-hyped Twitter Revolution, finding the latter coming up wanting, and stopping there, Gladwell might have given some space in the New Yorker to dig a little deeper to find examples of folks using technology to organize in intriguing, successful ways," adding that the "examples are there...."

On a related topic, Zoetica co-founder Geoff Livingston explains why he believes "the end of the technology adoption curve for social media" is near.

Technology

And gearing up to host this month's Nonprofit Blog Carnival, Jake Seliger of consulting firm Seliger + Associates has put out a call for posts about the tools -- hardware, software, or techniques -- that "have made your life substantially better, easier, or more interesting."

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

-- Regina Mahone

If the Bracelet Fits

October 01, 2010

(Reilly Kiernan recently started a year-long Project 55 Fellowship at the Foundation Center. In her last post, she asked what nonprofits might be giving up as they scramble to integrate social media into their day-to-day activities.)

Silly_bandz My one-now-three-bedroom apartment has more nonprofit employees per square foot than most flats in New York City. That's because I share it with two other twenty-somethings who also work for nonprofits.

Although we're all recent Princeton grads, each of us found our way into the sector via a slightly different route. Mary just started a two-year position at Teach for America and will be teaching third-graders at a charter school in the South Bronx. Dominique, a Project 55 fellow like me, is employed at Education Through Music, a nonprofit that works to bring musical education to children in low-income communities. And I'm here at the Foundation Center.

One night, not too long ago, Dominique said, "You know, we kind of work in a row."

I wasn't sure what she meant, so I asked, "A row?"

"Yeah," she said. "Mary works with children. I help get resources and programs to children. And you help me find the resources."

Dominique's comment got me thinking about how interconnected the nonprofit sector really is. And yet our experiences have been very different.

Mary has been working hard to deliver a curriculum designed to bring her students up to grade level. On a daily basis she has to persuade a group of eight-year-olds to sit still and pay attention. (What could be harder than that?) But while her work is unrelentingly demanding, she's also making a big difference in the lives of her students. This became clear when, a few weeks ago, one of her kids gave her a SillyBand to wear. (Readers of this blog may not appreciate the significance of the gesture, but to the children and tweens of America SillyBandz are a veritable currency.) Mary now proudly sports her pink submarine-shaped bracelet as a constant reminder that the hours of teaching and lesson planning are well worth it.

Because of ETM's small size, Dominque was able to jump right into the fray, suggesting projects of her own from day one, including a massive outreach effort designed to expand the organization's e-mail list and Facebook presence. Dominique is a really talented performer (even when she's just singing in the shower!), so she's happy to have found a place where her artistic inclinations are able to complement her commitment to doing good. And her enthusiasm for the organization is contagious. Just a few weeks ago, ETM held a wine-and-cheese fundraiser. Dominique reached out to all her friends in the city and was single-handedly responsible for bringing over sixty people to the event.

In terms of size, the Foundation Center is somewhere in between TFA and ETM. And so far, I've worked on a range of projects, from editing audio recordings of special events at the center's New York library, to compiling statistics about attendance at free courses, to researching social media best practices for nonprofits. One of the things I've really enjoyed about my first three months here is that my work includes short-term tasks that produce immediate results as well as bigger projects designed to advance the work of the organization over the longer term.

It's way too soon, of course, to say where our different paths will lead. But it's nice to know that nonprofits come in all shapes and sizes and that our different experiences will provide us with ample opportunity to share stories and learn from each other. It's also nice to know that we all share the same overarching goal: To do a little good in the world and leave it a better place.

-- Reilly Kiernan

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (September)

As we did last last month, we've pulled together a list of the most popular PhilanTopic posts over the last thirty days. Enjoy.

  1. George Soros Takes a Risk (Brad Smith)
  2. Google Looks to Renewable Energy as Next Market Opp (Mitch Nauffts)
  3. Nonprofits a Bright Spot in National Jobs Picture (Mitch Nauffts)
  4. Everyone Wants to Be a Hero (Thaler Pekar)
  5. [Anti-]Social Media (Reilly Kiernan)

Use the comments section below and let us know what you've been reading or would recommend....

Quote of the Week

  • "[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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