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24 posts from November 2010

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (November)

November 30, 2010

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

What's the best thing you've read/watched/heard this month? Let us know in the comments section below...

Trends in Giving, Volunteering, and the Outlook for 2011

Nice chart from USA Today showing breakdown and trends in U.S. charitable giving:


Click on the "Time" tab for an equally nice statistical portrait of volunteering by region:


(If you're reading this in e-mail, click here.)

And what about this year? According to a new survey (34 pages, PDF) by the Nonprofit Research Collaborative (NRC) -- i.e., the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Blackbaud, the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, the Foundation Center, GuideStar USA, and the National Center for Charitable Statistics -- U.S. nonprofits saw a slight improvement in giving in the first nine months of 2010, although it hasn't been enough to help many nonprofits that are grappling with staff and/or service cuts even as demand for their services has increased.

Based on questions that GuideStar used for its annual economic survey and 2,513 responses, the survey found that 36 percent of charities reported an increase in donations in the first nine months of 2010, compared with only 23 percent in the same period of 2009; 37 percent reported a decline in giving, down from 51 percent in 2009; and 26 percent reported that giving was unchanged, up slightly from the 25 percent that reported the same thing in 2009.

"For the first time in two years, there is cause for cautious optimism about the nonprofit sector," said Bob Ottenhoff, president and CEO of GuideStar. "Nonetheless, in this latest study, as in all prior years, nonprofits are also reporting increased demand for their services...."

The survey also found that:

  • In four of eight subsectors, the share of organizations reporting an increase in contributions was about the same as the share reporting a decrease. The four with nearly equal percentages of organizations with giving up and giving down were the arts, education, environment/animals, and human services.
  • International organizations were the most likely to report an increase in contributions, reflecting donations made for disaster relief.
  • In three subsectors -- health, public-society benefit, and religion -- a larger share of the organizations reported declines than reported increases.
  • The larger an organization's annual expenditures, the more likely it reported an increase in charitable receipts in the first nine months of 2010 compared with the same period in 2009.

"Younger, less well-established nonprofits have been especially hard hit by the recession," noted Lawrence T. McGill, vice president for research at the Foundation Center. "Many foundations, seeking to maximize more limited resources, have steered their grantmaking toward organizations they believe have the best chance to weather the economic storm."

As for 2011, most organizations that responded to the survey were guardedly optimistic, with 47 percent saying they plan budget increases, 33 percent expecting to maintain their current level of expenditures, and 20 percent anticipating a smaller budget.

What about your organization? Do the survey results accurately reflect what’s going on in your area? Are revenues at your nonprofit higher than they were in 2009? And what about 2011? Is it shaping up as a better year for your organization? Worse? Or is it too early to tell?

Melinda Gates Responds

November 28, 2010

A month or so ago, I wrote a cranky post in response to a Deborah Solomon Q&A with Melinda Gates ("The Donor") in the New York Times Sunday Magazine. Solomon has produced dozens of Q&As for the Magazine since the Times began to run her "Questions for..." column in 2003, and over that period her work has delighted many, angered some, and gotten her into hot water on a couple of occasions.

My beef with Solomon's Melinda Gates Q&A was that she had made the interview more about herself than about Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world's largest private philanthropy. A wasted opportunity, in other words. And I suggested then that if I had been able to secure an hour of Melinda Gates' time, my questions would have focused on the work of the foundation and some of the thorny issues arising from the scale and scope of its activities. Questions such as:

  1. What are the biggest changes you've seen in philanthropy since the Gates Foundation was established in 1994?
  2. What's driving the boom in global philanthropy?
  3. How long will it take emerging powers like China, India, and Brazil to establish philanthropic traditions that rival the tradition of philanthropy in the U.S.?
  4. Does the Gates Foundation have too much influence in the areas in which it works?
  5. How do you respond to critics who argue that, given its influence, the foundation should have more than four trustees?
  6. Is there a succession plan in place for Warren Buffett and Bill Sr.? What if something happens to you or Bill?
  7. What other foundations do you admire? How about nonprofits or NGOs?
  8. What is the most critical issue not funded by the Gates Foundation that you'd like to see other grantmakers address?
  9. Would you ever consider running for public office?
  10. Given your wealth and the highly visible nature of the problems you and your husband have chosen to address through your foundation, how do you stay grounded? Where do you seek wisdom?
  11. Do you ever get tired of all the attention and scrutiny you get paid?

I never expected Melinda Gates to read the post or respond (though I thought I might be able to use the post to secure an interview with someone at the foundation down the road). So I was pleasantly surprised when I got an e-mail last week from Melissa Milburn, director of media relations in the foundation's communications office, letting me know that Melinda had indeed seen the questions and had responded to some of them -- numbers 2, 4, and 10 -- on the foundation's blog, and that her post was part of a larger effort by the foundation to be "more responsive online."

Continue reading »

Sir Ken Robinson on Changing Education Paradigms

November 27, 2010

I'm still plowing through dozens of posts that were written for the Day of National Blogging for Real Education Reform this past Monday. The brainchild of Michigan State University researcher Ira Socol, the blogfest was a rousing success and even generated a post in response by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

I hope to post my own thoughts about the day and its themes in the next week or two. But in the meantime I thought I'd share this animated version of a recent talk given by educator and creativity expert Ken Robinson at the London-based Royal Society of Arts.

Sir Ken, whom PhilanTopic readers got to know in this