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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 TED Talk, is nothing if not passionate about education reform, and he is as dismayed by most countries' continued insistence on "trying to meet the challenges of the future by doing what they've done in the past" as he is by the "misplaced, fictitious epidemic of ADHD." Whether you agree with him or not, it's hard to argue with a man who can draw as fast as he speaks. (That's a joke.)

What do you think? Are developed countries in general, and the United States in particular, still wedded to a production-line model of education? Are we penalizing our children, who are living "in the most intensely stimulating period in the history of the earth," for being distracted? And what, in the twenty-first century, is the purpose of education?

-- Mitch Nauffts

Albert Ruesga's Twenty-Four Theses

November 23, 2010

There are only two dozen of them (not ninety-five) and they're tucked away on a weeks-old blog post (not nailed to a door), but Greater New Orleans Foundation president Albert Ruesga's twenty-four theses should be read by every foundation executive and program officer who has ever wondered why the actual achievements of philanthropy so often fall short of its promise.

If you haven't read the post yet, here's a selection of some of Ruesga's more pointed assertions:

2. Taken together...the collective actions of foundations have failed to address, in any significant way, some of the most basic injustices in our society. After decades of work, foundations have failed to alter the basic condition of the poor in the United States. The gap between the rich and poor has widened in recent years. Individuals can work hard all their lives, manage their finances prudently, and still fail to have income security in their retirement. Racism, homophobia, and other forms of bigotry still affect the destinies of whole communities of people. Millions of people lack access to quality health care. Urban public schools do not provide a world-class education to our children. Because of lax lobbying and campaign finance laws, politicians are routinely bought and sold. Our economic prosperity is still tied to the ongoing degradation of our environment.

5. Foundations and their staffs often lack a sense of urgency about the challenges facing marginalized communities.

6. Unlike academic disciplines, foundation work lacks a tradition of vigorous debate and self-criticism. Because of this, our most bone-headed beliefs and practices go unchallenged.

14. The language foundations use to describe their work is frequently tortured and moribund. More often than not, foundations fail to communicate effectively the good they've been able to accomplish.

18. We must...be careful to avoid the Gadgets Heresy: the idea that new tools -- new social media sites, B corporations, more "efficient markets," etc. -- will save us from ourselves. Our greatest progress will not come from chasing the latest Shiny New Object, but from attending to the field's moral and intellectual failings.

20. We will knock our heads against some of our society's most intractable problems and make little progress addressing them as long as we ignore their social justice dimensions. It's absurd to believe that we can can effectively address the challenges faced by low-income communities, for example, by ignoring the effects of race and class or by side-stepping issues of power and privilege.

24. There is currently a great battle on for the soul of philanthropy. We oppose "technocrats" to "social justice grantmakers," "liberals" to "conservatives." But these are skirmishes on the edge of a larger battle about the role each of us will play in either contributing to or subtracting from the common good....

Indeed, Ruesga's post is the latest call to action in his long-running campaign against "philanthropy-as-usual" (see, for example, here and here) and a passionate defense of social justice philanthropy. As he writes in a new article ("What Is Social Justice Philanthropy?") that will appear in the December issue of UK-based Alliance magazine (a PND content partner):

For many marginalized communities, the good that philanthropy has accomplished has not been good enough. In my own country, the United States, for example, one in five children lives in poverty -- a shameful statistic given our great wealth and the tens of thousands of foundations committed to helping the poor. These disparities fuel those critics who argue that now, as in ages past, philanthropy has functioned largely as a social safety valve, redistributing just enough wealth to keep poor people from picking up their torches and pitchforks and storming the mansions of the overlords.

These disparities also highlight, in my view, the significant shortcomings of philanthropy-as-usual. To make the same kinds of grants year after year to the same communities, to see the same disparities persist and even widen, and not to question deeply one's whole approach to giving is to do philanthropy in bad faith. Social justice philanthropy offers us a way of recommitting ourselves to philanthropy's great aims while holding ourselves accountable for its heretofore lacklustre outcomes....

Something for us to think about as we sit down later this week and give thanks....

-- Mitch Nauffts

Weekend Link Roundup (November 20 - 21, 2010)

November 21, 2010

Thanksgiving2010 Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....


On her Non-Profit Marketing blog, Katya Andresen has a few tips for nonprofit marketers looking to improve their "dull" fundraising appeals.


In a guest post on the Council of Foundation's RE: Philanthropy blog, AFP president and CEO Paulette V. Maehara explains why "A sea change in Congress...represents an opportunity for the sector to educate new legislators about philanthropy...."

Or maybe not. In an article adapted from a speech he gave at the Southeastern Council of Foundations 41st annual meeting, The Nonprofit Quarterly's Rick Cohen looks at the seven issues likely to affect foundations and the nonprofit sector as control of the House of Representatives shifts to "a conservative, Tea Party-heavy group."

"One of the biggest problems about looking at everything through an economic lens," writes Sasha Dichter on his blog, "is that you inevitably place more value on the things that are easy to count and easy to measure."

If nothing else, writes Sean Stannard-Stockton on his Tactical Philanthropy blog, the controversy that has dogged the Social Innovation Fund underscores in an important way "the broad freedom that private foundations have to conduct their activities as they see fit."

Social Media

Guest blogging on Beth Kanter's blog, the HandsOn Network's Jessica Kirkwood offers some lessons from her organization's latest social media experiment. And in another guest post, Anita Jackson and Ashley Boyd of MomsRising.org reflect on a blog carnival they organized in September to highlight new consumer protections being rolled out as part of healthcare reform.

Allison Fine, co-author of The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting With Social Media to Drive Change, explains on her blog why listservs are an "abomination" in "a social media world powered by social networks."


Guest blogging on the Case Foundation blog, Debra Mesch of the Women's Philanthropy Institute shares findings from the Women Give 2010 report and explains why it's important for fundraisers to "engage women as donors."

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

-- Regina Mahone

A 'Flip' Chat With...Lesley Chilcott, Producer, 'Waiting for Superman'

November 19, 2010

(This is the eleventh in our series of conversations with thought leaders in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. You can check out other videos in the series here, including our chat with Kate Robinson, producer of "Saving Philanthropy," which is scheduled for release in the spring of 2011.)

With more and more documentary films finding an audience among the general public, a growing number of funders and nonprofit leaders have begun to ask whether film can be used to raise real money for their causes. According to the panelists at a Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising panel discussion ("Film it. Fundraise. Repeat") I attended earlier this week, the answer to that question is an emphatic yes.

Part of the center's Philanthropy 3.0 speaker series, the event featured Lesley Chilcott, producer of the new ed reform documentary Waiting for 'Superman'; Yvette Alberdingk Thijm, executive director of Witness.org, a nonprofit that uses video to expose human rights abuses; Asi Burak, co-president of Games for Change and co-founder of the ImpactGames; Chris Kazi Rolle, co-founder and creator of The Hip Hop Project, which highlights Rolle's journey from poverty to entertainment success; and Kaoru Tozaki Wang, a first-time filmmaker.

Led by moderator Marcia Stepanek, founding editor-in-chief of ContributeMedia, the panelists described how social issue documentaries can be used not only to highlight an issue, but to start a movement. Indeed, in the case of Waiting for 'Superman', that's exactly what Chilcott and director David Guggenheim have done.

During her presentation, Chilcott explained that before the film was released, the "Superman" team reached out to communities across the country, encouraging them to mount "pledge to see the film" campaigns. The team also partnered with DonorsChoose.org, which pledged $5 toward a classroom project of a donor's choice for the first 50,000 people who took the pledge; First Book, which promised to donate 250,000 new books to schools and programs in low-income communities; and NewSchools Venture Fund, which committed to invest $5 million in innovative education organizations if 150,000 people took the pledge. To date, more than 261,000 people have pledged to see the film.

After the event, I had the opportunity to speak with Chilcott about the film and the state of education reform in the United States. During our chat, Chilcott also explained why she believes the film has struck a nerve and what she and the "Superman" team are doing to keep the issue of education reform in the spotlight.


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

(Running time: 4 minutes, 12 seconds)

What do you think? Have you seen Waiting for "Superman"? Did you like it? Hate it? Are you optimistic about future of public education in the U.S.? And if you're a filmmaker, what advice would you give others interested in producing social issue documentaries?

-- Regina Mahone

Foundations and the Economic Crisis: An Update

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, a private, nonpartisan research organization that has the final word on these things, the Great Recession started in December 2007 and came to an end in June 2009. While that surely would come as news to the more than nine million Americans who are "underemployed" or the more than thirty-five million who receive food stamps, the overall economy does seem to be pulling itself off the mat.

The modest if general improvement in the economy is reflected in the latest advisory issued by our Research colleagues here at the center. Moving Beyond the Economic Crisis: Foundations Assess the Impact and Their Reponse (4 pages, PDF) suggests that, after a dismal year in 2009, foundation giving stabilized in 2010 and is poised for modest overall growth in 2011. At the same time, it's likely to be years before giving returns to the peak level recorded in 2008.

Based on a September survey of approximately 5,000 large and mid-size U.S. foundations (see note below for details), the report found that approximately one in five respondents (21 percent) expect to increase their giving in 2011, while 59 percent expect their giving to be about the same and 15 percent expect it to be lower.


The report also found that, since the fall of 2008, two out of five (41 percent) respondents to the survey had made grants, program-related investments (PRIs), and/or other types of support to address problems related to the economic crisis. While the vast majority of that support was for safety-net services, it also included funding for things like job training, bridge financing, business development, and strategic mergers and partnerships. (Click here for detailed info on roughly 3,500 econ crisis-related grants and PRIs.)


Finally, when asked to rate the overall responsiveness of the U.S. foundation community in addressing the needs of nonprofits during the crisis and recession, just over half the respondents (51 percent) rated it "good" or "excellent," while close to one in five (19 percent) rated it "fair" or "poor."


Now it's your turn. How would you rate the foundation community's response to the economic crisis and the Great Recession? What might or should foundations have done differently? And what, if anything, should they do in 2011 to help nonprofits and the sector repair the damage?

Don't be shy; let's have a conversation....

(Note on methodology: The September survey was made avilable to approximately 5,000 large and mid-size U.S. foundations. A total of 719 foundations -- 501 independent, 154 community, and 64 corporate -- had provided usable responses as of mid-October.)

This Week in PubHub: Capacity Building

November 18, 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 explored the role of philanthropy in advocacy and civic engagement.)

In my last post, I wrote about how foundations can help empower grantees and enhance their own impact by supporting advocacy and civic engagement activities. This week, PubHub is featuring reports on nonprofit capacity building, with a focus on leadership development.

With nonprofits of all kinds struggling, in a tough economic climate, to do more with less, many organizations are looking to strengthen their governance, leadership, and financial sustainability. As Fortifying LA's Nonprofit Organizations: Capacity-Building Needs and Services in Los Angeles County, a new study from the TCC Group and Weingart Foundation, makes clear, the reasons to invest in organizational capacity have never been more compelling, even as there are fewer resources to invest. Among its recommendations, the report suggests that capacity-building service providers target their efforts in areas such as high-quality coaching and peer exchange, program evaluation, and strategic learning, and that funders should form strategic alliances and pool their resources to provide more general operating and multiyear support to key nonprofits in the region.

In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, one innovative initiaitive aimed to help communities and institutions in the region rebuild by "loaning out" executives. In the report Stepping Up, the Foundation for the Mid South describes its efforts -- which received additional funding from the Ford and Gates foundations -- to help the City of New Orleans rebuild its capacity after it lost almost 30 percent of its municipal employees. According to the report, the leadership, skills, and connections of the executives on loan helped strengthen the city's capacity to coordinate recovery efforts, engage displaced and/or discouraged residents, and work effectively with state and federal agencies.

In addition to bolstering organizational capacity, leadership development can also help advance social justice efforts. The Leadership Learning Community's report How to Develop and Support Leadership That Contributes to Racial Justice explains how assumptions about individualism, meritocracy, and equal opportunity in current approaches to leadership development unwittingly help maintain structural racial inequalities. The first in a series of reports from Leadership for a New Era, a collaborative research initiative, the report highlights practices that can further racial justice in organizations, communities, and society. To more effectively support racial justice leadership, the report also recommends that organizations incorporate racial justice training into their leadership development strategies, promote inclusive models of leadership that envision it as a collective process, and target resources, networks, and skills to historically disadvantaged groups.

How best to support and foster effective leadership in another historically disadvantaged group is the focus of Building LGBT Nonprofit Leadership Talent: Thoughts and Suggestions for LGBT Organizations and Funders, a 2009 publication from the Movement Advancement Project and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund. In offering practical guidance for strengthening LGBTQ leadership (define your strategic aims, recruit great people, deploy and manage people well, and retain your best people), the authors urge funders to ask their grantees what resources they need, emphasize that leadership development is an essential investment rather than a luxury, and make leadership development an integral component of their capacity-building grants programs.

How else can foundations support effective leadership development and capacity building in nonprofits? And what other competencies should nonprofits and their funders focus on in a time of limited resources and ever-increasing demand for services? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

And don't forget to visit PubHub, where you can browse publications on philanthropy and voluntarism by sub-category, including capacity building, governance, performance/failure analysis, program evaluation, and volunteerism, or browse all PubHub reports on philanthropy and voluntarism.

-- Kyoko Uchida

Readings (November 16, 2010)

November 16, 2010

Here are a few items that got our attention today:

  • Marian Wright Edelman: The Threat of Persistent Poverty (Change.org) -- the Great Recession has thrown millions of children into poverty and is putting many more at risk, says the president of the Children's Defense Fund
  • Bob Herbert: This Raging Fire (New York Times) -- Times columnist Herbert weighs in on the cycle of dysfunction that has plunged young black males into crisis
  • Philip Henderson: Focus on Equity (Surdna Foundation) -- the president of the New York City-based Surdna Foundation explains how a simple change -- putting equity first -- has reshaped the kinds of strategic discussions the foundation has with its grantees and partners
  • Todd Cohen: Unsung Nonprofits Are the Big Story (Inside Philanthropy) -- Cohen, a longtime observer of the sector, says forget about the "giving pledge"; the real heroes of philanthropy are nonprofits that deliver every day "in the face of an economic crisis that has escalated demand for services and pushed many nonprofits to the brink of extinction"
  • Lisa Katayama: How the Omidyar Network Pumps Up Nonprofits (Fast Company)
  • [Video] Small Charities Could Get Big Lift From New Social Network (Chronicle of Philanthropy) -- the Chronicle's Raymund Flandez talks to Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes about Jumo, a new social-media platform for the nonprofit world

Got anything you'd like to share?

Before You Do Another Annual Report...

November 15, 2010

(Bruce Trachtenberg is executive director of the Communications Network, a nonprofit that works to provide resources, guidance, and leadership to advance the strategic practice of communications in philanthropy. He is also an occasional contributor to and frequent commenter here at PhilanTopic. Bruce published the following post last week on the Network's blog.)

My first job in philanthropy had me handling communications for two foundations that had been set up by a husband and wife to serve their personal philanthropic interests. These foundations shared staff and functions such as finance, legal, and communications, but not annual reports. Each foundation had to have its own.

Talkingtoourselves Over eight years, my challenge -- beyond the tiring aspect of producing not one, but two reports annually -- was convincing the directors of the two foundations that the reports being planned for each of them would be of equal quality and importance, and neither was getting favored treatment. Only years later did it occur to me that we were putting more emphasis on satisfying ourselves than audiences outside the foundation.

That lesson is similarly echoed in a newly released research report, Talking to Ourselves? A Critical Look at Annual Reports in Foundation Communications, which is now available online in magazine format or here as a pdf. Co-produced by the Philanthropy Awareness Initiative, the Williams Group, and the Communications Network, the report grew out of a very lively session held during our 2008 annual conference in Chicago. The session was organized around questions such as:

  • Are traditional foundation annual reports a thing of the past? Or do they still serve a purpose, and if so, what?
  • Isn't there a better way to communicate about a foundation’s work?

While we had a spirited conversation in Chicago, there's still much more we can discuss. The report and a companion Web site, WhyAnnualReports.org, are meant to give people a way to pick up the conversation and, like the subtitle of the report says, take a critical look at annual reports. As you'll see, the site has been designed to let people speak their minds and raise questions about annual reports.

Why is it important to have this discussion? For the simple reason that communications matters more than ever for foundations, and to be strategic means making the best use of all your resources in ways that advance programs, goals, and missions.

Annual reports deserve credit for all they've done to help foundations be more transparent. But over the years they seem to have been saddled with an unrealistic expectation that they can also serve larger strategic communication goals. It's likely that the work annual reports are expected to do might be better accomplished in other, more effective, and perhaps less costly and time-consuming ways.

As a co-producer of Talking to Ourselves?, the Communications Network is not campaigning to abolish annual reports but rather to get people talking. We want people to offer their thoughts, share their experiences, and to comment on the overall question about whether annual reports -- in print, digitally, or some kind of hybrid form -- serve a purpose. If the answer is no, let's hear what people are doing differently. We also want those who see value in annual reports to have their say about what works for them.

To get things started, we recently distributed copies of Talking to Ourselves? to a handful of reviewers. We asked for comments about the report itself and the state of annual reporting. We have begun posting what they had to say on WhyAnnualReports.org. From these early comments, it's clear opinion is still mixed. Some say (again) that it’s time to stop publishing annual reports, while others strongly disagree.

Here are some sample comments:

Your history either matters or it doesn't. Publishing an annual report forces your organization to annually select and compile information about its work, its people, its grantees, its finances, and other things that matter to most organizations that have a past and a future.

The report has us thinking about all aspects of our annual report, from content to cost to raison d’etre. At the most, it could change the way we talk about our foundation, promote our work, and curate our history.

Foundations put them out because it’s always been done that way. Once upon a time, this was a really good thing. Foundations that put out annual reports were seen as transparent, communicative, and at the vanguard of engaging people outside their hallowed halls. It was good practice. Needless to say, times have changed.

The takeaway from the research that it would best to move the information contained in annual reports to the Web begs the question: How do you get engaged citizens and decision-makers to the Web site?

What do you think? Are annual reports still relevant? Or foundations that publish them just talking to and about themselves? Join the conversation -- below or at the WhyAnnualReports site.

-- Bruce Trachtenberg

Weekend Link Roundup (November 13 - 14, 2010)

November 14, 2010

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


On her Philanthropy 411 blog, Kris Putnam-Walkerly rounds up blog and video coverage from the recent Communications Network Fall Conference.

After a recent conversation with a Facebook IP lawyer, Zoetica co-founder Geoff Livingston revisited the social networking site's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. Based on what he found, Livingston shares his reasons why content marketers should steer clear of "hard selling" on the site.


On the Century Foundation's Taking Note blog, Gordon Macinnes looks at A Call for Change: The Social and Educational Factors Contributing to the Outcomes of Black Males in Urban Schools (120 pages, PDF), a new statistics-packed report from the Council of Great City Schools, and concludes that while it's "a helpful reminder of one of education's most durable and stubborn problems," the study's recommendations for action "are timid given the magnitude of the problem...."


With the gift-giving season almost here, Nonprofit Tech 2.0 blogger Heather Mansfield shares her annual list of eleven holiday gift programs "that benefit nonprofits and make the world a better place."

Philanthropy 2173 blogger Lucy Bernholz takes issue with the idea, advanced by UK-based Alliance magazine's fall issue, that "philanthropy advising as a service is becoming institutionalized." Writes Bernholz: "The examples, practices, and issues raised in the [magazine] collectively sound as if philanthropy is still offline, only [for] the rich, and only slightly concerned with investing. That's not where I think philanthropy is now or where I see its future, and so it's not where I think the future of advising will be...."

On the Deep Social Impact blog, Ellen Remmer explains why she believes the Giving Pledge, the campaign launched by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates to encourage the nation's billionaires to give at least half of their wealth to charity, may be "sputtering."

Tactical Philanthropy's Sean Stannard-Stockton takes a closer look at the San Francisco-based Mulago Foundation and says it may be "a case study of an emergent model of how to run a foundation."

Social Innovation

Billions of Drops in Millions of Buckets author Steve Goldberg argues that the recent decision by the Corporation for National & Community Service to "investigate" the process used by CNCS's Social Innovation Fund to choose its first cohort of grantees "might be yet another case where a responsible government agency is trying to do the right thing in the way that it manages taxpayer money."

Social Media

A new social media study by LoyaltyClicks, a division of North Carolina-based Smart Online, found that 91 percent of the nonprofits surveyed are on Facebook, 63 percent use Twitter, 45 percent have a YouTube channel, and 35 percent use LinkedIn. Allison Fine, co-author of The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting With Social Media to Drive Change says that's all well and good, but when it comes to mobile, "Clearly, it's time for [nonprofits] to get moving...."

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

-- Regina Mahone

For Charities, It's Off to the Races

(Reilly Kiernan recently started a year-long Project 55 Fellowship at the Foundation Center. In her last post, she compared her experience working at a medium-sized nonprofit to the nonprofit experiences of her two roommates.)

Nyc_marathon_2010 If you live in New York City, it's hard not to notice the annual early November invasion of the spandex-clad. From the bright orange "marathon route" signs to the giant ads on the sides of city buses to the 45,000 runners from all over the world, the ING New York City Marathon is not only one of the biggest marathons in the world, it's also one of the most popular.

I'm a competitive runner, and even though I didn't run in this year's marathon, I was an enthusiastic cheerleader as a human wave of runners rolled up First Avenue in Manhattan. It's truly inspiring to watch an event where so many people are willing to test the limits of their endurance. And it's inspiring for another reason: the NYC marathon is actually a huge fundraiser for a wide range of charities.

In fact, over the last few years, the marathon has raised more than $20 million annually for charity. This year, race organizers partnered with Crowdrise, an online fundraising portal launched with the help of actor Edward Norton, to raise at least $1 million per mile. Although the exact amount hasn't been published, the early buzz is that the total is likely to exceed $30 million.

I love running. I'm one of those people who chooses to get up before dawn to push myself to do something that other people think is crazy. And I love running races, the adrenaline rush, the solidarity forged through competition. But I'm not so crazy about how self-centered running can be. So, for me, the chance to run far or fast and do good at the same time is a perfect combination. Which is why, over the last few months, I've supported the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and the Pelham Children's Center through my racing.

I guess you could say running allows me to be incidentally philanthropic. And I'm not the only one. After scanning the Web for some stats, I learned that:

  • the London Marathon is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest annual fundraising event in the world. In 2010, 80 percent of runners in the race had some connection to a fundraiser, and, collectively, theose runners raised more than $81 million;
  • in 2010, the Boston marathon raised $11 million for local charities;
  • in 2008, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training program, which provides coaching and support to athletes training for certain races, claimed more than 360,000 participants and raised over $850 million for blood cancer research and patient services;
  • the Chicago Marathon raised more than $10.1 million in 2009;
  • Running USA estimates that runners in the U.S. participating in races from 5k on up  raised more than $1 billion in 2009.

Wow. If you ever needed a reminder that nothing we do is entirely about ourselves, the list above is as a good as any. What about you? Have you ever run or walked for a cause? Was it a good experience? Did it motivate you to run faster or walk farther? I'd love to hear about your experience....

-- Reilly Kiernan

NY Times 2010 'Giving' Section

November 12, 2010

NY_Times_logo Each year, the paper of record delights us with a whole section devoted to charitable giving and philanthropy. The 2010 edition of the Times' "Giving" section was published yesterday, and as we did in 2008 (but not in '09), here's a rundown of what you may have missed.

(Special thanks to Reilly Kiernan for putting this roundup together.)

Pledge to Give Away Fortunes Stirs Debate (Stephanie Strom)
Discusses the implications of the "Giving Pledge" campaign launched earlier this year by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates. Forty American billionaires have pledged to give away at least half their fortunes to charity, but the campaign has not escaped the scrutiny of critics.

The Special Pain of a Slow Disaster (Lydia Polgreen)
Looks at why "slow-moving disasters" like this summer's epic flooding in Pakistan frequently command less attention from the international aid community than quick-strike disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes.

Giving a Gift and Getting a Return (Jan M. Rosen)
Lays out the issues related to charitable gift annuities and explains why such arrangements aren't right for everyone.

In Case of Disaster, Carriers Stand Ready to Airlift Aid (Ken Belson)
Looks at how for-profit shipping carriers and airlines use in-kind donations to bolster emergency relief efforts. In recent years, U.S. airlines have delivered aid supplies to countries and regions as far fling as Chile, Haiti, and the Gulf Coast -- all for free.

Young Activists Practice Their Pitches for Nonprofits (John Hanc)
Looks at a recent social enterprise “boot camp” facilitated by Dosomething.org in which participants were taught basic business skills like how to hone their elevator pitch.

As Millions Seek Work, an Overhaul in Retraining (Catherine Rampell)
Skills for America’s Future, a new Obama administration initiative, seeks to emulate the best practices of programs that have succeeded in preparing low-income people to enter or (re)-enter the labor market.

Boston Museum Grows by Casting a Wide Net (Judith H. Dobrzynski)
Explores how the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston raised an unprecedented $504 million in cash donations and $165 million in art over the course of a seven-year campaign -- in part by wooing donors from beyond the Boston area.

Fly-Fishing Group Offers an Escape From the Hospital (Dave Caldwell)
A different kind of cancer support group, Casting for Recovery, uses fly fishing to help cancer patients come to terms with their illness.

As Donors Retrench, Challenges for Universities (Geraldine Fabrikant)
With giving to Universities and colleges having dropped 11.9 percent in 2009 and economic recovery on a slow track to nowhere, university fundraisers are scrambling to adapt tried-and-true tactics to a changed environment.

Pooling Small Contributions, Hoping for Big Results (John Hanc)
Uses anecdotes to demonstrate how creative organizations such as Small Can Be Big use social networking tools to aggregate small donations and create big impact.

Online Giving, One Person at a Time (Farhad Manjoo)
Looks at some of the approaches nonprofits are using to turn their followers and friends on social network channels into donors.

Nike Harnesses 'Girl Effect' Again (Stuart Elliott)
An updated look at Nike’s "Girl Effect" cause marketing campaign, which leverages the brand’s global reach to shine a light on issues facing girls and young women in the developing world.

Charities Wrestle With Tax Uncertainty (David Cay Johnston)
Uncertainty about potential changes in the tax code -- including the return of the estate tax -- are forcing charities to come up with new ways to solicit endowment gifts.

Helping Veterans Find Civilian Jobs (Elizabeth Olson)
A look at how corporations have provided funding for computer, green tech, and healthcare training programs designed to help veterans re-enter the workforce.

Putting Star Power Behind Good Works (Stephanie Strom)
When it comes to their favorite charitable causes, mega-stars like Sean Penn and Brad Pitt are going beyond lip service and truly walking the talk.

For Autistic Children, Therapy on Four Legs (Karen Jones)
Discusses the benefits for children with autism of regular visits from therapy dogs.

Foundations With a Limited Life (Deborah L. Jacobs)
Looks at some of the reasons why a growing number of wealthy families and individuals have decided to establish foundations with a limited lifespan.

Looking for a Job? Try a Nonprofit (Phyllis Korkki)
Talks about the recent spike in hiring at nonprofits and the growing number of positions that require a new media and tech skill set.

Disclosure Runs into 140 Character Limits (Deborah L. Jacobs)
Suggests that new technologies can pose problems for nonprofits seeking to fully disclose the details of their fundraising campaigns and initiatives.

-- Reilly Kiernan

The Future of Grantmaking?

We get a lot of interesting requests/inquiries/pitches over the digital transom here at PND. This one arrived a few days ago.

A foundation seeks to identify one or a few unorthodox philanthropic investments with the potential to generate extraordinary returns to society. The foundation is interested in concentrating its capital in opportunities that have little access to alternative sources of funding.

By posting a challenge on InnoCentive, the foundation hopes to unearth one or a few such extraordinary opportunities. A guaranteed award of $5,000 will be paid to the best submission. The bigger reward, however, would come from the actual implementation of an idea or ideas. The foundation is prepared to invest up to $100,000 initially, and a total of up to $1 million in the very best ideas.

Submissions will be accepted through the InnoCentive site from October 18 – November 18, 2010. More details about the challenge, including criteria and submission requirements, can be found here.

Strategic concentration of capital, use of a crowdsourcing platform, the possibility of additional funding linked to demonstrated impact -- is this the future of grantmaking?

-- Mitch Nauffts

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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