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30 posts from December 2010

[Video]: Animating Data in Real Space (Hans Rosling)

December 19, 2010

Last year, when I was posting TED Talks on Sunday mornings, one of my favorite "talkers" was Hans Rosling, the Swedish global health researcher and data visualization wiz. In this talk from 2007, Rosling dazzled the TED crowd with a startling two-dimensional presentation depicting the dramatic progress made by countries in sub-Saharan over the last fifty years.

Time, and technology, marches on. In this new made-for-the-Web presentation, Rosling leaves the two dimensions of his computer screen behind and, with a little help from his friends, translates his eye-opening data into the three dimensions of real space. It's enough to make you want to take a statistics course.

(Running time: 4:48)

-- Mitch Nauffts

Holiday Gifts for the Communications Pro in Your Life

December 18, 2010

(Thaler Pekar, a consultant specializing in persuasive communication, helps smart leaders and their organizations find, develop, and share the stories and organizational narratives that rally critical support. In her last post, she wrote about connecting an organization's past, present, and future.)

Xmas_presents Here are a few "gifts" that have come my way recently and which, in the spirit of the season, I'd like to share with you:

For a great example of Heart, Head & Hand™ communication, look at the start of this appeal from the Maine Women's Fund:

I have an almost 3-year-old daughter who puts her outfits together on her own. She often appears in argyle tights, a polka dot skirt and a striped shirt -- quite a colorful and startling combo. I love her boldness and when I look to the future, I know a girl's creativity and individuality will be at risk if the voice of encouragement isn't louder than the voice of judgment. We hear the same message from our grantees and those they serve, as well as from participants in the Women's Leadership Series, New Girls, and women entrepreneurs: "Thought I was crazy for tying a different path." "I thought I was the only one."

Our encouragement is instrumental in enabling women and girls to be bold, take risks and reach their full potential. It is many voices joined together that create thunderous encouragement, and it is your individual contribution joined with so many others that allow the Fund to invest wisely in the power of women and dreams of girls through our grants and leadership programs….

I love that Executive Director Elizabeth Stefanski appeals to her readers' hearts, framing her appeal with an emotionally resonant anecdote that leaves the reader nodding in recognition throughout the rest of the letter.

Continue reading »

Q&A: Jennifer Buffett, President and Co-Chair, NoVo Foundation

December 16, 2010

Since the beginning of organized philanthropy in the United States, women have been counted among the most effective advocates for the concept of "private dollars for the public good." Early on, far-sighted pioneers such as Margaret Olivia Sage, who established the Russell Sage Foundation in 1907 for "the improvement of social and living conditions in the United States," and Alva Vanderbilt, who helped fund the suffragette movement in the early twentieth century, demonstrated through their actions the power of the biblical injunction “to those whom much has been given, much is expected.”

When Warren Buffett stood on stage at the New York Public Library on June 26, 2006, and made public his historic decision to donate the majority of his fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the press focused on the magnitude of the gift (over $30 billion) and the implications for philanthropy, at home and abroad. Little note was made at the time of the smaller yet substantial gifts Buffett made to the foundations established by his three children, including a gift of $1 billion to his youngest son Peter's NoVo Foundation. Today, the NoVo Foundation awards approximately $55 million in grants annually in three areas: encouraging social/emotional learning, seeding a local living economy movement, and empowering women and girls worldwide.

Frequent contributor Michael Seltzer interviewed Jennifer Buffett, president of the foundation, in November.

Jennifer_buffett Philanthropy News Digest: You and I were both present at the New York Public Library on the day your father-in-law announced he had decided to give the majority of his fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. What was going through your mind as you sat in the audience?

Jennifer Buffett: That this was the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. We knew that, based on the work we had done up to that point as a smaller foundation, we were being given an incredibly unique opportunity to step up our philanthropy -- to be as cutting edge, thoughtful, and strategic as we could be.

And what was going through my mind was that we suddenly had an enormous opportunity to invest real resources to catalyze change during a unique time in the history of the country and the planet. I didn't know then what we'd focus on or how we'd go about doing it, but I knew that we would be putting a lot of hard work and energy into going deep to figure it out. We also had a clean slate -- no existing board of directors, or mandate from on high, or somebody else's vision to fulfill. All my father-in-law asked was that we try and focus our resources and understand the difference we were trying to make and to stick with it. He also encouraged us to take risks.

PND: What has changed in the four and a half years since you've been at the helm of the foundation?

JB: A lot. But the most important thing has been our development of a clear vision and framework in terms of how we view our opportunities and understand the world. Peter and I knew early on that we wanted to support holistic and human-centered solutions -- and that those seemed to be interventions that were sustainable and had great and lasting potential. We believe that people internalize and carry forward real change, and that relationships and systems need to be carefully considered any time one intervenes, no matter how well-meaning one is. Considering the "how" is just as important as the "what" one does or focuses on.

We knew we wanted to get at the root of the problems we face and not fund top-down "productized" interventions that made us feel good about ourselves in terms of "x" amount of things we distributed in some far-off region or social environment we didn't understand. We care about so many issues -- poverty, health, education, the environment, social justice, and human rights -- and we saw them as linked. People asked us what "things" we would focus on. After a while, we realized that was probably not the right question. We thought that if we focused on girls and women, who were being left out of decision-making and were severely undervalued and -resourced, we could touch on all these issues in some way and that all boats would rise. Even today, I believe we are the largest foundation that defines its primary mission as empowering girls and women as agents of global change.

We also decided to work to promote a "whole child education" approach, which emphasizes the social, emotional, and creative growth of children as well as their intellectual growth. There needs to be more of a focus on the factors, conditions, relationships, and environments necessary for healthy whole child development that results in real learning and creative, empathic, socially and emotionally skilled, and resilient children; a focus on marrying, not separating the head and heart, body, mind, and soul.

The data shows that academic test scores improve -- and negative behaviors decrease -- if healthy relationships and school climate are addressed as an inherent part of learning. Bullying is off the charts in U.S. schools and is destroying many children's lives. If kids feel cared for, if they feel valued and empowered, they are less likely to be subject to bullying and violence because healthy, nurturing environments naturally discourage these kinds of destructive behavior. What if we were able to not only create these kinds of environments but to sustain them for generations of kids? We think it would result in a much less violent and more creative society.

We're also investing in some networked efforts on the national level to share tools and innovations that promote "local living economies," sometimes known as "local first" efforts. A local living economy rests on the idea that economic power should, to the greatest extent possible, be situated locally, where it has the best chance to create and sustain vibrant, livable communities and healthy ecosystems. Supporting your local farmer and knowing where your food comes from is one way to do that.

Continue reading »

Listening Post: Nonprofit Technology Gap?

December 15, 2010

Computer_money Are nonprofit organizations technologically challenged? Are they going about their work without the cutting-edge software and hardware needed to function effectively in the digital age? What percentage are using sophisticated information technologies to support and enhance their delivery of mission-critical programs and services? And what are the challenges preventing or limiting nonprofits' use of IT to deliver programs and services?

These are some of the questions raised and answered in the latest "communiqué" issued by the John Hopkins Nonprofit Listening Post Project. Based on a sample of 1,100 nonprofit organizations in four fields (children and family services, elderly housing and services, community and economic development, and the arts), the report, The Nonprofit Technology Gap -- Myth or Reality? (22 pages, PDF), found that nonprofits are further along in their use of technology than they're routinely given credit for, but have not integrated tech into their operations as effectively as they'd like to.

Here are some key takeaways from the survey:

  1. An overwhelming majority of all respondents (88 percent) reported that technology is integrated into "many" or "all aspects" of their organization.
  2. The vast majority of all respondents (82 percent) described the overall technology that their organization uses as "sophisticated" or "moderately sophisticated."
  3. The vast majority of all organizations (98 percent) reported using information technologies for program service/delivery. However, barely a third (32 percent) described their use of IT for program/service delivery as "significant," while the vast majority (92 percent) agreed that their organizations should make more use of their existing technologies.
  4. The vast majority of respondents (92 percent) ranked "lack of funds" for technology as a "moderate" or "considerable" challenge.
  5. Other key challenges to effective use of IT included: lack of time (85 percent), lack of expertise (72 percent), lack of staff (59 percent), and lack of evaluation (54 percent).

Not surprisingly, the survey also found that the organizations farthest up the technology learning curve tended to be larger, older, and urban-focused, while those that felt they were lagging tended to be smaller, younger, and more arts-focused.

You can download the survey results and accompanying tables here.

How is your organization doing with respect to technology? Is it as far along as it should be? What's preventing it from mvoing more quickly up the IT learning/adoption curve? Are funders demonstrating a greater willingness to fund capacity-building IT projects as the economy slowly recovers? And if you could ask Santa for an IT gift or two, what would they be?

Use the comments section to share your thoughts....

-- Mitch Nauffts

International Giving by U.S. Foundations Holds Steady

December 14, 2010

That's the conclusion of a new report prepared by the Foundation Center in cooperation with the Council on Foundations.

The report, International Grantmaking Update: A Snapshot of U.S. Foundation Trends (8 pages, PDF), found that after a period of significant growth between 2006 and 2008, giving by U.S. foundations for international purposes in 2009 totaled $6.7 billion, down 4 percent from the previous year. The decrease, the report notes, was less than half the 8.4 percent decline in overall foundation giving in 2009.

Other key findings of the report:

  • international grant dollars grew faster than overall foundation giving between 2006 and 2008 among the sampled foundations (49 percent vs. 21 percent);
  • the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded over $2.7 billion for international purposes in 2008, accounting for more than two out of five international dollars in the grants sample;
  • international giving by other funders in the sample grew faster than funding by the Gates Foundation between 2006 and 2008 (62 percent vs. 39 percent);
  • health captured the largest share (39 percent) of international support in 2008, followed by international development (21 percent) and the environment (17 percent);
  • U.S.-based international programs received approximately two-thirds of the international grant dollars awarded by the sampled foundations, while overseas recipients received the remaining one-third.

Looking ahead, the report's authors, Steven Lawrence and Reina Mukai, suggest that international grantmaking, which received an increased share of U.S. foundation giving as the economy was bottoming, should keep pace with changes in overall foundation giving as the economy recovers.

Indeed, because younger, more globally focused donors are likely to create and/or continue to build their foundations over the coming years, it's possible, say Lawrence and Mukai, that international grantmaking could return to "the growth trajectory it followed during the 2000s, when its share of overall foundation grant dollars rose steadily -- even without counting the contribution of the Gates Foundation."

For a more in-depth look at the global role of U.S. foundations, take a look at the study (56 pages, PDF) written by Joan Spero, former president of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, during her two-year tenure as a visiting fellow at the Foundation Center. Based on interviews with foundation presidents, program officers, and philanthropic experts; Foundation Center data; and Spero's own past experience, the study paints a detailed historical picture of international work by U.S. foundations from the Cold War to the present and focuses on how foundations have addressed five global challenges: health disparities, poverty, climate change, democracy and civil society, and peace and security.

What's your take? Are your surprised by any of the findings in the international grantmaking update? Do you think U.S.-based foundations are doing enough in the global arena, or should be they doing more (or less)? And what do you think the most important trends in global philanthropy over the next decade are likely to be?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below....

Weekend Link Roundup (December 11 - 12, 2010)

December 12, 2010

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


On the GiveWell blog, Holden Karnofsky asks readers to help tell the story of VillageReach -- the most effective charity, according to GiveWell's rating system, in "the sector of health systems logistics." As Karnofsky notes, "[F]undraising seems to work best when you can connect a person's gift to a tangible, emotional impact." In the case of VillageReach, however, forging that type of connection has been a bit of a challenge.

In response to Karnofsky's post, Network for Good's Katya Andresen shares a few ideas on her Non-Profit Marketing blog.


The Giving Pledge campaign started by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates earlier this year made headlines again this week with the news that seventeen more families had taken the pledge. (Read PND's writeup here.) Philanthrocapitalism co-authors Matthew Bishop and Michael Green, vocal supporters of the campaign, write on their blog:

The recruitment phase seems to have built up a considerable momentum, and many more billionaires are likely to sign the Giving Pledge in the coming year. There are two big unknowns. First, will there be progress on the appropriate behaviour front? Currently, all that is asked of those signing up to the Giving Pledge is the promise to give away half their wealth. But the essence of the approach to giving taken by Mr. Gates and other leading philanthrocapitalists is that giving should be thoughtful and make a real difference. The hope is that once a billionaire has committed to the Giving Pledge, the conversation will soon turn to how that giving is being done and whether it is effective or can be made so. The sooner that conversation begins, the better.

Second, will the effort to take the Giving Pledge global succeed? When Messrs. Buffett and Gates visited China recently, they received a decidedly mixed reception, with many of the country's new wealthy making themselves scarce. In March, the two billionaire missionaries of philanthrocapitalism will go to India, where thanks to the country's more established philanthropic traditions they expect to receive a more enthusiastic reception. Indeed, Mr. Gates believes that India could soon be the world’s second most philanthropic country, after America. Well, that is something to wish for in 2011....

On Idea exChange blog, Ashoka's Evagelia Tavoulareas identifies some of the trends made evident by the recent Giving Pledge announcement and suggests, somewhat hopefully, that the initiative may lead to "serious conversations regarding wealth, philanthropy, and development -- and the intersection of all three."

On her About.com blog, Joanne Fritz shares her list of the year's best books for nonprofits. The list includes Sarah Durham's Brandraising: How Nonprofits Raise Visibility and Money Through Smart Communications; Kivi Leroux Miller Nonprofit Marketing Guide: High-Impact, Low-Cost Ways to Build Support for Your Good Cause; The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Social Change, by Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith; and Beth Kanter and Allison Fine's The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting with Social Media to Drive Change.

Social Media

Guest blogging at Beth Kanter's blog, interactive media strategist Jeff Achen explains how GiveMN, an online giving platform, "harnessed the power of [its] networks" to raise more than $10 million for Minnesota nonprofits in a single day.

In the latest installment of her Social Good podcast series, Allison Fine chats with TechSoup Global community development manager Amy Sample Ward and Big Love Little Hearts founder and executive directory Estrella Rosenberg about how nonprofits are using the social networking site LinkedIn.


On the new Glasspockets blog, Transparency Talk, Janet Camarena, director of the Foundation Center's San Francisco office, shares a new podcast featuring Philanthropy 2173 blogger Lucy Bernholz on the topic of "how technology is transforming the ways in which foundations communicate and share knowledge."

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

-- Regina Mahone

Latin Side of the Doc (Part Two)

December 11, 2010

(Kathryn Pyle is a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. Click here for the first installment of her two-part post.)

Latin_doc An all-day "webdoc" workshop at Latin Side of the Doc led by Hugues Sweeney, an advisor for digital programming at the National Film Board of Canada, stressed the possibilities of interactive documentaries. "Twenty percent of our shows are now interactive," Sweeney told those in attendance. "For documentaries, the Web can be more than just a dissemination avenue; it represents a merger of the traditional documentary form and a new interactive model." Indeed, the NFB Web site encourages people to "enjoy documentaries, animations, alternative dramas and interactive productions on the Web, on your personalized home page, or on your iPhone."

Various interactive sites were highlighted during the workshop, including the delightful Save the Words site developed by Oxford Dictionaries. With hundreds of words dropping out of regular usage each year, the site is an advocacy project that aims to save words "that once led meaningful lives," while challenging people to rebuild our shrinking vocabularies. (I guarantee that if you’re reading this, you’ll be hooked by the site.)

World Without Oil, described as a serious game designed to change the world, allows game players to create the "documentary" through e-mails, blog posts, Twitter, videos, and other social media channels. "The public is actively involved and implicated in the work through the act of influencing it," said Sweeney.

Hubert Fiasse, a filmmaker from Brussels, was particularly interested in the NFB workshop because Quizas, his small production company, is planning its first venture into a documentary made specifically for the Web. "It's complicated," Fiasse told me, "and very different than a traditional documentary. We're working with an IT person who has experience building Web sites, while we bring the content side."

Continue reading »

Latin Side of the Doc (Part One)

December 09, 2010

(Kathryn Pyle is a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. In her last post, she wrote about the Art of Memory.)

Latin_doc Documentary film producers from Latin America and Europe gathered last week in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for the second annual "Latin Side of the Doc," a four-day meet-up where independent filmmakers "pitch" their projects to European and North American broadcasters, distributors, and funders.  About 175 films -- all in the initial stages of development -- were presented, and I was there.

The documentaries are a window into the great and small issues of the region. Like the story from Bolivia of a member of the indigenous Aymara community who, when young, was forbidden by the government to learn Spanish, and his grandson, the filmmaker, who speaks Spanish but has never learned Aymara. The film promises to be a universal story of family and identity but also a particularly Latin American story of discrimination and assimilation.

"There is enormous talent and great ideas for documentaries in Latin America," said Yves Jeanneau, a French film producer who, with the help of Argentine partner INCAA (National Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual Arts), launched the event last year. Latin Side of the Doc is the latest iteration, along with Asian Side of the Doc (also in its second year), of Sunny Side of the Doc, which Jeanneau created twenty-three years ago in La Rochelle, France.

In recent years, Sunny Side of the Doc has attracted over two thousand participants from more than fifty countries and has begun to feature a panel on foundation support for documentaries. Indeed, some corporate foundations in Europe are supporting documentaries that explore themes, like the environment, that align with the parent corporation's interests, while others are becoming more aware of the power of documentaries to educate the public about specific issue areas.

Continue reading »

Giving 101 for Girls and Their BFFs

December 08, 2010

(Laura Cronin is director of the New York City-based Toshiba America Foundation. In her last post, she spoke with Robert Pirani, executive director of the Governors Island Alliance, about the ongoing transformation of the 172-acre island and former military base in New York Harbor.)

Girl-up-logo For Americans of a certain age, charitable giving and the challenges facing children in developing countries usually meant a little orange cardboard box at Halloween. Of course, those UNICEF donation boxes were a kid-friendly way to raise pennies and awareness while we made our trick-or-treating rounds.

These many years later, parents and educators looking to break through the 24/7 consumerism of 'tween/teen culture and teach kids about philanthropy have more high-tech options.

One such effort is Girl Up, a campaign of the United Nations Foundation that gives American girls the opportunity to raise awareness and funds for UN programs that reach adolescent girls in other countries.

At the moment, funds raised through Girl Up provide badly needed resources for programs in Guatemala and three countries in Africa: Ethiopia, Liberia, and Malawi. In 2011, it is hoped that girls in additional countries will benefit from the program.

Continue reading »

This Week in PubHub: Funder Collaboratives

December 06, 2010

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center's online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her last post, she looked at four reports on the topic of foundation communications.)

"Collaboration" has been a much-discussed concept in philanthropy for years now, but information about how funders are collaborating, the effectiveness of those efforts, and lessons learned isn't always easy to find. That's why this week in PubHub, we're taking a closer look at some of the foundation literature on funder collaboratives.

What is a funder collaborative? For a quick overview, take a look at Moving Ideas and Money: Issues and Opportunities in Funder Funding Collaboration, a 2002 report from the Funders' Network on Smart Growth and Livable Communities and the Chapin Hall Center for Children. According to the report, collaboration can range from information exchange, co-learning, and informal and formal strategic alignments to pooled funding, joint ventures, and hybrid networks. The report also highlights various elements of successful collaboration, including clearly stated values, goals, and methods; an emphasis on forging relationships, trust, and accountability; and shared responsibility for communications and messaging.

What are the benefits and challenges associated with funder collaboratives? A case study of one long-term funder collaborative can be found in two reports about the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa, a joint initiative of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Ford, MacArthur, and Rockefeller foundations that was later joined by the Hewlett, Mellon, and Kresge foundations. Accomplishments of the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa, 2000-2010 examines each foundation's contributions to the initiative, grants made by the collaborative, and the impact of those grants in the nine African countries targeted by the initiative. Among other things, the report argues that not only did the initiative underwrite improvements in higher education infrastructure, capacity, and access in the nine countries in question, it also made it possible for the foundations involved to do and accomplish things that they could or would not have done had they each been acting on their own. Perhaps more significantly, being part of a collective helped the individual foundations improve the effectiveness of their efforts by exposing them to new strategies, leveraging their grants with other grants, helping staff develop expertise, and suggesting other co-funding opportunities.

These benefits came with some hard lessons, however, as described in Lessons From a Ten-Year Funder Collaborative: A Case Study of the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa. The report offers a number of recommendations for overcoming differences in organizational culture, changes in foundation leadership, and other messy issues, including: Focus on initiatives that partners would not be able to fund on their own; set clear goals and expectations; establish coordination and decision-making structures; be sure to secure senior management's commitment to the effort; take time to build trust through frank discussions of individual agendas and resource limitations; and develop strategies for the long-term sustainability of the effort.

The GrantCraft report Funder Collaboratives: Why and How Funders Work Together explores the motivations behind such efforts as well as the issues involved in designing and running a collaborative. Among other things, funders cite scale and efficiency, shared learning, strength in numbers, and access to non-monetary resources as some of the benefits that collaboratives provide. And the report stresses (as the two reports mentioned above do) that the secret to a successful collaborative is rooted in clear goals, trust and respect, and an agreed-upon framework for coordinating activity and resolving problems.

One could argue that collaboration among grantmakers is never more important than when they are responding to a crisis. From Crisis to Opportunity: Learning From One Region's Response to the Economic Downturn, a case study compiled by FSG Social Impact Advisors, examines the coordinated efforts of various Pacific Northwest funders to do more with less during the recent economic downturn. Based on their experience, the grantmakers suggest that foundations which find themselves in a similar situation should engage in a dialogue with grantees, partners, and the larger community so as to better understand the needs of and resources available to the community; periodically reassess their approach in the context of their own capabilities as well as the changing external environment; work to maximize the effectiveness of their resources; and collaborate with others to leverage those resources and avoid duplication of effort. Best Practices in Disaster Grantmaking: Lessons From the Gulf Coast, a 2008 publication from Philanthropy New York, similarly describes the creation of funder collaboratives as an effective practice for funders hoping to respond to changing needs in a long-term post-disaster recovery situation.

What do grantees think of funder collaboratives? According to the GrantCraft report Quick Question: What Do Grantees Think of Funder Collaboratives?, whereas 70 percent of funders rated their experience with collaboratives as "positive," grantees were almost as likely to say their experience was "mixed" (43 percent) or "negative" (5 percent) as they were to say it was "positive" (52 percent). What accounts for this discrepancy? Not surprisingly, many of the grantees' comments mirror lessons learned by funders; the difference is that grantees are more likely to be affected by un-streamlined reporting requirements, lack of consensus around expectations and goals, and poor coordination of the collaborative effort. Some grantees also expressed concern that collaboratives could further limit the supply of available grant dollars.

Want to learn more? Here are a couple of other resources that may be of interest:

Strengthening Democracy, Increasing Opportunities: Impacts of Advocacy, Organizing, and Civic Engagement in North Carolina, a 2009 report from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, describes how several collaboratives came to see advocacy and organizing as one means to achieve a common goal.

Giving Out Globally: A Resource Guide of Funding Mechanisms to Support Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights in the Global South and East, a 2009 publication from the Arcus Foundation, highlights the emergence of regional collaborative funding mechanisms for LBGT rights issues in East Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as LGBT "diaspora" funds dedicated to raising funds from immigrants in the U.S. for LGBT efforts in their home countries.

What are your thoughts about and experiences with funder collaboratives? Have those experiences been positive, negative, or a bit of both? And what advice would you shre with funders who are considering creating or joining a collaborative? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

And don't forget to visit PubHub, where you can browse hundreds of publications on a range of philanthropy-related topics.

-- Kyoko Uchida

Weekend Link Roundup (December 4 - 5, 2010)

December 05, 2010

Chestnuts-roasting Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....


After explaining on her Getting Attention blog why "doing doesn't move your marketing agenda forward," Nancy Schwartz shares a few recommendations "for productive reflection" from Havas Media Lab director Umair Haque.


Future Fundraising Now blogger Jeff Brooks explains how "too much thinking can do as much damage as not enough...."


The Chronicle of Philanthropy's Holly Hall looks at a new survey by London-based Barclays Wealth which found "substantial differences among the wealthy depending on where they live." Not surprisingly, the survey found that U.S. millionaires were the most likely to make charitable giving a priority -- though they were not No. 1 in volunteering.

In an excellent article on the Alliance magazine site, former Ford Foundation program officer Christopher Harris offers seven reasons why those who are committed to social justice philanthropy should be "encouraged" by recent developments.

On the Social Citizens blog, Emily Yu shares some takeaways from a recent NextGen:Charity conference that underscore why Millennials are likely to "play a key role not only as the next generation, but also in forming and shaping the next generation of charity."

Seattle Times reporter Kristi Heim shares a video on her blog in which Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen discusses why he is giving $26 million to the School for Global Animal Health at Washington State University.

"By relying on our networks of friends to advise our donations we're hardly taking a step forward in the use of data, comparative metrics, or outcome based analysis of charities," writes Lucy Bernholz on her Philanthropy 2173 blog. "We're actually taking something of a step back...."

On the Philanthropy Potluck blog, Chris Murakami Noonan looks at a new report from the Minnesota Council on Foundation which found that "giving by individuals, foundations, and corporate giving programs [in Minnesota] totaled $5.4 billion for the 2008 research year, a decrease in overall charitable giving of 5 percent from 2007."

Social Media

Beth Kanter announces the launch of Zoetica Salon, a new learning initiative designed to help nonprofit leaders "share best [social media] practices at no charge." Each month, the Zoetica team -– Kanter, Geoff Livingston, Kami Huyse, and Julie Pippert –- will share resources and answer questions related to a particular theme on Beth's Facebook page. This month's theme is social media measurement.

Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes dominated the nonprofit news at the end of last week, as his latest startup, Jumo, an online community for and about "individuals and organizations working to change the world," launched. After sharing some early thoughts on things he liked, and didn't like, about the site, Stanford University associate professor of political science Rob Reich concluded: "[T]he real worry is that the value proposition of Jumo will be negative," adding that "The site threatens not to help users connect but to present users with a bewildering array of flotsam and jetsam...."

What are your toughts about Jumo? Early beta pains aside, is it something that's likely to catch on with a large body of people interested in social change? Does it have the potential to be the Facebook of the nonprofit sector? Or is it destined to become another online giving platform in an already fragmented online giving universe? Feel free to use the comments section to share your thoughts, frustrations, etc.

And let us now if we missed something. Drop us a line at rnm@foundationcenter.org.

-- Regina Mahone

Nonprofits: Bright Spot in National Employment Picture

December 04, 2010

Fallout from the so-called Great Recession has been widespread and persistent. Three years after the economy started to slump, statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that more than 15 million Americans are out of work, 6.3 million have been unemployed at least six months, and the number who want to work full time but cannot due to economic reasons (U6) is stuck at about 27 million people, an eye-popping 17 percent of the workforce.

So it was a surprise when the Center for Civil Society Studies at Johns Hopkins University released a report earlier this year which showed that employment in the nonprofit sector -- the fourth-largest employer, by industry, in the U.S. -- had held up reasonably well during the economic downturn.

Based on an analysis of data from twenty-states, the report found that between the second quarter of 2007 and the second quarter of 2009, the worst part of the recession, nonprofit employment grew by an average of 2.5 percent annually, while for-profit employment in those states declined by an average of 3.3 percent annually. Another surprise: annual nonprofit job growth over that two-year period actually was stronger than the 2.3 percent annual rate the sector experienced during the 2001-07 period, before the wheels on the economy started to come off, while annual job growth in the for-profit sector was a paltry .02 percent during that period.

Which is not to say that nonprofits and the sector haven't been bruised by the recession. The same report found that 40 percent of the nonprofit organizations surveyed currently lack adequate staff resources to deliver their programs and services, while those people with jobs are being asked to pick up additional responsibilities, work longer hours, and/or have had benefits reduced.

Our own PND job board data over the last twelve months reflects many of these trends. Nonprofits in California, New York, and Washington, D.C., continue to account for the lion's share of job openings posted, even though California currently has one of the highest jobless rates (15 percent) in the country and the D.C. area has suffered significant job losses.


It's also no surprise that development and fundraising positions have comprised the majority of job openings submitted to our job board over the last twelve months (that's the case even when the economy is healthy). And we've noticed an uptick, from basically none to more than a few, in jobs having to do with social media and online community development/management, as well as many more requests than usual to extend application deadlines -- a sign, perhaps, that nonprofits feel no urgency to fill positions and are wading deep into their applicant pools to find the best- and/or most-qualified candidates.

While it's increasingly apparent the climb back to full employment will be painfully slow -- with devastating consequences for 50-something boomers, underemployed Gen Xers, and debt-burdened Gen Yers and Millennials -- the vast majority of nonprofits have done what they needed to do to survive the recession and have demonstrated they know how to manage their financial affairs better than many Wall Street firms and the federal government. What's more, the considerable damage caused by the Great Recession would've been far worse if not for the tens of thousands of nonprofits that work every day to assist people who are down on their luck or have fallen through the country's frayed social-safety net. Surely, that's something to keep in mind as you make your rounds this holiday shopping season.

--Lauren Brathwaite and Emily Robbins

This Week in PubHub: Foundation Communications

December 02, 2010

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center's online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her last post, she discussed four reports that address the role of philanthropy in capacity building.)

As part of our year-end series on foundation practices, this week in PubHub we're featuring reports that look at how foundations communicate with grantseekers and grantees.

In the depths of an economic crisis, communications may seem like a secondary concern for most foundations. Yet the findings of the Center for Effective Philanthropy's brief A Time of Need: Nonprofits Report Poor Communication and Little Help From Foundations During the Economic Downturn highlight just how important effective communications can be to funders looking to address more immediate needs. Indeed, according to a CEP survey of more than six thousand foundation grantees, funders did not communicate their response to the economic downturn clearly, if at all, and provided nonprofits with little useful assistance. What's more, the less clearly a funder communicated, the more likely their grantees were to say the funder had been unhelpful during the crisis. Foundations can better assist grantees in weathering the next downturn, the authors argue, by clearly communicating their own response to the situation, helping grantees weigh their options, and doing more to understand their grantees' strategies and objectives.

So, what does the literature say about best practices in foundation communications with respect to current and potential grantees? Not much, apparently. Improving Communication Between Foundation Staff and Grantees, a California HealthCare Foundation-commissioned report from Putnam Community Investment Consulting, found that there were few research-based guidelines or recommendations for communicating effectively with grantees. Based on an analysis of CHCF's 2009 Grantee Perception Report, research on communications practices among program staff at CHCF and other foundations, and the common elements of highly rated grant guidelines as identified by CEP, the report argues that the way for funders to achieve consistent, clear, responsive communications is to regularly discuss communications challenges, best practices, and feedback; incorporate grantee communications and grantseeker survey results into staff performance assessments; and ensure that program staff have adequate time and resources to focus on communications. The report also provides a "Grantee Communications Checklist" designed to help program officers discuss important topics and establish clear expectations with current and potential grantees.

CEP's Working With Grantees: The Keys to Success and Five Program Officers Who Exemplify Them examines the predictors of high grantee ratings based on its "relationships measure." Elements of the latter include a thorough understanding of a nonprofit's goals and strategies, a selection process that does not pressure nonprofits to modify their priorities, staff expertise, and more than occasional foundation-initiated contact. The report also showcases high-performing program officers' approaches to good foundation-grantee relationships and suggests that such relationships often result in greater impact and effectiveness.

While good communications with grantees is essential to an initiative's or project's success, communicating effectively to a broader audience through the media is important to strengthening the sector as a whole. Moving Beyond the Money: News Coverage That Conveys a Broader Vision of Foundations, a case study from the Philanthropy Awareness Initiative, explores how the Ford Foundation countered the media tendency to focus on dollar amounts by highlighting the strategy behind a housing crisis grant. In the study, the authors highlight how the foundation's willingness to frame the grant for the media in a broader context, help staff communicate key messages succinctly, and provide access to potential interviewees underscored the innovative, risk-taking nature of the initiative.

What are your thoughts about current foundation communications practices? Which foundations, in your view, are communicating effectively with their grantees and/or other stakeholders? And how has that translated into greater impact? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

And don't forget to visit PubHub, where you can browse hundreds of publications on a range of philanthropy-related topics.

-- Kyoko Uchida

World AIDS Day 2010

December 01, 2010

Aids-ribbon The Wikipedia entry for World AIDS Day states right up front that AIDS has killed more than 25 million people since 1981, making it one of the most destructive epidemics in recorded history.

As we pause to remember the millions whose lives have been cut short by the scourge of HIV/AIDS, consider these facts (courtesy of UNAIDS and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation):

  • There were 33.3 million people living with HIV at the end of 2009, up from 28.6 million in 2001.
  • A total of 1.8 million people died of AIDS in 2009, down from 2.1 million in 2004.
  • The global prevalence rate (percent of people between the ages of 15 and 49 who are infected) has leveled off since 2001 and was 0.8% in 2009.
  • New HIV infections are believed to have peaked in the late 1990s and to have declined from 3.1 million in 2001 to 2.6 million in 2009. HIV incidence fell by more than 25% in 33 countries between 2001 and 2009.
  • Most new infections are transmitted heterosexually, although risk factors vary.
  • Women represent slightly more than half of all people living with HIV worldwide and 60% in sub-Saharan Africa. In sub-Saharan Africa, the HIV prevalence rate among young women (ages 15-24) is more than double that of their male counterparts.
  • There were 2.5 million children living with HIV in 2009, 370,000 new infections among children, and 260,000 child AIDS deaths. There are approximately 16.6 million AIDs orphans (children who have lost one or both parents to HIV), most of whom (89%) live in sub-Saharan Africa.

As grim as these statistics are, they offer some hope. Indeed, as former President Bill Clinton notes in an op-ed in the London-based Independent, there's reason for optimism. Writes Clinton:

On World AIDS Day ten years ago, as I was preparing to leave office, the world was only beginning to grasp the severity of the AIDS crisis. Nearly 36,000,000 men, women and children were living with the disease, but only about 200,000 were receiving the treatment they needed. Funding was nowhere near the levels needed to prevent the disease from reaching pandemic levels.

Over the last decade, we have seen dramatic progress in both treatment and funding. In 2008 alone, $15 billion was invested to fight AIDS in developing countries, up from $6 billion just three years earlier, due in large part to the U.S. Government’s PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) program.

This summer, I witnessed one of the greatest examples of this progress when I attended the World Cup in South Africa, which has the largest number of people living with HIV/ AIDS in the world. For too long, the South African government did too little, but this year it committed to testing tens of millions of South Africans and to more than double the numbers on treatment. I'm honored that they have invited the Clinton Health Access Initiative to work alongside them to reach this goal.

South Africa's new actions reflect a sense of urgency and shared purpose in Africa -- and in other parts of the world
-- that didn't exist ten years ago. Donor nations, the Global Fund on AIDS, TB, and Malaria, and non-governmental organizations, including the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and many others, have provided indispensable contributions to raising the level of consciousness, concern, and commitment to a level that will save millions of lives....

As is the case in so many areas of need, fallout from the economic crisis has strained public- and private-sector budgets around the world and threatens to slow the progress made over the last decade in the fight against AIDS. To make sure that doesn't happen, writes Clinton, donor nations, national governments, and philanthropy must "do more with less." That means:

  • saving money on commodities and promoting better coordination of funding between donors and national governments;
  • better coordination of funding flows between donors and national governments to ensure that resources are aligned withe the most pressing national priorities;
  • maximixing return on investment by ensuring that low-cost/high-impact interventions are adopted on a wider scale; and
  • urging donor nations to review their own HIV/AIDS budgets with a view to reducing overhead.

Worlds AIDS Day is a powerful reminder of all that has been done -- and all that remains to be done -- to end the death and suffering caused by AIDS. It's a battle we're winning and that can be won. We owe it to the future to make sure we do.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Eliminating the Charitable Deduction

The Chronicle of Philanthropy published a good article over the weekend about proposals circulating in Congress to cut the deficit by, in part, eliminating or lowering the deduction (currently 35 percent for top earners) for charitable donations. (Click here for the PND version.)

In the December 6 issue of The Nation, David Nasaw, a professor of history at the CUNY Graduate Center and author of a recent biography of Andrew Carnegie, characterizes the charitable deduction as a public subsidy that funds all sorts of activity he finds distasteful and suggests that, at the very least, it's time to "inquire about [its] long-term effects."

Could revising or doing away with the deduction cause charitable giving to drop? Probably, says Nasaw. Defenders of the deduction, he notes,

argue that any downward adjustment will lead to a substantial reduction in the amount given to charity. And that may well be true. But is a reduction in the income, assets and expenditures of the philanthropic sector such a terrible thing, especially when we take into consideration that every $100 donated to charity by a high-income person means $35 less to the Treasury?

The question we have to ask in the end is, Who do we want to decide how our money is spent: wealthy donors or our elected representatives? Does wealth confer on those who have accumulated it special wisdom or enhanced compassion? No one would claim that our elected officials are solons or saints. But I, for one, would rather see a democratically elected body, accountable to the voters, make basic decisions about our schools, healthcare institutions and cultural priorities....

This is a debate that's only going to become more heated over the coming weeks and months, as a new Congress struggles to get the federal debt under control. So here are a few questions for you. Is preferential tax treatment of charitable giving a net plus or minus for society? Would the wealthy give less, or give differently, if the charitable deduction was reduced or eliminated? Should it be eliminated? Discuss...

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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