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29 posts from March 2011

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (March)

March 31, 2011

As is our custom on the last day of the month, here's a short list of the most visited PhilanTopic posts over the previous thirty days. Enjoy.

What's the best thing you've read/watched/heard this month?

2010 Nonprofit Fundraising Survey

Partly cloudy, with gradually brightening skies.

That's the fundraising "forecast" for U.S. charities in 2011, according to a year-end survey by the Nonprofit Research Collaborative, a coalition of six fundraising and philanthropic organizations (Association of Fundraising Professionals, Blackbaud Inc., Center for Philanthropy at Indiana University, Foundation Center, GuideStar USA, and the National Center for Charitable Statistics). 

According to the study, which asked about two key measures of fundraising -- the percentage of organizations that reached their fundraising goals and the percentage that raised more funds last year than in the previous year -- just 52 percent of the 1,845 charitable organizations that took the February survey reported reaching their fundraising goals in 2010.

Other Key Findings:

  • More organizations saw growth (43 percent) in their fundraising revenues in 2010 than declines (33 percent).
  • Two-thirds (67 percent) of respondents saw contributions increase or stay about the same (24 percent), up from 54 percent in 2009.
  • Internet/online giving rose at 58 percent of the organizations with an online giving channel.
  • Major gifts/event revenue rose at half the organizations with a major gifts/events channel.
  • Half the respondents (50 percent) said they received more than 25 percent of their contributions in the last quarter of the year.
  • Most organizations held their investment in fundraising steady in 2010. Those that increased their spending, staffing, or volunteer engagement were more likely to see an increase in funds raised.
  • Most charities expect giving in 2011 to increase and plan to hold staffing and expenditures for fundraising at 2010 levels.

"While many organizations stopped the bleeding [in 2010], giving simply didn't rebound like we thought it might, especially given the economic growth we saw in the last quarter of the year," said AFP president and CEO Paulette V. Maehara. "Despite the unexpectedly flat fundraising results that charities reported, the survey showed that success was more likely when organizations invested resources in fundraising staff and infrastructure, including volunteer engagement."

To download the 2010 Nonprofit Fundraising Survey (48 pages, PDF), click here.

How's the fundraising weather in your neck of the woods? Are things getting brighter? Do you see storm clouds on the horizon? Or is it too early to tell how 2011 is going to turn out? 

Women's Funding Network Annual Conference

March 30, 2011

(Sara K. Gould, former president and CEO of the Ms. Foundation for Women, is The Atlantic Philanthropies Senior Fellow at the Foundation Center.)

Womens_funding_network If you love being in truly global venues, particularly those designed to both facilitate your participation and provide real-time learning, then get yourself to the Brooklyn Marriott, April 6-9, for the Women's Funding Network's annual conference, "The Power of Global Networks." As a long-time staff member of the Ms. Foundation for Women, I attended more network conferences than I can count -- and I always went back for more. Here's my list of the three biggest benefits you'll receive:

Immersion in a global, vibrant, activist network of funders whose uniquely close relationship to their communities and constituencies is reflected in their groundbreaking work on many of the most difficult issues facing our world, including economic inequality and insecurity, violence, migration, and lack of access to health care. You'll make dozens of meaningful connections with women, and men, whose thinking will both challenge and add to your own.

Insight into innovative strategies in grantmaking, building movements, networks and constituencies, fundraising, communications, and other areas.

Inspiration as you learn, in every session, about the courageous, and sometime outrageous, stories of leaders from Nepal, to Wisconsin, to Australia, to Toronto, to Texas, to Ghana -- believe me, the list goes on and on. This year, we'll be joined at the closing plenary by Michele Bachelet, former president of Chile and now head of UN Women, a newly-established agency dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women.

I should mention that it's also a lot of fun! I'll be attending again this year, and I hope to see you there. And following the conference, I'll share some of what interested me the most.

-- Sara Gould

Project Streamline Assessment Tool

March 29, 2011

Project_streamline Foundation Center president Brad Smith struck a nerve with his "Don't Call Us" post a few weeks back. In it, Brad addressed the all-too-familiar problem (for nonprofits) of foundations that don't accept unsolicited proposals and offered good advice to grantseekers as well as grantmakers frustrated by the trend.

The flip side to the phenomenon, as most nonprofit execs will tell you, are grantmakers who overburden grantseekers (and themselves) with onerous grant application and reporting practices. Lowering the barriers to nonprofit success represented by these burdensome (and often duplicative) practices is the goal of Project Streamline, an initiative of grantmakers and grantseekers that we wrote about in April '08 and again in April '09. (Full disclosure: the Foundation Center is a partner in the effort.)

Last week, two of the groups behind the initiative -- the Grant Managers Network and the Center for Effective Philanthropy -- announced the launch of a Grantmaker Assessment Tool, a free online survey for grantmakers that generates a comparative report about a grantmaker's application and reporting processes. With that data (aggregated, to ensure that participation and results are confidential), grantmakers can:

  • Compare their grantmaking processes to those of other funders;
  • Determine the costs of those processes;
  • Identify opportunities to streamline within their organizations; and
  • Track their progress over time.

The tool is free to use, and because it provides comparative analyses, the more grantmakers who try it, the greater the benefits to the field. Sounds like a win-win to me.

To get started, click here.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Weekend Link Roundup (March 26-27, 2011)

March 27, 2011

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

Arts and Culture

In a post on his Createquity blog, Ian David Moss deconstructs the recent controversy sparked by NEA chair Rocco Landesman’s comments about supply and demand in the arts. The "phenomenon of oversupply...is far, far bigger than the nonprofit arts sector," writes Moss.

It affects industries ranging from video games to smartphone application stores, Facebook, cable TV, and yes, blogs. In many ways, it is existential in scope: our brains and lifespans are not built to withstand this onslaught of choices. The supply of artists, arts organizations, and even capital may increase with relative ease, but the supply of time in the day, last I checked, remains pretty constant.

So to me, the conversation we should be having is not about reducing supply. Instead it is about defining the responsibilities of cultural institutions to provide stewardship for a world in which supply of creative content is exploding and will never shrink. In this era of infinite choice, there is a desperate need for guidance as to how we should allocate the precious few hours that we have to experience something that will feed our souls, make us think differently, or incur a hearty laugh. In other words: for curation. We need someone to listen to, watch, and view all of the chaff so that we can confine our own time to the wheat....


On her Non-Profit Marketing blog, Katya Andresen shares findings from a recent study which found that when it comes to social media adoption, the top 200 charities outpace both Fortune 500 and Inc. 500 companies.

To help nonprofit communicators working at emergency response organizations formulate a better ask in the wake of a disaster, Getting Attention's Nancy Schwartz offers some advice on her blog.

Disaster Relief

More than two weeks have passed since a violent earthquake and massive tsunami devastated large areas of northeastern Japan. On the GiveWell blog, Holden Karnofsky updates and clarifies the GiveWell position vis-a-vis to donating to relief and recovery efforts in Japan, especially in light of a bulletin issued this week by the Japanese Red Cross which states that the relief organization, "with the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, has determined that external assistance is not required, and is therefore not seeking funding or other assistance from donors at this time."


National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy executive director Aaron Dorfman explains why the size and diversity of a foundation's board matters on the organization's Keeping a Close Eye blog.


In the second part of a two-part series on the Foundation Center's Transparency Talk blog, Commonwealth Fund executive vice president and COO John Craig offers a few guidelines for revising the 990-PF form that, says Craig, "would strengthen the sector's own self-regulatory efforts to ensure effective use of the nation's philanthropic resources."

GuideStar president and CEO Bob Ottenhoff proposes three ideas to help high-performing organizations better prepare for "black swans" -– "high-impact, hard to predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations in history, science, finance, and technology."


On the Philanthropy Potluck blog, Chuck Peterson, vice president of member relations at the Minnesota Council on Foundations, celebrates the fortieth anniversary of the Association of Black Foundation Executives.

Rosetta Thurman explains why nonprofit leaders should not be encouraged to vie for mangement roles like the folks on NBC's hit TV show The Apprentice. Writes Thurman, "Organizations have an enormous opportunity (especially nonprofits) to reframe how they define and reward leadership among staff. If people are only rewarded when they earn promotions, it's much more likely that there will be competition to be the 'top dog.'"


Nice Q&A in the Wall Street Journal with Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus about the Nobel laureate's rift with the government of Bangladesh, what it means for Grameen's future, and the status of succession plans at the bank.


On the Harvard Business Review blog, Uncharitable author Dan Pallotta gives six reasons why a bill proposed by Oregon's attorney general that would strip the tax-deductibility of donations made to organizations spending less than 30 percent of their annual budget on services over a three-year period should be withdrawn.

Social Entrepreneurship

The Case Foundation's Allie Burns rounds up news from and blog coverage of the recently concluded South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive conference, including a video in which Skimbaco's Katja Presnal chats with PepsiCo social media and digital director Bonin Bough and Fast Company senior innovation editor Ellen McGirt about the most exciting things to emerge at the conference.

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

-- Regina Mahone

Bob Herbert Signs Off

March 26, 2011

Here's an excerpt from Bob Herbert's column in today's New York Times -- his last after an eighteen-year run as a regular columnist for the paper:

Arthur Miller, echoing the poet Archibald MacLeish, liked to say that the essence of America was its promises. That was a long time ago. Limitless greed, unrestrained corporate power and a ferocious addiction to foreign oil have led us to an era of perpetual war and economic decline. Young people are staring at a future in which they will be less well off than their elders, a reversal of fortune that should send a shudder through everyone.

The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.

Nearly 14 million Americans are jobless and the outlook for many of them is grim. Since there is just one job available for every five individuals looking for work, four of the five are out of luck. Instead of a land of opportunity, the U.S. is increasingly becoming a land of limited expectations....


The current maldistribution of wealth is also scandalous. In 2009, the richest 5 percent claimed 63.5 percent of the nation's wealth. The overwhelming majority, the bottom 80 percent, collectively held just 12.8 percent.

This inequality, in which an enormous segment of the population struggles while the fortunate few ride the gravy train, is a world-class recipe for social unrest. Downward mobility is an ever-shortening fuse leading to profound consequences....

As he explains in a parting note appended to the column, Herbert is leaving the Times to write a book and expand his efforts "on behalf of working people, the poor and others who are struggling...." We wish him the best of luck with those endeavors. 

-- Mitch Nauffts

And the Oscar for Philanthropic Leadership Goes to...

March 25, 2011

Oscar_statue Philanthropy, by nature, is a field of followers more than leaders. And maybe that's the way it should be. Foundations, by and large, support others to do the work. Their role is to spot innovation, tireless dedication, courage, and determination and to back them with resources, critical feedback, and solidarity.

We hear talk here and there about so-and-so's "legacy," and the NonProfit Times publishes its annual "Power and Influence Top 50." Nonprofits frequently honor their biggest donors at benefits and many have received one of those awards passed out at the annual gathering of the tribe sponsored by the Council on Foundations. (Note: in recent years the council has cut back on the numbers of such awards.)

Let's suppose we were to award an Oscar to best philanthropic leader of the year? Who would it go to? I offer five quotes from my nominee:

"To my mind, it is not merely the money that the foundations give, but this stimulus and encouragement, the feeling that there is somebody that you can go to and say, 'I know this is a very difficult thing, and I am going to get into a lot of trouble and get you into a lot of trouble, probably. But here is something that ought to be tried.'"

"...It is in the interests of the American people to keep the door open to every inquiry which conceivably in the mind of some qualified person may add to the sum of human knowledge."

"I think [foundations] are entering into the most difficult of all fields....They are going right straight ahead, knowing that their fingers will be burned again, because in these fields you cannot be sure of your results, and you cannot be sure that you will avoid risk. If the boundaries of knowledge are pushed back and back and back so that our ignorance of ourselves and our fellow man and of other nations is steadily reduced, there is hope for mankind, and unless those boundaries are pushed back there is no hope."

"So far as there is a justification -- and I am sure there is -- for the existence of these institutions, it is that they serve the public good. If they are not willing to tell what they do to serve the public good, then as far as I am concerned they ought to be closed down. And I say that partly because the welfare of these great constructive foundations...and their opportunity for usefulness, are constantly threatened by a confusion in the minds of the people about what is a foundation."

"I would go a step further and say that, since I believe in private enterprise, foundations can do what government cannot."

The envelope please! The year: 1952. The nominee: Russell C. Leffingwell, chairman, board of trustees, the Carnegie Corporation. Mr. Leffingwell was a Republican banker who had the courage to make statements such as these during the McCarthy-era Cox Commission hearings, in which a number of congressmen accused the country's most prestigious foundations of supporting "un-American activities."

Surely that fits anyone's definition of "leadership under pressure."

Mr. Leffingwell also famously said, "We think that the foundation should have glass pockets," a quote cited at the Foundation Center's creation (in the wake of the Cox and Reece hearings) in 1956. It also served as our inspiration in creating the Glasspockets Web site, in the belief that transparency is the best defense for philanthropy, an idea as salient today as it was in the l950s.

So who would you nominate for best philanthropic leader of the year (foundation-affiliated or otherwise)? Use the comments section (anonymously, if you'd like) to share your suggestions. And feel free to include supporting quotes!

-- Bradford Smith

A 'Flip' Chat With...Wendy Harman, Director of Social Media, American Red Cross

March 24, 2011

(This is the sixteenth 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 previous chat, with Taproot Foundation president and founder Aaron Hurst.)

It's been two weeks since a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami devastated northeastern Japan, and video footage of the disaster -- of coastal villages turned into matchsticks, of cars tossed about like they were bath toys, of a wall of water devouring everything in its path -- still shocks and is unnerving to watch. The disaster, which may have cost 20,000 people their lives, is likely go down as the most expensive ever (and that's before any costs associated with the ongoing emergency at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex are figured in), and it will be years before Japan and the Japanese people have fully recovered.

Americans responded quickly and generously in the days after the disaster, and by this past Monday had donated $136 million to relief and recovery efforts in Japan -- almost two-thirds of that to the American Red Cross.

In our latest "Flip" chat, Wendy Harman, director of social media at the Red Cross, talks with social media strategist Larry Blumenthal, co-host (with Bill Silberg) of our new Talking Philanthropy series, about the public response to the quake and tsunami, the organization's social media strategy in the wake of a disaster, and some of the things the Red Cross is doing under her leadership to maximize its social media efforts.

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

(Total running time: 6 minutes, 12 seconds)

What do you think? Has the Red Cross discovered the "secret sauce" in terms of social media? Is online and mobile giving supplementing or cannibalizing more traditional giving channels? And is, as many have said, the fundraising model for disaster relief in this country broken?

2010 Online Fundraising Infograph

Nice infographic from the folks at M+R Strategic Services and NTEN:

(Click for larger version)

The factoids in the graphic are pulled from the 2011 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study, an annual survey conducted by MRSS and NTEN. Among other things, this year's study found that online fundraising revenues for international groups increased 163 percent from 2009 to 2010, driven in large part by disasters in Haiti and Pakistan. When you remove those groups from the equation, however, online fundraising revenues were up a more modest (but still significant) 14 percent.

Other key findings from the report:

  • The 2010 fundraising response rate was 0.08 percent. From 2009 to 2010, fundraising response rates declined 19 percent on average.
  • Annual e-mail list churn among survey respondents was 18 percent.
  • On average, survey participants sent 3.6 e-mails per subscriber per month, and 6 e-mails per subscriber in December.
  • On average, nonprofit Facebook fan pages had 15,053 users (defined as people who "like" a page).
  • Facebook users for nonprofit fan pages grew an average of 14 percent a month in 2010.
  • On average, an organization's text messaging list size was 1.9 percent of its e-mail list size.
  • Annual mobile list churn was 14 percent in 2010.

To read or download the full study (registration required), click here.

-- Mitch Nauffts

5 Questions for...Alex Counts, President/CEO, Grameen Foundation

March 23, 2011

As recently as 2006, Muhammad Yunus was the nonprofit equivalent of a rock star. That year, Yunus and Grameen Bank, the microcredit institution he founded in the 1970s, won the Nobel Peace Prize, and Yunus was hailed globally as that rare thing: a social entrepreneur who had succeeded in scaling his innovation.

But as a flood of new lenders, many of them for-profit, entered the field, microfinance increasingly came under attack from politicians who questioned its efficacy and critics who derided the often exorbitant interest rates charged by lenders. Adding to the confusion, a Norwegian documentary raised questions about how Norwegian aid funds awarded to Grameen during the 1990s had been used. Even though a subsequent investigation by the government of Norway absolved Grameen of any wrongdoing, Yunus continued to face criticism in Bangladesh, where Grameen is based. Indeed, earlier this year, the Bangladeshi government took steps to dismiss Yunus as managing director of Grameen on the grounds  he had long since passed the country's mandatory retirement age for people working in government-owned banks (the government owns a quarter of Grameen).

Alex_counts Philanthropy News Digest recently spoke with Alex Counts, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Grameen Foundation, which was created in 1997 by friends of the Grameen Bank to help spread the Grameen philosophy, about the controversy involving Yunus and the future of microfinance in general.

Philanthropy News Digest: Where do things stand with respect to Professor Yunus and the government of Bangladesh?

Alex Counts: First, it's important to note that the Grameen Foundation, with the exception of funding some educational scholarships, does not do any programming in Bangladesh. The Grameen family of organizations there is so well established that we don't feel we would bring anything new to the table.

That said, the fortunes of our sister Grameen organizations matters to us. And while there were many rumors reported in the media, only two material things really happened. One is that the government of Bangladesh set up something called an inquiry committee to investigate Grameen Bank — which, by the way, welcomed the investigation as long as it was impartial and based its recommendations on the facts. Second, the government named a new chairman for Grameen Bank. The position had been vacant for about eight months, and the government has the right to do that. But in doing so, the government of Bangladesh did something unexpected — they appointed Khondaker Muzammel Huq, a former employee of Grameen Bank who did not leave the bank on good terms, to the position. Huq, who was once a deputy of Professor Yunus', was quoted in the New York Times as saying he didn't think Yunus gave enough credit to his deputies. Again, the government had the right to do so, but it certainly raises questions. In addition, there have been a lot of leaks to the media behind the scenes as well as a couple of hostile comments made publicly by the prime minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina. Of course, since you and I last spoke, the government has taken steps to dismiss Professor Yunus as managing director of the bank, on the grounds that, at the age of seventy, he is well past the country's mandatory retirement age. Professor Yunus has challenged their authority to do this and we believe he has solid legal grounds for doing so. In the midst of all of this, the bank is continuing to operate more or less as it always has.

PND: What effect has the controversy had on Grameen in general?

AC: Unlike many microfinance institutions, Grameen's financial backers are also its borrowers. It is 97 percent owned by the women who borrow from it. Two-thirds of its deposits come from loan clients, while one-third comes from ordinary Bangladeshis who have chosen to open accounts there. The latter group of depositors cannot receive loans and do not own a stake in the bank; they use the bank because it provides a good service. Both groups have remained steadfast. There has been no run on the bank or widespread withdrawal of savings. Its financial backers, so to speak, are waiting the crisis out calmly. The same can be said of its borrowers. Their loan repayments, discipline, attendance at the borrower repayment meetings — what we call center meetings — all have stayed at the levels we saw pre-crisis.

PND: What might the ramifications of the situation in Bangladesh be for microfinance in the larger South Asia region and elsewhere?

AC: As microfinance in countries such as India, Bangladesh, and Bolivia grows to become a significant part of the financial landscape, not to mention a significant piece of national poverty reduction efforts, microfinance groups are going to be subject to more scrutiny from the media and from government. And that means that microfinance organizations, especially in India, are going to have to work harder to develop the case that they actually do help to reduce poverty. This is where the Grameen Foundation has been building on an innovation pioneered by Grameen Bank — namely, the Progress Out of Poverty Index™. It's a kind of scorecard that enables microfinance organizations, at very little cost, to create an evidence base for how quickly their clients climb out of poverty after receiving a microloan or series of loans. We believe it can bolster the pro-microfinance argument within governments and the media while giving pause to those who are opposed to what microfinance organizations are doing. Ultimately, as microfinance organizations grow in scale and scope, they need to be prepared for political leaders to ask hard questions and to even threaten interference in their operations as a way of scoring political points. This is what is happening in India and Bangladesh, and we hope that political leaders in those two countries step back from the brink before the situation evolves into a full-blown crisis.

PND: Is building an evidence base enough?

AC: Probably not. Microfinance organizations need to maintain good relations with both the media and political leaders and not leave their public relations in the hands of others. They need to be proactive. And they need to create some sort of policing mechanism, like a credit bureau, that can determine whether a borrower is becoming over-indebted, as well as consumer protection codes that help define and enforce ethical treatment of clients. The truth is, in every country where microfinance has been introduced, there are some lenders who don't adhere to the high ethical standards of people like Professor Yunus.

PND: Do you have a sense of how the controversy might affect the ongoing rollout of microcredit services in the United States? And what is your organization doing to improve the environment for microfinance, both here and abroad?

AC: I don't see the situation in Bangladesh having any affect on the continued rollout of microfinance in the states. As you know, Grameen America has done very well, for itself and its clients, by introducing the Grameen methodology in a couple of U.S. cities. And there are many other groups in the U.S. that are offering microloans. I've been involved with a group called Project Enterprise that provides microloans in New York City. For what it's worth, the majority of the financial supporters and clients of these organizations are unaware of what is happening in Bangladesh. And among those who have been following the news, the vast majority feel sympathy for and a sense of solidarity with Professor Yunus.

For our part, we've talked to like-minded organizations that are trying to defuse the situation. We've also provided people in the Obama administration and in Congress with information that has enabled them to engage, through diplomatic channels, certain stakeholders in Bangladesh. But we don't believe the situation in Bangladesh has changed how microfinance is perceived in the U.S. or how the Grameen Foundation is portrayed in the media. If anything, it's made Professor Yunus an even more compelling and sympathetic figure.

-- Matt Sinclair

Brian O'Connell, Co-Founder/President Emeritus, Independent Sector (1930-2011)

March 22, 2011

I was deeply saddened to learn of Brian O'Connell's passing.

Brian_oconnell I first met Brian in 1994, as he was preparing to retire from Independent Sector, the organization he had helped found and served so ably for so many years. In advance of the annual IS conference that fall, Brian was preparing a collection of his writings, to be published by the Foundation Center, and I had been assigned to shepherd the manuscript through the production process. As Brian wrote in the Foreword to that book (People Power: Service, Advocacy, Empowerment), he was pleased that friends and colleagues thought it would be a valuable addition to the literature of the field -- and surprised, as he got into the project, that the pieces "didn't fit, they were repetitious or contradictory, and they revealed very different styles...."

I don't remember much about that summer; it was hot, and Brian spent most of it on his beloved Cape Cod while we toiled away here in the city. We used the phone (landline!) and FedEx to manage the various stages of production, and on the two or three occasions when Brian made it into town, my colleague Rick Schoff and I would join him for lunch at one of the wonderful restaurants in the center's Union Square neighborhood. It was all very civilized.

Which pretty well describes Brian himself. A gentleman, generous, gracious to a fault. But beneath that cultivated exterior was another man, a dedicated reformer who believed passionately that democracy was a gift to be cherished and nurtured and who was fierce in his conviction that an engaged citizenry was our last, best hope. As he wrote in Finding Values That Work: The Search For Fulfillment (New York: Walker and Co., 1978):

There are no shortcuts to happiness, but the most direct route follows the line of service rather than selfishness. The individual who would be fulfilled will sooner or later learn the equation of self and service. The successful searchers will also have learned that happiness isn't found, it's created. The closest I can come to a prescription is equal dosages of independence and interdependence -- and plenty of warmth to both core and community. There's no pretension that this formula will necessarily provide blissful contentment. It follows more the course outlined by Aristotle: "Happiness is the utlization of one's talents along the lines of excellence." That's the truer direction of fulfillment, and if all that effort and service sometimes cause you to wonder if there isn't an easier way, recall Dag Hammarskjold's statement that "In our era the road to holiness necessarily passes through the world of action...."

Brian O'Connell lived a long, full life, almost all of it spent in service to our sector and the country he loved. I join all those who worked with and admired Brian over the years in saying: "Well done, sir. Well done."

-- Mitch Nauffts

Japan-Related Orgs Raising Money for Relief and Recovery Efforts

March 21, 2011

Over the weekend, Laura Cronin, director of the Toshiba America Foundation and a regular contributor to PhilanTopic, sent along a list of Japan-related organizations in the U.S. that have created funds to raise money for both short-term relief and longer-term recovery and reconstruction efforts in Japan. For a comprehensive list of U.S. organizations raising funds, see this list from the Chronicle of Philanthropy. For additional information and resources, visit the Web site of the Embassy of Japan in the U.S.

Japanese American Association of New York
According to its president, Gary S. Moriwaki, JAANY is collaborating with other organizations to raise funds for relief and recovery efforts and is exploring where the monies can be put to best use. The association says that donations will go to organizations in Japan directly contributing to relief and recovery efforts.

Japanese American Society of Indiana
The society has established a statewide Japan Earthquake Relief Fund to provide assistance to people most directly impacted by the disaster. The organization says it will distribute the funds in a timely manner to carefully selected and recognized Japanese relief organizations assisting those most in need.

Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE/USA) | Japan NGO Earthquake Relief and Recovery Fund
The sister organization of one of Japan's leading international affairs organizations, JCIE/USA is directing half the money it raises to six of Japan's leading disaster relief NGOs and will use the remaining 50 percent to establish a separate fund that supports NGOs engaged in long-term reconstruction efforts.

Japenese Chamber of Commerce and Industry
JCCINY and the Nippon Club, two anchors of the Japanese community in New York, have established the 2011 Northeastern Japan Earthquake Relief Fund to aid victims of the disaster.

Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California
Headquartered in San Francisco, JCCCNC will pass along donations to its Earthquake Relief Fund to local nonprofit and community service organizations in Japan working to reach those most in need.

Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme Alumni Association of New York
The JET Alumni Association of New York is collecting donations on behalf of JETAA USA for relief efforts.

Japan ICU Foundation
The U.S. "friends" organization for International Christian University, Tokyo is raising funds for scholarships and to support Japanese students from areas affected by the quake and tsunami.

Japan Society
The Japan Society has partnered with several Japanese and American nonprofit organizations and is looking to partner with additional organizations that can have maximum impact, both in terms of immediate relief needs as well as long-term recovery.

Peace Winds America
An affiliate of one of Japan's major humanitarian assistance organizations, Peace Winds America is raising funds for relief efforts being carried out by its Japanese counterpart.

U.S.-Japan Council
The D.C.-based council's Earthquake Relief Fund is channeling donations to Japanese organizations involved in both immediate relief and long-term reconstruction efforts.

-- Laura Cronin

Weekend Link Roundup (March 19-20, 2011)

March 20, 2011

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


Are cause marketing efforts always a disaster after a disaster? Not if they're handled "tactfully [and] senstively in light of the circumstances," argues Joe Waters on his Selfish Giving blog.

On her Non-Profit Marketing Blog, Katya Andresen shares three key takeways from Switch co-author Dan Heath's plenary at the 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference in Washington, D.C.

Rohit Barghava, who writes the Influential Marketing Blog, looks at some of the new tools announced by Google as part of the search giant's expanded Google for Nonprofit program.

Disaster Relief

After a major natural disaster like the one that just struck Japan, people want to give to organizations like the Red Cross, Save the Children, Mercy Corps, Oxfam, and World Vision, writes Tom Paulson on his Humanosphere blog. And that's okay, he adds -- "but maybe not just because of what's happening right now in Japan."

Appearing on CNN, Charity Navigator president/CEO Ken Berger offers five tips to avoid charity scams when donating to earthquake relief and recovery efforts.


"Measuring results and thinking strategically can indeed be highly productive for nonprofits," writes Todd Cohen on his Inside Philanthropy blog. But what is "flat wrong" 

is the idea that vision, effectiveness and sustainability depend only on what can be quantified, when in fact success and impact are as much a function of experience, social intelligence and intuitive thinking....

In the first of a two-part post on the Foundation Center's Transparency Talk blog, John Craig, chair of the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York, lays out half a dozen reasons why it's time for the IRS to modernize the 990-PF tax form used by private foundations to file their annual returns.


Social Actions co-founder Peter Deitz shares details about the process that led to GuideStar's acquisition of the Social Actions project/API.

Social Entrepreneurship

Foundations and social venture investors may want to think twice before they invest in a limited liability corporation (LC3), writes The Nonprofiteer.

Social Media

A long but useful video presentation from Tim Bete, communications director at the St. Mary Development Corporation in Dayton, Ohio, on "19 Ways Nonprofits Can Use Social Media to Connect With Donors" (h/t The Agitator).

And on her Coyote Communications blog, Jayne Cravens looks at one of the downsides of the exploding popularity of social media: its effectiveness in promoting misinformation and negative speech.

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

-- Mitch Nauffts

Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

March 19, 2011

Tiziana Dearing is CEO of Boston Rising, a startup fund and grantmaking organization that supports individuals, families, and communities as they chart their own paths out of poverty.

Tiziana_dearing Statistics about poverty in the United States are alarming. And given the recent history of intergenerational progress among the poor, foundations and philanthropists alike should be asking, "Where's the impact?" For fifty years, we've been investing in anti-poverty programs and initiatives. To what end? If we want to break the cycle of poverty, maybe it's time to re-think our investments.

This year, Boston Rising is launching with $15 million in seed money and a 100 percent focus on breaking intergenerational poverty in the Boston area. Having spent significant time considering the impact question and researching groundbreaking models with the greatest potential to move the needle, we have come to a conclusion. To break the intergenerational poverty cycle, we must invest in individual choice and control.

According to The New York Times, more people between the ages of 18 and 64 lived in poverty in 2009 than in any year since 1959. Underscoring the crisis, the Urban Institute notes that "Being poor at birth is a strong predictor of future poverty status. Thirty-one percent of white children and 69 percent of black children who are poor at birth go on to spend at least half their childhoods living in poverty." Moreover, a childhood spent in poverty significantly raises one's odds for poor outcomes as an adult.

Our collective idea of America includes the notion that it is a meritocracy. We tend to believe that our free-market system rewards those who help themselves, and that those who are willing to "pull themselves up by the bootstraps" can and will "get ahead." This idea is accompanied by a pervasive cultural conviction that the poor are neither interested in nor willing to change their circumstances. (The top Google search result for "generational poverty" is a Wikipedia quote: "One aspect of generational poverty is a learned helplessness that is passed from parents to children and on down the line.") The data belie both ideas. Our meritocracy is broken. The poor want to, can, and typically do work incredibly hard, but our systems don't give them the freedom to access or leverage the capacity, capital, and social connections the middle class take for granted. Some of the most interesting anti-poverty models in America today are changing that by putting resources, choice, and control directly in the poor's hands.

Consider Lawrence Community Works (LCW) in Lawrence, Massachusetts. LCW is a place-based nonprofit organization that supports and is thriving in one of the poorest communities in the state. LCW describes what it does as "building family and community assets" and "providing others with caring and mutual support." Its Neighbor Circles model, widely copied around the Commonwealth, provides resources to families that self-organize a series of dinners as a way of building social capital and providing a forum for neighborhood participants to discover and act on common interests and concerns. In Lawrence alone, the program has led to forty community improvement projects driven entirely by residents.

For a national example, consider the Family Independence Initiative (FII), whose leader and founder, Maurice Lim Miller, was appointed in December 2010 to President Obama's Council for Community Solutions. Miller launched FII in California after twenty years of toiling in the poverty industry. FII bases its model on the idea that "most low-income families are capable of taking tangible steps toward establishing control and choice in their lives." As the organization's Web site notes, "The common thread is that people turn to family and friends, pool resources, and follow the example of those in their inner circle who have begun to succeed."

The results? In 2007, FII's initial cohort in San Francisco saw a 20 percent improvement in income and a 70 percent improvement in their kids' grades in just fifteen months. Indeed, the success of these sixteen families led two hundred other families in the area to express interest in the program. Today, FII is active in three states and is helping to shape national policy vis-a-vis support for poor communities.

Both of these models, as well as interesting initiatives in Tulsa, Pittsburgh, and other communities, turn the usual assumptions on their head. All start with the idea that the poor, when given opportunities to create and engage with meaningful social networks, can and do work hard, will build and leverage assets, and will do more than anyone or anything to change their own circumstances. It is an approach that invests in and expands both connection-building and individuals', families' and communities' own resources, rather than one-size-fits-all top-down prescriptions.

We at Boston Rising strongly believe in and have begun to invest in this approach. Our goal is to create a new relationship between philanthropy and poverty by pairing this empowering investment approach with new forms of Internet-based giving and activism that also increase donors' choice and control. Indeed, we believe the combination of these two ideas can and will help direct philanthropy toward lower-cost, scalable poverty-fighting models that truly leverage the power and potential of the poor themselves.

We believe we have arrived at a crossroads in the fight against poverty, and we hope others, over time, will join us.

-- Tiziana Dearing

Crisis in Japan: The Grantmaker Response

March 18, 2011

Early data compiled by the Foundation Center show that U.S. foundations and corporate giving programs have awarded more than $123 million for relief and recovery efforts in the first week following the disastrous earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The figure grows hourly as additional information is collected. A live RSS feed of grants awarded is available at http://maps.foundationcenter.org/japan/rss/.

Meanwhile, preliminary results from an ongoing survey of independent and community foundation CEOs and presidents suggest that about one in five of the surveyed foundations either have made commitments or are considering awarding funds in response to the disaster. Another one in five were uncertain. The survey, which was launched on Wednesday, March 16, had generated 47 responses by late Thursday.

Of ten foundations (out of 47) that told the Foundation Center they expect to provide assistance:

  • four plan to provide only short-term emergency relief;
  • two plan to provide only assistance for mid-term recovery efforts; and
  • four plan to provide assistance throughout the relief, recovery, and rebuilding phases.

Three community foundations either have or intend to establish a fund to receive donations to assist victims of the disaster -- the Aspen Community Foundation, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, and the Triangle Community Foundation in Durham, North Carolina. (We're also aware of at least four other community foundations that have established funds: the California Community Foundation, the Columbus Foundation, the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, and the Marquette County Community Foundation.) Many community foundations are likely following the route of the San Francisco Foundation, which noted that while it does not plan to establish a relief fund, "we continue to monitor the need and resources available, and will adapt our response accordingly."

By noon on Friday, the Foundation Center had tracked a total of 89 grants awarded in response to the disaster, ranging in size from $1,000 to $8,6 million. Some of the larger grants include:

  • Fast Retailing USA, Inc. – 2 grants totaling $13.5 million
  • Coca-Cola Company Contributions Program - $7.5 million
  • Prudential Foundation - $6.1 million
  • GE Foundation - $5 million
  • JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. - $5 million
  • Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. - $5 million
  • Dow Chemical Company Foundation - $5 million

Nearly half the grants (47 percent) have been commitments of support for unspecified recipients, to be determined as better information about emerging needs becomes available. Of named recipients, the Red Cross was most frequently mentioned (40 percent of the grants):

Other recipients include CARE USA, GlobalGiving, International Medical Corps, Mercy Corps, Save the Children, and the U.S.-Japan Council.

To date, corporate-sponsored giving, which tends to be first out of the gate during disasters, accounts for more than 90 percent of the giving tracked by the Foundation Center.

The information above was provided by Larry McGill, vice president of research at the Foundation Center.

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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