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29 posts from March 2011

Talent for Hire

March 17, 2011

(Reilly Kiernan is midway through a year-long Project 55 Fellowship at the Foundation Center. In her last post, she wrote about social change work on campus versus the real world.)

Now_hiring I graduated into one of the worst job markets in recent history.

Even big investment banks, which typically mine schools like my alma mater for eager recruits, cut back their hiring, in some cases by a record amount. As a result, my classmates and I, like college grads around the country, struggled to find work of any kind, let alone work about which we were passionate.

But the stormy job market does have a silver lining. With so much recently graduated human capital sitting around, interest in non-traditional opportunities, especially those in the nonprofit sector, has soared. And because employment opportunities in the sector are growing faster than they are on the for-profit side, more and more young people are turning to public interest jobs.

It turns out that my peers and I are part of what a recent New York Times article calls "a cohort of young college graduates who ended up doing good because the economy did them wrong."

It's a trend I’ve noticed among my friends and classmates, and the piece in the Times offers some statistical evidence to support that perception. In the article, Catherine Rampell examined data from the American Community Survey of the United States Census Bureau, which found that "In 2009 alone, 16 percent more young college graduates worked for the federal government than in the previous year and 11 percent more for nonprofit groups."

Over the course of my fellowship here at the Foundation Center, I've attended several seminars that brought together fellows from Harvard’s Center for Public Interest Careers, Dartmouth’s Partners in Community Service, and the Princeton AlumniCorps network. Each of those programs saw record interest last year on the part of graduating seniors.

The article in the Times teases out some of the possible reasons for the surge in interest. It make sense, for example, that recent college grads are keen on the nonprofit sector because nonprofit jobs are pretty much the only ones available at the moment. Recent graduates who might have been lured into law or financial services by promises of giant bonuses and six-figure starting salaries have been liberated, so to speak, to devote themselves to working for a good cause.

But it’s also possible the trend is a reflection of a generational zeitgeist. The Times article cites survey results that demonstrate a greater interest among so-called Millennials in volunteering and service and also alludes to the Obama administration's push to make service "cool." At the same time, some of my friends have told me the financial crisis colored their perceptions of the value of a career in investment banking or corporate law and got them thinking about a job or even a career that prioritizes non-financial sources of fulfillment.

The most interesting question raised by the Times article, however, is to what extent "a different starting point" will "recalibrate" young job seekers’ long-term career aspirations -- or whether those aspirations will evaporate as jobs in better-paying fields become more plentiful.

As the article suggests, we won’t know for a while. In the meantime, nonprofit organizations should be taking full advantage of the opportunity presented to them by investing in the professional development of their youngest employees. New nonprofit employees need to believe that the work they are doing is not only meaningful, but that the sector itself is more than a fall-back option in tough economic times. Let’s be honest: The money isn't great. And even the most capable, motivated, and committed recent college grad is bound to feel frustrated by how small her efforts to make the world a better place seem in the grand scheme of things. Without regular encouragement, mentoring, and career development opportunities, that recent college grad may eventually become discouraged or even disillusioned. That's bad for her employer -- and bad for the future of the sector.

-- Reilly Kiernan

For Performance Assessments, How Public Should Foundations Be?

March 16, 2011

(Kevin Bolduc is vice president of assessment tools at the Center for Effective Philanthropy. In that role, he oversees both the design of new tools and the refinement of CEP's suite of assessment offerings and has presented CEP's data to the boards, management, and staff of dozens of funders. This post original appeared on the Foundation Center's Transparency Talk blog.)

Kevin_bolduc We at the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) are often asked just how public should foundations be with the results of the assessments tools we provide them? It's a simple question, but I am not sure there's an easy answer.

The question arises most frequently in the context of our Grantee Perception Report (GPR), which we have provided to some two hundred foundations of various types and sizes. CEP's motivation for creating the GPR was simple: in order to be truly effective, foundations need to hear from those they are supporting. Relative to other one-off grantee surveys, the GPR is powerful because grantees can be candid, knowing their identity will be protected, and because the results are comparative. Through the GPR, funders learn about how they are doing relative to others, helping highlight real strengths and weaknesses.

Since we began delivering these reports eight years ago, about 40 funders of all stripes and sizes, from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (the first do so and unusual enough that it was written about in the New York Times) to The John R. Oishei Foundation (one of the most recent), have elected to post some or all of their CEP Grantee Perception Reports on their Web sites. (You can also find links to public GPRs listed on Glasspockets.) But many funders have chosen not to post their GPRs. Here and there I've been asked why not all funders make their GPRs public and whether I think they should.

There are a few intertwined reasons I see (and hear) about why funders posting their GPRs can be good for philanthropy and can even help to mitigate some of the sector's inherently asymmetric power dynamics.

Clarity: Public GPRs can provide one more resource for grantees and other prospective partners to understand how a particular foundation does its work -- strengthening potential future proposals or helping to identify areas of mutual alignment.

Transparency about successes and failures: Funders can lead the way in demonstrating that by sharing successes and failures openly, we can best learn and improve.

Accountability: Self-imposed accountability can often serve as a first step in a funder making change. While posting the GPR alone might not do this, funders often use the opportunity to tell grantees (and others) what they're going to change and why. They can prime grantees to start reconsidering any preconceived notions and approach the foundation with a fresh perspective. And in so doing, they might begin to alter the dynamics of the relationship for the better, fostering a greater sense of comfort among grantees in providing feedback, including about whether change is happening -- or not.

Motivation of internal change effort: When leadership makes the GPR itself public, it's a powerful statement to staff colleagues about the importance of the GPR feedback and, more importantly, about the importance of always seeking to learn and improve the way the foundation works with its grantees.

These are strong arguments. But here's the thing: I've seen funders that don't make their GPRs public go on to make real and important changes in their work based on GPR results. And I've seen a few funders go ahead, make results public, and then follow up with half-hearted change efforts.

Posting results is easy. Creating change based on those results is the hard work.

Furthermore, we know that many foundations communicate about their results in some way, even if they don't go as far as publicly sharing their GPR. Some send a detailed letter or e-mail to grantees. Some have hosted a gathering or discussion with grantees and potential applicants. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, for example, didn't post its GPR, but it held open conference calls in which foundation leaders candidly described GPR results and invited questions; the Foundation then posted audio recordings of the calls on its Web site.

So, here's a thought: maybe Glasspockets should accept and link to all these types of sharing as "evidence" of transparency and accountability. It's not just the public GPRs that are real signals of commitment to effectiveness.

CEP's third-party evaluations indicate that funders are making major changes in their work, whether they're posting results or not.

And that's what it's all about for me.

-- Kevin Bolduc

Rethinking Nuclear Power: A PubHub Reading List

March 15, 2011

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center's online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her last post, she highlighted several reports that examine how women's roles, both inside and outside the family, are changing.)

With post-quake cooling system failures at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex threatening a potentially large-scale nuclear disaster, some are raising the specter of another Chernobyl, while others are questioning whether nuclear power plants in the United States are safe. Since the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island, nuclear power plant construction in the U.S. has all but stalled. Given rising oil prices and growing climate change fears, however, nuclear power has (re)emerged as an alternative to fossil fuels, especially in energy-starved China. Here are a few reports from our PubHub catalog that explore various aspects of the nuclear energy conundrum.

Common Challenge, Collaborative Response: A Roadmap for U.S.-China Cooperation on Energy and Climate Change (58 pages, PDF), a 2009 report from the Asia Society and the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, outlines the climate change and energy security challenges confronting both nations and proposes a comprehensive program of sustained, high-level collaboration to build low-carbon economies and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. China, as the world knows, has been diversifying its coal-dominated energy supply with nuclear power, hydropower, and renewable energy; indeed, while nuclear power in China comprised just 1 percent of the country's energy mix in 2005, it is on a steady upward trajectory, boosted in part by a 2007 deal in which the U.S. Department of Energy approved an $8 billion contract for the sale to China of four 1,100-megawatt AP-1000 nuclear power plants, to be built between 2009 and 2015.

Ending the Energy Stalemate: A Bipartisan Strategy to Meet America's Energy Challenges (148 pages, PDF), a 2004 report from the Bipartisan Policy Center's National Commission on Energy Policy, provides detailed policy recommendations related to energy independence, climate change, natural gas supplies, the future of nuclear energy, and other long-term energy challenges. At the time of the report's publication, the 103 commercial nuclear power plants operating in the U.S. were responsible for generating about 20 percent of the nation’s electricity, while worldwide some 440 nuclear reactors accounted for about a sixth of the global electricity supply and about half of the carbon-free electricity generation. Funded by the Packard, Energy, MacArthur, and Hewlett foundations as well as the Pew Charitable Trusts, the report calls for expanded use of nuclear energy and includes recommendations in the areas of safety, security, and cost; radioactive waste; and proliferation risks.

The Pew Center on Global Climate Change's U.S. Energy Scenarios for the 21st Century (88 pages, PDF) discusses three divergent paths for U.S. energy supply and use through 2035, as well as the effect of climate policy on energy scenarios in which: 1) abundant supplies of oil and natural gas remain available at low prices; 2) the commercialization of technologies to raise energy efficiency and lower emissions spurs economic growth; 3) the U.S. energy market remains vulnerable and economic growth slows. All three scenarios envision a slight decline in the share of nuclear power, given the high up-front costs for new plants and security concerns. In the third, however, nuclear electric output initially increases as new, smaller, advanced reactor designs are put into service until a terrorist incident deals a blow to public support. 

Needless to say, unchecked proliferation and nuclear terrorism are two of the biggest concerns associated with an increased reliance on nuclear power. The National Academy of Sciences’ 2008 report Internationalization of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle: Goals, Strategies, and Challenges (160 pages, HTML) presents the recommendations of U.S. and Russian experts vis-a-vis the internationalization of the nuclear fuel cycle, including the provision of nuclear fuel to countries pursuing nuclear as a way of dissuading them from building their own uranium enrichment plants. The report was funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

According to the 2010 PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians & the Environment (36 pages, PDF) from the Public Policy Institute of California, Californians are divided over building more nuclear power plants, with 44 percent in favor of the idea and 49 percent opposed. In terms of political affiliation, the survey found that 57 percent of Democrats were opposed to new plant construction, while 67 percent of Republicans and 51 percent of Independents were in favor.

What do you think? Is the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan likely to shape our views about the future of nuclear energy? And what are the implications for our energy security as well as alternatives to fossil fuel-dependent power generation?

Our thoughts, of course, are with those who have been affected by the quake and tsunami in Japan, as well as those working to contain and mitigate the nuclear crisis there. For more coverage of the relief and recovery efforts as well as updates on the fast-moving situation, click here.

-- Kyoko Uchida

Weekend Link Roundup (March 12 - 13, 2011)

March 13, 2011

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

Disaster Relief

The 8.9-magnitude quake that rocked Japan on Friday was the strongest to hit the northern Pacific region in 1,200 years, the Associated Press reports. Although it will take weeks for the total cost of the disaster to be calculated, the U.S. Geological Survey's David Applegate told the AP it's likely to amount to tens of billions of dollars -- and that's assuming Japanese nuclear engineers can get the situation at five damaged nuclear power plants under control.

A number of charities on the ground in Japan have launched relief efforts, with more to follow. For a complete roundup of resources and breaking news related to the tragic and increasingly grave situation, see our Japanese Earthquake & Tsunami Relief page.


In the Nonprofit Quarterly, Joe Kriesberg, president of the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations, argues that social impact bonds, a new innovation that has been touted by the Obama administration and others as a way to "encourage private, profit-motivated investors to fund social programs that work," may "take us in the wrong direction."


It was not a good week for National Public Radio. On Tuesday, right-wing activist James O'Keefe released a video of NPR fundraising executive Ron Schiller and a colleague, Betsy Liley, meeting over lunch with two of O'Keefe's associates posing as members of a fictitious American Muslim group interested in domating $5 million to NPR. On the heavily edited tape, Schiller is heard caviling about Republicans and Tea Partiers, while suggesting that NPR, whose federal budget appropriation was zeroed out by the Republican-controlled House, "would be better off in the long run without federal funding." A day later, NPR chief executive Vivian Schiller (no relation) was forced to resign by the NPR board, which decided that "the [high-profile] controversies under [her] watch had become such a distraction that she could no longer effectively lead the organization."

NPR itself posted some of the best analysis of the debacle, while NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen, on his PressThink blog, suggests that while Schiller and Liley were sandbagged, they -- and anyone else who works in the public media space -- should have seen it coming. Elsewhere, What Would Google Do? author Jeff Jarvis explains on his Buzz Machine blog why the resignation of Schiller "is an indication of more trouble ahead for NPR...."


On Monday, Tactical Philanthropy blogger Sean Stannard-Stockton launched an examination of what he calls the "four core approaches to philanthropy": the charitable giver, the philanthropic investor, the strategic philanthropist, and the social entrepreneur.

Responding to Stannard-Stockton's post, Greater New Orleans Foundation president Albert Ruesga wonders whether it doesn't make more sense to divide "institutional philanthropy into two categories: in the first we put philanthropy that addresses not just a given social ill but also its causes, seeking not only to provide aid for the poor, for example, but to examine why there are so many poor people in the first place. In the second category we put everything else." Adds Ruesga:

The first category, while vanishingly small, contains, in my view, the heart and soul of philanthropy. To do it well requires all the tools of strategic philanthropy; the investor’s focus on strengthening institutions and social movements; and the empathy of the charitable giver....

Last but not least, NCRP's Niki Jagpal suggests, in light of the recent Foundations on the Hill conference, that funders should take the time to "educate lawmakers about the great work that they're doing to ensure that the voices of underserved and marginalized communities are at the table when policy decisions that affect them are being made."

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

-- Regina Mahone

Japanese Earthquake & Tsunami Relief

Update, Wednesday, March 23 4:30 EDT:

Despite good news that electrical power has been restored to all six reactors at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant as of yesterday, efforts to stabilize the six reactors at the complex continue to hit snags. Earlier today, the New York Times reported that the cooling system at reactor No. 5 -- one of only two reactors at the complex that had been considered under control -- had stopped working. That was on top of problems at reactor No. 2, where elevated radiation levels forced Tokyo Electric Power officials to pull workers from the building housing the reactor, and reactor No.3 -- the only reactor at the complex to use plutonium (mixed with uranium) and therefore the most dangerous -- started belching smoke. In addition, workers at the site were continuing to spray water on reactors Nos. 1 and 2 to keep them from overheating, while TEP officials hoped to have the damaged cooling pumps in reactor No. 4, where spent fuel rods stored on site are the problem, working by Thursday.

Just how much radiation is being released by the damaged reactors -- and pinpointing the exact source of the radiation leaks -- continues to be a source of confusion. The Times reports that elevated levels of radioactivity have been found in eleven types of vegetables in Fukushima Prefecture, causing the Japanese government to suspend shipments of produce from the area. The government has also suspended shipments of raw milk and spinach from neighboring Ibaraki Prefecture. And earlier today the New York Post reported that radioactive iodine 131 has been detected in sea water samples taken from the vicinity of the plant -- the same isotope that has been detected in the Tokyo water supply, prompting officials there to caution residents to keep infants away from tap water. Indeed, concerns about the safety of the public water supply has caused a run on bottled water in the greater Tokyo area.

According to the National Policy Agency, the official death toll as of Wednesday afternoon was 9,301, with 13,786 people reported missing. Meanwhile, the American Red Cross was reporting that 365,000 people were still living in its shelters.

On Monday, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that Americans had donated $136 million to relief and recovery efforts in Japan (up from $105 million on Friday), while earlier today the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reported that 222 U.S.-based companies, multinational corporations, and foreign companies had made cash and/or in-kind contributions totaling more than $200.8 million. The chamber also reported that 157 of those businesses (representing $156 million in aid ) were U.S.-based companies, while at least 72 companies had pledged $1 million or more in cash and/or in-kind assistance.

The Foundation Center has created a "Japan Relief RSS feed that displays real-time grant data reported by U.S.-based grantmakers. To subscribe, click here.


Update, March 18, 4:00 EDT: We've posted the preliminary results of a Foundation Center survey of CEOs and EDs at independent and community foundations. So far, about one in five of the surveyed foundations either have made a commitment or are considering awarding funds in reponse to the multiple disasters in Japan.

Of the 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.

More here.

Update, March 18, 10:45 EDT:  The official death toll continues to climb and now stands at 6,539. Another 10,354 people are missing, 2,513 have been injured, and 382,613 people have been evacuated (via Bloomberg.)

As of 10:00 a.m. EDT, corporate contributions to relief efforts exceeded $158 million (via U.S. Chamber of Commerce).


Update, March 17, 8:30 EDT: As news out of Japan over the last twenty-four hours has slowed, confusion about what is happening at the Fukushima nuclear plant has grown. The Japanese and U.S. governments seem to have agreed to disagree over radiation levels above and around the plant, Japanese officials are trying to cool the damaged reactors with water cannons and helicopter water drops, and the status of spent fuel rods stored on site (in multiple reactors) continues to be an area of urgent concern. For a quick overview, check out this BBC clip posted earlier this evening (h/t The Big Picture).


Even though radioactivity levels in Tokyo are "well within safe limits," the city, as this CNN dispatch suggests, is becoming a ghost town.

Corporate giving in the wake of the multiple disasters has been robust and totaled $137 million as of Thursday morning, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Corporate Aid Tracker.

And earlier this afternoon the Chronicle of Philanthopy reported that, six days after the quake and tsunami, American donors had contributed $87 million to relief efforts. That compares to the $210 million and $457 million, respectively, contributed six days after the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.


Update, March 16, 11:50 EDT: More developments at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex, none of them good, since our update yesterday. On Al Jazeera, a Russian nuclear expert was quoted as saying the "Situation...is developing according to a worst-case scenario," while the French government has accused Japanese officials of hiding the severity of the situation and is urging French nationals in Tokyo, about a hundred and sixty miles south of the crippled plant, to leave the country or evacuate to locations further south.

Here's what we do know. Following explosions at the plant's No. 1 reactor on Saturday and No. 3 reactor on Monday, a fire broke at reactor No. 4, which had been shut down for maintenance before the quake, early Tuesday morning. An explosion followed a few hours later, damaging the reactor's outer wall and exposing a cooling pool holding spent fuel rods to the air. Radiation levels in the immediate vicinity spiked and were elevated as far away as Tokyo, but fell back after the fire was extinguished in the afternoon. Nevertheless, Tokyo Electric Power, the plant's operator, pulled 750 of its employees from the site, leaving fifty to try to get the deteriorating situation under control, while the Japanese government ordered residents within an eighteen-mile radius of the plant (about 140,000 people) to stay indoors and keep their windows shut.

Early Wednesday morning, temperatures in the spent fuel pools at reactors No. 5 and No. 6 reactors, which occupy a different part of the complex, began to rise. Then, the already grave situation appeared to take a turn for the worse when the country's chief cabinet secretary reported that reactor No. 3 -- the only reactor at the complex to use plutonium, a dangerously lethal element -- was venting steam. In the same press conference, the cabinet secretary stated that the chances of the reactor's containment vessel, a critical link in the fail-safe chain, having suffered damage was "low" and that Tokyo Power had sent an additional workers into the plant to battle the crisis. Earlier attempts to use helicopters to dump seawater on the damaged reactors to cool them were aborted after it was determined that radiation levels above the plant were too high.

This schematic, courtesy of the UK-based Mail, does a nice job of sorting out the often-confusing sequence of events since Saturday:


In related news, the death toll from the multiple disasters continues to rise and has now passed 4,300. Thousands of people are still missing -- 18,000 from the village of Rikzentakata alone -- 450,000 people are living in shelters, and one million people are living without heat or electricity.

Earlier this morning, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that Americans had donated $47 million to disaster relief efforts -- about a third of the amount raised/pledged in the first four days after the devastating earthquake in Haiti and about the same as was raised over the first four days for victims of the 2004 Asian tsunami. Goldman Sachs had a note out this morning in which it estimated total damages from the quake/tsunami/nuclear crisis at $198 billion.

Our colleagues here at the Foundation Center have created a Japan Relief Grants RSS feed that can be accessed at the CrisisCommons wiki or directly, here. We'll be posting the feed to its own page the blog later this afternoon.


Fukushima_power_station Update, March 15, 10:50 EDT: It's 11:50 p.m. in Japan, and the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex has gone from bad to worse. Early this morning (Japan time), an explosion at the plant's No. 2 reactor -- the reactor Tokyo Electric Power officials had been most worried about -- "almost certainly damaged the reactor's containment vessel, raising the prospect of a full meltdown of the nuclear fuel inside," the New York Times reports. A few hours later, fire broke out at the plant's No. 4 reactor, which was being refurbished before the quake and tsunami struck. With the plant's cooling systems compromised by the quake, the fear now is that spent fuel rods in a cooling pool on the reactor's top floor could overheat and catch fire, releasing clouds of radioactive material into the atmosphere. Indeed, radiation levels in the immediate vicinity of the plant spiked after the most recent explosion at the complex (although they since appear to have fallen back from their highest levels). According to experts, the worst-case scenario -- that the spent rods in the cooling pool catch fire, leading to a massive release of radiation into the atmosphere -- is days, if not weeks, away. Should the situation deteriorate further, however, one would expect to see mass evacuations of the surrounding region to begin.

The official death toll from the quake and tsunami now stands at 2,475. But with reports of thousands of bodies washing up on coastlines in Miyagi Prefecture and other hard-hit areas, it is almost certain to climb higher (maybe much higher) than the 10,000 figure cited by Japanese officials over the weekend. The Times reports that as many as 350,000 have been left homeless. On Monday, the U.S. Geological Survey revised its estimate of the quake's power from 8.9 to 9.0 on the Richter scale.

Uncertainty and the very real possibility of a full-scale meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi complex have rattled financial markets in Tokyo. The Nikkei, the Japanese equiavlent of the Dow Jones stock index, closed on Tuesday having suffered its worst two-day loss since 1987 and is down 20 percent since Friday.


Update, March 14, 4:30 EDT: The New York Times is reporting that efforts to cool the core of the No. 2 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex failed late Monday (Japan time), increasing the odds of a partial or complete meltdown of the reactor's fuel rods, an explosion of the reactor's containment vessel, and/or "a potentially catastrophic release of dioactive material into the atmosphere." Over the weekend, officials of Tokyo Electric Power (which operates the complex) struggled to prevent a total meltdown of the station's No.1  and No. 3 reactors and for the moment seem to have succeeded, though not before the outer structures surrounding both reactors exploded (No. 1 on Saturday and a partial explosion of the structure housing reactor No.3 early Monday). Both reactor cores remain covered with seawater, and radiation levels around the plant are said to be close to normal. All eyes are now glued to events unfolding at the plant's No. 2 reactor....


Here's our original post from Sunday...

Japanese-tsunami-hitting-shore- The violent 8.9-magnitude quake that struck Japan on Friday, triggering a massive tsunami that devastated large swaths of the country's northeast coast, has plunged the island nation into its worst crisis since World War II. While the number of confirmed deaths has climbed past 1,300, tens of thousands of residents of coastal villages in Miyagi prefecture, the area closest to the quake's epicenter, are unaccounted for, and Japanese authorities are fearful the final death toll could hit 10,000. Hundreds of thousands more are into their third day without water, heat, or electricity.

(Click here for incredible composite before-and-after satellite images of the region put together by the interactive graphics team at the New York Times.)

The mind-numbing devastation has been excerbated by damage to a handful of nuclear power plants north of Tokyo, resulting in what appears to be a partial meltdown of two reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and cooling problems at four other reactors at two separate plants (New York Times). The grave situation has prompted the evacuation of more than 200,000 people from areas around the plants, and it is anyone's guess when the reactor cores will be brought under control -- or local residents allowed to return to their homes.

Over the last forty-eight hours, a number of mobile text campaigns have been launched to facilitate donations to quake and tsunami relief efforts:

(Joanne Fritz has a good post on her About.com blog about things to watch out for when texting a donation.)

Resource pages also have popped up on a number of Web sites:

Donors and grantmakers considering a more substantive reponse will want to consider the advice on Schimmelpfennig's blog or the GiveWell site, and/or may want to browse the short checklist developed by the Raqim Foundation and Philanthropy Now.

It may be days, even weeks, before the enormity of what happened to Japan on Friday is apparent. While the country, one of the wealthiest and most technologically advanced in the world, is in a better position to recover from this disaster than most, it's clear it will need -- and welcomes -- the help of the world community.

We'll continue to track developments as they unfold. In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers are with the Japanese people.

(Photo credit: Kyodo / Xinhua Press-Corbis)

This Week in PubHub: Women and Family

March 11, 2011

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center's online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her last post, she highlighted several reports that examine the role and perceptions of labor unions, both private and public, in American life.)

To mark International Women's Day earlier this week as well as National Women's History Month, PubHub has been featuring reports in March about the issues women face today. This week the focus is on women and the family -- how women's roles both inside and outside the family are changing and, in turn, shaping the definition of family itself.

Demographic trends are changing the face of motherhood in the United States. According to The New Demography of American Motherhood, a report from the Pew Research Center, between 1990 and 2008 the share of births to women age 35 and older, those with some college education, Latino/Hispanic women, and the foreign-born grew significantly. The study also found that even as the overall birth rate fell by 20 percent (presumably due to more women not having children), a record 41 percent of births in 2008 were to unmarried women, up from 28 percent in 1990, reflecting both a decline in the percentage of adults who are married and the rising birth rate among unmarried mothers. Moreover, in an April 2009 survey, 87 percent of respondents pointed to "the joy of having children" as an important reason for deciding to have a child, while 47 percent also said "it just happened." In addition, the survey found that 33 percent of Americans believed that more women having babies after age 40 was "a bad thing for society," while 28 percent disapproved of women undergoing fertility treatment and 38 percent disapproved of more women not ever having children.

Attitudes and opinions about trends in family structure is the subject of the Pew Research Center report The Public Renders a Split Verdict on Changes in Family Structure. Among other things, the report found that Americans were sharply divided over the growing number of unmarried or gay and lesbian couples and single women raising children; about mothers of young children working outside of the home; and about women not having children -- though women and Latinos/Hispanics were among those more likely to be accepting of such trends. Yet even among this relatively tolerant group, the rising numbers of women not having children and mothers of young children working were seen as problematic.

The issue of paid family leave becomes even more urgent in this context, as women, who traditionally assume the role of primary caregiver -- not only to their children but also to family members who become sick -- are also often the only caregiver. In Leaves That Pay: Employer and Worker Experiences With Paid Family Leave in California, the Center for Economic and Policy Research examines how well the nation's first comprehensive paid family leave program has served employees, especially low-wage and female workers, as well as parents, families, and employers. The report found that men were offered better replacement wages and other benefits compared with women, as were managers and professionals in higher-paying jobs compared with others. Still, the authors argue, if a key obstacle to gender equality in the workplace has been women's disproportionate burden of caregiving at home, paid family leave not only mitigates the impact of caring for children or parents on a woman's earnings, it also serves to encourage men's participation in caregiving.

A mother's role as primary caregiver can lead to serious consequences when she does not have adequate support. The Urban Institute issue brief Infants of Depressed Mothers Living in Poverty: Opportunities to Identify and Serve notes that 11 percent of infants living in poverty are being raised by mothers suffering from severe depression -- a figure that jumps to 55 percent when mild and moderate forms of depression are included. While age, family structure, domestic violence, substance abuse, and health problems are all factors in the onset of depression, it is usually treatable -- a fact that leads the brief's authors to call for more rigorous efforts to identify and treat depressed mothers through public benefit programs they are already enrolled in.

What do these trends and challenges say about the changing nature of women's roles vis-à-vis the family, the workplace, and society? What successful strategies or programs are helping women and women's advocates to advance gender equality in the workplace, in the home, and in the public sphere? And what more could philanthropy do to support women in the U.S. and abroad? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

And don't forget to visit PubHub, where you can browse more than a hundred reports on women and women's issues.

-- Kyoko Uchida

A 'Flip' Chat With...Aaron Hurst, President and Founder, Taproot Foundation

(This is the fifteenth 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 Headwaters Foundation for Justice executive director Trista Harris.)

"The challenges nonprofit groups face today demand that we find a better way to insert business expertise into the nonprofit world," wrote Taproot Foundation president and founder Aaron Hurst in a Chronicle of Philanthropy opinion piece back in 2009. "If crafted well, an army of pro bono consultants can help nonprofit groups strengthen their own abilities to adapt so they can deal with constantly evolving social, economic, and environmental challenges...."

Indeed, as nonprofits -- like many foundations, corporations, and individuals -- struggle to recover from the Great Recession, working "smarter" and doing more with less has become the new mantra.

Fortunately, nonprofits and people interested in providing pro bono services can turn to the Taproot Foundation for advice and resources. Over the last ten years, Taproot -- which works in five metro areas to "strengthen nonprofits by engaging business professionals in service" -- has perfected its recipe for pro bono collaboration. The ingredients of that recipe include:

  1. service grants;
  2. advisory services;
  3. leadership resources; and
  4. advocacy

In our latest "Flip" chat, Hurst discusses the state of the pro bono industry, reflects on challenges his organization has faced over the last ten years, and offers some advice to folks looking to switch from the for-profit world to the nonprofit sector.

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

(Total running time: 4 minutes, 46 seconds)

What do you think? Do you have an experience or advice related to pro bono work you can share? Is it something you'd recommend to others? And what advice would you give Aaron and his Taproot colleagues as they enter their second decade?

-- Regina Mahone

'Dirty' Money

March 10, 2011

(Michael Seltzer is a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. His last post featured a Q&A with Jennifer Buffett, president and co-chair of the NoVo Foundation.)

Cigs-and-money An article in Monday's New York Times ("Mexican Church Takes a Closer Look at Donors") focuses on an issue that's as old as philanthropy itself. Should a nonprofit's leadership decline a gift when a donor's activities run counter to the organization's mission? To put it another way, to what extent was Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite and a highly successful manufacturer of armaments, hoping to burnish his reputation as the man "who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before" by creating the Nobel Prize? And does anyone care 115 years after the Swedish chemist's death?

Damien Cave, the reporter who wrote the piece in the Times, begins the article with an anecdote about a shiny, new Roman Catholic chapel in Pachuca, Mexico. Nothing unusual about that in a country which takes its religion seriously, except perhaps for the donor who made it possible: one Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, leader of the Zetas, a ruthless drug trafficking syndicate. Indeed, the narcotraficante's support is acknowledged by a bronze plaque on the chapel's exterior engraved with a line from Psalm 143: "Lord, hear my prayer, answer my plea" -- a gruesome bit of irony given that Lazcano is known locally as "the executioner." Having gotten wind of it, Cave reports, embarrassed officials of the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico have begun to question the Church's longstanding acceptance of "narco alms" and its historic ties to drug traffickers.

In both good and lean economic times (but especially the latter), temptation, like the wolf in the Three Little Pigs fairy tale, knocks on many a nonprofit door. I recall vividly, many decades later, the words of a civil rights leader in the South who declared, "The problem with tainted money is 'tain't' enough." I've also heard firsthand from many nonprofits that have struggled with this decision and/or declined financial support from a funding source whose practices were perceived to be in direct conflict with the organization's values. Let's face it, these are treacherous waters for an organization’s leadership, and the chances of running afoul of key external stakeholders, especially donors, is great.

Consider these scenarios:

Continue reading »

The Arab World: From Statism to Civil Society?

March 08, 2011

(Nick Scott is assistant to the publisher at Philanthropy News Digest. In his previous post, he took a look at what may lie ahead for the Egyptian philanthropic sector.)

Arab_statism As a follow-up to my previous post, I thought I'd take a look at some of the broader issues and trends driving change in the Arab world. These include a "youth bulge" and other demographic trends of importance; the pernicious effects of high unemployment, political exclusion,
and low per capita GDP in large parts of the Arab world; and the ways in which social media and modern communications technology have accelerated the dissemination of ideas and helped protest movements spread rapidly across borders. My lens is what all this might mean for civil society development and engagement, with a special focus on the role of philanthropy in the region. If, and this is a big "if," we have entered a new epoch in the Arab world, the role of philanthropy in providing social services could increase exponentially.

It's important to note that the turmoil in Arab countries such as Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, and Yemen cannot be reduced to a single neat formula; unrest stemming from sectarian discrimination in wealthy Bahrain is not analogous to the largely secular/cross-denominational calls for democracy in Egypt. That said, lack of economic and political opportunity are endemic to the region, and if some of the causes behind country-specific uprisings are unique, they nevertheless share a common context.

Demographics and the Youth Factor

The wave of unrest in the Arab world was not inevitable, but the main ingredients -- rapid population growth combined with lack of economic and political opportunity -- have been in place for a long time. Populations in Arab countries, where the median age is 22 compared to a global average of 28, are among the youngest in the world. And in sharp contrast to their political aspirations, many of these young people have lived their entire lives under a single, autocratic ruler.

According to the 2010 ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey, "The single most important priority for young people in the Middle East is living in a democratic country, followed by having quality infrastructure, and access to the best universities: 99 per cent of those interviewed said living in a democracy was either 'very important' or 'somewhat important'."

Continue reading »

Philanthropy's Role in Supporting Young Adults

March 07, 2011

Young_adult_learners (Peter Kleinbard consults and publishes widely on youth issues. A graduate of Yale University, he established the Young Adult Learning Academy (YALA), a school that assists older youth who have dropped out of school to enter the workforce and further their education, in 1984. In 2001, he became executive director of the Youth Development Institute, a national intermediary organization, and stepped back from that role in December of 2010 to work independently.)

(Photo credit: Susan Tolonen)

Private philanthropy has long addressed gaps in our nation's social safety net, funding new work that later shapes changes in how public dollars are spent. Perhaps no aspect of these efforts is more consequential than support to help young adults transition to independent adulthood. YouthBuild USA and New York City's Multiple Pathways to Graduation, for example, were nurtured for years by small, local grants before becoming major initiatives, again with the help of private funders.

Today, changes in the economy and challenges to the public sector mean that private philanthropy must develop creative and rigorous responses to a dire situation.

While the recent recession has greatly increased the obstacles for young people entering the workforce, not everyone has been affected equally. Unemployment among college graduates is only 5 percent, about half the national rate, while unemployment among young adults (ages 16-24) who have dropped out of school has hit the highest levels ever recorded — 18 percent for all youth, and 33 percent for African-American youth.

Young adulthood is a period of extraordinary potential — and vulnerability. It is a time when young adults consolidate their sense of self, test career possibilities, develop workplace skills, and begin to build resumes and relationships that will help them advance professionally. Work gives structure to young lives and practice in the discipline of being productive each day. Through their activities and earnings, young adults contribute to others, strengthening their sense of self-worth. All these activities help them to become independent adults.

While the recession is waning, its effects are certain to be long-lasting. Indeed, because of its deep and sustained nature, many young adults will go years without holding jobs that pay a significant wage. As a result, they may never become capable of earning enough to support a family. As studies have shown, lifetime earnings and even marriage potential are seriously reduced by long periods of unemployment.

In 2003, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation published a report, Connected by 25, focusing attention on the problem of youth disconnection. Still earlier, in 1988, the William T. Grant Foundation report The Forgotten Half: Non-College Youth in America highlighted issues in the transition of the non-college-bound population. Both studies highlighted the economic and moral dimensions of the issue. Yet, changes in the labor market over the last decade or two have made it even more difficult for young workers to land entry-level jobs.

Today, elected leaders and private foundations are seeking to increase high school and community college graduation rates — much-needed efforts that attempt to address root causes. Still, large numbers of youth continue to drop out. There are, for example, more than 3.5 million high school dropouts in the United States between the ages of 16 and 24, while community colleges, on average, manage to graduate only 22 percent of their students in three years. Both of these trends affect youth of color disproportionately.

Philanthropy has demonstrated that it can have a positive impact on such problems. As the Multiple Pathways initiative in New York City and Project U Turn in Philadelphia have demonstrated, thousands more students are graduating from high school. In both cities, private funders worked with municipal officials to identify problems, build support for solutions, and then fund implementation of those solutions. The models on which these projects are based were established years ago, often by local funders supporting innovative organizations like Good Shepherd Services, the Youth Development Institute, and the Philadelphia Youth Network. Other funders have helped YouthBuild USA, which assists youth who leave school, grow from a small East Harlem project into a national organization with hundreds of sites.

For their part, young adults have demonstrated in programs such as Community Education Pathways to Success in New York City that, with adequate support and a focus on learning, they can make rapid gains in preparing for work and furthering their education.Yet, there is a large gap in support for these youth. The Workforce Investment Act, the largest source of public funds for school dropouts, serves only a small percentage of youth, most of whom are close to completing their GED. Major youth brands like Year Up, AmeriCorps, and City Year are showing promise but focus on more highly skilled youth. Most dropouts are low skilled, reading below the eighth-grade level. These youth represent by far the majority of dropouts. They have few options.

What can private philanthropy do? The field offers lessons as well as challenges, and both need to be examined. Here are a few thoughts and observations.

Collaboration with the public sector and each other is essential.

  • Thoughtful collaborations have been responsible for much of the success of initiatives like the ones mentioned above, and they invariably include roles for both large national and small local foundations.
  • Joint initiatives that pool resources often are the only way to move the field.

The power of convening and dissemination to drive change should not be underestimated:

  • Funders should not be shy about using their clout and resources to increase understanding of a problem by bringing people together and disseminating information.

Build on sound research about existing needs and proven solutions:

  • Learn the field. Generic business-oriented outcomes models are useful but do not ensure good investments. Draw upon strong research and best practice to identify what works and where there are gaps.
  • Identify the key subpopulations most likely to benefit from targeted investments. Much private and public funding is focused on youth who are job- and GED-ready, while youth with low or poor academic skills represent a far larger population.
  • Address education and work experience for young adults. Both are essential for success later in life.
  • Build pathways: Look for opportunities to connect programs that serve youth as they move to higher levels of proficiency and paid work.
  • Be rigorous but sensible: It may take time for programs to achieve strong outcomes, but improvements in capacity should be apparent in the shorter term.
  • Examine carefully the idea du jour with an eye to whether it will make a difference for young people.

Enabling thousands of young adults to further their education and work experience will reduce social and personal costs in many ways and will help to build a more equitable society. Given our current political and economic challenges, however, progress on this front will require the flexibility, boldness, and vision of the private sector. The good news is that history has shown philanthropy can make a difference. The time to support this proud tradition is now.

-- Peter Kleinbard

Weekend Link Roundup (March 5 - 6, 2011)

March 06, 2011

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

Corporate Philanthropy

In conjunction with International Corporate Philanthropy Day, Case Foundation CEO Jean Case suggests in a post on the Case Foundation blog that the corporate sector has yet to fully leverage its potential "to do well by doing good."


In the second part of a two-part series on the Foundation Center's Transparency Talk blog, Beth Kanter explains how foundations can use social networking tools to visualize their network. Kanter also discusses a few obstacles to sucessfully incorporating network-weaving tasks into your daily work and how they can be overcome.

On her Non-Profit Marketing blog, Katya Andresen looks at six "truths" about giving.


At the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy's Keeping a Close Eye blog, Meredith Brodbeck shares a few suggestions from Steve Mayer of the Effective Communities Project on how "to make the practice of evaluation -- and philanthropy -- better."


On Wednesday, the government of Bangladesh used the the country's mandatory retirement law as a pretext to order the dismissal of Muhammad Yunus as managing director of Grameen Bank. The Nobel laureate's many friends and supporters were quick to condemn the move. "There is a real danger that what is in effect an attempted takeover by the Bangladesh government will do serious damage to Grameen and the people it helps," write Philanthrocapitalism co-authors Matthew Bishop and Michael Green on their blog. "While there are certainly examples of for-profit microlenders harming the poor, we think the greater harm to the poor is often done by the politicians who purport to be on their side...."


On Thursday, Sean Stannard-Stockton sparked a lively debate with a post on his Tactical Philanthropy blog that looked at the differences between tactical and strategic philanthropy. According to Stannard-Stockton, the former involves grantmaking decisions "driven primarily by the questions 'In what enterprise?’ and 'On what terms is the commitment proposed?'" A strategic philanthropist, on the other hand, "sees themselves not as an investor, but as an entrepreneur. A strategic philanthropist believes that [he] can solve the world's problems. They are problem solvers, not investors."

Stannard-Stockton goes on to say:

The investment approach to philanthropy is wholly different from the problem solving approach to philanthropy. This recognition is critical because the two approaches require entirely different methods of implementation....

What do you think? Is Sean on to something? And is the distinction between "tactical" and "strategic" philanthropy helpful? Use the comments section to share your thoughts.

On the Deep Social Impact blog, Cynthia Gibson asks, "If funders and nonprofit leaders heading up organizations with huge budgets aren't willing to personally support what they're doing, why should anyone else?" Why, indeed...

Social Entrepreneurship

Lucy Bernholz takes a look at some of the "overlapping and somewhat exclusive uses" of the phrase social capital on her Philanthropy 2173 blog and wonders "what the rapidity of these definitional changes [say] about technology, finance, and social good."

Social Media

And in the most recent episode of her Social Good podcast, Allison Fine chats with Personal Democracy Forum co-founder Micah Sifry and Global Voices co-founder Ethan Zuckerman about "the role of social media [in] making protests inside of countries with dictatorial governments more visible to the world."

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

-- Regina Mahone

'Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You'

March 04, 2011

(Bradford K. Smith is the president of the Foundation Center. In his previous post, he wrote about transparency and the Giving Pledge.)

Rotary_phone Okay. You're working at a great nonprofit, you've got a wonderful idea that's going to change the world, and all you need is a grant to get you started. Guess what? The majority of America's foundations don't want you to send in a proposal.

Of the more than 86,000 independent, community, and corporate foundations in the United States, 60 percent state that they do not accept unsolicited proposals. Together they represent 32 percent of total assets and 34 percent of annual giving. Nearly $16 billion of the $46 billion distributed every year is not up for grabs; you need an invitation.

Foundations in America are private institutions and have the right to decide how, when, and on what terms they will accept proposals and make their grants. At the Foundation Center, we respect that right and clearly indicate in our databases when a particular foundation does not want to receive unsolicited proposals. But people seeking foundation grants find this more than a bit frustrating. One of their most common questions is, "Why won't foundation X let me send in my proposal?"

Continue reading »

5 Questions for...Helen Brunner, Director, Media Democracy Fund

March 03, 2011

The pro-democracy uprisings sweeping the Arab world have focused the world's attention on the importance of demography and the promise and perils of globalization. They've also demonstrated the growing power of new communications technologies to influence and affect change. From Egypt to Libya to Iran, the reponse of strongmen and dictators has been predictable: Shut it down. More and more, however, economic and educational opportunity, creativity, freedom of expression, and democracy are intertwined with and dependent on the Internet and wireless communication.

Brunner_helen Recently, PND chatted with Helen Brunner, director of the Media Democracy Fund, which partners with funders to make grants that "protect and promote the public's rights in the Digital Age," about events in the Arab world, net neutrality, and the role of nonprofit advocacy groups in ensuring that every American continues to benefit from an open 'Net.

Philanthropy News Digest: Over the last six weeks, we've seen autocratic regimes in Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere attempt to squelch pro-democracy protests by "turning off" the Internet. How have those governments done it? And what does it say about the Internet as a neutral, open network?

Helen Brunner: I think it speaks to the centrality of the Internet to civil society and democratic movements across the world. The Internet is now the world's primary tool for communications and accessing information. You're right that it's problematic that a dictator can attempt to shut it off or limit access to information, as China does. Your readers might be surprised to learn that it's relatively simple to shut off the Internet — Fast Company has a recent piece that does a good job of explaining how it works — but essentially you can unplug it. Obviously, this is easier in repressive regimes, since they're already in control of much of the communications infrastructure or have an extremely close relationship to the providers. But it's way, way too late for us to go back to a world that doesn't rely on the Internet — that genie is out of the bottle. That's why it is so important to establish a strong set of protections that govern the Internet and what governments and corporations can and cannot do with it. We need to establish basic rights that protect a neutral and open network.

PND: Could something like that ever happen in the United States?

HB: Yes and no. The United States' current infrastructure would make it all but impossible to unplug our Internet. But that could change. Senators Lieberman (I-CT), Collins (R-ME), and Carper (D-DE) have introduced a bill, the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act, that would allow the federal government to shut down civilian access to the Internet should a "cybersecurity emergency" arise and keep us offline indefinitely. Under the bill, "unplugging the Internet" would not require a judicial order.

PND: What does "net neutrality" mean, and why should Americans care?

HB: True net neutrality would prevent major Internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast, or Verizon from blocking, slowing, or favoring one Internet user's content over another's. They would have to treat all content the same, which is the case today. My Web site loads as quickly as yours, which loads as quickly as CNN's or Fox News'. It means we wouldn't have to worry about a company prioritizing my Web content over your content based on money, political orientation, or whether they own the content themselves. If you think the average person should have access to any point of view, and that nonprofits should be able to use the Web to freely promote their ideas and messages, then net neutrality matters to you.

PND: The Federal Communications Commission passed new regulations concerning net neutrality in December, only to have the new Republican-controlled House vote to defund the FCC's efforts to enforce those regulations. What did the FCC propose, and why do Republicans in the House object?

HB: A very quick description of the FCC decision is that it created some weak and fairly vague consumer protections on the wired — broadband and dial-up — Internet, while leaving wireless Internet almost totally unprotected. One of the themes of the Republicans in the new Congress is a rejection of government regulation. However, if we want to protect small businesses and preserve the Internet's role as an engine of job creation, ensure that innovation flourishes, and guarantee that all Americans have access to a twenty-first century communications infrastructure, we need a "cop on the beat," so to speak.

Although the FCC has attempted to provide some assurance that everyone's content will continue to reliably reach its destination and now requires telecommunications companies to disclose their network management policies to consumers, the commission leaves open the possibility of economically motivated content discrimination. In a letter to the FCC before the vote, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) wrote: "Absent significant changes to the draft order as it has been described to me, adopting these rules as they are may actually send signals to industry endorsing any closing off of the Internet that is not specifically prohibited."

So, why are the big telecommunications companies suing the FCC and Republicans in Congress intent on blocking action by the commission? My guess is that Republicans prefer that there be zero free-speech and consumer protections when it comes to the Internet and — given their partial victory — are going for total victory. If they win, the ability for the FCC to enact the many provisions of the congressionally mandated National Broadband Plan will be in jeopardy.

PND: What should we be paying attention to over the next few months in terms of the debate?

HB: There are the lawsuits and two bills moving through Congress. But the decision is not the end, it's only the beginning. The new rules and the manner of their adoption underscore the deep need for more work in the media justice field, as well as the effectiveness of nonprofit advocacy groups working in this area. They are extraordinary organizers and are using every tool at their disposal, from town halls and viral videos to academic research, op-eds, and petition drives. Without their work, the FCC would likely not have included the consumer-protection provisions that made it into FCC Chairman Genachowski's proposal, some at the eleventh hour. That said, as the debate over a free and open Internet enters its next phase, the public interest community will need to work even harder.

Mitch Nauffts

Talking Philanthropy: Doug White, George H. Heyman, Jr. Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising, New York University

March 02, 2011

My colleagues and I are big fans of Larry Blumenthal's incisive commentary on philanthropy and the brave new world of social media. So when Larry approached Matt Sinclair, PND's editor, about teaming up with consultant Bill Silberg, a veteran philanthropy practitioner, and PND to produce a podcast series featuring the people who are changing the way foundations and nonprofits do their work, we didn't think twice.

Why now? And why this particular focus? Larry put it well in a post on his Open Road Advisors blog:

Foundations are recognizing that they are more than grant makers. They are in the business of driving social change. They are increasingly understanding that communicating the "stories" of their work can be as important as the work itself. Through social media, they are beginning to open their typically closed processes and engage with the field in ways that help them drive change....

As is often the case with new intiatives, it took a bit longer than expected to pull the pieces together. But after listening to the first installment -- in which Larry and Bill chat with Doug White, academic director at NYU's George H. Heyman, Jr. Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising, about nonprofits and the economic recovery, the importance of organizational transparency, and the outlook for the year ahead -- we're excited.

Have a listen...

Running time: 00:17:13

(Right-click to download mp3)

Looking ahead, the plan is to roll out a new conversation every month -- and maybe more frequently, if time allows. In the meantime, we want to hear from you. What topics would you like to hear Larry and Bill address? Who should they talk to? And, given everyone's busy schedules, what's a good running time for a podcast?

Leave a comment below, or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

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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