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29 posts from October 2011

[Video] Funder Collaboratives: A Conversation With Mai Kiang, Director of Programs, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice

October 13, 2011

(Susan Herr, a longtime advocate for social change, founded PhilanthroMedia, Inc. in 2007 to "celebrate the end of philanthropy as usual and advance the perspectives of those leading the charge." This is the last in a series of four interviews she conducted for PhilanTopic on the topic of funder collaboration. Click here to view the first, with Patricia Swann, a senior program officer at the New York Community Trusthere for Susan's conversation with Tade Aina, who directs the Higher Education and Libraries program at the Carnegie Corporation of New York; and here for her conversation with Terry Mazany, president and CEO of the Chicago Community Trust.)

An old Kenyan proverb says "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." That sentiment has anchored each of the four interviews I conducted for PND on the art of funder collaboration.

For Mai Kiang, director of programs at the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, it's not about "having the victory by myself. It's a victory of the whole society." That doesn't mean that competitive pressures, like those cited by Chicago Community Trust CEO Terry Mazany (see link above), are unimportant or to be ignored. Like CCT, Astraea also must fundraise in addition to making grants. But Kiang sees collaboration as an "exchange of ideas and collective effort" that further enhances the capacity of her partners in every way.

If you're a Type A personality, you'll appreciate Mai's concluding remarks about the importance of both setting and celebrating milestones that have been achieved. Many of us forego the recognition process because we always feel as if there's more to be done. But for Kiang, celebrating one's wins, however small, isn't an option; it is a critical step on the road to building a sense of community and the trust that is so essential to going farther.

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


(Running Time: 5 minutes, 7 seconds)

What do you think? Is Mai right about the importance of celebrating one's victories? And how do you it so that it's not just a pro forma exercise?

Of course, identifying the elements of a successful funder collaborative is a subject big enough for a book -- one I hope to write someday! In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed our little series on the topic, and I encourage you to weigh in below in with your own advice, wisdom, and/or examples of what works and what doesn't.

-- Susan Herr

Funders and Social Media

October 12, 2011

Philanthropy and Social Media (60 pages, PDF), a new report from the London-based Institute for Philanthropy, takes a close look at how funders in the United States and around the world are not only using but investing in social media.

The institute defines social media as any technology that facilitates people-to-people connections. Indeed, as the chart below explains, social media are different from traditional broadcast media, which seek to connect people to information.

Institute chart

The first few pages provide examples of groups that have used social media to enhance their communications and build movements (the It Gets Better project), gather data during times of crises (Ushahidi), give underrepresented groups a voice (Whizz-Kidz), connect people facing similar challenges (Mumsnet), improve communications and service delivery efforts (the Big White Wall), scale up a project or initiative with limited resources (KaBOOM!), fundraise (American Red Cross), and work transparently (charity: water). The report also shares key insights from social media investors -- including their goals in supporting social media projects, the metrics used, and challenges faced -- as well as advice for grantmakers interested in supporting technology projects.

Mayur Patel, vice president of strategy and assessment at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, told the report's authors that

when investing in social media projects, the foundation looks carefully at mission fit and due diligence. This involves investigating broadly whether the potential grantee is open to experimentation within their proposed project, whether they have thought carefully about how they are leveraging social networks in the way they develop digital platforms, and if they have considered how they build a passionate and loyal user community.

Knight acknowledges that it has a responsibility to keep abreast of technological advances. "We try to be an organization that invests at the leading edge of innovation, and to that end we do not want to fund anti-evolutionary activity," said Patel. "The key is to have the right people in-house who are savvy and effective. The ultimate goal is to be as native as we can be, and to keep educating ourselves by immersing ourselves on social media platforms."

The report also offers a list of tips for social media investors drawn from research and interviews with funders and practitioners that includes things like "what to avoid" and "what to measure." On where to start, funders are advised to:

  • Join or create a community of practice and share their experiences;
  • Educate themselves -- speak to people who know;
  • Not expect to know everything: the tools are new and are only just starting to demonstrate their potential and impact;
  • Seek professional support where necessary (but beware of consultants who do not have experience building projects that have actually delivered social impact, and beware of anyone who calls him or herself a social media "guru");
  • Do research. Before trying to create a new campaign or project, find out if there's anyone else already doing it successfully who might be a candidate for an investment;
  • Get your hands dirty. The tools are readily available, and most of them are free!

The report concludes by reminding funders that "this new landscape [is both] complex and challenging."

First, grantmaking organizations may want -- or be obligated -- to deal with these challenges and opportunities themselves, tackling issues of transparency and donor accountability and learning to work in new, networked ways. Beyond that, grantmakers will increasingly find themselves compelled to understand and embrace the fundamental power of these tools and to support the social sector to make the transition to this new world. With the majority of organizations beginning to engage on some level with social media, funders may find that their grantees or potential grantees are far more advanced in the use of these media than they are, and they may be asked to fund activities that they do not fully understand. This reinforces the importance of developing an understanding of these tools, but may seem daunting to those not familiar with the technology....

The challenge for grantmakers then, is to be sufficiently well-informed to make good investments in this emerging field and ensure that the projects that can achieve real impact get the support they need....

Has your foundation supported a social media project? What social media tools do you use to stay informed? And what advice would you give other funders interested in supporting this emerging field? Share you thoughts in the comments section below. 

-- Regina Mahone

NPO Job Openings (September 2011)

Although better than expected, September's less-than-stellar employment numbers continue to be a cause for concern. On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that non-farm payrolls increased by 103,000 -- better than the 55,000 number economists were looking for. It also revised upward the payroll numbers for July from +85,000 to +127,000 and for August from zero to +57,000. But with nearly 14 million Americans out of work, the unemployment rate remained stuck at 9.1 percent, and, as analysts were quick to point out, the September number was only half of the 250,000 new jobs needed to keep up with population growth. Indeed, with the economy creating an average of only 40,000 jobs a month over the last four months, no less an authority than Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke recently warned that the tepid economic recovery is "close to faltering.”

Here at PND, the number of nonprofit jobs submitted to the PND job board -- our own (completely unscientific) employment indicator -- seems to confirm the picture of a still-wobbly economy that is generating private-sector jobs at a slowly improving rate, though not quickly enough to make a dent in the unemployment rate or instill confidence in the average American.

When we last checked our indicator, in May, we noted that postings to the PND job board, on a year-over-year basis, had been up every month in 2011 except for January. However, as spring turned to summer -- and the Federal Reserve's QE2 bond-buying program came to an end -- the number of new job postings in both June and July dipped. August was a different story, with job postings up slightly on a year-over-basis -- and up a robust 36 percent on a month-over-month basis -- before falling back in September (down 42 percent on a month-over-month basis and flat relative to 2010).


The takeaway? Nonprofits are hiring, although the picture isn't as rosy from where we sit as some would have it. As we noted back in May, nonprofits tend to be one of the last links in the economic food chain: they get "fed"  after investment gains have been booked, taxes have been collected, and household budgets have been balanced. As such, we believe nonprofit employment is a lagging indicator. We also believe that while employment trends in the sector have been generally positive since the beginning of the year, the end of QE2, continued volatility in equity markets, uncertainty around a final resolution of the European debt crisis, and the likelihood of additional public-sector spending cuts in this country do not bode well for nonprofit hiring going forward.

We could be wrong. Postings to the job board are running strong in October (typically a good month for hiring in the sector) and, if the past is an indicator, should remain strong in November (another good month for nonprofit hiring). We'll check back in with our indicator after the first of the year and will let you know.

Until then, we'd love to hear from you about what you're doing, seeing, hearing about hiring by nonprofits in your area, your field of interest, or just in general. Use the comments section below.

-- Lauren Brathwaite


Steve Jobs and Occupy Wall Street: Two Ways to Disrupt Philanthropy

October 10, 2011

(Bradford K. Smith is the president of the Foundation Center. In his last post, he wrote about the poverty and the marketization of philanthropy.)

Occupy_wallst_large In the fifty-six impossibly creative years he spent on the planet, Steve Jobs did far more to disrupt philanthropy than any of us who write, think, live, and breathe it as a profession or avocation. By taking the hulking mainframe computers pioneered by the likes of IBM, Honeywell, and Control Data and putting them first on our desktops and then in our ears and in the palm of our hands, he connected us 24/7 to information and to each other. Perhaps because he never seemed that interested in philanthropy, we never fully grasped -- and may not still -- how profoundly he was changing our industry.

Far more radical than the sleek design and tactile interface of the company's inventions, however, was the profound way in which they democratized the control of and access to information. Philanthropy, a cumbersome latecomer field that is only beginning to operate in the digital world, cannot ignore what this means for social change and the way we do business. People, causes, organizations, governments, businesses, and everything in between are becoming networked in ways that bring into question our notions of "grantmaker," "grantee," "not-for-profit," and "for-profit." This kind of disruption, so competently explored by Lucy Bernholz, compels us to re-imagine, re-position, re-tool, and aspire to a future in which we can and must do far more to make the world a better place than we've done to date. Still, this is disruption philanthropy can live with: even as Jobs' innovations challenged us, many a foundation prospered by hitching their endowments to the upward spiral of Apple's geometrically expanding market cap.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (October 8 - 9, 2011)

October 09, 2011

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


BlackGivesBack guest contributor B. Denise Hawkins chats with California Endowment president and CEO Robert K. Ross about the endowment's recent investment in the D5 Coalition, "a five-year [effort] to grow philanthropy’s diversity, equity, and inclusion...."


Future Fundraising Now blogger Jeff Brooks explains why most donors who stop supporting your organization won't explain why. "What goes wrong?" asks Brooks, "You fail to be a relevant, meaningful part of their lives. Something else takes your place that fits them better...."


Guest blogging on the Tactical Philanthropy blog, William Schambra, director of the Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal at the Hudson Institute, explains why metrics don't necessarily tell grantmakers whether a program works by taking a look at the center's efforts in welfare reform.


On the Chronicle of Philanthropy's Social Philanthropy blog, Peter Panepento remembers Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who died Wednesday after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

And on their blog, the folks at the Case Foundation share some thoughts and reflections on Jobs' achievements and impact on society on their blog.

Nonprofit Management

In response to two recent investigations into nonprofit executive salary levels (in New Jersey and New York), John Brothers, principal of Cuidiu Consulting and a senior fellow at the Support Center for Nonprofit Management, tells nonprofit organizations to start taking these inquiries seriously. "In previous Stanford Social Innovation Review articles, I've talked about how the sector is left out of major pieces of legislation and how groups like NPR and Planned Parenthood are under attack," writes Brothers. "Now there is a focus on executive pay at the state level. Government has routinely picked battles with the nonprofit sector, and the sector has taken a beating -- mostly without a fight. The sector holds a great deal of power, but right now, it is not mobilized and therefore carries very little weight...."

Social Media

Beth Kanter discusses content curation for the twenty-first century and offers a list of online tools to help nonprofit organizations get started.

In a recent post on his blog, Geoff Livingston, who co-founded the communications consulting firm Zoetica with Kanter, offers a few reasons why Google+ has lost "its perceived mojo so quickly." For one thing, writes Livingston, Facebook "has responded quickly to Google+, and is taking the competition seriously...."


And in the second installment of her two-part series on the Foundation Center's Transparency Talk blog, Diana Scearce, a senior consultant with the Monitor Institute, chats with organizational effectiveness consultant Jeff Jackson about the David and Lucile Packard Foundation’s yearlong experiment to embrace the "network mindset."

That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at [email protected]. And have a great week!

-- Regina Mahone 

Commentary: Engaging Individuals May Be Paying Dividends for Arts & Cultural Groups in Philadelphia

October 08, 2011

(Tom Kaiden is president of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.)

Tom Kaiden It's no secret that the recession has been hard on the nation's cultural sector. Studies such as the National Endowment for the Arts' Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, Americans for the Arts' National Arts Index, and the James Irvine Foundation's California's Arts and Cultural Ecology report have all documented downward trends in attendance. So when we conducted our latest analysis of data for the Philadelphia region, we expected a similar outcome showing cultural consumers staying home as times got tough. But that's not what we found. In fact, in the midst of one of the worst and most prolonged recessions since the Great Depression, Philadelphia's attendance actually rose by 5 percent and individual giving increased 20 percent. What's going on? It's a story of adversity, but also adaptation to adversity. And, at its heart, it's a story about the core importance of arts and culture in people's lives.

These figures come from the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance's recently published 2011 Portfolio -- a comprehensive survey of Philadelphia's cultural sector. For this third edition of Portfolio, we collected financial and organizational data from more than four hundred of the region's cultural nonprofits, as well as trend data on 276 groups that allows us to take a detailed look at the effects of the recession for the first time.

What we found was a rich cultural environment but a sector struggling to contend with macroeconomic forces frequently beyond its control. The bad news was that although cultural organizations were largely successful at controlling expenses and maintaining the quality of their work, revenues dropped precipitously. Overall contributed income fell by 19 percent, largely due to reductions on the part of corporate and foundation donors and cuts to government programs. Earned income was where most of the damage occurred and is almost exclusively explained by dramatic reductions in income derived from organizations' investment portfolios and endowments. Between 2007 and 2009, the aggregate investment holdings of Philadelphia's cultural organizations fell from $2.3 billion to $1.9 billion. Although these losses tracked closely with other benchmark market indices -- and may eventually be recouped with a market recovery -- it translates to a 128 percent drop in investments and interest earnings.

Philadelphia's cultural organizations responded to these financial setbacks by taking steps to reduce labor costs while maintaining the quality of their productions and increasing the number of events. To keep patrons coming through the door, cultural organizations continued to invest in marketing, and they maximized those dollars by shifting more of their marketing budgets online. Costs for printing and postage both fell by 5 percent, while Internet and Web marketing expenses increased by 49 percent. When jobs were eliminated, organizations put the mission first and made cuts to administrative staff before artistic and programmatic staff were let go. Like many households during the recession, cultural organizations also delayed major repairs and cut facilities-related costs to keep the doors open. It's a short-term gamble, in that if the economy falters again and recovery is delayed, the costs of repairs could be compounded by neglect.

While most of the revenue side of the income statement was clobbered during the recession, one area where we made up ground was in individual engagement. In addition to the 5 percent increase in attendance, individuals also showed their support in other ways. Memberships and subscriptions rose 8 percent and personal giving jumped 20 percent. While the gains were not enough to offset the damage done by the downturn, they do help point a way forward.

For years, Philadelphia's civic leaders, funder community, and cultural groups have made arts and culture a civic priority and central part of our region's development strategy. Our aim has been not just to make Philadelphia a world-class destination, but also to use our rich cultural assets to help address longstanding civic issues and make Philadelphia a better place to live, work, and raise a family.

The result has been a profound and widespread effort to engage new audiences and serve our communities. Cultural organizations have worked to keep the performances and exhibitions affordable by maintaining the average cost of admission at $15, less than a third of the cost of production. At a time when creativity in schools was at a premium but funds were at a minimum, the region's cultural sector committed to educational programming. Cultural groups around the region are using arts and culture as a way to improve scholastic performance, foster creativity and innovation, help kids cope with bullying, train a new generation of artists and performers, and revitalize neighborhoods. Last year, there were nearly two million visits by school-aged children to regional cultural organizations, and cultural organizations conducted nearly three thousand programs on site at area schools.

These community engagement efforts may have been the sector's smartest investment for long-term sustainability. The theory is that by deepening the engagement of the individual, improving the patron's experience, lowering barriers to participation, and building strong partnerships with community organizations, we are attracting new audiences. The connections that we build by serving our neighbors are paid back in the form of patron loyalty and public support.

The early signs about community engagement are positive. But ultimately, it will be important to measure impact over time. Fortunately, we now have a tool for these longitudinal and geographic comparisons — the Cultural Data Project (CDP), a collaborative partnership of public and private funders and advocacy agencies. The CDP has grown to include eleven states with another twenty-one in the evaluation phase. And CDP is also an important analytical tool for organizations, used by both management and boards.

With prominent economists debating the likelihood of a double-dip recession, arts and cultural nonprofit leaders will need to weigh what has worked, what hasn't, and which practices are most likely to yield success in a tough economy. This requires a lot of really good data. We hope that the just released Portfolio report is an example of what we can learn and change with the right information and interpretation.


2011 Portfolio was made possible by the Pew Charitable Trusts, PNC, the William Penn Foundation, and the Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation. The publication is available online at www.philaculture.org.

[Video] Funder Collaboratives: A Conversation With Terry Mazany, President/CEO, Chicago Community Trust

October 07, 2011

(Susan Herr, a longtime advocate for social change, founded PhilanthroMedia, Inc. in 2007 to "celebrate the end of philanthropy as usual and advance the perspectives of those leading the charge." This is the third of four interviews she conducted for PhilanTopic on the topic of funder collaboration. Click here to view the first, with Patricia Swann, a senior program officer at the New York Community Trust, and here for Susan's conversation with Tade Aina, who directs the Higher Education and Libraries program at the Carnegie Corporation of New York.)

Terry Mazany is that rare breed of program officer who rises through the ranks of an organization all the way to the corner office. After a distinguished career as a public school administrator, Mazany joined the trust as a program officer in its Education Initiative, where he led the design and implementation of a $50 million, five-year commitment to improve Chicago schools. He later served as the trust's chief operating officer, before being appointed, in 2004, as the fifth chief executive in the trust's history.

He's also the kind of foundation president who relishes a challenge -- which is why Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley selected him in November 2010 to serve as interim chief of Chicago Public Schools, a district with 400,000 students, more than 650 schools, and a budget of $6 billion -- even as he remained in his "day" job at the trust.

When I spoke with Mazany in September about the benefits and challenges of funder collaboratives, he chose to focus on what he called the "disposition to collaborate." Foundations that have the most success, he noted with a wry grin, tend to be mission-driven and "humble."

For foundations that have strategic reasons for standing out from the crowd, that can be a challenge. This is especially true for public charities and community foundations, which have to both raise funds and disperse them. Having spent five years as managing director at the Community Foundations of America, I agree with Manzany's assessment that a community foundation's dual mandate does not preclude it from participating in collaborative efforts. Community foundations around the country are, in fact, widely recognized for their ability to serve as local and regional convenors.

As Mazany says in the video below, the best community foundations recognize that "collaboration gives us a greater stature and standing in communities. Donors, in particular, see that it's not all about us but that it is about...the larger interests of the community." I couldn't agree more.

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


(Running time: 3 minutes, 34 seconds)

In a tough economy marked by volatile markets and a competitive fundraising environment, nonprofits must wrestle with many of the same issues. Where do their own needs end and those of the community or cause begin? Is collaboration the secret to going farther, or are there times when can going it alone makes more sense? Maybe the answer depends on the situation. Still, as Mazany makes clear, collaboration can be an important and valuable strategy for those who are able to "check their egos at the door."

-- Susan Herr

A Q&A With Orlando Bagwell, Director, JustFilms Initiative (Part 2)

October 06, 2011

Orlando_bagwell This week, the Ford Foundation officially launches JustFilms, a new initiative designed to expand support for social issue documentary films. Announced last winter at the Sundance Film Festival, JustFilms will provide $50 million over the next five years to fund the creation of social issue docs and help build effective audience engagement programs around them.

In August, frequent PhilanTopic contributor Kathryn Pyle spoke with the initiative's director, Orlando Bagwell, about the new effort and how it relates to Ford's broader agenda, as well as his twenty-five-year career as a documentary filmmaker.

In part two of the interview, below, Pyle talks with Bagwell about key features of the initiative, including its partnerships with the Sundance Institute, ITVS, and the Tribeca Film Institute, as well as the audience engagement strategies it hopes to pursue. To read part one, click here.

Kathryn Pyle: JustFilms will be carrying out its program in a number of interesting ways. One is working with external partners, including the Sundance Institute, Independent Television Service, and the Tribeca Film Institute. Why those three organizations?

Orlando Bagwell: Those three organizations are our signature partners, and about a third of our funds will go to them. The Sundance Institute is a major influence in the documentary field, and not only because of the Sundance Film Festival. We really believe in their workshops, and that's a part of what JustFilms is supporting: the various labs they offer to grantees in script writing, producing, directing, editing, and composing. The workshops really improve the skills of filmmakers and improve the films they bring to the workshop. It's a model we want to replicate in other places.

Another part of that partnership, and a feature of our partnership with ITVS as well, is the ability of these organizations to reach out to filmmakers we wouldn't normally have access to. As a foundation, we're interested in how we can bring more voices to the conversation around issues that are important to us. And I mean the global conversation. We're well aware that most of the filmmakers who are making films about issues that are important to us are from Europe and the United States. But if we're talking about global issues that affect all of us, that conversation has to be broader.

Our strength as a foundation is that we have deep relationships in other parts of the world, and we want to take advantage of those relationships. We want to be in places where we can have those conversations with people and something is triggered and they say, "Well, I can make a story about that." Yes, it's a filmmaker's story, but if it's done well it can engage the public and bring all sorts of people to the issue. Especially this year, the first year of the initiative, we want to design a way to raise up the voices of storytellers in the global South to comment on the rest of the world, not just their own countries or regions. That's going to take time, but we're committed to building that kind of expertise and that kind of storytelling.

Continue reading »

Geeking Out With the New York Community Trust

October 05, 2011

(Laura Cronin is a frequent contributor to PhilanTopic. Her last post was about the metrics individual donors use to make giving decisions, and she has also written here about the role of technology in K-12 education.)

Digital_media There is probably no more familiar outlet for foundation, corporate, or individual giving than educational television. We are reminded of the medium's appeal to donors each time we watch the closing credits on a favorite PBS show. But it wasn't always thus. Before the late '60s and the research-based programming of the Children's Television Workshop, television rarely was seen as a grant-worthy vehicle for donors concerned about education or children.

These days, donors and parents might be forgiven for thinking about digital media in the way critics thought of television before the arrival of Joan Ganz Cooney, the Carnegie Corporation, and Big Bird. Beyond Google and Wikipedia, how educational is the Internet? What happens when young people go online? What does it mean for a 14-year-old to have eight hundred friends on Facebook? How good is the content they find while hanging out in cyberspace?

Few educators and other experts would hazard a guess as to where we will be forty years from now, but many are eager to find ways, right now, to use digital media for learning.

Continue reading »

A Q&A With Orlando Bagwell, Director, JustFilms Initiative (Part 1)

October 04, 2011

Orlando_bagwell This week, the Ford Foundation officially launches JustFilms, a new initiative designed to expand support for social issue documentary films. Announced last winter at the Sundance Film Festival, JustFilms will provide $50 million over the next five years to fund the creation of social issue docs and help build effective audience engagement programs around them.

In August, frequent PhilanTopic contributor Kathryn Pyle spoke with the initiative's director, Orlando Bagwell, about the new effort and how it relates to Ford's broader agenda, as well as his twenty-five-year career as a documentary filmmaker, which includes serving as a lead producer for the award-winning Eyes on the Prize series, four Emmy Awards, three George Peabody Awards, and the 1994 New York Film Festival Grand Prize.

Bagwell joined the Ford Foundation in 2004 as a program officer focused primarily on support for public media and subsequently led the foundation's Global Perspectives in a Digital Age, Advancing Public Service Media initiative. He later served as director of the foundation's Freedom of Expression unit before being tapped in 2010 to establish and lead the JustFilms initiative.

Kathryn Pyle: I came across a piece by Pat Aufderheide of the Center for Social Media in which she quoted you as telling a new cohort of Public Media Corps fellows and their mentors that "story is essential in public media," but that in light of today's technology "you can and must go beyond the making of stories, to connect people to each other; to have the kinds of conversations they need to have." I thought that was an apt quote in terms of JustFilms' mission and your own career as a filmmaker involved in projects that got people talking to each other. Can you explain the convergence between stories well told and what we are now calling "audience engagement"?

Orlando Bagwell: My first involvement with public television was with Eyes on the Prize and Blackside, Henry Hampton's production company. As a young filmmaker I'd done small independent films, but nothing on that scale. I was consumed in many ways by the challenge to produce on that level and to take on a history that included so many people with a vested interest in how it was told and represented. Public television was the only space at the time where something like Eyes on the Prize could be incubated, and I think all of us who were producers on the series were kind of overwhelmed by the challenge.

The interesting thing was that we had no idea how people would respond to it -- and it turned out to be an immediate response. When it first came on the air, I was in China shooting a film. I got a call from the States and was told, "Your phone is ringing off the hook!" That really was an indication of how hungry people were for the kind of storytelling we were doing and the way that storytelling spoke to such a large cross-section of America. It wasn't just a story for the African-American community or the news media or civil rights activists. It was a series that engaged everyone, and it quickly became a part of history itself, which is how Henry had planned it. It was meant to be an American moment that people had a stake in.

At the same time, the response also made us realize we had an opportunity to engage in a conversation that we hadn't really anticipated. People immediately began to ask, "How do I use this? What do I do with this? How can it be a part of learning in the classroom?" But they were also asking how we were going to be involved in facilitating the conversation that was taking place around the series. And this was twenty years after the civil rights movement.

Continue reading »

Universal Human Rights Logo Unveiled

The world has a new human rights logo.

HumanRightsLogo_CO Unveiled September 23 in New York City (to coincide with the opening of the UN General Assembly), the logo is the culmination of a five-month global competition to find a collective symbol for human rights -- a competition that generated more than 15,000 entries from over 190 countries.

The winning design, by Predrag Stakic, a 32-year-old freelance graphic designer from Serbia, was inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "In the preamble it says that human rights are the foundation for creating a free, just, and peaceful world in the future. I put that in the design using two universal symbols -- a hand and a bird -- to make something new." Can a single logo change the world? No, says Stakic. But it is a symbol "around which people can rally, and people can change the world."

The logo is an open-source product, free to be used by everyone, everywhere, for the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights.

To learn more and/or to download the logo (available in color or grayscale, in a variety of formats), click here.

Are Western Conservation Efforts Causing Famine In Africa?

October 03, 2011

(Rebecca Adamson is the president and founder of First Peoples Worldwide, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization dedicated "to strengthening indigenous communities through the restoration of their authority and control over their assets." This opinion piece first appeared on AlterNet and is reprinted here with the permission of Ms. Adamson and First Peoples.)

Horn-of-Africa-hunger2 As Americans anxiously watch stock market fluctuations, mothers and fathers a continent away are making choices about which of their children to save. In East Africa, worry about one's retirement investments is a fairy tale woe compared to the daily struggle for life that many face.

You may have seen something on the television news about a drought in the Horn of Africa. The worst such calamity in sixty years, the lack of rain has decimated farmers in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Uganda. Over the last few months, 390,000 living skeletons have trekked from as far as southern Sudan to a Kenyan refugee camp, fleeing hunger and war, deprivation and death.

What you may not have seen is that "conservation" efforts undertaken by well-meaning industrialized nations are partly to blame. To save remaining African wilderness, we've been impoverishing the very people who have kept it intact. First, we've prohibited hunter-gatherers and pastoralists from their traditional itinerant lives and then, after we've turned them into farmers, we remove them forcibly from their lands.

The exact size of the area designated as protected in the region of the disaster is hard to assess. Somalia boasts 638,750 km of such lands, 11 national parks and 23 reserves. Kenya, an eco-tourism hub, has the most in the region and perhaps the continent: 348 protected areas on 75,238 km. While these may seem happy statistics in the current ocean of tragedy, in creating these preserves African governments consciously evicted or prohibited from farming an estimated 1.5 million indigenous inhabitants in the 1990s alone.

Yet the United Nations reports that in Africa the very same cultivation methods these evicted indigenous people always practiced "can deliver the increased yields which were thought to be the preserve of industrial farming, without the environmental and social damage which that form of agriculture brings." What's now in vogue as "small-scale mixed-use organic" is just status quo to these unheralded agronomists who know that monoculture and over-cultivation strips the land and makes communities vulnerable to starvation when their few crops no longer bear fruit.

Traditional practices combining hunting, gathering, and organic farming would not have cooled the blazing sun or made the rain fall. They would, however, have ensured the land could better withstand nature's onslaught and provided alternative sources of food. Instead, narrow-minded policies that fail to see indigenous people as vital to protecting their homes exacerbate the destruction that horrible weather has wrought. Not only do too many of our conservation efforts force whole tribes into refugee camps (or graves along the way), they make preserving lands and wildlife cost more.

Conservation experts such as George Washington University's Michal Cernea have long recognized that a "park-establishment strategy predicated upon compulsory population displacement has...compromised the cause of biodiversity conservation by inflicting aggravated impoverishment on very large numbers of people."

Scholars have a name for this: conservation-induced population displacement. That sounds euphemistically benign, but it means forcibly removing people who have lived harmoniously on lands in order to protect these lands -- global-sized proof that we'll cut off our nose to save our face.

Conservation is big business -- the budgets of nonprofits involved in such schemes can dwarf the GDPs of the countries in which they work. International groups receive billions of dollars every year for taking over biodiverse areas in underdeveloped regions without regard for the human diversity that is integral to these lands. The prevailing ethos of pristine wilderness may attract tourism dollars but it's an expensive, human rights-violating approach that has never been proven to work.

While modern-day perils like poaching pose threats to indigenous people, justifying business-as-usual conservation to control poachers makes as much sense as kicking owners out of homes because thieves may be on the way. In fact, despite everything stacked against them, today's indigenous lands contain 80 percent of our remaining biodiversity even though they constitute 24 percent of the world's surface. This is living proof that indigenous people are great stewards of land.

Nevertheless, outside the immediate famine zone, more of the same awaits these newly nomadic indigenous people. The Maasai of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania, for example, are prohibited from living off the lands that had been their home for hundreds of years. The area's status as a world heritage site would be threatened were the Maasai to remain, so they were pressured by the government eager to collect conservation dollars to leave and assured they would not be allowed to farm, graze livestock, or gather food if they remained.

This violation of Maasai rights forced them to seek refuge in other countries even as the famine refugees begin to enter Tanzania. And this is no isolated case. Big-league conservation groups are encouraging African leaders to re-create this pattern throughout the Horn of Africa and beyond. Famine is the inevitable result of a community barred from producing food and living as they have for the whole of human history.

This is not, as some claim, "Sophie's Choice” on a massive scale. We are not sacrificing people in order to save trees and elephants; we are taking everything down with the same destructive policy sweep. But there's a way to address the environmental, moral, and human rights concerns all at once.

Indigenous people know how to care for their homelands; they've done so for centuries without the well-meaning intervention of the West. In fact, indigenous groups conserve land, purify air, and protect biodiversity for $3.50 per hectare; for large organizations to administer and conserve a hectare, US taxpayers spend $3,500. Yet, the United States Agency for International Development, the government agency that does development work internationally, continues to award 90 percent of its conservation funding to create and maintain these impoverishing protected areas, leaving zero for the indigenous communities who've been silently (and effectively) doing this work against great odds.

To reverse this dangerous trend, we must first grant land-tenure rights to indigenous peoples across the world, affirming what's been theirs all along. Because most of these groups have lived on their land since before the advent of property regulations or even governments, they don't hold deeds and thus have no means of legal redress in eviction attempts. Once we accomplish this, we must equitably equip indigenous people to do the work of preservation in harmony with their needs. This is the only morally defensible course of action. Of course, if this doesn't sway you, there's a pragmatic reason, too: it's cheaper.

-- Rebecca Adamson

Weekend Link Roundup (October 1 - 2, 2011)

October 02, 2011

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

FallHarvest2 Economy

"America is no longer a manufacturing economy, with jobs for all," writes DC Central Kitchen founder Robert Egger in a guest post on the Tactical Philanthropy blog. "Nor do we produce enough 'extra' money to support an unlimited number of charities. Therefore, we must begin to let go of attitudes, ideas and tax policies that rely on the incomes and opportunities of a by-gone era...."


On his Inside Philanthropy blog, Todd Cohen explains why allowing businesses "that have the dual goals of maximizing shareholder value and making a positive social impact incorporate as 'benefit corporations,' or B corps,'....[is] good for business and good for our communities."

Nonprofit Management

Rosetta Thurman takes a look at the results of the third installment in the Daring to Lead series -- the first two reports in the series were published in 2001 and 2006 -- and applauds the inclusion of data on nonprofit salaries. Based on a survey of three thousand executive direcors, the report found that:

  • 50 percent of nonprofit CEOs earn between $50,000 and $100,000 annually;
  • 23 percent earn less than $50,000;
  • 18 percent earn between $100,000 and $150,000;
  • Only 8 percent earn over $150,000; and
  • Only 2 percent earn over $200,000.

On the same subject, Uncharitable author Dan Pallotta argues in a recent post on his Harvard Business Review blog against compensation caps in the nonprofit sector. Writes Pallotta:

You cannot argue that money does not incentivize people to do more in charity and then offer raises when someone is promoted to a job in a charity that carries more responsibility, knowing that the person will expect a raise and would likely not accept the added responsibility without it.

You cannot argue that money does not incentivize people to do more and then pay your event producer ten times his per-event fee to produce ten events, knowing that any other offer would be absurd.

And you cannot argue that economic incentive is not unlimited when you have never allowed the theory to be tested. The for-profit sector has tested it. And by the measure of Ford, Edison, Winfrey, Branson, Lauder, and many others, the combination of a dream for the world and a dream for oneself seems a pretty potent combination....


On the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy's Keeping a Close Eye blog, Sean Dobson makes a case for funding advocacy efforts.

And in a different post, NCRP executive director Aaron Dorfman shares findings from a new study that will be released in December on foundation funding for Hispanics and Latinos. According to research from Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP) and the Foundation Center, the "percentage of grant dollars benefiting Latinos has remained flat for ten years, at about 1.3 percent of total U.S. grantmaking, while the Latino share of U.S. population has risen from 13 percent to 16 percent during that same time period."

Social Media 

After digging deeper into the new tools and features recently launched on the Facebook platform, Katya Andresen shares a few thoughts about the changes on her Non-Profit Marketing blog.

On the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog, NTEN membership director Amy Sample Ward explains why organizations and individuals should check out the new content curation Web site Scoop.it.


And on the Foundation Center's Transparency Talk blog, Monitor Institute senior consultant Diana Scearce chats with Stephanie McAuliffe and Kathy Reich of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation about the foundation's year-old experiment to work more transparently.

That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at [email protected]. And have a great week!

-- Regina Mahone 

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (September)

October 01, 2011

Long tail, short tail --- these were the most popular posts on PhilanTopic in September. Enjoy.

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


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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