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23 posts from November 2011

Bloomberg Family Foundation

November 12, 2011

Michael_BloombergHow big is the Bloomberg Family Foundation, the private foundation established in 2006 by New York City's billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg?

According to an item in today's New York Post, the foundation, which released its most recent tax filing on Friday, had assets of $2.7 billion at the end of 2010 (making it the eigthteenth-largest foundation in the country). New York's other tabloid, the Daily News, also looked at the filing and reports that the mayor gave more than $360 million in 2010 to the foundation and that it paid out $108 million in grants to eleven entities (a payout rate of 4 percent).

The mayor, the Daily News notes, also gave more than $190 million out of his own pocket to charitable causes in 2010 (including $20 million for "advocacy-related initiatives").

What's curious about the Post's item is its claim that Bloomberg plans to spend down the foundation's corpus by December 21, 2026. Indeed, the article quotes Mike Marinello, a Bloomberg spokesperson, as saying, "That was the date picked by the mayor." But the item itself says the foundation, which employs at least ten current or former city employees and supports efforts in the areas of education, the environment, global health, and arts and culture, will close its doors in December 2026 -- "or five years after the death of the mayor or his daughters, Emma and Georgina, which ever came later." Confusing, no?

The mayor will turn seventy in February. Emma is thirty-two and Georgina is twenty-eight. Barring any surprises, it sounds to me like the Post got it wrong and that the foundation will be around for decades to come.

-- Mitch Nauffts

OWS By the Numbers

November 10, 2011

Another great infographic. Patience -- it's a big file....

(Click on graphic for complete uncropped image)

(H/t Visual Economics via the Big Picture blog.)

What OWS Can Learn From Gandhi

November 09, 2011

Mohandas_GandhiIn today's New York Times, Tom Friedman has some excellent advice for the Occupy Wall Street movement -- and, by extension, anyone working to bring about social change.

In the column, Friedman compares the emerging grassroots protest movements in the world's two biggest democracies, India and the U.S., and finds much to admire. But he's quick to point out that the movement here, OWS, "has no leader and no consensus demand," while the India Against Corruption movement that has coalesced around Anna Hazare not only has both, it has millions of followers. And one of the reasons, says Friedman, is that IAC is very clear about its objectives.

To help make the point, Friedman quotes Arvind Kejriwal, Hazare's top deputy:

Gandhi said that whenever you do any protests, your demands should be very clear, and it should be very clear who is the authority who can fulfill that demand, so your protests should be directed at that authority.

If your movement lacks leadership at first, that is not necessarily a problem, Kejriwal continues,

because often leaders evolve. But the demands have to be very clear.... [E]xactly what needs to be done, which law needs to be changed and who are they demanding that from? These things have to be answered quickly....

OWS has brilliantly captured the anxiety and frustration with the status quo felt by millions of Americans. But without effective leadership and clear demands, the movement is in danger of running aground on the shoals of indifference -- or, worse, as the poet and novelist Ishmael Reed suggests in a Times' op-ed of his own, of being hijacked by elements with far less constructive agendas.

Which, if you agree, leaves one important question unanswered: Where is OWS' Gandhi or Dr. King?

-- Mitch Nauffts

Eight International Philanthropists to Watch

November 08, 2011

(Nick Scott is assistant to the publisher at PND. In his previous post, he wrote about the One Campaign's messaging around disaster relief efforts in the Horn of Africa.)

Most Americans are familiar with celebrity philanthropists such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and George Soros. But how many could name the biggest philanthropists outside the United States? And how many are aware that while the U.S. is home to one in three billionaires globally, that number is down from one in two a decade ago, or that Brazil, Russia, India, and China have added a total of 108 newly minted billionaires to this year's global list.

How many people also know that, on average, American billionaires give away more of their wealth than their counterparts overseas -- a generosity that is mirrored across the entire U.S. population, whose overall rate of giving as a percentage of GDP is higher than anywhere else in the world. Of course, American-style mega-philanthropy can be traced back to the late nineteenth century and the huge fortunes amassed by the so-called robber barons of the Gilded Age (some estimates put John D. Rockefeller's inflation-adjusted net worth at its peak in excess of $600 billion). But it really came into its own in the middle decades of the twentieth century, as the U.S. economy became the most dynamic wealth-generating engine in the history of the world, and it continues today.

Then again, a decade into a new century it is increasingly apparent that philanthropy is growing globally alongside rapidly expanding economies in Asia, Eurasia, South America, and other parts of the world. And as it grows, the question on many people's minds is: Will a new generation of billionaires overseas embrace the American model of philanthropy pioneered by the likes of Carnegie and Rockefeller and most recently exemplified by the Giving Pledge campaign launched in 2010 by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates?

The answer is unclear. For starters, it's important to remember that many of the fastest-growing countries, economically speaking, are still coming to terms with wealth creation on a massive scale. And as Bain & Company partner Arpan Sheth notes, "In the U.S., large-scale philanthropy lagged large-scale wealth creation by a number of decades. I think a similar pattern will emerge in India."

Then, too, we should keep in mind the example of Carlos Slim Helú, the Mexican telecom magnate, who declined to sign on to the Giving Pledge when approached, explaining that he felt he could achieve the greatest social impact by growing his businesses and creating more jobs. Will more billionaires follow Slim's lead in the years to come? No one knows. What we probably can say is that mega-philanthropy will continue to spread as the global economy expands, and that as it does, it will develop differently in different places in accordance with local custom and homegrown innovations.

In the rest of this post, I'll look at leading philanthropists in eight different regions -- India, East Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, Russia and Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Oceania, and Africa -- and briefly mention other notable philanthropists from those regions. (Note: A 2010 survey of the world's distribution of billionaires shows that this categorization scheme doesn't entirely correlate with the distribution of billionaires. Turkey, for example, is home to more billionaires than Africa and Oceania combined, while the United Kingdom alone is home to almost as many billionaires as Latin America.)

A few other notes on methodology: I have not included philanthropists who were born outside the United States but have become U.S. citizens or hold dual-citizenship (e.g., Pierre Omidyar, George Soros, Nicolas Berggruen, and Patrick Soon-Shiong). Foreign currency amounts have been converted into U.S. dollars, and estimates of future philanthropic commitments (e.g., 40 percent of an individual's total wealth) have been calculated based on current net worth. Because personal net worth at these rarified levels can fluctuate greatly from year to year, all dollar figures should be treated as approximations.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (November 12-13, 2011)

November 06, 2011

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


In his most recent president's letter , Jim Canales, president and CEO of the San Francisco-based James Irvine Foundation, sheds some light on the process that led to "significant changes" in the foundation's arts grantmaking strategy.


What are charities and nonprofits to do in an environment in which giving is flat, demand for services is growing, and competition for charitable dollars is fierce? Focus on how your organization is different, says Katya Andresen, writing on her Non-Profit Marketing Blog.

Global Health

Gapminder chair/Data visualization wiz Hans Rosling is back with a new presentation that shows that child mortality in Tanzania is rapidly declining, "thanks in part to aid programs that have improved public health and provided access to family planning." (H/t Bill Gates)


GiveWell's Holden Karnofsky weighs in with a long post in which he argues that "the best currently available cost-effectiveness estimates -- despite having extremely strong teams and funding behind them -- have the problematic combination of being extremely simplified (ignoring important but difficult-to-quantify factors), extremely sensitive (small changes in assumptions can lead to huge changes in the figures), and not reality-checked (large flaws can persist unchecked -- and unnoticed -- for years)."


Reporting from Haiti, Canadian-British journalist Doug Saunders, author of the book Arrival City: The Final Migration and Our Next World, finds evidence of a new philanthropic paradigm and is not all that happy with what it portends. "At the top of the pyramid," Saunders writes,

are the new private foundations, dwarfing the largest of the old and playing a dramatic political role: They remake the executive structures of the old charities, forcing many of their activities to be organized in a much more businesslike way, or bypass established charities altogether to make direct links to the poor, diseased and disaster-ravaged.

At the opposite end of the scale are countless micro-initiatives and social networks, leveraging money and effort bit by byte, for causes great and small.

"You have the big givers, the Bill Gateses who've appeared all of a sudden, on the one hand, and then you've got the emergence of philanthropy in rapidly developing countries, and then the whole dimension of direct-giving philanthropy. It's changing everything," says J. Allister McGregor, head of the British-run Bellagio Initiative, created by the Rockefeller Foundation.

[Indeed, it] is not hard to imagine a situation, when the dust clears after the global crisis, in which conventional charities are largely obsolete, squeezed out between the world-improving schemes of billionaires and the surging efforts of lesser people responding to calls for help on Twitter....

On their Values blog, Philanthrocapitalism co-authors Matthew Bishop and Shepley Green respond to the growing number of critics who question the "outsize influence," in the field of global public health and philanthropy more broadly, of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and offer this cautionary thought:

One of the mistakes that critics of the Gates Foundation make is to compare its scale and influence with that of other foundations. It is better, we believe, to look at the role that Mr Gates and other philanthropists are playing in the whole system, including government and private sector, where its size is far from remarkable. If philanthropy does not leverage change in public and private decision-making, it is unlikely to have much influence on the world....

And on the Acumen Fund blog, the Gates Foundation's Louis Boorstin argues that "given the scope of their reach and their permanence," governments absolutely have a critical role to play in scaling health and poverty interventions that work.

Social Innovation

Getting into the Halloween swing of things, Social Velocity blogger Nell Edgington has curated a "monster list" of resources for nonprofit leaders, social entrepreneurs, philanthropists, board members, and others involved in creating social change. (Thanks, for including PhilanTopic, Nell!)

Social Media

Guest blogging on Beth's Blog, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark shares three tips for nonprofits that want to improve their social media results.

On the Communications Network blog, Buffy Beaudoin-Schwartz, communications director at the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers, shares some tips of her own for those who want to make the most of their social media efforts.


And on the Personal Democracy Forum's techPresident blog, Jed Miller and Allison Fine remember Rob Stuart, a long-time leader and activist in the nonprofit technology community who passed away suddenly on October 26 at the age of 49.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Another Way of Thinking About Accountability

November 03, 2011

(Michael Remaley is the director of Public Policy Communicators NYC and president of HAMILL REMALEY breakthrough communications. This post originally appeared on the Glasspocket's blog, Transparency Talk.)

Transparency_accountability_smallMore and more philanthropic professionals are accepting the idea that their organizations should be transparent and, in part because those who founded the organization took major tax benefits when it was established, have some accountability to the public. Many of our field's big thinkers are making a compelling case that public accountability in philanthropy should be a core value in our work. But when it comes to accountability, what if foundations and the public are talking about entirely different things?

New research from Public Agenda and the Kettering Foundation presents evidence that the public and leaders across many sectors hold strikingly different ideas about what it means to be accountable. Based on new public opinion research, the report, Don't Count Us Out: How an Overreliance on Accountability Could Undermine the Public's Confidence in Schools, Business, Government and More (52 pages, PDF), outlines the key dimensions of accountability as the public defines it and contrasts the public's perspective with prevailing leadership views. Although it isn't mentioned in the subtitle, the report explores the ramifications for foundations, too.

For philanthropic professionals, the implications are significant -- both for their foundations and the institutions they support. There are several pros and cons in the research for those foundations already committed to transparency and accountability. For those foundations on the fence about accountability, the research reinforces the fact that the public expects institutions to be accountable but raises questions about just what that means.

There are several key points from the research that philanthropic professionals will want to consider:

Accountability requires ethics. For foundations, the biggest "pro" in this research is that the public sees accountability first as a dimension of ethics and responsibility. Foundations -- especially those with an orientation toward accountability and transparency -- will likely fare well with the public in this regard. On the "con" side, many leaders who see accountability measures as the principal way to ensure that their institutions meet their obligations to the public may be putting too much faith in how much the public values the setting of benchmarks, collecting data, measuring performance, disclosing information, and organizing system-wide reforms. Those mechanisms, while often valuable as management tools, fall far short of relieving the public's most potent concerns, especially their fears about an ethical decline in our society. Foundations that demonstrate they are acting responsibly and ethically will be thought by the public to be accountable more than those that simply talk about benchmarks.

More information does not equal more trust. Typically, people know almost nothing about specific measures, and they rarely see them as clear-cut evidence of effectiveness. Many Americans are deeply skeptical about the accuracy and importance of quantitative measures. Most are suspicious of the ways in which numbers can be manipulated or tell only half the story. So on the "pro" side, this research is good news for those foundations that have become adept at getting their message out with personal stories of those affected by their programs. For those that are still trying to talk about their impact with lists of grants made and lots of data, the "cons" in this research may be quite jarring. Many members of the public feel confused and overwhelmed by the detailed information flying past them in the name of "disclosure" and "transparency." Many fear they are being manipulated by the complex presentations. More and more statistics do not reassure, so in fact more information can actually lead to less public trust. It's not that the public doesn't want accountability and information from foundations, but a whole lot of data (without any qualitative context) isn't reassuring to them.

Responsiveness is just as important as benchmarks. For the public, being able to reach someone who listens to you and treats your ideas and questions respectfully is a fundamental dimension of accountability. This may be the biggest challenge for foundations highlighted by research, since even the most transparent rarely open the door more than a crack to let the general public in to give feedback on the funding programs aimed at them. For most people, not being able to talk to someone is a signal that the institution doesn't genuinely care about those they serve. And foundations are particularly opaque to the public. The message is clear for those in philanthropy and other sectors who may fear being besieged by community input: the public wants a better balance and authentic mechanisms that allow them to be heard. On the "pro" side, those foundations that do seek community input and can demonstrate they are listening will likely be afforded a great deal of public trust. Foundations that rate well on the Foundation Center's Glasspockets measures of transparency, especially those dealing with grantee surveys and grantee feedback, can probably feel some relief that they will likely be considered accountable in the public's eyes.

The public expects to be held accountable, too. For most Americans, the return to real accountability is not the job of leaders alone. Time and again, people in focus groups spoke about their own responsibilities and the near impossibility of solving problems without a broad base of responsibility at every level of society. Many foundations already get this. Institutions that embrace the idea of a public role in fostering institutional accountability must think creatively and proactively about how typical citizens can contribute their knowledge and actions to fulfill the organization's mission. The report emphasizes that giving people more and more information or giving them more and more choices without truly considering public priorities and concerns is likely to backfire.

The report is getting a lot of attention in policy circles. The Washington Post's education columnist Jay Mathews wrote, "Its message is vital. Accountability is a key word in our national debate….The Public Agenda/Kettering report may have exposed the greatest obstacle to getting our kids the educations they deserve." And The Nonprofit Quarterly weighed in with this:

"The authors suggest that there is one other area that needs equal attention: philanthropy, which they say has 'fewer true accountability mechanisms than any other field.' However, there is one dimension of accountability in which philanthropy may be the strongest: the 'publicly stated moral convictions of its leaders.' How to measure that will, perhaps, be the biggest challenge of all."

For foundation professionals involved in communicating the results of their organizations' work, the first thing to recognize is simply the different orientation of your audience. The second is to understand that people expect more than just statistics and analyses of results to feel that your foundation is indeed accountable. Many foundations are hesitant to allow outsiders to even have easy e-mail access to staff (another Glasspockets transparency measure). So allowing the public to give feedback on the programs that are directed at them may seem like a radical idea to some. Many foundations are already doing grantee surveys and allowing public commentary on their blogs. These are likely to go a long way in engendering trust with the public.

Many foundations have already realized that telling stories is a more effective means of communicating with people than rolling out more statistics and facts. When it comes to demonstrating our foundations' accountability, it may be time to consider the idea that bringing the public into the process is as important as enumerating outcomes.

-- Michael Remaley

The Sustainable Nonprofit: What to Do When All Eyes Are on You

November 02, 2011

(Jane Jordan-Meier is the founder of Jane Jordan & Associates, a boutique training, coaching, and advisory firm in Northern California. Her book on media crisis management, The Four Highly Effective Stages of Crisis Management: How to Manage the Media in the Digital Age, was published in May. You can network with Jane through her LinkedIn profile and on Twitter @janejordanmeier. For more information or to book Jane for a keynote or workshop, contact her at jane@janejordan.net.)

Media-crisis-managementAlmost every day, it seems, media headlines, blog posts, and tweets focus our attention on yet another corporate scandal. Lest those in the nonprofit sector think they are above such shenanigans, think again. Yes, nonprofits are all about doing good work untainted or corrupted by the profit motive. But that doesn't mean they are immune from crises and public relations disasters. Just ask the American Red Cross, the Nature Conservancy, the United Way, or Susan G. Komen for the Cure®.

You don't need me to tell you that there's a lot at stake when a crisis and negative publicity engulf an organization. Every twitch of the spokesperson's face is closely examined for hints of remorse and/or guilt; donors get nervous; employees may panic. Everyone seems to have an opinion about what you should do and how you should do it.

Lawmakers often are quick to judge, too, as the Red Cross discovered in the wake of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

So what should you do if your organization finds itself in the public spotlight for all the wrong reasons? Common sense and good corporate governance says "be prepared and have a plan." Sadly, less than half of American businesses have an effective crisis management plan in place -- and I'd be willing bet that the percentage of nonprofits without one is significantly higher.

Let's assume your organization doesn't have a plan -- or, worse, it's been gathering dust on the shelf. What to do? Here's some can't-miss advice:

  1. Take responsibility and act fast, not stupid. As soon as you realize something has happened that could put your nonprofit at risk, ACT. At a minimum, issue a statement within the first hour of the bad news hitting the wires. Move fast but keep your wits about you.
  2. Express empathy and concern for anyone who may have been hurt or adversely affected by your organization's actions. Be careful not to judge and only address the FACTS. Never, ever speculate or render an opinion.
  3. Be clear about your organization's limitations and what it is able to do to address the situation. Not every crisis will be resolved the way the community wants it to be resolved. Clearly explain the actions you are taking and why you are taking them.
  4. Be ready to reach out with on social media. Use your social media channels to quickly convey your messages and the actions you plan to take. Monitor those channels continually and be prepared to respond to any and all facts, rumors, and speculation. But mind your manners, please. Grace and sometimes a little humor can be a life saver (see the Red Cross case study below). Don't have a social media presence? Start building one, now, and start to build your networks.
  5. Ask your stakeholders, constituents, and fans for help. Advocates and allies are critical in a public relations crisis. You'll need all the "friends" you can round up. And ideally, you will know ahead of time which of your friends and fans you can rely on to support you.
  6. Stick to your values. Be crystal clear about your organization's values and what it stands for. In a crisis, your organization's values will be on display for the world to see and pass judgment on. Your actions must match your words.
  7. Fight fire with fire. When responding to an online attack, do so on the channels from which the attack originated. For example, if it's a viral video on YouTube, respond with a video of your own (preferably one featuring your CEO). Any such video must be genuine, appear not to be too scripted, and be short -- two minutes or less.
  8. Assign roles and responsibilities. A lot of people love the "drama" of a crisis and will want to get involved, to feel needed, and/or to help. Choose your team wisely. You need level heads and a spokesperson who can speak with authority, is empathetic, and can handle the pressure of the cameras. Four to five people is a good number for a crisis-response team. Be sure, in addition, to have subject matter experts you can call on. And make sure you have someone on the team who is savvy about social media and can write clearly and concisely under pressure.

So, having reviewed the above list, how would you answer the question: Are we prepared for an attack on our reputation? If the answer is no, get to work now, starting with an up-to-date contact list of board members, donors, volunteers, and other stakeholders who value your nonprofit and the work it does. In a crisis, you'll be glad you did.

Quick Thinking Saves the Red Cross From Social Media Disaster

Quick thinking and deep understanding of social media on the part of the Red Cross in a situation that could have become a public relations disaster is worth re-visiting, as the incident offers a number of lessons for nonprofits about how to manage one's online reputation -- and avoid public relations disasters in the first place.

A quick recap: A young Red Cross employee accidentally tweeted from the official Red Cross account late one workday night that she planned to get "slizzerd" (extremely drunk) on beer (not just any beer but Dogfish Head's Midas Touch beer). The employee, who happened to be a social media specialist for the disaster relief organization, meant to tweet from her personal account but instead tweeted her message to all 270,000 followers of @RedCross.

Ill-considered tweets can mis-fire badly -- just ask Kenneth Cole -- but the Red Cross, exhibiting a great deal of social media savvy, took the slip up in stride and responded quickly by tweeting, "We've deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured Red Cross is sober and we've confiscated the keys."

End result? Impressed by the relief organization's humane and calm response, Dogfish Head, the micro-brewery featured prominently in the errant tweet, launched a fundraising and blood donation drive in its area and even used the young employee's hashtag, #gettingslizzred!, to promote the drive on Twitter. The (embarrassed) employee also kept her job.

Of course, not all PR disaster stories end happily. To improve the chances that your disaster does, keep in mind the things the Red Cross did right:

  • If the story's about your organization, take control of it quickly; be the primary information source for everything that happens after the story breaks.
  • Be thoughtful and deliberate; knee-jerk messages almost always back-fire on the sender.
  • Remember that social media is "social" -- people respond favorably to organizations that are genuine and willing to show that they're staffed by human beings.
  • Humor can and often does work in social media -- if it's done in good taste.
  • Monitor, monitor, monitor your social media channels.
  • Be thoughtful and intentional about hashtags -- they're a critical part of the Twitter ecosystem.
  • Never allow your communications channels to go silent; others will fill the vacuum -- fast!
  • If a 130-year-old disaster relief organization can be cool, so can you!

Most Popular Posts (October 2011)

November 01, 2011

After a good September, October was the third busiest month at PhilanTopic since we started the blog in the fall of 2007. What were folks reading? Here's a short list of the most popular posts for the month.

What's the best thing you read/watched/heard in October?

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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