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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....

Arts

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.

Fundraising

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)

Impact/Effectiveness

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)."

Philanthropy

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.

Technology

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

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