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17 posts from July 2012

Weekend Link Roundup (June 30 - July 1, 2012)

July 01, 2012

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

Corporate Philanthropy

On the Deep Social Impact blog, Peter Karoff identifies two different types of corporate social responsibility -- "those having to do with social impacts or what business does to society and those having to do with social problems or what business can do for society." The first one, writes Karoff, "is the first rule of life, which is to do no harm. If a business is not successful in satisfying that imperative, no amount of charitable giving, employee volunteerism, and creative ideas around social innovation is going to matter...." He adds:

Doing no harm, however, is not merely a zero-sum game if there is evidence of preventing negative consequences and producing positive societal impact. For example, if a company is an extractor of natural resources and its actions left unchecked could devastate ecology, and the company invests in and implements systems to preserve and sustain that ecology, doing no harm goes beyond being defensive. It is a proof that business and the natural world can productively co-exist.

This suggests that the most creative role for corporate social responsibility and philanthropy goes far beyond being an act of redress, correction, amendment, or atonement for a misdeed. The toughest ROI for this work, but perhaps the most important, is right in the 'heart of darkness' that every commercial venture must face one way or another. The value added for corporate philanthropy -- defined in the broadest terms -- is not as frosting on the cake of goodness, but in meeting squarely those aspects that are most troubling. To turn a negative into a positive is a very good thing indeed.


On the GiveWell blog, Holden Karnofsky shares details of GiveWell's new relationship with Good Ventures, a new foundation started by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and his significant other, Cari Tuna. "This is a partnership, not a merger; we remain separate legal entities," writes Kranofsky.

Cari is president of Good Ventures, while Elie and I are co-executive directors of GiveWell; our authorities differ accordingly. If Good Ventures is interested in an area or activity that we aren’t interested in, it will use its resources to pursue this area or activity; likewise, if we are interested in an area or activity that Good Ventures isn’t interested in, we will use GiveWell's resources to pursue this area or activity.


On the Philanthropy Potluck blog, Kaitlin Ostlie of the Minnesota Council on Foundations shares key findings from a recent Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP) report, Foundation Funding and Latino Community Priorities: Gaps and Opportunities, which identified a "mismatch" between foundation funding and the priorities of Latino communities receiving support. According to the report, the disparity stems largely from "institutional resistance from senior management in the philanthropic community, overly specific grantmaking strategies and program objectives, and the limited capacity and small size of nonprofits that serve the Latino community."

The report offers four recommendations for HIP, which has been working with grantmakers to strengthen Latino communities for nearly thirty years:

  1. Continue to conduct research and develop initiatives that address needs and opportunities in Latino communities with respect to specific grantmaking areas;
  2. Offer customized consulting services to help foundations develop strategies for reaching Latinos;
  3. Continue to provide capacity-building support and technical assistance for high-impact grassroots Latino nonprofits;
  4. Consider working with groups of funders to develop shared frameworks for tracking grantmaking data with realistic benchmarks for increasing funds benefiting Latinos over the next decade.

Social Entrepreneurship 

In a recent post on the Idealist blog, blog editor Allison Jones offers some advice to this year's college graduates from the Idealist Twitter community. When asked to complete the following sentence: "Dear Class of 2012, if you want to change the world, remember..." @aimee587 responded, "to find friends to help you out. No one can do it alone!" And @MAWGtheFROG said, "to live humbly and compassionately." Check out Jones's post for the full list of responses.

Social Innovation

Bridgespan partner Daniel Stid takes a closer look at social impact bonds, a pay-for-success approach to solving social problems that has been pioneered in the United Kingdom, and decides that it might be a little early to jump on the SIB bandwagon. "If the what-works movement is about scaling proven solutions," writes Stid,

there is considerable irony in so many of its participants calling for widespread adoption of a financial mechanism for doing so that is literally untested. I also question whether private capital will readily flow to underwrite the costs of supporting the most intensive users of our social safety net. Ultimately, though, my skepticism is grounded in the challenges that federal, state, and local government agencies have faced in trying to use performance-based contracts over the past two decades—and how social impact bonds may make several of these challenges worse....

On her blog, Allison Fine takes issue with David Bornstein's contention that "growing individual organizations can solve complex, local community problems," arguing instead that "every community has a huge number of organizations trying to meet the needs of their communities, and a huge number of individual volunteers and donors, too. The problem is that they continue to work as standalone silos rather than as networks."


On the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation's blog, Daniel Latorre, VP of Digital Placemaking at the Project for Public Spaces, introduces the Tech for Engagement Manifesto, which was started at the Technology for Engagement Summit in May. It was always the intention of the folks behind the effort to invite the larger community of civic technologists to flesh out the manifesto, and in the process of doing that this is what they've learned:

  • The civic technologist community has talented leaders but needs to grow the size and diversity of its leadership cadre.
  • The community's problem isn't just about access, it's about a larger gap in skillful practice.
  • The community is characterized by innovative partnerships but needs to increase levels of collaboration and trust.
  • The community has good data but needs to increase the understanding, accessibility, and standardization of that data.
  • The commmunity has designed civic tools but needs to increase community input as those tolls are iterated, designing them with, not for, the community.

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

-- The Editors

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  • "[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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