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Weekend Link Roundup (August 4-5, 2012)

August 05, 2012

London2012_goldOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Communications/Marketing

In a guest post on the Communications Network blog, Dan Cohen and Edit Ruano offer five ideas for livening up your summer communications efforts.

  1. Brainstorm with staff on how to engage your audience/community, and then delegate the implementation of those ideas to tap into staff creativity.
  2. Program e-blasts; content could include previews of the work planned for the fall or reflections on your organization's previous accomplishments.
  3. Write (or coordinate with grantees to write) op-eds about your organization's work before heading out on vacation.
  4. Develop a schedule of pre-programmed social media content: at least one Facebook post and two or three tweets per week recommended.
  5. Host a get-together with potential partner organizations and individuals to strengthen your networks and bring a fresh perspective to the work you do.

Kivi Leroux Miller highlights the evolution of one nonprofit's annual reports -- from more than twenty pages of financial details to four pages of accomplishments. In 2009 "[i]t was a lot more 'here's all the stuff we've done' vs 'here's what we accomplished,'" Katie Bryan, of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, told Miller. In contrast, in 2011 "[w]e started out with the top accomplishments we had to share, then filled in images...and then worked the theme and letter around those."

Giving Pledge

Responding to the launch of the Foundation Center's Eye on the Giving Pledge site, NCRP's Kevin Laskowski commends our colleagues for "shining a light on an initiative that could bring important change to the sector." But he urges the center to take its commitment to transparency one step further by helping the public to see how the signatories are doing in terms of meeting their "stated obligation." Writes Laskowski:

Certainly, there are difficulties in doing this. For instance, how do we verify a signatory's gifts to public charities when these charities are not required to disclose their donors? Additionally, a person's net worth can fluctuate wildly over one's lifetime. For the purposes of the pledge, which net worth is to be used as the denominator, one's worth at the time of signing or upon one's death or what?...

It's important to ask how these men and women are doing. The answers might provide guidance and inspiration to new donors and potential signatories. How much are the signatories giving by amount and as a share of their wealth? Are most giving at or around 50 percent? How many are giving 80 or 90 percent? How many of them are planning to wait until death to make their largest distributions? Is the Giving Pledge spurring new giving, or are people pledging based on grants and plans they've already made? Might we be able to spur more and better giving faster if the signatories were essentially encouraged to compete with one another? I imagine the ensuing debate over what counted and how would be quite animated and illuminating....

 Leadership

The NonProfit Times has released its fiftienth annual Power and Influence Top 50 list. And, despite the generally positive reviews, more than a few people think the exercise is getting a little stale. The list "left out some amazing powerful and influential people in the sector mainly because these amazing and powerful people are NOT CEOs of national organizations," writes Heather Carpenter, an assistant professor in the School of Public, Nonprofit, and Health Administration at Grand Valley State University, on her blog. The solution? Maybe "there needs to be several versions of the...list that go beyond CEOs of national organizations" -- for example an "NPT Power and Influence: The Next Generation" list or an "NPT Power and Influence: Community and Grassroots" list.

On the Philanthropy Front and Center - Atlanta blog, Chanell Turner, a special initiatives intern in the Foundation Center's Atlanta office, shares some advice from Eli Broad's new memoir, The Art of Being Unreasonable, that will benefit most nonprofit leaders looking to up their game:

  • Don't apologize for humble beginnings.
  • Question the conventional wisdom.
  • Embrace innovation.
  • Enjoy your success but don't stop there.
  • Don't just network within your circle.
  • Do your homework.
  • Set priorities, be disciplined but not rigid, and focus on what really matters.
  • Don't be afraid to take risks.

Philanthropy

BlackGiveBack's Tracey Webb shares a video trailer for the Giving Back Project, a campaign organized by the New Generation of African American Philanthropists giving circle to re-frame philanthropy as something more than an activity "defined by great wealth and large monetary gifts."

In the Nonprofit Quarterly, Simone Joyaux pushes back against the notion that philantrocapitalism -- the application of business thinking and methods to social problems -- "will save the world" -- and gives a big shoutout to sometime PhilanTopic contributor Michael Edwards in the process. "Sure, philanthrocapitalism can make a difference. It can find cures for various diseases and produce jobs," writes Joyaux.

But that doesn't fix the systemic issues that confront our society -- things like greed and inequality, fear and prejudice, privilege and disadvantage. Edwards notes [in Small Change: Why Business Won't Save the World, "Few areas of business expertise translate well into the very complex social and political problems where solutions have to be fought for and negotiated -- not produced, packaged, and sold. And, so far at least, there aren't many philanthrocapitalists who are prepared to invest in the challenges of long-term institution building, the deepening of democracy, or the development of a different form of economy in which inequality is systematically attacked...."

Transparency

"I think autonomy (and therefore diversity) of foundations with regards to mission and method is a good thing. It makes our society richer and more resilient, just as an ecology with more variation in plants and animals is more robust under stress than one with less biodiversity," writes Chris Langston, program director at the John A. Hartford Foundation, on the Foundation Center's Transparency Talk blog. "Still, I wonder -- what does a foundation owe to the broader society that grants it both tax advantages and this autonomy? In addition to our own commitment to be serious about our work, I think we should also commit to transparency. If we are open about our governance, finances, policies, and processes, we show that we are open to feedback. We are also more likely to adhere to our own standards simply by virtue of knowing that others know our goals."

That's it for this week. What did we miss? Drop us a line at rnm@foundationcenter.org

-- The Editors

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