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Weekend Link Roundup (December 1-2, 2012)

December 02, 2012

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


On the Big Duck blog, Jenna Silverman shares some social media tips for maximizing exposure for an article, blog post, newsletter feature, or report:

  1. Don't be afraid to state your conclusion right away;
  2. Use jargon-free and audience-centric language; and
  3. Use include images if it's posted to Facebook, and hashtags if shared via Twitter.

"Just remember," adds Silverman, "that your followers on Twitter are expecting something different from the people that like you on Facebook. Facebook users don't want to see hashtags and your Twitter followers don't want you to waste space with full URLs. Instead of auto-feeding those updates across all platforms, write new messages for each one. You'll see a difference."


Last week saw the debut of Giving Tuesday, a national movement to boost support for nonprofit organizations at the start of the annual holiday season. Despite all the hoopla surrounding the event, not everyone was a convert. Writing on the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog, Timothy Ogden, managing director of the Financial Access Initiative at New York University and executive partner at Sona Partners, said he wasn't convinced the campaign would "materially affect giving in any positive way." The United States, writes Ogden,

has a deserved reputation for generosity when it comes to charity. According to GivingUSA, total annual giving now tops $300 billion. What many don't realize, given that the GivingUSA numbers change each year (usually in a positive direction), is how static the giving behavior of Americans is. Americans on average give about 2 percent of their income. When they earn more, they give more. When they earn less, they cut back. Over the last 10 years the percentage of national income given away (according to GivingUSA's totals) has varied from 2.1 to 2.2 percent. The only thing that has changed that percentage in the last 40 years, according to the Minneapolis Fed, is a tax law change that led to many wealthy people starting foundations at the end of 1986....

Ogden goes on to say that "while Giving Tuesday may make Americans' giving more visible, there's no reason to believe...it will affect how much they give." More likely, he writes, is that it will "shift more giving to the week of Thanksgiving from other times of year." We're not sure whether that's a good or bad thing. What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Writing on the Bridgespan blog, Daniel Stidt suggests that it may be time for the nonprofit sector to rethink its unstinting defense of the charitable deduction. It's a long and nuanced post, and Stidt suggests in closing that perhaps

the biggest problem with the die-hard defense of the charitable deduction is the opportunity cost it presents in the form of what social sector leaders are not speaking about so long as this issue is at the top of their agenda with policy-makers. Our country faces a range of pressing problems that are begging for a solution, from failing schools and rampant homelessness to accelerating climate change and a prison-industrial complex that ensnares 1 out of 3 black men over the course of their lives. Any one of these issue -- and many more like them -- warrants a convergence of sector leaders to press the urgent need for a solution in the halls of power. Yet so long as nonprofit leaders are jostling with the dairy farmers and real estate brokers and the bevy of other interests in these same corridors, with everyone determined to preserve their benefits and subsidies and tax breaks without modification, our voices risk ending up sounding remarkably like everyone else's....


December 1 was World AIDS Day, and to mark the occasion the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy's Lisa Ranghelli urges philanthropists and funders to step up and support advocacy aimed at "influenc[ing] health care access for people living with or at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS."  The Gates Foundation shares ten facts to help readers of its Impatient Optimists blog "reflect on the current state of AIDS around the world, as well as some reasons to be optimistic that together, with strong leadership, we can end this epidemic." And, on the Huffington Post blog, Dr. Mphu Keneiloe Ramatlapeng, executive vice president of the Clinton Health Access Initiative, suggests three ways to harness the idealism and ambition of AIDS activists. "Governments need to ask themselves whether they are spending their money on the highest impact interventions," adds Ramatlapeng, "and if not, to make the hard choice to change course and cut programs that aren't working."


Is charity more effective than government? Can it efficiently and fairly take the place of government in important areas? Or will the power of wealthy donors and patrons let them set funding priorities in the face of inevitable government cutbacks? Those are some of the important questions addressed in an interesting "Room for Debate" forum on the New York Times Web site.

Instead of jumping on to the Big Data bandwagon and racing to collect gigabytes of new data -- data that could be used to generate "misinformation that can be (and is already being) manipulated by people and institutions to convey the findings they want" -- nonprofits should focus on developing "more trusted and reliable sources of 'what works,'" writes Cynthia Gibson on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog. "That will require a process to thoughtfully evaluate and analyze data and information through some sort of vetting process," writes Gibson. "Instead of relying on experts, though, perhaps this process could incorporate some of the open source practices that technology is driving by making information public [and] pulling in some experts to weigh in on what's real and what's noise. After all, research shows that the best decisions are made when 'real people' and experts work together...."

International Aid/Development

In a rebuttal to a recent series of lectures by development economist and MIT professor Esther Duflo, Ed Carr, an associate professor in the Department of Geography at the University of South Carolina, argues that to "discuss the mistakes the poor make, we must first understand what the goals of the poor are" -- something that behavioral economists like Duflo don't do enough of. Writes Carr, "I have laid out [how], in the context of livelihoods,

material considerations are always bound up in social considerations. If you only evaluate these actions as aimed at material goals, you've only got a part of the picture -- and not the most important part, in most cases. Instead, what you are left with are a bunch of decisions and outcomes that appear illogical, that can be cast as mistakes. Only most of the time, they are not mistakes -- they are conscious choices....


And on the Inc.com site, Kevin Daum, author of Video Marketing for Dummies, shares five "Rs" that will help you get the most out of the holiday season:

  • Reconnect with important people you haven't spoken to in a while.
  • Reflect on the year and think about what you've learned and what's left to resolve.
  • Reposition how you are presenting yourself in the business community.
  • Recruit people who will help you soar in 2013.
  • Relax and spend quality family time or alone time to get ready for the year ahead.

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

-- The Editors

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