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Weekend Link Roundup (October 12-13, 2013)

October 13, 2013

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


In a guest post on Kivi Leroux Miller's Nonprofit Communications blog, Wild Apricot's Victoria Michelson shares her top three tips on writing for a nonprofit audience.

The folks at the Communications Network have added four more guest posts -- by Chris Wolz, president/CEO, Forum One Communications ("ComNetwork Gumbo"); Beth Kanter ("Designing Transformative Communications Capacity Building Programs for Nonprofits"); Maryland Grier, senior communications officer at the Connecticut Health Foundation ("Making the Invisible, Visible"); and Akilah Williams, communications officer at Crown Family Philanthropies ("What's Your Movement"?) -- featuring observations, takeaways and ideas from the network's annual conference earlier this month.


In a post earlier this week, Markets for Good's Eric Henderson announced the campaign's theme for October: Business Models for Open Data. As Henderson explains: the task "is to explore what's working now...what we should be doing to develop sustainable business models for open data....[and what] the right questions [are] to move forward."

The Rockefeller Foundation has posted a draft Code of Conduct that "seeks to provide guidance on best practices for resilience building projects that leverage Big Data and Advanced Computing." Written during this year's PopTech & Rockefeller Foundation workshop in Bellagio, Italy, the guidelines include the following:

  • Wherever possible, data analytics and manipulation tools should be open source, architecture independent, and broadly prevalent.
  • Infrastructure for data collection and storage should operate based on transparent standards.
  • Use Creative Commons and licenses that state that data is not to be used for commercial purposes.
  • Adopt existing data sharing protocols.
  • Report and discuss failures.

How much has the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation spent to develop, implement, and promote the Common Core standards? As NYU professor and outspoken ed reform critic Diane Ravitch notes, that's what teacher/education blogger Mercedes Schneider set out to explore in a six-part series (here, here, here, here, here and here) on her deutsche29 blog. The problem with the foundation's well-intentioned efforts, writes Ravitch (echoing a theme that figures prominently in her new book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools), is that

Instead of developing a democratic process in which teachers, teacher educators, scholars, specialists in the education of children with disabilities, specialists in the education of English learners, and specialists in early childhood education were consulted at every step in the process; instead of trying out the standards to see how they work in real classrooms with real children, the Gates Foundation and the Department of Education took a shortcut.

Now, they are paying a price for taking the shortcut. In the absence of knowledge, evidence, experience, and a genuine consensus, ignorance is feeding the flames of distrust and suspicion....


On her Clairification blog, Claire Axelrad explains why everything you thought you knew about donor retention is probably wrong.


Writing in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Abigail Noble, associate director and head of impact investing initiatives at the World Economic Forum, and Joel Bryce, a manager at Monitor Deloitte, identify four challenges that continue to constrain the field of impact investing: the ecosystem is still in an early stage; deal sizes are relatively small; impact investments are difficult to fit into traditional portfolios; and measurement of "social returns" is not easy.

International Affairs/Development

"[W]hen you work on the frontline [of international development]," writes Fadekemi Akinfaderin-Agarau, co-founder and executive director of Education as a Vaccine against AIDS (EVA), on the Impatient Optimists blog,

you face humanity authentically. In so doing, you face your true self, too. Everything matter[s]. [A]ge, background, gender, culture. You don't just call on your academic knowledge, but on the deepest parts of what makes you human as well.

With local development, you bring everything, every part of you, to the table....


According to a "snap poll" by the Nonprofit Finance Fund, almost half (49 percent) of nonprofits that receive federal government funding report their payments have been delayed as a result of the government shutdown, while a similar percentage (48 percent) say they have experienced "no change."

What does it take to be a great nonprofit leader? Start with passion, says the Nonprofit Assistance Fund's Kate Barr. Add equal portions of curiosity, boldness, and vision. And top it off with a healthy shot of kindness.


The idea that mega-philanthropists could replace the federal government is preposterous on its face. But, in the wake of the government shutdown, says Amy Schiller, writing in The Nation, that is precisely the agenda some wealthy individuals are eager to promote. Indeed, writes Schiller, "Philanthropy is an under-recognized player in the trends" -- erosion of legitimacy and trust in public institutions -- "that led to the shutdown in the first place...."

"As a charitable foundation that provides support to the nonprofit community in [North Carolina], it's hard to watch [the government shutdown] and not do something," write Damon Circosta and Shannon Ritchie on the A.J. Fletcher Foundation blog. "But," they add

we do ourselves a great disservice if we lead the public to believe the private sector can make a difference in this mess. As the burden shifts, the public implies, "Oh, let's look to private foundations and companies to foot the bill for these services we desperately need," but they lack the understanding of just how vast the gaps are. The only entities that can make a difference are our federal and state governments, and perhaps our energy, time, and resources are best served letting them know how our kids are hurting because of their inability to fund the services they greatly rely on....

What should foundations be doing to get ready for #GivingTuesday, which falls on December 3 this year? The Center for Effective Philanthropy's Phil Buchanan has an idea.

Social Entrepreneurship

Will capitalism be humanity's ruin or salvation? The jury is still out, writes Grameen Bank founder and Nobel Peace prize winner Muhammad Yunus, but if it proves to be the latter, it will be because social entrepreneurs around the globe are successful in "re-imagining a world where we put the needs of all people at the center, and [where] creativity, money and profits become a means to achieve those needs...."

Social Good

And if you haven't already, be sure to scroll down (or follow this link) and read Foundation Center president Brad Smith's look at the "assumptions worth questioning and questions worth answering" with respect to "the brave new world of good."

That's it for now. Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org if we missed something.

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