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Weekend Link Roundup (October 19-20, 2013)

October 20, 2013

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


The Chronicle of Philanthropy has released its annual Philanthropy 400 report, which finds, among other things, that America's biggest charities raised just 4 percent more on a year-over-year basis in 2012. (Subscription required.)

International Affairs/Development

Leaders and effective leadership, not aid, are the keys to hunding hunger in Africa, write Howard Buffett and Tony Blair in TIME magazine. The good news, they add, is that "Africa increasingly is a land of leaders who have a progressive vision for their countries and for improving the quality of life for all of their people. Given the right support, Africa's leaders can instigate huge, positive changes for millions of people...."

Buffett also has an excellent piece on LinkedIn about the importance of failure -- in development work, in philanthropy, in life.

On the foundation's Impatient Optimists blog, Gates Foundation CEO Jeff Raikes explains the foundation's decision to become one of the first private foundations to join the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), which works to make information about spending on development easier to access, understand, and use.


If you haven't already, stop what you're doing and check out Searchlights and Sunglasses, a "digital expedition" through the major issues facing the field of journalism from Eric Newton and the always forward-thinking folks at the Knight Foundation. (We'll have more to say about the report in a subsequent post.)


How do you define philanthropic excellence? The Association of Small Foundations' Henry Berman boils it down to four components: finding your passion, embracing failures, taking leadership roles, and vision.To read the complete transcript of Berman's remarks to attendees at ASF's conference for small-staff philanthropies earlier this month, click here

On the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Patricia Kozu, managing director at the National Employment Law Project and a steering committee member of the Asian Women Giving Circle, looks at how foundations and individual donors can use giving circles to expand their knowledge and "get closer to what's happening on the ground."

In an opinion piece in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Robert Gallucci, president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, argues that representative democracy in America is "in trouble" and that, if for reasons of self-interest only, it's time for organized philanthropy to take steps to strengthen democratic norms and practices and improve the transparency of our political system.

In his weekly column in the Chronicle, CEP president Phil Buchanan applauds Gallucci's call to action but wonders whether foundations will accept the challenge. For his part, Buchanan argues that the country has been "well served by foundations making a foray into policy," and that for foundations "to achieve meaningful progress in reaching their goals, [we] need a government and a democracy that function at much higher levels."

Writing in the Nonprofit Quarterly, Paul T. Hogan, vice president of the John R. Oishei Foundation in Buffalo, explains the foundation's efforts to address the seemingly unbridgeable gap between the "general operating" and "project" support camps with what it calls "core operations improvement grants" -- awards for agreed-upon activities that

allow the nonprofit to do things that they would do anyway if they had the unrestricted cash they seek in GOS, like staff or board training, infrastructure improvements, or new program development. They still meet the criteria of being time-limited, outcome oriented, and evaluable, but they aren’t focused on the actual (external) programs offered. Instead, they look to improve the (internal) environment that supports the delivery of the programs....

In a post on the Council on Foundation's Re:Philanthropy blog, the council's Heather Peeler adopts the buyer vs. builder framework developed by the Nonprofit Finance Fund to explore the issue of grantee sustainability -- and along the way offers some helpful advice for funders:

  • Engage grantees in conversation early on about what sustainability might look like and how you can work together to support it.
  • Be clear and transparent about your investment in grantee organizations. Are you providing build money, buy money or both?
  • Invest in grantee evaluation capacity.
  • Be a funder and a fundraiser.
  • Partner with others to create an ecosystem that supports sustainability.

Sounds like good advice to us.

Deborah Hoover, president and CEO of the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, a smallish foundation in Northeast Ohio focused on supporting entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship education, has a terrific post on the Philanthropy Ohio blog in which she speaks eloquently about the importance, for funders, of pushing the envelope. "It is in that space, out of our comfort zone," she writes,

where amazing stuff tends to happen. The phone rings and someone has a brilliant idea that capitalizes on one of our programs. The connectivity between several of our grants creates sparks that lead to a new way of working and addressing a problem. Young people contact us to share what great project transpired as a result of a foundation-funded program. A grant that goes astray teaches us a valuable lesson and through iterations, we get better and better at what we do. The entrepreneurial culture that we work so hard to generate for our region circles back, stimulating the growth of our own entrepreneurial mindset, and constantly pushes us to...try new things....

Social Entrepreneurship

Why does the world need a Match.com for global "experteers" -- professionals who volunteer their expertise to create positive social change? Derk Norde, founder of MovingWorlds, which aims to become just that, explains.

You know it when you see it. Or do you? In a video filmed at the 2013 Social Innovation Summit, Rajesh Anandan, Daniel Epstein, Chade-Meng Tan, and others explain how to spot a successful social innovation.

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

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