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Weekend Link Roundup (November 9-10, 2013)

November 10, 2013

Colorful-autumn-leavesOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....


Collaboration is hard, writes Third Foundation founder Jon Huggett on the Markets for Good blog. But your odds of success are greatly improved if you follow these six simple rules:

  1. Share hard goals, not values.
  2. Measure for improving, not proving.
  3. Choose the change, not who is in charge.
  4. Share credit for successful ideas, not put the "genius" on a pedestal.
  5. Spread ideas, not organizations.
  6. Embrace competition, don't discourage it.


Created by the Great Schools Partnership, the Glossary of Education Reform defines and describes widely used school-improvement terms, concepts, and strategies. Useful -- and a sharp presentation.


"Like so many freshly minted doctors, I thought I had all the answers," writes Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, on LinkedIn. But an indigent female patient, admitted "late on a winter night, homeless and helpless," taught her she didn't. "My medical training never taught me that how and where a patient lives, learns, works, and plays has more to do with his or her health than the treatments we were diligently learning. No one ever suggested that society is just as much our patient as that person waiting for us in the examining room. Our care ended at the front door of the hospital -- and that wasn’t far enough...."


Washington Post reporter Lydia DePillis offers an "optimistic" take on Goldman Sachs' decision to launch a $250 million "social impact" fund. "[T]he beauty of the scheme," writes DePillis, is that it

doesn't presume that bankers and investors are anything other than profit-motivated individuals who'll only keep doing something if it serves their interests in the end. If government doesn't have the capital to make smart investments that will save it money in the long term, might as well have the private sector come in and share the benefits. But they won't do it unless the project works, which is more than can be said for many public-sector and philanthropic endeavors....

Still a little unclear about the brave new world of social finance? Sonal Shah, a senior fellow at the Case Foundation and the Center for American Progress, and Kristina Costa, a policy analyst at the center, have posted an excellent primer on the subject at the CAP Web site.


The real management crisis in the nonprofit sector "is not a lack of bodies to fill jobs," argues former EPIP executive director Rusy Stahl in the latest issue of The Foundation Review ("Talent Philanthropy: Investing in Nonprofit People to Advance Nonprofit Performance"); "it is the deficit of investment in current nonprofit people and the systems that support them."

Referencing Stahl's article in a post on the CEP blog, Linda Wood, senior director of the leadership and grantmaking program at the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, suggests that "the disconnect between funder and nonprofit views of leadership support may not be such a puzzle at all. "It may simply be

the result of differing understandings of what types of leadership support can help nonprofits most, as well as a perception among funders that this work is not an essential investment that helps leaders get better results for their organizations and their movements....


Writing on the Philanthropy New York blog, Charles Hamilton, a former executive director of the Clark Foundation and the J. M. Kaplan Fund, finds much to admire in the "Charitable-Industrial Complex" article penned by NoVo Foundation chair Peter Buffett earlier this year. Yes, some of Buffett's assumptions are "troubling," writes Hamilton, but the "important point is that ongoing open and candid discussion from all points of view is necessary if we are to understand clearly the complexity of what is going on. Not to do so increases the probabilities of stasis, failure or worse." To that end, Hamilton offers four topics to keep the conversation going: stay grounded; beware of group-think; commit to the long-term; and focus on results.

"What is the track record of policy-oriented philanthropy?" asks Holden Karnofsky on the GiveWell blog. The answer to that question probably requires "an enormous, long-term effort," Karnosky writes, but after looking at a number of "success stories" and opining that, despite "many claims of impact, none appear easy to assess," he concludes that, generally speaking, "a given amount of money 'means more' in the context of policy-oriented work than in other contexts."

And a nice post in the Stanford Social Innovation Review by the Mulago Foundation's Kevin Starr about his "education" as a funder. "After a lot of time in the field," he writes, "I realized there was no secret code....Instead,

I learned by doing -- finding great mentors, making some painful mistakes, sucking the lessons from successes, and generally paying attention. And for better or worse, what we do now at Mulago came in response to what seemed to be missing in the sector. Here are the big things that were in short supply....

To read what Starr learned, click here.

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

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