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Weekend Link Roundup (January 25-26, 2014)

January 26, 2014

Climate-strat-vortexOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Environment

Nature Conservancy president Mark Tercek and Brett Jenks, president and CEO of conservation organization Rare, explain in a post on the Huffington Post's Green blog why a planned merger of their respective organizations, announced to great fanfare in the fall, was scuttled.

Evaluation

On his Evaluation Reflections, Riffs & Rants blog, Tom Kelly, vice president of knowledge, evaluation and learning at the Hawaii Community Foundation, expresses a widely shared frustration "that most performance dashboards are not getting at the 'right' data" -- and what he and his colleagues hope to do about it in 2014.

Fundraising

On Network for Good's Non-Profit Marketing Blog, Caryn Stein, NFG's director of content strategy, shares six things that every nonprofit should focus on when seeking major gifts:

    1. Success starts at the top.
    2. The board must be all in.
    3. Results matter.
    4. Experience and infrastructure make a difference.
    5. Endowments count.
    6. Reputation and good publicity (for the organization and the donor) are critical.

International Development

In The Lancet, Angus Deaton, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, reviews Nina Munk's The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty, calling it "a deep and important book about foreign aid and development" that reads like "a fine novel [rather than] the usual tract in social science."

And in Foreign Policy, NYU economics professor and Sachs' antagonist William Easterly takes another shot at Sachs' "original vision for Big Aid," before declaring the "endless back-and-forth" between himself and Sachs over:

On one hand, Sachs has said that aid can end poverty, but in his FP piece he says that it isn't a driver of development. It sounds like Sachs and I both need to move on. For myself, I'd prefer participating in the bigger debates on development. Why does the development discussion show so much indifference to the most basic political and economic rights of the poor? Could the "benevolent dictators" such as the late Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia -- who Jeff Sachs often praises (he even thanked Meles in the acknowledgements to The End of Poverty) -- be the problem and not the solution? Don"t we see individual rights in our own societies as both desirable in themselves and how we escaped our own poverty? Why do we see things so differently for poor societies?

These questions are a lot more important than the now passé aid debate. I think I might even publish a whole book on them.

[Ed note: Easterly's new book, The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor, will be published in early March.]

Nonprofits

On her Social velocity blog, Nell Edgington reminds us that it's State of the Sector Survey time. The online survey, which the widely admired Nonprofit Finance Fund has been conducting since 2008, is open for responses through February 17 --  and, as Nell points out, the results will be used in part to inform a larger conversation "about what nonprofits need and what funders and policymakers must do differently to support their work."

Philanthropy

Writing in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, William Schambra, director of the Hudson Institute's Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal, suggests that the recent decision by nine American foundations to pledge $330 million to help Detroit emerge from municipal bankruptcy sets a number of dangerous precedents they may live to regret.

In the New York Times, Seattle native Timothy Egan, a contributing op-ed writer for the paper, weighs in with a surprisingly uncritical take on Bill Gates' annual letter, which this year, among other things, examines "three myths that block progress for the poor."

For a different take on Bill's letter, check out Tom Paulson's annual letter to Bill and Melinda Gates, which raises some important questions and caveats about the work of the foundation specifically and aid work in general.

What do philanthropy and the ABC reality business show "Shark Tank" have in common? More than you might think, writes Ruth Levine, director of the Hewlett Foundation's Global Development and Population Program, on the foundation's Work in Progress blog.

Public Affairs

Daniel Stid, a senior fellow in the Hewlett Foundation's Special Project Program, explains the thinking behind a small grant made by the foundation in support of the New Hampshire Rebellion, a grassroots campaign led by Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig "to use New Hampshire's preeminent presidential primary as a foundation for elevating campaign finance reform to the top of the national political agenda."

Social Entreprenuership

In the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Tim Ogden, managing director of the Financial Access Initiative at NYU and an executive partner at Sona Partners, calls Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much, by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir, "an important book for any social entrepreneur thinking about poverty interventions" that should "factor into program design and [their] theories of change."

Social Media

And as if you're not busy enough, here's a list of the thirty tools "social media professionals can't live without."

That's it for this week. What have you been reading/watching/listening to? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org or via the comments box below....

-- Mitch Nauffts

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