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Weekend Link Roundup (March 22-23, 2014)

March 23, 2014

Spring_flowersOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy items from and about the nonprofit sector....


"[A]ctivist and advocacy organizations have increasingly come to look and act an awful lot like multinational corporations," and that's not a development we should applaud, write Genevieve LeBaron and Peter Dauvergne on openDemocracy's Transformation blog. It's not just the corporatization of NGOs and questions of money that make LeBaron and Dauvergne uneasy. "What’s more disturbing," they write,

is how corporatization is transforming what activists and NGOs now think is "realistic" and "possible" to change in the world.

Increasingly, NGOs are dividing advocacy into projects with concrete and easily-measurable outcomes in order to demonstrate "returns on donations." Needing to pay salaries, rent and electricity bills, NGOs have centralized their management structures and moved away from tactics that might threaten firms or governments or donors.

Advocacy for far-reaching change in world politics is increasingly off the table: radically-reorienting international organizations, redistributing global income, reining in multinational corporations beyond voluntary codes of conduct, reversing unfair terms-of-trade, protecting workers, and pushing for a different economic order that is based around sharing and an end to growth....


On the Markets for Good blog, Greta Knutzen chats with Lee Sherman, co-founder and chief content officer at Visual.ly, about data vizualization and its value to the social sector.

International Affairs/Development

Humansophere blogger Tom Paulson has a nice Q&A with development economist Willam Easterly, whose newest book, The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor, argues that "the 'technocratic' and apolitical approach favored by the aid and development community (including the World Bank) has served to keep the poor oppressed because it ignores one of the primary drivers of poverty – the poor's lack of individual rights, of economic and political freedoms."

Are unconditional cash transfers to poor people in developing countries as effective as some claim? The team at GiveDirectly, a site that is pioneering the concept, responds to the Mulago Foundation's Kevin Starr and Laura Hattendorf, who recently suggested in the Stanford Social Innovation Review that such transfers may turn out to be "more of a 1-year reprieve from deprivation than a cost-effective, lasting 'solution to poverty'."


Is there a "millennial" opportunity for nonprofits? Nell Edgington believes there is and, on her Social Velocity blog, suggests that "what nonprofits have in spades – entrepreneurial approach, flexibility, social change – could actually become a competitive advantage" for them over the next couple of decades.


To celebrate the launch of a new Grantmakers for Effective Organizations Web site, the folks at the Association of Small Foundations have created a tear sheet full of excellent advice for funders looking to address some of the key challenges faced by nonprofits.

"Requiring grantees to construct detailed theories of change for their interventions is the kind of cruelty that only a grantmaker can think to inflict," writes Albert Ruesga in a deceptively entertaining post on his White Courtesy Telephone blog. "Are we therefore to abandon trying to pinpoint causes and effects in social interventions? Are we to declare the causal nexus an impenetrable mystery?" he asks. "Not at all. Causes and their effects are as much at work in the social as in the physical realm and we need to understand them as best we can....

Our problems begin when we overreach. Our arrogance is on full display when we ask grantees to engage in exercises beyond the abilities of Stephen Hawking. Moreover, a great deal of what's been written and discussed about theories of change and other jetsam from the world of "strategic philanthropy" — this post included — is a bunch of arm-waving that will continue to enrich technocrats like me but fail to advance the cause of justice, the latter having much more to do with truth and repentance than with logic models....

In an excellent post on the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog, Barbara Kibbe looks at how the language, tools, processes, and practices of philanthropy have evolved over the last thirty years, applauds the debate about the value of strategic philanthropy and explains what strategy isn't, and makes three predictions about "the next chapter in the unfolding story strategy and evaluation."

The final word on the subject (for now) belongs to Kevin Bolduc, a vice president at the Center for Effective Philanthropy, who reminds us that there is a place for "a discerning heart" in foundation work.

Social Media

Social media marketer Julia Campbell has put together a handy social media checklist for nonprofits (also available as a .pdf).

Last but not least, the folks at craigsconnect have posted an infographic with lots of interesting tidbits and good advice related to crowdfunding, including this: Always thank your donors, no matter the size of the donation. 

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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