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Weekend Link Roundup (May 24-26, 2014)

May 26, 2014

Healing_Field2After another Typepad outage last weekend, we're back with our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy items from and about the nonprofit sector....


In the Summer 2014 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Steven Teles, an associate professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University, Heather Hurlburt, a senior fellow for national security at Human Rights First, and Mark Schmitt, director of the program on political reform at the New America Foundation, argue that the mid-20th-century "golden age" of consensual politics in America was an anomaly and that, for nonprofits and foundations engaged in advocacy, there are three alternatives for dealing with increasing political polarization: staying the course; changing the system; and accepting and adapting.

Climate Change

On the F.B. Heron Foundation blog, Heron board chair Buzz Schmidt applauds Stanford University's recent decision "to 'repurpose' funds formerly invested in coal mining companies into investments that made more positive contributions to society's regenerative capital" and suggests that critics of the decision who suggest that divestment campaigns typically fail because they don't have any impact on companies' stock price are missing "the forest for the trees."


In USA Today, Math for America president John Ewing argues that while the Common Core standards are not perfect, "they provide a structure that has a huge amount of potential if we just give [them] some time to work."


These days, it's hard to avoid talk about crowdfunding. But Social Velocity's Nell Edgington thinks it might be time to distinguish what's exciting about the crowdfunding approach from the hype and shares some questions to help us do that.


What kinds of problems are suited to a collective impact approach? In a post on FSG's Collective Impact blog, Jennifer Splansky Juster explains that "while every situation is context specific," four questions can help you determine whether a collective impact approach "makes sense for your work"


On the Philanthropy Daily site, the pugnacious William Schambra gives us a preview of "the coming showdown between philanthrolocalism" -- a philosophy of giving that prioritizes the use of resources to help one's own place, including one's neighbors, community members, churches, businesses, cultural institutions, civic associations, and ecology -- "and effective altruism" (i.e., metrics-based giving).

In response to Teles, Hurlburt and Schmitt's article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review (see Advocacy, above), the Hewlett Foundation's Daniel Stidt suggests that political polarization in the U.S. "is neither a trend that can be reversed nor a problem that can be solved" but rather a predicament with which philanthropy needs "to learn how to cope." And, following Teles, Hurlburt and Schmitt's lead, he considers one approach, "transpartisanship," that could help foundations increase their impact and contribute to solving our "collective action problem."

On the Exponent Philanthropy blog, Andy Carroll, the organization's lead staffer on grantmaking strategies, shares seven questions that can help any philantropist develop a point of view — that is, a distinctive attitude about what he or she "can best accomplish, and how to do it":

  • What are my values? What do I truly believe?
  • What is my responsibility to other citizens?
  • What trends are really important to our community and country?
  • What change needs to happen?
  • What is the appropriate role of government?
  • •What is the role of philanthropy? Is it to meet immediate needs? Nurture talent? Experiment, test, and support research and development for society? Help government work better? Create social change?
  • What is the best use of my philanthropic dollars?

In a similar vein, Richard Marker suggests on his Wise Philanthropy blog that "the real story of how philanthropy plays a role in any community or society is not how the mega wealthy do it but how everyone else does it."

Social Good

And in The Atlantic, Amy Schiller wonders whether the future of doing good raelly is cause-related consumerism — a prospect she finds more than a little depressing. "Consumption philanthropy" she writes,

corrupts the very behavior that should expand our capacity for empathy and turns it into the social equivalent of paying a sex worker for "the girlfriend experience." Philanthropy should imply a categorically different relationship with money than the one we have a consumers: something we embark on because we want to participate in a larger goal of improving the world and linking our values, histories, and resources with the needs of other people. Instead, this sector is increasingly vulnerable to what Michael Sandel calls "the corrosive tendency of markets" to crowd out non-market values. "When we decide that certain goods may be bought and sold," [writes] Sandel, "we decide…that it is appropriate to treat them as commodities, as instruments of profit and use...."

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

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  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."

    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

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