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Weekend Link Roundup (October 25-26, 2014)

October 26, 2014

Alloween-blackcat-660x500Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the nonprofit sector.... 


In Salon, author and political analyst Thomas Frank (What's the Matter With Kanasas?) tries to square the immense popularity of Ted-like talks and books about creativity with the "easy assumption that creativity was a thing our society valued....[I] had even believed it once," Frank writes, "in the way other generations had believed in the beneficence of government or the blessings of Providence.

And yet [my] creative friends, when considered as a group, were obviously on their way down, not up. The institutions that made their lives possible — chiefly newspapers, magazines, universities and record labels — were then entering a period of disastrous decline. The creative world as [I] knew it was not flowering, but dying.

When [I] considered [my] creative friends as individuals, the literature of creativity began to seem even worse — more like a straight-up insult. [I] was old enough to know that, for all its reverential talk about the rebel and the box breaker, society had no interest in new ideas at all unless they reinforced favorite theories or could be monetized in some obvious way. The method of every triumphant intellectual movement had been to quash dissent and cordon off truly inventive voices. This was simply how debate was conducted....


On the GrantCraft blog, Kris Putnam-Walkerly, author of the Philanthropy411 blog, shares three things she has learned from ride-sharing service Uber that foundations could use to improve the experience for their "customers" (i.e., grantees).

International Affairs/Development

In the most recent issue of the London Review of Books, Paul Farmer, a professor of global health at Harvard and a co-founder of Partners in Health, offers a no-nonsense assessment of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and what the global community must do to contain the virus. "First," he writes, "we need to stop transmission....Transmission is person to person, and in the absence of an effective medical system, it occurs wherever care is given: in households, clinics and hospitals, and where the dead are tended. Infection control, must be strengthened in all of these places....

Second, we need to avoid pitting prevention against treatment. Both are necessary....

Third, the rebuilding of primary care [in the region] must be informed by what has been learned from the response to this outbreak....

Fourth, the knowledge gained from the response must be built on. Every attempt to prevent the spread of Ebola should involve proper care for quarantined patients....

Fifth, formal training programs should be set up for Liberians, Guineans and Sierra Leoneans. Vaccines and diagnostics and treatments will not be discovered or developed without linking research to clinical care; new developments won't be delivered across West Africa without training the next generation of researchers, clinicians and managers. West Africa needs well-designed and well-resourced medical and nursing schools as well as laboratories able to conduct surveillance and to respond earlier and more effectively. Less palaver, more action.

Should you, the individual donor, donate to Ebola response efforts? The folks at GiveWell examine that question as only they can.


Earlier this week, GuideStar, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, and Charity Navigator launched the second phase of their campaign to end the Overhead Myth — the widely accepted idea that financial ratios are the sole indicator of nonprofit performance. In a letter announcing the new phase of the campaign, the presidents of the three organizations. Jacob Hrorld, Art Taylor, and Ken Berger, ask nonprofits to do three things designed to help move the sector toward an "Overhead Solution":

  1. Demonstrate ethical practice and share data about your performance.
  2. Manage toward results and understand your true costs.
  3. Help educate funders about the real cost of results

Visit the Overhead Myth site for an FAQ, to learn more about you can share the campaign's message, and/or to sign a pledge to end the Overhead Myth.


Vauhini Vara, a San Francisco-based business and tech correspondent for The New Yorker, considers the rapid growth of donor-advised funds administered by giant investment firms such as Fidelity, Vanguard, and Schwab and suggests that they are changing the face of philanthropy -- though she leaves it for others to decide whether the change is for the better or worse.

Just as 1913 saw the birth of the modern philanthropic foundation, 2014 is a similiar moment for our rapidly changing field, writes Lucy Bernholz on her Philanthropy 2173 blog. And to make the most of it, the field needs new software code, organizational code, and legal code. "Together," she adds, "these three codes should embody the values that make civil society vital parts of democracies. These values may not always be exclusive of those that matter to the public or private sector, but we are wrong to assume that the defaults of business or government are also the defaults of the independent associational space where we choose privately to act publicly."

In his annual letter, Hewlett Foundation president Larry Kramer shares findings from a detailed analysis of the foundation's grantmaking over the last ten years -- an analysis prompted by questions board members had after they received a redesigned version of the board book last November. The results of that analysis, and Kramer's commentary, are fascinating and well worth your time.

On the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Kathy Reich, director of the organizational effectiveness and philanthropy program at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, calls on foundations and nonprofits to pay more attention to "beneficiary feedback" -- that is, listening to, learning from, and acting upon what they hear from the people they are seeking to help.

On the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog, Amy Celep and Sara Brenner, CEO and president, respectively, of Community Wealth Partners, introduce a new series that will "explore [the] distinctive elements, as well as why an organization might pursue intentional influence, how it might think about focusing its efforts, and the barriers of one's own creation that must be overcome, to effectively influence" social change efforts.

"The rise of philanthropy in higher education, mirroring its increased prominence in society more generally, presents a paradox," writes Charles Keidan on the Times Higher Education website. "While universities arm themselves with a 'philanthropy workforce' and sophisticated donor-profiling software, another question has received far less attention: where is the academic scholarship and teaching about philanthropy? And, in an ideal world, how should that be approached?" Does philanthropy merit scholarly study? And if it does, why haven't we seen the establishment of more such programs here in the States and around the globe? Share your thoughts section below.

Millennials are set to inherit nearly $30 trillion over the next few decades, and no nonprofit organization can afford to ignore them. But how do they look at social change? And what do they want and expect from philanthropy? The folks at the Diplomatic Courier convened an event around those topics on October 15 and have "storified" the conversation that followed. Nicely done.

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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