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Weekend Link Roundup (March 7-8, 2015)

March 08, 2015

Daylight-Saving-TimeOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sectorFor more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Criminal Justice

"For years, punitive policies...have conspired to reinforce injustice and inequality [in America]. Together, they have produced an overrepresentation of people of color in our prisons and jails. Today, more African Americans are part of the criminal justice system than were enslaved on the eve of the Civil War," writes Ford Foundation president Darren Walker in an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee. Walker goes on to mention some of the things Ford is doing to bring change to the criminal justice system and urges policy makers and his colleagues in philanthropy to do more to address the root causes and systemic issues that contribute to the shameful pattern of mass incarceration in the U.S.


In the Washington Post, Lyndsey Layton reports that New Jersey governor Chris Christie's plan to remake the Newark public school system with the help of a $100 million investment from Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has run aground.


In a post on LinkedIn, Wounded Warrior Project CEO Steve Nardizzi applauds the Humane Society of the United States'  suit against Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt, who, according to Nardizzi, "has waged a public war against the HSUS, accusing the organization of exorbitant fundraising costs for misleading solicitations and untruthful advertisements."

On the other hand...a new report (“Pennies for Charity”) shows that for-profit telemarketers operating in New York in 2013 retained the majority of the funds they raised on behalf of charities.


Writing in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Jim Thaden, executive director of the Central Asia Institute, offers a staunch defense of the organization's decision not to fire co-founder Greg Mortenson after a 60 Minutes segment in 2011 questioned  many of the "facts" in Mortenson's best-selling 2006 memoir Three Cups of Tea and raised questions about the organization's finances.


"Impact investing advocates can sometimes give the impression that they have 'outsmarted poverty' (and other societal problems)," writes Alex Counts, president and CEO of the Grameen Foundation, on the Center for Financial Inclusion blog. But "[i]t is important to remember that few if any social innovations besides microfinance have proven capable of reaching large scale and generating consistent profits – which should give people pause before they create a new impact investing 'bubble'."

Data is an effective tool for some charities, if used correctly, Debra Allcock Tyler, chief executive of the UK-based Directory of Social Change, said at a recent event organized by the think tank NPC. But, as reported by Emily Corfe on the Civil Society Media site, Allcock Tyler also noted in her remarks that many charities lack the resources to gather and analyze data in a meaningful way, and she urged those in attendance "to challenge funders that ask for sets of data. Never provide data just because a funder asks us for it.

If somebody says to you "give me the evidence," the first questions you should ask is, "what do you want to know? What is it you are trying to find out? Who is going to read it and what are they going to do with it.

Because half of the time you are spending all this time, effort and energy trying to produce information that isn't going to be read by anybody, which isn't used by anybody but it has just ticked a box. We have got to challenge that....

Some of Allcock Tyler's concerns are echoed by Center for Effective Philanthropy president Phil Buchanan in a post on the CEP blog. Buchanan begins his post by applauding the recent launch of The Performance Imperative, a follow-on to Mario Morino's 2011 book Leap of Reason that "calls on nonprofits to strive for 'high performance' – defined as 'the ability to deliver – over a prolonged period of time – meaningful, measurable, and financially sustainable results for the people or causes the organization is in existence to serve." Buchanan, who was a member of an advisory group connected to the effort, is a fan, writing that it "puts results right where they deserve to be: at the center of it all." But he also offers a caveat:

When it comes to assessment, we at CEP have found in our research – including in this 2012 report and a soon-to-be released follow-on to that effort – that nonprofits are committed to assessing progress and to using data to improve their programs, contrary to how they are sometimes portrayed. But the problem is often one of resources, and that's where foundations come in. Too few foundations are providing either the financial or non-financial support for organizations to do the work of being outcomes-oriented....


On the Transformations blog, Sue Gerhardt asks whether three-plus decades of neo-liberal policies are to blame for the relentless devaluing of public institutions in Western democracies, not to mention widening income gaps around the world.


Longtime Chronicle of Philanthropy contributor Pablo Eisenberg finds himself underwhelmed by updates recently announced by Independent Sector to a set of good governance and ethical practice guidelines first issued by IS in 2007. "[T]he entire endeavor," writes Eisenberg, "misses the point: Asking nonprofits to voluntarily transform their behavior has done little to stomp out the biggest problems in the nonprofit world. The only way to end bad behavior is to pass more stringent laws and to put teeth into enforcing them."


Does the "grand bargain" that helped Detroit emerge from the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history -- thanks in part to $366 million in commitments from a group of foundations -- represent a new kind of philanthropy? Maybe not so much, writes Timothy Ogden, managing director of the Financial Access Initiative at New York University, in Alliance magazine.

Kasia Moreno, an editorial director at Forbes Insights, shares the top five most promising trends in philanthropy.

And on the Huffington Post, Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation, shares five things you didn't know about philanthropy.

Writing in Jacobin magazine, Japhy Wilson, research coordinator at the National Strategic Center for the Right to Territory (CENEDET) in Quito, Ecuador, offers a sharp critique of the Millennium Development Villages project — and philanthrocapitalism in general.

Maclean's, the popular Canadian publication, has a Q&A with Bill Gates that nicely captures Gates' optimism about philanthropy's ability to move the needle on big global development challenges.

An analysis by Chronicle reporter Alex Daniels of the latest grantmaker pay and demographic data from the Council on Foundations finds that while salaries for foundation program officers and CEOs were essentially flat in 2014, they've have outpaced inflation slightly over the last five years.

Social Innovation

Last but not least, you know that new app, website refresh, or business model tweak your marketing team is eager to promote as "disruptive"? Well, it probably isn't — and that's okay, writes Causecast blogger Ryan Scott.

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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