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Weekend Link Roundup (July 11-12, 2015)

July 12, 2015

Alexander-hamilton-duelOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Civil Society

In a guest essay for Civicus, Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, argues that the international development community's "obsession with quantifiable impact, and frequently dogmatic adherence to discrete deliverables, undercuts the expansive purpose of [civil society organizations], miniaturizing them in their ambition...[and] distort[ing] and inhibit[ing], rather than unleash[ing], the potential of civil society." Walker continues: "If we believe in the work that CSOs are doing — and we should — then [donors] must help usher in a new era of capacity-building investment, for institutions, and the individuals who comprise them...."


"Given the nature of digital data (generative, remixable, scalable, storable, copyable, etc), it's hard to see how the current nonprofit corporate governance structures provide much assurance that these assets will be used for good," muses Lucy Bernholz on her Philanthropy 2173 blog.


"The best way to activate positive-emotion circuits in the brain is through generosity." Kathy Gilsanan, a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, reports.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett has announced an annual gift of Berkshire Hathaway Class B shares totaling $2.8 billion to the five foundations he pledged his fortune to back in 2006. As has been the case since Buffett made his pledge, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation received the bulk of the shares, with smaller amounts going to foundations run by his three children and the foundation established by his first wife, Susan, who died in 2004. The Wall Street Journal has the details.

As generous, elegant, and carefully thought through as it may be, the Buffett style of philanthropy is in "the process of being re-formulated by a new generation of capitalists, many of whom earned their fortunes disrupting traditional business models." John G. Taft, CEO of RBC Wealth Management, explains.

In a post on the Oxford University Press blog, Ed Zelinsky (The Origins of the Ownership Society: How The Defined Contribution Paradigm Changed America), the Morris and Annie Trachman Professor of Law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University, outlines the continuing benefits (and costs) of the Giving Pledge.

The folks at Eleventy Marketing Group have pulled together a list of key findings from the 2015 Millennial Impact Report, which details how millennial employees "engage in cause work with the companies they work for — and the factors that influence their engagement and involvement in philanthropy programs."


On the GrantCraft blog, Deborah Hoover, president and CEO of the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, reports on a recent trip to Detroit organized by Forward Cities, a four-city learning collaborative involving more than a hundred professionals from foundations, nonprofits, government, and business.


On the Pioneer Post site, Joanne Hay, CEO of London-based Teens and Toddlers, and Dan Gregory, founder of Common Capital, debate the pros and cons of social impact bonds.

International Affairs/Development

The Open Society Foundations and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation have publicly responded to a recent decision by Russia's Federation Council to put them and a handful of other foreign civil society organizations, including the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, on a "patriotic stop-list" -- a move that could result in all twelve organizations being banned from the country.

Writing on the UN Foundation's Global Connections blog, Susan Myers shares ten facts from the UN's annual report on the Millennium Development Goals.

We've all heard and read stories about the feckless response to the devastating earthquake that leveled large swaths of Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital city, in 2010. Yet some innovative urban development work has been happening there, even if often under the radar. Flavie Halais, a freelance journalist based in Montreal who covers cities and international social issues, reports for Citiscope.


On the HistPhil blog, David Hammack pays tribute to Peter Dobkin Hall (1946-2015), a leading scholar of American philanthropy whose scholarly preoccupations included the overriding influence of class, class ambition, and class conflict in philanthropic giving and the distinctive "institutional culture" of America nonprofits, a culture that "originated at the end of the eighteenth century, became dominant (though not unchallenged) in the twentieth, and entered a period of crisis — quite possibly a crisis of success rather than of failure — in our own time...."

There's a lot of new money, much of it from newly minted Silicon Valley billionaires, pouring into philanthropy. "The problem is, too often, new donors think success in philanthropy will come as quickly as success in business, and that they can do it on their own," writes Center for Effective Philanthropy president Phil Buchanan. "They don't know what they don't know, and proceed to make entirely avoidable errors — going on a long, humbling, and painful journey. Often, it’s only many years later that we can all see that results have been disappointing. So much of this could be avoided," Buchanan adds, "if only we paid a little more attention to learning from history."

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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