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Weekend Link Roundup (September 12-13, 2015)

September 13, 2015

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

Climate Change

Former Seattle mayor Michael McGinn and the environmental group 350 Seattle has launched a campaign to get the Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world's largest charitable and funder of medical research, to completely divest itself of its investments in fossil fuels. The Guardian reports.

Over the last twenty-five years, the world has lost forested areas equal to South Africa. The good news, writes Chris Mooney in the Washington Post, is that the rate of deforestation appears to be slowing.


Still trying to figure out this nonprofit marketing thing? On her Social Velocity blog, Nell Edgington explains the basics.

Guest blogging on Kivil Leroux Miller's Nonprofit Communications Blog, Laurel Dykema of Mission India shares five "don'ts" for nonprofit writers.


Is entrepreneurship in America becoming the province of the wealthy? Gillian B. White, a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, reports.


Markets for Good has a nice crowdfunding-focused Q&A with Alison Carlman, senior manager of marketing and communications at GlobalGiving.

International Affairs/Development

"Representatives from around the globe are meeting in New York this month to lay out the successors to the [Millennium Development Goals], known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)," writes Melinda Gates on the Huffington Post's Impact blog. "Bill and I believe that one of the most important ways we can build for a healthier, more prosperous tomorrow is by working together to achieve the goal known as SDG 3, which aims to 'ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages'." And one way to do that, she adds, is "to ensure that kids everywhere get the good nutrition they need for a healthy start on life." 

Noting that there are more SDGs than MDGs and that the new goals and targets are far broader than the original MDGs, David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee and a former secretary of state for foreign affairs in the UK (2007-10), shares his concerns on the Devex site about the global development community's capacity for implementing the ambitious new agenda. 


In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Peter Singer, the father of the effective altruism, argues that there is "a rational basis for ethics in the idea of transcending our particular local or tribal interests and [apply]ing a universal perspective [to charitable giving]. Absent the evidence that there is greater potential for happiness or misery in one person's life than in another's," Singer adds, "we should be equally concerned that every person — and every sentient being — is able to avoid suffering and find as much happiness and fulfillment they can."

Which begs the question, Can "good" be quantified? In another op-ed in the Post, Catherine Hollander, an outreach associate at GiveWell, one of the leading organizational proponents of effective altruism, answers in the affirmative -- with caveats.

And William Schambra, recently retired as director of Hudson Institute's Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal, argues in his own Post opinion that most Americans aren't "efficient" philanthropists -- and that's a good thing. 

In the eighth and final post in his thoughtful "Foundation Staff Matter" series, Center for Effective Philanthropy president Phil Buchanan argues that to suggest that "there is some kind of negative correlation between numbers of staff and effectiveness and impact is to ignore the available evidence." In his series, Buchanan further notes, he has tried to make four basic points:

  • First, it's not actually clear that the new foundations being heralded for their slim staffs will be so thin five or ten years from now.
  • Second, the small size and great diversity of nonprofits often requires larger foundations to have enough staff to be able to interact with many different entities to be knowledgeable enough to make good decisions about who to fund.
  • Third, CEP's data and analysis shows the benefit — to grantees — when foundations have sufficient numbers of staff for the goals and operating strategies they've chosen.
  • Fourth, it's not just about numbers — the quality of staff and of staff culture matters, because what happens inside foundations' walls ripples outside those walls.

You can access all eight posts in Buchanan's series here.


In the New York Times, Thomas P. Edsall notes that the "percentage of people living in neighborhoods of high concentrated poverty — census tracts where the federal poverty rate is 40 percent or more — has been growing steadily over the past two decades," while the integration of the nation's public schools has been "on a steady downward path since 1988" The only way to reverse those trends, Paul A. Jargowsky, a fellow at the Century Foundation, writes in a recent essay, is for the federal and state governments to control suburban development "in order to prevent excessive construction that leads to accelerated abandonment of existing housing" and to require every city and town in a metropolitan area "to ensure that the new housing built reflects the income distribution of the metropolitan area as a whole."

Poverty among blacks and Hispanics is concentrated in the cities, writes Pablo Eisenberg on the Huffington Post's Politics blog, and that's what gets the attention of the news media and government policy makers. As a result, adds Eisenberg, federal programs -- and foundations and individual philanthropists -- have tended to neglect, "against their own interests and those of the country," poverty in Appalachia and the rest of rural America.

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

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