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Weekend Link Roundup (December 19-20, 2014)

December 20, 2015

Xmas_stockings Our weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at@pndblog....

Climate Change

"After two centuries of prosperity built on the use of coal, oil, and natural gas, representatives of nearly two hundred countries at the United Nations Climate Change Conference resolved to turn away from those fuels and embrace a new future of clean energy," writes Reid Detchon, vice president for energy and climate strategy at the United Nations Foundation. The key word in that sentence is "resolved," and while the agreement should be celebrated, the "hard work of implementation remains [to be done]." It won't be easy, but Detchon, for one, is an optimist. As is Robert Stavins, Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School and head of the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, who in an interview with the Harvard Gazette pushes back against the idea that the agreement signed in Paris was a "fraud."

Corporate Philanthropy

Tech giant Microsoft has announced an "expanded commitment" to its global corporate philanthropy and a new organization within the company, Microsoft Philanthropies, "to make this ambition a reality."

Environment

The so-called war on drugs not only has failed to impede global drug trafficking, it's also contributing to "widespread environmental degradation and accelerating climate change." Vice's Eva Hershaw has the story.

On the Huffington Post's Green blog, Laura Goldman looks at what the Philadelphia-based William Penn foundation, and others, have been doing to improve and maintain the Delaware River watershed, which provides drinking water to fifteen million people or 5 percent of the U.S. population. 

Giving

It's that time of year, and Steve Delfin,  president and CEO of America’s Charities, has six tips for getting the most out of your giving during the holiday season.

When is a pledge to give as valuable as an actual donation? More often than you'd think. The Wall Street Journal's James Andreoni and Marta Serra-Garcia explain.

Yes, taxes matter when it comes to charitable giving. But as Andrew Blackman explains in the Journal, the relationship isn't as simple as it looks. "For instance, research suggests that the system of itemized deductions the U.S. has been using for decades is much less effective at spurring donations than tax systems in other countries that...offer charities matching donations.

Still other research suggests people may even be willing to give money voluntarily to the government — if the government gives them the chance to direct the money to a cause they approve of.

Meanwhile, some scientists have found that the brain reacts the same way to making donations as it does to paying taxes, if the taxes are clearly being used for a good cause — suggesting that people may be more willing to pay taxes if they know how the money's being used. And some findings even suggest that offering deductions for charitable giving may promote good health....

Higher Education

Who were the influencers and agitators who "shook up higher education in the classroom, on campus, and beyond" in 2015? The Chronicle of Higher Education breaks it down.

International Affairs/Development

In the New York Times, Ford Foundation president Darren Walker explains why the "world may need a reimagined charter of philanthropy — a 'Gospel of Wealth' for the 21st century — that serves not just American philanthropists, but the vast array of new donors emerging around the world." What's more, writes Walker, "[t]his new gospel might begin where the previous one fell short: addressing the underlying causes that perpetuate human suffering. In other words, philanthropy can no longer grapple simply with what is happening in the world, but also with how and why."

On the Hewlett Foundation's Work in Progress blog, Ruth Levine announces the foundation's "revised strategy to advance transparency, participation and accountability [in government]...while recognizing and bolstering the critical role of citizen participation."

Nonprofits

WSJ reporter Veronica Dagher details the three questions donors need to ask before they join a nonprofit board.

Philanthropy

As a percentage of net worth, ultra-high-net worth individuals in the United Kingdom's are the most generous, followed by ultra-HNWs in the United States. Business Insider has the story.

We've heard a lot about Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan's decision to give the bulk of Zuckerberg's Facebook shares to a limited liability corporation, the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, that will work to advance human potential and address inequality. On Tech Crunch, CZI chief of staff Caitlyn Fox tells Josh Constine that the initiative "will be structured similarly to Facebook's acquisitions. The couple will entrust expert leaders to pursue pioneering solutions to huge problems without much micromanagement. The goal is to use the flexibility afforded by organizing the Chan-Zuckerberg fortune as an LLC rather than a nonprofit to experiment in search of impact with agility." More here.

In The New Yorker, James Surowiecki notes that while the "sheer size of Zuckerberg’s [gift]...shows just how concentrated wealth has become," hostility "toward philanthropy is nothing new." And that's too bad, Surowiecki writes, because philanthropy, as it has developed in the U.S., "invest[s] in what economists call public goods — things that have benefits for everyone, even people who haven't paid for them." So while it is  entirely reasonable, "to lament the fact that a small number of billionaires have so much power over which problems get dealt with and which do not.... [T]hey have that power precisely because they are spending so much of their money to solve global problems. [And we], as a country, are not."

Yes, but... "[E]xtreme philanthropy, as laudable as it is, is no answer to worries about inequality," The Economist's Free Exchange blog team argues. "For one thing, it is hard to spend enormous sums both quickly and well. The Gates Foundation is among the world's most ambitious charities. It chooses its donations carefully; as a result, the $5 billion it gave away in 2014 was less than the $7.4 billion it accumulated thanks to new contributions, investment income and rising asset values." Piketty anyone?

What's happening in the nascent field of youth philanthropy? Our colleagues at IssueLab, with help from the GrantCraft team, have curated a collection of resources that answers that and a bunch of other questions.

Poverty

And in other news, the political operation created by conservative mega-donors Charles and David Koch "is quietly investing millions of dollars in programs to win over an unlikely demographic target for their brand of small-government conservatism ― poor people." Politico's Kenneth P. Vogel reports.

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

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