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Weekend Link Roundup (December 5-6, 2015)

December 06, 2015

Rockefeller-center-christmas-tree-statueOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

African Americans

The Campaign for Black Male Achievement has released the inaugural Black Male Achievement Index, a "first-of-its-kind report to track and communicate how cities' efforts across the country are advancing black male achievement."

Climate Change

The University of Massachusetts has joined the growing list of educational institutions that have announced they will divest themselves of investments in coal companies. WBUR's Zeninjor Enwemeka reports.

Can so-called green bonds be a game-changer in the fight against global warming. Rockefeller Foundation president Judith Rodin thinks so and explains in the Guardian how the foundation's Zero Gap work is helping to show the way forward.

On the Barr Foundation blog, Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, a national coalition of investors, environmental organizations, and public interest groups working with companies to address sustainability issues, looks at some of the companies that are stepping up to address the climate change threat

One major American company, Google, has announced that it will nearly double the amount of renewable energy it uses to power its data centers, with six different wind and solar power projects scheduled to come online within the next two years in the U.S., Chile, and Sweden. Michael Liedtke reports for the Washington Post.


The San Diego chapter of the Alzheimer's Association has joined the New York chapter in splitting from the national federation, setting itself up as a purely locally operated organization. The San Diego Tribune's Bradley J. Fikes reports.


Is donor-driven charity dying? After noting on the Huffington Post's Impact blog that the latest numbers released by the World Giving Index show that while total giving is up, the number of individuals making those gifts is down by 5 percent, George McGraw, founder and executive director of digdeep.org, argues that nonprofits need to start developing new revenue models and offers a few suggestions.

International Affairs/Development

Reuters' Joe Brock and Stella Mapenzauswa report that China plans to pour $60 billion into development projects in Africa, cancel some debt, and boost agriculture under a three-year plan that is likely to extend Beijing's influence on the continent.

Nonprofit Management

"A nonprofit is only as good as its team of people. [And] with many of the board members rotating off after their terms have expired, it becomes an ongoing challenge to keep them apprised of potential risks and challenges." On his Nonprofit Management blog, Eugene Fram lists and ranks several of the "people risks" that board members need to be aware of.


On the HistPhil blog, Ben Soskis does a deep dive, adapted from a monograph he wrote last year, on the "political and ideological indeterminacy" of the charity-versus-philanthropy dichotomy.

Social Good

The big news in philanthropy this week was the announcement by Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan that they plan to dedicate 99 percent of their net worth — the bulk of it tied up in Facebook shares currently valued at some $45 billion — to advance human potential and promote equality. Some saw it as evidence that the Giving Pledge campaign started by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates five years ago is having a real impact on the country's billionaires. Some stepped forward with thoughtful advice for the young couple, who just celebrated the birth of their first child. And some questioned whether billionaire donors like Zuckerberg and Chan have too much power to decide what is good for the rest of us.

Elsewhere, Pro Publica's Jesse Eisinger noted that Zuckerberg and Chan, instead of establishing a private foundation to fund their efforts, chose to create a limited liability corporation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, that can invest in for-profit companies, make political donations, and lobby for changes in the law, enabling them to remain "completely free to do as [they wish] with [their] money." Another who had doubts was Michael Edwards, a distinguished senior fellow at Demos and editor of the Transformations blog, who argued (in the pages of the Chronicle of Philanthropy) that Zuckerberg and Chan are simply following a "well-worn path" that leads "to failure and resentment." Indeed, both "old" and "new" philanthropy, Edwards wrote, are "predicated on an incredibly inefficient model of problem solving: encourage 1 percent of the population to accumulate vast fortunes at considerable social and environmental cost while the other 99 per cent struggles to stay afloat...."

The conversation sparked by the announcement also touched on the tax implications of the LLC structure. In a conversation with the New York Times, Zuckerberg himself noted that he and his wife have used LLCs for some of their other community-oriented endeavors and went on to address concerns that the decision to go with an LLC was a way to avoid taxes on the $45 billion block of stock, saying that if he and his wife had "transferred our shares to a traditional foundation, then we would have received an immediate tax benefit, but by using an LLC we do not. [J]ust like everyone else, we will pay capital gains taxes when our shares are sold by the LLC." But there's another possibility, writes Jesse Eisinger: "If the LLC donated to a charity, [Zuckerberg/Chan] would get a deduction just like anyone else." But "the LLC probably won't do that because...[t]he savvier move" — according to Victor Fleischer, a law professor and tax specialist at the University of San Diego School of Law — "would be to have the LLC donate the appreciated shares to charity, which would generate a deduction at fair market value of the stock without triggering any tax."

All the second guessing and criticism of Zuckerberg and Chan's strategy are simply "churlish," argued The Economist's Matthew Bishop, who literally wrote the book (along with co-author Shepley Green) on how the super-rich can save the world. Fusion's Felix Salmon, another fan of the couple's strategy, was more explicit. The Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative

has hugely ambitious aims. As [Zuckerberg] has explained in a thoughtful letter to his newborn daughter Max, the 7.3 billion people alive in the world today are dwarfed by the tens of billions of people who are going to be born in the future. 'We believe all lives have equal value, and that includes the many more people who will live in future generations than live today,' he writes. 'Our society has an obligation to invest now to improve the lives of all those coming into this world, not just those already here.'

This can be read as platitudinous philanthropic throat-clearing, but in fact it's much more important, and much more controversial, than that. The most important stick that Zuckerberg has planted in the ground this week is not the fact that he has set up an LLC rather than a charitable foundation, nor is it the precedent of a man just 31 years old making such a large charitable pledge. Rather, it’s Zuckerberg's high-level view of intergenerational equity....

Although you shouldn't consider it an endorsement, we'll give the final word to Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, who told Fortune that he has no plans to give the bulk of his estimated $85 billion fortune to charity. "Foundations do not solve poverty," Slim said at an event in Mexico City. "Employment requires that companies invest, so we don't need to give away companies, we need to create companies."

And 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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