74 posts categorized "author-Regina Mahone"

Philanthropy and the Open Society: A Q&A With Christopher Stone, President, Open Society Foundations

August 22, 2013

Headshot_christopher_stone"George Soros once told a group of people he and I were speaking to that my appointment signaled no change in the Open Society Foundations, because change had been a constant since OSF's birth and would continue into the foreseeable future," said Christopher Stone when we spoke to him earlier this year.  "And that certainly applies to our funding priorities."

Since Stone joined the Open Society Foundations as president in 2012, many have wondered how, if at all, the change in leadership might affect the global network of philanthropies started and funded by Soros, the hedge fund billionaire. After all, Stone succeeded Open Society's founding president, Aryeh Neier, a former executive director of Human Rights Watch, national director of the American Civil Liberties Union, and a close Soros friend who led the foundation for nearly twenty years, helping "to make...[it] into a truly international organization." With foundations in dozens of countries around the world, it was unclear -- and concerning to some -- how Stone intended to "streamline" what Soros previously had described in an interview with the New York Times as "a very complex organization." But, as Stone told us when we spoke with him, what Soros was alluding to was nothing more than new ways of organizing the Foundations' work so that it could "achieve more with each grant, program, and strategy."

Before joining Open Society, Stone served as Guggenheim Professor of the Practice of Criminal Justice at the John F. Kennedy School of Government and director of the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations. Prior to that, he served as director of the Vera Institute of Justice, founded the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, and served as a founding director of the New York State's Capital Defender Office and the Altus Global Alliance.

PND spoke with Stone in May and followed up with him via e-mail earlier this month.

Philanthropy News Digest: You were once described by Open Society founder George Soros as an "outsider insider." What did he mean?

Christopher Stone: I think he meant that I've been associated with the Open Society Foundations since the 1990s, but I haven't truly been inside the organization. I've been an advisory board member of the Open Society Justice Initiative since 2004 and an occasional advisor and grantee of the organization since the Open Society Institute was created in 1993. But I've been outside the organization in the sense that I haven't worked directly for Open Society, and I haven't been on any of its governing boards, until now. I can appreciate the organization and understand its history, but I don't have the commitments and am not wedded to any particular elements of the foundations that George Soros, I think, is hoping we will be reviewing over this transition.

PND: What has your varied experience taught you about the potential and limits of philanthropy?

CS: Over the years, I've known a number of foundation presidents and worked with many foundations, occasionally as an informal advisor and mostly as a grantee. Among other things, I've learned that, like other fields, the philanthropic sector is all about relationships; that foundations vary tremendously from one to another; and that they are really dependent in all sorts of ways on their grantees. Not just to execute the projects they support, but to help define and inform their sense of the field. Foundations work hard at getting outside opinions and observations. But it's a hard thing to do, and I think the mutual dependence of foundations on grantees, and grantees on foundations, is not as obvious to a lot of people who assume that the grantee is a supplicant and the foundation has all the cards.

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Weekend Link Roundup (July 6-7, 2013)

July 07, 2013

Summer_in_the_cityOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Corporate Philanthropy

Triple Pundit's Andrea Newell chats with Michelle Crozier Yates of Adobe about the company's sustainability program, which focuses on green building. Over the last ten years, says Yates, Adobe has "implemented more than 100 sustainability projects across our real estate portfolio,...from conservation strategies, [to] renewable energy investments...[and] carbon reduction projects, [to] employee education and engagement programs...."

Writing on Google's blog, Zanoon Nissar recaps the search giant's 2013 GoogleServe program, which saw 8,500 employees from more than 75 Google offices participate in some 500 community projects. "Over the past six years, GoogleServe has transformed from a single week of service into a week of celebration and inspiration for ongoing giving," writes Nissar. "Googlers also give back year-round through our GooglersGive programs, which include 20 hours of work time annually to volunteer with an approved charitable organization."


Future Fundraising Now blogger Jeff Brooks shares a list of e-mail copy mistakes to avoid, including forgetting to make your case and writing like a robot.

Nonprofit Management

With lots of people still talking about The Overhead Myth, an initiative launched by GuideStar, Charity Navigator, and the BBB Wise Giving Alliance to get people to move beyond "overhead" -- the percentage of its budget that any charity spends on administrative costs -- as the most important measure of organizational performance, the Nonprofits Assistance Fund's Kate Barr argues that the real issue isn't overhead at all -- "it’s about stewardship." And good stewards "invest appropriately in [their] organizations....Maybe," Barr adds, "we need...new terminology to bust the 'overhead' term along with the myth.

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Weekend Link Roundup (June 29-30, 2013)

June 28, 2013

Hancock_150th_stampOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Civil Society

Responding to the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Shelby County v. Holder on Tuesday, a decision that found Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to be unconstitutional, Niki Jagpal of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy writes that the court, in so ruling, gutted "key provisions of the VRA that protected historically disenfranchised populations." Specifically, the decision undoes the "'preclearance' requirement in the original VRA," which compelled "local governments and states with a history of voting discrimination to get federal approval before making any changes to their voting procedures and laws." Although the court's decision doesn't nullify Section 4, its implementation now depends on Congress enacting "a new statute determining which states and individuals it applies to."

Jagpal continues,

The right to vote is the most fundamental way in which citizens have a voice in our democracy. In addition to Congress needing to reinstate the key provisions of the VRA, it is imperative that nonprofits working on voting rights issues be provided with the kinds of support they need to complement the hoped-for statue.

Philanthropy has an opportunity to contribute to the public good by helping to restore implementation of the now-gutted provisions. And grantmakers must consider that the Court’s ruling is likely an outcome of a sustained, well-funded movement among conservatives to roll back provisions of the VRA and the Civil Rights Movement....


Kivi Leroux Miller shares a slideshow from her webinar "21 Things Nonprofit Marketers Can Stop Doing!" -- a list that includes outreach campaigns designed with the general public in mind, rather than efforts focused on groups likely to support your cause; letting lawyers or accountants dictate marketing strategies; and paying for custom software instead of using commercial or open-source solutions that are more likely to be updated as technology and the market changes.

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Weekend Link Roundup (June 22-23, 2013)

June 23, 2013

Summer_sun_drawingOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Big Data

To get the most out of "big and open data," you need to know what the data is being used for and you need to be transparent, writes Abby Young-Powell, content coordinator for the Guardian's Voluntary Sector Network. In her post, Young-Powell shares data literacy advice from ten experts, including Mike Thompson, senior consultant at mySociety, who counsels nonprofits "to be clear about what question you're trying to answer before you set up your data collection and analysis activities," and James Noble, a professional social researcher at New Philanthropy Capital, who advises nonprofits not to "jump to their final outcome...without considering the intermediate steps that are vital to attribution and are often easier to measure."


On the GrantCraft blog, Greater NYC for Change president Naomi Rothwell reflects on the critical support Atlantic Philanthropies provided over the years to efforts to get the Affordable Care Act passed. The New York City-based foundation is in the process of spending down its assets, however, and Rothwell wonders which foundation or foundations will step up to fill the critical role Atlantic has played in the social justice arena. What do you think? Share your thoughts here or in the comments section below.

Human Rights

On the Foundation Center's Transparency Talk blog, Caitlin Stanton, director of learning and partnerships at the Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights, highlights findings from a new report on human rights grantmaking issued by the International Human Rights Funders Group in partnership with the Foundation Center. Among other things, the report, Advancing Human Rights: The State of Global Foundation Grantmaking, found that "foundation grantmaking to address these issues occurs on a global scale and is a widespread practice, with 703 foundations giving a total of $1.2 billion in grants for human rights causes in 2010." You can download the complete report (142 pages, PDF), free of charge, here.

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'Flip' Chat Series Turns Three

June 21, 2013

Three years ago this week, we published our first "Flip" chat, with Idealist.org founder and executive director Ami Dar. Since then, we've posted more than forty-five videos with thought leaders in the social sector. To celebrate that accomplishment -- as well as the fact that our excellent adventures in video blogging have outlasted the Flip cam itself (Cisco bought and then discontinued the product line a few years ago) -- here's a list of the ten most popular "Flip" chats posted here on PhilanTopic.  

Who would you like to see us interview for the series? Drop us a note in the comments section below. And be sure to check out other videos in the series here.

-- Regina Mahone

Weekend Link Roundup (June 15-16, 2013)

June 16, 2013

Fathers-day-2013Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Civic Engagement

Guest blogging at Beth's Kanter's blog, Kate Wing, a program officer at the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation, shares some of the exciting new developments in the civic engagement space she heard about at the 2013 Personal Democracy Forum conference.

Corporate Philanthropy

"Stop bending over backwards for corporate partners," Denise Lillya, a senior research at the Directory for Social Change in the UK, tells nonprofits. "[C]ompanies usually want to hear what they're going to get out of any giving; they are receptive to arguments that it is a saving, an opportunity, an investment," Lillya writes, but "it's clear that too many companies continue to regard philanthropy as a means by which they can benefit -- ironic as that is."


Christian Villum, community manager for Open Government Data at the Open Knowledge Foundation, announces the Global Open Data Initiative, a joint effort of the foundation, the Open Institute, Fundar, the Sunlight Foundation, the World Wide Web Foundation, and Open Knowledge to share principles and resources with governments and other stakeholders on how to harness opportunities created by opening government data.

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Foundations and Public Interest Media: A 'Flip' Chat With Vince Stehle, Executive Director, Media Impact Funders

June 12, 2013

(The video below was recorded as part of our "Flip" chat series of conversations with thought leaders in the social sector. You can check out other videos in the series here, including our recent chat with Mona Chun, deputy director of the International Human Rights Funders Group.)

"There's a saying: If paying for journalism is a down payment on democracy, it's a bargain," Vince Stehle, executive director of Media Impact Funders, told me during a recent chat. "The cost of corruption and a lack of transparency and accountability in government can really be a costly thing for society in many ways, so whatever we need to pay, whether it's through commercial media or through foundation and individual support for journalism, is a bargain."

The wisdom of Stehle's words has never been more apparent. And yet, with the economy stuck in neutral and cheap digital tools making it easy for anyone to be a publisher, traditional news and media outlets find themselves under increasing pressure to cut costs and "right-size" their operations -- or get out of the way.

Enter nonprofit news organizations. While the number of such organizations has increased over the last few years and the nonprofit model would seem to be more sustainable than the traditional ad-based model, a new report from the Pew Research Center suggests that nonprofit media outlets face considerable challenges of their own -- foremost among them inadequate and uncertain revenue streams. Indeed, the report (26 pages, PDF) found that while 61 percent of the nonprofit news outlets surveyed received a startup grant from a foundation, only 28 percent reported that the funder making the grant had agreed to renew it.

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Weekend Link Roundup (June 8-9, 2013)

June 09, 2013

RNadal_2013FrenchOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....


"The idea behind nonprofit mergers isn't cost savings -- in a high-touch world like ours, there is only so much excess you might be able to trim in a merger," writes Boston Foundation president/CEO Paul Grogan in PhilanTopic. "Rather, it's all about service. Organizations that merge and/or collaborate build capacity to do more of what they do best, and do it even better...."


On the Knight Foundation blog, Elizabeth Miller highlights conversations from the 2013 Grantmakers for Effective Organizations conference about how funders can better communicate what they learn:

Prioritize the audience. Know specifically whom you're trying to reach with your findings so that what you're learning is shared in the right circles.

Market determines method. Understanding who will benefit from these insights may determine the best way to deliver them. Different platforms or social media outlets may be your "friends" in distinct cases.

Enlist the evaluated. Work with grantees to help disseminate the findings.

Reflect and refine. Take time to measure the success of your efforts. Measurement is as important as the planning process in terms of understanding what works. Use specific analytics to determine whether dissemination methods were effective, whether you targeted the right audiences, and how you could improve on the overall strategy next time.

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Weekend Link Roundup (June 1-2, 2013)

June 02, 2013

Summer_funOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....


Guest blogging on the Inside Philanthropy blog, Katherine McLane, vice president for communications and external affairs at the Livestrong Foundation, explains how the organization plans to move on from the doping scandal involving its founder, international cycling star and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong. "None of us anticipated the rapid and radical changes that are now the new normal," writes McLane. "But we're dusting ourselves off and keeping the focus where it should be: helping people with cancer...."

Community Improvement/Development

The folks at the Philanthropy Potluck blog give a shoutout to MCF member the Bush Foundation, which has launched two new grant programs designed to "enable, inspire, and reward community innovation" in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and the twenty-three Native nations that share the same geography.


On the Chronicle of Philanthropy blog, Carol Weisman, an international consultant who specializes in fundraising, governance, and volunteerism, shares some advice about "what to do when donors say 'no' or 'I'm not sure'."

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(Long) Weekend Link Roundup (May 25-26, 2013)

May 24, 2013

2013_05_MemorialDayOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....


Change.org founder and CEO Ben Rattray proudly announces that the organization, a certified B-corp, recently raised $15 million in investment capital through its first outside financing round, with the bulk of the funds provided by Omidyar Network. Rattray, who has said the organization will never go public, plans to use the investment to build tools that "more effectively empower hundreds of millions of people around the world;...enable people to build long-term movements on our platform; [and] personalize each user’s experience to better connect people to the issues and organizations they care most about....'


On her Getting Attention blog, Nancy Schwartz shares a few tips from Amy Sample Ward and Allyson Kapin's new book Social Change Anytime Everywhere for nonprofits looking to improve their next multichannel campaign.

Community Improvement/Development

Ed Skloot, director of the Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society at Duke University, announces the publication of a new installment in a series of "occasional essays" written by thought leaders in the sector. In Changing the Game (48 pages, PDF), Boston Foundation president/CEO Paul Grogan reflects on the state of philanthropy and "the compelling strengths of community foundations as seen from his perch." Among other things, Grogan, who has served as president of the Boston Foundation for more than a decade, explains how "contemporary community foundations can become more agile, energized, relevant, and not least, consequential in their communities."

And on the CNN site, John Bare, vice president of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation and executive-in-residence at Georgia Tech's Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship, looks at how foundations, the Hudson-Webber Foundation among them, are rethinking their giving in Detroit to achieve maximum impact.

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Weekend Link Roundup (May 18-19, 2013)

May 19, 2013

Graduation_tossOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....


We're big fans of data visualization whiz Hans Rosling, and so is Humanosphere blogger Tom Paulson. But, writes Paulson, Rosling "is strikingly upfront about the limitations of data. Sometimes, the problem is that different countries measure things -- like unemployment -- in different ways....In other cases, there are real uncertainties in the data that must be assessed: child mortality statistics are quite precise, whereas maternal mortality figures are not; global poverty measurements are infrequent and uncertain." And so on. Still, when it comes to telling stories with numbers, few can rival Rosling, as the video Paulson embeds in his short post well illustrates.


In a post on the Huffington Post Impact blog, Chris Gabrieli, co-chair of the Time to Succeed Coalition and founder and chair of the National Center on Time & Learning, and Ford Foundation president Luis Ubiñas discuss the progress the coalition, which works to ensure that children in high-poverty neighborhoods have access to more and better learning time in school, has made since its was established a year ago.


On her About.com blog, Joanne Fritz gives a thumbs up to Future Fundraising Now blogger Jeff Brooks' The Fundraiser's Guide to Irresistble Communications. Among the things she liked, writes Fritz, is Brooks' admonition that "our biggest mistake in fundraising is thinking that what we like is what works. We're self-centered, rather than donor-focused. And, frankly, we are soooo off the mark."

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Weekend Link Roundup (May 11-12, 2013)

May 12, 2013

Poster_mothers-rightOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....


On the Philanthropy Potluck blog, Megan Sullivan shares a list of tools for resource-constrained nonprofit communications officers.


Frustrated by your organization's inability to turn its good work into consistent, sustainable donor support? Hop over to the Fired-Up Fundraising blog, where fundraising consultant Gail Perry shares a very good list of the ten things you need to understand about how fundraising really works. Recommended.


On the Markets for Good blog, Laura Quinn, executive director of Idealware, argues that as much as funders and others value the idea of more and better performance data from nonprofits, most nonprofits do not have the resources to provide high-quality data about their own effectiveness. How do we get them to a point where that’s possible? asks Quinn.

It would take more than just a little training or a second look at their priorities. They'd need sizable investments in a number of areas. They'd need help with technology, and to understand how to best make use of data and metrics on a limited budget. They'd need a rationalized set of metrics and indicators that they're expected to report on, standardized as much as possible per sector with a standard way to provide them to those who need them.

Funders need to understand what is and isn't feasible, and to redirect the focus of their desire for community impact evaluations from small nonprofits to the university and research world so the nonprofits they support can be unencumbered to work toward a better world....

Building out the "information infrastructure" of the social sector, as Markets for Good and its supporters (the Gates and Hewlett foundations prominent among them) propose to do, is an admirable idea, writes Bridgespan's Daniel Stid on the Markets for Good blog. But "if we build it," he asks, "will the putative buyers and sellers in the envisioned marketplace -- the philanthropists and nonprofits spending and soliciting money within it -- use it as planned?... [W]ill better information change their behavior?" What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Advancing Human Rights: A 'Flip' Chat With Mona Chun, Deputy Director, IHRFG

May 07, 2013

(The video below was recorded as part of our "Flip" chat series of conversations with thought leaders in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. You can check out other videos in the series here, including our previous chat with Harish Bhandari, director of digital engagement and innovation at the Robin Hood Foundation.)  

Since 2012, the Foundation Center has been working with the International Human Rights Funders Group to develop a framework for assessing the state of human rights grantmaking around the globe. The two organizations recently released some key findings (12 pages, PDF) of their research based on data collected from IHRFG, Ariadne, and the International Network of Women's Funds and an analysis of more than seven hundred funders representing twenty-nine countries. 

Among other things, the analysis found that in 2010 the United States accounted for the largest number of human rights funders -- which may be a reflection of the ability to draw upon a wealth of data on U.S.-based philanthropy through the Foundation Center's database and the lack of a similar resource outside of the U.S. -- followed by Western Europe, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific, Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East.

The analysis also found that the Ford Foundation was the largest funder of human rights by grant dollars ($159.5 million), while the Open Society Foundations reported the largest number of human rights grants (1,248); that human rights funders awarded a total of $1.2 billion in 2010; and that the largest share (69 percent) of that funding went to U.S.-based organizations, many of which work in other countries, regions, and/or at the global level.

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Weekend Link Roundup (May 4-5, 2013)

May 05, 2013

Derby-winner-orbWhat a gorgeous weekend! Hope yours, wherever you are, was half as nice. Here, a little late, is our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....


The Catalytic Network, an interesting new initiative of the Rockefeller Foundation, aims to share tools and stories which emerge from the foundation's work with innovators around the globe. In that spirit, Michael Myers, a senior policy officer at the foundation, lays out the 5 Golden Rules of a Great Pitch on the network's site to help nonprofits better tell their story.

The five rules are:

  • Keep it under two minutes.
  • Know your audience, and know the ask.
  • Talk about the problem you are solving -- in one sentence.
  • Give two reasons why your approach is unique.
  • Leave them one memorable, repeatable story.


On the Harvard Business Review blog network, Mark Bonchek, "chief catalyst" at Orbit & Co, argues that without Little Data -- "what we know about ourselves. What we buy. Who we know. Where we go. How we spend our time" -- Big Data "has a tendency to become Big Brother," and that without Big Data, Little Data "is incomplete."

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Weekend Link Roundup (April 27-28, 2013)

April 28, 2013

Kontiki2Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....


Our friends at the Communications Network have a nice Q&A with Lucas Held, director of communications at the Wallace Foundation, who, among other things, calls Diffusion of Innovations, a theory developed by the late Everett Rogers, "the most useful tool I have ever encountered for communications."


In a long, fascinating piece in the May/June issue of Foreign Affairs, Kenneth Neil Cukier and Viktor Mayer Schoenberger look at the emergence of "big data" and how it's changing the world. "Using great volumes of information," they write,

requires three profound changes in how we approach data. The first is to collect and use a lot of data rather than settle for small amounts or samples, as statisticians have done for well over a century. The second is to shed our preference for highly curated and pristine data and instead accept messiness: in an increasing number of situations, a bit of inaccuracy can be tolerated, because the benefits of using vastly more data of variable quality outweigh the costs of using smaller amounts of very exact data. Third, in many instances, we will need to give up our quest to discover the cause of things, in return for accepting correlations. With big data, instead of trying to understand precisely why an engine breaks down or why a drug’s side effect disappears, researchers can instead collect and analyze massive quantities of information about such events and everything that is associated with them, looking for patterns that might help predict future occurrences. Big data helps answer what, not why, and often that's good enough....

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Quote of the Week

  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."

    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

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