42 posts categorized "Microfinance"

Weekend Link Roundup (February 5 - 6, 2011)

February 06, 2011

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


On her Getting Attention blog, Nancy Schwartz chats with Nonprofit Marketing Guide author Kivi Leroux Miller about Miller's new report detailing "the most important (and least important) communications tools for [nonprofits in] 2011."


Writing on the NCRP blog, Meredith Brodbeck offers some reflections about the Kellogg Foundation's work to address racial disparities in the United States.


Case Foundation VP for Social Innovation Kari Dunn Saratovsky disagrees with Special Olympics CEO Tim Shriver, who said at a recent conference that past generations "have failed at inspiring the big ideas of the next generation." Not so, writes Saratovsky. "The rising generation is inspired to fight the good fight -- we just have a different way of going about it. Perhaps," she adds,

we forget that it’s the Millennial generation who in large part moved social technologies into the mainstream -- and are now moving them to mobilize around social issues through platforms like Facebook and Twitter. We were the first segment of users who discovered the utility of the technology and exploited it in ways that our parents would have never dreamed. Perhaps this quality of creative thinking when it comes to technology, comes from not being taught or forced into institutional thinking or traditional business cultures, but instead by living lives in a very open and transparent ways -- always searching for answers and willing to take risks. Something that parents like Tim allowed us to do....

On her blog, Beth Kanter shares a few takeaways from a recent discussion on the art of reflection.


Philanthropy Action's Tim Ogden explains why there may yet be sunny days ahead for the microfinance industry. While a study released at the 2010 Microfinance Impact and Innovation Conference found "little evidence that borrowers significantly increase their incomes, invest heavily in their businesses, or that children attend more school or women become empowered," writes Ogden, the findings are "driven by unrealistic expectations. The studies have thoroughly exploded the myth that microcredit is a silver bullet for eliminating poverty. But believing that microcredit -- or anything -- is a silver bullet for poverty was silly in the first place...."


World Affairs Council president and CEO Jane Wales responds to a New York Times article that criticized the leadership of Google.org, the philanthropic arm of the search giant, for making bold claims "and raising expectations to a level that could not be met in a period short enough to match our attention span....While that criticism may be fair," writes Wales,

in the scheme of things, it seems unimportant. Like the rest of us, Googlers could not and cannot foresee the full social, economic and political implications of providing the world’s knowledge to those who were previously isolated by poverty or politics....But Googlers do know one thing, and that is the level at which large decisions will be made -- and that is at the level of the individual....

Social Media

In this month's installment of her Social Good podcast, Allison Fine chats with Network for Good's Katya Andresen and UC San Francisco's Lena Shaw about how nonprofits can use social media in their annual appeals.

And on her blog, Fine, co-author (with Beth Kanter) of The Networked Nonprofit, responds to a blog post by New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell, who in October touched off an Internet firestorm with an article that seemed to minimize the importance of social media as a driver of social change, in which Gladwell says that the use of social media by Egyptian protestors is "less interesting, in the end, than why they were driven to [protest] in the first place." Fine couldn't disagree more and argues that the "advent of social media provides three critical resources for protesters today":

  1. The ability to initially organize as the Egyptian protesters did on Facebook and Twitter to connect with their friends, but more importantly, the friends of friends, the network.
  2. The power to change meeting places or times in real time using tools like text messaging, Twitter or Foursquare.
  3. The ability to share their stories, pictures, and videos with the rest of the world.

Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Jeffery Rayport argues that Facebook, the social networking super site, has become a sort of ubiquitous branded utility that not only is changing business, but is "changing us in ways that are arguably out of anyone's control...."


Last but not least, Netsuite philanthropy program manager David Geilhufe makes a case on the Nonprofit Technology Network blog for hiring experienced technology experts rather than relying on the limited knowledge of "accidental techies."

That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at rnm@foundationcenter.org. And have a great week!

-- Regina Mahone

Weekend Link Roundup (January 15 - 16, 2011)

January 16, 2011

Martin-luther-king-jr Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....


On her Non-Profit Marketing blog, Katya Andresen explains why, in a 2.0 world, the terms audience, cultivation, and message strategy "don’t reflect how [nonprofits] should be doing business."

Disaster Relief

Last week saw the one-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake that killed over 200,000 and left a million more homeless in Haiti. To mark the occasion, a number of bloggers weighed in with their thoughts and reflections. In a post on her Philanthropy 2173 blog, Lucy Bernholz looks at a new report from the Knight Foundation which examined the roles of media and communications in responding to the disaster and offers some second thoughts of her own on the role of mobile text giving in the wake of the disaster.

On the GiveWell blog, Holden Karnofsky explains what charities have and have not accomplished in Haiti in the twelve months since the quake, while on the Charity Navigator blog Sandra Miniutti shares a few comments from disaster relief organizations that were made during a recent roundtable discussion "about what went right, what went wrong....and what’s next for their charity in Haiti."


In conjunction with Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Niki Jagpal and Kevin Laskowski of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy wonder whether philanthropy is commendable? "For us," they write

this is what it really comes down to: how does philanthropy measure up during these challenging times? Are we good philanthropic neighbors? Is institutional philanthropy the priest or the Levite or the Samaritan? Are grantmakers truly willing to take risks to help a brother or sister in need? Is philanthropy more than merely commendable? Do we possess the dangerous altruism of the good Samaritan and of the man whose legacy we celebrate this holiday?

Poverty Alleviation

The already heated debate around microcredit and the proper role of for-profit lenders in the space got even hotter this weekend. On Saturday, in the op-ed pages of the New York Times, Grameen Bank founder and microfinance pioneer Muhammad Yunus argued that in its quest for profits, the industry had lost its way. In a post on his Philanthrocapitalism blog, Matthew Bishop quickly rode to the defense of for-profit microlenders, taking Yunus to task for suggesting, among other things, that they were "loan sharks" and comparing the Nobel Prize winner to the mythical Greek titan Cronus, who devoured his own children rather than let them take his place in the heavens. Bishop's post, in turn, drew a sharp reponse from Reuters financial blogger Felix Salmon, who used words like "peculiar" and "disengenuous" to characterize Bishop's arguments. You can bet we'll be hearing a lot more on this topic in the months to come.

On the Case Foundation blog, Josh Tabb shares a video in which Invisible.tv founder Mark Horvath explains how he uses technology to give the homeless a voice.

Social Media

And on the Frogloop blog, Rad Campaign co-founder Allyson Kapin argues that social media is a bubble about to burst. Writes Kapin:

In the past four years, we have witnessed social media transition from a social space to a medium that often feels like a competitive public relations arena filled with “influencers” who have so-called Klout and strategists who have made money on empty promises.

"To be honest, it's so crowded and very few people are listening to the open stream anymore. That was quite different when we originally launched TweetsGiving," said [Stacey] Monk [co-founder, Epic Change].

So the next time someone tells your nonprofit that social media is the bees knees, ask them to show you social media's ROI - aka it's direct impact on nonprofits. Ask them to show you the increase in memberships and donations across the nonprofit sector and the evidence that more people are calling or meeting with their members of Congress to lobby for legislation. Ask for proof that the needle is being moved.

Social media as a fundraising, list building, and organizing tool has been inflated for four years. How much longer can nonprofits afford to significantly over-invest in it, before the bubble bursts?

That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at rnm@foundationcenter.org and have a great week!

-- Regina Mahone

Weekend Link Roundup (January 8 - 9, 2011)

January 09, 2011

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


Inspired by the Washington Post's 2011 In/Out List, Network for Good's Katya Andresen shares what's in and out for nonprofits in the New Year. Her list, which was compiled with Mark Rovner of Sea Change Strategies, includes:

In: Metrics that matter
Out: Metrics that are easy to obtain

In: Integrated communications
Out: Multi-channel communications

In: Speaking from the heart
Out: Speaking from the left brain

On her Getting Attention blog, Nancy Schwartz explains why sometimes it's "better not to say (or video) anything at all, than to release a video without meaning."

Disaster Relief

After taking a close look at a number of disaster relief organizations' financial information, GiveWell's Holden Karnofsky concludes that "there is a lot of room for improvement in the information currently available for disaster relief donors, and a lot of room to improve incentives for the major disaster relief organizations to be as transparent and accountable as possible."


On his On the Ground blog, New York Times reporter Nick Kristof wonders whether Bangladesh has it in for Grameen Bank and its founder, Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. According to Kristof:

The Bangladeshi press has lately been full of denunciations of Yunus. On Tuesday, for example, one Bangladeshi news organization quoted an economist as saying of him: "A lot about him is just myth. [He] had never been selfless in any of his initiatives." Meanwhile the Bangladeshi government has ordered a corruption investigation of Grameen after a Norwegian television documentary raised questions, even though the Norwegian government said there was nothing to the charges. There have also been (false) published reports that Yunus will resign and suggestions that he should retire for reasons of age....

Writing on their Philanthrocapitalism blog, Matthew Bishop and Michael Green argue that "The attack on Mr. Yunus is part of a far wider backlash against microfinance, and businesslike approaches to helping the poor, that we predict will grow around the world this year. Grameen Bank," they add, "is the poster child for a movement: there is a great deal at stake here for the entire movement, which is at the heart of philanthrocapitalism...."


On her Philanthropy 2173 blog, Lucy Bernholz shares a list of the top ten philanthropy-related buzzwords that defined the decade just passed.

Social Media

One the Social Citizens blog, Kristin Ivie shares eight social media resolutions for 2011 and asks readers to chime in with suggestions of their own. Her list includes more and deeper listening to others on sites like Twitter, trying something new to see what you might be missing, and thinking before you post anything in order to avoid taking "a ride on the oversharing train."

That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at rnm@foundationcenter.org and have a great week!

(Photo credit: MadChicken)

-- Regina Mahone

Year in Review: Microfinance Experiences Growing Pains

December 30, 2010

Microfinance-women It was a year characterized by change, and controversy, in the world of microfinance.

In January, microfinance institutions (MFIs) were put to the test when a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, leaving millions of people homeless and countless livelihoods shattered. In a country where, pre-earthquake, 80 percent of residents lived on less than $2 a day, MFIs have always been important as "banks to the poor," and have always faced challenges. After the quake, however, they provided an indispensable lifeline to millions of people trying to rebuild their lives and businesses, even as the financial health of many became as precarious as that of the customers they serve.

Indeed, in the year since the quake, the share of microcredit clients in Haiti who have defaulted or are at risk of defaulting has more than doubled, to 18 percent (compared with the international rate of almost 3 percent), while fully a quarter of the $38 million in microcredit loans outstanding could end up in default. And with only a third of the $6 billion pledged for reconstruction efforts at a United Nations donors conference in March having been committed to specific projects, coupled with fresh travails like the recent cholera outbreak and post-election violence, MFIs in Haiti will continue to be challenged.

Elsewhere, MFIs experimented with new approaches, often funded by foundation and corporate dollars. In January, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded a total of $38 million to eighteen MFIs to make savings accounts available to the rural poor in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, while in February the Grameen Foundation announced a three-year, $3 million grant from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation to expand its program to increase microfinance volunteerism among senior working professionals.

That same month, Global Partnerships, which provides capital and expertise to "social enterprise" MFIs, announced that it had launched a modest expansion into Mexico, where lack of competition had kept microfinance interest rates high, while Grameen announced an effort to better target poor clients in Mali and Senegal.

By mid-year, however, many longtime proponents of microfinance had begun to lament the growing commercialization of the field, as a number of for-profit banks began to take advantage of market discontinuities to charge exorbitant interest rates and impose steep fees on clients. Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus, widely credited with developing the microcredit concept, even argued that microcredit interest rates should be no more than 15 percent above the cost of capital — a "test" that 75 percent of MFIs worldwide would fail, according to data from the Microfinance Information Exchange.

The profits-versus-altruism debate heated up over the summer, when one of the world's largest microlenders, India-based SKS Microfinance, went public, raising $358 million. Eyebrows were raised when it was revealed that the company's founder, Vikram Akula, and other investors, including a number of prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalists, stood to profit handsomely from the IPO. Also embroiled in the controversy was Seattle-based Unitus, an international nonprofit that works to accelerate the growth of microfinance. In July, the organization, whose stake in SKS was worth millions after the IPO, shocked the nonprofit community when it announced it was laying off its forty-person staff and exiting the microfinance field. The announcement led many to question the motives of the organization's board members, at least four of whom had invested personally in SKS and stood to realize sizable profits from its going public.

By the end of the year, reports started to emerge that Indian microfinance institutions were facing many of the same difficulties as struggling MFIs in Haiti. Indeed, in November it was reported that almost all borrowers in Andhra Pradesh, one of the country's largest states, had stopped repaying their loans — egged on by local politicians who accused the microcredit industry in India of profiting on the backs of the poor. The SKS public offering and for-profit MFIs charging sky-high interest rates helped fuel public outrage, and by year's end legislators had passed a law that restricts how companies can lend and collect money.

"We created microcredit to fight the loan sharks; we didn't create microcredit to encourage new loan sharks," Yunus told a group of financial officials at the United Nations back in the spring. "Microcredit should be seen as an opportunity to help people get out of poverty in a business way, but not as an opportunity to make money out of poor people."


2010: The Year in Review

December 26, 2010

Pnd_year_review_2010 The year opened on a horrific note, with a January earthquake in Haiti killing an estimated 250,000 people and leaving millions more homeless. While international aid and humanitarian groups rushed to provide assistance, the scale of the destruction, logistical bottlenecks, and bureaucratic red tape seemed to defeat their best efforts. Indeed, by year's end, the situation on the ground had improved only marginally, underscoring yet again the challenges associated with coordinating and sustaining long-term recovery efforts in poor (and poorly governed) countries.

Just a few months later, bad news from Haiti was crowded out by news of a second disaster, this time in the Gulf of Mexico, where BP's Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank in April. As underwater cameras broadcast live video of the busted well spewing crude into the Gulf at the rate of 50,000 barrels a day, BP and the federal government scrambled to contain the damage. It wasn't until mid-July -- too late for the region's fishing and tourism industries -- that they succeeded in capping the well, but even as the UK-based oil giant pledged tens of millions to clean up the mess and make reparations, the long-term environmental impact of the worst marine oil spill in the history of the industry remained an open question.

As if to confirm the old saying that bad things happen in threes, heavy monsoon rains in Pakistan in July coupled with large-scale deforestation in the Himalayan foothills soon led to unprecedented flooding in the world's sixth-most populous country. As the floodwaters rose throughout the month of August, eventually destroying millions of hectares of crops and upending the lives of some twenty million people, the United Nations moved to mount a relief effort. But whether because of Pakistan's distance from Europe and North America, the problematic security situation in the country, or the relatively low number of casualties, donors in the developed world for the most part responded with expressions of sympathy and turned their attention elsewhere.

On a more upbeat note, a campaign by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates to get billionaires on the Forbes 400 list to pledge half their wealth to charity met with surprising success; a White House initiative to identify and leverage support for innovative social problems was launched and, after a stumble or two, gained its footing; and the U.S. economy continued to recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Before we close the books on 2010, the editors of PND look back at some of the important philanthropic stories and personalities of the year just passed.

Readings (October 27, 2010)

October 27, 2010

A few items that caught our attention today as we were sailing the Twitterverse:

Thoughts, questions, concerns? 

CGI 2010 Highlights [Video]

September 26, 2010

It was a busy week here in New York, and I'm still trying to process the dozens of sessions that were webcast from (or in conjunction with) the UN Millennium Development Summit and the sixth annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative.

For many, CGI and the MDG campaign epitomize everything that's wrong with international development as practiced by rich donor governments and their NGO partners: an addiction to grand schemes; an over-reliance on technocrats; and an unwillingness or inability to address some of the most important contributing factors (agricultural subsidies, resource exploitation, corruption) to global poverty.

I'm not an aid expert. But I found myself (as I have in the past) inspired by much of what I saw and heard this week in New York. Yes, the UN, which was established by charter in 1945, is showing its age. At the same time, one has to be impressed by a new generation of activist-geeks who want to open-up and energize the MDG campaign with social media. And sure, there are all sorts of agendas in play at a CGI meeting. But as Bill Clinton reminded those in attendance (and all of us watching on the Web), the folks making commitments, taking time out from busy schedules, and/or flying halfway around the globe to be part of a panel don't have to be there; they want to be there.

So without further adieu, here are three of my favorite sessions from this year's CGI meeting:

Continue reading »

This Week in PubHub: International Affairs/Development: Economic Development

July 07, 2010

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center's online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her last post, she wrote about health care and language services.)

At a time when good news is scarce, one recent report highlights some welcome findings: We seem to be making progress toward achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. With an eye to exploring strategies aimed at further reducing global poverty, this week in PubHub we are featuring reports in the international affairs/development category, with a focus on economic development in conflict areas and developing countries.

Millennium Development Goals Report Card: Learning From Progress (Overseas Development Institute, UN Millennium Campaign) focuses on three of the eight MDGs: Goal 1 - ending hunger and extreme poverty; Goal 4 - reducing child mortality; and Goal 5 - improving maternal health. According to the report, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty fell from an estimated 1.8 billion in 1990 to 1.4 billion in 2005, while overall child mortality dropped from 101 to 69 per 1,000 live births and access to maternal health services increased in 80 percent of countries. To be sure, progress is uneven, and hundreds of millions of people still live on less than $1 a day, but even a little good news is better than none at all.

Franchising in Frontier Markets: What's Working, What's Not, and Why, a December 2009 report from Dalberg Global Development Advisers (with funding from the John Templeton Foundation), examines the potential of franchising as a model for sustainable economic development in Africa and South Asia, the necessary conditions for franchising success, and its synergies with microfinance. While noting the challenges of socially motivated attempts at franchising in the healthcare sector (lack of self-sustaining business models, over-reliance on grants), the report showcases successful micro-franchise models and offers advice to donors and investors.

The World Resources Institute's September 2009 report On the Frontiers of Finance: Scaling Up Investment in Sustainable Small and Medium Enterprises in Developing Countries focuses on SMEs that produce environmentally responsible products and/or serve low-income communities with the goal of generating social, environmental, and financial gains. Based on interviews with leading sustainable SME investment fund managers, the authors recommend improving capital allocation through better investor/funder education and implementing high standards of transparency; promoting long-term approaches and financial innovation; and capturing the "triple bottom line" through the use of metrics that communicate impact effectively.

Poverty is exacerbated in conflict areas, where economic, political, and social tensions often reinforce one another in a vicious cycle. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation report Summit on Entrepreneurship and Expeditionary Economics: Toward a New Approach to Economic Growth Following Conflict or Disaster highlights discussions from a May 2010 conference on post-conflict economic development efforts -- past, present, and future. According to the report, the intersecting roles of the military, the international business community, local human capital, and cultural dynamics are central to the debate.

What approaches to international economic development would you like to see explored? What other strategies for fighting hunger and poverty might be pursued? Use the comments section below to share your thoughts. And be sure to visit PubHub to check out the almost 350 reports on various aspects of international affairs/development.

-- Kyoko Uchida

Weekend Link Roundup (April 24 - 25, 2010)

April 25, 2010

Chain-links Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....


Last week, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and fast-food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken unveiled a new cause-marketing campaign, Komen's KFC (Pink) Buckets for the Cure, that nonprofit marketing and communications expert Nancy Schwartz (and others) labeled "a huge...mistake." "Your nonprofit brand is the essence of your organization," writes Schwartz on her Getting Attention blog. "Komen has been trusted as a force for improving women's health....But this deal shows that it can't be trusted as such...."

Network for Good's Katya Andresen discusses the elements of an effective online fundraising campaign in a new video posted to the Chronicle of Philanthropy's Social Philanthropy blog.


Future Fundraising Now blogger Jeff Brooks thinks that fundraisers need to do more than just ask their donors for money. According to Brooks, they also need to thank donors, report back on what donors' gifts have accomplished, ask for things other than money, and in general just try to be nice.

Social Entrepreneurship

Social Entrepreneurship blogger Nathaniel Whittemore explains how he and others managed to plan and execute, in just thirty-two hours, the TEDxVolcano event after the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano disrupted European air travel and left many of this year's Skoll World Forum attendees stranded in London.

GuideStar president and CEO Bob Ottenhoff discusses the importance of providing microcredit loans rather than grants in the developing world. Writes Ottenhoff: "There is the obvious advantage that a loan means the money is eventually returned and can be recycled to be reused for other borrowers. Sustainability for both the lender and the lendee are achieved. More important, it provides dignity to the borrower...."

Social Media

Nonprofit Board Crisis blogger Mike Burns takes a jab at online contests after receiving (via snail mail) a poster from the Community Reinvestment Fund. The poster "instructed" him to vote every day through May 2 to help CRF win Sam's Club Giving Made Simple campaign. "And therein lies my problem with 'American Idol Philanthropy,'" writes Burns. "A bunch of nonprofits are knocking themselves out, taking time away from mission, to get 'hits.'"

Maybe it's time to cut slackers and slacktivists who "are wasting too much time using technology for fun" a, well, little slack, writes Kristin Ivie on the Social Citizens blog. "Instead of rolling our eyes at kids these days and their online gaming and chatroulette," says Ivie, "[maybe] should we embrace the fact that youth all over the world are becoming well-versed in the tools that can champion a cause...."


Last but not least, Lucy Bernholz takes a closer look at how different organizations are using technology to change our assumptions about social solutions, adding that "it is not the technology that matters, it is what we do with it."

That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at rnm@foundationcenter.org. And have a great week!

-- Regina Mahone

In Memorium: C.K. Prahalad, 'Bottom of Pyramid' Author

CKPrahalad Surprised to learn earlier today that management guru C.K. Prahalad, author of The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits (Wharton Publishing, 2004), passed away on April 16 at the age of 68 after a brief illness. According to the Times of India, it was Prahalad's proposition "that businesses stop thinking of the poor as victims and instead start seeing them as value-demanding consumers that drove companies such as Hindustan Lever and Godrej [in India] to come out with ultra-small sachets of everything from shampoo to gutka, sparking off a retail revolution...."

As Prahalad, who came to the U.S. in the early '70s and earned a degree in management from Harvard Business School, wrote in the Preface to Bottom of the Pyramid:

...I do not want the poor of the world to become a constituency. I want poverty to be a problem that should be solved. This book is about all of the players -- NGOs, large domestic firms, MNCs, government agencies, and, most importantly, the poor themselves -- coming together to solve very complex problems as we enter the 21st century. The problem of poverty must force us to innovate, not claim "rights to impose our solutions."

The starting point for this transition [has] to be twofold: First, we should consider the implications of the language we use. "Poverty alleviation" and "the poor" are terms that are loaded with meaning and historical baggage. The focus on entrepreneurial activities as an antidote to the current malaise must focus on an active, underserved consumer community and a potential for global growth in trade and prosperity as the four to five billion poor become part of a system of inclusive capitalism. We should commence talking about underserved consumers and markets. The process must start with Bottom of the Pyramid consumers as individuals. The process of co-creation assumes that consumers are equally important joint problem-solvers. Consumers and consumer communities will demand and get choice. This process of creating an involved and activist consumer is already emerging. The BOP provides an opportunity to turbocharge this process of change in the traditional relationship between the firm and the consumer. Second, we must recognize that the conversion of the BOP into an active market is essentially a development activity. It is not about serving an existing market more efficiently. New and creative approaches are needed to convert poverty into an opportunity for all concerned. That is the challenge....

Prahalad's ideas about the BoP, which he spread through a series of books and papers, as a sought-after consultant and speaker, and as a professor at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, resonated with and influenced the likes of IDE co-founder Paul Polack (Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail), Acumen Fund founder Jacqueline Novogratz (read our Q&A with Novogratz here), and even Bill Gates, who, according to the Times of India, said of Prahalad's ideas that they "[offer] an intriguing blueprint for how to fight poverty with profitability."

The painful consequences of the global financial crisis have thrown into question a bunch of ideas that seemed obvious to many during the bubble years. Too big to fail, housing prices always go up, the national debt doesn't matter -- if these and others aren't totally discredited at this point, it's only because people have been distracted by American Idol and the train wreck that is Kate Gosselin. 

Similarly, whether consumer-focused strategies really are the key to alleviating the misery and unlocking the potential of billions of people at the bottom of the pyramid is still anyone's guess. No one, however, can question the fundamental premise underlying much of Prahalad's work: It's time to stop thinking of the poor as a burden and to start thinking of them as resilient and creative human beings.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Webcast: 2010 Global Philanthropy Forum Conference

April 19, 2010

For the second year in a row, the Foundation Center is providing the information platform for the Global Philanthropy Forum's annual conference. Using its research database and knowledge resources, the center has made targeted materials and a set of visual presentations organized around four central themes -- food security, global health, access to water, and climate change -- available to conference participants through a customized Web portal.

Many of the conference sessions are being streamed live. You can follow the proceedings on this page through the conclusion of the conference on Wednesday.

Watch live streaming video from gpf2010 at livestream.com

-- Mitch Nauffts

3rd Annual Clinton Global Initiative University Meeting

April 17, 2010

Cgi_logo2 The third annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) has descended on the University of Miami campus, where more than a thousand college students, dozens of university presidents, and various nonprofit leaders and social entrepreneurs will spend all or part of the weekend participating in workshops and meetings focused on five topics of importance to college students: education, the environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation, and public health. This year's meeting also will focus on reconstruction efforts in Haiti.

As at all CGI events, participants are expected to make "commitments to action" -- a comprehensive, formal commitment to address a specific problem on their campus, in their community, or somewhere in the world. This year, participating students volunteered a thousand new commitments, while various universities and national youth organizations offered an additional sixty. When fully funded, the value of those commitments is expected to total roughly $42 million and will improve the lives of more than 290,000 people around the globe.

The following commitments (among others) were announced today:

Maren Gelle, Kayla Johnson, Sarah Carlson, and Daniel Novas will offer bike rentals for students on the St. Olaf College campus. The goal of the project is to encourage a bicycle culture on campus while reducing traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. Gelle, Johnson, Carlson, and Novas also will work with the local community to donate bikes to Haiti to be used as bicycle ambulances.

• Syracuse University undergraduates Tim Biba, Gregory Klotz, Kate Callahan, and Allison Stuckless will launch a literacy and nutrition program -- Books and Cooks -- for children in low-income housing in Syracuse, New York. In addition to improving students' reading skills, the students will teach workshops devoted to cooking and nutrition.

• New York University student Michelle Pomeroy, in partnership with the Tibetan Women's Association, will lead a two-week leadership skills course in India for exiled Tibetan women. The course will train women in leadership, settlement officer responsibilities, conflict resolution, and gender sensitization, with the goal of preparing the women to be elected or appointed as settlement officers.

• University of Miami undergrads Kaitlin Birgenthal, Safia Alajlan, Kelley Winship, and Sara Johnson will work to expand Ocean Kids to Boston, Washington, D.C., the Bahamas, and Kuwait. Ocean Kids currently brings underserved elementary school students to the University of Miami campus, where they learn about marine life and science.

• Rockland Community College undergrads Mark Svensson and Tarik Abdelqader will work to combat the modern human slave trade in the U.S. by lobbying state officials in New York and urging them pass a resolution that aims to stem the flow of enslaved people into the country. Each year an estimated 14,000 to 17,000 people are brought to the U.S. to be traded as human slaves, with New York state functioning as one of the largest trafficking hubs. In 2009, the legislature of Rockland County passed a memorializing resolution co-authored by Svensson and Abdelqader, and the two plan to target other county legislatures as well.

• Bates College student Razin Mustafiz will create financial literacy workshops for the Somali and Somali-Bantu community in Lewiston, Maine. The workshops will cover the basics of financial planning, from opening a bank account to saving money for education. Mustafiz' commitment is supported by the Bates College Harward Center for Community Partnerships and Adroscoggin Bank.

• MIT student Christopher Moses will develop a course called "Sana Lab" to teach medical personnel and students in the Philippines how to adapt a mobile medicine system developed at MIT to poor, remote locations. His commitment ultimately aims to extend medical care to the conflict-ridden area of Mindanao.

• St. Lawrence University student Grace Ochieng will work to expand the Pads for the People Project that she started in her village of Lwala, Kenya, with the help of the Lwala Community Alliance and thirteen local women. Women who participate in the project are trained to sew menstrual pads and encouraged to sell them for a profit. Over the next six months, Grace will form partnerships and work to make the program more financially sustainable.

John Trimmer and Scott Teagarden, undergraduate engineering students at Bucknell University, will construct a rainwater harvesting system that will provide the three hundred residents of Tumaipa, Suriname, with reliable, clean running water year-round. Local labor and materials will be used in the construction of the rainwater catchment system, and a water committee will be established to take ongoing ownership for the project.

Cynthia Koenig, founder of Hippo Water International and a graduate student at the University of Michigan, in association with Hippo Water International, will work to expand Hippo Water Rollers to India, providing Rollers to women and families. The Hippo, an innovative water transport tool designed to alleviate the problems associated with lack of access to water, makes it possible to collect twenty-four gallons of water, five times the amount possible using traditional methods, in much less time and much more easily.

• Makerere University graduate student Divinity Barkley will build an energy-efficient recording studio for the Amagezi Gemaanyi Youth Association (AGYA) Learning Center, a community center she founded in Kampala, Uganda. Her commitment will provide digital technology training to the Ugandan youth at AGYA, empower them to produce and market their own music, and serve as a source of revenue for AGYA's arts and educational programs. In addition, the recording studio will utilize solar power for 35 percent of its energy.

• Wesleyan student Kennedy Odede, in conjunction with Shining Hope for Communities and American Friends of Kenya, will work to empower and educate women in Kibera, one of the largest slums in Africa. His commitment has two parts: a Home Birth Network, through which women will be trained as home birth attendants; and the Women’s Microfinance Empowerment Project, which will use sustainable gardening techniques to grow vitamin-rich vegetables that provide desperately needed sources of nutrition at affordable prices.

• Purdue University student Keith Hansen will create the iRead Foundation to deliver childrens books to community health centers in Indiana. As vice president of the Purdue Engineering Student Council, Hansen oversees a group that puts on the largest student-run job fair in the nation, bringing over 350 of the nation’s biggest engineering companies to campus and raising nearly $500,000 dollars annually. A portion of those funds will be used to set up the foundation.

• Miami Dade College student Ximena Prugue will distribute 10,000 solar-powered lamps in India's rural communities, with the goal of reducing and/or eliminating kerosene lamp use. The D.Light Design Company lamps will be provided by Bogo Light at wholesale price, and Ximena will work with PTK Honor Society at Miami Dade to raise the money neccessary to purchase the lamps.

• MIT student Sreeja Nag will work to bring renewable, sustainable, and affordable energy to rural regions of India. After consulting local citizens, NGO representatives, and staff at Selco Solar India, Nag has created a report outlining how to bring energy to these areas. One of her ideas, for example, is to create detachable table lighting systems for students to carry home from a solar-powered charger at school.

• University of Miami students Kristina Rosales, Arielle Duperval, Austin Webbert, and Lissette Miller will establish two new community centers in Cite Soleil, a slum located in Port-au-Prince. The community centers will provide educational progams, cultural activities, mentoring, and opportunities for intercultural exchanges between the south Florida community and Haiti.

Khushbu Mishra, an undergraduate student at Mount Holyoke College, will open an art institute in Mithila, Nepal, to display and sell the cultural folk art of local women, empowering and improving the lives of their families. After it's completed, the center will be run by local women who will then train other women in the arts, thereby expanding the reach of the program.

Jessica Yamane, an undergraduate student at the University of California-Riverside, will design an experimental course on how communities can promote healing for domestic violence victims. Partnering with Alternatives to Domestic Violence, Path of Life Ministry's King's Hall Transitional Housing Program, and With Her Strength, Yamane hopes to modify this curriculum for integration in K-12 health and wellness programs throughout the Riverside School District.

Christine Meling, an undergraduate student at Luther College, will purchase the materials and sewing machines for women in Yari, Sudan, to make school uniforms for families that cannot afford them. The women also will receive training on how to sew and use the profits from uniform sales to sustain the program.

An Thi Minh Vo, in association with the Office of Genetic Counseling and Disabled Children in Hue City, Vietnam, will provide microloans of $212 to thirty-five families with children disabled by Agent Orange. The project aims to increase borrowers' income and ease the hardship of families struggling to afford health care and other basic needs.

• University of the Pacific graduate student Harnoor Singh will work with local physicians to provide free blood sugar and basic cardiovascular health screenings for California's migrant worker and supply low-cost prescription drugs to those in need. The tests, which can be completed for less than $15 per person, are of vital importance to California's migrant laborers, the majority of whom lack access to basic healthcare services.

Nathan O'Hara, a graduate student at the University of British Columbia, in association with Makerere University and Vancouver General Hospital, will work to supply Mulago Hospital in Kampala, Uganda, with three hundred half-pins annually. Each year, there are unnecessary fatalities in Uganda due to a lack of vital medical supplies; half-pins, which are used to treat traumatic injuries involving fractured bones, are among those. A collection system in Vancouver-area hospitals will reprocesses the reusable pins, which will be delivered to Mulago Hospital twice a year.

Christina Newman, Sherley Codio, and Fabrice Marcelin, students at Virginia Tech, in partnership with Caritas and the Religious of Jesus and Mary in Gros-Morne, Haiti, will raise $60,000 and oversee the construction of a facility that can house more than 1,500 hens capable of producing 1,250 eggs per day -- 15 percent of the local egg supply. The three have already raised $23,000 and developed a business plan for the project. Their commitment will strengthen the local economy by reducing reliance on imports, and will empower local communities by providing much-needed employment opportunities.

Wow. As Margaret Mead famously said, "Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have." Hats off to those who have stepped up with commitments. You're an inspiration to us all.

To learn more about and/or view webcasts from the event, which ends tomorrow, click here.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Weekend Link Roundup (November 21 - 22, 2009)

November 22, 2009

Chain-links Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....


On the Philanthropy Potluck blog, Cary Lenore Walski says that it only takes "five seconds for a new visitor to decide whether or not they will stay on your website." And if in those five seconds the visitor clicks "play" on a video, Walski adds, they are more likely to stick around.

Community Improvement/Development

What's it like to live in an abandoned building -- a house that is not a home? On the Second Line blog, Mike Miller, director of supportive housing placement at UNITY of Greater New Orleans, imagines what it might be like for the 63,000 people displaced by Hurricane Katrina.


Are young bloggers guilty of "ageism" when they focus on the aspirations, challenges, and triumphs of a particular demographic cohort such as Gen Y? asks Rosetta Thurman on her blog.


Last week Nathaniel Whittemore argued on the Social Entrepreneurship blog that it was time to lay the Kiva controversy to rest. Not so fast, says Holden Karnofsky on the GiveWell blog. "The time to 'move on' should not be based on Kiva’s 'handling' the situation or our growing tired of it," writes Karnofsky, "it should be based on Kiva's supporters, by and large, understanding how Kiva works."


Does the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation need a new $500 million, 900,000-square-foot headquarters campus? Wall Street Journal Wealth Report blogger Robert Frank has his doubts.

Blueprint Research Design (Lucy Bernholz' shop) has created a new area on its Web site called Conversations, which it hopes will be "a real hub for discussion -- part digital water cooler, part wisdom of the crowds." To get the ball rolling, Lucy and her colleague Tony Wang have started a conversation around the topic of What Capital When? and over the next few months will be "thinking out loud" about the different forms and uses of philanthropic capital to drive impact. Looking forward to it.

On the NetSquared blog, Amy Sample Ward interviews Avi Kaplan of Epic Change about the upcoming TweetsGiving campaign, November 24-26.

Tactical Philanthropy's Sean Stannard-Stockton shares excerpts from a recent e-mail debate between Paul Shoemaker, executive director of Social Venture Partners-Seattle, and Paul Brest, president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, on "the merits, or lack thereof, of general operating support grants."

Social Media

What does the decision by Causes, the online fundraising application, to abandon MySpace and the shutting of ideablob, a competition and promotion platform for entrepreneurs, mean for nonprofits? Guest blogging on Tactical Philanthropy, Amy Sample Ward considers the implications.

After sharing three recent examples of "place-based charitable giving hubs" (GiveMN, I Live Here, I Give Here, and Chase Community Giving on Facebook), Beth Kanter wonders whether these kinds of campaign will make a difference in a difficult economy or just add to the noise.

"It is way too early to declare" the death of e-mail, writes Joanne Fritz on the Nonprofit Charitable Orgs blog at About.com. "Don't get rid of your email," adds Fritz. "Just make it as effective as possible."

And on the Philanthropy 2173 blog, Lucy Bernholz confesses to wondering whether the use of social media platforms such as Twitter to crowd-source "top trend" lists has jumped the shark. "As we approach December and the list making frenzy of 'top 10s,'" writes Bernholz, "let us all take a deep breath and perhaps even do some [original] thinking."

That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at rnm@foundationcenter.org. And have a great week!

-- Regina Mahone

Readings (and Other Stuff) - Nov. 17, 2009

November 17, 2009

Here's what we're reading today:

What are you reading?

Weekend Link Roundup (November 14 - 15, 2009)

November 15, 2009

Chain-links Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....


In a recent post on the GiveWell blog, Holden Karnofsky takes the Carter Center to task for its lack of accountability and transparency.


"Listening is everything," writes Katya Andresen on her NonProfit Marketing blog. But how does one make the time to do it? Have any suggestions? Leave your suggestions below.

Last week, marketing expert Nancy Schwartz released the 2009 Nonprofit Tagline Report. "A strong tagline complements your org's name [and conveys] its unique value or impact with personality, passion and commitment," writes Schwartz, adding, that "If you fail to make the most of your tagline, you throw that opportunity away." You can download a copy of the report here.


Do donors care about nonprofit impact? Charity Navigator has gotten some surprising feedback on that question and wants to hear from you. After you fill out the three-question survey, read what others are saying here.

International Affairs/Development

Matthew Bishop shares a few thoughts about how former Gates Foundation executive Raj Shah can make the most of his new position as head of the U.S. Agency for International Development.


In his "last word" about the so-called Kiva controversy, Nathaniel Whittemore argues that even though the folks behind the online giving platform "messed up," we should unequivocally support the organization's future efforts. "Kiva is a young organization," Whittemore writes,

and one of the first to really harness the Internet to extend the experience of giving in dramatically new ways. In my mind, they may have goofed on the trust that they have with their lenders, but they have not undermined the trust that we must have in any nonprofit to be committed to delivering the services it promises in the way that most effectively helps the people it's trying to serve. They've changed their communication, they're proactively seeking to rebuild trust with lenders, and at the end of the day, the amount of good that has been done through Kiva remains immense....


Although the latest iteration of the online America's Giving Challenge campaign extended over fewer days than the inaugural challenge in 2008, it still managed to generate more than 105,420 donations and raise over $2 million for charitable causes. Allison Fine offers her post-mortem here.

On his Wise Philanthropy blog, Richard Marker argues that in order to be effective, donors first have to understand their "culture and values." Writes Marker:

I am a believer in the concept I coined a few years ago: that those of us above a certain age are "guests in this century." The challenge is NOT to get [the denizens] of this transformed world to embrace a culture or values of a century and era now past. That is not a worthwhile enterprise and would be unsuccessful anyway. It is incumbent upon [those of us who are older] to embrace the culture of this world -- or get out of the way....

On the Nonprofit Charitable Orgs blog at About.com, Joanne Fritz shares five suggestions taken from The Art of Giving, the new book by Charles Bronfman and Jeffrey Solomon of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, to leverage your charitable giving.

On the MCF's Philanthropy Potluck blog, Chris Murakami Noonan recaps the recent joint annual conference of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and the Minnesota Council on Foundations. Speaking to conference attendees, Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of the Council on Foundations, said that this is "the era of partnerships" in philanthropy and then listed the four "Cs" that drive effective public/private partnerships: connections, communication, capacity-building, and convening.

Lucy Bernholz singles out two new database applications that underscore the role "data will play as platforms for change": TRASI (Tools and Resources for Assessing Social Impact), a joint effort of the Foundation Center and McKinsey & Co., and KidsData, a project of the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health that aggregates information on three hundred indicators related to the health and well being of children in communities across California.

Social Media

Philanthropy Action's Tim Ogden and Laura Starita have released the results of a survey about the use of social media by mid-size nonprofits. "In terms of fundraising and attracting volunteers, metrics that most nonprofit boards and executive directors highly value, the available evidence suggests that social media is not very effective," writes Ogden. Click here to download the complete report (22 pages, PDF).

Beth Kanter takes a close look at the results of the Philanthropy Action survey and compares it to the findings of a different report released earlier in the week. Her conclusion: It's too early for nonprofits to ditch their social media efforts. Writes Kanter:

It's time to set realistic outcomes, look for strategic efficiencies, and define and share best practices. I don't think it is a good idea to simply dismiss social media. I think it is important to have the conversation, but don't look at ROI in such a narrow [way]. Look at the missed opportunity costs of not participating -- as well as take it as an opportunity to look at everything you're doing and figure out what isn't working and try social media in its place. It also important to keep measuring and improving....

In the first post of a two-part series on "social media for accountability" at the Future Leaders in Philanthropy blog, Zach Wales explains how social media can help board members bring "integrity to their nonprofits, and reinforce everything that made them join the board in the first place."


On the GOOD blog, William Simpson, vice president for information technology at CHF International, argues that it's time for nonprofit IT heads to start running their departments like a business. And the first step is to ask these five simple questions:

  1. Is this technology practical?
  2. What is the true cost of this technology?
  3. Are we looking at all the options?
  4. What existing solutions are there within the organization's global operations?
  5. Have we hired the best we can afford?

(H/t: AFP blog)

That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at rnm@foundationcenter.org. And have a great week!

-- Regina Mahone

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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