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April 11, 2011, 11:18 am
Before her speech to an audience here on the second day of the Council on Foundations annual meeting, Arianna Huffington was introduced by a costumed Benjamin Franklin, who said he shared many qualities with Ms. Huffington “including the human trait of imperfection.” Said Mr. Franklin: “She was once a conservative.”
When Ms. Huffington, founder of the liberal Huffington Post Web site, took the stage, she jested of the founding father: “The only thing I’m a little upset about is he never live blogged the Constitutional Convention.”
She then delivered a speech that mixed broad themes, such as the vibrancy of local community efforts and people’s hunger for a sense of community, with personal anecdotes about her children and pitches for her own journalistic efforts.
“During all my different incarnations, there has been one steady conviction,” she said….
April 11, 2011, 10:58 am
Big grants should go through a military-style “after-action review” suggested one foundation official at a session on learning from failure at the Council on Foundations annual meeting, which opened here on Sunday.
Edward Pauly, director of research and evaluation at the Wallace Foundation, in New York, recommended the reviews after his organization started to use them to evaluate its grant making to specific causes.
The hourlong review meetings answer four questions, Mr. Pauly said:
The foundation’s staff members at first were reluctant to adopt the reviews, Mr. Pauly said, but soon found them valuable.
“It didn’t take us off of other work to do that one-hour meeting, and the benefits are…
April 10, 2011, 9:04 pm
How could philanthropy do a better job of meeting today’s challenges?
By ditching the jargon, getting over its aversion to paying for fund-raising costs, and tackling the kinds of goals that capture people’s imaginations, according to speakers at today’s kick-off of the annual Council on Foundations meeting here.
Just shy of 1,000 people are attending the council’s conference, the year’s largest event for grant-making professionals.
Tony Proscio, a consultant to foundations, talked about how jargon prevents foundations from getting their message across to the public about what they do and what they seek to accomplish.
Overused terms like “expanding conceptualization,” “capacity building,” “access,” “awareness,” and “partnerships,” have “gone dry,” he said.
What word or words does Mr. Proscio like?
“Verdant,” for one. Namely, the “verdant” that …
April 5, 2011, 12:26 pm
Organizations that run social-purpose businesses necessarily have to make choices between their social missions and financial return, Muhammad A. (Rumee) Ali, an official at BRAC, told participants at the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship.
The anti-poverty group, which was founded in Bangladesh almost 40 years ago and now works throughout South Asia and Africa, didn’t set out to start businesses, he said. Instead they grew out of the organization’s microfinance work.
Early on, the charity made loans to farmers to allow them to buy cows, as a way to increase their families’ income. But because the farmers could only sell the milk in their small, often isolated villages, the loans led to an oversupply of milk and pushed prices down, making it difficult for the farmers to repay their loans.
“So we set up almost 100 chilling stations all over the …
April 5, 2011, 12:22 pm
When the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation started a $400-million program to make investments related to its programs, the fund set up a process that encourages program officers to look at investments as a potential tool in their work — but also forces them to weigh the social and financial returns involved, Andrew Farnum, senior program investment officer at the foundation, told participants at the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship.
All of the investments focus on the foundation’s areas of interest – education in the United States, international development, global health – and are the result of close collaboration between program and investment officers. Since the program was announced in late 2009, the Seattle foundation has made investments totaling $150-million.
When a program officer suggests a potential investment, the investment team analyzes…
April 1, 2011, 11:28 am
A discussion of the internal struggles that social-change leaders face drew a lineup of humanitarian heavy hitters here at the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship.
The Archbishop Emeritus Desmond M. Tutu talked about facing very low points during the fight against apartheid in South Africa— weeping, and being angry at God, asking how he could allow such terrible things to happen.
One of the things that sustained him, Archbishop Tutu said, was being part of a larger community of faith. He talked about meeting a nun who lived in the woods in California, who often started to pray at 2 a.m.
“She said, ‘You know, I pray for you by name,’” recalled Archbishop Tutu. “And I said, ‘Here I am being prayed for at two in the morning in the woods in California. What chance does the apartheid government stand?’”
Joe Madiath, the founder of Gram Vikas, a…
March 31, 2011, 9:09 am
Lately, microfinance has been attracting attention for all the wrong reasons.
The Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship started off here March 30 with a discussion of what lessons social entrepreneurs can draw from the controversy.
Microfinance—which Stephan Chambers, chairman of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, called “the undisputed star of our movement”—involves small loans that allow poor entrepreneurs in developing countries to start businesses.
Accusations of abusive practices, as well as borrowers who have taken out multiple loans and whose debt far exceeds their ability to pay, have led some politicians in India to exhort borrowers to stop making payments. Hugely profitable initial public offerings of for-profit microfinance institutions have led critics to question whether investors are getting rich at the expense of the poor….
March 31, 2011, 8:41 am
A growing number of nonprofit organizations are working to help small and growing businesses in developing countries expand as a way to improve the standard of living for local residents—a topic that will be discussed here at the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship.
One of the challenges in that work is that the needs of the business owners and of investors don’t always line up. But a type of financing in which investors receive a percentage of the business’s revenue has the potential to help solve that, says Randall T. Kempner, executive director of the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs, in Washington.
“In most emerging markets, company owners are very reticent…
March 30, 2011, 10:24 am
Some 800 nonprofit leaders, grant makers, investors, and academics have gathered on Oxford University’s 900-year-old campus to grapple with new approaches to social problems.
The Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship focuses on innovative strategies that can expand with stable sources of funding. Also on the agenda are the closely related fields of social enterprise and social investing, which embrace business as a tool for change.
March 25, 2011, 7:10 pm
Grand Rapids, Mich.
Think as if you are always looking for a new job, the nonprofit consultant and author Rosetta Thurman said Friday at the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network National Leaders Conference here, an event that has attracted 200 people.
“A lot of people don’t go to networking events because they say, ‘I’m not looking for a job right now,’” she said. But, she added, “who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow?”
Beyond seeking out new people who can help advance your career, she suggested that young nonprofit workers find ways to gain specialized skills that will be valuable. One way to do that is to seek out challenging volunteer opportunities that expand specialized skills in program management, fund raising, or other areas.
For example, if you volunteer at a food pantry, “don’t just label soup, because anyone can label soup,” she said.
She suggested that …
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