Author Archives: Caroline Preston
January 7, 2011, 5:26 pm
Remember the “Girl Effect,” the Nike Foundation’s two-year-old initiative to encourage philanthropic and government investments in girls?
Thanks largely to a catchy video (below), the effort has become something of a phenomenon, succeeding in helping to make girls a bigger focus of global antipoverty efforts. But Anna Carella, a Ph.D. candidate in political science at Vanderbilt University, writes on the Aid Watch blog that while the effort seems like a “godsend for those who have been working to improve the lives of women, it may actually be damaging to women.”
- It reinforces stereotypes that women are naturally more caring than men and doesn’t do anything to encourage men to do more at home.
- The video claims that putting more women to work will drive economic development—yet women already make up a bigger percentage of the workforce in poor countries…
January 6, 2011, 10:44 am
What were the smartest—and silliest—corporate contributions of 2010?
Rachel Bellow and Suzanne Muchin, of ROI Ventures—a Chicago company that works with donors, business people, and nonprofits on creating business models and brand campaigns—offer their picks.
Their “worst” list:
• Target’s $150,000 political donation to Minnesota Forward, a group that supports pro-business candidates, including one gubernatorial candidate who ran on an anti-gay marriage platform. The move angered human-rights groups and stirred a boycott movement of the retail chain.
• Goldman Sachs dangling of casual Fridays before employees to convince them to ante up for charity. According to The New York Times, Goldman’s securities division offered its employees the chance to wear jeans to the office every Friday in August if they gave at least $25 to one of four designated nonprofits….
November 23, 2010, 12:41 pm
Aid groups are scrambling to respond to the deadly cholera outbreak in Haiti—and to answer questions about whether they did enough to prevent the disease, which has claimed more than 1,100 lives.
A petition circulated last week by a group called the Disaster Accountability Project argues that if aid groups had spent more of the money they raised after the January earthquake to improve water and sanitation conditions in Haiti, the disaster might have been prevented. The petition is titled, “We Donated to Haiti Relief and We’re Angry.”
But others say that’s simply not true. Aid groups say water and sanitation conditions in Haiti were poor before the cholera epidemic—and that it doesn’t make any sense to say they should have prioritized cholera prevention over other types of assistance, because the disease hadn’t been seen in Haiti for at least half a century.
November 21, 2010, 11:48 pm
It’s one big challenge everyone in the nonprofit world wants to crack: finding a simple way that ordinary donors can evaluate charity effectiveness.
In a recent issue of The Chronicle, Sean Stannard-Stockton, an adviser to donors, listed five questions that people can ask all types of charities to determine if they’re worth supporting.
Now GiveWell, the charity-evaluation group, has come out with a “Do-it-yourself charity evaluation” that gives donors different sets of questions depending on the field in which the nonprofit works.
Questions to ask a charity that works in education, for example, include:
- What do you do to improve K-12 education? What is your relationship with the school? Do you work within it or outside it?
- Who is targeted by your activities? What are the requirements for participation? In the case of over-subscription, how do you determine who gets in?
November 12, 2010, 12:31 pm
It was, perhaps, philanthropy’s biggest news of the year: 40 of America’s wealthiest families announced in August that they were joining Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in pledging to give at least half their money away.
Now, however, a debate is stirring about how successful the Giving Pledge has really been. The pledge hasn’t “visibly inspired” any new big gifts or attracted additional signatures since August, writes reporter Stephanie Strom in Wednesday’s New York Times. Mr. Buffett, however, says he expects others to sign on soon.
Ellen Remmer, president of the Philanthropic Initiative, writes on her organization’s blog that the Giving Pledge appears to be “stuttering a bit.” That’s largely due to the economic crisis, she says.
“Billionaires may not want the world to know they are billionaires,” she argues. “And the world at large may not like being reminded that these folks …
October 28, 2010, 11:54 am
Most donors choose a few areas to support about which they are passionate—the arts and education, say, or climate change and child health.
Sean Stannard-Stockton, an adviser to donors and a Chronicle contributor, says on his blog that he’s come across a number of foundations and donors that don’t think about giving in that way. Instead, he says, they are “issue agnostic.”
The Lodestar Foundation, for example, describes itself as not being “focused on any specific field of interest and focus instead on leveraging resources.” Many donors support “social entrepreneurs,” regardless of what issue they seek to tackle. And a client of Mr. Stannard-Stockton’s says he cares less about the particular issue and more about the opportunity to help expand successful nonprofit models.
Mr. Stannard-Stockton says such issue-agnostic donors make him wonder if conventional philanthropy advice—…
October 27, 2010, 3:03 pm
Nicholas Kristof’s recent front-page article in The New York Times Magazine, “The D.I.Y. Foreign-Aid Revolution,” highlights Americans who, struck by poverty in the developing world, dash off to do something about it.
The stories are inspiring. But Dave Algoso, a graduate student at New York University, writes on the Foreign Policy Web site that they don’t convey a key message: Alleviating poverty is a lot harder than refurbishing a basement, fixing a leaky toilet, or repairing other problems for which this “fix it” attitude is appropriate.
A community’s needs are often too complex and nuanced for outsiders to really understand, Mr. Algoso writes. Moreover, outside money and volunteers can distort local economies, politics, and culture, he says.
For example, local businesses lose out when charities provide donated goods for free, and local governments can face less pressure to…
October 14, 2010, 12:41 pm
There’s a new addition to the expanding library of books that question the effectiveness of international aid: The Crisis Caravan: What’s Wrong with Humanitarian Aid?
The book, by the journalist Linda Polman, argues that providing humanitarian assistance in war zones often adds to people’s suffering.
One of the most striking examples offered by Ms. Polman, and discussed in a lengthy New Yorker review of the book, is Sierra Leone. Ms. Polman suggests that rebels escalated their attacks during the country’s civil war of the 1990s, cutting off people’s limbs by the thousands, in part because they knew those atrocities would draw attention and money from donors seeking to help in a way that other kinds of violence would not.
After the war, a new economy was created around all that international aid. People found jobs with the nonprofit organizations that flooded the country. So many…
October 11, 2010, 4:35 pm
A $1.5-million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to ABC News has led some observers to wonder why the philanthropy is helping a for-profit news organization.
The grant is also raising further questions about the Seattle foundation’s growing involvement in journalism.
The financial commitment from Gates, announced last week, is helping ABC News conduct a yearlong report on global health, a primary focus of the foundation’s work. The news outlet is putting up $4.5-million.
But Marc Cooper, a journalist and faculty member at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism, says it’s “grotesque” that ABC News—which is owned by Disney and reportedly pays anchor Diane Sawyer a salary of at least $12-million—is taking money from Gates.
He also questions why the Gates foundation is giving that money to ABC News, rather than …
September 30, 2010, 12:13 pm
Dear Malcolm Gladwell: The nonprofit technology world is not very happy with you.
Mr. Gladwell’s article in this week’s New Yorker magazine, criticizing the hype about social media’s ability to stir social movements, is drawing fire from nonprofit technology experts, among others.
The primary gripe against Mr. Gladwell, left, an author of several best-selling books, centers on his argument that Facebook, Twitter, and other online tools foster “weak” ties among people, which he says are not the types of relationships upon which social activism depends. For example, he writes, the lunch-counter sit-ins that helped foster the civil-rights movement of the 1960s were built on “strong” ties, true friendships, which are necessary if one is to engage in high-risk activism of the sort required of civil-rights leaders.
Allison Fine, a social-media expert and Chronicle contributor, disagrees that …