October 21, 2010, 12:17 pm
You don’t have to be Bill Gates to change the world, according to New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof. In his blog, he offers several ideas of small-scale, do-it-yourself aid that individuals can provide to make a difference in the developing countries. Among them:
Provide a microloan through Kiva or Vittana, online organizations that arrange small loans to individuals who are seeking to start or expand businesses (Kiva) or continue their education (Vittana).
Browse and give from the wish lists on Global Giving, another Web site through which charities around the world state their particular needs.
Sponsor a needy individual via a charity that arranges those relationships, such as Plan USA. “It’s also a way to introduce your kids to global issues, as you show photos of the person you’ve sponsored,” Mr. Kristof writes.
Do more than simply give money. Volunteer…
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 …
September 24, 2010, 12:55 pm
For as long as nonprofit groups have used social-media tools, they have faced the perplexing problem of Internet money math: How do all of those supporters and friends add up to real dollars in the door?
But Zachary Sniderman, an assistant features editor for Mashable.com, suggests that money shouldn’t necessarily be the object of nonprofit groups’ social-media efforts. Social good, after all, is also about the process of bringing people together.
Take the Livestrong campaign. The group behind the ubiquitous golden wristband, the Lance Armstrong Foundation, recently started a Facebook campaign that encouraged fans to share their personal cancer stories on the social-networking Web site. The foundation wasn’t trying to raise money through this effort. It was trying to bring people together behind its cause.
In this case, Mr. Sniderman writes, “the community is the end goal.” The campaign …
September 22, 2010, 5:17 pm
Donors crave more and better information about charities, information that will help them make smarter decisions about which groups they support.
That assumption has driven a lot of the discussion about philanthropy in recent years, writes Cynthia Gibson, a senior vice president at the Philanthropic Initiative, on the organization’s blog and in the Nonprofit Quarterly. And she says that idea seems to be behind recent grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to two philanthropy consulting groups, to help them develop tools that will enable donors to give more intelligently.
But do donors really want more information?, Ms. Gibson asks. And even if good data existed on nonprofits’ impact, would donors really use it to decide how to channel their charity?
Ms. Gibson and her co-author, William Dietel, former president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, suggest that data may not have the…
September 15, 2010, 12:13 pm
Nonprofit groups should join hands with an unusual ally—the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—to fight a “burdensome and costly” provision in the new health-care law, argues lawyer Jack Siegel in his Charity Governance blog. The provision has nothing to do with health care but was inserted as a way to raise money to pay for the new law.
It would require employers, including charities, to file Internal Revenue Service 1099 tax forms to report all purchases from any vendor that sold them at least $600 in goods during the year. It is designed to ensure that those vendors are reporting all of their taxable income.
“It’s not the filing that is so problematic,” writes Mr. Siegel. “The significant costs will be associated with collecting information.”
The Chamber of Commerce is trying to get the measure repealed.
While that organization “may disgust many nonprofit leaders, health care reform has created…
September 3, 2010, 1:59 pm
A charity leader in Seattle has assembled a short video laying out the impact of the nonprofit world, a film that he believes can help other nonprofit executives spread the word about philanthropy’s economic value.
The three-minute, 40-second video, “Know Your Sector,” has been posted on YouTube. Among the nuggets of information it contains: the fact that about one in 10 American workers is a nonprofit employee (compared with the one in 57 workers who waits tables).
“My hope is that it will be a free resource, for donors, for board members, for nonprofit employees, and volunteers to understand the power of our sector,” says Ben Klasky, executive director of IslandWood, a nonprofit outdoor learning center on Bainbridge Island, Wash., who created the video for a class he teaches on nonprofit management “My hope is that it’ll go viral and that people will realize that, because so…
September 2, 2010, 2:32 pm
This Sunday’s New York Times magazine has an article about Plumpy’nut, a paste made of peanuts that has been credited with significantly reducing death rates during famines in Africa.
Anderson Cooper, in a “60 Minutes” segment, has compared the paste to penicillin, saying it “may just be the most important advance ever” in fighting childhood malnutrition. Plumpy’nut has gotten lots of raves from aid workers, too, who are using it in their programs.
But the Times article draws attention to a debate about a patent for Plumpy’nut held by the French company Nutriset, which first produced and sold the paste. Plumpy’nut is relatively expensive ($60 per child for a two-month supply), and critics contend that, as a lifesaving product that some describe as essentially fortified peanut butter, it shouldn’t face the same restrictions about who can make it.
The debate resembles arguments over the a…
August 31, 2010, 6:12 pm
“Tax me,” writes Abigail Disney, a philanthropist and heiress to the Walt Disney fortune, in an opinion piece in USA Today supporting the reinstatement of the estate tax.
“The estate tax incentivizes people like me to do good with our wealth because there is no estate tax on donations to charity,” writes Ms. Disney, who founded the Daphne Foundation, which makes grants to fight poverty in New York City, and a charity called Peace Is Loud, to encourage women around the world to find nonviolent ways to end conflict.
Her charitable activities, she says, “rely on a tax code that supports a vigorous nonprofit sector, a vital part of our society that is bigger and stronger because of the many millions of dollars that flow into it as a result of the estate tax and other tax provisions.”
Ms. Disney joins Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and other wealthy Americans who believe Congress was wrong to let…