Monthly Archives: April 2009

Philanthropy Daily Digest

  • Andrew Wolk of Root Cause is sharing ideas with the Corporation for National and Community Service about how to manage the new Social Innovation Fund called for in the Serve America Act. He wants your suggestions.
    (tags: philanthropy)

Your Team at COF Conference

So we’ve put together a great blog team to cover the Council on Foundations conference happening in Atlanta from Sunday to Wednesday of next week. Besides the Tactical Philanthropy Team, the Council on Foundations will be blogging as will New Voices of Philanthropy and I’m sure the Twitter feed will be roaring (update: the new official tag for COF conference tweets is #cof09. You can follow all conference Twitter traffic via Twitter Search by typing in #cof09. You do not need to be a Twitter user to view updates).

Conference attendance is down dramatically across all industries this year. I’ve found that about 75% of the people who were on my blog team last year are not attending this year due to travel budget cut backs. So I want to make you an offer. If there are any sessions at the conference that you wish you could attend, shoot me an email and I’ll try to arrange for a member of my blog team to write up notes on the session. You can find the full agenda here. And if you use Twitter, follow along with the #cof09 tag and ask questions. Blog team members and other conference attendees will be able to answer your questions or give you feedback.

This year’s Tactical Philanthropy Blog Team is:

Philanthropy Daily Digest

  • NTEN, ThePort and Common Knowledge have just released a new report on how nonprofits are using social media. 74.2% of nonprofits now have a Facebook page. The survey looks at what else they're doing.
    (tags: philanthropy)
  • Nathaniel Whittemore discusses the idea of the government providing financing to mid-stage for-profit startups who are being shut out of the capital markets. The financial crisis is showing how critical functioning capital markets are to healthy organizations… social capital markets are of course highly immature and part of the reason we have so few high performing nonprofits.
    (tags: philanthropy)

More Googlization

My recent Chronicle of Philanthropy column was about the Googlization of Philanthropy and the ways in which third party web applications can effectively organize philanthropic data so long as social sector players digitize their knowledge and make it accessible. I specifically was not making the point that Google the company should dominate this process. But of course they are the heavy hitter in this area.

So it was with interest that I read today about Google’s new efforts to aggregate and organize public data. The initial launch makes unemployment and population data on a county by county basis available in chart form that can be manipulated by the user. You can try it out by googling “unemployment rate” or “population” and the state or county you are interested in. The charting feature makes it easy to put the data in context both across time and in comparison to other areas.

From the Google Blog:

The data we’re including in this first launch represents just a small fraction of all the interesting public data available on the web. There are statistics for prices of cookies, CO2 emissions, asthma frequency, high school graduation rates, bakers’ salaries, number of wildfires, and the list goes on. Reliable information about these kinds of things exists thanks to the hard work of data collectors gathering countless survey forms, and of careful statisticians estimating meaningful indicators that make hidden patterns of the world visible to the eye. All the data we’ve used in this first launch are produced and published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau’s Population Division. They did the hard work! We just made the data a bit easier to find and use.

Since Google’s acquisition of Trendalyzer two years ago, we have been working on creating a new service that make lots of data instantly available for intuitive, visual exploration. Today’s launch is a first step in that direction. We hope people will find this search feature helpful, whether it’s used in the classroom, the boardroom or around the kitchen table. We also hope that this will pave the way for public data to take a more central role in informed public conversations.

This is just the beginning. Stay tuned for more.

Google admits that “the hard work” is the data collection. Their job is to make the data “easier to find and use”. As this process plays out in philanthropy, individual donors are going to find that they can begin to act on the information that informs the grantmaking of large institutional funders. Since individual donors give vastly more to charity than foundations do each year, helping their donations flow based on better knowledge of what works will have a transformative effect.

You can see a quick video demo of the new Google product here.

Philanthropy Daily Digest

Tactical Philanthropy Blog Team

Last year at the Council on Foundations conference I put together a team of about 20 guest bloggers to cover the conference. You can see the extensive coverage and commentary here.

This year I’ve been assembling a team for the conference in Atlanta. But I’ve been shocked by the large number of people I’ve contacted who are not attending the conference due to curtailed travel budgets. It will be interesting to see what kind of attendance there is at the conference. However, this also means that there is a greater need for effective coverage.

Would you like to join this year’s blog team? If you are interested, please email me for details. And if you are on Twitter, remember that the hash tag for the conference is #COFannconf09. Even if you are not a Twitter user, you can use Twitter Search to search for the keyword #COFannconf09 and view all conference related Tweets.

Philanthropy Daily Digest

The Girl Effect & Philanthropy

If you haven’t seen The Girl Effect video produced by the Nike Foundation and the NoVo Foundation, take a minute and check it out.

The video has been around for a while, but I bring it up now because the head of the Nike Foundation, Maria Eitel, has just been nominated by president Obama to run the Corporation for National and Community Service. As Nathaniel Whittemore recently explained:

CNCS is in charge of a variety of programs, including the AmeriCorps program. Under the new Serve America Act, the program is supposed to grow from 75,000 to 250,000 placements, with an emphasis on filling unmeet needs in “an Education Corps; a Healthy Futures Corps; a Clean Energy Corps and a Veterans Corps.”

So here’s the thing, if philanthropy’s biggest opportunity is to figure out how to effectively share information, then spreading ideas becomes a core competency of great philanthropists. The Girl Effect isn’t just a moving video, it is a case study in effective idea propagation. That’s not just my opinion, the authors of Made to Stick literally used it as a case study and deconstructed the video to show why it works.

I think understanding how ideas spread is so important in philanthropy (and yet so poorly understood by a community who seems to revel in making philanthropy sound boring and academic) that I have books like The Tipping Point and Seth Godin’s books in the Tactical Philanthropy Bookstore (it is not a coincidence that the Made to Stick authors found the Girl Effect video on Seth Godin’s website. I’m reading Made to Stick right now and believe me, when I finish it will find its place in the bookstore.

So here’s what’s cool. Maria Eitel gets how to spread ideas. And now she’s in charge of dramatically expanding our national service program. AmeriCorps won’t swell in size AND impact simply because we present young people with statistics on why it is needed and monetary incentives. It will only occur if an certain kind of idea spreads.

Imagine if every foundation understood how ideas spread the way Maria Eitel does?

The FORGE Story & The Wall Street Journal

The FORGE story dominated many of my blog posts from December of last year. It was the first time that the Tactical Philanthropy Community came together around a specific nonprofit. From the hours of pro bono consulting of Tactical Philanthropy reader Curtis Chang to the many, many comments from readers offering advice and constructive criticism to FORGE to the $50,000 anonymous grant from a Tactical Philanthropy reader that closed FORGE’s funding gap and helped set them on the path to restructuring their fundraising program, I’m still in awe over the generosity of the Tactical Philanthropy Community.

So I was thrilled to see that the Wall Street Journal included the FORGE story yesterday in a special section on how for-profits and nonprofits are working to survive the financial crisis. In the article titled Helping Themselves, Wall Street Journal reporter Shelly Banjo profiled a number of nonprofits that are thinking creatively in an effort to survive:

It isn’t just the economy that’s battering nonprofits. Many have been victims of recent financial scandals, and several have had to shut their doors as a result.

That has eroded trust among donors, and the only way to regain that trust is for nonprofits to be open about their finances, operations and policies, says Sean Stannard-Stockton, principal and director of tactical philanthropy at Ensemble Capital Management LLC of Burlingame, Calif.

Mr. Stannard-Stockton points to Forge, a nonprofit that implements community-development projects — such as building libraries and schools, running job-training programs and facilitating microloans to farmers — for refugees in Africa.

Forge hasn’t been caught up in the recent financial scandals, but it encountered other difficulties. Forge started out sending students, each of whom committed to raise $5,000, to work with the refugees. But in 2007, the organization eliminated the volunteers and instead employed the refugees themselves to design and lead the projects. That also eliminated a chunk of the organization’s revenue stream just as Forge was losing other donations amid the economic downturn, leaving it to face a $100,000 budget shortfall for 2008.

In response, Forge founder Kjerstin Erickson began blogging about her mistakes and Forge’s situation on, an online community for entrepreneurs, nonprofit professionals and philanthropists to discuss approaches and solutions to social problems. She began by telling her story and unveiling her financial records to the public, down to details including staff salaries and budgets.

Within days, bloggers, nonprofit consultants, foundations and donors caught wind of the story and began asking more questions and offering suggestions. Some readers stepped up to offer Ms. Erickson free consulting help, and a foundation followed with a $50,000 donation. Eventually, increased donations erased Forge’s budget gap.

"Public confidence goes up, not down, when people quickly and honestly admit their mistakes and explain how they are going to move forward," says Mr. Stannard-Stockton, who picked up Forge’s story on his own blog.

Philanthropy experts warn that nonprofits can’t rely on transparency to bail them out of a financial crisis. "Transparency isn’t a tactic you use to fund-raise, it’s a value for your organization to adopt," Mr. Stannard-Stockton says. But it does build trust and understanding among donors, making them more likely to continue giving.

You can read the full article, which profiles a number of efforts, here.

Thanks to all of you that helped FORGE help themselves!

Philanthropy Daily Digest

  • The Chronicle of Philanthropy's "Conference Notebook" has live coverage of the Global Philanthropy Forum.
    (tags: philanthropy)
  • The Wall Street Journal looks at how nonprofits are thinking creatively and uses the FORGE story as an example. The story mentions the way the Tactical Philanthropy Community came to FORGE's assistance.
    (tags: philanthropy)
  • Alan Khazei, the founder of City Year, explains why the Serve America Act signals a massive change in the American political landscape. A fascinating read. Alan even signals the need for a new name for the movement he describes. He's wrestling with the same shifts that I wrote about today that face the word Philanthropy.
    (tags: philanthropy)