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March 2009
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May 2009

April 2009

Grassroots Parched, says New Study

NPQ: "In January 2009, the Nonprofit Quarterly completed a study on the Nonprofit and Philanthropic Infrastructure--defined for the purposes of the study as the national organizations that seek to provide information, resources, support and strength for the nonprofit sector."  Key findings:

  • The way the nonprofit sector infrastructure is currently funded disproportionately favors organizations that support and represent larger nonprofits (a small fraction of the sector) while some of the distributed networks directly serving tens of thousands of small to midsize nonprofits have been consistently under-funded.
  • This has limited the “reach” of infrastructure services that should build the civil sector generally and the capacity of the small and mid-size organizations that enrich every community of the nation.

Stimulus Bill Funds Nonprofits Too

"Written and researched by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and published in conjunction with Giving USA Foundation," so runs the press release, "the Bulletin provides timely information on how charitable and philanthropic organizations can apply for funding through the Act, also known as the stimulus package. The Bulletin contains hotlinks to numerous sites and resources." 

Well, why spend money raising money, when consumers can simply be taxed to support charity? Since charities provide public benefits, who better than our elected officials to decide what charities get how much tax money? May as well bail out the nonprofits with the money the Chinese are lending us against our children's future. 

No one really has a plan. The market is busted and government is going nuts.

Community Foundations as Resource for Advisors

Heather Gee, Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy, of Philadelphia Foundation interviewed by Phil Cubeta for The American College's Wealth Channel. Part 1. Part 2.  I will be speaking for Heather at Philadephia Foundation's Spring Seminar for Professional Advisors on May 12.  Heather and I both have served or will serve on the Board at Advisors in Philanthropy.  She and I are both indebted to our mutual friend, Tracy Gary. The topic we stay on is collaboration across the silos for inspired legacies.  We borrow each other's ideas as good neighbors share a cup of sugar.  Borrow what you can, and pay it forward.

Goals Gone Wild

Harvard Business Review article, Goals Gone Wild. Should be assigned to every "social investor" who says, "You can't manage what you can't measure." Goal setting can narrow focus, instill a culture of fear, creative compliance, and cheating, and can gin up disasters on a par with Enron or the Ford Pinto. "Do your best," the study suggests, is often more helpful to employees and more predictive of organizational results, than stretch goals measured and managed. Same might be true of grants and social impact?

Values Sorted for a Future Eulogy by an Impenitent Patriarch

Aristotle taught that a virtue is a mean between two extremes, both of which are vices. I just spent an hour in a philanthropy advisory class sorting a deck of cards, each representing a virtue, into priority order. "What are your most important values, sort them now," said the moderator.  But what about the vices for which virtue is a midpoint? Are we blind to these, and if so is blindness the operative value? 

Again with Greek and then  Judao-Christian traditions in mind, see the soul as a garden in which both flowers and weeds run to seed. From generation to generation we pass on both.  Sometimes the parents who lament that they did not successfully pass on the family values might console themselves for having done so well in passing on the family vices.

For example, self esteem, is, apparently a virtue  with complacency or egotism at one extreme and perhaps despair or self-loathing at the other extreme.  How many a family passes complacency on and calls it self-esteem, too complacent to see the difference?

To cultivate virtue, uproot vice, and prune back the excess of the virtues themselves. That is a wisdom not found in these decks of value cards, sorted as if we understood ourselves for what we are. "Know thyself" was written above the cunningly misleading Oracle at Delphi. Socrates said he was the wisest of men because he knew that he knew nothing.  Loving wisdom he was wise enough to know he lacked it. Horace said that art holds the mirror up to nature, by which he meant in part that the satirist paints the moral portrait of the Emperor such that the Emperor himself may be not only taken aback, but reformed.

"Of the virtues in your deck, which, Sir, have you betrayed?" (How to get oneself thrown out of a philanthropic advisory meeting.)

What Gets Results is Good; the Good just is Results Per Se

One rationale for torture runs through the concept of results. Utilitarianism produces these queasy moral quagmires. I tend to resist the Utilitarian views of philanthropy because it seems to reflect or express a moral sensibility that is too monovocal, too sure of its own rationale and its universal application.  No, a just society or a good life or a moral being or human happiness cannot be fully parsed as inputs and outputs and outcomes, not without loss of taste, tact, compunction, compassion, honor, duty, reverence, awe, and sometimes even human decency. 

Vacancies in Nonprofit Management and Fundraising

Bridgespan Group:

Despite tightening budgets, nonprofits foresee a need to fill 24,000 vacant or new roles in 2009, according to the Bridgespan Group report, “Finding Leaders for America’s Nonprofits.” Over 400 U.S. leaders of nonprofits with $1 million or more in revenues were interviewed for the report, which offers perspective on organizations’ hiring needs and plans, what they find most valuable in candidates for senior leadership positions, and more.

Many of those surveyed cited a need to fill roles such as finance and fundraising amid increasing management complexity and baby boomer retirements, yet they foresee challenges in finding candidates who are both qualified for the roles and who are cultural fits with their organizations.