Philanthropy Readings – May 2014

May 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

Fundraising numbers look good so far for 2014! This is great news!

Meanwhile, some very funky things are happening in the world of philanthropy:

World Vision’s Flip-Flop on Hiring Married Gays Shows a Stunning Lack of Foresight. I quite agree, and I can’t really imagine that changing the organization’s position will be good for its image over the long term. I’m disappointed by its decision to cave to the pressure of vocal evangelicals with extreme views. I’m even more disappointed that the same religious zealots who lift their voices so loudly to oppose same-sex marriage remain silent about the new anti-homosexuality law in Uganda, a country where World Vision has a strong presence. The new law makes homosexuality a crime punishable by imprisonment, and it has created a climate of violence and fear for gay Ugandans, their family, and friends.

On ethics and gift acceptance, UCLA has rejected a $3 million pledge from Donald Sterling after revelations of his truly despicable, racist remarks that were recorded and later released in the mainstream press. This is a big gift to turn away, but it’s a good decision by UCLA. They would have a hard time justifying publically acknowledging a gift from such a notorious donor. The other remarkable part of this story is that the Los Angeles branch of the NAACP was going to bestow a lifetime achievement award on Mr. Sterling later this month. Needless to say, that award has been rescinded, and the president of the NAACP chapter has resigned. How on earth a man like Sterling could even be considered for such an honor is hard to understand.

More philanthropy news of the weird: Google CEO Larry Page Has a Weird, Troubling Definition of Charity. The fact that this guy seems to be proselytizing his confusion of capitalist investment for charity is troubling. The article rightly points out that the problem with this confusion is that a corporation is motivated first and foremost by staying profitable, and a nonprofit organization’s first priority is its mission. Let’s hope this is an idea that doesn’t get popular traction.

On a related topic moving in another direction, the “effective philanthropy movement” was dealt a blow last month when the Flora Hewlett Foundation decided not to renew funding to support research on nonprofit financial performance. “Philanthrocapitalists,” as they are called, believe that nonprofits should be run more like businesses, with specific performance benchmarks and metrics. Holding nonprofits to the same standards as a corporate model isn’t often an appropriate measure of an organization’s efficacy, and it sounds like the Flora Hewlett Foundation has come around to this opinion, as well.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that nonprofit organizations are at a disadvantage because there are few women in leadership positions. Thus, they tend to overlook opportunities to engage with more women philanthropists. I work at a women’s college, and as such, our primary constituency is women. Among our highest-capacity donors, so many women have been virtually ignored by other organizations, paying primary attention to their husbands. It’s indeed a lost opportunity.

The May 8th Chronicle of Philanthropy has several pieces about how organizations are working with data to identify likely donors. It seem that statistical analysis (though those of us in this business have been busily establishing these best practices for years) is taking the spotlight in fundraising. The lead article quotes Josh Birkholz wisely advising readers not to give up the tried and true practices of peer screening and prospect research, but that data analysis “should be a voice at the table.” The same issue has an article that is basically a case study about the Human Rights Campaign, and how the organization used statistical analysis to convert activists into donors. Subscription required.

What are you reading?


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