2014 Updates

I cannot believe it’s February! My last official blog was in August and I am well overdue. But, I have an excuse. Two, actually. There have been two major changes in my life in the past six months:

Update #1
I’m now writing weekly as a newswire writer/lay journalist for the Nonprofit Quarterly. My role is to take trends and idea in popular media and provide a nonprofit-oriented commentary. Basically, I answer the question, “What does this mean for our sector?”

Much of the time I used to spend blogging on this website has gone to blogging for NPQ. I have to admit that I’ve really enjoyed writing for NPQ because it keeps me up to date on trends in the nonprofit sector.

To sign up for newswire emails, visit NPQ’s homepage and fill out the form on the bottom right-hand corner.

Update #2
In December, I passed my dissertation proposal defense. This means I am not longer a doctoral student but now a doctoral candidate. I’m now officially working on the dissertation which I hope to have completed by the end of the year.

My dissertation is tentatively titled Beyond Generosity: The Action Logics in Philanthropy. I will be studying philanthropy (and our sector as a whole) through the lens of developmental psychology. It’s very, very exciting. (Don’t ask me about it unless you’re really interested. I may just talk your ear off.)

So, as you can imagine, I’ve been busy. I’ve also tried to have some fun. Yesterday, for example, I took a break from research and went Gray Whale watching of the San Diego coast. It’s amazing to me how these creatures migrate 12,000 miles roundtrip from Alaska to Baja each year. And many of them make the journey alone!

Whale watching off the coast of San Diego.

Whale watching off the coast of San Diego.

Social Media Policies – NPQ Newswire

Members of the Turtle Creek Chorale, a thirty-four-year-old predominantly gay group with more than 200 performers, are using social media platforms like Facebook to voice their frustrations about the organization and its social media policies. The Chorale is not alone in its struggles to perfect a social media policy; many nonprofits are wondering how to write these short but complicated documents.

Social media policies are supposed to protect both the organization and the employees (or, in this case, dues-paying volunteers). When written well, social media policies provide the necessary balance of common sense rules (such as no profanity), organization specific protocol (don’t share confidential information), and overall guidance (be transparent). When written poorly, social media policies can lead to confusion and the perception—correct or incorrect—that individual rights are being curtailed. There are several websites which offer sample social media policies but few which provide accurate guidance as to what works and what does not.

Read the more about the case of the Turtle Creek Chorale and social media policies on the Nonprofit Quarterly website.

#Trends in #Online #Giving

The internet has changed the way we do many things. It has changed the way we shop, the way we bank, the way we teach. It has even changed philanthropy. eBay Deals and eBay Giving Works recently came out with an Infographic listing sixteen stories they believe prove the “internet has a heart.”  These stories do prove that online giving is alive and well. They also illustrate three potential trends or “hot spots” in online giving: disaster response, inspiring stories, and the few nonprofits savvy enough to channel the power of viral philanthropy.

Trend #1: Disaster Giving
Online giving is particularly effective in times of natural disaster. We saw this following the earthquake in Haiti. The Red Cross raised millions of dollars in a very short time frame using methods that are still largely untapped by many nonprofits: Twitter and mobile phones. The immediacy of disaster-based needs and the visual images of damages shown on TV are powerful motivators for philanthropy. The Infographic indicates that the eBay Giving Works program drive raised more than half a million dollars in support of relief for victims of the 2013 tornado in Oklahoma; and that GoFundMe has raised more than $3.3 million for victims of the bombing at the recent Boston Marathon.

Trend #2: Inspiring Stories
The internet loves a good story. You may have seen on Facebook or Twitter the compelling story of Billy Ray Harris, a homeless man from Kansas City who returned a diamond ring. That story went viral and more than $191,760 in donations poured in for Mr. Harris through GiveItForward.com. In a similarly touching story, a man from Nairobi inspired more than $80,000 in donations in less than twenty-four hours after being slashed in the face trying to defend his orphanage. These stories have the power to capture the hearts and open the pocketbooks of many.

Trend #3: Savvy Nonprofits
In other cases, it seems that nonprofits that are savvy about online giving can actively participate in creating the “perfect storm” for online giving. For example, more than $1.4 million was raised via Charity: Water when soon to be nine-year-old Rachel Bechwith asked that in lieu of gifts, friends and family helped bring clean drinking water to developing nations. Her wish was fulfilled after her passing. In another case, more than $200 thousand dollars was raised for Doctors Without Borders by a FirstGiving campaign sponsored by Reddit/Atheism. The Infographic does not tell the story of how the online campaigns were created or executed, but the focus on a nonprofit’s mission as opposed to an individual such as Mr. Harris is key.

Nonprofits should take note. Not all nonprofits work in the area of disaster relief but most can tell a compelling story. These stories, besides being potentially viral online giving opportunities, are touching and speak to our common humanity. They are a motivating factor in giving.

The money given to the man in Nairobi and to Mr. Harris will change a few individual lives but will not affect the lives of the many other homeless men nor will it improve the safety of other orphanages. However, nonprofits who educate themselves about online giving have the potential to channel the viral impact of these stories by raising money for the organizations and programs that will make a lasting change.

 

Note: part of this blog ran as a newswire report for the Nonprofit Quarterly.

Does Impact Investment Signal a Paradigm Shift?

There is a fundamental shift in how some are approaching business and philanthropy. Whether you call it impact investing, philanthrocapitalism, or social business, these emerging practices have the potential to be a paradigm shift in our economic landscape. Or do they?

Amy Bell, Executive Director and Head of Principal Investments for JPMorgan’s Social Finance business unit, writes that “impact investing is the deployment of capital with an expectation of financial return, where the success of the investment is also contingent upon achieving a stated social or environmental goal.”

Massive amounts of capital are being “deployed” as Bell describes it. JPMorgan Chase alone has allocated more than $50 million. Goldman Sachs invested $10 million for the US’s first social impact bond. The list goes on.

Is this just a continuation and expansion of corporate social responsibility or is this a deeper change? For decades (if not centuries) nonprofits have encouraged the corporate sector to give back. Nonprofits argue that corporations themselves are economically sustained in many ways because of nonprofits: low-wage workers access discounted healthcare at community clinics and pay reduced-rate tuition at their children’s preschool; higher paid workers are recruited with promises of an area’s operas, cultural life, private schools, and hospitals; and any employee can access a community’s religious services, clean beaches, summer camps, and more.

Eventually, corporations began to catch on and, in large numbers, began partnering with nonprofits through sponsorships, grants and, eventually, cause marketing. Corporations realized that cause marketing could increase sales, increase employee engagement, and could have a positive impact on the community as well. Well-crafted relationships between corporations and nonprofits can lead to very good things for all involved.

But impact investment seems to go a step further. By investing capital in projects through organizations – many of which are for-profit – that create social good and at the same time provide a financial return on investment, impact investing has the potential to fundamentally change the donor’s experience. It completely shakes our business vs. philanthropy mindset. Impact investing says, “We can do both at the same time.” And the underlying assumption is that if we can do both, we should.

But can we do both? In some cases yes. Bell offers the example of Wilmar Flowers. JPMorgan Chase has invested capital in this African-based business with the expectations that Wilmar will grow from purchasing from 3,000 to more than 5,000 African-based small farms, affecting more than 250,000 households. It’s not clear how this arrangement differs from a typical business loan except that, in this case, the business might have previously been considered too high risk. Given Africa’s shaky economic performance, investments like this could be a very positive move towards economic development.

Bell writes that at JPMorgan Chase, “We have increasingly sought to bring the full resources of the firm to bear on these issues over the last several years.” She later writes, “By marrying the expertise within our traditional banking businesses with the financial and philanthropic tools we have available, we are excited about the potential to increase our positive impact and to redefine how we all think about returns.”

There is a delicate balance between maximizing social good and maximizing profit. Imagine walking a tightrope with a barbell in your hand. If one side drops too low, the whole act could fall. If the profit weight is too heavy, the social good is compromised. If the social good weight is too heavy, the lack of financial return may scare future investors. Both goals must be held at equilibrium.

And in some case, we cannot and should not do both. In the wake of 9-11, hundreds of thousands of people were stranded on Manhattan Island. Fear and panic was everywhere. Local fishermen and those with boats self-organized to give people rides to the mainland. 500,000 civilians were rescued in less than nine hours. It was the largest sea evacuation in history. This voluntary organization was completely spontaneous. There was a tremendous return on investment for those who contributed their time and resources, but it was not a financial return.

Is impact investing an emerging paradigm shift? Probably. In fact, there may come a time when the public expects all businesses to operate with a social mission. That day may come sooner rather than later. But the 9-11 boat lift teaches us that the opposite is not necessarily true. Not all social missions can offer financial ROI.

Nonprofit or For-profit? – NPQ Newswire

I’m intrigued by the social enterprise movement, if we dare call it that. In my recent Nonprofit Quarterly Newswire I look at the choice one social entrepreneur had to make.

As ThinkImpact grew, its founder, Saul Garlick, had to make a tough decision: remain a nonprofit, or change to a for-profit model? To do so, he had to consider some key elements: ownership, transparency, and profits.

Read my Nonprofit Quarterly Newswire by clicking here.

Unpaid Interns May Be Too Expensive – NPQ Newswire

Summer interns: We love them and we hate them. But do we have to pay them? That is a question much debated. Most recently, that debate has been taken up by a federal judge in Manhattan, who ruled in June that Fox Searchlight had broken minimum wage laws using unpaid interns on the set of Black Swan. This ruling, which may or may not be overturned upon appeal, signals that the legal and financial risk of unpaid interns may be greater than previously considered.

Read my newswire to discover why: http://www.nonprofitquarterly.org/policysocial-context/22569-unpaid-interns-may-be-too-expensive.html

Problems Migrate: Lessons From SF’s Homeless Population Survey – NPQ Newswire

While San Francisco city officials are undoubtedly celebrating the drop in the homeless population from 6,455 in 2011 to 6,436 in 2013, which is largely attributed to the city government’s commitment to permanent supportive housing, the demographic questions included in the Biennial Homeless Count offer lessons for the rest of us.

For the first time ever, San Francisco collected demographic information about the sexual orientation of homeless individuals. The survey reported that almost a third (29%) of respondents self-identified as LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning). This figure is most likely higher than the general population; Alfred Kinsey argued 10% of the population is gay or lesbian, and other studies have reported even smaller percentages.

It is no secret that San Francisco is an LGBTQ-friendly place, and it is not surprising the LGBTQ homeless count might be high. However, there is a deeper lesson for nonprofits across the country.

Note: This is part of a newswire I wrote for the Nonprofit Quarterly. To read the full post, please click here.