Altruism Today

The Unintended Consequences of the Hospice Medicare Benefit

August 15th, 2011  |  Source: University of Chicago

Hospice managers have an incentive to choose patients who are unlikely to live very long.

The spate of hospice bankruptcies in recent years has exposed critical weaknesses in Medicare's reimbursement policies.

To keep a hospice afloat, its managers might be tempted to actively recruit and discharge certain types of patients, which goes against Medicare's objectives. "It's an undesirable practice to seek a particular patient type," says Chicago Booth professor Rodney P. Parker.

Full article here:

One Hen: Microfinance for Kids

August 9th, 2011  |  Source: One Hen


One Hen empowers kids to become social entrepreneurs who make a difference for themselves and the world. We do this by equipping educators with educational resources to inspire kids to four values: financial responsibility, personal initiative, global awareness and giving back-website

Governing NYC By Writing a Check?

August 8th, 2011  |  Source: NPQ

Source: New York Times | What began as a “toss-off laugh line”—New York City’s most intractable problems could be solved by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg just by pulling out his checkbook—has now become an “unprecedented reality in the Big Apple, writes New York Times’ columnist Michael Powell.  This week, Bloomberg drove a “two-gilded shot” of his own money into helping to cover the cost of the midyear Regents exam for several thousand high school seniors and, with fellow philanthropist, George Soros, launching a $30 million-plus initiative to bolster the educational and economic prospects for young black and Latino men.  

While some laud the mayor’s largesse, noting that in these lean economic times, “it would be a strange beggar to turn away a wealthy man’s money,” especially for poor and low-income kids who stand to benefit from it, others are not so sure.  As Powell notes, there are legitimate questions that might be raised about “government by personal checkbook,” including the “thin membrane between philanthropy and mayoral advantage.”  The mayor’s first deputy mayor, Patricia Harris, for example, is both the CEO and chairwoman of the Mayor’s $1.75 billion charity.  Nonprofits that have received grants previously from the mayor’s foundation—including numerous arts programs—have benefited but have also, “slowly almost imperceptibly” become willing advocates for Bloomberg’s policy agenda (including the mayor’s successful attempt to revoke term limits that would allow him to run for a third term).  And then there's the issue of reconciling the mayor’s philanthropy and his “personal and policy contradictions,” among them, running a police department that, Powell observes, “stops and frisks record numbers of black and Latino men…sometimes at gunpoint.” 

Los Angeles Times article echoes the above, reporting that the NYC mayor has "become much more public with his giving."  In addition to the Young Men's initiative, the mayor has also recently given a $50 million gift to the Sierra Club’s anti-coal campaign and $24 million to five cities to support innovative government projects—efforts that have drawn both praise and criticism for mixing philanthropy with government, the article notes.  Susan Lerner of Common Cause New York, who is quoted, sums up the dilemma:  “You have private money which is pushing where the public money will be spent...Where’s the evaluation process?  Where’s the public input?”  Those questions will become increasingly important to ask as the line between the role of publicly elected officials and philanthropists becomes more blurred, and in turn, the public's ability to assume its voice will be paramount in public policy decisions becomes less certain.

The unholy alliance in Somalia: Media, donors and aid agencies

August 7th, 2011  |  Source: The East

The season of giving has started — and it not even Christmas yet.

Leading international aid agencies, including the United Nations, Oxfam, Save the Children and Islamic Relief UK, have launched massive campaigns to save the thousands of Somalis who are facing hunger in their own country and in refugee camps in neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked donors for $1.6 billion in aid for Somalia and the World Bank has already pledged more than $500 million towards the relief efforts.

The appeals for food aid have been accompanied by heart-wrenching images: children with swollen, malnourished bellies, emaciated mothers with shriveled breasts that no longer lactate, campsites bursting at the seams with hordes of skeletal refugees. Almost all the large humanitarian aid agencies are rushing to the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya to witness, photograph and film the crisis. We have seen these images before — in the mid-1980s when Mohamed Amin filmed the famine in Ethiopia that triggered the trend of rock stars becoming do-gooders. Since then, famine has become the biggest story coming out of Africa — and one of the biggest industries.

...........Despite all these glaring inefficiencies and failures, the aid industry continues unabated; in fact, it is going from strength to strength. Statistics indicate that the number of aid agencies and NGOs have mushroomed since the end of the Cold War – in Kenya alone, for instance, there are more than 6,000 registered international and local NGOs that contribute more than $1 billion to the Kenyan economy.

In my assessment, there is a strong relationship between the number of donors and aid agencies in a country and its level of poverty – the more donors and aid agencies there are, the less likely that country is to significantly reduce poverty levels.

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Shopkick Switches To For-Profit Status, Sees Surge In Charitable Giving

August 3rd, 2011  |  Source: The Good Capitalist

In a fascinating case study of how the for-profit industry can sometimes make a greater social impact than the nonprofit world,Shopkick, a popular geo-location app, has paradoxically created a more charitable community since it decided to ditch its charity business model and focus on giving people free stuff. >>>Read article

CREW Calls for a Special Counsel to Investigate the House Ethics Committee

August 2nd, 2011  |  Source: CREW


In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) called on both leaders to jointly appoint an outside counsel to investigate the House Ethics Committee.  Read CREW’s letter here.

CREW’s call follows a report in Politico, indicating the investigation into Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) was tarred by partisanship, staff and member misconduct, and the deliberate withholding of evidence.

“More important than an inquiry into any specific member of Congress is an investigation into the committee itself,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan.  “At this point, who could possibly have confidence in anything that comes out of the committee?  The only solution is for the Speaker and Minority Leader to hire a well-respected outside counsel to conduct a thorough and fair review and to release the results to the public.”

Last December, the Washington Post reported the Ethics Committee was in near total disarray. Today we learned that in late 2010, Blake Chisam, then-chief counsel of the committee sent a series of memos to then-Committee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) claiming the two lead attorneys handling the Waters investigation, Morgan Kim and Stacy Sovereign, breached confidentiality by providing confidential material to those not authorized to view it. 

Mr. Chisam also claimed Mr. Kim and Ms. Sovereign had failed to provide Rep. Waters’ defense team with all the material to which it was entitled and had improperly accessed the computers of other committee staff members.  Mr. Kim and Ms. Sovereign counterclaimed that Mr. Chisam withheld evidence against Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) and that he had tried to protect Democrats.

“CREW has been a long-time critic of Rep. Waters, but given the serious nature of the charges against the committee and its staff, we agree with the congresswoman that the current case should be closed.  Outside counsel should be appointed to investigate the matter from the date of the referral by the Office of Congressional Ethics,” said Ms. Sloan.  “It is depressing that even the one committee intended to protect the institution of the House as a whole has been decimated by partisan politics, further savaging the already dismal reputation of Congress.”

Click here to read CREW's letter.

Common Cause vs a Smart Alec

July 29th, 2011  |  Source:


A taxpayer-supported campaign against Big Government

ALEC, one of the right's premier ideas factories, has been the recipient of public money in several states

Taxpayer dollars in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Kansas are being spent to fund state lawmakers' memberships in the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which provides model state legislation drafted with the help of big business. In some of the states, public money has gone to travel and food expenses as well, including in Pennsylvania, whose taxpayers spent $50,000 to cater ALEC’s 2007 conference in Philadelphia.

The public money is helping to fund the activities of an organization dedicated to drastically cutting government spending and whose non-profit status is currently being challenged by Common Cause, which contends that ALEC is essentially a lobbying organization. Corporations are given a direct role in drafting the model legislation that ALEC urges states to adopt -- legislation that, if enacted, often benefits the same corporations. ALEC defines itself as a professional association, just like scrupulously nonpartisan organizations like the National Conference of State Legislatures and The Council of State Governments, which legislators commonly belong to.

"ALEC receives payment from a variety of sources, sometimes in the form of educational grants for legislative members," ALEC spokeswoman Raegan Weber wrote in an email to Salon. "ALEC provides an educational environment to hear from experts on a variety of issues including education, public safety, health care and tax and fiscal policy."

The most notable disbursement of public money to ALEC, discovered in documents obtained by this reporter from Common Cause for a separate Philadelphia City Paper article, took place in Pennsylvania, where a $50,000 appropriation to cater the ALEC meeting was slipped into the 2007 state budget. The food bill for that gathering ended up including $30,450 for roasted chicken breast, $4,000 for Philly cheese-steaks and $3,000 for cheesecake lollipops -- all of it paid for by Pennsylvania taxpayers.

In the budget, the ALEC outlay was described as being "for the payment of expenses related to hosting conferences, meetings or conventions of multistage organizations which protect the member states’ interests or which promote governmental financial excellence or accountability."

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Recommended reading...

July 28th, 2011  |  Source: VPPartners

Wise, candid, practical advice to help organizations thrive in an era of scarcity

Leap of Reason presents both an impassioned plea and a logical plan for taking a social sector–wide leap forward in our ability to create meaningful, measurable good for those we serve. The book is deeply relevant for:

Nonprofit executives who want better information to fulfill the mission that compelled them to dedicate their lives to serving others

Funders who want to understand what impact their gifts are having and how they can achieve greater impact

Board members and advisors who want to support disciplined, effective, outcomes-driven management

Policymakers seeking better ways to allocate scarce public funding and services.

Hacking Scandal Could Cost News Corp. Its ‘Social License’

July 27th, 2011  |  Source: Yahoo Finance

The phone-hacking scandal has done great damage to the stock of News Corp. and to the public image of its owner and founder, Rupert Murdoch. But the biggest harm may have been to another asset: the company's social license. And I'm not talking about the prospect of Rupert and Wendi Murdoch not getting invited to dinner parties in the Hamptons. Rather, I'm talking about a somewhat vague but important concept. 

Operating a business and working in different markets, even regulated ones, may be a right that courts can enforce. But at a deeper level, it is also a privilege. And so in addition to a formal government license, companies also need an informal 'social license.'

A company, or an institution, gets and maintains a social license if it generally behaves and runs in a way that other businesses and institutions want to do business with it, and that governments and society at large tend to welcome them as a present. Sure, a CEO may define his or her duties as owing primarily to the bottom line and to shareholders. But a company is also evaluated, and valued, based on how well it plays with others, and on whether people want it operating in their neighborhood. (In the accompanying video, Aaron Task and I discuss the concept of social license.)

Companies that possess a social license often find it easy to expand into new areas. Danny Meyer, the do-good, feel-good restaurateur, just opened a Shake Shack in the Connecticut town where I live, and nobody seems to mind the big traffic jams or generally unhealthy grub it has brought. It is common for hosannas to erupt when the city fathers announce a Trader Joe's is coming to town. These cuddly guys have an expansive social license.

But Wal-Mart? Not so much. America's largest retailer rose to dominance through an aggressive strategy of low pricing, low wages and hostility to unions. In the rural areas where it thrived for its first few decades, that wasn't a problem. But having saturated the sticks, Wal-Mart found that its policies and corporate culture made it unwelcome in many large cities where labor and small business groups had a good deal of influence. With domestic growth having stalled, Wal-Mart now realizes that its future in the U.S. rests on making headway in cities where it currently lacks a social license to operate. It is desperately trying to get into the lucrative New York City market, for example.

Wal-Mart has been trying hard to improve its image by offering better health benefits to associates and getting involved in sustainability issues. But that hasn't helped it pry open the closed Big Apple. When you don't have a social license in a particular area, it means that instead of being invited in and receiving incentives, you might have to buy your way in. Wal-Mart just donated $4 million to a New York City jobs program as part of an effort to improve its image in New York.

The consequences of losing a social license — or not having one in the first place — can hit the bottom line in several ways. 

Abstract only.  Read the rest of the article and watch the video here:  

End of an Era: Shriners Will End Free Health Care for All

July 25th, 2011  |  Source: NPQ

Source: StarTribune | Shriners are well known for wearing their red fez hats while raising money through football games, and parades. These events and other efforts gave over one million children free healthcare at their hospitals throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada.  Now, rising health care costs and a tough economy are forcing the national nonprofit to find a new revenue stream – insurance companies.

For 89 years, the Shriners fraternity, 325,000 members strong, supported over 20 hospitals.  In recent years, members saw their endowment decline and their fundraising efforts remain flat.  Starting this August, hospitals will bill insurance companies and charge families co-payments. Those children without insurance will still be treated at no cost.

Shriners Hospitals were started in the early 1920’s to fight polio.  Today, most of their work focuses on helping children who need orthopedic care or have spinal cord injuries.

The new funding scheme was pushed forward as the organization watched its endowment value plummet from $8 billion to $5 billion.  Eight hospitals were scheduled to close. Instead, new revenue from insurance companies will ensure that all hospitals remain open. Still, the organization’s expenses are exceeding revenue by $230 million a year.

The organization is facing a new set of challenges with this transition. Initially, Shriners weren’t able to sign contracts with several major insurers until the by-laws were changed.  And the hospitals lost a few million dollars before they realized that direct reimbursement payments to patients were not being properly collected.

The old business model of free-standing and self contained operations is no more. Newer hospitals are working with local medical institutions to share equipment and costs.

Today, collaborating and connecting with other institutions is replacing football games to ensure that Shriners Hospitals will be there for both today’s children and future generations.

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