Altruism Today

The long deserved/needed criticism of philanthrocapitalism has begun

December 2nd, 2015  |  Source: Philanthropy Daily

While media outlets are scrutinizing politicians this time of year, it has not been the case for Gates Foundation, but the scrutiny of philanthrocapitalistic endeavors has begun.

"IT’S ELECTION SEASON, and teams of journalists are avidly tracking the flow of big money into political campaigns. Sifting financial records and filings, they are laying bare the activities of Super PACs, 501(c)(4)s, and campaign committees. There’s a parallel realm of big-money activity, however, that receives much less attention: philanthropy. With the explosion of the billionaire class, the number of deep-pocketed donors and foundations has mushroomed as well. Many of the new benefactors are Wall Street and Silicon Valley moguls who are seeking to apply to social and economic problems the same zest for innovation and entrepreneurship that they showed in their business ventures.

"The creed of these new philanthropists was brashly outlined in June by Sean Parker, the co-founder of Napster and founding president of Facebook, in an article appearing in the Wall Street Journal under the headline, “Philanthropy for Hackers.” Traditional philanthropy, he declared, is “a strange and alien world made up of largely antiquated institutions.” These old-timers have long favored “safe” gifts to well-established institutions, “resulting in a never-ending competition to name buildings at major universities, medical centers, performing arts centers and other such public places.” The new breed, by contrast, has a hacker mindset: It is anti-establishment, believes in “radical transparency,” is given to problem solving, and has an ability to identify weaknesses in long-established systems and to disrupt them. With this “hacker elite” now seeking to upend philanthropy, Parker exhorted them to resist the urge to institutionalize and instead treat philanthropy as “a series of calculated risks” and “big bets.” In a bid to put these principles into practice, Parker launched a foundation bearing his name, with an endowment of $600 million and a commitment to finding new ways to fight allergies, malaria, and cancer."--Mike Massing, The Intercept

Calling all student in search of scholarships

November 19th, 2015  |  Source: Good Call Scholarship

The GoodCall Scholarship Search Engine is one of the largest databases of scholarships on the web.

Unlike the others, GoodCall Scholarship Engine requires no personal information and it's free to use.

You can check it out here:

Foundations Stepping in to Help Cash-Strapped Cities

November 16th, 2015  |  Source:

Facing budget cuts and shrinking tax bases, a growing number of cities are turning to private giving to pay for infrastructure, public safety, and other functions traditionally covered by taxpayers, Bloomberg writes.

Detroit is getting hundreds of millions of dollars in foundation support as it recovers from bankruptcy, and economically struggling towns such as Wisconsin Rapids, Wisc., and Madison, Ala., are relying on private funds for economic-development projects and police equipment. The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation is paying a third of the $12-million cost to replace the lead-contaminated water system in its Flint, Mich., home.

"Government gridlock has left many communities looking for solutions to some of the big challenges they face," said Vikki Spruill, president and CEO of the Council on Foundations. "The limitations of political leaders to address the pressing needs of communities have increased pressure on foundations to assume roles that government has historically taken."

Read a Chronicle of Philanthropy interview with Ryan Friedrichs, the Detroit city government's liaison to foundation.

Stories of those Homeless Who Don’t Fit the “Housing First” Model

October 28th, 2015  |  Source: NPQ

For those who are concerned about homelessness in the United States, it is worthwhile read the “street papers” that are produced and sold by homeless persons in many parts of the country.

The perspectives to be gleaned are frequently revealing, as in the October 7th print edition of Washington, D.C.’s Street Sense. Its cover story by editorial intern Alexandra Pamias asks about those who don’t get served in Housing First programs in Washington—“who get left behind,” according to the headline.

The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness defines Housing First as:

An approach that offers permanent, affordable housing as quickly as possible for individuals and families experiencing homelessness, and then provides the supportive services and connections to the community-based supports people need to keep their housing and avoid returning to homelessness…

While Housing First can be used in both short- and long-term interventions, the approach is closely tied to permanent supportive housing and…to rapid re-housing as well.

In Washington, D.C., Housing First has been a part of the city government’s response to homelessness since it was first launched during the administration of Mayor Adrian Fenty. Current mayor Muriel Bowser has populated her cabinet with experts who bring extensive Housing First experience to the table, notably Department of Human Services director Laura Zeilinger, whose official bio credits her as having “designed and implemented” the District’s Housing First initiative, and Department of Housing and Community Development director Polly Donaldson, whose prior work at the Transitional Housing Corporation included placing homeless families in transitional housing and permanent Housing First units. In DHCD’s RFP for affordable housing funds issued in August, the commitment to the Housing First model was evident in a requirement that five percent of the housing units in a funded project must be set aside as permanent supportive housing (PSH) units which would be made available following a Housing First model “in which clients don’t have to meet prerequisites before accessing housing and services…[which is] a recognized best practice in combatting homelessness.”

That is a solid expression of DHCD’s intention regarding the prioritization of its use of local affordable housing trust fund dollars, but the challenge is always one of making the model work. Pamias talked with Beau Stiles, the program coordinator for the Georgetown Ministry Center, about the homeless people he meets at his weekly gatherings for guests at the homeless drop-in facility.

Describing a story about one of his guests who believed that Stiles was trying to kill him through sorcery, Stiles averred that one major challenge is how to provide services to homeless people who might be suffering from a mental disorder. The executive director of the Georgetown Ministry Center, Gunther Stern, explained the challenge as “anosognosia”:

It is a syndrome associated with neurological disorders. About half of people with mental illness also have some degree of anosognosia, which is the inability to understand that they have a problem. So they might be yelling and howling at the wind but they don’t perceive that they have a mental illness.

In its Winter Plan for getting homeless people off the streets during hypothermia season, the D.C. Interagency Council on Homelessness has expanded street outreach services to the homeless accompanied by the District’s commitment to Housing First. Stern says there will still be people who fall through the cracks of the policy; potentially as many as half of the homeless community will refuse Housing First assistance because of distrust of the system or other reasons, even if there is widespread adoption of the Housing First model.

“The people that I work with are mostly missed by [Housing First] for two different reasons,” Stern told Street Sense. “One is that they don’t get hit because they are too low functioning. Or the second is that they are too low functioning that they are unsuccessful once they receive housing.”

Sean Parker plans to spend his fortune disrupting philanthropy

June 24th, 2015  |  Source: SFChronicle

Napster co-founder and former Facebook President Sean Parker says he used the election cycle as “a laboratory for learning” on how the ballot initiative process works.
Next year, he plans to expand with the opening of San Francisco startup Brigade, dedicated to political engagement. He is planning to go bigger in 2016.

Before he became a billionaire venture capitalist, Sean Parker blew up the music business by founding the file-sharing service Napster. Now he plans to spend his fortune upending another calcified industry: philanthropy.


June 22nd, 2015  |  Source:

·       An online and mobile platform for nonprofit fundraising that provides organizations the tools they need to develop and launch engaging crowdfunding campaigns.

·       Industry Community & Education

·       Location New York, NY

·       Goals To help nonprofits fundraise online and through mobile devices.

·       Company URL

·       Twitter @WeDidItNYC

How the Red Cross Raised Half a Billion Dollars for Haiti ­and Built Six Homes

June 3rd, 2015  |  Source: ProPublica

Even as the group has publicly celebrated its work, insider accounts detail a string of failures

In late 2011, the Red Cross launched a multimillion-dollar project to transform the desperately poor area, which was hit hard by the earthquake that struck Haiti the year before. The main focus of the project — called LAMIKA, an acronym in Creole for “A Better Life in My Neighborhood” — was building hundreds of permanent homes.

Today, not one home has been built in Campeche. Many residents live in shacks made of rusty sheet metal, without access to drinkable water, electricity or basic sanitation. When it rains, their homes flood and residents bail out mud and water.

The Red Cross received an outpouring of donations after the quake, nearly half a billion dollars.

The group has publicly celebrated its work. But in fact, the Red Cross has repeatedly failed on the ground in Haiti. Confidential memos, emails from worried top officers, and accounts of a dozen frustrated and disappointed insiders show the charity has broken promises, squandered donations, and made dubious claims of success.

The Red Cross says it has provided homes to more than 130,000 people. But the actual number of permanent homes the group has built in all of Haiti: six.

After the earthquake, Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern unveiled ambitious plans to “develop brand-new communities.” None has ever been built.

Aid organizations from around the world have struggled after the earthquake in Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. But ProPublica and NPR’s investigation shows that many of the Red Cross’s failings in Haiti are of its own making. They are also part of a larger pattern in which the organization has botched delivery of aid after disasters such as Superstorm Sandy. Despite its difficulties, the Red Cross remains the charity of choice for ordinary Americans and corporations alike after natural disasters.

One issue that has hindered the Red Cross’ work in Haiti is an overreliance on foreigners who could not speak French or Creole, current and former employees say.

In a blistering 2011 memo, the then-director of the Haiti program, Judith St. Fort, wrote that the group was failing in Haiti and that senior managers had made “very disturbing” remarks disparaging Haitian employees. St. Fort, who is Haitian American, wrote that the comments included, “he is the only hard working one among them” and “the ones that we have hired are not strong so we probably should not pay close attention to Haitian CVs.”

The Red Cross won’t disclose details of how it has spent the hundreds of millions of dollars donated for Haiti. But our reporting shows that less money reached those in need than the Red Cross has said.

Lacking the expertise to mount its own projects, the Red Cross ended up giving much of the money to other groups to do the work. Those groups took out a piece of every dollar to cover overhead and management. Even on the projects done by others, the Red Cross had its own significant expenses – in one case, adding up to a third of the project’s budget.

Read on here:

Italian resistance film is being censored...

May 23rd, 2015  |  Source: Kickstarter

The Secret of Italia is a historical film, housed within a love story, that shares details about the "Massacre of Codevidgo" in 1945

New Boston Public Art Installation Astounds, Reminds Us Where the Ocean Is

May 8th, 2015  |  Source: NPQ

Source: Boston Globe

Public art is supposed to disrupt our states of mind, and very close to the place where the Boston encampment of Occupy could have been found three and a half years ago, an eerie hovering of light hangs, brightly colored and wafting around in the breeze.

The artist is Janet Echelman, and her two-thousand-pound aerial rope sculpture stops people in their tracks when they first catch sight of it above the Greenway parks, where you can hear the seagulls and the boat horns through the sounds of the traffic. Up close, you see it is a suspended sculpture made up of huge nets that change with the light and the wind, like almost everything else in this city. You can read some of the details about the piece here, but here is how it is described in a local community paper:

“When any individual element of the sculpture moves, every other element is affected. Enormous in scale and strength but as delicate as lace, the fibers used are 15 times stronger then [sic] steel but are extremely lightweight.”

The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway is meant in part to reconnect Boston to the ocean, and this sculpture—even suspended as it is between tall buildings—calls to mind the familiar but wild and harsh beauty of fishing nets. But in this case, there are 100 miles of rope involved, and a half-million knots. The installation helps wake the city up after its long winter. The sight astounds and interrupts and lures us to the spot, and that is what we need as the last of the snow melts.

Echelman’s piece will have its opening ceremony on May 11th, and will remain in place until October. The majority of the funding for this piece comes from the Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation, the Lynch Foundation, Autodesk, ArtPlace America, and anonymous donors. Also, public arts grants were awarded from the Boston Cultural Council ($3,000), Massachusetts Cultural Council ($2,500), and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Greenway Conservancy has five more years of temporary art installations planned for the Greenway, which is almost a median strip with traffic on both side—but what a median strip, with a diversity of food trucks and art exhibits and even a merry-go-round. And now it has its own version of the Northern Lights that invites people to take a little lay-down in the grass and stare up at it and the sky. Next week, the Conservancy is apparently bringing in hammocks.

How to donate to Nepal earthquake relief

May 1st, 2015  |  Source:

Scores of charities are providing assistance to help people devastated by the magnitude-7.8 earthquake that hit Nepal on Saturday.

But how can you be sure your donation will make a difference? 

"You need to do your homework," said Sandra Miniutti of Charity Navigator, which rates nonprofit organizations on a four-star scale based on their financial condition and board governance policies. "We are working on how to evaluate charities based on their impact in our ratings methodology, but we think that if a charity is in good financial shape and is transparent, it will have the resources to carry out its mission well."

Read MoreTechnology to the rescue as Facebook, Google tools help easeNepal jitters

Charity Navigator identified 11 nonprofits that have a three- or four-star rating and allow people to designate their donations to go specifically to earthquake relief in Nepal.

The company isn't the only ratings game in town. The BBB Wise Giving Alliance listed 37 charities collecting donations for Nepal that met the organization's 20 standards for charitable giving.

Jacob Harold, president and CEO of GuideStar, a company that maintains of a database of 2.2 million IRS-recognized nonprofits, recommends people who want to immediately support earthquake relief efforts in Nepal donate to GlobalGiving. The nonprofit is an online marketplace that connects people who want to give cash to international causes. GlobalGiving has received top accolades from the Better Business Bureau, Charity Navigator and GuideStar

"It's usually better to give money than stuff after a disaster because it gives charities more flexibility to address the immediate needs of the affected communities," Harold said.

The rush of charitable contributions after a disaster is helpful, but Nepal and other regions hurt by catastrophes may need financial support for years, said Bob Ottenhoff, president and CEO of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Read MoreCharitable giving for the average investor

"Earthquakes are more complicated than most disasters because they often strike without warning and require rebuilding of major infrastructure," he said. The center has set up a fund to focus on long-term recovery projects in Nepal.

"There is this intense interest now, but people tend to forget about the area once the cameras go away," Ottenhoff said.

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