Altruism Today

Quietly philanthropic

January 13th, 2015  |  Source: Philanthropy.com

Profile of novelist James Patterson waits until end to tell you about his philanthropy, which includes $1m to independent bookstores and $26m to alma maters.

"Patterson intends to arrange his estate so that about half of his wealth goes to charity, and he hopes that his son, Jack, might someday like to take charge of the giving. His philanthropy at this point is hands-on ('because I think institutions frequently are very sloppy'). He told me that he has no interest in having his name on buildings." -- Todd S. Purdum, Vanity Fair


Naming The Dead: One Group's Struggle To Record Deaths From U.S. Drone Strikes In Pakistan

January 12th, 2015  |  Source: HuffPo

Last year, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London embarked upon an ambitious effort to record the names of people reportedly killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan. The project, called Naming the Dead, aims to acknowledge those who have lost their lives in the strikes and to create more transparency about a counterterrorism program shrouded in secrecy.

The CIA has conducted hundreds of drone strikes targeting militants in Pakistan's tribal regions since June 2004. U.S. officials have lauded the program for its effectiveness and precision, and it has become an essential pillar of the administration's counterterrorism policy. Yet despite promises by President Barack Obama to make the program more transparent and apply the highest possible standards to avoid civilian casualties, the administration has, so far, continued its secretive practices.

With Naming The Dead over a year into its investigation, The WorldPost sat down with Jack Serle of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism to discuss the progress of the project.

Read on here: 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/31/naming-the-dead_n_6082954.html?cps=gravity_2425_-6764049673691147787


Local Governments and Nonprofits Test Crowdfunding for Civic Projects

January 8th, 2015  |  Source: Philanthropy.com

Fresh from municipal bankruptcy and locked in a court-mandated spending plan, Central Falls, R.I., controlled little of its budget. But officials found wiggle room in their fiscal straitjacket by borrowing a new idea from the world of philanthropy.

About a year ago, they launched a crowdfunding campaign similar to what’s found on Kickstarter, the online platform where artists, entrepreneurs, and others seek donations to bankroll creative projects. Using a Kickstarter-like website, the former mill town posted a proposal to beautify and clean up its landmark park. It promoted the project through videos, mass emails, and social and mainstream media—typical fundraising tools. Within weeks, it had raised $10,000 to buy new bins for trash and recycling in the park, designed by local artists as public art.

Central Falls is one of dozens of municipalities that has gone hat in hand online in recent years. They are part of a niche group of local governments, nonprofits, and community groups experimenting with "civic crowdfunding" campaigns to raise cash for programs and infrastructure designed for the common good.

The campaigns are typically small, aiming to raise from $5,000 to $30,000 and pay for things that might not even merit a line item in a municipal budget. In Philadelphia’s first successful crowdfunding campaign, for instance, it raised $2,163 for a youth garden program—this when the city spends about $4.5-billion a year.

The architects of civic crowdfunding campaigns are using the cash raised online to attract bigger dollars from state and federal sources. They’re also earning grants from private foundations that see robust crowdfunding as evidence of community backing for a project.

In Denver, the roughly $150,000 needed to design a milelong protected bike lane is coming from the business community, the local Gates Family Foundation, and a nearly completed $35,000 crowdfunding campaign.


The dark side of civil society: A case study in architecture

January 7th, 2015  |  Source: Philanthropy Daily

Traditional accounts of civil society see it as a counterbalance to government excess; free and voluntary associations’ pursuit of their particularistic goals tends to create roadblocks and bulwarks against the bounding activism of energetic or even destructive political authority. (Whether civil society groups are motivated either by bald self-interest or a more enlightened sense of altruism does not, in the end, matter.) A government left unchecked by civil society will, the theory goes, overstep its station, taking responsibility for certain decisions and wading into certain debates for which it is not properly competent; and of course, proponents of civil society are quick to point out, most everything the government touches quickly goes bad. Thus conservatives in particular have in recent years sought refuge from the increasingly far-reaching hand of the state in their own “little platoons.” If only these intermediary institutions were stronger, many believe, we might reclaim some vision of classical beauty, truth, and goodness.

The realm of architecture often serves as a contentious battlefield in this ongoing war. Many on the right today believe that government is incapable of commissioning beautiful buildings—here in Washington, D.C., the Department of Education building, the FBI Headquarters, and the Office of Personnel Management all seemingly attest to this. Groups like the National Civic Art Society lead a bold charge against the degradation of aesthetic standards in public buildings. Civil society is seen as a kind of balm, mixed with nostalgia for a more decentralized time—St. Peter’s in Rome and Notre Dame in Paris, people sigh, were built not by a government committee but by patrons, popes, and laypeople contributing years of work and untold treasure.

Tom Wolfe’s classic 1981 monograph From Bauhaus to Our House complicates this linear picture somewhat by drawing attention to the ways in which architecture degraded itself more or less independent of government intervention. In a tour de force of both historical analysis and social criticism, Wolfe traces the movements of the modernist movement from Walter Gropius to Philip Johnson, showing how the glass-and-steel “antibourgeois” style that now marks (scars?) our proudest cities was born in the quasi-philosophical architectural “compounds” of post-War Europe before migrating to the American academy, where its inclinations to pragmatism and utilitarianism were refined. Conspicuously absent from Wolfe’s account is any discussion of the role of government in this dramatic transformation of tastes. Indeed, it seems to have been, rather, primarily a product of civil society.

With regards to the barren, even inhumane “International Style” that we now simply call “modern,” Wolfe notes how by the 1950s all the most fashionable apartments began to look the same: “The walls were always pure white and free of moldings, casings, baseboards, and all the rest . . . the dining-room table was always a smooth slab of blond wood (no ogre edges)”; and stale fluorescent light hung over a living room filled by little more than impossibly uncomfortable Barcelona chairs (“which no one ever sat in because they caught you in the small of the neck like a karate chop”). Why were the urban haute bourgeoisie willing to live in something that “looked like a factory”? Wolfe points to the subtle pressures of reputable opinion: “Every respected instrument of architectural opinion and cultivated taste, fromDomus to House & Garden, told the urban dwellers of America that this was living. This was the good taste of today; this was modern.”

This is decidedly not a case of the iron hand of government mucking up an otherwise healthy and well-adjusted culture of beauty. Indeed, as Wolfe points out, if the architecture of the day were to have followed the broader American political and cultural trends, it should have been all the more triumphalistic, brash, and confident—America had just emerged as the global hegemon, more prospero us and powerful than any other country in the world.

Read on here: http://www.philanthropydaily.com/the-dark-side-of-civil-society-a-case-study-in-architecture/


JAMAICA TO HOST FIRST NEXUS CARIBBEAN YOUTH SUMMIT IN PHILANTHROPY

January 6th, 2015  |  Source: Nexus Youth Summit

Montego Bay Summit to Connect Young Social Entrepreneurs and Next Generation Wealth Holders

Jamaica is set to host the first Nexus Caribbean Youth Summit in Montego Bay fromFebruary 5-7, 2015.  The Summit aims to connect philanthropists, next generation wealth holders, investors, social entrepreneurs, and allies to learn, cross-examine and debate relevant social issues and explore innovative ways to make an impact on philanthropy throughout the region. Targeting individuals in the Caribbean and the Diaspora, the Nexus Global Youth Summit will be held at Half Moon, A RockResort.

“Destination Jamaica is delighted to host the upcoming Nexus Caribbean Youth Summit in our tourism capital, Montego Bay. We are always happy to support events designed to bring long-term benefits especially to the lives of young people,” said Jamaica’s Director of Tourism Paul Pennicook. “This meeting of brilliant minds that will discuss issues relating to philanthropy and social entrepreneurship, augurs well for the region. As a destination, we are aware of the power of philanthropy and are committed to leveraging opportunities for our youth.”

Among the speakers confirmed for the inaugural Nexus Caribbean Youth Summit are Hon. Lisa Hanna, Jamaica’s Minister of Youth and Culture; Hon. Damion Crawford, Minister of State in the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment; Adam Stewart, CEO of Sandals Resorts International; Abigail Noble, Director at Impact Investing World Economic Forum; and Kate Roberts,

Senior Vice President of Corporate Partnerships & Philanthropy at Population Services International (PSI).

The Nexus Global Youth Summit is a global movement of over 2,000 aspiring, young minds from over 70 countries who are changing the world through philanthropy and social entrepreneurship. The Nexus Caribbean Youth Summit is hosted by the RMP Foundation and The Phoenix Group in partnership with the Jamaica Tourist Board, the Sandals Foundation and the MapeX Foundation. For more information on the Nexus Caribbean Youth Summit or to apply, visit www.nexusyouthsummit.org/summits/caribbean/

For more information on events in Jamaica or to book a vacation, go towww.visitjamaica.com or speak to your local travel specialist.

About Jamaica Tourist Board

The Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), founded in 1955, is Jamaica’s national tourism agency based in the capital city of Kingston. The JTB was declared the Caribbean’s Leading Tourist Board by the World Travel Awards (WTA) from 2006 to 2014. Also in 2014, Jamaica earned the WTA’s vote for the Caribbean’s Leading Destination andCaribbean’s Leading Cruise Destination for the eighth consecutive year. Additionally, the Historic Falmouth Cruise Port was recognized as the Caribbean’s Leading Heritage Tour while Ocho Rios was named the Caribbean’s Leading Cruise Port and Sangster International Airport was voted the Caribbean’s Leading Airport. In Canada, Jamaica was voted the Favourite Honeymoon Destination by Travel Agents.

JTB offices are located in Kingston, Montego Bay, Miami, Toronto and London. Representative offices are located in Berlin, Barcelona, Rome, Amsterdam, Mumbai and Tokyo. 

For details on upcoming special events, attractions and accommodations in Jamaica go to the JTB’s Web site atwww.visitjamaica.com or call the Jamaica Tourist Board at 1-800-JAMAICA (1-800-526-2422).  Follow the JTB on Facebook at www.facebok.com/visitjamaica, on Twitter at

www.twitter.com/visitjamaicanow, on Instagram at www.instagram.com/visitjamaica, on Pinterest at www.pinterest.com/myjamaica, or on YouTube atwww.youtube.com/myjamaicajtb. View the JTB blog at www.islandbuzzjamaica.com.


“Philanthropreneurs" America’s Philanthropic Oligarchy

January 5th, 2015  |  Source: NPQ

Yet another word has been added to the lexicon of nonprofits and foundations: “philanthropreneurship.” London Business School marketing professor Rajesh Chandy uses the neologism to refer to “the skills [that] enabled people to make their fortunes, which are often the ones required to solve apparently intractable problems.”

Chandy identifies Pierre Omidyar, Jeff Skoll, Richard Branson, Steve Case, and, not surprisingly, Bill Gates as exemplar philanthropreneurs. Referring to Bill (and Melinda) Gates, Chandy says that they show how philanthropists “can bring their skills to bear in a more productive way than simply bestowing money on a problem…They bring their entrepreneurial chutzpah and business thinking along with their cheque books.”

“Working in large networks, these high net worth individuals can pool the resources and expertise of a worldwide network of social entrepreneurs with the collective capacity to achieve global goals,” Chandy writes. “The act of grant-making is more collaborative than it has ever been before. The cash granted is no longer invested in things, but in the people who make things happen.”

Chandy identifies four distinguishing characteristics of philanthropreneurs:

1.    Their “driving force must be a passion to make life better for others, especially those who are underprivileged”

2.    “An element of giving”

3.    “Creativity, the envisioning of novel approaches to solving problems”

4.    “Leadership—directing, organizing, and influencing the efforts of others”

“Together,” Chandy writes, “[philanthropreneurs] are more than the sum of their parts.”

The acolytes of these philanthropreneurs, the writers who tend to see anything critical of social entrepreneurs as “tall poppy” jealousy, undoubtedly agree that these philanthropists have been endowed through their work experience and money-making with greater insights into social problems, leading to “solutions that are impactful, scalable, and sustainable.” There are online journals that publish regular hagiographic profiles of these high net worth philanthropists and their leadership in the nonprofit and foundation worlds. They downplay, however, scalable philanthropic disasters of philanthropreneurs, such as the Gates Foundation’s support of inBloom, or the ideological biases in some philanthropreneurs’ choices of solutions, like the Gates Foundation’s overwhelming support for mechanisms of school privatization.

For all of the suspicion in our society of people of wealth, there is a persistent theme in that people of wealth, people who have earned millions or billions in the business world, are somehow better equipped to devise solutions to social problems than the rest of us. How many in the nonprofit and philanthropic realms really, deeply, secretly believe that plutocracy is superior to democracy? How many quietly think that we would all be better off if we were ruled, officially in government or more broadly in society, by philosopher kings and queens, the rulers of the ideal state envisioned by Plato? How many think that society—or, more specifically, the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors—would be better off if guided by Chandy’s philanthropreneurs?


Site creates new marketplace for homeless artists: Check out Art Lifting

January 1st, 2015  |  Source: Boston Globe

Boston-area artists who have barely eked out a living by selling their creations on street corners, at craft fairs, and at open-air markets now have an online marketplace to sell their art.

Brother-sister duo Spencer and Liz Powers recently launched ArtLifting, which sells artwork created by people in art therapy programs. They created the site, artlifting.com, with the work of four artists who participate in Common Art, an art therapy program in Boston for homeless and low-income residents.

“I love to be able to sit here or wherever I am and put forth my vision of the world,” said Dante Gandini, 58, a self-described “starving artist” whose paintings of the Back Bay and Beacon Hill are for sale on the site. “The fact that people purchase it, it just validates me.”

The online market grew out of an annual event called City Heart, at which art created by people in homeless shelters in Boston and Cambridge was displayed and sold to the public.

“The constant question my brother and I would get is, ‘Why is this just once a year,’ ” said Liz Powers, 25, a Harvard graduate who established art groups in homeless shelters in Cambridge after college.

So the siblings decided to launch a website on which homeless and disabled people enrolled in art therapy programs could sell their work.

The items for sale include original paintings, prints, and iPhone cases. Artists determine amounts they expect to receive for their work. Additional costs to maintain the website, purchase art supplies, and support art therapy programs are added to the prices, Liz Powers said.

Art currently on the website ranges from iPhone cases and prints priced below $50 to original paintings available for several hundred dollars.

“If I sell my work, it lets me buy more supplies to make more art,” said Allen Chamberland, 48. The South End resident uses a paper-cutting technique to create images of the Zakim Bridge, Christian Science Church, and other Boston landmarks.

Liz and Spencer Powers said they hope the site can support itself financially, improve the artists’ lives, and educate the public about art therapy.

“The average person doesn’t know that art therapy is a thing and that art can serve as a therapeutic process,” said Spencer Powers, 29 a graduate of Boston College. “We’re also sharing the message that the people who are experiencing homelessness are actively working to improve their situation and heal themselves.”


Some 4.4 Million People Are About to Get a Raise

December 30th, 2014  |  Source: Business Week

In his 2014 state of the union address, President Obama kicked off what could unofficially be dubbed the Year of the Minimum Wage. Just a year earlier, he had called for a $9 federal minimum, but there he was in early 2014, saying workers should earn at least $10.10 an hour. The shift shows how coordinated campaigns for higher wages, which started with fast-food workers and spread more broadly, raised expectations of what’s considered fair compensation.

Obama’s call to raise the federal minimum may have gone unanswered, but states and cities picked up the torch. In 2014, 13 states passed legislation or initiatives to raise the wage floor, not just in Democratic strongholds but in red states as well. Now the results of those campaigns are starting to come to fruition nationwide. About 4.4 million people will see their pay go up for the new year, according to an analysis of census data by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), which supports higher minimum pay.

EPI’s data show that more than 750,000 workers earn the minimum wage in the 13 states that passed new raises in 2014. About two-thirds of those workers will see their wages go up on Jan. 1, and the rest will see their pay increase later in 2015. EPI estimates that in those 13 states, an additional 818,000 workers who earn just above the minimum will likely also see some bump in 2015, as employers adjust their pay scale. That’s more than 1.5 million workers with higher pay because of laws passed in 2014 alone.

STORY: No, 2016 Won't Be the Year of the $20 Minimum Wage

Even more workers will see higher wages in January thanks to raises passed in previous years. Almost 2 million will see higher pay because their state’s minimum wage indexes to inflation, which helps wages keep up with the rising costs of living. Another 1.4 million workers from New York will see a pay increase because of changes passed in 2013 that will increase minimum pay 9 percent.

In some states, minimum- or near-minimum-wage earners are a relatively small portion of the workforce, less than 7 percent. But in others, particularly those that passed new laws in 2014, low-wage earners are a large block. Sixteen percent of Rhode Island’s workers will get a pay bump, as will 12 precent of Delaware’s and almost 13 percent of West Virginia’s.

EPI’s numbers tally only changes at the state level. In 2014, much of the wage organizing was centered on cities, with such places as Seattle, San Francisco, and most recently, Louisville, setting higher pay. Pay in Washington, D.C., goes up by a dollar on Jan. 1, to $10.50, which EPI estimates will affect about 100,000 workers. Wages in Oakland and San Francisco go up to $12.25 in March. Large employers in Seattle will need to start paying $11 in April, and in Chicago, minimum pay will rise to $10 in July.

STORY: How the Latest Minimum Wage Increases Can Help Businesses

When the small city of SeaTac, south of Seattle, raised its base pay to $15 in 2013, employers cried foul. But the Puget Sound Business Journal recently reported that one year later, the wage hike now elicits a mere “shoulder shrug.” The hikes coming in 2015 will put that to the test on a much larger scale. Reuters reported that an internal McDonald’s (MCD) memo estimates the restaurant will need to adjust salaries at a third of its locations. With such nationwide changes, everyone from workers to the Federal Reserve will look to see whether higher minimum pay helps the economy shake off the stagnant wages that have plagued recovery.


International Rescue Committee Snags New Year’s Eve Spotlight

December 29th, 2014  |  Source: Philanthropy.com

On New Year’s Eve, the International Rescue Committee — a charity created in 1933 to aid refugees and those displaced by war, persecution, or natural disasters — will be getting some unprecedented exposure. It is the first charity to be officially designated as a partner of the iconic New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square, which is watched by more than a billion people worldwide.

IRC representatives, including President David Miliband and four refugees who fled different countries, will be on hand at 11:59 p.m. on December 31 to push the button signaling the countdown to 2015 and the lowering of the Times Square Crystal Ball.

The arrangement was announced December 15 by the two organizers of the event, which has been held every year since 1904: the Times Square Alliance, a nonprofit that works to improve the area, and Countdown Entertainment, a company representing the owners of One Times Square.

"We collectively had the feeling we wanted to use this event as a force for good," says Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance. "We wanted to find some organization that would tie into a deeper, larger theme."

This year, he notes, has been one of the worst years since World War II for refugees, with more than 50 million people, mostly women and children, displaced. Because the IRC was created in New York at the request of Albert Einstein, a refugee himself, the charity seemed like a good fit.

"New York and America," Mr. Tompkins says, "have always been good at welcoming people from elsewhere."


Transparency in Philanthropy: Get On Board or Get Run Over

December 23rd, 2014  |  Source: NPQ

Written by Aaron Dorfman of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP)

Is there a place for secrecy and anonymity in philanthropy? Some argue that there probably should be a place for anonymous giving and for privacy when setting and executing grantmaking strategy. Even if I agreed with them, it has become clear to me that secrecy isn’t really possible anymore. Technology and a shift in societal expectations have completely changed the game. Gone are the days when foundations and other donors could operate quietly below the radar. Those who give away large sums must get on board the transparency train or expect to get run over by it.

Much has changed since the organization I now lead published Foundations and Public Information: Sunshine or Shadow in 1980. At that time, our research found that “almost 60 percent of the country’s largest foundations do not meet an ‘acceptable’ standard for providing information to the public, and half of these foundations refuse to provide any information to the public when requested.” The report grew out of immense frustration on the part of nonprofit leaders and some members of Congress that in spite of the fact that foundations receive tremendously preferential tax treatment, it was nearly impossible to understand what they were doing with their millions. Release of the report at the Council on Foundations’ annual conference caused quite a stir.

For thirty years after that report was published, our nation’s philanthropies gradually became more transparent. Increasing numbers of foundations started publishing annual reports in the 1980s. In the 1990s, many grantmakers began sharing information via newly created websites. GuideStar made viewing foundations’ financial information easier when they began publishing 990-PF tax returns of private foundations in 2000.

Since 2010, however, the pace of change has been accelerating. The transparency train is rapidly gaining speed. Some of the momentum is coming from organized efforts in the sector, led by infrastructure groups that support philanthropy.

Foundation Center launched its Glasspockets website in 2010, and that site has become a hugely useful tool moving the transparency conversation forward. Foundations can review the arguments in favor of greater transparency, and they can compare their transparency efforts to those at other leading foundations.

Philanthropy Roundtable has also contributed to the momentum. In 2013, they published a guidebook that, as expected, argued against greater government-mandated transparency. However, the guide also put forward a compelling case for why foundations might find value in increasing the amount of information they share.

The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy is certainly moving the transparency train forward, too. Our Philamplify initiative, launched earlier this year, assesses the practices of some of the nation’s largest foundations whether or not they wish to be assessed. Some of the funders we are assessing would prefer to operate quietly and exercise their immense influence behind the scenes, unexamined by outsiders. Philamplify makes that increasingly difficult.

The most recent effort adding speed to the transparency train is the Fund for Shared Insight, a funder collaborative that is backing a variety of efforts to create greater two-way communication and foster openness and feedback loops between and among funders and grantees. The members of the fund prefer using the word “openness” to “transparency”—and there are important distinctions between the two concepts—but it’s clear to me their efforts will add momentum. More than a dozen organizations have just been approved for funding for projects that may further accelerate the pace of change.
In addition to these organized efforts to promote transparency, other factors such as technology, investigative reporting, and leaking information are also contributing to the momentum in favor of greater transparency.

Groups of major donors on the left and the right have seen materials from their meetings leaked and shared with increasing frequency. Formerly anonymous donors have been outed by enterprising reporters. Large grantmakers have been embarrassed by information about their assets discovered in their publicly available documents. And someday soon data from foundation and charity tax returns may become available in machine-readable formats, not just PDFs, which will further accelerate the current trend.

If grantmakers don’t want to get run over by this rapidly accelerating transparency train, they should get on board. If they don’t want someone else to share their information for them, they need to take serious steps towards meaningful transparency, and soon. But how?
Participating in the Foundation Center’s Glasspockets initiative is a good place to start. Funders who want to be proactive can go through the checklist and make sure they’re sharing the relevant documents such as governance policies and information, grantmaking information, performance indicators and others. They can see what peer foundations are doing and challenge their own institution to be as or more transparent.

The approach promoted by John Tyler and others with Philanthropy Roundtable is a little different. Tyler encourages foundation leaders to have conversations about how greater transparency might contribute to achieving foundations’ goals and to take action accordingly. This is useful advice, and society would be better off if more foundation leaders followed it, but it isn’t enough.

When we discuss transparency in the sector, some assume—wrongly, in my estimation—that foundation decision-makers are or should be entirely in control of whether they share information, how much and when. But we live in a world where that isn’t sufficient, or even possible. Stakeholders now expect to have a greater say in private philanthropy, and they have tools at their disposal that make it very difficult for funders to operate clandestinely. Like it or not, many players will be sharing information from foundations or major donors and criticizing or praising what they see. It’s virtually impossible to keep philanthropy secret these days.

What if foundation leaders instead embraced the idea that they really are partners with the public in pursuing the common good? What if they shared information openly and freely, inviting others into the conversation, instead of trying so hard to keep control of the flow of information? True openness will help foundations achieve better outcomes for the people and causes they care about, and it will make policymakers and others less suspect about the generous preferential tax treatment foundations and donors enjoy.

If foundation leaders want to get on board the transparency train before it runs them over, they should start with the radical proposition that other stakeholders actually have the potential to be true partners. Society needs grantmakers to share more, not less, and to listen more, not less.

Secrecy isn’t possible anymore. The sooner the nation’s grantmakers get used to that idea, the sooner they’ll start sharing information freely and openly and begin real conversations with their partners about how their dollars can make the world a better place.

Aaron Dorfman is executive director of NCRP. Follow @ncrp and #Philamplify on Twitter.




About Value News Network

Value is the only commonality in an increasingly complex, challenging and interdependent world.
Laurance Allen: Editor + Publisher

Connect with Us