Altruism Today

Black Girls Rock!

November 5th, 2010  |  Source:


Watch BET on Sunday, November 7th, when CEO Teresa Clarke will be honored during the fabulous two-hour special, Black Girls Rock!  In the U.S., the show will air at 8 p.m. Eastern Time, 7 p.m. Central Time and at 8 p.m. on the West Coast.  In the United Kingdom, Black Girls Rock will air at 8 p.m. GMT.  In South Africa, Black Girls Rock will air on Saturday, November 13th, at 10 p.m. local time on BET, which is available on the new satellite platform TopTV. 

Some US charities need profits to survive – say experts

October 31st, 2010  |  Source: AlterNet


Some U.S. charities need to attract private investors and turn a profit instead of relying on donations to tackle the country's woes, experts say.

Charities should operate more like businesses by becoming social enterprises to shore up revenue after the worst U.S. recession in decades sparked a fall in giving, they told a panel at New York University's Heyman Center for Philanthropy.

Giving USA found that total giving fell 3.6 percent last year to $303 billion, while a study by The Chronicle of Philanthropy showed this week that donations to the country's 400 biggest charities shrank 11 percent to $68.6 billion.

"Without private-sector capital, social problems cannot be adequately addressed, there simply isn't enough philanthropy to achieve meaningful moving of the dial," said Marc Lane, who founded Lane Wealth Group and promotes socially responsible investing.

Becoming a for-profit charity does not necessarily mean losing the tax and regulatory benefits of being a nonprofit, he told the panel on Wednesday.

"There are a number of platforms and vehicles in the toolbox today that would allow for-profit businesses to be established with social missions," Lane said.

One of America's biggest arts centers, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark, recently announced the creation of the NJPAC Development Corporation to develop land around the center and establish another source of income.


The constant pressure of fundraising can also cause some nonprofits to lose sight of their real work, said Jane Slusser, chief service officer at Catchafire, which charges a fee to match professionals who want to volunteer with charities.

Slusser told the panel that many charities simply want volunteers to raise money, instead of putting their skills and creativity to better use on the charity's core mission.

"We try and make sure their bottom line is tied to doing good and actually staying in business," Slusser said of the charities they match with volunteers. "That's why we're a for-profit because we realize ... we can continue to do good and keep ourselves afloat and actually scale the business."

But Naomi Levine, executive director of the Heyman Center for Philanthropy, said there was still a place for traditional fundraising and that she does not believe charities need to operate like businesses.

"American business has not exactly been the kind of model I would place on a pedestal and say 'let's follow,'" she said.

Michael Norton, a social entrepreneur and founder of the Centre for Innovation and in Voluntary Action in London, spoke about a nurse in South Africa who wanted to make it easier for people to get medicine.

He said she decided to distribute drugs in the evenings and weekends for a small fee, earning extra income in the process.

"If she can make this work then she has invented a whole new mechanism for distributing medicines in South Africa, which are not being distributed properly at the moment," Norton said. "It's not philanthropy, its not charity, it's a business." 

Here’s some tasty cause marketing for you

October 29th, 2010  |  Source: Boston College


An unlikely set of connections between of Stephen Colbert, Ben & Jerry’s, Center member Target and VolunteerMatch has led to one of the wildest cause marketing campaigns I’ve heard about in a while.


Ben & Jerry’s has create two new ice cream flavors, called Berry Voluntary and Brownie Chew Gooder, for Target’sScoop It Forward campaign, in cooperation withVolunteerMatch, a popular web-based volunteering destination. The ice cream is sold exclusively at Target Stores as part of the company’s ongoing efforts to encourage interest and participation in education-related volunteering. Scoop It Forward raises awareness by featuring on the labels of the two new flavors of ice cream.

Now VolunteerMatch has issued a challenge to Stephen Colbert – star of the Comedy Central show “The Colbert Report” and inspiration for the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor Americone Dream – to see who has the better tasting and more popular flavor. “I challenge Stephen Colbert – man to man and spoon to spoon – to see who has the ice cream flavor that people prefer,” joked Greg Baldwin, president of VolunteerMatch. “Anywhere. Anytime. Any tongue.”

The challenge was presented on September 17 to the New York City studio audience of “The Colbert Report” as they waited to see the live taping of the program. They were given sample sizes of Ben & Jerry’s Berry Voluntary. This was accompanied by a written challenge to Colbert and the show’s producers, as well as a video of Baldwin

People are encouraged to try both flavors and then go to to vote for the flavor they prefer. Visitors to the website are also urged to help spread the word by leaving a comment on the site, post their choice on Stephen Colbert’s Facebook page, and comment on the Colbert Nation Community Forum. As of today nearly 2000 votes had been cast, with Berry Voluntary leading by nearly 9 to 1.

“We trust the judgment of a nation of volunteers and the Colbert Nation to pick the winner,” added Baldwin. “He’s a leading personality on Comedy Central and VolunteerMatch is the leading resource for finding great volunteer opportunities. We think we have what it takes, and we want Stephen Colbert to put his ice cream where his mouth is.”

I haven’t yet tasted the ice cream, but it doesn’t matter – Berry Voluntary is getting my vote. How about you?


Donor-advised fund sees rapid growth

October 27th, 2010  |  Source: Schwab Charitable


 Schwab Charitable, one of the nation’s largest and fastest growing national donor-advised fund organizations, announced today that both contributions to and grants from its donor-advised fund will likely reach record levels in 2010.

As of September 30, contributions for 2010 were $610 million, up 274% from the same period in 2009 and up 90% from the same period in 2008. Grants to charities totaled $262 million for the same period, up 15% from 2009 and up 3% from the previous all time high in 2008.

“Americans are among the most generous individual givers in the world and there are positive signs on the horizon that make us optimistic about the prospects for the 2010 giving season,” said Schwab Charitable President Kim Wright-Violich. “More and more, people are embracing the benefits of donor-advised funds, which allow donors to realize great possible tax benefits from charitable giving while simplifying the administrative aspects of their philanthropy.”

Schwab Charitable has continued to benefit from an increase in gifts of appreciated securities, which rose from 68% to 74% of total contributions in the last two years, driven by a healthier stock market. 

The stock market has increased over 70%[1] from its lows in early 2009, and many donors are choosing to donate appreciated securities to their donor-advised funds in order to maximize the tax benefits while meeting their philanthropic goals. Donating appreciated securities held for more than one year carries two distinct tax benefits, enabling donors to take an immediate charitable tax deduction while also avoiding capital gains taxes on any unrealized gains[2].

Schwab Charitable’s growth has been fueled by individuals turning to their independent investment advisors for help in achieving their philanthropic goals. Many wealth advisors appreciate Schwab Charitable’s customized solutions for their clients’ charitable giving, including the ability to accept and recommend sophisticated investments. 

Growth has also been driven by an increase in transfers and conversions from private foundations and supporting organizations, which see donor-advised funds as a simpler, lower cost and more private alternative to these charitable vehicles. During 2010, Schwab Charitable has attracted more than $200 MM in assets from private foundation and supporting organizations, generally reducing their operating expenses. Many of these donors made contributions to a donor-advised fund account through Schwab Charitable’s Private Foundation Conversion Service.

Looking forward, the Giving Pledge announced by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet to inspire wealthy families to commit to giving a majority of their wealth to philanthropy has driven increased interest in donor-advised funds as a low cost, flexible and private component of a charitable strategy for the very wealthy. In addition, higher income investors who have converted their traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs this year are expected to contribute more to donor-advised funds and other charities to help defray taxes associated with the conversion.

“Schwab Charitable always strives to give individuals and those who advise them the tools and services to be smart, strategic and successful with their philanthropy,” says Ms. Wright-Violich. “We will continue to improve our service offering so that more Americans can more easily make their own giving pledges through a donor-advised fund.”

During the past year, Schwab Charitable introduced a number of innovations which proved popular and helped to drive its growth including Expanded Investment Options and Customized Grant Letterhead. Schwab Charitable has also continued to attract interest in itsDouble Give Microfinance Guarantee Program. The program, in collaboration with Grameen Foundation, has delivered $10 million in loan guarantees in its first phase, creating over 100,000 microloans in developing markets around the world.


About Schwab Charitable

Created as a national donor-advised fund with a mission to increase charitable giving nationwide, Schwab Charitable has raised over $4.7 billion and has facilitated over $2 billion grants to charity since inception. Donor account sizes range from $5,000 to over $200 million. For more information, visit   Unless otherwise noted, source of donation statistics is Schwab Charitable.


Save Our Schools

October 27th, 2010  |  Source: NCRP


Dear Laurance,

I’m pleased to present our latest report, Confronting Systemic Inequity in Education: High Impact Strategies for Philanthropy.

Despite billions of dollars in grants from foundations, our education system is still in crisis. Students from marginalized communities are caught in a cycle of persistent inequality that undermines their desires and efforts for a better future. 

In this new report, Dr. Kevin Welner, director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Ms. Amy Farley, of CU-Boulder’s Initiative for Diversity, Equity Learning, answer the questions:

  • How can philanthropy be more effective at deploying its limited resources to help reform and improve our school systems?
  • How can philanthropy help break the cycle of persistent inequality in access and opportunities among underserved students in our communities?

They offer concrete strategies based on two recommendations from Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best: The deliberate focus on addressing the needs of students from marginalized communities that will, in turn, benefit all students; and the support of efforts to find long-term solutions to the education equity crisis in the U.S through advocacy, organizing and civic engagement.

Dr. Welner and Ms. Farley examine the tensions and trade-offs between the prevailing universalist approach versus the recommended targeted strategies, and between addressing immediate needs versus long-term effectiveness. Also included are some discussion questions to help foundation decision-makers think through their current priorities and programs.

The report contains a list of nine exemplary foundations that already are funding in ways consistent with the report’s recommendations. There are surely other exemplary funders that are too small to be included in the Foundation Center data we used, and I also know there are larger foundations that may not meet our benchmarks, but do great work. The nine foundations simply provide examples of how the recommendations are achievable, and how members of our philanthropic community already are applying these practices in their grantmaking.

I hope you’ll check out Confronting Systemic Inequity in Education. Here are some quick links:

Full report & Executive Summary  |  Press Release

Authors' Bios  |  My Video Message on YouTube

I look forward to receiving your comments and feedback.

Thank you for your continued support of our efforts to make our philanthropic sector more effective and responsive to the needs of our communities.

Best regards,

Aaron Dorfman
Executive Director, NCRP

Guardians of poverty porn

October 25th, 2010  |  Source: AidThoughts

Oh come onGuardian

You run a somewhat-reasonable rebuttal by Claire Melamed of the Overseas Development Institute to the recent attacks on increases in UK ODA, but then you feel the need to top it off with this photo.


Let’s see how many boxes this checks:

  • Very cute, if impoverished, Haitian child? Check
  • No shirt? Check
  • Other cute, impoverished children, for context? Check
  • Longing gazes upward (where you look down upon them and consider yourself gracious and merciful donor). Check
  • Hands outstretched to receive help. Check

These are real children, ones that are obviously in need of help, but you do them a disservice when you exploit them in this way to make your arguments.

‘Charity Doesn’t Solve Anything’ Carlos Slim

October 23rd, 2010  |  Source:


Carlos Slim has always had a complicated relationship with philanthropy.

The Mexican billionaire, who Forbes still lists as the world’s richest man, said in 2007 that he could do more to help fight poverty by building businesses than by “being a Santa Claus.”

Mr. Slim’s signature also has been noticeably absent from the Gates-Buffett Giving Pledge. At a conference in Sydney last month, Mr. Slim said that charity accomplishes little.

“The only way to fight poverty is with employment,” he said. “Trillions of dollars have been given to charity in the last 50 years, and they don’t solve anything.”

As for the Giving Pledge, he said: “To give 50%, 40%, that does nothing,” Slim said. “There is a saying that we should leave a better country to our children. But it’s more important to leave better children to our country.”

In a speech in Mexico City Thursday, he reiterated his point that the best way to fight poverty is to create jobs.

Now Mr. Slim isn’t un-charitable. He has contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to his foundation and has funded millions of dollars in joint-venture projects with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

So he clearly isn’t against charity entirely. His point seems to be that society would benefit more if the wealthy channeled their creative energies and talents toward building job-creating businesses rather than doling out cash. It is the 21st century billionaire version of the old adage, “give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”

In these populist times, some might argue that Mr. Slim is being a selfish billionaire who’s simply justifying his own wealth accumulation. But he raises two good questions–ones I have heard from an increasing number of wealthy entrepreneurs:

Would Bill Gates and Warren Buffett be doing more for society by putting their time and money into new businesses rather than funding philanthropy?

Tablets, education, and unions

October 21st, 2010  |  Source:


Tablets can help students and track teachers, but not everyone is on board.


In much of the Western world, education is in decline. Dropout rates are high, and we're graduating a generation that is, for a large part, functionally illiterate. This generation lacks the numeracy and critical thinking to function in an information world. The U.S., in particular, is doing poorly: Dropout rates are up, and if you're a low-income American, you have a higher chance of going to jail than getting a four-year college degree.

There are many reasons for this collapse: lack of funding, the politicizing of curricula, administrative inefficiency and more. These areas have been well covered. In the last year, three films -- "Two Million Minutes," "Waiting for Superman," and "The Cartel" -- have taken a disturbing look at the state of U.S. education. The Freakonomics folks looked at the lack of personalized learning. Also, Bill Gates looked at the lack of accountability in schools in a TED presentation.

Why tablets can help education

Despite the problems, digital classrooms provide a reason to be hopeful. A digital classroom can tailor learning to each student's own styles and speeds. It can tap into vast online resources, fromWikipedia to the Khan Academy

The poster child for the digital classroom is tablet computing. Tablets are traditionally seen as replacements for textbooks, but they can go much further than that: They're musical instruments, design tools, personal trainers and art canvases. Tablet prices have dropped dramatically as well. When you add up the cost of a year's textbooks, a tablet is often cheaper.

Tablets connect all of the stakeholders in a child's education: parents, teachers, tutors and counsellors. But most importantly, tablets are two-way. When a student uses a tablet, the tablet can collect data: What's read carefully and what's glossed over; how long a student spends on certain topics; what works best and worst; and so on. In other words, when you learn from a tablet, it learns from you.

The union roadblock

This is where my research went off the rails. Because a tablet is the perfect collector, it allows us to analyze learning patterns, identify root causes and compare students. What if the conclusion it reaches is that your teacher is simply awful? That Freakonomics piece pointed out that only 13 percent of eighth grade math teachers in New York City get 80 percent of their students to proficiency by the end of the year. Data acquired through a tablet is likely to point toward a bad conclusion for some number of teachers.

There's a group that protects teachers from that kind of scrutiny and accountability: the teachers' unions. In the U.S., teachers' unions are the single largest political contributors. Teachers have aunionization rate that's much higher than that of other industries. They have consistently opposed using student performance to rank teachers, despite extensive research showing that student performance is the most significant indicator of teacher competence. They've lobbied legislators to refuse donations to charter schools. It takes years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to dismiss a bad teacher. As a result, despite a lack of teaching ability, 99 percent of teachers get satisfactory ratings from their administrators.

After reading a ton on the subject, I came to the conclusion that the unions defend jobs at the expense of a generation's education -- and with it, the future of a nation.

As you might imagine, them's fighting words. Most critics of unions find themselves tarred and feathered by teachers, accused of class warfare or making teachers scapegoats for lazy parenting and lack of budgets. It's true that we don't pay teachers enough. However, teachers' salaries have risen in the last few years (see chart below), despite fairly static test scores. Also, urban public school teachers are more likely to send their own children to private schools

Tablet computing and the digital classroom it portends will transform the role of educators. They won't teach. They'll manage the learning process of their students. The Freakonomics podcast once referred to this as a student's "playlist": a customized curriculum where the teacher helps with hands-on work and identifies problems or outliers. Already, initiatives like New York's School of One are trying this out (although the project is limited to a three-hour after-school program at the moment).

So the irresistible force of digitization -- which has already redefined publishing, music, television and dozens of other industries -- is about to meet the immovable mountain of teachers' unions. The unions can step up, helping their members make the transition to tomorrow's learner-centric, tech-heavy classroom. Or, the unions can dig in their heels, resisting change and fighting the inevitable accountability that comes from analytics and digitization.

Tablet computing and the digital classroom give students access to petabytes of knowledge, tailored to their current situations, abilities, and learning preferences. It's how we can overcome many of the problems endemic in today's schools. It'll mean retooling and retraining teachers, equipping them for the student-centric classroom of tomorrow.

As long as the unions don't get in the way.

Kiva focuses on Gulf Coast

October 21st, 2010  |  Source:


San Francisco nonprofit Kiva, which brought overseas microlending to the Internet, is expanding its reach in the United States by helping small businesses in the Gulf Coast region - many of which have been slammed by environmental disasters and the recession.

Using a Web portal, Kiva facilitates lending from individuals who provide as little as $25, by partnering with lenders in developing countries. Kiva started two pilot programs in the summer of 2009 - in New York City and San Francisco - and has since been studying other regions to work with local lenders.

Kiva's research coincided with the decision by the nation's largest local microlender - called ACCION - to expand its efforts from Texas into Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina, the gulf oil spill and the particularly depressed economy in the area made it a good choice for Kiva, according to the nonprofit's president, Premal Shah. The partnership officially starts today.

"Kiva wanted to work with field partners in the U.S. who were making an impact," Shah said. "We felt that working in the Gulf Coast area met that goal."

Since its launch in 2005, Kiva has registered $164 million in loans in 54 countries. But in recent years, as U.S. small businesses owners and entrepreneurs struggled to get bank loans, Kiva saw a need to facilitate loans domestically.

Expanded scope

Shah acknowledged that his organization had received some criticism last year when it veered from its original practice of funneling loans to the developing world. But he said Kiva decided to let lenders "vote with their wallets." He noted that since U.S. lending became available on Kiva's website, site visitors' funding - in the United States and overseas - has increased.

Kiva has averaged about 14,700 new users on the website monthly. In the month after starting the U.S. lending program, Shah said, the new-user signup rose to 20,380.

Contributions from U.S.-based corporations and other donors also are helping Kiva loan more money at home.

On Tuesday, Kiva announced a $1 million donation from San Francisco-based Visa Inc. Shah said the funds would help his organization build awareness of microlending among small businesses in the United States and increase the number of loans they obtain.

One estimate places the number of small U.S. small businesses that go unserved by banks at $20 million. And there is growing recognition that banks of all sizes typically do not make business loans of less than $50,000, because the profit is not worth the risk.

U.S. costs higher

But questions remain about whether microlending - a model that started with the idea of small overseas loans for people trying to escape poverty by starting businesses - can make much of an impact in the United States, where the costs are so much higher, and therefore, the loans must be far larger.

Bob Graham started a microcredit lender in Honduras in the 1980s and now runs San Francisco's NamasteDirect, a donation-based lending organization for women in developing countries. He said the challenge for Kiva in the United States will be collecting enough individual investments to make a significant number of loans in the $10,000 range.

Graham, who says he is a fan of Kiva, said microlending traditionally has been based on small loans from industrialized countries that amount to relatively large sums in the developing world. Lending U.S. dollars at home is a different premise, he said.

"The small business challenges in the U.S. are different," Graham said. "The loans need to be a lot bigger, and you need licenses and permits and all kinds of things you don't need as a business in many developing countries. That's why, so far, microcredit has never made much of a toehold in the United States."

Read more:

Guide on mining and Indigenous Peoples available to download

October 20th, 2010  |  Source: Intl. Council on Mining and Metals


ICMM has released Good Practice Guide: Indigenous Peoples and Mining to help members and other mining companies navigate through the complexities associated with mining near indigenous communities. The guide aims to help companies achieve constructive relationships with Indigenous Peoples and to help ICMM members implement their commitments...It highlights good practice principles, discusses the challenges in applying these principles at the operational level and provides real-world examples of how mining projects have addressed these challenges. It also explores the cost of getting it wrong.

Read full item here

[PDF] Good Practice Guide: Indigenous Peoples and Mining

Intl. Council on Mining and Metals

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