• Ron Ragin’s guest stint over at the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, covered in last time’s round-up, continues with a meditation on general operating support in uncertain times and, my favorite from this series, lessons learned from grantee interactions. In the latter, Ron tackles the subject that no one in philanthropy likes to talk about: power dynamics.
  • Behind the times? Apparently less than a third of foundation CEOs read blogs regularly. But hey, that’s better than the 5% who tweet!
  • It seems like the Thing To Do these days in philanthropy is to coin terms that take the form “[Adjective] Philanthropy.” Strategic philanthropy, tactical philanthropy, venture philanthropy, new philanthropy, effective philanthropy, disruptive philanthropy, dinosaur philanthropy…you get the picture. My new favorite is Sean Stannard-Stockton’s “Deviant Philanthropy” – a term for philanthropy that challenges the social norms of the social sector. Sean gives some examples as follows:

    What might deviant philanthropy look like?

    • Foundations that publically belittle nonprofits which they believe are poorly run.
    • Nonprofits that pay their top employee at rates similar to the private sector including eye popping bonuses for outstanding results.
    • Foundations and nonprofits deploying lobbying and advocacy strategies to the fullest extent of the law and viewing themselves are critical players in American politics.
    • A large foundation using its endowment to invest in a concentrated pool of publicly traded companies whose operations they feel harm society or the environment and then launching a high profile shareholder proxy battle (in process by which shareholders can change corporate policies).
    • A foundation or nonprofit ousting the existing board and replacing them exclusively with intended beneficiaries of their programs.

    Sean takes care to clarify that he does not necessarily support these ideas, but does offer that “the current status quo in philanthropy is pretty lame.”

  • The Social Innovation Fund, already more transparent than almost any grant program around, just released even more information about its process.
  • The suddenly-everywhere Adin Miller has been blogging several philanthropy conferences over the past couple of weeks. Apparently the Communications Network conference featured a well-received keynote from James Surowiecki, author of The Wisdom of Crowds. Here’s Adin’s wrap-up, in which he nails the primary challenge associated with bringing crowdsourcing into philanthropy in a meaningful way: “The implication for philanthropic institutions means that getting diverse opinions may present some of them with significant challenges. Embracing diversity in developing a crowd should involve divergent community and stakeholder perspectives…. And yet, by embracing diversity, the foundation has to be willing to let the crowd challenge the power structure it represents. That’s not a comfortable space for many funders, I suspect.”
  • Hello: Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook and subject of a not-so-flattering depiction in The Social Network, conveniently times a well-publicized entry into philanthropy with the release of the movie. His $100 million gift to the Newark public school system is notable not only for its size but also for the fact that it’s going to a government entity. It is, more than anything, an endorsement of Newark’s popular mayor Cory Booker.
  • One of the rhetorical weapons that economists sometimes use to denigrate government spending on nonprofits is that grants “crowd out” donations from individuals, who feel that because they’re paying taxes to said government, there’s no longer any need to support the nonprofit – potentially leaving the nonprofit worse off than before. A new paper suggests that actually, most or even all of the crowding out effect is the result of organizations having cut back on fundraising as a result of receiving government funding. Seems to me that actually makes things a bit more efficient, no?
  • While we’re on the subject of crowding out, how come we’re so concerned about gifts that should not have been made, but hardly at all when a gift that should have been made was not? (Another very wise post from Brigid: why donors cannot avoid funding overhead even if they want to or think they are.)
  • Michael Kaiser weighs in on the looming arts funding massacre in England, and takes the common-sense stance that if cuts are unavoidable, at least make them responsibly. And a long profile of the BBC’s Radio 4 argues forcefully that the rich variety of programming seen across the pond is made possible only by government funding.
  • If you have 40 minutes, watch this keynote speech given by Diane Ragsdale (former Associate Program Officer for the Mellon Foundation’s performing arts program) at the 2010 members’ meeting of Arts Alliance Illinois. It’s a wide-ranging talk about the various challenges that the arts field faces and some possible ways forward. Those familiar with Ben Cameron’s speeches will recognize some familiar themes, though Ragsdale focuses special attention on audience and community engagement. Via yourtownperforms.com, I also found this trove of Ragsdale video interviews filmed by National Arts Strategies earlier this year.
  • The new Philadelphia Knight Arts Challenge “is open to established arts institutions, independent artists, businesses, service organizations, and individuals who have a great idea for the arts.” Grantees in the Miami version have included an independent record store and a print shop. Good to see arts funders starting to think outside the box.
  • Really cool twist on participatory arts funding, spearheaded by my high school music teacher Danny Lichtenfeld who now leads the Brattleboro (VT) Museum & Art Center. At BEAN (Brattleboro Essential Arts Network) Micro-Grant Dinners, “for only $10 anyone can attend a Mexican-inspired dinner at BMAC provided by the Elliot Street Cafe (no, it’s not just beans!). Over dinner, guests will review and discuss funding requests for local art-related projects. At the end of the night, guests will vote for the proposal that deserves to receive the proceeds from dinner.”
  • I don’t know if this is a first, but I’ve never seen it before: the Rockefeller Foundation actually made a poster (pdf) to accompany its press release announcing the winners of the 2010 NYC Cultural Innovation Fund.
  • Philanthropedia, a startup charity rating organization that aggregates the opinions of experts to develop suggested funding portfolios for individual donors, has announced its rankings of national and Bay Area nonprofit arts and culture organizations. The National Endowment for the Arts took the top spot in the former. My employer, Fractured Atlas, came in at #13. (I was honored to be one of the “experts” consulted for the national rankings, but we were not allowed to nominate our own organizations.)
  • I was psyched to get an email from Cincinnati Fine Arts Fund’s dynamo vice president Margy Waller a few weeks ago announcing that her organization had changed its name to ArtsWave. A play on FAF’s “ripple effect” research report, the name change brings with it a broader mission that is less hung up on geography and specific organizations and a program strategy that takes a more thoughtful, intentional approach to its grantmaking and services. To celebrate, ArtsWave organized a Paint the Street event that drew 1500 people and covered a half mile of pavement. (In the interests of balance I should report that not everyone’s happy about the changes – a blogger by the nom de plume of “Cincinnati Art Snob” complains that the changes don’t go far enough because individual artists are still not eligible to apply directly for grants. While I understand why artists want grant opportunities that they can apply for directly, I remain unconvinced that this type of support is the best way to bolster the arts ecosystem.)
  • From Berkshire Creative, a cool example of a program bringing the nonprofit arts and for-profit design communities together.
  • This important Andy Horwitz essay on the limitations of social media as social activism is certainly Guy Yedwab bait. Ironically, the article itself got 31 retweets. Also on the subject of social media, the ever-illuminating Devon Smith has a post mortem on a marketing effort she engaged in while creating the New York Theatre Network for ART/NY and TheaterMania. Looks like Facebook is pretty cost-effective as an advertising platform, at least when the goal is to drive traffic to a website.
  • The Economic Revitalization for Performing Artists program of The Field has published a report analyzing the successes and failures of the four groups that received grants to develop new revenue streams, analyzed here at Culturebot. There’s also a video of a related panel discussion, which you can watch here.
  • Awesome, awesome travelogue from David Byrne’s trip to Detroit. Totally amazing photos in this one. Motown might just be the most fascinating place in America right now.
  • Check out these visualizations of racial concentrations in America’s cities. We are much less of a melting pot than we like to claim.
  • “Like the drunk looking for the lost coin under a streetlight rather than in the dark corner where he lost it, policymakers often favor those data that are easy to collect rather than the most useful.” Ladies and gentlemen, Hewlett Foundation President Paul Brest.
  • Createquity reader Sarah Collins knocked it out of the park with this quickie arts education literature review for the September arts education salon on ArtsBlog: part 1; part 2.
  • Does your research report engage in proofiness?

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