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09/22
2011

What Liberia Can Teach Haiti — the Liberia Philanthropy Secretariat

The following post originally appeared on Karen’s Blog, written by Karen Ansara, Co-Founder of New England International Donors, the Ansara Family Fund, and The Haiti Fund.

Ravaged by a 14-year civil conflict fueled by despotic President Charles Taylor, the country of Liberia began to crawl out of its abyss in 2006 when President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected to the Presidency. Since then, according to government reports: the economy has grown by 7% between 2006-2009; …“has attracted 16 billion USD in foreign direct investment while negotiating more equitable terms in natural resource contracts; …is making significant strides in the fight against corruption; and the delivery of basic services has begun to be restored: access to safe drinking water has been increased by 50%; over 80 health facilities have been constructed or rehabilitated; and primary and secondary school enrollment increased by 44%.” (From a Secretariat handout for the 2011 Philanthropists Visit.)

Once deemed a “failed state,” the Liberian government’s audacious current goal is to achieve “middle income status” as a state by 2013. It well might. What is Liberia’s secret to such progress? Government officials and funders alike give some of the credit to a three-year-old cabinet-level ministry established by President Johnson Sirleaf – the Liberia Philanthropy Secretariat

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Filed under: Global Philanthropy

09/09
2011

It’s About the Muck (Not the Shit)

Nearly two weeks ago my state, Vermont, was devastated by floods – they are calling it the 500 year flood, a (hopefully) once in a lifetime phenomenon.   Gentle brooks and streams turned into raging rivers and rivers overflowed their banks.  Hundreds of bridges were destroyed around the state, making it clear where the old Vermont saying “you can’t get there from here” comes from.  Our house was untouched, but our neighbors, friends, and colleagues were affected – our favorite local restaurant was totally flooded, many people we know had flooded houses, and the local elementary school is closed indefinitely.

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09/01
2011

The ‘Ground Sense’ from Ground Zero

I am sitting in a dark theatre and suddenly am aware all the doors are locked – how did they get locked and what am I doing here? The theatre didn’t seem that big but now seems vast – row after row of people all fixated on the stage from which emanates a cacophony of voices and rapid-fire images – beamed directly at me or at least so it seems.

At first I don’t understand but then it hits me – on the stage is a kind of play about 9/11 that projects every image ever recorded from that day until today, includes every word that has been written, every movie and TV show that has shamelessly stolen from the soul of that moment, and every self-serving non-book, Op Ed, presumptive speech, by every pundit and politician.

It’s the tenth anniversary you see,

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08/26
2011

Hope within the Shit Hole

David Bergholz is one of the best people I have met in the field of philanthropy. For fourteen years, Dave produced high-impact results out of the Cleveland-based George Gund Foundation. Now retired, Dave works on a magnificent garden, and hones his talent as a photographer. In response to my question – how are you? This was his response:

Garden is great, showing and even selling some photos and our kids are good. The world is a shit hole but I don’t know what to do about that.  Glad you are well and say hi to Marty. Best, David

Well, as usual, Bergholz is on to something. First of all, he is hardly alone in not knowing what to do about things.

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08/18
2011

Finding Your Philanthropic Passion

Have you ever been with someone that brings a level of personal fire and emotion to their philanthropy that really inspires you (or that makes you wonder why you are not as emotionally invested in everything you support)?  

Finding your philanthropic passion can often begin with an examination of your values. Sometimes, however, finding your passion is just a question of choosing an opportunity, jumping in, and seeing how it feels. Even if you have good ideas at hand, you may want to “get your feet wet” before diving in. Here are some simple approaches to try:

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Filed under: Strategic Philanthropy

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08/02
2011

Are These Obstacles Keeping You from Nurturing Your Passion?

In my last post, I discussed the role of passion in philanthropy as well as its usual origins. But what we’ve learned over the years is that even when experiences or vision seeds passion in philanthropy, that passion may never develop or flourish.  For many of us, life is so hectic, scheduled and results-oriented that it can be a challenge to nurture the philanthropic impulse. In the daily routine of our lives, there is a tendency to become distant from the heart and soul of our giving.

So what are the most common obstacles preventing us from finding or developing our passion in philanthropy?  And how can we overcome them? 

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Filed under: Strategic Philanthropy

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07/26
2011

Is Passion Still Relevant in Effective Philanthropy?

In a field buzzing with the drive to collect data, measure results, and support “what works”, it is becoming exceedingly uncomfortable to appear to derail discussions on the science of philanthropy by introducing the P-word. Yet passion – which can be culturally uncomfortable for many individuals who have been taught to restrain emotions and quell enthusiasm lest it cloud their analytical ability – can play a critical role in achieving deep social impact. 

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Filed under: Strategic Philanthropy

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07/14
2011

New Voices, Old Norms

By Amy Ellsworth and Lisa Spalding

We have all seen this scenario.  A foundation board of directors has been intact for a long time. This long-standing group has accumulated a set of comfortable norms: ways of communicating, ways of operating, assumptions about how things should be done, habitual ways of seeing things, doing things.  They have become entrenched in a shared culture.

What happens when a new board member joins the group, bringing fresh eyes?

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06/30
2011

Mutual Misunderstandings? Grantee-Donor Relations

While the relationship between donors and “doers” has been a hot topic since the dawn of philanthropy, there seem to be too few conversations in which donors and doers come together to explore these issues face to face.  Sure, we’ve all seen conference panels where donors recite what they look for in a grantee as they scan the room under their glasses to make sure every nonprofit leader is scribbling notes furiously, and we’ve all found ourselves caught in an uncomfortable doer gripe session at some point. So it was with interest that I agreed to help facilitate an intimate “Donor and Doer” conversation

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