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06/14
2011

Changing the World, One Girl at a Time

In accepting the Tony Award for Best Actress Sunday night, Ellen Barkin said that being in the play The Normal Heart (which recounts the early days of the AIDS crisis), “Taught me something I never believed in – that one person can make a difference, that one person can change the world.”   

The power of a single person to change the world is

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06/06
2011

Three strikes and then what?

“While we do not want to place undue burdens on the organizations we support, we do feel it is essential that we know the people to whom we give grants and have assurances of their management capabilities.”  Those are words I just drafted, on behalf of one of our clients, notifying a New York City non-profit that, after three years, the foundation has decided to discontinue its support. 

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06/02
2011

What the Dog Saw

Some people call it “putting yourself into their shoes.” A guy named D.M. Berger says it’s “the capacity to know emotionally what another is experiencing from within the frame of reference of that other person.”   Malcolm Gladwell writes about a phenomenal example of it in his famous New Yorker essay (and book of the same name), What the Dog Saw, the story of a Mexican immigrant named Cesar Millan who has such a profound understanding of dog psychology that he has become known as the “dog whisperer.” (My favorite line in the essay is “To a dog, you are a giant walking tennis ball.”) The concise call it

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05/26
2011

Beyond Tuition: What Does it Take to Graduate?

This past weekend, four young people from New York City became college graduates.  While that is not particularly remarkable in the context of this season of caps and gowns, it is remarkable for these particular students

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05/03
2011

Beware of Mythical Lands

I just finished reading the complete text of Jon Krakauer’s whistle blowing expose of Greg Mortenson and his best-selling book, Three Cups of Tea (Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero Lost His Way).  As a result of Krakauer’s meticulous research, it is now clear

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04/13
2011

What do – and don’t – we know about Millennial donors?

By Maureen O’Brien & Cynthia Gibson

Last week Achieve and Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates (JGA) released the 2011 Millennial Donor survey analyzing giving trends among nearly 3,000 respondents ages 20-35.  A follow-up to a similar effort conducted in 2010, the survey continues to be one of the few attempts to study Millennials’ charitable motivations, engagement, and giving patterns.  We say

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03/02
2011

What Do Funders Themselves Give To?

While recently participating in the opening plenary of the annual conference of a state grantmakers association, I and others in the room were quite surprised by a question one brave funder posed to the panelists. “Given the economic crisis and reductions in foundation funding, small gifts and contributions are becoming more and more important to nonprofits,” she said, “I’d like to ask which groups you, personally, contribute to.” 

Dead silence.   

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02/14
2011

Rethinking the State of the Sector

It’s got to be about more than the money.  After two and a half years lamenting the continuously shrinking resources available to finance the nonprofit sector, it’s simply time to move beyond this framework and talk about how

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02/07
2011

Philanthropic Vehicles – As in Most Things, Form Follows Function

Last week’s New York Times carried an article by Paul Sullivan under the headline  “Weighing the Best Vehicles for Charitable Giving.”  It raises good questions and makes good points.  But like most discussions of philanthropic vehicles, the forest here is somewhat obscured by the trees.  (In Mr. Sullivan’s defense, he made a good faith attempt to address a highly complex issue in a very few column inches.) 

For my money, a few of the questions I’d want to put to Mr. Nopar and others considering the choice of giving mechanism include:

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12/06
2010

Caught up in Kumbayah: Are There Limits to Collaboration?

I love to collaborate.  The more, the merrier, I say.  I’m excited by the “crowdsourcing” taking place in our politics, commerce, education, and social spheres.  But, recently, I’ve started to wonder about whether all this collaboration is “all good.” 

Behind this curiosity is my participation (in various capacities) with several organizations that happen to pride themselves on having a “collaborative culture.”  That includes ensuring that

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