Friday, December 24, 2010

2011: The Year Philanthropy Starts to Become a “Long-Term Solution”

An apparent disagreement between two of the sharpest minds in philanthropy is just too tempting to resist.  Herewith, an unsolicited response to Matthew Bishop (co-author of Philanthrocapitalism and The Road From Ruin, and NY Bureau Chief of The Economist) and Lucy Bernholz (founding President of Blueprint Research & Design and blogger extraordinaire at Philanthropy 2173) on the subjects of predicting trends in philanthropy and the relationship of private giving to public policy.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I Beg to Differ

I take a back seat to no one in my admiration of the Nonprofit Finance Fund, so it pains me to dissent from Rebecca Thomas’s thoughtful article, "New Ways to Rate Charities Don’t Help Donors Make Smart Bets," published in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, but dissent I must.  The simple answer to her important questions – “So why the rush to rate and rank? Why not provide information and let donors decide?” – is that donors aren’t willing to wade through unprocessed information about nonprofits to make more informed decisions about which charities to support.  Given the choice between making steady improvements in sites like Charity Navigator and continuing to leave donors without any meaningful guidance about which nonprofits are most effective, I’ll take better rankings every time.

Friday, November 12, 2010

SIF and the Office of Inspector General: Time to Chill

Before we jump the gun once again, perhaps it would be a good idea to understand what the OIG does first.

Friday, October 8, 2010

When Aggregate Demand Met Aggregate Supply

Here at the SOCAP10 conference, I'm struck by the number of deals that want to happen, are trying to happen, and, for all I know, may even be happening.  I suspect, however, from the strained looks on the faces of many attendees, that the wannabes far outnumber the consummated transactions.

One connection that isn't going to come together anytime soon is between aggregate demand platforms such as the Growth Philanthropy Network's Social Impact Exchange -- a clearinghouse of some 2,500 cross-sector members presenting carefully vetted investment opportunities in high-performing, growth-ready, scalable nonprofit organizations -- and aggregate supply platforms managed by national donor advised funds (DAF) like Schwab Charitable Fund -- which, according to its Web site, "has issued over 270,000 grants to 44,000 public charities - a total of close to $1.5 billion." GPN's Alex Rossides and Schwab's Kim Wright Violich led a discussion at SOCAP10 among a circle of nonprofits, funders and investors on the subject of "The Future of Aggregate Demand Platforms."  It seems to me like an obvious match waiting to happen, one that could address the social sector's desperate need for more effective capital allocation, but if Schwab's perspective is emblematic of the industry, and I believe it is, the DAFs apparently don't see it that way.

Friday, October 1, 2010

How Mighty Oaks From Little Acorns Grow

The chaotic nonprofit capital marketplace is trying to organize itself to deploy billions of dollars much more effectively.  It has miles to go, but it’s heading in some encouraging directions.  The intrepid Social Innovation Fund (SIF) and the just-launched Social Impact Bond (SIB) are two of the most promising.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Enabling Nonprofit Collaboration

Despite a number of encouraging experiments in collaboration among nonprofits, it’s an idea that is (in Hamlet’s words) “more honor’d in the breach than the observance.”  A recent agreement among seven leading organizations in support of “Charity Navigator 2.0” offers a new model based on advancing the mutual interests of the parties in order to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Growth Capital for Small Nonprofits?

This is a response to a blog post by Nell Edgington of Social Velocity, entitled "Can’t Small Nonprofits Raise Capital Too?" which is available here.

Nell, I wanted to offer some comments on your thoughtful post.  I hear this lament from small nonprofits all the time: how do we grow if we're too small to raise growth capital? It's a fair question to which the nonprofit capital market does not yet provide a satisfactory answer.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Deciding What "Works"

Conventional wisdom holds that randomized control trials (RCT) are the “gold standard” of evaluation. In fact, RCTs only make sense under very strict conditions that can rarely be met in the real world. Most of the time, RCTs produce inconclusive results and simply aren’t worth the time and money. As the social sector assumes greater responsibility for improving the lives of many more people, it should focus less on pseudo-scientific “proof” that programs work and focus more on making good programs better.

Friday, August 27, 2010

SIF Intermediaries: More Drops in Fewer Buckets, Please

Producing new innovations and spreading successful innovations are two quite different things.  The social sector is good at the former but not the latter.  The recently selected SIF intermediaries can help fix that if they make larger grants to fewer nonprofits.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Social Innovation Fund Kerfuffle

This is a response to an article published in the August 19, 2010 New York Times, "Nonprofit Fund Faces Questions About Conflicts and Selection Procedures," which is available here.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Response to Nonprofit Quarterly Editorial

This is a response to an editorial published in the Nonprofit Quarterly, "Social Innovation Fund Disclosures Good But Insufficient," which is available here.

Response to Paul Light re SIF "Stonewalling"

Let me see if I have this right. SIF is "becoming one of the most important efforts to stimulate social change in recent history," its selection process was conducted in record time and resulted in choosing 11 of "the very best organizations in the country," with "no pressure" to favor any applicants, using "perfectly appropriate" criteria. As a fellow SIF reviewer, I agree.