Nonprofit Chronicles

Journalism about foundations, nonprofits and their impact

Some people who start out poor and then make a lot of money forget their roots. Not Mario Morino. In a speech to the august City Club of Cleveland in 2012, Morino talked about growing up in one of the city’s working class neighborhoods. He said: My dad sold vacuum sweepers door to door and …

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Carbon offsets have delivered many millions of dollars to finance cookstoves, for better or worse–probably, alas, for worse. Since the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves was formed in 2010, so-called clean cookstoves distributed to poor people in the global south have been paid for, in part, with carbon offsets purchased by companies, western governments and …

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David Bonbright traces his belief in the power of voice back to a peaceful revolution. Decades ago, while living and working in South Africa as a human rights lawyer, a grant-maker with the Ford Foundation and a founder of nonprofits, Bonbright was deeply moved by the way the anti-apartheid movement was accountable to its members …

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I’m just back from a vacation in Tulum, Mexico. I found great places to eat using Trip Advisor (try El Tabano, above), and wrote several reviews once I got home. Trip Advisor’s a great service. So imagine, if you will, a nonprofit sector with its own Trip Advisor, a guide that would help donors, volunteers and …

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Mauricio Lim Miller spent about two decades leading a anti-poverty organization in the San Francisco Bay Area, and he did it well, so well that President Clinton invited him to the 1999 State of the Union address. But Miller was disillusioned. “I became very cynical about my work,” he told me. He had come to …

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A peculiar challenge facing anyone who produces journalism about the nonprofit sector is the sector’s incredible diversity. Setting aside their legal status as tax-exempt organizations, Harvard, Greenpeace, CARE, your local food pantry and a community orchestra have nothing in common—except the need to raise money. (Well, not Harvard, but that’s another story.) So it should not …

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Listen to the customer. Businesses do it, albeit imperfectly. So do nonprofits. But the question for nonprofits is, who’s the customer? Most nonprofits listen to their donors. Those that raise money from individuals test their fundraising messages, and act on what they learn. Those that rely on foundations pay heed to what major philanthropies have …

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Slow progress is better than no progress. So GuideStar’s Platinum designation, which encourages nonprofits to share their results in an important new way, deserves a round of polite applause, if not three cheers. It’s a step in the right direction, as well as a reminder of the long road that lies ahead–if the destination is, as …

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Voluntourism has been getting a bad name lately. “Unsatisfying as it may be, we ought to acknowledge the truth that we, as amateurs, often don’t have much to offer,” Jacob Kushner wrote recently in The New York Times. On Medium, Katia Savchuck wrote about traveling abroad with Habitat for Humanity and asked, “Was I doing …

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So much activity in the nonprofit sector focuses on fundraising. Books, articles, webinars, conferences and consultants stand ready to help nonprofits write a grant application, raise money online or cultivate millennials. That’s understandable. Without money, nonprofits will fail. (Of course, if some of the US’s 1.5 million nonprofits failed, we’d be better off, but that’s another …

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