Nonprofit Chronicles

Journalism about foundations, nonprofits and their impact

Much has been written since Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan said in a Facebook post last week that they would dedicate 99 percent of their wealth to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. This guest post from Renee Ho, an international development consultant, offers a fresh perspective. Renee suggests the donors like Zuckerberg and Chan have an …

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Few institutions in the US are as undemocratic as endowed foundations. The executives in charge of foundations answer to, er, no one. They give money away, so people tend to laugh at their jokes, tell them they look well, nod in agreement at their banal remarks. What’s not to like? As for nonprofits, they pay …

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Asking questions and then listening–really listening–to the answers is a vital but underrated skill. That’s true in business. In nonprofits. And in life as well. The trouble is, soliciting, receiving and acting upon feedback is hard. In theory, we want to learn, grow and change. In practice, not so much. We want to be loved for …

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What’s working, what isn’t working and why? These are questions that every foundation should ask about its strategy, the way it gives away money and the effectiveness of its programs. Getting answers isn’t as easy as you might think. Measuring impact is tricky, and it can be expensive. The nonprofits who carry out the foundation’s …

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The notion that small is beautiful crosses ideological lines. E.F. Schumacher’s 1973 classic, Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered, which was shaped by Buddhist thought and the environmental movement, helped brings us farmer’s markets, tiny houses and anti-globalization activism. Tea Party Republicans (and some progressives) embrace federalism, arguing that power should …

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Philanthropy is a “black box,” writes David Callahan, the founder and editor of Inside Philanthropy. “If you don’t think philanthropy is maddeningly opaque, it’s because you’re deep inside the sector.” He’s exaggerating, but not by much. Some foundations don’t disclose their donors. All are required by law to report on their grants, but many are …

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Hotels routinely survey guests after their stay. Airlines, too. Amazon wants to know whether I liked the book/TV show/kitchen gadget. Nonprofits? Not so much. Businesses strive to measure–and improve–their performance, often by seeking feedback from their customers. Nonprofits and foundations lag behind, judging from a survey released last week by the Center for Effective Philanthropy. …

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My interview with Brian Walsh is over. He summons an Uber, and shows me his phone. The driver has a 4.7 rating. Reliable. Disruptive startups like Uber, AirBnB and TripAdvisor use technology to collect and share data about drivers, renters, hotels and their customers. If they use feedback loops to build trust, why can’t nonprofits? Is that …

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In the summer of 2013, in a remarkable development that was little noted outside of the world of philanthropy, Guidestar, Charity Navigator and BBB Wise Giving Alliance, the US’s three leading sources of information about nonprofits, together published a letter intended “to correct a misconception about what matters when deciding which charities to support.” “The …

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