Nonprofit Chronicles

Journalism about foundations, nonprofits and their impact

Uganda has about 30 psychiatrists. New York City and its suburbs have about 41,000. So depression in Uganda can’t be treated the way it is in New York. Turns out, that may be a good thing. StrongMinds, a fledgling nonprofit founded in 2013, organizes self-help groups to treat depression among poor women in Uganda. Its …

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It’s strange, when you think about it. Most things have a price. A big box of Cheerios costs $3.98. A 1 lb. bag of Starbucks Breakfast Blend costs $12.95. An iPhone 7 costs $649. But when we donate to charities, what are we buying? And at what cost? That’s more difficult — indeed, it’s often …

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Nonprofits that make cookstoves for the global poor have not been blessed with an abundance of resources. So  you would think that the community of stovers, as they’re known, would be pleased by a big infusion of money into the sector from the US government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Nope. The National Institutes …

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It would appear, at first glance, to be a simple problem to solve: An estimated 3 billion of the world’s poorest people cook their meals over open fires–fires that make them sick, pollute the air and generate carbon emissions. Providing those people with efficient cookstoves improves their lives and the health of the planet. But …

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It’s easy for most of us to take the simplest things–like flushing a toilet–for granted. Yet almost 2.4 billion people lack access to modern sanitation, and nearly 1 billion practice open defecation, according to the World Health Organization. The problem is worst in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia, particularly India. What’s to …

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I’ve got a story about Nicholas Kristof in the June issue of The Chronicle of Philanthropy that looks at his impact on charitable giving. A Kristof column in The New York Times, it turns out, can drive hundreds of thousands of dollars to a nonprofit. Kristof knows it. He has said that he thinks of himself as …

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Pessimism is fashionable. It’s also wrong. People are safer, better-educated, better-fed, and wealthier than they used to be. Democracy and human rights are spreading. Perhaps most important, people, and in particular the world’s poorest people, are healthier. As Bill Gates writes in the forward to Millions Saved: New Cases of Proven Success in Global Health, …

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Advertising changes behavior. Why else would brands pay as much as $5 million for a 30-second spot on the Super Bowl? But measuring the impact of advertising, particularly in traditional media, is an inexact science at best. (“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted,” retailer John Wanamaker famously said. “I just don’t know …

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As a girl growing up in Reno, Nevada, Sue Desmond wasn’t satisfied with an A. “I wanted an A-plus,” she says. She also wanted to make a contribution. Watching her father, a drugstore owner, display kindness towards customers left a strong impression. As a young doctor, she and her husband, Nicholas Hellmann, moved to Uganda …

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Today, The Washington Post published my story about the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves in its Sunday Outlook section. Clean cookstoves strike me as a classic example of a well-intentioned development intervention about which evidence of impact on a meaningful scale is lacking. I’m going to try to  draw a couple of lessons from my reporting but …

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