Nonprofit Chronicles

Journalism about foundations, nonprofits and their impact

You could call Jonathan C. Lewis a late bloomer. Not until he retired from business in his mid-50s did he rediscover his 1960s activist soul and become a full-time “social entrepreneur.” Lewis founded a nonprofit impact investing firm now called MCE Social Capital that makes loans to poor people in the developing work. He created Opportunity Collaboration, …

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The global south is littered, literally, with the remains of failed international aid projects. So-called clean cookstoves had more appeal to western donors than to women in India, Africa or Latin America. Wells and taps that were intended to provide clean water have fallen into disrepair. One 2009 study estimated there are 50,000 broken rural water points …

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Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s often the only time each year–not counting graduations or weddings–when our entire family gets together; the rituals and menu have been firmly established. One of our traditions is to ask each person in turn to give thanks for the blessings in his or her life. This year, we will …

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I’m often inspired by the idealism of the young. Well, Nancy Hughes, the founder of StoveTeam International, is 73, and, at an age when most people take it easy, the work she’s doing is inspirational. Hughes is the founder and unpaid leader of StoveTeam, a role she fell into after her husband died in 2001. She’d …

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Let’s start with a story about learning and failure at one foundation–and then move on to a renewed effort to share knowledge by IssueLab. The story: Recently, I had an enjoyable conversation with Reeta Roy, who is president and CEO of the Mastercard Foundation. Based in Toronto and dedicated to poverty alleviation in Africa, the Mastercard …

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To alleviate poverty in the global south, the New York-based Acumen Fund has for the last 15 years invested in businesses that serve the bottom of the pyramid, like solar-light manufacturer d.light and Burn, which makes and sells cookstoves in East Africa. Now, unexpectedly, Acumen is coming home. Acumen has just launched a fund to …

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What do the world’s poorest people want? Clean cookstoves? New shoes? Fresh water?  A toilet? Eyeglasses? Nicholas Kristof recommends, among other things, a flock of ducks. What about a solar lantern, a baby blanket, a bicycle, or a camel? No one said gift giving is easy. Of course, I have no idea what poor people want. (It’s hard enough …

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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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JOURNALISM Here’s some of my freelance writing about philanthropy and nonprofits for the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Yale Environment360, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Ensia and Fortune. You can find much more of my journalism at Medium. Here Comes Trouble: An Anti-Tobacco Hero’s Complicated Legacy. (August 2021) A deeply-reported story about Stanton Glantz, a lauded tobacco …

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