Thursday, March 20, 2014

Three Must-Read Nonprofit Articles

We’ve talked before about our love for discussing nonprofit trends, perspectives and current events around the office. The nonprofit news reel has been chalk full of exciting and interesting reads over the last few weeks, and these three articles especially piqued our interest.

Reddit To Donate 10 Percent Of Ad Revenue To Charity
Reddit, an entertainment, social networking and news website, has announced that it will donate 10 percent of its ad revenue to charities determined by the community. According to their blog post, "We want to show that advertising doesn't just support the Reddit platform, it also directly supports the causes and goals of Reddit as a whole." At the end of each calendar year, Reddit will accept nominations for nonprofits from its users. The potential recipients will be narrowed down through an electronic election, and the money collected will be distributed proportionally based on percentage of votes to the top ten nonprofits. The Huff Post thinks it’s a good idea, and so do we.

GiveDirectly? Not So Fast.
At the Charities Review Council, we are huge supporters of nonprofit innovation, so when we heard about GiveDirectly last summer, our office was abuzz with thoughts, ideas and opinions about the nontraditional model. GiveDirectly sends money via mobile payment straight to the poorest people in Kenyan villages. That’s it, plain and simple. The approach has broad appeal to donors, as their donation dollars go directly to the recipients in need. But a recent blog post by Stanford Social Innovation Review points out the flaws. According to the article, “It’s an experiment—an important one, but an experiment nonetheless. We hope we’re wrong, but our hunch is that it is more of a 1-year reprieve from deprivation than a cost-effective, lasting ‘solution to poverty’.” What do you think?

Busting the Nonprofit Overhead Myth starts with you
Our friends at Nonprofits Assistance Fund posted an insightful piece on their experience working with nonprofits and attempting to bust the Overhead Myth - the percentage of expenses that a nonprofit spends on administration and fundraising. Executive Director, Kate Barr, asks the question, “Why do so many nonprofits perpetuate the very myth that we claim we want to dismantle?” She suggests scratching the traditional pie chart illustrating program, fundraising, and administrative expenses, and replacing those three slices with “more meaningful information about how resources were used to deliver each of those great programs.” Our 25 Accountability Standards measure a nonprofit’s governance, fundraising, public disclosure, and financial activity, taking into account the expense ratio as one small measure of a much larger picture of nonprofit impact. We are with Ms. Barr on this one. In fact, we joined last year’s national conversation about the Overhead Myth and provided nonprofits and donors with tangible ways to move the conversation beyond the ratio.

What have you been reading lately? Do you have any thoughts or opinions on creative ways to support charities, nontraditional nonprofit models, or busting the overhead myth?

Friday, March 7, 2014

Lent and Philanthropy: 40 Days of Giving Alms

This week, many Christians all over the world marked the beginning of Lent, a 40-day liturgical period leading up to Easter. Lent is observed in various ways based on denomination, church community, or family of origin, but three components make up the traditional pillars of Lenten observance. Christians are called to participate in prayer, fasting and almsgiving in order to deepen their spiritual relationships and prepare for Easter.

According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the giving of 'alms' is an act of charity toward those less fortunate, and can range from generously supporting a cause to helping a neighbor in need. Christians are taught that giving alms is an expression of love, first expressed by God in sacrificing his only son, Jesus Christ, as an act of love for the salvation of believers. Almsgiving is considered a form of prayer because it is "giving to God" — and not mere philanthropy. Truly giving something up, or sacrificing to serve others, is a key component.

Almsgiving is encouraged throughout the year, but especially during Lent. Many Christians support a variety of charitable organizations, not necessarily just those with a religious affiliation. In fact, several educational and medical institutions in the United States were founded by Christians giving alms. But all Christians, regardless of socio-economic status, are encouraged to give their time, talent and treasure. Churches and religious organizations often provide opportunities for almsgiving during Lent, including coin collections, soup suppers, service projects, or food drives.

For example, Sue is a retired nurse who is active in her local Catholic Church. She is a friend and supporter of the Charities Review Council and agreed to share some insight into her personal almsgiving as she begins her 'Lenten journey.'

How do you give your time, talent or treasure during Lent?

My husband and I give to a few charities on a regular basis, but we take time to research and pray about a new, unique cause that we can support each year for Lent. We also participate in the fundraisers and collections that our church community holds during Lent to raise money for our partner parish in Guatemala. It is important to us to follow our hearts and allow ourselves to give as needs arise, but we also want to make sure we are supporting worthwhile charities. We often consult the Charities Review Council’s list of trustworthy nonprofits to make sure that the organization Meets Standards, or to get ideas of where to focus our support.

Why is it important to give alms during Lent?

It is about caring for those in need and expressing our gratitude for all that God has provided. Works of charity and the promotion of justice are strong values we hold and try to integrate into our daily life, during Lent and throughout the year. Pope Francis, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, is inviting individuals to particularly pay attention to those living in poverty this Lenten season. Giving of alms strengthens my relationship with God, others, and the community.

Religious and cultural groups of all types often incorporate some form of intentional charitable giving, like almsgiving, into their practice throughout the year. To promote inclusive engagement, it’s important for the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors to become educated on these various practices to expand our view of philanthropy. Here at the Council, we encourage smart charitable giving no matter the occasion, and Lent presents a unique opportunity for individuals to reevaluate and expand their personal giving practices - and for nonprofits to provide giving opportunities to their Christian supporters!

For more information on making smart donations to trustworthy nonprofits, read this article outlining the five questions to ask before giving.

Interested in learning more about how people of different faiths give during their holidays? Read Kate Khaled's piece about the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and giving.