Friday, February 3, 2012

Nonprofit Helps Megaupload Users

Users of the file-sharing site Megaupload feared their data could be in danger when U.S. prosecutors shut the site down last month.  But thanks to one nonprofit, users will be able to safely retrieve their files.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported yesterday that the San Francisco, Ca.-based Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a nonprofit technology foundation dedicated to defending peoples' digital rights, announced that it was teaming up with Carpathia Hosting, a data-storage provider, to create a new website that will allow Megaupload users to get their data.

Megaupload was shut down last month when seven men were arrested (including three Megaupload executives).  Prosecutors charged the men with racketeering, and claimed the file-sharing website facilitated millions of illegal downloads of movies, music, and other content.  The arrests were made at a $30 million mansion in Auckland, New Zealand.  Carpathia and another storage company were to begin deleting content yesterday before EFF's eleventh hour intervention.

You can read more about the story in The San Francisco Chronicle.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

How Will Facebook's IPO Affect Charities?

The social networking behemoth Facebook filed papers yesterday to raise $5 billion in its initial public offering (IPO) of stock.  This is good news for Facebook employees and their investors, but what does it mean for charities?  It depends on who you ask.

MSNBC ran a piece on this subject yesterday, and it suggested that this new influx of wealth to Facebook employees could mean big bucks for nonprofits.  Why?  Facebook has provided their employees with stock incentives over the years, and they will be able to use these to cash in on the IPO.  Experts like Rob Mitchell of Atlas of Giving told MSNBC that when individuals' personal wealth increases, it makes them more likely to want to start a philanthropic legacy.

Patrick Rooney, executive director of The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, agreed with Mitchell, citing studies that show entrepreneurs are about twice as generous than people who inherit their wealth.

All of this doesn't guarantee that these new millionaires will start donating to charity.  In fact, there are some who don't think Facebook employees are all that likely to start being philanthropic, at least not immediately.  Robert Frank, a writer for The Wall Street Journal, told MSNBC that he thinks they are much too young to think about starting their philanthropic efforts.  He argues that they are still in the "accumulation phase" of their lives, and want to focus on changing the world through their company, not their philanthropy.

Charities will ultimately see a lot of money come in as as result of Facebook's IPO.  It's just a question of how soon.  You can read the full story on MSNBC.

D.C. Nonprofit Sought Real Groundhog For Celebration

We all heard what Punxatawney Phil had to say about the length of winter this year, but what did Potomac Phil have to say?

If you're wondering who Potomac Phil is, don't be alarmed, he's relatively new.  He's also not alive, but that's beside the point.  WTOP reported yesterday that Dupont Festival, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit, was seeking a live groundhog for its first annual Groundhog Day celebration in Dupont Circle Park.

The nonprofit had already spoken with the D.C. National Zoo, but they only offered prairie dogs, which didn't quite fit the bill.  The WTOP article directed readers to the organization's website, where anyone with information on how to get a live groundhog could contact them.

Dupont Festival eventually had to settle for a stuffed groundhog donated from Miss Pixie's Furnishings & Whatnot, a local D.C. store.  Thus was born Potomac Phil, who made his prediction for winter known to the public at 8 a.m. this morning.  And just like Punxatawney Phil, he predicted six more weeks of winter.  D.C. councilman Jack Evans attended the celebration, and declared that from now on, February 2 will be D.C. Groundhog Day.  So even if they didn't get a real groundhog, Dupont Festival at least got themselves a new holiday.

You can read the full story on the WTOP website.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Garth Brooks Gets His Donation Back

An Oklahoma hospital has been ordered to pay $1 million to country singer Garth Brooks after failing to build a women's health center in honor of his late mother.

The details of the case were laid out in a story that originally appeared in the previous edition of NPT Weekly.  Brooks donated $500,000 to Yukon, Okla.-based Integris Canadian Valley Region Hospital with the understanding that the gift would help fund a women's health center named after his mother, Colleen Brooks, who died in 1999.  He filed a suit against the hospital after the center had been built without his mother's name attached.  The jury ruled in favor of Brooks on Jan. 24, awarding him his original donation plus an additional $500,000 in punitive damages.  A spokesperson for Integris said that the hospital does not expect to have to cut any services or programs in light of the settlement, as the money will not come from their operating budget.

This case shows the importance of the donor having a written agreement with the nonprofit when making a major gift.  Jeffrey Tenenbaum, a nonprofit attorney at Venable LLP in Washington, D.C., told NPT that it's uncommon to have only a verbal agreement with the client.  Said Tenenbaum: “This case is the perfect example of why verbal commitments do not work out.”

Tenenbaum goes on to say that the written agreement should lay out the dollar amount that will be paid, whether or not the contract is enforceable, and provide contingencies if the original purpose of the contribution cannot be fulfilled.  While the case ultimately worked out in Brooks' favor, these steps are highly advisable to prevent legal issues like this from happening.

You can read the full story in The NonProfit Times.

February 1 Issue Of NPT Is Out!

The newest issue of The NonProfit Times is now out!  Here's a look at some of the stories you can expect to find in this month's issue:

Special Report
  • New Year, New Problems: We take a look at some of the issues that have come up in this new year, including NJ Gov. Christie's decision to pocket-veto a bill that would have placed restrictions on volunteer emergency rescue squads.
Make sure to check out all of these stories and more on our website.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Alabama Gives Day Expected To Generate Crucial Funding

With many states across the country having success with the Gives Day movement, Alabama has decided to join the fun for the first time.

The Montgomery Advertiser reported Sunday that the first annual Alabama Gives Day will begin on Thursday, Feb. 2.  Beginning at 12:01 a.m., Alabamians will be able to donate to charities via an online portal  More than 800 nonprofits within 12 categories are registered to participate in the event.  Among the participating nonprofits are the Hospice of Montgomery, the Mid-Alabama Coalition for the Homeless, and the Montgomery Area Food Bank.

The Gives Day movement has been very popular since its inception in Minnesota in 2009.  Its purpose was to increase philanthropy and increase donor acquisition for nonprofits.  The concept has had plenty of success stories, like Colorado Gives Day, which recently had 52,000 donations totaling $12 million.  There is no monetary goal set for Alabama Gives Day; organizers simply want as many nonprofits as possible to participate.

If the Gives Days of the last few years are any indication, Alabama Gives Day should be a great source of funding for local nonprofits.  Read more about the event in The Montgomery Advertiser.

Managing Nonprofit Diversity Conflict

Diversity has become the goal at every level of American life. Efforts to promote it have been rightfully applauded. Here's the real question: Are organizations correctly handling these efforts?

One reason people flock toward nonprofit jobs is the diversity in culture and the working backgrounds they support. There is a bigger lesson organizations missed if they are only promoting diversity for diversity's sake. In his book "The End of Diversity as We Know It," Martin R. Davidson argues that a better aim is to embrace and build upon differences among employees.

Davidson, who was a chief development officer at the University of Virginia, also acknowledges that diversity initiatives can cause resistance and even conflict among employees. This can manifest itself in what Davidson calls "identity abrasions," feelings of resentment or defensiveness that come up when people are criticized for being insensitive or ignorant. He wrote that to make these teachable moments positive experiences for all parties involved, he recommends human resources officers implement five "principles of behavior." They are:
  • Pausing: There is a natural tendency to react, but taking time to identify feelings and consider options helps in responding effectively to criticism.
  • Connecting to larger goals: Meaningful goals make it easier to remember why it is worth engaging with another.
  • Questioning yourself: This will help you come to a realistic and accurate understanding of what is happening in the exchange.
  • Seeking out balanced support: Rather than just complaining to your friends who will have your back, seek out the counsel of trusted colleagues.
  • Shifting mindset towards opportunity: It takes persistent willingness to be introspective.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Role Of Technology In Philanthropy

The World Economic Forum, one of the largest gathering of business and political types, began last week in Davos, Switzerland.  Where there is talk of money, philanthropy will naturally become a central topic.

The New York Times wrote a blog post last Friday about a panel discussion at the forum on the role technology plays in philanthropy.  Hosted by the Victor Pinchuck Foundation, the program began with a discussion about "e-philanthropy," specifically mobile payments.  This technology has allowed donors to give small amounts of money to causes.  A good example of its importance was seen in the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Alec Ross, a senior advisor on innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, shared his experiences with mobile giving to the panel.  He said that the government put together a mobile giving program in the aftermath of the earthquake.  The program allowed donors to text the word "Haiti" to a specific number, which would send a $10 donation to relief efforts.  The program ended up raising $35 million in two weeks, completely shattering their expectations.

Although this program was successful, all the panelists agreed that one of the main problems with philanthropy is transparency; people want to have a better idea of where their money is going.  Sean Parker, founder of Napster and former president of Facebook, cited a nonprofit that he helped finance as an example of good transparency.  Charity Water, a nonprofit organization that advocates for clean drinking water around the world, developed online tools for their website that show donors how their money is being used.  Parker said that this kind of online fundraising should be adapted by all nonprofits to give donors a better sense of security.

Read more about this topic in The New York Times.

Sept. 11 Memorial's Executive Salaries Comes Under Fire

The last thing anybody expected was controversy at the September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center.  But that's exactly what has happened after a former employee received a severance package.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that Joan Garner, former executive vice president of design and construction at the memorial, received $296,565 in compensation after leaving her position in May 2010.  That brought her total salary for the year up to $439,463, making her the highest paid employee at the organization.

Tax records for the organization, which were first reported on by The Record of Bergen County, show that seven other executives received compensation that totaled more than $200,000.  Four of those executives received more than $300,000, including the president, Joseph Daniels, who earned $378,288 in salary and benefits.  All in all, the foundation spent $6.5 million on salaries and other benefits in 2010, a sharp increase from the $5.3 million in 2009.

The executive pay at the memorial has come under heavy fire from the families of 9/11 victims, who have called on Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the organization's chairman, to get the salaries under control.  However, Bloomberg has long defended the compensation at the memorial and other nonprofits, and his spokesperson said they are in line with similar nonprofits.

Ken Berger, president and CEO of Charity Navigator, disagreed with the mayor.  He told The Journal that the salaries in question are on the high end of the spectrum, and that an organization with such an important public mission shouldn't be spending money this way.  His comments certainly fall in line with the outraged comments from families who lost loved ones during 9/11.

You can read more about this controversy in The Wall Street Journal.  In addition, you can read all about the construction of the many September 11 memorials in The NonProfit Times.