Thursday, 17 September 2009

Stanford Social Innovation Review : Articles : The Nonprofit Starvation Cycle (August 18, 2009)

Stanford Social Innovation Review : Articles : The Nonprofit Starvation Cycle (August 18, 2009)

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Unemployment and Efficiency – A Necessary Connection?

Posted by Richard Marker | September 17, 2009 | Category: Best Practice, Professional Development | Leave a comment It hit me – something is wrong with this picture.

It hardly surprises when we read a press release announcing that another company or non profit has reduced its staffing – usually accompanied by a note of regret that financial exigencies – or some other carefully worded euphemism – necessitated these reductions. [A firing by any other name, even if part of a crowd, is the loss of a job.]

The recent deep recession has almost inured us to these announcements – after all, what can one expect during a time when income, purchasing power, and contributions are down and prospects for improvement hardly in the offing?

But in the last few days, two national not for profit organizations announced a restructuring which, incidentally, included staff reductions. What got my attention was that both energetically denied that finances played any part in the decisions. “Efficiencies” would mean no reduction of services but that they would be provided differently.

What, I wondered, does that really mean? That they are asking already overburdened and probably underpaid non-profit workers to take on even more portfolios? Have they somehow found a way to use technology to obviate those professional services? Are they trying to make a point to their supporters that they are tough enough to make the hard decisions even if the finances don’t demand them?

Then I remembered: for the last decade or so, virtually every merger or new executive of every for-profit company would proudly announce that their newly merged or restructured company would increase profits and earn the confidence of shareholders by – what else? – reducing personnel costs. Efficiencies and elimination of duplication of services would yield immediate results, justifying the “multiples” and projected profits into the future. It is hardly surprising that non-profits follow suit.

How quickly we forget that it was not so many years ago when companies prided themselves on the growth of their workforce, on how they were improving the quality of lives of those who were connected to their enterprise, that they could reduce work-time to 5 days [and those days were 9-5!]. Now no one flinches when a private company or even a non-profit reduces benefits, expects 24/7 commitment, and reduces workforce. It is as if all of the promises of a humane modernity have been reversed – all too often in the guise of efficiency or profit.

You may ask: “isn’t this the wrong time to be raising this question – at a time when businesses and non profit organizations are fighting for survival?” Why argue for changing the employment paradigm when the struggle is to avoid firing even more people?

For me, this is the best time to remind us that pressures on companies for short term profit have pushed our investments in people and long term strategies to a lower priority and disposable luxury. This is the best time to remind us that the relentless, and often ill advised push for non-profit efficiency has too often led non profit employers to lose sight of the value of their most precious resource – their own workers and the values that drive them.

I raise this issue on a philanthropy blog because, as the economy slowly and fitfully rebounds and philanthropy follows, it is incumbent upon funders to reinforce the right kinds of changes, adaptations, and efficiencies, and not be taken in by the often dubious or misplaced applicability of for-profit mentality in the independent sector. Do we really believe that a non-profit delivers better service because the workers are pushed to carry larger workloads – with few benefits or guarantees – than before? Do we really believe that we are fulfilling a vision of a caring society by having fewer people employed? Do we really believe that the ultimate measure of the success of any group or business or organization is that they can do as much with less?

As a society, the unemployment and underemployment crisis has been a long time coming. It reflects attitudes that predated the current financial crisis and, sadly, will outlast its recovery. I only hope that one of the lessons learned is that a post modern, technologically advanced, and complex society should not sacrifice its soul on the backs of its workers.

One wonders: if we had retained the value of employees, employment, and quality of life over the last 15 years or so, would we be in the mess we are today?

Richard Marker serves as an advisor to foundations, independent funders, and not-for-profit organizations; he is a Senior Fellow in Philanthropy at NYU’s George Heyman Jr. Center for Philanthropy. Richard specializes in strategic philanthropy and planning. He is an occasional contributor to eJewish Philanthropy and regularly blogs at Wise Philanthropy.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Monday, 17 August 2009

The Summer Block

Has anybody else found a way to come to terms with what happens during the summer? Of course, by "what happens" I really mean what does not happen!

As opposed to the rest of my collegues, who I am now guessing either earn much more than me, or who know something about home economics that I have not as yet figured out, I have been in the office every single day over the last month and a half. For most of this time, I have been alone! Nobody here with me, not a sod!

Has it been easy? No

Has it been fun? NO

Has it been a worthwhile period of really effective productivity? Has it? NO!!!

It has been six weeks of humidity and boredom during the slowest period of the year. The Jews, it appears, are a cold-climate clan, not made for too much "doing" whilst the sun and surf are up.

For philanthropy it has been an interesting time to watch. The markets are confusing commentators with ADHD-like behaviour, Jews are being arrested in Deal, Madoff's ex-lover with a hugh conflict of interest has pretty much destroyed any self-respect Hadassah had left, Israelis have been robbing the IRS blind, and the Fatah has an Israeli Jew on its National Council - all in all not a slow period on the news front, but not news that has served to stir the juices of generosity in those who would perhaps otherwise have been open to giving.

It could have been a good period for hosting tourists.

It could have been a good period for preparing next year's workplan and budget.

It could have been a good time to ensure that all of our marketing literature and social media brands are in order.

It could have been, but for this year it has not been any of those things.

Here are my summer's resolutions, those issues I would like to have rectified by this time next year:

I would like to have a website

I would like to have a mailing list receiving regular communiques

I would like to have an activities budget

I would like to have a marketing budget

I would like to have Nihul Takin

I would like to have a figurehead for my "friends of" in Israel, and one in the US

I would like to have opened avenues to facilitate all forms of giving

I would like to have opened avenues to facilitate the enlistment of new friends and interested parties

I would like to have materials to give to those interested in what we do

I would like to have the means to reach those on my list of targets

More than anything, and as a pre-requisite to realising any of my goals...

...I would like to find the way to bring the message home, once and for all, to "the powers that be", that the investment in proactive efforts is essential in order to succeed.
It is a sad, yet common, fact, that this obvious truth is all to often ignored. The planning stages of the major project at hand, eg. the $200m, 17-storey tower for which I am raising funds, include every single micro stage of building and populating the project, but how the money is to be raised? That is my problem.
When I find the answer, I will let you know, but until then just watch my wish list and see how far I get.

#2 got so big, and #3 on the way(?!*$)

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Thursday, 23 July 2009

Kaleidoscope - Summer 2009

Every Gift Says Something—Are You Listening?
By Donna Red Wing

Imagine a world in which all donors are the same. They give for the same reason, they expect the same result, they engage in the same way—and even prefer one method of recognition. I suppose this would be of great help to fundraisers and nonprofits. You would know exactly who your donor is and what he or she wants. There would be no guessing, no exploration.

However, that is not the world we live in. In case you haven’t noticed, our communities are constantly being infused with outside influences, so much so that “outside” doesn’t carry much meaning anymore.

So what does that mean for us as fundraisers? I think we have to wave one final good-bye to predictability with our donors. Now we have to really get to know them.

As I see it, giving is a very wonderful—very personal—expression of self. It is something you impart on another. It is something born of values and beliefs, be it faith in a higher being or simply faith in humanity. I think understanding why a donor gives—something we’d all certainly like to know!—is tied to identity and to the things people hold most dear. Often a donor gives through a framework of belief.

What do your donors believe about human nature or a life beyond the present one? What traits and actions do they hold in highest regard? Perhaps most importantly, how do they view philanthropy? The fact is, when people give of themselves, especially in large amounts (such as a major-gift donor), they do so based on what they think is right and good. While appearing similar at first glance, there is beautiful nuance in the world’s many giving traditions.

Many Pictures of Giving

The Qur’an speaks to the issue of philanthropy, or zakat, as one of the five pillars of Islam. Each Muslim is required to donate a percentage of his or her salary. Then there is the tenet of sadaqa, which is a voluntary gift. In Judaism, tzedakah, which literally means righteousness, can be interpreted to mean justice and charity. There is clearly a social justice context to Jewish philanthropy. Christian philanthropic traditions have their genesis in Judaic concepts and practices, as well as Greek classical traditions that were refined and defined by the New Testament. Social and humanitarian reform, as well as the diversity of belief within Christian traditions, have left their imprint. Whether we look at the admonishment to “love your neighbor as yourself” or the story of the widow’s mite, both speak to intent, as well as action. Buddhist philanthropy is rooted in a compassion that seeks to end human suffering. And in Native American traditions, philanthropy is not an obligation, but rather simply what is done. It is experienced as a gift of both the donor, who gives, and the recipient, who accepts.

Beliefs Matter

There is considerable emphasis now on keeping religious beliefs, political views and even differences of lifestyle, isolated—almost quarantined—from public settings. However, our differences are important. Let’s not inoculate ourselves or sterilize our environment of difference and unique identity. We should acknowledge and celebrate uniqueness.

When you talk to donors, who they are matters. Why? Because it matters to them—a lot more than their social status, the size of their bank account or the car they drive. Philanthropy is a deeper concern. It is more than what I am, it is who I am—and in some cases why I am.

I’m not suggesting that you walk up to people and ask them what they believe in order to better understand their view of giving. I’m also not saying that we as fundraisers need to become experts on the world’s religions. I am saying that until you know why people give, they won’t give as much (or give at all). People give from a far more personal, complex and unique place than you’ll ever find out without a long-term, close conversation born of respect, curiosity and even admiration.

So now that I’ve described the distance that lies between you and your prospective donors, current donors or even long-time supporters, realize, too, that building a bridge is certainly possible and very rewarding. Want people to give more? Find out what makes them give—and keep giving. Let them express their core beliefs and values. Let them speak. All you need to do is listen.

Donna Red Wing serves as senior adviser to both the Interfaith Alliance and the National Crittenton Foundation. Red Wing was the first recipient of the Walter Cronkite Award for Faith and Freedom. She serves as co-chair of the board of directors of the Grassroots Leadership Institute and chair of the AFP Diverse Communities in Fundraising Task Force. Red Wing is a Christian Buddhist, which makes for some very interesting philanthropic beliefs and practices.

Monday, 8 June 2009

I am a Zionist by Yair Lapid

Yair Lapid, a popular and current journalist revisits Zionism: a notion that some question its relevancy today: This is his Zionist manifest of a personal nature that is inseparable from the national one. In it he says that he is proud to belong to this tiny minority that influenced the world more than any other nation:

I am a Zionist.

I believe that the Jewish people established itself in the Land of Israel, albeit somewhat late. Had it listened to the alarm clock, there would have been no Holocaust, and my dead grandfather - the one I was named after - would have been able to dance a last waltz with grandma on the shores of the Yarkon River.

I am a Zionist.

Hebrew is the language I use to thank the Creator, and also to swear on the road. The Bible does not only contain my history, but also my geography. King Saul went to look for mules on what is today Highway 443, Jonah the Prophet boarded his ship not too far from what is today a Jaffa restaurant, and the balcony where David peeped on Bathsheba must have been bought by some oligarch by now.

I am a Zionist.

The first time I saw my son wearing an IDF uniform I burst into tears, I haven't missed the Independence Day torch-lighting ceremony for 20 years now, and my television was made in Korea, but I taught it to cheer for our national soccer team.

I am a Zionist.

I believe in our right for this land. The people who were persecuted for no reason throughout history have a right to a state of their own plus a free F-16 from the manufacturer. Every display of anti-Semitism from London to Mumbai hurts me, yet deep inside I'm thinking that Jews who choose to live abroad fail to understand something very basic about this world. The State of Israel was not established so that the anti-Semites will disappear, but rather, so we can tell them to get lost.

I am a Zionist.

I was fired at in Lebanon, a Katyusha rockets missed me by a few feet in Kiryat Shmona, missiles landed near my home during the first Gulf War, I was in Sderot when the Color Red anti-rocket alert system was activated, terrorists blew themselves up not too far from my parents' house, and my children stayed in a bomb shelter before they even knew how to pronounce their own name, clinging to a grandmother who arrived here from Poland to escape death. Yet nonetheless, I always felt fortunate to be living here, and I don't really feel good anywhere else.

I am a Zionist.

I think that anyone who lives here should serve in the army, pay taxes, vote in the elections, and be familiar with the lyrics of at least one Shalom Hanoch song. I think that the State of Israel is not only a place, it is also an idea, and I wholeheartedly believe in the three extra commandments engraved on the wall of the Holocaust museum in Washington: "Thou shalt not be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but above all, thou shalt not be a bystander."

I am a Zionist.

I already laid down on my back to admire the Sistine Chapel, I bought a postcard at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, and I was deeply impressed by the emerald Buddha at the king's palace in Bangkok. Yet I still believe that Tel Aviv is more entertaining, the Red Sea is greener, and the Western Wall Tunnels provide for a much more powerful spiritual experience. It is true that I'm not objective, but I'm also not objective in respect to my wife and children.

I am a Zionist.

I am a man of tomorrow but I also live my past. My dynasty includes Moses, Jesus, Maimonides, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Albert Einstein, Woody Allen, Bobby Fischer, Bob Dylan, Franz Kafka, Herzl, and Ben-Gurion. I am part of a tiny persecuted minority that influenced the world more than any other nation. While others invested their energies in war, we had the sense to invest in our minds.

I am a Zionist.

I sometimes look around me and become filled with pride, because I live better than a billion Indians, 1.3 billion Chinese, the entire African continent, more than 250 million Indonesians, and also better than the Thais, the Filipinos, the Russians, the Ukrainians, and the entire Muslim world, with the exception of the Sultan of Brunei. I live in a country under siege that has no natural resources, yet nonetheless the traffic lights always work and we have high-speed connection to the Internet.

I am a Zionist.

My Zionism is natural, just like it is natural for me to be a father, a husband, and a son. People who claim that they, and only they, represent the "real Zionism" are ridiculous in my view. My Zionism is not measured by the size of my kippa, by the neighborhood where I live, or by the party I will be voting for. It was born a long time before me, on a snowy street in the ghetto in Budapest where my father stood and attempted, in vain, to understand why the entire world is trying to kill him.

I am a Zionist.

Every time an innocent victim dies, I bow my head because once upon a time I was an innocent victim. I have no desire or intention to adopt the moral standards of my enemies. I do not want to be like them. I do not live on my sword; I merely keep it under my pillow.

I am a Zionist.

I do not only hold on to the rights of our forefathers, but also to the duty of the sons. The people who established this state lived and worked under much worse conditions than I have to face, yet nonetheless they did not make do with mere survival. They also attempted to establish a better, wiser, more humane, and more moral state here. They were willing to die for this cause, and I try to live for its sake.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Leora's Song - Ain't it a Pity (that life can be shitty)

Leora and I were in school together. She is just one of those infectious people you love! If you can... PLEASE save her life!!!!

Thursday, 26 March 2009

JC just applied for ROI2009

Since fulfilling his own personal goal at the tender age of 18 by leaving Anatevka (Manchester), Jonny has spent the last 15 years trying to find ways to help turn Israel into the country and State that he envisioned.
A mini-career in Hi-tech at the end of the '90s forced Jonny into a life of community work and non-profit management once he realised that the search for "the good life" would likely lead him back west of Tel Aviv.
Fours years of Israeli regional government and community work with the communities and children of the Shomron prepared Jonny for a period of service as the senior Shaliach of the Jewish Agency in Western Canada, based in Winnipeg.
Returning to Israel at the end of 2005 to the position of CEO of the World Union of Jewish Students led to a full realisation of the desperate need for professional management in the Israeli non-profit sector and, even moreso, the Jewish World bodies.
Jonny has spent the last couple of years in resource development in the Israeli third sector, and fulfills his need for ideological fulfillment through active participation in the building of organizations such as Israel2020 and Israel Connect.

Besides my activities assisting in the fundraising for a local synagogue in my community, my involvement is currently in four areas:
1) professionally I serve as Director for Resource Development for a hospital in Bnei Brak that was founded to provide for the needs of the Ultra-Orthodox community. This hospital is the world leader in the research and practice of medical science according to Jewish Law, studying and writing the oral law for tomorrow that will facilitate the use of modern developments in tandem with Jewish Halacha. My style is one of relationship fundraising, raising awareness and building community around a good aim and a worthy cause.
2) For the past 3 years I have been an activist and leader in Israel2020. Born out of concern that the disconnect that our generation feels in its own homeland is, in no small part, due to the disregard for our needs exhibited by our political leaders, and their inability to enable us to take our place as the leaders of the State of Israel in the future. Currently the General Secretary of the movement, I have responsibility for matters of organisational structure and meeting legislatory requirements.
3) Since I can remember I have always played an active role in ideological movements. I am an active member of the World Likud and the Likud Party English Division.
4) Israel Connect is an organization dedicated to developing and facilitating a two-way, long-term, interpersonal connection between Jewish youth from around the world and their peers in Israel, and to those of their peers serving in the Israel Defence Forces, in order to reinforce Jewish continuity and Jewish identity. I am the first member of the lay-leadership board that is currently being built. My experience has enabled me to assist in building the structure of the organisation, and to facilitate the process of mission definition and marketing.
My heart belongs to the Jewish World and our future. Whether professionally or voluntarily I intend to maximize the benefit that my knowledge, experience and energy can give to the causes in which I truly believe.

My first three aims are all part and parcel of the fourth, super-aim:
1) Community: The world of the Jewish social activist is a wonderous thing to experience. Our circles are manned by some of the most interesting, effective and driven people in the world. Not only would I take great pride in being numbered among this body of activism, I would also take very much to heart mr responsibility to take an active role in the life of the community in any and every way in which I can effectively add benefit to the work being done.
2) Shared Experience and Knowledge: each one of the 120 participants this year, together with each one of those from years gone by, has a wealth of knowledge, experience, information and skills from which the missions to which I turn my hand may benefit through my exposure to this community. I will gladly share whatever I can bring to the table.
3) New Energy: The role of the third sector, NPO/NGOs, social society, is never to be completed, its need neverending. There is no better way to recharge the activist batteries than to spend time in such an intense dynamic of energy as this program will allow. Add to that the networking that takes place and the community that forms and grows and you have a self sustaining source of energy that can support activism and positive work for a lifetime.
4) Hope: There are many good people promoting many great causes. It is only natural that the day-to-day can lead to a resilience to renewal and a narrowing of horizons. Competition becomes a concern rather than a boost, resources suddenly appear inadequate, social life becomes a distant memory. Participation in a shared experience facilitated by a platform such as ROI can revitalise that essential spark that stops us questioning whether what we do counts, and reminds us that we KNOW that what we do counts! I want to plug into this power source, and I wish to feed it with whatever I have to give.

Building and facilitating Networks of Purpose is what I have done and what I do.... and I know that it can be done more and it can be done better!
The Jewish People have survived and grown as a nation because of our ability to communicate, this is an unarguable fact. That the modern era, with its explosion of communication development, is a challenge to the survival of our people is a less recognised phenomenon. Have the myriad of communications breakthroughs not offered an opportunity? Have they not facilitated far more volume and variety of communication than ever before? Of course, but this growth and variation has also necessitated the development of a whole industry aimed to aid us in making use of these very tools and skills for the preservation of our age-old community and tradition.
My hope is that the development of this industry, facilitated by this track, will promote the survival of our people through the best use of all resources available, and that I can share what I have to offer with the pool of available resources that, through the network of purpose formed within the ROI community, will make our Jewish World better for the future.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Doing the right thing ...

is sometimes the right thing to do