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The Jobs Picture and Nonprofits
Dec 6, 2009; Center for American Progress | The nonprofit Center for American Progress, represented by CEO John Podesta, was one of the few organizations invited to the White House for the jobs summit. CAP issued a somewhat upbeat report on the jobs situation as a lead-in to the session. Strongly aligned with the current administration, CAP’s upbeat report is not all that surprising. It calls the drop in the November unemployment rate to 10% and the loss of only 11,000 jobs “far better than expected” and “unambiguous good news for workers and their families.” The CAP author (the well respected Heather Boushey) also suggested that the stimulus bill “has worked its magic.” OK, there’s a bit of hyperbole in the report, but some of the statistics Boushey presents should give nonprofits plenty of agita: 38% of the nation’s unemployed have been unemployed and looking for a job for 6 months or longer; one of the larger increases in employment was an increase of 52,000 jobs in the temporary help industry, hardly a signal of a solid uptick in the employment picture (CAP views the temporary help area more positively than we would here), and 41,000 manufacturing jobs disappeared in November. But for nonprofits, there are signals to watch. The “service-providing industry” added 58,000 jobs, including 11,100 in education and 21,000 in health care, logically significant nonprofit employment arenas. The big concluding recommendation is for major federal investment in into youth and young adult employment programs, child care, afterschool programs, and services for the elderly and disabled, and job training. CAP says that these jobs will largely be provided by nonprofits and small businesses, but we know that these are hardly small business arenas. This should be read as a call to the nonprofit sector to remember its crucial role in helping pull the nation out of its Great Recession, not just through the provision of services, but through generating jobs.—Rick Cohen
Weird Philanthropic Landscape in Delaware
Dec 8; Delaware Online | A new study commissioned by the Delaware Philanthropy Forum found that Delaware nonprofits are not prepared financially or structurally to meet the growing needs in their state. The report conducted by Florida consultant, Mary Kress Littlepage, grew out of an effort started by the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce and was funded by a group of corporate and foundation donors. According to the report, an astounding “35 % of Delaware’s roughly 1,000 active nonprofits operated at a loss each year from 2002 through 2007.” One contributing factor to the situation is a low per capita donation rate in Delaware. The state’s 390 foundations only contribute about $333 million a year to nonprofits, “But the vast majority of those foundations exist here only to take advantage of the state’s tax laws. Only 23 foundations made significant contributions totaling $60 million to Delaware nonprofits.” “Most of that money comes from just eight large foundations.” And while there are many large corporations in Delaware, “Donations from corporate foundations in Delaware make up just 2 percent of giving by all major foundations, compared to almost 10 percent nationwide.” Nonprofit and Philanthropic sources quoted for the story said they believed the report to be accurate. It’s important to note that the data from this report is from 2002 to 2007 and doesn’t include statistics from the recession. One can only guess that the situation between 2007 and now is not rosier for nonprofits or their communities they serve. Stay tuned for NPQ coverage on how the recession is impacting several states across the country and its effect on nonprofits.—Kristin Barrali
ACORN and the Ethics of Leadership
Dec 8, 2009; The Atlantic | We don’t mean to obsess about the ACORN situation and the report issued by former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, but there are a number of articles being written that are thought provoking. Former ACLU board member Wendy Kaminer has an interesting perspective, since she famously resigned from the ACLU board because of the efforts of the ACLU leadership to prevent board members from publicly criticizing the organization. In her departure, she charged the ACLU with ethical decline and “groupthink”. That experience clearly informs her posting for The Atlantic, not surprisingly focused not on the specifics of Harshbarger’s findings about ACORN the organization, but about what Harshbarger revealed about “the competence and conduct of ACORN’s current leadership.” Kaminer highlights Harshbarger’s observation about the current leadership’s “own failure to question or challenge” Wade Rathke about his well-documented cover-up of his brother’s million dollar embezzlement. She asks questions that she believes Harshbarger did not fully explore: “What precisely did their failure to challenge Wade Rathke entail? Did they act out of weakness or bad faith? Were they otherwise complicit in managerial misconduct? Do they deserve to continue in leadership positions and are they ethically fit to do so?” While Harshbarger expressed confidence that the current leadership of ACORN understands “what must be done,” Kaminer is obviously unpersuaded, and describes Harshbarger’s advice as “sound and necessary, but maybe not sufficient.” She believes that excising ACORN’s ethical and managerial misdeeds “depends on the ethics of individual leaders.” She concludes, “I don’t know whether successful reform of ACORN requires new leadership. I can only wonder if those current leaders who failed to stand up for the integrity of the organization in the past are the right people to guide it into the future.” Powerful stuff for people inside and outside of ACORN to heed.—Rick Cohen
Exploiting Technology to Drive Up Capacity?
Dec 7, 2009; Inland Valley Daily Bulletin | There is a lot of discussion these days about the recession sparking the use of technology to speed up nonprofit program delivery and reduce program costs but what are people really experimenting with? This article from Ontario talks about a group called Neighborhood Partnership Housing Services which is testing a new software package designed to speed up the applications process and screen for good candidates for mortgage modification counseling. NPHS claims the software has increased their 4 staff members’ productivity by 25%. It requires that the homeowner first fill out a questionnaire and then print it out to be seen by a mortgage counselor. We’d love to hear about what you are experimenting with—and what the downsides and upsides have been.—Ruth McCambridge
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