Archive for the 'Fundraising+nonprofit' Category

Housing rant

27 July 2015

So this CityLab/SF SPUR article has been making the social media rounds recently. It argues that the San Francisco’s crisis of housing supply and affordability has been caused by the failed policies of 70s and 80s SF progressives, either by intent or a tragic set of unintended consequences (i.e., either SF progressives are mean and nasty or stupid).

The question, though, that this line of reasoning can’t answer is this: why is it that at roughly the same time, in roughly the same shape, with roughly the same consequences, this pattern of housing crisis appeared not just in cities up and down the west coast from Vancouver to San Diego, not just in major US cities across the country, but globally?

And given that, how is it possible to explain a genuinely global phenomenon by way of very local, place-based political decision-making? The fact is, I think, that local housing markets have been internationalized, at least in terms of the flow of money across borders. This is a new reality, a function of neoliberalism as pernicious as any other – and the traditional theories and conventional wisdom about how local housing supply and demand functions – hence the policies that ought to be followed (not to mention who gets the blame) no longer makes sense.

That’s Jim Russell’s point here. Before we all join in a chorus of blaming a few local policies and people for what’s really a global systemic failure, his argument about what’s causing our troubles needs to be brought into the debate. Read the rest of this entry »

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5 reasons and a bonus point why the Center for Investigative Reporting should buy Digital First Media’s Bay Area newspapers (with apologies to Rosey Rosenthal).

12 September 2014

John Paton, Digital First Media’s CEO, announced this week that Alden Global Capital, DFM’s hedge fund owner, is considering selling their newspapers holdings. DFM has newspapers from Vermont to California, including historically important metro outlets like the Denver Post, San Jose Mercury News, and the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Besides the Merc, it also owns a dozen other local Bay Area papers managed through the Bay Area News Group, including my hometown paper, the Marin Independent Journal.

Ken Doctor, who’s been following the ups and downs (mostly downs) of the newspaper trade for years, figures that Alden will sell the papers region by region. It’s easy to imagine an investor group looking to buy the papers with an eye on short term ROI (which was Alden’s strategy all along, anyway). But if the papers end up being sold to an owner with that approach, it spells more death spiral for local newspapers (that’s how the News Guild sees it, too).

Instead, the Bay Area could be the model for how to turn a decaying, declining, near dead newspaper system into something beautiful and powerful.  For that to happen, it’ll take a smart team and smart money to figure out how to reverse the trend. This could be an opportunity for the nonprofit journalism world to take the lead – but only if we look beyond our constraints and limitations (self-imposed and otherwise) and begin to act on a bigger stage. Call me crazy, but how else will local journalism survive and thrive?

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When Great Trees Fall

5 May 2013

Maya Angelou’s ‘When Great Trees Fall’


When Great Trees Fall
Maya Angelou

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
examines,
gnaws on kind words
unsaid,
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
nurture,
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance,
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold
caves.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly.  Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed.  They existed.
We can be.  Be and be
better.  For they existed.

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Losing Ted Smith

6 September 2012
I met Ted Smith many years ago, when he had just started at the Kendall Foundation, in my role as a fundraiser for Earthjustice. We continued our connection when I moved to my current place of work here at Mother Jones. Ted and I made a point of meeting up for lunch or coffee whenever I’d come through Boston – even (actually, especially) after the grantor-grantee relationship had gone by the wayside: this actually gave us the chance just to talk together and catch up without all the transactional undertow that comes from the giving and getting of money.
Late last week, Buck Parker (we worked together for many years at Earthjustice, and since then have gone backpacking together the past several years) passed along word that Ted had had died in terrible accident while hiking with his family.  I can only begin to imagine how painful and difficult a situation it has been for them – even if, as his brother Roger wrote in an email confirming Ted’s death, that he died doing what he loved most, in a landscape he loved best, with people he loved completely.
I so appreciated my conversations with Ted, not only for what he said and thought, but for *how* he thought about tough problems. Ideas seemed incredibly light in his hands – he’d look at a question first from this angle, then from that one, turning it over and upside down and inside out to see how close we could come to what was really going on out there in the material world. Ideas for Ted were like jewels, with unexpected facets and refractions, their beauty something to behold even as their flaws became visible. Some folks I know would get impatient with Ted’s thought process, but I loved it.
Without fail I’d leave our short times together, well, delighted and inspired. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one who had this experience with Ted.
When Ted left Boston and moved back to Montana, it became harder to visit; Buck and I almost made it to his home on our way to Glacier a couple of years ago, but couldn’t quite get the logistics in place. Just a few weeks ago I’d traded emails with Ted; we agreed to get together out here in San Francisco the next time he visited.
I was really looking forward to seeing him again, and am heartbroken that that won’t happen.
Ted’s deep thoughtfulness and passion for the places and people he valued touched many, many people’s lives, including mine. I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to know him. He was one of the really good guys.

MoJo takes on the IRS – and wins.

18 March 2011

Mother Jones started life in March, 1975, as a project of a non profit entity called the Foundation for National Progress (FNP).  Headed up by Adam Hochschild, direct marketing pro Bill Dodd, business wiz (and now Harvard professor) Richard Parker, and anti-nuke activist Paul Jacobs, the magazine flourished, growing rapidly (it had the largest circulation of any progressive magazine of the time) and being recognized with awards for its pathbreaking mix of investigative journalism and progressive culture coverage. Mark Dowie‘s piece on the exploding Ford Pinto pretty much ensured no advertising from the auto companies (the mag didn’t take another ad from Ford until 2006), and its special report on tobacco industry lobbying inside the Beltway put the kibosh on that revenue source, too. Read the rest of this entry »

Thinking about the Quixote Foundation’s “Spend Up!”

27 April 2010

This is a big week for fundraising conferences, what with the Council on Foundations get together in Denver (MoJo’s own David Corn was out there talking about gun violence issues). Judging from the twitter stream from @QuixoteTilts, the gathering of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (#epip10)  just prior to the CoF meeting was a rollicking good session, with some pretty fundamental questions put on the table about the who’s, why’s and wherefore’s of philanthropy.

It’s no accident that the Twitter voice of the Quixote Foundation was there and delivering a pretty interesting comment flow for the rest of us. As even a cursory look at their website will tell you, Quixote points its lance at the big questions, pointing its grantmaking at what it believes are the key opportunities for change. Full disclosure: Erik Hanisch, who with his wife Lenore and their great staff run this show, sits on my board of directors; Quixote is a grantmaker for Mother Jones. Read the rest of this entry »

Asymmetrical power relations in the social sector: Lucy Bernholz’s “Disrupting Philanthropy”

11 December 2009

Lucy Bernholz’s “Disrupting Philanthropy: Technology and the Future of the Social Sector” has gotten a lot of attention on the Intertubes and among the twitterati (hashtag: #disruptphil) the past few days – and rightfully so. Her plain-English portrait of how digital technology is already changing the face of philanthropy and NGO life is, I think, a foundational document for what comes next. It’s that good.  (BTW, it’s one of those weird Futurama disconnects that Lucy works at BluePrint R+D 2 blocks away from the Mother Ship, with Jack Chin, who was one of the first people I met in the SF NGO scene way way back – and we’ve never met in person. We’re promising coffee in the new year, right Lucy!?)

It sounds like philanthropy is approaching one of those “whoa, what comes next” moments that us folks in the media/journalism world have been living through for, well, years. It makes for a fun ride (if your livelihood doesn’t depend on old models that are shakier by the day) and is definitely food for thought and the young at heart. So with one foot in (30+ years of) nonprofit life and the other in journalism world with more than passing interest…
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The pioneers who paved the way

7 December 2009

(Cross posted at Alan Mutter’s Newsosaur)

With fresh non-profit news ventures seemingly turning up left and right, you would think this was a brand new idea.  But it’s not.

A wide variety of non-profit news ventures have been providing unique, professional-caliber, and invigorating perspectives on our world for many years.  A number of ventures – like the Center for Investigative Reporting, Ms., or my own organization, Mother Jones – predate the popularization of the Internet by more than two decades (and let’s not even begin to count how many years The Progressive, Harpers, NatGeo, or The Nation Institute have been around!).

The pioneers of non-profit news cover the full array of media, from magazines, to radio and television, to online. Here’s an incomplete list of nonprofit journalism orgs that pre-date the latest wave (you can find links to many of these at the Media Consortium website – of which many but not all are members):

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Katz’s 3 axioms of foundation funding for journalism

21 September 2009

Last week, I shared a drink at Union Square with Michael Stoll, the project director for San Francisco’s nonprofit Public Press; he’d reached out to me after the Free Press online chat on “What’s the Future of Foundations and Journalism?” – and I’m glad he did.

One of the things we talked about was the significance of Geoff Dougherty’s recent announcement that the Chi-Town Daily News, Chicago’s Knight Foundation-funded experiment in nonprofit journalism, would be shutting down. The Chi-Town Daily was one of the first to receive Knight funding, and also one of the larger operations, so there’s been a lot of chatter about the shop’s closure over the past couple of weeks (here are 2 good ones from Jim Barnett’s NonProfit Road, and a video from Dave Cohn). I don’t know Geoff, and I’m not familiar with Chi-Town’s inner workings, but at the risk of misreading the tea leaves, herewith my Three Axioms of Foundation Funding for Journalism.

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Thinking about archery/Rosh Hashanah 5770

18 September 2009

The Hebrew word for “sin” is “Cheyt” – roughly “to miss the mark,” as in an archer missing the target.

When I was younger, archery was my sport. I was a terrible athlete, but here was something in which I could compete against myself, by myself. It took skill, practice, and focus. The equipment itself was a joy to handle. There was a meditative quality to it – a deep breath, release, and the arrow seems drawn to the target.

A few years ago, I was reminded of this by the Torah portion (Genesis 21) for Rosh Hashanah. In it, after Abraham’s wife Sarah gives birth to their son Isaac, Abraham casts his “other” wife, Hagar, and their son Ishmael into the desert (the biblical language blames Sarah for this, but there is always, always, another story here, the story left unrecorded).

Hagar and Ishmael soon exhaust their supply of bread and water; Hagar fears for her son’s death. At that moment, according to Genesis, angels tell Hagar that Ishmael will found a great nation. And the Torah says that Ishmael “dwelt in the wilderness, and became a an archer.”

The Koran tells us more.

First, it tells the story of Abraham sacrificing not Isaac, but Ishmael, and that God, as Allah, tells him to stop. Isaac/Ishmael: here are both families with the same story, in which the Old Man face of God is willing to sacrifice the life of a young man to prove a point. And in both cases, this God, now as the Shechinah, the feminine aspect, speaks out, and says, no. Not in my name. This cannot happen.

In this story, what we call God is about to proceed down a course of action that by any human definition would be seen as a sin. Like an archer, God misses the mark, but then turns towards the right path. This “turning” towards the proper path, or “teshuvah,” is the essence of this time of year; it’s often (poorly) translated into English as “repentance” meaning remorse or contrition, but it’s actually a call to right action.

The Koran also tells us that Ishmael and Hagar settled in what later is known as Mecca. And it records that Abraham visited “Ishmael’s tents,” not once, not twice, but at least three times. He came, we must imagine, to see how his son was doing. To talk with him, now, as a man with his own tribe, sheep and goats, family.

Is Abraham doing his own “turning” here, seeking to hit the mark this time? When a father seeks to overcome the distance to a child, isn’t that at least part of what is going on?

We’re all archers in our life, and we all miss our marks. In our own ways, when we turn towards the right path, we make t’shuvah. Let’s hope that in the coming year, we create many opportunities for accuracy, focus, truth, and compassion.