In the case where an organization has the power to nominate a majority of members to a sister organization’s board, those members’ duty of loyalty is to their organization, not the one that nominated them. If you are invited to a board in order to provide your professional services, it’s ethical to accept (so long as you aren’t paid) but it isn’t wise. And gifts in kind are tricky things—proceed with caution.
Inequality’s Dead End— And the Possibility of a New, Long-Term Direction by Gar Alperovitz (Spring 2015)
“There are many signs . . . that we may be at the beginning of a long struggle like that which preceded the New Deal—a struggle at the grassroots and in the state and local ‘laboratories’ to develop something new on the ground. . . . And though there is great pain in the fading of traditional strategies, it is in fact that very pain that is forcing a new possibility—one that is also gathering momentum as more and more people realize that the old direction is fading.”
Not Adding to the Problem: Seven Ways Your Nonprofit Can Avoid Mirroring Practices That Perpetuate Inequality by Jon Pratt and Ruth McCambridge (Spring 2015)
Nonprofits must perform continual self-assessment to ensure that they are not contributing to the inequality that permeates the larger culture. This article presents seven key practices every nonprofit should adopt.
Susan Nall Bales, founder of the FrameWorks Institute and new recipient of the MacArthur Award for Creative & Effective Institutions, here outlines the ways in which the stories we tell ourselves shape how we think about some of the most taxing problems of our time, and how, when it comes to inequality, these narratives stymie progress. She concludes, “If we are to transform the culture of inequality, we will need strategy that marries the social analysis to the communications analysis. For, when we squander our storytelling resources, the current cultural models predominate.”
From a Tangle of Pathology to a Race-Fair America by Alan Aja, Daniel Bustillo, William Darity, Jr., and Darrick Hamilton (Spring 2015)
According to many, America is enjoying a post-racial moment. Post-racialism asserts that structural factors affecting racial progress are largely a thing of the past, and thus the huge racial wealth gap in the United States must be due to deficiencies in the communities in which entrenched poverty exists. But this ignores persistent structural trends that are barriers to economic security, mobility, and sustainability for black Americans—and these will not change until policies providing access to jobs and asset building for all Americans are put in place.
Nine Charts about Wealth Inequality in America by Signe-Mary McKernan, Caroline Ratcliffe, and C. Eugene Steuerle (Spring 2015)
Editors’ note: This article was originally published by the Urban Institute, in February 2015. The charts were designed to be interactive—please visit datatools.urban.org/Features/wealth-inequality -charts/ in order to access this feature.
The proportion of the postrecession recovery proceeds has overwhelmingly favored the top 1 percent of asset holders. So, at first glance, the fact that the total amount of money given away by the very wealthy is rising looks like a positive trend—except that the majority of these donations are “mega-gifts” of $80 million or above, and are given to rich institutions that tend to have played a role in the donors’ lives and that do not redistribute the wealth to those in need via such services as housing endowments and food pantries.
Philanthropy’s Misguided Ideas for Fixing Ghetto Poverty: The Limits of Free Markets and Place-Based Initiatives by Peter Dreier (Spring 2015)
Philanthropy certainly has a place in the effort to create a more equitable society, but in order to be truly effective it must turn from focusing on place-based antipoverty initiatives, and stop relying on market forces to solve the growing inequalities of income, wealth, and political power. Public opinion generally favors greater government action on these fronts, but without mobilization from movements committed to a growth-with-equity agenda, this will not translate into public policy. As the author concludes, “If philanthropists want to help create a more humane, fair, and democratic society, they should support the many organizations and activists who are building a movement for shared prosperity.”
Is Your Board “Normal”? BoardSource’s 2014 Nonprofit Governance Index by Ruth McCambridge (Spring 2015)
BoardSource’s most recent report on nonprofit board practices shows, among other trends, that lack of diversity in board leadership with respect to race, gender, and age persists. And as YNPN’s communications and network engagement director Jamie Smith warns, “Until we make our boards and executive leadership more diverse, our sector won’t be operating at its full potential.”
Many feel that privatizing public services is a contradiction in terms and leads to any number of problems; and, in the context of human services, inattention to matters of geography appears to result in misallocation and/or unequal quality of delivery—unsurprisingly, with the highest levels of inadequate or distressed providers correlating with less well-off communities. Mapping service providers, says the author, can enrich the debate and help us to grapple with these spatial concerns.
If as a new hire as second in charge you experience barriers to fulfilling your role, clarify your job, reach out to your staff, and engage your CEO, board chair, and other stakeholders. Then, craft a worthy vision for your organization that will unite the organization under a common banner.
Philanthropic support for public services is increasing rapidly, and we should be concerned about the long-term implications on a number of fronts—in particular, the tendency of private funding of such services as schools and parks to exacerbate rather than eliminate financial and geographic inequities and to reduce public accountability and citizen access.
Disrupting the Dominant Frame: An Interview with Susan Nall Bales of the FrameWorks Institute, 2015 MACEI Award Winner (Spring 2015)
Communications for nonprofits is not about “dissemination”; rather, “it is about understanding the ways that people perceive your issue.” As Susan Nall Bales explains, in order to effectively address social issues, “You have to disrupt the dominant frame and replace it with a better model of how the world works.”
Two reasons why boards can miss the red flags that pop up along the way to an organization’s financial collapse are the complexity of business models and the tendency of boards to separate the roles of governance and management. The solution, says the author, is for board members to get in the habit of asking good questions and grabbing the reins in the event that a board collectively skirts a problem and fails to act.
2015 “Selfie Awards” Salute Philanthropic Narcissism (Recipients Boycott Ceremony . . . but Need Not Be Present to Win) by Phil Anthrop (Spring 2015)
In this face-off between entrenched, self-regarding foundations and a group of young upstarts out to rattle the status quo, the latter inevitably win the fight. Add a dollop of social media, and all bets are off.