Monday, November 29, 2010

A good place to start on Cyber Monday

For many years, our family has exchanged gifts of donations to nonprofits. My wife and kids will make a donation to a charity that they like, and give me a note, or card to open on Christmas day that lets me know about the donation. I love this, and my kids ask for the same thing--sometimes even suggesting the charity.

We also do this for birthdays and other big events, and I know many other families are similarly-minded.

All of which leads me on this Cyber Monday to point you to TisBest Philanthropy. At this nonprofit site, you can purchase a gift card for the holidays, birthdays, anniversary, weddings, whatever. You can get a plastic card to give, or a note, or just have an email sent. Then, the recipient goes back to the website and chooses from one of hundreds of legitimate nonprofits from all parts of the nonprofit sector.

This is a good idea, and one I hope succeeds. In fact, I'm giving my wife a card from TisBest this Christmas...shhh, don't tell her!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Many hands, light work

Most of us donate some of our time, talent and/or treasure to nonprofits.

In the treasure department, I'm all about aggregators for charity donations. Whether loans through Kiva, or direct donations through groups like DonorsChoose, or GlobalGiving, a group of us can help an individual or small group by each pitching in a few dollars. There are dozens of other sites like these, some that get a worthy social enterprise going, or a highly creative idea, like KickStarter.

So, we have a way to micro target our donations of money, but what about our time and talent? I can volunteer on a ton of websites, but that usually means the standard volunteer positions that take up a lot of time and require a longer commitment. What if I just have a little bit of time, or am interested in solving a vexing problem for a nonprofit?

Enter Sparked, a cool and growing solution for just this problem. Not only can your nonprofit post needs, or individuals (or small groups) provide help, but Sparked also encourages and facilitates small business and large corporations to facilitate volunteering through the site.

Very cool...check it out.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Looking at Nonprofits in a better way

Charity Navigator has gotten a lot of press lately for a laudable revamp of its system of grading nonprofits, focusing more on outcomes and less on the totally useless metric of administrative percentage. Good for them, and I hope other online watchdogs as well as foundations and government funders pay attention to Guidestar's process and what they decide to look at.

Here's a New York Times story from yesterday on the subject.

Measuring true outcomes is often very, very difficult; something more funders need to both recognize and fund. Fewer and fewer charities are playing the old game of "we're doing good, so give us money and trust us". Some are still trying to sell their activity levels "we saw 300 people this month as opposed to last month", but more are concerned with outcomes, as in "we got 23 people living wage jobs this month that will help them become more self sufficient."

This is an issue all of us need to keep up on.