Philanthropy Action

Analysis, Interviews, and Reviews



Feb 12, 2010

The Right and Wrong Way to Survey

There are plenty of organizations that have taken some first steps toward impact measurement using surveys. Surveys are the most popular form of measurement because they seem to be straightforward, easy and relatively cheap compared to the alternatives.

Unfortunately these first steps are often dangerous.

Why? Because surveys can easily lead to bad data and false conclusions that can result in future missteps.

Nov 16, 2009

Saving the World By Lowering Your Expectations

Impatient optimists are like investors in subprime mortgages in 2007. They can be so blinded by the upside that they fail to do their due diligence. In the end, their impatience and pursuit of outsize returns fuels waste and disappointment. Patient optimists, by contrast, have lowered their expectations of any particular program or intervention, but not their belief in a better world over the long term. If we’re going to succeed in making the world a better place, we need to convince more people to lower their expectations, too.

Nov 09, 2009

Social Networking and Mid-Size Nonprofits: What’s the Use?

A survey on the use of social networking by mid-sized nonprofits conducted by Philanthropy Action between June 2008 and March 2009 shows that more than 70 percent of respondents had raised less than $100 or did not know whether they had raised any money. The figures for attracting volunteers were not much better.

Sep 06, 2009

Interview: IPA Project Director Nathanael Goldberg Talks About the Impacts of Microfinance

“When we compare participants in microfinance programs to non-participants we have to ask what that comparison means. It would be easy to say, ‘Oh, well look, they are better off, so microfinance is great.‘ The problem is we don’t know what type of person is joining a microfinance program. If we think they are either more motivated to improve their lives or they have more resources at their disposal to find out about the program, or they have a good business idea, or they are more likely to get approved by the program – all these types of things might lead us to believe that the kinds of people who participate might be better off anyway, with or without microcredit.  So that means if we see people doing better in those earlier studies compared to non-participants we are not exactly sure whether that is saying something about the program itself or the people who participate in it.“

Jun 08, 2009

Do We Need Another Anti-Poverty Philanthropy Meeting?

We know the current economic slump is going to seriously hurt the poor (the World Bank estimates that several hundred million people have been pushed back below the $2/per day threshold), not to mention nonprofit and social finance funding.  Financial scarcity demands an unprecedented level of collaboration, resource leveraging and new alliances. With the world economy slowing, the social entrepreneurs, funders, social financiers and nonprofit leaders who have committed themselves to economic justice are called to do more, to do it better and to do it faster.  We can’t waste a minute.

Dec 02, 2008

Revisiting the Idea of Perpetuity

It may seem strange to advocate a major shift in foundation payouts at a time when foundation endowments, like all of our investment funds, are being punished by the global downturn. Already major foundations like the Hewlett Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have stated that the downturn will have a negative impact on their future grantmaking. It is exactly the current scenario that defenders of the 5% payout point to when suggesting that the status quo is wise public policy. There was a time when this argument made sense, but it no longer holds water. Since 1987, the value of foundation endowments (in inflation adjusted dollars) has grown more than 500%. Excluding the creation of new foundations, the value of well-managed foundation endowments roughly doubled over that span. Even more importantly, the (again, inflation adjusted) value of foundation endowments per capita has grown more than 400%. Despite the current downturn, given the history, the expected increase in assets transferred generationally (even if far less than predicted), and the increase in wealth of the richest, foundation endowments per capita will likely double again within 10 years. So why don’t we consider some changes?

Nov 21, 2008

Interview: Roger Frank of Developing World Markets on the Credit Crisis and Microfinance

Attention in the financial markets has been focused on the struggles of developed world institutions. To date, there hasn’t been much coverage of the impact of the financial crisis on microfinance—either on the flow of new capital to microfinance or the impact on MFIs that have borrowed money in hard currency while making loans in local currencies. Roger Frank is a partner at Developing World Markets, an investment banking and asset management firm specializing in microfinance, and has a front-row seat as the credit crisis increasingly impacts emerging market countries and microfinance. Roger spoke with Philanthropy Action recently about how the credit crisis is affecting investors and MFIs.

Nov 17, 2008

Interview: MIT Economists Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee

Two of the world’s foremost development economists highlight the interventions they view as consistently effective and provide insight into where individual donors can make a true impact.

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