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Reading List: nonprofit Theme

Guthrie Theater’s debt to women and diversity

Do nonprofit cultural organizations have a particular responsibility to reach into and represent all parts of the community?  Does the benefit of nonprofit status require us to take more risks than commercial theatre?  A recent article explores the Minneapolis community’s reaction to the lack of diversity in a local theatre’s upcoming season.  While this piece focuses on the choices of one artistic director, other leaders in the field have also argued that not all organizations should feel obligated to be diverse.  On the other hand, leadership from theatre companies such as Ten Thousand Things and Actors’ Theatre of Louisville argue that ensuring inclusivity is not only the responsibility of an arts leader, it also just makes good business sense.

I am interested to hear your thoughts on questions about representation, community, and diversity raised here.

Read “Guthrie Theater’s debt to women and diversity” at »


Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science

His model predicted, in different fields of medical research, rates of wrongness roughly corresponding to the observed rates at which findings were later convincingly refuted: 80 percent of non-randomized studies (by far the most common type) turn out to be wrong, as do 25 percent of supposedly gold-standard randomized trials, and as much as 10 percent of the platinum-standard large randomized trials.

These were challenging facts for me, as a deep believer in science and rigorous research. It’s worth considering the meaning of these findings in the health field for the new focus on evidence-based funding in the social sector and in foundations. The author argues, based on the above, that when science becomes big business, when one’s livelihood depends on finding positive effects, the scientific ideal (the search for truth) regularly falls under the wheels. Are social interventions any easier to study than biological systems — and therefore any more likely to produce accurate results under the best of research conditions? Does the new pressure for evidence-based funding create high stakes that will generate bias and inaccuracy in purportedly scientific studies of programs? The arts aren’t under the microscope of evidence-based funding today, but this shift in the thinking around us is already starting to inform the thinking of the program officers and donors upon which we rely. What can we do to ensure a reliable system of study in our field if evidence-based funding is going to become a foundation of philanthropy?

via Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science – Magazine – The Atlantic.


Faith, hope and charities: the public trusts charities more than any other type of organisation. But measuring do-gooding risks shattering some illusions

A brief but interesting read on the sometimes delicate foundation of assumptions shared by nonprofits and those who support them.


A Social Competitiveness Index | Tactical Philanthropy

A global discussion to define and track the things that make a society capable of social innovation.
Read A Social Competitiveness Index | Tactical Philanthropy.


Social Outcomes: Lifting Sights, Changing Norms

The air is filled with conversation about measurement and metrics and proof for nonprofit activities and investments. Mario Morino points out the heavy emphasis on long-term scientific study in these discussions, and argues for the importance of an integrated, day-to-day performance management approach. His thoughts are in line with the approach we teach in “Building Evaluation Capacity.” A note from other writing by Venture Philanthropy Partners: they believe a proper performance management system can take three years to develop and integrate into an organization, so real commitment (and time and money) are needed.

Social Outcomes: Lifting Sights, Changing Norms.


The Cost of Information Sharing in Philanthropy | Tactical Philanthropy

The argument here is that there isn’t — and shouldn’t be — any conflict in the not-for-profit sector between the social benefit and the personal gain from information and intellectual property. Why? Because the not-for-profit professional’s goal *is* social benefit, and therefore the professional wants to and must give away all information so society can do the most with it. Those who do otherwise are engaging in “a form of corruption,” as stated in one of the comments. I think the argument made in this piece is incomplete (email me if you’re interested in my take, which is too long for this space). However, I think this article is an interesting example of a broader debate I see happening: what is the “right” way for not-for-profit professionals to balance their commitment to achieving a vision and their need to care for themselves, their employees, and their families. It is an important debate to make sure we have a voice.

The Cost of Information Sharing in Philanthropy | Tactical Philanthropy.