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News from the Case Foundation and what people are talking about this week in the world of giving, tech and everything in between.
Foundations lend support to Social Innovation Fund
On Thursday, First Lady Michelle Obama announced an initial commitment of $50 million from the philanthropic sector for the Social Innovation Fund, in addition to the $50 million in federal dollars that was set aside for the fund last year. As reported by the Chronicle of Philanthropy and the New York Times, five grant-making organizations - the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, John and Ann Doerr's family foundation, the Omidyar Network, the Open Society Institute's Special Fund for Poverty Alleviation, and the Skoll Foundation, committed $45 million to the fund, and another 20 organizations pledged $5 million. As a posting by Melody Barnes, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council explains in a post on the White House blog, these 20 organizations:
have created the “Scaling What Works” initiative, a complementary set of investments led by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) to extend the reach and impact of the Social Innovation Fund and similar efforts to help high-impact nonprofits succeed.
The announcement was also covered by Change.org's Social Entrepreneurship blog, with Nathaniel Whittemore commenting:
I'm reserving full judgment until I know 1) whether they actually make bets on innovative projects -- even those that are riskier than what the government is used to funding, and 2) whether there is a coherent pathway from the funding recipients to the departments in government that could be learning from their methods....If the fund does both of those things effectively, I think it will be a total success.
Fenton survey shows downtrend in giving
Late last week, communications firm Fenton released the results of its "2010 Fenton Forecast: Leadership and Effectiveness Among Nonprofits," a survey of individual donors that showed some discouraging results when it comes to individual giving. According to coverage of the survey from Joanne's Nonprofits Blog, "nearly two-thirds of survey respondents report they plan to either reduce their giving or keep it the same as last year." The onPhilanthropy blog also has a good recap of the survey results, with a focus on the finding that while social media is a primary source for individual donors to find and share information on nonprofits.
Allison Fine also covered the survey results briefly on her blog, as did the Chronicle of Philanthropy. The eJewish Philanthropy blog also had an interesting follow up post expressing some broader skepticism about interpreting surveys about charitable giving, noting that:
Our experience through a number of recessions (though this one was perhaps the deepest in recent memory) tells us to start with a basic assumption: psychology research tells us that people typically make “bad” estimates of their own future behavior and quite often these estimates vary significantly from their actions... Experts tell us that surveys to predict future results can often provide limited information and sometimes drive or justify behavior of those who read those predictions.
Panera's nonprofit venture
A Panera Bread location in Clayton, Mo. made headlines last week when it announced it was switching to a nonprofit, "pay what you want" model. The announcement certainly has been a huge generator of buzz, with coverage from the Associated Press, Vanity Fair, USA Today and many publications in cities and towns across the U.S. wondering if the Panera in their town will adopt this model. The initial reaction was largely positive - Panera is the first restaurant chain to try out this model, and many are commending Panera for its innovative thinking and risk-taking. On the other hand, there has certainly been some questioning about whether this model can be successful and scaled to other Panera locations around the country. In a New York Times article, Stephanie Strom and Malcolm Gay outline other (and in many cases unsuccessful) efforts by restaurants to adopt a similar model, and on the Justmeans blog, editor Marcia Stepanek points out:
It's not the first time that nonprofits have opened up eateries where customers name their price. Nor is it the first sign of social innovation in the for-profit food sector.
On our Social Citizens blog, Kristin Ivie takes up a similar argument, noting her curiosity about the ultimate impact that this venture will have as a nonprofit, which has not yet outlined which community causes it will support as a nonprofit. What do you think - is this an innovative move by Panera? Can it be successful?
So, what stories were you keeping an eye on this week?