Sunday, May 31, 2009

Local residents propose single-payer system examines the calls for a single-payer health system. As the article relates:

Jersey City resident Bill Armbruster was laid off in February from his job as editor of a newsletter called the Shipping Digest, but he got to keep his health plan until August of 2010.

But he worries what will happen when his coverage expires.“If I try to buy insurance on the private market, I would probably have to pay at least $1,000 a month – if I could get it, and I doubt that I could,” Armbruster said. “That’s because I have neuropathy, a nerve disease, and the insurers don’t like to sell insurance to people with a pre-existing condition.”

He added, “At that point, I’ll be 61 – four years before I would be eligible for Medicare in August. I could be forced into bankruptcy if I get seriously ill or have a serious accident.”

This nightmare scenario could be allayed, according to Armbruster, if the United States had a single-payer health care system. Under the single-payer system, the government would pay for health care, much as it does with Medicare. That system would be implemented if Congress was ever to pass The United States National Health Care Act (HR 676), a bill that would expand and improve Medicare to 100 percent of all necessary medical care, including dental and psychiatric care and long-term care for everyone in the United States, with no deductibles and no co-pays.

It would be funded by a payroll tax of 4.5 per cent from employers and 3.3 per cent from employees, plus one third of one percent of all stock transactions.

The care still would be delivered by private doctors and health professionals. This system would also eliminate the need for many, if not all, private health care insurance companies.

HR 676 currently has the endorsement of over 75 members of Congress, including U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, who represents Jersey City and Bayonne. But it does not have the backing of the most important politician of them all – President Barack Obama.

Armbruster is among local residents who have been pushing for support for the bill.

Single payer has its advocatesPhysicians for a National Health Program, a Chicago-based non-profit organization of 16,000 physicians, medical students, and health professionals, has advocated for single-payer national health insurance based on several findings:

- The U.S. is tops amongst industrialized countries in the amount spent on health care, $8,135 per person, yet 47 million people nationwide are without health coverage.
- Private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork consumes 31 per cent of every health care dollar.
- Payment through a single nonprofit payer would save more than $350 billion per year, they say.

A recent study commissioned by the California Nurses Association found that improvements to Medicare to make it a single-payer plan would create 2.6 million new jobs, infuse $317 billion in new business and public revenues, and inject another $100 billion in wages into the U.S. economy.

But advocates aren’t just engaged in academic research to support their cause. Scheduled for this weekend is a National Day of Action on Saturday in various cities such as New York, organized by a coalition of non-profits, to call for the single-payer system. And on Sunday, a conference on single-payer health care will be held in Princeton.

This activity will be the latest of several to spotlight the issue. A more extreme event took place earlier this month during a protest at a Congressional hearing on health care reform that led to the arrest of 13 health professionals, who took issue with single-payer advocates being shut out of the hearing. Read more about this issue.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

On the Street and On Facebook: The Homeless Stay Wired

The Wall Street Journal offered an article about how even the homeless are connected online. As the article relates:

Like most San Franciscans, Charles Pitts is wired. Mr. Pitts, who is 37 years old, has accounts on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. He runs an Internet forum on Yahoo, reads news online and keeps in touch with friends via email. The tough part is managing this digital lifestyle from his residence under a highway bridge.

"You don't need a TV. You don't need a radio. You don't even need a newspaper," says Mr. Pitts, an aspiring poet in a purple cap and yellow fleece jacket, who says he has been homeless for two years. "But you need the Internet."

Mr. Pitts's experience shows how deeply computers and the Internet have permeated society. A few years ago, some people were worrying that a "digital divide" would separate technology haves and have-nots. The poorest lack the means to buy computers and Web access. Still, in America today, even people without street addresses feel compelled to have Internet addresses.

Skip Schreiber goes online in his van, which is also his home, in San Francisco's Bayview district.
New York City has put 42 computers in five of the nine shelters it operates and plans to wire the other four this year. Roughly half of another 190 shelters in the city offer computer access. The executive director of a San Francisco nonprofit group, Central City Hospitality House, estimates that half the visitors to its new eight-computer drop-in center are homeless; demand for computer time is so great that users are limited to 30 minutes. Read more here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Some cities look to save money by merging nonprofits

The San Francisco Examiner features a story about the mayor's call for nonprofit mergers. As more and more cities, counties, and states look at options like this, what are the factors being examined? Is the true impact of the nonprofit community understood? The article below offers few details about why the City arrived at this decision. As the article relates:

The City lacks a clear vision and plan for the $500 million it spends annually on nonprofit organizations that provide vital services to residents, according to a new report.

That assessment comes as nonprofits face an uphill battle to survive during the recession, and as demand for charity increases. More than half the 804 nonprofits that received financial aid from The City last fiscal year provide health and human services to residents.

San Francisco is also facing a projected $438 million deficit for next fiscal year — a deficit that will result in layoffs, service cuts and decreases in contracts with nonprofits.

Now, a survey commissioned by Mayor Gavin Newsom suggests that struggling nonprofits should merge with others or completely shut down. The report’s authors also want nonprofits to find funding from more than one source and will complete a plan that lays out future priorities for nonprofits.

The report also calls for better oversight of organizations that receive public money.
“City departments should more assertively implement, monitor and take action on corrective action plans for nonprofits with grave performance and compliance issues,” the report said.
San Francisco organizations that receive 100 percent of their funding from taxpayers are most at risk in a down economy, said Sandra Hernandez, CEO of the San Francisco Foundation, which co-authored the report with City Attorney Dennis Herrera.

The San Francisco Foundation is an umbrella organization that grants funds to a variety of smaller nonprofits.

Charity arms
A new report suggests some city nonprofits would be better off merging or shutting down entirely.
7,093: Registered nonprofits in The City
54,000: San Franciscans employed by nonprofits
804: Nonprofits contracted by The City in 2007-08
$483 million: Amount spent by The City on nonprofits
$58 million: Amount spent by The City on indirect costs

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Facebook clicks with Lower Hudson Valley nonprofits reported that Facebook isn't just for hooking up with your friends, finding old college roommates and getting updates on your favorite TV show.

Not-for-profit organizations are increasingly making their presence known on the popular online social network.

Several Lower Hudson Valley agencies recently created profile pages to call attention to their programs, raise money from their newfound "friends" and attract a new generation of volunteers.

"Facebook is really the new frontier in terms of communicating with current donors, having the potential to find new donors and really having the chance to stay in touch on a much more instantaneous level," said Rand Otten, a spokeswoman for Putnam ARC, a Brewster-based organization that works with people with developmental disabilities.

Putnam ARC has a multitiered presence on Facebook - a profile page, a user group for Partners with PARC, its charitable arm, as well as a "cause" page for donations.

"In this day and age, you need to be available," said Otten, who also has PARC on the social networks Twitter and LinkedIn.

There are no hard numbers available on how many local nonprofits are using Facebook, but a quick search by county and agency name turned up fewer than 30 agencies.

Officials acknowledge they aren't quite sure how to harness the potential of tapping into Facebook's 200 million active users worldwide. But they did know that Facebook's fastest-growing demographic is people 35 and older, just the kind of people who support causes with time and money.

"I don't think there is a better option than Facebook right now," said Kiera Pollock, director of sexual trauma services for the Rockland Family Shelter, which works with victims of domestic violence.

While national nonprofits such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have developed a strong following on Facebook, Pollock said, the challenge will be for local agencies to get the word out. To that end, Pollock wants to do more than just post event listings and photographs. She plans to create a discussion board where young people can talk about issues.

A recent survey of more than 1,000 nonprofits nationwide found that three had a presence on Facebook, most for less than two years.

Holly Ross, executive director of NTEN: The Nonprofit Technology Network, one of three groups that conducted the survey, said 40 percent of survey respondents reported raising money on Facebook, but 29 percent raised $500 or less over the past 12 months.

"You don't want to have high expectations at this point because we don't know how to do it the right way yet," said Ross, whose organization is based in Portland, Ore. "At this point, you should be thinking of it as an experiment."

Laura Schwartz, executive director of the White Plains-based Child Abuse Prevention Center of New York, said her reason for joining in March was exposure.

"We're one of the best-kept secrets in Westchester and that's really horrible for a nonprofit," said Schwartz, whose agency employs six people and has 68 volunteers.

Otten, of Putnam ARC, recently hosted a breakfast to introduce social networking for area nonprofits. Of the 25 nonprofits in attendance, fewer than five were on Facebook. Most saw it as a better alternative than quarterly newsletters and e-mail blasts, but they didn't know how to set up a page (it takes about 15 minutes).

Plus, the price was right: free.

Since Meals on Wheels Programs and Services of Rockland joined Facebook's cause section two months ago, 84 people have joined. The Nanuet agency has also raised $210 toward its goal of $1,000 to provide home delivery of meals to four clients in June.

Jim Burton, assistant executive director for operations for Meals on Wheels, said his agency, like many nonprofits, isn't entirely sure of what it hopes to accomplish on Facebook, but he is certain that they need to be there.

"It's crucial because it's a world that revolves around technology," he said. "This is going to be expected by people down the road."

The American Association of Museum Federal News Update

President Releases FY10 Budget Details
On May 8, President Obama released the spending details of his $3.6 trillion budget proposal for fiscal year 2010. The proposal calls for nearly $17 billion in cuts and reductions to 121 programs and supports reinstitution of pay-as-you-go (known as "PAYGO") budget rules, which require any new spending increases to be offset by revenue increases or spending cuts.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Office of Museum Services (OMS) - which supports our nation's 17,500+ museums through a variety of competitive grant programs - is essentially level funded at the FY09 level of $35 million. Certain museums, however - which, by federal statute, are funded as quasi-government entities - fared well, with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum receiving $49 million, the National Gallery of Art receiving $165.2 million and the Smithsonian Institution funded at $759 million.

The President's detailed budget plan also contains a measure - first proposed in February - to limit the deductibility of charitable gifts for those in the upper income levels.

Budget Highlights:
  • IMLS Office of Museum Services: $35 million (no increase)
  • National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH): $171.3 million (a $6.3 million increase over FY09, plus $10 million to move the currently independent National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs program to the NEH).
  • National Endowment for the Arts (NEA): $161 million (a $6 million increase over FY09)
  • Arts in Education Programs at the Department of Education: $38.16 million (no increase)
  • National Science Foundation educational programs: $857.8 million (a $12.5 million increase over FY09). These funds support informal learning experiences designed to increase interest and engagement in the understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
  • National Park Service's Historic Preservation Fund: $77.6 million (an $8.1 million increase), including $20 million for Save America's Treasures.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Top billionaires hold secret meeting

MSNBC reported about a recent meeting in New York closed to the news media and the public, which was attended by Bill Gates, David Rockefeller Sr., Oprah Winfrey and other leading philanthropists. They met to discuss ways to promote efforts to solve growing social problems in America and abroad.

Together, the philanthropists in the room have committed a total of more than $72.5 billion to charitable causes since 1996, according to Chronicle of Philanthropy tallies.
The unusual event was held May 5 at Rockefeller University and was organized by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Among the high-profile participants were Ted Turner, Warren E. Buffett, George Soros and New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. (All of those philanthropists have appeared at one time on The Chronicle’s ranking of America’s most-generous donors.) Read more here.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Financial Management in Tough Times: Free Advice for Managing Your Organization Through the Recession

The Nonprofit Finance Fund is partnering with the Chronicle of Philanthropy to offer free, live, online chats on “Financial Management in Tough Times: Free Advice for Managing Your Organization Through the Recession”. Each chat will offer practical tips on some of the most pressing financial issues currently facing the social sector. A schedule of dates and topics can be found below. Note, the first event in this series is scheduled for Thursday, May 14. Click here or visit to learn more.

All online discussions will begin at 12:00 pm and will last one hour.
  • May 14, 2009: Beyond the Grant: What Nonprofit Leaders Need to Know about PRIs, Loans, Tax-exempt Bonds and Recoverable Grants
  • May 28, 2009: New Business Models for Arts Organizations
  • June 11, 2009: The Changing Role of Foundations
  • June 25, 2009: Making Capital Campaigns Work in the Recession
In addition, the Nonprofit Finance Fund offers a variety of services designed to help nonprofit organizations survive difficult economic times. To learn more, click here or visit

Survival Strategies for the Arts

Blue Avocado featured a great article by John Killacky, artist and arts funder, about ten survival strategies for arts organizations and one for audience members:

The arts are where hope lives. And right now, as the very tenets of civil society are being re-written, and as health and human service needs rise, there is legitimate concern about whether the arts will survive, how the arts can thrive.

The arts, like every other nonprofit sub-sector, are being challenged by significant contribution losses from government, corporations, foundations, and private donors. Box office and gallery admissions are also eroding as discretionary dollars evaporate. Almost everyone agrees funding problems will become more acute in the upcoming three to five years. Adaptability is replacing growth as a barometer of success.

There's no question to me but that the arts organizations that have dynamic, interactive, authentic relationships with their constituents, audiences, and neighbors are the ones that will come out of this maelstrom stronger. Here are ten ideas for organizations and a potpourri of options for audience members.

1. Do more with less by doing something different. Groups are mounting four plays instead of six, sharing co-production costs, presenting biannual seasons instead of annual, shortening performance runs, mining permanent collections, and altering gallery hours to allow for higher production values, deeper engagement, and higher audience satisfaction. Capitalize to mission delivery, not sustainability. Michael Kaiser from the Kennedy Center is adamant: "We mustn't be scared into thinking smaller. Small thinking begets smaller revenue that begets smaller institutions and reduces excitement and involvement."

2. Place matters. Make sure the neighborhood feels your building is their community center or assembly hall. I loved when Yerba Buena Center for the Arts hosted an election night party last November -- a wonderful cultural celebration.

When I go to the theatre I ask myself: why is this theatre presenting this piece at this time in this community? Through your marketing materials, your programs, your audience involvement, make sure your audience can answer that question. Audiences will respond when they know why you are presenting a particular play/exhibit/dance. Eric Chinski of Farrar, Straus, & Giroux offers a potent reminder of relevance: "The word necessary comes to mind for me. Beyond a good story, beyond good writing, does the novel feel necessary?"

3. Invite the public in. Expand gallery labels. Dramaturgical notes are needed in every discipline. Pre-concert talks frame and empower audiences. Cultural contextualization translates, bridges, and illuminates artistic expression for both the cognoscenti and the general public. Visual artist provocateur Marcel Duchamp got it: "The closer the ratio is of what the artist sees versus what the audience thinks they see, the greater the artist.
Be transparent and frank about challenges. Ask for help. When the New York Times ran an item on the financial plight of San Francisco's Magic Theatre, an anonymous benefactor from Manhattan (with no previous history of support) stepped up with a major gift.

4. Let audiences co-author meaning: experiment with social media. Link young professionals into your company's social networks. Trendies can then see who is attending opening night, at intermission tweet friends on how fabulous and sexy the new dance is, and do a post-mortem chat on Skype with the artistic director. Find genuine ways for audiences to contribute and find meaning -- before, during, and after events. Try something small and see how it goes; find what's right you're your organization. Arts consultant Holly Sidford reminds us, "Participation is the most important renewable resource."

5. The middle class can save the arts. Consistently, 75% of private donations come from individuals and another 7% from bequests (GivingUSA). Religion garners one-third of this largess; arts, culture, and the humanities only receive 4%. None of us minds tithing to our mosque, temple, synagogue, or church. In the arts, we too offer transformational experiences, so let's operationalize the "church ask." Start with the people you know: audiences, volunteers, donors, and neighbors -- and ask for modest gifts, often. The Obama campaign proved the power of this kind of fundraising.

Does this mean passing the plate in the audience? Well, why not? Keith Hennessy has a free night in every run of his Circo Zero troupe, where the audience is thanked for coming and then asked to pay what they can. He reports contributions on free nights are higher than the usual box office per night.

6. Support the little league players. Sports teams know that the first sport we play is the one we follow -- that's why little leagues are integral to professional sports marketing. Arts researcher Alan Brown found 74% of orchestra subscribers sing or play an instrument. Similar correlations exist in dance, visual art, and theater. His conclusion: "Supporting personal practice is audience development."

Dance and theater companies that have schools guarantee a built in audience, as well as diversified income. Further, The Nutcracker and other holiday staples prove putting kids on stage is good for business. Getting back to the sports analogy, open rehearsals including informal meet and greets with artists are like pre-game warm-ups and autographs: they connect the amateur practitioners with the highest version of the art.

7. The First Global Generation. Pollster John Zogby finds Americans adjusting to the economic realities by "living with less, embracing diversity, looking inward, and demanding authenticity." These meta-movements are shared equally by Baby Boomers and what he calls the First Global Generation of 18 to 29 year olds.

Both generations are looking for meaningful experiences. They don't want to be told everything is "extraordinary;" but they do want to know what they will encounter and how they might feel. The arts community is perfectly situated to appeal to these roving bands of "secular spiritualists," but needs to speak directly without hyperbole.

8. Risk failing. Nonprofit arts organizations are not supposed to be commercial presenters; they are meant to provide genuine alternatives. As the sector looks to increase earned income, both mission drift and diluted impact are concerns. Commercial entertainment does not do very well chasing after blockbusters. Under-capitalized nonprofits will never be able to compete, so let's not try. Arts organizations need to be counter-intuitive in their offerings, truly providing alternatives in our community. Samuel Beckett's words from Worstward Ho are apt: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better."

9. Have the Conversation. Small businesses seldom survive decade after decade. Do you still have a unique and necessary role in the cultural ecosystem? Imagine strategic partnerships, joint ventures, and back office collaborations to improve economy of scale, as well as efficacy of program and service delivery. Merger, consolidation, and sunsetting should also be examined. A rigorous analysis of internal strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats is called for.

10. Become a cultural citizen. Playwright Tony Kushner tells us, "When you don't act, you act; when you don't vote, you vote." Demand all politicians have an arts platform. Support only those that do. Hold house parties for arts friendly politicos. Invite them to openings and receptions and let them be noticed. When over 200 artists showed up in Oakland's City Hall to protest the proposed elimination the arts budget, City Council had no choice other than to reinstate. And better yet, run for school board to ensure arts are in every school, every day for every child. Claim your cultural agency.

P.S. Things audiences can do (and all of us are audience members). Go to Open Studios and buy art. Attend theater. Donate. Take salsa or tango lessons. Enjoy dance performances. Bring a friend. Donate. Sing with a chorus. Listen to live music. Donate. Write a poem, short story, or memoir. Buy a local author's book. Make art with your kids at home and at a museum's family day. Participate. Donate. Debate the merits of an independent film and then upload your own onto YouTube. Have a bake sale to support an artist residency in a nearby school. Host a season announcement, Tupperware-style, for friends. Commission an artist to commemorate a birthday or anniversary. When you love something, tell your friends. Word of mouth remains the best box office motivator.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Charities Rethink Glitz Quotient for Their Galas

A recent Wall Street Journal article explored how you throw a famous Wall Street gala fund-raiser when conspicuous consumption and investment bankers are no longer cool. As the article relates:

The Robin Hood Foundation faced that issue on Tuesday when it held its annual benefit in Manhattan. A year ago, the antipoverty charity's dinner included the auction of a trip to Australia to scuba dive and have lunch with Hugh Jackman. It went for $420,000. This year, the only prizes offered at New York's Javits Center were things like opportunities to feed hungry families, enroll children in charter schools and teach new parents to care for newborns.

"Consider this ... your Yom Kippur," quipped host Jon Stewart, referring to the Jewish Day of Atonement. "You're going to donate a lot of money. Not enough, obviously, to offset all the s- you've done, but a lot."

The toned-down event reaped nearly $73 million, topping last year's $56.5 million haul. Robin Hood, founded by hedge-fund manager Paul Tudor Jones II, used some Wall Street-style financial incentives to motivate giving in a potentially tough year: Financier George Soros and Robin Hood's board of money managers and corporate executives joined forces to match contributions dollar for dollar from guests' tables during a scaled-back auction. Tables donated about $28 million during the auction, and ticket sales for the event generated another $17 million.

As New York's first spring gala season since last year's market crash kicks into gear, all sorts of charities are facing a difficult juggling act: They need to tone down the glitz to respect the terrible economy and the bubbling anger toward Wall Street excess. But they still need to stage high-profile events to attract wealthy donors.

A bad night can seriously dent a charity's ability to maintain its programs. "For many nonprofits, a gala could be 25% of their annual income, and those dollars aren't going to come from somewhere else," says Melissa Berman, president and CEO of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. This year, she says, charities are trying harder to frame their events as "people coming together to help those less fortunate" to avoid the perception of "a bunch of clueless, thoughtless people drinking too much."

Project Sunshine, a New York charity that provides services to hospitalized children, plans to cut down on corporate signage and honor several volunteers instead of individual donors at its benefit later this month. (It does plan to honor a corporate donor.) But the charity will still auction a weeklong Caribbean trip and dinner with Kristen Dalton, the recently crowned Miss USA.

City Harvest, which distributes food to New York soup kitchens and pantries, shared the costs of its April benefit with another nonprofit. It also did away with large floral centerpieces and seating cards with fancy calligraphy. But donors could still bid on dugout seats to a Los Angeles Dodgers game. Rock star Rob Thomas performed. City Harvest's haul: a bit over $1 million, down slightly from $1.3 million in 2008. Read more here.

Network for Good Offers Free Trainings

Learn How to Create Sustainable Funding (Even in Rough Times) and Make the Most of Online Marketing Opportunities
Register now for any or all of the upcoming, free (as always) Nonprofit 911 teleconferences:
Last Chance to Register!

Tuesday, May 19: Creating Sustainable Funding, with Terry Axelrod of Benevon
Details and registration here.

Tuesday, May 26:Create an Online Strategy to Thrive in Tough Times, with Eric Rardin of Care2
Details and registration here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

NYC Entrepreneurial Ventures for the Arts Program Free to Attend

Entrepreneurial Ventures for the Arts, supported in part by the New York State Council on the Arts, is set for Thursday, June 25th in NYC. The training will be presented by Doug Sauer, CEO, NYCON & David Watson, Esq, Sr. VP, of Legal Accountability & Compliance Services, NYCON.

In increasingly challenging fundraising times it is more important than ever for arts organizations to consider Entrepreneurial Ventures that can generate revenue. This type of endeavor takes calculated risk based on sound facts and adherence to rules and regulations around these types of activities for nonprofits. But entrepreneurial ventures have proven successful for many nonprofits. This full-day session can help you figure out if this type of activity is right for your organization.

This specialized training will address the interests and markets of arts organizations in exploring alternative revenue generating activities. This training course is a highly interactive immersion into the world of innovation and revenue generation. Participants will learn how to develop and practically apply "real world" elements of entrepreneurial ventures to their organization, including strategies on developing board understanding and support for such ventures. At the conclusion of the program, participants will have access to follow up support and information as they explore venture development.

Date: Thursday, June 25th, 2009
Time: 9am to 4:00pm (included lunch!)
Cost: FREE!
Location: NYCON NYC Regional Office
305 7th Avenue at 7th
11th Floor
NY, NY 10001

Register Here