Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Filibuster Proof Senate

Following the state Supreme Court decision today, Al Franken has finally won the senate seat in Minnesota. While I am happy to see this contest come to an end, I must admit that I am disappointed about the Democrats reaching 60 votes* in the US Senate. With 60 votes, the Dems now have a "filibuster-proof" majority. In other words, Republicans can no longer mount a full-on protest or stage procedural hold ups because the Democratic majority can put an end to such actions.

This sounds great, but not really. With 60 votes, the onus is now completely on Dems to perform and to deliver. Failure to do so, will likely lead to loss of votes in the mid-term election. Just as troubling for me is that Dems are now closer to being able to act without regard for Republican opinions. The last thing we need in this polarized country is a completely unified House, Senate and Presidency. Dissenting opinions are more powerful when they have a platform.

Let's hope that the Dems don't use their filibuster-proof majority as an excuse to dismiss good Republican ideas.

* The 60 seats include two independent senators, Joe Lieberman (CT) and Bernie Sanders (VT). Lieberman is an independent democrat and Sanders is an independent. Both caucus with the Dems.

Monday, June 29, 2009

And the Award Goes to....

By Pilar Oberwetter

Despite certain questionable moments during the 2009 BET Awards (read-- Lil' Wayne performances of any sort), I encourage readers to watch the presentation of the Humanitarian Award to Alicia Keys and Wyclef Jean, given for their contributions to charitable causes. Keys is the co-founder of Keep a Child Alive, which works to provide medicine to families with HIV and AIDS in Africa and other parts of the developing world and also raises global awareness of this disease. Jean started Yele Haiti to combine music with sustainable development (including an emphasis on education, health, entrepreneurship and the environment) to engage Haiti's youth-at-risk through education and sports.

Using star power to raise awareness is commendable-- and Jean and Keys are excellent examples for their peers.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Bring-Your-Gun-to-Church Day

As a liberal, I am not a fan of guns. However, as a civil libertarian, I accept the right of others to own and legally carry firearm. Having said that, today's New York Times story on a pastor in Lexington, Kentucky borders on absurd.

According to the Times:
"Ken Pagano, the pastor of the New Bethel Church here, is passionate about gun rights. He shoots regularly at the local firing range, and his sermon two weeks ago was on “God, Guns, Gospel and Geometry.” And on Saturday night, he is inviting his congregation of 150 and others to wear or carry their firearms into the sanctuary to 'celebrate our rights as Americans!' as a promotional flier for the 'open carry celebration' puts it.

The bring-your-gun-to-church day, which will include a $1 raffle of a handgun, firearms safety lessons and a picnic."

Thank God for the picnic!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Summer Reading

In vacation mode, traveling through Canada for the past few days, I have found myself with (some) time to read. Coincidentally, the book I brought with me (The Omnivore's Dilemma), a back issue of Mother Jones, and New York Times columnist Kristoff's Saturday column have shared a common theme-- long-term sustainability of our food systems and by extension, our planet.

As all three sources correctly predicted, my limited exposure to issues tied to food production involve a basic understanding of my three options for purchase as a consumer of food -- conventional, organic, and local. My purview to date has been strictly limited to my individual preferences. As I read more and more on my recent hours in cars, airplanes, and ferries, I realized that definitions--both formal and informal--are malleable and assumptions based on a very loose reality are prevalent in the context of the food industry. This worries me. This is what you and I put into our bodies every day.

Feeling a bit hoodwinked, and somewhat shamed at my own lack of knowledge, I have decided to draft a summer reading list that answers at least a few of my questions: What are my options, if a trip to Whole Foods does not do the trick? How can we convince people who only care about minimizing their individual chemical intake, and thus purchasing organic, that this is only a short-term solution to a long-term problem? How can we spread the agriculture movement from a rural fight to a collective movement that also includes urban regions?

Any suggestions on a few books to add to my list?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Nonprofits Get Bush-Level Public Approval Ratings

In the era of corporate misconduct, the Stanford Social Innovation Review tackles the issue of "Ethics and Nonprofits."

A small slice of the report demonstrates how the public perception of nonprofit organizations may be no better than those of our for-profit counterparts:
A 2008 Brookings Institution survey found that about one third of Americans reported having “not too much” or no confidence in charitable organizations, and 70 percent felt that charitable organizations waste “a great deal” or a “fair amount” of money. Only 10 percent thought charitable organizations did a “very good job” spending money wisely ... Similarly, a 2006 Harris Poll found that only one in 10 Americans strongly believed that charities are honest and ethical in their use of donated funds. Nearly one in three believed that nonprofits have “pretty seriously gotten off in the wrong direction.” These public perceptions are particularly troubling for nonprofit organizations that depend on continuing financial contributions.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Madonna Adopts Child #2

It turns out the judge saw Pilar's point in her post on Madonna and her adoption. AllAfrica reported today that Mercy was adopted and is preparing to leave Malawi today to be with her new mom in the United States.

According to AllAfrica: [A Malawian] newspaper quoted him as saying: "I cannot fight anymore. I wish the child all the best and Madonna should look after her very well. She should be made aware that her dad still lives in Malawi."

The Regenerates also wish the best for Mercy and her new family.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Friday, June 12, 2009

News To Me

Is Indiana University really the only school in the entire U.S. that offers a Doctor of Philosophy of Philanthropy program?

That's great for those SIX students that get accepted each year.

Can anyone confirm this?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Ol' Grants Door-Slam

It's easy to go a little crazy in the warped world of grant writing.

One thing that has just never been easy for me to swallow, however, is the concept of the "solicitation-only" foundation. For those who don't know, foundations who operate with some version of this policy utilize their own internal methods (and community connections) to seek out nonprofits for grant applications. Their application process is otherwise closed.

I can understand this method for a small family foundation who may only have the funds to support 4-5 projects a year. But for foundations who have the capacity to make a real difference in the community - especially during times of economic strain - I can't help but feel that this process of grantmaking puts an undue muzzle on the nonprofit community.

Without profit to weed out winners and losers in the nonprofit community, there's very little that we can hold onto as organizations to show who deserves to survive and thrive. The grant making process, when it is democratized, allows us to approach this ideal.

An imperfect and subjective process no matter how you shake it, at least there is the potential for everyone to make their best organizational and programmatic case in an open grants process.

I urge the foundations out there not to give in to the temptation to move to a solicitations-only approach. I know it's more work. I know it's more paper. And more staff.

But there is no better way to hear the needs of the community than to keep your doors, and your mailbox, open.

I would love to hear from anyone out there who supports the solicitations-only approach. Perhaps I am becoming a little too jaded...

(Photo copyright: Door Slams: bartmacguire)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Stay Tuned...

I don't normally find myself watching television, but I was, and a commercial caught my eye about a coming show that might be a good idea-- or a very, very horrible one. The Philanthropist, premiering on June 24th at 10/9C, is an "eight-part drama for NBC that follows the heroic adventures of Teddy Rist, billionaire playboy-turned-vigilante philanthropist". If this show is good perhaps it will move philanthropic themed stories and actions into the popular-culture infused mainstream, via prime-time television. If the show is horrendous, it could have an equally far-reaching negative effect, confusing philanthropic acts with television drama plot lines. Please all, watch and take notes. The ReGenerates want to know how this show will go over with the nonprofit sector.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Two women running a multi-million dollar business on the sale of ink and toner cartridges to support a monastery in Wisconsin.

This story is just too good to pass up. Check out this labor of love or, as they say, "Commerce with Compassion."


Maybe we can enlist this guy to lower the price of tampons too?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Cheney: Gay Marriage is Okay

In what may come as a surprise to many, former Vice President Dick Cheney recently spoke in support of gay marriage. According to the former VP:

"I think that freedom means freedom for everyone. As many of you know, one of my daughters is gay and it is something we have lived with for a long time in our family. I think people ought to be free to enter into any kind of union they wish. Any kind of arrangement they wish."

To be clear, Mr. Cheney believes this should be a decision made at the state level and not at the federal level:

"The question of whether or not there ought to be a federal statute to protect this, I don't support. I do believe that historically the way marriage has been regulated is at the state level. It has always been a state issue and I think that is the way it ought to be handled, on a state-by-state basis. ... But I don't have any problem with that. People ought to get a shot at that."

Who would have thunk it, I half-agree with the cantankerous old man! Indeed, people should be able to marry if they choose to. I happen to think a federal statute would help guarantee this right.