You can learn something from everything

posted by
Abbie S. Fink,
Vice President /
General Manager
HMA Public Relations

I attend Sabbath services almost every Saturday morning at Congregation Beth Israel. It is my chance to have at least 90 minutes of down time to reflect on the week that’s passed and look forward to the week ahead. The service a few Saturdays ago was conducted by the 10th graders that were being confirmed at the temple. They each played an active part in the service, sharing their reasons for continuing their religious education and their hopes for the future, saying the prayers and reading from the Torah.

Amy Baer’s speech started much like the others; she talked about her experiences in confirmation class, the friends she made. But it was her very clear statement of purpose that her connection to Judaism and her commitment to “tikkun olam, repairing the world” was what motivated her the most.

“For me, living like I am Jewish means that I am on a mission to repair the world. In order for me to feel like I am Jewish and embrace Judaism I have to be helping other people and be making the world a better place.”

Due diligence before you donate

posted by
Mandy Fricke
Community Manager

Americans donate nearly $300 billion annually to more than 1.2 million charities and religious groups, according to Giving USA. Most donors believe that they are giving to worthwhile causes, but few conduct the necessary research to determine how effectively an organization uses donations to accomplish its mission. People who wouldn't dream of investing money without performing the necessary due diligence may blindly give money to organizations that use the majority of donations for executive salaries, fundraising and advertising. This is why due diligence is so important before making a donation.

Here are a few tips for vetting a nonprofit before you give:

Align your goals

The first step in choosing a charity is thinking about what you would like to accomplish. If the scope of your aspiration is local, find charities that are based in your neighborhood or city. If you're most concerned about national and global issues, like worldwide hunger or cancer, look for nonprofits that are equipped for such a large challenge. Remember that you can't always judge a big organization by its publicity, since that may just reflect a large advertising budget. Also, be on the lookout for questionable charities that have a name that closely resembles the name of a well-known, legitimate charity; some sound-alike charities are scams.

A Holiday Season without Mr. Scrooge

posted by
Travis Butterfield,
Project Coordinator,
ASU Lodestar Center

"At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge," said the gentleman, taking up a pen, "it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time."
— Charles Dickens
, A Christmas Carol

I recently joined a book club. The book for this month is, not surprisingly, Charles Dickens' classic, A Christmas Carol. I have read it before and seen several adaptations for the screen and stage. But, the wonderful thing about the literary arts is that they can teach you new things with each reading.

As I was riding home from work the other day on the light-rail, I started reading this book. I was surprised at how I had never realized how closely the text relates to the nonprofit sector. The epigraph, included above, really surprised me when I read it because I had never, despite working in the nonprofit sector for over three years, thought of this section as distinctly "nonprofit" in nature.

As I read, I was impressed by the optimism and goodness of the two gentlemen taking up a collection for the poor. They provide a perfect counter-point to Ebenezer Scrooge, who is the consummate villain. He is bitter, cold, and unfeeling.

Boosting Arizona's Philanthropic Resources

posted by
Marissa Theisen,
President & CEO
Arizona Grantmakers Forum

In my last post, I highlighted the current status of Arizona's philanthropic sector, based on a research report released by Arizona Grantmakers Forum in January 2011. The report was based on 2008 tax data for both institutions and individuals. While the markets have rebounded somewhat since 2008 and thus individual and foundation assets have grown, it's unlikely that Arizona's relative position compared with other states has changed.

It seems clear that Arizona's philanthropic sector is underdeveloped relative to most other parts of the country. In addition, our low rankings on many social sector indicators suggest that some of the challenges we face are more severe than what other states deal with. Given the recent substantial cutbacks in state government support for many nonprofits, I believe the sector needs to get very creative about expanding revenue sources.