The Pulse of the Philanthropic Sector: June 2013

The ebbs and flows in the philanthropic sector are subtle and there are very few glaring headlines. Perhaps our work is so unassuming or “moves so slowly” that we don’t immediately feel the impact when organizations come and go or new initiatives are launched as others disappear. But, eventually, we feel the significance of these disruptions – whether they open new opportunities or sidetrack our work a bit. As I reflect on the past six months, I share with you some highlights that I feel are worth mentioning:

AVPN Seeks New CEO. Asian Venture Philanthropy Network is moving from its start-up to development phase and is undergoing a CEO transition. AVPN launched in December 2011 and now has 130 members from 22 countries. It will be an interesting time to join the organization as it raises funds to finance operations, roll out local offices in India and China, and expand the range of membership services. The right person will have an opportunity to play a leading role in the growth of Asian philanthropy – and, of course, work for the legendary Doug Miller, founder of AVPN and EVPN. Download the job description here.

HSC & Co. After five years in operation, Phil Hayes-St. Clair announced the closure of HSC & Co., a philanthropic advisory firm based in Australia. While some firms quietly close their doors and move on, Phil’s genuine care for the sector is shown by his willingness to share. On their website, you can download his reflections and the firm’s research briefs. On philanthropy, Phil writes: Today’s generational change is the epicenter of tomorrow’s social impact.

The Overhead Myth. The three largest US charity data leaders, Charity Navigator, Guidestar, and BBB Wise Giving Alliance, publicly denounce the overhead ratio as a valid indicator to nonprofit performance. In a joint letter to donors, the message was simple: the overhead ratio is one piece of the overall picture. In a blog post, Kjerstin Erickson, formerly of FORGE, shared how donors enjoyed the organization’s low overhead of 4% until this “emaciation” eventually forced FORGE to close its door. She writes: (O)verhead, it turns out, could have made all the difference. With the appropriate investments in efficiency-building infrastructure, administration, and development, FORGE would undoubtedly be alive today. Rather than starving a painful death, we’d be growing and thriving – a force for good in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who have lost everything.

Revealing Indian Philanthropy. Published by UBS and LSE, this book sheds light on the “positive contributions of philanthropy in India.” As the spotlight on philanthropy grows in India, many articles on the topic speak about the need for Indians to find their own models. This book looks at the history of some leading industrial philanthropists in India and some of their inspirational projects. Lesser known philanthropists are also featured to show the diversity of giving and recent trends. In reading the stories, I am reminded of how much more we can learn and how important individual donors are as influencers of critical social movements.

About the Author

DYuenWebsiteDien S. Yuen is Founder and Managing Director of Kordant Philanthropy Advisors, a social venture firm dedicated to more effective, impactful and joyful philanthropy. As an advocate of donor education and the strengthening of the philanthropic sector in the U.S. and Asia, she speaks at many events and her insights are often quoted in leading publications, including Forbes Asia, New York Times, Family Office Review, San Francisco Business Times and Economist Intelligence Unit reports.

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