Oxfam calls for military intervention for West African Ebola crisis

Ebola is poised to become the “definitive humanitarian disaster of our generation”, Oxfam has warned, with more troops, funding and medical aid urgently needed to tackle the outbreak.

In an “extremely rare” move, the charity is calling for military intervention to provide logistical support across West Africa. It says the world has less than two months to counter the spread of the deadly virus, so troops are now “desperately needed” to build treatment centers, provide flights and offer engineering and logistical support.

While Britain was leading the way in Europe’s response to the epidemic, it said countries which have failed to commit troops were “in danger of costing lives”. Oxfam highlighted Italy, Australia and Spain as examples of countries who have committed no troops, despite Spain having a specialist medical expertise unit in its military.

Mark Goldring, Oxfam’s chief executive, warned the world “is in the eye of a storm” as the latest outbreak progresses. “We cannot allow Ebola to immobilize us in fear, but instead we must move toward a common mission to stop it from getting worse,” he cautioned.

An Oxfam spokeswoman added: “The Ebola crisis could become the definitive humanitarian disaster of our generation. The world was unprepared to deal with it. It is extremely rare for Oxfam to call for military intervention to provide logistical support in a humanitarian emergency. “However, the military’s logistical expertise and capacity to respond quickly in great numbers is vital.”

[The Independent]

You can provide care for those affected by humanitarian crises

Recently in Northern and Central Iraq, clashes between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), its allied militias, the government of Iraq and Kurdish regional government security forces have driven thousands of people from their homes. Since January 2014, an estimated 1.8 million people have been displaced by violence in Iraq. Their brutal circumstances are confounding, but their need for medical services, clean water, food and shelter are not very different from the privations of people affected by natural disasters.

Four thousand miles from Iraq, a protracted outbreak of the Ebola virus continues to wreak havoc across Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone. As of this writing there are more 5,335 and 2,622 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. Widespread population loss has threatened fragile local economies and has left many children parentless — two of numerous factors that will have ramifications long after the disease is contained.

The humanitarian emergencies in West Africa and Northern Iraq are different, but the best way to help those who suffer is the same — through cash donations to reputable organizations working with communities on the ground. Even small financial donations combine to make a huge difference in the lives of people affected by disasters. As is the case after natural disasters, donors who make the most positive and enduring impacts give monetary support to relief organizations working in affected areas, initially and over time. Unlike unsolicited material donations — those not requested by organizations working in affected communities — monetary donations enable immediate support to communities.

As situations evolve quickly in complex humanitarian emergencies like these, cash allows relief organizations to respond to changing needs quickly; enabling them to deliver essential supplies that are fresh and familiar, a huge comfort in these tragic circumstances. Most important, monetary donations empower those in the hardest hit regions to rebuild their communities, as those impacted will need support for years after the crises ease and the world’s attention turns elsewhere.

[Juanita Rilling, Director of the United States Agency for International Development’s Center for International Disaster Information, writing in Huffington Post

Grassroots support and assistance for Kashmiri flood victims

Deadly flooding occurs regularly across India, but the recent flooding in Jammu and Kashmir is the region’s worst in 50 years. Commentators there have compared this disaster to Hurricane Katrina, for its devastation of a famously picturesque city Srinagar and also for its emotional backdrop where trust between the populace and the central government is so low that some relief deliveries have dissolved into open confrontation.

Following the lackluster reaction from the state government to the heavy flooding in the region of Jammu and Kashmir –affecting 1.9 million– and the Indian government’s tacit refusal to solicit help from the United Nations, disaster relief has consisted chiefly of concerted efforts from organizations within India, coupled with fellowships being formed worldwide.

Civilian response to the flood relief is unparalleled: despite being caught off-guard and irrefutably unprepared for the cataclysm. Citizens have been attempting to fill the gap of the state government and serving as the primary caregivers of their own people. The disparate entities and individuals coalescing to revive Srinagar predict a long road ahead for this steadily unfolding disaster. As of today, the National Disaster Response Force has rescued 50,860 people from floods and 12 camps have been arranged.

Marriage halls, mandirs and mosques have been converted into provisional community kitchens, welcoming throngs of uprooted people. Locals house strangers, doctors volunteer in smaller makeshift dispensaries, and volunteer rescue teams continue to wade through waters to deliver food.

Raheel Khursheed  of Twitter India utilized Twitter to send SOS distress messages, culling information about supplies needed, and coordinating rescue operations. Time zones away, a group of expatriates work to create awareness and coordinate the relief efforts underway on the ground.

Change.org campaigns and pleas for international aid are being circulated through social network channels, tax-exempt nonprofit organizations are being devised, and expatriates are returning home to lend their expertise and FCRA approved organizations surface to accept funds from abroad.

[Read full Forbes article] 

American charities continue to struggle financially

According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, America’s biggest nonprofits are barely able to make up the fundraising losses they sustained in the Great Recession.

Only about half of the charities on the Philanthropy 400 are raising more than they did in 2007, when the recession started.

A sign of the struggle: The No. 1 organization, United Way Worldwide, is treading water.

After United Way and Fidelity Charitable, number 3 on the list was the Salvation Army, followed by Task Force for Global HealthFeeding America, and Catholic Charities USA.

Most traditional charities, which rely on a broad pool of donations from Americans at all income levels, continue struggling to win support.

How important is the non-profit sector?

Despite limited resources, nonprofits take on our toughest social and global problems, and always are looking for new ways to learn, lead and grow. They address the symptoms as well as the causes of deeply rooted problems, and serve as civic society’s research-and-development arm.

Overworked, underpaid, under-appreciated and at risk as never before, the nonprofit sector represents what is best about America and remains the best hope for addressing our most urgent social and global problems.

Having grown more rapidly than business or government for decades, the nonprofit sector now accounts for 5 percent of gross domestic product and 10 percent of the workforce.

Nonprofits struggle, continually, to raise money, sometimes understanding the tools and techniques of fundraising, but rarely recognizing that truly effective fundraising must be part of a larger vision of creating a culture of philanthropy within the organization and connecting donors to larger needs in the community.

Many nonprofits are getting better at building effective business models, understanding and engaging donors, and working in partnership with their supporters to take on community problems and enlist additional partners.

Charitable giving, whether in the form of money, know-how or time, is fundamental to our society, and many nonprofits are doing a better job of nurturing donors for the greater good.

So despite the lack of resources, shortage of leadership, disproportionate clout of big players, lameness of many consultants, and ideological rigidity of many foundations and advocacy groups, the nonprofit sector offers the best hope for addressing our most urgent social and global problems and making our communities better places to live and work.

[Philanthropy Journal]

Fiscal Cliff Tax Deal expected to boost Charitable Giving

The income-tax provisions adopted by Congress to avert the year-end “fiscal cliff” will increase charitable giving by an estimated 1.3 percent, or $3.3-billion in 2013, according to a new Urban Institute analysis.

The boost will come mainly from the decision to increase the top tax bracket from 35 percent to 39.6 percent on income above $400,000 for individuals ($450,000 for married couples), the institute said.

Because the charitable deduction is tied to a person’s tax bracket, those donors will now save $39.60 in taxes for every $100 they give to charity. In other words, their gift will cost them only $60.40, down from $65 under the 35-percent rate.

People in the top 1 percent of income distribution will provide almost all of the higher giving, increasing their donations by an estimated 6.2 percent, the analysis found.

The study also took into account the decision to raise the capital-gains tax from 15 percent to 20 percent. That provides an additional incentive for people to donate stock or other property that has risen sharply in value. Not only will they escape the higher capital-gains tax, they will also get the bigger 39.6-percent tax savings on their gift.

IRA charitable rollover still an option

As part of the “fiscal cliff” deal, Congress has resurrected a popular tax-law provision, known as the “IRA charitable rollover,” that had expired at the end of 2011.

The rule allows many investors 70½ or older to transfer as much as $100,000 a year from an individual retirement account directly to a qualified charity without having to count any of that transfer as taxable income. The transfer, if done properly, counts toward the taxpayer’s required minimum distribution for that year.

And there still is time for some people this month to take advantage of the rule for 2012. “Charitable rollovers can be made in January 2013 for 2012, and individuals who took mandatory distributions in December 2012 can donate that money to a public charity and not have the distribution subject to tax,” according to Independent Sector, a Washington-based nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition of charities, foundations and corporate philanthropy programs.

According to a Senate Finance Committee document, the law is scheduled to “sunset,” or die, at the end of 2013. What will happen after that? That’s anybody’s guess.

Wooing Millennials

Donate.ly, a new, open-source funding platform for nonprofits, wants to make it easy for any charity to show donors where their money is being used and let people create personalized fundraisers. Calling the platform a Kickstarter for charities, Donate.ly founder Javan Van Gronigen believes such detail and customization is key to appealing to young people brought up in the information age.

“Before our generation, you saw my parents would be like, ‘Oh, we want to give to the Red Cross,’” he says. “My generation would say we want to give to education or to fighting child slavery. Now it’s going even deeper and the next generation is saying, ‘I want to save that person right there.’”

Compelling narrative also plays a key role in wooing many donors, particularly young people. A survey of more than 6,000 people between 20 and 35 for the Millennial Impact Report found that 42% chose to donate to “whatever inspired them at the moment.”

Invisible Children, a nonprofit focused on stopping the abduction and use of child soldiers in central Africa, struck viral gold with young people last March when it released Kony 2012, a dramatic 30-minute short film about Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony. The video racked up 100 million views in less than a week and helped the organization double its revenue year over year. Van Gronigen’s nonprofit-focused creative studio, Fifty and Fifty, devised the marketing scheme for Kony 2012.

The Effect on Philanthropy of Fiscal Cliff Aversion

Congress passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (H.R. 8) in a deal to avert the fiscal cliff. The following provides pieces of the bill relevant to the philanthropic sector.

  • The charitable deduction will continue to be coupled with an individual’s or household’s corresponding tax rate. In other words, there is no cap on charitable deductions.
  • The tax rate will be increased to 39.6 percent for individuals making more than $400,000 a year and households making more than $450,000. The previous rate for those earners was 35 percent.
  • The estate tax will have a $10 million exemption for couples, $5 million for individuals, and a top tax rate of 40 percent.
  • The bill extends the IRA charitable rollover through December 31, 2013. This provision permits tax-free distributions to an eligible charity from an IRA held by someone age 70½ or older of up to $100,000 per taxpayer, per taxable year.
  • The provision includes two transition rules to allow donors to make 2012 contributions. First, the extension allows individuals who received an IRA distribution in December 2012 to elect to count that distribution (or a portion thereof) as a 2012 IRA charitable rollover if the individual transfers the amount in cash before February 1, 2013, to an eligible charity. Additionally, the extension allows donors to make distributions directly to eligible charities before February 1, 2013, and elect to have such distributions treated as qualified charitable distributions in 2012. This change may be of particular benefit to donors who would like to take advantage of the rollover in both 2012 and 2013.

In 2013, itemized deductions for higher income taxpayers will be reduced by the lesser of (1) 3 percent of the amount by which the taxpayer’s income exceeds $250,000 for individual filers, $275,000 for heads of households, or $300,000 for married couples filing jointly (these amounts are adjusted annually for inflation) or

(2) 80 percent of the value of the taxpayer’s itemized deductions. This reduction of itemized deductions is referred to as the Pease Limitation.

Source: Council of Foundations

Non-profit trends for 2013 and beyond

Nell Edgington predicts these non-profit trends:

1. More Demand for Outcomes – A growing demand for nonprofits to 1) articulate what results they hope their work with achieve and 2) track whether those results are actually happening. This increasing focus on nonprofit outcomes is leading to the 4 other trends:

2. Decreasing Emphasis on Nonprofit “Overhead” – The good news is that more and more people are coming to realize that you can’t just invest in programs without the staff, infrastructure and fundraising to make those programs happen.

3. More Advocacy for the Sector as a Whole – Instead of  a fractured grouping of organizations of various sizes, business models, and issue areas, … we will start to see the sector organize, mobilize and build confidence.

4. Savvier Donors – Because nonprofits are getting more savvy, donors are as well. They are starting to recognize that nonprofits cannot exist on revenue alone, but must have infusions of capital every once and awhile to strengthen and grow their staff, technology, systems, and fundraising.

5. Increased Efforts to Rate and Compare Nonprofits – We will increasingly evaluate nonprofits based on the results they achieve, not on how they spend their money, which requires a whole infrastructure for evaluating and rating nonprofits emerges.

Remaining significant as a non-profit

For more traditional nonprofits, targeting millennials is an investment in the future instead of a tactic to immediately generate funds.

The Salvation Army, one of the nation’s oldest charities, recently increased its focus on involving young people after a series of focus groups showed that few students in high school and college knew what the organization did.

“It was a hard slap in the face,” says Major George Hood, the Salvation Army’s national community relations and development secretary. “It said to us we’ve got to go to work on this or there’s going to be a day where we will not have any donors left.”

Now the organization hosts an annual concert featuring teen favorites like Owl City and sponsors Red Kettle Clubs for philanthropy in high schools around the country. It also debuted an online Red Kettle for people to launch online fundraisers, which Hood says are popular among their younger donors. All are attempts to help Millennials personally identify with the Salvation Army brand.

“They want that relationship and they want to believe that they’re really making an impact on someone’s life,” he says. “If you can come up with that ingredient, you’re ready to go.”

How nonprofits convince Millennials to give

Charity: water, Scott Harrison’s nonprofit organization, is at the fore of a tough task for the nonprofit sector: convincing the Millennial generation, underemployed and often dubbed apathetic compared to their predecessors, to give some of the little money to charity. For a sector overly reliant on generating money from an aging Baby Boomer population, getting young Millennials donating to nonprofits early is a key to long-term sustainability. That’s why many charities are working to develop a more interactive, customizable, and transparent giving experience.

“The Millennial generation is about identifying with a cause,” says Marc Chardon,the CEO of Blackbaud, a software developer for nonprofits that tracks giving trends. “[Donating] has become very personal and local.”

In charity: water’s case, that means encouraging supporters to be not only donors but also fundraisers. Half of the funds generated by the organization come from an online fundraising platform in which individuals create their own personal fundraising campaigns on behalf of the nonprofit. Often, people use the platform on their birthdays and ask others to donate their age in dollars instead of providing gifts. Sometimes the fundraisers are more inventive—in September a woman raised $30,000 by promising to swim across the San Francisco Bay naked, while an 8-year-old generated $15,000 by eating rice and beans for 25 days and promising her family would donate the savings made from buying cheaper groceries.

“Many charities go out and just ask people for money,” Harrison says. “We ask people for their voice.”

It’s an approach that seems to resonate with Millennials. The average age of mycharity: water’s users is 33. The fundraisers have generated almost $20 million total since the platform was launched in 2009, mostly through small donations of less than $100. The organization’s pledge to use all donated funds on fieldwork (private donors fund organizational costs) also assuages young people’s tendency to distrust formal institutions. In a post-recession environment where charitable giving has shrunk, charity: water has increased its donations each year since its founding.

TIME

December Online Charitable Giving

‘Tis the season to be jolly — and for many Americans, to give to charity. A seven-year study of online giving found that a third of all charitable donations in a given year come in December, with the giving rate increasing as the New Year approaches:

Of all giving in a year, 22% of online giving takes place on the last two days of December.

Nonprofits invest in For-Profits

When the W. K. Kellogg Foundation set aside $100 million in 2007 to invest in companies that could produce both social and financial benefits, it was considered revolutionary. Historically, major foundations had used mainly stocks, bonds, real estate and other traditional asset classes to build their endowments.

In 2010, the Kellogg Foundation invested $5 million in Wireless Generation, a tiny educational software maker working to improve public education in New York City. Just 219 days later, it made a 25.9 percent return after Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation bought Wireless Generation for $360 million.

Philanthropy is taking its cues from Wall Street and Silicon Valley. The language of finance is so common that it is sometimes hard to tell the difference between an investment conference and a fund-raiser. Grants are referred to as investments, and public-private partnerships as innovations. Money used to buy vans, computers and buildings is called growth capital.

“It’s not just the language that is changing,” said Antony Bugg-Levine, chief executive of the Nonprofit Finance Fund. “The actual distinction between the two sectors, for-profit and nonprofit, is starting to collapse.”

The shift stems from a new generation of philanthropists, like Bill and Melinda Gates, Pierre and Pam Omidyar and Steve and Jean Case, hoping to stretch their dollars. As they see it, the pool of philanthropic assets — even at a whopping $4 trillion-plus — is too small to make a dent in seemingly intractable social problems like malnutrition, chronic homelessness, water quality and sanitation. So they are trying to find ways to reuse existing financing and to attract new types of capital.

Finding the balance between charitable giving and shopping

At the peak of the shopping and giving season, consumers are increasingly combining both activities. They are buying products that have charitable tie-ins, shopping through Web portals that send savings to nonprofits, and donating at the registers when they check out at stores.

These charity-linked purchases might give consumers a good feeling, but are they good for charities? Maybe so, but only if those shopping decisions aren’t taking the place of other charitable giving, say some specialists.

Charitable shopping “undermines the philanthropy of a nonprofit through diminished charitable donations,” said Sondra Dellaripa, principal consultant for the nonprofit consultancy Harvest Development Group. In fund-raising development for charities, she said, it is important to build a relationship with a donor — ­something that doesn’t happen in these ­transactions.

So, how can you make your shopping turn into giving while keeping in mind how much you’re really giving to charity? Not all products with charity tie-ins are created equal.

For those shopping online, there are pass-through sites where a charity gets money every time a consumer makes a purchase. The donated percentage of the purchase price varies from 1 to 25 percent.

Some deliver no money to charity at all; they’re just for awareness. Consumers can check this, before they buy, on the product’s website or by reading the tiny print on the product’s packaging.

Vital needs don’t always attract vital support

Excerpts of an opinion on the question “Are charities more effective than Government?”, by John Briscoe, professor of environmental engineering at Harvard University, and a former World Bank official:

The priorities of charities are appropriately set by those who finance and manage those charities. But it seldom stops there. [Apart from non-governmental organizations that focus on health and education,] governments typically and necessarily see things like jobs as overwhelming priorities and sectors like infrastructure as critical for creating jobs and reducing poverty. I know of not a single nongovernmental organization that focuses on job creation, the provision of electricity at scale, or transport.

As a senior official in the World Bank I saw this dynamic at work every day. NGOs would lobby their governments for more attention to health, education and the environment. Rich country governments would then use their position on the board of the World Bank to push for these priorities.

Over the last 20 years this has led to a profound distortion in the priorities of the bank, with the social sectors becoming dominant and, for a long time, infrastructure lending – the original mandate of the Bank – falling to less than 10 percent of total lending.

An interesting evolution over the last decade has been the rise of countries like China, India and Brazil that give high priority to things like infrastructure, and as their weight in the global system has increased, this has led to somewhat of a rebalancing of priorities at an institution like the World Bank, but, more important a rebalancing in options for developing countries.

These countries, having recently emerged from poverty, know that it is not by putting the social cart before the economic horse that development and poverty reduction happen. They have little patience for the pleas of philanthropists rich and poor to deny poor countries the option of following the only known road to poverty reduction.

What the fiscal cliff means to nonprofits and their beneficiaries

The so-called “fiscal cliff” that’s looming over the United States will significantly impact nonprofits and the work they do if not addressed by Congress before year’s end, the cliff referring to the combination of tax increases and budget cuts hitting the country concurrently on January 1.

Legislators are also talking about removing some of the benefits to charities in the tax code. One example: eliminating or capping the charitable deduction.

So for many nonprofits, these spending cuts and less disposable income really means standing at the edge of a gravesite. And in many cases, people live or die by some of the services nonprofits provide.

Consequently, demand for the social safety net services that nonprofits provide will rise even higher than the sustained, elevated level it’s been at since the recession.

Young donors access non-profit sites via Smartphones

To reach people in their 20s and early 30s, the most important thing nonprofits can do is to make sure their Web sites are easy to read on a mobile device and not overly cluttered, says a survey of more than 6,500 young people released today.

About 65 percent of respondents said they liked to learn about a nonprofit through its Web site, compared with 55 percent who said they turned to social networks, e-mail newsletters (47 percent), print (18 percent), and face-to-face conversations (17 percent).

When young adults turn to a Web site, the “about us” section draws their attention most. Nearly nine in 10 young people said that’s where they go to seek information, according to the survey, conducted by two consulting companies, Achieve and Johnson, Grossnickle, and Associates.

Other information young people want on a Web site:
• 43 percent said they look for proof about the ways their donations make a difference.
• 41 percent seek volunteer opportunities.
• 41 percent look for an events calendar.
• 30 percent gravitate to videos and photos.

Beyond the information on a Web site, young people also scrutinize the design. “Even if you are a small, scrappy nonprofit, your Web site should look professional,” said one young person quoted anonymously in a report on the survey results. “I judge the character of the organization with its presence on the Web.”

Among the study’s other findings:
• Two-thirds of young people said they interacted with a nonprofit on Facebook, and 92 percent of those respondents “liked” at least one nonprofit’s Facebook page. Three-fourths of people said they would be willing to share an interesting nonprofit event on Facebook.
• About 28 percent of young people said they have interacted with a nonprofit on Twitter. Focus-group members said Twitter is especially useful when nonprofit leaders have their own personal accounts and share their views.

Music telethon raises $23 million for Hurricane Sandy relief

Friday’s Hurricane Sandy telethon, presented by the Red Cross and NBC Universal, and featuring performances by Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Christina Aguilera and others, raised $23 million to support victims impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

“We are incredibly grateful and humbled by this outpouring of support for those who are suffering as a result of Superstorm Sandy,” American Red Cross Chief Marketing Officer Peggy Dyer said in a statement. “Our preliminary results of nearly $23 million raised are an extraordinary example of how the American people pull together in times of disaster. Their generous donations will go directly to those in need, and we urge the public to continue to give.”

Hosted by Today show anchor Matt Lauer, the telethon also featured performances by Billy Joel, Sting, Aerosmith and Mary J. Blige. Kevin Bacon, Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey, Whoopi Goldberg, Jon Stewart, Brian Williams and Danny DeVito dropped by to lend support.