Happy Friday y’all, and welcome to a special American edition of RADAR. The stars spangling our banner this week include: The Komen Foundation’s big mistake, the difference between passion and competence, philanthropy in America, how social innovation can help fix government, and non-profits and the State of the Union.
Before we get into it, I’ve noticed the number of RADAR readers has jumped recently, so welcome to all you newbies. If you want people to be added to the RADAR list, or if you’ve been forwarded this email and want to sign up, please go here and look for the RADAR box.
The Komen Foundation
This fascinating story of a bad decision made even worse by a terrible PR response has been covered far and wide this week, but is still well worth digging into. In short: The Komen Foundation (a cancer charity) stopped giving grant money to Planned Parenthood (a women’s charity unpopular with conservatives because a small percentage of its money funds abortions). Despite Komen’s protestations, the move has been seen as an overtly political decision directly endangering the health of women across the country, and has sparked a widespread and incredibly effective backlash. As a result, Planned Parenthood has already raised $400,000 in additional donations, Komen has been forced to reinstate the funding, and the VP of Komen (who was probably behind the decision) has been forced to resign. Read a very good Politico summary here, read an account of the social media backlash here, and watch the wonderful Stephen Colbert’s famous defense of Planned Parenthood here.
Passion Vs. Competence
Found this article on HBR this week pretty interesting. It focused on the importance of not confusing passion for competence. Though it focuses on innovators, there are parallels with other sectors and I think it’s particularly interesting with an eye on the charity sector. I was on a panel at UCL last night talking about careers in the third sector, and I was interested that the recruiters there told the students not to overdo their ‘passion’ in their applications and to focus more on practical skills. I wondered whether the increasing professionalisation of our sector means that employers are wary of people who are too ruled by passion, or whether passion is just taken as read now for people applying to work in the sector. Anyway, read the HBR article here.
Philanthropy in America
The Guardian this week reported on the annual Philanthropy 50 list of the biggest American philanthropists. The report showed that charitable donations in America, while yet to reach pre-recession levels, are rising as the US economy improves. I’m a sucker for this kind of list for two main reasons; it’s fascinating to see the causes that matter to some of the richest people in the world, and also to see their background, in particular the prominence of ‘tech’ wealth (and that’s even without Bill Gates). Read the article here, have a look at the top ten here.
Social Innovation and Government
Interesting video interview on Co.Exist this week with Paul Carttar, who is is the director of the Social Innovation Fund. He talks here about how government can be a catalyst for change by facilitating the best solutions that have already been proven successful by the people who know. Watch it here.
The State of the Union
Way behind on this one from The Nonprofit Quarterly, but I’ve only just read it. It takes a look at Obama’s State of the Union at the end of January, and looks at what it means for the non-profit sector. Rick Cohen writes: “The 2012 State of the Union was a jobs and class speech, touting a mix of incentives and disincentives to stimulate U.S. job growth and retention, but the social programs needed and relied upon by the bulk of working class and lower income Americans were all but invisible in the president’s talk and the nonprofit sector was also missing in action”. Read the whole thing here.