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Gw/oB news updates and highlights

May 12, 2008

$20 Million Gifts Launch Crisis Group Capital Fundraising Campaign
The International Crisis Group recently launched its new $50 million Securing the Future capital fundraising campaign. The campaign is off to a flying start with the announcement of four initial grants of $5 million each from the MacArthur Foundation, George Soros, Chairman of the Open Society Institute; Frank Giustra, a global business leader and philanthropist from Canada; and the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, the philanthropic initiative founded by the Ukrainian investor Victor Pinchuk. Founded in 1995, the International Crisis Group rings alarm bells, supports peace negotiations, and gives detailed advice to governments, the UN and major regional and international organizations on how to prevent war and make sustainable peace. With some 140 staff working throughout the world in over 60 areas of actual or potential conflict and mass atrocity crimes, Crisis Group is recognized as a leader in its field. In an extraordinary further commitment, George Soros has agreed to manage through his hedge fund Crisis Group's new endowment fund, and to personally guarantee against any loss of principal up to an aggregate $50 million. More at

The New Philanthropy and Development Aid
While the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings made recent headlines, the Global Philanthropy Forum, gathering top private aid donors, fell in the shadows. These private aid donors will likely give more aid to the world's poor this year than the institutions that convened the Spring Meetings. In 2006, the IMF and World Bank disbursed about $24 billion in loans and credits, not counting debt relief. In the same year, American foundations, charities and philanthropies gave almost $34 billion to international causes. The best hope for the world's poor lies in the ability of private aid givers to transform the current system of foreign aid, and to develop partnerships with the public sector, to advance the common good. A word of caution: private aid can make a difference, but it is by no means a panacea for all that ails the world's poor. For all the amounts that have been granted, there has been little evaluation of the cost-effectiveness of private aid, and there are few examples of privately funded programs being expanded in ways needed to make a dent in global poverty. So what can private aid accomplish? In a nutshell, it can transform the effectiveness of global foreign aid by making it more competitive. More at

Dawn of an Energy Famine
This week the shape of the global energy crisis came into its sharpest focus yet. The world needs renewable energy fast, but as BP and Shell announced record profits, they also demonstrated that they are in essence retreating from renewables, perhaps with the exception of biofuels. They intend to focus their record billions on expanding production of what remains of traditional oil and gas, plus tar sands and liquid fuels from coal – ruinous in their effect on the climate. Shell pulled out of the biggest offshore UK wind farm yesterday and BP is losing interest in solar and investing in the tar sands – having once refused to do so on ethical grounds because of the greenhouse gas emitted in processing. The European oil giants are behaving in this way in part because Exxon Mobil became the most profitable of the big players while turning its back on the climate issue and pouring scorn on renewables investment. BP and Shell can no longer resist the calls of investors who demand short-term Exxon-type performance, whatever the final cost. Others think differently. In New York, members of the Rockefeller clan – descendents of Exxon's founder – called yesterday for radical reform of the company because they can no longer stomach its irresponsible attitude towards the climate. More at

The Greening of the South
The single most important issue in the climate change debate is the question of how northern industrialized countries can pay southern industrializing countries to develop cleanly. The question is how. There is an obvious answer. Just as the Marshall Plan transferred billions of dollars from the US to rebuild economies and ward off communism in postwar Europe, so a "green" Marshall plan could transfer the money needed to build low-carbon economies in the developing world to ward off climate change. One such way of funding such a plan has already been suggested by the Greenhouse Development Rights framework (developed by EcoEquity and the Stockholm Environment Institute). The plan apportions responsibility for the costs of mitigating climate change worldwide, according to three simple principles. The first is a country's historical responsibility for accumulated emissions. The second is the size of its population. And the third is its capacity to pay. Any number of different mechanisms could be used to raise these funds, from general income or consumption-related taxation, to carbon taxes, trade-related charges, or, if an international agreement on it could be reached, a Tobin-style tax on currency speculation. However, when it comes to meeting its promises to the south, the north has a poor record. More at

Treasury Issues General License to Speed the Flow of Aid to Burma
The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), in consultation with the Department of State, issued a general license to help facilitate the flow of funds for humanitarian assistance to the Burmese people in the wake of Cyclone Nargis. "The American people continue to demonstrate their concern for the people of Burma, particularly as they reel from the devastation of Cyclone Nargis," said OFAC Director Adam J. Szubin. "This license will help to clear the way for additional humanitarian aid to make it to the Burmese people swiftly and efficiently." This general license is particularly needed in the wake of Cyclone Nargis and the resulting devastation. The issuance of this general license will ease the work of U.S. and third-country nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), as most will no longer need to apply to OFAC for specific licenses or registration numbers in order to transfer funds to Burma to support their humanitarian activities. The general license authorizes the export and reexport of financial services, including the flow of humanitarian funds, to Burma in support of the not-for-profit humanitarian or religious activities in Burma of U.S. or third-country NGOs. More at

To learn more about ways to support relief efforts in Myanmar, contact Gw/oB members American Jewish World Service ( and the Foundation for the People of Burma (

May 5, 2008

Clinton Foundation Should Disclose Donors
Transparency is a popular word in this presidential election, with all three candidates finally having released their tax returns. Yet the public still hasn't seen the records of an institution with some of the biggest potential for special-interest mischief: The William J. Clinton Foundation. Bill Clinton established that body in 1997 while still President. It has since raised half-a-billion dollars, which has been spent on Mr. Clinton's presidential library in Arkansas and global philanthropic initiatives. The mystery remains its donors, and whether these contributors might one day seek to call in their chits with a President Hillary Clinton. If Mr. Clinton were merely a former President building a library for history's sake, we might not worry. But he is a potential first husband whose spouse could influence countless decisions, foreign and domestic. How many favors has Mr. Clinton done for foreign donors? There's no way of knowing. The former President insists he's aware of no conflicts. Notably, however, donations to the Clinton Foundation soared as Mrs. Clinton neared a presidential run - to $135 million in 2006, 70% more than the year before. Somebody seems to think there is value in being generous to the Clintons. More at

Family Foundation Giving Up Sharply
The Foundation Center recently released its Key Facts on Family Foundations, a report that found giving by U.S. family foundations to have jumped by 21 percent in one year, reaching $17 billion in 2006. Because family foundations are not legally distinct from independent foundations, the Foundation Center identified them with criteria including those with "family" or "families" in their name, a living donor with a surname that matches the foundation's name, or a foundation with at least two trustee surnames that match a living or deceased donor's name. This qualifies some of the largest institutions in the country, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lilly Endowment, the Annenberg Foundation, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. In total, 34,687 foundations with measurable donor or donor-family involvement were identified, accounting for 59% of total giving by independent foundations overall. At the same time, 49% of family foundations reported less than $50,000 in giving, demonstrating the diverse granting capabilities of this field of funders. More at

New Global Alliance Announces $13 Billion in Commitments to Empower Women, Fight Poverty
The newly established Women, Faith, and Development Alliance (WFDA), a global effort to empower women and girls and fight poverty, has announced $1.3 billion in commitments from more than seventy organizations. Together, the commitments will support initiatives designed to improve the lives of more than a billion women in dozens of countries. The alliance will work to change the policies of governments, multilateral institutions, and private groups. To that end the United Nations Population Fund has pledged $500 million to address maternal mortality, gender violence, female genital mutilation, and empowering adolescent girls in a broad campaign covering fifty countries, while the International Rescue Committee has pledged $500 million to support efforts to curtail gender violence and improve women's education. In addition, the Sister Fund and the Women's Funding Network have pledged a total of $150 million to expand the Women Moving Millions campaign, an effort to increase the collective assets of foundations and NGOs serving women around the world. Since its first meeting in June 2006, nearly eighty organizations have actively participated in shaping WFDA's strategy and advocacy agenda. More at

Marginalized Groups Must not be Forgotten in Response to Food Crisis
Solutions to the current food crisis spurred by soaring global food prices must include marginalized groups, the top United Nations human rights official said today, joining the call issued by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the international community to respond to the problem. While acknowledging that addressing the crisis is fundamentally humanitarian in nature, High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour stressed in a statement issued in Geneva that it is also an obligation, thus requiring non-discriminatory food distributions and analysis of communities' needs. "More fundamentally, and for the more medium and longer term, the underlying inequalities and inabilities to access food must be addressed by a comprehensive solution," she noted. "When we focus on those most in need, we must include not only the poorest but also those that are particularly vulnerable to discrimination on any other grounds, including gender, ethnicity, or disability." Ms. Arbour underscored that all voices must be heard — directly or through representative organizations — in tackling the food crisis. She also pointed out that food-related social unrest could potentially threaten other human rights, such as freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. More at

April 28, 2008

Charities Struggle to Respond to Rising Food and Fuel Costs
Charities that work overseas have been battered by a spate of recent economic troubles, including rising food and oil prices and the weakening dollar. Nonprofit leaders say they are being pressed to meet growing needs, even as the costs of doing work are ballooning. Some have even been forced to scale back services. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, in New York, dropped 25,000 people from a food and medical-assistance program in the former Soviet Union after expenses jumped by 20 percent. "We've lost $4-million in buying power," said Steve Schwager, the group's chief executive officer. High fuel prices and the weak dollar are also making it more expensive for groups to deliver assistance abroad. Emily Sollie, a spokeswoman with Lutheran World Relief, in Baltimore, said the local charities her group works with are facing a pinch. A construction project in Mali, for example, had to be rebid for nearly $11,000 more because the charity couldn't find any builders to work with it at the original price. And a grantee in India ran out of money sooner than expected because of the dollar's fall against the rupee. Officials with Direct Relief International, in Santa Barbara, Calif., said that the costs of shipping goods oversees have risen by as much as 25 percent over the past year. More at

Global Food Crisis 'Silent Tsunami' Threatening Over 100 Million People
The head of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has called for urgent action to tackle the "silent tsunami" of rising food prices, which threatens to push more than 100 million people worldwide into hunger. "This is the new face of hunger - the millions of people who were not in the urgent hunger category six months ago but now are," said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran, after addressing a British parliamentary hearing in London. She said that like the 2004 tsunami, which hit the Indian Ocean leaving quarter of a million dead and about 10 million more destitute, the food price crisis - the biggest challenge WFP has faced in its 45-year history - requires a global response. "The response calls for large-scale, high-level action by the global community, focused on emergency and longer-term solutions," she added. Recalling the record $12 billion provided by the donor community for the tsunami recovery effort, Ms. Sheeran said, "We need that same kind of action and generosity." The impact of the crisis is already being felt in different parts of the world. Unless new funding can be found on time, WFP will have to suspend school feeding to 450,000 children beginning in May in Cambodia. In addition, protests and riots have broken out in some countries over the rising cost of many basic foods, such as rice, wheat and corn. More at

EU Set to Scrap Biofuels Target Amid Fears of Food Crisis
The European commission is backing away from its insistence on imposing a compulsory 10% quota of biofuels in all petrol and diesel by 2020, a central plank of its programme to lead the world in combating climate change. Amid a worsening global food crisis exacerbated, say experts and critics, by the race to divert food or feed crops into biomass for the manufacture of vehicle fuel, and inundated by a flood of expert advice criticising the shift to renewable fuel, the commission appears to be getting cold feet about its biofuels target. Under the proposals, to be turned into law within a year, biofuels are to supply a tenth of all road vehicle fuel by 2020 as part of the drive to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by the same deadline. The 10% target is "binding" under the proposed legislation. But pressed by its scientific advisers, UN authorities, leaders in Europe, non-government organisations and environmental lobbies, the commission is engaged in a rethink. "The target is now secondary," said a commission official, adding that high standards of "sustainability" being drafted for biofuels sourcing and manufacture would make it impossible for the target to be met. A commission source indicated that the EU executive would not object if European governments ordered a U-turn. "This is all very sensitive and fast-moving," said a third commission official. "There is now a lot of new evidence on biofuels and the commission has become a prisoner of this process." More at

Satellite Images Reveal Shrinking Amazon
Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon may be on the rise, according to high-resolution images released by an agency of the Brazilian government. The images suggest an end to a widely hailed three-year decline in the rate of deforestation and have spurred a public controversy among high-level Brazilian officials, writes Tim Hirsch, author of "The Incredible Shrinking Amazon Rainforest" in the May/June 2008 issue of World Watch magazine. Deforestation accounts for approximately one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions and is responsible for significant species loss worldwide. Recent anti-deforestation measures under the administration of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva have led to a marked drop in the rate of forest loss over the past three years. "What matters most to people is whether deforestation is coming under control, or whether this magnificent ecosystem is doomed to relentless decline, with all the implications for the millions of unique species it harbors, for the survival of precarious indigenous cultures, and for the global climate," writes Hirsch. More at

April 22, 2008

Philanthropy: Whose Vision?
The April edition of Alliance Magazine focuses on this question and approaches the issue from multiple perspectives. One voice interviewed for the journal includes Steve Gunderson, President and CEO of the Council on Foundations, and his vision for COF's upcoming philanthropy summit. Alliance also interviewed various people planning on attending the summit – from private foundations, family foundations, community foundations and funds from outside the US – to understand what they are hoping to gain from their participation, and what if any concerns they have about the meeting. Gunderson explains that the summit is intended, "…To bring all of philanthropy together in a way that allows us – when we depart – to understand the we are part of a movement greater than ourselves, and greater than our own philanthropic giving. It is my hope that we see ourselves as both a domestic and international movement to enhance the common good around the world." Peter Laugharn with the Bernard van Leer Foundation told Alliance that, "My hope is that international issues, and philanthropy's role within the international arena, get attention within the 'Summit' and that that attention gets some wider media coverage in this presidential election year. My concern would be that the summit may be 'international' in the same way that the World Series is global simply because it includes baseball teams from Toronto or Montreal – that the US focus may be overwhelming, especially because it's an election year." More at

Aid Organizations Focus on Global Food Crisis
A deepening global food crisis requires not only greater funding for food aid going to hungry nations, but long-term investments according to officials. Aid organizations meeting recently in Kansas City, MO, at the US government's annual conference on global food aid said that while increased money for food aid to hungry nations is desperately needed to tamp down the swelling global food crisis, long-term investments to improve agricultural productivity in the developing world are equally important. Crop producers, shipping companies and aid groups warned that the rise in global food prices is hampering donations and US aid officials have said they might be forced to slash donations this year after their commodity costs jumped by more than 40 percent in the first half of fiscal 2008, adding approximately $200 million to the program's costs. Experts predict higher prices to linger through 2009 before farmers worldwide can adjust supplies and major financiers of development efforts, such as the World Bank, can put more funds into agricultural projects. More at

Global Food Systems Must Change
After six years of work, the United Nations-sponsored International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) has concluded that "modern" agriculture is not sustainable. According to the UN News Service, "Modern agricultural practices have exhausted land and water resources, squelched diversity and left poor people vulnerable to high food prices." The IAASTD, after a week-long meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, pronounced the verdict of 400 scientists, government agencies and civil society participants: "Business as usual is no longer an option." At the meeting, 55 world governments agreed on the IAASTD final report; Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States requested more time to consider whether or not to approve it. The IAASTD calls for replacing dependence on petrochemical fuels and pesticides with "resilient, sustainable agricultural systems, grounded in agroecological science and drawing on local, indigenous and community knowledge." The IAASTD was bitterly attacked by Syngenta and other powerful multinational corporations but, as UN Environment Programme Executive Director Achim Steiner observes, "If our modern agricultural systems continue to focus only on maximizing production at the lowest cost, agriculture will face a major crisis in 20 to 30 years time." More at

Peeling the Kenyan Conflict Onion
In this article by Alice Nderitu, Senior Human Rights Officer with Kenya's National Commission on Human Rights, the author argues that development, security and human rights should be the priorities in Kenya's post conflict reconstruction, not creating a bloated cabinet under the guise of power sharing. Nderitu writes, "It's official. We have a grossly overpaid cabinet of 40, the largest ever in Africa. The 34-44-40 cabinet debate in Kenya is an ominous pointed to what our politicians consider priorities: positions and not needs. Yet our needs are the embers which opportunely stoked ignite into the conflict. Kofi Annan argued as UN Secretary General in 2005 that we cannot enjoy development without security, security without development, and we will not enjoy either without respect for human rights and that unless all these causes are advanced, none will succeed. These are needs, not positions. In Kenya, the needs are the core of our onion. We urgently need roads in good condition; markets for our produce; a hospital with medicine; schools with teachers and books. We need security and we need leaders we can speak to who will listen just as we do as they address political rallies and religious gatherings." More at

Food and Energy Situation in Gaza Still Grim
Food, energy and other basics of life in the Gaza Strip, where severe restrictions by Israel on the movement of people and goods have been in effect since Hamas' takeover in June 2007, continue to be in short supply, the United Nations reported today. According to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East only 2,400 trucks entered the coastal enclave last month, down from more than 10,000 trucks that entered in March 2007. The agency added that a scarcity of animal feed is causing meat prices to skyrocket and it has had to expand its school feeding program to meet the needs of some 110,000 Gazan children in around 110 schools everyday. In addition, UNRWA said that it has been providing more than 110,000 liters of diesel fuel to municipalities each month for solid waste management but that a lack of electricity often forces coastal municipalities to dump their sewage into the sea. UN officials, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, have repeatedly expressed concern in recent months about the humanitarian impact of the restrictions on daily life for Palestinians in Gaza, coming on top of years of difficulty and economic decline. Describing the consequences as increasingly severe, the officials have said that the closures have brought most industry and agriculture to collapse, raised unemployment and poverty to new heights and led to the deterioration of basic infrastructure. More at

April 15, 2008

Microfinance's Success Sets off Debate in Mexico
Carlos Danel and Carlos Labarthe turned a nonprofit that lent money to Mexico's poor into one of the country's most profitable banks. But not all of their colleagues in the world of microlending — so named for the tiny loans it grants — are heaping praise on the co-executives of Compartamos. Some are vilifying them as "pawnbrokers" and "money lenders." They are the center of a fractious debate: how far should microfinance go toward becoming big business? At one end stand traditional microlenders, like the economist Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. At the other are the "Two Carloses", as they are widely known in this tight-knit world that gave them their start as starry-eyed idealists. Microlenders, the original and still the most common type of microfinance organization, help the poor start or expand businesses in places most banks shun, like the slums of Calcutta or these impoverished hills in Mexico's sugar cane country, three hours south of Mexico City. Their efforts are widely considered successful in transforming the lives of developing-world entrepreneurs, particularly women, and their families. Many microlending advocates, including Mr. Yunus, say that success is threatened by Mr. Danel and Mr. Labarthe's market-oriented model, with its emphasis on investor returns. "Microfinance started in the 1970s with a focus on using this breakthrough to help end poverty," said Sam Daley-Harris, director of the Microcredit Summit Campaign, a nonprofit endeavor that promotes microfinance for families earning less than $1 a day. "Now it is in great danger of being how well the investors and the microfinance institutions are doing and not about ending poverty." More at

Amazon's 'Forest Peoples' Seek a Role in Striking Global Climate Agreements
A recent conference in Brazil drew leaders of hundreds of indigenous groups in 11 Latin American countries and observers from Indonesia and Congo, the largest gathering of its kind, organizers said. They came to build a consensus for a plan in which wealthier countries would compensate developing countries for conserving tropical forests like the Amazon. Such an international carbon-trading plan has been gaining momentum and was a central topic last December at a climate conference in Bali, Indonesia. Scientists generally agree that tropical deforestation accounts for 20 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. "There is a real sense that this potentially represents a huge opportunity for forest peoples to influence climate change negotiations and create larger-scale incentives to stop deforestation and improve their living conditions," said Stephan Schwartzman of the Environmental Defense Fund in New York, who attended the discussions. Representatives from the 11 Latin American countries signed a declaration establishing the International Alliance of Forest Peoples and vowed to continue to push for a place at the table of climate change talks. The Indonesian government has been promoting the idea of carbon trading at climate talks. But environmentalists see South America, where native populations have stronger legal claims to the land, as a major staging ground for building support for the concept. More at

Can Capitalism Survive Climate Change?
There is now a solid consensus in the scientific community that if the change in global mean temperature in the 21st century exceeds 2.4 degrees Celsius, changes in the planet's climate will be large-scale, irreversible, and disastrous. Moreover, the window of opportunity for action that will make a difference is narrow – that is, the next 10 to 15 years. Throughout the North, however, there is strong resistance to changing the systems of consumption and production that have created the problem in the first place. Alongside this resistance is a preference for ''techno-fixes,'' such as ''clean'' coal, carbon sequestration and storage, industrial-scale biofuels, and nuclear energy. Globally, transnational corporations and other private actors resist government-imposed measures such as mandatory caps. They have preferred to use market mechanisms like the buying and selling of ''carbon credits,'' which largely amount to a license for corporate polluters to keep on polluting. In the global South, elites have shown little willingness to depart from the high-growth, high-consumption model inherited from the North. They maintain a self-interested conviction that the North must first adjust and bear the brunt of adjustment before the South takes any serious step toward limiting its greenhouse gas emissions. More at

UN Chief Calls for Review of Biofuels Policy
The UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, has called for a comprehensive review of the policy on biofuels as a crisis in global food prices - partly caused by the increasing use of crops for energy generation - threatens to trigger global instability. "We need to be concerned about the possibility of taking land or replacing arable land because of these biofuels," Ban told the Guardian in Bucharest while attending this week's Nato summit. But he added: "While I am very much conscious and aware of these problems, at the same time you need to constantly look at having creative sources of energy, including biofuels. Therefore, at this time, just criticising biofuel may not be a good solution. I would urge we need to address these issues in a comprehensive manner." Climate change has been a priority for Ban since he took over from Kofi Annan, and he has embraced the potential of biofuels, derived from plants, as a long-term substitute for fossil fuels. But as food prices have soared - driven by rising demand, high fuel costs, and climate change - the cultivation of biofuels has come under fire for diverting fertile land from food production. Some of the loudest criticism has come from within UN food agencies, which are struggling to keep up with commodity prices. Last month the World Food Programme issued an emergency $500m appeal to donors to help it meet its existing commitments to the world's hungry. There are also mounting concerns over the benefits of biofuels to the environment. They generally burn cleaner than fossil fuels, but fuels such as grain-based ethanol are energy-intensive to produce, and tropical rainforests have been cleared to produce palm oil for use as a fuel. More at

Groundbreaking Treaty on Disability Rights Hailed by UN Officials
The top United Nations human rights and development officials today warmly welcomed the news that yesterday the first international convention on the rights of persons with disabilities got its twentieth ratification, meaning that the landmark treaty will now come into force on 3 May. "I am extremely happy," Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in Geneva, noting that people with disabilities and their supporters struggled for a very long time to achieve this result. "I cannot stress enough the importance of this ground-breaking Convention, which fills an important gap in international human rights legislation affecting millions of people around the world."

The 50-article Convention asserts the rights to education, health, work, adequate living conditions, freedom of movement, freedom from exploitation and equal recognition before the law for persons with disabilities. It also addresses the need for persons with disabilities to have access to public transport, buildings and other facilities and recognizes their capacity to make decisions for themselves. The convention's Optional Protocol, which will also be binding starting 3 May, allows individuals to petition an international expert body with grievances. More at

April 10, 2008

New Rules of Attraction
As traditional fundraising methods falter, charities look for new ways to appeal to online donors. The Nature Conservancy will kick off a campaign to ask online donors to give $1 apiece to help the charity plant a billion trees in Brazil's rain forest. But conservancy officials have no idea if the electronic drive will meet its goal of raising $1-million. The Plant a Billion campaign is designed to attract people who have never previously given to the environmental organization. But it could "go gangbusters or be a flop," says Sue Citro, the charity's senior manager for digital membership. Traditional approaches to seeking new donors by mail or telephone are growing less effective and more expensive every year, yet online appeals are not raising enough to replace them. "Direct mail is on life support," says Michael Hoffman, chief executive of See3, a Chicago consulting firm that specializes in nonprofit fundraising and communications. "Charities that have relied on direct mail to get new donors have to start thinking about what's next, or they will wake up one day and find that an aggressive start-up has taken their place." More at

Use Your Heart and Head When Giving
There's a trend in philanthropy to treat the act of giving as an "investment decision". This is partly because non-profit management is taught increasingly in business schools, and partly because more wealthy donors with a business background are are becoming involved. Donors are younger, more active and may have made their money in finance. They believe that there is a holy grail of metrics, and if we just worked harder to find it, we could measure all non-profits, lay them side by side and figure out which ones were more effective in doing good in the world. What gets lost in all of this focus on evaluation and numbers is the grace and joy of philanthropy. Philanthropy inspires. It tells stories. It reconnects us with others and reminds us of our shared humanity. The work of Deborah Small, a professor of marketing at Wharton business school, shows that presenting potential donors with metrics suppresses donations because it lowers empathy. It is empathy, her research says, that triggers giving. More at

2008: The Year of Global Food Crisis
It is the new face of hunger. A perfect storm of food scarcity, global warming, rocketing oil prices and the world population explosion is plunging humanity into the biggest crisis of the 21st century by pushing up food prices and spreading hunger and poverty from rural areas into cities. Millions more of the world's most vulnerable people are facing starvation as food shortages loom and crop prices spiral ever upwards. And for the first time in history, say experts, the impact is spreading from the developing to the developed world. More than 73 million people in 78 countries that depend on food handouts from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) are facing reduced rations this year. At the same time, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization has warned that rising prices have triggered a food crisis in 36 countries, all of which will need extra help. The threat of malnutrition is the world's forgotten problem'', says the World Bank as it demands urgent action. The bank points out that global food prices have risen by 75% since 2000, while wheat prices have increased by 200%. The cost of other staples such as rice and soybeans have also hit record highs, while corn is at its most expensive in 12 years. More at

Arctic Melting May Lead to Expanded Oil Drilling
More than half of the Arctic Ocean was covered in year-round ice in the mid-1980s. Today, the ice cap is much smaller. Alarming evidence of this warming trend was released last week when the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) released satellite evidence that the perennial Arctic ice cover, as of February, rests on less than 30 percent of the ocean. "The rate of sea-ice loss we're observing is much worse than even the most pessimistic projections led us to believe," says Carroll Muffett, deputy campaigns director with Greenpeace USA. For the first time in recorded history, this past summer the entire Northwest Passage between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans was ice-free, according to scientists. In the eyes of oil and gas companies, like U.S.-based Artic Oil & Gas Corp., these open waters are potential treasure chests. As the Arctic Ocean resembles less like a gigantic ice sheet and more an ocean of frigid water, energy companies are racing to profit from the melting sea. "It simply doesn't get any bigger than this in the oil patch," CEO Peter Sterling said in a statement. More at