On Whiteness


Good solid two feet of snow last week in Brooklyn, Dear Reader, and it’s gotten me thinking about whiteness.

I mean, I’ve been thinking about whiteness for some time, but it’s a very quiet early morning at the Man About Town Brooklyn redoubt, with only the whistling of the radiators and the desultory, distant scraping of cars being dug out to break the silence.  It’s a good time for a blog post.

And I’m white.  This will not come as a surprise to any of you who’ve met me, and probably to most of you who haven’t.  I’m white, and I try very hard to think about the impacts of race and racism on my life, on the lives of my friends and colleagues, on the lives of the people I work to support through my job, and on the society as a whole.  At the risk of wearing my political correctness like a suicide vest, I feel very compelled to talk a little bit about the popular demagoguery of The Donald. Continue reading

A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Idea We Should Do Immediately


mae

When I’m good, I’m very good. But when I’m bad, I’m better.

Dear reader, you know me.  I like to talk. When I talk to people I get ideas.  Mostly they are other people’s ideas that I simply steal.  But I do have my pride: I only steal the best ideas.

I want to share a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea that I think could make a difference for the nonprofit sector, and for the vulnerable people we are committed to support: teaching nonprofit leaders to be tech innovators.

As a special bonus, read all the way to the end for a special Man About Town discount code to the TechBoost for Nonprofits conference on April 23rd!

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#OMG: Why the #NPO sector is #tech averse


I'd be lion if I said I wasn't surprised.

I’d be lion if I said I wasn’t surprised.

So I was talking to a friend of mine at a very large nonprofit organization – as in over $100 million in annual revenues.  They serve thousands of clients every year with job development, alcohol and other drug abuse treatment, affordable housing, psychological counseling and a variety of other supports.  As a result of the many contracts and grants they have to do this work, they operate in excess of 15 databases to track operations, case management, finance, etc.  They have a full time IT staff, desktops, laptops, and handheld devices out the yingyang.  So naturally I said, what are you doing with all that data? “Actually,” my friend said, “we don’t do anything with the data.”  #OMG.
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The New Dawn of the Nonprofit Merger


best-merge

Mergers – never easy.

It used to be that the idea of one nonprofit taking over another was simply anathema.  Nonprofits didn’t, you know, do that to one another. Mergers and acquisitions were the territory of national banks, energy companies and pharmaceutical giants with oversized ambitions and possibly malevolent intent. Nonprofits weren’t motivated by “creating efficiencies,” particularly at the expense of their own staff members – many of whom came from the very low-income communities those same nonprofits were seeking to serve.

But, oh, the times they are a-changin’. Nonprofit mergers are on the rise in NYC, and we’re going to see many more of them. Whether you like the reasons or not, you’d better know what they are because this, my friend, could happen to you.
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Social impact investment and the failure of imagination


Do you know what you don't know?

Do you know what you don’t know?

Domestic social impact investment is stuck.  Each year a few deals trickle through, but despite the potential and promise, impact investments in the US are rare, complex, and entirely bespoke. To be sure, there are structural challenges to growing the market in the US – just look at Tracy Palandjian’s recent SSIR article on the state of the social impact bond sector – but I can’t help feeling that we’re suffering as much from a failure of imagination as infrastructure. The problem is, few social entrepreneurs can clearly describe their impact capital needs, while few potential investors understand how to place impact capital into deals. I mean, if neither side really knows how to go about its business, how can we expect them to do business with each other?

But I have an idea…. Continue reading

Are You TED Talk Ready?  The Importance of Conceptual Capital


Marie And Donny Osmond

It used to just take two. Those days are over.

In the callow youth of the nonprofit sector, you needed two kinds of capital: (1) financial capital, because money does, after all, grease the wheels of change, and (2) social capital, because proving you could fill the courthouse steps or get the Governor to answer your call was a way to make up for not having enough money.  But the NPO sector is burgeoning, the capacity for evaluation is still limited, and the power of social media has grown.  Now there’s a new kind of resource you need: conceptual capital.  It’s the stuff that drives your visibility in a crowded marketplace.  So what is it, why do you need it, and where do you get it?

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Let’s Turn this Old Barn into a Theater! (Part III of III)


Big Car in Indianapolis, IN is a former auto service center.

Dear Reader, About a year ago the Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts (NOCD) working group asked your Man About Town to write a nice, juicy case study about what happens when cultural organizations buy non-cultural facilities and fix them up.  This three part series details my findings, although it’s well worth checking out the original report to see case studies from nearly a dozen cultural organizations across the country.  You can also read Part I and Part II of this series to learn more about the unique opportunities and challenges of adaptive reuse. Continue reading

Let’s Turn this Old Barn into a Theater! (Part II of III)


Grange halls make badass theater spaces.

Dear Reader, About a year ago the Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts (NOCD) working group asked your Man About Town to write a nice, juicy case study about what happens when cultural organizations buy non-cultural facilities and fix them up.  This three part series details my findings, although it’s well worth checking out the original report to see case studies from nearly a dozen cultural organizations across the country.  Check out Part I of this series to learn more about the unique opportunities and challenges of adaptive reuse. Continue reading

Let’s Turn this Old Barn into a Theater! (Part I of III)


Scrappy, but lovable: the irrepressible arts.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago the Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts (NOCD) working group asked your Man About Town to write a nice, juicy case study about what happens when cultural organizations buy non-cultural facilities and fix them up.  This three part series details my findings, although it’s well worth checking out the original report to see case studies from nearly a dozen cultural organizations across the country. Continue reading

What do LISC, Enterprise, NFF and CSH Have in Common with the Dodo? Nothing. (Part VI of VI)


All that’s left of the Dodo. Luckily, CSH, NFF, Enterprise and LISC are all still around.

Dear reader, as part of a special report for Shelterforce I sat down with the heads of four of the largest community development intermediaries in the country and asked a simple question:  Are you still relevant?

This six part series looks at the evolution of their role in the community development sector and their strategies for the future.

To binge-read the full reportclick here. Continue reading