Loving the San Francisco Bay Area... Community development, urban ministry, trying to defeat poverty, faith, religion, politics, good music, the quest for the perfect pizza, the Yankees, motorcycles... All in a 'day's life'

Monday, March 05, 2007

Article, "Local East Palo Alto Non Profits Taken to Task"

Oh man, this is going to create some waves... I need to think about this one... I'll comment later. Let me know your thoughts.

Local Nonprofits Taken to Task
Push for results is the new benchmark for donors

Throughout the field of philanthropy, and perhaps nowhere more so than in Silicon Valley, donors are increasingly demanding evidence of results.

"Evaluation of effectiveness has been a growing trend in philanthropy," said Michelle McGurk, a spokeswoman for the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which provided $10,000 for the Feb. 3 march and rally.

"And certainly Silicon Valley has been on the cutting edge of return on investment in giving," McGurk said. "They don't look at charitable donations; they look at investments in the community."

In East Palo Alto, the face of philanthropy is changing as a result. This year, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which formed on Jan. 1 following the merger of the Peninsula Community Foundation and Community Foundation Silicon Valley, will start giving out larger grants, but fewer of them.

The foundation calculated that of the $13 million its two parent organizations dispersed to East Palo Alto nonprofits between 2003 and 2006, the average grant size was $10,000, McGurk said.

"You can't ask someone to change the world and then give them $10,000," said Emmett Carson, Ph.D., president of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

"If I'm really serious about making the quality of life better, then the foundation needs to give the money to make the best ideas work," Carson said. "If the better idea costs $250,000 to $500,000, we need to support that."

With "easily over 100" nonprofits in East Palo Alto, Faye McNair-Knox, executive director of One East Palo Alto, said there is a glut of services for youth groups.

"We have a pattern of a lot of these nonprofits serving the same population of youth," said McNair-Knox.

Perez (local community activist - JL), said a pejorative term - "poverty pimps" - has emerged in the nonprofit field to describe charitable service providers that do little or nothing to create lasting solutions, and simply sustain themselves with grants and donations.

Wikipedia defines poverty pimps as "a derogatory label used to convey the accusation that an individual or group is benefiting unduly by acting as an intermediary on behalf of the poor."

"It's a group that's making all this money off the cycle, but they're not curing the problem," Perez said, noting that this situation is often created by government grants.

"It's definitely here in East Palo Alto," said McNair-Knox, pointing to schools as a prime example of wasted expenditures, with "half-hearted" attempts to implement curricula, which are then replaced by newer curricula before the first had a chance to succeed.

"That's notorious in the school system," she said.

McNair-Knox said her organization, One East Palo Alto, is focused on setting up high-speed Internet access for East Palo Alto nonprofits, along with other technical upgrades, what she called "capacity building."

Those are the kinds of programs that provide the most lasting long-term effect, said Jessica Sowa, Ph.D., a professor at Cleveland State University who recently wrote an article on assessing the effectiveness of nonprofit organizations.

"If you build a better firehouse, you're better able to put out the fires that arise in the everyday challenge of your programming," Sowa said.
Read the entire article here.

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