Monday, October 27, 2008

Hospitals' Charity Care in Fargo

Other than the snow that fell yeserday, charity care at Fargo's two largest hospitals tops the news in my hometown today. I had not realized before just how much uncompensated care the hospitals provide as compared to their charity care. Since the former is significantly higher than the latter, it seems both figures should used to calculate their required charity care requirements to maintain tax exemption.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bono writes for the New York Times

It looks like Bono, the philanthropist musician, will be writing an occasional column for the New York Times next year. White the details are still being worked out, I would hope he'd use the opportunity to promote his philanthropic work through the ONE Campaign while reiterating to readers the impact ONE gift or ONE volunteer can have globally and locally.


Who can resist helping victims of office robberies, even if there is no Wikipedia entry for office robbery statistics?

Mostly, I couldn't resist blogging about last night's episode of The Office in which Michael organizes a charity auction to help his colleagues who have been victims of an office robbery. According to Michael, "It's like Farm Aid, but instead of farmers fighting against AIDS, it will be us fighting against our own poverty." Never mind that the victims will actually have to spend more money bidding on their own goods and services (like Bob Vance's $1000 purchase of a hug from his wife!).

C.R.I.M.E A.I.D stands for "Crime Reduces Innocence Makes Everyone Angry I declare." Only Michael Scott can could up with something so ridiculous.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Blonde Charity Mafia

Philanthropy and controversy. The two seem to go hand in hand a little more frequently than they maybe should! This time, however, the 'controversy' is much smaller in scale - and in relation to an upcoming television show. The Lifetime network will be airing a new show called "Blonde Charity Mafia", a series that follows young female socialites as they navigate the charity fundraiser scene. 

The issue stems from a woman who knows the three socialites (Katherine, Sophie, and Krista) and accuses them of not having charity at the foundation of their interests. It will be interesting to watch this series unfold and see how the show portrays not only these young philanthropists but also the causes to which they're pledging their support. 

I know I'll be tuning in come 2009!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

WellPoint & X Prize

This year I have been very fortunate to have a Graduate Assistantship with the WellPoint Foundation and Social Responsibility. An announcement this week from the company indicated its new collaboration with WellPoint, Inc. and the X Prize Foundation.  The three organizations are going to be collaborating on a $10 million competitive project that will challenge teams to come up with new and innovative ideas for changing the health care system in America. It will certainly be interesting to see what this collaboration generates! 

For more information check out the press release at and one by The Chronicle on Philanthropy at

Fargo Lions Roar

I'm preparing to leave for Fargo on Tuesday and thinking about those pioneer women I'll be interviewing, so I can't help but give a little shout out to my Fargo Lions.

In our Philanthropic Studies curriculum that's dominated by the charitable nonprofits [501(c)3], the mutual benefit organizations that are service clubs are often overlooked [501(c)4]. That's one of the many reasons I'm investigating a Lions Club for my thesis research. For the two years that I lived in Fargo I was also an active member of the Fargo Lions (I'm still a member of this club although I'm inactive living in Indy). When it comes to building social capital, mobilizing volunteers and raising funds for local charities no one does it better then the Fargo Lions.

Lion John Dobbs is one of my Lions mentors and now a dear friend. Our friendship is an example of how service clubs bring generations together among members and among the community (what could be better than bridging AND bonding social capital?!). John will always have a special little place in my heart - - he was my dad's insurance agent and he insured me when I was a babe. Indeed, we're quite sure John held me as a baby at more then one office visit ... now, 30 years later, we're friends!

That's me & John at the Fargo Lions 2007 Take the Cake auction - ROAR!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

'Friends' & Philanthropy!

In my ongoing quest to prove that 'Friends' was (and still is) one of the best TV shows EVER, I wanted to share an episode I just watched this afternoon. In Season 5, the episode "The One Where Phoebe Hates PBS" poses an ongoing question: Can any good deed be selfless?

Joey argues that no good deed can be selfless, while Phoebe believes the opposite. Phoebe spends the rest of the episode striving to prove she's right. After several attempts (including letting a bee sting her), Phoebe finally decides to donate $200 to a PBS telethon where Joey has been taking pledges all day. Due to a long-standing grudge against Sesame Street and PBS, she's not too happy about giving the money, but she knows the donations will help other children who do like Sesame Street. Unfortunately, Phoebe's donation puts them over their telethon goal, which gets Joey on TV for taking the pledge. Watching Joey get excited about being on TV makes Phoebe happy, effectively ending her quest for a selfless good deed.

Although the episode ends without a definitive answer, it brings up an important philanthropic question about altruism and egoism. To what extent is giving for others? Does it matter if we partially, or wholly, give to benefit ourselves? Is there a proverbially line we 'shouldn't' cross?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Broadway & the Economy

Obviously, the economic meltdown is permeating all parts of popular culture these days. So in keeping with my musical theater interest, here's a story about how Broadway is effected by Wall Street. Some new productions, the article notes, have already lost an investor or two. Both for-profit and nonprofit theaters are struggling. At the local level, I'm sure many community theaters will face a difficult year of both fundraising and attracting audiences. Even I have to admit that I may need to cut down on my entertainment budget for awhile.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Tony Award for Philanthropy

The New York Times reported today that there will be a new Tony Award for Philanthropy that will go to someone “who has made a substantial contribution of volunteered time and effort on behalf of one or more humanitarian, social service or charitable organizations.” I haven't watched the televised awards show in years, but growing up in Fargo I was glued to the TV screen as the Tonys were my annual expose to all things musical theatre ... something I still very much enjoy .... which reminds me I need to purchase my Avenue Q tickets for next week ...

Friday, October 3, 2008

Philanthropic Travel vs. Voluntourism

For those of you who are interested in the issue I raised yesterday, here's some futher reading on the differences between philanthropic travel and voluntourism. I'm still not sure where I stand on either, to be honest.

As I think about Aristotle's 5 criteria for giving, or RAMBAM's Ladder, I'm just not sure that either really qualify as the best kind of giving. And, to invoke Payton/Moody, if either is to be philanthropic, it must be done thoughtfully and with careful study. What does this or any other tour/travel provide to ensure that it is? Pehrpas everyone should be required to read Understanding Philanthropy first!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Oxymoron: Luxurious Philanthropic Travel?

I got an email this morning from Twitter informing me that "Philanthropic" is now following me. [I could go on and on about Twitter for those of you who don't know about it or use it, but that would be more then a little far afield for this blog.]

Of course I checked out their Twitter page which led me to the organization's website. I'm more then a little befuddled reading philanthropic travel described as "exquisite" and "luxurious." The home page even invokes the ever-popular serial reciprocity: "Philanthropic Travelers create a chain reaction of 'pay it forward,' goodwill that unlocks powerful community development and gratitude."

I'm curious to hear what others think: is philanthropic travel (a.k.a "voluntourism") really "a catalyst for a Peaceful, Prosperous, and Friendly World"? And if so, how would you even begin to measure that??

P.S. if I had thought about it a year ago, I should have proposed to go on one of these tours for "thesis research" to invterview participants and create some kind of metrics for measuring impact. Ah, too late now. To Fargo instead. :)