Friday, November 12, 2010


On November 11th The New York Times published its annual Giving section; this morning Giving USA Foundation presented the Gurin Forum a timely conjunction. The forum is an endowed program, established twenty plus years ago by the late Maury Gurin one of the country's best fund development consultants, a mentor of mine, an idea machine and a curmudgeon.

This morning's program focused on "The Giving Count -- The Numbers: What Do They Measure? What Do They Mean? Why Do They Matter?" The idea of an open dialog on a subject of common interest to a specific audience is simple enough. But this had never been done in this way for a mostly non-academic audience. Given that 160 people - professional nonprofiteers, philanthropoids, major donors, data researchers and others showed up indicates we touched a nerve (and nearly ran out of Danish).

On behalf of the foundation and the forum I organized and led this event so am responsible for inadvertently failing to invite, among others, Charity Navigator and The Foundation Center, major data compilers for which I apologize and will correct at another opportunity. This collaborative discussion was impelled by the fact that there is a lot of research under way and a lot of data out there, worked on by an array of sources, each working from its own perspective. It's a dog's breakfast so the idea here was to have a cohort of researchers describe their work, tell us what it means, what it measures and why it matters.

There were two panels: the first was facilitated by Stacy Palmer editor in chief of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Patrick Rooney, PhD executive director Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University; Bob Ottenhoff president & CEO Guidestar USA, Inc.; and Paul Light, PhD Paulette Goddard professor of public service New York University.

The second, facilitated by Ruth McCambridge Ruth McCambridge, editor in chief of Nonprofit Quarterly, facilitated the second panel. that included Charles “Chuck” Longfield chief scientist Blackbaud, Inc.; Ann Kaplan director, voluntary support of education survey Council for Aid to Education; and John Havens, PhD Senior Research Associate & Senior Associate Director Center on Wealth & Philanthropy, Boston College.

An audio of the proceedings has been posted to Also available are presenters' PowerPoints.

This could have been a real snooze but because two participants John Havens and Patrick Rooney essentially disagree on each others' methodology. They mixed it up in the donnish fashion expected of academics but proved anew that the death of a drama is the lack of a villain.

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