Good and Bad News for the Nonprofit Sector

This week GuideStar released its greatly anticipated annual report examining the effect of the economy on the nonprofit sector.   The report is based on a survey that asked private foundations and public charities about their total contributions in 2012.

The survey found that, while total contributions are slightly down this year compared to last year, a majority of nonprofits are experiencing an increasing in demand for their services.

Overall, the numbers for 2012 look very similar to the numbers for 2011, suggesting a nonprofit sector where things are not getting much better or much worse, at least from a financial perspective.

 A free copy of the survey report can be found at the following link:

The Effect of the Economy on the Nonprofit Sector: An October 2012 Survey  

Grant opportunities: youth nutrition/fitness, creative placemaking, and literacy

1) General Mills Foundation’s Champions for Health Kids Program – Deadline: December 3

The program will award fifty grants of $10,000 to community-based groups such as health departments, government agencies, schools, and Native American Tribes that develop creative ways to help youth adopt a balanced diet and physically active lifestyle.

To ensure that the nutrition information in the proposed program is accurate and is scientifically based, a registered dietitian must either be directly involved or serve as an advisor to the program. Learn more by clicking this link.

2) NEA accepting proposals for its ‘Our Town’ creative placemaking program – Deadline: January 14

The program seeks to invest in creative and innovative projects in which communities, together with their arts and design organizations and artists, seek to improve their quality of life; encourage greater creative activity; foster stronger community identity and a sense of place; and revitalize economic development. Projects may include arts engagement, cultural planning, and design activities.

All Our Town applications must reflect a partnership that will provide leadership for the project. These partnerships must involve two primary partners — a nonprofit organization and a local government entity. One of the two primary partners must be a cultural (arts or design) organization. Awards will range from $25,000 to $200,000. View the full RFP.

3) Big Read accepting grant applications for community-wide reading programs

Community organizations participating in the Big Read develop and produce reading programs that encourage reading and participation by diverse local audiences. These programs include activities such as author readings, book discussions, art exhibits, lectures, film series, music or dance events, theatrical performances, panel discussions, and other events and activities related to the community’s chosen book or poet. Activities must focus on a book or poet from the Big Read Library. Previous grantees must select a different reading choice from their previous programming.

The program is accepting applications from nonprofit organizations to develop reading programs between September 2013 and June 2014. Organizations selected to participate receive a grant, educational and promotional materials, and access to online training resources and opportunities. Approximately seventy-five organizations will be selected from communities of varying size in the U.S. Awards range from $2,500-20,000. Learn more here.

Sea level rise + storm surge = trouble for cities

Jason’s thoughtful post on coastal development reminded me of a startling image I saw this summer: a map overlay showing how projected sea level rise, coupled with the kind of tide/storm surge combo we saw with Hurricane Sandy, will claim entire chunks of our communities.

For example, there is a 1 in 6 chance that these factors will combine to result in a one-foot sea level increase by 2020 in Woods Hole, MA. What does that mean for nearby New Bedford? It means that the city’s peninsula will become a temporary island, and landmarks like Fort Taber, New England Demolition and Salvage, Popes Island, and other near-coastal properties would be subject to flooding in such an event. Across the river, Fairhaven’s Sconticut Neck becomes a pair of islands.

Projections made by NOAA, USGS, the US Census, and USFWS show that this scenario would impact 2,830 New Bedford homes and 6,178 residents. This is the kind of impact that should make us all sit up and take notice.

Meanwhile, though Fall River’s waterfront may envy New Bedford’s relative proximity to the open ocean, the city will fare far better in this kind of event. If the same scenario played out, Fall River would emerge relatively unscathed because of its situation far up the Taunton River. There would be no impact on city residents or houses, and even a sea level rise of 10 feet would affect fewer than 1 percent of city residents or houses.

Want to see this all for yourself? Visit

Thoughts on Coastal Development in the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

Because I’m at home, wind raging outside, trees bending, streets flooding, transportation suspended, a hurricane descending, my day turned upside down (a familiar feeling I once had as a twelve year boy with an unexpected snow day off school), I can’t stop thinking: why exactly do we build homes, or cities and towns for that matter, directly abutting our coastline? 

Of course the obvious answer is that our oceans, lakes, rivers and so on, provide a tremendously valuable resource to be situated next to.  It should, therefore, come as little surprise that we’ve been settling at the waters edge since the dawn of civilization.  That answer satisfied me for a little while, but then, just after the power went out and I could no longer watch the devastating footage of homes being swallowed by the sea, I again couldn’t stop thinking: but why does this mean we have to hunker down a stones throw from the ocean – one of the most dynamic, powerful environments on earth?  Surely there is a logical distance we can position ourselves without sacrificing accessibility to the water resource…right? 

When we think about choosing policy directions regarding coastal land use, the research essentially presents two main approaches: stay and protect ourselves from the impending sea or retreat from the shoreline over time and thereby remove ourselves from harms way.  A rich discussion about the benefits and costs to the variations of these approaches has begun in recent years ( is an excellent place to start accessing this information).  What’s interesting about this conversation is the growing acknowledgement of the frequently overlooked benefits of choosing retreat policies that allow for the natural migration of our shorelines over time.  Not only do these benefits help reduce human health and safety concerns, they also ensure preservation of coastal resources looking forward.  And perhaps most importantly, they do so without spending billions of dollars to rebuild structures only from them to be knocked down again.  When is enough enough?      

Unfortunately, policy options are more limited for cities and towns with existing conditions of heavy development.  However, less developed areas (several of which face increasing developmental pressures) allow for greater options in proactively implementing retreat policies aimed at removing the public from the ocean’s zone of influence.  Hopefully these growing cities and towns along our shores will continue to make these important considerations as they develop new policy directions that will reduce harm to ourselves and our environment.