Good intention not enough to run charities

Madonna's failed bid to open a school for poor girls in Malawi shows that running a successful charity requires not just good will but also a solid business plan, philanthropy experts say. The singer, her manager and others have taken over the board of Raising Malawi, co-founded by her in 2006, and scrapped plans for building a school in the southeast African nation, The New York Times reported.

About $3.8 million had already been spent on plans for the school with little to show for it, the newspaper reported. Madonna, who has adopted two children from Malawi and visits regularly, declined to comment on the Raising Malawi problems.

"Having good intentions and good will is not enough," said Melissa Berman, chief executive of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. "Many of us like eating in restaurants, but that doesn't really mean we're in a good position to start one. It's a hundred times harder to start a school than to give money to a school that exists."

Madonna is not the first celebrity to face challenges in their philanthropy. A school built by media mogul Oprah Winfrey in South Africa has been tainted by allegations of sexual assault, while hip hop artist Wyclef Jean's Yele Haiti Foundation was accused of mismanagement.

"The charitable function can't be accomplished without a business-like approach and a good governance approach," said Doug White, of New York University's Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising. "These people who come in and say 'I can do it better' tend to have successes in other fields or endeavors and as a result bring an ego to the process that really is misplaced when it comes to assuming they can do a good job putting a foundation or a charitable organization together. The philanthropic world can't escape the need for good business practices," White said. "Hopefully this can not only be a learning lesson for Madonna, but for others.


Nonprofits feel continuing Recession

For anyone looking for signs that the recession is over and that things are brightening, a just released survey of 1,900 nonprofits in the United States offers little comfort. Findings from the survey conducted by Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF), with support from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, show that the heads of these organizations expect that they'll be tested again in 2011 as they try to cope with increased demands for their services from people who also are struggling.

Of those responding to the survey, some 85 percent expect they'll be asked, as they have over the past several years, to do more, but less than half – 46 percent – feel they'll be able to fully deliver. This year marks the third in as many years in which more than 70 percent of organizations have been seeing increased demand for services.

Nonprofits are coping by either getting creative through strategic collaborations with other service providers in their communities, finding ways to cut costs, or relying on more volunteer help.


What Americans Give To

More than half of the money given to charity by Americans goes to religion, even though it ranks fourth when donors are asked which type of organization actually needs the money.

According to a national survey by The NonProfit Times and infogroup/Nonprofit, religion ranks behind education, health and civic organizations when Americans were asked which type of organization is most in need of financial help right now.

But when you examine the Giving USA numbers, the annual compilation of American philanthropy, religion has received more than one-third of giving by individuals in all years from 1992 through 2009.

Another interesting element of the results is how people changed in their outlook as they age. For example, the members of the 28-46 age group in 1992 are now 45 to 64, and respondents ages 45 to 64 in the survey are more likely to see religion as needing financial report than people in that generation did 18 years ago.

Also from the 2010 survey results, in response to the question "Which types of nonprofit organizations do you think is most in need of financial help right now?” 8 percent of respondents chose “overseas crisis/relief”.


UK seeking to meet Millennium Development Goals

The BBC reports the UK is to stop direct aid to 16 countries, including Russia, China and Iraq. But, overall, the international development budget will rise by a third in this parliament, it says, and spending would be a "good deal better focused".

Resources will be concentrated on the 27 countries that account for three-quarters of the world's maternal mortality and malaria deaths, such as Ghana and Afghanistan. By 2014, 30% of UK aid is expected to go to war-torn and unstable countries.

India is currently one of the biggest recipients of UK development aid, and there have been media campaigns in the UK suggesting an economy growing at nearly 10% a year simply does not need British assistance. But others point out that nearly half a billion people in India are still desperately poor, and efforts to reduce global poverty will not progress without significant aid.