On My Radar 4/24/09

* Web-Only News Site Stumbles
* Mystery Donor Mystifies
* Times Fdn Suspends Gifts
* Youth Volunteering Less


Mystery by flickr user davitydave
Mystery by flickr user davitydave

Here are the stories that interest me this morning, along with my take on why they might be of interest to nonprofits and community organizations:

  • Rocky Mountain News web-only news site stumbles. INDenver Times, an online-only news source built on the ashes of the shuttered Rocky Mountain News, had planned to go live as a subscription service on May 4. Financial backers killed the launch date, after falling far short of the 50,000 subscriber goal. Reports say the site only had 3,000 subscribers. Investors have scaled back the operation.
    • My take: As one of the first paper-to-Internet conversions, this was closely watched and it’s a shame. I think it says more about the difficulties of succeeding with a subscription model (Slate had long ago tried it and abandoned it) than it does about the financial viability of newsgathering in general. (Side note: I was one of the people who plunked down money for a Slate subscription.)
  • Mystery donor giving millions to women-led colleges. Someone is giving anonymous gifts of between $1 million and $10 million to a variety of colleges. Anonymous donations are not new, but in this case there’s a twist: not even the institutions know who the donor is. The person (or persons) has given up to $68.5 million, according to reports. All the recipient colleges so far are led by women.
    • My take: Nice to see some good news. Even nicer to see a donor so focused on mission that they are utterly allergic to publicity.
  • New York Times Foundation suspends giving. The New York Times announced that it would cease (“suspend”) giving through its foundation as well as through the Boston Globe Foundation. Current commitments will be honored but no new ones will be made. Starting May 22, the foundation will also cease matching Times employee charitable contributions.
    • My take: A shame but no surprise. Two trends at work here. Obviously, newspapers are on the ropes so cutting giving makes sense. But corporate philanthropy overall continues to wither. The growth area for nonprofits to look is individual donors, for a host of reasons I will detail in a separate post.
  • Youth volunteering down. According to a report by CIRCLE, for the first time since 9/11 youth volunteering has dipped, though it remains above the rate for parents.
    • My take: We may see a resurgence of public service from the new Serve America Act, but organizations still need to think creatively about how they can best use volunteers.

Thanks for reading,


Published by

Brad Rourke

Executive editor of issue guides and program officer at the Kettering Foundation.

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