The Tricky Business of Criticizing Big Philanthropy

Dissent has published a smart primer by Joanne Barkan on “how to effectively criticize big philanthropy.” The piece uses education reform as a way to talk about how unregulated mega-foundations can exert influence on policy outside of the democratic process. Barkan talks us through a few common “challenges” you might hear when, say, you have a little too much wine at a dinner party and decide it’s time to be that guy.


TOMS Gets Into the Coffee Business

TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie took to the stage at South by Southwest to announce that he’s opening a coffee business. From Forbes.


Who Benefits from “12 Years A Slave’s” Oscar Bump?

The Academy Awards are a meaningless popularity contest decided by out-of-touch old white men in suits with the help of an occasional white lady. But if your movie wins one, an Oscar can help make a significant difference in how posterity treats it and, more immediately, in how much money it makes. 12 Years a Slave, which raked in a very respectful $140,000,000 worldwide before it won Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay, is beginning to enjoy its Oscar bump–or perhaps, bumps:

12 Years will make a major expansion in U.S. theaters — Fox Searchlight will be playing the movie in more than 1,000 theaters — even though the slavery drama comes out on DVD Tuesday. … Beyond the big screen, best picture winner 12 Years a Slave is getting a post-Oscar bump for the book it was based on. The 19th-century memoir by ex-slave Solomon Northup jumped from No. 326 on before Sunday night’s Academy Awards ceremony to No. 19 on Monday afternoon.

According to the New York Times, the movie launched its source material to the bestseller lists this past fall. Now its trajectory is steep enough that Oscar-winning director Alfonso (“Gravity”) Cuaron could be called in to film it. When your intrepid author checked on Tuesday, March 4, the paperback remained in the top 20, while the Kindle version had jumped to #17 overall and #2 on several specific lists:

• #2 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Sociology > Race Relations • #2 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > History > Americas > United States • #2 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction

People are rediscovering a lost classic and paying for the privilege! Terrific. But in a case like that of 12 Years a Slave, when the memoirist is long-since deceased, who profits from the book’s Oscar bump? Not to be all Upworthy about it, but the answer may surprise you.


After 12 Years of Sponsoring a Haitian Child, What Kind of Difference Do You Make?

Jonah Ogles spent 12 years sponsoring a kid in Haiti named Ervenson through a Christian organization called Compassion International. He sent $35 a month, or a total of $5,000, which went towards paying for things like food, health care, books, supplies, and tuition at Christian schools. Jonah flew to Haiti to meet Ervenson, and because he was curious how much a difference his sponsorship made in Ervenson’s life. He wrote about his experience for Outside magazine.


Volunteering Doesn’t Need to Be a Drag — Ask Me How

Volunteerism: A primer for success


The Wealth We Have to Give

That’s Casey Cep on giving to charity, who argues that it’s easy to rage against the one percent and equally as easy to forget that their greed is just a magnification of our own—that the rich can afford to do more with their billions, but that some of us could probably afford to do a little more too (and yes, some of us truly can’t afford to give more, and that’s fair). Basically, we’re all on this together.


Possible Responses to My Boss’s Email Asking for Donations to His Marathon Training Team (For Cancer)

No thank you.


Caring Capitalism

Pacific Standard columnist Casey Cep points out that we all have good intentions when buying products from companies that donate a part of the money to make to charitable causes, but if we really want our dollars to make a greater impact, we should donate directly to the causes we want to support. I’ve always wanted to buy a pair of TOMS because I like the idea that the company will help a person in need for every pair of shoes purchased (their so-called “one for one” movement), though I have to admit that I’m more keen on the giving part, and less on the actual shoes part, so it’d make more sense for me to just give.


Charitable Giving Has Its Critics

Everything has a critic, including generosity. We give money to the things that are important to us—to churches, to organizations that support the poor and homeless, to arts organizations—but researchers at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy have found that wealthy donors disproportionately choose to give money to top-tier colleges, and arts and culture organizations like museums and symphonies, according to Marketplace.


It’s the Season of Giving (Back)

Last night, I attended a fundraiser to raise money for a children’s literacy program that was organized by a friend. It’s the season of charitible giving, and there are a ton of these kinds events and programs going on.


Pope’s Office Says to Search Out the Poor, Help Them

Nevertheless, this article about the revived role of the Vatican Almoner is kind of the best (and the book is short but fascinating if you love Flannery O’Connor!).

The Vatican Almoner, if you aren’t familiar (and…who is?), is a role that originated in the 13th Century, one that traditionally involves giving “one-on-one doses of emergency assistance to the poor, sick and aged.” Until recently the job was more of a formality given to pre-retirement diplomats, but Pope Francis has ramped up the position and hired the young-ish, trusted Archbishop Konrad Krajewski as his one-man almsgiver.


Food Lines Around the Holidays

“Myths can be comforting,” Ms. Purvis said. “Who wants to believe you can work your whole life and end up not being able to afford food? You want to believe those people had to have had something go wrong with them, in order for them to end up in that place. It’s scary to think you work two jobs and not be able to afford food.”

…From Brooklyn to the Bronx, in churches and community centers, she found a range of food pantries: from well-stocked, efficiently run operations to mom-and-pop outfits where good intentions exceeded capacity. What they had in common was need, with people waiting three hours or more for a bag of basic grocery items. Meat was a treat. In some places, baby formula and diapers were among the necessities handed out. Ms. O’Loughlin said that while most of the places she visited limited people to a monthly allotment, more resourceful people trekked to different pantries around the city. Following them home, she saw scenes where people huddled in building lobbies to trade food items or went upstairs to share with homebound neighbors.

The quote is from Margarette Purvis, the president and chief executive of Food Bank For New York City in Lens, the New York Times’s photography blog, which has images of food lines today. Thanksgiving and the December holidays are the times when donations to food banks and other charities that help the hungry and needy see big increases, and people are hyper aware of the places that are trying to help. It’s a good reminder that these food lines exist year-round. (See also: “How a Food Bank Changed a Community,” an excerpt from Melville House from earlier this year.)

Photo: State Farm