Welcome to News You Can Use! Each week (or thereabouts!), we will share with you the latest news in the nonprofit sector, as well as interesting headlines that affect the world we live and work in.
New York Times, 2/18
Neuroscientists have found that “many children growing up in very poor families with low social status experience unhealthy levels of stress hormones, which impair their neural development.” The effect is to impair language development and memory—and hence the ability to escape poverty—for the rest of the child’s life.
JVA: A sad but predictable statistic. Use it to create good in your needs statements for grants or organizations working with poverty-stricken families.
New York Times, 2/15
Nationwide, violence against the homeless is soaring, and overwhelmingly, the attackers are teenagers and young adults. In Florida, the problem is so severe that the National Coalition for the Homeless is setting up speakers bureaus to address a culture that sees attacking the homeless as a sport.
JVA: Wow. Did you have any idea? Has anyone heard of this problem in Colorado?
New York Times, 2/14
A higher percentage of students in public high schools are taking and passing Advanced Placement exams. The gap between the performance of black and white students, however, remains large. Last year, more than 15 percent of the 2.8 million students who graduated from public high schools scored a 3 or above on at least one A.P. exam. In 2002, 11.7 percent of the graduates got a 3 or better on at least one exam, as did 14.7 percent of the 2006 graduates.
JVA: This is mixed news; more students are passing AP exams, but we wonder about the modern “teaching to the test” syndrome, as well as exhibit concern over the continued testing gap between white and African American children.
Education Week, 2/12
Laboratory studies in mice and humans, for instance, show that exercise prompts the brain to produce greater amounts of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF, which Dr. Ratey likes to call “Miracle-Gro” for the brain. It encourages brain cells to sprout synapses, which are crucial to forming the connections the brain needs to make in order to learn. It also strengthens cells and protects them from dying out.
JVA: Great study for stats advocating for fitness and exercise programs.
Philanthropy Journal, 2/11
While grantmakers’ administrative expenses reflect factors such as foundation type and size, the existence and number of staff are key, a new report says. Conducted by the Center on Nonprofits at the Urban Institute, the Foundation Center and GuideStar, the study looks at the nation’s 10,000 largest foundations, representing more than three-quarters of foundation giving and assets in 2001. The vast majority of foundations studied, seven in 10, have no paid staff, and one in four report having no expenses at all that are related to mandated payouts.
JVA: An interesting report to help gauge your organization against the masses.
Rocky Mountain News, 2/8
DPS’ new school report cards will show student progress over time on 15 indicators of achievement. The report card shows the total number of points available for each indicator and how many points the school earned. It also uses a “stop light” color system to quickly show the trouble spots.
JVA: The more indicators, the better! Let’s see how this helps DPS in the long run.
Philanthropy News Digest, 2/5
Total corporate contributions in the United States and abroad amounted to $10.2 billion in 2006, up from $9.8 billion in 2005, a new report from the New York City-based Conference Board ( http://www.conference-board.org/ ) finds. Corporate U.S. giving ranged from $72,200 to $916.2 million in 2006, with median U.S. contributions at $10.7 million, $2 million more than in 2005. The study also compared U.S. giving among 146 corporations and foundations between 2005 and 2006 and found that their charitable contributions decreased by 6.3 percent to $6.7 billion in 2006 from $7.2 billion in 2005. Median U.S. giving among this group also decreased to $46 million in 2006 from $49 million in 2005.
JVA: Will this trend continue the way the market is headed?
Philanthropy Journal, 2/1
Salaries and compensation at U.S. nonprofits are beginning to mirror the for-profit sector, with higher salaries and decreasing benefits, a new study says. An annual study conducted by consulting firm Total Compensation Solutions shows a nearly 4 percent average salary increase between 2006 and 2007.
Ed Week, 2/1
Despite attracting high-powered backers such as Bill Gates, the much-touted school improvement program known as First Things First has yet to muster conclusive scientific evidence to show that it prevents students from dropping out of school, a federal research review concludes. The First Things First evaluation was one of two study reviews posted online Jan. 24 by the What Works Clearinghouse, which the U.S. Education Department set up to vet existing research evidence on the effectiveness of educational programs and practices. Clearinghouse researchers gave a better rating to New Chance, the second dropout-prevention program that was reviewed.
JVA: It goes to show that high-profile supporters and names don’t always equal a good product.
Philanthropy Journal, 1/29
The Foundation Center has launched a free online tool designed to provide better access to information about organizations in the nonprofit sector.The new Trend Tracker, a free search tool available on the Foundation Center’s Web site, is part of Fact Finder, a suite of tools that includes Foundation Finder and 990 Finder, both of which provide access to information on foundations and other nonprofit groups.Trend Tracker allows users to create charts and line graphs with detailed information on the nation’s top 20,000 foundations, as well as tables that display historical assets, gifts received, expenditures or giving information.
JVA: Is this a service you would consider using?