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May 3, 2012 / Christian Clansky

Don’t judge a nonprofit by its admin budget…Local leaders urged to preserve human services funding…Taking a comprehensive look at Alexandria’s playgrounds [News, 5.3.12]

PHILANTHROPY | In an editorial for the LA Times, Jack Shakely, president emeritus of the California Community Foundation, laments the trend of funders judging nonprofits by their administrative costs. He says (LA Times, 4/30):

But our intuitive thinking system wants an answer now, and because we are intuitively inclined to believe that the nonprofit sector is filled with soft, amateurish executives, we latch on to the pseudo-science of administrative costs as a measure of excellence.

Thanks goes to the The Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation’s Angel Braestrup for sharing this article. We asked for her thoughts on the subject and she said:

Back when I first started working with new grantmakers…it was the drumbeat of fear around “excessive overhead” that really intrigued me. “Oh,” I would say, “at the Munson Foundation, we prefer that our grantees have enough good equipment, enough working telephone numbers, and enough space to devote their energy to the work and not workarounds.” And I would add, “And once we realized how many differences there were in calculations of overhead from one organization’s accountant to the next, we really felt that it was a lousy top-line metric for our program.”

Every so often, though, it is a metric that raises a red flag for a reason, so we don’t count it down and out either.

BUDGETS/NONPROFITS | In the Huffington Post, the Nonprofit Roundtable’s Chuck Bean and the Center for Nonprofit Advancement’s Glen O’Gilvie make the important case for preserving funding for human services as many of the region’s jurisdiction prepare to approve FY2013 budgets (HuffPo, 5/3):

We understand that this year’s budgets are slim because resources are tight. However, local nonprofit organizations that provide basic human services are already operating at bare bones levels after years of government cuts and increased need. This should not become the new normal. The region cannot fully recover if we continue to have large pockets of need.

Related event: On May 16, Maryland Nonprofits is hosting a session to look at how the Maryland legislature’s accomplishments and unfinished business during its 90-day session will affect nonprofits. Their website is confusing, but you can find more info there.

YOUTH | Yesterday, we linked to an article about a number of local cities being named the most “playful” in the country. Alexandria is one of the recognized cities, and two WRAG members are integral to the city’s distinction.

The Alexandria Childhood Obesity Action Network, which is co-chaired by the Northern Virginia Health Foundation’s Tricia Rodgers, has been spearheading an initiative to increase awareness of the importance of play and improve the quality of and access to playspaces in Alexandria. As part of the initiative, Kaiser Permanente funded a comprehensive assessment of Alexandria’s playspaces and how they address the needs of the city’s toddlers and preschoolers. Very cool!

POLITICS | As we wait to hear Harry Thomas Jr.’s sentence today, the City Paper’s Alan Suderman looks back at some of D.C.’s recent scandals. Most of the unethical behavior has been careless and obvious - like Thomas buying a luxury SUV and a motorcycle with the stolen funds – and Suderman observes (City Paper, 5/2):

Dumb luck and political motivations probably play a role in most corruption investigations, but in the District they appear to be the only factors, a situation that raises questions about the city’s ability to police itself.

HEALTH | Regional medical center in Prince George’s could break ground in 2014 (Gazette, 5/3)

TRANSIT | Arlington County and the City of Alexandria are each seeking funding from a limited federal pool for transportation projects, and the competition is creating tension between the jurisdictions. (Connection, 5/3) I wish they would stop arguing about their projects and just build an extensive network of ziplines throughout the region. Is that too much to ask?

ARTS/ECONOMY | Arts District Hyattsville has been named Maryland’s top economic development project by the Maryland Economic Development Association. (Patch, 5/2)


Did you see the Capitals game last night? The game went to nearly the end of a third overtime period, meaning that the players effectively played two consecutive games. We lost, unfortunately, but nobody could have asked for more from either team. Great stuff.

There won’t be a Daily tomorrow. You could spend your reading time going to see Marvel’s Avengers instead! I haven’t been more excited for a movie since Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was released in 1999.

Hope you all enjoy the weekend!

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