Hetch Hetchy Valley, Yosemite National Park

"In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks.” –John Muir


DID YOU KNOW? If you have ever drunk from the tap in the San Francisco Bay Area, you have probably tasted the water from California’s breathtaking Hetch Hetchy Valley. Located in the northwest section of Yosemite National Park, the colossal man-made reservoir at Hetch Hetchy holds 117 billion gallons of water and provides nearly 2.4 million Bay Area residents with clean drinking water. Yet the construction of the O'Shaughnessy Dam at Hetch Hetchy, which controls the flow of the Tuolumne River and formed this massive reservoir, was far from smooth. The proposal to build a dam in the Hetch Hetchy Valley was met with an outcry of opposition from preservationist groups, led by environmental activist John Muir, who worried that the dam would artificially disrupt existing ecosystems and argued that the area should be left in peace. Supporters of the project claimed that the dam was a necessary solution to San Francisco’s growing number of water and power shortages, perpetuated by the devastating earthquake in 1906. Although the dam was eventually built, the controversy surrounding the Hetch Hetchy Valley marked a pivotal moment in the preservationist movement in the United States and raised awareness that would lead to countless more environmental campaigns. Today, many environmental nonprofit organizations, like the Sierra Club, have used the battle over Hetch Hetchy as motivation for dam-removal campaigns across the nation. According to the Sierra Club, more than 850 dams have been removed from rivers in the U.S. since 1999. But before taking your position in this complex environmental justice debate, let’s take a look at these five nonprofit headlines from the week.

1. Making Your Birthday Count

Hate getting gifts on your birthday? Try giving them instead. Facebook has recently introduced a feature through which users can celebrate their birthdays by crowdfunding for the organization of their choice. Anyone that can view their profile can then donate to their friends’ favorite causes without ever having to leave the site. Plus, Facebook will even take care of the processing fees. While some claim this new feature is nothing more than Zuckerberg’s latest publicity stunt, few can argue with its effectiveness. Since announcing this birthday fundraising tool just last year, Facebook has claimed to help its users raise over $300 million in donations to the nonprofits of their choice. In other attempts to become more “nonprofit friendly” and boost crowdfunding efforts on its platform, Facebook has also helped facilitate matching gifts and ways for users to collaborate on fundraisers to increase the scope of their supporters. To find out how your nonprofit can join Golden State Warriors point-guard Stephen Curry and organizations like the American Cancer Society in using Facebook’s birthday fundraising feature to affect positive social change, check out the link above.

2. Measuring Success: How Data Collection Might Be More Important Than You Think

While hardly the most glamorous part of any job, thorough data collection can play a crucial role in helping your nonprofit identify and eliminate roadblocks, secure funders, and satisfy board members. According to Forbes, rather than seeing it as a bothersome and otherwise unimportant activity carried out solely to fill out the more “boring” sections of grant proposals, data collection can serve as a powerful method for tying metrics to action in a meaningful and tangible way. While retrospective data analysis might be low on the priority list of a nonprofit with barely enough resources to carry out daily operations, many data collection technologies offer discounted prices to nonprofits and investing in these now are likely to be worth it in the long-term. To learn how to use data collection to your organization’s advantage by tailoring metrics to specific audiences, strategically choosing what information to collect, and engaging stakeholders in the process, visit the article from the Forbes Nonprofit Council above.

3. Staying Relevant in a Purpose-Led World

As recent studies continue to show correlations between adopting more meaningful, mission-driven business models and higher performance levels, more and more corporations are claiming to be “purpose-led.” While those doing nonprofit work are obviously no strangers to meaningful operating practices, standing out and succeeding in this new purpose-led world may require a shift in both mindset and behavior. Yet the newly blurred line between value-based for-profit organizations and nonprofits need not be a disadvantage to the latter. Rather, this new reality might serve as an opportunity for both the corporate and nonprofit sectors to share expertise and create greater, more sustainable change. Fast Company Magazine suggests that nonprofits use this shift to “see the corporate world not just as a funder or gift-in-kind provider, but as a genuine partner.” To find out how the emergence of more socially responsible companies can lead to long-term corporate partnerships for your organization, click the link above.

4. Creative Solutions at the Border

The New York Times reported that the current administration’s family separation policy being carried out along the U.S.-Mexico border has forcibly removed thousands of children from their parents who are seeking asylum. After a law professor at the University of Michigan tweeted that she had donated her frequent flier miles to Miles4Migrants, an international aid organization that uses donated miles to help migrants fly to countries that have allowed them entry, many followed suit. Since this tweet went viral, Miles4Migrants has received nearly 28 million donated miles to further their efforts at the border and beyond. For some, this unique strategy, of using not strictly monetary donations to help end separations one family at a time, might not seem like the most effective way to solve a problem so utterly dire and complex. Yet by taking the time to find a creative solution to a problem rather than simply funneling money into it, those at Miles4Migrants were able to spur widespread awareness and use “recycled,” non-monetary donations to address very specific, personalized needs. To learn more about the organization and get inspired to find creative ways for your funders to donate, visit the link above.

5. Donor-Retention: How It’s Changing and Why You Should Care

The latest report from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, which includes data from more than 13,600 charities, indicates a concerning trend in nonprofit donor and dollar-retention rates over the past decade. The report showed that between 2016 and 2017, dollar-retention rates, or the amount raised in one year from the same donors that contributed the year before, did not change. Donor-retention rates grew a whopping half a percent. According to the report, both of these measurements have remained under 50% in the last ten years, and overall donation rates are barely keeping pace with inflation rates. Due to the importance of donor-retention in reaching fundraising goals, this stagnation may prove to have crippling effects on long-term growth for many nonprofits. Among other things, the report suggests that your nonprofit continually monitor its various donor and type of donation categories and evaluate the return on investment in each. To find out why smaller nonprofits show worse fundraising gains than their larger counterparts and learn more strategies to counteract unchanging donor-retention rates, check out the article linked above.

That’s it for this week’s Friday Five! To see how you can witness the beauty of the Hetch Hetchy Valley for yourself, and find out how the recent outbreak of wildfires in California is affecting Yosemite, click here

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