Design of The Ocean Cleanup’s Deployment System

DID YOU KNOW? The largest beach cleanup in history is now underway – and this one will involve a whole lot more than a few concerned community members with sticks and trash bags. Once a pipe-dream of 18-year-old Dutch inventor and founder of The Ocean Cleanup, Boyan Slat, in 2013, the attempted massive cleanup of the 1.8 trillion pieces of trash floating in the Pacific will now become a reality. Ocean Cleanup, Slat’s nonprofit carrying out the ambitious project, operates with a mission of developing “advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic." Their target this time is an enormous vortex of trash located in in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii known as the Pacific Garbage Patch, which now covers around 1.6 million square kilometers and can be easily seen from space. Using a “floating boom system,” the organization aims to remove 150,000 pounds of plastic per year, which would put the team on track to clear half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within the first five years. While currently undergoing testing and set to be towed out in mid-October, the system’s capabilities remain somewhat uncertain, as its technologies have yet to be tested in the open ocean. Still, with no comparable deployable cleanup systems, this might be our best and only option. To learn more about Ocean Cleanup, its plan, and its partnerships with other environmental groups and tech billionaires like Marc Benioff, check out the article from Forbes Magazine here. But before learning about the technology involved in the cleanup, check out these five nonprofit headlines of the week.

1. Outcome or Result? Why Your Words Matter

Even the most seasoned writers would agree that using words like goal and objective interchangeably would get a similar point across. Yet for grant-writers seeking to score some cash, the difference between the two words could very well mean a loss of thousands of dollars in crucial funding. Barbara Floersch, the chief of training and curriculum at The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, claims that “the terms vision, goal, objective, outcome, result, and impact mean different things to different grantmakers.” Though some specifics of grant proposals, she says, are counted across the board. Regardless of the particular language in a proposal, funders will generally always need to see an idea of what you hope to accomplish with the funding and what would be the long-term impact of these accomplishments on your organization’s growth. Thus, if you are unsure what one funder’s definitions of certain terms are, by focusing on concepts rather than language in your writing, you might be able to get away with using the “wrong” word every now and again. And if you believe you will absolutely need a clearer definition of certain language to write a successful and cohesive proposal, just ask for it! Most funders would be happy to clarify. If for some reason you still find yourself stuck, take a look at Floersch’s “hierarchy of concepts,” designed to help nonprofits deconstruct ambiguous language and prioritize certain concepts in proposals. To read this four-point “hierarchy” and more, check out the article from the Nonprofit Times linked above.

2.  The Future of Pharmaceuticals

Most salary negotiations in the pharmaceutical world would likely consist of potential hires shooting higher than they would accept and ending up with an agreeable compromise. Martin Van Trieste, new CEO of the recently-formed nonprofit pharmaceutical company Civica Rx, adopted a slightly different strategy. Van Trieste has agreed to head the organization on a few conditions, one of which is that he will not be paid. With public trust in pharmaceutical companies quickly plummeting, several nonprofit pharmaceutical companies have emerged with the mission of combating skyrocketing generic drug prices and providing patients with affordable alternatives to essential medications. With nearly a third of the country’s hospitals having “either expressed interest or committed to participate in Civica Rx,” it seems apparent that the substantial lack of affordable health services has become a crisis recognized nationwide. Now, nonprofits like Civica Rx and Harm Reduction Therapeutics are seeking to fill this gap. Several philanthropic organizations have also jumped on board Civica’s mission, some pledging as much as $10 million dollars upfront to kickstart the company’s efforts. Yet, while these nonprofits have claimed a steadfast commitment to transparency, with trust in pharma companies at an all-time low, they face hurdles ahead. It may very well take a bold step like that of Van Trieste’s refusal to take a salary or the company’s creation of such a large coalition of healthcare organizations to ensure the skeptical public that they do indeed come in peace. So, if your organization is having trouble gaining public support, it might be time for a daring display of trustworthiness. To read more about the rise of nonprofit pharmaceuticals, their ambitious goals, and why they might have a bumpy road ahead, check out the article above.

3. Being Blunt: The Ongoing Battle to Increase Diversity in Your Nonprofit

Recent studies suggest that progress on increasing diversity within the nonprofit sector might not be as far along as we thought. Yet most in the field, including eight members of the Forbes Nonprofit Council who sat down to discuss the issue, agree that it remains a priority. Among the suggestions from these members on how to effectively approach the topic of diversity, Ronald Tompkins from 82nd Street Academics suggests “destroying the silence.” Rather than tip-toeing around the topic at a half-silent conference table while eyes are glued to the floor, Tompkins encourages nonprofits to be a bit more blunt. Candidly discussing how to make your employees look more like the community you serve will not only help the topic become less taboo, but could also lead to more successful hires, according to Tompkins. Indeed, while it is important to consider the value of diversity for diversity’s sake, your organization’s promotion of diversity in gender, class, race, and age, among others, will also help business. Kimberely Lewis, another member of the council, claims studies have shown that “companies with women in positions of leadership score high on levels of productivity.” Other suggestions from the council include recruiting from universities that promote diversity and focussing on maintaining an environment of inclusiveness after the hiring process is done. For more tips on how your organization can be  more than a bystander in the movement towards increased nonprofit diversity, check out the article above.

4. Being a 501(c)(3) . . . and Keeping it That Way

Before celebrating earning your official status as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, it might be wise to first understand what is required to maintain this status. Any threat to your 501(c)(3) status is a threat to the survival of your organization, and thus cannot be taken lightly. A report from the Nonprofit Risk Management Center identifies rules that nonprofits must follow in order to maintain their tax-exempt status in six key areas, including private benefit/inurement, lobbying, private political activity, reporting obligations, and more. Due to violations of provisions in these categories, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) revokes the status of over one-hundred 501(c)(3) organizations every year. Not all of these instances involve obvious, intentional refusals to abide by widely-known IRS requirements of say, for example, not endorsing political candidates for public office on behalf of your organization. Some may be more subtle, and are often even accidental. Among many other violations, the generation of undeclared unrelated business income (UBI), or a failure to file either Form 990, Form 990- EZ, or submit online electronic notice Form 990-N to renew your organization’s status with the IRS, might all result in a revocation of tax-exempt status. Looking to avoid the potentially disastrous consequences of these mistakes and ensure the renewal of your 501(c)(3) status? Easy. Familiarize yourself with current guidelines and stay updated as they change. To get more information on avoiding activities that might threaten your 501(c)(3) status, click on the article from the Nonprofit Risk Management Center above. To sign up to receive periodic updates of Exempt Organization issues that might affect your organization, visit

5. Maintaining Innovation in Collaboration

Small-scale nonprofits know all too well the challenges of spreading their message to a broad audience. Yet, also quite familiar with the practice of collaboration, many smaller nonprofits have vast experience in pooling resources from organizations with similar missions to tackle more sizable projects. Recently, we have seen this trend exemplified in the nonprofit media model. According to a an article in The Conversation, a nonprofit news source, the modern nonprofit media model in the U.S. is a surprisingly recent phenomenon, having only really taken off ten or so years ago. Lately, these outlets have started working with both nonprofit and for-profit newsrooms with the belief that by joining forces, “they can inform bigger audiences about the problems like corruption, environmental dangers and abusive business practices.” Challenging the common conception of cutthroat journalists hiding sources and withholding information, these news outlets are voluntarily and happily sharing coverage of stories to help increase both content quality and viewership. Some such newsrooms have grown rapidly, such as the Institute for Nonprofit News which grew from 27 to 100 publishers in less than a decade. Critics of the trend remained concerned that this sharing model might stifle innovation, since smaller publishers would likely have to cover stories that more closely resemble mainstream news articles in order to get enough viewers. So, if your organization is looking to collaborate to expand its audience, you are not alone. Just be sure to not leave your unique perspectives at the door in the process. For more information on these nonprofit newsrooms and how they are navigating collaboration, check out the article from the San Francisco Chronicle above.

That’s it for this week’s Friday Five! To learn more about the complex technology involved in The Ocean Cleanup’s deployment system, click here.

Can’t get enough of the Friday Five? Follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and send your questions about the nonprofit world to See you next week!