Photo: Sandhill cranes along the Platte River

Sandhill cranes in Nebraska, United States.  Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic.

(ABC News)  Earth Day has been an American tradition for over 40 years now, and as we wrote last year, it has become a little less nonprofit and a little more corporate, much to the chagrin of some die-hard environmentalists.   Starbucks, for instance, is offering to fill up tumblers and washable mugs for free if you bring it in the store today, and last year’s Peat the Penguin plush toys caused mild outrage.  What happened to simply planting trees and raising awareness?  Why are we making ‘going green’ a commercialized trend instead of a noble goal? 

But alas, at the end of the day, if the news about our suffering earth is being spread, it’s being spread, nevermind in what mode.  So take heed and turn off the lights; recycle whatever you can, and switch off the tap as you brush your teeth–every little action helps.  And if you’re still scratching your head for ways to ‘go green,’ Earth Day Network , the nonprofit behind Earth Day festivities, is promoting A Billion Acts of Green–published pledges to keep the planet healthy. 

Happy Earth Day!

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For the Royal Couple, Give the Gift of Giving

(MSNBC) Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding plans have been sweeping headlines for months now, with the most recent news being that gift-wise, they prefer charitable donations to china.  Among other organizations, the royal couple listed a U.S. based charity, Peace Players, as a suggested donation opportunity.

Good News for Good Will

(The Atlantic)  2010 proved a better year for charitable giving, with 43% of charities tracking more donations than in 2009, according to a survey by the Nonprofit Research Collaborative.  As we’ve blogged about before and as is obvious, 2008 was a tough year for nonprofits due to the recession.  Various charts and graphs illustrating the NRC’s data show certain outliers to the study, notably that international and religious causes saw the biggest increase in donations, and the most substantial drop in donations was to art charities.

(New York Times)  Smile Train and Operation Smile, who announced a merger February 14, have reportedly called it off.  Frustrated donors and misinformed board members are just some of the dilemmas involved in the controversial merger.  An online petition protesting the merger finally resulted in its end.

In a Tough Economy, College Graduates Choose Public Service

(New York Times)  It seems the poor economy has a silver lining, at least in terms of the promoting the common good.  In 2009, 16 percent more college graduates took positions with the federal government, and 11 percent more started working for nonprofit groups.  Diana Aviv, chief executive of Independent Sector, a trade group for nonprofits, affirmed that “it’s not uncommon for [her] to hear of over 100 applications for a nonprofit position, sometimes more than that, and many more Ivy League college graduates applying than before.”  When the economy picks up, though, it is uncertain that these young people will maintain a career in public service.  Still, the idea of improving the world is appealing despite lower salaries.  “Now I’m serving a purpose” as opposed to “helping some large corporation sell more widgets,” said Alison Sadock, a young college graduate employed by the Starlight Children’s Foundation.  Mortages, children, and other financial burdens that accumulate with age may cause a career switch for the young people currently working in public service, but for now, it’s a good day for nonprofits.

(Business Week)  A minor increase in donations for US nonprofits leaves some hopeful that the economy is turning around, but times are still tough for charities and nonprofits.  Executive director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University Patrick Rooney said, “Technically, we’re in a recovery.  We are beginning to see some positive signs. But despite that, giving still has a long way to go to return to the levels it was at three or four years ago.”

(ABC News)  The Giving Pledge, a philanthropic endeavor brought about by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in early August, is in the news again.  The idea behind the Pledge is that the world’s wealthiest give away the majority of their monetary worth to solve global problems, such as hunger, health, and education.  Mr. Buffett, Mr. Gates, and Mr. Ted Turner discussed wealth, giving, and philanthropy in a recent interview. Though philanthropy and morality were discussed at length, politics also came into play.  Mr. Buffett stated that “tax breaks” for America’s richest is actually not a practical way to have the money “trickle down.” Mr. Buffett said, “Well, all I can say it hasn’t trickled. You know, as I said, a rising tide has listed all yachts, but the row boats have been left behind.”  The Giving Pledge continues to grow, with 40 new billionaires agreeing to pledge in the last three months.

(New York Times)  Things are looking up in the nonprofit hiring world.  After a couple of rough years in the economy, nonprofits are on the lookout for new hires again, says Ami Dar, executive director of Idealist.org.  The usual positions are available, such as openings for  fundraisers, administrators, and customer service professionals, but due to technological advancement, nonprofits are now looking–more than ever–for tech-savvy people who can communicate and develop nonprofits through the Internet.  Social-networking sites like Twitter and Facebook allow nonprofits to communicate their goals more quickly and to a broader audience.  Large nonprofits, such as the National Wildlife Federation, used Facebook, blogging, and Twitter to spread news and gather volunteers for the Gulf oil spill, for instance, and the Red Cross raised $32 million through texting after the earthquake in Haiti.  Though lower salaries are part and parcel of a career in nonprofits, people are still driven to work toward the greater good, says president of Flourish Talent Management Solutions, a recruitment team for nonprofits: “Increasingly people want to find meaning in their work.  They want to be connected to their communities and part of a larger movement.”

(New York Times)  David Bornstein’s blog about the profitability of microfinance companies details the controversies that inevitably arise with microfinancing, a $25 billion industry that gained ground about two decades ago.  Some argue that if microfinancing becomes substantially profitable, it will attract profit-seekers who lack the goodwill to help impoverished people.  Mr. Bornstein points out, however, that with increased government assistance–such as providing credit guarantees–microfinancing seems to be headed in the right direction.  He cites USAID’s help with Root Capital, a nonprofit social investment fund, as an example of this type of partnership.

(CNN)  Two bodies of aid workers, both women, were discovered in Afghanistan Sunday morning.  One of the aid workers is said to be the head of Mahjoba Herawi, an NGO.  More information about this recent tragedy is expected in the coming days.