I’m back

horsebackSo, it has been nearly a year since I shared with you that I was taking a full-time position building an ambitious health portal for Philly.com. It has been a great journey.

We launched a blog for parents with contributors from hospitals all over the Philadelphia region. We created a sports medicine/fitness blog with an expert panel that included the team doctors from the Phillies, Sixers, Eagles and Flyers, among others. We added eight in-depth health topic pages. We built an aggressive social media presence on Facebook and Twitter and tackled some crowd sourcing efforts. We told stories through pictures and data, and provided extensive coverage of fitness-related events like the Philadelphia Marathon. We more than doubled traffic and revenue. The channel is poised for great things.

Now, my contract is up, and I am in search of the next challenge.

As usual, I’m not sure what the future will bring. I’m open to consulting work, contract projects, full-time offers. Anything that has to do with Web, social media and content development and strategy. And I’m looking forward to reconnecting with all of you. It’s good to be back.

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Fork in the Road

Almost two years ago, I shared with you on this blog that I was leaving the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation after nine years to go out on my own, helping organizations with Web and social media strategy. It has been a great couple of years. I made a host of new friends, had a chance to speak all over the country, tackled several challenging projects, and learned more than I can say. Now, a new adventure has come up to meet me.

I was happily chugging along in my consulting world about a month ago, when an executive recruiter called. It was the second call from a recruiter that day, and one of many over the past several months. This recruiter outlined an opportunity to provide the Philadelphia Media Network, owners of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and their joint Web site, philly.com, with a vision and strategy for health. They wanted someone who could help build an ambitious portal on everything health in Philadelphia. I told the recruiter that sounded interesting. The next thing I knew I was interviewing and listening to the company’s vision. A few days after that, I accepted their offer. As a Philly boy, born and raised, whose first job was as a paperboy delivering the Philadelphia Bulletin, who still has ink in his veins from his early days as a newspaper reporter, how could I not?

Two years ago, heading out on my own, I said that I was nervous and excited at the same time, as I moved into the world of consulting. This time I’m just flat out excited. And once again it feels right.

I’m not sure what will become of this blog, as I dig in on my new position. What I am sure of is that I appreciate all of the help I have received from you, my friends and colleagues. Going forward, you can reach me at my new email address (lblumenthal@philly.com). You can still follow me on Twitter at @lblumenthal. I hope we can stay in touch.

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Roll-Up-Your-Sleeves Philanthropy

Few family-based foundations tackle social problems in quite the same way as the Hunt Alternatives Fund, which prides itself on its collaborative, roll-up-your-sleeves, grassroots approach to philanthropy.

In the latest installment of our podcast series for the Philanthropy News Digest, co-host Bill Silberg and I talked to Swanee Hunt, founder and chairman of the fund, about her focus on advocacy and transparency.

A former ambassador to Austria during the Clinton administration, Hunt also chairs the Institute for Inclusive Security, which works to integrate women into peace processes around the globe, and is the Eleanor Roosevelt Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She is, in addition, the founder of the Women and Public Policy Program at KSG, on the faculty at the school’s Center for Public Leadership, and a senior advisor to the working group on modern-day slavery at the Carr Center for Human Rights.

You can listen to the podcast here. Feel free to share your thoughts on the Ambassador’s approach to philanthropy in the comments section.

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Evaluating Foundation Evaluations

A recent survey by the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) uncovered two facts that shed a bright light on the current state of performance assessment by foundations.

On the one hand, more than 90 percent of foundation executives put a high priority on measuring the success of their work. On the other hand, well over half say gaining any meaningful insight from performance assessments is a challenge.

In the latest installment of our podcast series for the Foundation Center’s Philanthropy News Digest, co-host Bill Silberg and I talked to Phil Buchanan, CEP’s president, to get to the root of the situation. Buchanan explained how assessment has changed over the past 10 years, what lies ahead, and even tackled the issue of whether foundations are emphasizing evaluations to the detriment of innovation. Read the rest of this entry »

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Lighten Up, Francis

As they move into the less-buttoned-down world of social media, staff at many organizations face an interesting challenge.

Success with social media tools requires that you loosen up a bit, let a little of your personality peek through—even offer a little self-deprecating humor. These are not things that most people are comfortable indulging in as part of their role at work.

I’m here to tell you that it can be done. Foundations and nonprofits can provide a little glimpse behind the scenes, offer some humor, some light-heartedness, even admit they don’t have all the answers, without letting go of their serious missions to make the world a better place.

In a piece for the Communications Network blog, I offered five relatively small steps that can help organizations let their personalities shine through and get more notice in the free-wheeling world of social media. Read the rest of this entry »

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Creating a Community from Thin Air and Potential

When a major, private foundation asked me early this year to help launch an online community, a bunch of questions swirled in my head. Why would this group—over 900 current scholars and fellows from 18 different programs—want to participate in this community? What is the value for them? Do they think of themselves already as a community? If not, how do we alter that mindset? Can we move a group that typically sticks to its program silos to connect across disciplines?

We are eight months into this effort, and don’t have all the answers, but I have a few lessons to share from the work, so far, for anyone looking to build a similar community. Read the rest of this entry »

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Beyond Giving

In her first book, Forces for Good, Leslie Crutchfield and her co-author (Heather McLeod Grant) showed nonprofits how to increase the impact of their work. Now she has set her sights on the other side of the equation—philanthropists.

In the latest installment of our monthly podcast series for the Philanthropy News Digest, co-host Bill Silberg and I talked to Crutchfield about her recent book Do More than Give: The Six Practices of Donors Who Change the World.

In the book, Crutchfield and her co-authors, John Kania and Mark Kramer, advocate for “catalytic philanthropy”—a somewhat radical approach that pushes foundations out of the comfortable world of making grants into the dynamic world of being agents of social change. The book offers six best practices from several foundations and philanthropists who have learned how to have a powerful impact. Read the rest of this entry »

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