Flickr, TW Collins
Clay Holtzman, in his new blog Nonprofit Kingdom, notes that a year ago the Seattle microfinance firm Unitus closed its doors, laid off most of its staff and didn’t really tell anybody (including some major donors) why it did so.
Unitus, which had claimed its primary mission was to help poor people, also happened to have made a lot of money — having invested in an Indian company, SKS Microfinance, which had pursued this anti-poverty financing scheme as a for-profit venture.
Here’s a New York Times piece on the controversy about SKS making money while fighting poverty. Here’s what I wrote at the time Unitus closed its doors and a more recent post I did on the broader implications of all the weirdness. Here’s another post from last year that Clay cites as a good overview by Philanthropy Action.
Now, as Clay notes, Unitus has been resurrected as Unitus Labs. Here’s what Clay says:
Many wondered what the new mission would be, and why Unitus had to close so quickly. Unitus recently unveiled its reorganization plan, and while the charity will use a different approach to reduce poverty, its new business strategy appears very similar to the one that sparked an international controversy last year.
The Seattle Foundation’s GiveBIG “day-of-giving” campaign last week attracted about 18,800 donors and raised $4 million to support some 900 local philanthropic organizations.
The event, organizers say, turned out to be “The biggest single day in charitable giving in King County history.”
It was also, apparently, a big day for the banks and credit card companies which reportedly charged significant transaction fees (about $45,000 for every $1 million donated). And it was maybe not such a big day for Seattle’s globally oriented do-gooders as most of the donors appear to have focused on local needs.
Still, as former Seattle Mayor and president of the Seattle Foundation Norm Rice said: “This event represents the democratization of philanthropy, in which everyone can make a difference in the world around them.” Continue reading
Trying to cover all these do-gooders in Seattle and hereabouts is hard enough without something like this happening. Earlier, I bemoaned the Seattle Times’ Kristi Heim ending her “Business of Giving” blog.
Now, journalist Clay Holtzman, who has covered the local philanthropy scene for years, is leaving the Puget Sound Business Journal to take a job as a writer for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Here’s his post on the move.
This is a loss for the community, which I believe benefits from having independent journalists reporting on it, and for me — since I prefer to have him do the work crafting a story that I can then just link to. Continue reading