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Archive for September, 2010

Sierra Club: #2 High Impact Nonprofit in the Bay Area for Climate Change

September 30th, 2010

Sierra Club has become somewhat of a household name and for a good reason. This organization has been hard at work since 1892! Experts ranked Sierra Club as #2 among our list of top climate change nonprofits. It’s not just marketing and longevity that keep this nonprofit in the top list, it’s impact.

Read what this longtime volunteer (and member of a national committee/team on responsible trade and workers’ rights), Suzanne had to say about her and her friend’s involvement with Sierra Club:

As two long-term volunteers with the Sierra Club, Joan and I spend much of our time with the Club’s Trade and Workers’ Rights Team, a national committee. Our introduction to Sierra Club’s trade campaign occurred in the late ‘90’s when a group of volunteers gathered near San Francisco for a training on globalization. This experience was a real eye opener for all of us. Back in those days, the terms “WTO” and “NAFTA” had a ring of respectability. Even our Democratic president whole-heartedly supported these trade policies. But we learned about what we could really expect to see happen, and, unfortunately, it all came true: jobs leaving our country as corporations seek cheaper and cheaper labor markets, deforestation, species extinction at a rate never before seen, and poverty and human rights violations.

The Sierra Club played an important role protesting the WTO in Seattle and at other demonstrations against an undemocratic global economic system. Our Trade and Workers’ Rights Team has the daunting task of keeping abreast of current trade policy and educating others on the resulting environmental and social impacts. We work closely with impressive and dedicated Club staff and trade and environment issues. Together we have accomplished a lot by pointing out the inequities caused by flawed trade policies to our fellow Sierra Club members, congressional offices, and those interested in learning more on these issues.

Just a few highlights of our work over the years include: organizing a weekend campout on the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation in Arizona to highlight the attempts of a gold-mining company to destroy native lands, and bringing several Mayans from Guatemala who testified what that mining company had done to their lands; coordinating two international “Border Tours” in Tijuana, Mexico to highlight the effects of NAFTA on Mexican workers; organizing speakers to address issues of environmental degradation and trade (such as the impact of illegal logging in Indonesia); and producing materials making the connections between trade, climate, and the need for green jobs and clean energy.

The Sierra Club is unique among environmental organizations.  We are involved in a myriad of issues which we must tie together to show that all of our many campaigns are really interconnected.

(Read more reviews from enthusiastic volunteers like Suzanne at:

Read more reviews from climate change experts here to learn more about the great work the Sierra Club is doing.

ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability: #3 High Impact Nonprofit in the Bay Area for Climate Change

September 29th, 2010

There’s so much variety in the top climate change nonprofits experts picked. ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability came in at #3 and has a particularly unique angle: they work with local governments to help them reach their sustainability goals.

Here’s a little bit more about ICLEI (for example, what does “ICLEI” stand for?) and its founding story:

ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability is an international association of local governments as well as national and regional local government organizations who have made a commitment to sustainable development.

ICLEI provides technical consulting, training, and information services to build capacity, share knowledge, and support local government in the implementation of sustainable development at the local level. Their basic premise is that locally designed initiatives can provide an effective and cost-efficient way to achieve local, national, and global sustainability objectives.

ICLEI was founded in 1990 as the ‘International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives’. The Council was established when more than 200 local governments from 43 countries convened at our inaugural conference, the World Congress of Local Governments for a Sustainable Future, at the United Nations in New York.

(Learn more at:

As you can tell, there are a lot of ways to affect change and make a difference in climate change. ICLEI is taking one unique, but necessary approach by supporting local governments and empowering them with the tools they need to make the biggest impact.

Read more reviews from climate change experts here to learn more about the great work ICLEI is doing.

Natural Resources Defense Council: #4 High Impact Nonprofit in the Bay Area for Climate Change

September 28th, 2010

In order to celebrate the outstanding, high-impact, effective nonprofits that our large group of experts recommended, we are highlighting the top 5 nonprofits working on climate change in the Bay Area. The Natural Resources Defense Council came in at #4 on the list. We wanted to hear from someone who has been involved with the NRDC.

Here’s a review of the NRDC by a monthly donor and someone self-described as having “incorporated environmental practices in his own life and encouraged others to do the same.”

The NRDC is an organization that is a positive and effective voice in environmental policy. They have a great website where they keep you updated on government issues dealing with the environment. You can send messages to your representatives through their site. It’s very easy, and from looking at results, also has an impact. They also have plenty of information on how to improve your own personal environmental choices and how to get involved in your community. They are highly rated by organizations such as Charity Navigator, so if you donate, you know your money is being spent correctly. I’ve seen the results of this organization how it makes complex government issues easier to understand, being a true advocate for change in environmental policy, and bringing a variety of ideas to the table on how to better our world both on a personal level and as a whole. What I’ve enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is how easy it is to stay on top of environmental news and how easy it is to get involved and donate. The communications I have received from the NRDC have been organized, intelligent, and have inspired me to act. I would like to see this organization continue its great work in protecting our environment and advocating change in destructive policies which harm every living being.

(Read more reviews at:

From clarifying issues, to bringing about change, to getting involved in your community, NRDC is leading the way. You can feel confident about supporting this top nonprofit.

Read more reviews from climate change experts here to learn more about the great work the NRDC is doing. #5 High Impact Nonprofit in the Bay Area for Climate Change

September 27th, 2010

As the newest organization (founded in 2008) on our list of top-climate change nonprofits in the Bay Area, comes in at #5! Have you heard of it yet?

In order to tell you a little bit more about each of these top nonprofits, we thought we’d share a story about the organization so you can learn more. For example, do you know the founding story of this start-up? And what’s the significance of “350” anyway? was started by environmental writer Bill McKibben and a team of seven friends from Middlebury College in Vermont. It originated from the Step It Up 2007 campaign, which culminated in over a day of action with 1,400 events in all 50 states, which advocated to cut carbon 80% by 2050. Within a week, presidential candidates John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama signed on to the 80% by 2050 target for the first time.

In 2008, the Step It Up team decided to take this model of uniting distributed actions online with a common message and see if could work at the global level. Around the same time, one of the world’s most respected climate scientists, James Hansen, published a paper setting 350 ppm as the safe upper limit of CO2 in the atmosphere. The abstract of the paper read that C02 must be reduced below 350 ppm in order to maintain a planet “similar to civilization developed and life on Earth is adapted.” Bill McKibben quickly seized on 350 as “the most important number in the world” and within weeks after Hansen’s paper their team launched

Their campaign quickly gained momentum. In December 2008, Al Gore endorsed the 350 ppm target and a few months later Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the International Panel on Climate Change, and influential economist Sir Nicholas Stern also signed on to the target. Their staff grew to 35 campaigners scattered across the planet, from internet cafes in Burundi to apartments in New Delhi. As their October 24 International Day of Climate Action approached, hundreds of partner organizations signed on board and thousands of volunteers got to work organizing local events. The result was truly spectacular. October 24 united over 5,200 events in more than 180 countries, what CNN later called “the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history.” Foreign Policy magazine referred to it as “the largest coordinated global rally of any kind.” carried this momentum to the UN Climate Meetings in Copenhagen in December 2009. At those talks, worked to support the 112 countries that endorsed the 350 ppm target. Those were mostly the most-vulnerable nations to climate change, the island states and African countries that new the devastating consequence of higher levels of C02. They helped mobilize tens of thousands of people in the streets of Copenahgen, organized thousands of candlelite vigils around the world with the TckTckTck campaign, and kept their supporters up to speed with Tweets and Facebook updates from the talks. Copenhagen, of course, did not produce the fair, ambitious and binding climate treaty that so many were hoping for. And so, this year, their work continues.

(Learn more at:

Experts had lots to say about what makes so successful and unique. Experts said has raised awareness on climate change, and motivated individuals to take collective action through its grassroots, creative approach. It had impressive visibility with their 350 campaign in the months and weeks leading up to Copenhagen. In addition, is the forefront of articulating a science-based bottom line for climate policy. They are very clear in emphasizing that we have to get to an atmospheric concentration of no more than 350 ppm CO2. To view more expert comments go here.

Press Release: 15 Top Bay Area Climate Change Nonprofits Identified by 97 Experts

September 26th, 2010

The longer we wait, the harder the problem will be to solve. –John Kerry

The eight warmest years since 1880 have all occurred since 2001 and it is estimated that temperatures will probably rise a further 1.1 to 6.4 °C (2.0 to 11.5 °F) during the twenty-first century. Human activity has caused most of this observed temperature increase, and if global temperatures are not addressed, these changes can cause tremendous climate disruptions globally.

While many Americans care about climate change, the portion of donations given to the cause are relatively small when compared to the total annual giving in the US. In 2009, $6.15 billion (out of about $300 billion) was given to environment and animal-related nonprofits (these two causes are grouped together in the Giving USA 2010 report). This represents just 2% of total charitable giving.

The Bay Area of California has a long history of involvement in the environment, especially around topics such as land conservation and open-space protection. And Silicon Valley specifically, (home to many tech start-ups) has a history of innovation around green tech, renewable energy, and sustainability. While there is work to be done at the national and corporate level, progress toward climate mitigation can also be made at the local level. Here, the Bay Area is uniquely suited to lead the way in reducing ones carbon footprint.

Therefore, Philanthropedia surveyed 97 Bay Area climate change experts (with an average of 8 years of work experience in the field) to identify those organizations that were making the biggest impact in the climate change field.

Philanthropedia’s experts (funders, researchers, nonprofit senior staff, government officials, etc.) identified 15 top climate change nonprofits (out of 112 total reviewed nonprofits) working in the San Francisco Bay Area. These organizations include associations, advocacy groups focused on transportation, research organizations, grassroots organizers, policy focused organizations, open space advocates, organizations promoting clean energy solutions, environmental health justice organizations, and more.

The following is the list of the top-recommended high-impact nonprofits working on climate change in the Bay Area. “Agree” is the number of experts who agree that the nonprofit has had the most impact in climate change. “Disagree” is the number of experts who disagree that the nonprofit has had the most impact in climate change.

15 Top High-Impact Nonprofits # of Experts who Agree # of Experts who Disagree Year Founded Location

Union of Concerned Scientists

56 4 1969 Berkeley, CA

ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability

53 2 1990 Oakland, CA

Sierra Club

56 5 1892 San Francisco, CA

Natural Resources Defense Council

54 8 1970 San Francisco, CA

45 5 2008 Oakland, CA

Greenbelt Alliance

40 5 1958 San Francisco, CA


35 2 1997 Oakland, CA

Climate Protection Campaign

32 2 2002 Santa Rosa, CA

Rainforest Action Network

36 6 1985 San Francisco, CA

Center for Biological Diversity

33 4 1993 San Francisco, CA

The Energy Foundation

34 8 1991 San Francisco, CA

ClimateWorks Foundation*

26 2 2008 San Francisco, CA

Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

28 11 1996 Oakland, CA

Communities for a Better Environment

23 7 1978 Oakland, CA

Acterra: Action for a Sustainable Earth

19 6 1970 Palo Alto, CA

*Philanthropedia enables donors to donate to all top-recommended nonprofits, however ClimateWorks Foundation, a top-recommended nonprofit, does not accept donations from individuals.

This week we will highlight the top 5 Bay Area climate change nonprofits. We invite you to visit the profiles of each of these top organizations on our website to read the expert reviews here: Experts commented on the impact each nonprofit has had, what the nonprofit’s other organizational strengths are, and how each organization could further improve.

We also invite your feedback here and on our website. Please tell us what you think and what experiences you’ve had with these organizations!

Bay Area Arts & Culture Top Nonprofit Countdown: Highlighting Nonprofits #6-10

September 25th, 2010

Of course, there are more than just 5 art organizations making a major impact on the Bay Area arts and culture scene. Here is some more information about the great work and impact top nonprofits #6-10 are making.

#6 Youth Speaks

Youth Speaks engages over 40,000 youth in the Bay Area in spoken word performances, writing workshops, and literary education programs and inspires them to find their voice and be positive change agents through the arts. They work with youth on literacy, creativity, self-expression, and awareness/respect of people different from oneself. Read more about them here.

#7 Oberlin Dance Collective

ODC, a premiere modern dance company has, over its nearly 40 years of existence, provided resources, venues, technical assistance, and promotion to thousands of dance, music, and theatre companies as well as individual dancers, visual artists, choreographers, composers, performance artists, and technicians. It is unique in the US in creating an integrated teaching, rehearsal, workshop, and performance venue serving not only its core company but was developed with the goal of sharing it with the entire community. Read more about them here.

#8 San Francisco Symphony

The San Francisco Symphony’s impact can be measured by the number of concerts performed, the quality of the concerts, the audience size, their radio broadcasts, the Keeping Score TV/DVD/Website project on PBS, the Adventures in Music Program, the SFS Media CD project (e.g. all the Mahler symphonies) and their national and international touring. The SF Symphony is one of the most recognized and best performing organizations in the world. Read more about them here.

#9 Joe Goode Performance Group

The Joe Goode Performance Group is a leader in the LGBT dance and theater company scene and broke new ground 20 years ago bringing LGBT issues into the mainstream. Joe Goode’s work has influenced a whole generation of modern dancers and choreographers since he began showing his innovative, provocative, and often humorous work in the early 1980′s. His company has trained and collaborated with hundreds of artists locally and internationally, creating a reputation for being a hub of contemporary dance-theatre. The organization has collaborated with community agencies such as the Larkin Street Project, and AID’s organizations, when its work delved into the issues of homeless youth and HIV/AIDS. This group produces great dance, offers wonderful workshops for not only dancers but writers, actors–really artists of all kinds. Read more about them here.

#10 Axis Dance Company

Axis includes a community (disabled) that is often marginalized from the performing arts because of facilities limitations and preconceptions about the disabled. Axis changes performers, presenters, and audiences by requiring equal treatment, including critical judgment. This is not “charitable” inclusion; it’s inclusion that results in greater unique creativity. The vocabulary of dance and partnering are forever changed. Exploring the human condition–struggles and triumphs–are often at the heart of artistic work. Axis is fearless in showing both awe-inspiring strength and heart-wrenching vulnerability. Read more about them here.

And there’s so much more! View our entire list of top 21 Bay Area arts and culture nonprofits here: and dig deeper to review what experts had to say about each organization. Especially if you are a Bay Area resident, we hope you will add arts and culture to your list of great causes to support this holiday season. You can feel confident that your donation is going to support an outstanding group of nonprofits making a real impact in arts and culture in your community.

Berkeley Repertory Theatre: #1 High Impact Nonprofit in the Bay Area for Arts & Culture

September 24th, 2010

Today we honor the #1 ranked arts and culture nonprofit in the Bay Area: Berkeley Repertory Theatre.

Robert Hurwitt wrote this review of the Rep last year:

Berkeley Repertory Theatre is fast emerging as one of Broadway’s most important “farm teams,” and that’s good news not only for the East Bay theater, but perhaps for Bay Area theater in general. In the past few years, the Rep has sent seven shows to Broadway and off-Broadway.

Asked how he explains the Rep’s success, [Artistic Director Tony] Taccone offers a qualification: “Whatever I say is going to sound irrationally coherent.”

The reasons he comes up with range from the company’s adventurous programming and the flexibility provided by its second, larger stage, the 8-year-old Roda Theatre, to experience, “the whimsy of fate” and being in Berkeley with “a unique audience and staff that’s excited by new ideas and new work.”

Others cite a factor Taccone omits. “Tony’s increasing presence as a director on the national scene” is a big part of it, playwright Tony Kushner says.

“Between Tony and Les, you’ve got two highly respected, major artistic leaders tied to the same regional theater,” says Oskar Eustis, artistic director of New York’s Public Theater, which co-commissioned “Passing Strange.”

“I would be hard put to point to another company with that kind of artistic firepower, which makes for a really attractive place for people like me because I know I’ve got some really good eyes and real colleagues paying attention to the show out there,” he says.

(Read more here:

According to our experts, Berkeley Repertory Theatre repeatedly produces high quality, ground-breaking work in theatre. This organization has raised the Bay Area’s stature on the national theater scene and is seen as one of the top regional theaters in the country. They are a leader in the development of new work that reflects the diversity of the East Bay. Their educational programs in high schools make theater accessible to youth (and at-risk youth) and involve students in playwriting and acting. They have a very engaged and challenging audience that allows them to take risks in ways that other theatre companies of their budget size cannot.

To learn more about Berkeley Repertory Theatre and their impact locally and nationally, read more expert reviews here.

Intersection for the Arts: #2 High Impact Nonprofit in the Bay Area for Arts & Culture

September 23rd, 2010

Our #2 arts and culture nonprofit received an incredible amount of praise from all experts surveyed. Among its many strengths/highlights: its incubator arts grant program has nurtured hundreds of individual artists and fledgling organizations to independence and it attacks issues around race and class head-on.

If you take a look at what playwright, Erin Cressida Wilson, had to say about her experience with Intersection for the Arts, you’ll see that she agrees:

Intersection for the Arts is the most amazing arts organization I’ve ever seen in my life. There are other organizations in this country that say they do what Intersection does, and they are a lot more famous. But only Intersection does it with such complete conviction. They naturally and organically embrace their community through the arts, through theater and their readings, and they don’t discriminate in any way.

You don’t have to be this color or that ethnicity or that gender or sexuality to play on their ball field. For me, as a white woman writing about people on the edge — some of whom are black, straight, gay, Latino — I’ve had a very hard time breaking into some of these more famous institutions because my visual look doesn’t correspond to what I am writing about. This is the only organization in the country that is organically interested in your work and not what grants they can bring in with it.

Meeting Sean [San Jose, Intersection program director] changed my life. Campo [Santo] did my play ‘Hurricane’ before they hooked up with Intersection. I had all but given up making theater because I could not find collaborators in this country. I had met Sean through the Bay Area Playwrights Festival in ’85, and I showed him all my work, including my novella ‘Trail.’ He encouraged me and worked with me closely in turning it into a play for him. And then he was cast in it, and it became a work by Intersection. It was incredibly rewarding because I had all but given up writing.

(Read more here:

Read more reviews from arts and culture experts here to learn more about the great work Intersection for the Arts is doing.

Giving is good… pass it on…

September 22nd, 2010

By Adam C. Bad Wound (learn more about Adam here: under the Alumni tab)

Now that the dust is settling, perhaps you’ve seen a criticism or two of the Giving Pledge, an effort to invite the 40 wealthiest individuals and families in America to commit to giving the majority of their wealth to the philanthropic causes and charitable organizations of their choice either during their lifetime or after their death.

The program has predicted that it will draw $600 billion into philanthropy — or about twice the estimated total amount given by Americans last year. But what does that say when a few dozen people give twice as much as everyone else combined? As Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post notes:

“With its “giving pledge,” the Gang of 40 has taken an important step in revitalizing America’s philanthropic institutions, but it will take much more to revive the virtuous cycle by which wealth begets opportunity which in turn begets more wealth. Whether at an individual company or in the country at large, it is the feeling that we are all in it together that creates the basis for a truly vibrant economy and just society. Trickle-down alone won’t cut it.”

Perhaps focusing on the massive wealth issue is a bit blinding.  For starters, Lewis B. Cullman, a 91-year-old philanthropist notes that “under current tax law, private foundations are only required to spend 5% of their endowment per year” and that “twenty percent of that may go to operating expenses.”  While “administrative bloat in perpetuity” is a common critique of foundation giving, why focus primarily on foundations?  What about the contribution of a building donor community?

The pledge notes that while it has “specifically focused on billionaires, the idea takes its inspiration from efforts in the past and at present that encourage and recognize givers of all financial means and backgrounds. We are inspired by the example set by millions of Americans who give generously (and often at great personal sacrifice) to make the world a better place.”

We feel that the message of the pledge program is somewhat similar to the Philanthropedia message: everyone can give and be part of a donor community.

Perhaps Michael Bloomberg said it best, when he stated, “And by giving, we inspire others to give of themselves, whether their money or their time.” Joel Fleishman and Thomas J. Tierney agree, “In philanthropy, nothing significant is accomplished by acting alone.”

What do you think? Are you inspired by this pledge? How have you changed your thoughts about giving because of this announcement?

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts: #3 High Impact Nonprofit in the Bay Area for Arts & Culture

September 22nd, 2010

As one expert put it, our #3 Bay Area arts and culture nonprofit, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) “presents exciting, risky, no-one-else-is-going-to-show-this-work exhibitions and programming.” YCBA has been impressing crowds since 1986.

Read this review from one enthusiastic supporter and art-viewer:

I am a frequent and loyal audience member for YBCA’s performing arts and film and video programming. There is nowhere else in the Bay Area where I can experience such adventuresome and accomplished work from around the world.

Each year I see daring experimental theater and contemporary dance nearly to my heart and mind’s content. Recent offerings from Japan, Uzbekistan, Mexico and London, as well as all the heavy hitters from around the US, enrich me enormously and make me glad and hopeful about art’s capacity for intellectual and socio-aesthetic inspiration. The performing arts series, as does the film and video, presents a terrific balance of local as well as national and international work. Both programs, along with the visual arts program’s Bay Area Now exhibitions, actively support the best of Bay Area art-making with the performing arts series commissioning new local dance theater works.

The film series also deserves special commendation for a bold curatorial vision, unearthing rarely seen treasures and some of the best independent international filmmakers that also inspire. Recent screening of television films by Michael Haneke, a retrospective by Argentina’s Lucrecia Martel, and Bay Area premieres of works by Mexico’s Carlos Reygadas and Thailand’s Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and the beautiful and only film by Jean Genet are just some of the highlights of the film programming. In other words, YBCA is one of the things most central to my life in San Francisco and is one of the main reasons I make the sacrifices I do to live here. YBCA definitely makes it worth it.

(Read more great reviews from supporters at:

Read more reviews from arts and culture experts here to learn more about the work YCBA is doing.

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