Our Favorite Posts of 2016
The new year is almost upon us, everyone is out of the office and the long weekend looms almost within reach. So, we’re taking it easy today, and you should too—by kicking back and reading (or re-reading!) some of these stories you may have missed in 2016. These aren’t our most-read stories or even the most important ones, but they’re a selection of our personal favorites, those we most enjoyed writing and reading.
We hope you enjoyed them. Let us know in the comments if there were any we missed. Happy new year—onward to 2017!
• Who Watches the Charity Watchdogs? Our longread on the tenuous relationship between nonprofits and watchdog organizations explored Charity Navigator’s vision for the sector and the many challenges that stand in its way. The story, which appeared in our March magazine, earned praise for its balanced approach and was our most-visited magazine story on the website after our 2016 Nonprofit Trends feature.
• Altruism: How Very Selfish of You. We’re not saying we softly wept to ourselves while reading this deeply personal, magnificent story from Katrina VanHuss, but we’re not saying we didn’t do that, either.
• How Much Do the Presidential Candidates Give to Charity? In the early days of the 2016 presidential race—before things got really nasty—the indispensable Allison Ebner spent days researching and compiling this item by item breakdown of each remaining (as of February) candidate’s giving habits. Come for the analysis, stay for Ted Cruz’s bacon video.
• Stay or Leave? Pros and Cons of Changing Jobs. Pamela Grow is a blogging machine for this site and others, but it was this post that really stood out. Grow explores an area most of us are too uncomfortable or too busy to discuss, laying bare the fears, anxieties and opportunities involved in deciding when it’s time to leave a job behind.
• How Oklahoma Cops Seized $30K in Charity Funds and Claimed It Was Drug Money. A look at America’s broken civil forfeiture laws and how crooked law enforcement officials are abusing them, and the story of a legal nonprofit who fought the system—and won. Alternately chilling and inspiring, this story sheds light on an issue most of us barely knew existed.
• What a Lost $75K Check Tells Us About How We Treat Donors. This story from Richard Perry, mercifully, has a happy ending. But it offers a valuable lesson in treating donors as partners rather than as sources of cash. This was one of our most-read blog posts of 2016, and for good reason.
• Bolivia to Bill Gates: We Don’t Want Your Damn Chickens. A fond remembrance of the time Bill Gates made all of Bolivia mad at him. This was our second favorite headline we got to write this year. (This was the first.)
• Scammer Targeting Nonprofits Has Multiple Aliases. Amanda Snyder was busy in the early months of 2016, doing some honest-to-goodness investigative reporting on the fraudster(s) repeatedly attempting a fake check scam on unsuspecting nonprofits. This particular story was just one of many Snyder wrote on this beat, but it’s the deepest dive and best example of her superb reporting.
• How I Screwed Up Our Marketing (and What You Can Learn From It). Everyone, understandably, wants to write and talk about their successes. That’s why we love this refreshingly candid story from Leigh Kessler on a marketing promotion gone wrong and the lessons we can learn from messing up. “You really have to work hard to motivate people—even those who care,” Kessler writes. We care, Leigh. We care.
• School Discovers $1.5M Gift Was Scam—After Spending Funds. Do not do this.
• Anti-Gay Group Accidentally Raises Thousands for LGBT Event. Who doesn’t love a good tale of comeuppance and just desserts? A couple of people in this article’s comments, apparently. This story got quite the (mixed) response from readers, but you have to admit the outcome is kinda funny.
• Overtime Pay or No Overtime Pay? What Nonprofits Are Doing (And What Should They Do?). Contributor Tracy Vanderneck goes deep on the dilemma many nonprofits faced when the U.S. Department of Labor’s new overtime rule was blocked just days before it was to go into effect. Firsthand accounts from several organizations affected make this story a must-read.
• What Happens to Charities When an NFL Team Leaves Town? A look at what the St. Louis Rams’ abrupt relocation to Los Angeles means for charities in The Gateway City.
• How This Donor Feels: What I Learned Donating $25 to 19 Nonprofits. Squeaking in right at the close of 2016 was this post from Pamela Barden, a deep and detailed look at how nonprofits communicate with small-dollar donors. There’s some eye-opening stuff in here, and some even better advice from Barden. Read it again.