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The rich deliciousness of Blue Avocado . . . in-depth stories that give you the inside scoop.

Community Nonprofits: Katrina's Unsung Heroes Still on the Job

Three years after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, we hear about changes and challenges in New Orleans, but know little of the aftermath of Katrina in Mississippi even though the storm touched virtually the entire state.

Mississippi community nonprofits have seized this improbable moment to rebuild a more engaged and equitable state. Anne Pasmanick spoke to nonprofit leaders along the coast to bring Blue Avocado readers the largely hidden story of their efforts to use the region's recovery as a stepping stone to lasting social change.

"This disaster has woken us up in Mississippi," says Derrick Johnson, state president of the NAACP. "This is our one chance to sit down with all the decision makers and say what our needs and dreams are."

Profound challenges will dog the region for years to come. But in the aftermath of both the natural and the man-made devastation, the Mississippi Gulf Coast may be witnessing the beginning of the end of generations of marginalization. With the adoption of fruitful approaches to community work

Gas Rates, Volunteers, and Justice: Reader OpEd

Many people don't realize that on their personal tax returns volunteers can
deduct mileage expenses incurred as part of
volunteering. For example, if a volunteer drives 30 miles to volunteer at an art school or drive a patient to chemotherapy, the volunteer can deduct $4.20 on her next tax return. Even fewer people realize that in contrast, if this same person drives 30 miles for her business, she can deduct $17.55!

Clearly we need to help volunteers claim the deductions they can. And in this Blue Avocado Reader OpEd, activist Susan Ellis talks both about how we can change the law, and steps we can take now to supportvolunteerism in an era of high gas prices:

You may know that the IRS just raised the rate for the business-related mileage
deduction to 58.5 cents. But did you know that the charitable driving deduction
remains at only 14 cents a mile? So volunteers, who often use their cars to provide
life-or-death services to people in need, are deriving less tax benefits as their driving expenses rise.

This issue is particularly important since, as the cost of gasoline soars, Americans are trying to drive less. The high cost of driving is already . . .

More Than the Olympics: Sports, Nonprofits & Community

This month, sports eyes turn to the Olympics to see some of the world's greatest athletes compete for medals and country. As you settle into your couch to take in the pageantry and competition in Beijing, don't forget the impact that nonprofit groups have had in creating America's awe-inspiring performers - and in building communities.

You may not see a nonprofit logo on an Olympian's cap or the back of a superstar's jersey, but nonprofiteers are behind every great sport in the U.S. No athlete has reached the pinnacle of his or her sport outside the complex eco-system of volunteer, amateur, and community nonprofit sports.

Amateur sports embody "the best of nonprofit spirit: people getting together about something people care about," observes sports anthropologist Orin Starn of Duke University.

Sports nonprofits of all sizes touch millions of Americans by organizing . . .

Obama: the Nonprofit Sector's Favorite Son?

As never before in recent memory, all eyes are on the presidential election. And for Blue Avocado readers, part of the reason is that one of the candidates - Barack Obama - comes from the nonprofit sector. While presidential candidates typically begin their careers at private law firms or in government, Obama chose to begin his as an organizer and antipoverty advocate for a community-based nonprofit. His wife Michelle is a former nonprofit executive director. Other presidential candidates have shared Obama's commitment to civil rights, community empowerment and economic justice. But Obama is the first major candidate to have come from on-the-ground nonprofit work.

Veteran journalist Deborah Bolling spoke with antipoverty nonprofit folk to learn how they are reacting to a fellow nonprofiteer running for president.

When Senator Barack Obama rose to occupy center stage during his appearance at the Democratic National Convention four years ago, most Americans never imagined the spotlight he commanded then would shine even brighter now.

After a protracted primary battle with perhaps a remarkably formidable candidate, Obama has emerged as the presumptive Democratic nominee for president of the United States.

Obama's unexpected ascension is marked by at least three historical . . .

Just Tell Me: What's the Best Way to Raise Money? Choosing a Revenue Strategy

We're pleased that this article appears this month in the Grassroots Fundraising Journal as well.

It's aggravating to have someone say (at a board meeting, for example), "Look at how they over there raise money! That's better than what we're doing . . . we should do that!" Or for a funder to tell you what they think is the best way to raise money: from major donors, or from government, or from black-tie dinners, or . . . . you get the idea.

Think for a moment about two very successful stores: Target and Williams-Sonoma. Both sell cookware. Target sells inexpensive cookware through large stores in outlying areas and it advertises through newsprint inserts in local newspapers. Williams-Sonoma sells expensive cookware through boutique stores in high-rent districts and it advertises through glossy, full-color catalogs mailed to high-income zip codes. Each has put together a winning formula.

But what if Target were to try selling its colanders and measuring spoons at the same prices that Williams-Sonoma charges?

World Press Freedom Day: A Free Press and a Free Nonprofit Sector

Maggie, Lisa, Bart, Marge and Homer: the five members of the Simpson family. One in every five Americans knows who they are. But what are the five freedoms of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution? Only one in 34 of us know! Do you?

You probably remembered freedom of speech and freedom of the press. In addition to freedom of religion, two lesser known freedoms define a free nonprofit sector: the freedom to assemble, and the freedom to petition.

Promises, Promises: Rural Advocates vs. Big Philanthropy

When a foundation comes calling with big promises, community folks - and the nonprofits that serve them - often invest hundreds of hopeful hours to meet the funder's conditions. And when those foundations don't fund the community after all, anger, resentment, and disheartenment often follow. But it's rare for disappointed would-be grantees to take the foundation to court. Blue Avocado asked nonprofit investigator Rick Cohen to follow up on the aftermath of a troublesome encounter between a large regional foundation and a Washington state community. . .


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