Connect With Us
YouTube
RSS

Weekend Link Roundup (July 22-23, 2017)

July 23, 2017

Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

According to the best-case scenario — a drastic reduction in greenhouse gases across the world — 48 percent of humanity will be exposed regularly to deadly heat by the year 2100. But "[e]xtreme heat isn’t a doomsday scenario," writes Emily Atkin in The New Republic, it's "an existing, deadly phenomenon — and it’s getting worse by the day. The question is whether we’ll act and adapt, thereby saving countless lives."

Puppy_with_fork_hiResCommunity Improvement/Development

In a Perspectives piece on the MacArthur Foundation website, Tara Magner and Cate A. Fox discuss how the foundation's newly appointed Chicago Commitment team is beginning to think about its work to make Chicago a more connected and equitable city, and the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.

Education

After twelve years, the Moody's Foundation has dropped its sponsorship of the Moody's Mega Math Challenge, a national math modeling competition for high school juniors and seniors, and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, which runs the competition, is looking for a new sponsor. Forbes associate editor Alex Knapp has the details.

Environment

According to a new report from international environmental NGO Global Witness, two hundred environmental activists were murdered in 2016, more than double the number who lost their lives defending the environment just five years ago. And the violence continues, with more than a hundred activists murdered in the first five months of this year. On the Skoll Foundation website, Zachary Slobig talks with Global Witness' Billy Kyte about the  “culture of impunity” that is enabling these gross violations of human rights.

Giving

There are clever tax avoidance schemes involving the charitable deduction, and then there's this one. Peter J. Reilly reports for Forbes.

On the TriplePundit platform, Lee Rhodes, the founder of glassybaby, a manufacturer of hand-blown glass candleholders, explains how she successfully incorporated charitable giving into her young company's business model. 

International Affairs/Development

Big humanitarian NGOs must “change or die,” a new report, The Future of Aid: INGOS in 2030, argues. "The shift in power and resources from the northern hemisphere to the global south could render international aid organizations irrelevant by 2030," writes the Guardian's Karen McVeigh, citing the report. By then, 46 percent of people will live in countries affected by "fragility, conflict or violence." And without "concerted efforts" to evolve, international non-government organizations "will be sidelined by more efficient, adaptable actors — from the private sector [and] religious groups, [to local civil society and armed forces."

Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther's latest spotlights Spark MicroGrants "a small NGO that practices what's called community-driven development, an approach that invites communities to design, execute and manage their own aid projects — farms to feed families, power lines, schools or roads" — and, according to a growing body of evidence, may also help to create "stronger governments and institutions."

Colombia’s historic peace accord is a once-in-a-generations opportunity for philanthropy to advance the UN's sustainable development agenda and improve the lives of Columbia's poorest citizens and communities. Juan David Ferreira, a consultant for Asociación de Fundaciones Empresariales y Familiares-AFE Colombia, and Merybell Reynoso, an international communications consultant for the SDG Philanthropy Platform, explain.

Nonprofits

Collaboration, as many of you have heard or experienced, is challenging. So when does it make sense for nonprofits to collaborate, and what can they do ahead of time to ensure the success of any collaborative engagement? In a post on her Social Velocity blog, Nell Edgington has some commonsense advice for nonprofits thinking about taking the collaboration plunge.

Philanthropy

In a Q&A with Foundation Center's Jen Bokoff, Laurie Tisch, founder and president of the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, talks about her philanthropic investment strategy and why she chooses not to be a passive donor.

What happens when a foundation puts residents in charge of local grantmaking? In a post on the NCRP site, Liane Stegmaier, director of communications at the Brooklyn Community Foundation, shares the happy results.

Science/Technology

The future is here and, for well-resourced nonprofits, it includes ingenious texting bots. Beth Kanter explains.

Social Science

And some food for thought from Vox and German Lopez: "Research says there are ways to reduce racial bias. Calling people racist isn’t one of them."

 That's it for this week. Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

What Does Advocacy Look Like in the Current Moment, and How Should It Be Funded?

July 21, 2017

Pcas-support-250x300For twenty years, Urgent Action Fund (UAF) has supported frontline activism in the United States and around the world. The need for our funding has never been more apparent, especially here in the U.S. Activists — particularly those who are black, queer, Muslim, or undocumented, as well as others whose identities make them a likely target of threats — are operating in a different environment now.

In reflecting on our work over the past six months, I've identified a few keys to what effective organizing in the current era looks like, and how we as funders can respond.

1. The success of a progressive agenda is dependent on a groundswell of grassroots mobilization and support. Civil society has a heavy lift right now when it comes to defending existing rights and preventing a rollback of the gains we have made over the past few years. We need to recognize that if we are to create additional momentum and sustain our victories, the grassroots need support. Looking back, it's clear that hard-won legal victories — the Voting Rights Act, Brown vs. Board of Education, Roe vs. Wade — could not have been secured or sustained without the actions of vigorous and committed social movements. But because they are harder to fund, because being on the frontlines means they don't always have the breathing room to promote the results of their work, and because philanthropy systematically ignores work led by marginalized people, grassroots movements are often the least resourced part of the equation. Yet their proximity to the issues at stake means they are often best placed to raise awareness and frame the debate.

2. Support intersectional activism and understand the security implications. Because of the backlash activists often face, over 50 percent of UAF's rapid response grants go toward security for our grantees.

This has a lot to do with the fact that women and transgender activists are breaking stereotypes by taking a public stand. They confound society's expectations that they will stay silent, apologetic, and shy away from controversial political views. In our society, one's identity can put you at grave risk.

For example, as the rhetoric around mass deportations began to ramp up, Urgent Action Fund received a request to support an immigrant rights organizer, Valeria, who was facing deportation as well as harassment based on her gender identity at a Texas detention center. In addition to supporting the campaign for her release, UAF's grant to her organization helped activists in the area build networks of support, take know-your-rights training, and develop messaging to push back against discriminatory policies.

As funders who support frontline advocacy efforts, we must remember that not all activists will be treated equally by those opposed to their efforts. At Urgent Action Fund we have seen a 300 percent increase in security requests from women and transgender activists in the U.S. over the past few months, and more than 96 percent of these requests have come from women or transgender activists of color.

As funders, then, it's good to be aware that a strong security plan needs to be part of any frontline advocacy plan, and that we should be ready to fund both.

3. Work with international actors to advance a progressive agenda in the U.S. It's a humbling time to be an activist in the U.S. Much of what we accomplished through our activism over the past few years has been rolled back or now seems out of reach. We can't rely on the federal government in the way we could — to some extent — just a few months ago. The targets of our advocacy work need to shift if we hope to be effective.

Here's an example from our recent grantmaking.

Last summer and fall, we supported Native American women at Standing Rock who were resisting the extension of the Dakota Access Pipeline through Native territory. Those efforts, targeting the federal government, were successful, although the victory was short-lived, with the new Trump administration moving immediately to reverse the decision.

This spring, Native women activists reached out to UAF with a plan to target international influencers, rather than the federal government, through advocacy focused on Keystone pipeline investors in Norway and Switzerland. As a result of this engagement — and the stories Native women shared with the bankers — activists were able to secure a commitment from the Norwegians to withhold their financing for the pipeline. The tactic also is working in the case of the Agua Zarca dam in Honduras, where efforts by activists to secure justice from the government following the murder of Berta Carceres, an activist who led a campaign against the dam, yielded little response. After sustained advocacy, however, three foreign investors in the dam pulled their funding.

The lesson: Funders who support advocacy groups that work at the federal level may need to think internationally as activists look for new paths forward.

Advocacy Right Now

These are just some of the ways that funders can be responsive to the current moment and support activism at a time of change and transition. In this context, being flexible with how our funds are used, and ensuring the timeliness and accessibility of that funding, is also of the highest importance.

A healthy democracy is one in which citizens can criticize their government and take action in support of a progressive agenda without fear of reprisal. In the current climate, we must be there to support activists willing to speak out and resource them in ways that enable them to be effective — and safe.

As Frederick Douglass said, "Power concedes nothing without a demand."

Headshot_kate_kroegerAs we work to create a more inclusive society and more responsive, democratic government, it is up to funders everywhere to support those willing to demand.

Kate Kroeger has served as executive director of the Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights since 2012.

Colombia’s Peace Accord: Philanthropy Must Not Miss the Boat

July 20, 2017

The following post is part of a year-long series here on PhilanTopic that addresses major themes related to the center's work: the use of data to understand and address important issues and challenges; the benefits of foundation transparency for donors, nonprofits/NGOs, and the broader public; the emergence of private philanthropy globally; the role of storytelling in conveying the critical work of philanthropy; and what it means, and looks like, to be an effective, high-functioning foundation, nonprofit, or changemaker in the twenty-first century. As always, we welcome your thoughts and feedback.

_____

COLOMBIA-PEACE-TREATYThe peace deal and disarmament of FARC in Colombia is a remarkable milestone, but it is still not clear to what extent Colombians are ready to effectively transition from peacemaking to peace building. If it is to be successful, that process must result in full implementation of the accord and the enabling of environments conducive to sustainable peace over the long term.

The historic accord itself does not guarantee peace. While the end of the conflict has created the necessary conditions for peace building and reconciliation, a successful conclusion to the process will require creativity, long-term thinking, and all sectors of society to work together. The good news is that the end of violence means other sectors of society are now able to take part in creating a fairer and more equal Colombia.

In an attempt to engage the philanthropic sector in Colombia in the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly goal 16 (promote peace, justice and strong institutions), AFE Colombia and the SDG Philanthropy Platform have issued a report, Peace and Sustainable Development in Colombia: The Role of Philanthropy in Building a Shared Future, that aims to serve as a catalyst for new thinking by and dialogue between key stakeholders in the peace process. The report also provides concrete recommendations that local and international philanthropic organizations can act on to support Colombia's transition toward peace.

The current landscape

Colombia is a deeply unequal country. As such, it needs philanthropic organizations and actors to bring their resources and expertise to conflict-affected regions. More often than not, these are underdeveloped rural areas in dire need of social investment. To make the peace deal a reality on the ground will require stakeholders to come together and rethink the ways in which different actors and sectors in these areas interact and cooperate with each other.

At the same time, philanthropy itself must rethink the way it operates, taking into account its unique power to convene and provide a voice to underrepresented people and communities. Philanthropic actors currently operating in Colombia must also encourage new actors to engage with stakeholders in conflict-affected areas through partnerships designed to strengthen the impact of projects and activities already taking place and/or in replicating them in other areas of the country.

Ensuring a gender perspective

Several philanthropic institutions in Colombia are following UN recommendations and working to ensure that women play a key role in peace-building efforts and that their voices are heard. One of them, the WWB Foundation supports and educates women interested in setting up their own businesses. Philanthropic organizations like Fundación Belcorp and the Mujeres de Exito Foundation promote the development of women through education. And still others are providing legal services to women and girls who have suffered violence.

Taking into account the perspective of women was a key focus of the peace process, and the accord states that women's rights and needs (Goal 5) must be addressed by Colombian society as a whole. Philanthropic organizations looking to support the peace process are critical to this effort and should take it upon themselves to support and strengthen local women's groups so that they are able to play a meaningful role in peace-building efforts.

Taking the lead

Philanthropy itself is uniquely positioned to play a leading role as Colombia navigates this critical moment. Long-term vision and a willingness to take risks can be difficult for governments and businesses to embrace given budget constraints and fiduciary obligations. But philanthropy, acting as a catalyst for innovation and collective action, can become a key player in efforts to create the conditions needed to forge a sustainable peace.

The Colombian peace accord is a once-in-a-generations opportunity to improve the lives of Colombia's poorest citizens and communities. Philanthropy must not miss the boat.

Headshot_ferreira_reynoso (002)Juan David Ferreira is a consultant for Asociación de Fundaciones Empresariales y Familiares-AFE Colombia. Merybell Reynoso is an international communications consultant for the SDG Philanthropy Platform.

The SDG Philanthropy Platform is a global initiative that helps philanthropy engage in the global development agenda and informs and catalyzes collaboration between those working in the philanthropy sector and other key actors. For more posts in the FC Insight series, click here.

What Is at Stake, and Why Philanthropy Must Respond

July 19, 2017

WhatsAtStake240In the months since the 2016 presidential election, philanthropy has begun to respond energetically to real and perceived threats to longstanding American principles of justice, equality, and fairness. Yet more is needed to counter policies and actions that undermine democratic norms, roll back essential safety-net protections, and shrink or destroy government programs essential to the health of the nation and the planet.

For the nonprofit world, the election of Donald Trump as president has raised the stakes in ways the two of us have never seen. Most nonprofits have missions that address inequality, injustice, and fairness in some way or another, whether it’s providing services to poor people and others in need, working to protect and extend civil and human rights, promoting environmental and animal protections, advancing equal opportunity, or enriching arts and culture for all.

We strongly believe these values — and the nonprofit work informed by them — are in jeopardy. And whether Donald Trump is the proximate cause of that danger or merely a catalyst for the expression of years of pent-up frustration, we cannot ignore the problem.

Whether or not you applaud Trump’s campaign promise to "drain the Washington swamp" or Sen. Bernie Sanders calls to fix a "rigged" system, it is painfully clear that many Americans have developed a deep-seated distrust of government and politicians. The populist wave of resentment unleashed by Trump’s election is a manifestation of that disillusionment and anger.

Trump understands that Americans want change, that they want to see the system shaken up in a way that forces politicians to listen to their concerns. But his actions, more often than not, are directly contrary to his words. By not divesting himself of his business interests before taking office, Trump has ensured that his many conflicts of interest (and those of his family) are fair game for watchdog groups and the press. His refusal to release his tax returns and his decision to shut down a website showing who has visited the White House make a mockery of his "draining the swamp" mantra and transparency in government. His condemnation of leaks and willingness to undermine administration officials with his words and tweets, as well as to divulge secrets to the nation's adversaries, has sown fear and confusion where clarity and energy on behalf of the American people are needed.

In this and so many other ways, the Trump presidency threatens our notions of a mature, functioning democracy. Too often, his actions seem impulsive and irrational, not reasoned and well thought out, a presidency where "alternative facts" are aggressively promoted and the press is derided as "enemies of the people." Trump himself is a president who takes criticism personally and responds in a vindictive, illiberal manner, weakening our democracy by attacking judges, civil servants, public leaders, and anyone else who questions his veracity and truthfulness.

Indeed, the only predictable thing about Trump is his unpredictably. He was enthusiastically for the House bill to repeal and replace Obamacare before he decided it was "mean"; he was for a cybersecurity agreement with Russia and then wasn't; he intimated that there might be White House tapes of his meetings with former FBI director James Comey before revealing he made the whole thing up.

Trump's willingness to play fast and loose with the facts also means that top White House officials and spokespersons are regularly contradicted by his utterances. And the "Who’s on first?" quality of the administration's communications cuts both ways, as the president's tweets and statements are frequently contradicted by top administration officials.

Americans tend to view their presidents as role models. We shouldn't be surprised, therefore, to see the president's personal style ­— his shabby, bullying treatment of women and Muslims, his vulgar tweets, his regular incitements to violence ­— being copied by young people and even other politicians.

The combination of Trump’s impulsive personality and worst tendencies can lead to disastrous results, as in the case of his so-called election integrity commission. The commission had its genesis in an alternative Trumpian belief that Hillary Clinton's three-million popular vote margin was the result of millions of fraudulently cast votes — a claim no political scientist or voting expert believes. But the damage has been done: the commission has sown distrust in the soundness of our election system and may even, as many have noted, be an attempt to institutionalize voter suppression efforts in America.

Already forty-four states have said they will not comply with all or parts of the commission's request for sensitive voter data. Faced with legal challenges to the effort, the operational head of the commission, Kris Kobach — a former Kansas secretary of state with a history of voter disenfranchisement — has tabled the commission’s data collection request until the courts make a determination on its legality and the commission meets for the first time. Meanwhile, real issues such as making our voting machines and elections systems safe from foreign and domestic cybersecurity attacks go unattended.

Against this backdrop, a key question for the nonprofit sector is how to raise and talk about these concerns without appearing to be partisan. Some in the sector even worry that raising such issues will make them the bullseye of the next Trump tweet. To which we say, if nonprofits don't raise these issues, who will? And what are the long-term consequences of silence and inaction?

In other words, this isn't an issue of partisan politics. It's a question of values. It's a question of democracy.

Encouragingly, many nonprofits and funders have stepped up their game. Since the election, individual contributions to important organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood have soared. Foundations have made emergency grants to address issues like hate speech, strengthen protections for a free press, address election reforms (including the census and redistricting), and support greater government oversight and accountability.

Despite these and other efforts, political scientists Kristin Goss and Jeffrey Berry argue that not enough is being done by foundations to "reorient their giving — and their public voice — in a sustained way to counter threats to a high-functioning, civil, and inclusive democracy." We agree, but also recognize that much has already been initiated by organized philanthropy.

The core problem for foundations, however, is that they mostly fund single issues as opposed to cross-cutting themes such as strengthening democracy. Foundation Center has developed a database to track democracy spending, and it reveals that roughly 1.5 percent of foundation grants, or $754 million out of a total of $52 billion awarded in grants in 2014, was spent on democracy issues. Because some types of grants might not have been captured for one reason or another, let’s add an extra 0.5 percent to the figure.

But even 2 percent of foundation giving is not enough to fund the activities needed to protect the democratic norms and institutions we take for granted. There needs to be a concerted campaign to at least double this figure to 4 percent for democracy organizing, advocacy, and related policy and infrastructure work.

Yes, foundation leaders and program officers are faced with growing needs in most of their program areas, but — especially at this critical moment — dedicating resources to strengthening democracy is a fundamental investment that simply cannot be ignored.

Headshot_gary_bass_mark_rosenman (002)Every foundation — local, state, regional, national — has a stake in this. Whether you fund the arts, human services, the environment or education, each is embedded in a political culture that, for the most part, values civility, inclusivity, transparency, and accountability — and requires an effective government, an engaged citizenry, and a healthy democracy. To lose that — to give in to partisanship, incivility, and authoritarianism – would be a tragedy of the very first order. We can't let that happen.

Gary D. Bass is executive director of Bauman Foundation and an affiliated professor at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy. Mark Rosenman is a professor emeritus at Union Institute & University.

Weekend Link Roundup (July 15-16, 2017)

July 17, 2017

Roger-federerOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

Cities are where most of the world's population lives. But with the climate warming at an alarming rate, just how hot will they be by the year 2100? An interactive map created by Climate Central and the World Meteorological Organization has the scorching results.

Education

Anyone who cares about public education in the U.S. will want to check out the longish piece by Chris Ford, Stephanie Johnson, and Lisa Partelow on the Center for American progress site detailing the "sordid" history of school vouchers in America.

Quartz has a nice profile of Maggie MacDonnell, the Canadian winner of this year's $1 million Global Teacher Prize.

Health

Just how does the health system in U.S. stack up against those in other developed countries? Using data from Commonwealth Fund surveys and other sources of standardized data, the fund's Mirror, Mirror 2017 report identifies seventy-two measures relevant to healthcare system performance and organizes them into five performance domains: Care Process, Access, Administrative Efficiency, Equity, and Health Care Outcomes.

The Kaiser Family Foundation's Cynthia Cox and Larry Levitt examined the individual insurance market in early 2017 and, contrary to Republican Party talking points, found no evidence that it was collapsing; indeed, Cox and Levitt discovered that health insurers are on track to have their best year since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law.

Nonprofits

Brian Crimmins, managing partner at One Hundred, "the world’s first multidisciplinary, fully integrated service collective for the modern nonprofit," announces the launch of the inaugural Influencers in Philanthropy Report, which highlight four emerging themes nonprofits need to be aware of in order to succeed in the crowded and changing philanthropic marketplace.

Philanthropy

Over the last eighteen months, Priscilla Chan, the wife of Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and a Harvard-educated pediatrician, has added a new job to her responsibilities: running what is likely to be one of the most well-funded philanthropies in history. Recode's Kurt Wagner looks at how Chan and Zuckerberg hope to use Facebook's billions to end disease and change education.

ImpactAlpha's David Bank checks in with the story of how Ford Foundation president Darren Walker convinced the foundation's "very conservative" trustees and investment committee to carve $1 billion out of its $12 billion endowment for mission-related investments. (And be sure to check out our interview on the same topic with Ford's Xavier de Souza Briggs.)

In the Chronicle of Philanthropy, nonprofit consultant Alan Cantor examines the "fuzzy math" that donor-advised fund sponsors seem to favor when calculating their reported payout ratios.

On the Case Foundation blog, Sheila Herrling shares her thoughts on four trends that are driving the democratization of philanthropy.

In a guest post on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Manivanh Khy, a program officer at the First Fruit foundation, reflects on what she has learned about "the age-old power dynamic that exists between the funder and the grantee."

Denver Post syndicated columnist and philanthropy consultant Bruce DeBoskey reviews seven lessons he has learned from his strategic philanthropy practice.

Regulation/Oversight

"Lawmakers in the current Congress have slipped language into two spending bills to protect so-called 'dark money' nonprofits from IRS scrutiny." Josh Keefe reports for the International Business Times.

Social Sciences

PND loves demography (and demographers), which means we love this post from the Pew Research Center outlining the ten demographic trends that are shaping the U.S. and the world.

Transparency

And here on PhilanTopic, Janet Camarena, director of transparency initiatives at Foundation Center, kicks off a new #OpenForGood series featuring the voices of "knowledge sharing champions" from the philanthropic and social sectors.

That's it for this week. Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Why I Am Hopeful

July 12, 2017

Hope-in-clouds-images[1]It all started with an email from a friend late last year. She said she was concerned about the tone of our politics and the direction in which our country was moving, and she wanted to do something to help. She was calling her senator, but she felt that wasn't enough.

A few weeks later, I found out about a new local café, 1951 Coffee Company, that provides jobs and training for newly arrived refugees. At a time when the nation was debating a controversial White House plan to ban Syrian refugees and close our borders to people from six mostly Muslim countries, the cafe's welcoming and affirmative mission struck a chord. One morning, I stopped in, had a great cup of coffee, and asked how the owners would feel about a community fundraiser to support their work.

The café owners were game, and so I emailed my friend and several neighbors to try and put together a fundraising committee. My friend ended up leading the group, and a neighbor who lives across the street solicited in-kind donations for the event. My brother's mother-in-law even got involved. The outpouring of support from many walks of life — PTA parents, professors, scientists, new volunteers, first-time donors — was truly amazing.

In the end, the May fundraiser attracted nearly two hundred people and netted over $37,000 for the café's work. It was a modern-day community barn raising.

Marches…and More

Given the considerable threats today to the causes and priorities that so many of us care so deeply about, it is easy to get discouraged and down. But the story of this small café gives me hope. At a time when so much is on the line, people are stepping out of their comfort zones and becoming more involved in our democracy. We are marching, participating in spur-of-the-moment protests, volunteering, giving money, and contacting our elected representatives — all in unprecedented numbers, and all in an effort to show we’re paying attention and we care.

In conversations with leaders of our nonprofit partner organizations, the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund's staff is hearing a similar refrain. Many organizations are experiencing a flood of new donations and volunteers and offers to help. And perhaps the best news is the groundswell of grassroots action is getting results.

  • Mass protests and accompanying lawsuits sidelined the White House's ban on refugees from six mostly Muslim countries; a weakened (though still-alarming) ban is in effect pending a final Supreme Court decision in the fall.
  • The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program providing temporary relief from deportation for undocumented young people remains intact because of a wave of popular support from all sides of the political spectrum.
  • Congressional plans to strip health coverage from millions of vulnerable people face a steep uphill climb, thanks largely to a flood of constituents who have been writing to Congress and showing up at townhall meetings and Fourth of July parades to register their concern.

Granted, there are still plenty of policies and executive actions that are posing huge challenges for immigrants, LGBT people, low-income children, and other vulnerable populations and communities. But the heightened level of grassroots activism and engagement we’re seeing makes me hopeful — and confident — that the values of fairness, equality, and opportunity ultimately will win the day.

New Allies, New Strategies

It's not just that community members across the nation are getting involved and making their voices heard. Among the other signs of hope:

  • New and powerful allies are stepping forward to make their opinions known. Consider the tech industry’s powerful advocacy against the refugee travel ban.
  • People and organizations increasingly are working together across movements to build powerful coalitions. Consider the work of the Million Voters Project, a Haas, Jr. Fund-supported initiative that unites local and regional organizations working with Latinos, Asian Americans, African Americans and immigrants to get out the vote in 2018.
  • Allies are developing innovative strategies and are taking their work to new levels of scale and impact. For example, the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II has turned his "Moral Monday" protests (which started in North Carolina) into a national movement to advance "the good of the whole."

Even as we are inspired by the new wave of activism we’re seeing, it's important to remember that our work today is founded on the same fundamental principles that have guided social movements in the past. The bottom line is that "We the People" need to stand up and use our voices — and our votes — to make a difference. That’s the only way real change happens, and it will require deep investments in community organizing, civic participation, movement-building, and leadership development.

I know these are precarious times for many communities across the country. And I understand that we can't be complacent or overly confident in the face of an onslaught of regressive policies out of Washington and many state capitals.

But from a little café here in the Bay Area to the National Mall in Washington to the streets and sidewalks of so many cities and towns where social justice organizations are organizing and attracting new supporters, there is something very powerful happening out there across the land. It's democracy in action, and it’s an inspiring thing to see.

Headshot_cathy_chaCathy Cha is vice president of programs at the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund.

Because What You Know Shouldn't Just Be About Who You Know

July 11, 2017

The following post is part of a year-long series here on PhilanTopic that addresses major themes related to the center's work: the use of data to understand and address important issues and challenges; the benefits of foundation transparency for donors, nonprofits/NGOs, and the broader public; the emergence of private philanthropy globally; the role of storytelling in conveying the critical work of philanthropy; and what it means, and looks like, to be an effective, high-functioning foundation, nonprofit, or changemaker in the twenty-first century. As always, we welcome your thoughts and feedback.

_____

"Knowledge is obsolete." As a librarian, my ears perked up when someone shared the title of this TEDxFoggyBottom talk. It's plausible. Why memorize obscure, hard-to-remember facts when anything you could possibly want to know can be looked up, on the go, via a smartphone? As a mom, I imagine my kids sitting down to prepare for rich, thought-provoking classroom discussions instead of laboring over endless multiple-choice tests. What an exciting time to be alive — a time when all of humanity's knowledge is at our fingertips, leading experts are just a swipe away, the answer always literally close at hand, and we've been released from the drudgery of memorization and graduated to a life of active, informed debate! And how lucky are we to be working in philanthropy and able to leverage all this knowledge for good, right?

Open-for-good_featureforeground

Though the active debate part may sound familiar, sadly, for too many of us working in philanthropy, the knowledge utopia described above is more sci-fi mirage than a TED Talk snapshot of present-day reality. As Foundation Center's Glasspockets team revealed in its "Foundation Transparency Challenge" infographic last November, only 10 percent of foundations today have a website, and not even our smartphones are  smart enough to connect you to the 90 percent of those that don't.

The Foundation Transparency Challenge reveals other areas of potential improvement for institutional philanthropy, including a number of transparency practices not widely embraced by the majority of funders. Indeed, the data we've collected demonstrates that philanthropy is weakest when it comes to creating communities of shared learning, with fewer than half the foundations with a Glasspockets profile using their websites to share what they are learning, only 22 percent sharing how they assess their own performance, and only 12 percent revealing details about their strategic plan.

Foundation Center data also tells us that foundations annually make an average of $5.4 billion in grants for knowledge-production activities such as evaluations, white papers, and case studies. Yet only a small fraction of foundations actively share the knowledge assets that result from those grants — and far fewer share them under an open license or through an open repository. For a field that is focused on investing in ideas — and not shy about asking grantees to report on the progress of these ideas — there is much potential here to open up our knowledge to peers and practitioners who, like so many of us, are looking for new ideas and new approaches to urgent, persistent problems.

As for having a universe of experts a swipe away to help inform our philanthropic strategies, the reality is that the body of knowledge related to philanthropic work is scattered across the thousands of institutional foundation websites that do exist. But who has time for the Sisyphean task of filtering through it all?

No coincidence, perhaps, that a main finding of a recent report commissioned by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation was that foundation professionals looking to gain and share knowledge tend to prefer to confer with trusted foundation peers and colleagues. At the same time, the field is doing a lot of soul searching related to diversity, equity, and inclusion — and what it can do to improve its performance in those areas. But if practitioners in the field are only sourcing knowledge from their peers, doesn't that suggest their knowledge networks may be unintentionally insular and lacking in well…diversity of opinion and perspective? And might there be a way to connect the dots and improve the effectiveness, efficiency, and inclusivity of our networks by changing the way we source, find, and share lessons learned?

In other words, shouldn't what we know not just be about who we know?

#OpenForGood

The good news is that as more foundations professionalize their staffs and develop in-house expertise in learning, monitoring, and evaluation (as well as in grants management and communications), there are a number of developing practices out there worth highlighting. And there's more good news: a number of technology platforms and tools have emerged that make it easy for us to improve the way we search for and find answers to complex questions. Here at Foundation Center, for example, we are using this post to kick off a new #OpenForGood series featuring the voices of "knowledge sharing champions" from the philanthropic and social sectors. Some of these experts will be sharing their perspectives on opening up knowledge at their own foundations, while others will clue us in to tools and platforms that can improve the way philanthropy leverages the knowledge it generates (and pays for), as well as the way it discovers new sources of knowledge.

But before we get there, you might be wondering: What does it mean to be a social sector organization that is #OpenForGood? And how does my organization become one? Not to worry. The following suggestions are intended to help organizations demonstrate they are moving in the direction of greater openness:

  1. Grantmakers can start by assessing their own foundation’s openness by taking and sharing the "Who Has Glass Pockets?" transparency self-assessment survey.
  2. Funders and nonprofits alike can openly share what they are learning with the rest of the field. If your organization invested in monitoring and evaluating results in 2015 or 2016, make the effort to share those evaluations in our new IssueLab: Results In exchange for sharing your recent evaluations, you will receive an #OpenforGood badge to display on your website to signal your commitment to creating a community of shared learning.
  3. If you have lessons to share but not a formal evaluation process, share them in blog format here on PhilanTopic, or on GrantCraft, so others can still benefit from your experience.
  4. Adopt an open licensing policy so that others can more easily build on your work.

The #OpenForGood series is timed to align with the launch of a new Foundation Center platform designed to help philanthropy learn from all the collective knowledge at its disposal. Developed by the team at IssueLab, whose collection already includes more than 22,000 reports from thousands of nonprofits and foundations, IssueLab Results is dedicated in particular to the collection and sharing of evaluations.

IssueLab Results supplies easy, open access to the lessons foundations are learning about what is and isn't working. The site includes a growing curated collection of evaluations and a special collection containing guidance on the practice of evaluation. And it’s easy to share your knowledge through the site — just look for the orange "Upload" button.

The basic idea here is to scale social sector knowledge so that everyone benefits and the field, collectively, grows smarter rather than more fragmented. On a very practical level, it means that a researcher need only visit one website rather than thousands to learn what is known about the issue s/he is researching. But the only way the idea can scale is if foundations and nonprofits help us grow the collection by adding their knowledge here. If they do — if you do — it also means that philanthropy will have a more inclusive and systematic way to source intelligence beyond the "phone a friend" approach.

The bottom line is that in philanthropy today, knowledge isn't obsolete, it's obscured. Won't you join us in helping make it #OpenForGood?

If you have a case study related to knowledge sharing and management and/or the benefits of transparency and openness, let us know in the comments below, or find us on Twitter @glasspockets.

Headshot_janet_camarenaJanet Camarena is director of transparency initiatives at Foundation Center. A version of this post originally appeared in the Glasspockets' Transparency Talk blog as part of its new #OpenforGood series in partnership with the Fund for Shared Insight. For more posts in the FC Insight series (not to be confused with the Fund for Shared Insight), click here.

Change That Starts in Your Own Backyard: Mapping Dollars Toward the 2030 Global Goals

July 07, 2017

The following post is part of a year-long series here on PhilanTopic that addresses major themes related to the center's work: the use of data to understand and address important issues and challenges; the benefits of foundation transparency for donors, nonprofits/NGOs, and the broader public; the emergence of private philanthropy globally; the role of storytelling in conveying the critical work of philanthropy; and what it means, and looks like, to be an effective, high-functioning foundation, nonprofit, or changemaker in the twenty-first century; As always, we welcome your thoughts and feedback.

_____

SdgsFor many grantmakers in the United States, the announcement of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) came and went without much fanfare. Some surely must have wondered how the work they're supporting in the U.S. could count toward a much larger international initiative if they weren't funding projects in developing countries. And some may have even thought the SDGs are designed to improve the lives of people only in places like Kenya or Nicaragua, not Kentucky and Nebraska. But what these grantmakers may not realize is that the work they're already doing, day in and day out, can make a huge difference in achieving the goals set forth by the UN as part of its Agenda 2030.

Whether working to end hunger and poverty, providing access to clean water, or championing gender equality, each of the seventeen goals address issues that towns, cities, and states across the U.S. are familiar with. We need look no further than the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, or the gender wage gap in most industries and communities. The challenge isn't how to get domestic grantmakers involved in contributing to the SDGs; they already are involved through the work they're doing. Rather, the challenge is how to engage them in mapping the work they are supporting domestically against the larger global framework.

The first step in that process is to change the way we think about results and reporting and to continue to push our sector toward a more results-focused approach. Instead of pointing to one-off impact stories, dollars given, or simple outputs like the number of people served, funders need to focus on measuring how a situation has actually changed as a result of their funding. The SDGs help provide a framework for organizations, foreign and domestic, large and small, to do just that by offering a common taxonomy and set of standards that players across the philanthropic ecosystem can look to in reporting and measuring impact.

Measuring outcomes using a standard taxonomy not only enables domestic grantmakers — whether a large corporation or a small community foundation — to better track their efforts; it also helps to fuel collaboration in the service of better results. Without a shared taxonomy, two funders in the same community can be working toward a common goal and never realize that the other organization is doing similar work — or understand how their own work connects to a broader effort. In contrast, when funders and grantees use the same terminology to describe and measure their work, it's much easier to see how collaboration between two or more organizations can be leveraged into a regional, statewide, or nationwide initiative that connects to an even larger, global goal.

Connecting grantmaking efforts to the SDGs also enables funders to more easily galvanize stakeholders — community members, supporters, board members, employees, and customers — around the work they're doing. Showing that a small jobs training program for women in Detroit connects to a global goal of gender equality tells a powerful story. People tend to feel more empowered when they know they are connected to something bigger than themselves or their individual organizations.

Aligning grantmaking to the SDGs may seem daunting, but the good news is that the work is already under way and there are resources designed to help you. As a first step, take a look at the SDGs to see which goals and targets naturally align with your organization's work or corporate philosophy. The Council on Foundations provides material and information for domestic grantmakers looking to get involved with the SDGs, while the Foundation Center's SDG Philanthropy Platform makes it easy to share your progress toward individual goals and to review other funders' progress.

At Blackbaud, we are convinced that collecting and tracking data toward the SDGs will help lay the groundwork for more efficient and effective giving. In fact, it's only through serious, intentional data collection and analysis that we can benchmark our efforts and ensure that those efforts, no matter how small they may seem, are contributing to building a better world.

Annie_rhodes_for_PhilanTopicAnnie Rhodes is director of foundation strategy for Blackbaud's Corporations & Foundations Group. For more posts in the FC Insight series, click here.

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (June 2017)

July 05, 2017

Don't know if you all agree, but it's unanimous here at PND: Whoever invented the four-day weekend deserves a medal. We've got a busy July lined up, but before we get too far into it, we figured this would be a good time to look back at the blog content you found especially interesting in June, including new posts by Rotary International's John Hewko, Battalia Winston's Susan Medina, DataViz for Nonprofit's Amelia Kohm, regular contributor Kathryn Pyle, and the Center for Social Impact Communication at Georgetown University. Enjoy!

What have you read/watched/heard lately that got your attention, made you think, or charged you up? Feel free to share with our readers in the comments section below. Or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Collaboration Is the New Competitive Edge

July 04, 2017

Successful-collaborationThere aren't many secrets among friends. At least not between DonorsChoose.org, Kiva, and GlobalGiving. For nearly half a decade, my GlobalGiving colleagues and I have been sharing intel with these peers (and a few others) via monthly phone calls and occasional meet-ups. Because we're all working to improve our giving communities, nearly every strategy and tactic is open for discussion. Especially when it comes to donor engagement and retention.

Most nonprofits work tirelessly to engage and retain donors, but there isn't much data about what works online. Much of the research on giving to date has been associated with donor acquisition rather than donor retention, as the latter requires nonprofits to collaborate with researchers. Recently, however, all three of our organizations teamed up with Harvard Business School's Michael Norton and Oliver Hauser to conduct the first known synchronized A/B field test involving three nonprofits. The experiment, aimed at driving repeat donations, was generously funded by the John Templeton Foundation.

The tactic we chose to explore? Pseudo-sets. Previous research by the HBS team suggested that individuals are motivated to complete tasks when they are framed as part of a "pseudo-set" — that is, rather than just performing a single action, individuals are asked to perform three or four actions to complete the "set." In fact, research has shown that task completion can jump five-fold when people are presented with wedges of a pie chart that fill in as each task is completed (compared to the control without a set). Inspired by that idea, my colleagues and our friends at DonorsChoose and Kiva ran a large-scale field experiment across our respective crowdfunding platforms (which together reach more than 200,000 donors) to test the effect on fundraising of "pseudo-set" framing. Could the approach inspire more giving?

I won't bore you with the details, but interestingly the HBS researchers identified a significant pseudo-set framing effect when looking at two of the participating charities, GlobalGiving and DonorsChoose.org. They did not see the same effect among Kiva lenders, however. Which — no surprise —left us all wanting to know more. Fortunately, the experiment was only the beginning of the collaboration involving the three organizations and team of HBS researchers, and our consortium is already designing a second phase of experiments that will explore what worked (and didn't) to motivate donors on our respective platforms.

We also hope the model inspires more collaboration involving other nonprofits, researchers, and foundations. "The coordination, execution, and teamwork required for this project — enabling three organizations to pull off a synchronized field experiment across their respective platforms — offers an exciting avenue for novel, large-scale research with the potential to surface unique insights into the psychology of giving," says Norton.

Kevin Conroy, chief product officer here at GlobalGiving, notes that collaboration of this kind saves nonprofits money and can increase their impact. "At the end of the day," he adds, "many organizations have the same goal: to make the world a better place. No matter what programs you have to achieve that, be it funding classroom needs, providing microloans, or supporting grassroots projects around the world, sharing knowledge increases the speed of innovation and lets us all do more with less."

DonorsChoose.org, GlobalGiving and Kiva will continue to collaborate and run experiments. We're reviewing and testing the latest research in the sector, including work funded by the Templeton Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. What drives generosity? How can we inspire donors to give more, both in terms of total giving and frequency of giving? How can we best retain donors over time? How well does past research, conducted primarily with phone solicitations and snail mail, translate to a digital-only appeals? We want to help donors become better at giving. We believe our consortium can help shed light on some of these big questions faster. And, of course, we promise to share what we learn.

Headshot_alsion_carlmanAlison Carlman is the director of marketing and communications at GlobalGiving.

PEAK Grantmaking — Helping Grantmakers Walk the Talk

June 30, 2017

How grants are made is as critical to the success of a grantmaking organization as what and who the organizations funds. At the Grants Managers Network, we believe that if grantmaking organizations hope to achieve real impact, decisions regarding every facet of their grantmaking need to be grounded in their values, core beliefs, and identity.

That's why we are walking our talk and announcing that, from now on, we will be known as PEAK Grantmaking.

Logo-PEAKWe're changing our name to better communicate the impact that the grants management profession has on institutional philanthropy. Grants managers strengthen philanthropy by helping their organizations advance their missions through smart, effective grantmaking. They play a key role in their organizations' work to transform lives, communities, and ecosystems. They help philanthropy achieve its peak.

But that peak must rest on a deep and broad base of core values that serve to motivate and inform the important work of grantmakers. Too often, grantmakers' values aren't reflected in their grantmaking practices. And when grantmaking practices and values are out of sync, grantmakers unnecessarily waste resources, burden the nonprofits they serve, and tax the goodwill of their supporters.

One of the core values of modern philanthropy is the need to demonstrate impact and results. Yet, grantmakers frequently provide their nonprofit partners with less funding than their partners request while requiring those partners to deliver the same results on the same timeline, undermining the potential impact that their resources could achieve. Indeed, it is easy to forget that grantmakers can have a significant impact not only on the causes they support but also on the organizations they fund.

Here a few other examples of the disconnect between grantmaker values and practices:

  • Our values say we should work hand-in-hand as equals with grantees, but our practice is to require detailed and often onerous quarterly reports.
  • Our values say we should reward innovation, but our practice is to require proof of a strategy's success, or else.
  • Our values say we should promote inclusiveness, but our practice is to fund the most professional proposals, not necessarily the most need-worthy or ambitious.

These are hard issues to face and address. But our research shows that a growing number of grantmaking organizations are considering how they can better walk the talk. We are working to support that development.

In partnership with our regional chapters and other partners, we'll be holding a series of new PEAK Grantmaking "Walk the Talk" workshops around the country in the fall that will offer insights from grantmaking institutions that have linked their values to practice, provide tools designed to help grantmakers advance such changes in their own organizations, and even help grantmakers refresh their values.

In the meantime, as more and more grantmakers look to internal experts — grants management professionals — for leadership on issues that can help them realize their organizational goals, PEAK Grantmaking continues to provide its members with training, resources, and opportunities to collaborate that can improve their outcomes. For example:

  • Our "Assessing the How of Grantmaking" publication shows funders where and how their practices can be improved.
  • Our Successful Structures workshop series illustrates some of the ways in which funders are improving their strategy and impact by more directly connecting them to their grantmaking
  • Our EPIcenter enables funders to compare their grantmaking practices to those of their peers and draw on our resources to help strengthen those practices.

While our name has changed, our commitment to serving grants managers remains the same — and is as strong as ever. We strive to improve grantmaking practices across the field and to elevate the expertise of grants managers so that they can improve practices within their individual institutions.

During the last three years, PEAK Grantmaking's network has grown by more than a third — to 3,600 members — making us one of the largest philanthropy-serving organizations in the country and greatly boosting our capacity to share our members' knowledge and expertise.

Our new name reflects the results we hope to achieve across the philanthropic sector through a bold new plan to instill greater consistency in grantmaking, prioritize grant outcomes over administration, and reduce costs for grantmakers and grantseekers alike.

As we celebrate our twenty-fifth year of service to the field in 2017, we hope you'll join us in championing the work of grant managers and values-based grantmaking.

Michelle Greanias is executive director of PEAK Grantmaking, formerly the Grants Managers Network. You can follow her on Twitter @mgreanias.

Funders Taking on Mass Deportation and Mass Incarceration

June 28, 2017

Statue_of_liberty_blogMany in philanthropy are willing to stand up to the Trump administration's actions targeting immigrants and refugees. Recently, more than two hundred grantmakers signed a joint letter opposing those actions, and many foundations have ramped up their rapid response and long-term giving for everything from legal services and community organizing to policy advocacy and litigation.

But the crisis facing immigrant communities across the country demands much more from philanthropy — in particular, that we step out of our funding and programmatic silos and consider how immigration is integrally connected to so many other issues we care about as funders. One such issue is criminal justice reform.

It is no secret that the United States maintains the largest immigrant detention system in the world. At last count, we were holding more than four hundred thousand immigrants in jails and prisons — including numerous for-profit facilities. This is the equivalent of putting the entire population of Oakland, California, behind bars. In the overwhelming majority of cases, immigrants in detention are asylum seekers, lawful permanent residents, and others who come here seeking the promise of freedom and a better life for themselves and their families. Instead, they have been tragically caught up in our nation's broken immigration system.

Under the Trump administration's rapidly expanding detention and deportation machine, immigrants are under attack as never before. Arrests of undocumented immigrants have increased by nearly 40 percent since Trump took office, while fewer than 9 percent of those arrested by ICE since January had convictions for violent crimes. In fact, research consistently shows lower levels of crime among immigrants than among native-born Americans. Nevertheless, the Trump administration is demonizing immigrant communities, stepping up its rhetoric and media manipulation to scapegoat immigrants and label them as being inherently criminal.

Undocumented immigrants who come into contact with law enforcement are punished twice — once by the criminal justice system and the second time by the immigration system — all without the protection of the minimal rights and due process available to others caught up in the justice system. Indeed, according to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, for undocumented immigrants, contact with law enforcement "brings with it disproportionately harsh immigration consequences" ranging "from incarceration in immigration detention and banishment from the country to denial of future immigration benefits to individuals and their family members."

The arbitrary and harsh treatment of so many immigrants by law enforcement is representative of the larger systemic failures of the U.S. criminal justice system. The criminalization of immigrants and people of color in our country is the product of "tough on crime" laws adopted in the 1980s, '90s, and early 2000s. Among the most harmful of these laws was the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, which opened the door to expedited removal, harsh penalties, and mandatory detention for immigrants swept up by law enforcement. This and other laws criminalizing immigrants followed the blueprint of broader criminal justice measures passed in the 1980s and '90s, all resulting in the mass incarceration of people of color. Today, our country's criminal justice system continues to place a big target squarely on the backs of immigrant communities and communities of color.

The good news is that immigrant rights leaders and criminal justice advocates from around the country are increasingly working to fight the over-criminalization of our communities. Recognizing that the system fails immigrants and other vulnerable communities by equal measure, grassroots groups are joining together to organize and build powerful intersectional coalitions aimed at ending mass criminalization, deportation, and incarceration. For example, it was a coalition of immigration and criminal justice reform advocates that created the momentum for enactment of California's TRUST Act in 2014. This groundbreaking law limits local law enforcement collaboration with ICE across the state. Today, coalitions of criminal justice and immigrants' rights advocacy groups are fighting to end the use of money bail in states across the country and to realize other common sense reforms that will benefit immigrants and other communities of color alike.

Addressing the enormous failures of our immigration and criminal justice systems means standing up for American principles of due process and equal justice for all. This should be something that all of philanthropy can support. We applaud the many foundations across the country that are making investments in criminal justice or immigrant rights — or both. The intersection of these two issues — and their life-and-death consequences for so many people — demands that we catch up with the courageous advocates who are leading the way and break out of the silos that so often constrain our grantmaking.

How can foundations simultaneously work on both criminal justice and immigration (or "crim-immigration")? We can seed and support collaborative efforts undertaken by advocates in the two fields. We can convene grantees working across these issues to develop shared agendas and to explore the intersections of their work. We can strategize with other funders about how best to align our "crim-imm" investments. We can explore public-private partnerships with state and local governments to protect the rights of immigrants and people of color who are caught up in the immigration enforcement and criminal justice systems. We can fight back against the narrative that paints immigrants as criminals and instead lift up who they really are — our neighbors, family members, and friends who add tremendous value to our country and our communities.

There are myriad possibilities for funder action, and it all begins with building our knowledge and understanding of the connections between these two issues. Let's work together to protect and advance our common values of inclusion, freedom, opportunity, and justice — for all. 

Tim_silard_for_PhilanTopicTimothy P. Silard is president of the Rosenberg Foundation.

Abdul Latif Jameel: Empowering Communities to Help Themselves

June 27, 2017

At the annual summit of the Family Business Council-Gulf (FBCG) in Dubai, Foundation Center's Lisa Philp led a plenary session on philanthropy in action in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. She was joined by Hassan Jameel, deputy president and vice chair, Abdul Latif Jameel Domestic Operations, and Caroline Seow, director of sustainability, Family Business Network International. Philp is working with FBCG and FBN International to shine a light on thoughtful and sustainable philanthropy in the GCC. This post — part of a year-long series here on PhilanTopic that addresses major themes related to the center’s work — is an adaptation of a case study she wrote on lessons learned from Community Jameel.

Jameel_philpAbdul Latif Jameel is an international diversified business with operations in seven major industries — transportation, engineering and manufacturing, financial services, consumer products, land and real estate, advertising and media, and energy and environmental services. Founded in 1945 as a small trading business that later evolved into a Toyota distributorship in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the company has achieved this scale and market success in just over seven decades.

The company's entrepreneurial founder, the late Abdul Latif Jameel, saw that better personal transportation could empower businesses and individuals and, in turn, advance the economic development of his nation. With that vision to guide him, he established an extensive operations infrastructure and over time built the largest vehicle distribution network in Saudi Arabia. Along the way, the company developed comprehensive expertise across the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey (or "MENAT"), the region in which it operates, fashioning a reputation for building the "infrastructure of life." Today, Abdul Latif Jameel has a presence in more than 30 countries and employs 17,000 people from over 40 nationalities.

Jameel was a visionary and dynamic entrepreneur who dedicated his family and company to meeting the needs of his fellow Saudis. In 2003, Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel, who had been named chair and CEO of the company a decade earlier, created Abdul Latif Jameel Community Services, or "Community Jameel," as it is known today. Community Jameel has evolved into a sustainable social enterprise organization focused on six priority areas: job creation, global poverty alleviation, food and water security, arts and culture, education and training, and health and social. From its headquarters in Jeddah, the organization coordinates a rage of programs focused on the development of individuals and communities in the MENAT region and beyond.

Holding the Mirror

Community Jameel's mission is to empower people to improve their lives and the lives of those around them — in effect, to "help communities help themselves." It's a mission that is distinct from many charitable organizations in the region, in that it seeks to address global societal and economic problems at the source rather than merely mitigating their symptoms. Three generations of the Jameel family are engaged with the organization, honoring Abdul Latif Jameel's commitment to sustainable development and the pursuit of positive social change.

Initiatives under the Community Jameel umbrella include:

  • Bab Rizq Jameel, a jobs program that has helped create more than 720,000 job opportunities globally since 2003, including over 490,000 in Saudi Arabia;
  • Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, a global network of affiliated professors based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Grameen-Jameel, a pioneering microfinance program supporting the MENAT region;
  • Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab at MIT, which conducts research to help combat worldwide water scarcity and food supply shortages;
  • Jameel Gallery for Islamic Art at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Jeddah Sculpture Gallery, and Jameel Houses of Traditional Arts in Jeddah, Cairo, and Scotland; and
  • MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Start-up Competition, which promotes entrepreneurship and innovation across the Arab world.

Connecting the Dots

The seeds for the successful Bab Rizq Jameel (BRJ) job-creation program were planted in 2003 when Abdul Latif Jameel (the company) took some of its vehicles and trained unemployed young men to become taxi drivers. Adhering to its philosophy of sustainability and economic independence, the company asked those who received automobiles to pay them off, interest-free, as they earned money from driving. Over time, young men participating in the program became taxi owners as well as drivers.

BRJ grew quickly and began to fund other entrepreneurial activities using the same principle of low- or no-interest loans targeting populations such as women working from home. Additional avenues included the establishment of employment service centers around the country to put those looking for work in touch with potential employers and setting up training programs to help unemployed Saudis obtain or sharpen their skills.

Over the years, BRJ has created programs that link job seekers and employers, offer interest-free loans to small-business entrepreneurs, and provide remote and home-based job opportunities. The team responsible for developing these job-creation initiatives recognized the need to inform and educate potential participants about their programs. Television campaigns become one way to spread the message; consultation opportunities at employment services centers were another. With the goal of providing consistently excellent customer service and being able to gauge whether a potential candidate for a program was serious enough about his future to stick with a new job or startup business, BRJ employment consultants themselves were asked to undergo continuous training.

The team also learned an important lesson about partnering with employers for its Direct Recruitment program. BRJ had to ensure that any employer it worked with would provide high-quality training and ongoing career development opportunities to program participants, not just short-term job opportunities. Because many employers were unaware of benefits that an employment center could bring them, reputable companies and other organizations had to be found and cultivated for inclusion in the BRJ database.

Government support of the program has been another success factor, thanks in part to BRJ's work to foster relationships with key officials, align its efforts with government employment goals, and take the time to explain experimental approaches and answer questions as models were developed. In addition, BRJ found that creating mutually beneficial partnership with existing organizations helped broaden employment-generating opportunities. This willingness to partner — to bring the right resources together at the right time to solve a problem, not just short-term but over the long-term — has informed the simple tagline the organization uses today: "Community Jameel — Together for Good."

Creating Impact

Jameel_panelOne goal of Abdul Latif Jameel's corporate strategy is to help "people who strive for better to have better: better means, better lives, better prospects." As Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel explains: "We can do this because we are determined in our quest for new potential. We succeed because, through our business and through Community Jameel, we never lose sight of why this matters."

This orientation is reflected in the evolution of Abdul Latif Jameel from a small distributorship into a diversified international conglomerate, of Community Jameel from a small experiment into a sustainable multi-faceted social enterprise, and of Bab Rizq Jameel from a small project into an organization that employs seven hundred people.

Community Jameel projects typically blend a Jameel family member's passion and desire to make a difference with experimentation; leverage the family business's expertise, people, and networks; and include a thorough analysis of the lessons learned. The initiatives launched and supported by Community Jameel are either owned and operated by Community Jameel itself or are organized and managed by external partners with relevant expertise. Examples of the latter include partnerships with MIT focused on global poverty alleviation, food and water security, and education initiatives; a microfinance partnership with Grameen Foundation; and partnerships to promote arts and culture with the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Prince's School of Traditional Arts. Based on strong relationships, mutual respect, shared goals, and an entrepreneurial approach, all these efforts have grown organically over the years.

New BRJ initiatives often begin with research designed to understand needs in the community, an audit of available resources, and a small pilot to test the program. Pilots that have demonstrated success have been replicated in Egypt, Turkey, and Morocco. The organization keeps the door open for new collaborations, is always looking to increase the number of branches in countries already serviced, and welcomes new partnerships in countries not yet in its portfolio.

BRJ also seeks opportunities to support other Abdul Latif Jameel business units and activities. An example is corporate sponsorship. The company is the title sponsor of the Saudi Professional League, a soccer league with fourteen teams now known simply in Arabic as Dawry Jameel (or the Jameel League). Abdul Latif Jameel sees Dawry Jameel as an opportunity to bring people together, to entertain, to engage, and to contribute to the ongoing development of Saudi society. In just three years, BRJ has created more than ten thousand stadium jobs for young Saudis who work as snack sellers and field crew employees.

Its many achievements and the organization's success in generating job opportunities through its social media platforms resulted in BRJ receiving the Arab Social Media Influencers Award in the Corporate Social Responsibility category in 2015. A few years earlier, BRJ received an award from the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation for Entrepreneurs for "Best Initiative to Support Entrepreneurship in Arab Countries." And in 2008, Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel was presented with the King Abdul Aziz Medal of the First Order, Saudi Arabia's highest civilian honor, by His Majesty King Abdullah in recognition of his personal contribution to job-creation initiatives for young Saudi men and women.

Next Steps

In October 2016, BRJ signed a memorandum of understanding with Uber, the networked personal transportation company, to support job creation, education, and resources for Saudi nationals seeking opportunities in taxi ownership and operation. A month later, BRJ signed a second agreement with Careem, the MENAT region's leading app-based car booking service, to provide income and training opportunities for Saudi citizens who wish to work in the transportation services sector.

These collaborations reflect the shared interest of all parties in supporting Saudi citizens and creating more transportation jobs. BRJ's partnerships with Uber and Careem also are closely aligned with Saudi Arabia's "Vision 2030," which calls for a prosperous, sustainable national economy based on making the most of the Saudi people's potential and the emerging "gig" economy.

Abdul Latif Jameel is constantly seeking out new markets, creating new job opportunities, developing new partnerships, and finding new ways to create value. All of it is done with a clear purpose: to help people advance their quality of life by unlocking their potential. Through Community Jameel, Abdul Latif Jameel is a pioneer in the MENAT region in driving positive social change. The work of BRJ and the social enterprise in which it is embedded has enabled the Jameel family to recognize and support the needs of tens of thousands of young people in the region.

The story of Abdul Latif Jameel, Community Jameel, and the Jameel family's philanthropic journey offers a number of helpful lessons for other family businesses and families:

1. Passion:To successfully engage family members over multiple generations, allow individuals to explore their unique passions for social causes. Members of the Jameel family are united in their passion for visual art — both traditional and contemporary — and they have leveraged this passion into programs that showcase world-class art, bring arts education to students, and support the careers of artists.

2. Experimentation: Don't be afraid to test new ideas. Experiment and learn. Then experiment again. Not everything will work, but the bigger obstacles to success and real impact are a failure to try and "planning paralysis" that limits action. BRJ started from a humble experiment involving ten young men. It has grown through smart pilot projects, iterative learning, and good strategy.

2. Community: Be sure to connect with the community you're hoping to serve, even if it's a country or an extended region. Too many philanthropists ignore this step and instead launch programs that do not take into account local needs and circumstances.

3. Expertise:Don't be afraid to hire advisors or staff with issue-based expertise and practical implementation knowledge for programs you choose to run yourself. For bigger initiatives, it may make more sense to partner with an international NGO with expertise and experience in the subject area and targeted geographic region.

4. Evolution:Just as family businesses must anticipate and adapt to changes in the marketplace, family philanthropy must also evolve to stay relevant. Finding a balance between sustaining financial support for older efforts that are working and advancing new opportunities can be a challenge, but the return is worth the effort.

Hassan Jameel offers the following advice: "Let your family's core business values also serve as guideposts for your giving. Ours are respect, improve, pioneer, and empower. We respect and consult with the people we are serving. We have feedback loops to help us improve our results. We pioneer through pilot projects that are of deep interest to family members. And we seek to empower communities with our efforts."

And he adds: "[I]t is important to pick a starting point and to allow your family the opportunity to experiment, learn, revise, and repeat."

May others find the inspiration to forge their own paths to success and significance.

Lisa Philp is a senior advisor at Foundation Center. You can contact her at llp@foundationcenter.org. For more posts in our FC Insight series, click here.

 

Weekend Link Roundup (June 24-25, 2015)

June 25, 2017

Young_radcliffe_as_harry_potterOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

"If there's a silver lining to the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement," writes Nature Conservancy president Mark Tercek, it's "the renewed commitment to climate action we’re seeing across the country." Indeed, "[m]ore than 175 governments covering 30 percent of the global economy have pledged to reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2050. [And here] in the U.S., 13 states have formed an alliance announcing that they will enact policies to meet our Paris pledge within their borders."

Communications/Marketing

Is your nonprofit's messaging stuck in neutral? Nonprofit communications consultant Carrie Fox has a five-step reboot designed to get your communications back in gear.

Grantmaking

Even though "[r]elationships between funders and grantees may have their own unique quirks and power dynamics,...they are not fundamentally different from...other good relationships," writes Caroline Altman Smith, deputy director of education at the Kresge Foundation, on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog.

International Affairs/Development

In a powerful Ted Talk recorded in Vancouver, British Columbia, the International Rescue Committee's David Miliband argues that the global refugee crisis "is not just a crisis; it's a test of us in the Western world, of who we are and what we stand for....[It] is about the rescue of us and our values, as well as the rescue of refugees and their lives."

A new report from UNHRC, the United Nations' refugee agency, says that at the end of 2016 there were 65.6 million people forcibly displaced worldwide — some 300,000 more than a year earlier. And of the total, 22.5 million are refugees, the highest number ever recorded.

Here's a silver lining: In 2016, for the second year in a row, the Syrian crisis was the largest recipient of private humanitarian funding, with $223 million going towards the crisis and the neighboring refugee-hosting countries. The Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy team reports on foundation efforts to ameliorate the crisis.

The World Bank is reinventing itself from a lender for major development projects to a broker for private sector investment. What are the implications of the shift for poverty reduction efforts globally? Felix Stein, a research affiliate at the University of Cambridge, and Devi Sridhar, professor of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, report for the Conversation.

Are foundations missing an opportunity by not focusing more of their development resources on cities? Christopher Swope, managing editor of Citiscope, explains why many of the world's largest cities are well positioned to drive progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.

Nonprofits

Here on PhilanTopic, Amelia Kohm, founder of DataViz for Nonprofits, explains why, for nonprofits looking to boost their impact, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Philanthropy

North Carolinians will be interested in the update filed by Z. Smith Reynolds executive director Maurice "Mo" Green on the foundation's "emerging direction," which was formulated during a yearlong strategic assessment and planning process aimed at learning more about the changing needs of people in the state.

GrantAdvisor, a new web service launched (in California and Minnesota, with more states to follow in 2018) by nonprofit rating site Great Nonprofit, the California Association of Nonprofits, and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, "facilitates open dialogue between nonprofits and grantmakers by collecting authentic, real-time reviews and comments on grantseekers’ experiences working with funders to encourage more productive philanthropy." You can check it out here.

In an open letter to Jeff Bezos, Forbes contributor Jake Hayman urges the Amazon.com founder to rethink his intention to use Twitter to crowdsource his philanthropy with a focus on immediate short-term needs.

The New York Community Trust's Lorie Slutsky and philanthropy consultant (and PhilanTopic contributor) Kris Putnam-Walkerly also have some advice for Bezos.

Bezos was in the news for another reason last week: Amazon's acquisition of  John Mackey's high-end grocery purveyor, Whole Foods. For City Journal contributing editor Howard Husock, the deal is a reminder to the "quasi-capitalist" movement (of which Mackey is a member in good standing) that "good service, low prices, and beating competitors still matter." Adds Husock, those "managing the endowments of major foundations — a number of whom have announced that they will use impact investing to guide both grant-making and asset-investment strategy — should pay attention."

And in a Quartz article that originally appeared in the digital magazine Aeon, Barry Lam, an associate professor of philosophy at Vassar College, argues that the kind of "moral clarity" we have about the dead hand of the past "disappears as soon as we move from politics to wealth." Indeed, in philanthropy, Americans have (and celebrate) "a huge industry dedicated to executing the wishes of human beings after their death."

That's it for this week. Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

A Conversation With Una Osili, Director of Research, Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy

June 23, 2017

As we reported a week or so ago, the latest edition of the annual Giving USA report shows that total giving in 2016 rose 2.7 percent (1.4 percent adjusted for inflation) from the revised estimate of $379.89 billion for 2015. Published by the Giving USA Foundation and researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, the report also found that charitable giving from individuals, foundations, and corporations — and to all nine major categories of recipient organizations — increased in 2016, just the sixth time in the last forty years that that has happened.

The numbers would seem to support the idea that many Americans, eight years after the start of the worst economic downturn since the 1930s, are feeling better about their finances. They do little, however, to explain the widespread anxiety and economic insecurity that fueled the political rise and election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. To help sort things out, PND spoke with Una Osili, director of research at the Lilly Family School of Pahilanthropy, about the report's findings and what they tell us about wealth, inequality, and the changing landscape of philanthropy in America.

Headshot_osili_una_cropped1_3Philanthropy News Digest: The big headline from this year's report is that total giving hit a record $390 billion in 2016. What's your favorite takeaway from the report?

Una Osili: A key finding is that individuals, who are responsible for 72 percent of all giving in the U.S., are the drivers of American philanthropy. If you look at the last two years, individual giving has registered the highest growth rate over that period, and this year's report confirms the observation that individuals play a critical role in philanthropy.

PND: The report found that giving to all nine recipient categories was up in 2016, a rare occurrence. Which of those categories saw the biggest gains, and what does the fact that giving was up across all categories tell you?

UO: The subsectors that saw the largest growth were the environment and the arts, followed by international. In all three of those areas, we are seeing significant innovation in terms of fundraising approaches and the use of new methods to build relationships with donors.

The takeaway here is that innovation does matter, and organizations in those sectors are breaking new ground in how they think about donor engagement and using technology. It's also interesting that the environment, and international affairs as well, are very much top of mind with donors and funders as a result of the public policy debates we've been having.

PND: You mentioned that the increase in giving in 2016 was largely driven by the 4 percent jump in giving by individuals. How closely does individual giving track income and/or wealth inequality?

UO: In general, giving trends tend to reflect overall economic growth and household wealth and income trends. In other words, individuals give when they are economically and finan­cial­ly secure. That said, inequality is an important trend to examine alongside growth in income, because as the economy has recovered we've seen that house­hold incomes at the top have recovered faster than incomes in the middle and at the bottom, and that has the potential to influence where we can expect to see growth in giving over time.

PND: As PND and other news outlets have reported, there was a spike in donations to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and other progressive nonprofit groups in the weeks after Donald Trump was elected president. Are you able to say what kind of impact, if any, the election had on last year's giving totals and trends?

UO: I think it may be a bit early to completely unpack how the results of the election affected giving. But as I mentioned, what the 2016 election did do was to raise public awareness of certain issues, whether it's the environment, civil liberties, or reproductive rights. And I think the heightened awareness of these and other policy issues has the potential to influence giving going forward.

PND: In the release that accompanied the report, your col­league Patrick Rooney is quoted as saying that we saw something of "a democratization of philanthropy in 2016." What did he mean, and what are the main factors driving that trend?

UO: I think the point he is making is that giving in 2016 was more broad-based. As you noted, all nine major subsectors showed growth, including the arts, the environment, education, human services, and health. In addition, we did notice that in several categories it wasn't just mega-gifts that were driving the increase.

PND: Have you and your colleagues done any work on how donor-advised funds sponsored by large commercial firms might be changing the way Americans give?

UO: This year, Giving USA has a supplement on donor-advised funds that's included in the report. And one of the areas we look at is how donor-advised funds are growing, and the implica­tions of that growth for charitable giving.

PND: And they are?

UO: Well, one is the idea that individual donors benefit from having an increased array of tools from which to choose. The question then becomes, How can nonprofits adapt to this changing landscape, and what are the public policy issues that will emerge within the growing popularity of donor-advised funds raise?

PND: What side of the debate do you land on? Are donor-advised funds a net-plus or net-minus for charitable giving?

UO: There’s definitely an opportunity for more research on donor-advised funds, not least because to date there really hasn't been much updated data on how donors are using them. I think the release of the report is an opportunity to raise awareness about the need for more research in this area.

PND: Back to the headline number of $390 billion. That's a big number, but as a percentage of GDP it's the usual 2 percent, in inflation-adjusted terms, that we've come to expect. Do you have an explanation for why the giving-to-GDP ratio never seems to budge?

UO: Well, $390 billion is a large number, and it's impressive on its own terms. However, the U.S. economy is much bigger than $390 billion, and it would take a lot more growth in philanthropy — holding all other factors constant — to actually boost that ratio. 

PND: Have we seen an expansion of the giving-to-GDP ratio at any point over the last, say, twenty-five years?

UO: Well, in the 1990s, we did see giving as a share of GDP rise quite significantly. It went from about 1.7 percent in 1996 to about 2.2 percent in 2001. And then it fell back again during the Great Recession, when it went down to 1.9 percent. I know, these seem like small changes, but the uptick in the 1990s was quite interesting, because the 1990s were a period of economic expansion, and with that we witnessed significant wealth creation, in the tech industry and other sectors, as well as a significant number of foundations being created. So, what we saw in the '90s is that it is possible to move the needle on giving as a percentage of GDP, but it would take a lot more giving to make it happen.

PND: Have you collected any data on giving by region? And if you have, what does it tell you about how generous, say, newly minted billionaires in Silicon Valley are?

UO: Those numbers are hard to analyze and compare across regions and time. However, we are seeing with some of the younger tech donors that they are starting their philanthropy earlier in life, which is a very different pattern. They're starting in their twenties and thirties to make very significant gifts, and they're also thinking about their giving in new ways. Many of tech donors are looking at new forms of giving, whether that's impact investing, or collaborative models of giving, or something like what Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have done with the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, which, as you know, is an LLC that does grantmaking, impact investing, and engages in political advocacy. So we're seeing the new tech donors opt for different models and seeking to innovate in philan­thro­py, just as many of them have done in their business careers.

PND: Have you and your colleagues adjusted your methodology so as to capture some of these newer giving models? I can't imagine it would be easy, but is it something you've discussed or would like to do?

UO: I'm glad you asked. The school has done some work in this area — I'm thinking in particular of a report we issued about three years ago on program-related investments and how they are changing the philanthropic sector. But the chal­lenge is that while some types of impact investments — PRIs, for example, which are a formal part of our tax code and count toward a foundation's payout rate — have been well tracked over time, approaches like mission-related investments, where foundations can apply a specific percent of their assets toward their mission, are more difficult to track because each foundation may be defining their terms differently. Again, because of the growing interest in some of these newer approaches, I think it represents an opportunity for the Lilly School over the next few years.

PND: It's mid-June as we speak, and the stock market is up more than 20 percent since the beginning of the year. Is the stock market a good indicator of future giving, and would you be surprised, based on the perfor­mance of the major indices so far, if the headline number in next year's Giving USA report surpasses $400 billion?

UO: The stock market is one of our indicators in terms of correlation with giving over time, and as we begin to look at what is happening in 2017, we've seen, as you said, strong returns within the equity market. But there are still six months left in the year, so we'll just have to wait and see where we end up, especially because so many donors tend to wait till the end of the year to do a lot of their giving. We should also pay attention to other economic factors, including growth in GDP, personal income growth, and so on.

PND: And the four-handle on the overall giving number for 2017?

UO: Given the overall patterns we're seeing so far this year, there's a very good chance we'll not only hit the $400 billion mark but exceed it. But don't forget, there are still six months left in the year.

PND: Right. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

UO: Exactly.

— Mitch Nauffts

A New Interactive Snapshot of the Community Foundation Field

June 22, 2017

Thanks to the efforts of the 250+ community foundations who answered the call to participate in this year's Columbus Survey, the CF Insights team at Foundation Center is ready to share the results of our fiscal year (FY) 2016 annual survey with the field and beyond. I’m thrilled to announce that the findings can be accessed through our brand new, interactive Columbus Survey Results Dashboard.

Known among community foundations as the field’s "annual census," the Columbus Survey provides a current, comprehensive financial and operational snapshot of the community foundations that participated. Their responses, in turn, allow us to report on community foundation activity and general trends in the field over the last year, as well as better understand how community foundations are sustaining their work.

The new dashboard captures the activity of over 90 percent of the estimated asset dollars held by the field and represents an exciting step forward, as it allows community foundation leaders, staff, and others to view snapshot data in a format that’s intuitive and easy to understand. In addition, the interactive environment provides users with greater control over which subsets of data are displayed, while the platform itself makes it easier for us to get the data and our analysis to those who need it, more quickly.

CF_Insights2016_fig1A few key findings did rise to the surface as we were analyzing the 2016 data:

Asset growth across the field was a bit more pronounced in 2016. After seeing asset growth stall in 2015, the 2016 survey results show an uptick in change rates, with the median increase across the entire field of respondents coming in at 5.2 percent, up from a virtually flat 0.7 percent the previous year. Solid stock market returns may be a factor in the increase, and it will be interesting to see whether this is the start of a new trend.

Reported gifts received by the largest 100 community foundations in the U.S. (by asset size) increased to a new high of $8.2 billion. The increase represents a significant recovery from 2015, which saw a decline in reported gifts received for the first time since 2009, during the depths of the Great Recession.

Grantmaking by the foundations in our sample, which has steadily increased for five consecutive years, now totals $6.8 billion. This shouldn't be surprising, as community foundations continue to grow their assets and maintain their payout rates. It should be noted, however, that this figure does not include the several other ways in which foundations invest in their communities. Even while engaging in such activities, traditional grantmaking by community foundations continues to grow.

CF_Insights2016_fig2

There are key differences among community foundations of different sizes. Smaller community foundations, often younger and focused on asset growth, tend to have a much higher proportion of funds that are allocated to growth through investments, while larger community foundations have a far higher proportion of pass-through funds. In addition, the proportion of assets in donor-advised funds tends to increase along with the overall asset size of the community foundation. These two factors also reflect the ability of larger community foundations to provide flexible grantmaking options to their donors.

In addition to key findings from this year's survey, the Columbus Survey Results Dashboard also features our four top 100 rankings lists. Our Top 100 Community Foundations by Asset Size list shows the range in asset size among those ranked, while Top 100 by Distribution Rate, Top 100 by Total (Gift & Grant) Transactions, and Top 100 by Gifts per Capita allow community foundations of all sizes to see how they are positioned vis-à-vis their peers in various ways; determine how their overall strategy aligns with their rankings; and enhance their visibility in their communities by sharing their rankings with stakeholders and the public.

I invite community foundations and anyone looking to learn more about the current state of the field to check out the 2016 Columbus Survey Results Dashboard today!

David Rosado is the member services manager for CF Insights. If you'd like more information about this or any of our other resources, or would like to receive updates related to CF Insights, visit cfinsights.org, or e-mail David (dar@foundationcenter.org) or Diana Esposito (dce@foundationcenter.org).

A Marriage of Commerce and Cause: How Rotary Is Staying Relevant in the 21st Century

June 20, 2017

Time_to_adaptIn 1905, a lawyer, a merchant tailor, a mining engineer, and a coal dealer met in downtown Chicago. Rotary's founders initially were looking for an opportunity to build relationships and promote their businesses. A hundred and twelve years later, Rotary has matured into one of the world’s largest membership and humanitarian nonprofit organizations.

The work of Rotary's 1.2 million members combines the building of community connections with humanitarian efforts such as promoting peace, providing clean water and sanitation, preventing disease, and alleviating poverty — challenges that are just as pressing today as they were when Rotary was founded.

Yet, as is true of many large organizations in the world today, Rotary faces the ongoing challenge of staying relevant at a time when technology and organizations new to the NGO space are changing the landscape of philanthropy.

For example, the number of social sector organizations in the United States has increased some 8.6 percent since 2002, while by some estimates there are now approximately 1.44 million nonprofits registered with the IRS. Part of this growth reflects society's increased reliance on nonprofits to fill service gaps in areas where cash-strapped governments are no longer able to deliver on past promises.

In addition, with a greater range of charitable opportunities and new models for fundraising (e.g., peer-to-peer, mobile, crowdfunding), there is increased competition in the nonprofit marketplace for both supporters and donations.

In the face of these challenges, how can nonprofits like Rotary continue to thrive? Over the past few years, Rotary and its members have been thinking about that question and, after much discussion, have developed a plan to address the challenge. Below are three concrete steps we have taken or are taking.

1. Staying relevant for boomers and millennials. Organizations in the twenty-first century must structure themselves in ways that encourage sustained engagement opportunities, especially with respect to a millennial generation that tends to identify with causes and social impact more than with hierarchically organized institutions. Of the approximately 80 million millennials living in the United States, a recent study showed that 87 percent are interested in volunteering or participating in their company's corporate social responsibility programs, while nearly half have volunteered for a cause or nonprofit in the past month.

At the same time, it is equally important that we engage people at the other end of the demographic spectrum. As the New York Times reported in 2015, organizations like Rotary are an attractive option for the 10.6 million Americans over the age of 65 who want to stay active and engaged and who are eager and in a position to give back to society.

The importance of this change is underscored by the insights of Michael McQueen, an author, business consultant, and Rotary member. In the diagram below, McQueen illustrates the fact that sustained relevance is rarely linear, and that when an organization has passed its peak relevance (the red x), a reinvention is in order if it hopes to remain relevant.

Rotary_Silent Pulse
Fig. 1: What is Your Silent Pulse?, Michael McQueen

 

Organizations can avoid the downward slide by taking appropriate action, which is what Rotary did when a series of independent surveys revealed that many non-members (and even some of our members) could not fully explain our mission, or why people should join.

After lots of analysis and introspection, we began to address these issues by sharpening and strengthening our brand identity. That effort has borne fruit, as we surpassed our target of $1 billion in current and projected endowment assets two years early. We also were recently ranked no.3 in a CNBC and Charity Navigator profile of the top 10 charities changing the world in 2016.

2. A unifying cause: eradicating polio from the face of the earth. Staying relevant in a rapidly changing world also involves setting audacious, transformational organizational goals that serve to engage and motivate members and supporters. In Rotary's case, the big one has been the eradication of polio globally.

In 1985, Rotary, a nongovernmental organization — not a government ministry or multilateral institution like the UN — had the audacity to take on the challenge of eradicating polio. Thanks to our efforts and those of our partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), the incidence of polio around the world has been reduced by 99.9 percent over the last thirty years — making it one of the most successful public-private global health partnerships ever.

There were four key factors that enabled Rotary and its large, diverse membership to achieve this goal and stay focused on it for three decades.

The cause was relevant to our members. Polio was endemic in a hundred and twenty-five countries when Rotary announced its goal to eradicate the disease in 1985. Rotary is an international organization, and, as a result, many Rotary members had first-hand experience of the disease and the suffering it causes.

Hands-on participation. The use of the oral polio vaccine made it possible for any Rotary member or supporter to become a vaccinator and forge a deeply personal and emotional connection to a cause that went beyond simply writing a check or attending a fundraising event.

Results were measurable. Success and victory were easily measured — you either had polio cases in the world or you did not. Our members set themselves a concrete and achievable goal with clear metrics for success.

We didn't do it alone; finding good partners is crucial. When Rotary decided to tackle polio in 1985, we knew we couldn't do it alone. So we assembled a coalition in 1988 to achieve the goal — the United Nations Children's Fund, the World Health Organization, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, joined more recently by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — and allowed each to define its role in the effort.

As part of GPEI, Rotary has leveraged its unique strengths in fundraising (Rotary members have contributed more than $1.6 billion to the eradication effort), advocacy, awareness raising, vaccination initiatives, and enlisting the support of governments.

One irony of this incredible project is that we could become victims of our own success. Over the three decades that we have worked to end polio, there was always the danger that the goal would become less relevant to a younger demographic, particularly in developed countries where the virus had been eradicated. To avoid mission fatigue, our response has been to highlight the opportunity of being a part of history and contributing to the eradication of a human disease for only the second time ever, after smallpox in 1980. The approach has resonated.

3. Shifting the paradigm: social good becomes part of the value proposition. As the world rises to the challenge of a new set of ambitious United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, nonprofits able to blend commerce and cause will play a key role. Organizations that do this effectively also will be well positioned to meet millennials’ insistence on integrity, accountability, and social good as core corporate values.

Making these values part of your organizational DNA is critical. At Rotary, the promotion of business ethics and our focus on maximizing positive social good is a core organizational principle. Rotary's Four-Way Test — which asks of the things we think, say, or do: Is it true? Is it fair? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? And will it benefit all? — has guided Rotary leaders and members for more than a century.

In the for-profit sector, however, adding social value is not always embedded in a company's mission, and corporate social responsibility initiatives often can seem like discretionary add-ons to a firm’s business objectives.

If that is to change, the social value of a company's work must become a key performance indicator for executives in the way that share value currently is.

The question, then, is how to unlock the significant potential of the private sector as a key engine of sustainable growth and a force for improving lives globally. This is where nonprofits can lead. NGOs can help bridge the gap between private capital and local causes, providing the capacity, leadership, and experience needed to forge smart partnerships.

For example, Rotary partnered with global healthcare company Abbott to offer Mega Wellness camps in India and Brazil. These are daylong events where doctors and laboratory assistants provide free consultations and healthcare information to all walk-in patients about a range of health issues. Over the life of the partnership, Rotary and Abbott teamed up to provide care to 26,226 people at thirty-eight different events, and Rotary volunteers helped raise awareness of the camps, mobilized support within the various communities, and helped spread the word about the benefits of polio immunization.

Partnerships like this also help Rotary establish a legacy for our flagship polio program by demonstrating to communities in which we work our commitment to public health more broadly and our ability and willingness to provide resources to back that commitment up. Last but not least, they provide a framework for a deeper, more sincere commitment from the private sector beyond the limitations of strategic corporate social responsibility. And that helps advance an ongoing paradigm shift in the for-profit world from a model where shareholder value and the maximization of profit are all that matter to one where creating positive social impact is a core element of every company’s model.

So, as nonprofit leaders, how can you ensure that your organizations are positioned to compete for hearts, minds, and dollars in the twenty-first century? It's pretty simple: Stay true to your DNA but take steps to make sure you stay relevant; identify a big, audacious goal that motivates your teams and mobilizes your supporters; and maximize your impact through smart partnerships. Do all three and your organization is likely to not only survive but thrive in the years to come.

Headshot__John_HewkoJohn Hewko is the general secretary of Rotary International and the Rotary Foundation.

Show Me: Why Your Data Should Be Seen (and Not Just Read)

June 19, 2017

The following post is part of a year-long series here on PhilanTopic that addresses major themes related to the center’s work: the use of data to understand and address important issues and challenges; the benefits of foundation transparency for donors, nonprofits/NGOs, and the broader public; the emergence of private philanthropy globally; the role of storytelling in conveying the critical work of philanthropy; and what it means, and looks like, to be an effective, high-functioning foundation, nonprofit, or changemaker in the twenty-first century. As always, we welcome your thoughts and feedback.

_____

"Frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me."

So proclaimed Willard Duncan, a Missouri congressman, in an 1899 speech. Perhaps because I, too, hail from the Show-Me state, I have taken his advice to heart. Now let me convince you of its wisdom.

First let's talk about data. Nonprofit organizations are lousy with it — participant data, program data, financial data, sales data, fundraising data. Nonprofits are drinking from a fire hose and the water pressure is building. We are scrambling just to find enough bandwidth to store our data. And like secretive hoarders, we are reluctant to admit how little of this data we actually use. We may pay lip service to "evidence-based practices" or "data-driven strategies," or even borrow acronyms like ROI (return on investment) and KPI (key performance indicator) from the for-profit world. But, when pressed, many nonprofit managers admit they are not data people. They care deeply about people and programs, but their eyes glaze over at the sight of a spreadsheet.

It's okay: we're wired that way. (More on our wiring in a minute.) But for now, let's look at some other reasons why nonprofits may not be making good use of their data.

Top Reasons Nonprofits Avoid Data

Nonprofits avoid data for any number of understandable reasons. In my experience, the primary causes include:

Data animus. Many nonprofit staff members possess expertise in environmental issues, the arts, health, or education but not data analysis. Some suffer from data aversion. They admit — or sometimes proudly proclaim — that they are not "numbers people."

Time. Nonprofit staffers do not have time for data analysis. They are struggling to stay afloat, to submit the next proposal, to sustain their programs, to address the huge and varied needs of their clientele, to cultivate donors. As a result, digging through data is almost always a back-burner item.

Fear. Some worry about what their data might reveal. They fear they won't be able to control the narrative, that the data will be taken out of context, or that funders will withdraw their support based on the data.

"Dirty" data. Many nonprofits have entry-level staff or multiple staff entering data into management information systems or spreadsheets. The result can be "dirty" data — data with a troubling level of inaccuracy because it has not been entered correctly and/or consistently. If, for example, Michael Smith is entered twice, once with a middle initial and once without, then tracking his progress through your program will be difficult.

Wrong data. While many nonprofits have data on their financials and clients, they often lack data that demonstrates the positive social impact of their programs. A tutoring program may not track students' school grades or test scores. An employment program may lack data on program graduates' wages over time.

Disconnected data. Rather than maintaining a central management information system, small nonprofits often store their data in separate Excel spreadsheets. Which means Michael Smith's demographic profile might be captured in one spreadsheet while his attendance in various programs is stored in another, making analysis of, say, age-to-program participation next to impossible.

Why Cave Dwellers Drew Pictures, Not Spreadsheets

Our visual system has evolved over millions of years to process images in parallel. We don't "read" the Mona Lisa from top to bottom or from left to right. We take it all in at a glance and understand, almost instantly, that it is a picture of a woman in front of a landscape wearing a dark dress and an inscrutable smile. The cognitive technology of words and numbers, which is only six or seven thousand years old, requires us to scan individual characters arranged in small groupings and piece them together into words or values and then sentences or equations.

Here's an example: Which image do you "get" first?

Kohm_MonaLisa Kohm_Spreadsheet
Source: GoGuiyan.com and SSuite Accel Spreadsheet

 

Because data is encoded in words and numbers, it can be difficult for us to extract the stories that data tells. But if we use visual elements — solid bars, pie slices, sloping lines — to encode the data, the story comes into focus much more quickly. Data visualizations help us understand the significance of data by placing it in a visual context. And if, on top of that, we apply to our data visualizations what we know about how humans process visual cues, they are even easier to digest. Just one example: Humans can discern positions along a common scale more accurately than angles. That's why it is much easier to compare the lengths of several bars on a bar graph than to compare the size of slices in a pie chart.

Florence Nightingale probably wasn't a numbers person, either. She became a nurse to serve others. Yet, she soon realized she could provide care more effectively with the help of data. Working with a statistician named William Farr, Nightingale analyzed mortality rates during the Crimean War. She and Farr discovered that most of the soldiers who died in the conflict died not in combat but as a result of "preventable diseases" caused by bad hygiene.

Nightingale's solution? She invented the polar area chart, a variant of the pie chart meant "to affect thro' the Eyes what we fail to convey to the public through their word-proof ears." Each pie represented a twelve-month period of the war, with each slice showing the number of deaths per month, growing outward if the number increased, and color-coded to show the causes of death (blue: preventable, red: wounds, black: other). Clearly seeing the importance of hygiene, the Queen and Parliament quickly set up a sanitary commission and, as a result, mortality rates fell.

Kohm_NightingaleChart
 
Fig. 1: Florence Nightingale decided to show (rather than tell) her data
Source: Smithsonian.com

 

Getting Started With Data Visualization

Before designing charts, maps, or graphs, you need to know what you want to know. Perhaps your organization or program already has a logic model. If not, it's worth at least one team meeting to draft one. Logic models, like data visualizations, show rather than tell. They show how resources, programs and services, and desired results relate to each other according to your organization's strategic plan. The graphic below comes from the Pell Institute's Evaluation Toolbook, a site that walks you through logic models, other steps in effective program assessment, and the various types of data you can collect.

Kohm_LogicModel
Fig. 2: The components of a logic model

 

If your organization or program doesn't already have clearly articulated goals, benchmarks, or objectives, a logic model is a good first step toward setting them. You can set goals for any stage of the process (what types and amounts of resources you hope to garner, what types and amounts of services you intend to provide, or what types and amounts or degrees of outcomes you expect to see). The trick is determining which data will be most useful in helping you measure progress toward your goals in a meaningful way.

Once you figure out what it is you need or want to know, don't wait until you have data that supports your logic model to visualize it. It's important to bring the data to life for everyone involved, and that means visualizing it sooner rather than hiding it in spreadsheets and databases.

Even a simple line graph showing progress over time toward a goal will make your data perceptible, prompting you and your colleagues to ask important questions. Is our data accurate? What additional data do we need to better understand the trends we see? What is going on in our program or our community/field that might be affecting these trends? Questions like these can strengthen your resolve to gather new and/or better data — or to make changes designed to enhance the efficacy of your program.

Kohm_LineGraph
 
Fig. 3: A simple line graph showing progress over time

 

There are plenty of software programs out there to help you visualize your data. Excel, which you may already have, is perhaps the simplest to use. Other programs such as Tableau and Qlik Sense allow you to create interactive visuals and "drill down" into your data. If, for example, you see an overall downward trend in program participation, you might want to see if the trend holds for subgroups of participants such as women, men, or those in certain age groups. Free versions of Tableau and Qlik Sense are available as long as you store your data and visuals on the companies' servers. (Both companies give you the option to hide your data and charts from anyone outside your organization.)

Eventually, you'll identify your most important goals, what data to collect and use to track your progress, and how best to visualize that data. Then you can create a data dashboard that everyone in your organization can use to track progress on key goals and ask ever more sophisticated questions about how better to advance your mission.

But first you need to tell a story with an image or picture. Getting that right is the first step toward greater understanding and success.

Amelia_kohm_for_PhilanTopicAmelia Kohm, PhD, is the founder of DataViz for Nonprofits, where she serves as principal consultant. To contact her and learn more about data visualization best practices, visit nonprofitviz.comFor more posts in the FC Insight series, click here.

Weekend Link Roundup (June 17-18, 2017)

June 18, 2017

Rising-TemperaturesOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Arts and Culture

On the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's Shared Experiences blog, National Assembly of State Arts Agencies CEO Pam Breaux argues that leaving support for arts to the private sector alone "would leave millions of people behind."

Communications/Marketing

On the Communications Network site, Na Eng, communications director at the McKnight Foundation, shares some of the best practices that she and her colleagues embedded in the foundation's latest annual report.

Corporate Philanthropy

In the Detroit News, Melissa Burden reports that General Motors is overhauling its $30-million-a year corporate philanthropy program — a decision that has some nonprofits and arts groups in southeastern Michigan worried.

Diversity

"Of all the things philanthropists are trying to fix," writes Ben Paynter in Fast Company, "there's one major issue the sector seems to continually ignore: itself." By which he means the "lack of racial diversity among nonprofit and foundation leaders, an issue that remains unaddressed despite having been well documented for at least fifteen years."

Grantmaking

When are program evaluations worth reading, and when are they not? On Glasspockets' Transparency Talk blog, Rebekah Levin, director of evaluation and learning at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, breaks it down

Continue reading »

From New York City to New South Wales: Bringing Evidence-Based Practices to Child Welfare Systems

June 14, 2017

ChildWelfareEvidence-based practices geared toward preventing foster care placements, reducing disruptions to children already in a foster home, shortening the length of stays, and reunifying families are saving many of New York City's most vulnerable children and have the potential to reduce out-of-home-care populations elsewhere.  Indeed, the successful track record of one of New York City's oldest and largest child welfare organizations, The New York Foundling, has prompted it to offer its experience and expertise to governments overseas, even as far away as New South Wales, Australia.

New South Wales' child welfare system closely resembles New York's a decade ago. In New South Wales, the number of children entering foster care has doubled over the past five years; today there are approximately 16,000 children in foster, kinship, or residential care there at any given time — about 8.1 children per 1,000. By comparison, the foster care population in New York City in 2007 totaled 16,911, with a ratio of 8.9 children per 1,000.

Since then, with the help of organizations like The Foundling, New York's Administration for Children's Services has achieved dramatic improvements — leading child care professionals around the world to take notice. In New York, a cohesive family foster care model called Child Success NYC has reduced the number of children in foster care by nearly 50 percent over ten years. In partnership with five participating foster care agencies, the program uses evidence-based models to provide care for children and families (e.g., Keeping Foster Parents Supported and Parenting Through Change [KEEP]). Child Success NYC operates under the philosophy that families possess unique strengths that can be built on to keep their children at home. As a result of the program, the number of children in out-of-home care has dropped to 9,000, a ratio of 4.9 per 1,000, while the average length of time a child stays in care has been reduced to less than two years.

Continue reading »

‘Justice Matters’ and the Power of Film to Persuade

June 12, 2017

JusticeMattersEach year, Justice Matters, a special series within Filmfest DC, the annual Washington, DC International Film Festival, shines a spotlight on some of the best new social issue films from around the globe. This year, three of the films were judged outstanding by jurors and audience members.

Filmmakers throughout the history of the medium have felt the need to address injustice, poverty, and other social concerns, prodding audiences to reflection and action, a tradition that continues today. As Filmfest DC founder and director Tony Gittens noted in launching Justice Matters in 2010: "What better city to highlight this tradition than our nation's capital, the vortex of ongoing debate on how best to further democracy and equitable treatment for all." And what better time than the present.

I was happy to catch the Justice Matters 2017 program during this year's festival in April. I had attended Justice Matters in 2012, highlighting 5 Broken Cameras in an earlier PhilanTopic post and was eager to see this year's selection of films, especially The Good Postman, an intimate story about the flood of Syrian refugees into Europe set in Bulgaria, where I'd lived for two years.

This year's lineup included eight award-winning films that explore some of the most pressing challenges of our time and some of the most creative and courageous responses to those challenges: corporate corruption (150 Milligrams); corrosion of public trust and the need for a free press (All Governments Lie: Truth, Deception, and the Spirit of I.F. Stone); the privatization of public education (Backpack Full of Cash); refugee integration (The Good Postman); the crisis in Syria (Last Men in Aleppo); and climate change (Tomorrow). Two of the films mined the past for lessons and inspiration: one a personal recollection of the U.S. invasion of Grenada (The House on Coco Road); and a musical quest set during Freedom Summer (Two Trains Runnin’).

(All the films should be available in other festivals, theaters, broadcast, or on the Internet. More information about each is on the Justice Matters site and/or on the films' websites.)

Jurists for the series included Conrad Martin, executive director, the Stewart R. Mott Foundation and executive director of the Fund for Constitutional Government; Montré Aza Missouri, founder and director, Howard Film Culture; and Kathryn Washington, director of diversity and innovation at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (June 10-11, 2017)

June 11, 2017

HonnoldOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Children and Youth

On the Annie E. Casey Foundation blog, Tracey Feild, managing director of the foundation's Child Welfare Strategy Group, shares five lessons from the foundation's recent efforts to develop tools to measure and address racial disparities in child welfare systems.

Education

"If Facebook’s [Mark]. Zuckerberg has his way, children the world over will soon be teaching themselves — using software his company helped build." The New York Times' Natasha Singer considers the efforts of Zuckerberg, Salesforce founder Marc Benioff, Netflix chief Reed Hastings, and other Silicon Valley billionaires to remake America's public schools.

Giving

In an article for Nature, Caroline Fiennes, founder of Giving Evidence, an organization that promotes charitable giving based on sound evidence, argues that "[p]hilanthropists are flying blind because little is known about how to donate money well." The solution to the problem, she adds, "lies in more research on what makes for effective philanthropy [and donor effectiveness]."

And here, courtesy of the International Council for Science's Anne-Sophie Stevance and David McCollum, research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, is an SDG-related example of exactly the kind of approach and methodology Fiennes would like to see more of.

A recent column by New York Times columnist David Brooks in which Brooks asks, "What would I do if I had a billion bucks to use for good?" raises other interesting questions, writes John Tamny on the Real Clear Markets site, including: Why do the superrich think their skills in the commercial space render them experts at charity? And: Why should the supperrich be expected to do "good" after they have created wealth — and the jobs and social advances that usually come with it?

Reid Hoffman, a supperrich Silicon Valley entrepreneur and founder of networking site LinkedIn, tells The Atlantic's Alana Semuels that having people who know how to apply capital in the service of getting things done is a good thing for social causes, as long as those same people are careful about big-footing the politics of the issue.

Continue reading »

The Diversity Gap in the Nonprofit Sector

June 06, 2017

Diversity logoThe lack of diversity at the highest levels of the country's corporations has become a popular topic of debate, thanks in part to a number of high-profile stories focused on the technology industry.

If there has been less criticism of the nonprofit and foundation sectors, neither is exempt from the problem. Earlier this year, Battalia Winston analyzed the leadership teams of the largest foundations and nonprofits in the United States and found that they, too, suffer from homogeneity. We found, for instance, that while 42 percent of the organizations we surveyed are led by female executive directors, 87 percent of all executive directors or presidents were white, and that there was only minimal representation of African Americans (6 percent), Asian Americans (3 percent), and Hispanics (4 percent) in those positions.

Our findings, which we've published in a white paper, The State of Diversity in Nonprofit and Foundation Leadership, are similar to those presented in a number of recent studies. A 2015 study by Community Wealth Partners, for example, found that only 8 percent of nonprofit executive directors were people of color, while a 2013 study conducted by D5 found that 92 percent of foundation executive directors were white.

While one would think that nonprofits and foundations — particularly those that support underserved communities and minorities — would prioritize diversity within their leadership ranks, attracting and recruiting diverse talent is easier said than done, especially at the leadership level. If organizations want to create sustained diversity at the top, they need to continuously cultivate a talent pipeline of diverse high-potential candidates, both internally and externally.

For any number of reasons, building a pipeline of diverse talent can be particularly challenging for nonprofits and foundations. First, the talent pool of diverse candidates is still significantly smaller than the pool of white candidates. According to a 2016 study by Young Invincibles, racial disparities in rates of higher education attainment continue to widen: between 2007 and 2015, the gap between the share of white adults with postsecondary degrees and Latinos and African Americans with postsecondary degrees increased by 2.2 and 0.4 percentage points, respectively.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (June 3-4, 2017)

June 04, 2017

Pittsburgh office media carousel skyline triangle  700x476Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

African Americans

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Melissa Harris-Perry, a professor in the department of politics and international affairs at Wake Forest University, television personality, and founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center, has some advice for the NAACP, which recently announced the departure of its president, Cornell William Brooks, and its intention to pursue an "organization-wide refresh."

Climate Change

Hours after Donald Trump claimed "to represent the voters of Pittsburgh in his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement," Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto announced his support for a goal of powering the city entirely with clean and renewable energy by 2035. Shane Levy reports for the Sierra Club. (And you can read Peduto's executive order to that effect here.)

Although there's no doubt that "President Trump’s decision to abandon the Paris Agreement on global warming is a short-sighted mistake," writes Nature Conservancy president Mark Tercek, the jury is still out as to whether "the decision [will] unravel the entire agreement."

Fundraising

We missed this post by Vu Le outlining the principles of community-centric fundraising when it was first published in the lead up to the Memorial Day weekend. But it is definitely worth your time.

Hey, Mr./Ms. Nonprofit Fundraiser, job got you down and almost out? Beth Kanter shares four warning signs of burnout — and easy ways to make yourself feel better.

On the GuideStar blog, BidPal's Joshua Meyer looks at five unexpected benefits of text-to-give software.

Continue reading »

[Infographic] Navigating the Online World of Nonprofit Storytelling

June 03, 2017

Storytelling is as old as fire. And over the millennia, storytellers have left us a trove of sayings and observations about the power and importance of good storytelling.

"It has been said that next to hunger and thirst, our most basic human need is for storytelling" (Khalil Gibran)

"If you're going to have a story, have a big story, or none at all" (Joseph Campbell)

"People don't want more information. They are up to their eyeballs in information. They want faith — faith in you, your goals, your success, in the story you tell" (Annette Simmons)

Yes, some of the settings in which stories are told have changed, as have many of the techniques. But as this week's infographic, courtesy of the Center for Social Impact Communication at Georgetown University, reminds us, "Stories" — the kind that people remember and respond to — "chronicle a character who undergoes some kind of change or transformation." Joseph Campbell couldn't have said it better.

Here at PhilanTopic, we've been exploring the world of stoytelling with the likes of Thaler Pekar (here, here, here, here, and here) for close to a decade. But even we were surprised by some of the findings presented below. (And, yes, in the nonprofit world at any rate, text still rules.) Enjoy!

Continue reading »

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (May 2017)

June 02, 2017

Like many of you, we're trying to make sense of all the tweets, charges/counter-charges, and executive orders emanating from the White House. One thing we do know, however: you found plenty to like here on the blog in May, including a stirring call to action from Tim Delaney, president of the National Council of Nonprofits; some excellent grantmaking advice from Peter Sloane, chair and CEO of the Heckscher Foundation for Children; a new post by everyone's favorite millennial fundraising expert, Derrick Feldmann; posts by first-time contributors Nona Evans and Jaylene Howard; and an oldie-but-goodie by fundraising consultant Richard Brewster. But don't take our word for it — pull up a chair, click off MSNBC, and treat yourself to some good reads!

What have you read/watched/heard lately that got your attention, made you think, or charged you up? Feel free to share with our readers in the comments section below. Or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Xavier de Souza Briggs, Vice President, Economic Opportunity and Markets, Ford Foundation: Changing the World Through Mission-Related Investing

June 01, 2017

In April, Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, the second largest foundation in the United States and one of the most influential in the world, announced a billion-dollar commitment over the next decade to mission-related investments (MRIs). In making the announcement, Walker expressed a belief widely shared within his organization that "MRIs have the potential to become the next great innovation for advancing social good." Walker further suggested that foundations needed to expand their imaginations and tools if they hoped to successfully address "the large-scale problems facing the world today" and added that they shouldn't "neglect the tremendous power of markets, including the capital markets, to contribute."

Ford isn't the first foundation to commit itself in a significant way to mission-related investing, although its commitment would appear to be the largest by a foundation to date. Since the late 1990s, the F.B. Heron Foundation in New York City has distinguished itself as a pioneer in the field, and under the leadership of its president, Clara Miller, has become increasingly willing to challenge others "to jettison outdated operating models that leave resources untapped in the face of systemic social ills." Foundations such as Kresge, Packard, and Surdna have followed suit.

Shortly after Walker's announcement, PND spoke with Xavier de Souza Briggs, vice president for economic opportunity and markets at the Ford Foundation, about the foundation's decision, how and where the funds will be allocated, and what the move means for the field of impact investing.

De Souza Briggs joined the foundation from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was a professor of sociology and urban planning in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. An award-winning author, commentator, and educator, he served from January 2009 to August 2011 as associate director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Obama White House. His most recent book, Moving to Opportunity: The Story of an American Experiment to Fight Ghetto Poverty, was published by Oxford University Press in 2010.

Headshot_xavier-de-souza-briggs_220Philanthropy News Digest: Let's start with a question I'm sure many of our readers are asking.What are mission-related investments?

Xavier de Souza Briggs: MRIs are investments that pursue both attractive financial returns and social impact, also known as social returns, and they are made from a foundation's endowment, rather than counted against its program payout. That's the IRS definition, not ours, and private foundations have been making them for a while, albeit not on the scale of a billion dollars.

PND: Why did Ford decide that this was the right time to allocate a billion dollars to MRIs?

XSB: Well, first of all, we felt it was important, at this particular moment, to align as many of our assets as possible with our mission. That includes our grantmaking, of course, and our program-related investments, which, again as defined by the IRS, is the other kind of impact investment that foundations can make. Our building in Manhattan, where we've convened changemakers and social sector leaders for many years, is an important asset, too. But we've never made investments toward our mission out of our endowment, and we felt that, at this moment, the impact investment market was ready for us to take this step. And the board agreed, which is why it approved MRIs of up to a billion dollars over ten years. Now, we're going to be careful and gradual about how we put those funds to work, but we're quite excited about the opportunity.

PND: Did the board have any reservations?

XSB: The board had a set of smart questions. Are the investable opportunities really there? Are we confident that we can generate social return in addition to financial return, which is better understood and more easily measured? They were good, smart questions, and the board was very prudent in its approach to oversight. But ultimately it concluded, based on the foundation's many years of experience with impact investing, that we were ready and the market was ready, and that by stepping up now we could help catalyze a broader movement in the impact investing field, which includes not only foundations but other major institutional investors such as pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, and university endowments. That's where the really big pools of investable capital are, and that's where the larger promise lies.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (May 27-28, 2017)

May 28, 2017

Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Frog-in-the-Rain

Climate Change

As the Trump administration prepares to exit the Paris climate agreement, a new Global Challenges Foundation poll finds that a majority of people in eight countries — the U.S., China, India, Britain, Australia, Brazil, South Africa and Germany — say they are ready to change their lifestyles if it would prevent climate catastrophe — a survey result that suggests "a huge gap between what people expect from politicians and what politicians are doing."

Criminal Justice

On the Ford Foundation's Equal Change blog, Kamilah Duggins and William Kelley explain why and how they created a professional development program at the foundation for graduates of the Bard Prison Initiative, which creates the opportunity for incarcerated men and women to earn a Bard College degree while serving their sentence.

Diversity

A new white paper (6 pages, PDF) from executive search firm Battalia Winston sheds light on the lack of diversity within the leadership ranks of the nation's foundations and nonprofit organizations.

Education

Does the DeVos education budget promote "choice" or segregation? That's the question the Poverty & Race Research Council's Kimberly Hall and Michael Hilton ask in a post here on PhilanTopic.

Fundraising

There are mistakes, and there are fundraising mistakes. Here are five of the latter that, according to experts on the Forbes Nonprofit Council, we all should try to avoid.

Continue reading »

President's Budget Proposal Targets Foundations

May 26, 2017

TargetWhile most of the media coverage of President Trump's proposed budget has focused on his plan to eliminate sixty-six programs and slash funding for hundreds more, until now one major aspect of the plan has escaped attention: the White House budget blueprint silently, yet effectively, targets private philanthropy as the fallback subsidy for government programs that would be downsized or eliminated.

For Fiscal Year 2018, which begins October 1, 2017, the Trump budget proposes to cut $54 billion from "non-defense" (mostly domestic) programs that provide jobs, food, housing, safety, health care, education, and more for tens of millions of individuals across the country. Yet, the president's Budget Message to Congress, Budget Summary, Major Savings and Reforms, and Appendices all fail to disclose how the budget would simultaneously cut government spending and address people's ongoing needs. Where will those tens of millions of people turn if these programs are cut on October 1?

As the Washington Post reports, "Trump's plan would put the onus on states, companies, churches and charities to offer many educational, scientific and social services that have long been provided by the federal government."

The White House cannot realistically expect the states to meet the markedly increased unmet human need caused by its proposed cuts to domestic spending. More than half the states have been in deficit mode during the last year, and more than half already are projecting budget shortfalls for their next fiscal year. Compounding the problem: the states, on average, receive 30.1 percent of their revenues from the federal government. When the federal government cuts domestic spending, that includes cuts to the states. For example, the FY2018 budget blueprint proposes eliminating the Community Development Block Grant ($2.9 billion) and Community Services Block Grant ($731 million) programs, which together provide funds for states and localities to spend on anti-poverty programs, emergency food assistance, affordable housing, public improvements, and public services. The proposed budget is rife with recommended cuts that the states cannot absorb, and which would leave tens of millions of people without a safety net.

Contrary to the Washington Post analysis above, anyone thinking that for-profit companies will step in to fill the gap is misguided. The very reason people in need turn to charitable nonprofits and governments is because they cannot afford what for-profit businesses charge.

Continue reading »

Does the DeVos Education Budget Promote "Choice" or Segregation?

May 24, 2017

Public-privateThe American public education system should provide all students with the opportunity to receive a rigorous, quality education — regardless of class, race, or ethnicity. In direct opposition to this goal, the FY2018 budget recommendations issued by the Trump administration would limit and even reduce opportunities, support, and civil rights protections for students across the country.

The proposed Furthering Options for Children to Unlock Success (FOCUS), a new Title I program, is a thinly veiled attempt to open the door for the voucherization of all federal, state, and local public schools funding. As such, the push to funnel public money to private schools with the aim of "improving student academic performance" ignores the lessons of the past.

Attempts at voucherization by school districts across the country have resulted in overwhelmingly negative academic outcomes for students and the promotion of segregation. In the District of Columbia and Louisiana, both of which implemented district-wide voucher programs in an effort to "rescue" poorly performing school districts, evaluations of student performance showed a negative impact on student achievement, with students who participated in the Louisiana voucher experiment exhibiting steep declines in math performance — 13 percent lower, on average, after two years — compared to students who attended traditional public schools.

Why would we voluntarily expand a program that has proven to have the opposite effect of what we all hope to achieve?

The Poverty & Race Research Action Council, like other members of the National Coalition on School Diversity, is not opposed to expanding the range of opportunities available to students and their families. In fact, our research advocacy efforts are centered around the thoughtful, responsible expansion of public school choice approaches that bring children together in racial and economically integrated schools.

Continue reading »

Contributors

Quote of the Week

  • "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have government without newspapers, or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate to prefer for a moment the latter. But I should mean that every man should recieve those papers and be capable of reading them...."

    — Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

Subscribe to Philantopic

Contributors

Guest Contributors

  • Laura Cronin
  • Derrick Feldmann
  • Thaler Pekar
  • Kathryn Pyle
  • Nick Scott
  • Allison Shirk

Tweets from @PNDBLOG

Follow us »

Tags

Other Blogs