[Review] 'Generation Impact: How Next Gen Donors Are Revolutionizing Giving'

November 21, 2017

A new generation of donors is expected to inherit an estimated $59 trillion dollars by 2061 and to allocate almost half that sum to charitable causes. In addition to this unprecedented transfer of wealth, there are also a growing number of next-generation donors who have earned their own fortunes at a relatively young age and are currently, or will soon be, engaged in philanthropy in a significant way.  

Gen-impact-book-1In Generation Impact: How Next Gen Donors Are Revolutionizing Giving, authors Sharna Goldseker and Michael Moody set out to illuminate the "collective mindset" of this emerging cohort of Gen X and millennial philanthropists, who, as a result of almost unprecedented wealth creation and concentration, are ushering in a "golden age of giving" marked not only by significantly more financial resources available for charitable causes than in the past but by dramatic shifts in the traditional norms of philanthropy. These shifts are the impetus for Goldseker and Moody's book; through interviews and surveys with hundreds of younger philanthropists, as well as first-person accounts from thirteen next-gen donors, they aim to help the social sector understand who these next-generation donors are, how they're giving, and how they're likely to approach change-making efforts in the years to come.  

The authors call these next-gen donors "Generation Impact" because they're hyper-focused on seeing the needle actually move with respect to the various issues they are passionate about. Many want to understand an organization's theory of change; others are eager to go on site visits to see the impact created by their support, while still others want to review hard data that shows the success (or lack thereof) of a program or organization. This focus on results also goes hand-in-hand with a desire to not just fund organizations, but to invest their own time and talent in causes that are important to them. That can take many forms, from volunteering with an organization before becoming engaged as a donor, to connecting with the beneficiaries of a program that they're thinking about funding, to lending their skills and expertise to organizations in addition to (or instead of) writing a check. "Experiencing it with your own hands and eyes is a must," one donor tells Goldseker and Moody.  

Many of these next-gen donors also are beginning their engagement with philanthropy at a relatively young age and will continue giving throughout their lives; as a result, they strive to bring their full selves to their philanthropic endeavors instead of merely viewing charitable giving as an add-on to their professional and personal lives. As one donor puts it: "Philanthropy is not just something that you do; it is very much a part of who you are."  

And while they continue to give through traditional vehicles like family foundations and donor-advised funds at community foundations, next-gen donors increasingly are turning to less traditional vehicles such as crowdfunding platforms and impact investments, are supporting social enterprises and hybrid organizations that blur the lines between for- and nonprofit, and are often focused on working with others to effect change. "They are hungry," write Goldseker and Moody, "for meaningful connections with peers in similar situations of philanthropic affluence so that they can connect personally, to learn and grow together and be more effective in their giving."

Given all that, it's surprising the authors make a point of mentioning the "paucity of other sources of learning in the philanthropic field" for next-gen donors, a lack that leads them, in their words, to seek out their peers for strategic advice. Many infrastructure groups, in fact, including the Jewish Teen Funders Network, Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, and the Council on Michigan Foundations, have resources and programs geared to providing next-gen donors with a "roadmap" for their philanthropic journey. Here at Foundation Center, we recently developed YouthGiving.org — a platform designed to connect, inspire, and inform youth grantmaking, enabling younger donors to not only find and connect with peers, but to learn about other next-gen donors' experiences, failures, successes, and collective impact.

More importantly, what do these shifts mean for the social sector? The authors do a great job of taking the themes surfaced by their research and offering practical advice around what those themes are likely to mean for nonprofits, other philanthropists, and next-gen donors themselves. Younger donors may be rethinking the way Americans give, but, as Goldseker and Moody argue, they're also revolutionaries who respect tradition and will continue to support many of the same causes funded by older generations: indeed, next-gen donors "are earnestly and eagerly searching for ways to honor their elders' legacies and adapt their giving to have maximum impact."  

This should be comforting news to nonprofits that worry their donor support will dry up as younger philanthropists become a bigger force in the field. Still, Goldseker and Moody caution that nonprofits hoping to benefit from the intergenerational transfer of wealth will need to adapt and do a better job of showing the impact of their younger donors' gifts. Other key takeaways for nonprofits include the need to focus on developing meaningful relationships with next-gen donors by aligning with their values, providing them with personal experience of the programs they support, and encouraging them to donate their time and professional skills in addition to (or even instead of) financial resources.

Key takeaways for family foundations looking to engage the next generation include the need to ensure that governance structures give real voice to younger family members, to embrace transparency and use generational differences to their advantage, and to provide younger family members with opportunities to connect with, learn from, and collaborate with their peers in philanthropy. The authors also stress that next-gen donors should respect the boundary between being "hands on" and micromanaging or asking for too much from organizations that are looking for help and support. Or, as they put it: "They will need to keep the inherent power divide in mind, to check in with their partners on the other side of the funding table, and, above all, to listen to what people and organizations really need."  

Goldseker and Moody are incredibly optimistic about next-gen donors who are coming into the field and their potential to meaningfully move the needle on many of our most pressing social problems. Indeed, they believe that impact created by next-gen donors will be greater than the impact created by earlier generations of philanthropists — not only because they are likely to have more resources at their disposal, but because they're more entrepreneurial, more focused on concrete results, and more invested in using new tools to produce those results and effect meaningful, lasting change. It's up to nonprofits and other philanthropists, they write, to adapt to and embrace these new attitudes and behaviors. And it's up to next-gen donors to use their significant privilege and resources strategically, while listening respectfully, to maximize their impact.

Erin Nylen-Wysocki is manager of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center. For more great reviews, visit the Off the Shelf section in PND.

 

Learning From Abroad: Philanthropy’s Role in Spreading Social Innovation

November 20, 2017

Four_idea_lightbulbsDid you know the toothbrush was first invented in China, or that the idea for kindergarten originated in Germany? The United States has benefited from great ideas from other countries for years. As grantmakers — whether a national philanthropy or a local funder — we can learn so much by embracing the notion that good ideas have no borders.

At the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), I direct an effort explicitly tasked with searching the globe for ideas with the potential to improve health and health care in the U.S. And as the foundation continues on its ambitious journey to build a national Culture of Health, my colleagues and I are casting a wide net with our own learning efforts to bring the best ideas and solutions forward.

Finding promising ideas from abroad isn't always easy. It requires time and commitment. Making global ideas accessible and adaptable so that the communities we serve can implement them successfully can be challenging. But I am optimistic. Our efforts to learn from abroad have led us to the work of many organizations and experts who are advancing ideas in areas as diverse as creating a new workforce to support frail elders, building new partnerships to disrupt community violence, and bringing disengaged youth back into the fold.

Our journey also has led us to efforts like ChangeX that are laser-focused on transforming communities with great ideas and social innovations.

Launched in Ireland in 2015, ChangeX International has inspired and supported hundreds of community-led innovations around the world, providing a roadmap for leaders to  drive change in their own neighborhoods. The ChangeX platform finds and packages proven ideas for local adaptation. For instance, Welcome Dinner is a program where residents of a community seek out newly settled refugees and immigrants to share a meal. Because of ChangeX, the idea, which originated in Sweden, has spread quickly throughout Europe and is now helping build social cohesion in communities in the U.S. Men's Shed, an Australian innovation, has become a global movement in ten countries that makes it possible for retired men to come together in dedicated community spaces to find meaning, new skillsets, and friendship. GirlTrek has turned a low-cost, high-impact solution — walking — into a health movement that activates thousands of black women to be change makers.

These are just a few of the many innovations ChangeX is spreading around the world.

With RWJF's support, last year ChangeX launched its first U.S. expansion in Minnesota, and to date more than a hundred local projects are up and running across the state. What's interesting to me is that some of the proven and promising solutions on the ChangeX platform emerged directly from local needs and local values. For example, Sambusa Sunday started in Minneapolis when local Somalis wanted to thank the many residents who supported them during a recent spike in anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment. Featuring free chai tea and Somali pastries called sambusas, these public events bring together neighbors of all backgrounds and nationalities. We're also finding that these innovations are easily adapted for use in other communities, provided local leaders are given the right resources and tools to move them forward.

ChangeX, and adapting global ideas to uniquely local circumstances, sometimes feels a bit like gardening: You take a cutting from a healthy, vibrant plant; root it; and transplant it in another locale, where, with proper care, support, and cultivation, it too can flourish.

As we — funders and grantmakers — look for ways to build stronger, more vibrant communities here in the U.S., we should explore what other countries are doing well. Platforms like ChangeX are a great place to start.

I invite you to join me and my colleagues at RWJF on this global learning journey. What spaces are you currently exploring that could be informed by looking outside our borders? What global efforts do you see holding promise for supporting U.S. communities?

Great ideas are out there. Let's work together to find them!

Headshot_karabi_acharyaKarabi Acharya directs the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s strategies for global learning as it identifies best practices in other countries and adapts them to improve the social determinants of health in communities in the United States. 

Weekend Link Roundup (November 18-19, 2017)

November 19, 2017

Say no to sexual harassmentOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Communications/Marketing

"In a world where there is 'an avalanche of crazy things coming out of the [current] administration', communications professionals find themselves having to rethink how they communicate both internally and externally," writes Jason Tomassini, associate director for editorial at Atlantic Media Strategies, on the Communications Network site. At the recent ComNet17 conference, Tomassini and the network invited attendees to participate in a discussion about how they're navigating communications challenges in the current political environment. Here are four key takeaways from that discussion.

Disaster Relief

The Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, the fund created by Houston mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County judge Ed Emmett, has announced a second round of grants totaling $28.9 million to nintey nonprofits. The Houston Chronicle's Mike Morris has the details.

Giving

Although the giving traditions of the Rockefeller family were established almost a hundred and fifty years ago, writes Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisor's Melissa Blackerby, modern philanthropists can still learn from the family's values and example.

Gun Violence

In the HuffPost, Melissa Jeltsen and Sarah Ruiz-Grossman use data collected by Everytown for Gun Safety to argue that most mass shootings in America are related to domestic violence.

Higher Education

The dueling Republican tax bills working their way through Congress have implications for exempt sectors of the economy that could fundamentally change the way they operate. In this Weekend Edition segment, NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro talks to Raynard Kington, president of Grinnell College, a small liberal arts college in Iowa with a large endowment, about the Republican proposal to levy an excise tax on endowment income.

Nonprofits

Nonprofit AF blogger Vu Le has re-posted to his own blog his NPQ think piece on the future of the nonprofit sector.

Forbes contributor Christian Johnson, co-founder and CEO of Seed Consulting Group, suggests that nonprofit leaders can learn from cardiologists and the complex information and alert systems they rely on to more effectively run their organizations.

Philanthropy

In his annual president's message, a somber Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, notes the passing of two Rockefeller family members "who profoundly shaped the character and work of th[e] foundation over many decades" and shares some thoughts about the challenges confronting the nation and the global community.

In the Nonprofit Quarterly, Martin Levine suggests there's "a not-so-quiet storm brewing in the structure of philanthropy," as donors of all sizes increasingly turn their back on private foundations and look to new vehicles, such as limited liability corporations and donor-advised funds, that "allow them greater control and less oversight."

Could foundations achieve greater impact if they made grants the way venture capital firms approach their investments, focusing not on organizations per se but on industry disruptors? Gabe Kleinman, head of portfolio services and content/marketing at Obvious VC, considers the implications.

Here on PhilanTopic, Fiduciary Trust's Joel Mittelman and Stacy K. Mullaney explain why, in an extended low-rate environment, a "total return" approach makes sense for foundations and endowment managers.

The Philanthropy Workshop (TPW), which works to "inspire, transform, and catalyze a network of effective philanthropists as a means to a more just, sustainable, and enriching world," is looking to hire a chief executive officer. Learn more about the opportunity here.

Public Policy

In The Hill, Independent Sector president/CEO Dan Cardinali and Council on Foundations president/CEO Vikki Spruill decry House Republicans' targeting of the Johnson Amendment, a 63-year-old measure that prohibits 501(c)(3) organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. Repeal of the provision, write Cardinali and Spruill, would result in billions of dollars of anonymously contributed dollars being funneled through nonprofits for partisan political purposes. And with all that money flowing through new, opaque channels, it would only be

a matter of time until scandal erupts, resulting in congressional hearings, IRS probes and public calls for a crackdown.
Think for a moment what that might look like: The IRS could impose vastly increased reporting requirements on nonprofits, a move that would increase the cost of fundraising and reduce spending on missions.
Religious organizations, for the first time, could be forced to file a Form 990, and all nonprofits could face greater scrutiny of their donor lists. Most ominously of all, Congress would feel pressured to eliminate the charitable deduction entirely to prevent government-subsidized funding of political campaigns....

Lucy Bernholz shares her own take on the so-called Brady amendment in a post on her Philanthropy 2173 blog.

In The Atlantic, Derek Thompson details the many bad arguments for getting rid of the estate tax. And here's the left-leaning Center for American Progress' dire take on repeal.

Frequent PhilanTopic contributor Mark Rosenman doesn't mince words as he lays out all the ways that Republican tax "reform" will hurt the charitable sector.

And believe it or not, there are a few millionaires and billionaires in the country — actually, more than four hundred — who have come out and just said "no" to the idea of cutting their taxes.

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

Endowments Look to Total-Return Approach Amid Low Rates

November 16, 2017

Absolute-returnThe extended low-rate environment has had a considerable impact on almost all institutional investors, but perhaps none more so than endowments and foundations, which often struggle with distribution requirements and spending needs in excess of realized returns. A recent NACUBO-Commonfund benchmarking study found that endowments produced average returns of -1.9 percent in 2016. And while performance has improved significantly in 2017, in an era in which interest rates are near historic lows and yield remains difficult to find, endowments and foundations are rethinking whether they should adopt a "total return" approach as part of their underlying investment strategies.

A survey and accompanying white paper published earlier this year by Fiduciary Trust Company and Associated Grant Makers demonstrated the extent to which the low-rate environment is affecting nonprofits across nearly all traditional activities — from spending and grantmaking to fundraising and board governance. Among the fundraising institutions polled, for instance, an overwhelming majority (over 80 percent) have stepped up their fundraising efforts, while more than two out of every five grantmaking institutions have reduced their grantmaking activities or are weighing such a decision. Moreover, nearly half of the public charities responding to the survey said they had considered reducing or have reduced spending. To be sure, such tactics can help bridge the gap during periods in which returns suffer, but at what expense to the charitable or grantmaking missions of the organizations in question? And then there's the fact that a significant number of respondents, roughly one in five, have broadened their investment universe to allow for riskier investments in pursuit of higher returns, in many cases (we assume) without proper regard for downside risks.

Thanks in part to the pressures that accompany a low-rate environment, the value of a "total return" approach has again come to the fore. According to the same survey, half of the more than two hundred and thirty respondents indicated that their organizations have either already adopted a total-return approach or are considering such a move. Total-return strategies can come with short-term risks, but broadly diversified portfolios generally offer reduced volatility from year to year and, as a result, provide institutional investors with more control, consistency, and visibility as it relates to their distributions and related planning.

For those who may not be familiar with the term, "total return" refers to the value that amasses in a portfolio over a given period of time and combines interest and dividend income with capital appreciation from both realized and unrealized gains. In the past, by statute or by design, many organizations may have employed investment programs that limited distributions to income from bond interest or equity dividends.

Interest and awareness in a "total return" approach, however, is by no means a novel idea; it actually goes back to the late 1960s when former Ford Foundation president McGeorge Bundy commissioned two studies that analyzed the lackluster investment performance of university endowments common at the time. The second of the two studies, "Managing Educational Endowments," by Robert R. Barker, attributed the poor returns to an overemphasis on avoiding losses and maximizing current income.

Barker's research was groundbreaking in that it made a case for nonprofits to apply Modern Portfolio Theory, which itself was introduced by Harry Markowitz in the 1950s, to the management of their endowments. But the Barker study also set the stage for changes to the fiduciary standard, allowing boards to assess the "prudence" of a given investment strategy at the portfolio level versus analyzing each commitment independently and apart from other investments. Recognizing the extent to which loss aversion was affecting performance, the research also advocated for the delegation of investment management to qualified professionals who are best able to optimize performance while managing risk.

In addition to the improved consistency and better command over distributions, a total-return approach also can lead to superior investment management decision-making and, potentially, higher overall distributions. By re-assessing asset allocations and rebalancing exposures as valuations and market conditions change, a total-return approach also imposes far more discipline than a mere focus on income generation at the expense of other risks or investment opportunities.

While it may seem counterintuitive, organizations that eschew a total-return philosophy may be placing undue hardship on their endowments and grant recipients. It should be noted that statutes such as UPMIFA (Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act) or private foundation rules under the Internal Revenue Code may allow boards of tax-exempt organizations to consider the total return of an investment portfolio and also the circumstances dictating the prudence of diversification.

Mittelman_mullaney_for_philantopicDespite President Trump's nomination of a new Federal Reserve chair and investor expectations about future rate hikes, it is likely that the absolute level of rates will remain depressed for some time. What this means for nonprofits is that the same challenges that have complicated income-focused investment strategies over the past two years will likely remain in place until new catalysts emerge or as monetary policy changes. Against this backdrop, for many nonprofit investors there is not only more that can be done but more that should be done to meet the fiduciary duties that govern most trustee and board positions. A total-return approach isn’t just a solution for periods marked by low rates; it’s an antidote which can help ensure that portfolios retain a prudent level of diversification aimed at both augmenting long-term performance and managing risk.

Joel Mittelman is a vice president and head of endowments and foundations at Fiduciary Trust. Stacy K. Mullaney is chief fiduciary officer at Fiduciary Trust.

The Worst Tax Reform That Money Can Buy

November 15, 2017

Tax-reformCharities and foundations are lucky. Often their self-interest and the public interest seem to be in conflict. But not this month, thanks to Congressional Republican efforts to "reform" the U.S. tax system.

In simple terms, the Republican plan is an effort to transfer more than $1.5 trillion from public purposes, government, and charities in order to further enrich already fantastically wealthy individuals and corporations. Under both the House and Senate plans, far less of the proposed cuts would benefit middle-class folks — many of whom would actually end up paying more in taxes. And even if Republican leaders' hopes to finance their scheme through cuts to Medicare and Medicaid fail, many of the other so-called reforms would profoundly hamstring our nation's ability to address critical social needs.

It's the same old class warfare that Republicans have promoted since the days of Ronald Reagan, and it must be opposed for the sake of both the nonprofit sector and the people and causes who rely and depend on the sector.

As detailed elsewhere, standard deduction provisions alone would cost charities more than $13 billion in donations each year. Changes in the estate tax, which the House proposes to eliminate and the Senate would reform by doubling the exempt amount, would also have a devastating impact. When the tax was suspended for a year in 2010, bequests dropped by over a third; full repeal would cost the Treasury $270 billion over a decade that might otherwise fund critical needs across America. Yet the Republican proposals allow the top one-fifth of one-percent, the very wealthiest 00.2 percent of Americans, to keep that money, even though most of it has never been and never would be taxed.

Simply put, the various tax policies being pushed in both the House and Senate would significantly cut charitable donations and otherwise harm nonprofits in order to finance giveaways to Americans who already hold a disproportionate share of the nation's wealth.

Why are Republicans willing to cause so much harm to charities and ordinary people? Because, as has been candidly admitted by Republican politicians themselves, their donors and wealthy CEOs (often one and the same) expect it and have even threatened them if they fail to deliver. And, as a harbinger of worse things to come, some Republican-aligned groups are spending upwards of $40 billion to sell middle-class voters on the plan.

In a further move to serve their own narrow interests, House Republicans are angling to repeal the Johnson Amendment and allow 501(c)(3) organizations to engage in partisan political activity. If they succeed and donors start to use tax-exempt charities to fuel their own partisan agendas, the Treasury stands to lose more than $2 billion in tax receipts, and nonprofit organizations of all persuasions are likely to become embroiled in terribly divisive partisan debates over policy. They would also be much more susceptible to coercion by their donors — and by government contract and grant officials — to adopt partisan positions, or face the consequences.

Other provisions hidden in the House or Senate bills — and, remember, provisions in either bill can become law through the work of the final conference committee — do harm to certain charities and those they serve. One proposal would tax the endowment earnings of large universities. As it stands currently, this would cost those institutions a cool $3 billion a year, money that might otherwise be used for student financial aid. It would also open the door to such policies being extended to other charitable entities and funding streams.

Related proposals would hurt university students more broadly and directly. The deduction for student loan interest would disappear, with potentially devastating consequences for roughly twelve million Americans. Student tuition waivers also would be taxed. In total, another $65 billion would be taken from students to finance the Republicans' money grab — even as the same politicians push regressive policies that will exacerbate inequality and make it harder for the working class to realize the American dream.

Under another Republican "reform," universities, hospitals and other charities would no longer be able to finance new facilities and capital improvements through tax-free bonds issued by state and local governments, raising the cost of education and health care by close to $40 billion. School teachers' deduction for the cost of the supplies they buy (only covering the initial $250 they spend) would disappear. And the close to nine million Americans who claim a medical expense deduction (many of them served by nonprofits) are more likely to become even sicker as they watch the transfer of more than $180 billion in tax benefits to the wealthy and large corporations. Seniors would be hurt the most.

There's more. For the first time ever, charities would find certain of their practices subject to fiscal disincentives. Compensation of over $1 million paid to any staffer would be subject to an excise tax.

Now, while some might favor discouraging excessive compensation packages in the charitable sector (I among them), others (I among them) argue that: first, without competitive salaries, large nonprofit hospital systems and similar entities will be unable to today attract the qualified people they need to run those operations; second, that government ought not to impose such disincentives on nonprofits without commensurate action on corporations that have driven up executive compensation to egregious multiples of the average worker’s wage; and third, that it is a terrible precedent for politicians to decide which charitable practices they like or don't like and to use tax policy to enforce their preferences.

Other policy provisions will dramatically impact ordinary Americans. While capping the deduction for mortgage interest is likely to hurt those with more expensive homes, House Republicans don't seem to mind the fact that tax-payers in cities with the highest cost of living — places that, not coincidentally, tend to vote Democratic — will be penalized the most. So, too, the Senate's plan to eliminate the deduction for state and local taxes — a provision that would disproportionately affect those living in "blue" localities.

As "ambitious" as the House, Senate, and White House "reform" packages may be, they clearly work to the detriment of charities and the public. Even as Republicans try to sell their efforts as a boon for the middle class, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has had to admit that the upshot for 25 percent of those in such income brackets is a higher tax bill. Indeed, it is wealthy people like Donald Trump who already pay far less than their fair share of taxes who will benefit the most.

No matter which of these specific proposals survive initial votes in the House and Senate, no matter which of the president's regressive ideas are adopted, and no matter what kind of bill emerges from the conference committee for a final vote, the "reforms" gleefully touted by Republicans will be ruinous for the nation. Charities and organized philanthropy need to stand up and speak out now — for themselves and for the public and the planet — before it's too late.

Headshot_mark_rosenmanMark Rosenman is a professor emeritus at the Union Institute & University. To read more of Rosenman's commentary, click here.

Philanthropy and Conflict Transformation

November 13, 2017

Conflict_transformationCarnage on the streets of New York, London, and Paris has taught us that anyone can be affected by violent conflict. In an interconnected world, borders mean little and war spreads easily. Such attacks, where anyone can become a victim, have their roots in deeper social problems.

Violent conflict brings death, lost homes, displaced persons, and spoiled lives. It costs money, too. The Global Peace Index estimates the 2017 cost of violence across the world at $14.3 trillion (or 12.6 percent of global GDP).

The response of philanthropy to these problems has historically been modest. According to the Peace and Security Funding Index, 290 U.S. foundations gave $357 million in 2014 (the latest date for which figures are available). The mismatch between the scale of the problem and the size of resources stimulated discussion at a workshop organized by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP), Foundation Center, and Donors and Foundations Networks in Europe (DAFNE) on October 30. Some forty-five funders, peace organizations, NGOs, and think tanks concluded that there was a need to learn from each other and to join up the field.

Jean Marc Rickli from GCSP gave a lightning tour of recent conflicts across the world. A few high-intensity armed conflicts are causing large numbers of civilian casualties. Elsewhere, progress promoting peace and justice, together with effective, accountable and inclusive institutions, remains uneven across and within regions. Over the past thirty years, the face of violent conflict has changed markedly. Rather than standoffs between states, conflict is more likely to be based on asymmetrical power relations. Conflicts have become more scattered over a wider area and are driven by nationalism or differences in ideology.

Celia McKeon, from Rethinking Security, identified the drivers of modern conflict: social and political marginalization, inequality, climate change, competition for resources, racism, nationalism, hyper-masculinity, and growing militarization. In studying strategies for national security, she found a reliance on elite-level dialogue, a focus on short-term matters, and unrealistic time frames for post-conflict recovery. Much less attention is paid to preventive work and root causes and support for actors on the ground. Alex Bryden from the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of the Armed Forces (DCAF) echoed these comments, suggesting that security policy was often muddled in suggesting, for example, that more private security is a good thing. The failure to address these factors demonstrates the weakness of global governance and the widespread failure of institutional solutions to peacebuilding.

In the light of the complexity of the issues and the risks entailed, it is perhaps not surprising that many philanthropies find the issue of conflict difficult to engage with. However, as Larry McGill from  Foundation Center observed, the experience of the Peace and Security Funders Group demonstrates that there is much scope for constructive engagement and described a wealth of different interventions in twenty-three different issue areas — from building coalitions to training journalists. Avila Kilmurray, drawing on her work with the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland and Foundations for Peace, and citing her recent study for Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace (PSJP), pointed out that grantmaking in divided societies is different because efforts can be undermined by a bomb going off at any time. Both small and large grants are important, though a small unrestricted grant that allows freedom to spend money in a variety of ways is often better than large grants tied to restricted programmatic goals. There is a key role in research and development for foundations — trying out things that might work and sticking with issues over the long haul. A key task is working with communities that are affected by violence and engaging them in the solutions.

In afternoon workshops, participants explored the challenges facing NGOs and funders working in conflict prevention and resolution. They highlighted the need for a thorough understanding of the context and the causes of the conflict; clarity of purpose and the building of trust between donors and project implementers underpinned by alignment of mission; a preparedness to take risks; and a commitment to a scale and duration appropriate to the conflict and its resolution.

The conclusion of the workshop was that the field needs new energy and thinking. In her summing up, Lauren Bradford from Foundation Center noted that while lots of things are happening in different spaces, the field should be brought together in a way that would yield an ecosystem supportive of the skills, knowledge, and expertise of different actors. A useful vehicle for doing this is SDG 16, whose goal is to "promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels."

There was widespread agreement on the need for a follow-up meeting focused on strengthening connections. A useful place to start this process would be at the annual meeting of the Peace and Security Funders Group due to take place in Minneapolis in May 2018.

Barry Knight bio picBarry Knight oversees the work of the Webb Memorial Trust, supports Foundations for Peace, and works with the Global Fund for Community Foundations, the Arab Reform Initiative, WINGS, and the European Foundation Centre. He is also co-chair of the Working Group on Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace and has previously advised the Ford Foundation and Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. The author or editor of fourteen books on poverty, civil society, community development, and democracy, Knight recently published Rethinking Poverty. What Makes a Good Society?

Spoiler Alert: It’s Not All About Fundraising

November 07, 2017

Spoiler-alertAs a nonprofit leader, you'll be delighted to learn that new research affirms what most of us knew: Americans are generous. In fact, this year’s edition of Giving USA found that charitable giving by individuals in the U.S. was up nearly 4 percent in 2016, hitting an all-time high.

But as The Chronicle of Philanthropy notes in How America Gives, a recently released analysis of American giving patterns, these gifts are coming from fewer people. In 2015, the Chronicle notes,

only 24 percent of taxpayers reported a charitable gift....That’s down from 2000 to 2006, years when that figure routinely reached 30 or 31 percent....

While the Chronicle suggests the drop off could be due to a decrease in the number of Americans itemizing deductions on their tax returns, they also point to other possibilities: the lingering after effects of the Great Recession, an increase in the number of struggling middle-class families, more competition for fewer dollars.

And then there's the millennial factor. The generation born between 1980 and 2000 is the largest in American history, and as the Chronicle notes, "it's well known that [millennials] aren't embracing traditional ideas of giving."

It's a trend that's reflected in our own research. Indeed, Phase 2 of our 2017 Millennial Impact Report found that the millennial generation doesn't rank giving — or volunteering — as all that meaningful in terms of effecting change. In the study, survey respondents were asked to rank their typical cause/social issue-related behaviors in order of how influential they believed each to be. Out of ten actions, volunteering for a cause or organization ranked sixth while giving ranked eighth — well behind other actions such as signing a petition, attending a march or rally, voting, or taking to social media to share one's views.

In other words, when it comes to creating change, millennials seem to favor what we call activist-type behaviors to more traditional forms of cause engagement (like donating and volunteering). And it isn't just millennials: NPR noted earlier this year that the election of Donald Trump ignited grassroots activism — on both the left and right — at a level "never seen before."

Whether politically motivated or not, a clear trend is emerging: People across the country are looking for more effective ways to bring about the kind of change they'd like to see, and the actions they're taking don't necessarily start with (or sometimes even include) giving or volunteering.

For nonprofits that rely on donations from individuals, this poses a problem. While it's good that people are passionate and want to get involved with issues they care deeply about, cash, for nonprofit organizations, still matters — and often is the most important factor in an organization's ability to do its work and advance its mission.

What's a nonprofit leader to do? And what can nonprofit organizations do to address this shift in behavior?

Here are three things to keep in mind as you look to activate a new generation of supporters:

1. Make it about the issue. In my previous post, I looked at some of the things nonprofits should be doing to turn one-time donors into loyal and engaged supporters. And one of those things is articulating how a small action by a supporter can connect with other small actions to create bigger impact with respect to an issue or cause.

The same is true when you are looking to cultivate and/or strengthen relationships with your existing supporters. People give and get involved with an issue through an organization, not because of an organization. Think about it: I'm more likely to become involved with Pencils of Promise not because someone told me that PoP was doing great work and its focus is on education but because I’m passionate about quality education for all kids and PoP does great work in that space.

2. Don't just run a campaign, build a movement. It's easy for nonprofit development professional and fundraisers to get hung up in the wash-rinse-repeat campaign cycle. At the start of the year, your fiscal calendar is already blocked out with various appeals, volunteer drives, and fundraising events — so many, in fact, that you barely have to time to think. But how are they connected? What are you doing between campaigns to maintain the engagement level of your supporters and continuously deepen their connection to your issue?

To truly make a difference, you need to activate your supporters and followers at every level of engagement, moving them along a continuum from having a more-than-passing interest in your issue to actually standing up and taking action on behalf of it. Campaigns have a role to play in that, but every campaign (and all your communications) should be designed to deepen an individual's engagement to the point where she feels herself to be an actual member of a movement and is willing to introduce others to the cause.

3. Update your organization's structure. Because of the resource constraints most nonprofits have to deal with, activism and advocacy often end up taking a back seat to core operating functions. If you're going to build a movement predicated on greater levels of supporter engagement, however, you're going to need a different kind of organizational structure.

Which means you should align that structure in ways that engage and support your audience today, rather than next month, next year, or at some happy point in the future. A good place to start is adding a director of advocacy or constituent engagement to your leadership team and giving them a set of responsibilities focused on movement building and donor cultivation, not just fundraising.

In this new era, it's vital that nonprofit leaders change their thinking to more closely align with where and how a rising generation of potential supporters wants to be involved with the issues and causes that matter to them. In other words, if you want to create lasting change, don't focus on your organization; focus on connecting people to your issue through your organization.

Headshot_derrick_feldmann_2015Derrick Feldmann is the president of Achieve, a research and marketing agency for causes, and the author of Social Movements for Good: How Companies and Causes Create Viral Change, available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Weekend Link Roundup (November 4-5, 2017)

November 05, 2017

Article-flanagan1-1105Our 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

Can you hear me now? From Reuters: "The amount of carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere grew...in 2016 to a level not seen for millions of years...." 

Giving

Do the wealthy "need" to give?  Do they give to make the world a better place, to give back to the community? Or is their charity motivated by reasons that are far less noble — peer pressure, social status, a version of conspicuous consumption? On the Foundation for Independent Journalism's Wire site, Jacob Burak explores the varied and complex motivations that drive charitable giving.

Heathcare

Open enrollment season for the Affordable Care Act opened November 1 and, this year, runs only through December 15. The Aspen Institute's Natalie Foster explains why, as the nature of work continues to change, the viability and success of the Affordable Care Act is increasingly important.

Here on PhilanTopic, the Campaign for Black Male Achievement's Shawn Dove and Phyllis Hubbard make the important point that people who do this kind of work also need to be sure to take care of themselves.

International Affairs/Development

On the WINGS blog, Debasish Mitter, India country director for the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, notes that while "the nature and extent of development problems... have changed over the years... [p]hilanthropy has been changing and evolving, too," before listing half a dozen ways in which philanthropy is changing its approach to development work.

Journalism/Media

Investigative journalism around the world is under attack by illiberal and authoritarian forces. In a post on the Omidyar Network blog, Nishant Lalwani, director of ON's  Governance & Citizen Engagement initiative, explains why the organization has made a significant investment in Reporters Without Borders. For those interested in learning more about RWF's work, the organization has just announced the launch of its "Forbidden Stories" project.

"There are more than one hundred digital news nonprofits in the United States, and the vast majority are trying to diversify their revenue streams to become less reliant on these major gifts," writes David Westphal on the Columbia Journalism Review website. That said, adds Westphal, "some leaders in this industry are simultaneously coming to believe that philanthropy, particularly individual giving, has room to grow. Perhaps a lot of room."

Leadership

This speech by BoardSource president and CEO Anne Wallestad may be the best speech given by anyone, anywhere, in 2017.

Nonprofits

By 2025, philanthropists will contribute a record $500 billion to $600 billion annually to nonprofits, well above the $373 billion given in 2015. The bad news is the nonprofits will still come up short, by a couple of hundred billion dollars, in the funding they need. Which is why Stanford researchers Bill Meehan and Kim Starkey Jonker wrote Engine of Impact: Essentials of Strategic Leadership in the Nonprofit Sector.  

Philanthropy

Forbes' contributor Igor Bolsikovski checks in with a nice profile of 41-year-old Gerun Riley, the newly named president of the Eli and Edyth Broad Foundation. 

Public Policy

The list of nonprofit/philanthropic associations and infrastructure groups that have come out against the House Republican tax plan is long and includes the Council on Foundations, Independent Sector, the National Council of Nonprofits, and the National League of Cities.

Social Media

Last but not least, the New York Times' Farhad Manjoo and Kevin Roose asked nine tech experts what they would do to address the malign influence that Facebook increasingly has in our politics and civic discourse. Well worth a read.

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

How to Keep Me Scrolling Through What You Are Sharing

November 02, 2017

Hello, my name is Tom and I am a Subscriber. And a Tweeter, a Follower, a Forwarder (FYI!), a Google Searcher, and a DropBox Hoarder. I subscribe to blogs, feeds, e-newsletters, and email updates. My professional title includes the word "knowledge," so I feel compelled to make sure I'm keeping track of the high volume of data, information, reports, and ideas flowing through the nonprofit and foundation worlds (yes, it is a bit of a compulsion…and I'm not even including my favorite travel, shopping, and coupon alerts).

It's a lot, and I confess I don't read all of it. It's a form of meditation, I guess, for me to scroll through emails and Twitter feeds while waiting in line at Aloha Salads. I skim, I save, I forward, I retweet, I copy and save for later reading (later when?). In fact, no one can be expected to keep up, so how does anyone make sense of it all, or even find what we need when we need it? Everyone being #OpenForGood and sharing everything is great, but who's reading it all? And how do we make what we're opening up for good actually good?

Making Knowledge Usable

At some point, we've all battled Drowning in Information-Starving for Knowledge syndrome (from John Naisbitt's Megatrends — though I prefer E.O. Wilson's "starving for wisdom" theory). The information may be out there, but it rarely exists in a form that is easily found, read, understood, and (most importantly) usedFoundation Center and IssueLab have made it easier for people in the sector to know what is being funded, where new ideas are being tested, and what evidence and lessons are available. But to really succeed, nonprofits and foundations will have to upload and share many more of their documents than they do now. And we need to make sure that the information we share is readable, usable, and easy to apply.

1-2-3-reporting-model

DataViz guru Stephanie Evergreen recently taught me a new hashtag: #TLDR – "Too Long, Didn't Read."

Evergreen proposes that every published report be available in three formats — a one-page handout with key messages, a three-page executive summary, and a 25-page report (plus appendices). That way,  "scanners," "skimmers," and "deep divers" can access the information in the form they prefer and in the time that's available to them. Such an approach also requires writing (and formatting) differently for each of these different audiences. (By the way, do you know which one you are?)

From Information to Influence

But it isn't enough to make your reports accessible, searchable, and easily readable in both a short and long form; you also have to include the information people need to make decisions and take action. It means deciding in advance who you hope to inform and influence and what you want them do with that information. If you expect people to read, learn from, and apply the information you're sharing, you need to be clear about your reason for sharing it, and you need to give people the right kind of information.

Too many times I've read reports that include promising findings and interesting lessons, and then I race through all the footnotes and the appendices at the back of the report looking for resources that could point me to the details or implementation guidance. Alas, I usually wind up trying to track down the authors by email or phone.

2005 study of more than one thousand evaluations focused on human services found only twenty-two that shared any analysis of implementation learnings — i.e., the lessons people learned about how best to put the program or services in place. We can't expect other people and organizations to share your knowledge and what you've learned if they cannot access information that helps them use that knowledge and apply it to their own programs and organizations. YES, I want to hear about your lessons and "a-ha" moments, but I also want to see data and an analysis of the common challenges faced by all nonprofits and foundations:

  • How to apply and adapt program and practice models in different contexts
  • How to sustain effective practices
  • How to scale successful efforts to additional people and communities

This means making sure your evaluations and reports include a frank discussion of the challenges related to implementation — challenges that others are likely to face. It also means placing your findings in the context of existing knowledge and learnings and using commonly accepted definitions that make it easier to build on the knowledge created by others. For example, in our recent middle school connectedness initiative, our evaluator, Learning for Action, reviewed the literature first to identify the specific components of and best practices in youth mentoring, thus enabling us to build the evaluation on what had been done in the field by others, report clearly about what we learned about our own initiative, and share that knowledge with the field. 

So please plan ahead and define your knowledge sharing and influence agenda up front, and as you're doing so keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • Who do you hope reads your report?
  • What information should it share in order to be useful and used?
  • Review similar studies and reports and determine in advance what additional knowledge you'll need to share, as well as what you plan to document and evaluate.
  • Use common definitions and program model frameworks so that others are able to build on the accumulated knowledge of the field and not have to start from scratch each and every time.
  • Pay attention to the implementation, replication, and management challenges (staffing, training, communication, adaptation) that others are likely to face.
  • Disseminate your evaluation widely via conferences, in journals, through your networks, and in IssueLab's open repository.

And if you do all of the above, I will be happy to read through your report's footnotes and appendices the next time I'm waiting in line for a salad!

Headshot_tom_kellyTom Kelly (@TomEval, TomEval.com) is vice president of knowledge, evaluation and learning at the Hawai‘i Community Foundation and has been learning and evaluating as a practitioner since the beginning of the century.  This post originally appeared as part of Glasspockets' #OpenForGood series, which explores new tools, promising practices, and inspiring examples of foundations that are opening up the knowledge they acquire for the benefit of the larger philanthropic sector and is presented in partnership with the Fund for Shared Insight.

To Close the Racial Health Gap, Philanthropy Must Itself Prioritize Wellness

October 31, 2017

In December 2009, the Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA)  convened a cross-section of leaders working to improve life outcomes of black men and boys at a leadership retreat that included a session focused on strategies for healing and self-empowerment for leaders in the Black Male Achievement (BMA) field. At the time, the BMA field was still relatively new, having been launched by CBMA at the Open Society Foundations in June 2008. What the workshop revealed was both astounding and urgent: that the very leaders working vigilantly to support black men and boys in their communities were themselves in dire need of support and information with respect to how they addressed the myriad health and lifestyle challenges they, and an alarmingly large number of African Americans, face.

Young-black-man-with-head-007-2Then, in 2014, the BMA movement was dealt a tragic blow with the news that BMe Community leader Dr. Shawn White, a renowned academic working on public health matters, had died suddenly at the age of 42 of a stress-triggered seizure due to complications from severe hypertension, a preventable disease. There was and remains little doubt that the high levels of stress associated with doing racial equity work was a critical factor in the kinds of health issues faced by leaders such as Dr. White. There is also little doubt about how these issues are exacerbated by the insidious effects of interpersonal and institutional racism — psychological, physical, and emotional — on black people and communities.

The learnings that came out of that retreat nearly a decade ago have been given new life with the release of a report issued last week by National Public Radio, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Titled Discrimination in America: Experiences and Views of African Americans, the report addresses the various types of individual and systemic discrimination that black Americans experience in a variety of arenas, including employment, buying a home, interactions with law enforcement, civic engagement, and access to health care. In each of these areas, African Americans reported frequent and consistent encounters with race-based discrimination — a finding that spans gender, education, political affiliation, geography, and socioeconomic status.

Among its most noteworthy discoveries, the report revealed that roughly a third of black Americans have felt they were discriminated against when seeking medical care from a doctor or health clinic. Equally disturbing is the finding that 22 percent of black respondents admitted to not seeking out medical care due to their past experiences with medical professionals. Considering the well-documented legacy of bias and outright violence against African Americans at the hands of the medical and scientific communities, it should come as no surprise that black people, particularly black men, would harbor a level of distrust and suspicion toward the medical community that ultimately poses a threat to their own health and well-being.

This is one of the several urgent reasons why the Campaign for Black Male Achievement created CBMA Health and Healing Strategies — an innovative and timely effort to empower Black Male Achievement leaders with the information, tools, and resources needed to monitor and maintain their personal health, healing, and wellness. Launched in 2016, the initiative aims to combat the racial health gap by promoting healthy behaviors and strengthening the wellness of leaders and caregivers, so that they, in turn, can create healthier environments for the young people of color they serve. One of the catalytic moments that spurred CBMA to launch Health & Healing Strategies occurred in 2015 during its annual Rumble Young Man, Rumble event in Louisville, Kentucky, where a number of leaders in attendance shared their own struggles with depression, poor health, and even suicide ideation. At that moment, CBMA knew it needed to be proactive in responding to this growing challenge, both in the BMA field and the broader black community.

With seed support from the California Endowment, Health and Healing Strategies has been implementing school and community-based strategies around the management and reduction of stress, pain, trauma, and other health challenges that disproportionately impact black people. The initiative also uses multi-media and storytelling to help increase awareness, promote dialogue, and change the narrative around these issues. With a focus on addressing the root causes of poor health and disease, and their frequent aggravation by inadequate and inequitable healthcare access and treatment (as highlighted by the report), CBMA seeks to instill a renewed and strengthened commitment to health and well-being in America’s black communities, today and into the future.

The California Endowment’s continued investment in Health and Healing Strategies (including an additional half a million dollars earlier this year to expand the initiative) demonstrates philanthropy’s critical role in cultivating the innovation and collective will needed to achieve positive health outcomes for black people. But in order to sustain them, efforts like Health and Healing Strategies need increased support from bold and courageous leaders at both the philanthropic and policy level, leaders who are unambiguously committed to eradicating racial and other biases from our healthcare, education, criminal justice, and political systems.

Shawn_dove_phyllis_hubbard_175x425At the same time, leaders in philanthropy and the BMA field must look in the mirror and ask themselves how they can set an example by integrating health, wellness, and self-care into their collective and organizational ethos and culture. Only by embodying the type of leadership we want others to exhibit will we successfully create the transformative change needed to close America’s racial health gap.

Shawn Dove serves as the CEO of the Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA), a national membership organization dedicated to ensuring the growth, sustainability, and impact of leaders and organizations focused on improving the life outcomes of America’s black men and boys. Dr. Phyllis Hubbard is the director of CBMA's Health and Healing Strategies, a wellness program that seeks to improve the health and well-being outcomes of cross-sector leaders working on behalf of black men and boys.

5 Questions for...Laura Speer, Associate Director, Policy Reform and Advocacy, Annie E. Casey Foundation

October 30, 2017

Children are the future. In a country whose population is aging faster than expected, the implications of that truism should be of special concern. The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private philanthropy based in Baltimore that works to improve the lives of America's children and their families, certainly believes so. And it backs that work up with data — lots of it, including its signature KIDS COUNT data book and center.

Earlier this month, the foundation published the second report (28 pages, PDF) in its Race for Results series, a KIDS COUNT spinoff that explores "the intersection of kids, race and opportunity" and describes many of the barriers to success facing children of color in America. The report also includes a section devoted to immigrant families and children, as well as policy recommendations designed to ensure that all children in America have the opportunity to realize their full potential.

PND spoke with Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and advocacy at the Casey Foundation, about the new report's findings, the potential consequences of Trump administration policies for immigrant children, and the economic argument for boosting spending on programs designed to improve health, education, and economic outcomes for kids of all races and color.

Headshot_laura_speerPhilanthropy News Digest: Your new report, the second in the Race for Results series, is based on data from 2013 to 2015 and shows general improvement across the board in most of the twelve indicators the foundation uses to measure how children from different racial backgrounds are faring on the path to opportunity. Were you surprised by any findings in the report?

Laura Speer: Well, we were happy to see improvement across the board in many of the measures we track. Of course, both reports covered periods when the country was recovering from the Great Recession, so it wasn't a huge surprise to see improvement in many of the measures — things like the percentage of young people who are graduating from high school or teen pregnancy rates. Those are areas where we're seeing improvement for all kids. What is disheartening, however, is that there really wasn't much of a change in the gaps that existed previously for African American, Native American, and Latino kids, all of whom, in the aggregate, are still lagging behind other groups of kids in terms of meeting these milestones.

PND: The report argues that we can't afford to ignore those disparities any longer. Moral arguments aside, why do we need to pay more attention to the barriers that prevent kids of color from reaching their full potential?

LS: We made the case in the first report, and we reiterate it again here, that in the United States today, slightly less than 50 percent of the child population are kids of color. However, demographic pro­jections show that that is going to change pretty quickly, and that kids of color will be the majority of the child population in just a few years. And, because kids grow up to be adults, people of color will comprise the majority of the workforce within the next couple of decades and the population of the country itself will be majority people of color by 2040 or so. In other words, today's kids of color are our future work force, the future parents of the next generation of American kids, the future leaders of our country. And that is why it is more important than ever that we not accept or get comfortable with these disparities, and why we've got to identify the factors that are contributing to the barriers to success that exist for kids of color and figure out how, as a country, we can design policies and programs that help more young people achieve their full potential. We need these kids and all the talents they possess if we want to be able to compete on a global scale and be successful as a country in the long run.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (October 28-29, 2017)

October 29, 2017

Tax_2Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Civic Tech

On the Getting Smart blog, Tom Vander Ark, former director of education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and author of Getting Smart: How Personal Digital Learning is Changing the World, highlights ten tech-driven developments (widespread unemployment, widening inequality, algorithmic bias, machine ethics, genome editing) that require decisions, sooner rather than later, we are not prepared to make.

In a new post on her Philanthropy 2173 blog, Lucy Bernholz wonders whether the social sector can "pre-emptively develop a set of guardrails for the application of new technologies so that predictable harm (at least) can be minimized or prevented?" 

Disaster Relief/Recovery

In Houston, the newly formed Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium is convening leading  researchers to compile, analyze, and share an array of scientifically-informed data about flooding risk and mitigation opportunities in the region. Three key stakeholders in the effort — Ann Stern, president and CEO of the Houston Endowment; Nancy Kinder, president of the Kinder Foundation; and Katherine Lorenz, president of the Cynthia & George Mitchell Foundation — explain what the initiative hopes to accomplish.

Education

"It is the latest iteration for a philanthropy that has both had a significant influence on K-12 policy over its two-decades-long involvement in the sector — and drawn harsh criticism for pushing ideas that some see as technocratic." Education Week's Stephen Sawchuck examines what the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s recent strategy pivot and new investments in K-12 education signal for the field.

Giving

Donald Trump and his administration's policies appear to be behind a dramatic increase in giving to progress groups. Ben Paynter reports for Fast Company.

Forbes has published its annual list of the top givers in the U.S.

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[Review] 'The Clean Money Revolution: Reinventing Power, Purpose, and Capitalism'

October 27, 2017

I'm not sure what to think about The Clean Money Revolution: Reinventing Power, Purpose, and Capitalism, Joel Solomon's memoir-cum-manifesto about the importance of taking "a mission-based" approach to finance and investment. I certainly appreciate Solomon's passion for the environment and his sincere belief that we need to move from an economic system built on exploitation to a more "regenerative" system. But I didn't much care for his omission of the poor and people of color in his call for "revolution," or his apparent blindness to his own white privilege; for the many bold claims backed up by engaging anecdotes but little data; or for his limited understanding of the world of private foundations. To be fair, Solomon, the chair of Renewal Funds, a mission-based venture capital firm, acknowledges that the book is written from the perspective "of an older, rich, white male heterosexual," and he "apologize[s] in advance for [the] narrow context and perspective." Still, the book has some glaring blind spots that undermine its impact and, ultimately, expose the superficiality of its premise.

Cover_The_Clean_Money_Revolution_BookLet's start with the positive. The Clean Money Revolution is full of interesting personal anecdotes, making it read more like a memoir than a self-help investment guide. Solomon has led a very interesting life and has played a part in growing many consumer brands that have become household names, including Stonyfield Farms and Ben & Jerry's. He grew up in Chattanooga and, after graduating from Columbia University, spent his early twenties bumming around the western United States. Following a diagnosis of PKD (polycystic kidney disease), he began to look into organic food and "healthy" living and eventually landed in an "intentional community" of "gypsy gardeners" on Cortes Island,  at the head of Georgia Strait between mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island: "I was 25 with long hair and a bushy beard," he writes. "I rarely wore shoes. It was a good time." On the island, at something called Linnaea Farm, "an early model of money transformed by intentional 'cleaning'," Solomon developed an appreciation for the environment and a passion for organic food systems. It's also where he met Drummond Pike, "an early adopter social entrepreneur" who went on to found the Tides Foundation, as well as Robert and Penny Cabot, old-money philanthropists who would later influence his investment strategies.

Solomon eventually accepted a caretaking position at OrcaLab on the even more remote Hanson Island, where he spent months at a time alone, communing with nature and observing the "complexity, diversity, and interdependence" of the island's ecosystem; reading widely in philosophy, history, and anthropology; and developing what would become a lifelong passion for self-reflection and contemplation. Then he received a $50,000 payout from one of his father's real estate investments — which he invested in Hollyhock Farm, a property on Cortes Island that today is a not-for-profit leadership learning center, and Stonyfield, then a nonprofit organic farming school with seven cows.

Soon after, Solomon's father died and he received a $3 million inheritance. The rest of the book details his (usually) successful investments in small businesses focused on natural food systems and local communities. Many of the stories Solomon has to tell are inspiring, and his sincerity is apparent. But it is difficult, at times, not to question his assumption that readers will relate to his adventures in finance, or be interested in his investing advice. About a third of the way through the book, for instance, he observes: "If you have more than enough money, there is a vast opportunity to move capital from stock markets and massive corporations to dynamic small businesses that generat[e]  innovation, relationship, and community."  If is only a two-letter word, but it conveniently elides an assumption that undermines the tale Solomon has to tell: capitalism can be transformed from something inherently exploitative and immoral into something regenerative and moral — but only by those with the capital to do so.

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Why Evaluations Are Worth Reading – or Not

October 26, 2017

EvaluationTruth in lending statement: I am an evaluator. I believe strongly in the power of excellent evaluations to inform, guide, support, and assess programs, strategies, initiatives, organizations, and movements. I have directed programs that were redesigned to increase their effectiveness, their cultural appropriateness, and their impact based on evaluation data; helped to design and implement evaluation initiatives here at the McCormick Foundation that changed the way we understand and do our work; and have worked with many foundation colleagues and nonprofits to find ways to make evaluation serve their needs for greater understanding and improvement.

One of the best examples I've seen of excellent evaluation within philanthropy came with a child abuse prevention and treatment project. Our foundation had funded almost thirty organizations that were using thirty-seven tools to measure the impact of treatment. Many of those tools were culturally inappropriate, designed for initial screenings, or inappropriate for other reasons, and staff from organizations running similar programs had conflicting views about them. Program staff here wanted to be able to compare program outcomes using uniform evaluation tools and to use that data to make funding, policy, and program recommendations, but they were at a loss as to how to do so in a way that honored grantees' knowledge and experience. A new evaluation initiative was funded that included the development of a "community of practice" to:

  • create a unified set of reporting tools;
  • learn from the data how to improve program design and implementation, and use data systematically to support staff/program effectiveness;
  • develop a new rubric that the foundation could use to assess programs and proposals; and
  • provide evaluation coaching for all organizations participating in the initiative.

The initiative was so successful that the participating nonprofits decided to continue to work together beyond the initial scope of the project to improve their own programs and better support the children and families they serve. This "Unified Project Outcomes" article describes the project and the processes that were established as a result in far greater detail.

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Finally! A Global (Data) Language!

October 25, 2017

Trying to get global consensus on anything is nearly impossible. But in collaboration with a dynamic cohort of individuals and organizations, we've managed to develop a new manifesto with respect to the structure and sharing of data about global philanthropy that is valued across contexts. Meet the new Global Philanthropy Data Charter.

GDC_infographic
Philanthropy, and more broadly, civil society, play a large and increasingly visible role in solving complex societal issues around the globe. Over the last twenty years, as private wealth in countries around the world has exploded, we've seen a significant increase in giving by institutions and individuals. At the same time, technology adoption and economic populism have emerged from the shadows while foreign aid to the least developed countries has declined. Established in 2000, the Millennium Development Goals paved the way, in 2015, for the multi-stakeholder Sustainable Development Goals. Each step in this evolution was guided by data. Good data? Not always. But in our rapidly changing world, everyone must tell their own story — or risk having it told for them. The good news? Philanthropy has had to become more transparent, more accountable, and more effective. Rather than siloed efforts, maximizing impact based on smart giving and shared learning has become a collective world-wide aspiration.

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Easy Steps to Make Your LinkedIn Profile Not Suck

October 23, 2017

LinkedIn-Logo-1Good news! The job market for nonprofit leaders is looking good! Boomers are slowly but surely retiring and leadership opportunities across the sector are opening up. Think you've got the chops? Great. Read on to learn how you can use LinkedIn to show the world what you've got.

Wait, what? Today, recruiting firms like Envision Consulting don't just flip through Rolodexes to find top talent. In addition to working our networks and going through applications, we rely on LinkedIn to uncover promising candidates. Yep, that's right, LinkedIn. It's the world's largest professional network, and though not without shortcomings, it is still the best source for recruiters to find qualified candidates. And increasingly, recruiters, colleagues, even your clients and funders are looking at LinkedIn profiles to learn more about you. Which means that not having a profile on LinkedIn, or having one that is incomplete or slapdash, tells them you are stuck in the pre-digital age, or, worse, have nothing of interest to share.

So, what makes for a good LinkedIn profile? Here are seven tips from the executive recruiters at Envision Consulting:

Set up a profile. First things first. That means you need to set up a LinkedIn profile and populate it with the basics: where you've worked, what your title/role was, and the start and end dates for each position. Add a blurb about yourself and highlight a few key accomplishments for each job you've had. Bonus tip: Take a moment to choose a stimulating headline for your profile. Use a fun phrase or three to four words that best describe you and your skills. These become searchable keywords for recruiters who are trying to locate job candidate with the right skill set.

Respond to messages. Don't burn your bridges before they've been built. As with anyone that reaches out to you in a professional capacity, reply to the messages you receive on LinkedIn a courteous and professional manner. (Recruiters are real people, too, and we want to help you succeed in your career.) It's okay if you tell a recruiter you're "not interested at this time" — at least we'll know that you're familiar with basic email etiquette. Bonus tip: Don't click on the "decline email" link if you do want to stay in touch. LinkedIn prevents people from sending you a follow-up message if you "decline" a message.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (October 21-22, 2017)

October 22, 2017

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

Education

In 2010, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made a $100 million gift in support of a major overhaul of the public school system in Newark, New Jersey. To be spearheaded by then-Newark Mayor Cory Booker (now a U.S. senator) and New Jersey governor Chris Christie, the effort stumbled out of the gate and became the object of derision (as well as the subject of a well-reviewed book by education reporter Dale Russakoff). But a new study from a team led by a Harvard University researcher finds that the performance of students in the district has improved significantly in English (although not so much in math) since 2010. Greg Toppo reports for USA Today.

Giving

In a post for Forbes, Kris Putnam-Walkerly offers ten reasons why community foundations are your best for disaster relief giving.

On Beth Kanter's blog, Alison Carlman,  director of impact and communications at GlobalGiving, challenges the conventional wisdom that donors are fatigued by the series of disasters that have hit the U.S. , Mexico, and Caribbeanf.  

Interestingly, a new study from Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy shows that since the early 2000s, volunteering and charitable giving in the United States has dropped roughly 11 percent. And, as a country, our generosity appears to have peaked around 2005, with giving hitting an average of $1,024 annually; in 2015, the most recent year measured, that number dropped to $872. Eillie Anzilotti reports for Fast Company.

In the Stanford Social Innovation Review Jennifer Xia and Patrick Schmitt, students at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, note that while the largest wealth transfer in human history will take place over the next twenty years, most nonprofits are poorly positioned to take advantage of it.

In a video on the CNBC site, tech entrepreneur Alexandre Mars, the "French Bill Gates," argues that giving is something that anyone can — and everyone should — do.

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5 Questions for...Mark Brewer, President and CEO, Central Florida Foundation

October 19, 2017

In September, with the Houston area still wringing itself out after the historic rains dropped by Hurricane Harvey two weeks earlier, parts of the Caribbean and Florida suffered their own disaster, as Hurricane Irma became the first Category 5 storm on record to hit the Leeward Islands and then moved over much of Florida as a Category 3 storm, causing millions of Floridians to evacuate and leaving the Florida Keys cut off from the mainland.

Recently, PND spoke with Mark Brewer, president and CEO of the Orlando-based Central Florida Foundation, about the relief and recovery efforts in his region and what the foundation is doing to help nonprofits in the area get back to normal.

Philanthropy News Digest: What is the extent of the damage in the region served by CFF?

Mark_Brewer_Central Florida FoundationMark Brewer: Finding the answer to that question has been an evolving process. As I'm sure you know, there are three phases to these events: response, recovery, and rebuilding. In some parts of the region we're still in response mode, in part because of the widespread electrical outages and water-related issues in the counties on the coast. But response and recovery is going to look different here than it does in South Florida and the Caribbean, even though we suffered a large amount of unseen damage.

This morning [September 25], for example, more than a hundred daycare centers didn't open because they suffered damage to their buildings or their employees couldn't get into work. That translates into thousands of people who couldn’t get to work because they didn't have child care. So when you look out at the roads, things look like they're clearing up, the tree branches are being removed. But when you start looking at nonprofits in the region, you see that they're struggling to get back to full strength.

PND: What are the most immediate needs, and how do you think things will unfold over the next several months?

MB: The response phase is wrapping up. Most of the power has been restored, and people are starting to get back into their normal routines. Recovery is about getting back to business as usual. It's not just those daycare centers, it's also about making certain that everyone who cares for people with disabilities, children, and the elderly are back in business and the overall "quality-of-life-system" in the region operates as it’s supposed to. For the rest of 2017, we're going to be moving into recovery and making certain that service providers are operational and have what they need. Then for most of 2018, I think it will be a mix of recovery and rebuilding as it becomes clearer who was able to recover from the storm and who wasn't. Remember, while we're happy to have FEMA on the ground, it can sometimes take months  even years  for FEMA to pay the bills. That means you will see a lot of nonprofits that are stressed in terms of their capacity to help people with things that they've been told they'll be reimbursed for later.

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Deepening Audience Engagement With Long-Form Content

October 18, 2017

Communicating complicated ideas can be a significant challenge for social change organizations trying to reach diverse audiences in a short-attention-span world. But it's something long-form content is particularly well suited for. If your organization publishes research, reports, and other types of long-form content, what strategies can you use to ensure that your content resonates with and engages your target audiences?

Audience-Engagement-bubblesDigital communications and social media have had a tremendous impact on our ability to maintain focus and attention — not just online, but in the real world. Online and offline, we are awash in content that's fragmented and comes at us fast. Distractions are everywhere and, for social change organizations, creating awareness around complex issues can feel like an uphill battle.

But even as short-form platforms like Twitter increasingly shape how issues are framed by the media, recent studies show that when it comes to audience engagement, long-form content performs better than shorter content. So, while we may live in a world dominated by short bursts of commentary, opinion, and insights, long-form content remains a critical (and effective!) format.

While every organization with a message to communicate has to learn how to navigate this dynamic, social change organizations face a bigger challenge. Because when your mission revolves around a complicated issue, is connected to a problem in a far-away place or the distant future, or is just removed from the concerns of everyday life, maintaining audience engagement is inherently more difficult.

Still, it usually boils down to the same question: How can we elevate our issue or cause and engage our target audiences? The time-tested principles used by storytellers since, well, forever are an excellent place to start.

Leveraging Narrative Structure

Whether presented as narrative or as academic research, all long-form content can benefit from the three-act structure of exposition, confrontation, and resolution familiar to professional storytellers. In general, it works like this:

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Best Practices for Implementing New Software

October 16, 2017

Puzzle_cooperation_250If your foundation or charity is thinking about implementing new software, it's essential that it have a well-thought-out technology strategy in place before proceeding. Such a strategy should include a holistic view of the pros and cons of the software under consideration, buy-in from key stakeholders, and a focus on ROI as well as costs.

Of course, any software implementation should be a team effort that has been blessed by leadership and is conducted in real partnership with the software implementer. Settling on a software solution that solves one problem for a single department without thinking through the entire organization's technology needs and ecosystem can lead to more problems than it solves, including:

  • a fatal lack of buy-in from staff and management;
  • technology needs that go unaddressed;
  • duplication of effort; and
  • lack of systems integration.

Selecting a vendor based on a solution's cosmetic features while ignoring the implementer's competence and capacity can also cause problems. And because many foundations and nonprofits are laser-focused on initial costs and frequently ignore longer-term return-on-investment (ROI) calculations, especially when it comes to choosing a firm to implement a solution, organizations often end up with software that is inexpensive but does nothing to drive impact or improve their bottom lines.

Long story short? Software solutions that appear to be inexpensive at first glance can result in significant unaccounted-for costs during the implementation process. Which is why forward-thinking organizations look for solutions that can help them advance their mission and yield a better-than-average return on investment.

Here are five types of software that are useful for foundations and grantmaking charities:

  1. CRM: Provides a holistic view of the constituent experience across the entire organization.
  2. Fundraising: Gives a clear view of performance and yield (including data enrichment services), processes donations, and helps empower your organization's “evangelists” to raise money on your behalf.
  3. Financial: Provides in-depth record keeping and custom reports that allow you to drill down into your finances.
  4. Grants management and impact measurement: Identifies, tracks, and measures the impact of grants and gifts (both cash and in-kind) against concrete outcomes.
  5. Analytics: Is used to harness the power of data and connect with constituents, highlight areas of operational improvement, and generate insights into potential organizational investments.

So how can organizations set themselves up for long-term success once they've chosen one or more of the above solutions? Here are five best software implementation practices:

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Weekend Link Roundup (October 14-15, 2017)

October 15, 2017

California-fire-story7-gty-ml-171012_4x3_992Our 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

We've always admired Herb Alpert — chart-topping musician, innovative record producer/executive, generous philanthropist — and are happy to pass on the news that his foundation has a brand brand new website.

Economy

"[F]or the first time since World War II, American children have only a 50-50 chance of earning more than their parents" — proof that our "economic system is broken," and why jobs and opportunity are America's most pressing challenge, writes Rockefeller Foundation president Rajiv J. Shah.

Giving

How might tax reform affect charitable giving? On the NPR site, Jonathan Meer, a professor at Texas A&M University and an expert on charitable giving, shares his analysis.

Cash-strapped though they may be, cause-driven millennials are finding ways to support causes and organizations aligned with their passions and concerns. Justin Miller, co-Founder and CEO of CARE for AIDS, a faith-based NGO that provides holistic care to families affected by HIV/AIDS in East Africa, explains.

Grantmaking

On the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Anthony Richardson, a program officer at the Nord Family Foundation in Ohio, argues that it is critically important for funders "to listen and be discerning about what may be most helpful — and what may indeed be unintentionally harmful — to organizations doing challenging work on the front lines."

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5 Questions for...Rye Young, Executive Director, Third Wave Fund

October 12, 2017

The Third Wave Fund, an activist fund led by and for women of color and intersex, queer, and trans people under the age of 35, recently launched a pilot effort, the Our Own Power fund, aimed at fostering grassroots organizations in the gender and reproductive justice fields. Rye Young, a trans-activist and executive director of the fund, spoke with PND via email about the importance of representation — the notion that organizations representing vulnerable communities should be led by members of those communities and what nonprofits and foundations can do to boost representation within their organizations and in the sector more generally.

Philanthropy News Digest: What can nonprofits and foundations do to increase self-representation within their organizations?

Rye YoungRye Young: An important first step that many organizations skip is to acknowledge that there is a representation problem in the first place, and to appreciate that this problem does not have an easy fix because it is the result of many factors. There needs to be a conscious effort made to understand how this lack of representation came to be and why it hasn’t been addressed.

Once that understanding has been established, real conversations need to take place focused on why self-representation should be an organizational goal and to determine how far the organization’s leaders are willing to go. For instance, how much funding should be allocated to training? Are those in leadership positions who come from outside the community served by the organization willing to step down from their roles? Can job qualifications be changed or replaced with something more appropriate?

When deciding what steps it can and should take, the organization also must acknowledge the legitimacy of the problem and the many factors behind it. The root causes behind the lack of representation are varied, layered, and deeply embedded within most organizations. So, any decisions arrived at to address the problem must be long-term, and there must be buy-in at all levels of the organization.

PND: Can you give us an example of the kinds of things that result in a lack of representation?

RY: Racism, patriarchy, ageism, ableism — all can result in staff and board members not being members of the community being served, and in turn that can lead to a culture, a set of norms, practices, and values that are reflective of a more privileged or dominant group. And addressing the issue should go beyond changes in leadership or a few key staff; it has to involve a deep examination the organization’s work at every level, from mission and values, to its theory of change, to programs and its human resources policies.

Another example of a root cause could be that your field requires certain types of specialized education, eliminating many eminently qualified candidates and resulting in a small, privileged pool of “qualified” applicants. But there are many drivers. What’s important is that we all do some deep thinking and learning as to what exactly is going on at our own institutions.

Continue reading »

Funding Disability Arts

October 09, 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.

Fudning for disability artsThe stage has been set for a new and vibrant era of funding for disabled artists and disability arts. A spate of innovative programs — Dance/NYC’s Disability. Dance. Artistry. Fund, Alliance for Artist Communities’ Creative Access Fellowship Program, and the Apothetae and Lark Playwriting Fellowship, among others — are putting new dollars into art made by and with disabled people and raising the bar for the broader philanthropic sector.

With CreateNYC, released this summer, the City of New York established the first cultural plan in the United States with disability-specific strategies for expanding cultural access, including a new fund for disabled artists, cultural workers, and audiences. In this and other ways, the city is modeling the kind of leadership that is urgently needed at all levels of government.

Because they embrace disability as a positive artistic and generative force, these efforts are already generating value. They also represent a shift in arts philanthropy, where the exclusion of disabled people is entrenched and where niche disability-specific funds largely have been limited to facility improvements or programs focused on the therapeutic and educational benefits of the arts. And they are demonstrating how, by funding the field of disability arts and its workforce, philanthropy can move the whole creative sector forward — and, by extension, drive social change.

The moment is rife with opportunity. On the one hand, there are opportunities for more expansive disability-specific funds. Indeed, a new generation of disability arts organizations and fiscally sponsored projects is primed for capacity-building investments, and there are critical gaps in funding for disabled artists along the artistic development continuum, from public school classrooms to professional studios and stages.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (October 7-8, 2017)

October 08, 2017

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

Disaster Relief

ProPublica, no fan of the Red Cross, sent a team of reporters to Texas to see how the organization performed in the days after Hurricane Harvey swamped Houston and the surrounding region. They found a lot of local officials who were not impressed. And here's the official Red Cross response to the criticism.

Giving

In the Baltimore Sun, Aaron Dorfman, president of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, wonders whether elimination of the estate tax, as the Trump administration has proposed, will result in a decline in charitable giving, especially large gifts. That's what happened the last time the tax was effectively zeroed out, in 2010, a year that saw bequests from estates decline by 37 percent from the previous year ($11.9 billion to $7.49 billion). A year later, after the tax had been reinstated (albeit at a lower level), the dollar value of bequests rose some 92 percent (to $14.36 billion). And in an op-ed in the Argus Leader, Dorfman provides some numbers which suggest that the family farm argument for eliminating the tax is overstated.

Inequality

On the Washington Post's Wonkblog, Tracy Jan shares a set of charts from the Urban Institute that help explain why the wealth gap between white families and everyone else is widenening.

International Affairs/Development

In a welcome development, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, a coalition of disarmament activists, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. Rick Gladstone reports for the New York Times.

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The Secret to Motivating Donors

October 04, 2017

ActNowbuttonWith year-end fundraising season fast approaching, it's easy for development professionals to fall into the trap of focusing on a single project for which their organization really needs funding. Other nonprofit leaders are frantically crafting year-end appeals, checking and re-checking their donor lists, and trying to come up with creative new ways to engage donors.

No surprise, then, that this is the time of year when we're approached by nonprofits who want to know how they can develop a strategy for new donor acquisition and turn their one-time donors into loyal supporters.

The secret, we tell them, lies in connecting donors to the specific and general — in the same appeal.

Let me give you an example. Assume your organization is working to address a really big problem — say, eliminating hunger in the United States. Such a goal, and the language used to articulate it, can be hard for people to process. In our years of testing fundraising appeals, we've found that potential supporters often don’t understand or respond to messages asking them to support such an ambitious goal. Why? It's too big. What's the point of making a donation if you don't believe your donation will make a dent in the problem it's meant to address?

For a lot of nonprofits, a not atypical scenario looks like this:

  1. A donor — let's call her Margaret — receives a direct-mail appeal asking her to support Organization X, which is working to eliminate hunger in the United States: "Won't you help us end hunger?"
  2. Because she's a compassionate person, Margaret is a little overwhelmed. She isn't a celebrity activist or a deep-pocketed philanthropist, and she only has a couple of hundred dollars set aside for charitable giving. So many people in America struggle with hunger and food insecurity — how can her small donation possibly help?
  3. Margaret decides not to make a donation because she doesn't think it will make a difference.

Instead, we counsel our clients to tell the story of one individual who has been helped by their organization, in the belief that it's easier for a donor to grasp the specific rather than the general. Here's what that might look like:

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (September 2017)

October 03, 2017

September 2017. A month most of us would like to forget. But while folks in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands were being pounded by Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria, our colleagues here at the Foundation Center were doing yeoman's work tracking the hundreds and millions of dollars (more than $300 million at last count) in corporate, foundation, and individual commitments for relief and recovery efforts. For folks interested interested in doing a deeper dive into who gave what, we posted (and regularly updated) some great tables during the month (see below) — as well as great posts by Michael Seltzer, Surina Khan, Tracey Durning, and Chris Kabel (Kresge Foundation), Amy Kenyon (Ford Foundation), and Sharon Z. Roerty (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation). Check it out...and RIP Tom Petty — our hearts are broken.

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

5 Questions for...Ebony Frelix, Senior Vice President of Philanthropy and Engagement, Salesforce.org

September 28, 2017

The push to ensure that all students receive the high-quality computer science and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education needed to compete in the twenty-first-century economy has been gaining urgency. This week, global Internet companies, foundations, and wealthy individuals announced commitments totaling $300 million in support of K-12 computer science education, including a pledge of $50 million and a million volunteer hours from customer-relationship management software provider Salesforce. That commitment was on top of grants totaling $12.2 million that Salesforce.org, the company's philanthropic arm, had awarded recently to the San Francisco and Oakland Unified School Districts to enhance computer science and STEM education, which included unrestricted funding of $100,000 each to middle school principals.

Earlier this month PND spoke with Ebony Frelix, senior vice president of philanthropy and engagement at Salesforce.org, about the organization's model of giving back 1 percent of equity, product, and employee time; its focus on equality in education; and the importance of expanding access to computer science education for tomorrow's diverse workforce — especially in a sector in which women and people of color are underrepresented.

Ebony_frelixPhilanthropy News Digest: This is the fifth consecutive year that Salesforce.org has provided financial support to schools in San Francisco and the second year it has done so in Oakland. What results are you seeing thus far in terms of enrollment in computer science courses specifically and overall curriculum quality in general?

Ebony Frelix: We know that computer science in general is essential in today's job market and it's imperative that students gain the technical skills they need to be successful in the future. Our goal is to provide opportunities for underrepresented youth in the communities where we live and work to gain exposure and experience in computer science that will help them become college- and career-ready. Ultimately, we believe this will lead to a more talented, skilled, and diverse workforce.

In the San Francisco Unified School District we've given $7 million this year and $21 million in grants to date. Over five years we've seen the enrollment of girls in middle school computer science classes go from nearly two hundred to more than thirty-eight hundred, and of underrepresented student populations from less than one hundred to more than thirty-eight hundred. What that means is that computer science enrollment now mirrors the San Francisco community, with women and underrepresented groups making up nearly half of the students. We also funded twenty-four hundred hours of math content coaching, and we've cut the percentage of students repeating Algebra I in half, from 51 percent to 23 percent, and we hope to see that number continue to drive down. We've also seen a drop in D and F grades in math classes, from 18 percent to 12.6 percent.

In Oakland, we've given $5.2 million this year and $7.7 million in grants to date. We saw an enrollment of nine hundred OUSD middle school students in computer science classes in the first year alone. That was very encouraging, and what was really neat was that those computer science classes are 45 percent females, 38 percent Latinos, and 29 percent African Americans, again closely aligning to the district as a whole. What's even better is that 80 percent of those students received either an A or a B in computer science.

PND: Through the Principal's Innovation Fund (PIF), this year's awards include grants of $100,000 to middle school principals in San Francisco and Oakland. How are principals using those funds?

EF: We like to think that principals are like the CEOs of their schools; they know best how to address the unique needs of their schools. We often hear from principals that failure is not an option, things like "We can't spend money on things that don't work," "We can't take a chance with the district's money." The PIF allows principals to try things and experiment with what works, and then share those learnings with the district. That way we can avoid potentially making a district-wide faux pas with funding or with a program that may not be successful.

We know also that, with a limited budget, principals haven't been able to modernize their schools to align with a twenty-first-century workplace. So if you go into a classroom, they look like they did decades ago — the teacher at the front of the room, the kids sitting in rows, facing the teacher — and that's preventing students from learning in a collaborative workspace. Principals can use the PIF to redesign the classroom, to create a twenty-first-century environment where students are able to learn at standing desks, couches, or pillows; move tables around; have LCD screens all around them. You don't know where the front of the classroom is versus the back of the classroom, because it's flexible. That's a really good way for students to learn, and it also mirrors the workplace they're going to be entering.

In addition, students continue to enter middle school far below grade level, so teachers are faced with having multiple grade levels within one class and having to provide differentiated instruction. Principals are using the PIF to hire additional staff to teach different levels within a multi-tiered computer science curriculum as well as to teach engineering, animation, and robotics courses. And they can implement online personalized learning programs to address the needs of each student and create lesson plans to bring them up to grade level.

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Once and for All: Lead-Free, Healthy Kids

September 26, 2017

Baby_mother_playing_400x300We want all our children to be safe and happy — that's why we have safeguards in place to protect them. Newborns are taken home from the hospital in car seats, kindergarteners must have all their vaccines to enter school, even playground equipment is closely regulated. Yet, despite these investments in their health and safety, children are still at risk in their own homes. While we are closer than ever to eliminating lead in homes, it's still all too prevalent, seeping into the lives of our children through peeling paint, unfiltered water from unsafe pipes, and other sources.

Even though lead poisoning is entirely preventable, 535,000 children under the age of six in the United States are exposed to the dangerous toxin each year through water, paint, soil, and other sources. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "at least four million households have children living in them that are being exposed to high levels of lead." Lead exposure can lead to learning disabilities, speech delays, attention deficit disorder, reduced motor control and balance, and aggressive behavior. In fact, kids with lead poisoning are seven times as likely to drop out of school than their non-lead-poisoned peers, are six times as likely to become involved in the juvenile justice system, and as adults face increased risks of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, depression, and early mortality.

When the Flint water crisis became international news, it was easy to brush it aside as an anomaly — something that would never happen in your own town. But in 2016 a report by Reuters found three thousand localities across the country where at least 10 percent of children — double the rate of lead poisoning in Flint at the height of the crisis there — had elevated levels of lead in their blood. In some cities, "the rate of elevated [lead] tests over the last decade was 40 to 50 percent." Many of the affected communities are low-income and majority African-American and Latino populations, a sadly unsurprising fact given the stark racial disparities when it comes to addressing lead poisoning. In fact, African-American children are roughly five times more likely and Latino children nearly twice as likely to be poisoned by lead than their white peers.

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Commitments for Mexico Earthquake and Hurricane Maria Relief

September 22, 2017

Following hard on the heels of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Hurricane Maria has wreaked havoc in Puerto Rico, Dominica, and other Caribbean islands, many already devastated by earlier storms, and continues on its path of destruction. In Mexico City and surrounding areas, a 7.1-magnitude earthquake on September 19 — which followed an earlier quake September 7 — has left dozens of buildings completely collapsed and a death toll of 286 and climbing. Pledges from corporations, foundations, public charities, and individuals for relief and recovery efforts are beginning to come in. Here are the commitments of at least $25,000 tracked by our Foundation Center colleagues Andrew Grabois and Grace Sato as of September 22.

For commitments designated for both Harvey and Irma relief, please see our updates to the Harvey relief commitments announced by corporate foundations and corporate giving programs, foundations, public charities, and individuals. For commitments designated specifically for Hurricane Irma relief, see our post here. Please also see Foundation Center's Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy site for Harvey-related grants.

[We're continuing to update the tables as commitments are announced. Please scroll to the bottom of the post for ongoing updates.]

Company-Sponsored Foundations and Corporate Giving Programs

GRANTMAKER TYPE RECIPIENT AMOUNT NOTES
3M Foundation Company-Sponsored Foundation Multiple Recipients $1,000,000 For Latin American relief for Hurricane Maria, Mexico earthquake
Abbott Fund and Abbott Laboratories Corporate Giving Program Company-Sponsored Foundation, Corporate Giving Program National Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry, Multiple Recipients $2,000,000 For Hurricane Maria relief in Puerto Rico and Caribbean islands and Mexico earthquake relief; includes $500,000 in cash and nutrition products and medicines
Amgen Foundation, Inc. Company-Sponsored Foundation Direct Relief, Unknown Recipient(s) $5,050,000 $50,000 to Direct Relief for Mexico earthquake relief; $3 million for urgent relief and $2 million for long-term relief from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico
Bacardi & Company Limited Contributions Program Corporate Giving Program Unknown Recipient(s) $3,000,000 For communities in Florida, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, the Bahamas, and Mexico impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria and Mexico earthquake
CEMEX, S.A.B. de C.V. Corporate Giving Program Corporate Giving Program Unknown Recipient(s) $1,000,000 Value of donated building materials; for Mexico earthquake of 9/7/17
Coach Foundation, Inc. Company-Sponsored Foundation Direct Relief $66,000 For Hurricane Maria relief in Puerto Rico and Mexico earthquake relief
Delta Air Lines, Inc. Contributions Program Corporate Giving Program American Red Cross $250,000 For Hurricane Maria relief in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands
Diageo PLC Contributions Program Corporate Giving Program Unknown Recipient(s) $1,000,000 For Hurricane Maria relief in the U.S. Virgin Islands
E. & J. Gallo Winery Corporate Giving Program Corporate Giving Program American Red Cross $100,000 For Hurricane Maria relief in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands
Eli Lilly and Company Foundation Company-Sponsored Foundation American Red Cross, Unknown Recipient(s) $625,000 For Hurricane Maria relief; also medical donations and emergency shipments
EVERTEC, Inc. Contributions Program Corporate Giving Program Unknown Recipient(s) $1,000,000 For Hurricane Maria relief in Puerto Rico
Facebook, Inc. Contributions Program Corporate Giving Program International Red Cross $1,000,000 Will also waive fees on donations to UNICEF made on its Facebook page for Mexico earthquake relief7
Fundación Metlife México Company-Sponsored Foundation American Red Cross, Fondo para la Paz $400,000 For earthquake of 9/7/17
Fundación Wal Mart de México Company-Sponsored Foundation Unknown Recipient(S) $2,200,000 For Mexico earthquake relief
Google.org Corporate Giving Program Unknown Recipient(S) $250,000 Employee match for Hurricane Maria relief
Home Depot Foundation Company-Sponsored Foundation Multiple Recipients $500,000 For Mexican earthquake relief; also product donations from Home Depot Mexico
Honeywell Corporate Giving Program Corporate Giving Program Mexico Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional (SEDENA) $400,000 Value of donated personal protective equipment for Mexico earthquake relief
Humana Foundation, Inc. Company-Sponsored Foundation American Red Cross $250,000 Value of airlifted supplies to Puerto Rico for Hurricane Maria relief
JetBlue Airways Corporation Contributions Program Corporate Giving Program Unknown Recipient(s) $1,000,000 For Puerto Rico for Hurricanes Irma and Maria relief
Kaiser Permanente Corporate Giving Program Corporate Giving Program International Medical Corps, CDC Foundation $2,000,000 $1 million each for first responders for Mexico earthquake relief and public health support following hurricanes in Puerto Rico
Lowe's Companies, Inc. Contributions Program Corporate Giving Program Unknown Recipient(s) $500,000 For Hurricane Maria and Mexico earthquake relief
Major League Baseball Corporate Giving Program Corporate Giving Program Habitat for Humanity, Project C.U.R.E., U.S. Fund for UNICEF, Multiple Recipients $1,000,000 For Hurricane Maria relief efforts in Puerto Rico and Mexico earthquake relief
M & T Bank Corporate Giving Program Corporate Giving Program American Red Cross $300,000 to assist victims of Hurricanes Irma and Maria and the earthquake in Mexico
PepsiCo Foundation, Inc. Company-Sponsored Foundation American Red Cross, Pan American Development Foundation $2,250,000 For Mexican earthquake relief, including earthquake of 9/7/17; for hurricane relief in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean
Suntory Holdings Limited Contributions Program Corporate Giving Program Mexican Red Cross $200,000 For Mexican earthquake relief
United Air Lines, Inc. Contributions Program Corporate Giving Program Unknown Recipients(s) $50,000 Customer match; for Hurricane Maria relief
UPS Corporate Giving Program Corporate Giving Program Mexican Red Cross (earthquake), American Red Cross (Hurricane Maria) $25,000 Value of in-kind donation for Mexico earthquake relief
USANA True Health Foundation Company-Sponsored Foundation Children's Hunger Fund $50,000 Food, nutrition and other aid for Mexico earthquake relief
Vallarta Supermarkets Inc. Contributions Program Corporate Giving Program CENACED $50,000 Customer match; for Mexico earthquake and Hurricane Maria relief
Wal-Mart Foundation, Inc. Company-Sponsored Foundation Unknown Recipient(s) $565,000 For Mexico earthquake relief
Walt Disney Company Contributions Program Corporate Giving Program Multiple Recipient(s) $500,000 For Mexico earthquake relief
Wells Fargo & Company Contributions Program Corporate Giving Program American Red Cross $250,000 For Mexico earthquake relief
Western Union Foundation and Western Union Company Contributions Program Company-Sponsored Foundation and Corporate Giving Program Save the Children, Unknown Recipient(s) $55,000 Agent match ($10,000); employee match ($25,000) for Mexico earthquake relief
Total: $28,886,000

 

Table 2: Foundations

David Tepper Charitable Foundation Independent Foundation Feeding America $3,000,000 With Appaloosa LP; to help rebuild critical food distribution networks in Puerto Rico, Florida, and Texas following Hurricanes Maria, Irma, and Harvey
Total: $3,000,000

 

Table 3: Public Charities

Direct Relief International Public Charity Unknown Recipient(s) $100,000 For deployment of emergency medical response personnel and essential medical supplies; for Mexico earthquake of 9/7/17
Knights of Columbus Public Charity International Medical Corps $200,000 $100,000 each for Hurricane Maria relief in Puerto Rico and Mexico earthquake relief
Total: $300,000

 

Table 4: Individuals

Carlos Beltran Individual Fundación Carlos Beltran $1,000,000 For Hurricane Maria relief
Salma Hayek Individual GoFundMe $100,000 For Mexico earthquake relief
Jennifer Lopez Individual Unknown Recipient(s) $1,000,000 For Hurricane Maria relief
Ricky Martin Individual Unknown Recipient(s) $100,000 YouCaring campaign; for Hurricane Maria relief
Shawn Mendes Individual GoFundMe campaign $100,000 For Mexico earthquake relief
Mark Zuckerberg Individual Mexican Red Cross $1,000,000 For Mexico earthquake relief; also Facebook waiving fees on donations to UNICEF made through Facebook tools
Total: $3,200,000

 

September 25, 2017

The Amgen Foundation, Inc., which had pledged $50,000 for Mexico earthquake relief efforts, announces commitments totaling $5 million for Hurricane Maria relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

Carlos Beltrain announces a $1 million commitment for Hurricane Maria relief efforts.

Facebook, Inc. Contributions Program announces a $1 million commitment for Mexico earthquake relief efforts.

The Kaiser Permanente Corporate Giving Program announces a $1 million commitment for Mexico earthquake relief efforts.

Jennifer Lopez announces a $1 million commitment for Hurricane Maria relief efforts.

Ricky Martin announces a $100,000 pledge for Hurricane Maria relief efforts.

Shawn Mendes announces a $100,000 pledge for Mexico earthquake relief efforts.

The United Air Lines, Inc. Contributions Program announces a $50,000 pledge for Hurricane Maria relief efforts.

The UPS Corporate Giving Program announces a $50,000 pledge for Mexico earthquake relief efforts.

The Wells Fargo & Company Contributions Program announces a $250,000 commitment for Mexico earthquake relief efforts.

Updated total: $22,445,000


September 27, 2017

The Abbott Fund and Abbott Laboratories Corporate Giving Program announce commitments totaling $2,000,000 for Hurricane Maria/Mexico earthquake relief efforts.

The Coach Foundation, Inc. announces a $66,000 pledge for Mexico earthquake relief efforts.

The Delta Air Lines, Inc. Contributions Program announces a $250,000 pledge for Hurricane Maria relief efforts.

The Diageo PLC Contributions Program announces $1,000,000 commitment for Hurricane Maria relief efforts.

The E. & J. Gallo Winery Corporate Giving Program announces a $100,000 pledge for Hurricane Maria relief efforts.

The EVERTEC, Inc. Contributions Program announces $1,000,000 commitment for Hurricane Maria relief efforts.

Google.org announces a $250,000 pledge for Hurricane Maria relief efforts.

The Major League Baseball Corporate Giving Program announces a $1,000,000 commitment for Hurricane Maria/Mexico earthquake relief efforts.

The Knights of Columbus announces $200,000 pledge for Hurricane Maria/Mexico earthquake relief efforts.

The Lowe's Companies, Inc. Contributions Program announces a $250,000 pledge for Mexico earthquake relief efforts.

The Major League Baseball Corporate Giving Program announces a $1,000,000 commitment for Hurricane Maria/Mexico earthquake relief efforts.

The Suntory Holdings Limited Contributions Program announces a $200,000 commitment for Mexico earthquake relief efforts.

The USANA True Health Foundation announces a $50,000 pledge for Mexico earthquake relief efforts.

The Walt Disney Company Contributions Program announces a $500,000 pledge for Mexico earthquake relief efforts.

Updated total: $29,461,000


September 28, 2017

The Eli Lilly and Company Foundation announces a $625,000 pledge for Hurricane Maria relief.

The JetBlue Airways Corporation Contributions Program announces a $1 million contribution in airlifted supplies to Puerto Rico for Hurricane Maria relief.

Kaiser Permanente, which had pledged $1 million in support of Mexico earthquake relief, announces a $1 million commitment for hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

The M & T Bank Corporate Giving Program announces a $100,000 pledge for victims of Hurricanes Irma and Maria and the earthquake in Mexico.

The David Tepper Charitable Foundation announces a $3 million commitment for relief efforts in Puerto Rico, Florida, and Texas following Hurricanes Maria, Irma, and Harvey.

Updated total: $35,386,000


SPARCC: Rewriting the Playbook on Equitable Infrastructure Investment

September 21, 2017

Sparcc_for_philantopicThroughout the history of the United States, major public infrastructure investments have spurred economic development and shaped entire regions. From the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 to the completion of the Interstate highway system in 1992, publicly funded infrastructure has played a critical role in the development of our modern economy.  

Yet the story of major infrastructure investments is hardly all positive: Residents of nearly any city in America can point to a large-scale project that displaced and decimated the wealth and social fabric of communities of color, for example. Interstate 81 destroyed the 15th Ward of Syracuse, New York, while Interstate 75 dismantled Detroit's "Black Bottom" neighborhood, home to thousands of people and three hundred and fifty African American-owned businesses. In New York City, mega-projects like the Cross Bronx Expressway put a physical barrier between low-income communities of color and opportunities to earn better livelihoods.  

Major public infrastructure projects can also have harmful impacts on health and climate by increasing our dependence on fossil fuel consumption, increasing CO2 emissions, exacerbating respiratory illnesses like asthma, and inhibiting people's physical activity. And too often, infrastructure investments in walking and cycling amenities, new transit, improved stormwater drainage, broadband, or parks don't reach the people and neighborhoods that need them most.

Mindful of the high stakes of getting infrastructure right, several leading foundations, working in close collaboration with four national partners, have launched the Strong, Prosperous and Resilient Communities Challenge. SPARCC aims to create opportunities for low-income people and communities of color through strategies that promote equity, better health outcomes, and climate resilience. All three of these goals can be realized by amplifying regional public investments in housing, transit, and other impactful infrastructure so that their benefits can be shared equitably—and by empowering the communities that stand to benefit.  By demonstrating how investments in the built environment can create a path for all of a city's residents to thrive, we aim to rewrite the national playbook for how such projects are designed and implemented in the future.

In this month's edition of the Community Development Investment Review, published by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, we describe how the Robert Wood Johnson, Ford, Kresge, and JPB foundations and the California Endowment — along with our implementing partners, the Low Income Investment Fund, Enterprise Community Partners, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco — worked together to develop this ambitious six-site, $90 million initiative. Together, we aim to test a different model for development — one that harnesses a major public investment in infrastructure to prioritize the needs of low-income people for healthy, resilient, and connected communities, rather than cutting people off or displacing them. We hope that SPARCC can point the way toward reversing a series of urban policy and programmatic decisions that kept communities of color out of the decision-making process, and resulted in decades of disinvestment in low-income communities across the nation, fueling enormous disparities in health and economic opportunities between zip codes that are often just a few miles apart.

We designed SPARCC to capitalize on catalytic moments, those rare times in the life of a community when it is ripe for action. While a significant infrastructure initiative (like the buildout of a regional transit system) is often that catalyst, new leadership, population shifts, strong public will, policy overhauls — or even efforts to recover from a natural disaster, like Superstorm Sandy — can also attract a significant pool of private and public capital and accelerate opportunity. SPARCC pursues a multiplier effect in that opportune moment — for example, taking advantage of the buildout of transit to prioritize affordable housing development near transit stops, or ensuring that a major investment in greenways or revitalization offers benefits to low income communities, rather than triggering rising rents and displacement.

After a competitive review process, the SPARCC partners selected six places for SPARCC to support over the next three years: Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Memphis and the San Francisco Bay Area. In that period, each region will be awarded $1 million in direct grant and technical assistance funds to support cross-sector efforts to retool policy and development practice. Collectively, the regions will benefit from an additional $14 million for programmatic support in areas including data systems, policy, and communications. A $70 million pool of investment capital — some from the participating foundations, some leveraged through institutions that finance community development — will also be available for community-based projects.


Recognizing that SPARCC's ambitious goals will require more than a three-year grant period to achieve, we will support cross-sector leaders and accelerate change so that the six regions are equipped to carry out the vision over the long term — and share their learning with communities across the country. We plan to share our own learnings along the way, and invite the engagement of new partners who are also interested in learning how to leverage systems to achieve health, climate and equity goals.

Public infrastructure dollars can and should do much more to promote equitable, resilient, and healthy communities. Our aspiration is that SPARCC will begin to provide a new roadmap, based on the experience of these six regions, that can inform policy and practice in cities across the U.S.

Read our full article here.

Sparcc_compositeChris Kabel is deputy director of health at  the Kresge Foundation, Amy Kenyon is a program officer for equitable development at the Ford Foundation, and Sharon Z. Roerty is a senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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