Labels…Do They Matter?

February 22, 2018

I-am-what-you-label-mePhilanthropy researchers have spent a considerable amount of time and effort trying to understand the donor's point of view, and they've taken much of what they've learned and condensed it into a sector-specific typology: Donor. Volunteer. Activist. Advocate. Maybe it's time, however, for a more sophisticated approach to how we classify these types of constituent relationships — and how we structure our organizations around them.

In many nonprofits, departments and staff are organized according to the nature of their constituent involvement. You have volunteer coordinators, corporate donor managers, major gift directors, membership managers, and so on. What's more, many nonprofits still keep their development functions separate from their marketing and communications teams.

The most effective nonprofits don't operate this way.

Ask yourself this: Do the labels we attach to people influence how we relate to them, or how they view their relationship to us?

What do we really mean when we say things like, "She's a key donor." "He's a great volunteer." "She's a real advocate."

Do the people we talk about in those terms see themselves in the same way? Does she see herself as a "donor," or a "volunteer," or an "advocate"? And does it matter if she doesn't?

From donor engagement studies and the research on millennials we have done, we know that most nonprofit supporters don't think of themselves in terms of their transactional relationship with the organizations they support. They don't give or volunteer out of loyalty to an organization. More often than not, their willingness to give or volunteer is rooted in the idea that their support for an organization or cause will improve the lives of others.

If our findings are accurate — and we think they are — nonprofits should be thinking about how they can reorganize their teams and functions around the way their supporters see themselves, rather than in transactional terms. Marketers, fundraisers, volunteer coordinators, and activism departments must work together on a consistent basis to ensure that supporters are seen and treated as believers in your organization and cause, while managers must encourage an environment of teamwork rather than competition for donors/members/subscribers.

On a practical level, staff in these departments should be tasked with creating a supporter involvement plan for the year that emphasizes constituent participation and action, as well as narratives and collateral that reinforce their passion for your issue or cause.

You might want to even consider adding a new role to your staff: Supporter engagement manager/director. The person in that role would coordinate the calls to actions from all the departments in your organization into a singular, sequential model of constituent engagement. If implemented thoughtfully and effectively, this kind of organized teamwork and focused communication almost guarantees future fundraising success, especially with millennials.

If your organization truly believes its donors and supporters are willing (and eager) to contribute in many ways to its success, this is how you should be aligning your work flows. It may be a little awkward at first, but if you keep at it — and give your supporter engagement manager/director enough authority to make sure that everyone is on the same page at all times — you will be pleased with the results.

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 (February 17-18, 2018)

February 18, 2018

Chloe-kim-02Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Education

How can we make strong learning outcomes accessible to every child in public education? Charmaine Jackson Mercer, a new member of the Education team at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, shares her thoughts.

Fundraising

Forbes Nonprofit Council member Austin Gallagher, CEO of environmental nonprofit Beneath the Waves, shares five fundraising tips for new nonprofit leaders.

Gun Control

On her Social Velocity blog, Nell Edgington argues that the pattern of social change in America — from the abolition of slavery, to women's suffrage, to the legalization of interracial marriage — should give us hope that Americans, led by moms, will come together to support commonsense gun legislation.

Health

Th real cause of the opiod epidemic that is devastating America? According to a working paper authored by Christopher Ruhm of the University of Virginia its not what you think it is. Richard Florida reports for CityLab.

Human Trafficking

Here on PhilanTopic, Catherine Chen, director of investments at Humanity United, announces that, through its Pathways to Freedom challenge, Atlanta, Chicago and Minneapolis have been invited to partner with the organization to address the urgent problem of human trafficking.

International Affairs/Development

Hungary's right-wing nationalist government has introduced legislation that would empower the interior minister to ban non-governmental organizations that support migration and pose a "national security risk" — a bill seen by many has targeting the "liberal and open-border values" promoted by U.S.-Hungarian financier/philanthropist George Soros. Reuters'Krisztina Than reports.

Nonprofits

On his Nonprofit Chronicles blog, Marc Gunther continues his series on sexual harassment in the animal welfare movement.

And on his Nonprofit AF blog, Vu Le reflects on a few things the nonprofit sector can do to facilitate discussion of and action designed to address sexual harassment.

Philanthropy

Can philanthropy help create spaces for people to come together around complex and divisive issues? Yes, say the folks at Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE). And the key to bridging divides in society is "asset-based framing, with a focus on gifts, on associational life, and on the insight that all transformation occurs through language."

As philanthropy has embraced strategic philanthropy, the term "checkbook philanthropy" has become a pejorative, writes Rick Moyers, chair of of the board of BoardSource, on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, "and that's a shame. Simply writing checks to effective organizations doing important work can be an honorable approach to philanthropy and doesn't have to be mindless, haphazard, or ineffectual....Indeed,...[m]More checkbook philanthropy could go a long way toward solving some of the chronic problems with how nonprofit organizations are capitalized."

Gen Xers and millennials are reinventing what it means to do good. Sharna Goldseker and Michael Moody, authors of Generation Impact: How Next Gen Donors Are Revolutionizing Giving, share key takeaways from their book with the folks at the Knowledge@Wharton show.

Public Affairs

The Trump administration's budget for fiscal year 2019 calls for the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, each of which receives just under $150 million from the feds. Under the administration's proposal, the NEA and NEH would "begin" shutting down in 2019 and, from that point on, neither organization would be considered a "core" federal responsibility. The New York Times shares the AP's "highlights" of the Trump budget.

Interesting NYT analysis of the twenty legislators in the House and Senate who have received the most funding from the National Rifle Association over the course of their careers.

Transparency

On the Glasspockets blog, Whitney Tome, executive director of Green 2.0, a campaign dedicated to increasing the racial diversity of mainstream environmental NGOs, foundations and federal government agencies, explains how foundation transparency around diversity, equity, inclusion and justice "can position philanthropy to lead by example instead of just playing catch up...."

(Photo credit: Cameron Spencer, Getty Images)

Got something you'd like to share? Dro p us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Cities Are Raising the Bar and Building Beloved Communities Where Black Men and Boys Can Thrive

February 16, 2018

Cbma_promise_of_placeTo build beloved communities across America where black men and boys are healthy, thriving, and able to achieve their fullest potential — that is the Campaign for Black Male Achievement's (CBMA) core mission and rallying cry.

CBMA's work is driven by the unwavering belief that black men and boys are assets to our communities and our country, that they possess untapped potential and brilliance, and that they thrive when given opportunities to succeed. We cannot truly prosper as a nation when any group is left behind and forced to exist on the fringes of society. The well-being of black men and boys is directly connected to the well-being and strength of our families, communities, and nation as a whole.

Over the past decade, CBMA has supported leaders in cities across the United States who are working to accelerate positive life outcomes for black men and boys and whose efforts are moving the needle in measurable ways. To chart and track the progress happening in these cities, in 2015 CBMA developed the Black Male Achievement (BMA) City Index, which scores cities based on their level of engagement with and investment in black men and boys. In conjunction with the new index, we released Promise of Place, a first-of-its-kind report series that assessed commitments and targeted initiatives across fifty cities focused on supporting black men and boys. A few weeks ago, we released a follow-up report, Promise of Place: Building Beloved Communities for Black Men and Boys, that explores whether those cities are keeping their promises. Encouragingly, we have found that most cities have in fact increased their investments and actions in support of black men and boys.

The new Promise of Place report finds that, since 2015, 62 percent of the cities included in the index have ramped up their efforts to support black males across a variety of focus areas and needs, with scores based on five key indicators: demographic mix, commitment to black men and boys, presence of national initiatives supporting black men and boys, targeted funding supporting black men and boys, and CBMA membership. Detroit and Washington, D.C., remain the two highest scoring cities, each with a score of 95, while Jackson (Mississippi), Seattle (Washington), Omaha (Nebraska), and Mobile (Alabama) saw the greatest improvements in their scores. Cities not captured in the first report — including Denver and Yonkers, New York — have since become highly engaged in leading black male achievement efforts.

To be clear, the BMA City Index is not a ranking of which cities are doing the best with respect to this work. Rather, it is meant to serve as a starting point to see what commitments and engagements cities are making to black men and boys. It is imperative that city and community leaders hold their cities accountable to these commitments and continue to collaborate on measuring the impact of their efforts.

Despite this progress, however, we still see a continued need for greater investment in black male achievement. As noted in the report, education is just one area of need: 25 percent of African-American children do not graduate from high school on time, compared with the national average of 17 percent. Similarly, the high school graduation rate for black males is 59 percent, compared with 65 percent for Latino males and 80 percent for white males.

In recent years, we have also seen the national discourse become increasingly divided along lines of race, social justice, and equity. In addition to the continued systemic violence against black men, women, children, and communities, we have witnessed tragedies in cities such as Charleston, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis, as well as an increase in hate crimes targeting both African-American and undocumented communities.

Still, there is good news when we look at how mayors and other city and community leaders have stepped up to address the challenges faced by black men and boys. The new edition of Promise of Place finds that even as support at the national level is being eliminated or scaled back, cities are leading the way in deepening and expanding programs and policies that help everyone, including black men and boys.

Ten years into our mission, CBMA likewise is deepening its commitment to the black male achievement movement and to helping all black males achieve their full potential. While we are ready to work at the national level to bring needed investments to scale, we are focused on where we know we can make the most difference — elevating local leaders and hometown heroes who are driving this important work forward in our cities. We are thrilled to be able to highlight these leaders and their dedicated work. Our hope is that the report series and BMA City Index will serve as a roadmap for cities, stakeholders, and all those who are interested in advancing black male achievement.

Sheba_rogers_for_philantopicSheba Rogers is a Promise of Place program manager for the Campaign for Black Male Achievement and co-author of the second edition of Promise of Place. A native of Detroit, she helps manage CBMA's Promise of Place city strategy and supports CBMA's High School Excellence and Black Male Achievement engagement activities.

Building City Leadership to Combat Human Trafficking

February 15, 2018

Top_image_humanity_unitedIn America's small towns and big cities, in fields and on construction sites, in restaurants and bars, homes, and local businesses, slavery still exists in a pernicious, often-hidden form. Exploited for their labor and for sex, human trafficking victims are men, women, and children. There is no one race, face, or nationality.

Nor is there a single solution to the problem, given the different circumstances of human trafficking and the different needs of survivors. Yet funding for anti-trafficking efforts over the last fifteen years has mainly flowed through the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services, with an emphasis on strengthening a federal and local law enforcement approach and ensuring that victims receive services. Local efforts have also focused on large police operations to combat sex trafficking. Much less has been done to identify and respond to labor trafficking, which is often misunderstood or mischaracterized as employment disputes.

In an effort to develop and spur bold, cross-sectoral approaches to the challenge of ending human trafficking in all its forms, Humanity United, in 2013, launched the Partnership for Freedom, a public-private partnership aimed at catalyzing new ideas, data, commitments, and actions in the anti-trafficking movement through three "innovation challenges." In our third and final challengePathways to Freedom, Humanity United and the NoVo Foundation, in collaboration with 100 Resilient Cities, challenged the twenty-four 100RC member cities in the U.S. to propose a holistic, comprehensive approach to the problem of trafficking. We are pleased to announce that three of those cities — Atlanta, Chicago, and Minneapolis — have been invited to partner with us to tackle this pressing challenge.

To support the three cities as they develop and implement citywide plans to address labor and sex trafficking and better support survivors, Pathways to Freedom will award each city funding for a senior fellow for two years who will serve directly at the highest levels of municipal government. The fellow will work across multiple city agencies and with a range of community stakeholders. Each winning city also will receive technical assistance to fill knowledge gaps with respect to labor trafficking.

The challenge is designed to help cities develop a comprehensive response to human trafficking. Survivors, as well as those at risk of trafficking, often cycle in and out of city services and municipal-level systems such as housing, public health, and labor enforcement. At the same time, people exposed to trafficking often have complex histories that require a more holistic response than currently exists. To truly help survivors and victims of trafficking, an effective  approach must involve more than just one system.

Unfortunately, a multi-faceted approach is even more urgently needed as the threat of deportation and anti-immigrant rhetoric increases and trafficking victims increasingly fear the  systems that should be protecting them. In such an environment, immigrant communities may become even more vulnerable to trafficking and less likely to seek help from law enforcement, report their trafficker, or access services.

In the coming months, Pathways to Freedom also will support grassroots- and survivor-led efforts in the three cities to integrate trafficking into existing advocacy efforts in the areas of homelessness, immigration, and criminal justice reform, as well as to elevate survivors as  advocates. In addition, we will support a public service campaign with messages that challenges misperceptions about trafficking victims.

The Partnership for Freedom believes that this shift to local-level action — and funding for local approaches — is critical to sustaining and building a more successful anti-trafficking movement in the U.S. We know that local governments have the best understanding of the challenges facing their constituents and communities and are in the best position to design and implement effective policies and practices. Around the country, we see innovation and leadership from cities on many of our most pressing challenges — including immigration, housing, health care, and climate change. As cities tackle these complex issues, we are excited about partnering with them to develop and expand local solutions to human trafficking as well.

Catherine_chen_for_philantopicCatherine Chen is director of investments at Humanity United, where she leads the Partnership for Freedom and oversees the foundation's programs to address human trafficking and labor migration.

What’s New at Foundation Center (February)

February 13, 2018

FC_logoLast month, we launched this monthly series as a way to keep you posted on what we at Foundation Center are learning, where we're speaking, what data we're collecting, and how you can contribute to that story. And while athletes from around the world are slipping, sliding, and jumping their way to glory in South Korea, we've been hard at work bringing data and knowledge to the fore for philanthropy globally. Here's the latest:

Projects Launched

  • Our Advancing Human Rights platform was updated with new trends data, revealing a 45 percent increase in human rights funding worldwide between 2011 and 2015, from $1.4 billion to more than $2 billion. In partnership with the Human Right Funders Network, we began to map the landscape of human rights grantmaking in 2010, which led to this first-ever five-year analysis. In addition to the site update, we also launched a blog series featuring human rights funders who provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse into key trends related to their areas of focus. And we created an infographic that distills the key findings from the analysis.

Content Published

What We're Excited About

  • We are a founding partner of the first U.S.-based Opportunity Collaboration Conference, taking place in Florida in May.
  • We answered nearly 900 questions about nonprofit management and the social sector more broadly through our online chat service in January.
  • We're giving GrantSpace — our website geared to grant seekers — a makeover so it's simpler to find what you're looking for. Keep your eyes peeled for the new site in April.
  • Our revamped custom training program for grantseekers uses in-person and online tools to connect participants in meaningful ways and promote concrete outcomes. Through assignments, peer review, expert coaching, and workshops, you'll be supported from start to finish. Email our training team at fctraining@foundationcenter.org for more information.
  • A soon-to-be-released GrantCraft Leadership Series paper by Barbara Chow focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion in philanthropy.

Projects in the Pipeline

  • In partnership with Sustain Arts and Audience Architects, a new report mapping the dance ecosystem in the Chicago area
  • In partnership with the Council on Foundations, a report on international grantmaking by U.S.-based foundations

For more on these projects or how to work with us, send us an email.

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Our staff will be speaking at these upcoming events:

Our staff will be attending and/or exhibiting at these events:

Data Spotlight

  • 328,486 new grants added to Foundation Maps since January 1, of which 4,045 were made to 2,591 organizations outside the U.S.
  • New data sharing partners: Austin Family Foundation, Charities Aid Foundation of America, ClimateWorks Foundation, Laffey-McHugh Foundation.

Tell your story through data so we can communicate philanthropy's contribution to making a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.

If you found this update helpful, feel free to share it or shoot us an email! I'll be back next month with another update.

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center.

Weekend Link Roundup (February 10-11, 2018)

February 11, 2018

Market_3275653kOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Corporate Social Responsibility

What if boycotts — punishing companies for perceived anti-social or -environmental practices by refusing to buy their products or services — isn't the most effective way to change corporate behavior? A new report from public relations firm Weber Shandwick suggest that "buycotts" — in which consumers actively support companies that model pro-social behavior — are overtaking boycotts as the preferred mode of consumer activism. Eillie Anzilotti reports for Fast Company.

Economy

In the New York Times, Kevin Roose profiles self-declared 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who tells Roose, "All you need is self-driving cars to destabilize society....[W]e're going to have a million truck drivers who are out of work [and] who are 94 percent male, with an average level of education of high school or [a] year of college. That one innovation will be enough to create riots in the street. And we're about to do the same thing to retail workers, call center workers, fast-food workers, insurance companies, accounting firms."

Giving

The 80/20 rule, whereby 80 percent of charitable gifts come from 20 percent of the donors, seems like "a quaint artifact of a simpler time," writes Alan Cantor in Philanthropy Daily. These days, the more accurate measure is probably closer to 95/5  and, according to the authors of a new report on giving, it's headed toward a ratio of 98/2. What's a nonprofit leader to do? "[G]o where the money is. Try not to sell your souls to your top donors, and do your best to maintain a broad constituency of supporters. "

In the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Heather McLeod Grant and Kate Wilkinson argue that, with a new generation of donors arriving on the scene, "we need to pay more attention to how values around philanthropy pass from one generation to the next and how that initial spark of generosity awakens — factors that most nonprofits can’t influence but should heed to as they cultivate donors."

Broadening access to college and increasing college completion are imperative, but they are not enough, argues Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and president emeritus of Michigan State University, if students who complete a degree are not ready for employment.

Journalism/Media

In "American Journalism as an Institution," a white paper commissioned by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, founding National Affairs editor Yuval Levin (The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’' Social Contract in the Age of Individualism) argues that the crisis of trust journalism is facing is in part caused by journalists choosing to use social media to transform themselves "from participants in the work of institutions to managers of personal brands who carefully tend to their own public presence and presentation."

Immigration

What do the polls say about Americans' views of immigration? William A. Galston, the Ezra K. Zilkha Chair of the governance studies program at Brookings, breaks it down.

Nonprofits

New to the nonprofit leadership ranks? Seven members of the Forbes Nonprofit Council share their best advice.

On his Nonprofit Chronicles blog, Marc Gunther details more allegations of sexual misconduct at an animal welfare organization.

Philanthropy

Laura Paddison, editor of HuffPo's "This New World" series, checks in with a profile of Resource Generation, a nonprofit that "organizes young people with wealth and class privilege in the U.S. to become transformative leaders working towards the equitable distribution of wealth, land and power."

Poverty

Do liberals and progressives in America have a distorted view of the South? Yes, writes Harry Blain, a Graduate Center Fellow pursuing a PhD in Political Science at the City University of New York, on the Transformation blog. And the sooner they accept that "the South's problems are — and always have been — America's problems...the sooner [they'll] be able to play a more effective part in forming local, regional and national coalitions for action that turn the spotlight on poverty, inequality and racism throughout the country. 

Public Affairs

Under the banner of welfare reform the U.S. House Representatives led by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is hoping to making changes to three safety net programs in 2018: Medicaid, food stamps (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Not all that surprisingly, a new HuffPost/YouGov survey shows that the public has a pretty distorted view of which groups receive the bulk of assistance from government programs. HuffPo contributors Arthur Delaney and Ariel Edwards-Levy dig into the numbers.

Social Media

And on Beth Kanter's blog, Neil Parekh, a member of the communications team at United Way Worldwide, has a good post full of useful advice for folks looking to run a Twitter chat that breaks through the noise.

(Photo credit: Alamy)

Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org

 

 

A Conversation With Kavitha Mediratta, Executive Director, Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity

February 09, 2018

Chattel slavery — a practice (and later institution) in which enslaved Africans and African Americans were bought, sold, or traded as property at the whim of their "owners" — was common in British America from the earliest colonial days. Gaining a foothold in the tobacco country of Virginia and Maryland in the seventeenth century and spreading north and south from there, it was well established in the mid-Atlantic and South by the time of independence, reinforced, as historian Ira Berlin writes, by a regime of violence that was "systemic and relentless; the planters’ hegemony required that slaves stand in awe of their owners. Although they preferred obedience to be given rather than taken, planters understood that without a monopoly of firepower and a willingness to employ terror, plantation slavery would not long survive."

The violence employed by the slaveholding class to protect and extend its authority was, as Berlin notes, buttressed by special judicial codes, the courts (including the Supreme Court), and the U.S. Constitution itself. As the institution grew in scale and scope in the nineteenth century, driven in part by the invention of the cotton gin, which greatly boosted the profitability of cotton as a crop, and the outlawing of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the slaveholding class stepped up its efforts to promote ideologies that justified the institution’s existence — as well as the brutality and means, judicial and extra-judicial, used to maintain it.

While these explicitly racist attitudes were, as Eric Eustace Williams has argued, a consequence of slavery rather than its cause, their regrettable persistence has caused incalculable damage to American society, infected countries such as South Africa — which continues to struggle with its own history of racial apartheid — and even today divide Americans against each other. Indeed, whether America ever comes to grips with the pernicious legacy of slavery remains an open question.

Recently, PND spoke with Kavitha Mediratta, founding executive director of Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity, a ten-year, $60 million initiative launched by Atlantic Philanthropies, about that question and what her program is doing to support creative leaders dedicated to dismantling anti-black racism in both the United States and South Africa.

Mediratta previously served as chief strategy advisor for equity initiatives and human capital development at Atlantic and before that led the education program at the New York Community Trust and directed school reform programs at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University and the Institute for Education and Social Policy at New York University. She has, in addition, written extensively on race and educational opportunity in the U.S., with a focus on inequalities in school discipline, and has taught in elementary and middle schools in New Jersey, Chicago, and India.

Headshot_kavitha_medirattaPhilanthropy News Digest: How did you get into philanthropy and racial equity work?

Kavitha Mediratta: Well, actually, racial equity work is what led me into philanthropy. I came to the United States with my parents, who are Indian, when I was three, and we settled in a community on Long Island where we were pretty isolated. This was in the 1970s, and we thought America's days as a segregated society were behind it, but that's not really how it was on Long Island when I was growing up, and from an early age I was exposed to some of the contradictions between the idea of America as a place of opportunity for all people, and the way in which black people in America and others who are seen as different often are treated.

As a result, I became interested in racial equity pretty early on. I worked as a teacher and then as an organizer and policy analyst before ending up doing a lot of work with parents and high school students to improve public schools, which I saw as a key locus of opportunity for young people of color but that too often failed to deliver on those opportunities to help children realize their full potential. And it's really the work I did with young people that brought me to philanthropy, and Atlantic [Philanthropies], which had long supported people of color who were working to reform public education, and public institutions more broadly, in America.

PND: What are we talking about when we talk about racial equity? Do you have a definition that informs your day-to-day work?

KM: For us, racial equity is about creating a society in which opportunities and outcomes for people are not defined on the basis of racial categories. But we go a little bit further than equity, in that we talk about dismantling anti-black racism, aka white supremacy, as an important step toward building a truly just and inclusive society. And what we mean by a just and inclusive society is a world in which everyone has the opportun­ities they need not only to thrive, but to be seen fully for who they are, which is an important thing, since, at the moment, only some people in America are seen fully. The question is, How can we build a world in which all people are seen fully for who and what they are, and who are treated with the dignity, respect, and right to self-determination that all members of our national and global community deserve?

PND: Is racial equity solely about color, or is it also about power and privilege and the way both are distri­buted in society?

KM: It is absolutely about power and privilege in society. Color is just one form of exclusion, one form of what John Powell calls "othering," that we do when defining who belongs and who doesn’t. Gender is another, and so is sexual orientation and religion and disability — there are so many different ways to deny people opportunities and justice and being seen for who they are as full human beings. So, our work uses race as one lens on the larger question of what it truly means to build a just and inclusive society. And it absolutely does involve power and privilege and recognizing that we're not talking about just switching who is on top but asking what we need to do to create a world in which opportunities and resources are distributed more fairly and equitably.

You know, I have conver­sa­tions with white people who express concern that we're moving to a world in which they will be discriminated against. And I tell them that it’s not a zero-sum game. Instead, they need to think of American society as a hundred-meter dash where some people, white people, get to start at the fifty-meter mark. All we're saying is that everyone should start from the same starting line. And that means people have to be aware of the privileges they have and be willing to extend those privileges to others.

The other issue that white people sometimes struggle with is understanding that racism and other forms of discrimination operate structurally. In our society, people often conflate racism with individual forms of bias and they miss the way in which racialized or genderized or heteronormative processes function systematically in our society to shape the opportunities and life trajectories of people, and also how these processes exist in a self-protective way to maintain the power and privilege of dominant groups. We see this shape-shifting phenomenon in almost every arena of public life. Look at schools: the desegregation efforts of the 1970s gave rise to in-school tracking that shunted black students into impoverished classroom settings, which in turn preserved white privilege despite efforts to disrupt it.

PND: If we've learned anything over the last year, it's that a lot of people with power and privilege aren't that interested in sharing it. Should we be surprised by that?

KM: No, I don't think we should be surprised. But I also don't think we should assume that people with power and privilege have no interest in sharing it. I think that's true for some people, certainly, but others are truly unaware of the power and privilege they have. They've moved through the world thinking of themselves as individuals who have succeeded on their own merit and are aghast at the idea that they may be complicit in a system that perpetuates discrimination against other people, and they want to do something about that.

It's important for us to bring some nuance to this conversation and understand that, while there are many people who have power who don’t want to share it, there are others who truly believe in the possibility of a just and equitable world and want to be part of creating such a world. So the question is, How do we tap into those people and enlist them as allies in the struggle and help them think about what they can do from their positions of power and privilege to educate others and to help us create new structures that uphold our values of justice, equity, inclusion, compassion, and the commitment to valuing people for the fullness of who they are? What do those new systems look like, at the base level of governmental and economic structures? Cultural narratives? Policy, practice? And for those who don't want to share their power and privilege, it becomes a question of what can we do to help create the conditions in which they see it in their own best interests to do so and to understand the relationship between the well-being of others and their own well-being.

PND: Let's talk about your program, Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity. What was the genesis of the program, and how did you become involved?

KM: I was chief strategy officer at Atlantic Philanthropies when the program was conceived. I had come to Atlantic from grassroots organizing work to work on school-to-prison pipeline issues, which at their core are about the racial injustice suffered by young people of color across the country. Atlantic is a limited-life foundation, as you know, and leadership was thinking deeply about how to end its work in a way that further advanced the work of people around the globe working for equity and inclusion. And one of the things they came up with was a strategy for supporting groups of leaders working around pressing social issues in countries where, historically, Atlantic had been engaged as a grantmaker. The Fellows for Racial Equity was part of that strategy. From the beginning, the program's focus was on the U.S. and South Africa, two countries where Atlantic has a long history of grantmaking, and it was developed with an understanding that issues of structural racism and inequality are not unique to the U.S. or South Africa but are actually global issues, and that by focusing on these two countries, the program might be able to contribute to a global shift in attitudes with respect to these issues, in addition to driving change in the two countries.

PND: The program just named its first cohort of fellows, and, as you mentioned, they hail from both the U.S. and South Africa. What criteria did you use in selecting the first group of fellows?

KM: First, let me say that this group of fellows is quite diverse. The majority of them are in their thirties, but they range in age from their twenties all the way up to sixty. When selecting them, we were looking for people who embody effective leadership and are working to dismantle anti-black racism and white supremacy. In addition to possessing an awareness of issues of racial exclusion, we also looked for a vision that understood the relationship between racialized forms of oppression and other types of exclu­sion, including those having to do with gender and gender identity, disability, religion, and so on.

In short, we were looking for people who were very thoughtful about what it means — and is required — to build a just and inclusive world. Some of them are artists, some are grassroots activists, some of them are lawyers, a few are academics, but all are on their own profes­sion­al journey and, for the most part, are sort of mid-career in the work they are doing. But at the same time they are looking to grow and develop and learn from other people that are working to make change happen.

One of the things we talk a lot about in AFRE is creating a program that provides an experience that supports fellows learning from other people, in other sectors, working on other issues, in other regions. A program that allows fellows to step back from their day-to-day work and develop a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree view of the problem of racial exclusion and the things that can be done to address structural racism in our society. All our fellows bring a history and self-awareness to their work, but they’re also interested in learning and growing and developing their tools. And they want a space where they can get out of their own work silos, whether they're a lawyer working on criminal justice or an activist working on education, and spend time in a setting where they can learn from others and think about what more can be done to dismantle anti-black racism and white supremacy.

PND: Is AFRE a learning community?

KM: It is a learning community, but at the same time we have some goals for the program and for our fellows. We want them to deepen their understanding of structural racism, particularly in thinking about how it manifests itself in emerging global problems — for example in climate change, or the growing dominance of the tech sector, or the emergence of the surveillance state. How does it manifest itself in the way work is structured in the twenty-first century, both in the U.S. and in South Africa? We want our fellows to expand their understanding of these and other issues and, at the same time, expand the repertoire of strategies and tactics they're able to bring to bear on their own work. At the end of the day, it's really about giving them a broader set of tools they can use in their work.

The other thing our program focuses on is supporting fellows in their individual leadership trajectories. In other words, what does it mean to lead from your individual values and vision? So many times we see leaders running organizations in ways that are not equitable and that run counter to what they actually believe. Some­times they're aware of that, and sometimes they’re not. Part of what we're trying to do is to ask, How can you be the leader you want to be and that the world needs now? And we think that means being really clear about what your values are and developing the skills needed to build organizations and create interventions that reflect those values.

PND: Tell us about a couple of your fellows and the work they’re doing.

KM: Sure. We have a young man from South Africa named Brian Kamanzi who is black and Indian; his family has been there a long time. Brian went to the University of Cape Town to get a degree in engineering and is now working on his master’s, and at school he became involved in the #FeesMustFall movement, which is a student protest movement that spread across the country in 2015 in response to an increase in university fees. It's been twenty years since the end of apartheid in South Africa, and who is it that is able to access higher education there? The reality is that it's still very, very diffi­cult for black South Africans and South Africans of color to afford the costs associated with an advanced degree.

So, Brian became involved in the movement, challenging the history of structural racism in South Africa and the problems the country faces today. He has been thinking about how to bring his en­gineering training to bear on the unequal distribution of economic resources in the country, which led him to renewable energy models and how they might be used in a redistributive way to address inequality in South Africa.

Here in the U.S., Rasheedah Phillips, a lawyer from Philadelphia, has been doing a lot of work with black communities around dis­placement caused by gentrification and also working with members of those communities on issues of sexual assault and violence and looking at many of the structural issues and solutions to those problems.

She's very interested in the way in which policy and regulations frequently disadvantage black communities by impos­ing particular obstacles, for example a certain window of time in which you have to respond to a court order, or the imposition of fines and fees on defendants who cannot afford them, and other practices and policies that serve to disempower poor people who have fewer re­sources to bear in complying with the institutional demands of the court system, or any other system, for that matter. She is both supporting individuals who are trying to advocate on their own behalf but also looking at some of the ways policy could be changed to address both the constraints on and rights of black communities. She's done a lot of thinking and writing about the ways in which institutional cultures replicate particular patterns of disempowerment for black commun­ities and other communities of color.

PND:  What kinds of things are you planning over the next year to bring fellows together to facilitate shared learning and help them disseminate their work to a broader audience?

KM: We have eighteen fellows from the U.S. and eleven from South Africa, and we talk all the time about them belonging to a single cohort that extends across two nations. The first time we bring them together, they'll be introduced to the program and learn about each others' work. Later, all of them will spend some time in Selma and Montgomery, Alabama, where they will learn about the important place of those two cities in the racial history of the United States and think about the ways in which that history has defined economic structures and opportunities, social relations, and political representation in those two communities, as well as in Alabama and the country more generally.

Obviously, the fellows here from the U.S. working on racial equity issues are more familiar with the history of slavery, of Reconstruction and Jim Crow and so on, but at the same time we want to use the convenings in Selma and Montgomery as an opportunity to build greater understanding among our South African fellows of America's racial history and to unpack the ways in which structural racism operates across different systems, regardless of country.

So, they will come together for that, and then they will spend time together in South Africa, looking at the evolution of competing narratives about what South Africa is, and the trajectory of political and economic activity from colonialism to apartheid and how race and structural inequality are playing out in South Africa today.

We think of the fellowship as an interactive, generative experience where fellows spend a fair amount of time together and explore a particular context through the eyes of someone who may not know that history as well, which in turn helps them think about what they might do differently.

PND: Will there be a second and third cohort of fellows?

KM: Right now, AFRE is conceived as a ten-year program, with a new cohort every year. This is the first of ten. Once the fellows go through what is essentially a one-year program of active learning sessions, they'll become senior fellows and will be part of a network that we hope continues to exist long after the end of the program. It will be a network where fellows remain connected and have oppor­tunities to get together and continue to think about what it is that they can be doing in their particular communities and countries to advance change. They'll also have opportunities to secure additional resources in the form of seed funding for their programs and to interact with fellows who are part of the larger global Atlantic Fellows network. And, of course, every year the network will get larger as more and more fellows are added, so that eventually we’re hoping there will be at least three hundred and fifty AFRE fellows, from both the U.S. and South Africa, in the larger Atlantic network.

PND: Do you have any advice for funders who are thinking about getting involved in racial equity work?

KM: First, I think people need to be aware that we're in a moment here in the United States where talking about issues of race and equity increasingly are seen as a form of identity politics. That said, it's im­portant for funders to stay the course and support grantees who are raising these issues, and to create space for grantees willing to take on these issues, even at the risk of being seen by some as acting politically or being divisive.

The second is to note that there's an assumption when we talk about issues of racial inequality and racial justice that we’re talking about an issue of concern only to black people. One of the things that's been really important for us at AFRE is to have a racially and ethnically diverse cohort of fellows. And that’s because we do not think that dismantling anti-black racism is the pro­vince or responsibility of black people only; this is something all of us need to be engaged in, because anti-black racism affects all of us. It affects us personally, in a variety of ways, whether we're a person of color whose opportunities and life trajectory have been shaped by racism, or a white person who has grown up in a society where racism and discrimination were the norm. And we think it's really important that funders, consciously and deliberately, are doing what they can to create spaces for grantees in diverse communities — black communities and white communities and Latino communities and Asian communities — to tackle these issues and help people understand the connections between racial equity and the work they do.

PND: What about ordinary Americans, people who don't live on one of the two coasts or in a city and who may be think­ing, What does all this have to do with me? I wish everyone the best, but it's really not something I need to worry about.

KM: Well, I certainly hope that the work of our fellows, and the support of funders like Atlantic and Kellogg and Ford and the Hazen Foundation and so many others, is raising the visi­bility and lifting up another set of stories about what it means to be American in ways that are contributing to ordinary Americans’ knowledge of the history of this country and why that history has to be acknowledged. For much of my life, the narratives put out by television and the movies about what it meant to be American almost always were driven by a limited range of experiences, mostly white experiences. But today, even with the rise of white nationalist sentiment, we're seeing and hearing more stories about other people, a whole diverse range of people, that speak to the culture as it is, and about our complicated history around issues of race, and about what it means to be American in the twenty-first century.

And I truly hope that by sharing those stories, by advancing a host of reforms to our public institutions, whether the justice system, education systems, or other systems, we get the attention of people who have never thought about these issues before and that they start to ask themselves, How am I connected to this, and what can I do? Earlier you asked me about power and privilege and the fact that a lot of people who have both are reluctant to give them up, which is all too true. But there are people — people with power and privilege, and people with neither — who truly do want to make this world a better place for others. And I hope our work, and the work of others, taps into that sentiment and helps motivate people to support efforts to build a more inclusive and racially equitable society. Maybe our work will inspire them to read and educate themselves a little bit more about the struggles of different communities. Maybe they'll be more willing to open themselves up to stories that are different than theirs and accept, if not embrace, those stories as important and valuable. That's my hope.

— Mitch Nauffts

Strengthening Philanthropy’s Role in the Resistance

February 08, 2018

WPI-SAC-1An increase in the minimum wage. Criminal justice reforms that have led to a 25 percent drop in the number of people incarcerated in state prisons. A Domestic Worker Bill of Rights that extended labor protections and overtime pay to five hundred thousand low-wage workers. Climate change laws that are delivering real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Expanded rights for transgender people.

Even as the federal government has become openly hostile to policy priorities such as immigrant and worker rights, environmental protections, and expanded access to health care, California has forged its own path. Not only are local and state governments standing up to oppose federal overreach, they are shaping real policy solutions that can serve as a model for the rest of the nation. And, in many cases, the state's progressive victories have been achieved with the help of philanthropic support for advocacy efforts.

For a long time, funders were wary about getting involved in policy work. That reluctance is fading as a growing number of funders realize that policy and systems change are critical levers for achieving their equity and social justice goals. And at a time when the federal government is intent on turning back the clock on progress that has benefited so many vulnerable communities, philanthropy is coming to see the value of investing in local and state policy work aimed at protecting and advancing people's rights.

But what is the best way for funders to support policy advocacy? How can foundations and other donors be more strategic about investing in policy change as a means to achieving their broader missions? And what exactly are the rules around lobbying and advocacy for foundations and their nonprofit partners?

The Women's Foundation of California created the Philanthropy & Public Policy Institute in 2017 to help funders answer questions like these. During the institute's inaugural year, thirteen philanthropists and representatives of public and private foundations, family foundations, and municipal government participated in an intensive three-day workshop designed to help them strengthen their public-policy grantmaking. One participant, Elena Chávez Quezada, a senior program officer at the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, called it "a great…introduction to how policy is shaped in Sacramento and the role philanthropy can play."

This year"s institute will be open to up to twenty participants and will feature training and educational sessions covering all aspects of policy and advocacy funding, sessions with lawmakers and policy advocates, and networking opportunities in abundance.

The Philanthropy & Public Policy Institute is modeled on the success of our Women's Policy Institute, a leadership and public policy training program that over the last fifteen years has helped more than four hundred fellows shape public policy in ways that are benefiting communities too often left out of the policymaking process. At last count, WPI fellows had helped pass thirty-two state laws, including the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights; the Name and Dignity Act, which expanded rights for incarcerated transgender people; and Unlock Opportunities for Families, which expanded childcare access for low income families, with far-reaching results.

Participants in this year's Philanthropy & Public Policy Institute will pick up tips and acquire tools that can help them have a similar impact on public policy in California, and beyond. Over the past twelve months, we've seen how important it is for states and municipalities to support progressive policies and protect communities against efforts emanating from Washington to weaken the social safety net and reverse progress on reducing inequality. But we cannot stand idly by and expect local and state policy makers to act on their own. If we want to see legislation that advances justice and equity passed, targeted philanthropic support for grassroots organizations and advocates is essential.

Headshot_surina_khan_holly_mitchellPhilanthropy, not only here in California but across the nation, has the opportunity — and a responsibility — to support advocacy work that is critical to ensuring that California, and the United States, continue to lead the way to a better, fairer, safer world. We look forward to seeing you in Sacramento.

Surina Khan, CEO of the Women’s Foundation of California, and Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-30th District) are co-chairs of the 2018 Philanthropy & Public Policy Institute.

A Cooperative, Comprehensive Approach to Saving African Elephants

February 06, 2018

Elephant_cooperation_500I fell in love with wildlife as a child when I traveled to Africa with my father, who was a biologist. Back then, the beauty of the continent was difficult for me to put into words, and it stayed with me. But if I was in awe of all the different species I saw on that trip, I was overwhelmed by the elephants — so much so, that when I became a father myself, I wanted to share their beauty and majesty with my daughter. I had to wait a few years, but when she turned 15, we traveled together to the continent that had captured my imagination many years earlier.

It was not what I had expected, and my heart almost broke when I saw firsthand the devastation local elephant populations had suffered in the years since my last visit. I explained to my daughter that these magnificent creatures were being killed for their tusks — which would be smuggled out of country and turned into trinkets and bogus medical remedies to satisfy the growing consumer market in far-away countries such as China and Vietnam. What's more, at the rate they were being killed, African elephants might become extinct in my lifetime, and that her children — my grandchildren — might never have the chance to see one in the wild.

As a co-founder of a hundred-million-dollar company, I had long felt the need to give back, and when I got back to the U.S., I decided I would dedicate myself to saving the African elephant from extinction. It soon became apparent, however, that I would have to embrace unconventional strategies if I hoped to have the slightest chance of succeeding. As I returned to Africa several times over the next few years to learn about amazing organizations already working toward this goal, I realized I didn't need to start another NGO to bring a new approach or project to the table. Instead, I could create a nonprofit organization that would fund established projects and organizations already making a difference and use my connections and influence to bring those projects and organizations to the attention of donors and activists here in America.

My insight led to the founding of Elephant Cooperation in 2016. But I soon realized that in order to save the elephants, we would need to peel back the onion on the factors contributing to their decline — big things like poverty and human/animal conflict. And in the two years since, I have come to believe that empowering impoverished villages in Africa has to be part of any long-term solution. If we focus only on poaching, we miss a bigger opportunity — to change the hearts and minds of the people who live among these magnificent creatures by providing them with the resources and tools they need to improve their livelihoods. Our comprehensive approach to saving the African elephant includes protecting elephant populations with rangers and beefed-up surveillance; supporting local communities with anti-poverty and educational initiatives; raising awareness of elephants' plight among the public, business leaders, and philanthropists, both in Africa and here in the United States; and sharing best practices and resources.

To that end, we have developed a portfolio of organizations we support based on four criteria — their impact, history of achievement, growth potential, and alignment with Elephant Cooperation's core values. The programs we fund include frontline efforts (i.e., anti-poaching rangers and drone operations); park management; and local community development initiatives — building greenhouses, digging wells, supporting clothing lines made by community members, and so on — aligned with our broader goals.

At the same time, we believe it's important to engage American business leaders in this effort. Africa might seem to be a world away, but the extinction of the African elephant would be a devastating loss for all of humankind. To make sure that doesn't happen, Elephant Cooperation takes entrepreneurs and business leaders to Africa to witness firsthand the extraordinary efforts being made to save elephants so that they, too, develop a passion for these majestic creatures and return home committed to their conservation. With so many great minds working toward the same goal, there's no limit to what can be achieved.

For instance, one innovative new approach involves using surplus merchandise to generate support for ongoing conservation efforts. Many companies often find themselves with excess inventory due to over-production, slower-than-anticipated sales, or the discontinuation of a product line. In 2017, one such company, Shoes For Crews, a Florida-based manufacturer of anti-slip footwear, was going through a rebranding when I shared the plight of Af rican elephants with the company's CEO, Stuart Jenkins.

Once I completed my pitch, Stuart declared himself all in; eventually, Shoes For Crews donated four hundred thousand pairs of shoes to the cause, and with our partner Air Shepherd, we arranged for them to be shipped to and sold in South Africa, with all profits going to support Elephant Cooperation programs. The deal has since raised tens of thousands of dollars, and we hope to boost that to $750,000 by the end of 2018. Best of all, the model is a win-win, in that it raises much-needed funds for our programs and benefits the manufacturer, who ends up paying much less to dispose of its surplus merchandise while gaining enormous credibility as a socially and environmentally responsible business. In short, good business can result in good philanthropy, and vice versa.

At Elephant Cooperation we're pursuing a cooperative approach to saving the African elephant — not only because it's the best approach, but because we believe that no single entity can effect large-scale positive change on its own. Big problems require comprehensive, long-term solutions and a willingness to see those solutions through to the end. Business can be an extraordinary force for good, and one day I hope to tell my grandchildren that the African elephant was saved from extinction thanks to the efforts of local communities and businesses around the world working together to make sure that never happened. Won't you join us?

Scott_struthers_for_philantopicScott Struthers is the founder of Elephant Cooperation, which is dedicated to raising awareness of the African elephant crisis and supporting NGOs already working on the ground. He co-founded Sonance, an audio systems manufacturer, in the early 1980s. 

Weekend Link Roundup (February 3-4, 2018)

February 04, 2018

AP-Groundhog-Day.3Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

African Americans,

"It's obvious," writes Andre Perry on the Hechinger Report site, "that black history is needed all year long. But white history as we know it can no longer be the standard in a multicultural society, which is supposed to maximize the potential of all of its members."

Arts and Culture

Janet Brown was named executive director of Grantmakers in the Arts in December 2008 and retired from that post in December. On his blog for the Western States Arts Federation, Barry Hessenius talks with Brown about what has changed in arts philanthropy, GIA's racial equity work, and the current status of creative placemaking efforts in the U.S.

Civil Society

We look to civil society for many things and benefits, but do we appreciate and understand the critical role it plays in our democracy? In an excerpt from Philanthropy and Digital Civil Society: Blueprint 2018, philanthropy scholar Lucy Bernholz lays it out for us:

Majority-run democracies need to, at the very least, prevent those who disagree with them (minorities) from revolting against the system. Civil society provides, at the very least, the pressure-release valve for majority-run governments. Positioned more positively, civil society is where those without power or critical mass can build both and influence the majority. It serves as a conduit to the majority system and a counterbalance to extreme positions. It also serves as an outlet for those actions, rights, and views that may never be the priority of a majority, but that are still valid, just, or beautiful. When it exists, civil society offers an immune system for democracy — it is a critical factor in a healthy system, and it requires its own maintenance. Immune systems exist to protect and define — they are lines of defense that "allow organism[s] to persist over time."...

Corporate Social Responsibility

The UNHCT, the UN Refugee Agency, estimates that it will only reach 1 out of every 4 Syrian refugees at risk this winter. And with 200,000 displaced families in Syria, 196,000 in Iraq, 174,000 in Lebanon, 115,000 in Turkey, and 83,000 in Jordan, the global refugee crisis isn't likely to be resolved simply or quickly. Writing for Inc., Anna Johansson has a nice list of companies that are stepping up to help refugees.

Perhaps in an effort to appeal to socially aware millennials, Hyundai and Anheuser-Busch InBev will be running cause-based marketing spots during this year's Super Bowl. A harbinger of things to come or just business as usual? E. J. Schultz reports for AdAge.

Education

Here's another (bittersweet) milestone of note: DonorsChoose Just funded its millionth project. Fast Company's Ben Paynter has the details.

Continue reading »

What's in a Job Description?

February 02, 2018

It might not be obvious, but search firms like ours get lots of unexpected looks into what really goes on at the organizations we work with. And we're not just talking about hiring practices. We also gain insights into office culture, power dynamics, and reporting structures (those that work as well as those that don't). Where does all that information come from? Not from exit interviews or placement questionnaires. No, if you really want to get the inside scoop on an organization, all you have to do is look at the documents that every supervisor and employee loves to hate. 

Yes, I'm talking about your organization's job descriptions.

How do job descriptions reveal more than they were meant to? Let's look at six fairly common types and zero in on what they might be saying about your organization.

The All-Do Can-Do Job Description

Everyone can't (and shouldn't) do everything, but apparently your supervisor never got the memo. Under "responsibilities," this single-spaced three-page monstrosity not only includes "leap over tall buildings" and "argue cases before the Supreme Court," it also has the nerve to end with "other duties as assigned."

What this could mean: There's a good chance with a job description like this that no one knows exactly what the core functions of the position are, so the team responsible for creating it threw everything and the kitchen sink in just to be sure. Unfortunately, that often means that the person who ends up in the position is spread too thin and is likely to underperform. Can't say we're surprised; lack of clarity in a job description inevitably leads to confused priorities and overwhelmed staff. 

Pro Tip: Keep your job descriptions to one page. (Anything longer may be the reason the position is still open.) 

Unrelated Educational Requirements

You value education; we value education. But nonprofits too often are guilty of asking for educational credentials that not only don't match the requirements of the job in question — they don't make sense given the salary range. Why would a junior coordinator need a $75K master's degree? Or why is there an educational requirement for a fundraising position? In a sector where almost everyone is passionate about social justice, why do we insist on either excluding qualified candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds or saddling our junior staff with untenable debt?

What this could mean: Your organization isn't really serious about diversity and inclusion. By insisting on including expensive educational requirements in your job descriptions, you could be eliminating otherwise qualified candidates from diverse backgrounds before your candidate search even starts.

Pro Tip: "Or equivalent experience" in a job description gives you much more flexibility and will open up the candidate pool to a much broader variety of qualified people.

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Newsmaker: Fred Blackwell, CEO, The San Francisco Foundation

January 31, 2018

Fred Blackwell joined The San Francisco Foundation, one of the largest community foundations in the United States, as CEO in 2014. An Oakland native, he previously had served as interim administrator and assistant administrator for the city, led the San Francisco Mayor's Office of Community Development and the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency; and directed the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Making Connections Initiative in Oakland.

In June 2016, TSFF announced a new commitment to racial and economic equity in the Bay Area. PND spoke with Blackwell about the foundation's racial equity lens, movement building in the wake of the 2016 elections and Charlottesville, and what it means for philanthropic organizations to speak out, step up, and actually try to achieve racial equity.

Fred_blackwellPhilanthropy News Digest: How do you define "racial equity"?

Fred Blackwell: I define it as just and fair inclusion in a society where everyone can participate, prosper, and thrive, regardless of their race or where they live or their family's economic status or any other defining characteristic. Obviously, the way we think about equity is colored by our particular focus on the Bay Area — a place where there is tremendous opportunity and prosperity being generated, but also where access to those opportunities is limited for many people. So from an institutional point of view, we need to answer the question: How do we make sure that the region prospers in a way that the rising tide lifts all boats?

PND: When you stepped into the top job at TSFF in 2014, the foundation already had a lengthy history of social justice work. How did the decision to focus the foundation's grantmaking on racial and economic equity come about?

FB: Shortly after I came to the foundation, we conducted a listening tour of the Bay Area. As part of that listening tour, we held what we called our VOICE: Bay Area sessions — a series of large public meetings in seven diverse low-income communities across the region. In addition, we held consultative sessions, half-day meetings with practitioners, policy people, and thought leaders to talk about trends, both positive and negative, they were seeing in the region and how those trends were affecting people. We did a lot of data collection and analysis. And the data all pointed in the same direction: the need for greater levels of inclusion here in the Bay Area. The fact that race and economic status and geography had predictive power over where people were headed and what they could accomplish concerned us, and it was important to try to respond to that.

There are two pieces of the foundation's history that we wanted to build on: one is the social justice orientation of our work, and the other is our regional footprint. We serve Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo counties. So in focusing on the equity issue, we're also thinking about it from a regional point of view. What makes the Bay Area unique is its diversity and prosperity, and yet we are a prime real-time example of the kinds of inequalities and inequities that you see on multiple levels across the country. It's important to us as a unit of analysis because equity and the issues that emanate from it — whether it's economic opportunity or housing or education or criminal justice or civic participation — none of those issues conform neatly to the boundaries of the various jurisdictions in the region. People may live in Oakland or San Francisco or Berkeley or Richmond, but they experience the Bay Area as a region.

What I think I brought to the foundation is a laser-like focus on the dimensions of social justice work with respect to racial and economic inclusion and equity — making sure that that "North Star" is something that is modeled at the top and cascades down through all levels of the organization. I would say that we are more explicit than we've been in the past about making equity the focus — not just in our grantmaking but also in how we work with donors, how we provide civic leadership in the region, and how we bring our voice to the table and those of our partners in order to make a difference. We view that North Star as guiding not only our programmatic work but everything we do here at the foundation.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (Jan. 27-28, 2018)

January 28, 2018

640_2015_01_02_15_45_20_04_2015_08_23_13_12_33Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Animal Welfare

Following recent allegations of workplace misconduct leveled at Human Society of the U.S. chief executive Wayne Pacelle, Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther takes a closer look at charges of widespread sexual harassment and gender bias in the animal welfare movement. 

Arts and Culture

Be sure to check out the Q&A on Barry's Blog, a service of the Western States Arts Federation, with John E. McGuirk, the recently retired director of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation's Performing Arts Program.

Fundraising

On the Inside Philanthropy site, IP contributor Mike Scutari asks: When should nonprofit institutions keep a gift that has been tainted by the bad actions of the giver?

Grantseeking

You've been awarded a grant and now the deadline for reporting your program's outcomes is looming. Should you invest as much time and effort into writing the final project report as you did in writing the grant proposal? On the Philanthropy Front and Center-Cleveland blog, Jenna Gonzales, a program associate at the San Antonio Area Foundation, shares six things you can do to "articulate your impact and demonstrate you are a credible partner to consider for future grant opportunities."

Higher Education

At a time when postsecondary educational attainment in the United States remains below 50 percent for the 25-34 year-old age group, "the vast, affordable, and extraordinarily diverse community college system is central to the national debate about access and quality in postsecondary education, and about work life readiness for the next generation of Americans." The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's Mariët Westermann explains

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[Review] Putting Wealth to Work: Philanthropy for Today or Investing for Tomorrow?

January 24, 2018

At some point in their lives, high-net-worth individuals with philanthropic inclinations must answer an age-old question: Do I commit all (or most of) my resources to charitable causes in my lifetime, or should I create a giving vehicle that exists in perpetuity?

Book_putting_wealth_to_workIn Putting Wealth to Work: Philanthropy for Today or Investing for Tomorrow?, social sector veteran Joel L. Fleishman, director of the Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society at Duke University, examines the two sides of the question, finding strengths — and weaknesses — in both approaches and ultimately concluding that the correct answer is not either/or but both/and. In arriving at that conclusion, he also provides readers with an overview of modern American philanthropy, including the fairly recent advent of the Giving Pledge and the growing popularity of funder collaboratives; a brief history of limited-life foundations (i.e., foundations that have decided to "spend down" their corpus by a specific date); and a framework for critically evaluating this ever-green conundrum.

In the book (a follow-up to his well-received The Foundation: A Great American Secret; How Private Wealth Is Changing the World), Fleishman carefully deconstructs the arguments commonly made by "anti-perpetuity" critics and in the process does his best to separate fact from fiction. For example, anti-perpetuity critics often cite Henry Ford II's resignation from the board of the Ford Foundation in 1976 as evidence that foundations created to exist in perpetuity inevitably depart from their founding donor's intent. Fleishman, however, debunks the "myth" that Ford "should be regarded as the poster child for departure from donor intent," arguing that "no donor intent had been embodied in the legal instrument that created the…[f]oundation." He goes on to attribute the persistence of the myth to the conservative-leaning Philanthropy Roundtable, which has "kept alive a questionable interpretation of Henry Ford II's role in, [and] resignation from, the Ford Foundation," as well as other similarly inclined think tanks for "imputing departure from donor intent specifically to liberal foundations." The reality, writes Fleishman, is that "thousands of foundations that were founded by now-deceased donors do not appear to have wavered to any significant degree in trying to fulfill the intention of their founders."

Continue reading »

ICYMI: What’s New at Foundation Center (January)

January 23, 2018

FC_logoThere's a lot happening in the philanthropy world, and we’re doing a lot here at Foundation Center to keep up. This year, we're going to do a better job keeping you posted on what we're learning, where we're speaking, what data we're collecting, and how you can contribute to that story. Each month, I'll be posting a roundup; no better time to start than now with what we were up to at the end of 2017.

Projects Launched

Content Published

A Few Projects in the Pipeline

  • A GrantCraft guide on participatory grantmaking
  • A research project on facilitating financial sustainability in partnership with LINC

For more on these projects or how to work with us, send us an email.

What We're Excited About

  • Five of our conference session proposals were accepted for the PEAK Grantmaking annual conference in March! Topics include mapping changemaking campaigns, participatory grantmaking, opening up grants data, and how the SDGs facilitate foundation transparency. We hope you'll look for us there!
  • A spotlight on Foundation Center in the Carnegie Reporter. The article is especially meaningful to us given that Foundation Center was founded in 1956 with support from the Carnegie Corporation to bring the work of philanthropic organizations to light.
  • Our Cleveland and San Francisco offices turning 40!
  • This story from the Johnson City Library Foundation, one of our Funding Information Network (FIN) partners.

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Our staff will be speaking at these upcoming events — reach out to learn more!

Data Spotlight

  • 1,011,471 new grants added to Foundation Maps since November 1, of which 6,608 grants were made to 4,579 organizations outside of the U.S.
  • New data sharing partners: The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, Gobioff Foundation, Jasper Foundation, Inc. & Newton County Community Foundation, St. Louis Mental Health Board, Smithville Charitable Foundation and Greenville Health System.

Tell your story through data so we can communicate philanthropy's contribution to making a better world - learn more about our eReporting program.

If you found this update helpful, feel free to share it or shoot us an email! I’ll be back next month with another update.

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center.

Creating the Highest Performing Teams Through Community-Focused Initiatives

January 19, 2018

Ey_earthwatch_ambassadorsDiversity in the workplace has become a widely discussed topic, and while every company has its own approach and initiatives designed to promote diversity, most of us agree that diverse teams — not just across race, gender, and nationality but also background, knowledge, and skill-set — perform better. This has been proven by a great deal of research, but it is up to companies to bring this data to life in the workplace. At EY, we believe that our ability to execute on our purpose of "building a better working world" is best achieved by building a culture of the highest-performing teams, and a significant component of that has to do with encouraging a deeper understanding among our employees of working alongside people from other backgrounds and cultures, as well as promoting opportunities to learn new skills in new environments.

It's for this reason we invest in programs that promote high-performing teams by encouraging our people to "think outside the box." One program in particular — the EY-Earthwatch Ambassadors program — empowers our people to help overcome challenges that most corporations actively look to resolve: thinking and operating in silos.

The EY-Earthwatch Ambassadors program sends high-performing, early-career professionals from the Americas and Israel on a week-long expedition with the Earthwatch Institute to Mexico or Peru. Organized in four groups of ten, Ambassadors provide skills-based services to a local business and also engage in dynamic scientific field research (at no cost to the organization).

This past year in Mexico, two teams of ten Ambassadors helped improve the marketing and sales strategies of a local farming cooperative that is working to improve the health of the region's ecosystem. They also collected water-quality data in the Xochimilco wetlands outside of Mexico City as part of a study on the health of global freshwater ecosystems. In Peru, EY professionals provided operational recommendations to AmazonEco, a research expedition business that provides sustainable financial strategies for holistic conservation efforts in western Amazonia. Ambassadors also supported research staff by surveying a variety of wildlife species to better understand how climate change is impacting the region. Findings from the project are being used to develop conservation strategies in partnership with local indigenous communities.

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At What Cost 'Mission'?

January 15, 2018

Why_are_whereWhen an exempt nonprofit organization's single-minded pursuit of funding for its mission threatens to damage the broader common good, many in the larger community will question the tax advantages that enable that organization to thrive while others suffer. And so they should.

Recently, this tension was underscored by a situation in our nation's capital, where tax-exempt American University's activities as a commercial real estate developer have led to the loss of local businesses much valued in (and beyond) adjacent neighborhoods — and raised additional concerns about the sometimes-harmful practices of "charitable" entities. While local residents around the country have been doing what they can to maintain the increasingly fragile business mix that reflects the often-historic and unique character of their neighborhoods, too many exempt organizations ignore such concerns and go about their business with a blatant disregard for the consequences of their actions on others.

We've all become familiar with the egregious practices of commercial real estate owners who double, triple, or quadruple a small business owner's rent when a lease expires, forcing the business to vacate the space and leaving it empty for years in hopes that, at some point down the road, it can be combined with adjacent properties to create an attractive parcel for luxury development or perhaps a national chain tenant, even as the surrounding neighborhood retail ecosystem withers and dies.

And when ostensibly nonprofit organizations get into the game, it adds more than insult to injury. Indeed, in the recent case involving American University, which is taking steps to force out a popular family-owned garden center from one of the commercial properties it owns, it heightens the scrutiny on all exempt organizations.

Our current tax code allows exempt nonprofit organizations and institutions to maximize the revenue they generate by mimicking the often-rapacious behavior of commercial real estate developers. While some defenders of exempt organizations’ commercial real estate ventures believe that income from such activities are subject to Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT), they are wrong.

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Weekend Link Roundup (January 13-14, 2018)

MLKOur 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

On the Barr Foundation blog, the foundation's Climate Program co-directors, Mariella Puerto and Mary Skelton Roberts, outline "the rationale, priorities, and early steps of the foundation's newly-expanded focus on [climate] resilience."

New York Magazine's Reeves Wiedeman checks in with a fresh take on the climate advocacy of the Rockefeller family and its campaign against Exxon, one of the legacy companies of John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil.

Education

A consensus has developed over the last decade around the importance of pre-K education. So why do so many preschool teachers live on the edge of financial ruin? Jeneen Interlandi reports for the New York Times.

To kick off the new year, the editors of Education Week share ten ideas that they believe have the potential to change K-12 education in 2018.

Fundraising

Why are we so bad at predicting the future, and what can we learn from our collective obtuseness? When it comes to fundraising, writes digital marketer and self-styled charity nerd Brady Josephson, "the question shouldn't be 'What will be different in the future?' but rather 'What will be the same?'"

International Affairs/Development

It may not have seemed like it, but 2017 was the best year in human history. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof explains. And Kristof's Times colleague Tina Rosenberg reminds us that it was a pretty good year for social innovation as well.

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5 Questions for...Laura Kalick, Tax Consulting Director, BDO

January 12, 2018

The GOP tax reform bill agreed to by the U.S. Senate and House in December and signed into law by the president on December 22 is over a thousand pages long. The bill is so long, in fact, that many members of Congress haven’t read — and are unlikely to ever read — it in its entirety. Its impact on nonprofits and the charitable sector could be significant, however, which is why earlier this month we spoke with Laura Kalick, national non-profit tax consulting director for the nonprofit and nonprofit healthcare industry at BDO in Washington, D.C., about provisions in the new law most likely to affect nonprofits in 2018, and beyond.

Headshot_laura_kalickPhilanthropy News Digest: There are lots of provisions in the tax reform bill that are going to affect nonprofits and charities. In your view, what is the one provision likely to have the greatest impact on the sector?

Laura Kalick: Well, the one that’s going to have the most impact is the doubling of the standard deduction and the limitation on deducting state and local taxes. These two provisions will likely result in a huge number of American taxpayers not itemizing their deductions and therefore not being able to deduct charitable gifts, which, as you know, is an important incentive for charitable giving. It's hard to know, of course, what people will do, but estimates from the likes of Independent Sector and the Council on Foundations suggest that charitable giving in the U.S. may take a hit of as much as a $20 billion, which is pretty substantial.

PND: The bill includes two provisions likely to be popular among individuals who do itemize their returns. One is an increase in the charitable contribution deduction limit, and the other is repeal of the so-called Pease limitation. How are those changes likely to affect charitable giving?

LK: The Pease limitation was more of a concern for high-income taxpayers, in that it reduced the value of a taxpayer's itemized deductions by 3 percent for every dollar of taxable income above a certain threshold — something like $250,00 for an individual and $300,000 for a married couple. With its repeal, people whose total income exceeds those levels will now get the full benefit of their contributions, so in that sense it could be an incentive for higher income taxpayers to give more.

The other provision is of little help to anyone, in my opinion. Previously, you could deduct charitable gifts totaling up to 50 percent of your contribution base — essentially, your adjusted gross income (AGI). That's a pretty large number, and although I don't have the stats for you, it's a lot more than most people actually allocate to charity. A provision in the new tax bill raises the maximum to 60 percent of one's contribution base, which is an even bigger number and not something that is likely to apply to too many people in any given year. I would also note that in addition to being able to deduct contributions up to 50 percent of one's contribution base, if there are contributions in excess of that amount, they could have, under the old code, and still can be carried forward under special rules. So I believe that increasing the limit to 60 percent is likely to have little impact.

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[Review] What Matters: Investing in Results to Build Strong, Vibrant Communities

January 09, 2018

For public- and private-sector leaders working to develop and implement solutions to the challenges — inequality, racism, gaps in educational outcomes and health status — that have vexed American society since the country's founding, the last few decades have been especially frustrating. As Antony Bugg-Levine, CEO of the Nonprofit Finance Fund and one of the editors of this volume, notes in his Introduction, despite collective investments in the trillions, "over 45 million Americans still live in poverty, more than half a million remain homeless...unemployment among young African American men stubbornly persists around 30 percent in many cities, an opioid abuse epidemic [rages] across [the] country," and the United States, with 5 percent of the world's population, "hold[s] 25 percent of the world's prisoners in a system that tends to warehouse rather than rehabilitate."

Book_what_mattersIn the latest addition to the What Matters series, Bugg-Levine and more than seventy-five contributors — including Peter Long, president and CEO of the Blue Shield of California Foundation; David J. Erickson, director of community development at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco; Zia Khan, vice president for initiatives and strategy at the Rockefeller Foundation; Jacob Harold, president and CEO of GuideStar; and Andrea Levere, president of Prosperity Now — make the case that progress on these and other fronts will only be achieved by shifting the collective mindset of community leaders from a short-term focus on outputs (e.g., the number of beds in a shelter occupied every night) to longer-term investments in outcomes (e.g., the number of people successfully transitioned to permanent housing).

In the area of health care, for example, Long argues that nothing short of a fundamental rethink of the nation's approach to health outcome management is needed. But despite ongoing efforts by stakeholders in both the public and private sectors to adopt electronic health records, develop health exchanges, and focus on interoperability, Long worries that "we are building a measurement system that resembles the Winchester Mystery House…[one] that contains hundreds of rooms, designed individually without relation to one another, and many staircases that lead to dead ends." What is needed instead is a clear vision for the U.S. healthcare system and a national infrastructure that supports a better, more coherent outcome measurement system. Unfortunately, Long writes, "in the current political environment, it [is] incredibly challenging to have a candid conversation about our national health values and priorities."

While that assessment might be overly bleak for those who see outcomes-oriented social impact investments as the key to "affordably address our most vexing social challenges," it is impossible to read this volume without recognizing how difficult bringing about such a fundamental shift is likely to be.

Of course, none of the book's contributors argues that such a change will come easily. Indeed, in essay after essay, the chief rationale for adopting an outcomes-oriented approach is the positive effect it can have on people living on the margins. "Across the country, extraordinary leaders are overcoming the status quo, making change happen in their communities, and pushing through the challenges," writes Bugg-Levine. Isn't that enough? Or as Bugg-Levine puts it in one of two essays he's written for the book: "Don't we already provide funding to hospitals to keep people healthy, to homeless shelters to end homelessness, to childcare centers to prepare children for a fruitful life, and to job training programs to find people permanent employment?"

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Catalytic Philanthropic Capital Can Supercharge Affordable Housing Nonprofits

January 05, 2018

Hoousein-affordabilityThe housing crisis in the United States is getting worse. What was already a challenging situation has been compounded by the increasing frequency of severe weather events like hurricanes Harvey and Irma, as well as by proposed federal budget cuts for fiscal 2018 that would slash HUD programs by $6.2 billion. These and other factors are putting great strain on the insufficient resources set aside to help low-income people maintain an adequate standard of living.

This crisis cannot be solved by the public, private, or government sectors alone. A problem of this scale requires innovative, multisector solutions designed to preserve affordable housing, drive system change, and create economic opportunity for those who need it most.

Rising real estate prices and job growth are not signs of housing stability

Rising real estate prices aren't a solution to the problem; if anything, they're exacerbating it. According to a 2017 report by the Urban Institute, the market provides only twenty-one adequate, affordable, and available (AAA) units for every hundred renter households with income at or below 30 percent of the area median income.

Even in places where job opportunities are improving, the housing crisis is worsening. One-third of all U.S. households are paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing, yet between 2005 and 2015 the number of rental units costing less than $800 per month declined by 2 percent, while the number of units costing more than $2,000 increased 97 percent. Cities like Boston have witnessed a booming job market, leading to a population spike, followed by a development boom. Investors are buying land and sitting on it, waiting for values to rise even higher and leaving little to no property for affordable housing. Naturally occurring affordable housing — housing that is affordable without public subsidy — is at risk for acquisition and flipping, resulting in higher risk of eviction for people already living on the edge.

This scenario is playing out all across the country. Naturally occurring affordable housing is being lost at an alarming rate to developers with deep pockets who acquire the properties with plans to raise rents.

I see firsthand the many innovative organizations across the country that are working to narrow the gap between housing needs and access. But financial constraints often affect an organization's ability to operate at full capacity. The restrictions placed on nonprofits' use of funds can be overwhelming, and nonprofits spend too much time navigating the complex maze of funding restrictions that could be better spent delivering and improving on services. If organizations were not confined by these strict rules and mandated to spend funds on specific tasks, they could respond more quickly and effectively.

Nonprofit housing solutions

Entrepreneurial nonprofit housing organizations are nimble, deploy large amounts of capital, and have an enormous impact on the lives of the individuals and families they serve. When equipped with the necessary resources — specifically, access to enterprise-level capital — magic happens and organizations with tried-and-true solutions achieve even deeper impact and change lives. The Housing Partnership Network (HPN) creates vehicles to aggregate capital for its members; with flexible, longer-term, lower-cost capital, our members are able to deploy that capital at scale and in an accelerated fashion.

One standout example is the Housing Partnership Equity Trust (HPET). This first-of-its-kind social benefit real estate investment trust (REIT) was founded by and invested in by HPN members to compete against for-profit, market-rate buyers with easy access to cash who are buying up multi-family properties that provide homes for residents typically earning 50 percent to 80 percent of area median income — that is, working poor and middle-income people.

Because our nonprofit members are prohibited from raising equity on their balance sheets, in the past they needed months, sometimes years, to raise the funds needed to purchase properties. HPET provides entrepreneurial nonprofit housing organizations with the capital needed to compete in the market, purchase properties, and preserve housing affordability. HPET's members include well-known community development organizations and change makers like Aeon in Minnesota and Eden Housing in California, organizations whose established relationships make them the preferred "go-to" partners in their communities.

What is the solution? Capital.

While we've found ways to create positive impact during the ongoing housing crisis, the challenge we now face is replicating those solutions at scale. And the solution to this challenge is capital, enterprise capital, in the form of investments in high-performing organizations.

Vehicles like HPET work. But they are limited by a lack of capital. Impact can be unlocked through structures that bring together investors seeking stable returns, surety of deployment, and long-term housing solutions for hard-working families seeking access to good schools, affordable transportation options, and financial peace of mind. The good news, as HPET demonstrates, is that capital can be deployed on a significant scale and in ways that meet institutional investors' needs. And that is where real impact happens.

The beneficiaries of those investments are the home health aides and teachers who live in our housing, contribute to our communities, and make up the fabric of our neighborhoods. The track record of our members and of HPET — nearly five years after its launch — is evidence of our commitment to the long-term preservation of affordable housing in America. Stable housing is a springboard to economic opportunity and success for residents and their communities. By providing high-performing entrepreneurial nonprofits with unrestricted capital, we reduce their dependence on federal programs and better position them for sustainability regardless of future changes in federal policy.

While private philanthropy is pivotal to the future of affordable housing, it can only do so much. Yes, it can provide enterprise-level funding, but its real value lies in its ability to seed initiatives that bring private capital to bear in the form of debt and equity (rather than grants). Philanthropic dollars can have catalytic impact as well. The Ford Foundation is evidence of this; by allocating $1 billion of its endowment to mission-related investments over the next ten years, Ford is betting it can both broaden and deepen its impact. If other foundations follow Ford's lead, they, too, can position themselves to harness the full power of their endowments and expertise — and help shape the real estate market in ways that will benefit millions of low- and middle-income Americans.

We are at a crossroads. We have seen innovative nonprofits across the country develop truly impressive solutions to the nation's housing crisis. But without access to enterprise-level capital, it will be difficult for them to bring their solutions to scale. The time to act is now.

Headshot_rebecca_reganRebecca Regan is executive vice president at the Housing Partnership Network, a Boston-based business collaborative of one hundred of the nation’s leading affordable housing and community development nonprofits.

5 Questions for...Lateefah Simon, President, Akonadi Foundation

January 04, 2018

At 40, Lateefah Simon has spent more than half her life as a civil rights advocate and racial justice leader. She was a 17-year-old mother when she went to work for the Center for Young Women's Development and was just 19 when she became the organization's executive director. In the years that followed, she helped position the center as a national leader in the movement to empower young women of color — an achievement for which she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2003. She later led the creation of San Francisco's first reentry services division, headed the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, and served as a program director at the Rosenberg Foundation, where she helped launch the Leading Edge Fund in support of the next generation of progressive movement leaders in California.

In 2016, Simon became the second president of Akonadi Foundation, whose mission is "to eliminate structural racism that leads to inequity in the United States." PND spoke with her about the work required to build a movement focused on racial equity — and philanthropy's role in that effort.

Philanthropy News Digest: The Akonadi Foundation, which is headquartered in Oakland, is focused on "building a localized racial justice movement." Why is it important for the racial justice movement to act locally?

Headshot_lateefash_simon_2017Lateefah Simon: What those of us in philanthropy and those working on the ground doing movement-building work know is that many of the racialized policies that have divided communities, from juvenile justice to local policing to school policies, have taken place on the municipal level. We also know that our efforts have to be extremely strategic to undo these policies — for example, the disproportionate overuse of school suspensions and expulsions against black and brown students that has been standard policy for many, many years.

To create racial justice in our communities, we have to go deep — to the source, where the policies come from, and also to the culture. Our work is not just about going after and disrupting racist policy but also about ensuring that all communities of color are working together, understanding that one group's organizing, movement-building, and advocacy work will benefit other groups. If we're fighting for anti-gentrification policies in Chinatown, African-American and Latino communities are going to be able to use those efforts to inform their own organizing, and so on.

PND: The foundation takes an "ecosystem" approach to its grantmaking. What do you mean by ecosystem grantmaking, and why do you believe it's the right approach for your movement at this time?

LS: Five years ago, the Akonadi Foundation set out to envision what Oakland could look like in ten years. Oakland has been a cradle of social movements — and is best known, of course, as the birthplace of the Black Panther Party. There's a historical narrative here around race and the interconnectedness of people of color coming together to defeat horrific racist policies; it's our legacy. In our ambition to create a ten-year period of change, our thought was, even as a small foundation, we need to make grants that address the ecosystem in which "justice" is created and delivered. We know that here in Oakland, for example, we have a responsibility to fund base-building groups that are enlisting people willing to fight back, to fund groups that are going to craft policy prescriptions, and groups that will — when those campaigns have succeeded — ensure implementation of those prescriptions as well as follow-up advocacy and legal oversight of the policies.

And just as importantly, we know that if we are pushing communities to organize and fight campaigns, culture has to be at the center of this work; much of our cultural work as people of color is about staking claim to a city we helped build. So thinking about how change happens, about how the people of Oakland move toward justice — it's broad, and must be led by an "ecosystem" of grant partners who are in movement together.

In 2018, we're going to be engaging our grantees and having them give us a better idea of where we are. The world has completely changed in the last year. And because the world has changed, and the conditions of our city have changed, it's important for us to go back and look at our theory of change and redefine and reexamine how ecosystem grantmaking needs to work.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts 2017

January 02, 2018

It's no surprise, perhaps, that the most popular item on the blog in 2017 was a post, by Michael Edwards, from 2012. Back then, the country was clawing its way back from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and the future, if not exactly bright, was looking better. Two thousand-seventeen, in contrast, was...well, let's just say it was a year many would like to forget. Edwards, a former program officer at the Ford Foundation and the editor of the Transformation blog on the openDemocracy site, had agreed to write a four-part series (check out parts one, two, and four) on the Bellagio Initiative, an effort funded by the Rockefeller Foundation to produce a new framework for philanthropic and international development, and his third post had much to say about how and when, in development work, we measure, how we use and interpret the results, and who decides these things — concerns as relevant today as they were in the final year of Barack Obama's first term in office.

Of course, smart thinking and useful advice never go out of fashion — as the posts gathered below amply demonstrate. Indeed, with an administration and majorities in both chambers of Congress seemingly determined to roll back many of the progressive gains achieved over the last half-century, nonprofits and social entrepreneurs working to protect the rights of marginalized and vulnerable populations, undo the vast harm caused by a systemically biased criminal justice system, combat the corrosive effects of money on our politics, and address the existential threat posed by climate change will need all the smart thinking and useful advice they can lay their hands on. So, sit back, buckle your seat belt, and get ready for 2018. It's going to be an...interesting year.

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.

Interested in writing for PND or PhilanTopic? We'd love to hear from you. Send a few lines about your idea/article/post to mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Weekend Link Roundup (December 30-31, 2017)

December 31, 2017

2017-2018Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Giving

In his final post of the year, Nonprofit Chronicles blogger (and transparency advocate) Marc Gunther shares what (and why) he and his wife gave to charity in 2017.  

Inequality

"The world's 500 richest people have increased their wealth by $1tn (£745bn)...this year due to a huge increase in the value of global stock markets," the Guardian reports. In fact, as 2017 comes to a close, the "world’s super-rich hold the greatest concentration of wealth since the US Gilded Age at the turn of the 20th century, when families like the Carnegies, Rockefellers and Vanderbilts controlled vast fortunes...." 

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos ($99bn) tops the list, followed by Bill Gates ($91.8bn) and Warren Buffett ($85.3bn). For those interested in tracking such things, the Bloomberg Billionaires Index provides statistical profiles, updated on a daily basis, of the hundred richest people in the world.

The Republican tax bill signed into law by President Trump just before Christmas is likely to worsen inequality in the United States. Referring to the bill as "a lump of coal" for average Americans, the California Wellness Foundation suggests in a statement on its website that the new law will further cement America's status as "a nation of profound inequality" and regrets the fact that it "was enacted despite the fact that so many were not in favor of it." The foundation closes with a call to "other funders committed to the public good to join with us as we move forward with even greater resolve to build the power of the many, not the few." 

Nonprofits

"The nonprofit sector is woefully lacking creative destruction. Mediocre and weak organizations are still attracting funding and the best organizations are not accessing the funding they need to achieve real impact." Catarina Schwab and Lindsay Beck hope to change that with something called an impact security. Devin Thorpe reports for Forbes

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Thoughts on ‘As the South Grows’

December 27, 2017

As-the-South-Grows-cover-232x300As someone who has shed plenty of blood and tears after almost twenty years living and breathing Southern philanthropy, I am thrilled with the deep and committed work of Grantmakers for Southern Progress and the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) on the As the South Grows series of publications. The writers — Ryan Schlegel and Stephanie Peng — spent a great deal of time outside the walls of their offices to capture the authentic voice of residents of six Southern sub-regions that have had small to middling philanthropic investment over the years.

My experience as a locally embedded Southern funder — first with the Rapides Foundation and then the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust — over the past couple decades prompted a reaction to both what is presented and what I hope will be addressed in future reports. The following observations come from a same church/different pew perspective of someone who has spent the bulk of his professional career trying to get philanthropic activity connected to local champions in a way that makes sense to funders and communities alike.

1. Large regional or national funders increasingly want long-haul relationships. For decades, I have observed the lack of large funder investment in the South. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some particularly underresourced and isolated places in the region have never had any formal funder investment — ever.

Southern communities can certainly use financial resources focused on locally produced efforts to drive community development and improvement. But it is just as, if not more, important that large funder involvement focus on: 1) the inclusion of these places as part of national learning platforms; and 2) enabling these communities to tap into the wealth of intellectual and social capital that national funders can access on their behalf.

For example, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health prize recognized the small town of Williamson, West Virginia (population 3,100), in 2014 with a $25,000 award. The award paved the way for government funders to support new work around built environment, healthy foods, economic development, and other initiatives designed to benefit this coal-country town.

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This Holiday Season, Don't Forget Families Mourning a Loss

December 21, 2017

Nylife_foundation_bereavementDecember is the "season of giving" — a time when we're all made aware of the many ways we can give back to those less fortunate. On streets and in stores, on TV, and through our social networks, causes and organizations doing good work compete for our attention and year-end donations. But one group in need of support at this time of year often remains invisible: those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. It's time that philanthropy paid more attention.

The holidays are a difficult time of year for grieving children and families. For most, it is a season characterized by family traditions and poignant memories — memories that can trigger powerful emotions when someone significant is missing from the festivities, even when his or her loss is no longer fresh. In fact, a new nationwide survey conducted by the New York Life Foundation demonstrates the profound, enduring nature of loss. According to the survey, for those who lost a parent as a child, the pain was still raw years — and sometimes even decades — later, with 77 percent of respondents saying they would always feel like a part of them was missing and 78 percent saying they still thought about the departed parent every day. 

The survey also revealed a troubling "grief gap" — a disconnect between the length of time that grievers took to move forward after a loss and the time during which they received support. On average, those who lost a parent growing up said it took them six or more years to move forward, with a full 30 percent admitting that they'd never come to terms with their loss. Yet most reported that support from family and friends tapered off within the first three months after a loss, 21 percent reporting that support tapered off within a month of a loss, and 20 percent saying support from others tapered off after just a week.

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A Perfect Storm for Nonprofits: Risk Engagement Is Critical

December 20, 2017


Danger_riskThe nonprofit sector has been described as "resilient," and for good reason, given the number of constraints — funding, regulatory, operational — it must contend with.

However, as we reflect on a year marked by a series of shocks — including a series of natural disasters, determined efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, and policy changes likely to affect future federal funding for the sector — a perfect storm is gathering that will be challenging to navigate even for organizations accustomed to risk. As we head into 2018, reducing your organization's vulnerability to external shocks will be key to its sustainability. The good news? There are things you can do.

As I write this, state governments are bracing for the possible loss of Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) funding, and major tax legislation is headed for passage — legislation that could lead to a dramatic reduction in charitable giving, result in the loss of health insurance for an estimated thirteen million Americans, and raise taxes over time for middle- and low-income earners. And all this is happening against the backdrop of a possible government shutdown. Even one of these outcomes could easily upend the delicate balancing act that nonprofits operating on razor-thin margins must maintain.

Events playing out in Washington also underscore how important it is for nonprofit executives and boards to have tools in place that they can use to identify, assess, prioritize, manage, and ultimately mitigate vulnerabilities related to unforeseen developments.

Over nearly forty years as a nonprofit consulting firm working to help organizations meet their goals and fulfill their missions, Community Resource Exchange has seen the vast majority of our nonprofit clients evolve from being risk-averse to being increasingly ready, or at least willing, to engage with risk. This has been especially apparent in their focus on internal — and somewhat predictable — risks related to operational matters, including meeting legal and regulatory requirements and financial obligations.

We recently confirmed this shift during a year-long initiative to study how nonprofits perceive and respond to risk. Today's organizations are experiencing less vulnerability in areas of governance, financial oversight, legal compliance, employment practices, workplace issues, and volunteer management. (The exception is risk vulnerability in succession planning, which hasn't kept up with generational leadership changes in the sector.) While such risks need to be assessed on a regular basis, many organizations that we worked with report having developed sound policies and systems for managing them.

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The False Slogan of 'Right to Work': An Attack on Worker Freedom

December 18, 2017

NoRTW_buttonToday's economy is rigged against working families and in favor of the wealthy and the powerful. That's not by accident. CEOs and the politicians who do their bidding have written the rules that way, advancing their own interests at the expense of everyone else.

Now, they're trying to get the rigged system affirmed by the United States Supreme Court. In a few months, the justices will hear a case called Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, which would make so-called "right-to-work" the law of the land in the public sector, threatening the freedom of working people to join together in strong unions.

The powerful backers in this case have made no secret about their true agenda. They have publicly said that they want to "defund and defang" unions like the one I lead. They know that unions level the economic playing field. They know that unions give working people the power in numbers to improve their lives and communities and negotiate a fair return on their work while keeping the greed of corporate special interests in check.

Union membership is especially important for people of color, historically providing them with a ladder to the middle class and helping them earn their fair share of the wealth and the value they generate. More than half of African-Americans make less than $15 per hour. But belonging to a union is likely to lead to a substantial pay raise and superior benefits. African-American union members earn 14.7 percent more than their non-union peers. The union advantage for Latinos is even greater: 21.8 percent.

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Weekend Link Roundup (December 16-17, 2017)

December 17, 2017

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

Civil Society

Philanthropy 2173  blogger Lucy Bernholz has released the latest edition of her Blueprint year-in-review survey and is inviting readers (and everyone else) to share their civil society predictions for 2018, which she will review in a live discussion on January 11 with David Callahan (@InsidePhilanthr), Trista Harris (@TristaHarris), Julie Broome (@AriadneNetwork), and moderator Crystal Hayling (@CHayling).

Democrat Doug Jones's victory over Republican Roy Moore in the special election to fill Attorney General Jeff Session's vacated seat in deep red Alabama was "a victory for the black women-led voter registration and mobilization movement...that has been working against stiff headwinds for months — decades, really — to ensure democracy prevails in a state with some of the most onerous barriers to voting in the country," writes Ryan Schlegel on the NCRP blog. 

And here on PhilanTopic, Mark Rosenman argues that the threat to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid represented by the Republican tax plan making its way through Congress means that, now more than ever, foundations need to step up for democracy.

Fundraising

Can a little behavioral economics help nonprofits raise more money? Bloomberg View columnist and legal scholar Cass R. Sunstein thinks so.

Giving

There’s no one right way to give. But there are lots of things you can do to make yourself a better giver. The folks at Bloomberg Business have put together a great guide to help you get started.

In his latest, Denver Post On Philanthropy columnist Bruce DeBoskey reviews Generation Impact: How Next Gen Donors Are Revolutionizing Giving, by Sharna Goldseker and Michael Moody. And be sure to check out our review, by the Foundation Center's Erin Nylen-Wysocki, here.

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'Tis the Season to Give — Now More Than Ever Under Tax Reform

December 16, 2017

Holiday-charity-smart-givingGiving Tuesday broke all records this year. On November 28, a total of $274 million was donated to charity through the online campaign, as millions of individuals contributed an average of about $110 to great organizations around the globe. According to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, however, if certain provisions in the House and Senate versions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act become law, nonprofits could lose between $12 billion and $20 billion in annual charitable revenues. And that means donors will need to give a whole lot more on future #GivingTuesdays — and every other day of the year — if those nonprofits hope to maintain the same level of service they currently provide.

With Republicans racing to pass a final bill before Christmas, the outlook for nonprofits is bleak. Like the Grinch who stole Christmas, the plan making its way through Congress could steal billions in would-be donations from worthy causes. One provision in the bill is particularly damaging: the increase in the standard deduction.

By doubling the standard deduction and repealing or scaling back many itemized deductions, the plan would substantially reduce the number of taxpayers who elect to itemize their returns. The Tax Policy Center estimates that fewer than thirteen million taxpayers would itemize deductions in 2018 under the House version of the plan, down from more than 46 million under current law. The net effect: significantly reduced incentives for people to give. Urban-Brookings analysts note that most economists generally agree that tax deductions boost charitable giving — although to what degree is open to debate. Whatever the level, the likely trajectory for giving under the Republican plan is downward — an unfortunate circumstance for nonprofits, since the vast majority — 72 percent — of the more than $390 billion given to nonprofits last year came from individual donors (GivingUSA). These are the everyday givers who contribute $25, $50, or $100 to their favorite causes and many itemize those contributions.

Given these and other changes to the tax code that could undermine charitable giving, here is some advice for nonprofits seeking to sustain their good work and the donors who support them — individual givers as well as philanthropic foundations and corporations.

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  • "We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings...."

    — Ursula Le Guin (1929-2018)

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