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The Strategic Thinker-Leader

July 27, 2016

Rodin_thinker-leaderFor those who read my "5 Reasons Why 'Strategic Doing' Beats Strategic Planning" post, it will come as no surprise that I spend a fair amount of time thinking about, critiquing, and doing strategy. Truth be told, strategy is a bit of an obsession for me, more creative art and less a science, despite what the bean-counters and McConsultants would have you believe.

Like other creative arts, truly great strategy is the product of inspiration. And inspiration comes to us in its own good time rather than during scheduled meetings: while we’re arguing with a friend, thinking about a problem, noticing something we’d missed before, even while we sleep. (Okay, maybe that’s just me…)

More to the point, strategy isn't a thing, a plan, a committee, or a document. It's a way of thinking about change — a way of imagining that demands action. Because, at the end of the day, strategy is nothing more than a language for translating ideas into outcomes.

So what makes for great strategy, and how do you get there? When do you know you've nailed it? And, perhaps most challenging, can the art of strategy be taught? I don’t have the definitive answers to those questions. Maybe great strategy is like pornography: you know it when you see it, to paraphrase the late Justice Potter Stewart. That said, allow me to share a few observations from my years in the trenches about the what and how of strategy.

If strategy is nothing more than an organized way of thinking about change, then "doing strategy" should be built through a sequence of cognitive steps — a disciplined intellectual process that transforms what is to what could be and leads to a clear, compelling end-state vision.

So what does that disciplined and orderly thought experiment I call strategy look like? Like any other disciplined intellectual process, strategic thinking is built around a sequence of questions:

1. What is your end-state vision? How do you imagine your particular corner of the world looking different than it does today? Can you formulate a clear and actionable vision that is neither so broad as to be unhelpful nor so narrow as to blur the distinction between ends and means? Does the vision have sufficient power to inspire and activate those both within and outside the organization to think big, do big, and invest big? And, no less important, can you make the vision understandable to an average eight-year-old? (If not, go back to the beginning and start again.)

2. What needs to change in order to get from here to there and transform that concrete piece of the here-and-now world into your desired end-state? What's the logical construct — the change architecture, the rationale — behind how you intend to achieve that changed state? What are the relevant levers of power — institutions, people, policies, resources — and how will you rearrange and manipulate them in order to achieve your desired end-state? (In today’s lexicon, what's your theory of change?)

3. What tools/resources/knowledge will you need to engineer the desired change, both those currently available to you and those required? What's your plan for how to acquire the missing pieces or, perhaps more challenging and interesting, how to rearrange, redeploy, or re-prioritize those pieces to bring about the desired change?

4. Does your change management action plan describe in detail the "what, how, where, and when" of planning and executing the initial steps toward achieving your end-state vision? And why focus on initial steps? Answer: because unlike conventional strategic planning that purports to anticipate every step from beginning to end, real-world change dynamics are fluid and often unpredictable, and the strategic thinker-leader must have the humility to acknowledge that fact, not to mention the creativity to lead and manage in such an environment.

"Of course," write Loch and Kavadias in the European Business Review (January 19, 2015), "senior managers need to plan, but they also need to realize that large pieces of ‘the plan’ may be no more than hypothesis. Evolving the strategy is a journey where planning helps you to diagnose where you are and to understand the direction of travel, but it is not an 'optimized planned change'....

"When you look at the strategy journey through this lens, the cauldron...suddenly changes from a hard-to-control mess to a great opportunity to generate the inputs for good strategic decisions."

And therein lies the art. Every winning strategy — and, for that matter, every successful organization — is built on the ability of its leaders to respond adaptively and creatively to change. That is precisely why strategic thinking and leading is the sine qua non of effective executives, and why those organizations led by people who embrace the "hard-to-control mess" as opportunity will come out ahead every time.

Ami_nahshon_for_PhilanTopicSo, can the art of strategic thinking-leading be taught? My answer is an unequivocal "maybe." But cultivating the ability to imagine alternative futures, to think big, to never be fully satisfied with "what is" certainly constitute a good place to start.

Ami Nahshon offers a portfolio of coaching and consulting services to help nonprofits and their leaders optimize philanthropic mission, strategy, and performance. In his last post, he wrote about the empowered leader. For more information, contact him at AmiNahshon@gmail.com.

Weekend Link Roundup (July 23-24, 2016)

July 24, 2016

Bulldog-on-ice1Our weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Community Improvement/Development

In the New America Weekly, Heron Foundation president Clara Miller explains how the foundation's recent work in Buffalo, the fourth poorest city in the nation, "started as a response to a Heron board member's referral of the local community foundation" and led to the foundation becoming a trusted neutral convener and connector "for a number of contingents in the community."

On the Knight blog, Lilly Weinberg Lilly Weinberg, program director for community foundations at the Knight Foundation, shares three takeaways from a recent convening of twenty civic innovators who've received grants of $5,000 to implement a project in a calenadr year that improve mobility, a public space, or civic engagement in their home cities.

Criminal Justice/Policing

Reflecting on the killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Philando Castile in Minnesota, five police officers in Dallas, and three police officers in Baton Rouge, Open Society Foundations president Chris Stone suggests that the divide between black America and American policing is in part the "legacy of slavery, the legacies of Jim Crow, of lynching, of the repression of the civil rights and black power movements, the legacy of the war on drugs" -- and that efforts to close it must include solutions to racial disparities and the building of mutual trust between African Americans and local police departments.

Environment

Here on PhilanTopic, we featured a pair of great posts this week  -- one by Frank Smyth and the second by Maria Amália Souza -- on the noble, unheralded, and frequently dangerous work done by environmental activists in the global South.

Fundraising

Looking to sharpen up you fundraising appeal emails? CauseVox' Kat Boogaard shares five useful email tips guaranteed to inspire your supporters to take action.

Giving

The act of "giving" any amount in any given moment when it is not necessary to do so almost always is considered to be an act of altruism. But should it be? Forbes contributor Jake Hayman explains why the act of giving needs to be contextualized.

Health

Kristin Jones, assistant director of communications at the Colorado Trust, explains why we must see, and address, gun violence as a public health issue.

The HBCU Digest, which bills itself as the "news resource of record for historically black colleges and universities," has reprinted the full text of a letter signed by thirty-three sitting presidents of America's historically black colleges and universities calling on all Americans to join in a series of actions designed to help address the scourge of gun violence.

Impact Investing

Interesting blog post by Union Square Ventures partner Albert Wenger, who notes that recent estimates put the dollar amount of "global investible capital" at north of $100 trillion, compared to around $80 trillion for global GDP. And with the amount of capital needed to operate the global economy falling because of "just in time manufacturing, faster electronic payments and better working capital management," that means "we have massive amounts of capital available to invest in new endeavors."

On the Devex site, Catherine Cheney chats with the Case Foundation's Jean Case about data, entreneurship, and impact investing.

International Affairs/Development

Bill Gates was in Johannesburg, South Africa, last week to deliver the 14th Annual Nelson Mandela Lecture. The theme of this year's lecture was "living together," and, as Gates noted, it was "also the theme of Nelson Mandela's life...[in that the] system he fought against was based on the opposite idea — that people should be kept apart, that our superficial differences are more important than our common humanity."

What can philanthropy do to help make the Sustainable Development Goals resonate with foundations and nonprofits in the U.S.? Writing for the World Post, Natalie Ross, director for global philanthropy at the Council on Foundations, shares some ideas.

Nonprofits

In a post that has generated dozens of comments, NWB's Vu Le wonders why it is so hard for funders to grok the concept of general operating support.

What if instead of "overhead," asks Ben Paynter in FastCo.Exist, nonprofits used a different word or term to refer to their indirect costs? Would funders be more willing to fund those activities if they were re-branded with a less "semantically stifling" term such as "shared costs" or "critical infrastructure costs" or (as Vu Le suggests) "things-we-need-in-order-to-do-our-job-of-helping-people-dammit"?

Based on material from their Nonprofit Mergers Workbooks, the folks at La Piana Consulting have a new post up outlining the key characteristics of effective communications in nonprofit partnerships. 

Philanthropy

Our Foundation Center colleagues at CF Insights have released a new brief updating community foundation growth and related operational activity during fiscal year 2015.

The shootings of Philando Castille and Alton Sterling  and of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge "have the potential to either deepen empathy and understanding among Americans, or divide us even more sharply along lines of race, ethnicity, and gender," write Brook Kelly-Green and Luna Yusai on the Ford Foundation's Equal Voices blog. Which is why, they add, that the foundation is more committed than ever to  be "a thoughtful, effective social justice funder" and is "eager to deepen and expand th[e] community of social justice funders,... nurture bold experiments and help the [Black Lives Matter] movement build the solid infrastructure that will enable it to flourish."

Social Entrepreneurship

And in a post on the Huffington Post's What's Working blog, Loukia Papadopoulos, business development director at UK-based SocialGrowth, explains why the future belongs to social entrepreneurs.

That's it for now. What have you been reading/watching/listening to? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org or in the comments section below....

How to Talk to Your Donors About Funding Outreach and Awareness

July 22, 2016

Money-tree-symbol-Stock-Vector-familyWhy is it that fundraising for specific programs comes so easily to nonprofit professionals, yet asking for money to boost marketing or fundraising activities makes our palms sweat?

Professional fundraisers like Dan Pallotta have done much to call out this mindset. In no uncertain terms, Pallotta and others have argued that by not asking funders to invest in their fundraising and marketing activities, nonprofits undermine their ability to generate the kinds of dollars and awareness they need to solve our most pressing problems.

There are several reasons for this. One of the most persistent has to do with boards choosing to focus exclusively on programming and dismissing investments in marketing and fundraising capacity as unwarranted spending on "overhead." Goals involving income, whether donated or earned, are given short shrift. The general attitude is: "Let's see what we can do with our existing marketing/fundraising budget."

This is just wrong. Regardless of how well-intentioned it might be, a board simply can't insist that you generate greater awareness of your cause — not to mention impact — and then do nothing about it.

What are board members in that situation thinking? Are they afraid donors will run for the exits if they're asked to fund something other than programs? Really? Donors deserve more credit than that. They want the same thing we want: to be able to sit down with friends and family and say: "This cause and the work this organization is doing is important to me."

Like most of us, they want the issues they care about to go viral, generating as much awareness and attention as possible. That's because they know it will take more — a lot more — than their gift or donation to truly make a difference. And that's why a growing number of them are ready to put their dollars behind truly creative fundraising and marketing efforts.

We need to stop being bashful about funding the marketing and fundraising efforts needed to make the public aware of our work. We need to lean in to these conversations — and not be reticent when a donor asks about awareness, fundraising, or marketing.

What does that sound like?

Here are a couple of discussion points to use when talking with your donors about investing in your marketing and fundraising efforts:

1. You (the donor) believe in the cause and the work we are doing. Wouldn't you like to share that work with people who haven’t heard about us – and who may care as much about our cause as you do?

The donor almost certainly will understand that there are others out there like him. So feel free to mention that:

  • In order for someone to be passionate about a cause or issue, he or she first needs to be exposed to it. And the best way to do that is to create a marketing campaign that: a) generates greater awareness of your cause among the public; b) includes options for potential supporters to provide you with their contact information; and c) enables you to establish a relationship with people who give you their information.
  • Once they're made aware of our cause or issue, people tend to want to help. Which is why we need your help to make it easy for them to do that through direct mail marketing, social media campaigns and online donation pages, peer-to-peer fundraising events, and the like.
  • Our success in acquiring new donors and supporters is built on consistently (rather than episodically) exposing them to the people we serve and the impact of our work. And that requires robust and evolving internal systems. Without the support of existing donors like you, we can’t afford to build our capacity and keep up with the latest technologies.

2. The people we serve have stories to share that can generate greater interest in and support for our cause. We need your support to develop the creative elements necessary for our marketing and fundraising campaigns to be successful.

Once you've decided to scale your outreach and awareness efforts, a lot will depend on whether you have the necessary design, strategy, and copy writing resources in house or decide, instead, to enlist outside assistance. If you decide to go with outside help, here are some talking points to use with donors:

  • We're the experts on this issue, but we realize we need some help in crafting the messaging and designing the materials that will inspire people to embrace our cause. We have a lot of knowledge and a lot of skilled people on staff, but professionals from outside bring a fresh perspective and are often able to execute a project faster and more cost effectively than internal staff.
  • We need to invest more in our fundraising and creative outreach if we want to connect with and acquire new donors and supporters who care about our issue. Think of it as an investment in the sustainability of an organization you admire and already support.

It's a big world out there with a lot of problems — and a lot of people who are trying to fix them. If you count yourself among them, you need to become more fearless in your fundraising and in asking others to support the good work you do.

Your donors won't mind. They want you to succeed and have the greatest impact possible. It's your job to help them understand exactly what that entails.

Start having those conversations sooner rather than later. Your donors and supporters are ready to do what needs to be done to get your cause or issue in front of as many people as possible and to motivate those people to act!

Derrick 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, now available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Defending Environmental Rights: Funding Priorities in the Global South and East

July 21, 2016

In December, the United Nations awarded its Equator Prize 2015 to two Munduruku leaders from the Brazilian Amazon in recognition of their struggle to protect ancestral territory and sacred rivers from a mega-dam. What caught my attention about the prize was the way it acknowledged a struggle that is ongoing, not a battle won. What inspired the UN to do that? And what message is it sending to the world as it recognizes the need to preserve the last intact forests in the Amazon basin and the knowledge possessed by their ancestral caretakers?

Report_ihrfg2016This year's edition of Advancing Human Rights: Update on Global Foundation Grantmaking offers an interesting in-depth look at the priorities of funders based in the Global South and East. The key findings shows that environmental and resource rights rank as the second-most funded issue area by Global South and East funders, compared to ninth for all funders. Another interesting — and, in my opinion, directly related — finding is that Global South and East funders dedicate a larger proportion of their support to capacity building, coalition building, and collaboration, compared to human rights funders overall.

Because my organization, CASA, is what we call a "socio-environmental" funder, the report really speaks to us. And as we've reviewed the findings in it, a few things have suggested themselves. We operate within a fragile global system held together by increasingly frayed  threads, and what seems to keep it from collapsing altogether is a clever subterfuge in which:

  • Capital flows continue funding the cheapest raw materials that can be found (often in the Global South and East), with a premium on minimal extraction costs (i.e., unregulated and exploited labor) and easy-to-access lands (territories that can be clear-cut, mined, or drilled no matter their environmental importance or who lives there).
  • Capital develops infrastructure to enable the extraction and export of those materials — including mega-dams, pipelines, roads, rail- and waterways, and ports.
  • Pliant local political structures facilitate the removal and transport of these materials as quickly as possible to global markets, regardless of who or what might object (i.e., poor countries with weak institutions, a history of corruption, and leaders whose territories hold the great majority of what is left to extract on the planet).

Add to this the insecurity that climate change is producing around food supplies and access to fresh water, and you have an ugly, and increasingly unsustainable, picture.

How can Global South funders (I'm guessing the Global East is not so different) deal with this mess? For starters, we can collaborate among ourselves, and with Global North partners, to fund grassroots resilience, empowerment, and solutions; support local/regional/national/international monitoring; and call for greater transparency and accountability with respect to international financial institutions' investments, and everything in between.

Building a culture of philanthropy in the Global South and East is a herculean job, and it is only through collaboration that results will be achieved. We must build different alliances to support different aspects of our work. CASA, for example, is part of the Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action (GAGGA). Led by Fondo Centroamericano de Mujeres, Mama Cash, and Both ENDS, the initiative involves more than thirty women’s and environmental funds and NGOs in Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, and Latin America that have come together to strengthen the capacity of grassroots organizations to advocate for women's rights to water, food security, and a clean, healthy, and safe environment.

We also work with major international funders to make cluster grants related to a number of mutually complementary strategies, from strengthening groups affected by mega infrastructure or energy projects, to supporting indigenous rights and legal defense, to investing in women's co-ops based in fragile ecosystems that produce oil and pulp sustainably at market rates. These solutions not only ensure indigenous land ownership and improve organizational capacity, they help maintain the integrity of communities. To help support the Brazilian philanthropic field, we are also co-founders of the Brazil Philanthropy Network for Social Justice.

What have we learned as a South American grassroots fund? Ten years, ten countries, and more than fourteen hundred grants later, we see some advances that point to useful strategies like those mentioned above. One of them relates to how local knowledge is crucial to making each dollar count.

In the Peruvian Amazon, for example, oil spills have contaminated thousands of miles of pristine rivers on which traditional people depend. Funding indigenous communities' access to legal advice so that they can demand reparations and compensation in court has proven effective time and again. In Bolivia and Paraguay, a strong agroforestry movement has worked quietly to help protect small farmers' lands from producers of commodities for export such as soy and cattle and has proven effective in securing land rights and income for indigenous communities in places where open confrontation is a not-infrequent, and often deadly, occurrence. Even locally produced film documentaries can force local governments to take action.

Global Witness published a report last month which found that, between 2010 and 2015, two hundred and sixty-six environmental and indigenous activists around the world had been murdered. The map shows that all those deaths happened in the Global South and East, led by Latin America, with Brazil topping the list with two hundred deaths.

In the last few weeks, the Munduruku people have won a number of battles. CASA was one of many funders of  a complex process that has dragged  on for nine years. And trough that engagement, we have clearly seen the impact that many small grants across the basin have had, not least in terms of enabling the Munduruku people to meet regularly with public attorneys and develop a formal protocol that protects their right to free, prior, and informed consent under the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (C169). In the most recent domino to fall, last month the Fundação Nacional do Índio (National Indian Foundation) issued a decision to recognize the Munduruku's ancestral territories, which led in turn to the Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (Brazil's environmental protection agency) to deny a license for the mega-dam that would destroy a major part of those territories.

Nothing is certain when the forces in a struggle like this are so strongly opposed. But it is important to celebrate small victories — that is what gives us the motivation to keep pushing. There can be no question about the critical role of targeted funding in this struggle. "There is no Planet B" is a cliché, but it is true. We must not destroy the priceless bounty that has been given us, nor can we afford to lose the knowledge preserved by our oldest and wisest caretakers — or those who put their lives on the line every day to protect the planet for future generations.

Headshot_Maria Amália SouzaPerhaps last year's Equator Prize was trying to signal just that.

Maria Amália Souza is executive director of the São Paulo-based CASA Socio-Environmental Fund, which works to promote environmental conservation and sustainability, democracy, and social justice by supporting and strengthening the capacity of civil society in South America.

The Legacy of Berta Cáceres: What Environmentalists Can Learn From Human Rights Groups

July 19, 2016

Photo_bertacaceresThe murder of the environmental activist and indigenous leader Berta Cáceres in Honduras in March came as a shock. Shortly after, I was asked to address the question of security for environmentalists at the annual meeting of the Waterkeeper Alliance, a U.S.-based conservation group started in New York's Hudson River Valley that today includes members from Colombia to Bangladesh.

Waterkeepers asked me to address the meeting because of my experience in advising journalists, human rights defenders, and activists on security matters. And the more I've thought about it, the more I've come to realize how much the environmental community can learn from press freedom and human rights groups.

Cáceres was shot dead in her own home and a fellow activist was wounded in the same attack. Less than a year before, she had been honored in San Francisco and Washington with the prestigious Goldman Prize, giving her a measure of international recognition and, one might have hoped, a measure of protection from such a brazen attack.

Alas, no form of protection or deterrence has worked. In fact, no fewer than a hundred and eighty-five environmental activists around the world were murdered last year — more than three a week — according to a report issued last month by the group Global Witness. That's more than double the number of journalists killed worldwide over the same period of time. Nearly two-thirds of the murdered environmentalists were indigenous activists like Cáceres. Brazil, host of the Summer Olympic Games, the Philippines, and Colombia topped the list of countries with the most environmentalists killed, followed by Peru, Nicaragua, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Last year's death toll represents an increase of 59 percent from the year before, and the trend has been moving in the wrong direction. Indeed, Global Witness reports that no fewer than 1,176 environmental activists worldwide have been killed since 2002. Even the conservative figure is more than the number of journalists documented to have been murdered over the same period. Mining, logging, and other extractive industries were the focus of many of the murdered activists, along with government-backed development projects like the proposed dam in Cáceres' case that would have destroyed a pristine river and the indigenous lands through which it flows.

Nearly all the killings were pre-meditated homicides; nearly all the killers enjoy blanket impunity. In Cáceres' case, five men, two of whom have ties to the Honduran construction industry and one of whom is a former Honduran military intelligence specialist, have since been arrested — itself a rare development. It remains to be seen, however, whether justice will be served on the men who shot her or the more powerful, shadowy figures who may have ordered her assassination.

I began my Waterkeepers' talk with a confession. Early in my career, I was torn between working for social justice in "hard" places like El Salvador or environmental causes in familiar places like Montana. I chose the former, concluding that green issues were fundamentally "bourgeois" concerns. (In my home state of New Jersey, environmentalism was all the rage in both major parties back then due to widespread dumping of hazardous materials that was threatening home property values across the state.)

I realize now I could not have been more wrong. The murders of Cáceres and so many others prove beyond a doubt that not only are "green" activists on the frontlines of social justice and human rights struggles around the world, they are being targeted at a greater rate than journalists or human rights or LGBT activists.

This is going to be a long struggle, I told the audience, so prepare yourselves. But don't despair; there are reasons for optimism.

First, however, we need to understand that if environmental activists are going to do their work, and do it well, they need to be safe. And safety begins with solidarity. As the director of the leading U.S.-based hostile environments training provider, I could simply tell you the solution to enhanced safety is to hire my firm. Training, along with the use of security cameras and other technologies, can and does make a difference. But no amount of training or technology can ever do as much to protect frontline environmentalists as the kind of protection that comes from collective advocacy, both inside and beyond the countries where the problem is most urgent.

Second, solidarity, as important as it is, is no panacea. Take the enterprising Irish journalist Veronica Guerin, the subject of a Hollywood film by the same name. Guerin was shot dead in her car in 1992 just seven months after she had been honored by the Committee to Protect Journalists at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. Recognition can help protect the lives of those who are in danger, but it isn't enough. Instead, advocates must build networks and promote green activism in ways that raise the profile of at-risk activists — both within their own communities and abroad.

Third, we must recognize that the root of the problem is the impunity of powerful interests, as well as the corruption and incompetence that undermines functioning judiciaries in almost every developing nation.  Less than two weeks after Cáceres' murder, one of her fellow activists, Nelson Garciá, was shot dead near his home. Last week, the body of another of Cáceres' colleagues, Lesbia Janeth Urquía, was found in a trash dump with signs of blunt trauma injury to her head.

In such a lawless environment, and even in the face of seemingly incontrovertible evidence, powerful actors, especially those with ties to government, can stop a case before it gets started. In Colombia in 2001, a team of prosecutors brought charges, based on eyewitness testimony and documentation, against an Army general accused of okaying the use of paramilitary groups to commit massacres in remote villages and assassinate trade unionists, community leaders, and human rights activists. By the time the case collapsed, six regional prosecutors and twenty-two investigators had been murdered and the two lead prosecutors on the case, along with twenty other prosecutors and investigators, had fled the country.

Mustering the political will to compel institutions to change can take decades. It can, and has been, done, however. Guatemala was long one of Latin America's most violent and corrupt nations. But in recent years, in a sharp break from its past and with the support of a UN-backed anti-crime commission, the Guatemalan government has managed to prosecute two former presidents, albeit with mixed results, and a host of other once-powerful figures for crimes ranging from money laundering to sexual slavery.

Bringing change to other nations will be harder. Take Bangladesh. There, environmentalists are up against the same kind of collusion between powerful private interests and corrupt government officials faced by activists elsewhere. But in Bangladesh it occurs in a climate where independent bloggers, human rights activists, foreigners, and LGBT Bangladeshis are routinely bombed, shot, and hacked to death in the name of Islam.

How can we protect them? asked one Waterkeeper. I told them about Peace Brigades International, a UK-based NGO with an office in the United States that for decades has deployed teams of observers from the U.S. and Western Europe to provide "protective accompaniment" for threatened human rights activists in areas of conflict. The mere presence of the observers has kept many local activists and their families alive — without a single foreign observer having been lost in the process. And while I wouldn’t recommend that kind of assistance in a country like Bangladesh at the moment, in many countries around the world protective accompaniment for frontline environmentalists is an idea whose time has come.

The effectiveness of many environmental groups is predicated on their ties to, and passion for, the waterways and lands they work so hard to protect. Too often, however, these groups seem to exist in a bubble. The Waterkeepers publish a glossy print magazine for donor-subscribers. But unless every issue is searchable online, where other passionate environmentalists can find them, the magazine isn't going to be much help in terms of building a global solidarity movement. Similarly, no environmentalist wants to spend more of her time indoors than she has to, but Twitter and other social media platforms need to be embraced on a 24-7 basis if a movement hopes to cut through the noise and maintain and grow its presence.

The environmental movement also needs more groups capable of providing the kind of rigorous documentation we have come to expect from the likes of Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

For sure, Global Witness deserves credit for stepping up and pioneering the documentation of threats and violence against environmental defenders. But the initial data it has generated raises as many questions as it answers: Why are activists killed? Who are the suspected perpetrators? What is the status of government investigations into the murders? And which international interests are doing business with national or regional entities suspected of having ties to the murderers? Small grassroots groups such as Canadian-based Rights Action are doing their best to answer these questions in countries like Guatemala and Honduras and, together with Global Witness, have begun to shine a spotlight on the work that needs to be done.

At the same time, today's environmental movement has one advantage that, if nurtured, could provide frontline activists with a measure of the solidarity and protection they so desperately need. The movement to curb climate change is still an amorphous and largely leaderless jumble of competing interests (as was so wonderfully on display in Paris last fall), but it enjoys the backing of most Western governments. It is also the largest movement of its kind the world has seen.

Does anyone doubt that there is a direct link between the work of frontline environmentalists and the campaign to slow global warming? Yet how many climate change activists, let alone the public at large, are aware of the intimidation and violence that has been brought to bear against local environmental activists in recent years? Running a poll or two along these lines would be illuminating and a good place to start. But raising awareness about these slayings and the ongoing threat to environmental and indigenous activists is essential.

I have long thought of myself as an environmentalist, and I pay close attention to conservation issues. And yet I had no idea that so many environmentalist activists were being murdered until I was alerted to that fact by mutual friends' status updates about Berta Cáceres' murder on Facebook and then a call prompted by her murder from the Waterkeepers.

One way we can honor Cáceres' legacy is to take the hard but necessary steps needed to bust open our comfortable cocoons and forge alliances between environmentalists, climate change activists, and the donors, foundations, and governments that support them. Only by building a unified international movement will we be able to protect fearless activists like Berta Cáceres who are doing the kind of work that inspires and benefits us all.

Headshot_FrankSmythFrank Smyth is the founder and executive director of Global Journalist Security, the leading U.S.-based hostile environments training and consulting provider. A former arms trafficking investigator for Human Rights Watch and the author of the HRW report Arming Rwanda, Smyth has written for The Nation, The Village Voice, Foreign Affairs, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal and has testified before the U.S. House and Senate, the Organization of American States, and the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Weekend Link Roundup (July 16-17, 2016)

July 17, 2016

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

African Americans

What does it mean to look at images of African Americans being murdered? In an age in which footage of fatal shootings appears alongside cat videos and selfies in social media feeds, what claims can be made for the representational power of filming? In the Boston Review, Benjamin Balthaser explores the contentious debate over the meaning and appropriate use of images of violence against black men and women.

Civil Society

In the wake of the recent shootings in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas, Council on Foundations president and CEO Vikki Spruill and Sherry Magill, president of the Jesse Ball DuPont Fund, call on foundations "to advance a civil conversation focused on what we have in common and ensure equal treatment under the law."

Climate Change

The pledges made by countries in Paris in December to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius by 2100 almost guarantee that the wold's average temperature will increase by more than 3 degrees and could warm by as much as 4 degrees — with catastrophic consequences. Fast.Co.Exist writer Adele Peters explains.

Criminal Justice

"In the world of criminal justice, pushes for change can be diverted or stalled by major news events," write Simone Weichselbaum, Maurice Chammah, and Ken Armstrong on Vice. "But the sniper killings of five officers in Dallas seems to have stiffened the opposition to reforms. With legislation to reduce prison terms for some crimes stalled by election-year politics and efforts to repair police-community relations moving slowly, leaders across the political spectrum are watching to see if such efforts can survive this heated moment."

Policing across America has improved over the last forty years. But why hasn't more progress been made? Fast Company's Frederick Lemieux reports.

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Requesting a Flexible Work Arrangement

July 16, 2016

Work-life-balanceThe Georgetown University Law Center defines a "flexible work arrangement" (FWA) as "any one of a spectrum of work structures that alters the time and/or place that work gets done on a regular basis." This can include: 1) flexibility in the scheduling of hours worked and/or arrangements regarding shift and break schedules; 2) flexibility in the number of hours worked; and 3) flexibility in the place of work. By some estimates, as much as 40 percent of the U.S. workforce is expected to have some sort of a flexible arrangement at work by the end of 2016. If you'd like to join them, the tips below may help.

Remember that flexible work arrangements come in many forms. Many people assume that flexible work means working from home. But there are many others ways to work flexibly, such as starting/leaving an hour earlier or starting/leaving an hour later, taking an afternoon a week off to take your mother to physical therapy (and making the time up another day), or even sharing a job with a co-worker.

Any flexible work arrangement has to not only work for you, it has to work for your team and organization. If you're like most people, there are many work arrangements that would make your life easier. But you are not the only factor in this equation. Take stock of what others in your organization are already doing, talk to friends and colleagues to make sure you have a handle on the pros and cons of the different scenarios you are considering, and do your best to honestly assess whether and to what extent those scenarios work for everyone involved. Your assessment should include the financial aspects of each scenario, as there are often unexpected or overlooked costs — travel and equipment, for example — to letting employees work remotely.

Make a formal proposal. Take the time to write up your proposal as a formal memo. Review your employee handbook and talk to HR (if appropriate). Anticipate the questions and concerns you are likely to face, and formulate your responses ahead of time. Be sure your proposal doesn't only focus on the benefits of the arrangement for you, but instead demonstrates why a flexible arrangement will be good for you and your organization. For example, if you're asking to work from home on Fridays, explain how this will give you a block of time to focus on project-based work that is continually interrupted by meetings during the rest of the week.

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5 Questions for...Matt Foreman, Senior Program Director, Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund

July 14, 2016

A year after the U.S. Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land, the LGBT community witnessed a day of unspeakable horror, as a gunman massacred forty-nine people and injured dozens at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. As terrible as it was, the shooting was followed by proud displays of collective resilience and celebration. On June 24, President Obama designated the Stonewall Inn — a New York City gay bar that is widely considered to be the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement — as the first-ever national monument honoring LGBT rights.

PND recently spoke with Matt Foreman, senior program director at the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, about the significance of these events. Foreman joined the fund in 2008, after serving as executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Empire State Pride Agenda, and the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project. At the Haas, Jr. Fund, he played a key role in the Civil Marriage Collaborative, a consortium of foundations that helped push marriage equality over the finish line.

Matt_foreman_for_PhilanTopicPND: You have written about how the Civil Marriage Collaborative helped boost marriage equality by funding public education efforts "to change hearts and minds" and by supporting the movement's efforts to develop a shared strategy. What were the advantages of using a funder collaborative? And were there any downsides?

Matt Foreman: The primary advantage of the CMC was that it enabled — and in some ways compelled — the marriage movement's primary foundation funders to consistently align and focus their investments, both through and outside the CMC. The field and the funders jointly identified their priorities, which encouraged the LGBT movement to come together in supporting a bold, long-term vision for marriage equality.  

As for downsides, there were some challenges, yes. At the highest level, creating strong funder collaboratives requires a lot of time and a willingness to compromise, more than it takes to go it alone. Although it sometimes makes the job harder, it also can lead to different, and better, outcomes. Another challenge was that the CMC served as a gatekeeper for how foundation dollars flowed to the field. While that allowed for more efficiency and consistency in supporting these efforts, it also frustrated some organizations that fell outside the CMC's strategic priorities and thus didn't get funding.

PND: What lessons learned from the campaign for marriage equality might be applied to grantmaking in support of other social justice causes?

MF: For me, the most important lesson was that foundations have a unique ability to get organizations to come together, develop plans to win, and then work together at multiple levels — from research to field work to litigation — to get over the finish line. Of course, that also requires foundations to be willing to take the risk of funding the game plan and playing hardball when groups deviate from it. Setbacks are inevitable when you're working on making big, societal change, so it's critical to learn from mistakes and be able to move forward.

After the historic marriage equality decision, we identified eleven lessons that we learned along the way and might be worth consideration among funders of other social justice movements. We've put together a report and a video about those lessons, which include the need to hire staff with social movement experience and to invest early in high-impact, multi-dimensional public education efforts that are data driven, thoroughly tested, and tailored to targeted communities and sectors.  

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5 Questions for…June Wilson, Executive Director, Quixote Foundation

July 11, 2016

Named for Cervantes’ fictional knight errant, the Quixote Foundation was established in 1997 by Stuart Hanisch, a civil rights activist and documentary filmmaker who poured his family’s wealth into social causes. With a mission "to see free people in fair societies on a healthy planet," the Seattle-based foundation has been focused on progressive causes in the areas of the environment, reproductive rights, civil and human rights, and media reform.

In 2010, Quixote announced it would spend down — or, as the foundation puts it, "spend up" — its endowment by 2017. (As of year-end 2014, its assets totaled approximately $12 million.) Grants awarded in recent years have supported the Media Democracy Fund’s campaign to ensure net neutrality and the National Wildlife Federation’s diversity, inclusion, and leadership development efforts. MDF founding director Helen Brunner was awarded the Council on Foundations' 2016 Robert Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking for her work with the foundation, while NWF recently recognized it for its guidance and support with the National Conservation Organization Award.

PND spoke with June Wilson, who joined the foundation as executive director and board member in 2013, about diversity in environmental organizations and across the nonprofit sector and the foundation's "spend-up" process.

Headshot_june_wilsonPhilanthropy News Digest: A 2014 study by Dorceta E. Taylor, a University of Michigan professor of environmental justice studies, found that minorities and people of color are underrepresented on the staffs of environmental organizations. Since then, fellowship programs and other efforts have been launched to address the gap. What is behind the lack of diversity in the field, and why is it imperative for the field to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)?

June Wilson: The report lays out some of the issues behind the lack of diversity in the field very well, such as the lack of cross-race and -class collaboration, as well as employment/recruitment practices. And I think looking at DEI in the environmental movement is imperative because those who are most likely to be negatively impacted by climate change are communities of color and poor communities. Hurricane Katrina is one of the most obvious examples: Katrina affected the entire city of New Orleans, but the communities that suffered the worst impacts, those whose residents couldn’t come back because they lacked the resources, those whose homes and neighborhoods were destroyed, were mostly black communities.

We put so much effort and resources into conservation policies and encouraging people to access the outdoors and the natural environment, and those benefits are meant to be shared by all, so engaging communities of color in the environmental movement is imperative.

PND: Quixote has invested in the National Wildlife Federation's commitment to improving DEI in its internal and external practices through training and leadership development. Can you describe the foundation’s work with NWF — what opportunities did you see in the chance to work with the federation, and what are some of the successful outcomes of that work?

JW: NWF is one of the few grantees we've worked with on a consistent basis since the foundation was created. We talked about our commitment to DEI efforts with NWF’s [then-director of individual philanthropy] Chris Harvey, who connected us with [then-vice president for affiliate and regional strategies] Dan Chu, who was looking at how to develop a leadership program that really could affect the leadership pipeline, increase diversity, and educate staff internally about issues around structural racism, equity, and inclusion. So it just felt like a win-win: there was someone at NWF saying, "This is important for this organization," and we were saying, "We want to champion this." In 2010, we funded the Leader to Leader program for NWF staff with a three-year grant, and Dan felt it was important to frontload the grant to maximize its impact in terms of increasing understanding within the organization's leadership.

Our investment was pretty significant, and we could see how the program and related trainings and workshops were beginning to have some impact at the individual level. But at the end of the grant period, in 2013, we hadn’t seen a lot of change at the organizational level in terms of executive-level leadership transitions and capacity. So, even though we didn't give them an additional grant, for the last two and a half years we've been in conversation with the team there about their work around DEI and continued commitment to ensuring that it is sustained. [Associate director for the Pacific] Les Welsh, who was part of the Leader to Leader program and is truly committed to that work, brought board members and Collin O'Mara, NWF's new president and CEO, into the conversation, and it's been remarkable to see how constant engagement and investment in our relationship with the grantee beyond the grant is enabling the long-term impact we seek, including the implementation of new policies to diversify the organization’s leadership pyramid and a lot of interest on the part of key members of the board.

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Weekend Link Roundup (July 9-10, 2016)

July 10, 2016

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

Community Development

Alexia Fernandez Campbell, a staff writer at The Atlantic, looks at what one Rust Belt city is doing to keep blue-collar African-Americans from being displaced as it tries to attract immigrants and boost the local economy.

Environment

Thanks to global regulation of chlorine compounds, the ozone hole over the Antarctic is on the mend. Alexandra Witze reports for Nature magazine.

On a less upbeat note, the International Development Association of the World Bank Group reports that unchecked climate change could push 100 million people back into poverty by 2030,with the poorest regions of the world — sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia — likely to be hardest hit.

Giving

For weeks, writes David A. Fahrenthold, the Washington Post has been trying — and failing — to find evidence that presumptive Republican Party presidential nominee Donald Trump is as charitable as he claims to be.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) has introduced legislation that would prohibit foundations with ties to former public officials, as well as presidents and vice presidents, from accepting contributions from individuals connected to foreign governments. The Hill's Alan K. Ota reports

On Glasspockets' Transparency Talk blog, our colleague Melissa Moy takes a closer look at the philanthropy of recent Giving Pledge signatories Marc and Lynne Benioff.

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[Infographic] A New Generation of Giving

July 09, 2016

As investment expert John Mauldin noted in a recent installment of his Thoughts From the Frontline newsletter, for much of American history it was unusual to have more than four generations alive at the same time. Today, however, we have six: the G.I. Generation (b.1901-1924), the Silent Generation (1925–1942), the Baby Boomers (1943-1960), Generation X (1961-1981), the Millennials (1982-2004), and the Homeland Generation (2005-2025?). As Mauldin points out, the first two "still control a great deal of wealth, which gives them influence, but they no longer wield the levers of power. That role now belongs to the Baby Boomers and increasingly Generation X." That's because boomers, in growing numbers, are packing up their workstations and moving on to encore careers or retirement. As that happens, writes Mauldin, the social and economic influence of Gen X and, especially, Millennials is growing.

Although generational differences are often overstated, generational cohorts tend to share values and a worldview that differ from those of their parents and grandparents. And that, as the folks from MobileCause note in the infographic below, is something every professional fundraiser needs to consider as Millennials emerge as a potent philanthropic force.

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8 Tools Grantmakers Frequently Forget to Use

July 07, 2016

Photodune-9895775-toolbox-mWhen most people think about philanthropy, they usually think about money. But cold, hard cash is just one tool in the grantmaker's tool box. And some of those non-cash tools are far more effective when it comes to addressing grantee needs and community challenges. Here are eight tools grantmakers can — and should — use more often:

1. Connections. Who are the people you know, and how can you introduce or refer your grantees to them? If you're like most people, you probably have a broader list of contacts than you realize. Don't be afraid to use it. Think about the other funders, accountants, attorneys, consultants, government employees, and nonprofit leaders you've met. How could these people help your grantees or partners? Once you get started, you'll be amazed at the connections you can make.

2. Knowledge and intellectual capital. What do you know about your community, about local politics, about other funders, about the issues? How and when can you share that information in ways that can support your grantees? For example, the Community Foundation of Lorain County recently used its knowledge of the area and of board leadership to conduct a series of board trainings for board members and CEOs from nonprofits across the county. And the Cleveland Foundation, after learning a great deal about quality afterschool programs, created an online database of high-quality afterschool programs to help parents find programs for their kids.

3. Experience. Chances are, you have specific experience in certain areas that can translate to advice and guidance for grantees. Perhaps earlier in your career you led a scale-up of a nonprofit enabling it to reach new markets. Maybe you led an advocacy campaign aimed at changing public policy. Perhaps your organization merged with another organization. When you started your job as a funder, you didn't wipe the slate clean — you brought your past experience with you, and you can use it now to help your grantees. Just be sure to offer your advice with humility, and only when a grantee is in a mood to listen. No one wants to be forced to learn from your experience against his or her will!

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (June 2016)

July 03, 2016

Happy Fourth of July weekend! Hope you're spending it with family and friends. Before we head back out with more shrimp for the barbie, we thought we'd revisit some of the great content we shared here on PhilanTopic in June. Enjoy!

What did you read/watch/listen to in June that got your juices flowing? Feel free to share with our readers in the comments section below. Or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

[Review] Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

July 02, 2016

The 10,000-hour rule popularized by New Yorker staff writer Malcolm Gladwell in his bookOutliers is just another way to say practice makes perfect. But what makes us want to continue practicing? In Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, MacArthur Fellow and University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Duckworth makes the case for understanding personal achievement through the lens of "grit." Yes, intelligence matters, Duckworth argues, but follow-through and tenacity are just as, if not more, important.

BookImage_GritWith Gladwell-esque verve, Duckworth, a former management consultant at McKinsey who left the firm to teach seventh-grade math in a New York City public school, combines engaging stories with the latest research in her discipline, positive psychology, to explain why achievement should be understood more as a function of continuous effort rather than natural ability, all the while maintaining the reader-friendly language and cadence of pop science.

Duckworth's big idea is based on her graduate work, which she distills into two equations: talent x effort = skill and skill x effort = achievement. "Talent is how quickly your skills improve when you invest effort," she writes. "Achievement is what happens when you take your acquired skills and use them." While she acknowledges that her framework overlooks the role of luck and opportunities provided by nurturing relationships, be it a coach, parent, or mentor, her point is straightforward: concentrated long-term effort is a key ingredient in achieving any goal. "With effort, talent becomes skill and, at the very same time, effort makes skill productive."

So what is grit? Using stories from the NFL, journalism, Wall Street, and even cartooning, Duckworth argues that grit isn't just about working incredibly hard (although that's important); it's about "working on something you care about so much that you're willing to stay loyal to it." Think you've got passion and perseverance? Duckworth includes a "Grit Scale" to help readers calculate just how gritty they are. If you don't score well, despair not. You can change, she says — "grittiness" can be improved.

The "life-organizing goal" that drives Duckworth's work is to "use psychological science to help kids thrive." Her core thesis is that grit can be developed "from the inside out" — through the discovery of a passion or purpose, dedicated hours of practice, and the belief that our efforts will help create a better future — as well as "from the outside in" — through supportive anddemanding parenting, immersion in enriching extracurricular activities, and exposure to a culture of excellence.

Of course, given that economic, educational, and cultural resources are not equitably distributed in society, there's an obvious flaw in Duckworth's promotion of "growing grit" as a solution to systemic educational challenges. And while she admits that social biases and structural impediments can deter even the grittiest students, she really doesn't have an answer as to how those challenges might be addressed.

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Design Vendors Are Destroying Nonprofit Organizations!

June 30, 2016

Stop_figureven·dor

/ˈvendər,ˈvenˌdôr’/

Noun

  • a person or company offering something for sale, especially a trader in the street.
  • a person or company whose principal product lines are office supplies and equipment.

Synonyms: retailer, seller, dealer, trader, purveyor, storekeeper, shopkeeper, merchant, salesperson, supplier, peddler, hawker; scalper, huckster, traffic

__________

Over the last sixteen years I've learned that if there's a word folks in the nonprofit community love to use to describe design firms, it's vendor. Maybe it's me, but every time I hear it used in conversation or read it in an RFP, the "V-word" is accompanied by the soothing sound of nails on a chalkboard. I don't believe I'm being thin-skinned here, but applying vendor to a design firm like Constructive is, well, a bit insulting.

"What's the big deal?" you might be thinking. "Why should I care?"

Both good questions. The short answer is that if you work for a nonprofit and are tasked with researching and choosing a design firm to lead your organization through a website redesign or other design project, using the word vendor is symptomatic of a bigger problem. It suggests a mindset that misunderstands what design is. That shortchanges the value of good design and the value a social change organization can get from working with a design firm. And that damages the kind of relationship any nonprofit would want to build when working with one.

Sounds serious! But if I'm overstating the case, I'm only overstating it slightly.

To understand what's so troubling about putting the "vendor" label on design firms, it's helpful to deconstruct the term itself. Take a look again at the definition of vendor and its synonyms at the top of this article. Pretty uninspiring, right? By definition, a vendor doesn't provide insight or strategic value. Vendors have customers, not clients. (Does any nonprofit really want to be treated by their design firm as a "customer"?!). At best, they are trying to sell you something — usually a commoditized product or service. At worst, the thing they are trying to sell you is a lemon.

Would anyone in their right mind want a vendor to do something for them as important as design?! Well, it depends on how you view design.

So why is vendor used so frequently in the nonprofit sector to describe the design firms that play such a critical role in translating organizational strategy into tangible experiences? I don't believe it’s because anyone is intentionally minimizing the value that design firms bring to the table. (If anything, the case for strategic communications in the sector is on the rise.) To me, it's a subtle sign of a more widespread misunderstanding that can lead to missed opportunity — one that's often exacerbated by design firms themselves and the organizations that hire them.

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5 Questions for...Debra Mesch, Director, Women’s Philanthropy Institute, IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy

June 28, 2016

The road to equality for women in the United States has been long and winding. Women only gained the right to vote in 1920 with the passage of the 19th amendment and were not legally protected from discrimination in employment based on their sex until passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Progress on the equal rights front accelerated in the 1970s and 1980s with, among other things, passage of Title IX of the Education Amendments in 1972; the appointment of Sandra Day O’Connor to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1981; and the nomination of Geraldine Ferraro as the first woman vice presidential candidate of a major party in 1984. Other "firsts" soon followed.

Today, women occupy positions of leadership in every field of endeavor and have more opportunity than at any point in history. And they are gaining a higher share of the world's wealth: new data released earlier this month reveals that women now control 30 percent of global wealth (a number that is expected to rise) and that their wealth is growing at a faster rate than overall global wealth rates. Moreover, while the gender pay gap persists, women are using their increased financial and political clout to support causes and influence societal change as never before.

Recently, PND spoke with Debra Mesch, Eileen Lamb O'Gara Chair in Women’s Philanthropy and director of the Women's Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, about WPI's research and what it tells us about the differences in the way men and women give and how those differences translate into philanthropic practice. With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the institute released its latest report, Giving to Women and Girls: Who Gives, and Why (52 pages, PDF), in May.

Headshot_debra_meschPhilanthropy News Digest: WPI's research focuses on gender differences in giving. Why is this a good moment to examine that topic?

Debra Mesch: Well, for starters, because we have seen women’s roles change dramatically over the last fifty years or so. And those changes suggest there’s huge potential for women to play a bigger role in philanthropy. Look at the key variables that affect philanthropy — income, wealth, and education.  Those are the strongest predictors of philanthropic giving. And today we see that women have more of all three:  they're more educated, they are out-earning their husbands in some cases and their wealth is increasing, and they are making more of the financial decisions in their households.  So we're seeing these new household configurations where women are increasing their potential to engage in philanthropy. And these changes, with women earning more and inheriting wealth of their own, either from their parents or because they outlive their husbands, mean that women, as a group, are going to be in control of a huge amount of money, some of which will be available for philanthropic causes. 

We also see that women engage in philanthropy in a different way than men do, and it's important to understand those differences. In the past, the traditional nonprofit model for engaging donors was very male-centered. I'm not saying there's something wrong with that, I'm just making the point that men and women are different and engage in philanthropy differently.  That's why we're at a tipping point. We're seeing women like Melinda Gates, Priscilla Chan, and others, very prominent women, finding their own philanthropic voice. In fact, Melinda Gates, who is very focused on women's and girls' issues, is an important funder of our research, and while the Women's Philanthropy Institute isn't focused on women and girls per se, we are trying to understand gender differences in giving across all types of philanthropic organizations and how the voices of individual women are having an impact on the field.

PND: If gender is a social construct, and sex is about biology, what does your research tell you about how gender and sex influence the way women give?

DM: In general, we find that women are more empathetic and engage in more pro-social and altruistic behavior than men do. It goes back to social-role theory, which holds that men and women in a country like ours are born into very traditional roles that come with well-established expectations. Women in the U.S. — women in most countries — are socialized at an early age to take care of their families and children. Despite all the changes in other areas of women's lives, that really hasn't changed much. The latest data show that even when both the man and woman in a household are working full time, it's the woman who has more responsibility for taking care of her family and the needs of the household, and she spends significantly more time than her male partner doing so. As a result, we find that women engage in philanthropy differently and have different philanthropic motivations based on the role they've been socialized to play. At the institute, we like to say that women give from the heart while men give from the head. We find that women are not that interested in the tax implications of charitable giving; instead, they want to know that when they give, their gift will make a difference. Men, on the other hand, are much more willing to write the check and hand it over to an organization without worrying so much about what happens after it is cashed — unless, of course, it involves having their name attached to a building. That's another difference. Women don't care so much about having their name splashed on a building. Empathy for others is a very strong motivation for women when they give, whereas for men giving is often more about self-interest.

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Investing in Black Men and Boys Strengthens Our Cities

June 27, 2016

In the past few years, much of America has woken to a fact that African-American men and boys have known all along. All too often in our great nation, the promise of safe, healthy, and hopeful communities is not being realized for African-American men and boys.

Images_cities-unitedThe need to do something about that fact is urgent and must be addressed now. Recently, an important step in that direction took place in Birmingham, Alabama, where Cities United convened its third annual meeting. Cities United is a network of mayors from more than eighty-five cities who are committed to working together to develop innovative solutions and programs aimed at reducing violence and increasing opportunities for black men and boys across the country.

Using Martin Luther King, Jr.’s memorable phrase “The Fierce Urgency of Now” as its theme, the meeting brought together mayors, law enforcement officials, youth, relatives of victims, and community and philanthropic leaders to discuss ways to reduce violence in our communities and highlight promising approaches aimed at improving outcomes for African-American men and boys.

We know, all too well, that the leading cause of death for African-American men and boys between the ages of 10 and 24 is not accident or illness, but homicide. In fact, black males suffer homicide rates more than four times the rate of all other men and boys in the United States. And although African Americans comprise about 13 percent of the American population, they make up, by some estimates, more than 37 percent of the prison population.

These troubling statistics are the result of longstanding inequities, deeply entrenched poverty, and a failure to value and invest in black men and boys as contributing, productive members of society.

As leaders of cities and foundations, we know that government, business, communities, and the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors are key stakeholders in the success of this work and that we all have an important role to play in making all of our communities vibrant places of opportunity for African-American men and boys.

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Weekend Link Roundup (June 25-26, 2016)

June 26, 2016

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

Civil Society

The Huffington Post's Eleanor Goldberg shares this tidbit: During the last presidential election cycle in 2012, more Americans gave to charity (59.7 percent)  than voted (53.6 percent). What's more, the U.S. lags most of its OECD peers when it comes to voter turnout. According to Patrick M. Rooney, associate dean for academic affairs and research at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, that's because giving is seen as "more direct, more tangible,” whereas "there are lots of gaps between what any one politician promises and what he or she can deliver." 

Digital Divide

A study commissioned by the Wireless Broadband Alliance to mark World Wi-Fi Day (June 20) finds that nearly a quarter (23 percent) of the people in North America, which boasts the world's highest average monthly income, do not have a broadband connection.

Environment

On his Nonprofit Chronicles blog, Marc Gunther talks with Linda Greer, a senior scientist at the National Resources Defense Council, about how NGOs can pressure companies to change, why environmental nonprofits should not take money from corporations, and how NRDC is working Ma Jun, China’s best-known environmental leader, to bring about change on the environmental front in that country.

Immigration

"The Brexit vote," writes Dara Lind in Vox, "has proven that anti-immigrant anxiety is an incredibly powerful force: powerful enough to, in certain circumstances, ensure an electoral victory. But the thing about running on people's anxieties is that once you get into office, you have...to alleviate them." Otherwise, you're just another failed politician "who couldn’t keep [his/her] promises."

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Winning Marriage Equality

June 24, 2016

Marriage_equality_for_PhilanTopicOn June 26, 2015, history was made when the U.S. Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land. This victory for social justice would not have been achieved without the efforts of tenacious leaders and litigators, diverse LGBT organizations, straight allies, elected officials, celebrities, and, most importantly, hundreds of thousands of people toiling at the grassroots level. But a crucial, and largely unknown, force was also at work: the Civil Marriage Collaborative, a consortium of foundations that helped change hearts and minds — and moved the country toward marriage equality.

The Civil Marriage Collaborative (CMC) was created in 2004 at a time when there was strong backlash against the idea of gay marriage. Less than a year earlier, the Massachusetts high court had ruled that the state's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, a decision that prompted a media and political firestorm. President George W. Bush called for amending the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, and similar measures started making their way to the ballots in more than a dozen states. The LGBT movement was overwhelmed: it did not have the financial or operational capacity to mount the larger public education, policy advocacy, and litigation effort needed to deal with the onslaught.

A Vision to Win

That;s when a handful of foundations came together to create the CMC, which would work in tandem with Freedom to Marry, an organization founded in 2003 that would eventually become the engine of the marriage equality movement. Launched with a grant from the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, and led by Evan Wolfson, Freedom to Marry was based on a simple premise: Civil unions and domestic partnerships did not go far enough in removing obstacles for gays and lesbians in virtually every area of mainstream life. And by securing marriage equality, the LGBT community would gain rights in many other areas, such as in health care and the right to adoption.

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A Conversation With Steve Case: The 'Third Wave' and the Social Sector

June 23, 2016

Anyone of a certain age remembers when free America Online software — delivered on 3.5" floppy disks and then in CD form — seemed to arrive in the mailbox on an almost-daily basis. Although its genesis was in online gaming, the company soon evolved into an online services company and, by the early 1990s, was one of the leaders of the tech world, innovating and helping to build the infrastructure for the online world we know today. In the words of the company's co-founder and former chair, Steve Case, AOL was part of the "first wave" of innovation driven by the Internet.

By the early 2000s, a "second wave" of Internet-enabled innovation featuring apps and mobile phone technologies had sparked a new communications revolution, with companies such as Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook leading the way and birthing a new generation of billionaires. Even as this second wave was cresting, however, a third wave of innovation was forming in its wake. In his new book, The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur's Vision of the Future, Case lays out his vision of an emerging era in which almost every object is connected to the Internet and the network of all networks "stops belonging to Internet companies.…The entrepreneurs of this era are going to challenge the biggest industries in the world, and those that most affect our daily lives. They will reimagine our healthcare system and retool our education system. They will create products and services that make our food safer and our commute to work easier."

PND spoke with Case, who chairs the Case Foundation and, with his wife, Jean, is a signatory of the Giving Pledge, about what these changes mean for the social sector and how nonprofits, large and small, can partner with business and government to solve some of our most pressing challenges.

Headshot_steve_casePhilanthropy News Digest: What you have labeled the "third wave" of Internet-enabled innovation will affect many areas of interest to the social sector, including health and health care, education, and food and agriculture. Do you see this next wave of innovation as a boon for nonprofits and social entre­preneurs?

Steve Case: I think it can be. Obviously, there are different folks focusing on different things in different ways. And there will always be an important role for nonprofits to deal with issues that, frankly, only nonprofits can deal with. But some of the sectors you mentioned — health care and education, food, agriculture — I think there's a role there for entrepreneurs to build companies that can have an impact.

One of the big things I talked about in the book — and which the Case Foundation has been championing for years — is the importance of partnerships. Partnerships between startups and other organizations — whether it's other companies, nonprofits, or government — will become more important in the nonprofit sector generally and will have a significant and, I think, positive impact on some of the sub-sectors you mentioned.

PND: The Case Foundation has always emphasized the importance of working across sectors. How do you think the changes brought about by the third wave of Internet-enabled innovation will affect its own work?

SC: I think we'll continue on the path we've been on. We've been talking about some of the issues around cross-sector collaboration for the nearly twenty years the foundation has been around. In the last few years, we've focused on things like impact investing, inclusive entrepreneurship, leveling the playing field so every entrepreneur who has an idea has a shot, and we'll continue with those efforts and try to use all the levers available to us.

Jean [Case] has spent a lot of time on impact investing. Part of her focus is advocating for policy changes that actually free up and expand more impact investing capital. The kinds of things we're focused on at the foundation are very much in sync with the kinds of things I address in the book.

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Millennials and the Presidential Election Cycle: Does Cause Engagement Change in an Election Year?

June 21, 2016

Patriotic-thumbs-up-buttonFew things in the life of our nation serve to heighten awareness of particular social issues and causes more than a presidential election cycle. And given the historic (and boisterous) nature of this particular cycle, my research team and I wanted to understand how – if at all – millennials' philanthropic interests and engagement might change in response to the campaigns mounted by various major-party candidates, and whether these changes were influenced by demographic factors such as gender, age, and political ideology.

Our research has consistently shown that millennials value cause-related work and make a point of engaging with causes that align with their interests. At the same time, the research we've conducted to date in 2016 shows that millennials are more likely to passively engage with a cause – for example, signing a petition – than actively engage through volunteering, participating in a demonstration, or making a donation.

Indeed, although three out of four (76 percent) millennial respondents in the first phase of our study believe they can help to affect change on a social issue in which they're interested, only one out of two (50 percent) had volunteered for and/or donated to a cause aligned with an issue they care about in the past month. Our research also uncovered that, to date, slightly more than half had supported a community project (defined as any kind of cause work that addresses the shared concerns of members of a defined community) aligned with a cause they're interested in, while only one in three had participated in a demonstration (i.e., a rally, protest, boycott, or march) in the past month.

In contrast, two out of three millennial respondents indicated they had signed a petition related to an issue they care about in the past month.

Cause Engagement by Gender

When looking at cause engagement by gender, the first wave of our 2016 research (March to May 2016) found that male millennial respondents are more engaged in cause participation of all types (volunteering, donating, supporting community projects, participating in demonstrations, signing petitions) during this presidential election year than are female millennial respondents.

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[Review] Policy Patrons: Philanthropy, Education Reform, and the Politics of Influence

June 20, 2016

From the fight over Common Core and concerns about charter school expansion to the fallout from Mark Zuckerberg's $100 million gift to the public school district in Newark, New Jersey, the role of philanthropy in shaping education reform has been a topic of discussion for years. Indeed, foundation funding for education has nearly quadrupled over the last three decades, while major funders like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation have been routinely criticized for their top-down approach and outsize influence in advancing specific reform agendas.

Cover_policy_patronsWhat role, then, should foundations play in supporting education reform? In Policy Patrons: Philanthropy, Education Reform, and the Politics of Influence, Megan E. Tompkins-Stange, an assistant professor at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, explores the question by comparing the "outcome-oriented" models of Gates and Broad with the more traditional "field-oriented" approaches of foundations such as Ford and Kellogg. Based on archival material and extensive interviews conducted anonymously with foundation and grantee executives and staff as well as education experts, her book offers a nuanced look at how major education funders view their reform strategies — and how they are viewed by others.

Founded in 2000 and 1999 in Seattle and Los Angeles, respectively, the Gates and Broad foundations are the "new players" in the field of education philanthropy, which before their emergence on the scene had been the domain of East Coast institutions like the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Annenberg and Ford foundations. It was the latter's $500 million Annenberg Challenge, launched in 1993 and now widely viewed "as a failure due to its dilution of capital across too many school districts, resulting in a lack of concentrated impact," however, that really brought philanthropy's role in education reform to the fore. In contrast, Bill Gates and Eli Broad, who are closely identified with the rise of philanthrocapitalism in the mid-2000s, have focused their efforts on achieving "concrete outcomes that yield significant return on investment...initiatives that reflect market-based values, such as choice and competition." In their view, Tompkins-Stange writes, foundations "should act as effective, efficient problem solvers that can circumvent bureaucratic blockages and catalyze innovation."

In 2006, Gates, whose support earlier in the decade for the creation of "small schools" within large public schools had little impact, shifted his focus and that of his foundation from structural education reform efforts to systemic reform, with an emphasis on teacher effectiveness and state standards and assessments. According to a former staffer, the foundation had "a very explicit theory of action about working at the state level to create a policy environment that would be supportive of the kinds of changes that [Gates] wanted to make." At the federal level, Gates has supported both Common Core and the Obama administration's Race to the Top and Investing in Innovation (i3) initiatives. Between 2005 and 2010, the share of its education funding allocated to policy advocacy — which, according to a Gates official, enables the foundation "to get maximum leverage out of the program invest that we make" — quadrupled, to 20 percent annually ($78 million in 2009).

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Weekend Link Roundup (June 18-19, 2016)

June 19, 2016

Gettyimages-orlando-candlelight-vigilOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Communications/Marketing

Getting Attention! blogger Nancy Schwartz offers some good advice to nonprofit communications professionals about the right (and wrong) way to respond in the wake of the unthinkable.

Democracy

The editorial board of the Guardian captures perfectly why the public assassination of British MP Jo Comer by a right-wing extremist was such a cowardly, heinous act — and why it should be a wakeup call for everyone who cherishes decency, open debate, and a commitment to both democracy and humanity.

Education

How did a Montana-based foundation help boost the high school graduation rate in that state to its highest level in years? The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation's Mike Halligan explains.

Big data and analytics were supposed to "fix" education. That hasn't happened. Writing on the Washington Post's Answer Sheet blog, Pasi Sahlberg, a visiting professor of practice at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and author of the best-selling Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn About Educational Change in Finland?, and Jonathan Hasak, a Boston-based advocate for disconnected youth, explain why and look at something that actually could make a difference.

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Foundation Transparency: Game Over?

June 16, 2016

Data_unlockedThe tranquil world of America's foundations is about to be shaken, but if you read the Center for Effective Philanthropy's new study — Sharing What Matters, Foundation Transparency — you would never know it.

Don't get me wrong. That study, like everything CEP produces, is carefully researched, insightful, and thoroughly professional. But it misses the single biggest change in foundation transparency in decades: the release by the Internal Revenue Service of foundation 990-PF (and 990) tax returns as machine-readable open data.

Clara Miller, president of the Heron Foundation, writes eloquently in her manifesto Building a Foundation for the 21St Century: "the private foundation model was designed to be protective and separate, much like a terrarium."

Terrariums, of course, are highly "curated" environments over which their creators have complete control. To the extent that much of it consists of interviews with foundation leaders and reviews of their websites — as if transparency were a kind of optional endeavor in which foundations may choose to participate, if at all, and to what degree — the CEP study proves that point.

To be fair, CEP also interviewed the grantees of various foundations (sometimes referred to as "partners"), which helps convey the reality that foundations have stakeholders beyond their four walls. However, the terrarium metaphor is about to become far more relevant as the release of 990 tax returns as open data literally makes it possible for anyone to look right through those glass walls to the curated foundation world within.

What Is Open Data?

It is safe to say that most foundation leaders and a fair majority of their staff do not understand what open data really is. Open data is free, yes, but more importantly it is digital and machine-readable. This means it can be consumed in enormous volumes, at lightning speed, directly by computers.

Once consumed, open data can be tagged, sorted, indexed, and searched using statistical methods to make obvious comparisons while discovering previously undetected correlations. Anyone with a computer, some coding skills, and a hard drive or cloud storage can access open data. In today's world, a lot of people meet those requirements, and they are free to do whatever they please with your information once it is, as open data enthusiasts like to say, "in the wild."

Today, much government data is completely open. Go to data.gov or its equivalent in many countries around the world and see for yourself.

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LGBTQ Groups Call for Unity in Wake of Orlando Shooting

June 14, 2016

The following statement of unity was issued yesterday by more than 50+ major LGBTQ organizations and funders in response to the horrific mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. It is reprinted here with the permission of the Arcus Foundation and other signatories, and is available in the following languages:

العربية | Español Français

_________

We the undersigned organizations working on the front lines of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) movement share in the profound grief for those who were killed and many more who were wounded during Latin Night at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Their lives were lost or forever altered in this devastating act of violence targeting LGBTQ people. Our hearts go out to all the family and friends touched by this horrific act. We know their lives will never be the same again.

This national tragedy happened against the backdrop of anti-LGBTQ legislation sweeping this country and we must not forget that in this time of grief. Unity and an organized response in the face of hatred is what we owe the fallen and the grieving. Collective resolve across national, racial and political lines will be required to turn the tide against anti-LGBTQ violence. Our response to this horrific act, committed by one individual, will have a deep impact on Muslim communities in this country and around the world. We as an intersectional movement cannot allow anti-Muslim sentiment to be the focal point as it distracts from the larger issue, which is the epidemic of violence that LGBTQ people, including those in the Muslim community, are facing in this country.

The animus and violence toward LGBTQ people is not news to our community. It is our history, and it is our reality. In 1973, 32 LGBTQ people died in an arson fire at an LGBTQ Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans. More than forty years later, similar acts of anti-LGBTQ violence are commonplace. Crimes motivated by bias due to sexual orientation and gender identity were the second largest set of hate crimes documented by the FBI in 2015 (over 20 percent). Murders and violence against transgender people globally have taken more than 2,000 lives over the last nine years. Bias crimes against U.S. immigrant populations, which include significant numbers of LGBTQ people, have increased over the past decade as anti-immigrant rhetoric has escalated.

For those of us who carry multiple marginalized identities, the impact of this violence and discrimination has even more severe consequences. These intersectional identities and their ramifications are apparent at every level in the Orlando tragedy, which disproportionately affected Latino/a members of our communities, and has xenophobic consequences that threaten LGBTQ Muslims. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), there were 24 reports of hate violence related homicides in 2015, and 62% of those victims were LGBTQ people of color. Transgender and gender nonconforming people made up 67% of the homicides, the majority of whom were transgender women of color. The violence against transgender and gender nonconforming people has continued into 2016 with 13 reported individual homicides this year alone. NCAVP research on hate violence shows that LGBTQ people experience violence not only by strangers, but also in their everyday environments by employers, coworkers, landlords and neighbors. The Orlando shooting is simply an extreme instance of the kind of violence that LGBTQ people encounter every day.

As LGBTQ people who lived through the AIDS crisis, we know what it looks like and feels like to be scapegoated and isolated in the midst of a crisis that actually requires solidarity, empathy and collaboration from all quarters. We appeal to all in our movement and all who support us to band together in rejecting hatred and violence in all its shape shifting forms. Let us stand united as a diverse LGBTQ community of many faiths, races, ethnicities, nationalities and backgrounds.

Signed,

The Arcus Foundation
Believe Out Loud
BiNet USA
Bisexual Resource Center
Center for Black Equity, Inc.
CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers
The Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals
The Council for Global Equality
Courage Campaign
Equality Federation
Family Equality Council
Freedom for All Americans
Freedom to Work
GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)
Gay Men's Health Crisis
The Gill Foundation
GLAAD
GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality
GLSEN
Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network
The Harvey Milk Foundation
Human Rights Campaign
interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth
The Johnson Family Foundation
Lambda Legal
MAP
Marriage Equality USA
Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity
National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs
National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
National Black Justice Coalition
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Council of La Raza
National LGBTQ Task Force
National Minority Aids Council (NMAC)
National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance
The New York City Anti-Violence Project
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates
OutRight Action International
The Palette Fund
PFLAG National
Pride at Work
Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)
Southerners on New Ground (SONG)
SpeakOUT Boston
The T*Circle Collective
Tarab NYC
Transgender Education Network of Texas
Trans People of Color Coalition
Transgender Law Center
The Trevor Project
The Williams Institute

IssueLab at 10: The Technology and Art of Sharing Knowledge

June 13, 2016

Earlier this year, Foundation Center president Brad Smith noted that producing knowledge is one of the most important but least-developed sources of foundation influence.

Issuelab_splashI couldn't agree more. But as one of the staff responsible for managing the center’s IssueLab knowledge-sharing service, I can testify that it’s not because there's a lack of knowledge being produced by foundations. It's because too many of the evaluations, case studies, and reports produced by the sector never get shared or only reach a limited audience.

This week we are relaunching the IssueLab platform to address the problem head on. While the redesign has given us an opportunity to rework the platform's technology in a way that will enable us to more efficiently scale our efforts in the years to come, one of the most important things to come out of the process has been a much-needed reminder of how and why researchers, nonprofits, and funders use the site.

A New Approach to Synthesis

Consider the humble synthesis report. As an incredibly valuable but not yet widely adopted tool in the foundation toolbox, the synthesis report is an excellent example of what’s possible when foundations share — and apply — lessons learned from past projects.

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Weekend Link Roundup (June 11-12, 2016)

June 12, 2016

Enough is enoughAfter a couple of weeks off, we're back with our weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

In Forbes Co.Exist, Jessica Leber reports that the world's population is (very) slowly beginning to move away from coastlines increasingly threatened by sea-level rise.

Data

On the Forbes site, five nonprofit executives share their strategies for collecting and analyzing data in order to get the highest return on investment.

Education

Yes, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is avery big player in the education reform field, and, yes, it has experienced its fair share of failures. But, writes Education Post contributor Caroline Bermudez, the foundation really should get more credit for owning up to those failures and for its willingness to experiment and take risks.

Fundraising

What's the worst piece of advice for a professional fundraiser? How about "Find your voice" or "Be yourself," says Future Fundraising Now's Jeff Brooks. Why? Because "[g]ood fundraising is not a mirror that reflects your beliefs and excellence. It's a mirror that [should reflect] your donors' values and excellence."

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A Collaborative Investment to Build Shared Outcomes for Our Field

June 09, 2016

Generation-Now-Cover-232x300A couple of years ago, four foundations set out to find the answer to a critically important question: How do we measure the success of our Jewish teen engagement and education initiatives?

The question, while specific, also spoke to a real need. Our foundations recognized the importance of engaging the next generation of Jews in Jewish life as a way to ensure the vibrancy and longevity of our community. But there was a gap between what our community's teen initiatives accomplished and what our actual long-term goals were — and are.

To address this need, we came together to invest in a significant way in research on Jewish teens. The result is a new report, Generation Now: Understanding and Engaging Jewish Teens Today.

The research that informs the report was designed to identify a set of shared outcomes to be used across various programs when assessing Jewish teen education and engagement initiatives. Not only were we pleased with the clarity of that research, we were also pleased with the process. For example:

  • We found it very helpful to partner with a highly knowledgeable and trusted voice in the field — in this case, The Jewish Education Project's David Bryfman, who already had strong relationships with many of the parties involved in these efforts. Bryfman led the work in partnership with an experienced research team.
  • All parties involved — national and local funders, practitioners, and teens themselves —demonstrated a willingness to move away from old frameworks (both for teen programs and their evaluation) designed by adults to a new framework that takes into account the voices and interests of a new generation of teens.
  • We made sure the researchers conducted focus groups with teens and interviewed parents and practitioners. As a group, we then reviewed what was learned, proposed a set of outcomes, tested them with stakeholders, refined them based on that feedback, and then retested. We made sure that what we had developed through the process strongly reflected what we had heard from the teens themselves.
  • To help ensure that our efforts would lead to actual, positive change on the ground, toward the end of the process we brought in experts to "translate" the shared outcomes into draft survey questions for teens in communities across the country. The survey questions then went through an iterative review and refinement process with funders, practitioners, and teens.

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Mission-Driven Architecture

June 08, 2016

Womens-opportunity-centersIt's not unusual for architecture and engineering firms to work on a pro-bono basis or for a reduced fee on "mission-driven" projects. In such cases, firms often are willing to trade profit for the reward of doing work that is rewarding in other ways. Some firms also take on such projects because the work is likely to raise their profile and, down the road, benefit their bottom line. Most importantly, populations in need also benefit. Schools and clinics are built where there were none, local people are employed and taught marketable skills, and the project — if planned well and executed efficiently — gives a boost to the local economy that is felt long after the construction dust has settled and the architects and engineers have moved on.

That said, I believe communities in developing countries would be better served if my fellow professionals and their NGO partners approached many of these projects differently and incorporated, from the outset, new thinking about how they are budgeted.

In the traditional budgeting model, firms wait for an RFP to come in over the transom or for an organization to come calling with a project (and budget) in mind. The problem with that, more often than not, is that the budget is woefully inadequate: whether it's a school, a clinic, or some other piece of critical local infrastructure, it typically includes only enough for the "basics," with little or no thought given to the kinds of "nice-to-haves" that would enable the project to serve the community in a more sustainable way. Systems for recycled rainwater, thoughtful waste management, proper siting to take advantage of passive solar — all too often, such considerations are non-starters in the budgets we see.

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Building Nonprofit Sustainability Through Digital Apps

June 07, 2016

NPO-Mobile-AppsProduct-based income strategies are challenging for nonprofits because of the costs associated with inventory. Either your organization has to shell out significant capital to keep the products you hope to sell in stock, or you have to partner with a company that will manage the inventory for you. In most cases, the company will take a portion of your sales to cover their costs and turn a profit before turning over the remainder of the proceeds (if any) to you – in effect, turning your carefully cultivated army of volunteers into a second sales team working to boost its own P&L statement.

With a digital product like an app, on the other hand, a nonprofit bears the one-time cost of product development and then is able to sell the product in perpetuity – or what passes for perpetuity in the digital age -- without having to worry about costs associated with building and maintaining inventory. In the digital marketplace, once an app has been created, selling a hundred thousand copies doesn't cost you any more than selling ten thousand copies.

What's more, having an app on a supporter's mobile device creates a new channel through which you can communicate with that supporter as conveniently as you can with email but without the "noise" created by the hundreds of emails most of us receive on a daily basis. Push notifications that directly target users of an app can quickly mobilize your user base, alerting them to new petitions, challenge grant opportunities, and other kinds of events designed to deepen donor engagement. (Note: while nonprofits are allowed to make money from the sale of digital apps, they cannot collect donations through an app. If you want to use the app to generate donations, you need to get potential supporters to click a "Donate" button that sends them to a mobile-friendly Web page where the transaction can be completed.)

So how much does it cost to develop an app? In 2014, when the team at RedRover first hit on the idea of building a digital version of our RedRover Readers program, we didn't have a clue. And asking a developer how much it costs is like asking an architect how much a new house will cost – the answer can range anywhere from hundreds of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on what you want the app to do. The more complex the functionality, the more it's going to cost.

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  • "I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality...."

    — Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)

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