Weekend Link Roundup (January 13-14, 2018)

January 15, 2018

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

Climate Change

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

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

Education

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

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

Fundraising

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

International Affairs/Development

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

Philanthropy

In his latest, syndicated philanthropy columnist Bruce DeBoskey suggests that 2018 will be a "transformational" year for philanthropy and highlights six trends to watch for, including "trickle-down" philanthropy, the continued growth of giving circles, the "mainstreaming" of impact investing, and additional Trump-inspired giving.

"[W]e can build the giving infrastructure anyway we want to," writes Michele Fugiel Gartner, a PhD candidate at the Centre for the Study of Philanthropy and Public Good at the University of St, Andrews in Scotland, in The Conversation. "The challenge is that against a backdrop of financial and political inequality, it is difficult to imagine how philanthropy does not simply follow suit."

As previously announced, the Eugene and Agnes Meyer Foundation in Washington, D.C., will "begin to tackle the WHY — the root causes of the challenges so many in our region continue to face" in 2018. And as Karen Fitzgerald, the foundation's senior program director for program and community, and Julian Haynes, its Maryland program director, explain, that means "identifying and tackling racial inequity and the systems — institutions, policies, practices, and norms — that perpetuate those inequities. "

On the Glasspockets blog, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation's Kristy Tsadick and Heath Wickline explain the genesis of Hewlett's Open Licensing Toolkit, which is "structured to help the foundation's program staff decide to which grants the new rule applies, introduce open licensing to grantees, and help clarify what an open license on written works will mean for them."

Poverty

On his Nonprofit Chronicles blog, Marc Gunther profiles poverty-fighting organization Evidence Action, one of only sixteen organizations currently endorsed by GiveWell, the effective altruism-focused charity evaluator.

In Fast Company, Ciara Byrne looks at how Blue Ridge Labs @ Robin Hood, a tech incubator within the Robin Hood Foundation, New York City's largest poverty-fighting organization, "is turning some of the tech world's received wisdom [about poverty] upside down."

Social Media

On her blog, Beth Kanter shares some features and tips designed to help your nonprofit up its Twitter game in 2018.

And Nell Edgington is back from her break from social media, and in a post on her Social Velocity blog she shares what she leaned.

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

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

January 12, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

PND: The bill also doubled the estate tax exemption from $5 million to $10 million, indexed for inflation — a provision that, if nothing changes, is scheduled to expire in 2026. I’m thinking the impact of that provision on charitable giving is de minimus. Do you agree?

LK: I do. A $5 million estate is a good amount of money, and a $10 million estate is even nicer, but a lot of people who are in that category still would rather give their money to their children than to charity, and a doubling of the exemption isn't going to change people's behavior very much. Now, had Congress gone ahead and eliminated the tax entirely, as the House version of the bill proposed, I think we would have seen a profound effect on giving, in that it would have eliminated an important driver of charitable bequests.

PND: Are there other provisions in the bill that nonprofits and charities should know about?

LK: There are some big changes in the way unrelated business income is treated. In effect, what the legislation does is disallow the use of unrelated business income losses to offset gains from a different unrelated business activity. Organizations in the past would minimize their unrelated business income by netting the income and losses from one activity against those of another. For example, say you were a big nonprofit institution with a million dollars of advertising income, income that would have been taxed as unrelated business income, and you had an alternative investment in a partnership that generated big losses, say, a million dollars of losses. Under the old tax code, you could have offset the million dollars of losses against the million dollars of gain. But under the legislation signed into law recently, you will no longer be able to use your unrelated business losses to offset unrelated business gains from a different activity. Which means the million dollars of unrelated business income in the example I just gave will now be taxed, although at the new corporate rate of 21 percent.

What's interesting, though, is that the code retains the offset provision for regular C corporations, so exempt organizations might decide, if the amounts involved are large enough to justify it, to put their unrelated business activity income into a taxable subsidiary where gains from one activity can be used to offset losses from a different activity.

PND: What should individual nonprofit organizations be doing to prepare for these changes?

LK: Well, obviously, they need to review their budgets and see how much income they are raising in the form of charitable contributions, then try to project what kind of hit they can expect from the reduction in contributions from those who itemize and begin to take steps to make up the shortfall, whether that involves cutting expenses, or focusing more of their fundraising efforts on high-net-worth donors, or some other way. That's the first thing.

Second, if you have unrelated business activities that are losing money, you need to take a close business look at why those activities are generating losses and try to figure out how you can make the business profitable since you will not be able to use the losses to offset the gains from other unrelated activities.

And third — and this has to do with a provision in the bill I didn't mention but that could impact a lot of nonprofits — organizations need to see if they are providing free parking, other transportation benefits, and/or onsite athletic facilities to employees, because the new law provides that the costs associated with such fringe benefits will now be treated as unrelated business income.

There are other provisions that may affect them, as well. Maybe the best advice I can give is, talk to your accountant. And if you don't have one, get one.

— Mitch Nauffts

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

January 09, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Well, yes...and no. We fund hospitals and nonprofits to do those things, but we don't hold them accountable for results. A better approach, argues Bugg-Levine, is to "[o]rient programs and funding around outcomes." In such a system, "the flow of money falls in line with the deepest motivations and moral commitments of the people providing and using it. An outcomes-oriented system has the potential to spur productive innovation by enabling service providers and government agencies to mobilize flexible funding and focus on delivering services that produce lasting change. Orienting programs around outcomes compensates the hard-working service providers for the impact they have achieved instead of the paperwork they file, allowing them to prioritize the work and delivery of services overt short-term widget counting."

In his second contribution to the book, Bugg-Levine describes a "generation-long journey" that will require not just leadership but political will. And it may take longer than a generation to affect real change. In his essay, David Erickson traces the concept of investing in results to the creation of community development corporations in the 1960s. "The idea was to fund local corporations that were rooted in and rooting for local communities," Erickson writes. "CDCs were nonprofit but subject to market discipline in pursuit of better local social outcomes and a stronger local economy."

Fast forward fifty years: innovative communities are looking to finance efforts to advance community improvements and well-being — and earn a return on those investments. Such an approach inevitably leads to asking how success is defined. And if there is a common thread that connects nearly every essay in the book, it is the importance of planning and consensus to the success of any community development effort. But like the years of simulation and step-by-step experimentation that ultimately made it possible to put a man on the moon, the preparation involved in transitioning organizations and communities to an outcomes-oriented measurement system seems likely to take longer than it will to apply the lessons learned during the process.

In a sense, What Matters is a toolbox for the next generation of nonprofit and community leaders ready to pursue their own moonshots, detailing as it does more than a dozen prototypes that can be applied to the task ahead: impact investments, outcomes-based funding, prize philanthropy, social impact bonds, the impact security, outcomes rate cards, and so on. But outcomes-based impact investing is not a quick fix for what ails America’s neediest communities and populations. And it isn’t suitable for every social challenge we face. As Andrea Levere, quoting Roxane White, former CEO of Nurse-Family Partnership, and Tamar Bauer, chief policy and government affairs officer, says, "Pay for Success may be the most grueling growth strategy we will one day celebrate."

Indeed, there is very little evidence that tools such as social impact bonds are even scalable in their present form. The impact investing field is young, and experimentation is the order of the day. Still, while this edition of What Matters certainly feels comprehensive, it could easily be out of date and a testament to how quickly the world is changing within a couple of years. In the meantime, perhaps the best any of us can hope for is what GuideStar president and CEO Jacob Harold calls for in his essay: "[J]udge our success not by completed actions, but by completed change."

Matt Sinclair is the editor of Philanthropy News Digest. For more great reviews, visit the Off the Shelf section in PND.

Catalytic Philanthropic Capital Can Supercharge Affordable Housing Nonprofits

January 05, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nonprofit housing solutions

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

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

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

What is the solution? Capital.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 04, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts 2017

January 02, 2018

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

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

What have you read/watched/heard lately that got your attention, made you think, or charged you up? Feel free to share in the comments section below.

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

Weekend Link Roundup (December 30-31, 2017)

December 31, 2017

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

Giving

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

Inequality

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

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

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

Nonprofits

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

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Thoughts on ‘As the South Grows’

December 27, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 21, 2017

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

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

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

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A Perfect Storm for Nonprofits: Risk Engagement Is Critical

December 20, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

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Weekend Link Roundup (December 16-17, 2017)

December 17, 2017

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

Civil Society

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

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

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

Fundraising

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

Giving

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

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

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

December 16, 2017

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

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

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

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

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The Role of Philanthropy in Conflict Prevention: 15 Takeaways

December 15, 2017

Number15In early November, Foundation Center hosted an event with the Geneva Centre for Security Policy and the Donors and Foundations Networks in Europe (DAFNE) that drew more than forty-five people from ten countries to discuss the role of philanthropy in conflict prevention and resolution. The energy around the topic was palpable and there was no shortage of knowledge shared. Here are my top 15 takeaways from the meeting:

1. Less than 1 percent of philanthropic funding is going to peace and security. It's true; take a look at the data. Given the currency and the social and economic costs associated with conflicts worldwide, this is a worrying figure. According to former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, "The economic and financial cost of conflict and violence in 2014 has been estimated to be US$14.3 trillion, or 13.4 percent of the global economy." So why is this area of work underfunded? Is it because foundations are more risk averse than they like to believe?

2. Philanthropy has the ability to be adaptable, flexible, and take risks. It can play a research and development role in the field of peace and security, but it must respect that this work is high stakes and requires a great deal of flexibility; it is not philanthropy as usual and there are rules to be followed when operating in a sensitive environment. Funders must carefully consider relevant contextual and cultural information when funding and working in conflict-affected environments.

3. Without peaceful and secure communities, the climate, humanitarian, and development agendas will not be realized. Conflict, humanitarian disasters, and climate change are interlinked and their effects are unevenly distributed and primarily impact economically disadvantaged communities. These different agendas can’t be realized in isolation, and we won’t make progress without expanding our efforts to prevent and resolve conflict.

4. There are roles for both large and small funders. Some smaller funders feel that the situation is just too complex for them to get involved. However, increasing the availability of small, unrestricted grants can make a critical difference in conflict-affected environments, where the context is constantly shifting and flexible funding is key. Larger grants and long-term funding are also crucial to ensure the continuity and long-term relationships necessary for effective peacebuilding programs. Regardless of size, funders large or small, can support indigenous locally led efforts, provide core support, and commit to the long term.

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Now More Than Ever, Foundations Need to Step Up for Democracy

December 14, 2017

Vote_counts_830_0Even before agreeing on the final details of their tax bill, Republican leaders in Congress have made it clear they hope to address the national debt — the one their bill adds a trillion dollars to over the next ten years — by cutting vital safety net programs. Indeed, the dishonest Republican plan rewards the richest one percent of American taxpayers with over 60 percent of the proposed benefits of tax "reform" while people living in poverty or who depend on Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs will lose ground. Even the elderly and the sick, as well as those whose future well-being is tied to Social Security, are likely to be sacrificed on the altar of "deficit reduction."

What can charities and philanthropy do about it? Apparently nothing, judging from the feckless efforts to protect charitable giving and the integrity of the sector during the recent tax cut battle. It's reported that nonprofit "infrastructure groups" spent over $670,000 on lobbying activities in 2017 (through September) — with little in the way of results to show for it. Additional efforts — and expenditures — by individual charities and nonprofit coalitions likewise failed to derail the regressive policy changes championed by Republicans in Congress.

It doesn't have to be that way. Charities have created little opportunity for themselves to be heard on the tax bill, and it's unlikely their collective voice could affect anything but the proposed repeal of the Johnson Amendment — an action that, if not dropped from the final bill, would turn tax-exempt organizations into partisan political action groups. One hopes, however, that charities — and foundations — will learn from this depressing experience and act to better represent the public interest in the lead up to the 2018 midterm elections — and beyond.

For charities and foundations to succeed in this endeavor, three things need to change: (1) public policy issues must be seen for what they really are; (2) charities and foundations must work to invigorate enlightened grassroots participation in the democratic process; and (3) we, especially funders, need to overcome our arrogance and self-serving timidity and recognize that, regardless of organizational mission, we will not succeed as a sector if we don't also support efforts designed to strengthen civic engagement and democracy.

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Driving Innovation in Global Development: Why We Need Next-Generation Leaders

December 13, 2017

P1_Edible-InsectThe face of global development is changing. Shifting priorities, new organizations, new technologies — the landscape of the field is in flux. And in this era of sustainable development, a new generation of global leaders is poised to play a leading role in catalyzing change.

The Challenges Ahead

Despite decades of progress, the global community continues to grapple with urgent challenges such as poverty, malnutrition, and environmental degradation. Global trends such as urbanization, income inequality, climate change, and technological disruption increasingly are driving the scale and intensity of these challenges, forcing us to think differently and more collaboratively. The United Nations2030 Sustainable Development Agenda is emblematic of this changing landscape. The message is clear: business as usual is no longer an option.

In the area of global nutrition, these trends are already having a profound impact. Malnutrition remains one of the most pervasive challenges and is the leading underlying cause of child mortality worldwide. As the planet becomes more populated and prosperous, food production and consumption patterns are changing and stressing our fragile natural resources. With the global population on track to hit 9.8 billion people by 2050, the field of nutrition is ripe for innovation. The task at hand is significant, if not daunting: How do we sustainably meet the nutritional needs of a growing global population?

To address hard problems like these, we need to consider new approaches and sustainable solutions. The health and livelihoods of many vulnerable communities — and the planet we all share — depend on it.

Engaging Emerging Leaders

Harnessing the insights and talents of the next generation of global leaders will be critical to unlocking innovation for sustainable development. With an eye to the future, early-career professionals can help us examine problems in new ways, elevate diverse perspectives, and surface creative new ideas. We should not underestimate the value of the entrepreneurial energy that early-career professionals bring to the table. By questioning age-old assumptions and confronting problems with analytic, data-driven vigor, they can help us chip away at some of the barriers that have slowed our progress.

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Philanthropy in India Report Sparks Questions…and Opportunity

December 11, 2017

Sdgs-circleRecently, Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace, in association with Alliance magazine, Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support (WINGS), and the Centre for Social Impact and Philanthropy at Ashoka University, released a highly anticipated thought piece on the emerging philanthropic sector in India, one of the largest and most rapidly changing countries in the world.

The report, a working paper by Caroline Hartnell titled Philanthropy in India, draws on interviews with key local actors to inform us about the varying types of philanthropy, illustrate some of the current challenges and opportunities, and throw light on the history of and approaches to philanthropy in India. The report does not purport to answer all questions or predict trends, nor does it present hard numbers on giving or impact, but it does start to give an intelligible and exciting glimpse into the complexities and highly varied contexts in which philanthropy operates in a country as multifaceted as India. But because the report, understandably, offers only a partial view into Indian philanthropy, it raises as many questions as it answers.

Giving by the middle class in India is rising rapidly — this is one important insight offered by Hartnell's paper, as it may be the most significant trend in Indian philanthropy. Other findings — such as the lack of donor education about local contexts and the constantly competing interests of local and international NGOs — are more troubling but equally important, in that we see these issues over and over worldwide without doing anything to change our collective approach. And still other findings, such as that almost 33 percent of the Indian population live below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day while around 69 percent live on less than $2 a day, provide a strong call to action for philanthropy to respond to.

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5 Questions for…Vanessa Daniel, Founder and Executive Director, Groundswell Fund

December 07, 2017


Groundswell Fund
 is the largest funder of the reproductive justice movement in the United States. In addition to its CatalystRapid Response, and Birth Justice funds, the organization created the Liberation Fund in the wake of the 2016 elections to support effective grassroots organizing efforts led by women and transgender people of color across the social justice sector. A joint project of the Groundswell Fund and the newly created 501(c)(4) Groundswell Action Fund, the Liberation Fund will announce inaugural grants next week to grassroots organizations selected with the help of women leaders of color, including Alicia Garza, Ai-Jen Poo, Mary Hooks, and Linda Sarsour. 

PND spoke with Vanessa Daniel, founder and executive director of the fund, about intersectionality in the context of reproductive justice and racial equity and her hopes for the Liberation Fund. Before founding the fund in 2010, Daniel worked in grassroots organizing, advocacy, and grantmaking at the Tides FoundationSEIU, the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, and what is now Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation.

Philanthropy News Digest: You founded Groundswell Fund after working to advance LGBTQ rights as well as economic and environmental justice at various organizations. Why did you decide to focus on reproductive justice for women of color, low-income women, and transgender people?

Heashot_vanessa_danielVanessa Daniel: When I first learned about the reproductive justice (RJ) movement in 2005, I had been working in various social justice movements for ten years. The RJ movement had been founded a decade earlier by a group of black women and was on its way to becoming the largest force in the country in terms of engaging a multiracial base of women of color, low-income women, and LGBT people on reproductive issues and as grassroots organizers and activists. I was a young, twenty-something, queer, biracial woman of color from a working-class immigrant family on one side and raised by a second-wave white feminist single mother on the other.

I had, like many women of color, experienced what I lovingly refer to as a lot of bad "movement dates." Have you ever been on a date with someone who orders for you without asking what you want? Or people who talk about themselves the whole time without asking how your day was? Well, you can have the equivalent of that date with a social justice movement. It's not true for every organization, but for example, you have a lot of labor unions that invite women to the table but don't want to talk about reproductive issues, even though these issues are important to women. You have many immigrant rights groups that don't want to talk about LGBT rights, even though there are lots of LGBT people in the immigrant communities they are organizing. You have way too many white feminist organizations inviting women of color to the table and then not talking about race, even though racism is literally killing us. The reproductive justice movement was, quite simply, the best movement date I ever had, because it was the first time I had encountered a movement that didn't require me to leave any piece of myself or anyone I loved at the door in order to enter. I could be whole.

And here's why. There are three hallmarks of RJ: First, it's multi-issue. That means it says to people, yes, we are standing with you on the right to access abortion and contraception, but we are also standing with you to stop environmental pollution that is harming reproductive health; to stop mass incarceration and immigration detention and deportation that continues an ugly legacy of breaking up families of color that dates back to slavery and mission schools and immigration exclusion acts; to expand comprehensive sex ed in the public schools along with non-stigmatizing supports for young parents that don't shame and shut them out of their education; to expand access to birthing options like midwifery that are finally shifting racial disparities that have left black women four times more likely to die as a result of childbirth than white women in this country; to fight for LGBT rights. It's a holistic movement.

Second, it centers grassroots organizing as a strategy. It doesn't believe major social change trickles down from large organizations sitting "inside the beltway"; it believes it surges up from cities and states, from ordinary people holding their elected officials accountable in their home districts.

Third, it is a multiracial movement with significant leadership from women of color working alongside white women who are able to consider things through a racial justice lens. It is tactically impossible to move the needle on most social justice issues today without the leadership and engagement of communities of color, which, polls show us, vote in a more progressive direction down ballot on nearly every issue progressives care about.

The RJ movement exemplifies what it means to build a movement with the backbone to leave no one behind. And that, I believe, is the kind of movement that all social justice activists should be looking to build. RJ is shining a light on the path the larger progressive movement needs to walk in order to be successful.

PND: It's estimated that African-American women in the United States are three to four times more likely to die of childbirth-related complications than their white counterparts, while the infant mortality rate for babies of African-American mothers is more than twice that of babies of white mothers. What's behind these racial disparities?

VD: The data has perplexed many scientists, in part because when they control for education levels, economic status, diet and behavior, and other factors, the disparities still show up in the data. This means that middle-class, college-educated black women who take excellent care of their health are still dying at higher rates than low-income white women without a high school diploma. How does one explain that? There is a growing number of scientists, including epidemiologists who believe that racism itself is a major factor in these disparities. First, the racism and implicit bias of many medical practitioners often leads them to provide substandard care to women of color. Many studies back this up; one recent study, for example, shows that people of color, including children of color, are given significantly less pain medication than are white people.

Second, and very importantly, scientists are pointing to the impact that racism, experienced on a daily basis by people of color, has on the body. The midwifery and doula models of care we support are often run by women of color or by a multiracial staff that provides high-quality, culturally competent care. Our grantee Sacred Heart Birthplace in Espanola, New Mexico, has a 2 percent cesarean section rate, compared with a state average of 24 percent, and a 92 percent breastfeeding rate at six months post-delivery, compared with a state average of 26 percent. In Florida, our grantee Common Sense Childbirth has achieved a 0 percent preterm birth rate among black women, compared with the state average of 14.2 percent.

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There’s More Than One Needle in This Haystack: The 100&Change Solutions Bank

December 05, 2017

100Change-logo_padded15Earlier today, Foundation Center launched something new and still unusual in the field of philanthropy: a site that provides access to nearly nineteen hundred proposals submitted to a foundation by organizations with ideas for solving some of society's most pressing challenges. The site, the 100&Change Solutions Bank, features submissions to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's 100&Change competition, which the foundation launched in June 2016 and which will soon announce a winner. Recognizing that it had received many more viable ideas worth funding, the foundation decided to partner with Foundation Center to bring greater visibility to those ideas, with three goals in mind: to drive investment in proposals that merit it; to facilitate collaboration and learning between organizations working on similar problems; and to inspire funders and organizations working for change to do things differently.

Invest

The 100&Change competition will end with a single winner being awarded a $100 million grant. But the competition itself generated a great many solutions worth investing in — and the number of inquiries fielded by MacArthur staff suggests that other funders know this. Rather than force 100&Change applicants to spend more time tailoring their proposals to meet the requirements of their own application processes, funders should take advantage of the work MacArthur has done to surface good ideas in a variety of fields. With the launch of the 100&Change Solutions Bank, funders now have a lot to gain by spending just a few minutes exploring the proposals they’ll find there.

Collaborate

Whether it's a big, global challenge like climate change or a local (yet widespread) problem like homelessness, there is more than one organization working on a solution. This diversity of actors represents a golden opportunity to learn from others' approaches — even when they are implemented in a different context — and, potentially, to collaborate. Yes, this type of learning does happen through existing networks, listservs, and working groups. But what the Solutions Bank offers is the chance to learn from organizations you may not have a connection to.

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[Review] 'The Unfinished Social Entrepreneur'

December 04, 2017

Social entrepreneur. A once-niche label for a great many people who toiled as environmentalists, civil rights activists, and suffrage fighters before any of those was a "cool" thing to be. It's also the focus of The Unfin sh d Social Entrepreneur — as the book's cover cleverly renders it — by Jonathan C. Lewis, a life-long social justice activist and accomplished social entrepreneur who has founded two socially focused enterprises, MCE Social Capital and Opportunity Collaboration; co-founded another, Copia Global; and currently serves as a trustee for the Swift Foundation, which was founded by UPS heir John Swift in 1992 with a mission to enhance the well-being of people and the environment.

Book_unfinished_social_entrepreneurIntended as a guide for current and would-be social entrepreneurs, the book outlines twenty-one themes that Lewis believes are essential values for anyone thinking about jumping into, or currently working in, the social entrepreneurship space. In short (five to ten page) chapters, Lewis uses each theme as a lens through which to explore the mindset required to be truly successful in the world of social justice, whether it's founding your own social enterprise or joining someone else's cause.

He begins with a chapter on "Justice," describing how he dropped out of college to work as a legislative aide for Nicholas C. Petris, a California state senator representing the 11th district (consisting of portions of Alameda, Contra Costa, San Joaquin, and Santa Clara counties) from 1966 to 1976 and the 9th district (encompassing most of the East Bay area) from 1976 until he was termed out in 1996. Petris's "clear sense of right and wrong; his bold embrace of new and controversial ideas; his courageous use of power; his principled instinct to fight alongside those without privilege or advantage" are, writes Lewis, "the very soul of the social entrepreneur." Lewis then weaves his personal story through chapters titled "Starting," "Passion," "Rescued," "Connection," "Failure," and "Misgivings," walking readers through the twists and turns of his journey, with each chapter highlighting a lesson learned and/or core value to be absorbed and put into practice by would-be social entrepreneurs among his readers. Taken together, they are values that — if we remain cognizant of them in our day-to-day lives, writes Lewis — will help us be better, more compassionate, and empathetic, both as human beings and as professionals.

For example, in the chapter on "Listenership," Lewis shares a moment in which he learned the value of listening "authentically," of paying attention to both verbal and non-verbal cues, and of pushing our understanding beyond the limitations of our individual frames of reference. "Listenership means hearing others: the Others who have come before us, the Others who walk alongside us, the Others who are marginalized," he writes. "Listenership is social entrepreneurship....Social entrepreneurship valorizes the listening skill because it's so fundamental, so vital, to achieving social impact." 

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Weekend Link Roundup (December 2-3, 2017)

December 03, 2017

Local-food-and-wine-roasted-chestnutsOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Aging

According to Claire Petersky, executive director of the Wallingford Community Senior Center in Seattle, "Only 4 percent of us end up in nursing homes, and that number is dropping. Dementia? The vast majority of us, 90 percent, have our marbles when we die, and the numbers who die with dementia is also dropping. Depression? Turns out, we are happiest at the beginnings and ends of our lives. It's called the U Curve of Happiness." Petersky's colleague, Nonprofit AF blogger Vu Le, explains why we all need to change the way we think about older adults.

Climate Change

The California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), the largest public pension fund, in the U.S., has announced an equity investment in two large wind farms, the Caney River facility in Elk County, Kansas, and the Rocky Ridge facility in Kiowa and Washita counties, Oklahoma.

An NPR analysis of grants awarded by the National Science Foundation found a steady decline in the number with the phrase "climate change" in the title or summary — a change in language that "appears to be driven in part by the Trump administration's open hostility to the topic of climate change." Rebecca Hersher reports for NPR.

Disaster Relief

Mother Jones editor Kanyakrit Vongkiatkajorn shares some good advice for those who want to help in the wake of a natural disaster.

Giving

If you haven't heard, this year's #GivingTuesday campaign (the sixth annual) was a huge success, raising more than $274 million for nonprofits working in the U.S. and around the world. Congrats to all who gave and participated!

Felix Salmon, host and editor of the Cause & Effect blog, had charitable giving on his mind this week, posting a piece on Tuesday about why it's okay if the charitable sector shrinks a little as a result of the Republican tax bills working their way through Congress ("[A] a lot of very rich people are going to see their taxes cut, and at the margin, the less you pay in taxes, the less incentive you have to try to avoid them through mechanisms like charitable giving") and following that up with a piece on Thursday that addresses the question: How do you get people to donate less money to less-effective charities, and more money to more-effective charities.

According to Network for Good, 29 percent of all online giving happens in December and 11 percent happens in the last three days of the month. Which is why you'll want to spend a few minutes with these "essential" fundraising resources compiled by Brady Josephson.

It's not exactly news anymore, but Tennessean.com business columnist Jennifer Pagliara has some good advice for those who are looking to reach out to to today’s digitally savvy contributors — millennial or otherwise.

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Joint Letter of Opposition to the Senate Tax Reform Bill

December 01, 2017

On Wednesday, the leaders of three D.C.-based nonprofit intermediary organizations — Vikki Spruill, president and CEO of the Council on Foundations; Tim Delaney; president and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits; and Dan Cardinali, president and CEO of Independent Sector — released a letter to lawmakers on Capitol Hill stating their joint opposition to the tax bill that is rapidly moving toward a vote in the U.S. Senate. You can read the full text of the letter below, and learn more about the organizations' policy-focused advocacy efforts here, here, and here.

___________

Dear Senators,

The charitable nonprofit and foundation communities stand united in opposition to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and, in the strongest possible terms, urge a "NO" vote on the bill. The current legislation damages the civic infrastructure upon which our communities depend, and hurts the people that we serve.

We collectively represent tens of thousands of charitable and philanthropic organizations that employ millions of individuals in every state, engage tens of millions of additional individuals who serve as board members and other volunteers, and touch the lives of virtually every American every day. For 100 years, federal tax policy has incentivized this giving spirit and empowered this crucial work. Our overriding concern, and that of our member organizations, is the impact of both versions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on the people and communities we serve. On the basis of securing a sound future, maintaining our ability to serve as dedicated problem solvers in our communities, and the ability of the sector to secure resources to perform necessary work, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is fatally flawed.

The goal of simplifying the tax code and making it easier for Americans to file their taxes is admirable, but the collateral damage this simplification would cause is too great a cost. According to Republican estimates, nearly doubling the standard deduction would result in only five percent of taxpayers itemizing their tax deductions — placing the charitable deduction out of the reach for 95 percent of taxpayers. As a result, experts calculate that the absence of this powerful incentive for such a vast majority of taxpayers would reduce giving by $13 – $20 billion every year. It is regrettable that neither chamber has recognized the simple solution to this issue: a universal charitable deduction that would extend an incentive to give to all taxpayers, not just the very few who would itemize.

A decrease in giving of this scale would force charitable nonprofits to make significant cuts to their operations — meaning that millions of people will no longer have access to the services that nonprofits are currently able to offer. Economists also estimate a loss of 220,000 to 264,000 jobs in the nonprofit sector as a result of the cuts that will be necessary for many charities to keep their doors open. A bill that is designed to create jobs shouldn't be taking away the jobs of almost a quarter of a million Americans who are trying to help others.

While we were encouraged to see that the Senate bill does not contain the same provision that was buried in the House bill to repeal the so-called "Johnson Amendment,” we continue to hear that this provision may be offered as an amendment to the Senate version, or could survive in the bill post-conference. This provision alone is independent grounds for the entire tax package to be rejected. More than 5,500 nonprofits and foundations, more than 4,200 faith leaders, more than 100 religious and denominational organizations, the state law enforcement officials who focus on regulating nonprofits,  89 percent of Evangelical pastors, and 79 percent of the American public have expressed steadfast support for the law that has been in place for more than 60 years. The nonprofit and foundation communities strenuously oppose the addition of corrosive partisanship to our sector. The proposal to take this important protection away is an affront to organizations that are dedicated to improving our communities through nonpartisan engagement. Current law doesn't cost anything, but the unwanted change would cost taxpayers billions of dollars, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Our three organizations stand ready to work with Congress on future legislation to improve our communities and strengthen civil society through the tax code. However, for the reasons stated above and many more that affect the people in communities across this country that rely on our services, we must urge each of you to vote "NO" on the tax bill before the Senate.

Respectfully,

Vikki Spruill
President and CEO
Council on Foundations

Tim Delaney
President and CEO
National Council of Nonprofits

Dan Cardinali
President and CEO
Independent Sector

Building a Better World Through Design: Protothon and EY

November 29, 2017

Keep calm and get hackingRecently, more than eighty design-oriented and engineering students from ten different universities as well as professionals from across New York City spent fifteen hours over two days at the NYU Media and Gaming Network (MAGNET) facilities in Brooklyn for the first-ever "Prototyping Hackathon" (ProtothonTM). Sponsored by Ernst & Young LLP (EY), the theme of the inaugural Protothon was disaster relief.

In the U.S. alone, the first nine months of 2017 brought fifteen disasters claiming a total of 323 American lives and costing $1 billion or more each. These figures do not include the devastation Mexico suffered from a recent earthquake and the extensive damage storms have inflicted across Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In the aftermath of major disasters like the ones we saw in 2017, nonprofit organizations, companies, and individuals are eager to extend a helping hand, either by donating money in support of relief and recovery efforts or by applying their core competencies to the situation in innovative ways.  

"Design can save lives," said Domenick Propati, founder of Protothon and an NYU professor. "This Protothon will showcase that premise as teams develop impactful and actionable solutions that can be carried forward to help those impacted by natural disasters."

Participating students sat in on a panel with three people who have worked in different aspects of disaster relief and recovery efforts, attended a UX design workshop, and then broke into teams and spent ten intense hours working to develop innovative and sustainable solutions that addressed one of the many disaster-related challenges voiced by the panel. While the final presentations featured prototypes of the solutions, they all had seen numerous iterations and improvements throughout the day — with feedback from experts in design, disaster relief, and solutions development.

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[Review] 'Engine of Impact: Essentials of Strategic Leadership in the Nonprofit Sector'

November 28, 2017

The nonprofit sector has never faced more difficult challenges — or had the potential to create greater impact — than it does today, argue William F. Meehan III, director emeritus of McKinsey & Company, and Kim Starkey Jonker, president and CEO of King Philanthropies, in their new book, Engine of Impact: Essentials of Strategic Leadership in the Nonprofit Sector. But for nonprofits — by 2025 projected to need up to $300 billion more annually beyond currently expected revenues in order to meet demand — to benefit from the largest intergenerational wealth transfer in U.S. history (an estimated $59 trillion expected to change hands between 2007 and 2061), they will have to "earn the right to expand [their] role and maximize [their] impact" in what Meehan and Jonker refer to as the coming "Impact Era."

Book_engine_of_impact_3dDrawing on a number of surveys, including the 2016 Stanford Survey on Leadership and Management in the Nonprofit Sector; a variety of Stanford Social Innovation Review articles, business and nonprofit management books, and Meehan's course on nonprofit leadership at the Stanford Graduate School of Business; and Jonker's experience overseeing the Henry R. Kravis Prize in Nonprofit LeadershipEngine of Impact outlines the challenges nonprofits currently face — lack of impact data, transparency, and sustainable operational support; donors' tendency to give impulsively to well-known organizations rather than high-impact ones; ineffective boards — and then explores a number of tools that nonprofits can use to address those challenges. They do not include venture philanthropy or impact investments, which Meehan and Jonker, somewhat "controversially," are skeptical of. Instead, they urge nonprofits to embrace the "essentials of strategic leadership" — mission, strategy, impact evaluation, insight and courage, funding, talent/organization, and board governance — which, when brought together thoughtfully and intentionally, create an engine of impact that drives organizational success.

Quoting liberally from business management expert Peter Drucker, Ashoka founder Bill Drayton (an early mentor of Meehan's), Good to Great author Jim Collins, and other luminaries, the authors illustrate each component of strategic leadership with concrete examples often drawn from the work of Kravis Prize winners such as the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), BRACLandesa, and Helen Keller International. And while they concede that some of them may be obvious, they are quick to note, based on survey results, that they are not all well understood or effectively implemented.

They emphasize, for example, the importance of a well-crafted mission statement, and caution organizations against mission creep, even if avoiding the latter means saying no to a new funding source. Indeed, saying "no" seems to be a critical part of strategic leadership, in that the urgent need to achieve maximum impact in a time of enormous challenges and limited resources is too important for nonprofit leaders to be distracted by non-mission-aligned activities — or by debates over semantics (e.g., "theory of change" vs. "logic model"): "if you ever find yourself caught in a debate about these terms' usage," Meehan and Jonkers write, "we suggest you leave the room immediately. We do."

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Weekend Link Roundup (November 25-26, 2017)

November 26, 2017

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

Giving

In the Bangor Daily News, Chris Gates, former president of the National Civic League and executive director of Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement, argues that the House Republican plan to eliminate the estate tax "would hurt [the] country, and the people of Maine, in significant ways" — with charitable giving all but certain to be one of the biggest casualties.

Which state is the most generous? And which is the least? Mona Chalabi, data editor at the Guardian USand a columnist at New York magazine, has a state-by-state breakdown on the FiveThirtyEight site, for which she was previously a lead news writer.

Health

Here on PhilanTopic, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Karabi Acharya shares some of the ways the foundation scours the globe for ideas with the potential to improve health and health care in the U.S.

International Affairs/Development

Yemen is on the brink of a terrible famine. Amanda Erickson reports for the Washington Post.

"[W]ithout the ability to conduct accurate, timely, and robust progress measurement," efforts "to advance human health and development...and the SDGs have an unaddressed Achilles heel," writes Philip Setel on the Devex site. But there is a way forward, says Setel. Because of technological advancements in data collection and processing, and a landmark investment from Bloomberg Philanthropies and the government of Australia, "for the first time in history it may be possible to count every human life and make the invisible visible."

On his Nonprofit Chronicles blog, Marc Gunther reports on the efforts of Village Enterprises, a small NGO headquartered in San Carlos, California, to fight poverty in East Africa with something called results-based financing.

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

November 21, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

November 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

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Weekend Link Roundup (November 18-19, 2017)

November 19, 2017

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

Communications/Marketing

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

Disaster Relief

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

Giving

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

Gun Violence

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

Higher Education

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

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Endowments Look to Total-Return Approach Amid Low Rates

November 16, 2017

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

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

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

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The Worst Tax Reform That Money Can Buy

November 15, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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    — James Baldwin (1924-1987)

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