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Four Questions Every Nonprofit Marketer Should Ask

September 24, 2016

Hands_upMost nonprofit executives will tell you that the competition for funding has never been tougher. Donors have an overwhelming variety of causes to choose from, an abundance of guidance and advice to listen to, and not nearly enough time to sort it all out and make an informed decision. The question for nonprofits is: What can we do to break through the noise and build lasting and meaningful relationships with donors? 

Having worked with nonprofit marketing teams and executives for more than twenty years, I'm well acquainted with the lack of planning that pervades the sector. Nonprofits tend to jump right into the program execution phase without asking the most basic marketing and branding questions. And this lack of upfront planning often results in more than confusion; it can cost a nonprofit money.

With nonprofit marketers about to dig in for the all-important final quarter of the calendar year, here's a handful of questions you should be thinking about:

What's the opportunity cost of our organization not having a strong brand?

A strong brand is more than just a logo, color palette, or mnemonic device. Your brand should create an emotional connection in the hearts and minds of donors that grows stronger over time. Once donors understand the fundamentals of your organization's work and how it differs from other groups doing similar work, the investment in creating that connection will pay off in a variety of ways. Because of that connection, donors are more likely to support your organization by doing more than just giving money. They'll attend events and volunteer. And, more importantly, they're more likely to actively promote your organization's work and recruit other supporters to its cause.

Ask yourself the following: 

  • Is our organization well known in our segment?
  • Do donors understand our mission and the work we do?
  • Are donors easily able to explain our mission to others?
  • Are donors willing to promote our organization to others?

If the answer to any of these questions is anything other than "yes," you need to understand there may be real financial consequences for your organization. Before things reach that pass, suggest to your colleagues that it's time to revisit your messaging strategy and think about how your brand is connecting — or isn't — with supporters and potential supporters.

What's preventing our organization from building a stronger brand?

Marketing initiatives aren't always easily communicated within organizations. Often, there's confusion between the role of the marketing team and the role of the development team. And in cases where a marketing initiative needs to span chapters or affiliates, securing organization-wide buy-in can be next to impossible.

That's why it is important for marketing executives to understand that they have internal as well as external audiences. And that means an organization's own employees need to be cultivated as "brand ambassadors" and made to feel they have a voice and stake in campaign planning and development.

For example, prior to rolling out its "Someday Is Today" campaign, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society held meetings with its board of directors and all sixty local chapter executive directors with the goal of obtaining buy-in. Research findings and advertising strategies were shared and style guides were developed to facilitate local deployment and modification of the campaign. A testament to the success of the approach is the fact that the campaign is still up and running nearly four years later.

Do we have a well-defined fundraising strategy?

Nonprofits often set financial goals without much planning or rigor. As often as not, they'll simply look at the total amount of donations received, set new benchmarks for the coming year or campaign, and resort to the same outreach activities they've used in the past. In contrast, a well-planned fundraising strategy involves some forethought.

Think about how your organization is planning to reach its financial goals. Are you targeting new donors? A broader slice of the general public? If you're planning to court new donors, you'll need to profile these groups (demographically, behaviorally, and psychographically) and assign a financial value to each one. Once you've done that, you can prioritize how you're going to spend your fundraising dollars, mapping out a messaging and media strategy that takes into account the motivations and behaviors of your top-tier prospects.

When doing this, it's important to remember that each donor group has a unique profile and that members of one group are unlikely to think or act like the members of a different group. Some people give because the act of giving makes them feel good; others are research-oriented and want to see impact. Some are looking for an emotional connection to a cause or issue, while others just want to make the world a better place. Some will engage digitally, while others will insist on communicating only through analog channels. Combining the right messaging with smart targeting is the first step to successful donor engagement and a more effective use of your organization's resources than the old spray-and-pray approach.

Are we doing our best to drive growth?

Growing your donor base is not just about attracting new donors to your cause or issue; it's also about getting existing donors more deeply involved in your cause. Think about what you are currently doing to cultivate relationships with your existing donors. Are you being transparent with them? Do they know what your organization is doing with their money? Have you shared with them examples of the impact their support is creating?

Do not underestimate the importance of sharing information with your donors and encouraging them to share that information with others. One way to do that is through a well-thought-out Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program.

At Interplanetary, our experience has shown that charities that actively practice CRM and engage their supporters in an ongoing dialogue benefit from a deeper level of engagement, leading to both more frequent donations and a greater willingness on the part of donors to promote the organization to others. Recently, we developed a CRM program for a nonprofit client that delivered custom-tailored information to donors based on their profiles and interests and were gratified when the program not only generated new names for the organization's database but significantly increased the average donation amount and boosted the organization's overall campaign revenue.

Headshot_andy_semonsThe benefits of infusing your marketing and fundraising efforts with rigor cannot be overstated. Our experience with our nonprofit clients has shown that when a brand's targeting and messaging strategies are clearly defined and aligned, when colleagues are on board with the plan, and when a good CRM program is put in place, donation revenue can increase by as much as 50 percent in a year. And that's nothing to sneeze at.

Andy Semons is a founding partner and strategic planning partner at Interplanetary, a New York-based advertising agency that has worked with many nonprofits.

Building Police-Community Trust Through Reform

September 20, 2016

Building-TrustThis year, tensions between communities of color and law enforcement have escalated to new heights with a series of tragic incidents across our country. Too many communities have lost trust in police. And this gap in trust makes it even more difficult and dangerous for law enforcement officials to do their jobs.

Like you, we at the Irvine Foundation have been disturbed and deeply saddened by the growing violence and racial tensions. It is enormously painful to see the loss of life — the lives cut short in their interactions with police as well as of law enforcement officials who have become targets despite risking their lives to navigate tremendously difficult situations.

Long term, the goal of our grantmaking at Irvine is to ensure that all Californians — especially those working but struggling with poverty — have job opportunities and a voice on matters that impact their community. But for Californians to seize opportunity, fundamental prerequisites like community safety and trust in law enforcement must be in place. Sadly, strained police-community relations are a result of a festering, connected set of problems that have been ignored for too long.

Eager to find solutions, we reached out to foundation partners to learn what effective approaches could be expanded to build trust between law enforcement and communities of color. Since this is not Irvine's area of focus, we were fortunate to be able to tap the expertise of Tim Silard, president of the Rosenberg Foundation. He and his colleagues at the Rosenberg Foundation have done vital criminal justice reform work for years alongside grantees and other funders.

Resulting from those discussions, I am pleased to announce a joint funding effort that will include Irvine, Rosenberg, the California Endowment, the California Wellness Foundation, the San Francisco Foundation, the Weingart Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. In total, these foundations are committing more than $1.3 million to support the California expansion of initiatives led by PICO California, a statewide network of faith-based community organizations, to build trust between police and communities of color.

In partnership with local communities and other efforts across the state, PICO California will build on a program piloted in Oakland that is working to foster trust among law enforcement and communities of color through a shared commitment to reform. The "Building Trust Through Reform" program works to help local community leaders build police/community partnerships, including trainings of (and by) activists and officers on how to better listen, see others' perspectives, and maintain trust through interactions. You can read more about the effort here.

Rev. Ben McBride, deputy director of PICO California, has already seen strides in police-community relations through his work with the Oakland Police Department. "While there's much work to do, we've seen encouraging results from bringing together community members and law enforcement to increase trust and public safety through honest conversations about history, bias, community voice, and respect," says McBride. "As we work together to unlock long-term solutions that protect community members and the police officers who serve them, an ecosystem for trust is more accessible for everyone."

The new funds will allow PICO California to expand on these and other efforts in several regions of the state, specifically: Sacramento and Stockton; Richmond, Berkeley, and San Francisco; Fresno, Modesto, and Bakersfield; Los Angeles County; San Bernardino and Riverside; and San Diego. The expansion of the program will begin immediately and continue over the next two years.

We are grateful to our foundation partners who agreed to join us in funding this opportunity. We also know that many others care about these issues — and hope they'll also support PICO California and other efforts to bring peace-making, dialogue, and reconciliation to California communities.

Headshot_DonHoward_IrvineOver these past months, it has felt like there is no end in sight to the tragic violence in our communities. But I am heartened to know that our grantees, and so many other nonprofits and community leaders, are taking aim at the root causes — economic and political — that fuel division and despair. That work takes time. In the near term, I believe we can all find hope in the promising efforts of PICO California and others to help create safer communities for all of us.

Don Howard is president and CEO of the James Irvine Foundation. This post originally appeared on the foundation's blog.

Building Trust Through Reform

Building-TrustIf securing and sustaining community trust and inclusion is an integral part of protecting public safety, we are in trouble.

Today, the chasm between law enforcement and communities of color appears wider than ever. Over the last few years, we've seen incident after incident of police brutality, too often against unarmed men of color. No one should ever live in fear of violence at the hands of the very people who are sworn to protect and serve them. At the same time, officers who put their lives on the line for all of us increasingly feel like they are targets themselves.

Real transformation of our justice system will require all hands on deck — all of us working together over the long haul to make bold change possible. That is why we are deeply appreciative of Don Howard, president and CEO of the James Irvine Foundation, and our colleagues in philanthropy for responding to this pressing need by investing more than $1.3 million for the statewide expansion of an innovative model that builds trust — and reform — through police and community collaboration.

With this support, PICO California, a statewide network of five hundred faith-based community organizations, will work in partnership with communities across the state to expand its Building Trust Through Reform initiative. Piloted in Oakland, this effort brings together community members and law enforcement for frank dialogue about history, bias, community voice, and respect. Working together, community members and police officers are able to build trust and also craft real solutions for reform. For example, Oakland ended a twenty-year pattern of, on average, one officer-involved fatal shooting every six weeks (achieving a 23-month period with zero lethal officer-involved shootings), while reducing homicides by nearly 40 percent over two years and also reducing officer injury.

PICO's initiative is one of many important approaches that can help improve public safety by reforming our police and justice systems. At Rosenberg Foundation, we are clear that criminal justice reform is one of the leading racial justice and social justice issues of our time. Our out-of-control justice and policing systems have done real damage to our communities, especially communities of color and low-income communities, and to our local, state and federal coffers. We are optimistic that we can end decades of so-called "tough on crime" approaches to public safety and replace them with policies and investments proven to create real community safety.

Headshot_TimSilard_RosenbergPhilanthropy has a critical role to play in making sure we all live in safe and healthy communities. It is time for us to reimagine what it really takes to build a justice system that works for all of us.

Timothy P. Silard is president of the Rosenberg Foundation. This post originally appeared on the foundation's website.

Elder Justice Philanthropy Enters a New Age

September 19, 2016

My grandmother, Brooke Astor, was a role model and ahead of her time when it came to philanthropy. Well into her tenth decade of life, she was known as "New York's First Lady" and a "humanist aristocrat with a generous heart" who immersed herself in a form of engaged philanthropy decades before the practice was mainstream.

Headshot_brooke_astorAs president of the Vincent Astor Foundation from 1959 until she closed the foundation in 1997, she worked to advance the "quality of life" in her beloved New York City. But in 2006, at the age of 104, she unknowingly became an advocate for elder Americans, for "quality of life at the end of life." That year, after I learned she had been a victim of elder abuse perpetrated by her own son — my father — I sought her guardianship. However, the press discovered the contents of my guardianship petition, leading to lurid front-page headlines and the harsh spotlight of unwanted publicity. While my grandmother would never have wanted to be known as one of America's most famous victims of elder abuse, it may be one of her greatest and most lasting legacies.

I came to the cause of elder justice through my grandmother's sad personal circumstances. It was a situation that informed and touched me, firing my commitment to lend support to the cause and join with others to enact meaningful change.

When I first sought to assist my grandmother, I didn't know what resources were available to me, where I could turn for help, or how I could help those who had helped her. To say I found it confusing and overwhelming is an understatement.

In 2010, after a six-month criminal trial that ended in my father's conviction, I began to speak at events and conferences across the nation in what eventually turned into a multiyear listening tour. Over these last half dozen years, I have learned much from the professionals who do so much — for so many — often with so little. I have come to realize that elder abuse is a systemic problem that demands systems-based solutions.

It Takes a Village

Informed by my grandmother's work at the foundation — and having been involved in regional, national, and international organizations myself — I have come to see how philanthropy is defining and addressing elder justice and building support for the cause. But while the notion of "strength in numbers" isn't new in philanthropic circles, organizations are still feeling their way as they identify and pool resources from among human service organizations, the legal system, healthcare organizations, the financial industry, and, of course, concerned and committed individuals willing to give generously of their time and money.

Elder justice is a relatively young cause, and organizations that address awareness, advocacy, research, and practice must work together to build a stronger security net for vulnerable seniors while providing needed resources for family members and caregivers — seniors' circles of support. A key component of my commitment to the cause has been identifying individuals and organizations that already work to bring these elements, professions, and sectors together in a meaningful way.

One of those organizations is JASA, a New York City-based nonprofit agency founded in 1968 that, in the decades since, has created a powerful network of professionals and donors committed to addressing the problem of elder abuse. I was introduced to JASA in 2011 by my grandmother's court-appointed lawyer (who started her career as a social worker) and was impressed by its innovative Legal Social Work Elder Abuse Program (LEAP), which brings attorneys and social workers together to assist more than six hundred victims of abuse each year. In addition, hundreds of professionals, healthcare system gatekeepers, and community members are trained through JASA's Elder Abuse Training Institute, as well as its annual NYC Elder Abuse Conference and its neighborhood workshops.

Whether here in New York or in communities across the country, it is organizations like JASA that are doing the critical work of forging collaborations between community stakeholders and legal, financial, and healthcare professionals to address elder abuse in a comprehensive, holistic, and compassionate manner. It is my privilege today to be able to work closely with the wonderful people there to spread the word about elder abuse and help leverage the power of an organization that is delivering real, meaningful results for the vulnerable elderly.

Defining Need, Opportunity, and Success

Elder justice is in its infancy as compared to other realms that define our social, legal, and moral obligations. Elder justice can help complete, not compete with, other causes.

In its formative stage, elder justice demands a formative assessment. There are lessons to be learned from other social justice work (notably in child abuse and domestic violence). However, elder justice initiatives must be informed by, not conform to, these lessons, for elder justice has distinctive needs.

Through analytics, systems-based solutions will help address and assess need and opportunity, bridge critical gaps along the way, and forge connections between multiple — even seemingly disparate — professionals and community stakeholders.

This assessment must recognize that the philanthropic landscape today is much different than the environment that shaped older, more established causes, including that of the Vincent Astor Foundation. We should see this as a great opportunity to envision emergent elder justice through an entirely new philanthropic lens.

Before dying in 1959, Vincent Astor, my grandmother's husband, established the Vincent Astor Foundation for the "alleviation of human suffering." The model for the foundation he settled on was typical of the time: from 1948 to 1997, the $200 million awarded by the foundation in support of social and cultural causes was derived exclusively from the Astor fortune.

Early on, the foundation focused on providing seed money to projects, with the foundation's due diligence acting as a "seal of approval" and a catalyst for investments by others. In the world of philanthropy, this was a traditional exchange, starting with a nonprofit applicant asserting need and identifying an opportunity and, on completion of the proposed work, internally assessing its efforts and self-reporting the outcomes. This twentieth-century philanthropy promoted a siloed, "self-serving" approach, with nonprofits pitted against each other having to substantiate the merit of their individual work.

Much has changed in the decades since in terms of both measurement, means, and results. Today, more than ever, measurement is a mission-critical tool that funders from both the public and private sectors require, resulting in a more rigorous and transparent accounting of need, performance, and outcomes — and potential for lessons learned to guide future partnerships, including partnerships with the private sector.

Beyond Brooke

Today, private-sector impact investments are a powerful, purpose-driven means of engaging all sectors in social and environmental causes while leveraging entirely new assets. As Jean Case, president of the Case Foundation, has said, impact investing is "a new way to solve old problems" — including the problem of elder abuse.

Increasingly, impact bonds and other hybrid approaches to our social and environmental challenges are being shaped and guided by data-driven performance metrics — which, in turn, are more directed when coupled with a systems-based approach.

My grandmother's philanthropic and social justice work over four decades laid the foundation for thinking about and exploring new ways to address and advance our shared concerns and commitments.

Headshot_philip marshallTo advance elder justice, it is urgent we work together to assess needs and opportunities, using a systems-based approach informed by emerging analytics to harness the engagement and investment of all sectors.

Philip C. Marshall is a professor and director of the Historic Preservation Program at Roger Williams University and an elder justice advocate. To learn more, visit beyondbrooke.org.

Weekend Link Roundup (September 17-18 2016)

September 18, 2016

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

End-of-summerCommunications/Marketing

Did the board of the Wounded Warrior Project blunder by firing CEO Steve Nardizzi and COO Al Giardano in response to allegations in the media that the organization was spending too much on itself and too little on those it was supposed to help? Forbes contributor Richard Levick reports.

Education

On openDemocracy's Transformations blog, Megan Tompkins-Stange, assistant professor of public policy at the Gerald R. Ford School, University of Michigan and author of the recently published Policy Patrons: Philanthropy, Education Reform and the Politics of Influence, argues that billionaire philanthropists are imposing their views on the rest of society with little or no accountability for their actions.

Giving Pledge

Dean and Marianne Metropoulos of Greenwich, Connecticut, are the newest members of the Giving Pledge club.

Grantmaking

Guest blogging on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Jessica Bearman, principal of Bearman Consulting and a consultant to the Grants Managers Network, suggests that foundations intentionally moving to integrate operations and program have five essential characteristics in common.

Grantseeking

On the GuideStar blog, Martin Teitel, author of The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Winning Foundation Grants and a former CEO of the Cedar Tree Foundation, shares his six-step formula for winning a grant.

Health

The board of the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), which was founded as an initiative of the Clinton Foundation in 2002 and became a separate nonprofit organization in 2010, has released a statement that lays out the changes that will be implemented if Hillary Clinton is elected president of the United States.

Higher Education

"Across every college sector and level of selectivity, women who received federal aid had lower annual earnings 10 years after entering higher education than the annual earnings of their male peers only six years after entering," a Center for American Progress analysis finds. And, writes CAP's Antoinette Flores, for "students from the nation's most elite colleges, men's earnings outpace women's by tens of thousands of dollars each year, with gaps showing up soon after they enter the workforce."

A University of Nebraska-Lincoln study indicates that 80 percent of college students send text messages during class, leading Joelle Renstrom, a teacher of writing at Boston University, to wonder whether there's any hope left for learning.

In a post for Slate, Cathy O’Neil, author of the recently released Weapons of Math Destruction, argues that the increasing reliance on algorithms is causing tuitions to rise faster than the rate of inflation, parents to worry, and kids to suffer. 

Here's a startling finding: A Public Agenda survey finds that just 42 percent of Americans say college is necessary for workforce success, a 13 percent drop from 2009, while 57 percent say there are many ways to succeed in today's world without a college degree, a 14 percent increase from 2009.

Impact/Effectiveness

Linda Baker, the new director of the Organizational Effectiveness program at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, explains how the core values handed down by the Packards to the foundation's board and staff play out for the OE program.

A little tired of the hype around impact investing? With the fall conference season looming, Nonprofit Finance Fund CEO Antony Bugg-Levine, who admits to being "partly responsible for unleashing the beast," shares four tricks to help you get past the bulls**t.

While cynics have been known to argue that the principal reason nonprofits want to "measure impact" is to "inspire donors," that's not so much the case these days, writes Marc Gunther on his Nonprofit Chronicles blog.

Bugg-Levine isn't the only one who's weary of hype. In a post for Philanthropy Daily, Matthew Gerkin offers the "radical suggestion" that "the hype in the non-profit sphere about 'impact' and the supposed demand for it is largely fictional."

Philanthropy

It's been more than twenty years since the American Association of Fund-Raising Counsel, the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, and the Association of Fundraising Professionals collaborated on a Donor Bill of Rights. The practice of philanthropy has changed dramatically since then, writes Denver Post columnist Bruce DeBoskey, who, with much credit to the authors of the original, offers an updated version.

In a post on the foundation's Equals Change blog, Ford Foundation president Darren Walker explores the nexus of power, privilege, and ignorance to explain how he and his colleagues failed to include people with disabilities in the foundation's new focus on inequality.

The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy's Caitlin Duffy explains how a high-profile pop-culture moment caused her to rethink her own "discomfort with Black rage and my own white privilege."  

On the GuideStar blog, GuideStar president Jacob Harold weighs in with an incisive analysis of the Clinton and Trump foundations.

And the New York Times reports that New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is launching an investigation to determine whether the Trump Foundation has been in compliance with state laws.

Got something you'd like to share with our readers? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org or post it in the comments section below....

[Infographic] How Foundations Get Out the Vote

September 17, 2016

In a commentary for PND written shortly after the 2014 midterm elections, Ruth Holton-Hodson, a former director of public policy at the California Wellness Foundation, suggested that the one area that has an impact "on every one of the issues progressives hold dear... [is] the public's understanding of and participation in our democracy." Holton-Hodson further noted that while "Citizens United and other recent court cases...have given corporations and billionaires a huge advantage in terms of buying a government that is responsive to their needs...money isn't the most powerful tool in our democratic toolkit. Voting is. Corporations can't vote (yet), and billionaires only have one vote, just like you and me."

Although Holton-Hodson's message continues to be ignored by too many Americans — in recent years, only 40 percent of the voting eligible population has bothered to vote in midterm elections, a number that jumps to 60 percent in presidential election years — it is not, as this week's infographic suggests, because U.S. foundations have ignored the issue. Indeed, since 2011, foundations have made grants totaling more than $3 billion in support of U.S. democracy.

Now, anyone who has been discouraged, if not troubled, by the bluster and sound-bite superficiality of this election season could be forgiven for thinking that that may not have been money well spent. But as Holton-Hodson notes, fixing our democratic infrastructure and, by extension, our democracy is a long-term project. And foundations interested in the success of that project need "to take a page from the conservative playbook and fund the work so desperately needed to strengthen that infrastructure so that everyone who can vote and wants to vote is able to vote." It is, she adds, "the only way to ensure that we have a government willing to support and implement policies that meet the education, health, and welfare needs of all Americans."

Demo1pnd-01

For more about what philanthropy is doing to support democracy, check out Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy, a data-visualization platform created by Foundation Center (PND's parent organization) that is designed to help funders, nonprofits, journalists, and the general public understand who is funding what kinds of activities (and where), analyze funder networks, and compare foundation funding for the democracy-related issues we all care about.

And to learn more about how the tool can be used, and what the data says about foundation support for U.S. democracy, check out these blog posts by some of the smartest people currently working in the democracy and civic engagement space.

Got a resource or comment you'd like to share? Use the comments box below.

Mitch Nauffts

You Can Connect the Dots for Global Philanthropy

September 16, 2016

ConnectthedotsData is something we all want. Data, though, is not something we can all have... not right now, at least. In order for data to be collected, processed, analyzed, and shared — all while taking into account individual country contexts around the world — the data has to exist in the first place. This may seem obvious, but it is often overlooked, especially in a global context. For example, we simply don't know what kind of impact foundations in Kenya are having in a sector like health, or what funds they are directing to various issues and how that compares to the impact and spending by government programs or international aid. As a result, we have no way of knowing whether philanthropy is making a difference or if there's a way those dollars could be used more effectively. That's the case not just in Kenya, but in countries across the global North and South. And the reason we don't have a complete picture of the philanthropic sector's contribution to and role within the development ecosystem is because there is a lack of data skills and a data culture in philanthropy. Not just a small gap; it's a pretty big one.

In order to tackle these issues, Foundation Center has developed a program to partner with philanthropic infrastructure organizations around the world to create a culture of data, build much-needed data management capacity, and create and use data to drive more effective development and grantmaking outcomes. The program also aims to strengthen the efforts of local foundations and associations of foundations to develop their own long-term, sustainable, in-country data strategies, better understand and fill their capacity needs through skills development, and highlight and provide tools to help foundations work with data more effectively.

One country we have been fortunate to work in in recent months is Kenya. Earlier this year, with our many wonderful partners, including the Kenya Philanthropy Forum, East African Association of Grantmakers, Kenya Community Development Foundation, and SDG Philanthropy Platform, we co-developed and organized a participatory Data Scoping Meeting to better understand the current data landscape and data challenges there. During the meeting, we helped participants establish basic principles for collaborative data and knowledge management, identify their biggest data challenges and needs, and agree on a set of goals and priorities pertaining to data and knowledge in their own organizations and as a sector. One of those goals included developing a locally-owned and operated data portal. (You can read more about the meeting and how the findings may be applicable to your own work in this report.) 

But we didn't stop there. We also consolidated all this information into an agenda for a Data Strategy and Capacity Building Workshop in July where participants focused on the development of a local data system and what is required to actually collect, process, and analyze data, as well as to develop concrete action plans that deliver on the previously identified goals and priorities. The meeting represented an exciting step forward for philanthropic data, both globally and locally, and we were thrilled to be a part of it. (The report from the workshop will be released next month.)

We'll be heading to Uganda and Tanzania soon to expand our work in East Africa, which has been leading the way in terms of working toward sustainable data strategies, and we hope those efforts inspire the rest of you to champion the need for more and better data in your own communities. So, the next time you're doing research to inform your grantmaking and you find yourself wondering why you can't put your finger on the data you need — whether it's general information about a potential grantee or a particular program's existing funding sources and impact — ask yourself: Does the data even exist? If the answer is no, think about what you can do to help create it.

Headshot_lauren-bradfordLauren Bradford is director of global partnerships at Foundation Center. For more information on the center's data strategy and capacity-building program or global data strategy, contact Lauren at lbr@foundationcenter.org. This post originally appeared on the GrantCraft blog.

Mind the Gap! Bridging Funder and Grantee Approaches to Measurement

September 14, 2016

Methods of measurementsOver the past thirty years, the total value of philanthropic assets in the United States has more than doubled, while the poverty rate has remained unchanged and income inequality has grown.

There are lots of reasons for this lack of progress, but facts like that make it hard to argue that foundations and nonprofits are successfully pursuing an anti-poverty mission.

At Root Cause, we believe a big reason nonprofits and foundations struggle to create the change we all seek is their failure to articulate the hypotheses underlying their approach to change, to use data to test those hypotheses, and to use the results of those tests to refine those approaches and build a body of evidence about what works.

For the past year, I've been making the rounds at regional and national conferences to talk about why measurement and evaluation matter. I've also had the chance to sit down with dozens of nonprofit and foundation leaders for extended conversations about what's at stake here.

The good news is that many foundation and nonprofit leaders share our point of view and have a real sense of urgency about using data and evidence to improve nonprofit practice and achieve better results.

The bad news is that everyone seems to be on a different page. Even among those pursuing a performance-measurement agenda, there is little in the way of dialogue, transparency, or knowledge sharing. Nonprofits develop theories of change in isolation, as if meaningful change happens through a single intervention here or a single intervention there, while funders articulate their own theories of change without much regard for what their grantees are doing.

The result: a boatload of metrics gets collected but neither funder nor grantee gains much insight into what works or how their efforts can be leveraged to drive real, systemic change.

What to do? We'd like to suggest the following:

1. Only track metrics on which you plan to act. If you can tell me what your nonprofit will do differently when a particular metric fails to meet expectations, chances are you're working with great data. Stay away from metrics that someone, somewhere along the way thought would be cool to track but can't be acted on. That's bad data.

2. Align the priorities of grantees and funders so that both want to see the same things being measured. Most of the data grantees collect are required by a second party — usually a funder or government agency. Sometimes these metrics lead to insights that are useful to the grantee. More often than not, they're only useful to the second party. Metrics that are only valuable to one party — whether funder or grantee — should be reexamined. Ideally, funders and grantees should co-develop a performance-measurement framework that can serve as the basis for learning and accountability.

3. Budget and pay for data collection, analysis, and reporting. It stands to reason that if a funder requires a metric to be reported, the grant funds should cover the cost of data collection, analysis, and reporting. At Root Cause, part of our performance-measurement work involves precisely mapping the capacity load for data collection, analysis, and reporting. Our clients — nonprofits and funders alike — typically underestimate the time and cost requirements for their measurement work, even though it is essential for ensuring that actual change is taking place.

For nonprofits, measurement is a critical opportunity to learn and refine their approach. For funders, measurement means understanding the relationship between your investment and the intervention you've chosen to fund. Nonprofits and funders need to engage in conversation up front about measurement — especially its costs. Funders who underestimate those costs can find that their data requirements morph into an unfunded mandate for grantees.

Full support for measurement is an essential ingredient in creating the culture of learning we believe is essential to producing better outcomes at a systemic level. You know that old cliché about the definition of insanity? Continuing to approach measurement with underfunded half measures is sure to produce the same result we've gotten for the past twenty years: too much noise and too little impact.

Headshot_Steve PrattStephen Pratt is a partner and the director of advisory services at Root Cause, a nonprofit that partners with other nonprofits, foundations, and governments to improve their outcomes, grantmaking, and people’s lives.Before joining Root Cause, Pratt served as CEO of two direct-service organizations, two capacity-building intermediaries, and a scholarship foundation, and also helped launch six nonprofits.

5 Questions for...Zoë Baird, CEO/President, Markle Foundation

September 12, 2016

We've all heard that necessity is the mother of invention. And like most clichés, there is plenty of truth to it. But for every other UpWork professional using Uber to a get to a client meeting, there's a CEO who would prefer to convert that freelancer into a full-time employee. Or so shows a recent survey conducted by the Markle Foundation, the Aspen Institute's Future of Work Initiative, Burson-Marsteller, and TIME magazine. While employers recognize the benefits of hiring "contingent workers" and embrace the principles of the "on-demand economy," the survey found, among other things, that 56 percent of employers believe full-time employees provide more long-term value to their businesses and are more invested in the company.

Recently, Philanthropy News Digest spoke with Zoë Baird, who has led the Markle Foundation since 1998, about the results of the survey, the foundation's Skillful initiative, and how the job market in the U.S. is changing.

Headshot_Zoe Baird_MarklePhilanthropy News Digest: Markle recently released the results of a Workforce of the Future Survey, which examined new employment models in what many people have taken to calling the "gig economy." What, if anything, surprised you about the findings?

Zoë Baird: What really surprised us was the extent to which employers preferred to have full-time employees. It's clear that employers are using independent contractors, but over 60 percent of them really prefer full-time employees, which we view as a very positive finding. The concern that twenty-first century employers have no loyalty to their employees did not come through in the survey. Employers want full-time employees, and the main reason they hire independent contractors seems to be that they need specific skills or have a surge in work and need to hire people faster than the people they already have can acquire new skills.

PND: Did respondents say why they prefer full-time employees to part-time or contract employees?

ZB: Loss of productivity and the cost of replacing a skilled employee are factors, but the main reason seems to be that full-time employees are more loyal and committed than part-time employees. And that fits well with the work we are doing with Skillful, which is designed to get people who have a high school diploma but no college degree on a path to attain the skills they need to thrive in the twenty-first century economy.

PND: You don't have to look far these days to find someone willing to talk about the lack of skilled employees in the marketplace. Have we made progress in closing the so-called skills gap?

ZB: What we’re finding, both in the work we’re doing and in the research, is that jobs and the nature of work are changing, but people aren't getting retrained fast enough to keep up with those changes. Increasingly, employers are eager and willing to re-train workers, whether or not those workers have a college degree. And what we're trying to do is to work with employers to define the skills they need and then help job seekers demonstrate to potential employers that they have those skills.

With Skillful, we've created a platform that lets everyone, employers and job candidates, see what they need to see. Individuals who are interested in a career path can see what a particular job pays and watch videos showing them what it looks like to do a particular job. We also have videos of people talking about what a job in, say, advanced manufacturing is all about. People often end up doing the same kind of job a parent did, in part because it's often the path of least resistance. Skillful enables you to see what different jobs look like and what they pay. Then you can sit with a career counselor at a workforce center, or at Goodwill, which is partner­ing with us on the initiative, and talk with them about how to get the training you need to get onto a career path that leads to a brighter future. It's designed to be a "begin-again" system and remove the mystery of how you go about switching gears.

PND: Can you give us an example of how it works?

ZB: Sure. Say you've been working with computer systems in the oil and gas industry. Those jobs are slowly going away, but those same computer skills are very much in demand in advanced plastics manufacturing. You can demonstrate you have those skills on the Skillful platform, and you can also find jobs that require those skills in plastics manufacturing, see what the career paths in that sector look like and what various jobs pay, and begin to take steps to get yourself on a different path. And it's all done at the kind of granular level that the Internet makes possible. In other words, you don't have to go back to school to get a dif­ferent degree just because you've lost your job; with Skillful, you can reinvent yourself at the skill level.

PND: What else should we be doing to skill up Americans for the twenty-first century economy? And are you optimistic we'll figure it out?

ZB: We all know the economy is undergoing a major transformation. It's fast becoming a digital economy that requires digital skills. For employers, that means they need to do a better job of understanding and communicating the skills they require if they want to find the right people for the jobs they have. For educators, it means thinking about the skills people are being taught in their institutions. And for job seekers, it means staying curious, being ready to learn throughout one's life, and expecting that you're going to have a lot of different jobs over the course of your life.

Today in this country we have something like five-and-half-million jobs that are unfilled. People need to be able to figure out how to get onto a path to those jobs. We need to make it easier for people to identify new career paths and see that there are lots of career paths that lead to good-paying jobs. At the moment, Skillful is only in Colorado and Phoenix, but there are other efforts of this kind going on around the country.

Do I think we'll figure it out? I do. The economic transition we are going through is not unlike the one we went through a hundred years or so ago, when we moved from a predominantly agricultural economy to an industrial economy. As part of that transition, we had to invent the high school and accommodate the movement of vast numbers of people from rural areas to cities, and it was all extremely disruptive. But at the end of that transition, we found ourselves with a vibrant, exciting economy that served lots and lots of people well. I believe we can do better this time around. We can make the transition to a digital economy work for even more people, but we have to do it in a way that is inclusive and doesn't leave anybody out. That has to be our high­est priority.

— Matt Sinclair

Weekend Link Roundup (September 10-11, 2016)

September 11, 2016

9-11-memorial-ceremonyOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

Half of the ten largest cities in the world, including New York, are already threatened by rising sea levels. And if Greenland becomes ice free, as is currently projected to happen in the next century, all bets are off. On the EDF blog, Ilissa Ocko looks at five other climate tipping points scientists are worried about.

Environment

Most of us don't think twice about tossing our old clothes. Which is a problem, writes Alden Wicker, because textile waste is piling up at a "catastrophic rate."

Higher Education

Harvard University has raised $7 billion since it launched its most recent fundraising campaign in 2013 -- and while that's good news for America's oldest university, it's bad news for higher education. Akshat Rathi reports for Quartz.

On the Aspen Institute blog, Josh Wyner and Keith Witham look at what policy debates over increasing college affordability and reducing student debt say about the value we as a nation place on a college education and its individual and societal benefits.

Impact/Effectiveness

On the Triple Pundit site, Nicole Anderson, assistant vice president for social innovation at AT&T and president of the AT&T Foundation, explains what the telecommunications giant has been doing to measure the social return on AT&T Aspire, its signature educational program.

Inequality

How have incomes in the U.S. changed over the last two decades. Quoctrung Bui and the crew at the New York Times' Upshot unit share some remarkable charts.

Is big data partly to blame for growing inequality in the U.S.? Cathy O'Neill, author of Weapons of Math Destruction, thinks so. Aimee Rawlins reports for CNN Money.

International Affairs/Development

"For the first time in human history, the end of hunger is...within our reach," writes former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan on the CNN site. With the help of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation, Africa has witnessed a second agricultural Green Revolution, and in July Congress passed the Global Food Security Act, reaffirming the United States' commitment to ending global hunger, poverty, and child malnutrition. But, as Annan explains, there is more to be done.

Leadership

Nice post by NWB's Vu Le, who, in the wake of the recent passing of legendary Seattle community leader Bob Santos, reflects on the kind of leader our world needs at this fraught moment.

Nonprofits

On Beth Kanter's blog, Blackbaud's Steve MacLaughlin, author of the newly released Data Driven Nonprofits, argues that culture is the key to success for nonprofits looking to be more data driven. "The good news," he adds, is "there are multiple culture types that [can] create the right environment for data driven nonprofits to take shape and grow."

In his latest post, Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther looks under the hood of the new advisory system unveiled by charity rating service Charity Navigator and finds that while it brings CN "a bit closer to fulfilling its...mission to guide intelligent giving [and thus] advance a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace,...like the rest of the site, [it] is of limited use."

Philanthropy

Writing in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Lisa Ranghelli, senior director of assessment and special projects at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, suggests that "in a world of finite philanthropic resources for social change...it become increasingly important to think about inclusion more holistically — how foundations relate to nonprofit organizations both individually and collectively, and how they relate to the targeted beneficiaries that those organizations serve and engage."

Sylvia Yee, who recently stepped down as vice president of programs at the Evelyn and Walter J. Haas, Jr. Fund after twenty-three years with the fund, reflects on her time with the foundation and the leadership of its longtime president, Ira Hirschfield, who has also announced his retirement.

Public Affairs

Mitt Romney's remark to a meeting of wealthy donors in 2012 disparaging the 47 percent of Americans who are "takers" (i.e., don't pay federal taxes) not only cost him the election, it misrepresented an important aspect of social-safety net policies in this country, writes Jeff Guo in the Washington Post: the so-called 47 percent "are not some permanent underclass of dependents" but average Americans who, for the most part, only use such programs as a stop-gap measure.

Tax Policy

Donating shares of appreciated stock to a nonprofit or donor-advised fund administered by a tax-exempt entity has become the norm in tax efficiency for many donors, writes Forbes' contributor Robert W. Wood. But the fact that Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan have begun to donate significant amounts of Facebook shares to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, an LLC, "makes the Zuckerberg-Chan charity planning model a unique one, with not everything as tax exempt as a typical charity."

Transparency

Last but not least, on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Kevin Bolduc revisits 100&Change, a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation competition through which a $100-million-dollar prize will be awarded to "one good idea," with a focus on the transparency of the competition's selection process.

On this, the fifteenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, we remember all those who lost their lives on that terrible day. 

Got something you'd like to share with our readers? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org or post it in the comments section below....

Get Out There!

September 08, 2016

Go_signI hope you had a great summer. Vacations, plenty of pool time, a little rest and relaxation — and lots of playing outside. Now it's time to hunker down in the office and get things done, right?

Wrong.

In my opinion, one of the last places a grantmaker should be is in the office. As foundation staff and trustees, we want to see community problems being solved. There's no way to create those solutions without getting out there and forging connections. And there are few people more suited to forging connections than those of us who work in the philanthropic world.

Building connections isn't something you do behind a desk. You need to get out into the community. You need to learn about problems by observing and discussing them firsthand with those who are most affected by them. You need to meet people on their own turf and look them in the eye before you can truly understand the assets they can bring to bear on a problem. And you need to listen, listen, listen to the conversations that almost never take place within your own foundation's walls.

Of course, not every foundation operates this way. It's not that foundation people are shy or too self-important to get out there – it's that they get caught up in the myth of the importance of being in the office.

I once knew a foundation executive who prided himself on never meeting grantees out in the real world, choosing instead to "host" them in his swanky office. While the gesture no doubt was well meant, it was an intimidating rather than a comfortable experience for grantees. And the time they spent traveling to and from the meetings was time they could have spent in other, more productive ways.

I can also name several foundations that have isolated their program staff from the outside world by engaging in overly complex and demanding grant review processes and board-docket preparation. (In one admittedly extreme case, the latter kept staff in the office for two months!)

Fortunately, there are a growing number of foundations out there that appreciate the value of having their people get out of the office and into the field. Funders like the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, which a few years ago redefined the role of its program officers, changing their title to "network officer" and tasking them with the expectation that the majority of their time would be spent on the road in communities across the state. What better way for a foundation to increase knowledge, build trust, and amplify its impact?

Headshot_kris-putnam-walkerlyGetting out of the office and into the community is good for your work and your mission. So as summer comes to an end, don't wait for winter by planting yourself behind a desk – get out there!

Global philanthropy advisor Kris Putnam-Walkerly recently was named one of "America's Top 25 Philanthropy Speakers." This post originally appeared on Kris's Philanthropy 411 blog. ©2016 Kris Putnam-Walkerly, Putnam Consulting Group, putnam-consulting.com.

[Review] 'The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism'

September 06, 2016

Our country is at an impasse, stymied by gridlock in Washington, a highly polarized press, and an increasingly toxic social media-driven discourse. Far from being our finest hour, the race for the White House has devolved into name calling and nativist appeals to fringe elements, while leaders on both the Left and Right seem powerless to find a way forward. Many citizens, if they can bear to watch, are left wondering how we got here.

Book_fractured_republic3In an era of sound bite-driven news, serious reflection and reasoned thought often get short shrift. Which makes Yuval Levin's The Fractured Republic: Renewing America's Social Contract in the Age of Individualism all the more welcome. In it, Levin, a National Affairs editor, former staffer in George W. Bush's White House, and historian of ideas (The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left; Imagining the Future: Science and American Democracy), lays out a vision for a new politics that rejects the nostalgia of both Left and Right and challenges liberals and conservatives to renew America's social contract by moving beyond the stale certainties of the status quo.

The basis of Levin's argument is deceptively simple. In its efforts to advance economic equality while celebrating the continued expansion of individual rights, the baby boomer Left looks back wistfully at LBJ's Great Society and the creation of the welfare state as a high point in postwar American politics. The boomer Right, meanwhile, pines for the perceived moral clarity of a golden past while lauding the triumph of the market in almost every aspect of our lives. Even now, a decade and a half into a new millennium, the tension between these two versions of recent history reverberates and shapes the lived reality of our public life. But while there are lessons to be learned from both perspectives, the fundamental demographic and socioeconomic conditions of the country have changed to such a degree that the political solutions of mid-twentieth century America no longer make sense. "That the baby boomers so dominate our national memory and self-image means that we don't think enough about what came before the golden age of boomers' youth," he writes, "and we don't think clearly...about how things have changed since then."

Throughout the book, Levin adopts the respective lenses of both Right and Left, recounting their many ideological battles and political skirmishes. In so doing, he suggests that two developments which emerged out of the disasters of the twentieth century have shaped who Americans are and how they think — the expansion of federal power and the celebration of individualism and personal choice. And yet, as entrenched as these two forces in American life have become, little attention has been paid to how they have combined to subvert the middle ground between them. Levin writes:

As the national government grows more centralized, and takes over the work otherwise performed by mediating institutions — from families and communities to local governments and charities — individuals become increasingly atomized; and as individuals grow apart from one another, the need for centralized government provision seems to grow….  

He further argues that Left and Right value different aspects of this dynamic, creating an ontological bind that begets an even more "hollow polity." "The Right," he observes, "wants unmitigated economic individualism [and] a return to common moral norms," while "[t]he Left wants unrestrained moral individualism but economic consolidation."

Given this fundamental disagreement, what's a political scientist — or politician, for that matter – to do? Levin makes a case for what he calls "subsidiarity"— the empowerment of "institutions at different levels of our society to address those problems for which they are best suited." It's not a new solution exactly, but rather a call for a more federalist form of government. It's also an approach, he believes, that would start to undo a century of governmental consolidation at the federal level and return power to local communities seeking diverse solutions to local problems.

What is truly novel about the book, though, is not his policy proposals — the book is more meditative discourse than blueprint — but rather his willingness to consider and reflect on the arguments of his ideological opponents. The Fractured Republic is not a partisan tract meant to rally the Republican base with and through hoary platitudes, fear tactics, and demonization of those who disagree with its views. It is, instead, a book of ideas. Levin is admirably even-handed in recounting the evolution of American politics and society, equitably sharing the blame for the current nadir in our public discourse between both parties. And he is intellectually honest in explaining his frame of reference, proudly stating, "I am a conservative, and not a bashful or half-hearted one." While readers who comfortably locate themselves left of center may not agree with those ideas, especially as they pertain to cultural issues, thoughtful citizens from across the political spectrum will benefit from engaging with his argument, which is aspirational rather than prescriptive.

That said, Levin could have more deeply explored the role of social media and technology in creating our current political divide. Of technology, for example, he writes, "[The Internet] is a kind of embodiment of the ethic of expressive individualism — it lets all of us put ourselves out there, but it generally gives us only what we want and seek out." But he doesn't explore in any detail how these self-forming virtual communities may respond to, or work against, his call for subsidiarity. Nor does he spend much time on the role played by the mainstream media, more broadly, in the fraying of the American social fabric.   

Perhaps the most glaring omission in the book, however, is his failure to mention, and account for, the one name in politics that has become ubiquitous in this fraught political season: Donald Trump. It's an omission that rings loudly. Perhaps Levin (or his editors) wanted to extend the book’s shelf life by not pegging it to a particular election cycle. Or maybe, as the book was going to print, Trump was not yet seen as the erratic if entertaining (in ratings terms) front-runner he has become. Or perhaps the absence of any reference to Trump is purposeful, a silence subtly signifying the Trump candidacy as both symptom and culmination of our fractured republic.

Throughout the book, Levin cites Alexis de Tocqueville, the nineteenth-century French aristocrat and historian/sociologist famous for his 1838 masterwork Democracy in America. Central to Tocqueville's thought was his wariness of tyranny and his observations about the unique American institutions and practices of governance that form a bulwark against despotism, from either crowd or crown. Levin, like Tocqueville, is hopeful about the American experiment: "We will recover our strength and also our unity," he writes, "by living more of our lives at eye level with one another."

But with so many voices vying for attention, perhaps what The Fractured Republic most usefully provides its readers is an opportunity to listen to someone who shares their aspirations but has arrived at them from a different starting point. Indeed, how less fractured would our republic be if more of us took the time, as Levin does, to think deeply about the goal of politics and engaged those who see the world differently with an open mind and more generous spirit? While it's not likely we'll divine the answer to that question in this election cycle, Levin gives us hope that, with a little more effort, we will figure it out.

Michael Weston-Murphy is a writer and consultant based in New York City. For more great reviews, visit our Off the Shelf section.

Weekend Link Roundup (September 3-5, 2016)

September 05, 2016

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

Corporate Social Responsibility

The landscape of corporate philanthropy is changing — for the better. Andrea Hoffman, founder and CEO of Culture Shift Labs, looks at one Wall Street firm determined to change the existing stock-buyback paradigm.

Disaster Relief

In aftermath of the recent flooding in Louisiana, The (Baton Rouge) Advocate's Rebekah Allen and Elizabeth Crisp look at how crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe are disrupting the traditional disaster relief funding model.

Education

In the New York Times, Christopher Edmin, an associate professor at Teachers College, Columbia University and the author of For White Folk Who Teach in the Hood ... and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education, challenges the idea that the answer to closing the achievement gap for boys and young men of color is to hire and retain more black male teachers.

Fundraising

Wondering how to get the public solidly behind your cause? Of course you are. Regular PhilanTopic contributor Derrick Feldmann shares some good tips here.

Higher Education

As the call for institutions of higher education to diversify their curricula grows louder, maybe it's time, writes the University of Texas' Steven Mintz on the Teagle Foundation site, for colleges and university "to embrace the Great Books spirit and delve into the most problematic aspects of our contemporary reality through works that speak to our time and perhaps all time."

Impact/Effectiveness

The Organizational Effectiveness program at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation has launched an Organizational Effectiveness Knowledge Center designed to be a space where nonprofits, funders, and others can "exchange learning, resources, and reflections about improving nonprofit organizational and network effectiveness."

Continue reading »

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (August 2016)

September 03, 2016

"By all these lovely tokens September days are here, with summer's best of weather and autumn's best of cheer...." ~ Helen Hunt Jackson

Ah, summer, we hardly knew you. Hope you're enjoying your long weekend and getting to spend some of it with family and friends. While you're waiting for beverages to chill and the grill to get hot, check out some of the posts PhilanTopic readers gave a big thumb's up to in August.

What did you read/watch/listen to in August that made you pause, made you think, made you hopeful? Feel free to share with our readers in the comments section below. Or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

[Review] 'Brown Is the New White: How the Demographic Revolution Has Created a New American Majority'

September 01, 2016

There has been much hand-wringing over the fact the United States is on its way to becoming a "majority minority" country — according to Census Bureau projections, Americans of color will outnumber white Americans by 2044 — not to mention the cultural, economic, social, and political changes such a demographic shift implies. But in Brown Is the New White: How the Demographic Revolution Has Created a New American Majority, Steve Phillips argues that the focus on people of color gaining the electoral upper hand at a not-too-distant point in the future is misguided — first, because such a focus presumes that voting is a zero-sum game and any gains by people of color must come at the expense of white voters; and second, because people of color and their white allies already constitute "a progressive, multiracial majority...that has the power to elect presidents and reshape American politics, policies, and priorities for decades to come."  

Cover_brown_is_new_whiteA civil rights lawyer and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, Phillips worked on Jesse Jackson's 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns; became San Francisco's youngest-ever elected official in 1992; and established the first SuperPAC to work for Barack Obama's election in 2008. To support his claim that demography has created a "new American majority" (as the subtitle of his book puts it), he uses American Community Survey and exit poll data to estimate the number of progressive voters in the country, multiplying the total number of eligible voters in different racial/ethnic groups as of 2013 by the percentage that voted for Obama in 2012. The tally? Fifty million progressive voters of color and sixty-one million progressive white voters, who between them account for 23 percent and 28 percent of all eligible voters, or 51 percent of the American electorate.

Presumably Phillips understands that using a vote for Barack Obama as a proxy for "progressive" inevitably oversimplifies the picture. And while he also understands that many people are disappointed the election of the country's first black president did not end racism or racial discrimination in America, he notes that the country has moved in the direction of greater racial and economic justice — as evidenced by, among other things, increased access to health insurance coverage; the appointment of the country's first African-American attorney general; and much-needed police reform in places like Ferguson, Missouri. If none of these developments counts as an unqualified success, they are proof, Phillips argues, that progressives can win elections and advance their agenda.

What's more, says Phillips, this multiracial new American majority is growing by the day — due in part to higher birth rates among people of color and legal immigration — while its voting patterns reflect a deep commitment to greater social justice and equality. In 2012, for example, 96 percent of African-American voters chose Obama, as did 71 percent of Latino voters, 73 percent of Asian-American voters, and 59 percent of Arab-American voters. Phillips also highlights key swing states Obama won in the primaries as well as the general election with the critical support of voters of color.

Continue reading »

To Truly Reform Criminal Justice, Policy Makers Must Listen to Crime Survivors

August 31, 2016

The 2016 election campaign season has exposed the deep and bitter divides in our political system. Candidates have put forth vastly different views, and the list of what they agree on seems to be getting shorter by the day. Yet criminal justice reform has become that rare thing — an issue on which many Democrats and Republicans can agree.

Criminal_justice_for_PhilanTopicState and federal policy makers are in the midst of an important conversation about how to reform the criminal justice system. After decades of growth in prison populations and prison spending, it is a conversation that is long overdue. Notably absent from this dialogue, however, are data or research on crime victims' experiences with the criminal justice system or their views on safety and justice policy. Given that politicized perceptions of the best way to protect victims has, in part, driven prison expansion, this absence is glaring. Now is the time to correct the misperceptions that drove the failed policies of the past in order to truly reform the system.

A primary goal of the justice system is to protect and help victims, so any reform effort must incorporate the voices of the victims themselves. That's why the Alliance for Safety and Justice decided to conduct a national survey of crime victims, including those who have suffered extreme violence such as rape or the murder of a family member.

While one might expect victims to overwhelmingly support the "lock 'em up and throw away the key" approach, we found something different. Victims were clear that rehabilitation and crime prevention, not more incarceration, is needed to ensure that fewer people become victims of crime.

Nearly three out of four victims we surveyed told us they believe that time in prison makes people more rather than less likely to commit another crime. Two out of three victims support shorter prison sentences and increased spending on prevention and rehabilitation over long sentences. And by a two-to-one margin, a majority of those surveyed were in favor of policies that emphasize rehabilitation over punishment. Crime survivors also overwhelmingly support investments in new safety priorities that can stop the cycle of crime, such as programs for at-risk youth, mental health treatment, drug treatment, and job training. These views cut across demographic groups, with wide support across race, age, gender, and political party affiliation.

Continue reading »

How to Get the Public Behind Your Cause

August 29, 2016

Cooptition_illustrationIf you've followed me on this blog or through my series of articles here, you're familiar with my take on the need to move potential supporters from mere interest to deep engagement with your cause over time. There are lots of people out there who want to do good, who stand up for what is right, and who even devote most of their time to organizing others, but in general nonprofits are not doing all they could to tap into that interest and energy.

If you're a nonprofit executive, what can you do to get the public involved in your issue or cause? Are you talking to the right people, the people most likely to become an advocate for your organization?

I was asked this question recently by a reporter who wanted to know why why so many legacy nonprofits (that is, those that have been around a while) struggle to stay relevant and keep the interest of their donors and supporters. Her sense was that younger people don't really connect with legacy organizations because of the way those organizations raise money or talk about what they do, and that the public in general isn't interested in the work of these nonprofits because of a perception that they long ago stopped caring about the public and instead focus most of their efforts on high-net-worth donors.

While those assumptions may have some basis in reality, my answer wasn't what the reporter was expecting.

Really great nonprofit executives today, I said, those who succeed at getting the public engaged in their cause, tend to focus their time and energy on four key stakeholder groups: people who can tell their organization's story, people who are innovating in their organization's space/issue area, people who organize and bring others to their issue, and people who challenge the way their organization approaches an issue. In many cases, nonprofits that have lost the attention of John and Jane Q. Public may have focused on these groups in the past, but somewhere along the way they fell out of  the habit or simply forgot why John and Jane are important. Does that sound like your nonprofit?

To truly get the public to move from interest to engagement to action, nonprofits need to create intentional conversations and, where possible, actual partnerships with these key stakeholder groups. Here's how:

Continue reading »

Perfecting Peer-to-Peer Fundraising: Tips for Your Next Event

August 26, 2016

If you've been paying attention, you know the future of philanthropy includes peer-to-peer fundraising.

Fundraising_thermometerIt makes sense. Peer-to-peer fundraising (P2P) is one of the best ways for nonprofits to involve their supporters in the fundraising process, raise significant amounts of money, and acquire new donors — all at the same time.

Below, I cover the five steps that every nonprofit looking to run a successful peer-to-peer event should consider. In order, they are:

  1. Establish your budget and goals;
  2. Identify the best peer-to-peer fundraising platform;
  3. Enlist your most enthusiastic supporters;
  4. Equip your supporters with the right tools; and
  5. Gamify your event or campaign.

1. Establish your budget and goals.

As is the case with any fundraising campaign, you need to establish a budget and financial goals for your peer-to-peer fundraiser before you dive into planning the event itself.

While your goals should be achievable and realistic, don't underestimate the power of peer-to-peer fundraising.

Let's say you have a hundred supporters who are willing to reach out and ask their friends, family members, and co-workers to make a donation to your organization. If each person solicits only two people, you've essentially tripled your potential donor base at a fraction of the acquisition cost associated with other methods.

Don't forget, though, that because most peer-to-peer fundraisers are tied to events like walkathons, marathons, or other group activities, you'll need to factor the cost of the event itself into your budget.

Other costs you may need to consider include:

  • marketing materials
  • merchandise (water bottles, t-shirts, etc.)
  • snacks and drinks for participants
  • staff time
  • set-up and tear-down costs
  • unexpected surprises!

How this helps: Any fundraising event or campaign needs a budget and a revenue goal. Make sure your peer-to-peer fundraiser has both and be clear-eyed about the costs.

2. Identify the best peer-to-peer fundraising platform.

Before online fundraising became commonplace, peer-to-peer fundraising was done at the office or door-to-door by supporters who would ask you for a donation or sponsorship for the event they would be participating in. Peer-to-peer fundraising platforms have changed all that.

With peer-to-peer software, your nonprofit can enlist the help of supporters in your local community or halfway around the world — and they can use it to solicit donations from anyone, anywhere, as well.

The best peer-to-peer platforms enable your supporters to:

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5 Questions for...Kim Laughton, President, Schwab Charitable

August 25, 2016

The first donor-advised fund was established by the New York Community Trust in 1931, but it would be almost forty years, and the passage of the Tax Reform Act of 1969, before donor-advised funds received formal regulatory recognition from Congress. A decade and a half later, the Tax Reform Act of 1986 — which imposed, in some administrative areas, "more stringent reporting obligations and payment deadlines on private foundations" — established DAFs as an attractive giving vehicle for a certain kind of donor. Then, in 1991, Fidelity Investments established the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund as an independent public charity, and the DAF landscape was changed forever.

Over the course of the 1990s and 2000s, the debate over donor-advised funds grew more heated, with critics of commercially sponsored DAFs arguing that because "charitable donations can be held in a DAF for decades or even centuries," they should be more tightly regulated, while others defended them as "an efficient, 21st-century alternative to the private foundations that dominated philanthropy in the 20th century...easy to set up and inexpensive to manage."

Recently, PND spoke with Kim Laughton, president of Schwab Charitable, a nonprofit donor-advised fund provider established with the support of Charles Schwab & Co., about her fund's results for the fiscal year just ended and what she makes of the persistent criticism of commercially sponsored donor-advised fund providers. Prior to joining Schwab Charitable, Laughton held a variety of leadership, strategy, and general management positions at Charles Schwab & Co., served as a vice president for Citibank-Asia/Pacific, and worked as a Consultant for Bain & Company. 

Headshot_Kim LaughtonPhilanthropy News Digest: In a report released at the end of July, Schwab Charitable announced that for the fiscal year ending June 30, it distributed more than $1.2 billion in grants to charities from its donor-advised funds under management. That's a 12 percent increase over the amount it distributed in the prior fiscal year, and the second consecutive year in which it has distributed more than a billion dollars in grants to nonprofits and charities. Given the volatility in the stock market over the last year and a half, were you surprised by the results?

Kim Laughton: I wasn't. The markets were volatile over that period, yes, but from beginning to end, they were fairly flat. In between, there were two swings of 15 percent or more, in August last year and then again in January this year. Whenever that happens, there is going to be uncertainty, and you do find that people tend to become more cautious in terms of their charitable giving. But the wonderful thing about donor-advised funds is that people have already set aside an amount of money for future giving, and we find that giving from our funds stays pretty robust, regardless of the economic climate.  

Factoring in the Great Recession and its aftermath in the 2008 to 2010 period, we saw increases in granting as well. Not much as the 12 percent we saw in fiscal year '16, but in the worst of that period, between fiscal year '09 and '10, our granting actually increased about 2 percent. And, again, that underscores how donor-advised funds tend to stabilize giving in difficult times while being a great way for clients to be thoughtful and proactive in their giving in good times.

PND: What was the average payout for the donor-advised funds under your management in fiscal year 2016, and how does that compare to the previous year?

KL: The average payout for our funds for the last two fiscal years has been fairly steady at around 20 percent. It was slightly higher this last year because our assets actually grew a bit less than our granting. Of course, we're extraordinarily proud of those rates. As you know, private foundations operate with a mandated 5 percent payout, so we've been averaging four times the mandated minimum that foundations pay out. The other statistic that's important to think about is that our clients, over a fifteen-year period, grant out 90 percent of what they put in to their funds, and over a five- to ten-year year period they grant out something like 76 percent. In other words, a lot of our clients are contributing to their funds on a regular basis, and they're granting dollars from those funds at a very active rate.

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Black Philanthropy Month: An Opportunity to Give More Than Money

August 22, 2016

We focus on the money too much.

At least, that's true when we're talking about philanthropy and what it means for us and for our communities. In examining the needs of African-American organizations and communities, however, we must dig deeper when defining both the resources needed and those we can offer. We agree that these communities need hard dollars to create true equity on a host of indicators. But they also need our time and our talent.

Bpm-2016-main-banner

August is Black Philanthropy Month, and we want to use the occasion to ask each of us to consider what we have to give. The leaders of Chicago African Americans in Philanthropy (CAAIP) are dedicated to spreading that message, not only among African Americans but among all those who understand that investing in our communities is critical to creating a vibrant region that works for all of us. Chicago isn't healthy unless all its children receive a high-quality education and are prepared to enter the workforce. It can't succeed unless every family has safe and affordable housing. And it cannot thrive with the levels of violence and incarceration that disproportionately affect African-American communities. We all bear the cost of the lost opportunities, and lost lives, that are the result of these inequitable conditions.

This is why CAAIP is dedicated to creating a culture of investment that supports the critical, innovative work aimed at transforming these communities. As part of that effort, CAAIP is partnering with Forefront, formerly known as the Donors Forum, to convene grantmakers and nonprofit leaders to participate in racial equity conversations, trainings, and to share resources for greater effectiveness.

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Weekend Link Roundup (August 20-21, 2016)

August 21, 2016

Rain-south-la-9a-jpgOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Civic Engagement

On the Carnegie Corporation website, the corporation's Geri Mannion and Jay Beckner of the Mertz Gilmore Foundation chat with Carnegie Visiting Media Fellow Gail Ablow about how foundations can support voting rights litigation.

Community Improvement/Development

The Rockefeller Foundation and Unreasonable Institute, which works to identify entrepreneurs with the potential to address social injustice at scale, have announced the launch of the Future Cities Accelerator, a $1 million urban innovation competition aimed at spurring next-generation leaders to develop solutions to complex urban problems. Though the competition, ten winners will receive $100,000 each and will participate in a nine-month intensive program giving them access to business leaders, investors, and technical support. Details here.

The Knight Foundation is bringing back its Knight Cities Challenge for a third iteration and will offer $5 million in grant funding for the best ideas in three areas that are crucial to building more successful cities – attracting and retaining talent, increasing economic opportunity, and promoting civic engagement. The competition, which is limited to the twenty-six Knight communities, opens Monday, October 10, at knightcities.org and will close on Thursday, November 3, with winners to be announced next spring.

As part of Generocity's "Leaders of Color" series, Tony Abraham profiles David Gould, a program office at the William Penn Foundation, who has a plan for leveling the playing field for people of color in Philadelphia. You can check out the rest of the series here.

What can we learn about creative placemaking from Jane Jacobs (The Death and Life of Great American Cities)? As the Saint Luke's Foundation's Nelson Beckford reminds us, pretty much everything.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Think the concept of sustainability is a little too fuzzy to serve as a pillar of one's corporate strategy. Think again, argues the Environmental Defense Fund's Tom Murray.

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Giving Days Can Be a Community Win When Foundations Focus on the Big Picture

August 18, 2016

Giving_days_imageAt a time when charitable organizations are vigorously competing to gain the attention — and ultimately the support — of individual donors, giving days offer a powerful tool to drive community philanthropy. In fact, the amount raised through these days is impressive — including more than $116.3 million alone for the eighteen communities studied by Knight Foundation since 2012. But these online fundraising campaigns are about much more than the dollars, a new Knight report, the culmination of a three-year initiative, found: Over time, when organizers purposefully align the campaigns with their missions, giving days have helped to strengthen community foundations that organize them.

That's not to say that giving days are without risks or that the significant investment of community foundation resources and staff time is always worth it. Certainly, community foundations have been doing a lot of thinking about how to and even whether to continue theirs. Some of this contemplation follows the tech failure during this spring's nationwide Give Local America, when the donation-processing technology provided by Kimbia broke down. Online donations slowed to a halt for two-thirds of the 24-hour campaign, leaving donors, nonprofits, and community foundations in fifty-four communities across the country in crisis-mode and scrambling for a Plan B. It was not the first giving day tech failure, but it was the largest. Consultant Beth Kanter took a deeper look at what happened for KnightBlog, and considered the implications of the debacle for the future of giving days. In an upcoming blog series, we'll hear directly from community foundations about why they are and aren't continuing with these campaigns.

But despite what happened on Give Local America, we hope that community foundations also pay attention to the progress made through their investments. Having spent considerable time tracking giving day successes and challenges across the country over the past three years, we have seen the long-term value they can provide to both community foundation organizers and the communities they serve. Here are four examples from our new report, Beyond the Dollars: The Long-Term Value of Giving Days for Community Foundations, of what that change looked like.

Giving days, the report found:

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Generation Indigenous: Why Native American Youth Can't Wait

August 16, 2016

Gen_i-primary_logoOver the past decade, philanthropy has become increasingly responsive to the needs of young boys and men of color. The philanthropic community has mobilized to coordinate and partner on efforts like the Obama administration's My Brother's Keeper initiative. More recently, the field has turned its attention to addressing the needs of girls and young women of color. While I applaud these efforts, I'm reminded daily of the pressing and unmet needs of Native communities. And that invariably causes me to think about how much more needs to be done to ensure that all youth — regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender — have equal access to quality education and health care and the opportunity to grow up in safe and thriving communities.

Like other youth of color, Native American and Alaska Natives in cities and communities across the United States face challenges. Natives Americans have endured a history of racism and colonialism that has resulted in multi-generational trauma. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among Native youth between the ages of 15 and 24 — and that rate is two and a half times the national average. Native youth are five times more likely to end up in the criminal justice system than whites, where they receive disproportionately harsher sentences, and are more likely to be killed by police than any other racial group. Moreover, Native Americans are often categorized in data and reports as "statistically insignificant" or "other," erasing their very existence as a disadvantaged minority. As a result, too many programs, policies, and systems — not to mention philanthropy — ignore or overlook them.

The philanthropic community is well aware of these challenges, and yet foundation funding for Native issues and communities remains disproportionately low, consistently accounting for less than 0.5 percent of annual foundation grant dollars, even though Native Americans are 1.7 percent (5.4 million) of the U.S. population. Institutional philanthropy may blanch at the size of the problem or feel paralyzed by its lack of understanding of Native peoples and cultures, but philanthropy can make a difference. While the challenges are real, the resilience and hope in Native communities has resulted in innovative, high-impact solutions to many of these problems. And the most promising solutions have been driven by and for Native youth.

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4 Steps for Fostering Innovation

August 15, 2016

Eco-InnovationToo often foundations ask their grantees for "innovative ideas" but fail to deliver the same thing themselves — or even bother to define what "innovation" means. The assumption is that it "just happens." That lack of definition has come to imply that innovation must involve a dramatic, game-changing, disruptive new idea or practice: the iPhone of early childhood education, the Post-It note of economic development.

As a result, the expectations for innovation are both so high and so fuzzy that most people feel intimidated, not realizing that they too can create innovations and that innovation is not the exclusive domain of those who are smarter or more creative. After reading a book called The Innovation Formula: How Organizations Turn Change Into Opportunity by business gurus Michel Robert and Alan Weiss, I now realize the opposite is true. Most people, in a supportive environment and with proper supervision, can generate, vet, test, and implement innovative ideas. Here's what I learned from their book, and how I've applied it when working with my clients.

Supportive environments for innovation are created when:

  • Leadership – especially the CEO – serves as champions for the process.
  • Leadership believes that everyone can be innovative.
  • Leadership is willing to regularly identify, test, pilot, and implement potentially innovative ideas.
  • Leadership prudently monitors risk (not every innovative idea is a good one!).

Once these conditions are in place, there are four steps a foundation can take to generate innovations on an ongoing basis. They are:

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Weekend Link Roundup (August 13-14, 2016)

August 14, 2016

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

African Americans

In a review of Mychal Denzel Smith’s new memoir, Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watchingfor the New Republic, Jesse McCarthy reflects on "what has changed in our politics over the course of the Bush and Obama years, and in particular on the reemergence of an activist consciousness in black politics (and youth politics more broadly)."

In Fortune, a seemingly nonplussed Ellen McGirt reports on the Ford Foundation's investment in the Black-Led Movement Fund (BLMF), "a pooled donor fund designed to support the work of the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL)...." And be sure to check out this profile of the Ford Foundation-led #ReasonsForHope campaign by Fast Company's Ben Paynter.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Is anyone in corporate America measuring the impact of their CSR programs? In Forbes, Ryan Scott shares a few considerations for companies that are approaching impact measurement for the first time.

Data

Intrigued (and a little alarmed) by the decision of the Australian department that manages that country's census to collect and store real names with its census data, Philanthropy 2173's Lucy Bernholz has some good questions for all of us.

Education

Committed reformer or Department of Education apparatchik? Newsweek senior writer Alexander Nazaryan, himself a former New York City school teacher, tries to make sense of the puzzle wrapped in an enigma that is New York City public school chief Carmen Fariña.

In The Atlantic, Emily Deruy reports on the nascent efforts of the Black Lives Matter movement to reshape K-12 education policy at the local, state, and federal levels.

At its recent annual convention, the NAACP approved a resolution that included language calling for a moratorium on the expansion of privately managed charter schools. The Washington Post's Valerie Strauss takes a closer look at the issue on her Answer Sheet blog.

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Vikki Spruill, President/CEO, Council on Foundations: Philanthropy and the SDGs

August 11, 2016

The United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted by world leaders at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit on September 25, 2015. The agenda includes more than a dozen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, designed to stimulate action in areas of critical importance for humanity and the planet. More ambitious than the Millennium Development Goals, on which they build, the SDGs include a hundred and sixty-nine targets to be achieved over the next fifteen years, from eradicating extreme poverty for all people everywhere, to ensuring that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education, to halving per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reducing food losses along production and supply chains.

Led by large, globally oriented foundations such as Ford and Hilton and key infrastructure groups like Foundation Center and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, philanthropy has rallied around the SDG agenda. In July, the Council on Foundations, another key infrastructure group, released a report that details how philanthropy can help achieve the SDGs in the United States. Based on lessons the council has learned from its members and other national and local partners over the last year, the report shares examples of how funders are using the SDG framework to structure their work domestically and offers suggestions for how others might use the goals to advance their mission.

Recently, PND spoke with Vikki Spruill, president and CEO of the council, about the report, the council’s efforts to promote the SDG framework to its members, and why she believes the SDGs are good for philanthropy and the world.

Philanthropy News Digest: The council has released a report aimed at raising awareness of the UN Sustainable Development Goals among foundations and philanthropists in the United States. For readers who may not have heard of them, what are the SDGs, and why, as you put it in the foreword to the report, do they have the potential to be “revolutionary” for people around the world?

Headshot_vikki_spruillVikki Spruill: The Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, represent a historic global consensus about the shared responsibility that all nations have in advancing a global development agenda. They tackle seventeen areas of develop­ment and set aspirational targets for the global development community to achieve over the next fifteen years so that "no one is left behind." The seventeen goals, which cover everything from eradicating hunger and poverty, to advancing environmental sustainability, to reducing inequality, to improving education and health, were agreed on by a hundred and ninety-three countries in September 2015, including the United States, which, with President Obama's encouragement, agreed to pursue the goals both here at home and through our development activities around the globe.

As you know, the SDGs emerged from a previous United Nations initiative, the Millennial Development Goals, or MDGs, which were more narrowly focused on human development, whereas the SDGs cover all dimensions of development, including the economic, social, and environmental. And they're not just intended for developing nations, as the MDGs were, they're meant to be guidelines for all nations, including the United States.

I think the SDGs have enor­mous potential. We all recog­nize that government can't solve the world’s problems by itself — the MDGs showed us that. To change the world, to fully realize philanthropy's goals, we have to work across sectors, and the SDGs contribute to that by more specifically calling out the philan­thropic and private sectors. That's very exciting.

PND: What kind of role did the private sector, and foundations specifically, have in developing the SDG framework?

VS: Founda­tions that are part of the global development community played a critical role in developing the goals and in stressing the importance of philanthropy to advancing the SDGs. There's a group called the SDG Philanthropy Platform that's led by the United Nations Development Program, your own organization, the Foundation Center, and Rocke­feller Philanthropy Advisors, and it has made enormous progress in raising awareness of the SDGs, increasing the resources available to support them, and helping to forge new partnerships.

Likewise, the Council on Foundations is working to raise awareness of the SDGs. In fact, our report grew out of meetings we had in three cities, and we're planning to hold several more over the next few months. It's important to note that the meeting that took place in Addis Ababa in 2015, the Financing for Development summit, specifically stated that the private sector, including philanthropy, is needed to achieve the SDGs. So, it's really a historic moment for philanthropy, which hasn't been recognized as a partner in the same way by the United Nations before and now is being engaged in UN development activ­ities in new ways. At the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, in May, for example, three hundred and fifty different companies were represented, and because of the SDGs there is now a real opportunity for philanthropy to join in and shape these conversations going forward.

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Get Open: Leaders Reflect on Glasspockets' Impact

August 09, 2016

The Foundation Center's Glasspockets website is dedicated to the proposition that sharing philanthropic knowledge, processes, strategy, and best practices is a win-win for everyone – from grantmakers to grantees and the communities they serve.

But don't take our word for it....

In a new video, Glasspockets: Making the Case for Transparency, philanthropy leaders – including representatives from the Barr Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, and others – reflect on the positive impact that Glasspockets, and working more openly, has had on their work.

What are you waiting for? Take our "Who Has Glass Pockets?" transparency self-assessment and join the "Glass Pockets" movement today!

– Melissa Moy

Using Television and Film to Advance Your Cause (No Ad Budget Required)

August 08, 2016

A well-told story can help people understand an issue in a visceral way, enabling them to feel fear, stress, elation, and other strong emotions as it unfolds. When characters in the HBO drama Treme showed us the courage of New Orleanians struggling to stabilize their lives and rebuild their city after Hurricane Katrina, the importance of resilience and economic inclusion felt less hypothetical — and more like real issues affecting real people.

At the Rockefeller Foundation, we understand the power of stories to influence opinions, change attitudes, and motivate people to work for the good of their communities. In 2014, we deepened our investment in cause-focused storytelling with the launch of Hatch for Good, a suite of tools and resources designed to help social-change organizations share stories that drive social impact.

Of course, no one tells stories better than Hollywood. That's why we're supporting AndACTION, a pop culture hub that gives social-change organizations a heads-up on film and TV shows in production related to their causes, allowing them ample time to develop campaigns designed to stimulate discussion and drive action. We're intrigued by the idea of leveraging popular entertainment to encourage interest in topics like resilience and inclusive economies. And with AndACTION, social-change organizations now have an opportunity to tap into the passions generated by compelling stories delivered via screens large and small and ride the wave of public enthusiasm — because they know ahead of time the wave is coming.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (July 2016)

August 06, 2016

Sort of like that great little farm stand that pulls you in every time you drive by, our roundup of the most popular posts here on PhilanTopic in July offers lots of delicious food for thought. So pour yourself a tall glass of iced tea or lemonade and dig in!

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

Why Collaborate?

August 04, 2016

CollaborationCollaboration in the social sector takes many different forms and can be approached in a variety of ways, but before nonprofits address the what and how of organizational partnerships, they should consider the most important question of all: Why?

Everybody loves collaboration — in theory. I mean, who doesn't believe that two or more nonprofits working together to achieve common goals is a good thing? To not think that would be churlish, right? But put aside the feel-good factor for a moment and let's be honest: collaboration is not a good in itself unless it serves a definite purpose.

Nor is collaboration always the answer. A nonprofit has any number of strategies to choose from to advance its mission, and partnering with others is just one of them. But when considering which strategies to pursue, it can be helpful to think about certain kinds of partnerships as lending themselves to certain types of goals.

Collaboration

Although I've already used the term "collaboration" in a broad sense to refer to organizations that agree to work toward a common goal or purpose, it can also refer more specifically to the most common types of partnership, which tend to be limited in duration and degree of organizational integration. Some of the goals that can be advanced through collaboration include:

  • Pooling expertise or resources in co-sponsored or shared support of a time-limited effort.
  • Amplifying a policy message around a shared cause or issue through joint advocacy.
  • Creating and sharing collective wisdom and knowledge through collaborative learning.
  • Leveraging networks of like-minded organizations to tackle social issues requiring sustained, coordinated action.

Alliance

Alliances tend to be more formal and longer term than collaborations (though they need not be permanent), while still allowing a significant level of organizational autonomy. This type of partnership can be useful for advancing goals such as:

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