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Why We Make Free, Public Information More Accessible — and How You Can Help

February 17, 2017

An appeal from our IssueLab colleagues Gabi Fitz and Lisa Brooks.

File_folder_lockOne of the key roles the nonprofit sector plays in civil society is providing evidence about social problems and their solutions. Given recent changes to policies regarding the sharing of knowledge and evidence by federal agencies, that function is more critical than ever.

Nonprofits deliver more than direct services such as running food banks or providing shelter to people who are homeless. They also collect and share data, evidence, and lessons learned so as to help all of us understand complex and difficult problems.

Those efforts not only serve to illuminate and benchmark our most pressing social problems, they also inform the actions we take, whether at the individual, organizational, community, or policy level. Often, they provide the evidence in "evidence-based" decision making, not to mention the knowledge that social sector organizations and policy makers rely on when shaping their programs and services and individual citizens turn to inform their own engagement.

In January 2017, several U.S. government agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture, were ordered by officials of the incoming Trump administration not to share anything that could be construed as controversial through official communication channels such as websites and social media channels. (See "Federal Agencies Told to Halt External Communications.") Against that backdrop, the nonprofit sector's interest in generating and sharing evidence has become more urgent than ever.

IssueLab's mission is to provide free and immediate access to the knowledge nonprofits and foundations produce about the world as it is — as well as the things individuals and organizations are doing to make it better. We know there's no such thing as a post-truth society, and we are committed to supporting nonprofits and foundations in their efforts to gather and disseminate facts and evidence.

Seeking Volunteer "Factivists"

Providing access to evidence and lessons learned is always important, but in light of recent events, we believe it's more necessary than ever. That's why we are asking for your help in providing — and preserving — access to this critical knowledge base.

Over the next few months, we will be updating and maintaining special collections of non-academic research on the following topics and need lead curators with issue expertise to lend us a hand. IssueLab special collections are an effort to contextualize important segments of the growing evidence base we curate, and are one of the ways we  help visitors to the platform learn about nonprofit organizations and resources that may be useful to their work and knowledge-gathering efforts.

Possible special collection topics to be updated or curated:

→ Access to reproductive services (new)
→ Next steps for ACA
→ Race and policing
→ Immigrant detention and deportation
→ Climate change and extractive mining (new)
→ Veterans affairs
→ Gun violence

If you are a researcher, knowledge broker, or service provider in any of these fields of practice, please consider volunteering as a lead curator. We are accepting applications from individuals and teams who can commit to at least six months of fifteen hours of work per month. We will work closely with each team to establish inclusion criteria and collection strategies.

Individuals and teams are welcome to apply. And if you're interested in becoming an IssueLab "factivist" and contributing to a collection but don't want to serve as a lead curator, let us know and we'll find a team for you to join.

What are you waiting for? Apply now!

Six Ways to Connect People to Your Cause Through Social Media

February 16, 2017

Social-media-300x200A lot has changed since the National Park Foundation shared its first Facebook post in 2008.

Before then, landing an interview on a national news program or with a daily newspaper was enough to reach the masses.

Now, traditional media shares the spotlight with social media and other innovative forms of communication. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and the like have opened up a new world of possibilities for the sharing of content. And while NPF continues to use traditional advertising, public relations, content marketing, and events to engage current supporters and reach new audiences, social media plays an increasingly important role in our marketing and communications mix.

Here are some of the social media tactics we use to reach people of different ages and backgrounds and inspire them to care about our cause:

1. Create a movement with a call to action that inspires social sharing. In anticipation of the National Park Service Centennial celebration in 2016, we launched Find Your Park/Encuentra Tu Parque in 2015, a bilingual public engagement campaign designed to reach millennial audiences through traditional and new media platforms. The groundswell created by the campaign inspired a movement, with more than one in three millennials becoming familiar with #FindYourPark and #EncuentraTuParque through our strategic communications efforts, including print and Web media, public service announcements, live events, and donated advertising. But the campaign really took off on social media, as supporters of the national park system responded in huge numbers to our call to share their memories and tips for exploring these incredible places with those who had never experienced them. Indeed, over the course of the campaign, we registered more than 5.9 million engagements through our social media channels.

2. Partner with influencers, including celebrities. There's no doubt that the right celebrity ambassador can bring star power to your cause and get new eyeballs on your work. Our Find Your Park/Encuentra Tu Parque ambassadors have been fantastic partners in doing just that. From Mary Lambert performing a Facebook Live pop-up concert in front of Stonewall National Monument to Bill Nye hosting a modern-day telethon via Mashable's Facebook page in support of #GivingTuesday, our message is reaching more people in new and innovative ways. But don't discount the impact and importance of everyday influencers. Participants in our Find Your Park Expedition, for example, are social media personalities and bloggers who "bring" people along with them when they explore a national park by sharing their experiences online. We know that people are compelled to act by genuine, authentic narratives. While the channels through which we deliver those narratives may vary, curiosity about what our national parks represent and the urge to help preserve them for future generations transcends demographics and cultural differences.

3. Create and share relevant content. Develop an editorial calendar that includes cultural touchstones as generic as Halloween and as niche-y as Mountain Crush Mondays and then create content that connects your cause or mission to that holiday or event. For example, we published a blog post featuring park rangers reading from a ghost story collection we created in partnership with Joseph Gordon Levitt's hitRECord, and we're constantly looking for ways – whether it's a thoughtful listicle or a personal reflection piece – to show people that national parks are more than just beautiful landscapes.

4. Be social with your community. An enduring truth of social media is that it's just that – social. Beyond a comment, like, or share, you need to engage with members of your community and let them know you're paying attention. Thank them when they share your content. Thank them when they donate. Thank them when they name-check you in a post or on Facebook or Twitter. And think about ways you can amplify your voice in the broader community. Invite partner organizations to participate in Q&As on your blog and encourage them to share the finished piece via their social media channels as well.

5. Invest in custom content that supports your cause in creative (and even funny) ways. Last year, we teamed up with Funny Or Die to produce a hilarious spoof of "dating" apps that people could use to find the park of their dreams. More recently, we worked with a creative team to produce a series of fifteen-second clips that use money and origami to illustrate what your contributions do for our national parks. Short videos are great content for social media and are an excellent way to grab someone's attention as he or she is scrolling through a feed.

6. Leverage social movements such as #GivingTuesday. By proactively participating in the conversation around high-profile giving days and events, you make it easier for your followers on social media to support your organization. By investing in Facebook ads tied to #GivingTuesday, for example, we were able to connect with a millennial demographic that is keenly interested in supporting causes they believe in. In fact, people age 34 and under were nearly three times more responsive to our Facebook ads on #GivingTuesday than they were during the rest of December.

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the National Park Foundation and the 101st year of the National Park Service, we've been energized by the social media successes we've seen to date. But as millennials continue to reshape the economy and the way nonprofits operate, we know we must evolve to remain relevant. That means taking risks, testing new approaches, and adapting our storytelling to the needs of emerging channels. By creating engaging, fun content that resonates with diverse audiences, our social platforms enable us to clearly demonstrate how the National Park Foundation and the funds we raise directly benefit the National Park Service.

Headshot_Angela HearnAngela Hearn is senior vice president of marketing and communications at the National Park Foundation.

What We Learned From Our End-of-Year Fundraising Appeals

February 14, 2017

Year-end-fundraisingWe all know how important the final few months of the year are for nonprofits, many of which see up to 40 percent of their total yearly contributions come in between Thanksgiving and December 31. No surprise, then, that year after year I see nonprofits rushing to get their year-end campaigns out the door and into the hands (and in boxes) of donors. And every year, that mad, crazed rush makes me think of something Benjamin Franklin said: "You may delay, but time will not."

Most of us start each new year with the best of intentions and, if we happen to be in the fundraising game, the goal of starting our various campaigns early. But like a lot of things, especially during the busy holiday season, we often leave the necessary preparation to the last minute and, with time running out, end up falling back on what we've done in the past.

But now that the holidays are behind us and the data have been tallied, it's time to take a look at what worked, what didn't, and how we can improve. As an organization leader, you should start by asking some questions. Are our mailing lists out of date? Have we updated our messaging and graphics in the last few years? Have we tested out any new messaging? Are we getting donors to see the important role they play in the work we do? All are important questions — not just with respect to your year-end campaigns, but for your fundraising throughout the year.

Last year, my colleagues and I sent out more than 250,000 direct mail and email solicitations on behalf of clients. And even though the organizations we worked with had strong year-end results, we noticed a few trends that underscore how important year-end appeals are for nonprofits. With that in mind, here are five things, based on what we learned, that your organization can do to ensure year-end success in 2017:

1. Make list integrity a priority throughout the year. Although most of us build our lists over time, we couldn't help but notice that many of the organizations we worked with didn't spend enough time in 2016 reviewing and updating their lists to ensure the accuracy of their donor databases. One of our clients, however, used paid staff and volunteers to call, email, and personally invite donors on its list to a series of end-of-year events — a best practice that, along with a lot of diligent effort, contributed to that organization seeing a more than 40-percent increase in SYBUNT ("some year but not this year") donors deciding to make a donation.

2. Pay attention to the tone of your messaging. Consistency matters. Your fundraising and marketing appeals should provide direct and consistent messaging related to how and why a gift to your organization will benefit the cause or population you serve. Use the words of your constituents whenever possible, and be sure to include different stories and angles that convey to donors the impact your organization is having in its community.

3. Experiment, experiment, experiment. Think of each campaign as a chance to build a stronger connection between your donors and constituents — and as an opportunity to test (using a control group) different approaches, subject lines, and even design choices. And if you discover that something isn’t working, don’t be stubborn about getting rid of it and trying something else.

4. Focus on personalized communication. One way to foster stronger connections between individual donors and the work you do is to adopt a communications approach that prioritizes the personal touch — especially for your mid and major donors. This kind of personalization can include video messages or personal notes from your ED or president, board members, or key stakeholders; sequential appeals (i.e., a personal note followed by a phone call from a staff member or volunteer followed by a more generic email reminder); emails sent from your ED or president's inbox (instead of through an email service provider); and so on. Personalization works. In fact, in 2016 it led to a 17 percent increase in fundraising results for our clients who employed it.

5. Be sure to "educate" your donors. Don't assume that everyone who gives to your organization understands the role they play in its success. Instead, take advantage of every opportunity to inform your donors about the cause or individuals they are helping and how their donations will be used in 2017 to create even more impact.

Because planning and actually implementing a year-end campaign can take several months to half a year, it's never too early to start. The earlier you get to work integrating the above practices into your year-end appeals, the better your results are likely to be in 2017 — and beyond.

And don't get discouraged if the improvement isn't particularly dramatic in the first year or two. Changes in fundraising messaging often take time to resonate. Done well, however, the work you do over the next few months will lay the foundation for long-term success. Remember, fundraising is a marathon, not a sprint.

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

Weekend Link Roundup (February 11-12, 2017)

February 12, 2017

Abraham_Lincoln_O-77_matte_collodion_printOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Fundraising

If you believe measurement is key to the success of your fundraising program, writes HuffPo contributor Brady Josephson, then you really need to pay attention to these four metrics.

Giving

Did you know actor Kevin Bacon is the brains behind a website that links other celebrities to people and grassroots organizations doing good work. Inc.'s John Botinott has the story.

"Even after we've chosen our cause, a mere 3 percent of us base our gifts on the relative efficacy of nonprofit groups [working to address] that...cause." In a Q&A with Grid's Heather Shayne Blakeslee, ethicist Peter Singer (The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically) explains how we can do better.

Immigration

"Many in our region agree that parts of the immigration system must be improved to make the country more secure. But closing our borders to the terrorized in the name of preventing terror seems a step backward," writes Pittsburgh Foundation president Maxwell King. "And any policy that attempts to punish immigrants that are already part of the fabric of our society seems needlessly harsh. The vast majority of Americans want an immigration policy that effectively controls illegal immigration, but also allows for the appropriate levels of annual legal immigration that serve the needs of communities across the nation." We couldn't agree more.

In an essay in The Atlantic, David Blight, a professor of history at Yale University, suggests that "[o]ne place to begin to understand our long history with the controversies over immigration" is with Frederick Douglass, the most important African-American leader of the nineteenth century and "for nine years a fugitive slave everywhere he trod."

In a strong statement posted on the foundation's blog, San Francisco Foundation CEO Fred Blackwell pledges the foundation's support to immigrants and their families in the Bay Area, to constituencies targeted by Islamophobes, to grantees and nonprofit organizations on the front lines of the immigration battles to come, to faith leaders working to build bridges to and between immigrant communities, and to donors committed to just and fair inclusion for all residents of the Bay Area.

International Affairs/Development

Good analysis by the Pew Research Center on entries to the United States from the seven nations affected by the Trump administration's (suspended, for now) executive order preventing many of their citizens from entering the country.

In a new post on his Nonprofit Chronicles blog, Marc Gunther reviews Experimental Conversations: Perspectives on Randomized Trials in Development Economics,  an "intermittently fascinating" collection edited by sector insider Timothy Ogden.

On the Gates Notes blog, Bill and Melinda share a touching tribute to the late Hans Rosling, the data scientist/visualization whiz who showed, in wildly compelling fashion, that the world is making steady, significant progress on any number of critical development fronts. Rosling succumbed to pancreatic cancer on February 7 at the age of 68.

Journalism/Media

Here's some good news: High school students nationwide show greater support for First Amendment freedoms that at any time since the Knight Foundation began to survey them more than ten years ago. Gene Policinski, chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute, has the details.

Nonprofits

The Trump administration's vow "to get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment" could have profound consequences for civil society in the U.S. National Council of Nonprofits president Tim Delaney explains

"In these dark times, with so many lives at stake, love and justice demand we own our power and mobilize," writes NWB blogger Vu Le. "In the face of oppression, our sector cannot remain neutral. Equity does not allow us to remain neutral. When power operates without love, then love must operate through power."

Social Velocity's Nell Edgington has some constructive advice for nonprofit leaders whose organizations are stuck in a rut. 

In Fast Company, NTEN's Amy Sample Ward looks at the top three nonprofit jobs of the future.

Philanthropy

In a piece for the Hechinger Report, Andre Perry, the former founding dean of urban education at Davenport University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, argues that foundations serious about social justice need to pay more attention to the experts— namely, the people and communities they are trying to help.

And as we noted earlier in the week, the New York City-based Surdna Foundation has announced that it plans to put $100 million of its roughly $1 billion endowment into investments that seek both financial and social returns.

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

The World Is Upside Down: What Are Human Rights Funders Doing About It?

February 10, 2017

On January 21, a day after the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump, an estimated four million people participated in the Women's March on Washington and in sister marches worldwide. The feelings among the participants — strength, sorority, solidarity, anger, rebellion, humor, hope — were mixed. The marchers had many demands, including sexual and reproductive rights and action on climate change. Even more than a protest of the new president's policies, the march spoke to the power of intersectional social justice movements. Days later, President Trump revived a ban prohibiting federal resources from supporting international groups that perform or provide information on abortion as a family-planning option. A day after that, the president signed executive orders reactivating the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, despite resistance and protest from local, indigenous, and global communities.

Trump's first week in office was devastating for the human rights community. But it is a problem that is not unique to the U.S. In Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and many other countries in Latin America and around the world, we see similar threats. The human rights community is facing a global crisis that requires a global response.

IHRFG_Highlights_2017_coverIt was against this backdrop that I started reading the new edition of the International Human Rights Funders Group (IHRFG) and Foundation Center's Advancing Human Rights: Update on Global Foundation Grantmaking report. As I was reading, I came across many interesting takeaways — areas for which funding had increased or decreased, for example, as well as some new findings, including the growing visibility and critical role of Global South and East funders in advancing human rights — and the importance of collaboration.

According to the report, Global South and East funders provided $63.5 million through 2,259 grants to 1,837 recipients working to protect and promote human rights in 2014. Many of these donors are women’s funds that have taken the lead in mobilizing local and international resources that wouldn't otherwise get to grassroots groups in their countries and regions. It is not surprising. therefore, that Fondo Centroamericano de Mujeres (FCAM) and the African Women's Development Fund made the list of Global South and East funders who delivered the most grants, with 155 and 153, respectively. What can these funders teach the field of philanthropy? Here are a few thoughts:

Funders cannot address today's global challenges in isolation; we need to understand and build on the linkages among those challenges.

According to the report, 37 percent of the financial support provided by human rights funders was allocated to advocacy, systems reform, and implementation, while only 7 percent and 3 percent supported public engagement and grassroots organizing. What does this tell me? We have to do more to ensure that the voices of the most marginalized populations and communities are heard in the rooms where decisions are made. And we need to come up with more resources to make this a reality, to strengthen dialogue across movements, and to establish open spaces and platforms where funders can engage with each other.

Across movements for social justice, there is more that binds us than divides us. Whether we call ourselves human rights funders or not, to make the greatest impact, we have to pay attention to the commonalities and links that exist between our fields. We see, for example, an increase in the criminalization of social mobilization across movements; of indigenous peoples facing threats for defending their land and traditional practices; of restrictions on abortion, creating higher risks for pregnant women affected by health epidemics such as Zika. Tackling these problems in isolation only reduces our impact and increases the chances of duplicated effort. Therefore...

It is essential that foundations collaborate to realize shared goals and break down silos.

We need to learn from our peers about different approaches and experiences, create horizontal relations in which foundations in the South and North can collaborate as equals, and come together with key stakeholders beyond our usual circles to strengthen our grantmaking strategies and leverage more resources for human rights.

The Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action (GAGGA) is an example. FCAM, in collaboration with Mama Cash and Both ENDS, launched the alliance in April 2016. A five-year partnership with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, GAGGA aims to strengthen the capabilities of grassroots groups and leverage the momentum generated by collective action to lobby and advocate for women's rights and environmental justice around the world. The financial support it provides is flexible and multiyear.

A key component of the initiative, which includes eleven women's funds and four environmental funds as well as NGOs and grassroots organizations in thirty countries, is bringing together diverse stakeholders to connect different social justice movements at the national and international levels. The Global Greengrants Fund and Prospera — International Network of Women's Funds, both strategic partners in GAGGA, have already done important work to facilitate learning among environmental donors and women's rights funders. Going forward, these efforts will be more streamlined and less duplicative.

The Advancing Human Rights report confirms what we see in practice: funders are eager to strengthen the effectiveness of their human rights grantmaking, and they want to involve key stakeholders in their efforts and have the flexibility to incorporate innovative approaches. That's why it is exciting to see new alliances being formed among funders in the Global North and in the Global South and East, allowing us to share knowledge around common challenges, opportunities, and intersections in our work.

We are working with movements confronting myriad threats — movements on the frontlines of the struggle — and as foundations we must maintain our commitment and obligation to support them effectively. Though at times the challenges may overwhelm us, we must have confidence in the strength and resilience of social movements, and in our own. Most importantly, we must demonstrate and act on our shared commitment to social justice.

Breathe deeply and remember the words of Arundhati Roy: "Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing."

Headshot_carlo-lopez-cCarla López C. is executive director of Fondo Centroamericano de Mujeres (FCAM) and co-chair of Prospera – International Network of Women’'s Funds. She recently joined the advisory committee for the Advancing Human Rights: Knowledge Tools for Funders initiative. A version of this post originally appeared on the GrantCraft blog.

Professional Preparation: A "Value Add" for Educators and Their Employers

February 09, 2017

In October 2016, the Jim Joseph Foundation released a final evaluation conducted by American Institutes for Research of its Education Initiative — in three top-rated Jewish education institutions — Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), and Yeshiva University (YU) — to increase the number of educators and educational leaders who are prepared to design and implement high-quality Jewish education programs. The foundation and AIR have shared some of the key findings and lessons learned from the initiative. AIR also is releasing a series of blogs that delve more deeply into important findings from the evaluation — the second of which, below, discusses the value of professional preparation programs and the key characteristics that distinguish those programs as excellent.

Jim_joseph_foundationWhether in a classroom, at a camp, at locations in a city, or in nearly any other environment, effective Jewish learning experiences can enrich lives and help cultivate deep, long-lasting relationships among participants. Over the last two decades especially, Jewish education and engagement experiences developed for teens and young adults have focused on opportunities to create peer communities and friendships, develop leadership skills, and strengthen cultural and religious beliefs while enabling youth to voice their opinions and serve their communities. An important aspect of many of these initiatives is a high level of accessibility and inclusiveness, so that people of various backgrounds and differing levels of prior engagement in Jewish life feel valued, respected, and welcomed.

A Need to Raise the Bar

With the growing popularity of these offerings, both by well-established organizations and in the form of innovative projects, there is an urgent need for the professionalization of individuals responsible for designing, conducting outreach for, and facilitating them. Jewish Community Centers (JCCs), congregations, youth groups, camps, Hillel, and social justice organizations in particular offer many of these experiences — and as a result are driving increased demand for talented, well-trained professionals eager to work in this space.

At the moment, however, no degree requirement exists for individuals tasked with delivering such influential Jewish experiences. The Jim Joseph Foundation's Education Initiative, a recently completed $45 million, six-year investment in three top-rated Jewish education institutions — Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), and Yeshiva University — in part aimed to fill this void by increasing opportunities for and improving access to professional preparation programs for educators, aspiring leaders, middle managers, and directors and executive directors in the field of Jewish education. The initiative was based on the premise that higher education institutions are uniquely equipped to promote the research-based knowledge and decision-making tools needed by professionals to design and deliver a range of excellent educational practices for a particular age group in different settings.

We previously shared other key outcomes and findings of the initiative, including the number of new educators trained and new training programs developed. Now, we want to home in on the value of professional preparation for the individuals and organizations that offer Jewish learning experiences.

From Personal Development to Organizational Change

Data collected as part of the independent evaluation of the Education Initiative confirmed that employers value training opportunities for their staff.

"Certificate programs help raise the bar of all of our staff. We want our employees to come from a place of knowledge rather than a place of hunch or guess."

— director of education at a congregation

Employers recognize that professional training helps them (and other organizations) address the recruitment and retention of qualified, skilled, and experienced Jewish educators. In fact, from 2010-16, most of the employers of students in Education Initiative-funded programs sponsored paid time for participation in seminars and for study time. Some of the initiative programs even required employers to cover some of the tuition costs, but that was not a deterrent. Not only were most employers happy to support their staff; they also reported a high likelihood that staff were happy to recommend the program to others inside and outside their organizations.

"My goal is to keep him in his position as long as possible, and that means that I want to see our youth director position continue to grow. What we need are qualified people staying in youth director positions for longer terms, as opposed to seeing their job as a stepping stone. A certificate allows the youth director to change in such a way that their role in the congregation can change."

— an executive director at a congregation

Across Education Initiative programs such as M² (Machshava and Maase, formerly the Experiential Jewish Education Certificate Program), Certificate of Jewish Education for Adolescents and Emerging Adults, and the Jewish Experiential Leadership Institute, both employers and participants reported higher job satisfaction and improved job performance as a direct result of their programs. In most interviews conducted for the evaluation, employers remarked that their youth program directors were more confident in their leadership and management abilities after attending one of the certificate programs developed under the initiative. A Jewish Community Center director explained that her program coordinator now feels "more connected to the organization and more empowered as an employee. She is working with her project [team] with greater excitement and it is going to help a number of part-time employees grow professionally."

For youth directors specifically, the most common direct outcomes from participating in a professional development program were (a) greater interest in designing or redesigning educational programs; (b) greater interest in embedding professional development into staff meetings; and (c) improved stakeholder engagement.

"[The program] has made him more self-confident about the education work that he is doing. That translates to how he speaks about our Hillel to others in the field and it boosts our profile."

— director of a Hillel at a university

Key Characteristics of Effective Training Programs

Interviews with the direct supervisors of professionals who graduated from an Education Initiative-funded program crystallize what made those programs so valuable:

  • Relevance: Knowledge directly applies to the organizational context in which program participants work.
  • Resources: Having the lesson plans and materials (e.g., texts, art, songs, movies, games) to teach children and adolescents about Jewish themes.
  • Perspective: Learning from the experience of youth programs operating in different geographical areas, communities, and organizational structures.
  • Inspiration: Understanding how theory and research can be used to design state-of-the-art, developmentally-appropriate activities.
  • Assessment: Developing the ability to collect and analyze data to identify ineffective practices that should be replaced or revised.
  • Communication: Learning how to convey the rationale for program design when engaging stakeholders, including other professionals, partnering organizations, and families.
  • Model: Experiencing a learning process that bridges research, practice, and Jewish community context and gaining the tools to deliver a similar workshop to co-workers and others.

The outcomes delivered by the Education Initiative suggest that beyond gains in professional knowledge, successful training programs can boost organizational commitment and reduce job stress for educators. Such programs also can inspire educators to think about new ideas for practice, share those ideas with colleagues, and communicate about the meaningfulness of their work:

"The program impacted the way I see myself as an educator and my philosophy. I learned a lot in terms of how to plan and execute content in a meaningful way and [to carry out] team building [strategies] for an educational purpose. But the ultimate takeaway was the importance of the journey in forming a Jewish identity. I now have the language to explain it [to my colleagues] and to make it happen. It is important that you know that this program attracted people who feel like they are good at what they do — they are not novices and they are not struggling. But, they really needed the language and the tools for what they had a hunch for. This sort of takes you from 'This is what I want to do with my life' to 'I am going be amazing at it'."

— director of teen learning at a JCC

Headshot_Yael KidronThe positive outcomes of the programs created under the Education Initiative demonstrate how professional training influences educators, increasing the quality of education they deliver and increasing the likelihood they remain in the field. And beyond this, high-quality training programs positively affect organizational content, pedagogy, staffing, and culture. Most importantly, these training programs create a ripple effect of knowledge sharing and the dissemination of proven practices that ultimately advance and further help to professionalize the broader field of Jewish education.

Yael Kidron, Ph.D., is a principal researcher at American Institutes for Research.

Reluctant Rolodex Syndrome

February 08, 2017

Rolodex-67236How long has it been since you — or anybody you know, for that matter — used a Rolodex for anything other than to keep loose papers from sliding off the desk? And yet "Rolodex" continues to be one of the most widely used terms among development officers and fundraising consultants — not to mention one of the most anxiety-inducing words in the English language for nonprofit board members and major donors. How could it be that mere mention of a once-critical but today ignored office product — as in, “Can I count on you to open your Rolodex?”— can create both optimism and terror in the hearts of development professionals?

I kid, but most everybody reading this knows exactly what I mean. To the development professional, an organization’s most powerful fundraising asset is its pool of "true believers" — committed friends, board members, donors, and funding partners who are already convinced that the nonprofit’s mission, programs, and effectiveness are worthy of generous support. In a game where getting through the door is 90 percent of the challenge, common sense tells us that an introductory call from a friend will almost always be more effective than a cold call. Think of it this way: how many basketball players will launch a half-court shot when the defense has left the lane wide open for a layup? (Not you, Warriors fans.)

At the same time, many of us understand that our true believers aren't always eager to share the good word about an organization with others or are willing to go out of their way to extend an invitation to their friends and business associates to support — with their time, money, or both — a cause close to someone else’s heart.

Why is it that true believers are so often reluctant to share philanthropic good news with their friends and associates? And what can we, as development professionals, do to reduce their level of anxiety and nudge our board members and donors into opening their Rolodexes a little more readily?

With your indulgence, let me introduce you to a theory I call the Three Big Fears of Major Donors and Board Members — a theory that, in my opinion, goes a long way toward explaining what I call Reluctant Rolodex Syndrome.

Fear #1: The Fear of Being Asked to Solicit Money

It never ceases to amaze me how many people who routinely pitch multi-million-dollar investments to acquaintances or friends break out in a cold sweat when they’re asked to solicit those same acquaintances and friends for a $25,000 gift in support of remodeling a local homeless shelter, providing job training to displaced workers, or some other equally worthwhile cause. Shouldn"t it be the other way around? Shouldn't it be easier — much easier — to ask someone for an investment that benefits others in need than to ask them for an investment from which you and your partners personally hope to profit? Go figure.

It's a paradox, a quirk of human psychology, and I've given up trying to understand it. Instead, I've developed a simple solution to the problem that almost always works: I reassure true believers that I'm not asking them to make the actual ask — I'll take care of that, thank you very much — but instead simply need them to broker an introduction to their deep-pocketed friends and acquaintances that helps me get through the door. For many true believers, that's all the reassurance they need; for others, it's not sufficient to break through their resistance. In which case...

Fear #2: The Fear of Asking Rather Than Giving

In his best-seller Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, Wharton Business School phenom Adam Grant maps out the distinction between "givers" and "takers" in the workplace, and argues that giving typically is productive, except when carried to an extreme. "One of the critical distinctions between self-sacrificing givers and successful ones," Grant observes, "is the willingness to seek help from others." (By the way, I encourage you to check out one of Grant's TedTalks.)

Although I can't prove it, I assume that the nonprofit true believer tends to be more of a "giver" than a "taker." (Isn't that true, after all, of most people who are active philanthropists?) Helping our self-sacrificing giver understand that the ask is not for themselves but rather to benefit others in need can be an effective tool, in Grant’s way of thinking, for cultivating givers who are willing to seek help from others — in this case, by asking them to crack open their Rolodexes. For the uber-idealist, asking another person for something can be understood as giving the other a gift — the opportunity to help someone in need. And yes, that argument sometimes has been met with a good-natured "Nice try." Moving on…

Fear #3: Fear of the Terrifying Quid Pro Quo

Saving the most problematic for last, it's been my observation that fear of the quid pro quo — namely, the price the true believer expects he/she will ultimately have to pay in exchange for soliciting the support of others — is a powerful contributor to the Reluctant Rolodex Syndrome.

There is no antidote to the quid pro quo virus. It is, after all, not unrealistic to expect B to ask A for a future gift to his/her favorite charity when A has successfully leaned on their relationship to solicit B for his/her own cause. But here, too, there is a solution: keep your true believer out of the ask, unless, and only if, he/she is prepared to take that risk. There's no question that the most productive solicitation typically occurs when the true believer has leverage over the prospect, but we all need to understand that there is a cost to that approach. If the cost is too high for some, the next best thing is a warm introduction and handoff.

So, to all my philanthropist friends out there, understand that your support is likely to have the most impact when it involves both the opening of your checkbook and the opening of your Rolodex. And for those doing the double ask, don’t forget to be sensitive to the complexity of what you are asking: for many people, the latter is more stressful than the former.

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

With Smart Philanthropy, Anything Is Possible

February 06, 2017

Collaboration-puzzle-piecesThere are no limits to what philanthropy can accomplish if we dream big, take risks, and set aside our egos and look for ways to work collaboratively.

"That's ridiculous," some of you may be thinking."Philanthropic dollars are a drop in the bucket. The best we can hope to do is to fund effective programs and improve as many lives as we can."

The truth is, that kind of small-ball thinking is horsepucky, and we need to put it aside if we want to transform and improve our society and the world. Indeed, there's an urgent need, right now, for foundations and high-net-worth donors to invest serious money in organizations on the frontlines of transformative social change.

Think back twenty years ago, to 1997:

  • Gas was $1.22 per gallon.
  • Bill Clinton had just been inaugurated to a second term as president of the United States.
  • The Lion King had debuted on Broadway.
  • The Spice Girls had a song at the top of the pop charts.

Did anyone in 1997 believe that less than twenty years later full marriage equality for same-sex couples would be the law of the land? It didn't seem remotely possible.

But then, in 2000, leaders of the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, a California-based philanthropy, began to think about how the foundation could best support work to advance the rights of and dignity for gay people.

In 2002, the fund made a $2.5 million investment in the Freedom to Marry campaign — at the time, the largest investment ever made by a foundation in support of gay rights.

The investment by the fund got the ball rolling. In 2004, the fund, recognizing that it couldn't possibly push the campaign to success by itself, helped create the Civil Marriage Collaborative with a handful of committed, like-minded funders from across the country.

It took visionary leadership and trust to make the collaborative a reality. And working together over the next dozen years and in close partnership with the other organizations, the funders of that effort helped accomplish what had once been unthinkable.

It wasn't easy. Changing society is tough work. Even as the campaign secured many wins, it also had to deal with setbacks. But the funding partners stuck by each other and their grantees, keeping their eyes on the prize and building momentum by winning an increasing number of victories at the state level. And then, on June 26, 2015, in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land.

It was a great day for the country and the culmination of a long campaign in which funders and nonprofits worked together to make society a little more fair and just.

I'm sure many of you have a story about how the court's ruling has impacted your life. For me, it was being able to attend the wedding of my sister a little over a year ago.

And here's some more good news. These same kinds of strategies work just as well at the local and state levels.

In 2012, for example, a group of California funders launched the California Civic Participation Funders to support nonprofits in the state working to strengthen civic participation in communities of color and among other underrepresented populations. The funders involved in the effort were focused on different issues — some on health, some on immigrant rights, others on criminal justice or women's rights — but they knew that having robust civic participation from groups that traditionally have been marginalized was essential if they hoped to see success on their issue. So they decided to work together, in close partnership with their grantees, to boost civic participation in four California counties.

That work is paying off.

Last summer, for example, citizens of San Diego voted in favor of an Earned Sick Leave and Minimum Wage Ordinance that immediately raised the minimum wage to $10.50 and then raised it again on January 1,to $11.50 per hour. San Diego is not known as a progressive bastion, and very few people would have guessed that San Diegans would vote in favor of such an ordinance. But with years of sustained investment by California Civic Participation Funders, what was once unthinkable became reality. And thousands of low-income families are going to benefit.

Because I've been studying this stuff for years, I thought I'd share six things that funders should keep in mind if they are looking to maximize their impact:

The first and most important is to invest heavily in advocacy, civic engagement, and community organizing. For philanthropy, that is where the leverage lies. Research has shown that for every dollar invested in nonprofit advocacy, community organizing, and civic engagement, families and communities get $115 back in benefits. The Public Welfare Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., tops NCRP's list of funders who invest heavily in these kinds of strategies.

Second, you need to use targeted strategies, even when you have universal goals. To help everyone in your community, you need to employ a different strategy to reach the Latino community than you might use to reach whites or African Americans. You may also need different strategies for women and men. Be intentional. The Lumina Foundation, in Indianapolis, does this well. Lumina's overarching goal is universal — to raise college attainment rates in the U.S. to 60 percent by 2025 — but it uses different strategies to reach different groups.

Another critically important thing is to provide multiyear general operating support. Big changes don't happen over the course of a year. Research has shown that flexible, multiyear support correlates directly with greater effectiveness and impact and helps builds trust between funders and their grantees. Don't believe me? In 2015, the Ford Foundation announced that it intends to double its commitment to providing long-term general operating support. What would it take for you or your foundation to double the amount of general support you provide?

The fourth thing is to collaborate with other funders — and encourage and help your grantees collaborate. None of us, not even the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has enough money to solve the biggest, thorniest problems on its own. We've got to work together if we want to have real impact and move the needle on tough problems.

Funders also have to invest in long-term movement leadership. At the end of the day, individuals are the ones who drive social change. When funders invest in the leadership of social movements, it invariably leads to profound and lasting benefits. Leadership by and mobilization of marginalized communities is essential to success. If you need ideas or an example of a funder that does this well, check out the Levi Strauss Foundation, which runs a terrific leadership program for social justice leaders in the San Francisco Bay Area.

My sixth and final piece of advice is that you give special attention to issues of race and gender. The presidential election campaign made it abundantly clear that racism and sexism are still huge problems in our society. Effective philanthropic strategies recognize that fact and work to promote greater equity. Again, if you're looking for an effective model, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has been a national leader in this area.

So there you have it. We're facing huge challenges as a society. But big change is possible, and philanthropy has a critically important role to play in bringing about that change.

Headshot_aaron_dorfmanWe just need to dream big, take risks, and work collaboratively. When we do, everyone benefits.

Aaron Dorfman is president and CEO of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP). This post is based on a talk that that Dorfman gave a couple of weeks ago at the annual conference of the Minnesota Council of Foundations and is reprinted here with the permission of NCRP. Follow them on Twitter @ncrp.

Weekend Link Roundup (February 4-5, 2017)

February 05, 2017

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

African Americans

It's Black History Month. Here, courtesy of the Washington Post, are a few things you should know.

Arts and Culture

The Trump administration is rumored to be toying with the idea of eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts. Who stands to lose the most if rumor becomes reality and the Republican-controlled Congress pulls the plug on NEA funding? In an op-ed on the Artsy blog, Isaac Kaplan says it would be the American people.

Climate Change

With the Trump administration determined to pursue "a ‘control-alt-delete’ strategy — control the scientists in the federal agencies, alter science-based policies to fit their narrow ideological agenda, and delete scientific information from government websites," is philanthrocapitalism our best hope for finding solutions to a warming planet? Corinna Vali reports for the McGill International Review.

Can shareholder advocates really move the needle on the issue of climate change? Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther weighs in with a tough but balanced assessment.

Diversity

In a post on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Alyse d'Amico and Leaha Wynn reflect on what the organization has done, and is doing, right in the area of diversity and inclusion.

Education

"Nearly sixty-three years after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case kick-started racial integration in schools — and six decades after a group of African-American students had to be escorted by federal troops as they desegregated Little Rock’s Central High School — students nationwide are taught by an overwhelmingly white workforce," write Greg Toppo and Mark Nichols in USA Today. "And the racial mismatch, in many places, is getting worse."

Environment

As part of its ongoing efforts to build the new field of resilience, the Rockefeller Foundation has launched Zilient, a global community of scholars and practitioners dedicated to building "the capacity of individuals, communities, and systems to survive, adapt, and grow in the face of stress and shocks."

Giving

The Trump administration's tax plan and the House Republican Blueprint — starting points for 2017 tax reform — pose "by far the greatest threat to tax-encouraged charitable gifts...in over half a century." Ashlea Ebeling reports for Forbes.

Governance

Troublesome board member? Social Velocity's Nell Edgington has some good advice on how to address the situation.

Healthcare

"Legislative attacks on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicaid, Children's Health Insurance Program and Medicare would take coverage away from tens of millions of Americans, cut $1 trillion from state funds for Medicaid, replace Medicare with a limited voucher for private insurance and raise the cost of health coverage for almost everyone," writes Richard Kirsch, formerly the national campaign manager for Health Care for American Now, on the NCRP blog. What can foundations do to help prevent that from happening? Kirsch has some ideas.

Immigration

In a statement on the foundation's website, Lumina Foundation president Jaime Merisotis explains why the recent executive order calling for a halt on immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations is a step back from the values and ideals that define America.

On the foundation's Point blog, Heinz Endowment president Grant Oliphant reminds us that "[n]o people in the history of the world have ever prospered or secured themselves for long by slamming shut the gates of opportunity behind them. All they succeed in doing is closing out the strivers and the dreamers who bring new energy and new ideas, who history has shown time and again swell the ranks of entrepreneurs and inventors and become the real 'job creators' of the future."

The Washington Post's Katie Mettler retells the story of Emma Lazarus, the young, high society New York poet who gave the Statue of Liberty its voice.

As this story from the AP reminds us, America's history with immigration is...complicated.

And here are three charts that help explain that complex history.

Philanthropy

"Most foundation philanthropy consists of grants...[b]ut there are ways to support worthy causes that can result in not just a positive social return but also a positive financial return, putting money back into our hands to recycle out again and again to other nonprofits that need it." On the Kresge Foundation site, Kimberlee Cornett introduces a new series focused on the foundation's social investing work.

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

What Governments Can Do to Address Cancer

February 04, 2017

Dr. Kelly Henning is the public health program lead at Bloomberg Philanthropies.

World-Cancer-Day-LogoWhile much work remains to find a cure for cancer — the good news is we know that many forms of cancer are preventable. On World Cancer Day, a moment when the global community comes together to reflect on those lost to cancer, as well as the advances we need to make to find a cure,  it's important to remember that there are actions that governments and individuals can take to prevent cancer. In fact, governments hold many levers that can actually address this leading killer.

For example, governments — both at the national and municipal levels — can and should take on tobacco. A staggering twenty-two percent of all cancer deaths are tobacco-related. One of the most effective strategies to cut into tobacco use is to raise tobacco taxes, which not only reduces use but also increases government revenue. When Bloomberg Philanthropies founder Mike Bloomberg served as mayor of New York City, mortality rates from cancer declined 6.4 percent compared to 2001. 

While we can't definitively say this was the direct result of one action, we do know that efforts to curb tobacco — like implementing bans on smoking in work places and public spaces, raising the price through increased taxes, and airing hard-hitting media campaigns, had important  impact....

Continue reading >>

 

GCIR - Joint Foundation Statement on Immigration

February 03, 2017

Since 1990, Grantmakers Concerned With Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR) has sought "to influence philanthropy to advance the contributions and address the needs of the country's growing and increasingly diverse immigrant and refugee populations." In so doing, it seeks "to promote effective grantmaking that not only improves the lives of newcomers but also strengthens communities."

On Friday, the group issued a joint statement on immigration signed by more than thirty foundations and funder groups. The statement, in its entirety, is included below, along with the names of the signatories:

______

Statement

The United States stands at a historical crossroads. Founded as a refuge from religious persecution and built by generations of immigrants, our country has been the standard bearer internationally for the assertion and protection of inalienable rights and freedoms, a beacon of hope for refugees facing oppression and persecution, and a land of opportunity for immigrants seeking a better life for themselves and their families.

As philanthropic institutions, we have built our missions on this proud and rich tradition. We have invested in creating healthy communities, promoting diversity and inclusion, building a vibrant democracy, and advancing equity and equality for all people, regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender expression, immigration status, and national origin.

The recently issued immigration executive orders compromise our nation's founding principles and the Constitution, our standing in the world, and our core values of liberty, justice, and due process. They weaken our moral leadership, fuel the efforts of those who wish us ill, harm our global competitiveness, and fray our social fabric.

Our foundations support diverse issues, strategies, and communities across the country, but we are united in the belief that immigrants and refugees are integral to every aspect of our society. Newcomers enrich our culture and tradition as artists, playwrights, and dancers. Naturalized citizens strengthen our civic life as voters, jurors, school-board members, and elected officials. Immigrant entrepreneurs and refugee-owned businesses revitalize neighborhoods, towns, and cities across America. Foreign-born scientists and engineers fuel innovations and help our country prosper. Farmworkers put food on our tables, and caregivers nurture our children, care for our elders, and nurse our ill. Young newcomers — including DACA beneficiaries — demonstrate their patriotism and enthusiasm for American ideals in schools, communities, workplaces, and the armed forces. Without the contributions of immigrants and refugees now and throughout our history, our collective well-being and economic vitality would be greatly diminished.

We, the undersigned philanthropies, join public officials, the faith community, business leaders, and the American public in supporting policies that protect our national security, strengthen our economy, and uphold core American values. We stand with our grantees — advocates, organizers, researchers, and service providers — in calling for policies that reflect our nation's founding principles, promote cohesion and inclusion, instill hope, and show compassion. Policies that recognize our global interdependence, that honor our tradition of welcoming those seeking refuge and a better life, and that keep families together will make our communities stronger, safer, and more prosperous.

We expect additional challenges in the weeks and months ahead on the immigration front, including expanded detention and deportations, and on policies affecting the rights of women, African Americans, the LGBTQ community, and other vulnerable groups. The issues, communities, and core values that our foundations have sought to advance are under serious and imminent danger. With history and morality as our guide, we reject discriminatory policies that target individuals based on gender, race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, immigration status, sexual orientation, gender expression, and other grounds. We stand committed to the inherent value and dignity of every person at home and abroad. We stand together for the American Dream.

For more information or to sign the statement, contact Caleb Beaudoin (link sends e-mail). If joining, please provide the name of your foundation and the name and title of your signer (i.e., the CEO, the board chair, or both).

A special thanks to GCIR members and funders for their support in making this statement possible.

Signatories
Cora Mirikitani, President & CEO
Asian Americans / Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP)
Maria Mottola, Executive Director
New York Foundation
Audrey Yamamoto, President & Executive Director
Asian Pacific Fund
Kevin F. Walker, President & CEO
Northwest Area Foundation
Jerry Greenfield, President
Ben & Jerry’s Foundation
Ken Zimmerman, Director of U.S. Programs
Open Society Foundations
Antonia Hernández, President & CEO
California Community Foundation
Pedro Ramos, President & CEO
Philadelphia Foundation
Robert K. Ross, M.D., President & CEO
California Endowment
Gillian Darlow, CEO
Polk Bros. Foundation
Karen A. Simmons, President & CEO
Chester County Community Foundation
Mary E. McClymont, President and CEO
Public Welfare Foundation
Truman Collins, President
Cynthia G. Addams, CEO
Collins Foundation
Timothy P. Silard, President
Rosenberg Foundation
Laura Livoti, CEO
Common Counsel Foundation
Aixa N. Cintrón-Vélez, Ph.D., Program Director
Russell Sage Foundation
Alicia Phillip, President
Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta
Fred Blackwell, CEO
San Francisco Foundation
Joe Goldman, President
Democracy Fund
Fo-Ching Lu, President
Sheng-Yen Lu Foundation
Jennie Lehua Watson, Interim President
Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund
Amanda Cloud, President & CEO
Simmons Foundation
Marcos Vargas, Executive Director
Fund for Santa Barbara
Tom Keith, President
Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina
Ben Francisco Maulbeck, President
Funders for LGBTQ Issues
Molly Gochman, Founder
Stardust Fund
Dimple Abichandani, Executive Director
General Service Foundation
Kriss Deiglmeier, CEO
Tides
Eva Grove, Founder & Board Member
Leslie Dorosin, Executive Director
Grove Foundation
Taryn Higashi, Executive Director
Unbound Philanthropy
Darren Sandow, Executive Director
Hagedorn Foundation
Kate Kroeger, Executive Director
Urgent Action Fund
Nat Williams, Ph.D, Executive Director
Hill-Snowdon Foundation
Nancy Wiltsek, Executive Director
van Löben Sels/RembeRock Foundation
Diana Campoamor, President
Hispanics in Philanthropy
Rick Kinsel, President
Vilcek Foundation
Don Howard, President & CEO
James Irvine Foundation
William S. Goldman, President, Board of Trustees
Pamela H. David, Executive Director
Walter & Elise Haas Fund
Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, CEO
Latino Community Foundation
Fred Ali, President & CEO
Weingart Foundation
Debora Ortega, Ph.d., Board Chair
Carlos Martinez, Executive Director
Latino Community Foundation of Colorado
Edward Kissam, Trustee
Werner-Kohnstamm Family Fund
James S. Farley, Esquire, President & CEO
Leichtag Foundation
Larry Kramer, President
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
Helen Brunner, Foundation Director
Media Democracy Fund
Donna P. Hall, President & CEO
Women Donors Network
Charles Wilhoite, Board Chair
Doug Stamm, CEO
Meyer Memorial Trust
Grace Hou, President
Woods Fund Chicago
Frank I. Sanchez, Executive Director
Needmor Fund
Bob Uyeki, CEO
Y & H Soda Foundation
Michele Lord, President
NEO Philanthropy
Allison Magee, Executive Director
Zellerbach Family Foundation
Lorie A. Slutsky, President
New York Community Trust
 

No Ban, No Wall: Standing With Immigrant Communities

February 01, 2017

Statue_of_libertyIn 1938, when my father was nine years old, he and my grandparents emigrated to the United States from Hungary, fleeing the advancing Nazi terror. They then spent their lifetimes fighting for human and civil rights, believing deeply that each and every one of us has the right to live free from fear and oppression. Today, we find ourselves fighting oppression not at the hands of a dangerous foreign power, but from the fearful and prejudiced impulses of our own government and some of our fellow citizens. 

It bears repeating — again and again and again — that America is mostly a nation of immigrants. Every day, people come here seeking the promise of freedom and a better life for themselves and their families. Immigration is not America's problem; it is our strength. 

Recently, President Trump issued executive orders targeting immigrants, refugees, and Muslims that will take us back to shameful chapters of our history, not move us forward. In the face of threats and attacks on our deepest values, we must redouble our commitment. We must fight any effort to roll back sanctuary protections for immigrant families and communities. We must resist attempts to turn us against one another or to exploit fears of those who look or worship differently than we do. We must say no to using local law enforcement to tear families apart and stand against any policy that denies talented young immigrants their dreams. 

Immigrants' rights is a critical economic issue. In California, nearly ten million immigrants call the state home, immigrant workers comprise more than one-third of California's labor force, and about one in ten workers is an undocumented immigrant. This is also a public safety issue. Pushing immigrants back into the shadows by driving a wedge of fear between immigrants and law enforcement puts every community at risk. Above all, however, it is a human rights issue. Immigrants are our neighbors, co-workers, family members, and friends. They are us. And we refuse to leave them to the mercy of cruel, unjust, and unconstitutional immigration policies.

We all must support local, state, and national leaders who are standing strong with immigrant communities. We owe a debt of gratitude to the lawyers who are fighting back in the courts and at airports and the thousands who are protesting injustice in cities around the country. At Rosenberg Foundation, we applaud our colleagues in philanthropy who are responding nimbly and quickly to the needs of immigrant communities and advocates. In the weeks and months ahead, to protect progress and advance justice, we will have to rely on the strength of our convictions and the power of the courts, of our communities, and of tireless advocates and organizers. This year, the Rosenberg Foundation is committed to increasing our funding for immigrants' rights by at least 50 percent, supporting courageous work in policy advocacy, deportation defense, community organizing, communications, and litigation. 

Moving forward, this fight will demand a lot from us. Today, it demands that all of us, in every community, every sector and every neighborhood, join together and flex California's powerful collective muscle. 

This is not business as usual. This fight will not be easy or comfortable, and it may require institutional and personal risk.  But as Dr. King taught us, the ultimate measure is not where we stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where we stand during times of challenge and controversy.

Headshot_tim_silardEvery one of us knows and cares for our immigrant neighbors, and they are not alone. We will stand shoulder to shoulder to protect them — and protect our common values of inclusion, freedom, opportunity, and justice.

Timothy P. Silard is president of the Rosenberg Foundation. This post originally appeared in the From the President section of the foundation's website.

[Review] 'Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations'

January 30, 2017

One morning at the gym, I looked up at the TV and saw that New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman was promoting his latest book and opining about the state of the world following the U.S. elections. It took me a minute, between the banter and the buzzwords, but I eventually understood Friedman's reason for writing the book: like most of us, he thinks the world is moving too fast. His recommended remedy? We all need to slow down and reflect on the causes of this acceleration so that we can more confidently (and optimistically) chart our way through an increasingly complex world.

Bookcover_Thank You For Being LateAs he explains in Thank You For Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations, Friedman, a three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, writes books (The Lexus and the Olive Tree; The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century; Hot, Flat, and Crowded) "because I love…taking a complex subject and trying to break it down so…I...understand it and…readers better understand it." Reading his work, one can see the interplay between the best sellers he writes every few years and his twice-a-week musings on the op-ed page of the Times. In Thank You For Being Late, for example, he sets the table with one of his go-to subjects: Moore's law, named after Intel-co-founder Gordon Moore, who noted in 1965 that computing power had been doubling every year based on the increasing density of silicon transistors in computer chips — and was likely to continue at a similar rate for at least the next ten years. As anyone who follows tech knows, Moore's famous observation continues to bear out forty years after its predicted expiration date. And the consequences of that astounding increase in computing power serve as a backdrop against which Friedman explores three accelerating forces affecting every aspect of our lives: technology (especially cloud computing, which he calls the"Supernova"), globalization (the "Market"), and climate change ("Mother Nature").

The exponential growth in computing power and the increasing rate of innovation it drives have created, according to Friedman, an orders-of-magnitude change in digital interconnectedness, transforming how we communicate (texting, social media), shop (e-commerce), and even where we sleep (Airbnb). At the same time, he argues, the rate of change, both technological and social, enabled by this connectivity now exceeds our ability to adapt, causing many of our current political, economic, and sectarian challenges. "When fast gets really fast," he writes, "being slower to adapt makes you really slow — and disoriented."

And guess what? The world continues to speed up.

He notes, for instance, that the typical cellphone today provides SMS texting capabilities and mobile access to the Internet to anyone who can afford one, creating a previously unimaginable global exchange of goods and ideas. Residents of small towns in sub-Saharan Africa are just a text or a click away from family members in northern European cities — and everyone in between. "Globalization has always been everything and its opposite — it can be incredibly democratizing and it can concentrate incredible power in giant multinationals," he writes; "it [also] can be incredibly particularizing — the smallest voices can now be heard everywhere — and incredibly homogenizing, with big brands now able to swamp everything everywhere."

On the downside, the forces unleashed by globalization and a digitally networked world are merging with human-driven climate change to create a perfect storm of unintended, and mostly negative, consequences, with the most profound effects being felt in the most vulnerable countries and communities. Sadly, efforts to cope with the massive movement of people triggered by climate change have been woefully inadequate, not least because "when Moore's law and globalization accelerate at their current rates and your country falls behind on education and infrastructure, it falls behind at an accelerating rate as well."

The book is classic Friedman — a smorgasbord of ideas interspersed with conversations with world leaders and parking attendants. In a single chapter he might explore the potential of article intelligence, reflect on the political cataclysms of recent years, and offer policy recommendations based on lessons learned from Mother Nature. Throughout he indulges his seemingly insatiable curiosity and penchant for asking questions that border on the metaphysical. If at times it causes his narrative to feel a bit scattered — jumping from topic to topic with an alacrity that can be fatiguing — most readers won't hold it against him; in fact, it is probably what makes his writing appealing to so many.

I know: Friedman's technique is often criticized for being a form of lesson-by-anecdote that is taken more seriously than it should be. The caricature goes something like this: I was in [insert world city] for two days and took a cab to meet with [insert world leader]. While in the ride over, I spoke to my driver, who shared his view that [insert insightful comment], and all of a sudden I thought to myself: Eureka! this is the answer to [insert complex world crisis].

And it's true, to the extent that any caricature is. But the final chapters of Thank You for Being Late are much more substantive and give us the musings of a grounded, authentic, and, yes, deep thinker — not to mention a badly needed voice of reason in our current politically fraught climate. In the final pages of the book, for example, he visits his childhood home of St. Louis Park, a suburb of Minneapolis, where he grew up in an environment of "inclusion and civic idealism." Once there, he tries to see the community for what it was and is, all the while looking for the source of its still-evident civic spirit — and for lessons that can be replicated in communities across the country. The story of St. Louis Park, he writes, "is the story of how an ethic of pluralism and a healthy community got built one relationship, one breakup, one makeup, one insult, one welcoming neighbor, one classroom at a time." While nostalgia is certainly a factor in this rosy assessment, there's more to his trip down memory lane and explorations of what happens in a community where people take the time to get to know each other and build bonds across their differences — or, as he puts it, who are willing "to belong to a network of intertwined 'little platoons', communities of trust, which [form] the foundation for belonging, for civic idealism, for believing others who [are different] [can] and should belong, too." Yes, in an age of accelerating global interdependence and contact between strangers, "the bridges of understanding that we have to build are longer, the chasms they have to span much deeper." But that is the challenge.

In our ever more complicated world, generalists who wrestle with a broad spectrum of ideas and seek to help us understand often difficult issues and events are in short supply. In the crowded (and increasingly noisy) public square of the twenty-first century, reasonable, thoughtful, and generous are not adjectives applied to many: Thomas Friedman is all three, and Thank You for Being Late offers some of his best work to date.

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

Weekend Link Roundup (January 28-29, 2017)

January 29, 2017

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

Arts and Culture

New York Philharmonic president Matthew VanBesien's decision to step down from his position before his contract is up has raised eyebrows and some good questions about the financing and politics of cultural mega-projects. Michael Cooper reports for the New York Times.

Continued funding for the National Endowment for the Arts is rumored to be in jeopardy. In FastCoDesign, Diana Budds explains why that's a really dumb idea.

Communications/Marketing

Deep dive? Move the needle? Take this offline? Classy's Ellie Burke has put together a good list of the jargon-y nonprofit phrases we love to hate.

Higher Education

"Our current debt-based system widens the gap in educational attainment by race and class, reduces graduation rates among students who make it to college, distorts career choices, constrains entrepreneurship, delays people from buying homes and building families, reduces retirement savings and overall net worth, and lengthens the time it takes to reach median wealth in the United States." But it wasn't always this way. William Elliott explains.

Immigration

In the New York Times, David Miliband, president and chief executive of the International Rescue Committee and a former British foreign secretary, explains why the Trump administration's temporary refugee policy is un-American.

The Center for American Progress' Silva Mathema explains how Syrian refugees get to the United States and where they are resettled.

International Affairs/Development

"Today, the future of international criminal justice is more in doubt than at any point since the end of the Cold War," write Trevor Sutton, John Norris, and Carolyn Kenne on the Center for American progress site. "[And a] Trump presidency means that U.S. commitment to international criminal justice — and to human rights in general — may soon be a thing of the past...."

Colombia has become an even more dangerous place for rights activists, with five having already been killed in 2017. Anastasia Moloney reports for the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

On Monday, UN Foundation president and CEO Kathy Calvin issued a statement on the imposition, through executive order, of the Mexico City Policy, which prohibits foreign nongovernmental organizations from receiving any U.S. foreign assistance for family planning if they provide information, referrals, or services for legal abortion or lobby for abortion. 

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Sprinting in 2017

January 23, 2017

Sprint-technique2Come the New Year, the team here at Philanthropy News Digest tries to hit the ground running. This year we're gearing up for a sprint.

Not to get weedy about it, but for us that means we'll be dedicating more time than usual this month and next to making improvements to our website and workflow processes. In addition to posting lots of cool content on the blog, we'll continue to write up abstracts of the day's philanthropic news, post RFPs and jobs, conduct Q&As with sector leaders, and publish original commentary, book reviews, and articles from our many content partners. But during the sprint, we'll also be talking with our tech team about changes we'd like to make to the site.

That's where you come in. We need your input. We know what we like about the site, but we really want to know what you like — and don't — about it. Should we be doing more of something? Less of something? Is there something we're not doing that we should be doing? Features we used to publish that you miss? Has anything on the site outlived its usefulness?

Here are some other things we're curious about:

Do you open the newsletters and e-alerts we send you? If not, why not? When's the last time you visited the PND home page? Did you know the PND website has a searchable archive of more than twenty thousand news items dating back to the year 2000?

It's a big site with a lot of moving parts. We want to make it better. For you.

Leave your suggestions/feedback in the comments section below. Or email me, Matt Sinclair, at mws@foundationcenter.org.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

 

Weekend Link Roundup (January 21-22, 2017)

January 22, 2017

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

Advocacy

Whether we're talking about animal welfare, climate change, LGBT or women's issues, health care, or tax policy, the impact of advocacy is hard to measure — and that is a problem. Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther looks at what one nonprofit is doing to learn more about what it doesn't know.

Civil Society

The Obama Foundation is open for business.

Community Improvement

Zenobia Jeffries and Araz Hachadourian, contributors to Yes! magazine, continue their state-by-state exploration of community development solutions that prioritize racial justice.

Education

In Dissent, Joanne Barkan explains why Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos is the second coming of economist and free-market evangelist Milton Friedman.

Grantseeking

After introducing the FLAIL Scale, a tool that allows foundations to see whether or not their grantmaking process is needlessly irritating to grantseekers, NWB's Vu Le returns with the Grant Response Amateurism, Vexation, and Exasperation (GRAVE) Gauge, a list of the things "nonprofits do that make funders want to punch us in the jaws — or worse, not fund our programs."

Impact Investing

"With uncertainties about the next four years swirling, there is one safe prediction: Sustainability and climate change will not be high on the Trump administration’s priority list," writes Peter D. Henig, founder and managing partner of Greenhouse Capital Partners, on the Impact Alpha site. "If sustainability is to keep moving forward," he adds, "it's up to the private sector" to embrace the "opportunities [that] await mission-driven, impact-focused companies and investors."

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Designing Brand Experiences for Social Impact

January 19, 2017

Brand-experienceFocus and clarity are critical if brands hope to stand out in our message-saturated world. And for social change organizations, the challenge is even greater. When the message is about a better future, somewhere down the road, mission-driven brands must figure out ways to create a sense of urgency among their supporters to act now. Often, this means explaining concepts and ideas that can be difficult for people to understand. And even when the lift is big, organizations have to figure out ways to demonstrate tangible results and progress if they hope to sustain our engagement.

Fortunately, changes over the last few decades have provided brand designers with both an environment and the insights necessary to meet these challenges. The rise of networked technologies and digital communications, the maturation of the design field, and a recent awakening within many nonprofits about the value of their brand have combined to provide new opportunities to increase the effectiveness of the social change sector.

The challenge, then, is to understand the environment in which social change brands exist and apply this understanding to design solutions that offer the best chance to maximize your organization's impact.

The Rise of Brand in the Nonprofit Sector

It's no secret that the concept of brand has had a rough go of it in the nonprofit sector. Fortunately, more nonprofits are getting past their skepticism (if not outright resistance) to the idea and have been re-examining their relationship to "the B-word." By making smart adaptations to traditional business-centric principles, organizations like the Harvard Kennedy School, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Communications Network are helping to change the way people in the nonprofit sector think about the role of brand.

This new way of thinking, spelled out in Nathalie Laider-Kylander's and Julia Shephard Stenzel’s book The Brand IDEA: Managing Nonprofit Brands with Integrity, Democracy, and Affinity, is summarized in the book's introduction by Open Society Foundations president Christopher Stone: "A brand is a powerful expression of an organization's mission and value that can help engineer collaborations and partnerships that better enable it to fulfill its mission and deepen impact, and [is] a strategic asset essential to the success of the organization itself."

CCD_Fig1

Understood this way, a social change organization's brand is far more than just compelling messages and visuals. It's the ideas, expertise, relationships, resources, and experiences embedded in the organization's DNA, and as such it shapes organizational culture by bringing people together around a shared vision to create shared value.

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Time for Nonprofits to Step Up and Make America Good Again

January 17, 2017

NonprofitsassociationsAlthough many Americans are skeptical of Donald Trump's ability to handle his presidential duties, a majority believe he is competent to be president. Nevertheless, the charitable sector should be concerned about what his presidency could mean for nonprofit organizations — and perhaps democracy itself.

The incoming administration has claimed an electoral mandate based on false assertions of massive voter fraud. In reality, Trump lost the popular vote by more than 2 percent — over 2.9 million votes. And he owes his Electoral College victory to 75,000 votes spread across just three states: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

It's important to remember these facts as the country prepares itself for an onslaught of executive orders and regressive policy initiatives likely to come out of the White House and the Republican-controlled Congress. Needless to say, many of those initiatives will belie the core values and progressive goals of the philanthropic community.

We know that a majority of Americans support some of President-elect Trump's proposals, including lower and simpler taxes for the middle class; more spending on infrastructure, the military, and veterans' services; and term limits and new ethics rules for members of Congress (although Congress itself opposes the last two).

We also know that most Americans are opposed to Trump's proposals to lower taxes on high-income Americans, build a wall on the border with Mexico (even before Congress said it would cost taxpayers billions of dollars), and deport illegal immigrants without offering them a pathway to citizenship, as well as his preference for fossil fuels over renewable energy sources.

Furthermore, unlike the president-elect and Congress, most Americans want to see Obamacare improved, not repealed and replaced. They want to see government regulations improved, not weakened or eliminated. And while they believe small businesses pay too much tax, they believe corporations pay too little.

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How Philanthropic Is the Trump Cabinet?

Here are the facts, decide for yourself. After a bitter election season dominated by spin, lies and fake news, that may sound like a radical proposition, but it is what we do at Foundation Center. In releasing "Eye on the Trump Cabinet" as the newest feature of our Glasspockets website, our goal is track the charitable giving related to cabinet nominees and their nonprofit board service. 

Eye on the Trump Cabinet_1

 Eye on the Trump Cabinet_2

There has been a lot of speculation among philanthropic foundations about what the new administration might mean for the sector. Will lower tax rates reduce charitable giving? If government retreats from social programs will foundations be expected to take up the slack? Will new regulations be introduced to somehow influence the kinds of priorities foundations support? At the extremes, I have heard people assert: "These people (the new administration) don't know anything about philanthropy," and I've even fielded a question from a Danish reporter who wanted to know whether the controversy over the Clinton and Trump foundations would lead to the end of transparency in the sector. But what do the data tell us? 

"Eye on the Trump Cabinet" shows that, as a whole, Trump's cabinet nominees are by no means strangers to philanthropy. Indeed, collectively, they are related to twenty-five different foundations. By "related," we mean foundations that are either run by a cabinet nominee or a family member, or foundations to which they might have been affiliated or served as a board member. To learn more about those foundations, click on the links to their profiles in Foundation Directory Online and check out their 990 tax returns to learn about their operating expenses, specific grants, and investments. The data also show that cabinet nominees have served on the boards of nearly fifty nonprofit organizations focused on everything from education and veterans' affairs, to health, to children and youth. 

Eye on the Trump Cabinet_3

  Eye on the Trump Cabinet_4

With philanthropy as a lens, perhaps most notable among the nominees is Betsy DeVos, who comes from a strong family tradition of philanthropy and, together with her husband, is the co-founder of a significant foundation (the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation). Until recently, she also served as board chair for the Philanthropy Roundtable, a membership organization of foundations and donors that is a vital part of the infrastructure that upholds institutional philanthropy. Among the core beliefs of the Roundtable are that philanthropic freedom is essential to a free society and that voluntary private action offers solutions for many of society's most pressing challenges. 

Foundations and nonprofits cannot (and should not) take the place of government, in large part because their resources, while significant, are dwarfed by federal and state budgets as well as those of the business sector. On the contrary, their limited resources are valuable precisely because it is their nonprofit, independent status that gives them the freedom to innovate, take risks, support controversial causes, stick with tough challenges for the long term, and provide core support to critical societal institutions.

The relationship between government and the philanthropic sector can be one of collaboration or disagreement, or both, but that relationship has been part of the fabric of American democracy for more than a hundred years. Foundation Center, itself a nonprofit, was born in 1956 out of McCarthy-era hearings convened to determine whether foundations were supporting un-American activities. The sector's response was to create Foundation Center as a public information service that could help show that foundations had nothing to hide. We believe that transparency will, in the long run, always prove its value. How philanthropic is the new administration? Explore Eye on the Trump Cabinet, draw your own conclusions, wait, watch, and, above all, participate. 

Brad Smith is president of Foundation Center. This post originally appeared on Foundation Center's Transparency Talk blog.

Weekend Link Roundup (January 14-16, 2017)

January 16, 2017

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

Advocacy

On the HistPhil blog, veteran activist/commentator Pablo Eisenberg elaborates on an op-ed he penned for the Chronicle of Philanthropy in which he argues that one way to strengthen the nonprofit sector in the Trump era is to transform Independent Sector into "a new powerful coalition solely of charities."

Arts and Culture

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has announced that it is delaying plans to build a new $600 addition for modern and contemporary art. It was hoped the new wing would be completed in time for the museum's 150th anniversary in 2020. Robin Pogrebin reports for the New York Times.

Climate Change

Bud Ris, a senior advisor for the Boston-based Barr Foundation, shares key findings from a new report that explores the city's vulnerability to rising seas and other adverse effects of climate change.

Civic Engagement

In a joint post on the foundation's blog, Case Foundation founders Jean and Steve Case argue that now is the time, in Teddy Roosevelt's words, to "get in the arena" and make a positive impact in your community.

Education

In a new post on her blog, public education activist Diane Ravitch offers her full-throated support for a statement released by People for the American Way in which PFAW spells out "the danger that [the nomination of] Betsy DeVos and the Trump agenda poses to American public education."

Giving

GoFundMe, a leader in the online crowdfunding space, has acquired social fundraising platform CrowdRise. Ken Yeung reports for VentureBeat.

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Improved Water Quality Doesn’t Mean Flint’s Problems Have Ended

January 13, 2017

CNN-flint-fire-hydrant-flushThe following statement regarding recent announcements about the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan, reflects the views of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, which is headquartered in Flint, and its president, Ridgway White. It is reprinted here with the foundation's permission.

(Image: CNN)

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At a January 11 town hall meeting, representatives from the city of Flint, state of Michigan, and federal government announced significant improvements in levels of lead, chlorine, and bacteria in Flint's drinking water, but they also advised residents to continue using filtered tap water.

Perhaps the biggest, but least surprising, takeaway from the meeting is that the repair work likely to take the longest will be the effort to rebuild public trust. This was made clear by residents who spoke out, crumpled plastic water bottles, and clapped rhythmically in unison to display their anger and skepticism.

While the improvement in water quality is good news for Flint, people who live and work here know the city's problems are far from over. The population-wide exposure to lead that resulted from government cost-cutting measures created long-term challenges that will require long-term funding and interventions to address. These include problems related to residents' health, the city's infrastructure, and the local economy, all of which have suffered significant damage.

State and — to a lesser extent — federal government already have provided some funding to address harms that have been caused. But in order to repair the many wounds that have been inflicted on Flint, government at all levels will need to make long-term, sustained investments in helping the city and its citizens recover and rise.

Here's what Flint still needs:

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Finding Our Place in a Post-Election Society…or, To Live Together, We Must Give Together

January 12, 2017

Innovation-in-giving-handsWhen the sixth call asking for our help came in days after the presidential election, we started to realize that interest in giving circles — groups of people who come together, pool their charitable donations, and decide together how to give those resources away — had never been greater.

“We’ve only ever given to our universities and political campaigns,” one caller said, echoing the sentiments of many others we spoke to. “We have no idea how to make an impact right now on the issues that came up during the campaign — but we know we want to, and we want to do it together.”

Whether you woke up on November 9 feeling shell-shocked or optimistic, you probably asked yourself: What do I do now? How can I be more engaged in my community and in causes that interest me? How can I help my obviously divided country come together and heal in the months and years to come?

If those are the kinds of questions you’ve been asking yourself, starting a giving circle might just be the answer.

In the hundred and eighty years since French diplomat and political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville published the first volume of his monumental Democracy in America, America has been known for the willingness of its citizens to form and engage in civil associations. Today, giving circles are a way for Americans to come together around their similarities — and reconcile their differences — while making a difference in their communities and society. Importantly, especially at fraught national moments like these, they also can help us find meaning in our lives by empowering us to give, in partnership and fellowship with neighbors, friends, and family, in ways that reflect our values.

Indeed, everything that giving circle members do, they do together.

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5 Questions for...Chris Gates, Executive Vice President for External Affairs, Council on Foundations

January 10, 2017

Shortly after the 2016 election, the Council on Foundations announced it had hired veteran nonprofit executive Chris Gates as executive vice president for external affairs, a new position. Gates, a former president of the National Civic League, executive director of the council's Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE) affinity group, and president of the Sunlight Foundation, had joined the council as a senior advisor earlier in the year, and for many the hire was a clear signal that the council was determined to strengthen and energize its government relations efforts in preparation for the Trump era.

Recently, PND spoke with Gates about his new role and what he — and the council — can do to help its members prepare for the next four years. 

Philanthropy News Digest: There were a lot of issues and themes in play during the recent election, including the concentration of wealth at the top of the global economy, a disturbing ratcheting up of racial tensions here in the United States, and a rise in populist sentiment across the developed world. Is philanthropy doing enough to address inequality and the hollowing out of the American middle class? Or might it be, as some have argued, part of the problem?

Headshot_Chris Gates_PTChris Gates: Well, it's definitely not part of the problem. Inequality, economic disruption, racial inequities are all areas where organized philanthropy has been very active. Now on problems of that scope and scale, you probably can never do enough; there's always room to do more. But I think it's important that we listen to voices that we haven't been paying attention to and to hear perspectives that haven't been included in our conversations.

I know there's been a lot of introspection in our field since the election. In fact, we had a conference call the day after the election with a bunch of our members where people were trying to process what they were hearing, what they needed to do differently, and what they needed to do more of. Then, a couple of weeks later, we hosted a webinar for funders that I believe attracted the largest audience we've ever had for a webinar, more than six hundred people. I think a great many funders have been thinking about how they can increase the impact of their work, where they might need to double down, and where they need to make changes and adjustments. So, no, I don't think you can ever do enough to address the kinds of big issues you mentioned, but I do think organized philanthropy has been in an active listening mode since the election, and I believe it will be very responsive in the weeks and months to come.

PND: Can you share anything with our readers from those conversations?

CG: As far as philanthropic organizations in general are concerned, there was a lot of conversation about economic insecurity and how that was reflected by candidates on both the left and right. It is not a partisan issue, and there was probably more agreement than disagreement among the various nonprofit leaders we spoke to about what needs to be done. It's also an issue that requires new thinking and additional focus from all of us, because clearly it's a concern for many, many people in this country.

There also was a lot of conversation about the racial tensions that exist in this country, as well as a recognition that philanthropy may be one of the few sectors well suited to help people address those tensions, either by funding organizations and people who are trying different things to bring people together, or by using our convening power to encourage dialogue and conversation.

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Weekend Link Roundup (January 7-8, 2017)

January 08, 2017

Snowflakes_PNG7585Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Animal Welfare

Here's some good news: China has announced it will shut down the trade of ivory within its borders by the end of 2017. Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen applauds the decision.

Higher Education

Could a favorite tax break for donors who give to the nation's wealthiest colleges and universities be curtailed by the new Congress? Janet Lorin reports for Bloomberg.

Regardless of the tax policy changes Congress settles on, many multimillion-dollar gifts won't do as much good as the donors of those gifts hope, writes Paul Connolly, director of philanthropic advisory services at the Bessemer Trust, and that’s because "too few of them are getting the sound advice they need to move from good intentions to effective contributions and real positive impact."

International Affairs/Development 

As bad as 2016 may have seemed, the long-term trend for humanity is moving in the right direction, writes FastCo.Exist contributor Adele Peters, citing research by Oxford economist Max Roser. Take poverty: two hundred years ago, most people on the planet lived in extreme poverty, but "by 1950, a quarter of the world's population had made it out of extreme poverty...[and today] 90% of the world has." Or education: "In 1820, 1 out of 10 people was literate. Now more than 8 out of 10 people in the world can read." 

These trends could be accelerated if more of the developing world's population was connected to the Internet. On the ONE blog, Samantha Urban reports on the recommendations to address the situation made by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in November 19.

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A National Day of Racial Healing on January 17 Will Help Americans Overcome Racial Divisions

January 06, 2017

Share1112-crayonsJust five days before the inauguration of Donald Trump as the country's 45th president, millions of Americans on January 16 will celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For many, memories of the civil rights icon revolve around his momentous "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, in which Dr. King called for an end to racism and for the expansion of economic opportunities for all Americans.

Dr. King's brilliance — his strategic leadership of the civil rights movement and unparalleled courage and integrity — is often overshadowed by the speech that many scholars hail as the most important public address by an American in the twentieth century. Unfortunately, the dream of equality King articulated in 1963 remains unfulfilled in many communities today — a reality that underscores the persistent structural inequities and racial bias at the root of the widespread disparities in social conditions and opportunities for people of color.

Dr. King said, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." That's the America many of us have long been working to create but, despite progress in some areas, are still seeking to realize.

The divisive rhetoric and raw emotions that raged across the country over the past year pulled the scab off a persistent wound in the American psyche, bringing the issue of race front and center and exposing the divides in our society. What can we do about it? How do we move forward on a path toward racial equity that facilitates racial healing, dismantles structural racism, and lifts vulnerable children onto the path to success?

To be sure, America has made progress over the decades. Government and the courts have enacted statutes and rulings, from Brown v. Board of Education to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the Fair Housing Act of 1968, that outlawed public discrimination while purportedly guaranteeing equal opportunity for all Americans. Yet, in too many cases, these rulings only addressed the effects of racism, not its foundations. The passage of time has made clear that government and courts can enact and uphold laws, but they can't change hearts, minds, and souls.

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5 Questions for...Jennifer Preston, Vice President for Journalism, Knight Foundation

January 04, 2017

"Quality journalism matters," writes Jennifer Preston, vice president for journalism at the John S, and James L. Knight Foundation. "It is a buttress against the torrent of fake news we've seen explode in the past year, and it can help rebuild the diminishing trust many people have in society's core institutions."

In keeping with the foundation's efforts over the last ten years to support quality journalism and the work of nonprofit news organizations, Preston and her colleagues launched the Knight News Match just before the holidays. In a recent email conversation, she spoke about the problem of fake news, the role of social media in the recent presidential election, and the matching campaign, which is open through January 19.

Philanthropy News Digest: There's been a lot of talk about fake news and its role, real or imagined, in determining the outcome of the presidential election. What is fake news, and why is it suddenly a problem?

Headshot_Jennifer_PrestonJennifer Preston: Fake news is not a new problem. Supermarket tabloids have been generating false stories and doctored photos for decades. As journalists, we spend our days reporting, verifying, checking, sifting through misinformation to uncover accurate information and verify facts before publishing. Social media — and the Internet — has accelerated the pace for spreading both journalism and false information. What is happening, of course, is the impact of social media on how we consume information. False information is flowing unfettered through social media channels and people are sharing it without knowing that what they are sharing is inaccurate. I see the concerns over fake news to be a symptom of the overall lack of trust in media and information. At Knight, we are supporting projects to help journalists and news organizations build trust with their audience by engaging more directly with community residents. As an example, we fund a Solutions Journalism project in Seattle and another in Philadelphia. We are funding the University of Oregon's Center for Journalism Innovation and Civic Engagement to create case studies and best practices for journalism engagement. And we're also supporting the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation's work in New Jersey, which has been focused in helping local online news organizations engage more closely with the communities they cover.

PND: Are you at all concerned that efforts to identify and minimize the influence of fake news could backfire by reinforcing people's existing filters and certainty in what they believe to be "real" news?

JP: It took a while, but we are seeing engineers and technologists becoming highly engaged in addressing the spread of false information, and it will be interesting to see their solutions. It is key, however, that First Amendment concerns are addressed. It was interesting to see how Facebook decided to partner with Politifact and ABC News. One of the best ways to fight misinformation is to support quality journalism, and that's why we launched the Knight News Match campaign.

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Weekend Link Roundup (December 31-January 1, 2017)

January 01, 2017

20172016Happy New Year! After a break for the holidays, we're back with our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Fundraising

Change is inevitable and trying to predict a future unknowns, known and unknown, lying in wait in the new year, what's a nonprofit to do? Rather than try to predict the future, digital strategist and Ignite Strategy group founder Jeff Rum shares some good advice about how nonprofits can best prepare for

Giving

Have you resolved to be a better giver in 2017? Forbes contributor Leila de Bruyne asked Paul English, co-founder of Kayak and Lola, for his advice on how to give any amount of money away, effectively.

Higher Education

"U.S.  economic development has stalled. We've recently learned that only about half of people born around 1980 earn more today than their parents did at a similar age. The nation’s deteriorating education sector is one important factor, culpable for both weak economic growth and rising income inequality," writes Jonathan Rothwell, a senior economist at the Gallup organization, in an article on the Brookings site. And while education costs have soared over that period, he adds, learning has stagnated. Interesting comments as well.

International Affairs/Development

The UN estimates that almost 93 million people in 33 countries will need humanitarian aid in 2017 and has issued an appeal for a record $22.2 billion to help them. The Thomson Reuters Foundation (via the New York Times) asked aid agencies to name their top three priorities for 2017

LGBTQ

There were setbacks, yes, but the news for the LGBTQ community in 2016 wasn't all bad, as dozens of state legislatures and city councils considered or pass LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinances. On the Freedom for Americans site, Adam Polaski shares both the good and the bad from the year just passed.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts in 2016

December 30, 2016

So it ends, not with a bang but a whimper. Depending on whom you speak to, 2016 was a train wreck, a dumpster fire, a sure sign of the apocalypse, and just plain weird. If it was a year in which too many beloved cultural icons left us, it was also an annus horribilis for progressives, who will have to work twice as hard in the new year (and beyond) to preserve important policy gains achieved over the last eight years and limit the harm caused by a Trump administration and a Republican-controlled Congress.

But while our attention often was focused elsewhere, many of you were taking care of business and digging deep into the PhilanTopic archives for tools and ideas you could use — today and in the weeks and months to come. So, without further preamble, here are the ten posts you "voted" as your favorites in 2016. Enjoy. Happy New Year. And don't forget to check back next week, as we return to the office tanned, rested, and ready to fight the good fight.

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

How to Attract and Retain Next-Gen Talent

December 22, 2016

Talent-magnet-600x400With an entire generation of senior nonprofit leaders about to retire, nonprofit managers have one thing on their minds: hiring and retaining next-generation talent. But according to Nonprofit HR's 2015 Nonprofit Employment Practices Survey, nonprofits are having hiring and retention issues due to a variety of factors, including uncompetitive salaries, an inability to provide sufficient career opportunities, and excessive workloads.

These hiring and retention challenges are why nonprofits need to focus their efforts on employee engagement. My company, Quantum Workplace, surveyed more than 440,000 employees from nearly 5,500 organizations through our 2016 Best Places to Work program and have published the findings in our Engaging Nonprofit Employees: Industry Report. Among other things, the report found that only 58 percent of nonprofit organizations are engaged — putting the nonprofit sector third from the bottom out of eighteen industries.

Is your nonprofit suffering from rotating-door syndrome when it comes to top talent? Does your organization have a strategy to attract talented newcomers and entice them to stay and grow their skills within your organization. Below are three proven ways to attract and retain millennial and Gen Z employees:

1. Emphasize diversity and inclusion. Young people are looking to make a positive impact on the lives of others, so it's no surprise they want to work for organizations that are seen to be fair, inclusive, and diverse. But even though nonprofit employees, in general, are a diverse group, many nonprofits still fall short when it comes to diversity policies, initiatives, and outreach.

With millennials and Gen Zs entering the workforce in huge numbers, this issue has more resonance than ever. Young people want to see organizations actually walk the talk that's embedded in their mission and value statements.

Besides, inclusion isn't just good for employees. McKinsey's 2015 report Why Diversity Matters found that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to outperform the national industry median across multiple benchmarks and indicators. In other words, integrating diversity and inclusion into your organizational culture will enhance both employee satisfaction and your bottom line.

One way to demonstrate your commitment to diversity and inclusion is to encourage frequent one-on-one meetings between team leaders and team members and adopt an open-door policy that encourages employees to express their concerns about diversity-related issues when they arise. You can promote inclusion by giving the entire staff an opportunity to brainstorm together about ways to bring diversity into the organization. And you can give prospective employees a sense of your team's diversity initiatives by posting pictures on your website of group bonding and brainstorming activities and featuring quotes from current employees that capture their positive experiences with your organization's diversity and inclusion policies.

2. Be a trustworthy leader. Younger employees today are looking to leaders to model their values. Sadly, this is a bit of a problem in the nonprofit sector. Our Engaging Nonprofit Employees survey found that only 58 percent of nonprofit employees said they worked for an organization with a strong or somewhat strong ethical culture. At the same time, the survey data ranks trust in nonprofit leadership as the second most important driver of employment engagement.

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand that the disconnect between nonprofit employees' expectations and what they actually see in the workplace is undermining the attraction of nonprofit work for many millennials and Gen Zs.

A relatively easy thing you can do to fight this trend and instill more employee confidence in your organization's leaders and managers is to implement a 360 feedback system. Start by surveying members of the organization to understand what they need from their managers in order to perform at a high level. As managers process that feedback and modify aspects of their own behavior, you'll be surprised how quickly younger employees begin to accept that the people leading the organization have their best interests at heart.

Another common misconception about millennials and Gen Zs is that they are devoted to screens. However, the Gen Y and Gen Z Global Workplace Expectations Study found that 53 percent of Gen Zs prefer face-to-face communication for most workplace activities. Keep that in mind the next time you're getting ready to send an email or Slack message to a younger employee.

3. Accentuate the positive. Nonprofit employees want to be assured the future is bright — for themselves as well as the organization they've committed to. And as boomers start to retire in significant numbers, millennials and Gen Zs will be expected to use their skills to make an impact and lead the organization into that bright future.

You can enhance the attractiveness of your nonprofit as a great place for millennials and Gen Zs to wok by tapping into their optimism in your job descriptions. Provide specific examples of how your organization is living up to its mission and values and how the open position is all about making life better for others. Also be sure to list any continuing education opportunities your organization makes available to younger employees.

Remember, too, that many young employees aren't yet confident in their skills and so are unclear about what their future with an organization could be. Recognition software makes it easy to reward younger employees and let them know their work is respected and appreciated by their peers, which in turn builds their confidence and deepens their engagement with the organization and its mission.

So there you have it — three things any nonprofit can do to increase its attractiveness to millennial and Gen Z employees. We're the future, what are you waiting for?

Natalie_hackbarthIs your nonprofit doing something creative to attract and retain millennials and Gen Zs? Let us know in the comments section below!

Natalie Hackbarth is the inbound marketing manager at Quantum Workplace, a company dedicated to providing every organization with quality engagement tools.

Risky Business and Maximizing Impact

December 20, 2016

Risk_measurementOpen Road Alliance is in the business of risk. A private foundation, Open Road only provides funds to fully-funded nonprofit projects that encounter unexpected obstacles. We come in when risk is realized. Over the last four years, we've worked closely with more than sixty-five nonprofits and projects ranging in size and area of focus. Yet through our work, we've seen just how infrequently risk and the unexpected are incorporated into the grantmaking process.

Based on our own research, we found that 76 percent of funders report that they do not ask potential grantees about possible risks to a project, while 87 percent of grantees report that no grant application has ever asked for a risk assessment. Both nonprofits and funders acknowledge that risk exists; neither seem to have found a way to address it. Seeing these stories over and over again in our own portfolio raised the question as to whether the organizations we work with were an exception to or the norm in philanthropy.

To test this, we partnered with IssueLab, a service of Foundation Center, to examine what materials were available to and authored by the philanthropy sector that address risk. Last month, the IssueLab team completed an evidence scan of the sector's "grey literature" – websites, blogs, and industry-specific publications – and identified which types of resources are currently available to nonprofits on the topic of risk.

The IssueLab scan uncovered two important findings:

  • Funders love to talk about "risk" and being "risk-takers" without having a standard definition of risk and how to measure it. If funders cannot define or measure risk, they can't know whether they are taking one.
  • As much as funders like to discuss risk, there is virtually no conversation around how to manage it. Without risk management, the conversation about whether philanthropy is or should be risk-taking is moot.

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