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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."

Nonprofits

In a Q&A with Blue Avocado, DC Central Kitchen and L.A. Kitchen founder Robert Egger says, "Our sector is about to be hit, and hit hard. We're going to be expected to do more, for more, with less." 

Is your nonprofit organization looking to achieve financial sustainability in 2017? Social Velocity's Nell Edgington says these are five questions you need to ask.

Philanthropy

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund marked its seventy-fifth anniversary in November 2015. What advice can it offer to other foundations looking to avoid the pitfalls that so often rob family foundations of their effectiveness over time? An essay newly posted to the RFB website shares a dozen lessons based on the foundation's seven and a half decades of grantmaking.

On Twitter, Center for Effective Philanthropy president Phil Buchanan lists (via @FelixDresewski) eight questions funders and foundations should be asking themselves in the wake of Donald Trump's inauguration.

"If philanthropy is to move from being about the donor to truly being about the change they make, then the first step the sector needs to take, is to address its Starfish Problem." Forbes contributor Jake Hayman explains.

Public Affairs

Progressive-leaning site ThinkProgress has documented 663 promises (and counting) that Donald Trump has made since launching his campaign in 2015.

In a piece for Mother Jones, historian and journalist Rick Perlstein gets to know a young, thoughtful Trump supporter — and is shaken by what he learns.

And in another "politically oriented post," Richard Marker reflects on the implications of the Trump administration's fondness for "alternative facts."

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....

Designing Brand Experiences for Social Impact

January 19, 2017

Brand-experienceIt takes great focus and clarity for brands to rise above the din and be noticed in today's message-saturated world. 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.

If you accept this idea — and you should — then you should also consider how social change organizations can translate the nuances of their brand into something more tangible. How does an organization create real experiences that make it easier for staff to participate in creating shared value? And more important, how can it ensure that the design solutions developed in response to that question maintain the integrity of the brand and deliver meaningful experiences that lead to sustained audience engagement?

Translating Organizational Strategy

It can be hard to fully understand what some nonprofits do — not just for outsiders, but sometimes even for those who work inside an organization! In large nonprofits, countless activities and moving pieces all come together in service to a mission. But how they relate to one another, and to what ends, isn't always clear. Brand strategy long has been a useful tool for helping organizations sharpen their focus and better understand themselves and their audiences. Done right, it provides an important foundation for expressing, with greater clarity and consistency, an organization's mission, vision, values, and key messages.

But for social change organizations, many of which are working to address complex, systemic challenges, brand strategy has an even bigger role to play, in that it educates people about the nature of the challenge and connects them more deeply to how change actually happens.

So how do brands make these abstract concepts and processes more tangible, meaningful, and valuable to a nonprofit's audiences? Well, as branding expert Marty Neuimeir likes to say, "You gotta design."

Design, Value, and Meaning

Think about how much of our existence is "designed." There's a reason humans live in such a thoroughly designed world: we're highly visual creatures, and design is how we make sense of it. Every day, countless designed experiences, many of which we are barely aware of, create context for our activities and help connect us to our emotions, greatly affecting our associations and perceptions of value.

Brands themselves are one of these designed constructs. Dating as far back as the use of heraldry to signify membership in a tribe or clan, brands throughout history have been powerful concepts that give greater meaning to our lives. And because the design discipline is all about context, for modern brands to deliver experiences that connect with these deeper feelings of value and meaning, the people who contribute to them must first understand the many contexts in which a particular brand exists.

An effective design process accomplishes this by making sure that stakeholders in the process are absolutely clear and in agreement as to the values their brand should convey. But what kind of value, exactly, am I referring to?

Modern brand theory organizes brand value into three categories, which every brand exhibits a mix of, to greater or lesser degree, depending on the type of brand:

Tangible value is the easiest to understand: Things we can see, touch, or empirically measure;

Intangible value is…less tangible: How a brand makes us feel or the meaning it adds to our lives; and

Aspirational value is the most abstract: Projections of who we hope to become or what we’d like to make possible as a result of our engagement with a brand.

CCD_Fig2

As the theory goes, the more tangible a brand's value, the easier it is to grasp that value. Conversely, the more intangible a brand's value, the harder it is to define and control. For social change brands, which often deal in large amounts of intangible and aspirational value, the challenge is to use the power of design to consistently deliver value on all fronts and create tangible experiences that deepen audiences' engagement with the brand.

Designing Better Experiences

Design has often been described as "strategy made visible." It's what enables the value in a brand to be experienced — online, in print, and in person. And because brands are not static things, these experiences occur over time, which means that to consistently deliver value across the lifetime of a person's relationship with a brand requires us to fully understand where, how, and why value is created — as well as the context, physically and conceptually, in which those experiences happen.

Which is exactly where a well-articulated brand strategy can provide benefits.

For social change organizations to consistently design experiences that bridge the gap between their mission and their audiences' motivation, a well-articulated brand strategy is not just a starting point to think about brand, it's also an essential through-line of the design process. Because design is the product of a collaborative, co-created process, brand strategy greatly improves the ability of designers and non-designers to more effectively frame challenges, opportunities, and outputs. And by translating the mission and work of an organization into a clearly articulated positioning and messaging framework, brand strategy helps stakeholders make better decisions that serve to advance the strategy throughout the process — and beyond.

Nowhere is this more important than in digital communications, where all of an individual's interactions with a brand are mediated by a screen. To create compelling experiences delivered by screens, cross-functional teams of content strategists and creators, UX and visual designers, and technologists must all work together to translate a brand's value through things like system architecture, interfaces, and content taxonomies. By adhering to a clearly-defined brand strategy that spells out the kinds of experiences we're trying to create, people with different perspectives are able to have productive conversations in a shared language about what constitutes such experiences and are likely to be more collaborative in applying their collective experience, expertise, and opinions to create them.

Putting Theory Into Practice

Ultimately, every organization engaged in helping to bring about social, economic, and environmental change has its own beliefs, culture, tactics, and goals. And their brands stand for something bigger than the organization itself, something that conveys different meaning and value depending on who is on the receiving end.

When the brand strategy and design process are united, the result is a powerful lens through which to understand the complexity and nuances of  your organization's unique dynamics and, ultimately, communicate them with greater clarity, purpose, and impact to your audiences. Together, they help an organization better understand itself so that its efforts are more focused and aligned, and make it easier to translate ideas, concepts, and value into tangible experiences with which audiences can engage and respond to. In the final analysis, they are what make it possible for a brand to stand up, stand out, and stand for something.

Headshot_matt_schwartzMatt Schwartz is the founder and director of strategy at Constructive, a New York City-based brand strategy and experience design firm dedicated to helping social change organizations achieve greater impac

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.

Problematic, too, are many of Trump's appointments, such as putting a fiscal hawk in charge of the budget office, which may give the White House cover to go along with draconian cuts in Medicare and Medicaid pushed by another cabinet nominee, despite Trump's promises on the campaign trail.

What really ought to alarm those who work in the nonprofit sector, however, is Donald Trump's affinity for strongman leaders, an attachment he shares with Russian president Vladimir Putin, a man he greatly admires. Indeed, like Putin, the president-elect is not averse to bullying his opponents, and he encourages such behavior in others. He also has a low tolerance for disagreement and dissent and has little apparent regard for the truth. While, for example, there is agreement in the intelligence community that Putin ordered a multi-faceted effort designed to help Trump win the election, the president-elect seems intent on protecting the Russian president, and himself, by suggesting that his intelligence briefing on the matter determined that those efforts had no effect on the outcome.

The Trump/Putin bromance and their shared affinity for authoritarian leadership pose a real and present danger for nonprofits. Putin has done much to strengthen oligarchy in Russia. Trump, himself a billionaire, has appointed a number of billionaires and individuals with significant wealth to his cabinet, and he seems untroubled by the Republican-controlled Senate's efforts to wrap up confirmation hearings for his nominees before all background checks have been completed.

Moreover, while Trump insists that as president he cannot have any conflicts of interest because he is exempt from ethics laws, he fails to mention or acknowledge other Constitutional dictates, and it is clear that he, his family and his cronies are unlikely to lose sleep over future suggestion of corruption. Just as troubling is the fact that when the head of the Office of Government Ethics declared the president-elect's plan to separate himself from his business empire woefully inadequate, Congressional Republicans called him to a closed-door hearing and threatened to cut funding for the office.

In the weeks and months to come, nonprofit organizations and foundations working to advance the public good are likely to find the president-elect's actions troubling in several ways. Specific policy initiatives that favor the wealthy at no small cost to ordinary people and the environment will create one set of problems. Efforts to privatize government services are likely to create another. And, if Putin's actions are any guide, having an individual in the White House with authoritarian proclivities could well create a third set of problems for the sector — and our democracy.

Indeed, if nonprofit leaders believe that civil society in the U.S. is constitutionally protected in a way its Russian counterpart is not, they should think again. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, in Rust v. Sullivan (1991), that government can restrict the free speech and prohibit actions of any charitable organization it subsidizes, and it has declared tax exemption a subsidy in Regan v. Taxation With Representation of Washington (1983). This gives a President Trump the latitude to bully and intimidate charities if he so chooses.

The charitable sector's efforts to serve people and protect the planet depend in large part on its capacity to encourage empathy and speak truth to power. The choice to remain silent, of keeping a low profile and hoping the bully will focus his attention elsewhere, is a recipe for failure.

Instead, charities must increase their capacity for engagement and advocacy, not run from it. Doing so means learning to operate in ways that eliminate traditional divides. For starters, nonprofit organizations and philanthropy should make it a priority to frame and promote specific policies in ways that everyone can understand and appreciate — and that recognize people's very different realities.

They also must be clear that disagreements over policy are not the result of inherent failings in people, regardless of which side of a controversial issue (or presidential contest) they might take. People, especially those who feel unseen and ignored, need to have their value as individuals affirmed and their agency respected.

The nonprofit community should take a lesson from the successful efforts of the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), working in collaboration with other organizations. In the face of congressional Republicans' egregious decision to weaken enforcement of ethics rules meant to rein in lobbyist cronyism, advocacy groups quickly mobilized public action and deluged House members with calls and emails that soon had House leadership working to reverse the ill-considered move even before President-elect Trump could tweet his own displeasure.

For a brief moment, at any rate, the popular outcry seemed to bridge differences between Trump voters, mainstream Republican voters, and those who opposed his election. This was something we all could agree on. And it demonstrated the power of effective organizing and public action when issues are framed in ways that appeal to our sense fairness and the widespread conviction that disrespect, abuse of power, and corruption on the part of the powerful cannot be tolerated in a democracy.

By helping people do the right thing, charities and philanthropy can, as a friend of mine likes to say, make America good again. Beyond fighting for compassionate and sound public policy that benefits all of us, the nonprofit sector must stand up to a self-serving bully whose leadership threatens to further erode public confidence in government and its accountability to voters, not to mention civil society itself.

Headshot_mark_rosenmanMark Rosenman is a professor emeritus at the Union Institute & University. To read more of his posts, click here.

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.

Healthcare

New research from the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities suggests that "Republicans' planned bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA)...would provide an immediate windfall tax cut to the four hundred highest-income Americans while raising taxes significantly on about 7 million low- and moderate- income families."

Nonprofits

The transition in political power signaled by Donald Trump's election will require nonprofits to act completely differently than they have in the past, write Tim Delaney, chief executive of the National Council of Nonprofits, and David L. Thompson, the council's vice president of public policy. In the months to come, they argue, nonprofits will need to "recognize their shared interests and come together to inform policy makers...and seize new opportunities" in six areas: fighting against cuts in spending that would hurt the public; expanding tax laws that encourage giving; engaging in the debate on the Affordable Care Act; fighting to preserve the legal independence of nonprofits to allocate their own resources; fighting to keep partisan politics away from charitable organizations and foundations; and simplifying federal rules and contracts.

Feeling a little overwhelmed at work? Beth Kanter shares a couple of tips designed to keep you focused and productive.

Philanthropy

In a heartfelt post on the foundation's Point blog, Heinz Endowments president Grant Oliphant argues that this not the time to be silent. "There are truths that need to be spoken now," he writes, "spoken out loud and unapologetically by people who know them to be true. Spoken with love, yes, but also fierce conviction — truths about the validity of science, the perils of climate change, the nature and price of injustice, the insanity of racism and all the other isms creeping out from beneath their ill-concealed rocks...."

Uncertain and maybe a little worried about what 2017 has in store for the sector? Jamie Serino, director of marketing at MicroEdge + Blackbaud, has assembled a good list of trends you'll want to keep an eye on.

And be sure to check out our Q&A with Chris Gates, executive vice president for external affairs at the Council on Foundations, for more insights on what to expect in the year ahead.

Think your grantmaking process is easy and intuitive for grant seekers? Think again, says Vu Le and the NWB community.

Open Road Alliance has released a risk management toolkit for funders featuring ten adaptable tools covering a spectrum of risk management activities.

Poverty

"In 1966, [Martin Luther King] moved into the North Lawndale neighborhood on Chicago's West Side to work on fair-housing discrimination and poverty affecting black Chicagoans. Fifty years later, North Lawndale remains one of Chicago’s most impoverished and underresourced neighborhoods and is over 90 percent black." On The Roots site, Black Lives Matter Chicago explains why in some places, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

In a post for City Lab, Richard Florida shares highlights from a new study the Population Reference Bureau's Beth Jarosz and Mark Mather that tracks the dramatic growth in inequality and poverty across America's 3,000-plus counties over the past two-and-a-half decades. The most startling takeaway? More more than 70 percent of the counties in the U.S. have either high levels of inequality, high levels of poverty, or both.

In The Atlantic, Alana Samuels, citing research conducted Elizabeth Kneebone, a fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, notes that 39 percent of African Americans today live in suburbs, 36 percent live in cities, 15 percent live in small metropolitan areas, and 10 percent live in rural communities — a noticeable shift from 2000, when 41 percent of African Americans lived in cities, 33 percent lived in suburbs, 15 percent lived in small metro areas, and 11 percent lived in rural communities.

Public Affairs

Excellent summary, courtesy of the statisticians at the Pew Research Center, of the many ways in which America has changed during Barack Obama's eight years in office.

Race Relations

Last but not least, the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) enterprise and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation have designated January 17, 2017, as the inaugural National Day of Racial healing in America. The foundation's Gail C. Christopher explains why such a day is necessary and what the foundation and its partners hope to accomplish.

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....

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:

Replacement of damaged infrastructure: Thus far, only 770 of an estimated 29,100 lead service lines have been replaced. Flint needs adequate funding to replace its pipes, as well as expertise and assistance to expedite the process.

Support for long-term health needs: Lead exposure has long-term effects on physical and behavioral health. Because the city's lead exposure was caused by government, local nonprofits deserve government support to develop and deliver the programs and services residents will need to deal with physical and mental health issues — both now and in the future.

Long-term commitments to invest in early childhood and K-12 education: Because lead exposure affects children's learning and development, Flint kids will need intensive educational support beginning in early childhood and continuing through high school. Additional funding for both early childhood education programs and Flint Community Schools will be essential to helping children learn and succeed.

Investment in local colleges and universities: Before the water crisis struck, enrollment at local colleges and universities was on the rise. Since the crisis, it has fallen. Government needs to help the institutions that were hurt by the crisis. What's more, these institutions are leading the way in providing educational support for the youngest children in Flint, addressing public health needs, and preparing to educate young people affected by the crisis when they reach college age.

Incentives to create jobs and revitalize the economy: Anyone who is willing to keep a business in Flint or bring new business and employment opportunities to the city should receive tax incentives for doing so.

Funding to eliminate blight: As more residents have walked away from properties that have plummeted in value, blight has become an even bigger problem in Flint. Funding to remove blighted properties and prepare them for productive use would improve safety and quality of life, while also helping to "right size" drinking-water infrastructure.

Investments in affordable housing: Development of affordable, quality housing, located near needed services, public transportation and job opportunities, is essential to keeping current residents and attracting new ones.

Support for restoration of the Flint River: The Flint water crisis was not caused by pollution in the Flint River — it was caused by improper treatment of the river water. Nevertheless, the river took a huge hit to its reputation. A restored riverfront in the downtown area would bring new recreational and economic opportunities to the city.

Flint's water crisis should be a wakeup call that we can no longer afford to ignore the problems of our older industrial cities. We should all now realize that austerity measures are not a solution to long-term economic decline in our cities.

People in Flint and other economically distressed communities deserve government they can trust to put the health, safety, and well-being of its citizens first. They also deserve access to opportunity through good education and jobs. All sectors — public, private, and nonprofit — should work together to find sustainable ways to create such opportunity.

The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation has committed up to $100 million over five years to help our home community respond to the water crisis. And we're extremely pleased that ten other foundations have committed more than $25 million in additional funding.

That sounds like a lot of money — and it is. But the breadth of the lead exposure and the long-term nature of the problems it creates mean that no single sector can provide all the help Flint needs. That's why the Mott Foundation stepped up. It's also why we feel compelled to remind government officials that improved water quality is only a first step on the long road to recovery.

Headshot_ridgway_whiteThe harm to Flint was caused by a failure of government at all levels. That means all levels of government must continue to focus on what they can do to rebuild public trust and help the city recover and rise.

Ridgway White is president of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

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.

Giving circle members learn together. Members of giving circles talk about the values and passions they hope to bring to their giving and then decide where and how they want to direct  their resources. Together, they learn about the landscape of organizations and activists working on or with the issues and communities they care about. Instead of simply reacting to a grant proposal or fundraising appeal, giving circles offer their members proactive opportunities that start with the question: “What’s the change we want to make in the world?” — and provide a platform from which they can help drive that change.

Giving circle members give together. Rather than simply learning about issues and organizations doing good work, giving circle members do things together. They pool their charitable resources, enabling them to have  a greater financial impact than any one member of the group could have on his or her own, and, together, they direct those resources to people and organizations in a position to use them. Giving circle members also build relationships with the organizations to which they give, frequently provide strategic guidance or pro bono services, and in many cases even agree to serve as board members for those organizations. For most people, giving circles provide a powerful experience of giving — active, hands-on, and with endless opportunities for impact.

Giving circle members are together. Giving can be a solitary affair in which a person with resources and a checkbook or credit card responds to a direct request for funds. Giving circles transform this experience into something that is vibrant, values-based, and communal. Imagine sitting in a room with people you like, talking about how to make a difference together on  issues that matter to all of you, or  meeting new people in your community who are interested in  coming together to create positive change. Giving circles fulfill a fundamental human need for sociability and friendship, and can be as formal or informal, homogeneous or heterogeneous, social or educational as their members need or want them to be.

FeliciaHermann_JoelleAsaroBermanAmerica finds itself in a moment of flux. This is your chance to shape the moment by starting (or joining) a giving circle. It’s easier than you think, and it will connect you to your community — and your country — in ways you might never have imagined. What are you waiting for?

Felicia Herman is the executive director of Natan, a giving circle in New York, and is founder and incoming advisory board chair of Amplifier. Joelle Asaro Berman is the executive director at Amplifier.

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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Weekend Link Roundup (December 17-18, 2016)

December 18, 2016

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

Climate Change

The government of the Netherlands has presented a long-term energy plan that stipulates that no new cars with combustion engines may be sold from 2035 on and that all houses in the country must be disconnected from the gas grid by 2050. Karel Beckman reports for the Energy Collective.

Fundraising

What's the best way to get donors under the age of 40 to donate to your nonprofit? Future Fundraising Now's Jeff Brooks shares a little secret.

Giving

In FastCoExist, Ben Paynter has a quick primer on what certain proposals in the Trump tax plan could mean for charitable giving.

The real possibility of lower marginal rates and changes to the cap on itemized deductions under a new Trump administration has many wealthy donors rushing to donate shares of appreciated stock before the end of the year. Chana R. Schoenberger reports for the Wall Street Journal.

As another year winds to a close, Elie Hassenfeld, Holden Karnofsky, and other members of the GiveWell team discuss the thinking behind their personal end-of-year giving choices.

Impact Investing

For those interested in keeping up with developments in the fast-growing field of impact investing, the Case Foundation's Rehana Nathoo has curated a list fifty impact investing "influencers" you should follow on Twitter.

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Nonprofits! You Are Not the (Only) Gatekeeper for Your Issue!

December 16, 2016

GatekeeperLast month my mother called to tell me about a neighbor who had just been diagnosed with cancer. She talked about how sad the news made her, and told me the town was really coming together to do something for one of its own. In fact, local town leaders had already decided to organize a fundraiser for our friend.

While we were talking, my mother decided to check out the online fundraising page that had been set up. It didn't take long for me to realize that something was bothering her. "Mom?" I prompted.

"I thought we were being asked to donate to the local cancer society," she replied. "I'd feel a whole lot better if I knew something about the national organization or where my money was going."

Her comment was interesting, in a number of ways. It suggested, first of all, that my mother is more motivated to give when she knows her donation will be used to support a cause close to home and/or understands how her donation will be used. But as we kept chatting, I realized that what she really wanted was to do something for our neighbor directly and in a way that helped our neighbor and her family in their hour of need.

Understanding that way of thinking and, more broadly, what motivates people to engage with a cause — your cause — is critically important if your nonprofit hopes to gain the support of donors and grow that support over time. And while, obviously, my mother is not a millennial, her comment illustrates a mindset related to cause behaviors that, in our research on millennials (see the Millennial Impact Report), we've encountered quite a bit. Indeed, as we conduct that research, we continually ask ourselves, What are the factors that influence (or discourage) millennial donors to support a cause or organization?

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5 Questions for…Alison Taylor, Director, Business for Social Responsibility

December 13, 2016

The corporate social responsibility debate took an interesting turn in 2016, as critics of ExxonMobil, the world's largest oil and gas company, alleged that company executives "knew humans were altering the world's climate by burning fossil fuels even while [the company] was helping to fund and propel the movement denying the reality of climate change." ExxonMobil's campaign to discredit its critics coincided with a decision by the Rockefeller Family Fund — a philanthropy established by the grandchildren of John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil, ExxonMobil's direct antecedent — to divest its holdings in fossil fuel companies and, as fund president David Kaiser wrote in an issue of the New York Review of Books, to do so "gradually," even as it singled out ExxonMobil for immediate divestment because of its "morally reprehensible conduct."

The Texas-based multinational was not amused and moved quickly to rebut the allegations, arguing that it had become the target of "a well-funded and politically motivated conspiracy to harm its core business." But the controversy merely underscored the difficult act that global corporations, especially those in the energy and extractives sector, must pull off as they try to balance the expectations of shareholders against the demands of an increasingly "green" global public.

To learn more about the changing CSR environment, PND contributing editor Michael Wiener recently exchanged emails with Alison Taylor, a New York-based director at Business for Social Responsibility, a global nonprofit organization that works with a network of more than two hundred and fifty member companies and other partners to build a just and sustainable world. In September, BSR, in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation, announced the launch of an initiative aimed at building more inclusive global supply chains.

Philanthropy News Digest: How do you define integrity in the context of business sustainability?

Headshot_alison_taylorAlison Taylor: Business sustainability is one approach and framework for considering organizational integrity. The other is ethics and compliance. Ethics and compliance teams tend to focus on oversight of internal rules and processes and on ensuring that organizations comply with regulations, though they are increasingly being held responsible for wider organizational ethics. Sustainability and CSR teams consider issues of current and emerging public concern such as climate change, human rights, and social impact, with regulatory considerations secondary. Although questions of ethics and integrity are important for sustainability and CSR teams, they sometimes are less explicitly drawn. And frankly, in many organizations there is a disconnect between the two frameworks and approaches; there may be policies and Codes of Conduct that address organizational values, but companies can contradict themselves  for example, by investing in community development but also using offshore investment structures to avoid taxes. By considering integrity in a more integrated and consistent way, and by building structures and cultures to support that integrity, companies can reduce risk and improve their reputations.

PND: How are companies using ethical frameworks to drive business sustainability?

AT: I think sustainability practitioners use ethical arguments to drive support for their programs, but there is also considerable focus on the business case for sustainability and on demonstrating that sustainable businesses are more profitable and successful in the long term. I actually think that where there is considerable support from corporate CEOs and boards, they are more often compelled to take these actions due to ethical considerations. But many companies remain skeptical of the sustainability agenda, and so the field remains focused on making commercial arguments to support that agenda. Those arguments are becoming stronger, however, as public trust in business plummets and voices for greater transparency grow louder. Companies know they can no longer reliably control or manage their public profiles, and so they are paying more attention to sustainability.

PND: What do you say to people who argue that the most important responsibility of any publicly owned company is to maximize shareholder value, not to address social, environmental, or human rights issues or problems?

AT: The emphasis on shareholder value and quarterly reporting remains the status quo and reality. It's also why companies sometimes welcome environmental and social regulation, as the need to comply with existing regulations and laws means they can resist pressure to undertake unsustainable activities in order to keep investors happy. To date, only a few really large companies, notably Unilever, have successfully managed to resist quarterly reporting pressure when it comes to corporate sustainability measures. However, the growing focus on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues among investors, coupled with widespread disruption and ongoing failures of leadership and governance in the private sector, means that there is more and more discussion of leadership and growth models that might work better.

There is overwhelming evidence, for example, that companies need to do more to consider community and society's needs and not just take a narrow, self-interested view. Even Milton Friedman argued that companies needed to do this in order to survive over the long term. But once you start to consider sustainability issues, it brings into play huge amounts of complexity in terms of priorities, decision making, and even a company's core activities. I think it's the reason why the shareholder-value concept has been so powerful for so long. It enables prioritization and clear decision making around priorities.

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Weekend Link Roundup (December 10-11, 2016)

December 11, 2016

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

Black and white trees

Climate Change

In response to President-elect Trump's decision to stock his cabinet with climate change deniers, more than eight hundred Earth science and energy experts have signed an open letter to Trump, "urging him to take six key steps to address climate change [and] help protect America's economy, national security, and public health and safety." Michael D. Lemonick reports for Scientific American.

Community Improvement/Development

The Boston Foundation is bringing the global Pledge 1% movement to Boston. Through the initiative, individuals and companies plugged into the local innovation economy pledge 1 percent of the equity of their company for the benefit of the greater Boston region — or any other region or country. Learn more here.

Data

In this Markets for Good podcast (running time: 58:29) moderator Andrew Means, GuideStar president/CEO Jacob Harold, nonprofit innovator, blogger, and trainer Beth Kanter, and Rella Kaplowitz, program officer for evaluation and learning at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, share strategies and insights for using data to drive social sector impact.

Education

On the NPR website, Eric Westervelt weighs in with a balanced profile of incoming Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. And in Bridge magazine, Chastity Pratt Dawsey and Ron French offer a less-flattering account of DeVos' legacy as a leading funder of school-choice policies in Michigan.

On her Answer Sheet blog, Washington Post education reporter Valerie Strauss looks at a recent decision by the NACCP, America's oldest civil-rights organization, to ratify "a resolution calling for a moratorium on expanding public charter school funding until there is better oversight of these schools and more transparency from charter operators."

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Embracing Partnerships to Widen Impact

December 09, 2016

Piecing_it_togetherAs the executive director of The Blue Card, a national nonprofit that assists Holocaust survivors, I have seen nonprofits having to adapt to the consequences of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, a rapidly accelerating digital revolution, and a renewed emphasis on corporate social responsibility, all of which have forced them — and us — to rethink how we communicate and execute on our missions.

Through this period of change, we've managed to grow our operating budget by 40 percent and expanded our outreach from nineteen to thirty-two states, even as our full-time headcount has remained in the single digits. At the same time, my colleagues and I have seen the needs of survivors we support increase, as they struggle with health issues and ever-rising healthcare costs. For many of them, the difficulty of navigating the public health system and the stresses they face as a result of financial pressures are exacerbated by the psychological and emotional scars they bear. That's why finding a way to provide outreach services to our constituents has been as important as helping them with financial support.

Indeed, if we learned anything from the economic downturn of 2008-09, it's that it is just as important to diversify one's operational strategy as it is one's fundraising strategy. By forging partnerships and taking advantage of synergies with a variety of public- and private-sector agencies, we've been able to increase our programmatic offerings while keeping our operational structure lean and nimble.

And along the way, we've learned a few things about how collaboration and partnerships can be used to help extend an organization's reach:

Don't be afraid. While charitable giving rose smartly in 2015, so did the number of registered nonprofits. Which means the competition for dollars and support from foundations, associations, corporations, and individual donors is as great as ever.

It's important to remember, however, that nonprofits focused on the same problem or cause invariably share the same goal. And that collaborating with an organization or organizations with a mission and goals that align with yours doesn't mean the support you receive has to suffer. On the contrary, you just may find that funders are willing to increase their support if they know the extra dollars won't be used to underwrite duplicative services or programs.

In 2013, for example, The Blue Card began working with the Association of Jewish Family & Children's Services (AJFCA), a membership network of Jewish family service agencies across the United States and Canada. Through AJFCA, we were able to cultivate relationships with social workers and agencies around the country that often are the first point of contact for the elderly, and today we receive referrals from more than seventy agencies in the AJFCA network.

In addition, we've identified organizations in other countries that do similar work and have formed relationships with many of them, making it possible for those agencies to refer donors to us who wish to help Holocaust survivors living in America.

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What Do We Know About…Disconnected Youth?

December 07, 2016

Over six million Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 are not in school or working. Often known as disconnected or opportunity youth, they are among the upwards of fourteen million young adults who are only marginally or periodically in school or working. At the same time, several million young people have had almost no labor market or educational experience in the past year.

Youth and young adults represent the future of our country — our economy, our communities, our democracy — and it is in our best interest to help ensure that they’re engaged with and connected to school and jobs.

Special collection_disconnected youth

To that end, the Annie E. Casey Foundation asked Foundation Center to create a special collection on IssueLab about the group of young people known as disconnected youth. This new online resource houses nearly one hundred and forty recent reports, case studies, fact sheets, and evaluations focused on the challenges confronting youth today, as well as lessons and insights from the field.

The Casey Foundation's interest in these issues began in 2012, when we published Youth and Work: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity, signaling our recognition of the crisis facing young people and the need to create stronger pathways to education and jobs. Our commitment mirrored a national reawakening to the needs and aspirations of youth, including the White House Council for Community Solutions, the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions, and the Obama administration's My Brother's Keeper initiative to improve opportunities for boys and young men of color.

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New Law Will Significantly Strengthen Nonprofit Sector in New York

December 06, 2016

Img_newyorkOn November 28, 2016, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a Nonprofit Revitalization Reform Bill that will strengthen the regulation and operation of nonprofit organizations in New York State in many ways while also helping the communities they serve. The timing could not be better. In the current national political climate, nonprofits are likely to be called to provide new levels of support in multiple areas, including protection of civil rights, delivery of social services, immigration enforcement, family planning, and more. 

The new law will help by introducing major improvements in many areas of nonprofit governance. For example, it will help ensure that board members are more familiar with, and responsible for, their organization's policies and procedures around conflicts of interest and whistleblower complaints. It bars any person who is the subject of a whistleblower complaint from involvement in handling that complaint and creates new levels of legal liability for individuals who abuse nonprofit assets for personal gain, even when they do not serve as an officer, director, or employee of the organization.

The law creates an incentive for nonprofits to review and correct procedures related to conflicts of interest, particularly those that happen innocently. This will apply to a wide range of potential conflict situations, such as when a director is unaware that a relative has an interest in a transaction or when a board approves a transaction after considering alternatives but fails to document the basis for its approval. The law outlines both a mechanism for a board to ratify a procedurally defective transaction if it was in the organization's best interest and an incentive for the board to tighten up its procedures going forward.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (November 2016)

December 05, 2016

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...and Hannukkah...and Kwanzaa...and the end of an especially eventful year. Before you get busy with your end-of-year tasks and holiday chores, take a few minutes to check out some of the PhilanTopic posts that other readers enjoyed and found useful in November....

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.

Weekend Link Roundup (December 3-4, 2016)

December 04, 2016

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

Aging

America is aging rapidly, and for "elder orphans" — the growing number of seniors with no relatives to help them deal with physical and mental health challenges — the future is a scary place. Sharon Jayson reports for Kaiser Health News.

Animal Welfare

Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther looks at the animal welfare movement, which, he writes, "is energized these days by the commitment, brainpower and moral fervor of a impressive group of activists in their 20s and 30s...crying out in opposition to what they see as an evil but widely-accepted practice."

Data

On her Philanthropy 2173 blog, Lucy Bernholz explains why, given the threats the incoming Trump administration poses "to free assembly, expression, and privacy," the nonprofit and philanthropic communities need to do more to manage and protect their digital data.

Education

Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump's pick to be U.S. Secretary of Education, is a wealthy supporter of "school choice" and, as "one of the architects of Detroit's charter school system,...partly responsible for what even charter advocates acknowledge is the biggest school reform disaster in the country." In an op-ed in the New York Times, Douglas N. Harris, a professor of economics at Tulane University and founding director of the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans, explains why her "nomination is a triumph of ideology over evidence that should worry anyone who wants to improve results for children."

In a letter to the editor of the Washington Post, Paul J. Deceglie of Fairfax, Virginia, argues that poverty, not school choice (or lack thereof), is the chief driver of poor student performance.

In a new installment of The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Re:Learning podcast, Goldie Blumenstyk chats with Jim Shelton, who recently was hired by the hired by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to head up its education work.

Fundraising

Guest blogging on Beth Kanter's blog, Rob Wu, CEO and co-founder of CauseVox, shares six insights the so-called sharing economy tells us about the future of fundraising.

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5 Questions for...Cecilia Clarke, President and CEO, Brooklyn Community Foundation

December 01, 2016

As grassroots movements like Black Lives Matter have emerged in recent years, the issue of racial equity has come into sharper focus.

In 2014, the Brooklyn Community Foundation launched an effort to engage more than a thousand Brooklyn residents and leaders in envisioning the foundation's role in realizing "a fair and just Brooklyn" — an effort that in 2015 earned BCF the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy's Impact Award for its community-led approach. Earlier this month, the foundation announced that, in alignment with its commitment to advancing racial equity across all aspects of its work, it would divest from industries that disproportionately harm people of color.

PND spoke with Cecilia Clarke, the foundation's president and CEO, about BCF's focus on racial justice, its decision to divest its portfolio of industries that disproportionately harm people of color, and the post-election role of philanthropy in advancing racial equity.

Cecilia_clarke_for_PhilanTopicPhilanthropy News Digest: Before joining BCF, you founded and led the Sadie Nash Leadership Project. Tell us a little about the project and what it sought to accomplish.

Cecilia Clarke: Sadie Nash Leadership Project is a feminist social justice organization for low-income young women in all five boroughs of New York City and Newark, New Jersey. I founded it in 2001 in my dining room here in Brooklyn, and today it's a nonprofit with a $2 million annual budget serving over two thousand young women annually. One of the organization's working assumptions is that young women are ready to be leaders in their communities right now, and Sadie Nash is there to help shape that leadership through what it calls its "sisterhood model" — providing a safe space, active leadership opportunities, education, and hands-on mentorship and role modeling by leaders who look like the young women themselves.

At Sadie Nash, young women serve on staff and on the board as real voting members, and — in addition to the organization's flagship summer institute program — participate in afterschool programs, fellowships, and internships. And in everything they do for and through the organization, they are paid for their leadership, because it underscores the concept that they are leaders today. Sadie Nash is not training these young women for some hoped-for future; it's important that, given their identity and their experience, we all understand that they can be a force for social change in their communities right now.

PND: In announcing its intention to divest from industries that disproportionately harm people of color, BCF specifically mentioned private prisons, gun manufacturers, and predatory lenders. What kind of impact have these industries had on communities of color and low-income communities in Brooklyn and beyond? And how do you see the divestment process playing out?

CC: To back up a bit, when I first came to BCF, it was a foundation that had only recently transitioned from being a private bank foundation to a community foundation, and it hadn't done a lot of community engagement work. Sadie Nash was very committed to engaging its constituency, and I brought that experience with me to the foundation. So, pretty early on we launched a community engagement initiative called Brooklyn Insights through which we spoke with more than a thousand Brooklynites. And what came out of that process was that there were very clear racially biased policies and practices and traditions in the community that the people who spoke with us believed had helped create and reinforce many of the other issues we were discussing, particularly around young people and criminal justice. As a community foundation, we felt we had to be responsive to what we were hearing and to look at the issues that oppress communities of color — which make up 70 percent of Brooklyn's population.

To that end, we created a Racial Justice Lens as an overarching focus for every aspect of the foundation's work and management, not just our programming or grantmaking. And that meant we needed to look at our investments. We decided on the three areas of divestment you mentioned after multiple conversations, but I want to make clear that we are at the beginning of the process, not at the end. We chose those three areas to begin with because they were very closely related to our program areas and our mission, especially our focus on young people and racial justice. Given our commitment to youth justice, the private prison industry was an obvious area of divestment. Gun violence is still an enormous problem in Brooklyn, with a huge number of guns being trafficked into the borough, so we felt very strongly about gun manufacturers. And looking at the significant economic inequity and lack of opportunity in our neighborhoods, we saw that check cashing and other predatory financial services were making a profit off of inequity. All three of these industries profit from racial injustice and racial inequity, and we felt very strongly that we cannot be a foundation that stands for racial justice and allow these industries to remain in our financial portfolio.

The foundation doesn't invest in individual stocks, so it isn't as if we remove private prisons and replace it with X. Our investments are managed by Goldman Sachs, and Goldman chooses different fund managers with various portfolios of stocks and different investments. So what our divestment means is that we've signaled to our fund managers that these three industries cannot be included in our portfolio, and our finance committee is working very closely with the team over there to make sure that happens. The restrictions we've communicated to them work like proactive insurance to ensure that, going forward, our portfolio will be "clean" of these investments. In a way, the stars sort of lined up for us, because Goldman is getting more and more requests for socially responsible investment choices and has created a new department to do just that. So that's an instrument we can take advantage of while further promoting conversations about aligning our investments with our mission.

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Ending Violence Against Girls: Giving Innovative Leaders the Resources They Deserve

November 30, 2016

No_FGM_symbolMy great aunt, Georgeanna Gibbs Browne, born in 1876 in Philadelphia, was a victim of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). Her upbringing was church-going and "upper crust." Newspaper clippings describe her twirling across dance floors at summer soirees and charity balls.

Old medical journals report that "clitoridectomies" were indeed performed in the United States and Europe well into the twentieth century, billed as a cure for female hysteria, nymphomania, and the perils of masturbation. In Philadelphia, at the same time that Georgeanna was nearing puberty, Charles Karsner Mills, a prominent neurologist and academician, was experimenting with the procedure.

My great-grandparents may have embraced Mills' pioneering medical approach in hopes that the procedure would somehow suppress Georgeanna's budding sexuality or help solidify the family's standing in Philadelphia's social hierarchy. I'll never know their rationale. All I have now are a few sepia-tone photographs: One of a young, smiling, cherubic girl with curly hair and twinkling eyes, and another taken about a decade later. Her hair is cropped and slightly wild, her eyes a bit dazed, her expression stricken.

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It's #GivingTuesday, and We're Celebrating!

November 29, 2016

Logo_GiVingTuesday2016It's that time of year — and not a moment too soon. #GivingTuesday! Did you know that last year, $116.4 million dollars were donated on this single national day of giving? Here's to this year's event being an even bigger success. Are you on board?

This year, Foundation Center and PND decided to approach #GivingTuesday a little bit differently. Because we know just how many amazing nonprofits there are out there, we wanted to highlight them in a special way — and came up with the idea of selecting five through a sweepstakes and turning over our Twitter feeds to those organizations for the day.

The response to the sweepstakes exceeded our expectations, and we're delighted to be able to share the work of the five winners with you throughout the day. To learn more about the great work these organizations are doing and how they're making a difference in their communities, take a look at their profiles below. And please consider making a donation so that they can continue their efforts in 2017 and beyond!

1. Community Health Alliance

CommunityHealthAlliance_logoCommunity Health Alliance in Reno, Nevada, provides quality, affordable, comprehensive health services to any member of the community, regardless of their ability to pay. For #GivingTuesday, the organization is raising funds to help one hundred children receive sealants on their molars to help keep them healthy.

"#GivingTuesday is a wonderful way to kick off the holiday giving season," said CHA executive director Emelie Melton Williams. "Northern Nevada has no shortage of need, but also no shortage of kind people who care about the health of our broader community. We hope you will consider giving from the heart."

2. Mattie C. Stewart Foundation

MattieCStewartFoundation_logoThe Mattie C. Stewart Foundation, a nonprofit located in Birmingham, Alabama, designs tools to let young people and their families experience firsthand the powerful benefits of education and the likely consequence that await high school dropouts.

"Many people may not realize it, but one of the greatest threats to homeland security is a lack of educational progress by our nation's youth. We've got to keep finding ways to engage our young people through education and inspire them to great careers,” said Dr. Shelley Stewart, the organization's founder and president. "The more they disengage or drop out, the more our communities are left with societal ills that can be too big to handle."

To support the organization and its programs, please consider making a donation here.

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#GivingTuesday 2016

November 28, 2016

Logo_GiVingTuesday2016Had your fill of turkey? Feel like you might scream if you see another "40 percent off" sign? Never fear, help is here.

Tomorrow is #GivingTuesday, and to celebrate the thousands of nonprofits that work tirelessly, week in and week out, to make the world a better place, we'll be turning over our Twitter feed for the duration of the day to five lucky nonprofits. Selected through the Foundation Center's "Elevate Your Cause" sweepstakes, the five nonprofits are Community Health Alliance in Reno, Nevada; the Mattie C. Stewart Foundation in Birmingham, Alabama; Building Futures With Women and Children in San Leandro, California; the American Parkinson Disease Association, Northwest Chapter, in Seattle, Washington; and Alström Angels, in Lubbock, Texas.

We know you'll want to learn more about them, so stop back here in the morning for brief profiles of all five, check out our Twitter feed (@pndblog) during the day for tweets from the organizations themselves, and please consider making a donation that will help them continue the great work they do!

Weekend Link Roundup (November 26-27, 2016)

November 27, 2016

Wollman-rinkHope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving holiday. This week's roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector is a little shorter than normal. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog.... 

Environment

While the public recognition that comes with high-profile awards can help protect indigenous activists, many fear that the increased visibility is making them easier to target. Barbara Fraser reports for Indian Country.

Interesting profile in the Mount Desert Islander of Roxanne Quimby, the founder of the Burt's Bees natural cosmetics empire and the driving force behind the recently designated 83,000-acre Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine.

Health

Is spending on health care in the U.S. unacceptably high, or are we beginning to "bend the cost curve"? Katherine Hempstead, director and senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, shares some data designed to shed some light on an inherently murky situation.

Inequality

In remarks delivered at the OECD Cities for Life Global Summit on Inclusion, Innovation and Resilience on November 22, Ford Foundation president Darren Walker told those in attendance that he believes "inequality is the greatest threat to our society, in part because not only can it lead to violence and extremism at its worst, but by limiting opportunity and mobility, ultimately it generates hopelessness. And that hopelessness makes it harder to believe that change is possible." Worth your time to read the full text of his remarks.

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Capital and the Common Good: How Innovative Finance Is Tackling the World's Most Urgent Problems

November 23, 2016

Over the past decade, the financial industry has been the subject of harsh criticism — and not without cause. Disillusioned by the abuse of esoteric financial instruments and repeated examples of corporate malfeasance, large numbers of Americans have grown tired of Wall Street and what they see as the financialization of the economy. Finance, however, is only a tool, and as with any tool, it can be used for good or ill.

Cover_capital_and_the_common_goodGeorgia Levenson Keohane, executive director of the Pershing Square Foundation, professor of social enterprise at Columbia Business School, and author of Social Entrepreneurship for the 21st Century: Innovation Across the Nonprofit, Private, and Public Sectors, makes the case in her new book, Capital and the Common Good: How Innovative Finance Is Tackling the World's Most Urgent Problems, that traditional financial tools can be used to innovate solutions to some of the world's greatest social and environmental challenges and urges readers to regard finance not as an instrument of exploitation but rather as a force for good.

Central to her argument is the distinction between financial innovation — the creation of new, increasingly complex instruments of financial engineering — and innovative finance — the use of existing tools to overcome market failure and meet the needs of the poor and underserved. Divided into five thematic chapters, the book explores how innovative finance can be used to fund solutions to environmental, healthcare, financial inclusion, and disaster relief challenges around the world, as well as problems in the United States.

Revisiting Adam Smith's theory of the "invisible hand" in the context of public need, Keohane shows how financial techniques previously used in the pursuit of private interest can be adopted across sectors to benefit the common good and provide economic opportunities for those at the bottom of the wealth pyramid. "When markets fail to produce a set of broad-based and sustainable public goods," she writes, "we need a more visible hand: concerted efforts by governments, multilateral agencies, philanthropies, and, increasingly, socially minded investors to meet needs and solve problems." It is a perspective rooted in the power of agency, the core of which she describes as "aligning incentives in ways that encourage people — individuals and government leaders — to make decisions that both are in their own self-interest and benefit the society." The logical extension of this argument is that many negative externalities (e.g., CO2 emissions) can be internalized by the market with the judicious application of the right tools — for example, cap and trade — while certain failures of the market can be redressed by the deployment of hybrid incentive models such as pay-for-success bonds.

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