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How to Supercharge Your Advocacy Campaign With a Story

March 27, 2017

In 2001, Madison McCarthy died of sudden cardiac arrest in a kindergarten classroom. She was five years old. No one attempted CPR. Her mother, Suzy McCarthy, became the face of an American Heart Association campaign that, fourteen years later, made New York the twenty-sixth state in the country to mandate CPR training as a part of the public school curricula. More than 1.5 million students a year began learning this lifesaving skill.

Megaphone_advocacyThe McCarthys’ tragic story became the foundation of an advocacy campaign that changed policy and saved lives. I would argue that all causes have the potential to use stories to such powerful effect.

AHA didn’t discover Madison by accident. It deliberately paid attention and collected stories of loss as well as stories of CPR saving lives. It then pushed these narratives at lawmakers through emails, phone calls, news articles, and social media posts. In the critical last weeks of the campaign, patch-through calls with Suzy McCarthy’s voice moved advocates to call Gov. Andrew Cuomo in support of the CPR bill. When I heard the recording, I thought to myself: How could someone not act on that story?

Generic statistics on CPR wouldn’t have moved lawmakers to act. Stories, on the other hand, with their heroes, drama, tragedy, and hope, tap into our emotions. A good story well told has the potential to bring out the best in supporters and advocates — and in lawmakers.

Unfortunately, too few advocacy organizations use stories to their full potential. Often, my colleagues and I receive advocacy emails jammed with technical information about pending legislation. They’re almost unreadable. Advocates for your cause are people with jobs, families, and other responsibilities. Even if they care about your issue, they can only invest so much time in getting themselves up to speed on all its nuances.

Now imagine the effect of replacing all those jargon-filled explanations with a real, compelling story. Let’s talk about how you can accomplish that at your organization.

Collect your advocates’ stories. When people sit around the dinner table or a campfire, what do they do? They tell stories. But when you solicit stories in support of your cause via email or social media, which are far less personal channels, you have to be sure to ask the right question. We’ve found that the following approach works well:

  • In a sentence or two, present your issue and actionable goal.
  • Then say: “How does this issue affect you personally? Please share your story for our campaign.”
  • Watch as advocates send emails, post on social media, and respond to other people’s stories.

Identify the most compelling stories. Let’s say you collect two hundred stories. (Congrats!) Around which ones should you build your campaign?

First, zero in on the most relevant stories. Suzy McCarthy lost a child, and the proposed legislation could prevent that from happening in the future. No story could be more relevant. Second, ask for permission to use the story publicly. Understandably, some of your supporters may feel shy about becoming a campaign figurehead the way Suzy did. Third, use the most compelling stories first. Which ones truly capture what is at stake?

The best stories illustrate the consequences of inaction, be it job loss, hunger, environmental degradation, or even the possibility of death. And though you really only need one truly compelling story to get someone to take action, feel free to share quotes or short anecdotes from many.

Center your campaign on one story. The idea here is to use the voice of a single advocate for your cause to inspire others to act. Put that story on your campaign webpage. Include it in your emails to legislators (and make sure it precedes your call to action). Ask the person whose story it is to do the recording for your patch-through calls (as Suzy did for AHA).

Remember: Simplicity usually wins the day. The story you choose should translate something complex into a relatable, emotional experience. And the hashtag you choose for social media purposes should capture the essence of that story in a few words. While we’d like to believe that each and every story or argument strengthens a campaign, it doesn’t work that way. Oversharing can dilute and undermine the power of your message.

Simplifying a complex issue into a compelling story, and turning that story into a catchy hashtag, is not about pandering to short attention spans or “dumbing down” your messaging for a millennial audience. It’s being strategic. By one estimate, more than half of all emails sent since 2015 have been opened on a mobile device. Why lose a potential supporter and advocate for your cause to the fact that your message didn’t “fit above the fold” and a lot of socially engaged people didn’t scroll down far enough to find it on their smartphones?

Now, it’s possible you end up ignoring my advice because you and your colleagues have convinced yourselves your organization doesn’t have an ”exciting” story to tell. I doubt that. When patent assertion entities (PAEs) began blackmailing innovators and small businesses for patent infringement, the issue seemed dry and complicated. That didn’t deter the Consumer Technology Association, a group that supports innovators and innovation. CTA simply reframed the issue as a David vs. Goliath story. They realized the term “patent troll” captured the greed and mendaciousness of PAEs. And like trolls, PAEs were preying on the innocent — in this case, entrepreneurs and technologists. CTA’s graphic caricatures of club-wielding trolls hammered the point home.

As a result, CTA raised awareness of the issue and moved entrepreneurs and small businesses, which couldn’t afford to fight patent infringement claims in court, to share their own stories of extortion. In no time, their stories revealed that U.S. patent law was broken and motivated politicians in Washington to take action.

The point is, you can’t imagine the kinds of stories your advocates and supporters might be willing to share until you ask for them. And one good story can drive an entire campaign. Real stories shared by real people never earn the “fake news” moniker that can delegitimize research and technical information.

Ximena_hartsock_for_PhilanTopicSo lead with a story. You’ll be amazed by the results.

Ximena Hartsock is a co-founder and president of Phone2Action, a provider of social advocacy and civic engagement tools that connect constituents with their elected officials.

Weekend Link Roundup (March 25-26, 2017)

March 26, 2017

David_rockefeller_photo_jim_smeal_wireimage_getty_images_115356418_profileOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Arts and Culture

The Metropolitan Museum of Art on Manhattan's Upper East Side is one of the great cultural institutions of the world. But is it a great cultural institution in decline? In Vanity Fair, William D. Cohan looks at the New York Times article and ensuing circumstances that led to the resignation of the museum's director, 54-year-old one-time wunderkind Thomas Campbell.

Climate Change

The nation's leading climate change activist is a former hedge fund manager you've probably never heard of. Wired's Nick Stockton talks to Tom Steyer, the California billionaire who is trying to save the planet.

Education

Citing new research which finds that the skills required to succeed professionally are the same as those required to succeed in K-12 education, Laszlo Bock, a member of the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development, suggests that the best place to invest scarce education reform dollars might just be where the overlap between the two is most clear.

Fundraising

Like many people, I'm a student of cognitive biases. So I was pleased to come across this post by John Haydon detailing five cognitive biases that can be leveraged to improve the success of your next fundraising campaign.

Giving

Meals on Wheels America has seen an upsurge in donations since being targeted for elimination by the Trump administration's "skinny" budget plan. Alex Swerdloff reports for Vice.

The Economist suggests that the increasing popularity of donor-advised funds may be as much about...wait for it...taxes as it is about charity.

International Affairs/Development

Foreign aid represents a tiny fraction (less than 1 percent) of the federal budget. But the Trump administration, like Republican administrations in the past, seems determined to zero it out. That would be a mistake, writes Bill Gates on his Gates Notes blog. For starters, foreign aid promotes health, security, and economic opportunity that helps stabilize vulnerable parts of the world, and whether we realize it or not, that tends to keep us all safer.

If you're smiling now, it's probably because you're Norwegian. The fifth annual World Happiness Report is out, and — surprise! — Scadinavian countries lead the pack.

Leadership

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, notes that even as "elite schools overemphasize leadership because...they're preparing students for the corporate world," a discipline in organizational psychology called "followership" is gaining in popularity. And that's a good thing.

Nonprofits

In a joint op-ed for The Hill, Council on Foundations president Vikki Spruill and Tim Delaney, president and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits, argue that efforts to weaken or repeal the so-called Johnson Amendment — a legislative provision proposed by then-Senate Minority Leader Lyndon Johnson, adopted without controversy by the Republican-controlled Senate, passed by a Republican-controlled Congress, and signed into law by President Eisenhower in 1954 — would "significantly weaken" nonprofits and the nonprofit sector "by inviting heretofore nonpartisan charitable and philanthropic organizations to endorse or oppose candidates for elected office and divert some amount of their assets away from their missions to instead support partisan campaigns."

The Trump administration's keen interest in dramatically reducing and/or eliminating federal aid for the poor and needy and replacing it with assistance from faith-based organizations reminds us of another Republican administration that was hell-bent on going down that road but abandoned the effort when reality sank in. Which begs the question, Are churches, synagogues, mosques, and other faith-based organizations any better positioned today to serve as a substitute for the government in providing for the needy and vulnerable? Emma Green reports for The Atlantic.

On her Social Velocity blog, Nell Edgington chats with the Ford Foundation's Kathy Reich about the foundation's BUILD initiative, a key element of its strategy to support the vitality and effectiveness of civil society organizations and reduce inequality, in the U.S. and the regions where it works internationally.

Philanthropy

If you're a grantmaker who's finding it difficult to remain "thoughtful and steadfast" as the world spins out of control, you're not alone, writes Huffington Post contributor and Grantmakers for Effective Organizations president Kathleen Enright. But this, too, shall pass, and in the meantime there are things you can do to make a positive difference

"Sector agnosticism" —  "the idea...that you can achieve positive societal impact working within a nonprofit or a for-profit — and that it is the impact, not the organizational type, that matters" — not only is not helpful, "it obscures the fact that the sectors play distinct and different roles," writes Center for Effective Philanthropy president Phil Buchanan in a new post on the CEP blog.

It's not what you would call a paradigm shift, but a growing number of foundations are choosing to spend down their endowments over a set period of time. Ben Paynter reports for Fast Company.

And this short statement from Bill and Hillary Clinton articulates what many of us were feeling when we heard the news that David Rockefeller had passed at the age of 101. Here's the transcript of a conversation we had with Mr. Rockefeller more than a decade ago. He was frail even then, but still sharp and exceedingly generous with his time. Godspeed, sir.

(Photo: Jim Smeal, Getty Images)

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....

Putting Communities First: A Collaborative Fund for the San Joaquin Valley

March 24, 2017

Sierra_health_future_is_meThe San Joaquin Valley is a testament to the troubling social, environmental, economic, and health divides that exist between individuals and communities living within relatively close proximity to one another. A mere three-hour drive from California's prosperous coastal communities, the Valley is home to a multi-billion-dollar agricultural industry, but many of the children who live there go hungry. And while the need for food assistance varies across the state, it is highest in the Valley. Data in our recently released report, California's San Joaquin Valley: A Region and Its Children Under Stress (32 pages, PDF), show that eight of the counties in the Valley are among the top nine agricultural producers in the state, and that seven of these same counties are among the ten counties with the highest child poverty rates. What's more, in six of the Valley's nine counties, over 40 percent of residents are enrolled in Medi-Cal, the state's health insurance program, while one in four schools do not have access to clean drinking water.

California also is home to more than two million undocumented immigrants, 10 percent of whom live in the region. Immigrants make up 42 percent of the agricultural workforce and 11 percent of the region's overall workforce, and emerging evidence shows that recent policy efforts have placed their safety, health, and emotional well-being at risk. In combination, these inequities place residents of the Valley at greater risk for negative, often preventable health outcomes such as childhood asthma, diabetes, depression, cancer, and trauma.

While California has provided leadership on some of the nation's most pressing health and racial equity issues, the San Joaquin Valley has been left behind. In fact, the Federal Reserve Bank has called the region "the Appalachia of the West." To address the complicated mix of challenges facing Valley communities, Sierra Health Foundation launched the San Joaquin Valley Health Fund (the Fund) to build and support a network of community organizations committed to promoting resident voices, ideas, and agency aimed at driving policy and systems change at a regional level. With an initial investment from Sierra Health Foundation and The California Endowment, the Fund is managed by The Center, a nonprofit created by Sierra Health Foundation to bring people, ideas, infrastructure, and resources to bear on the challenge of eradicating health inequities across the state. Among other things, The Center helps communities access proven practices, tap their existing knowledge and creativity, and act collectively to create the political will necessary to put their ideas into action. The investment fund is now a partnership of nine local, regional, state, and national funders, including The California Wellness, Rosenberg, W. K. Kellogg, Blue Shield of California, Wallace H. Coulter, Dignity Health, and Tides foundations.

To date, the Fund has announced grant commitments totaling more than $4.5 million to support local community organizations. This year, the Fund will support a network of sixty-eight organizations with investments totaling nearly $3 million, but there remain many worthy organizations whose participation we are unable to support.

The Fund's model brings grantees into a "learning community" cohort where organizations develop solutions to address inequities through a policy and systems change lens. Through the Fund, our nonprofit partners receive modest grants to strengthen their capacity to engage in collective advocacy while building relationships, receiving technical assistance, and sharing best practices. As a result, the fifty-eight nonprofits currently working with the Fund have agreed to support a regional policy platform that employs a social-determinants-of-health approach focused on access to health coverage, early childhood investment, affordable housing, environmental health, and employment. 

In our model, grantees are equal partners who contribute to the Fund's goal by agreeing to be mutually supportive and civically active. A powerful example of what this looks like on the ground occurred last month with Equity on the Mall, a day of advocacy at the California State Capitol. Despite heavy rain, more than a thousand San Joaquin Valley residents traveled to Sacramento to make their case for what it is needed to make California a "Golden State for All." The bipartisan list of speakers included Senate president pro tem Kevin de León, Assemblyman Devon Mathis, California secretary of health and human services Diana Dooley, and Michael Tubbs, the first African-American and youngest person elected mayor of Stockton. Community residents presented their multi-strategy policy platform to state leadership, putting their elected leaders on notice that "Valley communities are mobilizing and will no longer be overlooked, marginalized, or behave as though they have no ability to exert political influence."

Through the Fund, we are learning new lessons about the power of organizing to make meaningful and sustainable change at scale. And we are shining a light on inequity in the health, social, and economic outcomes of different regions within our great state, while contributing to solutions designed to address them. Our goal is simple: to ensure that our community partners are at the forefront of efforts to identify and lead on the issues that will require political support and systemic changes to be implemented. We have been heartened by the response of our partners who say the approach of the Fund is significantly different from that of other funders, who have come to the Valley with their own agenda rather than listening to the priorities of residents. The Fund's model works for and with residents, with a shared vision of a healthy San Joaquin Valley for all. 

This work continues to evolve, but it is well positioned to inform similar strategies in other under-resourced and overburdened regions. We encourage others to join with us to expand our impact in the Valley and, by doing so, create new models for addressing inequity and inequality across the country.

Chet_hewitt_for_PhilanTopicChet P. Hewitt is president and CEO of Sierra Health Foundation and The Center, an independent nonprofit developed and supported by the foundation. To get involved or to learn more about the San Joaquin Valley Health Fund, see www.shfcenter.org/sjvhealthfund.

How a Blueprint for Treating HIV/AIDS Is Helping Address Childhood Cancer in Africa

March 21, 2017

Globe_health_for_PhilanTopic2Roughly 15,000 new cases of cancer are diagnosed annually among American children. Eighty percent of these children ultimately are cured, which is a remarkable medical success story. But in sub-Saharan Africa, where about 100,000 new cases of pediatric cancer occur annually and 90 percent of those children will die, the story is different. It's a story of disparate access to lifesaving care and treatment, and one that — thanks to a new public-private partnership — we are taking action to change.

The Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) Foundation's SECURE THE FUTURE® program, Texas Children's Cancer and Hematology Centers, and the Baylor College of Medicine International Pediatric AIDS Initiative at Texas Children's Hospital (BIPAI) are committing $100 million over the next five years to launch Global HOPE (Hematology-Oncology Pediatric Excellence). Global HOPE is a comprehensive pediatric hematology-oncology treatment network that will help build long-term capacity in East and southern Africa with the goal of dramatically improving the prognosis of thousands of children with blood disorders and cancer. In partnership with the government of Botswana, the program will build and open a comprehensive children's cancer treatment center in Gaborone, the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa, and will establish additional centers and training programs in Uganda and Malawi.

While identifying treatments and cures for non-communicable diseases in sub-Saharan Africa has been a focus of the international public health and philanthropic communities, there has yet to be a comprehensive effort to address pediatric cancer and blood disorders in the region. These are complicated conditions, requiring subspecialty expertise, advanced medical technology, and potentially toxic medications. Despite the challenges, however, if we apply the blueprint we've developed for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), we can start saving lives now.

At the turn of the millennium, Africa was considered a lost cause by many in the medical and public health communities. HIV and AIDS had ravaged the continent. New HIV infections, including those involving transmission from mothers to babies, were occurring unabated, and African children and young adults were dying in droves. Across the southern portion of the continent, funeral homes were open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, to accommodate the demand.

Put simply, the region had too few doctors, too little medical infrastructure, and the medicines that had transformed the treatment of HIV/AIDS here in the U.S. were no more than a distant dream, causing Botswana's president, Festus Mogae, to remark, “We are threatened with extinction.”

Against that backdrop, the BMS Foundation arrived in the region with the idea that we could do something to find a solution. In short order, the foundation began awarding grants to local and international institutions and organizations interested in pursuing projects aimed at preventing and/or treating HIV/AIDS, as well as in improving the health and quality of life of those afflicted. At first, the projects were more operational in nature — providing nutritional supplements or psychosocial support. But we soon realized that in order to make a real difference, we needed to find a way to administer treatment to sick children in large numbers.

And so the BMS Foundation made a radical and unprecedented commitment: $100 million to fight HIV/AIDS among women and children living in five hard-hit countries in southern Africa, including Botswana. The foundation also made the decision to partner with the Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative to support public healthcare infrastructure in the region. In fairly short order, the situation began to change.

With support from the BMS Foundation and the government of Botswana, BIPAI built and opened a state-of-the-art Children's Clinical Center of Excellence on the campus of Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone to provide care and treatment to HIV-infected children. More than four thousand children were tested for HIV in the first year alone, and about fourteen hundred received highly-active antiretroviral therapy, the same kind of medications that were saving the lives of thousands of HIV-infected children and adults here in the U.S. The results were astonishing — plummeting rates of death, complications from disease, and hospitalizations. To immense delight, African children were benefiting from state-of-the-art treatment in exactly the same way that American children had begun to nearly a decade before.

Today, BIPAI's seven African Children's Clinical Centers of Excellence provide care and treatment to more than three hundred thousand HIV-infected children and their family members — more than are under care at any other institution in the world. And while there is more to be done, the tide has turned: the numbers of new infections and deaths from HIV in children in many countries across sub-Saharan Africa are down dramatically.

If there is a silver lining to the tragic story of HIV/AIDS in Africa, it's that the blueprint we've developed via a public-private partnership — creating infrastructure, building health professional capacity, and scaling models of care delivery — can be applied to the pediatric cancer and blood disorders that are robbing African children of their health and lives. From our experience with HIV/AIDS, we have learned how to forge partnerships and avoid competition and duplication of services. We have learned how to build clinical and laboratory infrastructure effectively. We have learned how to train and support African health professionals. We have learned that African mothers and fathers are more than capable of adhering to complex regimens of medications with the same diligence as their American counterparts. In short, we have learned that, by working together, we can do so much better than simply write off a hundred thousand young African lives to cancer and blood disorders every year.

As the global health community is coming to understand the burden that non-communicable diseases place on developing countries, we hope it will look more closely at this public-private partnership as an effective model. The success of treating children with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan African countries is shining a bright light on what is possible. Just as with HIV/AIDS, we know that pediatric cancer will challenge our commitment and compassion for some of the world's least fortunate children and families. But there is no excuse for not pursuing this fight with the same zeal and passion we all hope would be expended on behalf of our own children. We encourage other individuals and organizations to join us in this worthy effort.

Mark_kline_john_damonti Mark W. Kline is physician-in-chief at Texas Children's Hospital, the J.S. Abercrombie Professor and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, and the founder and CEO of BIPAI. John Damonti is president of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation and led its SECURE THE FUTURE program, which has invested more than $180 million in over two hundred and forty HIV/AIDS programs in twenty-two African countries.

Weekend Link Roundup (March 18-19, 2017)

March 19, 2017

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

Arts and Culture

The Wellesley Centers for Women partnered with American Conservatory Theater to study gender equity in leadership opportunities in the nonprofit American theater. This is what they learned.

In an op-ed for Bloomberg, Earl Lewis, president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a major funder of the arts and humanities in America, suggests that any plan to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National for the Humanities "would be foolish," not least because it would "deprive ourselves and our successors of the cultural understanding central to our complex but shared national identity." 

Education

The Trump administration's call for massive cuts to national service in its first budget would deal a "devastating" blow to the education reform movement. Lisette Partelow, director of K-12 Strategic Initiatives at the Center for American Progress, and Kami Spicklemire, an education campaign manager at CAP, explain.

Environment

In a guest post for the Center for Effective Philanthropy, Keecha Harris, president of Keecha Harris and Associates, Inc. and director of InDEEP (Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity in Environmental Philanthropy), argues that if the environmental movement wants to remain relevant, its needs to do something about the "green ceiling" — i.e, the lack of diversity and inclusion within its ranks.

In a statement released earlier in the week, Nature Conservancy president Mark Tercek criticizes the White House's "misguided" budget blueprint, which assumes that "the security and prosperity of [the] country must come at the expense of critical federal investments in our natural resources." 

Hewlett Foundation president Larry Kramer argues that philanthropy has an important role to play in limiting the damage from climate change already locked in, but that to do so, it will need to respond with a much bigger effort than it has mustered to date.

Here's some good news: Despite a growing global economy, CO2 emissions have remained flat for the third year in a row. 

Giving

Does the rise of crowdfunding and social fundraising portend a future in which donors are more likely to be driven by emotion than science or metrics? Ben Paynter reports for Fast Company.

Health

"[I]n our nearly 70 years of working to make [a bright] future a reality [for every child], we have learned that a child's best chance for success in life — and for becoming an adult who fully contributes to our prosperity as a nation — is a healthy start from birth," writes Annie E. Casey Foundation president Patrick McCarthy. And having "access to health care," adds McCarthy, "helps provide that healthy start — a fact that we hope our country's leaders and decision makers bear in mind as they debate the future of the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program."

Higher Education

A new survey of some 33,000 students at 70 community colleges has turned up some shocking findings: 14 percent of community college students say they are homeless, and as many as half struggle to afford food. The Hechinger Report's Jon Marcus digs into the results.

Innovation

FastCoExist will be unveiling its first-ever World Changing Ideas Awards on March 20. Can't wait till then? Here are nine ideas that could change the world for the better in 2017 and beyond.

International Affairs/Development

Sri Lanka is experiencing its worst drought in decades. Joanne Lu reports for Humanosphere.

Philanthropy

In the Denver Post, philanthropy consultant Bruce DeBoskey shares his take on a toolkit recently released by Open Road Alliance, the Rockefeller Foundation, and Arabella Advisors that they describe as "the first practical, comprehensive framework providing guidance to funders on how to implement best practices in risk-management."

And did you know Warren Buffet has some advice for foundations that they probably won't take? Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther has the skinny.

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....

We Fund What We Value

March 17, 2017

Axe-hatchetThe just-released Trump budget, "America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again," proposes a $54 billion increase in defense spending and massive cuts elsewhere that will pose huge challenges for philanthropy.

Leave aside the politics (please) and consider what this means for donors. The budget calls for the complete defunding of four cultural agencies — the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Eliminating the NEA cuts $148 million; the NEH, $148 million; the IMLS, $230 million; and the CPB, $445 million. From the NEA alone, $47 million in state grants leveraged an additional $368 million in state funding. That's roughly $1 billion, plus $368 million from the states.

Science and basic research take a massive hit, with the National Institutes of Health losing almost $6 billion of its $30 billion budget. It's important to remember that 80 percent of NIH funding goes to outside researchers in universities and labs across the country — major recipients of foundation and individual donations.

Cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency have garnered headlines, with nearly a third of its budget in jeopardy; in practice, this includes the outright elimination of a program to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and half the funding for the EPA's Office of Research and Development. Funding for climate research is effectively zeroed out.

Proposed budgets are just that — proposals — and they never survive intact, but what if even half these cuts are enacted? It still translates into billions of dollars in cuts to everything from local public radio stations to rural arts programs to university research programs. The cuts would affect big cities and small towns alike. And they would directly affect programs funded by philanthropy.

Philanthropy often relies on federal and state grants to leverage its investments. A grant from a foundation makes it possible, for instance, for a nonprofit to undertake a library scoping study, which can unlock a state grant to underwrite the building's design, which can lead to a federal grant toward construction of the building. Or a donor might fund an endowed chair for a university professor, who then seeks government funding to support his or her research on a cure for cancer. Under our system, government, foundations, and individual donors work together to magnify the impact of their respective dollars.

But while philanthropy is used to working with federal and state agencies, it cannot fill the gaps that would be created by the Trump budget on its own. If the funding cuts proposed by the White House survive, foundations and donors will face many difficult choices in the months and years to come. Having to decide between funding deeply in one area or funding broadly across many areas will be a constant aggravation, at best. And because the proposed cuts are so deep, even a significant increase foundation and individual donor giving will not be enough to keep the wolf from the door. The resulting harm will be financial and cultural, medical and environmental, with jobs lost and nonprofits forced to shut down.

Headshot_Chris_MassiWe fund what we value, and the choices ahead are likely to test our values in profound ways.

Chris Massi is a senior consultant at Graham-Pelton, a global fundraising and nonprofit management consulting firm. A version of this post originally appeared on the Graham-Pelton website.

The Future of African-American Philanthropy

March 15, 2017

Circleofjoy_mediumAs the demography of America changes, the face of philanthropy is changing along with it. While African Americans have a tradition of giving, the 2016 U.S. Trust® Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy highlights new data on African-American donors that gives us a clearer picture of the future of philanthropy in the U.S. We have long known, for example, that African-American households tend to give more of their discretionary income — as much as 25 percent more — to charitable causes than white Americans, and the U.S. Trust study (114 pages, PDF) suggests that that figure increases as African Americans move into the ranks of the wealthy.

At Bridge Philanthropic Consulting (BPC), the nation's largest full-service African American-owned fundraising firm, we have logged plenty of anecdotal evidence that supports the study’s key finding — namely, that African Americans are very generous but also very careful when it comes to charitable giving. Among those surveyed for the study, 62.4 percent of African-American respondents rated themselves as "knowledgeable" or "expert" about charitable giving and philanthropy, compared to 54.8 percent of their white peers. African-American donors also are almost twice as likely as white donors to say that they carefully monitor their social investments (39.1 percent v. 21.7 percent).

This cautiousness on the part of African-American donors does not extend to online giving. African Americans are four times as likely as donors from other racial or ethnic groups to use social media to raise funds and/or awareness for a cause. And high-net-worth African-American donors report a higher degree of satisfaction from giving than white donors (66.7 percent v. 42.3 percent). At the same time, African-American and white donors both report a high degree of satisfaction from volunteering, with rates above 60 percent among both groups. Where noticeable differences show up is in the kinds of organizations each group favors. African Americans were significantly more likely than their white peers to donate to faith-based causes (71 percent vs. 53.7 percent), so-called combination purposes (54 percent vs. 41.4 percent), and higher education (49 percent vs. 34.4 percent). There is also a tradition in the black church of tithing that has instilled a sense of grassroots philanthropy in the African-American community, with African Americans who attend church 25 percent more likely to make a charitable donation than their peers who don't attend church services.

"Black philanthropy makes an enormous difference in the lives of our people and our nation," says Hugh B. Price, former president of the National Urban League and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "Our generosity runs the gamut, from tithing to our churches, sororities, fraternities, and civic clubs, to making major contributions to our collegiate alma maters, the Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Black philanthropy provides the indispensable financial foundation that guarantees the survival of vitally important nonprofit institutions while also fueling their ascent to new heights of impact and excellence."

The findings of the U.S. Trust study further suggests that organizations seeking to fundraise in the African-American community should pay special attention to those with a family tradition of giving. Among African-American respondents to the survey, 30.7 percent said they have a family tradition of giving, compared with 18.3 percent of white respondents. Perhaps more significantly, African Americans are more likely, according to the study, to encourage their younger relatives to get involved in charitable causes and giving campaigns.

"I became involved in philanthropy through a family tradition that goes back to the church," notes Dwayne Ashley, who co-founded BPC and serves as its president. "My great-grandmother was a midwife. When families could not pay her, they often gave her portions of their land, which she in turn donated to create one of the first black schools in Heflin, Louisiana. Eventually, the school became a church, [which] generations of my family and neighbors attend to this day."

As African Americans become an increasingly important part of the philanthropic equation in the U.S., nonprofit organizations have reason to be optimistic. According to the U.S. Trust study, African Americans are almost twice as likely as whites to believe that large gifts can change the world or impact society for the better (25.5 percent vs. 14.2 percent). And of those surveyed, 41.8 percent of African American respondents said they planned to increase their charitable giving in the future, compared with 24.4 percent of white respondents.

“I am excited to see the hard data matching the generosity we have observed in the black community for many years," says Reggie Van Lee, a celebrated philanthropist, founding member of the Clinton Global Initiative, and a former member of President Obama's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

Even today, many fundraising professionals still associate "donor" with a wealthy white man or woman. A growing number, however, are learning that fundraising transcends color and that meaningful long-term relationships with donors are based on mutual affinity and shared interests. Thirty years ago, I asked the 100 Black Men of America organization to help underwrite a PBS program about Paul Robeson. I was shocked to learn the organization had never been approached to do anything like that. But I wasn't surprised when it stepped up with a generous gift. That was then, and today is today. If African Americans in the past weren't a fixture on nonprofits' donor rolls, maybe it's because no one thought to ask. Isn't it time we do something about that?

M_gasby_brown_for_PhilanTopicGasby Brown is co-founder of Bridge Philanthropic Consulting and a faculty member at the Fund Raising School at Indiana University's Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. She is also the author of several books, including 7 Fatal Flaws of Nonprofit Boards and How to Fix Them.

Weekend Link Roundup (March 11-12, 2017)

March 12, 2017

Keep-calm-and-let-it-snow--680Our 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

After a decade of declining meat consumption, Americans again are eating more meat, and Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther wants to know why people "who adore their dogs and cats blithely go on consuming meat products that cause needless suffering to pigs, cows and chickens."

Education

On Medium, Nick Donohue, president/CEO of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, suggests that "education as a whole hasn't changed much since today's retirees were students themselves, sitting in class and scribbling notes in cadence with a teacher's lecture. We've operated schools as if they were industrial factories, with one size fits all approaches to teaching and learning that resemble assembly line practices. In doing so, we are doing what we did 100 years ago  —  culling and sorting the more elite students and leaving the rest behind...."

Health

In her latest annual message, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation president Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, who in April will step down as head of the foundation, shares seven lessons she has learned about improving health in America.

Immigration

There are 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. — people living here without permission from the American government — and, as the New York Times' Vivian Yee, Kenan Davis, and Jugal K. Patel illustrate in this fact-based piece, they are not necessarily who you think they are.

Continue reading »

Time for Philanthropy to Take Bold Action: Invest in Policy Change

March 10, 2017

Change_buttonOver the past few weeks, we've witnessed a new administration work daily to roll back rights our communities have fought hard to win, putting in jeopardy everything from immigrants' rights and economic security to educational equity and women's health.

At the same time, and despite the increasingly politicized climate in the country, we are heartened to see people stepping up and taking action in the streets, online, and in the corridors of power. In record numbers, more and more of us are becoming engaged in the political process, participating in protests, organizing our communities, and communicating with our elected officials.

Philanthropy, too, must answer the urgent calls to take action and support programs, initiatives, and tools that can help protect communities from draconian changes in policy while advancing the values we hold dear. By tools I mean policy advocacy and organizing. If we truly hope to create a just and equitable society for all Americans, we need more funders in California and around the country to invest in advocacy and organizing efforts that help vulnerable groups and communities withstand the attacks directed against them while taking proven solutions to scale. We need community leaders who know how to work with legislatures at the state and local level to shape more just policies. And those leaders need the knowledgeable and strategic support of philanthropists willing to be partners in their work.

At the Women's Foundation of California, we know we can't create opportunities for our communities without an explicit focus on policy change aimed at both dismantling barriers and expanding rights. As the only statewide foundation in California focused on gender equity, we work every day to advance the leadership of women in public policy. Over the past fourteen years, our Women's Policy Institute has worked with more than four hundred women leaders to advance gender equity through policy change. And those women, in turn, have helped pass twenty-nine laws that have improved the health, safety, and economic well-being of millions of people living in California.

Continue reading »

Foundations Engaging in Policy: Not an Option But an Obligation

March 08, 2017

Policy_word_cloudPhilanthropy as a sector produces an ever-increasing body of writing aimed at encouraging impact investments for the public good. Much of that writing ignores a key consideration: Any foundation involved with impact investing cannot be taken seriously if it does not engage in policy. For many foundations, particularly family foundations, the idea of engaging in policy work is daunting, and in too many cases it's viewed as something to be avoided entirely. But while too many foundations consider engaging in policy work to be risky, I argue that it is as important a function as grantmaking and evaluation. And if we take evaluation seriously, we have no choice but to share those learnings with others, including policy makers.

Most of us know that Congress has imposed stringent limits on foundations with respect to advocacy and even more stringent prohibitions on their lobbying activities. Fully aware of the power that comes with accumulated wealth, Congress enacted prohibitions against charitable institutions engaging in lobbying as early as 1934. Later, in 1954, then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson sponsored legislation to prohibit nonprofit organizations, including foundations, from endorsing or opposing political candidates, and extended that prohibition to churches. In 1976, Congress created five exceptions to the lobbying prohibition on foundations. They are: (1) making available the results of nonpartisan analysis, studies, or research that may (or may not) include advocating a particular position; (2) the discussion of broad socioeconomic policy as long as it's not designed to encourage others to take action; (3) the provision of technical advice to a government body; (4) "self-defense" lobbying with regard to action that may affect a charity's existence or tax-exempt status; and (5) communication with members of Congress as long as they are not directly engaged in direct or grassroots lobbying themselves.

The legislated restrictions on what foundations can and cannot do to influence legislation often scare foundation boards away from committing their considerable institutional power and knowledge on behalf of the most fundamental right of all: speaking out on matters of policy. Foundations can do better. Indeed, we have an obligation to do so, if only to ensure that our investments in the social sector are leveraged to maximize our impact. Policy work is not lobbying: policy is what results from listening, gathering data, and developing frameworks that support solutions. Policy informs legislation, which, when crafted well, integrates the solutions defined by policy.

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Moving the Needle on Youth Violence

March 06, 2017

GeINChicago_thumbnail_CUL-mentor-circleAccording to the Giving USA Foundation and Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Americans gave as generously as ever in 2015, setting a record for the second year in a row with total giving of $373.25 billion. That wasn't enough, however, to prevent problems such as income inequality, racism, and, here in Chicago, gun violence, from becoming even more entrenched. Which is why it is so important for donors and funders to do whatever they can to ensure that their charitable donations are making a measurable difference in addressing these and other challenges.

At Get IN Chicago, we use an evidence-based approach to move the needle on youth violence and, since 2013, have provided feedback and capacity-building support to community-based organizations providing a range of youth-focused services and interventions, from mentoring and parenting programs to community sports leagues and trauma-focused therapy.

Thanks to over two years of research and data collection and our work with more than sixty community organizations, anti-violence experts, and donor partners, we have developed five key recommendations for organizations looking to fund anti-violence initiatives and maximize the impact created by that support. Using these criteria to ensure programs' effectiveness, in 2017 we will be collaborating with more than twenty agencies to bring intensive case management, intake, mentoring, and cognitive behavioral therapy programs to high-risk youth in seven Chicago neighborhoods.

Based on that work, here are our recommendations for funders and donors:

1. Make sure the program you are thinking about funding actually addresses the needs of the target population you want to help. Our research shows that while most anti-violence programs work with at-risk youth, participants in those programs are not all subject to the same type or level of risk (i.e., violence or gang activity). That's why we have worked with programs to focus their efforts specifically on acutely high-risk youth — those at the greatest risk for gun violence, based on such factors as school absenteeism rates, mental health issues, justice system involvement, and the presence of a previously or currently incarcerated parent. Along the way, we've learned that it is essential to clearly define the population you are looking to help — not least because it makes it easier to develop a tailored strategy with respect to recruiting, engaging, and retaining participants from the target group, boosting your chances of success.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (March 4-5, 2017)

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

Arts and Culture

"The right of artists and journalists to tweak the nose of power, to challenge what we believe, to criticize those in high places, to hold accountable people who otherwise might anoint themselves kings, cannot be abridged because we find it at times uncomfortable," writes Heinz Endowments president Grant Oliphant on the foundation's Point blog. And the "very real possibility that the tiny levels of federal spending for the NEA, NEH and CPB will be eliminated has...obviously nothing to do with balancing budgets or fiscal prudence. It is an attack, pure and simple, on independent and potentially critical voices. It is an expression of disdain for the magical ability of art and journalism to knit our country and its people back together again, and of cowardly antipathy toward those who dare speak unpleasant truths to power...."

Civil Society

Citing efforts to repeal the Johnson Amendment, proposed budget cuts to the IRS, pending anti-protest bills in at least sixteen states, the renewed drive to kill net neutrality, and other developments, Lucy Bernholz argues in a post on her Philanthropy 2173 that "[c]ivil society in the U.S. is being deliberately undermined" and that, just like current attacks on the press, these efforts "are both deliberate and purpose-built."

Education

In this Comcast Newsmaker video (running time, 5:09), Kresge Foundation president Rip Rapson discusses the drivers behind the foundation's early childhood work in Detroit.

Fundraising

Looking to hire a fundraising consultant? Consultant Aly Sterling has put together a nice presentation with a dozen "essential" tips for you to consider and keep in mind.

Giving

The folks at @Pay have the answers to your questions about online giving platforms.

Continue reading »

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (February 2017)

March 04, 2017

And...we're back. Lots going on — in the world and here at PhilanTopic. If you haven't already, check out what we were up to in February. Happy reading!

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.

Apocalypse Later? Philanthropy and Transparency in an Illiberal World

March 02, 2017

The post below by Foundation Center president Brad Smith introduces a new, year-long series of posts on PhilanTopic that will address major themes related to the center’s work: the use of data to understand and address important issues and challenges; the benefits of foundation transparency for donors, nonprofits/NGOs, and the broader public; the role of storytelling in conveying the critical work of philanthropy; and what it means, and looks like, to be an effective, high-functioning nonprofit or changemaker. We hope you’ll join us on this journey, and we welcome your thoughts and feedback.

_____

Open-Data-470x352How long will it be before nonprofit transparency takes its place alongside diceros bicornis on the endangered species list? Hopefully never, but in a world that's growing more technologically sophisticated and more illiberal, I'm beginning to think that if it's not Apocalypse Now, maybe it's Apocalypse Later.

The value of transparency

Transparency has been a boon to the philanthropic sector, making it possible for organizations like Foundation Center, Guidestar, the Urban Institute, Charity Navigator, and others to create searchable databases spanning the entire nonprofit and foundation universe. Our efforts, in turn, contribute to responsible oversight, help nonprofits raise funds to pursue their missions, and fuel online platforms that enable donors to make better giving choices. Transparency also enables foundations to collaborate more effectively, leverage their resources more efficiently, and make real progress on critical issues such as black male achievement, access to safe water, and disaster response. The incredibly rich information ecosystem that undergirds the American social sector is the envy of others around the globe — not least because it gives us a clear view of what nonprofit initiative can accomplish, how it compares and contrasts with government, and how social, economic, and environmental issues are being addressed through private-public partnerships.

Where we are today

Federal law — U.S. Code, Title 26, Section 6104 — stipulates that public access to Form 990, a federal information form that tax-exempt organizations are required to file annually, must be provided promptly on request at the exempt organization's office or offices, or within thirty days of a written request. However, exempt organizations don't have to provide copies of their Forms 990 if they make these materials broadly available through the Internet, or if the IRS determines that the organization is being subject to a harassment campaign.

In 2015, Carl Malamud, the Don Quixote of open data, dragged transparency into the digital age when he brought suit against the Internal Revenue Service to force it to make the 990s of a handful of organizations that had been filed electronically available as machine-readable open data. Malamud won, and, somewhat surprisingly, the IRS then did more rather than less to comply with the order: as of June 2016, all Forms 990 filed electronically by 501(c)(3) organizations are available as machine-readable open data through Amazon Web Services. As such, they can be downloaded directly in digital form and processed by computers with minimal human intervention. The development represents a victory not only for Malamud but for the Aspen Institute’s Nonprofit Data Project, which has toiled for years to make 990s more accessible. The idea, of course, is that free, open data on nonprofits will enable more innovators, researchers, and entrepreneurs to use the data in ways that help make the sector more effective and efficient. Since Malamud won his case, the IRS has posted some 1.7 million Forms 990 as machine-readable open data.

Continue reading »

Philanthropy's Responsibility to Listen

March 01, 2017

Juvenile_justice_2_for_PhilanTopicLast month, the Pittsburgh Foundation released a new report, A Qualitative Study of Youth and the Juvenile Justice System: A 100 Percent Pittsburgh Pilot Project, which calls on human services staffs, law enforcement authorities, and school officials to provide youth involved with the juvenile justice system not just a seat but a bench at the table where prevention and diversion programs are shaped and developed.

We expected the report, which builds on a substantial body of research by giants in the field such as the Annie E. Casey Foundation, to generate dialogue among our regional human services, philanthropic, and academic partners. But we were surprised that it prompted not only a local newspaper editorial but also requests for republication from an international juvenile justice organization in Brussels and a Boston-based journal that covers the nonprofit sector.

As one local advocate put it, "Who knew that talking to people would be so novel?"

The outside attention reinforces what we learned in our direct engagement with young people: their voices, which carry knowledge and authority from personal experience with the system, have been missing from the body of research on the system.

The focus on amplifying the voices of people directly affected is a core value of our 100 Percent Pittsburgh organizing principle, which we adopted in 2015 to address inequality in our region. Despite significant advances in Pittsburgh's economy, at least one-third of the regional population struggles with poverty. Research, including this 2014 Urban Institute study we commissioned, shows that youth between the ages of 12 and 24 and single women raising children are at the top of the list of groups most at risk. Young people with justice system involvement are particularly vulnerable.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (February 25-26, 2017)

February 26, 2017

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

Oscar_statuette

African Americans

As Black History Month winds down, here are six facts about black Americans, courtesy of Pew Research, that everyone should be aware of.

Arts and Culture

The Trump administration has targeted the National Endowment for the Arts for elimination. In a piece for the Huffington Post, Mark McLaren, editor in chief of ZEALnyc, explains why that would be a disaster for communities across the country.

Civil Society

As an antidote to the "filter bubble" problem, the Aspen Institute's Citizenship & American Identity Program has launched an initiative, What Every American Should Know, that asks Americans to answer the question: "What do you think Americans should know to be civically and culturally literate?" Kimber Craine explains.

In a short but sobering post on her Philanthropy 2173 blog, Lucy Bernholz speculates that nonprofit groups and civic associations may have "already lost any digital space in which we can have private conversations."

Climate Change

"As the Trump administration prepares to launch what is shaping up as unprecedented assault on environmental regulations,...environmental groups are getting little help from their so-called partners in corporate America," writes Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther. "At a perilous moment for the environment, big business is mostly silent." Why won't American business push for action on climate? And why is it a big deal? Gunther explains.

Health

In a piece for the Kaiser Health News network, Julie Rovner reports that support among Americans for the Affordable Care Act is growing as the Republican-controlled Congress moves to repeal it.

Continue reading »

Building and Managing Effective Collaborations for the World’s Most Vulnerable

February 24, 2017

The problems confronting the global community grow ever more complex. Fortunately, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide unprecedented focus on and a stage for results-oriented development programming. And with numerous stakeholders seeking to align their impact with the SDGs, organizations are under pressure from donors as never before to leverage projects and programs more efficiently to produce measurable outcomes.

Collaborations are an increasingly important tool to that end. But engaging in collaborations can be a daunting prospect, and such efforts can run aground if not carefully and methodically constructed around a shared vision for the future.

At times, moving to a more collaborative way of working can feel impossible. Nonprofit organizations are committed to their missions and mission-critical programs, and their success depends on being able to aggressively identify and secure resources to cover their direct and indirect costs — even if it comes at the expense of other organizations doing the same kind of work.

Benefits of Collaboration

Greater opportunities for growth

-- Can you do more together than alone?

Greater efficiencies

-- How will it affect our budget?

Access to new resources

-- Will it create greater impact?
-- Will it lead to new funding?

Shared knowledge

-- Will it make us smarter?

Shared risk/costs

-- Will we participate as a co-equal?

Enhanced economies of scale

-- Will it lead to new delivery models?

But the zero-sum mindset so prevalent in the sector is beginning to change, and more and more organizations understand that by prioritizing collaboration, they can scale their efforts and achieve a level of impact that would have been impossible if they had stubbornly continued to go it alone.

Thankfully, there are various collaborative models — including partnerships, coalitions, collective impact, shared advocacy, and strategic alliances — for creating, guiding, and implementing programs in the global development space. And what they all have in common
is a basic set of underlying principles, an insistence on a certain level of pragmatism, and an emphasis on operational flexibility.

Developing collaborative initiatives with multiple partners and seeing them through to the end also depends on the willingness and ability of the various leadership teams to apply creative thinking and problem-solving skills to the challenge at hand. Below are a number of lessons learned from our work with multiple partners on different projects that can be helpful if you are thinking about
engaging in a collaboration.

It’s the Basics That Make the Difference

Seen through the lens of the SDGs, much of the work of entities seeking to do social good, whether nonprofit, for-profit, or a public-sector or multilateral agency, frequently overlaps with the work of others seeking to address an issue affecting a particular population. But current frameworks and systems are not built for this reality and the increased collaboration needed to address it effectively — not least because it can be difficult to enlist key stakeholders, secure funding needed to support the effort, and identify the right leadership needed to bring about change.

When you decide to embark on a collaboration, preparing a scoping document will help clarify the focus of the project and make it easier to let go of things that do not fit the overall objective, in turn making it easier to sell the collaboration to your stakeholders. The scoping document should include:

  • A basic concept sketch that includes a landscape analysis, a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis, partner opportunities and benefits, and a financial analysis;
  • Core expected outcomes;
  • The reasons a collaboration is the right approach to the problem and what the population in question stands to lose if the work isn’t done collaboratively;
  • Initial success metrics (more will be developed with your stakeholders); and
  • Stakeholder criteria.

Dos and Don'ts

Do

-- Have a dedicated point of contact
-- Decide who will fill the thought-leadership role
-- Think creatively and focus on the opportunity
-- Mitigate risks in budget & program planning
-- Celebrate successes internally & externally
-- Educate donors, participants & beneficiaries

Don't

-- Rely on deputies alone
-- Turn your project into an academic exercise
-- Be close-minded
-- Cut out your partners
-- Forget to align your efforts with those of your partners

When identifying potential stakeholders, be sure to use the criteria you’ve developed, and seek the advice of peers and similar organizations for candidates that can bring unique strengths to the collaboration.

Once you’ve assessed the field of prospective stakeholders, make initial fact-finding calls to determine individual organization’s interest level, willingness to forge an ongoing relationship, and capacity to fulfill their expected role.

Proper due diligence also requires that you look at the stakeholder’s background, management team, and risk factors (e.g., past regulatory issues, funding model, SEC and
990 filings, and responsible parties).

That’s Why They Call It a Backbone

Hiring an organization to provide what is commonly called “backbone services,” or that can act as a “secretariat,” if needed, provides a flexible, multi-functional management model for the collaboration, frees up various stakeholders to focus on the desired outcomes, and acts as a sort of glue for the effort.

As a first step, ask your backbone provider to support the development of term sheets that detail activities needed to accomplish the stated goals. It should also be able to:

  • Ensure that all governance documents are in order;
  • Define stakeholder roles and responsibilities;
  • Help develop mission and vision statements;
  • Create a work plan;
  • Identify milestones against which progress can be tracked;
  • Make sure the work gets out the door; and
  • Identify and eliminate roadblocks to progress.

Continue reading »

Do Bots Have a Role in Social Change?

February 23, 2017

ChatBotsIt's not every day you find yourself talking about sex with a chatbot named CiCi. But that's exactly the situation I found myself in a couple of weeks ago.

Chris Eigner, CEO of the digital product agency Epsilon Eight and the engineer behind CiCi, had asked me to test out the sex education bot before he released it publicly. While I'm usually an eager user of technologies in beta, I found myself feeling sheepish about talking to a bot about sex. So I decided to outsource the task to a friend, who had me ask CiCi a question about condoms. The bot's response was both mature and relevant: "There is nothing wrong with having sex so long as you are mature enough to handle the responsibilities and consequences."

Feeling like we were off to a good start, I decided to tell CiCi that I was "asking for a friend," just as one might in a conversation with a real person. CiCi's response was sweet: "You can't put a price on true friendship."

What may sound like a simple exchange was actually a remarkable experience. CiCi was capable of being simultaneously educational and personable. Interactions like this — casual, informative, bot-driven — increasingly will be part of our lives, and we should be careful not to underestimate how significant this development is likely to be for the future of social change efforts.

Despite calls for the sector to be more innovative, our field is a late adopter of new technologies. The ascendancy of bots represents a real opportunity for us to do better. Rather than delaying adoption, we can and should begin developing and using these tools at the same time as — not after — the usual early adopters.

But what does it mean to adopt chatbots as a tool for creating social change? And how can social change organizations use them to advance their cause in a time of political turmoil and resource constraints? Let's look at four valuable applications:

Fundraising growth. Interaction and automation are essential to scaling your fundraising efforts, and chatbots can take those efforts to a new level. charity: water has already launched a chatbot that allows supporters to engage with and donate to the organization via Facebook Messenger. Don't be surprised to see, in the not-too-distant future, other organizations scale their fundraising rapidly with one-click giving that enables anyone to donate to an organization like GLAAD simply by sending a rainbow emoji.

Continue reading »

Marc Morial, President/CEO, National Urban League: Inner Cities and Advocacy in Trump-Era America

February 22, 2017

Marc Morial was raised in a family that understands the importance of education and public service. His father, Ernest “Dutch” Morial, was the first African-American mayor of New Orleans and served two four-year terms; his mother was a teacher. After an unsuccessful run for Congress in 1990, Morial was elected to the Louisiana state senate in 1992 and, two years later, was elected mayor of the Crescent City. In 2003, he was named president and CEO of the National Urban League, one of the oldest civil rights organizations in the country. Under his leadership, the organization has worked to to provide economic empowerment, educational opportunities, and the guarantee of civil rights for the underserved in America. In 2010, to mark its centennial anniversary, the organization launched a call to action focused on achieving aspirational goals in education ("Every American child is ready for college, work and life”), employment ( "Every American has access to jobs with a living wage and good benefits”), housing ("Every American lives in safe, decent, affordable and energy efficient housing on fair terms”), and healthcare ("Every American has access to quality and affordable health care solutions”).

A week or so after the inauguration of Donald Trump as forty-fifth president of the United States, PND spoke with Morial about Trump’s frequent characterization of the nation’s inner cities as urban wastelands and how the new administration might partner with African Americans, the majority of whom did not vote for the president. Morial also addressed the importance of improving educational opportunities for people of color and what it will take to help minority-owned businesses thrive in the Trump era. .

Philanthropy News Digest: Both during his campaign and now as president, Donald Trump has characterized inner cities as urban wastelands plagued by drugs, crime, and social dysfunction. What do you think the president is trying to accomplish when he uses rhetoric like that?

Mark_morial_for_PhilanTopicMarc Morial: Well, when he said those things in the campaign, he was appealing to his base. But his characterization of inner cities was narrow, stereotypic, and disparaging. Urban communities are not wastelands, and they're not plagued by drugs, crime, and social dysfunction. They are places with the challenges of drugs, and crime, and other issues, but those challenges are also prevalent in suburban and rural communities. Cities are also places of tremendous human energy, creativity, and assets. They are the economic nerve centers of America. So I found his language to be pejorative, jarring, and I suspect, indicative of his not having spent a lot of time in urban communities. His perspective is probably pretty much informed by stereotypes he sees in the media.

PND: The president has proven adept at using Twitter as a bully pulpit. Is the Urban League doing anything to counter the messages the president puts out via Twitter?

MM: We're very active on social media, and when we encounter messages of public policy we disagree with, we use our social media platform to promote our own message. Of course, the Office of the President is a bully pulpit as well, and this president has chosen to use Twitter versus making frequent public statements or having frequent press conferences, which I think is a new normal. And, of course, his Twitter messages are amplified because they're covered so avidly by the mainstream media. So anything the president puts out there via Twitter is going to be on NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox News, and in newspapers around the country. By the same token, if the president decided to release a handwritten letter on a daily basis, that would be covered by every media outlet. Given that reality, what I would like to see is the mainstream media provide a platform for those whose messages might be in opposition to the president's stated public policy positions.

PND: What do you think a Justice Department led by Jeff Sessions will mean for the work of your organization and other advocacy organizations?

MM: I think all of us are concerned about what a Jeff Sessions-led Justice Department will mean. It's important to recognize that Loretta Lynch — and Eric Holder before her — were very assertive in enforcing civil rights law. That is exactly what we expect any and every attorney general to do. And we're going to hold Jeff Sessions accountable to the kind of enforcement of civil rights laws that Loretta Lynch and Eric Holder championed.

It's important to recognize that the Justice Department not only pursues terrorists and has a role in pursuing "violent crime," it is also is the chief civil rights enforcer in the country and has been that since the 1950s. Jeff Sessions' record in that area concerns us, some of his statements concern us, and so we're going to hold him and his team accountable when it comes to enforcing civil rights law. It is our responsibility to do that.

Continue reading »

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

February 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seeking Volunteer "Factivists"

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

Continue reading »

Six Ways to Connect People to Your Cause Through Social Media

February 16, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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Weekend Link Roundup (February 11-12, 2017)

February 12, 2017

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

Fundraising

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

Giving

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

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

Immigration

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

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

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

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

February 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 09, 2017

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

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

A Need to Raise the Bar

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

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

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

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Reluctant Rolodex Syndrome

February 08, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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With Smart Philanthropy, Anything Is Possible

February 06, 2017

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

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

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

Think back twenty years ago, to 1997:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That work is paying off.

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

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

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Weekend Link Roundup (February 4-5, 2017)

February 05, 2017

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

African Americans

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

Arts and Culture

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

Climate Change

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

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

Diversity

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

Education

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

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What Governments Can Do to Address Cancer

February 04, 2017

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

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

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

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

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GCIR - Joint Foundation Statement on Immigration

February 03, 2017

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

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

______

Statement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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