What's New at Foundation Center Update (June)

June 15, 2018

FC_logoJust as May sees students around the world celebrating their graduation from high school or college, Foundation Center celebrated the rebranding of our learning community for the social sector and updated our strategy for presenting research findings. And we began to rethink the role that infrastructure organizations like ours should play. Here's our May roundup:

Projects Launched

  • We launched a redesigned GrantSpace.org, our home for social sector professionals. GrantSpace offers a thriving learning community with free tools and trainings designed to help nonprofits build their capacity and be more effective in their work. We're really excited about the new site and hope you'll take a few minutes to check it out!
  • We launched new research and an analysis of the drivers of financial sustainability for local civil society organizations. A collaborative effort with LINC and Peace Direct, the project, which draws on interviews with 120 stakeholders in six countries and an analysis of more than 16,000 grant records, highlights specific strategies employed by funders and CSOs designed to improve financial sustainability in a variety of development contexts. Check out the reports and custom network map at linclocal.org.

Content Published

What We're Excited About

  • Concerns about privacy and data security are very much top of mind these days and are being addressed with a variety of new strategies designed to protect one's personal digital information. On May 25, the European Union set in motion a new law, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), that changes how the personal data of individuals within the European Union and European Economic Area can be collected and used. While the law is focused on personal data, cyberspace in general is an emerging arena for broader inter-state conflict. In acknowledgement of that reality, our Peace and Security Funding Index now includes a "cybersecurity" category, which Foundation Center defines as the protection of computer networks against outside hackers, including government and non-governmental actors. The index tracks grants aimed at preventing and withstanding cyberattacks from hackers and viruses, as well as cyber terrorism and other cyber threats more broadly. According to the index, funders awarded $6.9 million in the area of cybersecurity in 2015, and we are very interested in tracking how that number changes (or doesn't) over the next few years. Take a few minutes to explore the page and be sure check out the Spotlight feature there to learn more about what different funders are doing to establish international norms around cybersecurity.
  • The Boys and Men of Color Executive Director Collaboration Circle, offered in partnership with Foundation Center South and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, has closed the application period for its next six-month cycle. The initiative is aimed at helping nonprofit leaders in the Atlanta region build their capacity to serve and achieve outcomes for boys and men of color. Due to the success of the 2017 pilot, this year's program, which starts July 20, will include twice as many organizations.
  • Foundation Center will be presenting a series of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) webinars through October. The first two are: Getting Ahead of the Curve with Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (In June) and Activating the Collective Power of Latino Engagement and Giving – A Virtuous Circle (in July).

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Our staff will be attending these upcoming events:

Services Spotlight

  • 187,297 new grants added to Foundation Maps, 3,111 of which were awarded to 1,720 organizations outside the U.S.
  • Foundation Directory Online (FDO) grantmaker profile PDFs have a new, improved layout, making them easier to print. Search more than 140,000 grantmaker profiles in FDO!

Data Spotlight

  • New data sharing partners: Anonymous Australia 1, Cancer Care Network Foundation, Collier Charitable Fund, Origin Foundation, Newsboys Foundation, Philanthropy Australia, and Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation. Send us your data and help us communicate philanthropy's efforts to make a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.
  • Year-to-date we've answered more than 5,000 questions via our live Online Librarian chat service.
  • Year-to-date we've provided custom searches for the Center for Effective Philanthropy, Grantmakers for Education, Levin College of Urban Affairs (CSU), the GHR Foundation, and Rasmuson Foundation.

If you found this update helpful, feel free to share it or shoot us an email! I’ll be back next month with another update.

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center.

Foundation Center Relaunches GrantSpace.org

June 13, 2018

Skills, insights, and connections for a stronger social sector, from the foundation up!

Grantspace_promo
Have you heard? Foundation Center has relaunched GrantSpace.org, its learning community connecting nonprofits to the tools they need to thrive. Through the GrantSpace portal, Foundation Center, the leading source of philanthropy data worldwide, provides self-service tools and trainings designed to help nonprofits be more effective in their work.

GrantSpace originally was launched in 2010 at a time when the economy was struggling to recover from a deep recession and most organizations were cutting back on their activities. In the years since, learning behaviors have continued to evolve, but support for professional development within the social sector has failed to keep pace. Over the past eight years, GrantSpace has aimed to deliver valuable insights and knowledge to new and experienced social sector professionals, providing them with an increasing menu of in-person and on-demand trainings, knowledge tools, and opportunities to convene with like-minded peers and experts.

"GrantSpace is more than an information hub; it has evolved to become a gateway for learning, a place that houses everything from proposal templates, to step-by-step resources on starting a nonprofit, to a collaboration database with 650+ case studies detailing joint efforts in the sector," notes Zohra Zori, vice president for social sector outreach at Foundation Center. "The new site also makes it easy for our team to curate and showcase the finest tools out there — some  developed by our own staff, and many produced by respected partners in the field. Partnership is ingrained in our DNA, and GrantSpace is a place to illustrate how Foundation Center illuminates the good work of like-minded capacity builders, intermediaries, and colleagues in philanthropy."

The new site design features an enhanced, user-centered interface for simpler navigation, while new geo-location options enable users to easily search for events, locations, and programs in their community. "For those looking for help on the go," Zohri adds, "GrantSpace is now built for mobile, so that users can access any area of the site from any device. And If you're looking for the human touch to complement your online/mobile experience, use the 'FIND US' icon on the site to find the Funding Information Network affiliate location nearest you. Online and/or in-person… we've got you covered."   

Check out the type of training we offer online, or find a Foundation Center location nearest you!

Why You Need to Build Your Nonprofit's Employment Brand and How to Do It

June 12, 2018

Employer-branding-on-hrexaminer-jan-2011-webIn the not-too-distant past, people who wanted to "do good" inevitably gravitated toward nonprofit and government work. While both still attract lots of people with a passion for causes and public service, job seekers are pursuing other career avenues as well — including social purpose businesses and social enterprises.

We have certainly seen this trend in our corner of the nonprofit universe. Community Resource Exchange provides capacity-building support to other nonprofits as well as some government agencies and foundations, and in the eleven years I've worked here competition for top talent has intensified. Those interested in providing consulting services to nonprofits now have opportunities to work for large for-profit consulting firms with nonprofit practices, smaller boutique consulting organizations, and  infrastructure organizations focused on building nonprofit capacity. And when it comes to talent, our nonprofit clients are experiencing the same thing.  

All of this speaks to the growing importance of knowing — and being able to communicate — your organization's "employment brand." Put simply, an employment brand is the image an organization projects to the outside world with the aim of differentiating itself from other groups and attracting the best talent. And while it's still more common in the private sector, employment branding is poised to spread in the nonprofit sector as talent becomes more scarce and hiring more competitive.

To be sure, many organizations (intentionally or not) promote an employment brand without labeling it as such. When I interviewed for one of my first nonprofit positions, the organization's executive director explained to me that my position would allow me to experience all aspects of how nonprofits operate, something she believed was unique to her smallish nonprofit. Her pitch worked: I took the job over a much better-compensated one. However, even if an organization intuitively understands its employment brand, there's still value in formally articulating it. 

While it's true that creating an employment brand can be energy- and resource-draining, it doesn't have to be if your organization is thoughtful in how it approaches it. Here are three steps you can take:

1Understand your organization's employee value proposition (EVP). Your organization's EVP captures the benefits staff receive in exchange for bringing their talents to your organization. This can include everything from salary (which can be a challenge for some nonprofits), mission (typically not a challenge), employee benefits package, professional development opportunities, and/or work-life balance. How your organization communicates its employee value proposition to the outside world is a crucial part of its employment brand.

You can land on your organization's EVP in a variety of ways, including through employee  interviews, focus groups, and online surveys, and/or by carving out time at a staff meeting or two. New hires are an especially useful source of information as they recently were in a position to assess your organization as a prospective place of work. Running through all these suggestions is a common theme: Ask your staff. That's the best way to make sure your EVP and employment brand are authentic. 

2. Develop an employment brand statement — even if it's just for internal use. You can go a couple of different ways here. Your brand statement can be more of an internal document that captures why people choose to join and stay at your organization and that you use to guide all your recruitment and retention activities. Or it could be a more refined statement that you post on your website and/or integrate into your job postings. Easterseals, for example, highlights two aspects of its employment brand on its website: a generous package of employee benefits and the opportunity to make real change in the lives of people with disabilities. AARP promotes its exceptional commitment to staff diversity and long-standing commitment to employee volunteerism (all staff get paid time off to pursue outside volunteer opportunities). Teach for America is another organization that articulates its employment brand well, stating on its website that both its culture of friendship and leadership development opportunities are great reasons to join the team. All of these are good examples of organizations highlighting their employment brand as part of their external messaging. 

3. Integrate your employment brand into existing recruiting activities. Your organization's employment brand is an important recruiting tool, in that it helps you make the case to potential employees and serves as a kind of "fit-filter" as you assess candidates. Just make sure your recruitment strategy matches the audience your employment brand is intended to appeal to; for example, if your brand highlights professional development and early-career mobility, use social media and other digital channels to reach younger job seekers.

Once your organization's employment brand has been defined, be sure to keep it in front of staff members. Doing so will help ground and remind them about their reasons for choosing to join your organization and will help sustain their active engagement in your mission over time. Of course, your employment brand may evolve over time, and you should be prepared to revisit it periodically and change it as needed. An out-of-date and/or inaccurate employment brand is likely to become a target for staff sniping — not inspiration.   

If your organization develops its employment brand through a thoughtful, participatory process and updates it over time (as needed), your team will be much better positioned to attract and retain talented and motivated employees. Good luck! 

Why is your nonprofit a great place to work? And how would you describe its employment brand? Feel free to share in the comments section. 

Headshot_jeff_ballow_for_PhilanTopicJeff Ballow is a director of consulting at Community Resource Exchange. You can e-mail him at jballow@crenyc.org.  

Weekend Link Roundup (June 9-10, 2018)

June 10, 2018

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

Advocacy

On the CEP blog, Tim Delaney, president and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits, wonders how "the 501(c)(3) community expect[s] different policy results if [it] continue[s] to ignore the urgent need to protect our common interests through defensive policy work? That's not an academic question," adds Delaney. "Right now, serious policy threats loom over foundations and nonprofits and demand immediate and aggressive pushback...."

Fundraising

Facebook -- remember them? -- has made it easier for people, companies, celebrities, and others to raise money on its platform. Fast Company's Melissa Locker explains.

Can nonprofits use design thinking to improve their fundraising results? Absolutely. Kathleen Kelly Janus, a social entrepreneur, author, and lecturer at the Stanford Program on Social Entrepreneurship, explains.

Giving

"Regrettably, [it is still common to] hear researchers and media equate generosity with individuals' or groups' formal charitable giving — that is, giving in, to, through, or for a charitable organization," writes Paul Schervish, retired founder and director of the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College. But, adds Schervish, "[f]ormal giving is just one aspect of generosity — and when looked at historically and globally, not the most pronounced."

Health

In a post on the Commonwealth Fund's blog, Timothy S. Jost, an emeritus professor at the Washington and Lee University School of Law, explains how a new Trump administration court filing could lead to denial of coverage or higher premiums for the estimated 52 million Americans with preexisting conditions.

Higher Education

Is higher education in a bubble? And what does the future hold if higher ed's trajectory is "less of a sudden pop and more of a long, slow slide, and we are already on the way down?" Adam Harris reports for The Atlantic.

Journalism/Media

In many ways, this is the worst of times for the news industry, which has experienced precipitous declines in both its revenues and levels of trust (from 72 percent in 1976 to 32 percent in 2017). What can the industry do to address the damage? Nancy Watzman, editor of Trust, Media & Democracy on Medium and director of strategic initiatives for Dot Connector Studio, shares nine takeaways from Knight Foundation-sponsored research on restoring trust in the media.

In an age when notions such as "truth" and "reality" are under assault, Booker Prize-winning novelist Salman Rushdie argues in The New Yorker that it is incumbent on us "to recognize that any society's idea of truth is always the product of an argument, and we need to get better at winning that argument. Democracy is not polite," writes Rushdie. "It's often a shouting match in a public square. [And we] need to be involved in the argument if we are to have any chance of winning it...."

Nonprofits

Nonprofit AF's Vu Le thinks basing nonprofit pay on an employee's or job candidate's salary history is a bad idea and shares four reasons why nonprofits should dump the practice.

Philanthropy

What does power have to do with equity? And how can grantmakers better leverage power to help drive lasting, positive change in our communities? The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy's Lisa Ranghelli shares some thoughts — hers, as well as those of others — in a post on the NCRP blog.

Earlier this month, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation announced a streamlining of its priority areas. On the Devex site, Peter Laugharn, the foundation's president and CEO, shares more details about its evolving priorities.

Racial Equity

In a new post, Meyer Foundation president Nicky Goren introduces a restatement of its equity-focused strategic plan and a new racial equity resource page that includes links to information that has guided the foundation's thinking, definitions that add clarity to the way it discusses its work, and a glimpse of the local history that contributed to the state of racial equity in the D.C. region today.

Social Change

How many thoughtful, committed citizens does it take to change the world? According to a new study form the University of Pennsylvania, cultural shifts happen when "at least 25 percent of a community’s population is committed to changing what is considered the social norm." Katherine Wei reports for Sierra magazine.

Social Media

And on the GuideStar blog, Richard Nolan, a professional educator and team-building coach, shares eight simple things nonprofits can do to attract more social media followers.

(Photo Credit: Mike Segar/Reuters)

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

 

 

If You've Met One Foundation...You've Met One Foundation

June 08, 2018

Grant_application_for_PhilanTopicWriting grants is a lot like dating. Just because something worked in one relationship doesn't mean it's going to work in the next. Each relationship is unique, unpredictable, exciting, and...sometimes heartbreaking. And when we write a grant proposal, we have to be vulnerable but still present our best qualities. Ready for some foundation dating advice?

Because every foundation is unique, there are two critical components of success to grantwriting that have nothing to do with how well you craft your proposal — research and cultivation. Or in dating terms, getting to know you and courting.

First, you have to research the foundation. If you were dating, this would be like checking out someone's online profile. A grantwriter, instead, checks out the foundation's profile in Foundation Directory Online and spends some time with its 990-PFs. If the foundation issues publications, you'll want to flip through them and take note of the terminology the foundation uses and its stance with respect to your issue. If the foundation has a website, read through the program guidelines, application information, and any FAQs on the site.

As you do, keep an eye out for the foundation's preferences and restrictions. What has it funded in the past and at what level? A quick review of its tax returns (those 990-PFs) should give you a good sense of its giving patterns. One of my favorite things about Foundation  Directory Online is its mapping feature, which allows you to suss out whether a foundation has ever made a grant to a nonprofit in your city, county, or district, as well who the grant went to and the grant amount. Powerful information. It's like peeking into someone's dating history and learning how long the relationship lasted and how serious it was!

Second, make a plan for cultivating the foundation. Put on your best courting hat and give the foundation a call, write an email, or send them a letter of inquiry. Share your idea or describe your project. Be sure to put your best foot forward but remember that it's okay to show your vulnerable side. Describe your organization's strengths and the areas where it could use some help, and be sure to give the foundation a clear picture of what a relationship between the two of you would look like. Understand, too, that the foundation is likely to have its own ideas about such a relationship, and be ready to compromise.

Someone once told me that love is a competition in generosity. How can we as nonprofits reciprocate foundation generosity? Be a good communicator. Remember the little things. Anticipate the foundation's needs. Nurture the relationship. In grantmaking terms, follow through and follow up. Send progress reports. Share stories with the foundation that illustrate the impact you're having and provide it with media it can use for its own communications purposes. Do whatever you need to do to help the foundation feel good about its grant all year long.

Remember, if you've met one foundation, you've met one foundation. Each foundation is different, and they all have their own ambitions and boundaries. Building a strong relationship with a funder takes time and persistence. But when the relationship is strong, it can be one of the best things that ever happened to your nonprofit and will repay the energy you put into it many times over.

What have you found to be effective in building relationships with foundations? Have any tips to share? We'd love to hear them!

Headshot_allison_shirk_new_for_PhilanTopicAllison Shirk is executive director of Spark the Fire Grantwriting Classes on Vashon Island, Washington. To read more of her articles, click here.

[Review] Justice on Both Sides: Transforming Education Through Restorative Justice

June 07, 2018

These days, one doesn't have to look far to find a story about a confrontation involving a school officer and a student of color or to put her finger on a report detailing educational inequities associated with race, gender, and class. In her new book, Justice on Both Sides: Transforming Education Through Restorative JusticeMaisha T. Winn, a professor of education at the University of California, Davis, makes a compelling case for the use of restorative justice (RJ) practices in schools as both an antidote to these troubling trends and as a way to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline that has destroyed the lives of too many young people of color.

Book_justice_on_both_sidesMost readers are probably familiar with the case of Shakara, the sixteen-year-old student at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina who was put in a chokehold by a school officer, forcibly pulled out of her seat, and dragged across the floor and out of her classroom. Her crime? Refusing to put her cell phone away. Unfortunately, it wasn't an isolated incident, and Winn uses it to frame her questioning of the punitive practices and zero-tolerance policies in place at many public schools in the United States.

Indeed, it was Winn's own questions about Shakara's experience that became the impetus for her book. "What resources, other than arrest, were available to the administrators, teachers, and staff at Spring Valley High to address conflict in the classroom?" she asks. "How could the adults involved have responded differently? Why has it become standard practice to arrest students for such minor incidents?...I argue that we have yet to pause and thoughtfully examine such patterns as stakeholders, particularly from the perspectives of new and seasoned teachers, school staff, and students."

In her bookWinn does just that, reflecting on her experiences as a scholar, former teacher, and teacher researcher — experiences that inform her analysis of RJ practice and how best to apply that analysis to create lasting change. Having noted that under zero-tolerance policies, African-American, Latinx, and Native-American students are disproportionately subjected to harshly punitive practices, including removal from classrooms, suspension, and expulsion, she explains restorative justice as an approach to discipline that aims to address trauma that may be responsible for the student's behavior. The idea, she writes, is to build a sense of respect and mutual understanding while giving students space to take responsibility for their actions.

Perhaps most importantly, restorative justice requires both sides to be "open to the possibility of not always being right but instead making things right." As Winn explains, the three pillars of the approach are harms and needs, obligations, and engagement — in other words, determining the needs of students who cause harm and recognizing that they may have been harmed; creating a culture of accountability for both students and educators; and cultivating a participatory democracy model in the classroom.

A good deal of what Winn has learned about restorative justice is based on her experience as a participant observer at a Midwestern high school that began to adopt RJ practices in 2014 and 2015. Winn shares the perspectives of the students she got to know, students whose voices should be the most important in conversations about their needs but as often as not go unheard. She explores the technique known as "restorative justice circles," in which participants come together in a literal circle and wait for a facilitator to initiate a conversation with a prompt or question. Circle participants listen until it is their turn to speak, which comes when the "talking piece," which is passed around the circle, reaches them. Rather than being stuck with a fixed identity such as "student" or "sophomore," students are trained to be "circle keepers" (i.e., facilitators), so that they are part of the solution instead of just passive bystanders.

In her interviews with students, Winn was able to tease out their views of restorative justice, what it meant to them, and how the circles helped them evolve their understanding of justice more generally. "Before, I kinda thought [justice] was [if] you did something wrong, something wrong should be done to you. If you do something wrong you go to jail," one circle keeper told her. "But then I came here and started getting into restorative justice, and I started thinking there's a lot of things that's behind it. Not all people deserve to go to jail; some people do need counseling, but for certain crimes they always get sent there...and sometimes a little bit of counseling and connecting could probably fix whatever was damaged to make them do the crime."  

One of the recurring themes in her interviews was equality. The RJ circles allowed students to feel empowered and were a first step in the dismantling of the unequal power dynamic that exists between teachers and students. "There was mutual respect," Winn writes, "as opposed to a culture where students are expected to show respect that they do not see reciprocated." 

To get there, Winn argues, educators need to embrace four key pedagogical stances: history matters, race matters, justice matters, and language matters. Indeed, the four concepts, which are interconnected, with history as the outermost of four concentric circles and language at the center, shape the way educators engage with and build relationships with students. Winn's interviews with educators at the Midwestern high school reveal that while they had embraced the idea of "how local history is inextricably linked to both race and local power dynamics" and had become more "mindful about how one uses language to speak to and about children — especially children from historically marginalized communities," they still had work to do in terms of examining and unlearning "the social construction of race, racism, and racist lenses and ideas" and in adopting an expansive definition of justice that "insist[s] we do right by people" and work to create a world where "everyone — irrespective of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, sexuality, or ability — is able to live with dignity and is recognized as belonging."

By presenting the perspectives of both students and educators, Winn is able to highlight the impact restorative justice had on the school community as a whole and how it helped bridge the gap between administrators, staff, teachers, and students. Rather than isolating misbehaving students through suspensions and expulsion, restorative justice tries to get to the root of the problem and create a school culture in which students are able to express themselves and feel that they are being heard. The unfortunate reality, however, is that most schools have neither the will nor the resources to introduce RJ practices without compromising other priorities. "If restorative justice circles are to serve as a tool for creating and sustaining boundary-crossing social networks for students and staff," writes Winn, "then everyone in the school community must be held accountable as a stakeholder."

Based on the view that teaching is a justice-seeking endeavor and learning is a civil and human right, Winn makes the case for what she calls "transformative justice teacher education" as a way to equip teachers with the tools they need to implement restorative justice practices in their classrooms. To that end, she provides a series of subject-specific questions for teachers to consider. For example, math teachers might ask themselves: Who am I calling on and at what frequency? How can I physically set up my classroom so that all students have a chance to participate in classroom discussions? How do I create a classroom culture in which all students view themselves as "math people"? The English language arts teacher might ask: Who gets to be the reader/writer/thinker/speaker in my classroom? Who do we need to hear from? What voices/stories/perspectives are missing from the discussion? And the social studies/history teacher might ask: How can I use the subject matter to create a participatory culture in my classroom? What is the role of social studies/history in cultivating purpose and belonging?

Training teachers and enabling them to incorporate RJ practices into their classrooms is just a first step if we hope to dismantle structural racism in our schools and in society. As Winn writes, restorative justice processes "give us an opportunity and an intergenerational way to learn together to talk about race" and develop the vocabularies needed to do so. By engaging "in processes that allow us to listen to one another…we begin the process and practice of restoring justice." Surely, that is something we owe our children.

Zahra Bokhari is a development specialist at Foundation Center. For more great reviews, visit the Off the Shelf section in PND.

5 Questions for...Maurice Jones, President/CEO, Local Initiatives Support Corporation

June 05, 2018

Raised by his grandparents in rural Virginia, Maurice Jones knows from personal experience how challenging it can be to live in an underresourced community. Encouraged by his family and teachers, Jones was awarded a full merit scholarship to attend Hampden-Sydney College, a small liberal arts school in Virginia, and was selected as a Rhodes Scholar, enabling him to earn a master’s degree in international relations at Oxford University.

Jones went on to earn a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law, went to work in the private sector at a Richmond law firm, then became a Special Assistant to the General Counsel at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where he helped manage the nascent Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund. That was followed by a stint with a private philanthropy that invested in community-based efforts focused on children in Washington, D.C. After this, he spent time as the deputy chief of staff to Virginia governor Mark Warner and commissioner of the Virginia Department of Social Services. Jones then served as general manager of the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk before becoming president and publisher of the paper's parent company. From 2012-2014, he served as deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development And, immediately prior to becoming president and CEO of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation in 2016, he served as secretary of commerce and trade for the Commonwealth of Virginia, where he managed thirteen state agencies focused on the economic needs in his native state.

PND recently spoke with Jones about LISC's work in underresourced communities, the power imbalance inherent in such work, and his vision for unlocking the abundant talent and creativity that exists in those communities.

Headshot_maurice_jonesPhilanthropy News Digest: LISC works to equip underresourced communities with the resources — capital as well as knowledge and information — they need to thrive. In 2018, what is the one thing underresourced communities in America need more than anything else?

Maurice Jones: They need more investment in the talent that can be found in all these communities. And this investment needs to come in many forms.

We need to prepare people with the work skills and competencies they need for the work opportunities that already exist, as well as for the new opportunities that will be created over the coming years. This is true in every community we work in, whether it's urban or rural, large city or small municipality, town or county.

We also need to help people in these communities master the basics of finance — what people often refer to as "financial literacy," so they can break out of the cycle of debt and build wealth.

People also need to be better informed about the supports available to them. For example, a parent needs child care in order to devote hours to a job or to skills acquisition. That parent needs to know there are childcare funds they can take advantage of so that he or she can take the steps they need to achieve financial security and the kind of economic mobility so many of us take for granted.

We also need to develop more quality, available housing, and we need to find ways to attract more employers to more areas.

Everything I just mentioned is true in both the urban and rural areas in which we work, but there is one thing that is more acute in rural areas: a significant lack of development when it comes to broadband. In this day and age, if a community is going to grow in all the ways we want communities to grow, it's got to have this critical infrastructure. Broadband is like oxygen is to breathing. There are still significant swathes of rural America, however, which are inadequately supplied with high-speed broadband, and it's a problem. This underdevelopment of broadband is a huge barrier and challenge in terms of making both wealthy states and less wealthy states economically viable in the twenty-first century.

PND: What can we do to fix that?

MJ: We, as a country — the private sector, the public sector, states, localities, and companies — have to commit to getting broadband into rural areas. It's a commitment issue. And it will require significant investment. We all know that the market for broadband favors places that are densely populated. So, the economics of broadband are not favorable to rural areas. But we've simply got to figure out how to subsidize broadband in those markets and forge partnerships of providers schools, businesses, and other stakeholders to make the economics work and get that infrastructure laid. We just need the will to do it. If we commit to it, we can make it happen.

PND: I imagine you spend a lot of time thinking about the power imbalance inherent in the kind of work you do with underresourced communities. How do you address and mitigate that dynamic?

MJ: Our work is always informed by what we learn from the people who are going to be impacted by the investments we make in their community. So, we make sure they are at the table when programs or initiatives are being designed, and we spend a lot of time making sure, number one, that the residents of the communities where we work are empowered to make decisions about what that work will look like. Number two: we help residents organize and become powerful, both individually and collectively. We convene local groups, play a supporting role in terms of keeping people together, help them to develop a collective agenda, and see that agenda through to its conclusion. The third thing we do is equip community residents with the resources they need — skills, know-how, networks, relationships — so that they have more power and more agency.

PND: A growing number of foundations — including the Ford Foundation, which provided the seed funding for LISC nearly forty years ago — have moved to apply an equity lens to their grantmaking. Has the renewed focus on racial equity in philanthropy affected the work of LISC?

MJ: LISC has always embraced an equity lens in our work. You can’t work in the communities in which we work without it. Equity is part of the problem we’re trying to solve. It's something we’ve been intentional about and will continue to be intentional about. If you look at the clients we serve, 66 percent of them are people of color, 60 percent are female heads of households, minority female heads of household, and between 30 percent and 40 percent are people reentering the community after incarceration. So, there's no question you need to have an equity lens and be intentional about using it if you hope to successfully address the issues that we wrestle with in the communities where we work. We’re delighted more funders are adopting that lens, and we hope the numbers will continue to grow.

PND: Are you optimistic about the future?

MJ: I am, and the thing that makes me optimistic is that in every community in which we work, whether it's Buffalo, or New York City, or Jacksonville, or San Diego, or San Francisco, we find incredible talent. Many of these communities are considered to be "outside the mainstream," but in all of them we are constantly reminded that genius can thrive in the most unexpected places. The question is, what do we do as a society to ensure that these people are able to fulfill their promise? But, yes, the biggest source of optimism for me is that every time I'm out in a community, I encounter incredible entrepreneurs and activists and artists, and I see firsthand the things that people are doing to make their communities better. We just have to make sure they have as much opportunity to achieve their potential and dreams as anyone else living anywhere else in America.

— Matt Sinclair

Weekend Link Roundup (June 2-3, 2018)

June 03, 2018

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

Communications/Marketing

In a  post on Beth Kanter's Blog, Miriam Brosseau, chief innovation officer at See3 Communications, and Stephanie Corleto, digital communications manager at the National Institute for Reproductive Health, explain how you can use digital storytelling to break down the work silos in your organization. 

"Nonprofit leaders clearly understand the power of philanthropy"s voice in advocating for the nonprofit sector," argues David Biemesderfer, president and CEO of the United Philanthropy Forum (formerly the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers), in a post on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog. So "why doesn’t philanthropy understand the power of its own voice, and/or why does it seem so unwilling to use that voice?" 

Criminal Justice

In Town & Country, Adam Rathe looks at how New York philanthropist and art world doyenne Agnes Gund is using her renowned art collection to support criminal justice reform.

Education

On her Answer Sheet blog, Washington Post education blogger Valerie Strauss shares an "important article" by author Joanne Barkan about "the history of the movement to privatize U.S. public schools...[and] the national debate about the future of publicly funded education in this country." The long comment thread is also worth your time.

Innovation

Writing on our sister GrantCraft blog, Jason Rissman, a managing director at IDEO, shares three key learnings from the BridgeBuilder Challenge, a multi-challenge partnership between OpenIDEO — IDEO's open innovation practice — and the GHR Foundation aimed at finding solutions to global challenges at the intersection of peace, prosperity, and the environment.

Nonprofits

The United States is going through a wrenching socioeconomic transition, and nonprofit leaders need to think and "play" big if we are to get through it in one piece, argues Nell Edgington on her Social Velocity blog.  

The massive corporate tax cut passed by Congress in December is likely to explode the federal budget deficit and generate fresh assaults on federally funded entitlement programs. In his latest for PhilanTopic, Mark Rosenman argues that "[n]onprofit organizations, especially those engaged in humanservices, cannot stand by while regressive policies are proposed and advanced." 

Philanthropy

Every year, Americans give roughly $60 billion to foundations, but just 4 percent of that ($2.5 billion) goes toward nonprofit advocacy work. Fast Company's Ben Paynter looks at five questions every donor interested in maximizing his or her charitable dollars should be asking.

Fourteen more philanthropists have joined the Giving Pledge

As foundations and others continue to engage in conversations about the need to rebalance the power dynamic in philanthropy, what role can or should advisors/consultants play? Richard Marker shares his thoughts.

It's The Economist's turn to profile the effective altruism movement and one of its leading spokespersons, Oxford University philosopher William MacAskill, who argues that promoting "inefficient" charities might actually do more harm than good.

Social Justice

In a piece originally published in the Mail & Guardian, a South African weekly, Nicolette Taylor, director of the Ford Foundation's Southern Africa office, argues that recent "[s]exual harassment scandals should be a loud wake-up call for all of us to dig deep and interrogate our ‘holier than thou’ approach to sexism and racism within our own institutions." 

Social Media

And make sure you check out this essay by Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT and an advisor to the Knight Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy. In it, Zuckerman, riffing off the work of journalism scholar Michael Schudson, looks at the six or seven things journalism can do to support and strengthen democracy.

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

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (May 2018)

June 02, 2018

In the movie Groundhog Day, TV weatherman Phil Connors, the character played by Bill Murray, is assigned to cover the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania — an assignment he disdains and decides to skip. There's a price to pay when you ignore Punxsutawney Phil, though, and the next day Connors finds himself stuck in a time loop, condemned to relive the events of Groundhog Day over and over. Which is a sort of how those of us in the Northeast are feeling after what seems like four months of overcast.

Don't despair. Our roundup of the most popular posts on the blog in May includes new posts by Jen Bokoff, Eric Braxton, Arif Ekram, Yaro Fong-Olivares, and Thaler Pekar; a couple of oldies but goodies (by Richard Brewster and Lauren Bradford); and a quick guide to digital marketing by Roubler's Daniel Ross.

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

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

The System Matters in CSO Financial Sustainability

June 01, 2018

SynthesisReport_Final_hres_001-212x300Financial sustainability gets plenty of lip service in the civil society sector, and anyone who has submitted a grant application has probably written a required "sustainability plan." Despite the prominence of financial sustainability in the donor discourse on civil society, however, actually obtaining the resources needed to be resilient to the ups and downs of the donor marketplace remains a critical challenge for civil society organizations (CSOs). The challenge is particularly acute for local CSOs in middle and low-income economies, which are best-positioned to serve their communities but struggle with a limited supply of financial resources and have difficulty in accessing funding from abroad.

A Data-Driven Approach to Understanding the Issue

While the challenge is widely acknowledged, relatively little data is available on the amount and nature of support specifically designed to help improve organizations' financial sustainability or how different drivers of organizational sustainability may be more or less important in different contexts. That's why the USAID-funded Facilitating Financial Sustainability consortium, led by LINC in partnership with Peace Direct and Foundation Center, is excited to launch three new reports that together provide a comprehensive examination of the CSO financial sustainability system. The reports are accompanied by interactive funding network maps that allow users to explore the CSO financial sustainability landscape in six country contexts: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mexico, the Philippines, and Uganda.

The research is based on interviews with more than a hundred and twenty development stakeholders in the six countries and an analysis of close to eighteen thousand grant records, enabling the research team to apply numbers and rigorous analysis to how both funders and CSOs confront the question of  sustainability.

Sustainability Support: Lacking and Uneven

On the funder side, the team found that only 5 percent of total grant funding to local CSOs is explicitly targeted toward supporting organizations' financial sustainability. And in cases in which funders do focus on supporting sustainability, they tend to follow three strategies: providing unrestricted support; building organizational capacity; or developing and facilitating networks. But even support within these categories can vary considerably in its structure, with only 11 percent of unrestricted grants extending beyond one year despite the critical importance of long-term planning for organizational sustainability. There are also notable differences in how such support is distributed across sectors, with human rights-focused organizations heavily overrepresented in terms of receiving support for sustainability relative to organizations in other sectors. 

Going Beyond Technical Capacity

On the CSO side, the research team found that in addition to the organizational factors traditionally associated with driving financial sustainability (e.g., robust internal strategic and financial planning systems), in certain settings less obvious factors such as community social capital can be equally important. While international funders may come and go, a CSO's relationship with its own community remains the bedrock of its ability to operate effectively, and so some of the most successful organizations have found creative ways to build social capital. This can happen in spite of, rather than because of, funding structures; for example, one organization in Uganda took advantage of a rare unrestricted windfall from a prize competition to conduct small projects for the local community completely outside of its normal programmatic mandate but which proved critical for building buy-in to the organization's long-term success among community members.

By bringing together quantitative funder data and structured analysis of interviews with CSOs, funders, and other stakeholders, the research provides a systems-level view of the challenge of financial sustainability. From that work, it is clear that sustainability is more than any one organization's balance sheet and instead encompasses complex interactions between CSOs, funders, local institutions, and local community members. Like any good research, our analysis ends up raising as many questions as it answers, but we hope ti moves the development sector a step closer to understanding how to create vibrant and resilient organizations that serve the long-term needs of their communities.

Read the reports here.

Matthew Guttentag is a program director at LINC, a Washington, D.C.-based business that works with local and international organizations to strengthen their institutional capacity, measure their impact, and forge lasting partnerships. This post originally appeared on the LINC site and is reposted here with permission.

Tax Cuts (and Politics) Have Put the Safety Net at Risk. What Are You Going to Do About It?

May 30, 2018

Fish-safety-netThe demand for human services — everything from food for the hungry to family planning for those who may be struggling to take care of the children they already have — is growing. But if recent proposals floated by President Trump and congressional Republicans become policy, charities will be faced with dramatic increases in both the scale and scope of need, even as they struggle with cuts in funding to meet them.

It is urgent for nonprofits to join forces to persuade Congress to reject ideas that create greater need. Charities have to help re-establish the kind of bipartisan political agreement about safety-net programs that used to be the norm. And foundations must fuel such efforts.

In May, the U.S. House of Representatives failed to pass a Farm Bill with vital anti-hunger provisions after many of its most conservative members withheld their votes. By doing so, Freedom Caucus members hoped to get concessions on spending as well as a future vote on an anti-"Dreamers" immigration bill that the vast majority of their colleagues find too mean-spirited and extreme to consider.

Had the bill passed (as it most likely will in the coming weeks despite united Democratic opposition), it would have required that individuals enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) work at least twenty hours a week. Given the life circumstances of many SNAP participants, including some of the hardest-working people in America, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office calculates that the bill (in its current form) would deny more than a million adults and children much-needed food assistance.

Republicans base their insistence that SNAP recipients be required to work on research by the Foundation for Government Accountability, an obscure policy group headed by a former aide to Maine's ogre-ish governor, Paul LePage. FGA's work has been criticized by both conservative and liberal scholars as having no basis in credible fact, but in our current political climate it seems that many Republican lawmakers favor junk science and "alternative facts" over demonstrable reality (as they have demonstrated with notable intentionality in their opposition to action on climate change).

Desperate to cut government spending in the face of a deficit they ballooned with a $1.5 trillion tax cut, congressional Republicans and the White House are turning on those most in need — as was made clear by Trump budget director Mick Mulvaney, who wrote in a 2017 opinion piece: "Under President Trump's leadership, we're now looking at how we can respect both those who require assistance and the taxpayers who fund that support. For the first time in a long time, we're putting taxpayers first. Taking money from someone without an intention to pay it back is not debt. It is theft. This budget makes it clear that we will reverse this larceny." That's right: the Trump administration thinks government-funded social services for the poor are a form of theft.

The president is determined to continue down the same path in 2018 and has proposed cuts totaling more than $15 billion in previously approved spending, with half of that coming from the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and $100 million coming from Hurricane Sandy relief funds. Congressional Republicans fearful of what they may face in November’s midterm elections have temporarily rebuffed Trump, but the president has said he will propose an additional $10 billion in cuts to safety-net programs in the coming weeks.

The assault on human service programs goes beyond funding cuts, however. Trump, with strong support from Republican politicians, just revived a modified "gag-rule" for nonprofit family planning organizations and programs. (He had already banned international family planning groups from receiving federal government funds if they even mentioned the word abortion to their clients.)

Under the rule, any organization or program that is even partially funded by the federal government can no longer refer clients for abortion services, and their other family planning services cannot be located in a facility in which abortion services are offered or financing is shared.

The administration's action means that significant new costs will be imposed on family planning groups, many of which will be unable to absorb them. With the need for duplication of physical, administrative, and program facilities — not to mention all the computers, printers, copiers, and other equipment necessary to a well-functioning operation — the administration's policy will hamper and in some cases bankrupt family planning groups. And that, in the long run, will increase both the demand for abortions and the number of unwanted children.

The proposed rule is likely to most affect the kinds of front-line health providers that serve disadvantaged members of society. Roughly two-thirds of the individuals who use family planning services fall below the federal poverty level, and nonprofit organizations that serve them will be hard-pressed to meet the demand for their services as the number of providers continues to shrink. And even if a nonprofit can finance two separate facilities and pay two separate staffs required, practitioners in one facility will not be able to refer patients to their colleagues in the other facility, even if next door.

Indeed, if the Republicans hold on to their congressional majorities in the midterm elections, things will get worse for those in need as well as the charities that serve them. The Trump administration and Republicans in Congress already are talking about going after Social Security, Medicare, and other entitlement programs, despite the outrageous claim that the deficit they created with tax cuts for the wealthy are the reason they need to slash entitlements and safety-net programs for the rest of us.

Nonprofit organizations, especially those engaged in human services, cannot stand by while these regressive policies are proposed and advanced. They need to do everything they can to inform and activate the electorate so that Americans realize what is at stake, understand who truly represents their interests, and turn out to vote in the midterm elections.

Too much is on the line for organizations to mind their own business and narrowly focus on fundraising instead of advocacy and action. Organizations like Nonprofit Vote can help charities and foundations understand the rules about what they are allowed to do — and suggest tactics that make a difference. We're all in this together, and the time to act is now.

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

Are You Too Predictable?

May 28, 2018

Yes-n-maybeEarlier this month, I got the kind of call that so many donors get from the organizations they support.

"Derrick, great to hear your voice. It's been a while. I'd like to sit down and share an update on our work, get your thoughts on our progress, and see if you’d be interested in talking about ongoing support."

This from an organization that calls me once a year. Like clockwork. The first week of May — just in time for the organization's fiscal-year-end close.

I know what you're thinking. Shame on them for calling just once a year. But actually, the decision to call annually was at my request. Before I made the request, they would send someone to visit with me over coffee two or three times a year, and we would always have the same conversation:

  • How is my family
  • How is work, and have I traveled to any new destinations lately
  • Quick update on his or her family
  • Quick update on what's new at the organization
  • Update on my last gift and how my dollars were used
  • Earnest request for a gift renewal

Not that there's anything wrong with that kind of exchange or the topics we covered. It's just that it's the same each and every time. As in: predictable. 

It's not really a surprise, because the organization itself is stable, efficient, and reliable. I expect a certain level of impact no matter what I do or how much I give. If I give X, I'll get Y 99 percent of the time.

Which is wonderful for donors who are looking to back sure things — and donors who want their donations to result in predictable programmatic impact. I honor and wholeheartedly support that position. I want that, too.

But the problem with being a predictable organization is that you may wind up being taken for granted. And let's face it, not all donors are looking for predictable. Some donors are attracted to new, different, and out-of-the-box. It's the way they're wired.

Meeting with me on a regular basis to give me the same pro-forma updates conditions me, the donor, to become less interested in what you're doing over time. In fact, the last time I met with the nice development professional from the organization mentioned above, I told her, "You don’t have to meet with me if you have other donors that require your attention." I should have told her that, in the future, an update via email would be just fine.

The danger in all this is that, in being predictable, you eventually lose your relevance for supporters. Nonprofit organizations that stand out for their supporters tend to be very good at helping their supporters understand how their work benefits the populations they serve as well as how that work fits into the larger societal picture.

Confused? Let's compare the conversation I described above to a recent communication I received from another organization. It was an email, and it got my attention:

"Derrick, hoping all is well with you. If you have some spare time and would be interested, I'd like to give an update on changes at the federal level that will impact our work and the precautions we are taking to address those changes. Please know we're doing everything possible to make sure we continue to be there for the people who depend and rely on us — and to partner with other organizations that find themselves in the same situation. Because you've been a loyal supporter in the past, I'd be happy to give you an update on those efforts. Just let me know, and I’ll connect with your assistant to find a time that's convenient."

You know what? I jumped at it. Not because I'm an especially curious person, but because it opened up the possibility of a whole new conversation about other ways I might be able to help the organization, including connecting them with my contacts and networks. When we sat down, our meeting covered the following:

  • How I'm doing and how my family is doing
  • New developments related to my work
  • What's happening at the federal level related to the organization’s work
  • Various strategies under consideration by the organization to address those policy changes
  • The media narrative and how it applies (or doesn't) to the organization's work
  • My interest in keeping in touch or receiving regular updates on the policy changes in question

I now receive biweekly emails from the organization that include a link to an article from a news source related to the organization's issue and what the article means (or doesn't) in terms of the organization's ability to carry out its work. I look forward to those emails, as well as to my meetings with and other communications from the organization.

What does all this have to do with you? Well, like me, you may be a donor who tends to overthink his relationship with the causes you are passionate about. Or you may be a donor who desires predictability. But the reality is, donors tend to support organizations that deliver impact on a consistent, reliable basis and that can help them understand and keep abreast of all the crazy things happening in the world today. Absent the latter, predictability is, well, predictable.

Headshot_derrick_feldmann_2015Derrick Feldmann (@derrickfeldmann) is the author of Social Movements for Good: How Companies and Causes Create Viral Change and the founder and lead researcher for the Millennial Impact Project.

Weekend Link Roundup (May 26-27, 2018)

May 27, 2018

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

Civil Society

You don't want to, but you know — for the sake of our democracy — that you should. Talk, that is, to people you don't agree with. John Gable, CEO and co-founder of AllSides.com and AllSidesForSchools.org, shows you how.

Climate Change

Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther offers a hard look at "climate philanthropy" — and "the way in which the groupthink of big climate funders has helped to give us a U.S. climate movement that is neither driven by evidence nor politically powerful."

Education

The 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), often referred to as "the nation's report card," has been released, and on Valerie Strauss' Answer Sheet blog, Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, a nonprofit education group advocating for traditional public schools, looks at what some reformers have said about NAEP scores in the past and compares them to what they said this year.  

Fundraising

In a guest post on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Amy L. Cheney, president/CEO of Crayons to Computers and formerly vice president for giving strategies at the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, reminds fundraisers that in this uncertain environment, "building relationships with donors will continue to be critical," as will remembering that "a donor must believe in the cause and feel that the organization’s values affirm and strengthen her own."

Health

"At the core of the nation’s drug pricing problem is one fundamental fact," writes Commonwealth Fund president David Blumenthal. "Drug companies enjoy government-sanctioned and -enforced monopolies over the supply of many drugs."

Inequality

The big takeaway from a St. Louis Fed report based on demographic and financial information provided by 6,254 families? Your income and overall wealth-accumulating power are strongly influenced by your parents' race and whether they went to college. Jenny McCoy, a Boulder-based journalist, reports for the Colorado Trust. 

International Affairs/Development

In his latest, philanthropic strategist Bruce DeBoskey provides an introduction to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals franework, which offers "a detailed roadmap for...governments, businesses and philanthropists [looking] to make essential and significant progress on the continuing challenges that threaten billions of people — and the planet itself."

And here on PhilanTopic, Arif Ekram and Lauren Bradford share the latest data on foundation giving in support of the SDG agenda — and what the data suggests about where we are, and where we need to go. 

Nonprofits

In a guest post on Beth Kanter's blog, Heather McLeod Grant, Adene Sacks, Kate Wilkinson — co-authors of the newly released report The New Normal: Capacity Building During a Time of Disruptionargue that "well-being" is an increasingly important aspect of social change work.

Philanthropy

On his Nonprofit AF blog, Vu Le wonders why we take it for granted that tax-advantaged philanthropic dollars are not viewed and treated as "contributions toward the common good."

Prompted by a recent convening of the Funders' Committee for Civic Participation, Connie Malloy, portfolio director at the James Irvine Foundation, shares some timely reflections on equity in grantmaking.

On the Exponent Philanthropy blog, Allen Smart, a former vice president of programs and interim president at the Kate B. Reynolds Trust in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, reminds readers that equity is not just an urban issue.

The Minneapolis-based McKnight Foundation released a Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in January and, at the time, promised to keep everyone posted on subsequent changes in its policies and practices. This week, it announced one of the first changes, which is to rigorously collect demographic data from grant applicants, and it is inviting applicants to partner with it.

In a "longread" on the Guardian site, Carl Rhodes and Peter Bloom offer a familiar critique of "philanthrocapitalism," which, they argue, "is about much more than the simple act of generosity it pretends to be, instead involving the inculcation of neoliberal values personified by the billionaire CEOs who have led its charge."

Women/Girls

And on the Ford Foundation's Equal Change blog, Penny Davies, a program officer in the foundation's  Natural Resources and Climate Change program area, looks at how women around the world are mobilizing to secure land rights for their communities, exercising their vote, and pushing for greater political power and parity.

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

Building Democracy: People and Purpose in San Diego County

May 25, 2018

On a March evening at a community center in San Diego, Francisco "Panchito" Martinez stood at a public forum, a bedrock exercise of democracy, and before three District 8 City Council candidates.

With microphone in hand and more than a hundred people in the audience, several of whom wore headphones to listen in Spanish, Somali and Vietnamese, the college student asked the candidates about cultivating and supporting youth leaders in the eighth most-populous U.S. city.

Martinez's participation was a form of engagement in more ways than one. The youth questioned those seeking the privilege of representing people in government while also addressing the need for multi-generational civic involvement.

For Martinez, who often goes by Panchito, and other residents who questioned the candidates in English and Spanish, the forum marked a continuum of a broader community-leadership initiative in San Diego County — one driven by residents and grassroots organizations seeking greater voice and more meaningful representation in government and community affairs.

Like other parts of the U.S., San Diego County's population has been transformed dramatically over the last several decades. Today, people of color are the majority among the county's 3.3 million residents. Together, Latinos and Asian Pacific Islanders make up four out of every ten residents.

In Barrio Logan, the San Diego neighborhood that Panchito and about five thousand other people call home, there are industrial businesses as well as residences.

In this primarily Latino neighborhood south and east of the city's popular Gaslamp Quarter and within view of the Port of San Diego and U.S. Navy facilities, concerns over health are one reason why residents say local government should better mirror the makeup of this diverse region.

Positive Disruption: Pursuing Equity

Low-income families, people of color, members of the LGBT community, and various supporters are banding together with a network of nonprofit organizations. They're standing up to broaden the culture of leadership — as well as its definition — and boost civic engagement.

They're changing a system they say has overlooked their voices in community and policy decisions. They're saying political power, government representation, and decisions about spending public dollars are a shared endeavor — that the promise of U.S. democracy includes everyone.

 

 The goal is to make civic participation more accessible, and to recognize leadership across income, racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation lines. They're doing that with support from Marguerite Casey Foundation and other philanthropic investments that started years ago.

Each community organization brings a considerable focus and the presence of involved families to this enterprise in San Diego County, home to "America's Finest City."

There's the Environmental Health Coalition; the San Diego LGBT Community CenterAmerican Friends Service Committee's U.S.-Mexico border program operated out of its San Diego-area office; Engage San Diego, which works on nonpartisan voter engagement; and the Center on Policy Initiatives, a research and action institute that supports worker prosperity.

The Idea of a Network

Each organization is a grantee of the Casey Foundation, which is nurturing a national family-led movement for a just and equitable society through unrestricted grants and trust in families.

Under this framework of equity, movement building and engagement, these organizations and families are maximizing community leadership efforts through the San Diego Equal Voice Network, which was formalized in 2016.

SanDiegoDemographyData2010-insert800_MargueriteCasey0518Source: U.S. Census Bureau data via members of the San Diego Leadership Development Program

We support this network and about a dozen others nationwide.

Grantee members lead the networks, convene meetings, determine topics on which to focus and share information. There is greater amplification of people's voices, concerns and solutions, participants say, through the collective.

In 2012, these organizations illuminated a startling fact: of San Diego County's then 3 million residents, people of color accounted for 52 percent of the population but made up only 23 percent of those serving in government.

Questions quickly surfaced: Is everyone's voice being heard? Are families included in decision making? Who's missing? Who needs to be included? How do we ensure that equity drives the solution?

In other words: What can we do together to create positive change that we can't do separately?

Network members started working with other nonprofit organizations that have since become members of the network, as well as with grassroots allies.

They launched an effort to change a system that, as U.S. Census Bureau data showed, lacked equitable outcomes for residents of color. They widened their scope to include low-income families, members of the LGBT community, and any interested resident or worker in the area.

Among their goals:

  • Increase civic participation and nurture new community leaders, including young people.
  • Share leadership development resources and best practices with anyone interested.
  • Collectively track the participation of community members in various training leadership development programs.
  • Highlight what works and inform families of leadership opportunities, no matter which organization sponsored it.

Their intentionality and intersectionality dovetailed with what families were voicing, as well as with demographic shifts and investments from philanthropic organizations.

Alan Kaplan, the new director of Engage San Diego, described a goal that remains front and center for many families and the San Diego Equal Voice Network: "A San Diego where the electorate and leadership are reflective of people who live and work here."

"We're creating opportunities and vehicles to bring voices in," said Delores Jacobs, a longtime community leader who is stepping down as CEO of the San Diego LGBT Community Center.

Among those voices: Panchito and his mother, Maria. The family team, concerned about the quality of life in their neighborhood, has worked with Environmental Health Coalition for years.

Redefining Leadership and Participation

So how is this idea for change being implemented?

One of the first steps was acknowledging and legitimizing how families and individuals already were serving as community leaders. And that involved rethinking the traditional definition of leadership.

That meant recognizing:

  • A mother who joined the PTA at her child's school to address educational inequities and advocate for students who are struggling.
  • Bilingual youth who accompanied their parents to canvass neighborhoods, serve as interpreters and discuss — in Spanish or Vietnamese — voting and pollution and asthma rates, which are a major concern, especially as they impact children in Barrio Logan.
  • A parent who has two minimum-wage jobs but took time to volunteer at a nonpartisan phone bank to remind neighbors to vote.

They also acknowledged that "leader" might be shunned by immigrant residents whose government officials in their former countries are corrupt or violent.

The new definition of multilevel leadership went beyond the titles of board chair, president, and chief executive officer to include parent, youth, auntie, cousin, sister, and neighbor.

"People enter through different doors," said Diane Takvorian, executive director and a founder of Environmental Health Coalition.

Nurturing New Leaders and Regional Cooperation

The organizations had existing leadership programs, but network members found that a collective focus and a willingness to discuss and resolve different ideas invigorated the endeavor.

The Center on Policy Initiatives was already operating three leadership programs: one for new and elected officials, another named the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute, and an initiative for college students. At the center of all three: social and economic equity, awareness, diversity, and racial justice.

Center on Policy Initiatives staff also sought community leadership information from and exchanged insights with Urban Habitat, a nonprofit organization in Oakland and member of the Bay Area Equal Voice Coalition, which includes groups in San Francisco and San Jose.

In 2009, Urban Habitat pioneered its own Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute, which is being replicated nationwide. Staff members from these two organizations — in different parts of California — held phone conversations and meetings to deepen working relationships and share information.

Community Leaders in Elected Office

While boosting cooperation and broadening the definition of "leader" were part of this endeavor, advocates and families always kept the formal power of elected and appointed office in mind.

Residents and nonprofit leaders point to the path of Georgette Gómez, a community advocate who did grassroots work with the San Diego LGBT Community Center and Environmental Health Coalition.

She ran for two elected offices and now serves as a councilmember on the San Diego City Council and as chair of the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System.

Grassroots leaders say she makes it a point to hire staff of color, who understand the need for equity in public policy. They add that as a woman of color, her election wins inspire many county residents, especially those who don't see themselves represented in government or community affairs.

One policy innovation that Gómez supports, they say and her office confirms (and which has ties to her grassroots community work), is a public benefits agreement of the mind that is surfacing in other U.S. cities (including Los Angeles). Based on an organized labor concept, it ensures that qualified residents are hired for jobs in industries like construction when public dollars or tax incentives are in play. That way, residents can have equitable access to taxpayer-supported jobs.

Network members also are looking to the future by examining the composition and accessibility of these government bodies:

  • Escondido Union School District Board of Education
  • San Diego County Board of Supervisors
  • City of San Diego Planning Commission
  • Metropolitan Transit System Board of Directors
  • Port of San Diego Board of Port Commissioners

Community leaders say they plan to issue a report later in 2018  that will update their earlier survey.

A Youth Steps Up

For Panchito, who attends San Diego State University, participation and leadership run in the family.

Panchito's mother, Maria, has served on the Environmental Health Coalition board of directors. The two still work closely with the group, which has an equity and justice focus. It also helped organize the District 8 City Council candidate forum dedicated to boosting local democracy.

Panchito also works with the Barrio Logan College Institute, which says the average yearly household income for a family of four people in the neighborhood is $25,000.

In 2017, Panchito received a Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty Leadership Award from Marguerite Casey Foundation, which recognizes collaborative accomplishments by young people.

As part of the honor, Panchito traveled to Seattle to talk about grassroots-driven change in Barrio Logan with other "Shriver Warriors," young leaders from across the country. They discussed injustice, advocacy, and progress.

In March, after that San Diego City Council candidate forum, Panchito mentioned an immediate goal: becoming a member of the Barrio Logan Planning Group so as to ensure that voices of families from the neighborhood are represented at the local decision-making table.

Smaller governing bodies, community leaders say, can go unnoticed, though their members make important policy decisions or recommendations that affect low-income families and people of color in neighborhoods.

Elizabeth_posey_brad_wong_for_PhilanTopicOn April 19, the Environmental Health Coalition sent a tweet announcing the news: The 20-year-old will join the planning group — and one of his priorities will be access to healthy foods for college students.

As a member of the planning group, which includes representatives from the Port of San Diego and U.S. Navy, Panchito will study the issues. He'll also ask questions, listen carefully, and, then, cast votes.

Elizabeth Posey is program officer for the West and Brad Wong is content editor at the Marguerite Casey Foundation. This post was originally published on the Casey Foundation website.

Foundations Have Invested $50 Billion in the SDGs, But Who’s Counting?

May 23, 2018

SDGs_logoThe Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent the most ambitious — as well as expensive — global development framework in history. The framework sets specific targets in seventeen areas, from ending poverty in all its forms (Goal 1), to combating climate change and its impacts (Goal 13), to achieving gender equality (Goal 5). But with an estimated annual price tag of $3.5 trillion, it's clear that governments alone cannot finance the SDGs and hope to achieve the framework's 2030 targets. With that in mind, all stakeholders within the development ecosystem, including private and philanthropic actors, need to step in and step up their contributions. Our research shows that while the philanthropic sector has been doing its part, it can do much more.

Foundation Center has been tracking philanthropy's support for the Sustainable Development Goals since the beginning. Our data shows that foundations have contributed more than $50 billion toward achieving the SDGs since January 2016, when the SDG agenda was formally launched, and we are tracking that number in real time — i.e., as more grantmaking data becomes available, we immediately make more SDG-related funding data available. Pretty cool! (NB: We can only track what we can collect, so if we don't have your data, we can't account for your contribution.) Using this "latest available data approach," we can confirm that philanthropy has been and will continue to play a crucial role in financing and driving the SDGs.

In a blog post in 2016, Foundation Center president Brad Smith predicted that foundations would contribute $364 billion toward achieving the by 2030. While it's too early to say whether Brad will be proved correct, the initial trends are favorable. Of the $50 billion in foundation giving we have tracked, roughly $40 billion is based on 2016 data while the rest ($10 billion) comes from foundation giving data collected in 2017 and 2018. As more data from both domestic and international foundations comes in, we estimate that total foundation giving for 2016 will increase by another 15 percent or so by December, when we'll have a more complete data set, and as more international foundations share their data for research purposes. If that trend holds through 2030, it's quite likely that foundations will contribute more than the $364 billion originally estimated by Brad.

Picking winners

It's not a surprise that Goal 3 (Ensure healthy lives) and Goal 4 (Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all) have received the lion’s share of the funding to date (both more than $18 billion). In addition to regular health-related spending, foundations also have contributed significant sums in response to various health emergencies, both natural and man-made. That list includes avian influenza, Zika virus, Ebola virus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and outbreaks of yellow fever, as well as public health emergencies caused by war, cyclones, and earthquakes. At the same time, the goal to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all has long been important to many funders and continues to attract significant funding, even in the SDG era.

Though it has received considerably less funding than the other two, it’s interesting to note that Goal 5 (Achieve gender equality) ranks third in our data — our preliminary analysis hints at a promising scenario for gender equality-related funding — while Goal 16 (Promote peaceful and inclusive societies and justice for all) is close behind in the fourth spot. Indeed, a deep dive into Goal 16-related funding reveals that a lot of the grants made in support of efforts in this area overlap with Goal 5, gender equality, which suggests to us that peace and justice are strongly correlated with gender equality and that funders are well aware of the linkage.

Foundation Funding_SDGs

Who are the top funders and recipients?

Not surprisingly, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation tops the list of  funders who have supported SDG-related efforts in terms of dollars given, while the Silicon Valley Community Foundation is currently in the fourth spot, which is quite remarkable for a community foundation. It’s also exciting to see foundations from outside the U.S. on the list, with the Wellcome Trust and Big Lottery Fund — both UK-based — occupying the second and seventh spots, respectively. This is particularly important because it suggests that while foundations outside the U.S. are making sizable grants to advance the SDG agenda,  the global development community may not be aware of the extent of that giving since the data is not being widely shared. Needless to say, the main goal of SDGfunders.org is to highlight these funding trends and use the data currently available to tell a more compelling and complete story about the progress being made toward achieving the SDGs.

What's in a number?

The foundation funding total to date (more than $50 billion) represents a tally of all foundation grants identified by Foundation Center that are consistent with the seventeen SDGs and their targets. The number is not meant to suggest that foundations have intentionally aligned all that giving with the SDGs and/or internalized the SDG framework, although that may be the case for some. In addition, about 97 percent of the total is grantmaking by U.S.-based foundations, although more  international grantmaking data is being included as it is made available to us.

Arif Ekram_Lauren_Bradford_for_PhilanTopicIt's important to emphasize that the funding totals we are reporting are based on actual data on nearly a million grants we have collected to date — not on surveys, pledges, or good intentions. As many of you know, sharing grants data has never been easier, and the more data we share as a sector, the easier it will be to demonstrate to the world how institutional philanthropy is meeting the challenge of the global goals.

To learn more about SDG-related foundation funding and how to share your data with us, please visit SDGfunders.org.

Arif Ekram and Lauren Bradford are manager and director, respectively, of global partnerships at Foundation Center.

Addressing Racial Equity With an Organizational Change Lens

May 21, 2018

Racial equity treeOrganizational change efforts can be daunting, even when the organization and its leaders know that such an effort will lead to a stronger, more sustainable organization in the long term. When it comes to racial equity, such efforts often carry an extra level of pressure. That's because change efforts seeking to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) can trigger both conscious and unconscious anxieties when staff and leadership are required to examine personal and organizational values, norms, behaviors, and perceptions. No matter what you do to create and communicate a compelling story and adjust policies and procedures, it all comes down to employee engagement, especially when it comes to "unfreezing" behavior and modeling change, both of which are key to ensuring employee buy-in and setting the stage for a successful change effort.

When tackling racial equity, the amount of individual energy and effort required to achieve a truly equitable and inclusive workplace can create stress at all levels of the organization — particularly for people of color. As with other change efforts, racial equity work requires staff members to personalize the process in order to find their own entry points into the work, and as each of us reflects on our own identity and what it means in both an individual and organizational context, frictions can arise. If not tactfully managed, issues of intersectionality, power dynamics, personal and work-related boundaries, and unconscious biases can become barriers that stand in the way of progress. But when implemented effectively, racial equity change initiatives can spark an examination of our lived experience, both at work and in our personal lives — as well as individual transformation. Not surprisingly then, if organizations can create a culture in which individuals are able to express and work through their own unconscious biases, uncertainty, and shame, they will experience a greater rate of change.

CRE's nearly four decades serving the nonprofit community has taught us that organizations ready to address and embrace racial equity must first examine how race interacts with all aspects of organizational culture, from board governance, to leadership and management, to staffing and talent management, to day-to-day work flow. While not an exhaustive list, below are four simple strategies for moving the needle on organizational change efforts intended to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion based on what we have learned from our experience promoting racial equity in our own organization and with our client partners.

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Heroes, Collectives, and 'The Black Panther'

May 18, 2018

Sydney_composite

In the classic monomyth, or hero's journey, an individual goes on an adventure, faces and overcomes a challenge, and, as a result of that confrontation, returns home transformed. But the monomyth has long had its critics, who cite its misogyny, imperialistic slant, and tendency to exacerbate division through its focus on lone heroes and isolated villains. It's time to reconsider its ubiquitous use.

For some time now, I've warned activists and communications professionals that their well-meaning use of the monomyth framework can backfire. The familiarity of hero and villain, and of an easy-to-follow storyline, can be comforting. But people can tune out (if not actually resent) such pat and seemingly unrepresentative plots. Indeed, the embrace of simplicity and failure to honor diversity, complexity, and ambiguity can be counter-productive.

For example, elevating someone who has escaped a situation of intimate partner violence into a hero may cause those who remain trapped in such situations to feel like hapless victims. Likewise, pro-choice activists who choose to portray women who have had abortions as heroes may cause some women who are ambivalent about their decision to feel like a villain in their own stories.

While there are often good reasons to share a story that elevates a protagonist to hero status — and by extension, invites listeners to imagine themselves as heroic protagonists — the technique should be carefully deployed.

Even if we acknowledge that the hero is one person among many, and that the focus on her story is meant to be emblematic of a larger story, we are still categorizing her as good or bad, heroic or villainous.

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What's New at Foundation Center Update (May)

May 17, 2018

FC_logoThe flowers are blooming (and allergies raging!), and Foundation Center work is springing ahead through conferences, webinars and trainings, and new data collection efforts. I’m back in NYC for a few days to catch my breath, enjoy the noisy (in a good way) birds, and fill you in on the many exciting things we were up to in April:

Projects Launched

  • As part of our ongoing #OpenForGood campaign, we launched a new GrantCraft guide, Open For Good: Knowledge Sharing to Strengthen Grantmaking, which explores how funders can open up and share their knowledge with the rest of the social sector, and beyond. And to recognize funders that are already knowledge sharing champions, we also launched the inaugural #OpenForGood Award at the recent GEO conference. (Congrats, GEO, on twenty years of strengthening the philanthropy field!) To nominate a foundation for our new award, visit: http://foundationcenter.org/openforgood.
  • Foundation Center's Knowledge Services staff continue to help the Council on Foundations field its annual Grantmaker Salary & Benefits Survey, which provides the sector with data on staff composition and compensation of U.S. grantmakers. Council members and non-members with paid full-time staff are invited to complete the survey by May 25, so there's still time to participate and receive access to salary benchmarking reports generated from the data collected.
  • We released our second Ghana report, which synthesizes the key outcomes from the Ghana Data Strategy and Capacity Building Workshop hosted by Foundation Center and the SDG Philanthropy Forum in November 2017. The meeting was part of our broader agenda to support the Ghanaian philanthropic sector in the areas of data capacity, collaboration, and effective grantmaking.
  • We launched two leadership series papers on GrantCraft about where power sits in philanthropic practice — From Words to Action: A Practical Philanthropic Guide to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, by Barbara Chow; and How Community Philanthropy Shifts Power: What Donors Can Do to Help Make That Happen, by Jenny Hodgson and Anna Pond. Both papers encourage funders to rethink their relationships with grantees, partners, and each other and consider what they can do to foster greater inclusivity and give more power to those who lack it.

Content Published

What We're Excited About

  • We closed our annual CF Insights Columbus Survey. Look for the report coming this June. Learn more about the survey here.
  • We just relaunched our beloved website for the social sector, grantspace.org! The site’s new and improved design makes it easy to navigate to trainings and find Foundation Center locations in your region, and you can also explore hundreds of free topical resources to build your own knowledge and capacity — from anywhere in the world!

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Our staff will be speaking at these upcoming events:

Data Spotlight

  • 356,898 new grants added to Foundation Maps in April, of which 14,423 grants were made to 2,444 organizations outside the U.S.
  • New data sharing partners: Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Inc.; Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art; Fay Fuller Foundation; Deaconess Foundation; Otto Bremer Foundation; and Stranahan Foundation. Tell your story through data so we can communicate philanthropy's contribution to making a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.
  • Year-to-date we’ve answered more than 3,000 questions via our live Online Librarian chat service.
  • Foundation Directory Online recently launched new Recipient charts! Quickly gain key insights on more than 500,000 individual Recipient profiles. You can also search 140,000 foundation profiles and over 11 million grants.

If you found this update helpful, feel free to share it or shoot us an email! I’ll be back next month with another update.

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center.

It’s Time to Invest in Youth Leaders

May 16, 2018

DCPSWalkout_AFA-1024x681In the months since the tragic mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, the response of youth activists has captured the attention of the nation. What has largely gone unnoticed, however, is that across the country a dynamic youth-organizing field has emerged. Over the past twenty years, groups — many of them led by low-income young people of color — have been organizing to improve education, end the school-to-prison pipeline, protect immigrant rights, and address other critical issues.

New research demonstrates that not only does youth organizing result in concrete policy changes, it also promotes positive academic, social/emotional, and civic engagement outcomes. Yet despite recent investment in youth organizing from funders like the Ford Foundation and the California Endowment, overall funding remains modest. That's unfortunate, because even as a new generation demonstrates its willingness to take on some of our toughest issues, the need for investment in the leadership of young people, especially those most impacted by injustice, has never been more important.

According to the Funders' Collaborative on Youth Organizing's National Youth Organizing Landscape Map, there are more than two hundred youth organizing groups across the country, the majority of them focused on middle and high school students of color. These groups support the development of young leaders and organize campaigns to address inequity in their communities. In Los Angeles, Inner City Struggle and Community Coalition led the campaign to ensure a rigorous college preparatory curriculum for all students. Groups such as Communities United in Chicago, Padres y Jovenes Unidos in Denver, and the Philadelphia Student Union have gotten their school districts to create policies that address racial disparities in school discipline, resulting in changes that have benefited hundreds of thousands of students. 

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Engage From the Inside! How Internal Branding Strengthens Nonprofits (Part 1)

May 15, 2018

Brand-graphicImagine you work at a nonprofit or a foundation with a decent-sized staff (a few dozen to as many as a hundred employees). It might be a national research institute or a local community development organization. It has several departments focused on different issues or areas of operation. There may be physical offices catering to different needs or populations. It might even be part of a larger network of organizations.

Whatever the situation, each day everyone comes to work and does his or her best to contribute to the organization's mission. But while there's a sense of what you're all working towards, there are disconnects. Silos and knowledge gaps are stifling innovation and affecting results. New funding streams have led to mission creep. The organization has grown, added lots of new faces, and its strategic plan needs revisiting. Staff have very different ways of talking about the organization's work.

The result is fragmentation that's making people inside the organization less effective — and is confusing lots of people outside the organization. So leadership decides it's time to address the problem by working on the organization's branding with the goal of creating clarity and getting everyone on the same page.

Falling Short of Our Goals

Branding is important to the success of any organization, but it's particularly important for those in the nonprofit sector. Social impact work is complex and often abstract; results can be more difficult to measure (and achieve) than in the for-profit world; and the temptation of new opportunities for impact (and the funding that comes with them) means mission creep is always a concern.

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Weekend Link Roundup (May 12-13, 2018)

May 13, 2018

Pexels-photo-414659Our 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

Power is shifting at the top of U.S. museums — and that's a good thing. Nadja Sayej reports for the Guardian.

Communications/Marketing

If the latest Atlas video released by Boston Dynamics hasn't got your attention...well, take a look. But before Atlas and his pals decide that we're all so much useless wetware, you might be wondering what the implications of AI for nonprofit marketers are. Forbes contributor Dionisios Favatas, digital lead for the award-winning Truth Initiative, a youth tobacco prevention campaign, shares some thoughts.

Google has rather sneakily announced significant changes to its popular Google Ad Words program. In a post republished on Beth Kanter's blog, Whole Whale's George Weiner fills in the details.

Health

New menu labeling rules that require chain restaurants and other food retailers to provide calorie counts and other nutrition information to their customers are about to go into effect. How did we get here? And how do the guidelines connect to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health vision? The foundation's Jennifer Ng'andu explains

Higher Education

"Anyone who believes that public higher education is crucial to our democracy should be alarmed by the recent suggestions by George Mason University’s president that donations to the institution from the Charles Koch Foundation have had 'undue influence in academic matters,' " writes Rudy Fichtenbaum, a professor emeritus of economics at Wright State University and president of the American Association of University Professors, in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Why? Because such donations threaten the twin principles of shared governance and academic freedom that "ensure that institutions of higher education serve the public interest, as opposed to the narrow special interests of big corporations, wealthy donors, or powerful politicians." 

The 18-year-olds graduating high school this spring have known schools as sites of violence their entire lives. How can higher education support them and help advance the movement they have started to prevent gun violence in schools? On the Inside Higher Ed site, Kathleen McCartney, president of Smith College, shares some thoughts.

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Acknowledging Power Isn’t Enough — Dig Deeper!

May 11, 2018

3-teardrop-illustration-300x256Earlier this month, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) released Power Moves: Your Essential Philanthropy Assessment Guide for Equity and Justice, a comprehensive resource for foundations that explores the role of power and privilege in advancing equity and justice. Acknowledging my own bias as a project advisor, I'm beyond excited to see all the different ways this assessment tool will be used to influence philanthropy, because, let's face it, our sector has a power problem.

"The power dynamic" often comes up in conversations among philanthropoids as "something to watch for" or "be mindful of." But seldom do I see that acknowledgment lead anywhere. From burdensome (and sometimes inaccessible) grant application processes and site visits, to restricted short-term investments, to truncated feedback loops, to the composition of staff and boards, to public silence on too many issues, we're slow as a field to move from acknowledgment to action. Power doesn't have to be negative or something we tiptoe around; indeed, intentionality around knowing where power sits and then building, sharing, and wielding it thoughtfully can be a powerful lever for smarter work and better results. The NCRP guide allows foundations of all types and sizes to explore these topics holistically through both internal reflection and outward-facing learning, and offers a series of actions they can take to advance their equity and justice efforts.

Over the last few years, I've teamed up with various colleagues to lead workshops using improv comedy to talk about power dynamics with the intent of diving deeper into a subject that often makes people uncomfortable. These sessions are fun and usually successful, but they present a two-fold challenge: they're "opt in," which tends to attract people who are ready to step out of their comfort zone, and they're small, which means that all that good reflection, learning, and conversation usually isn't documented. How is an attendee at a session like that — or in any conversation that digs deeper into power and its connection with equity — supposed to bring her learnings back to their workplace? It's hard, and we'd be kidding ourselves if we didn't acknowledge our own internal power issues as part of that challenge.

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[Review] Fair Shot: Rethinking Inequality and How We Earn

May 08, 2018

More than fifty years after President Lyndon Johnson launched a War on Poverty in America, an estimated forty-five million Americans still live below the poverty line, and many critics of government have declared its efforts in this area an utter failure. At times, the scope and persistence of the problem can cause even the most committed anti-poverty activist to despair. But what if the solution to poverty was as straightforward as putting cash directly in the pockets of the people who need it?

Book_Fair-Shot-coverThat's what Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook and an Obama campaign aide who in 2016 co-founded the Economic Security Project — a group committed to advancing the debate around unconditional cash transfers and guaranteed basic income in the United States — proposes in his new book, Fair Shot: Rethinking Inequality and How We EarnOr as Hughes puts it boldly at one point: "Government should provide a guaranteed income of $500 a month to every adult who lives in a household making less than $50,000 per year and who is working in some way."

It's not a new idea. In August 1969, having narrowly defeated Democrat Hubert Humphrey in one of the closest presidential elections in U.S. history, President Richard Nixon unveiled a vision for welfare reform that included a guaranteed income. "What I am proposing," Nixon told his fellow Americans in a televised speech, "is that the federal government build a foundation under the income of every American family with dependent children that cannot care for itself — and wherever in America that family may live." The Family Assistance Plan that emerged from the administration a few years later proposed using a negative income tax to guarantee an income floor of $1,600 ($11,000 in today's dollars) for a family of four. But while the bill passed the House with bipartisan support, it failed to make it out of the Senate Finance Committee, leading its chief architect, future New York senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, to later observe: "The program was both too much and too little; too radical, too reactionary; too comprehensive, not comprehensive enough."

The failure of the plan wasn't a complete loss. In 1974, as Hughes reports, Nixon signed a bill that created a guaranteed income for the elderly and disabled; today Supplemental Security Income provides nearly nine million Americans with a monthly income of $735. And a few years after that, Congress passed the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which provides a refundable credit on a sliding scale to low- and moderate-income working individuals and families. Over the years, lawmakers on both the right and the left have praised the EITC, which annually provides $70 billion in cash to 26 million working families and individuals and has helped lift 10 million people out of poverty. Indeed, every president since Gerald Ford has "signed a bill to significantly increase the benefit."

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Weekend Link Roundup (May 5-6, 2018)

May 06, 2018

Lies_truthOur 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

Jane Chu, chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Arts, which twice has been targeted for elimination by the Trump administration, is stepping down from her position on June 4. Peggy McGlone reports for the Washington Post.

Criminal Justice

Is America ready to rethink the mass incarceration policies of the last thirty years. The results of a new poll by the Vera Institute of Justice hints at the possibility. CityLab's Teresa Mathew spoke with Jasmine Heiss, director of outreach and public affairs strategist at Vera, about what the new data means and how it might lead to changes in policy.

Diversity

"The concept of 'fairness' is easy for people to understand, and on a superficial level it seems good and something we should aim for," writes Nonprofit AF blogger Vu Le. "But 'fairness' guarantees the status quo. 'Fairness' eliminates qualified candidates and perpetuates the lack of diversity in our sector. 'Fairness' continues to ensure the communities most affected by systemic injustice — black communities, Native communities, immigrant/refugee communities, Muslim communities, communities of disability, rural communities, LGBTQIA communities — continue to get the least amount of resources."

Food Insecurity

In a new post, Fast Company contributor Ben Paynter profiles Goodr, a food-waste management company (and app) that redirects surplus food from businesses to nonprofits that can share it with those who are food insecure.

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A Quick Guide to Digital Marketing for Nonprofits

May 02, 2018

Dig-marketingDonating to charity has changed for the better over the last few years. These days, pretty much everything takes place online, and giving to charity or supporting a good cause is no different. Which is why charities and nonprofits hoping to stand out had better have a robust online presence.

There are lots of ways to do that, but here are a few basics your organization should be thinking about:

1. Email marketing. Email is one of the best ways to reach supporters and potential donors. Whether your goal is to boost the number of subscribers to your newsletter, keep supporters and volunteers up to date on recent developments, or kick off a fundraising campaign, email is one of the least expensive and most effective ways to do it.

But it's important that your email content and presentation be engaging. Emails that consist of big chunks of dry text and cliched images are more likely to hurt than help. Try to send two but no more than four emails a month — and don't forget to include a CTA (call to action)! (You’d be surprised how many organizations don't.)

One good solution for those just getting into email marketing is MailChimp, an email marketing platform/service that makes it easy to format and structure your email newsletters for maximum impact.

2. Social media presence. Social media has changed the world — mostly for the better. It's a great tool for charities and nonprofits, not least because platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest make it easy to share all sorts of campaign materials. With a few lines of code, you can also add social sharing buttons to your website and emails. Why is that important? The more people who follow you, the more donations you're going to receive!

3. Donation pages. Your organization's donation pages should be clear and to the point. People just don't have the time to comb through paragraphs of information and instructions — you want to make it as easy for them to donate to your organization online as it is to purchase a book or a buy pair of socks.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (April 2018)

May 01, 2018

As not-spring turns into full-on summer, we've been busy rounding up your favorite posts from the past thirty days. Haven't had a lot of time for sector-related reads? Don't sweat it — here's your chance.

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

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

How to Fix Our Food System

April 30, 2018

AgorecologyA good idea doesn't stay buried forever. Even with a $5 trillion agrochemical industry shoveling their propaganda on top of it.

Ten years ago, the World Bank and the United Nations initiated an assessment of the state of global agriculture by some four hundred experts around the world. The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IASTTD), as the final report was titled, concluded that gains in agricultural productivity have come at a high cost, including "unintended social and environmental consequences," and that investments in biological substitutes for agrochemicals, and in programs that support agroecology, are needed to address the situation.

At times oversimplified as "sustainable agriculture," or confused with organic agriculture, the definition of agroecology is found in in its constituent parts — agro and ecology. Agroecology puts ecological science at the center of food production. With a focus on the stewardship of soil, water and biodiversity, agroecology seeks to heighten soil fertility and moisture and regenerate ecosystems by encouraging farmers to reduce their use of chemical inputs — a leading source of pollution, soil degradation, and farmer debt.

And yet, despite lifting up the many benefits of agroecology in terms of food safety and watershed health, not to mention endorsements from fifty-eight governments, implementation of the IASTTD report has been slow, at best. Whatever the cause, many of us within the growing agroecology movement are disappointed, and angry.

Earlier this month, however, there was a glimmer of hope. At the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) Second International Symposium on agroecology, change was in the air.

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In the Wake of Tax Reform, Nonprofits Are Counting on Strong Economic Performance

April 26, 2018

Fotolia_5090081_SAs soon as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 was signed into law, companies, nonprofit organizations, individuals, and accountants began to scramble to determine what it meant for them. Coming at the end of an historic year for the stock market, the legislation was expected to further fuel the market's dramatic rise — and it did, for a time. Whether the trend will continue through the end of 2018 remains to be seen.

One way or the other, one sector that will be affected is philanthropy. On its face, the near doubling of the standard deduction for individuals and couples means that significantly fewer filers will itemize their deductions, reducing an important incentive to give. We may not know the full impact on charitable giving for several years, but for 2018 and 2019 philanthropic organizations could certainly benefit from greater clarity with respect to the legislation and its provisions.

If the economic momentum we saw in 2017 continues through the end of 2018, it will be tough to argue that tax reform had nothing to do with stepped-up economic growth and strong fundraising results. The doubling of the standard deduction and the loss of the tax incentives that come with itemization undoubtedly will dampen giving by some households, but the overall economic gains will offset those losses. Furthermore, as corporations benefit from substantially lower tax rates and foundations' endowments benefit from stock market gains, their grantmaking is likely to remain robust and even increase. So in this “high growth” scenario, philanthropy is likely to be unaffected.

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Tips for Finding the ‘Perfect’ Board Member

April 25, 2018

Man-wearing-a-leather-jacket-holding-a-clapperboardOne of the questions we get a lot from our nonprofit clients is: How do we find passionate, engaged, committed board members? Putting together a high-functioning board isn't just about recruiting the "right" people. It's about having the proper mindset and a good plan. Here at Envision Consulting, we often describe the search for the perfect nonprofit board member as a bit like looking for romance, complete with angst-ridden courtships, elaborate proposals, occasional heartbreak, and, with a little luck, true love at the end of your search.

Still with me? Here are some tips to make your search a lot less Romeo and Juliet and a little more The Wedding Singer:

1. Have a "Wish List." You're more likely to find board members who add value to your organization if you understand (and can articulate) beforehand what it is you're looking for. Broaden your wish list beyond skills/expertise (yes, every board should have a CPA) and financial clout (believe it or not, wealthy board members don't always equate to well-resourced nonprofits). Think about the personal characteristics, perspectives, experiences, and networks a candidate is able to bring to your organization. When we have this conversation with our clients, they often tell us they want board members who are available to participate in board meetings and organizational events, have the ability to think strategically, and hold themselves (and others) accountable — the kind of intangible qualities that are difficult to quantify but can have a huge impact on the success and productivity of a board and the broader organization.

2. Fools Rush In. It takes two to tango, right? Too often, nonprofits are overly focused on finding the perfect new board member and neglect to properly "court" candidates by listening to their concerns and answering their questions — only to be shocked (shocked!) when the relationship doesn't pan out. Good board candidates will want to evaluate your organization as much as you want to evaluate them — and they're likely to be selective about which boards they agree to join. Beyond just making a good impression on the candidates you're interested in, you also may need to address how you plan to provide (in an authentic way, of course) the experience the candidate is hoping to gain by joining your board. We strongly encourage our clients to tell candidates in detail about the orientation process and other ways they support new board members.

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What’s New at Foundation Center (April)

April 20, 2018

FC_logoI'm currently in New Orleans at the EDGE Funders Conference and am delighting in the stories and wisdom of bold, understated leaders from around the world who are pushing the traditional boundaries of philanthropy. Through conferences like these and our regular scanning and conversations, my colleagues and I have been busy keeping up with data trends and tracking philanthropy's engagement on a variety of issues. Here's a quick update:

Project launched

  • We added a new Open Knowledge Feature to Glasspockets Profiles to showcase the knowledge each foundation has contributed to Issuelab. Learn more.

Content published

What We're Excited About

  • Learning about and participating in global philanthropy conversations. Our director of global partnerships, Lauren Bradford, had this to say about Russian philanthropy.
  • Our FDO at Foundation Center YouTube channel! Have questions about how to use Foundation Directory Online to identify funding sources, build your prospect network, and win funding to support your mission? Our YouTube channel has all the answers.

Upcoming conferences and events

Our staff will be speaking at these upcoming events:

Data Spotlight

  • Funders have granted over $644 million to libraries since 2015. Learn more about funding for libraries at libraries.foundationcenter.org.
  • We reached more than 1,500 people in March through our eLearning and webinar programming on fundraising and nonprofit management.
  • 736,055 new grants added to Foundation Maps in March, of which 6,101 grants were made to 3,724 organizations outside the U.S.
  • New data sharing partner: Hugh J. Andersen Foundation
  • Foundation Directory Online currently has 140,000 foundation profiles, more than 11 million grants, and over 500,000 recipients profiles.

Tell your story through data so we can communicate philanthropy's contribution to making a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.

If you found this update helpful, feel free to share it or shoot us an email! I’ll be back next month with another update.

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center.

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Quote of the Week

  • "Public education does not serve a public. It creates a public. And in creating the right kind of public, the schools contribute toward strengthening the spiritual basis of the American Creed. That is how Jefferson understood it, how Horace Mann understood it, how John Dewey understood it, and in fact, there is no other way to understand it...."

    — Neil Postman (1931-2003), American author, educator, media theorist, and cultural critic

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