Weekend Link Roundup (July 21-22, 2018)

July 22, 2018

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

Animal Welfare

Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther reports on the return of Wayne Pacelle, the former Human Society of the United States CEO who was forced to step down from his position six months ago after "a flurry of accusations of sexual harassment led to revolts among donors and staff."

Civic Engagement

In the Stanford Social Innovation Review, California Endowment president Robert K. Ross argues that what America disparately needs is a "shared vision for [the] nation that is born from our communities and [a] new social compact to support that vision."

Education

Researchers from Northeastern University have put numbers to something many of us suspected: geography largely determines access to quality schools. In Boston, where the research was conducted, a lack of good schools in predominately minority neighborhoods means that students in those neighborhoods had "fewer top schools from which to choose, had greater competition for seats in those schools, were less likely to attend them, and had to travel longer distances when they did attend them." Sara Feijo reports for Northeastern News.

Diversity

On the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, CEP's Ellie Buteau shares findings from a new CEP report, Nonprofit Diversity Efforts: Current Practices and the Role of Foundations, that was based on a survey of nonprofit leaders that asked them about diversity at their organizations and how foundations can be most helpful in this area.

Environment

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, a leading funder of conservation efforts in the American West, has announced a refresh of its grantmaking strategy for the region that includes a couple of new imperatives: listen more to grantees, partners, and communities; prioritize equity, inclusivity, and diversity; and take a systemic approach to policy change. Click here to learn more.

Giving

The new tax law doubles the amount of inheritance that can be exempted from estate tax to about $22 million for a married couple, leading many financial advisors to suggest that their customers will take advantage of the law and give the windfall to their families instead of charity. But a U.S. Trust survey of a hundred-plus high-net-worth individuals — those with investable assets of at least $3 million —found that 58 percent of of respondents said their level of charitable giving won't change as a result of the new law, while only 7 percent said they would give less. Fang Block reports for Barron's.

The HistPhil blog has launched a new series on the history of anonymous giving with contributions from HistPhil co-editor Benjamin Soskis and Adam Davis, a visiting fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge and professor of history at Denison University.

Health

New data from the Boston Indicators project captures "the true extent of the opioid problem in Massachusetts." And it's scary.

Here on PhilanTopic, Rain Henderson, the founder of Elemental Advisors, and Regina LaBelle of LaBelle Strategies share six areas where "foundations and individual donors, without having to reinvent themselves, could focus their resources and expertise and have real impact in terms of reducing the number of overdose deaths in America." 

Immigration/Asylum

The number of refugees entering the United States during the first seven months of the fiscal year was down 70 percent on a year-over-year basis and, at current rates, will total 22,000 for the full year — less than half the cap of 45,000 set by the Trump administration and the lowest number since Congress created the federal refugee resettlement in 1980. Jaweed Kaleem reports for the Los Angeles Times.

International Affairs/Development

Earlier this week, New York City became the first city in the world to present a progress report on the global Sustainable Development Goals, which were adopted by all 193 member states of the United Nations in 2015. The Urban Institute's Solomon Green and Brady Meixell explain why other cities can — and should — follow New York's lead.

Philanthropy

In a post on the NCRP blog, veteran foundation leader Allen Smart suggests that "the bulk of conversion foundations in the South are punching well below their weight...when it comes to funding structural change." And the reasons "aren’t mysterious."

In a Bloomberg video interview with private equity billionaire and philanthropist David Rubenstein, former Microsoft CEO and Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer credits his wife for pushing him to be more philanthropic.

Regulation/Oversight

The Treasury Department has announced that it will no longer require "tax-exempt organizations described by section 501(c), other than section 501(c)(3) organizations, to report the names and addresses of their contributors on the Schedule B of their Forms 990 or 990-EZ." Yes, the change will help protect the private information of nonprofit donors, writes NBC News' Jessica Levinson, but it  also is likely to make the flow of "dark money" into political campaigns less transparent than it already is and will "crack the door open wider to additional foreign influence in our elections."

And in a 217-199 vote on Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation that bars the IRS from revoking the tax-exempt status of churches that back political candidates unless it is specifically approved by the commissioner of the agency — a provision Politico characterizes as "a backdoor way around the so-called Johnson amendment, a half-century-old prohibition on nonprofits getting involved in political campaign activities." Brian Faler and Aaron Lorenzo report.

(Photo credit: Yuri Kabodnov/AFP)

That's it for this week. Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a note at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Redesigning Online Education for the Global South

July 20, 2018

Logo_PhilUPhilanthropy University was launched in 2015 with seven courses that served more than 220,000 users from over 180 countries. Despite this success, we decided a little more than a year ago to pause the delivery of these courses. How come?

To understand why, it's important to understand how the target audience of Philanthropy University has shifted. We initially designed courses for a broad audience of social impact organizations around the world, from large nonprofits in California to small civil society organizations in rural Pakistan.

By 2017, however, it was clear to us that the way to deepen our impact was by focusing on local organizations based in the Global South — the regions of Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Oceania that are generally low-income and tend to be politically and culturally marginalized. To ensure that our courses would be accessible and relevant to that audience, we realized we would need to redesign them.

Understanding the barriers for Global South learners

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) hold the potential to bring a single course to learners across the globe. But studies show that learners from more developed countries disproportionately enroll in and complete MOOCs. Given the seemingly untapped potential of MOOCs, Philanthropy University's Instructional Design team set out to understand the pain points and needs of learners in the Global South and how they access online course content. In an environment where MacBook Airs and Google Fiber are not the norm, could learners access an online course easily?

For example, the original Philanthropy University courses included short video lectures from some of the world's leading experts in capacity building. Qualitative feedback from learners in the Global South indicated, however, that Internet bandwidth constraints interfered with their ability to stream videos, while spotty Internet connectivity made it challenging to progress through the course content. "It was really difficult for me to watch the videos," a learner in Ghana told us. "They did not load. So most of the time, I was just reading the [video] transcripts. It was so difficult…. I couldn't watch them."

To address these technical constraints, we redesigned our platform and underlying technology in the following ways:

  1. Podcasts: Rather than relying on video to convey key course concepts, we transitioned critical content to a podcast format. This enables learners to access instructor insights through a medium that loads significantly faster than video and allows our team to test whether this popular content medium is an effective way to teach. We have drawn from the narrative storytelling style of pop culture podcasts to see how effectively it drives learning outcomes.
  2. Design for downloadability: Because learners indicated they do not have consistent access to the Internet — they may have it work but not at home — it was essential that we design courses for offline consumption. With that in mind, we focused on ensuring that key course components were downloadable and developed an Android app that allows learners to download content when connected to the Internet and then consume it on the go.

In addition to considering the technological barriers that our target users faced, we also paid attention to linguistic barriers. Philanthropy University courses are all designed in English, but that is not the native tongue of the majority of our target learners. So we redesigned the content of our courses to ensure they were accessible to non-native English speakers by:

  1. Simplifying language: We revisited all the language in our courses to explicitly define complex terms, simplify vocabulary and grammar, and design images and graphic organizers. In addition, we used language modeling and sentence frames to help English language learners participate in course discussions and assignments. Example: My greatest challenge in fundraising is _______ because ________.
  2. Creating scrolling transcripts: All media content in our courses was redesigned to include transcripts, as they often improve comprehension by helping learners visualize what they hear. Our redesigned platform includes a scrolling transcript feature that highlights media transcript text as it is spoken and allows learners to actively follow along with the transcript as they listen to the content.

Serving the needs of local organizations

The final question our Instructional Design team investigated related to content relevance. Feedback suggested that Global South learners felt the original courses were divorced from their own realities and needs. How could we ensure that courses taught applicable concepts for local leaders?

After some thought, we settled on redesigning the content in two ways:

  1. Applicable assignments: The original course assignments often asked learners to analyze case studies, many of which were based on contexts that would be unfamiliar to learners in the Global South. So we redesigned these assignments to serve as tools for the learner's own organization. By applying concepts to their own work, we ensured that the content of the assignment would be relevant and useful to the learner.
  2. Incorporating Global South voices: We also worked to incorporate the voice of the Global South learner into the design of the courses. Global South learners were invited to share their stories of applying course concepts within their own organizations. By including these stories and voices in the courses, we helped ensure the relevance of the content and positioned our learners as experts on their own context.

Course design should always be iterative, responding to the needs and feedback of learners. The process of redesigning Philanthropy University's original seven courses is just the first step in ensuring that our courses are accessible and relevant for our target users. We will continue to learn about our users' needs and push our thinking so that we can create MOOCs that are not only available to — but specifically designed for — Global South learners.

Maggie_CoffinTo learn more about Philanthropy University and our course offerings, check out our website.

Maggie Coffin is the manager of instructional design at Philanthropy University.

The Opioid Epidemic and the Urgent Need for a Philanthropic Response

July 19, 2018

Opioid_addiction_for_PhilanTopicPhilanthropy is critical to a flourishing democratic society, one in which a vision for solving intractable problems and empowering people to thrive is shared by most, if not all. Among other things, philanthropy has been a driver of some of the greatest breakthroughs in the public health area, including the discovery of a vaccine for polio and the development of antiretroviral therapy to address the scourge of HIV/AIDS. Yet as we consider the most urgent public health crisis in America today — the disease of addiction and the threat posed by the opioid epidemic to our communities and families — we are at a loss to explain the glaring absence of a robust philanthropic response.

Overdose is the number-one cause of accidental death in the United States, its impact felt across every demographic and zip code. Opioid overdoses alone kill more people in a weekend than the worst hurricane, and yet there has been no emergency-like response, from philanthropy or government. With a few notable exceptions, foundations and grantmakers focused on health and social issues have gone AWOL, leaving much-needed solutions desperate for funding support. Just recently, for example, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, one of the few foundations to focus on substance use disorders, announced that it will be phasing out its grantmaking in this area.

Throughout our careers, we have worked alongside some of the sharpest philanthropic minds and leading substance use experts and have come to believe that if more funders were to direct their resources to solving the opioid epidemic and addressing the addiction crisis in America, it would, at a minimum, catalyze a badly need response from government, business, and the private sector and lead to better health outcomes for millions of people.

Of the numerous recommendations put forward by experts in the field of addiction, there are six where foundations and individual donors, without having to reinvent themselves, could focus their resources and expertise and have real impact in terms of reducing the number of overdose deaths in America. 

1. Reduce the level of opioid prescribing. Foundations and individual donors can start by supporting groups working to advance medical and healthcare protocols and practices designed to reduce the unnecessary prescribing of opioids, an important first step to reducing the number of people who develop opioid addiction.

2. Expand access to treatment. To curb the epidemic, government and the private sector must work together to significantly expand access to evidence-based treatment, something philanthropy has played a role in delivering for other health issues. And to be most effective, a large-scale rollout of addiction treatment should be integrated into mainstream health care so that the 90 percent of people with substance use disorders who today do not receive treatment are reached. 

3. Scale local harm reduction efforts. Philanthropy can play a key role in scaling up harm-reduction efforts such as syringe services programs, fentanyl testing, and drug user health facilities — all of which have been proven to improve the health of individuals who suffer from opioid use disorder while reducing overdoses and transmission of bloodborne disease. 

4. Raise awareness and end stigma. To enhance treatment, prevention, and recovery supports for people with opioid use disorders, philanthropy should follow the roadmap it created for the scourge of cancer. Foundations can do much to raise public awareness of the fact that addiction is a chronic, recurring condition requiring ongoing social supports, including housing, behavioral therapy, and steady employment.

5. Scale promising practices. Regional foundations have become expert at scaling initiatives. Foundations can play a game-changing role in ending the opioid epidemic by intentionally seeking out opportunities to work with others to scale promising practices in at-risk communities.

6. Take risks. Solving a problem of this magnitude requires taking some risks, and foundations are well positioned, in a way that government and the private sector are not, to do that. While there are evidence-based practices that have been shown to be effective in reducing overdose deaths, foundations should also invest in cutting-edge programs with the potential to result in even bolder and more effective solutions. One example is fentanyl-testing programs, which help people with opioid use disorders avoid using the illicit and deadly opioid fentanyl. 

7. Offer hope. Unfortunately, the growing number of overdose deaths has created a sense of hopelessness among some who think the problem is too big to take on. We know much more about substance use disorders today than we did twenty years ago, however. And just as we have learned how to effectively treat, manage, and prevent diabetes, we can do the same with all forms of substance use disorders. The number of individuals dying from drug overdoses — more than sixty thousand in 2016 — should shock us. These deaths are preventable if we frame and treat addiction as a disease, one that has an early onset and can be prevented and treated. Foundations can do much to advance the science that shows addiction is not a moral failing, and to broaden the discussion about addiction to include the underlying causes of substance use disorders.

Foundations are instrumental in helping society navigate and develop solutions to our most complex challenges. The opioid epidemic cuts across many issue areas, including economic development, access to health care, employment, discrimination, trauma, and stigma. Foundations must lead on this urgent issue and do more to build the infrastructure needed to address substance use disorders and prevent the further loss of life.

Rain_henderson_regina_labelle_PhilanTopic

Rain Henderson is the founder of Elemental Advisors, which advises private- and social-sector leaders working to contribute to the health and well-being of Americans using evidence-based models, market structures, and metrics. Regina LaBelle of LaBelle Strategies advises nonprofits and public-sector agencies on strategies for effectively addressing the opioid epidemic. From 2009 to 2017, she served in the Obama administration as chief of staff and senior policy advisor in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

What's New at Foundation Center Update (July)

July 18, 2018

FC_logoSummer is a time to break from routine, rejuvenate, and reevaluate. As the thermometer climbs, Foundation Center is doing its part to refresh its thinking and processes to better serve the social sector. With that in mind, here's our June roundup:

Projects Launched

  • IssueLab launched its special Democracy Collection. In it, you'll find reports about election and campaign administration, voting access and participation, government performance and perceptions of that performance, the role of the media in democracy, and more. With the midterm elections fast approaching, this is a collection I'm personally digging into with added interest. Check it out and suggest an addition.
  • CF Insights launched the 2017 Columbus Survey Results Dashboard, which provides access to the most up-to-date, comprehensive dataset reflecting the current financial state of community foundations in the United States. The latest iteration of the dashboard also has new social media functionality that makes it easier for community foundations to raise their visibility in their communities by sharing their rankings with stakeholders and the public.
  • Our decades-old Funding Information Network (FIN) launched two new partnership packages in June that are designed to help libraries, community foundations, co-working spaces, and nonprofit resource centers better meet their local social sector needs.
  • Glasspockets launched a website refresh featuring a more user-friendly path for participation in the "Who Has Glass Pockets" transparency assessment and benchmarking tools. New content areas include how (and why) you can (and should) participate, and what to do if you're not sure where to start.
  • SDGfunders.org was re-launched with a new, dynamically updated dashboard. The platform tells the story of how philanthropic dollars are being used to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) goals and aims to foster better coordination among those working to build a better future for all.

Content Published

What We're Excited About

  • We'll be launching our 2017 Annual Report later this month. Look for stories on the importance of sharing knowledge, delivering data to local communities, strengthening the global philanthropic sector, servicing the needs of community foundations, and more.
  • We'll also be launching a new GrantCraft guide on participatory grantmaking at the end of the summer. Check out these videos from funders already engaged in the practice answering commonly asked questions about shifting the power in decision-making. Stay tuned for more!
  • Later this summer, our Midwest office will partner with DigitalC and Microsoft to launch the first Data Maturity Survey for Northeast Ohio/Cuyahoga County.

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Our staff will be attending these upcoming events:

Services Spotlight

  • 436,678 new grants added to Foundation Maps in June, of which 14,033 grants were made to 4,014 organizations outside the U.S.
  • Foundation Directory Online now includes more than 12 million grants. See this Eye on FDO blog post to learn more about the new Organization Search feature in FDO.
  • New data sharing partners: Ausherman Family Foundation, Inc.; Australian Executor Trustees; Brooks Foundation; Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation; Lord Mayors Charitable Foundation; Media Development Investment Fund; Susan McKinnon Foundation; Mutual Trustees; and We Raise Foundation. Tell your story through data so we can communicate philanthropy's contribution to making a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.
  • We provided custom searches for the Chronicle of Philanthropy and Executives' Alliance for Boys and Men of Color.
  • We're hosting a Proposal Writing Boot Camp in Detroit, MI, July 25-27

Data Spotlight

  • Funders have made grants totaling $3.8 billion in support of ocean and coastal waters around the world. Learn more at FundingTheOcean.org.
  • In 2016, foundation funding for SDG 10, Reducing Inequalities, totaled over $340 million. Check out the latest data on SDG funding at SDGfunders.org.

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.

A Conversation With La June Montgomery Tabron, President and CEO, W.K. Kellogg Foundation: Philanthropy and Racial Healing

July 16, 2018

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation was one of the first large foundations in the U.S. to apply a racial equity lens to its grantmaking, beginning in the mid-1960s with its investments in Historically Black Colleges and Universities, continuing in the 1990s with initiatives aimed at narrowing the digital divide in poor and rural communities, and more recently under the banner of America Healing, a five-year, $75 million initiative launched in 2010 to improve life outcomes for vulnerable children and their families through the promotion of racial healing and the elimination of barriers to economic opportunities.

In recent years, the foundation has moved to amplify its racial equity and reconciliation work through its Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (THRT) framework, a national and place-based process launched in 2016 to bring about transformational and sustainable change and address the historic and contemporary effects and consequences of racism.

Recently, PND spoke with Tabron, who became president and CEO of the foundation in January 2014 after serving in numerous leadership positions there over twenty-six years, about the foundation’s TRHT work, the importance of emerging leadership in such work, and what institutional philanthropy can do to advance those efforts.

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Philanthropy News Digest: The Kellogg Foundation launched its Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) effort in 2016. Are you pleased with the results of the effort to date?

La June Montgomery Tabron: As you know, the Kellogg Foundation has been working in this space strategically for several decades. Roughly a decade of that work was done under the banner of America Healing, which was an initiative aimed at addressing what we believed was a lack of connection and of mutual understanding in American society. The goal of America Healing was to foster a different level of awareness of how relationships are built by sharing stories and enabling people to come together in their common humanity. And what we learned is that, yes, we need to encourage people to build these relationships and share these stories, but at the same time the real levers for change are at the local, grassroots level, and that by embedding this kind of work in communities, it truly can be transformative.

That realization led directly to the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation effort, which took what we learned from America Healing and our knowledge that relationships were at the root of this kind of work and placed it squarely in a local context. Racial healing has to be rooted in relationship building and common experience, and so TRHT brings together people who live in the same community to think about how they can create a better, more equitable community together.

To your question of where we are to date, I think it is moving in exactly that direction, of making change happen locally. We have fourteen places in the United States working in this space. They all are creating their own plans. And no plan looks alike, which is exactly what we expected. But those plans all are characterized by the richness of diversity that comes from being place-specific, from different sectors coming together to work on a common problem, from identifying a starting point and coming up with real, practical solutions for how transformation can be achieved. We are very pleased with the work to date and the fact that it's taking place at the ground level, which is where the Kellogg Foundation is most comfortable.

PND: Would you say the country is more divided or less divided on issues of race today than when you launched TRHT?

LMT: I'm not sure we know. We see and hear the divisive discourse in the media. We look at polls, but polling data can be informed by the divisive discourse we all are exposed to. What I see and hear is a weariness in people with respect to the division in the country. Personally, I don't believe we know whether things are better or worse, because back when we launched our Truth, Racial Heal­ing & Transformation work the conversation was different, and it's hard to compare conversations that are rooted in different circumstances.

However, I can say that when we bring people together in communities and there's a space made for authentic dialogue, which is the basis of our TRHT work, people are willing to be open with each other. Even if they don't start there, that's where they end up. There's a positivity that emerges when a group of people decides to leave the divisive rhetoric behind and engages in a very local and often personal conversation. No one wants to live in a community where the police are seen to be racially biased. No one wants to live in a community where the public schools are failing, and kids are being denied the opportunity to achieve. No one wants to live in a community where a few people have a lot and most people don’t have enough. Most people see those kinds of communities as the exception, the anomaly, and they're eager to make sure their community isn't one of them. That's the kind of thoughtfulness and commitment we are trying to leverage as we engage with community leaders and ask them to be more forward-looking and equitable.

PND: Over the last few years, we’ve seen a growing number of foundations — large and small, local and national — adopt a racial equity lens in their work. Do you see that development as a vindication of TRHT?

LMT: First, I'm very pleased to see that this conversation is becoming more widespread and is being acknowledged as the norm. There was a time when Americans didn't want to speak about race, and the fact that race-focused conversations are more common today and we have a shared vocabulary that we can use to discuss these issues is something we at the foundation are pleased about. That change required leadership, and I think we were willing, and our board was willing, to step into that leadership space and name, squarely and forthrightly, what was happening in our country and the impact it was having on our children.

And, of course, we want the transformative part of the work to be embraced and funded by others. This cannot be the work of one foundation; this has to be the work of a nation. The way we have approached this work has always been to be fully inclusive and collaborative. It was always our goal that this would extend well beyond the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Indeed, we believe it should extend far beyond the United States of America; this is a global issue.

PND: One of the key components of TRHT is its focus on emerging leaders. Does the Kellogg Foundation have a working definition of emerging leadership? And why is emerging leadership so important in the context of racial equity?

LMT: We do believe emerging leadership is important, extremely important. The Kellogg Foundation was created because its founder believed that people are the most important ingredient in the change equation. And at the end of the day, people not only make change, they sustain change. Leadership is critical to creating the kind of community you want, and to sustaining that community. As we think about our work, everything we do is fundamentally built on supporting leaders, their aspirations, and making them the agents of the kind of change they want to see.

Your readers may not know this, but our leadership programs date back to the founding of the institution. And in all our leadership programs, we address the issue of equity and racial equity as a fundamental aspect of effective leadership. Regardless of the level at which they are working, leaders have to understand this context as they are working. Our new leadership program, the WKKF Community Leadership Network, isn't separate from our Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation work; it's connected, as is all our work. So, as we are working to build and sustain racially equitable communities, our leadership program is focused on collaboration, networking, and how you make and sustain local change. That work is critical.

PND: When we spoke with you in 2014, you told us that the fact that women had been tapped to lead several major foundations wasn't necessarily proof that gender equality in the sector had been achieved. I think you analogized the development to the election of Barack Obama as president, referring to both as "transactions," albeit positive ones, in a long process toward racial and gender equality. In your view, are we making progress as a country in terms of full equality for women and people of color?

LMT: My fundamental sentiment hasn't changed. I still believe that we've had transactions, both good and bad. When you look at the data, you still see disparities in earnings for women: white women earn 82 percent of what their male counterparts earn, while African-American women earn 63 percent. Clearly, we still have work to do in this space.

What we at the Kellogg Foundation would hope to see is a more systemic approach to these issues, one that goes beyond transactions. That's how we think about all our work. Things happen, but it will take a systemic approach at the national level to transform those transactions into everyday practice.

We're not there yet. We are making progress. There have been policy shifts in that direction, but we can't claim victory, and it would be naïve to do so. What we can do is continue to be a good partner and highlight the evidence and best practices that come out of our work, share them more broadly with others and support them as they work to advance systemic, sustainable change that impacts everyone.

PND: Do you think foundations, and the sector more generally, are doing enough to support not only organizations working in communities of color, but also organizations led by people of color? And do you have any specific recommendations for donors and funders who are thinking about doing more in this area?

LMT: We can all do more. It's very important for us, as we partner with a community, to get to the level where we understand the dynamic of who these organizations are and what the community mapping looks like. I encourage all funders to increase their level of awareness of the landscapes in which they are playing as they enter a new field or geography. What I find too often, however, is that when you try to do that, the data you need isn't always available. One of the things we've been thinking about as we examine our community leadership network, as well as our Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation work, is how we can help communities build and collect that type of information so that it’s readily available to funders who want to understand the players in the community, how they connect, and what the larger ecosystem looks like. But again, the best thing we can do as funders is be more informed as we enter these spaces.

PND: Is there an organization in particular that should be filling this role? Or is it something for a coalition of funders and nonprofits to do together?

LMT: That's a good question. I think it could be an entity that already has a role in the space that is willing to take on the larger ecosystem. But it should be a part of the first conversations that any coalition has as it starts to come together. One of the first things we think about is the landscape. Again, it's only one way, even though we hope every com­munity across the nation conducts such an analysis. As you know, we've produced a Business Case for Racial Equity nation­ally, as well as in Mississippi, Michigan, New Mexico, and New Orleans. And if you look at those reports, it's both a compelling way of thinking about landscape and a tool that any community could use to quantify its own growth potential if it were to make everyone in the community a productive citizen and full participant in the life of the community.

PND: If I'm not mistaken, the figure you came up with for the U.S. economy is $8 trillion.

LMT: Yes, $8 trillion by 2050, and for our home state of Michigan the figure was $92 billion. I was recently on Mackinac Island for the Mackinac Policy Conference, which brings together business leaders and policy makers from the state, and our business case was distributed to and discussed by conference attendees. What was so interesting was that the findings were juxtaposed with another con­versation about how commun­ities and municipalities are woefully underfunded. It was a perfect opportunity for us to demonstrate that there's money being left on the table as we all think about how to grow and strengthen communities and municipalities and families.

The real value of these reports is in connecting dots that people don't normally connect. If you're an elected official in a municipality and your only concern is to complain to the state about the inade­quate flow of resources to your city, maybe these reports will help you see that there are things you yourself can do to transform your city and bring more people into the workforce, grow your tax base, and create opportunity where maybe those things were lacking.

PND: It sounds ambitious. Where does it start?

LMT: We started nationally, and now we're doing it state by state. Our theory of change is that it is a very useful document if you're a policy maker looking for wins in your community. It's an important document for businesses as well, in that business leaders are always thinking about ways they can grow their business. At the Mackinac conference, we had several conversations with business leaders who were thinking about their workforce needs, and how critical it is at this moment to create a pipeline of skilled workers who will are able to do the jobs that need to be done. But, of course, we can't talk about the workforce of the future without talking about biases, including racial bias, however unconscious it might be.

That said, we've seen a great deal of interest in the reports on the part of business leaders. In fact, later today I'm meeting with a repre­sentative of the United States Chamber of Commerce, which is considering sharing the national report with every chamber chapter, because they see the potential from a business strategy perspective, just as we see it from a human and equity perspective.

At the end of the day, we believe a multi-sectoral approach is needed to address these issues, which are public issues, they're busi­ness-economic issues, they're faith-based issues. And so, we're working to forge coalitions and share with them our Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation message. And we hope other places will look at our report as a tool as they begin to think about the changes they want to make in their com­munities. Creating productive human capital is something we should all be for.

PND: Can you imagine a future in which the Kellogg Foundation no longer will feel the need to apply a racial equity lens to its work?

LMT: I don't know. Racial equity isn't something we do because it's a nice thing to do. It's the core issue out of which everything else we do flows. Whether it's growing the economy, improving the education system, having a healthier nation — racial equity is at the core of the transformation that needs to happen in all those areas. In that respect, we will continue to work to connect the dots and bring people together.

Your question reminds me of a moment I had when we were opening two museums in Mississippi. Myrlie Evers, Medgar Evers' wife, came up to me and said, "I've gone through days of feeling great, and sometimes health challenged, but through all of this, I've never felt more hopeful that my husband's life and death has not been in vain. I see what you are doing at the Kellogg Foundation, and it gives me hope that we are continuing to make the progress we need to make as a country."

And you know, when I think about young people, particularly those young people in Parkland, Florida, I am hopeful. What I see from our younger generation is people who are not in denial about the issue of race. This country has spent centuries in denial, and one thing I am thankful for in this very tumultuous time is that it is no longer possible to be in denial. Our young people are living the reality and the truth of who we are as a nation, they are courageous, and they are taking these issues on. And they are moving at a much faster pace than I've seen in the past. I think we're on the threshold of a great new movement that will change the face of the nation, and it will be led by young people. So, I'm hopeful about the future and believe our young people will get this done.

Matt Sinclair

Weekend Link Roundup (July 14-15, 2018)

July 15, 2018

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

Education

In the twenty-first century, are private secondary schools antithetical to the public good? On the Aeon site, Jack Schneider, a scholar of education history and policy at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, considers the arguments for and against.

Environment

Ireland has announced that it will completely divest itself of investments in fossil fuels over the next five years, becoming the first country to make such a commitment. Adele Peters reports for Fast Company.

Governance

According to a new report from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, nonprofit boards "that include a higher percentage of women tend to have board members who participate more in fundraising and advocacy. [And members] of these boards also tend to be more involved in the board's work." You can view the full report (58 pages, PDF) here and the executive summary (8 pages, PDF) here.

Health

A little bit of good news. A report from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association finds that the rate of opioid use disorder among its members declined last year to 5.9 per 1,000, compared to 6.2 per 1,000 the year before, while the decline in opioid prescriptions being filled by doctors has fallen 29 percent nationally since 2013. Christopher Zara reports for Fast Company.

Higher Education

Forbes contributor Josh Moody tries to answer the question: Why are there so few women at the top of the Ivory Tower?

Nonprofits

In a guest post on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Social Velocity's Nell Edgington suggests that tax reform passed by the Republican-controlled in December may not be the end of the world for nonprofits and the nonprofit sector.

Philanthropy

The Bush Foundation in St. Paul recently was ranked by the First Nations Development Institute as the seventh biggest foundation funder of Native issues in the U.S.  "On one hand, it is exciting to be recognized as one of the top funders of Native American organizations and causes," writes Jen Reedy, the foundation's president. "On the other hand, we are really small compared to most of the other foundations on the list. So being ranked so high is actually more of a indication that giving to Native issues is just not a priority to most other foundations." 

"Philanthropy is 'coherent' when it is logical, well-organized, well-planned and sensible – as well as easy to understand and articulate," writes philanthropy consultant and Denver Post columnist Bill DeBoskey. To help families, foundations, and family offices achieve that coherence, DeBoskey shares six key lessons he has learned over the years.

Here on PhilanTopic, Foundation Center president Brad Smith suggests that in the present cultural/political environment, foundations may have to forego short-term gains if they want to "win" the long game.

Social Media

Fact of the Day: the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag has been used on Twitter almost 30 million times.

And on the Communications Network blog, Michael Roston, a senior staff editor at the New York Times, shares some lessons that the Times' social media desk has learned about the effective use of Twitter.

(Photo credit: AFP / Charly Triballeau)

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

 

Philanthropy in the War Zone

July 12, 2018

Broken-glassMost of the things philanthropists care about — civility, moderation, partnership, consensus — are fast disappearing. Our country, and much of the world, seem to be moving to a kind of scorched-earth politics in which division along ethnic, racial, religious, gender and identity lines is the currency of power. As ideologies become more rigid, people increasingly are balkanized into spatially segregated communities and social media echo chambers. In this kind of undeclared war, being right and winning are all that matter, with seemingly no aisle to cross and no common ground.

How should foundations navigate the world of 2018 and beyond? How can they? To be sure, foundations have something valuable to contribute — flexible resources free from market, electoral, and fundraising pressures. But will they use them to fight, transcend, or simply ignore the conflict that surrounds them?

Fight to Win…

As long as they do not run afoul of IRS restrictions on explicitly partisan political activity and lobbying to influence specific legislation, foundations and their grantee partners may and often do engage in politics (with a small "p"). One way to track foundations’ political engagement is to look not at the "what" of their grantmaking but the "how." At Foundation Center, we refer to these as "support strategies," which include cross-cutting approaches such as advocacy, coalition building, accountability, grassroots organizing, litigation, and systems reform. Collectively, these approaches have accounted for $27.5 billion in funding around the world since 2006. While that is less than 6 percent of total grantmaking over the same period, it is a significant amount and, in recent years, has grown. When we have more complete data for 2017 and 2018, I’m sure it will show the trend is accelerating.

“As befits a sector that prides itself on its diversity of perspectives, foundations have different views of what the solutions should be....”

Foundations are also striving to make American democracy itself work better. Foundation Funding for American Democracy (a web portal developed by Foundation Center) shows that since 2011 more than 5,600 foundations have made some $4.2 billion in grants for work related to campaigns, elections and voting, government effectiveness and transparency, and civic participation. As befits a sector that prides itself on its diversity of perspectives, these foundations have different views of what the solutions should be. Consider, for example, a grant from the Grogan Family Foundation to Judicial Watch "to fight corruption and voter fraud" and a grant made by the Joyce Foundation to the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Fund for "…developing and promoting a reform agenda that includes redistricting, judicial independence and voting rights." Both foundations and their grantees are working to improve the electoral process, but they have diagnosed the problem differently and are supporting quite different remedies.

Implicit to the theories of change that guide this kind of work is the idea that approaches developed by grantees eventually will be reflected in party platforms and government policy. But there are plenty of indications that growing numbers of Americans view the political establishment, government institutions, and parties themselves as part of the problem rather than the solution. Increasingly, we find ourselves mired in a culture war in which the rules of engagement seem to reward portraying "the other" as an enemy to be vanquished, rather than as a potential partner in the search for a common future. In such a war, foundations increasingly will need to ask themselves and their grantees how far they are willing to go to "win." Should foundations support groups that dehumanize immigrants by derisively describing government policy toward them as “catch and release” (a term whose origins relate to sport fishing)? Should they support groups that demonize their opponents when they casually label them Nazis or fascists?

...but Risk Losing

The future is likely to be even more contentious, and foundations may have to reach out to those who are willing to fight hard for change — inside and beyond traditional parties and institutions — without resorting to scorched-earth tactics, people and organizations that are willing to risk losing in the short term in order to "win" the long game. Deep, lasting reform takes time, may contribute to electoral or policy setbacks in the near term, and, to the extent that it is about political power, is inherently risky. When you take a controversial stand, people on the opposite side will come after you with everything at their disposal, including legal action, official investigations, and, in some cases, personal attacks. Ask the foundations that are advocating for other foundations to divest themselves of their fossil fuel-related assets. Look at the way the media has gone after foundations like George Soros’s Open Society Foundations or the Bradley Foundation. Taking or supporting a controversial position is risky whether one’s vision leans conservative or progressive. When doing so, foundations should not expect that they'll be able to hide behind their grantees. Instead, they will have to "own what they fund," as those eager to criticize them will reasonably assume any grant reflects a foundation's own organizational position and beliefs.

“Make no mistake, an ideologically motivated attack against the legitimate activities of any one foundation is an assault on all of philanthropy....”

The more foundations fight, the more organizations like the Philanthropy Roundtable and the Council on Foundations will need to step up and defend philanthropic freedom, regardless of the issue. Make no mistake, an ideologically motivated attack against the legitimate activities of any one foundation is an assault on all of philanthropy.

Transcend

Inevitably, some foundations will look at the world around them and see forces at work that are beyond the power of their grant dollars to change. Whether it's because they don't have the staff resources or the inclination to engage with a contentious issue, they may decide to transcend the turmoil of the moment and focus their investments on the long-term future. We're all familiar with examples of seemingly whimsical pursuits like sending a manned mission to Mars, but I'm thinking of more concerted  initiatives such as the Science Philanthropy Alliance.

SPA was created by a group of nine foundations to "ensure more private funding is earmarked for the kinds of research initiatives that have led to the scientific, technological and medical breakthroughs that fuel our technology and information-driven economy of the 21st century." Among the alliance's members are some of the most prestigious names in American and global philanthropy, names like Alfred P. Sloan, Gordon and Betty Moore, and the UK-based Wellcome Trust, as well as newer philanthropies such as the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative and the Eric & Wendy Schmidt Fund for Strategic Innovation.

It's a perfect example of how foundations can use their financial assets, intellectual capital, and freedom to focus on the long-term by supporting the kinds of basic scientific research that may lead to the next big breakthrough a generation from now -- or to nowhere. While it's a sign of our times that supporting science is seen in some quarters as a political act, this particular group of funders has decided to ignore the daily slings and arrows of Twitter and march boldly into the future.

“[Most foundation funding] represents the kind of steady, annual support that has built the magnificent institutions that are so vital to American life....”

Business as Usual

Undoubtedly, the majority of foundations will ignore the turmoil and retain their traditional focus on health, education, and the arts, with grants large and small being made to alma maters, hospitals that have cared for loved ones, and symphony halls. Together, these areas of giving account for nearly 60 percent of all foundation funding in the United States. Yes, a small portion of this funding can be controversial, to the extent it supports arts productions that defy societal convention, university programs that focus on issues of race, or organizations working to ensure equality of access to health care. But most of it represents the kind of steady, annual support that has built the magnificent institutions that are so vital to American life. In their own way, these foundations are betting on such institutions to be there for all of us when we finally emerge from these tumultuous times.

Philanthropy in the war zone is tough. As endowed private institutions, foundations do have choices: they can fight, transcend, conduct business as usual, or adopt some or all these approaches simultaneously. Whatever they choose, foundations will continue to be essential in helping America find its way through to the brighter, more constructive future that is ours to create.

Bradford K. Smith is president of Foundation Center.

Disrupting Arts Philanthropy: Five Lessons Learned

July 10, 2018

Memphis_music_initiative_1The work of Memphis Music Initiative (MMI), which was featured in the recent study Toward the Future of Arts Philanthropy, is centered on  community empowerment through arts funding. The study explores MMI's funding and programmatic practices in the context of promoting equity and inclusive practices in arts funding, access to arts education, and youth development and offers a potential strategic framework for other capacity builders committed to equity in the arts.

The effects of race and place on access to funding and other resources are evident in what we call "philanthropic redlining" — patterns of exclusionary funding practices that all too regularly frustrate arts organizations led by people of color and hamper their efforts to serve marginalized communities. As noted in our study, public funding for the arts at the state and federal levels is down as much as 30 percent over the last decade, and the situation for black- and brown-led organizations, which are often dependent on such funding, is even more precarious. At MMI, a crucial aspect of our work is our commitment to address this issue through a proactive, and corrective, approach we call "disruptive philanthropy."

In addition to operating direct programs that provide music engagement opportunities for black and brown youth, we work to nurture and expand the arts ecosystem in Memphis by supporting community organizations working on the frontlines to increase access to music programs for youth of color. We believe that investments in black-led organizations are an investment in long-term community sustainability. We invest to build strong and efficient organizations — with a focus on communities of color — through general operating support grants as well as supports aimed at fostering sustainability and improving the quality of their programs. Our goal is to enhance the capacity of nonprofit organizations to deliver programs and secure sustainable funding and other resources beyond those provided by MMI. We are working to build a pipeline of community-based leaders dedicated to improving conditions for black and brown youth and to give black and brown leaders the space and time to fulfill their potential and achieve their goals.

In our direct programs, we take our people-centered investment to an even higher level. Our summer program, MMI Works, provides paid opportunities for high school students to work in arts nonprofits and businesses. Participating black and brown youth gain access to career training as well as professional and personal development, building the skills and the networks needed for long-term success. We also invest in the region's creative economy through our In-Schools Fellowship program, which pairs local musicians with Memphis schools and reaches more than four thousand students through instruction and mentorship.

We are a learning organization and constantly evaluate what is working well and what we can improve on. Here are five takeaways from our work that continue to inform our disruptive approach:

1. It's not about you, Philanthropy. Philanthropic work isn't about showing how smart you are; it's about empowering and liberating people. Those who seek to help must respect the community as experts in order to drive solutions that work for the world that they know best. Our work doesn't exist in a vacuum. Whether it's musicians, neighborhood leaders, youth, or teachers, we need as many voices in the room as possible if we are to represent the true needs and interests of those we aim to serve.

2. Brace yourself for difficult conversations. Be prepared to take a lot of heat when you start to talk about moving money and shifting power. It's a zero-sum game. For an organization like ours based in the racialized South, the realities of the region's past play out on a daily basis. In order to move through and past those dynamics, there has to be frank and honest recognition of the institutional practices and structures that have led to the historical neglect of black- and brown-led organizations and communities. And that requires deep thinking about the equitable practices you employ, at every level of your work.

3. "Relationships are the new grant application." This idea was inspired by a colleague and friend in equity and community-based work, Takema Robinson, principal at New Orleans-based consulting firm Converge. Thanks to Takema, MMI will be grantee report- and application-free by 2019. In an effort to rethink the kind and amount of information we need from our partners, we are transitioning from an already short application form to verbal site visit-based reporting. We have always funded, engaged, and partnered with organizations no matter where they are on the organizational development continuum. But by meeting organizations where they are and dispensing with the trappings of traditional grantmaking, we hope to make it easier for our partners to focus on their missions and efforts to engage youth of color.

4. Impatience and comfort zones are enemies of impact. Disrupting established patterns of philanthropy requires focusing on long-term results and reexamining one's relationship with the words "data" and "evaluation." The kinds of metrics funders have traditionally used to capture "impact" does not have to be the only way we measure success in this work. Just as it has taken many years for the practices that perpetuate disparities and unequal distribution of resources to become ingrained in the sector, it will take time and new tactics to change the system for the better.

5. Stop centering whiteness in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts. This means shifting away from prioritizing the perspective of any group — including gender, sexual orientation, or class —that traditionally has had the upper hand in philanthropic power dynamics. MMI is led mostly by people of color, and in our work we intentionally empower other leaders of color in arts organizations to have voice. As we recognize organizations for their individual programs, we also push leaders of color to build relationships and foster partnerships that support and encourage their peers.

By no means is this an exhaustive list of what it takes to disrupt philanthropy. The elements may vary based on the community context and operating ethos of each organization. The common thread to a disruptive approach is taking whatever step it takes to "do philanthropy differently." We do not take the journey of this work for granted; we approach it with humility on a daily basis. We believe that our youth, families, and neighborhoods deserve not only different types of support, but exponentially more of our time, talent, and treasure, and our experiences continue to shape and refine our work as we endeavor to be timely and responsive in addressing the needs of the community. We hope that our work will offer some insights that can be replicated in other philanthropic initiatives aimed at spurring transformative change in communities of color.

Kiesha_davis_for_PhilanTopicKiesha Davis is director of grantmaking and capacity building at Memphis Music Initiative, where she leads a team responsible for investments to build strong and efficient organizations serving communities of color.

5 Questions for...Ruth LaToison Ifill, Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Council on Foundations

July 05, 2018

Ruth LaToison Ifill was named vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the Council on Foundations in May, succeeding Floyd Mills. A military spouse, LaToison Ifill previously served as the manager of national career development services for veterans and military family members for Goodwill Industries International, where she also spearheaded initiatives to improve organizational understanding of and engagement with diversity and inclusion issues internally and in program implementation.

PND spoke with LaToison Ifill about the ways in which the council is working with member foundations to promote DEI across the sector and support systems change; the importance of data and intersectionality to that work; and the impact funders can have on the racial leadership gap at nonprofits.

Headshot_Ruth_LaToison_IfillPhilanthropy News Digest: The position of vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion was created in 2016 "to advance the council's work to promote inclusiveness as a fundamental operating principle in philanthropic organizations." How has philanthropy's approach to DEI changed over the last two years? And do you feel there's a greater sense of urgency now given the current political environment?

Ruth LaToison Ifill: I think the biggest change is that there is now a very robust ecosystem of philanthropic organizations and philanthropy-serving organizations that are working to drive diversity in the field in a myriad of ways. The council, specifically, has been partnering with, but also is being held accountable by, its member organizations. Together, we are demonstrating leadership and developing a diverse talent pipeline in philanthropy through our Career Pathways program, which has already seen great success and graduated sixty-one people of different ethnicities, backgrounds, and beliefs, 87 percent of whom have gone on to take senior and executive appointments at foundations. At the same time, the council's board is more diverse than it's ever been, which has led us to be more vocal and strategic in our internal efforts and in the services we deliver to our members.

We engage with over a thousand philanthropic organizations, and we are seeing incremental changes in the way our members are doing business. More and more of our members are focusing on racial equity and on the LGBTQ community in ways they were not before. So, we are seeing the sector change, but there's still much work that needs to be done, and we're collaborating with the sector and our partners to accomplish that work.

I hate to give credit to the current political environment, and I want to be fair to the previous administration, which was instrumental in raising DEI up as an issue. But the council had already been actively working to make the world a more inclusive place and highlighting the importance of respecting people regardless of which group they belong to or how they identify — and that became even more important as we saw people whom we love and care about being disparaged. We need to respond to that, of course, but our work on these issues started well before the current environment and only has become more urgent.

PND: What has the council been doing to support foundations' efforts to advance DEI in the field? And what is your number-one priority for that work over the next year or so?

RLI: It's about advancing the work and "inching" our members forward. The philanthropic sector is a big ship with a lot of moving parts and a complicated ecosystem of different types of organizations led by different kinds of people. We first need to demonstrate the cultural humility needed to do the hard work of expanding our perspective and understanding marginalized populations; there are leaders in this space who are already doing work that we can learn from. Philanthropy must be intentional about listening and learning, and that's a process that takes time. We at the council want to be a part of our members' process of learning and broadening their perspectives.

My priorities in this new role are intersectionality and data. Sometimes we can get stuck on the one issue we care about most or the one issue that gets the most attention, but I firmly believe this is not a zero-sum game. We really want people to see the importance of focusing on multiple communities and of paying attention to the data about how local communities are affected. For example, if you're a foundation and immigration is a major issue in your community, the data you are collecting about the impact of your work in that community should help you respond. Paying attention to the data specific to each community is how we want foundations to approach this work: to look at the focus on their giving, the composition of their boards, their staff, and then determine when and where they need to make changes in order to more closely align their work with their mission.

PND: While at Goodwill Industries, you oversaw the organization's efforts to develop a culture of learning and diversity. What were the greatest challenges you encountered in that work? And are there lessons you learned there that you feel apply to the work you'll be doing for the council?

RLI: I learned at Goodwill that it's all about data. Any DEI professional will tell you that "diversity, equity, and inclusion" has to be a part of the effectiveness of every team, program, or service. Data is what helps to keep you relevant, innovative, and morally responsible. By focusing on impact data — not just the number of people served but how their lives were improved — you can help make the best case for DEI. If you're in the diversity space and trying to effect change, gathering, analyzing, and using data to outline your next steps is critical. That's true for any type of foundation, whether it's a community foundation, a large family or private foundation, or a large corporate giving program.

Goodwill has a data analytics initiative that's going to be integrated from retail all the way to mission services and workforce development. Paying attention to data that shows who you serve and how equitably marginalized communities are served — that's what helps steer the ship in a more holistic and intersectional direction. Most people, innately, want to do good, but without impact data you don't know how or where you need to make changes to do good in a meaningful way. And data helps you tell the story. You can say you're committed to diversity and inclusivity, but if you don't have data from your board and HR team, if you don't have data on recruiting and on the kinds of organizations you're giving money to, and on the populations those grantees are serving, and how equitably or inequitably they are receiving services, you're going to find it hard to make change.

At the council, the Grantmaker Salary and Benefits Survey looks at a lot of data, particularly at the CEO level, and last year we parsed out some of that data in our diversity report, State of Change: An Analysis of Women and People of Color in the Philanthropic Sector. One of the things we'll be working on is how to take this analysis to the next level: how do we get more information from the sector, to make informed and meaningful impact for populations that have been historically marginalized in our sector?

PND: Are there specific aspects of DEI work that foundations should be paying more attention to?

RLI: I think one blind spot is intersectionality. As I said, this is not a zero-sum game. We can't stop paying attention to people because we want to talk about issues. When foundations look closely at their impact data, they'll find that their passion for people and communities requires them to recognize that certain populations are more negatively affected than others by many of the problems philanthropy is trying to solve. You can't try to improve a local community's access to food and water without intersectionality. You can't say you care about dismantling systems that perpetuate poverty and then ignore the fact that communities of color often are displaced to areas without access to healthy food or cultural amenities or decent public transportation. Issues like poverty, food access, and race are inextricably linked. In the same vein, if you want to improve the overall mental health of youth in America, you can't ignore research that shows which populations are the most affected; you have to talk about LGBTQ youth, who are more prone to commit suicide at unacceptably higher rates. If certain populations are disproportionately impacted by an issue philanthropy is responding to, philanthropy has to care about intersectionality; you have to target your efforts to those populations.

PND: For the most part, private foundations are created by people deeply embedded in and rewarded by existing economic and power arrangements. Does that fact complicate their ability to address structural racism and drive real systems change in society?

RLI: It certainly has the potential to influence the lenses that donors and philanthropic leaders apply to their work, but there are organizations like the Meyer and W.K. Kellogg foundations that are taking the lead in this area. It's the responsibility of each philanthropic organization to think carefully about how their funding model addresses structural racism, and it's our responsibility at the council to pay attention and respond. There are people committed to holding organizations accountable around the impact their dollars can and should be making in communities, and some of the work we're doing with our Inclusive Economic Prosperity events reflects that. It's not lost on those of us at the council, or our partners, or the attendees at our Inclusive Economic Prosperity events, how racial and economic disparities are inextricably connected. We have to start somewhere, though, so the council will continue the work to hold people accountable, and we'll do what we can to ensure that racial equity is highlighted as we work to address economic issues, with the ultimate goal of creating more equity as we create more opportunities for wealth.

Given the wealth that foundations control and the prosperity that many philanthropic leaders have been afforded, foundations must pay attention to the way their grantmaking affects racial and economic inequities. The Building Movement Project's Race to Lead report series about the racial leadership gap in the nonprofit sector talks about how philanthropy, through grantmaking, affects how nonprofits select their leaders and board members: patterns of how they give and to whom they give affect the diversity of the leadership in the sector. Which is why private foundations, corporate foundations, and community foundations all have a responsibility to pay attention to how their actions affect existing power dynamics.

— Kyoko Uchida

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (June 2018)

July 03, 2018

Just in time for your midweek Independence Day celebration, here's a quick look back at the most popular posts on the blog in June. Enjoy!

Fourth-of-July-fireworks-479x278

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.

Weekend Link Roundup (June 30-July 1, 2018)

July 01, 2018

Lionel-Messi-en-souffrance-lors-de-France-Argentine_w484Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Civic Tech

International Affairs/Development

On the GuideStar blog, Gabe Cohen, the organization’s senior director of marketing and communications, talks with Mari Kuraishi, president of GlobalGiving (which she co-founded with Dennis Whittle in 2001), about the organization's founding and early years and the values and qualities the organization is looking for in its next leader.

Leadership

In the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Vu Le suggests that the best leaders may be those who are "willing to give up the things they care about, not out of pity and charity, but in recognition of and in response to systemic injustice. Among other things, it means sometimes we men do not apply for that perfect job, even if we think we are well qualified for it. It means white allies sometimes do not take the microphone, literally or figuratively, so that others can have a chance to speak and be heard. It means larger organizations sometimes do not pursue catalytic grants, even if they have a high chance of getting them, and instead support the smaller, grassroots organizations led by marginalized communities. It means foundations share decision-making power with nonprofits and communities who have lived through the inequity they are trying to address."

LGTBQ

Kee Tobar, a Stoneleigh Foundation Emerging Leader Fellow and an attorney in the Youth Justice Project at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, marks the end of Pride Month with a guest post on the Generocity site that highlights the "closet to poverty pipeline" in which too mnay LGBTQ youth find themselves trapped.

Nonprofits

Jutt back from a busy week at the IFC-ASIA: Ecoystems for Good conference in Thailand, Beth Kanter shares some tips that will help you design a formal reflection process that can lead to improved project or event results.

On the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Naomi Orensten, CEP's director of research, shares the latest results of a survey of funders it periodically conducts to better understand their perceptions across a number of dimensions of CEP's work, engagement with and use of its research, and experiences as users of its assessment and advisory services.

Philanthropy

In The Atlantic, Alexis C. Madrigal talks to Stanford professor Rob Reich, whose new book,Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, makes the case for private foundations as an un-democratic force in American society. Reich bases his claim on four main arguments: foundations are unaccountable to voters or to marketplace competition; they are not transparent; they are are donor-directed and do not have to consider the perspectives or feedback of the people they were set up to help; and they are tax-subsidized, meaning that tax dollars that would have gone "to the government, where at least there is nominal democratic control over spending priorities," is instead spent on whatever social purpose the foundation donor decides to support.

In a post on the NCRP blog, Nathan Boon, a program officer with the William Penn Foundation, outlines some of the things the Philadelphia-based foundation has done to refocus its institutional priorities on racial equity and justice.

On Transparency Talk (the Glasspockets blog), Hanh Cao Yu, chief learning officer for the California Endowment, explores the significance of fellowships and other intentional foundation approaches, to creating a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive philanthropic sector.

"On Tuesday, the judge in the Trump Foundation case, Saliann Scarpulla, made a series of comments and rulings from the bench that hinted — well, all but screamed — that she believes the Trump family has done some very bad things." Adam Davidson reports on the Trump Foundation's mounting legal troubless.

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has issued a new analysis (16 pages, PDF) of its grant practice. Based on interviews with program staff and written by Aimée Bruederle, the report looks at such things as how the foundation collects grantee information; how it uses data and captures what it learns; how it uses technology to "interface" with grantees; and how it defines roles within the organization.

Make no mistake, writes Richard Marker on his blog, the core concepts of the field that he and others had a hand in developing in 2002 still make sense, but "they need to be contextualized for every situation. Scandinavia is not Latin America, and neither is Spain like China. Moreover, family funders are all different even as they are all the same. If one appears to be only U.S.-centric, or oblivious to local laws, history, and culture, it will be hard to get to the underlying universal aspects that define decision making."

(Photo credit: J-S Grond, à Kazan)

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

CUNY: A Model for Expanding College Access and Success for Low-Income Students

June 27, 2018

CUNY_james_b_millikenAs James B. ("JB") Milliken steps down after four years as chancellor of the City University of New York (CUNY), many stories about his successes and dedication to students are emerging. Mine is a personal tribute based on what I've observed first-hand as a committed but demanding supporter.

JB's leadership in getting students not just to but through college is exemplary. CUNY propels nearly six times as many low-income students into the middle class and beyond as the twelve "Ivy League Plus" campuses combined (as demonstrated by Raj Chetty of Stanford University and a group of other prominent economists). While this has always been a strength at CUNY, JB called for improving that record with an audacious plan to double graduation rates at its seven community college in five years — and to increase by ten percentage points the four-year CUNY college graduation rates.

The university is on track to meet those goals. According to CUNY, three-year graduation rates from associate programs have climbed from 13.6 percent for the cohort that entered full-time in 2010 to 19.2 percent for the 2014 cohort, and are on track to achieve the chancellor's target of 35.6 percent for the 2019 cohort. Six-year graduation rates for baccalaureate degrees have improved from 51 percent for the cohort that entered full-time in 2006 to 56.6 percent for the 2011 cohort, and are on track to achieve the goal of 61 percent for the 2017 cohort.

To get there, JB scaled a successful pilot named ASAP (Accelerated Study in Associate Programs) from 3,700 students to more than 25,000 students. It is now the best program in the country for accelerating community college graduation rates. Graduation rates for students in the program are at 55 percent in three years, compared with the national average of 16 percent, and it costs just under $4,000 per student.

JB also sought to build on this success by launching ASAP-like programs, including SPARK (Strategic Partnerships for Achievement and Retention at Kingsborough). Now in its third year, SPARK has dramatically increased retention rates among students with high remedial needs and prepares them to transfer to four-year CUNY institutions or enter the workforce — all at a modest cost. The Heckscher Foundation has given nearly $1.7 million in support of the program over the last three years because the results are phenomenal. Brooklyn-based Kingsborough has exceeded our benchmarks for success in each year of the program, despite the fact that students recruited for SPARK have generally received the lowest scores on the CUNY reading, writing, and math entrance exams and placed into the lowest-level English and math courses. Yet retention rates for the SPARK cohorts are significantly higher than rates for other Kingsborough freshman populations, according to the college's own data.

We know that a college degree is the best way to break the cycle of poverty. Given the challenges faced by first-generation and underserved youth and  public budgetary challenges across the country, a willingness and openness to work with the private sector is essential. JB instituted a culture of completion across the city university system with what I believe is his most farsighted and powerful initiative, Connected CUNY. This is a set of smart, interconnected strategies that leverage the university's resources through effective partnerships within CUNY's colleges and programs, and externally with research, governmental, and corporate partners. The plan incorporates work with the New York City Department of Education and others, significantly boosting the number of college-ready entrants to CUNY; uses tested student success strategies to dramatically improve graduation rates; and creates workplace pathways for CUNY graduates to launch careers. Connected CUNY requires collaboration at an entirely new level, and it has been impressive to watch and participate in.

Let me give you another example. Our foundation approached JB with an innovative private-public partnership opportunity. Under the initiative, we would agree to partially fund a "pay-for-success" program to raise graduation rates at CUNY. We offered to stand behind the program along with Bottom Line, a provider of student retention services. JB immediately called three CUNY college presidents and suggested that we meet to explore the idea, which he fully supported as an innovative approach to graduation paths. We are now entering into a memorandum of understanding with Lehman College to launch the program.

Another time, while I was in JB's conference room, he pulled me aside and asked that we support a program to provide funding to students who were displaced by the devastating hurricanes in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who might want to attend CUNY while their colleges were closed. We readily agreed, and in late 2017 we committed $100,000 to cover tuition and fees at CUNY for students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

I first met JB after reading about him and sending him an email suggesting he might want to meet funders interested in education. I then organized a lunch for twenty-five leaders of major education-focused private foundations. JB came alone, without handlers, press people, assistants, or aides, and with no canned speech or notes. What he brought instead, and quickly demonstrated, was an in-depth knowledge of the challenges CUNY faced and a determination to meet them head on. He was new to his job but deeply impressed us with his breadth of knowledge and willingness to try different solutions.

If you care about social and economic mobility for underrepresented, low-income, and immigrant students, look at what James B. Milliken has done to create a model of success at the City University of New York, the largest and most diverse urban university in the country. Under his leadership, CUNY has developed the kinds of programs and initiatives that policy makers and funders should be lining up to support. We applaud his efforts and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

Peter_sloane_for_PhilanTopicPeter Sloane is chair and CEO of the Heckscher Foundation for Children.

CBMA Turns 10: A Decade of Daring Work for Black Male Achievement

June 26, 2018

Campaign_for_black_male_achievementThis month, the Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA) marks ten years of progress: catalyzing more than $200 million in investment in black male achievement while building a national movement to eliminate barriers to the success of African-American men and boys.

From the beginning, we committed to building beloved communities across America where black men and boys are healthy, thriving, and empowered to achieve their fullest potential — that is our core mission and rallying cry.

Leaders in philanthropy, government, and business were not always as focused on mobilizing the necessary investment to ensure that black men and boys — and boys and men of color more broadly — were recognized as assets to our communities and country. That's why in 2008, at the Open Society Foundations, we launched CBMA in response to the growing need we saw in cities and communities across the nation where outcomes for black men and boys lagged far behind those of their white counterparts in all areas, including education, health, safety, jobs, and criminal justice involvement.

Over the last decade, together with our partners, we have catalyzed multiple national initiatives, including the Executives' Alliance for Boys and Young Men of Color, the BMe Community, and Cities United. We played an instrumental role in helping former President Barack Obama launch My Brother's Keeper, an initiative developed in the wake of his speech in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder trial of Trayvon Martin — asking ourselves, "How should philanthropy respond to Obama's speech on black men and boys?"

CBMA was spun off from OSF as an independent entity in 2015, and today our work resides at the intersection of movement and field building, bolstered by a membership network of more than five thousand leaders and three thousand organizational partners. Our network includes inspired individuals like Robert Holmes, who directs the Chicago Aviation Career Education Academy at the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals. In partnering with CBMA, Holmes has widened the reach of his efforts to create an educational pathway for young black men interested in becoming pilots, helping diversify a critical industry that has little to no black male representation.

We have mobilized investments in education at the local level to help city leaders alter the conditions in which our young people grow up and set them on a path to better futures. In 2010, we seeded the launch of the nation's first African American Male Achievement initiative in the Oakland Unified School District, with the goal of creating the systems, structures, and spaces needed to ensure success for all African-American male students. Similar initiatives have since been launched in Seattle, Denver, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Philadelphia.

We are also implementing a High School Excellence framework in Detroit and spreading those best practices across our network to cities such as Oakland, Louisville, Milwaukee, and Baltimore.

Another important aspect of our work is changing media portrayals of and narratives around African-American men and boys. We know that the way black men and boys are viewed by the broader public shapes how they see themselves, and we want them to see what we see: talent and potential. In an effort to affirm accurate portrayals of black men and boys in the mainstream media, we launched a series of events under the name Black Male Reimagined to "acknowledge, explore, and celebrate the lived realities, hopes, dreams and challenges" of young black males.

We also have worked to build a sustained movement to champion black men and boys through leadership development and capacity building. The "Rumble Young Man, Rumble" event launched by CBMA in Louisville in 2011is today the preeminent gathering of leaders from across the country working on behalf of black men and boys.

All this has been made possible by philanthropic partners who have invested in black men and boys and bolstered the movement for black male achievement. They include the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust, the Ford Foundation, the Skillman Foundation, the California Endowment, and the Casey Family Programs, to name a few.

And yet, as far as we have come, I am intentional in saying that we are acknowledging our accomplishments over the these ten years, as opposed to celebrating them. We cannot embrace a celebratory mindset when we consider the paradox of promise and peril still facing America's black men and boys — on the one hand, a groundswell of activity and investments in support of black male achievement; on the other, continued racism, concentrated poverty, police violence, and systemic injustice.

We must collectively step outside our comfort zones to take even bolder action over the next decade. The millions of dollars we've leveraged since 2008 have not adequately translated into increased equity in terms of ownership, entrepreneurship, and social and economic mobility for black men, their families, and communities.

Our 2017 Quantifying Hope report, released jointly with Foundation Center, delivered hard news: while we have seen sporadic upticks over the past decade in philanthropic giving in support of black male achievement, the amount of funding and resources are vastly insufficient. According to the report, foundation funding explicitly benefiting black men and boys totaled $45.6 million in 2013 and $61.4 million in 2014, down from more than $64 million in 2012.

These numbers keep me coming back to the reason we spun off CBMA from Open Society: What this nation truly needs is not a Campaign for Black Male Achievement but a Corporation for Black Male Achievement — an endowed philanthropic social enterprise that will lean into this issue for the generation it will take to create lasting change.

We call on our partners in philanthropy, government, business, and community to join our efforts to keep building this movement over the next decade. We must walk hand-in-hand to the place where America's black men and boys face a land of promise, not neverending peril. We must do better by our young people. Our collective future depends on it.

Headshot_shawn-dove_175x210Shawn Dove serves as the CEO of the Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA), a national membership organization dedicated to ensuring the growth, sustainability, and impact of leaders and organizations focused on improving the life outcomes of America's black men and boys.

Weekend Link Roundup (June 23-24, 2018)

June 24, 2018

USATSI_10905933Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Advocacy

In the face of political change and uncertainty, advocacy organizations "are being called on to do more and do it faster while funders scramble to implement strategies that best support them. Yet current operating realities for advocacy organizations pose distinct hurdles to staying adaptable and nimble." On the Nonprofit Finance Fund blog, Annie Chang and Elise Miller look at three common dynamics in the social advocacy space and explain what they mean for nonprofits and funders.

Demography

In a majority of U.S. states, deaths now outnumber births among white people, "signaling what could be a faster-than-expected transition to a future in which whites are no longer a majority of the American population." Sabrina Tavernise reports for the New York Times.

Education

Education Week's Madeline Will reports on a study from the RAND Corporation and the American Institutes for Research (with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), which found that the Gates Foundation’s "multi-million-dollar, multiyear effort aimed at making teachers more effective largely fell short of its goal to increase student achievement — including among low-income and minority students."

Health

"Many of us may be familiar with cultural competency — being respectful and responsive to the health beliefs and practices — and cultural and linguistic needs — of diverse population groups," writes Jennifer McGee-Avila, a third-year doctoral student in an interdisciplinary program offered by the Rutgers School of Nursing and New Jersey Institute of Technology in Urban Systems. "[But to] achieve a deeper understanding of our patients, it is essential for providers to practice 'cultural humility' and acknowledge the unique elements of every individual's identity."

Giving

The secret to happiness is...giving to others? In a guest post on the GuideStar blog, Moshe Hecht, chief innovation officer of crowdfunding program Charidy, explains the science of lasting happiness.

Grantmaking

On our sister GrantCraft blog, the Jim Joseph Foundation's Seth Linden and Jeff Tiell explain why the foundation has begun to invest in "small experiments as a way of learning about the creativity and innovation that is happening in the Jewish world."

Continue reading »

5 Questions for...Rashad Robinson, President, Color Of Change

June 22, 2018

Color Of Change was founded in 2005 by activists James Rucker and Van Jones shortly after the federal government’s feckless response to Hurricane Katrina left tens of thousands of residents of New Orleans, many of them poor and black, stranded for days without adequate supplies of food, water, or shelter. Rucker and Jones’ idea was to replicate the MoveOn.org model, using email and the Internet to engage and mobilize African Americans to pressure decision-makers in government and corporate America to create a more just and equitable world for black people in America.

In the years since, the organization has mounted campaigns to assist the Jena Six, a group of six black teenagers in Jena, Louisiana, charged with attempted second-degree murder in the 2006 beating of Justin Barker, a white student at the local high school; called for the repeal of so-called Stand Your Ground laws nationwide; persuaded MSNBC to fire conservative provocateur Pat Buchanan for Buchanan’s alleged remarks about white supremacy and his affiliation with a white supremacist radio program; urged cable network Oxygen to stop production on the reality TV show All My Babies' Mamas, starring rapper Shawty Lo and the ten mothers of his eleven children, on the grounds that it perpetrated harmful stereotypes about African American families; and called out Saturday Night Live executive producer Lorne Michaels for the lack of diversity on that long-running show.

Rashad Robinson joined the organization, which today counts over a million online members, as executive director in 2011 and recently was named president. PND spoke with him via email about the impetus behind the organization’s founding, hate speech on college campuses, and the state of race relations in America.

Rashad Robinson HeadshotPhilanthropy News Digest: Color Of Change was born in 2005 out of the failed government response to Hurricane Katrina. What did the Bush administration’s response to Katrina tell us about race and the state of race relations in America in the first decade of the twenty-first century? And has anything changed in the decade and a half since?

Rashad Robinson: What Katrina exposed in the most painful terms was a simple truth about life and politics, not just in New Orleans but everywhere in America, which is that no one was nervous about disappointing black people. What do I mean by that? Katrina was a flood of bad decisions, more than anything else. That is what made Katrina the destructive event it was. So many people made decisions that led to mass displacement, death, destruction, suffering and trauma. These were choices that could have been made differently and led to very different results, even in the face of that hurricane. Choices made by local, state, and especially federal government officials. Choices made by corporations. Choices made by police, who exploited the chaos of the situation and vulnerability of the people they were supposed to protect. Choices made by news media, who demonized people trying to survive and invented a story about us being perpetrators instead of victims and solely responsible for our own suffering, as the media often does when it comes to black people. Choices made by people with privilege and assets, who neither spoke up nor offered help. These were all people, some of them elected officials, with black constituencies they ignored, people who should have cared about disappointing black people, about letting us down in a moment of crisis and need, especially at that scale of suffering. But none of them cared. We were ignorable. And we realized in that moment that we must incentivize them to care — we must make them act as if they care. We must become un-ignorable.

That's when Van Jones and James Rucker decided we needed a new infrastructure. A new way to build power for black people that would ensure accountability to black people. A platform for aggregating our voices, and the voices of our allies, to force people to make decisions that help us instead of hurt us, whether they want to or not. That’s what other communities have had that we did not have. Though we had many organizations advocating for black people, they were not able to deliver this result. And so that was the wake-up call. Color Of Change is the innovation that grew out of it: a national force for racial justice, with expert media savvy and fluency in emerging technologies, relentlessly targeting changes in policy and culture — both the written and unwritten rules of decision making — in the sectors of society that affect our lives.

No progressive change has happened in this country without black people being involved in some way — as strategists, activists, storytellers, voters. And it has been clear to us that without a new platform for making black voices matter and building black power, progressives would always be at a disadvantage in fighting for social change. Black power is essential for progressive reform on criminal justice, for example. But we are also not going to get anywhere without deeply integrating black leadership and black community power into our strategies for progress on the environment, education, gender equity, and so on. It is essential that donors understand the role black power plays in advancing progressive causes. The right wing understands this, which is why they spend so much energy trying to discredit us, disenfranchise us, and control us. That was half of Nixon's reason for the drug war: to undermine emerging black political participation. Liberals need to understand this at least as much as the right wing does and invest in black leadership at least as much as the right wing tries to neutralize it.

PND: How did you get involved with Color Of Change? And how do you see its role in today’s increasingly polarized political environment?

RR: As senior director of media programs for GLAAD, I led that organization’s programmatic and advocacy work to transform the representation of LGBTQ people in the news and entertainment media and change attitudes and behaviors toward us in real life. Justice for all marginalized communities has always been a personal issue for me, and I had worked on voting issues and other issues related to racial justice before coming to GLAAD. But looking at the racial justice field at the time, I did not see anyone leading the same kind of strategic, effective approach to changing media representations related to race, and I knew it was critical for the racial justice movement in terms of accelerating progress.

I had seen the organization that Van and James built. Moving to Color Of Change was very clearly a powerful opportunity, in that it combined organizing campaigns across a range of much broader issues with the central question of media representation, which to a large extent determines what is possible for making progress on all of those issues. Color Of Change operates from an understanding that our lives and experiences are complex and are the result of an interrelated set of forces. Racist policing requires racist media to keep itself going. Economic inequality is rooted in political inequality. And so on. I knew that Color Of Change could grow into a powerful organization by taking an integrated approach to racial justice and by building a truly game-changing infrastructure for accountability based on its initial successes.

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Accepting Nominations for Foundation Center’s #OpenForGood Award  

June 21, 2018

Open-for-good-award-528To recognize foundations that display a strong commitment to open knowledge sharing and encourage other funders to be more transparent, Foundation Center has launched its inaugural #OpenForGood Award.

In 2017, the center created an #OpenForGood campaign to encourage foundations to openly share what they've learned and help us all get collectively smarter together. Now we're launching the award as a way to bring visibility to foundations who share their challenges, successes, and failures openly with the aim of strengthening how the sector thinks and acts on the knowledge it generates. The winning foundations will demonstrate an active commitment to open knowledge and share their evaluations through IssueLab, an open knowledge repository that is free, searchable, and accessible to all. We're looking for the best examples of smart, creative, and strategic knowledge sharing in the field, across all geographies and issue areas.

What's In It For You?

Winners will receive a custom Knowledge Center for their foundation or a grantee, as well as promotional support in the form of social media bandwidth and space in our newsletters. What is a Knowledge Center and why would you want one? It's a service of IssueLab that provides organizations with a simple way to manage and share knowledge on their own websites. With a customized Knowledge Center, you can showcase your insights, promote the activities of your grantees, and feature learnings from members of your various networks. All documents uploaded to an IssueLab Knowledge Center are also made searchable and discoverable via systems such as WorldCat, which serves more than two thousand libraries worldwide, ensuring that your knowledge can be found by researchers around the world.

Why Choose Openness?

The #OpenForGood award is focused on inspiring foundations to use existing and emerging technologies to collectively improve the functioning of the philanthropic sector. We live in a time when most people expect to be able to access the information they need on a tablet, laptop, or mobile phone with just a swipe or click. And yet, only 13 percent of foundations have websites, while even fewer share their reports publicly — a sign (if ever there was) that the field has a long way to go before it can say it embraces a culture of shared learning. With the #OpenForGood award, we hope to nudge the field's knowledge management practices in the right direction. Rather than reinvent the wheel, the award and the #OpenForGood campaign are designed to encourage the field to prioritize collective learning and share that learning with a global audience so that people around the world can build on your work and accelerate the change we all want to see.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Must be willing to share your collection of published evaluations publicly through IssueLab
  • Must demonstrate active commitment to open knowledge
  • Preference will be given to foundations that integrate creativity, field leadership, openness, and community insight into their knowledge-sharing work
  • Bonus points for use of other open-knowledge elements such as open licensing, digital object identifiers (DOIs), or institutional repositories

Anyone is welcome to nominate a foundation that exemplifies an "open" approach to knowledge sharing. (Self-nominations are also welcome.) Nominations will be accepted through September 30, 2018.

Winners will be selected through a review process and notified in January, and the award itself will be presented at next year’s Grantmakers for Effective Organizations conference. If you have questions, please email openforgood@foundationcenter.org.

Click here to nominate a foundation today!

Sarina Dayal is a knowledge services associate at Foundation Center.

'Skin in the Game' and the Importance of Board Giving

June 19, 2018

Skin_in_the_gameWhen we engage with new clients, we always begin with the imperative — up front and with clarity — that in order for a campaign or fundraising project to be successful, 100 percent board participation is required. Board members, as the legal stewards of an organization, must lead by example. And the impact of their participation goes well beyond the individual gifts themselves.

Nonprofit organizations rely on their boards for many things: governance and budgeting, guidance, community involvement and, of course, fundraising. Though some boards downplay the fundraising aspect, we believe it's essential that each board member be an active participant in ensuring the financial health of the organization on whose board they serve. The boards that waffle on this target by not articulating a clear expectation upfront are the ones that most often fall short of their fundraising and leadership goals. In fact, the majority of successful organizations report high board giving rates, while studies have found that board giving is more positively correlated with overall fundraising success than any other single factor.

Many boards have mandatory giving policies. According to a recent BoardSource survey, 68 percent of nonprofit organizations have a policy requiring board members to make a personal contribution on an annual basis. Some boards have a "give or get" policy that allows board members to either give a personal gift or to raise funds from family and friends equal to the amount of the required gift. We prefer a "give and get" approach, obligating a board member to lead with a personal investment and inspiring others by saying "join me," rather than outsourcing that responsibility to others.

Not every board has a policy that requires board giving. For those that do, the process is straightforward and requires a simple call to remind board members of their obligation. The process of new board member recruitment and orientation should include an early and candid conversation about fundraising expectations and financial obligations. Board leadership must set a good example by giving first and publicly announcing their gift as a way to encourage others.

Of course, board members may feel unmotivated to give, for any number of reasons. They might not understand why their contribution is necessary. Compared to major gifts, annual gifts from individual board members might seem inconsequential. If board giving is not a precondition of board membership, some board members may feel uncomfortable broaching the topic and will avoid asking because they feel embarrassed; they don't want to feel like they're pressuring their fellow board members, or stretching them beyond what they are able to do. Others may feel that contributing their time is sufficient and a gift isn't necessary. (While time is valuable, the giving of actual dollars by board members is important to the financial health of nonprofits and creates a culture of giving that may not develop otherwise.) 

Continue reading »

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:

Continue reading »

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.

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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!

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[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.

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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; worked in the private sector at a Richmond law firm;  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; and followed that with a stint at a private philanthropy that invested in community-based efforts focused on children in Washington, D.C. Subsequently, he spent time as the deputy chief of staff to Virginia governor Mark Warner, as commissioner of the Virginia Department of Social Services, and 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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