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20 posts from August 2011

Introducing the Map of Nonprofit Startup Resources by State

August 30, 2011

(Stephen Sherman is a reference librarian at the Foundation Center-Atlanta, on whose blog this post originally appeared.)

Have an idea for a nonprofit but not sure where to begin? We've collected the best resources from organizations across the country and listed them in one place to help you get your nonprofit off on the right foot. Our new Map of Nonprofit Startup Resources by State provides links to helpful resources such as state associations, legal support organizations, and government agencies that provide information on forming a nonprofit in all fifty states and U.S. territories. Find out where to go to incorporate, where to register before raising funds, and which organizations offer management or technical assistance for nonprofits in your area.

Nonprofit_startup_map 

Check out the map >>

And don't forget about our other resources on starting a nonprofit:

Establishing a Nonprofit Organization
This free tutorial will show you how to establish a nonprofit organization, step by step.

Webinar Series for Nonprofit Startup Organizations
Recordings of our special five-part webinar series on the legal, financial, and management issues of starting a nonprofit.

Before You Seek a Grant: A Checklist for New Nonprofits
Offered as in-person training or an online webinar, this free class shares the characteristics of effective nonprofits and will help you assess whether your organization is ready to approach foundations for funding.

Does your organization provide services for new nonprofit organizations? Contact us to be considered for inclusion in our list. Listings are limited to nonprofit organizations, government agencies, or organizations that provide substantial resources free of charge.

-- Stephen Sherman

Remembering Ruth Brinker

August 29, 2011

(Michael Seltzer is a frequent contributor to PhilanTopic. In his last post, he wrote about philanthropy and the LGBT rights movement.)

Ruth_Brinker When Ruth Brinker founded Project Open Hand in San Francisco in 1985, she could not have foreseen the day that the nation's leading meals-on-wheels program for people living with AIDS would become a disaster-relief organization.

Four years later, on October 17, 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake struck Northern California. The Marina district of San Francisco was particularly devastated. Numerous homes were destroyed or damaged, leaving residents without food or shelter. Like many other nimble nonprofit organizations, Project Open Hand acted quickly. From its kitchen in the Mission District, which had come through the quake unscathed, volunteers rushed to deliver meals to earthquake survivors using BART. In many cases, Project Open Hand was the first organization to arrive on the scene with assistance.

When I first heard this story, I was serving as the executive director of Funders Concerned About AIDS and was reminded of words from the report of the Presidential Commission on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus issued on June 24, 1988. In the report, Admiral James D. Watkins, whom President Ronald Reagan had appointed to chair the commission, noted that "The spark of human spirit...rises high when faced with the gravest of human tragedies...."

Earlier this month, Ruth Brinker passed away peacefully at the Eden Villa Assisted Living Center in San Francisco. In the difficult days ahead, as people up and down the Eastern Seaboard scramble to recover from the damage caused by Hurrican Irene, Brinker's spirit will live on in the small acts of countless neighbors and nonprofit organizations across the region.

Below is a tribute to Ruth from Tom Nolan, Project Open Hand's current executive director.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (August 27 - 28, 2011)

August 28, 2011

Irene_satphoto

Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Disaster Relief

In conjunction with the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the folks at the Greater New Orleans Foundation explain why "the notion that the inequities surfaced by Katrina were endemic to the South and that it took a disaster like Katrina to expose them…is wrong on both counts." The post continues:

What happened was that a category 5 hurricane blew ashore and laid bare what was already in plain sight not only in New Orleans, but in many cities across the United States and indeed across the world. All we had to do was look and see.

Despite all the investments in the Gulf South since Katrina, despite all our hand-wringing and breast-beating, these inequities persist to this day.

Many New Orleanians are rightly committed to rebuilding "better than before." But what does this mean when it comes to our commitment to our most vulnerable neighbors?

Education

On his Rock the Schoolhouse blog, Jim Stergios says the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education should launch a competition similar to the X Prize that "would allow those in the [education] field to figure out how to [boost student achievement]." Writes Stergios:

People in power don't have to be scared to say they don't have all the answers -- or at least answers that hold true for every inch of our intricate tapestry of cultures. And the nice thing about competitions is that you can focus on key issues, like STEM preparedness or whatever is viewed as an important national interest...."

Fundraising 

On her About.com blog, Joanne Fritz looks at a new study from the Dunham Company which found that nearly 7 in 10 Americans (68 percent) say they "will give more sparingly" to charity in the coming months."

In an interview with Philanthropy Journal's Todd Cohen, National Philanthropic Trust president and CEO Eileen Heisman offers some advice to nonprofit fundraisers: "The key to raising money in a tough economy...is to keep in touch with donors, make a clear and compelling case for support, enlist at least a third of the board to cultivate prospects, and make sure the executive director devotes at least a fourth of her or his time to fundraising."

Impact/Effectiveness

Anne Bauers, research manager at the Minnesota Council on Foundations, shares key findings from a new California Endowment paper that offers guidelines for grantmakers and nonprofits interested in forming effective coalitions.

Leadership

On the Social Citizens blog, Emily Yu shares "the five Cs to success," as proffered by PepsiCo Worldwide CEO Indra Nooyi at this year's BlogHer conference:

  1. Be curious;
  2. Have courage and confidence;
  3. Refine your communication skills;
  4. Be consistent;
  5. Never lose your moral compass.

Philanthropy

Guest blogging on the Tactical Philanthropy blog, Billions of Drops in Millions of Buckets author Steve Goldberg explains what is needed to make social impact bonds -- which "raise funds from private investors, which are then used as working capital by nonprofit organizations providing prevention programs that can reduce the need for costly government remediation and safety net responses" -- as a catalyst for "the impact investing movement and bring other forms of private capital to the table."

Social Media

On Beth Kanter's blog, George Weiner, chief technology officer at DoSomething.org, explains how nonprofits can make data-driven decisions, turning tweets into action.

That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at rnm@foundationcenter.org. And have a great week!

-- Regina Mahone

The Shapeshifting of Jumo, Philanthropy, and Social Enterprise

August 25, 2011

(Bradford K. Smith is the president of the Foundation Center. In his previous post, he wrote about GOOD's acquisition of nonprofit social networking site Jumo.)

Escher_division_of_the_planeI Act I: Jumo International is registered in 2010 as "A NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION THAT OPERATES A SOCIAL NETWORK CONNECTING INDIVIDUALS AND ORGANIZATIONS WORKING FOR GLOBAL CHANGE."

Act II: Jumo is successful in raising $3.5 million in foundation grants for charitable purposes during 2010 and 2011 to further its nonprofit mission.

Act III: August 17, 2011 - Fast Company reports Jumo's acquisition by the for-profit social enterprise GOOD.

The rapid shapeshifting of Jumo, the inadvertent angel investor role played by philanthropy in the process, and the example it may set for aspiring social entrepreneurs is a discussion worth having. I'll get back to that.

First, what doesn't worry me? Since we first blogged about the Jumo/GOOD deal, there have been lots of tweets and a handful of blog posts. Some have waxed eloquent about things like "social connective tissue," "dynamic content-driven engagement," and the like in focusing on the mission synergy that makes this such an intriguing merger. I have nothing against what Jumo and GOOD are trying to do in the world and may be able to do together. The more people that give a damn, care about people less fortunate than themselves, and want to do something about it, the better the world will be. Only a small number of people will ever become Peace Corps Volunteers, so creating ways for far larger numbers of them to engage, network, volunteer, and give online is vital.

Continue reading »

5 Questions For… Stephanie Cuskley, Chief Executive Officer, NPower

August 24, 2011

Cuskley_Stephanie Established in Seattle in 1999, NPower brings technology services to nonprofits and IT training to young adults at a discounted rate. Now based in New York City, the organization has broadened its core services to include the Technology Service Corps program, which prepares underserved young adults in New York to become IT professionals in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. Under the leadership of Stephanie Cuskley, who succceeded Barbara Chang as CEO in 2009, the organization recently launched The Community Corps, an online volunteer portal designed to connect corporate IT volunteers to nonprofits with technology needs. Since its launch last November, TCC volunteers have donated more than 13,115 hours to the site’s 650 nonprofit members. Cuskley spoke with PND's Regina Mahone in July.

Philanthropy News Digest: How has the Great Recession affected the information technology field, and what has that meant for nonprofits?

Stephanie Cuskley: From my perspective, and based on conversations I've had with others in the field, the recession has forced everyone to throttle back on their IT spending. At the same time, companies have started to think about how IT is not just a cost but a strategic initiative that drives who we are and what we do.

Today, I think there's a lot more focus on IT as an innovation opportunity as opposed to just a line-item for corporations, and I think nonprofits feel the same way. However, IT is not something nonprofits get a lot of funding for, so most cover their IT expenses by carving out funds from other places. Generally, when they lose funding, nonprofits are forced to look at how they could do IT cheaply while still driving their mission forward. I think that's one reason why so many organizations have taken to social media. They're searching for innovative ideas and are more interested in implementing them. Nonprofits today are saying "Yes, I will look at cloud computing" because it and other online tools are cheaper, have some flexibility, and help organizations increase their reach.

PND: Since 2002, NPower's Technology Service Corps has helped underserved high school graduates in New York City become IT professionals. With the unemployment rate stuck at 9.2 percent, what's the outlook for hiring and salaries for recent graduates entering the field?

SC: Actually, the IT world is in pretty good shape right now. People are hiring and we have seen incredible response from the corporate community and continued good response from nonprofits for our graduates. I think we're benefiting from the fact that the IT community is pretty robust. It is taking the nonprofit community much longer to recover from the recession than it has the for-profit IT community, because government budgets, which support a lot of nonprofits, are still weak.

 

PND: Last November, you launched The Community Corps to connect IT volunteers to nonprofits with IT needs. How is TCC different from portals like VolunteerMatch or the federal site United We Serve, and how are they similar?

SC: TCC is focused exclusively on the IT field and is project-oriented. NPower scopes out the IT projects included on TCC, which users of the site -- nonprofits, public schools, and libraries -- can use or create on their own. The site's automated matching algorithm then matches a volunteer who has the skills and interest to a group in need.

The site is similar to other online volunteer portals because it is highly scalable. Like VolunteerMatch, which includes listings from across the country, TCC has expanded to thirty-eight states since its launch. With the help of NPower's corporate sponsors, the site has grown exponentially over the past seven months. For example, one sponsor that joined the site recently sent a note out to its employees and in four days two hundred volunteers signed up, resulting in forty matches and forty nonprofits getting free IT help.

 

PND: Was the expansion to libraries and schools part of the initial plan when you launched the effort?

 

SC: No, it wasn't. NPower always has been focused almost exclusively on nonprofits, so it really was a response to a need. After we launched the site, a few of our nonprofit partners that work with schools came to us and said, "We could really use these volunteers to help at schools." And we said, "Well, why not?"

 

PND: How does NPower measure the success of its nonprofit projects?

SC: The size of each of our pro bono projects is relatively small. They tend to take ten to thirty hours each. We determine success by looking at a couple factors: Do the organizations and volunteers come back and sign up for another project? Are people telling us they are satisfied on the end-of-project surveys they fill out? We have seen very high marks from both sides of the equation.

 

I think the holy grail for us is being able to measure the value and impact of the volunteer on the nonprofit. That's because a successful IT department/system can really improve productivity at an organization. This became evident in a project we did recently for BELL [Building Educated Leaders for Life]. NPower helped develop an afterschool registration program for the organization, and as a result it was able to free up staff time and help more kids than it would have had that IT system not been in place.

At the end of the day, we're looking at how the IT project improved productivity, an organization's ability to bring in more clients, and its ability to cut costs. Nowadays, organizations don't need five people to complete a task if they've got technology that works.

 

-- Regina Mahone

 

Jumo-GOOD: The Future Is Now

August 22, 2011

(Antony Bugg-Levine is a managing director of the Rockefeller Foundation, the board chair of the Global Impact Investing Network, and co-author of Impact Investing (Wiley, 2011). The Rockefeller Foundation provided funding to Jumo. The opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of any institution with which he is affiliated.)

Future_is_now If you find yourself breathlessly thinking about the implications of the nonprofit Jumo.com's merger with the for-profit GOOD, Inc., I advise you to stop. Take a deep breath. Pace yourself. Because mind-bending deals like this one are only going to get more frequent in the years to come.

To understand why, you need to see this deal as a window into a gathering conflict between two world views. This might sound grandiose, but it's actually quite simple, as my co-author Jed Emerson and I describe in our new book Impact Investing: Transforming How We Make Money While Making a Difference.

For the past hundred years, especially in the United States, we have organized around two basic assumptions:

  • The only way for private citizens to address social problems is by providing grants to nonprofits;
  • The only purpose of investing and business is to make money.

These assumptions are the pillars of the "bifurcated world" that separates charity and investment. We have built layers of systems to support this worldview:

  1. Our legal systems provide a tax break to grantmaking foundations and nonprofits and separately attempt to protect the financial interests of investors.
  2. Our educational systems train do-gooders in policy schools for careers in public service and the social sector and train future titans of industry in business schools that focus on making money
  3. Our capital markets facilitate investment in profit-maximizing firms. Separate advisors and donor platforms increasingly coordinate gifts to nonprofits.
  4. Our language allows us to communicate separately about profit-making enterprises and social-purpose activity.

These systems work for anyone who stays within the traditional confines of the bifurcated world. That's why we don't get worked up about a merger between two nonprofits or a sale of one company to another. We have developed laws and language and practices to facilitate this activity.

But more and more people are not content to stay in the confines of the bifurcated world. These people, variably called "social entrepreneurs" or "impact investors," see the world differently. They believe:

  1. Business can make an effective and morally legitimate contribution to solving social challenges;
  2. Investors can actively target social and environmental value creation in their for-profit investments.

These simple beliefs remove the pillars on which our existing systems are built. Established policies and regulations, educational opportunities and career paths, capital markets, and language all fail to support their aspirations and practices. In fact, most of the time they get in the way.

Instead of waiting for new systems to catch up, social entrepreneurs and impact investors are forging ahead, bending existing systems to suit their needs. This can seem strange or even threatening to people still holding onto the bifurcated worldview. And the incompatibility of old systems with new aspirations creates disruption, as when a nonprofit signs a standard grant agreement only to sell itself to a for-profit company.

But defending the ramparts of the bifurcated world is not going to contain these pioneers. Instead, those of us tasked with securing a better future should focus on building the new systems that can harness their energy. For foundation executives that will mean creating new grant agreements that acknowledge the increasingly fluid line between nonprofit and for-profit corporate forms. It will mean recognizing the power our endowment investments have to contribute to our social mission and reorganizing our management and governance accordingly. And it will mean supporting regulatory reform that acknowledges how for-profit investment and private enterprise can complement philanthropy and government action.

Let's face it: if we're this worked up about a nonprofit ".com" selling itself to a for-profit called "Good," things are only going to get worse in the years to come.

-- Antony Bugg-Levine

Weekend Link Roundup (August 20-21, 2011)

August 21, 2011

End_summer Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Athletics/Sports

The Nonprofit Quarterly's Rick Cohen examines the "unfolding scandal" involving Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro, who admitted to providing millions of dollars in cash payments to University of Miami football players for a wide range of activities and personal expenses, including travel and in one case an abortion. Cohen says it's hard not to wonder "how many other Nevin Shapiros are out there showering the athletes and sports programs at nonprofit and public universities with millions of dollars in cash, all based on the misguided idea that such behavior is good, harmless, and maybe even charitable...."

Communications/Marketing

Exhale, an Oakland-based nonprofit that works to build "abortion peace through listening and storytelling," rounds up a few posts about ethical storysharing from Thaler Pekar, a regular contributor to PhilanTopic.

Idealist.org's Julia Smith shares some examples of how nonprofits are using QR (quick response) codes to engage their constituents via mobile phone.

Corporate Philanthropy

On the Foundation Center's Transparency Talk blog, Mark Foley commends the American Express Foundation for creating the CSR Now! blog. Written by Amex Foundation president Tim McClimon, who also serves as vice president of corporate social responsibility at the financial services company, the blog aims to "get at what's happening in corporate social responsibility today -- from the point of view of a corporate practitioner."

Continue reading »

This Week in PubHub: Community Information Ecosystems

August 20, 2011

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center's online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her previous post, she looked at four reports that examine the recent past and future prospects of journalism and the news media.)

The twentieth-century mass media model is being replaced, we're told, by a "new news ecosystem" in which the consumer of news increasignly is also a producer of news content. But for all its openness and egalitarian qualities, questions remain as to how well this ecosystem functions as a local community information system, whether people trust the information it delivers, and what investments are needed to make it better? This week in PubHub, we're highlighting four reports that examine how well the rapidly evolving news business is serving local communities.

The Chicago Community Trust report Linking Audiences to News: A Network Analysis of Chicago Websites (54 pages, PDF) analyzes the structure of the local news ecosystem -- more than four hundred Web sites -- in the Chicagoland area by mapping the way these sites are connected to one another via hyperlinks. Among other things, the report found that nearly 80 percent of the sites are rarely linked to from other sites and therefore unlikely to be found by consumers of local news and information, while more than 40 percent do not link out to other sites. Sites that are widely linked to include the region's mass transit systems, museums, and sources of original reporting such as chicagotribune.com and online-only publications like gapersblock.com and chicagoist.com. The report also found that whereas online-only sites are most likely to link to other sites, traditional media sites tend not to, while specific content-oriented sites tend to share links among themselves but are rarely linked to from sites outside those fields. Funded by CCT, the Knight Foundation, and the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the report calls for encouraging more linking among locally focused sites as a way of creating and encouraging a better-informed community.

So how does the public view community information ecosystems, what are the factors that shape those views, and how do those views in turn influence civic life? Those are some of the questions raised in How the Public Perceives Community Information Systems (13 pages, PDF), a report from the Monitor Institute, the Knight Foundation, and the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Based on surveys conducted in Philadelphia, Macon, Georgia, and San Jose, California, the report found that those who believe local government does a good job of sharing information are more likely to be satisfied with its performance, as well as the performance of other local institutions, the overall community, and the local information ecosystem (including the local media, libraries, public forums, and broadband connectivity). The report also found that confidence in local government transparency and increased access to local news and information are linked to a stronger sense of civic empowerment and active community engagement.

The Knight Foundation's Community Information Toolkit: Building Stronger Communities Through Information Exchange (53 pages, PDF), another product of the foundation's collaboration with the Monitor Institute, offers guidance and resources for community leaders interested in leveraging the power of information for community improvement, including a template for identifying local issues and how information affects them, data collection and assessment checklists, a scorecard for visualizing information ecosystem findings, and an action plan template.

One important element in a robust community information ecosystem is a high-quality online hub, a "well-publicized portal that points to the full array of local information resources," a 2009 report from the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy argues. Creating Local Online Hubs: Three Models for Action (34 pages, PDF), a 2011 report from the Aspen Institute and the Knight Foundation, describes what such a hub might look like, including core elements such as local government information, community news and commentary, and links to community resources. The report calls on government at all levels to facilitate access to relevant data, seed money, and infrastructure; on local libraries, media outlets, and colleges and universities to help develop content, technologies, and information resources; and on businesses, foundations, and venture capitalists to provide financing and in-kind support.

At the moment, the community information field is dominated by the Knight Foundation, which has invested considerable resources in examining the state of community information networks and their potential for boosting civic engagement. Are you aware of or involved in an interesting community information project? Do you think the "new news ecosystem" is living up to its potential to foster community improvement through increased civic participation? And if it's not, what can foundations do to help build a new news ecosystem that works for all Americans? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

And don't forget to visit PubHub, where you can check out new featured reports every week and browse more than a hundred and fifty reports that address topics related to journalism and media.

-- Kyoko Uchida

Jumo and Some GOOD Unanswered Questions

August 19, 2011

Quesation_mark_button Since we published Brad Smith's post "Jumo: Get Grant, Do Good, Sell" on Wednesday, a lively back-and-forth has been ricocheting around the Twitterverse. Twitter isn't necessarily the best forum for meaningful debate about difficult questions, so we thought we'd curate a few of the questions being raised:

  • @edwarmi: Jumo joining Good - success or failure?
  • @parastou110: @GOOD buys @jumoconnect. Grant to profit. Great, but shouldn't initial donors be offered $ back as part of sale?
  • @rootwork: Have foundations been transformed into angel investors?
  • @ssstrom: Question for foundations: What happens when grants end up as VC?
  • @davidalynn: An entirely different goal for a nonprofit: get bought?
  • @philaction: Is GOOD profitable? What's the difference between a subsidized unprofitable for-profit and a non-profit?
  • @philaction: What's the total lifetime amount of subsidy of GOOD versus Jumo?
  • @philaction: What is FMV [fair-market value]...for an undifferentiated non-profit whose IP is open source?
  • @philaction: How do you negotiate an acquisition when 3rd party gets to set price later?

And one more of our own: Is the Jumo-GOOD merger a one-off, or should we expect to see more of this kind of thing in the future?

Keep those questions and (for the courageous) answers coming.

A 'Flip' Chat With...Jonah Halper, co-founder, NextGen:Charity

August 18, 2011

(This video was recorded as part of our 'Flip' chat series of conversations with thought leaders in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. You can check out other videos in the series here, including our previous chat with Kiva president Premal Shah.)

Inspired by TED, the conference series that serves as a megaphone for "ideas worth spreading," Jonah Halper started NextGen:Charity with Ari Teman as a way to promote innovation in the nonprofit sector. With support from nonprofit and media partners, including Fast Company, GuideStar, Charity Navigator, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and Network for Good, Halper and Teman mounted their first conference last year and were delighted by the sold-out response. To be held in New York City in November, this year's conference will see Craig Newmark (Craigslist), Charles Best (DonorsChoose.org), Marc Ecko (Ecko Enterprises), Nancy Lublin (Do Something), Peter Diamandis (X Prize Foundation), and others present talks related to the theme "Educate + Inspire + Impact."

I met up with Halper in July at the Nexus: Global Youth Summit,
a four-day conference in New York City organized by Search for Common Ground, a D.C.-based group that works to transform the way the world deals with conflict. It was a lively gathering, and Halper was eager to talk about his young organization and the paradigm change his generation hopes to spark in the philanthropic sector.

(If you're reading this in an e-mail, click here.)

 

(Running time: 4 minutes, 37 seconds)

My few minutes with Halper got me thinking about the conference format and its potential to spark positive social change. Have you attended a TED conference or something like it? Were you inspired by the program? Did it motivate you to take action on an issue that you might not have engaged with otherwise? Is the proliferation of TED and TED-like conferences a positive development? Or are they starting to drown each other out? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below....

-- Emily Robbins

Jumo: Get Grant, Do Good, Sell

August 17, 2011

(Bradford K. Smith is the president of the Foundation Center. In his previous post, he wrote about foundations and unsolicited proposals.)

Jumo_Sold ChrisHughes.org has just gone back to being ChrisHughes.com. According to a story in Fast Company, Hughes' Jumo -- a nonprofit portal built with grant funds from some of America's largest philanthropic foundations -- is being acquired by GOOD, which despite its altruistic-sounding name and mission is a for-profit company. Is this what grants are for?

Hughes, described on the Jumo site as "co-founder of Facebook and director of online organizing for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign," became something of a darling in philanthropy circles after he announced his intention to create a "social network that helps people find high-quality nonprofits and take meaningful action." Some foundation professionals jumped in with early funding and were prone to statements like: "If anyone can make the online giving space work, Chris can!"

Did Chris make it work? In a field where metrics are not difficult to come by, the Fast Company article is frustratingly vague with its numbers. Reference is made to "good results" in a recent Jumo campaign to raise money for Somalia. If this is the same campaign for which I received an e-mail, the approach was surprisingly old school and the goal a mere $3,000. Meanwhile, the folks at GlobalGiving have managed to raise $49.6 million for causes around the world. At the end of the day, Hughes' big takeaway from his experience is that the "do-gooder space" (as he calls it) is tough and that "people need carefully curated content if you are going to sustain their interest." Along the way, some offered that advice to Jumo and its supporters but no one seemed to be listening.

Continue reading »

BBB Wise Giving Alliance: Helping Grantees Measure Up

(Laura Cronin is a frequent contributor to PhilanTopic. In her previous post, she provided an update on rebuilding efforts in tsunami-ravaged Japan, with a focus on the arts.)

BBB_Wise_Giving Because so many high-profile charitable gifts in the United States come from institutions that ostensibly know what they're doing, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that individual donors still give far more than foundations, corporations, and estates -- combined.

Of the $290.89 billion donated to nonprofit organizations in 2010, some 73 percent ($211.77 billion) came from individuals. That figure includes more than a few "mega-gifts" from wealthy individuals who employ philanthropic strategies similar to those of professional grantmakers. Still, most charitable giving is done by individuals who don't think a whole lot about theories of change, logic models, and giving strategies.

Through its Wise Giving Alliance and local BBBs, the Better Business Bureau is working to extend its outreach to individuals who come to the charitable marketplace without the benefit of a philanthropic advisor or a well-informed board. Last revised in 2003 by a panel of nonprofit experts (with extensive input from the charitable sector), the BBB Wise Giving Alliance Standards for Charitable Accountability suggest guidelines and minimum requirements in four key aspects of nonprofit management: governance, effectiveness, finance, and fundraising/communications.

According to Claire Rosenzweig, president and CEO of the BBB of Metropolitan New York, "[T]he Charity Accountability Standards are intended to help create a more informed charitable marketplace and to give prospective donors a framework they can use to make their own decisions about where to give." Rosenzweig believes nonprofits should use the standards as a sort of checklist to remind staff of the things they need to do to keep an organization operating ethically and in compliance with regulations. More broadly, says Rosenzweig, they can be used to improve an organization's accountability and transparency.

Continue reading »

Q&A With Kerry Sullivan, President, Bank of America Charitable Foundation

August 15, 2011

(Aaron Hurst is founding president of the Taproot Foundation, a nonprofit organization that makes business talent available to organizations working to improve society. As part of an ongoing series of interviews with the heads of corporate foundations, Hurst recently spoke with Kerry Sullivan, president of the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, about her passion for improving education, the value of service in schools, and the glass ceiling for women in corporate America. Last month, Bank of America announced a $50 million philanthropic pledge to fund education programs that help at-risk youth successfully graduate and connect them to workforce development opportunities. This Q&A originally appeared in the Huffington Post. Click here to read Aaron's Q&A with Bobbi Silten, president of the Gap Foundation. To watch Regina's "Flip chat" with Hurst, click here.)

KerrySullivan_BofA Aaron Hurst: If you suddenly received a huge sum of money to create your own foundation based on your personal passions, what would you invest in?

Kerry Sullivan: One would be education for the underserved. People need to be educated to find a job with a livable wage, particularly those who are trying to make a living in a democracy. It is the key to personal success, a company's success, and a country's success. The other thing I feel strongly about is basic health and human services, with hunger at its core. It is so essential, especially considering the economic downturn and the whole issue of food insecurity in this country, as well as other developed countries -- let alone developing countries. Looking right now at the drought in Somalia, we as a world player need to respond.

Even though they seem totally different, I see these two issues working together: one is a Band-Aid to provide for immediate and critical needs, while education serves to lift people out of that situation.

AH: That sounds wonderful -- I hope you get the money to start it! What do you feel you are able to take from your everyday life to help you understand the issues and be more insightful and effective in your job?

KS: I have two young girls who grew up volunteering, being engaged, and caring about issues. They understand there is a role for all of us to help individuals and families and communities move forward. I feel fortunate to have that perspective.

In this country, the divide between the haves and the have-nots is growing, and there's a shrinking middle class. I don't think any of us are that far removed from these issues. No one is immune from knowing somebody who is in a tough situation right now, given the protracted downturn. Every community has issues, and even in upscale neighborhoods there are people that are in need. There are millions of children in this country who go to bed hungry. When you analyze the numbers on how food pantries are being accessed right now, they are not used just by people who have been chronically unemployed. It's working poor and the recently laid-off. It's no longer something far afield from who we are as individuals.

AH: Speaking of your daughters, do you think you get exposure to what some of the educational challenges are in this country?

KS: They're fortunate to go to good schools, so I'm not seeing directly why we're falling behind compared to the rest of the world. But I do see we have some issues of equity in education. If we really look at what twenty-first century jobs are going to be, particularly in this country, you're going to need at least two years of postsecondary education. We need to develop a system where kids see hope, a track that will connect them to one of their goals in life. We need to ignite the excitement of learning in children and connect them to the idea that they need education to have a successful career that they are passionate about. I think we have a lot of things to work on, and it is clearly going to take collaboration between educators, nonprofits, and corporations to solve the problem.

Despite the issues we have in our education system, there is good news around what we are teaching children about volunteerism and cultures of service, which is something that didn't exist when I was in school. Particularly right now, there's a keen awareness of service as a noble profession and calling and the fact that everyone has something to give.

AH: I also have a daughter, who is five years old and a brilliant businesswoman. She runs the best lemonade stand in Park Slope. What are the challenges you've had to face as a woman in business, and what have you seen change that may make it easier for my daughter to succeed in corporate America in the future?

KS: I think sometimes women in corporate America think they have to do it all themselves, but that's not how life works. You need to make friends, and you need to connect with them along the way. I'm not a huge networker -- I'm actually probably more of an introvert -- but when I have a passion for something and admire someone for how they conduct themselves in business, I'm not shy about connecting with them. I often think we don't empower ourselves enough to find individuals who are willing to help. Sometimes it's just reaching out and making your needs and interests known. I've done that, and it has been very instrumental in the opportunities I've had. Women do have more control over their careers than they know.

In my journey in banking, I have not seen many roadblocks for women. With any work, you have to find passion for what you do, and if you have that it's easier to figure out your next steps because you're propelled by that passion. I think I've always had a passion for philanthropy, so I've always been able to find my next opportunity. I didn't graduate from college and know right then I wanted to work for a foundation. I did a couple of other things first, but I always made a link to the next opportunity and found my way. Talking to some younger graduates, they think it's a linear path, but it's not. It's okay to meander a bit and learn what your strengths are and develop a passion. You don't have to know what it is when you're going through school. It's always changing and evolving.

AH: You have about three hundred thousand employees at Bank of America. How can you be strategic in adding real value and impact to the community with that many people?

KS: Our challenge, despite our size and scope, is to resonate locally and take on and contribute to issues that matter. We fund across a broad range of interest areas, but right now we care about critical needs like providing international disaster relief, getting people back to work, and preserving neighborhoods. Domestically, those are the things we're focused on.

We are going to connect the dots from what we've done domestically to what we can do in the international space. As we build out, we're rebuilding and re-thinking our global strategy. We certainly are interested in national and global partnerships, but we also fund organizations that are specific to a city or community. We approach it both ways. We feel that despite our size, we make a difference in the communities where our business is. We've got folks on the ground, and the distribution of our philanthropy is local.

AH: You've been involved in Reimagining Service for a while now. Has that involvement caused you to think differently about the service you're doing at Bank of America?

KS: We've been helping people not only to contribute but also to have more impact by taking the skills they have to the community. Reimagining Service has been the catalyst for a lot of those discussions internally. The biggest change this past year has been the heads of large business lines in the company coming forward and saying, "I want my division and people to be engaged around one or two issues." Knowing that volunteerism can make a difference used to just be bottom-up, but now it's bottom-up and top-down. There's a preponderance of people wanting to leverage their skill-sets.

From a foundation standpoint, we tend to give general operating or unrestricted funding to nonprofits we believe in. We've been mindful to ensure that nonprofits feel comfortable and inspired to use some dollars to help build the structure they need to better handle volunteers. Not only are we supporting volunteerism and service through our own employees' actions, but we're committing unrestricted support to nonprofits so that they can work toward being more of a service-oriented organization, if that makes sense for their mission and the benefit they provide to the community. It works hand in hand.

AH: How does philanthropy and service fit within the broader corporate social responsibility strategy at Bank of America?

KS: The premise is simple: when communities are not vibrant and people are not working and the economy isn't moving, we can't grow and prosper as an institution and company. We look at creating opportunity through our philanthropy and volunteerism as essential to moving communities -- and hence our business -- forward. We're always trying to look at the opportunity that has the multiplier effect and reverberates more broadly than just a Band-Aid would. It's part of our business strategy.

-- Aaron Hurst

Weekend Link Roundup (August 13 - 14, 2011)

August 14, 2011

Adirondack_chairs_on_the_beach Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Communications/Marketing

On her Non-Profit Marketing blog, Katya Andresen says that "to get people to read the first lines of [a] report or appeal -- and keep going," your communications must engender curiosity in your readers, for the simple reason that "humans, when...presented with a gap in [their] knowledge...crave to fill it."

Guest blogging on Nancy Schwartz's Getting Attention blog, Kimberlee Roth shares three questions designed to help marketing professionals overcome writer's block.

Disaster Relief

In a follow-up to an earlier post in which his colleage Josh Rosenberg shared some thoughts on donating to famine relief efforts in Somalia, GiveWell's Elie Hassenfeld says that at this time the organization "maintains [its] provisional recommendation for [donors to support] Doctors Without Borders."

Philanthropy

GuideStar president and CEO Bob Ottenhoff recaps a recent summer symposium at the Giving Institute in which panelists Matthew Bishop of the Economist and Patrick Rooney of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University discussed "the impact of the mega-rich on philanthropy."

Two months after the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy launched its Philanthropy's Promise campaign, an effort to get as many large foundations as possible to allocate at least 50 percent of their grant dollars to the needs of marginalized groups and at least 25 percent to high-impact strategies such as advocacy, community organizing, and civic engagement, NCRP field associate Christine Reeves explains what the organization means by "marginalized" communities and "high-impact" strategies.

Social Media

On his Future Fundraising Now blog, Jeff Brooks says that "If you're going to interact with donors [on social media], you need to figure out what they care about. Social media aren't a giant free classroom; they're more like a party. If you go in the way my bank does, trying to educate and inform, you're an irrelevant and annoying party-pooper."

When considering how best to manage one's time using social media, Beth Kanter advises nonprofits to "wait or rather don't jump in deeply with a heavy time investment" into new platforms like Google+. Instead, writes Kanter, it's best to take "an ROI approach to the amount of time that is being spent, especially if you haven't really built up, engaged, and developed relationships with people via your social networks in other places."

Technology 

On his Buzz Machine blog, Jeff Jarvis shares a video about his forthcoming book, Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live.

Transparency

And on the Foundation Center's Transparency Talk blog, Jenn Whinnem explains how social media has helped the Connecticut Health Foundation advance its mission while furthering its commitment to transparency.

That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at rnm@foundationcenter.org. And have a great week!

-- Regina Mahone

An Opportunity to Lead: South Asian Philanthropy in Canada

August 10, 2011

(Archana Sridhar is assistant dean, graduate program at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law and co-founder of the South Asian Philanthropy Project, a forum to inspire increased giving and volunteering among South Asians in North America. A version of this article appeared in the most recent issue of The Philanthropist, a quarterly review for practitioners, scholars, supporters, and others engaged in the nonprofit sector in Canada.)

Archana_Sridhar While the category of "South Asian" comprises quite a diverse population in Canada, it has become an accepted demographic category and identity, particularly beyond first-generation South Asian immigrants. Although a small number of South Asians came to Canada in the early 1900s to work in British Columbia's lumber industry, more arrived after 1960, growing into a diverse population in various professional sectors, including finance, medicine, small business, and service. South Asians now make up about 4 percent of Canada's population, with a total population of about 1.3 million, according to the 2006 census.

About 70 percent of South Asians in Canada live in Toronto or Vancouver. In fact, South Asians make up 12 percent of Toronto's population and more than 8 percent of Vancouver's. Statistics Canada notes that South Asians embody cultural values such as strong family connections, social networks with other South Asians, and preservation of heritage languages. And while South Asians have very high voting rates -- especially when compared to other visible minorities -- and an increasing political presence, their giving practices have not yet been analyzed. The economic health of South Asians is above average as compared to other Canadian visible minorities. Indeed, several notable South Asian Canadians have built enormous wealth and business success, including Sir Christopher Ondaatje; Sabi Marwah, vice chair and COO of the Bank of Nova Scotia and a director of the Toronto Star; Calgary real estate developer Bob Singh Dhillon; and many others.

The South Asian diaspora in North America is strikingly diverse on a variety of axes, such as religion, class, caste, country of origin, language, and immigration status. This vast diversity certainly impacts philanthropy. For example, Ismaili Muslim South Asians give from their personal income as a part of their religious practice, while Hindus often participate actively in a tradition of giving (sometimes known as dakshina) that up to this point has been devoted primarily to supporting local temples in the United States and Canada. In addition, as with other ethnic groups, socioeconomic class can impact the means and manner of giving -- with a few millionaire South Asians establishing private foundations or community foundation-based donor-advised funds, while less affluent South Asians make smaller gifts through community organizations or religious institutions.

The diaspora also faces certain specific needs from the social services sector, which philanthropy could help to address through new and existing charities and other innovative approaches. These include the need for free or low-cost legal services for new immigrants; for domestic abuse shelters for women and children; for English-language instruction and interpretation; and for healthcare education and services for conditions that disproportionately affect South Asians such as heart disease and diabetes. Juxtaposing these community-specific needs against available resources highlights the need for more research and education around philanthropy.

A brief philanthropic history

A variety of philanthropic traditions exist among South Asians in North America. As noted above, religious giving is one key known form of South Asian giving. For example, Hindu communities from around the world raised approximately $40 million for the Swaminarayan Temple in the greater Toronto area. Ismaili Muslims, often originally from South Asia (via Africa and/or the UK), share a strong religious commitment to charitable giving; construction recently began on the $300 million Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Centre, also in Toronto. Religious centers are also a powerful venue for fundraising for non-religious causes. The Sikh Community of British Columbia raised more than $1.5 million through the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara Society for Haiti relief efforts within a few weeks of the 2010 earthquake.

South Asians also give to charities in their countries of origin, establishing NGOs to provide education, health care, or other services in their hometowns or villages. In addition, South Asians give in Canada both to mainstream organizations and to those focused on their own ethnic communities. In the first category, the YWCA Vancouver benefits from fundraisers by the Indo-Canadian Business Association, and the Royal Ontario Museum and Art Gallery of Ontario have had very public fundraising campaigns with South Asians such as Arti Chandaria at the helm. One of the most high-profile examples of this trend occurred last year with the announcement that the Canada-India Foundation (CIF) had entered into a joint initiative with the University of Waterloo to establish the Chanchlani India Policy Consortium. Under the agreement, the CIF will contribute up to $2 million and will raise another $10 million from government and other private sources to fund endowed chairs, graduate students, lectures, and conferences on India-Canada relations and foreign policy.

Many other organizations are focused on the diversity of Canada's population, and all of them benefit from South Asian donors and volunteers. There are other organizations and federations focused primarily on the South Asian diaspora in Canada, such as the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA), specialized organizations like the South Asian Visual Arts Centre (SAVAC), community service organizations like the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP), and organizations and shelters focused on South Asian women such as the South Asian Women's Community Centre of Montreal. While these types of small, community-based organizations receive some support from individual South Asians, much of their funding comes from government agencies.

Many South Asians, much like members of other immigrant groups, also come together to help extended family members emigrate and settle in North America, and to support their children's college and graduate education. And, similar to other ethnic groups, South Asians often send remittances to their families in India, Pakistan, and other countries. In terms of volunteering, board service is a key metric because of formal or informal requirements to give financially and because of the required commitment of time and resources to the community. In Canada, the Maytree Foundation's DiverseCity initiative found that (as of March 2009) visible minorities are underrepresented in the seniormost leadership positions in the greater Toronto area: "Just 13 percent of leaders we analyzed are visible minorities....Within the largest charities and foundation, visible minorities represented 14 percent of executives and 18 percent of board members" (Maytree Foundation, 2009). There is a great need to engage South Asians in this type of philanthropic service, both to diversify civic institutions and to bring the talents of South Asians to bear on broader societal issues.

State of the research field

No one has yet been able to describe empirically the landscape of giving among South Asians in Canada (or the United States). The state of the field in terms of understanding this community's philanthropy appears to be in complete disarray, relying heavily on assumptions and anecdotal evidence. Research does exist at the periphery, primarily related to two themes. First, several scholars have examined the impact of South Asian diaspora populations on giving overseas and the impact of giving from the West to South Asia (Hewa & Hove, 1997; Kulabkar, 2004; Niumai, 2009; Rajan, Pink, & Dow, 2009; Viswanath, 2004). Second, there is some research on diversity in philanthropy writ large. For example, Imagine Canada has collected some data on the giving and volunteering patterns of landed immigrants. When we look at the samples upon which these and other existing studies are based, we find that South Asians are either not represented to any significant degree, or their representation is unclear. The only comprehensive study of a particular South Asian community has focused on the Pakistani diaspora (Najam, 2007), and other smaller and narrower studies have focused on the Indian-American community or subsets thereof (Anand, 2004).

A few academics are beginning to go beyond these themes and examine other trends in South Asian philanthropy and civic engagement in North America (Sidel, 2003; Venkatesh, 2008). In addition, several nonprofit organizations and professional associations have engaged in some preliminary studies on South Asian giving and expressed an intention to study and promote South Asian philanthropy. For example, the South Asian Philanthropy Project is collecting existing resources and assembling a catalogue of South Asian–focused charitable organizations to aid donors in decision-making. Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) has supported or published several white papers and reports on Asian-American philanthropy, for example through giving circles (Ho, 2008). Finally, in both Canada and the United States, charities and community organizations serving South Asian constituencies have come together to found various coalitions or federations, such as CASSA -- noted above -- and the National Coalition for South Asian Organizations (NCSO), in Washington, D.C.

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