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19 posts from November 2013

Towards Greater Transparency in Philanthropy

November 29, 2013

(Mary Glanville joined the Institute for Philanthropy in May 2012 and was appointed managing director in the organization's UK office in February 2013.)

Headshot_mary_glanvilleThe Institute for Philanthropy has released a new report, Towards Greater Transparency in Philanthropy, that looks at the attitudes of individual donors toward sharing information about their giving. Information sharing is already seen by large foundations as a good way to increase their effectiveness -- the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for example, recently announced its decision to join the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), making it one of the first private foundations to do so -- and we wanted to see whether the same inclination existed among donors in our networks.

To that end, we asked thirty-three donors from the United States, the UK, Canada, Lebanon, and Mexico a range of questions about the perceived value and challenges of "open" philanthropy. After their responses had been collected and analyzed, four key findings emerged:

First, the thing most of them felt would help to make their philanthropy more effective (19 out of 33 donors) was "sharing evaluations with other foundations." Second, most respondents thought the greatest benefit of sharing more information about their giving was that it "facilitates collaboration (21 out of 33 donors). Third, 24 out of 33 donors said they would be interested in further discussing the possibility of a standard for sharing information about their giving with other donors. And fourth, several donors made it clear that despite seeing the value in sharing more information about their philanthropic activities, the main reason they hadn't done so was to safeguard their family's privacy.

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Designing a Responsive Granting Process

November 25, 2013

(Parker Mitchell co-founded and for ten years was co-CEO of Engineers Without Borders Canada. He recently moved to New York and joined, as an expert-in-residence, the Blue Ridge Foundation, which funds and incubates new technology-based ventures that advance opportunity and upward mobility. This post originally appeared on the Foundation Center's GrantCraft blog.)

Headshot_parker_mitchellWe began with two questions:

  • Are leading nonprofits fully making use of the explosion of digital and online platforms to find new ways to up-end their program models, scale, and radically remake their programs so that they are more effective?
  • And if not, could we bring the investing principles of the technology world to help leading nonprofits find the time, money, and resources to experiment with digital platforms to change their program model?

Three months ago, Blue Ridge Foundation New York teamed up with leading software firm ThoughtWorks and the Parsons School of Design to create a grant program for poverty-related nonprofits that would try to bridge the effective organization/technology adoption gap.

We began by offering a package of support that included a combination of funding, incubation services, in-kind software support and design, and design thinking consulting. Each package was worth roughly $150,000. But we also knew we didn't have all the answers and wanted to design a transparent, responsive granting process that would help us pin-point nonprofits’ digital technology needs.

What is this gap, and why should funders care?

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Weekend Link Roundup (November 23-23, 2013)

November 24, 2013

Holiday_cornucopiaBrrrr. The weather outside is frightful. Good evening to stay indoors and catch up with this week's best posts and articles from and about the social sector....

Aging

Every day in America, 10,000 people turn 65 -- and that won’t stop for the next 22 years, Robert Egger, founder of the DC Central Kitchen and CForward, reminds us in the Nonprofit Times. Is your nonprofit ready? To answer that question, you have to understand three things:

  1. Members of the current "older generation" are a prideful generation and tend to avoid asking for charitable assistance, even when it is a right;
  2. In their earning years, they were more financially responsible and prone to saving money and avoiding credit card debt; and
  3. The charitable sector is struggling to meet current demand.

If your nonprofit is "struggling to serve the current 'hesitant to ask/got a little set aside' older generation," Eggers adds, "what happens when a new generation of elders -- a generation with less money set aside for their later years, who are less hesitant to ask for support, and more demanding in expectations -- begins to show up?" What happens, indeed.

Corporate Philanthropy

CECP has released Giving Around the Globe (20 pages, PDF; registration required), an analysis the global contributions of multinational companies in 2012. According to our story in PND, the sixty companies included in the report gave a total of $6.8 billion in cash and non-cash donations in 2012, with median giving of roughly $29 million. The survey also found that companies tended to favor giving in neighboring countries and emerging markets, with India topping the list of countries receiving contributions from the most companies, followed by Canada, China, and Mexico.

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[Infographic] Movember: The Moustache and Beard-Growing Month

November 23, 2013

Did you know "Mo" is Australian slang for "mustache"? Me, neither. Did you know prostate cancer is the second most common form of cancer in men? Or that the cure rate for prostate cancer, if detected early and treated in time, is 90 percent?

These and other stats come courtesy of the Best Health Degrees and this week's infographic, Movember: The Moustache and Beard-Growing Month.

The idea behind the campaign is to raise awareness and funds for men's health issues by encouraging men to grow a moustache for the thirty days of November. Participants, known as Mo Bros, register on the Movember.com site and start the month clean shaven. After that, they don't shave again until December 1 (and good luck to anyone who feels moved to snuzzle with them). There's a parallel effort for women, who are known as Mo Sistas and do everything to raise funds and awareness that Mo Bros do, without a mo. 

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'BRIDGE' to Somewhere: Progress to Date

November 21, 2013

Technical development of the first Basic Registry of Identified Global Entities (BRIDGE) release is currently about halfway to completion. If you've been following the project, you know that BRIDGE aims to revolutionize data interoperability in the global social sector by uniquely identifying all the world's NGOs in one database. In the post below, BRIDGE project manager Chad McEvoy (cmcevoy@globalgiving.org) checks in with a progress report. The post originally appeared on the Markets for Good site and is reprinted here with permission.

BRIDGE-logo-FinalConsidering its ambitious scope, the project has unfolded as efficiently as we could have hoped for, given that it's dependent on collaboration between four distinct partner organizations -- the Foundation Center, GlobalGiving, GuideStar, and TechSoup Global -- represented by contributing team members on both sides of the Atlantic, who are in turn coordinating with a Polish software development firm, all the while consulting with a technical advisory group composed of six extremely busy specialists and sector thought leaders — themselves spanning three countries. Nonetheless, I am happy to report that the foundation of BRIDGE has been laid and we are making steady progress.

From its inception, BRIDGE has been conceived of as something that will have the potential for unexpected positive outcomes.

Just as no one involved in the creation of Universal Product Codes (UPCs) in the 1970s could have anticipated or planned for the development of the current crop of smart phone scanner apps, we expect BRIDGE to provide a foundation for future innovation, but we don't yet know precisely where that will take us. We know BRIDGE will have far-reaching implications, perhaps revolutionizing philanthropic information-sharing, but we can only begin to imagine the breadth of the project's ultimate impact.

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Foundation Fundraising for the 99%

November 20, 2013

(Bradford K. Smith is president of the Foundation Center.)

It’s that time of year again: nonprofit execs are turning over every rock in sight to find the resources they need to close the gap between their ambition to make the world a better place and the hard reality of meeting payroll and paying rent. Many nonprofits rely on government contracts and individual donations, but many also go for foundation grants. Yet a significant portion of the $50 billion in grants made each year by America’s foundations is captured by just 1 percent of nonprofit recipients. Here's something that can help the other 99 percent level the playing field.

FDO_FreeIt's called Foundation Directory Online Free, a searchable database of close to 90,000 foundations and three years of their most recent 990-PF tax returns. Okay, I'm the president of the Foundation Center and can hardly be considered unbiased. But I cut my teeth in this business years ago by using the old Foundation Center print directories and ever since have believed the center to be the most reliable source of information for foundation grant research, period.

Open Foundation Directory Online Free and key in the two-letter code for your state or type a city name to search for foundations in your area. Change the ranking of the list you get by giving, assets, or name. Explore an individual foundation by clicking on its name. The profile will give you contact information, some financial stats, a URL (read on!), and the foundation’s fields of interest. This kind of basic information on foundations is surprisingly hard to come by; 93 percent of America's foundations do not have Web sites. That doesn't mean they don't make grants; they're just harder to find. Moreover, if you really want to dive deep into a particular foundation's grantmaking, FDO Free links you to the foundation's three most recent 990-PF tax returns -- a great source of information that includes a list of all the grants made by that foundation, the recipients of those grants, and grant dollar amounts.

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5 Questions for...Jessica Alexander, Author, 'Chasing Chaos: My Decade In and Out of Humanitarian Aid'

November 19, 2013

When Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the central Philippines on November 7, the storm's winds of 190 mph-plus unofficially made it the strongest cyclone ever to make landfall. The destruction that ensued was catastrophic: more than 3,900 people killed and tens of thousands missing, half a million homes destroyed, and millions of people displaced. As has been the case in many recent natural disasters, aid and humanitarian agencies responded quickly and with the best of intentions but were stymied by sub-standard and/or damaged infrastructure and logistical bottlenecks.

The ferocious intensity of Haiyan also led experts and officials in the Philippines and elsewhere to connect the storm to climate change -- a contention likely to be debated for years to come.

Over the weekend, PND asked Jessica Alexander, author of Chasing Chaos: My Decade In and Out of Humanitarian Aid, to rate emergency relief efforts in the Phillipines, what Americans can do to help, and whether she thinks climate change is contributing to the destructiveness of weather-related natural disasters. For more information about how you can contribute to relief and recovery efforts in the Philippines, click here, here, and here).

Headshot_jessica_alexanderPhilanthropy News Digest: What can Americans do to help the people of the Philippines? And what shouldn't they do?

Jessica Alexander: Americans should give money to a reputable humanitarian agency -- either local or international -- that is already on the ground there. It's sometimes difficult to know where to donate, but there are ways people can narrow their search. Donate to organizations that had a pre-typhoon presence in the Philippines, are transparent about how they are spending money, are clear about what the needs are right now and how their programs are responding to those needs, and are intentional about linking their efforts with local and government responses.

If people feel strongly about a certain issue, they can donate to an organization that focuses on that issue: there are agencies that work on issues related to children, others that work strictly on health issues or that specialize in water and sanitation, and so on.

Americans should not give "gifts in kind," nor should they hop on a plane with the thought of becoming a first-responder themselves. Emergencies caused by a natural disaster -- the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, for example, or the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 -- resulted in a lot of well-intentioned people sending inappropriate items to the affected country -- food items that fail to take into account the culinary and dietary preferences of the local people, used or unsuitable clothing that ends up clogging ports and littering roadsides, medicines with labels in English, leaving people in affected countries without a clue as to how to take or use them.

While well-intentioned people may think these are "donations," they come at a high cost to the agencies who must transport the items, sort them once they arrive at their destination, ensure that they are equitably distributed, and warehouse the surplus. First responders are having a hard enough time right now getting food, water, and shelter to people in affected regions of the Philippines, and more often than not donations in kind, however well intentioned, slow the whole operation down. 

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Weekend Link Roundup (November 16-17, 2013)

November 17, 2013

Headshot_JFK_portrait_looking_upWe're getting ready to launch a new PND site, so this week's roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the sector is a little shorter than usual....

Climate Change

What's the link between global warming and killer tropical storms like Typhoon Haiyan -- quite possibly the strongest storm ever recorded upon landfall? It's not clear, writes Bryan Walsh in TIME magazine, but we shouldn't discount the possibility that such a link exists -- or that stronger, if not necessarily more frequent, tropical cyclones will be a feature of the twenty-first century because of "the warming we've already baked into the system...."

Disaster Response

On the GiveWell blog, Holden Karnofsky shares GiveWell's advice vis-a-vis disaster relief giving:

  1. Give cash, not clothes (or other goods).
  2. Support an organization that will help or get out of the way.
  3. Give proactively, not reactively.
  4. Allow your funds to be used where most needed – even if that means they’re not used during this disaster.
  5. Give to organizations that are transparent and accountable.
  6. Think about less-publicized suffering.

Evaluation

Good post by Tom Kelly, vice president of knowledge, evaluation and learning at the Hawaii Community Foundation, about foundations moving "to embrace and promote 'learning' as an alternative to evaluation." The problem with that, writes Kelly, is that "evaluation must be about learning and accountability. We must be accountable not only to the results we intend and promise to communities but...also learn in an accountable way." 

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[Infographic] The Rise of the Nonprofit Sector

November 16, 2013

This week's infographic underscores a basic fact familiar to many of you: the nonprofit sector is growing faster than the business and public sectors, providing millions of meaningful jobs while contributing billions of dollars to GDP. Whether this is a good thing, or an unsettling reflection of an economy that's stuck in neutral -- or maybe both -- is an open question. We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Other takeaways from the infographic:

  • In New England, nonprofits now employ 16 percent of all workers;
  • In 2011, 64.3 million Americans donated 7.9 billion hours of of community service, equal to $171 billion worth of paid work;
  • Nonprofits plan to double their use of technology in 2013.

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A Generational Transition

November 13, 2013

(Stephen Bronfman is executive chair of Claridge, an investment firm started by his father, Charles, and co-chairs the Claudine and Stephen Bronfman Family Foundation. He also serves as president of the Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Family Foundation, is a director of the David Suzuki Foundation, and chairs the Combined Jewish Appeal 2014 Campaign. This post, the second in the "Making Change by Spending Down" series, a joint project of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies and GrantCraft, orginally appeared on the GrantCraft blog.)

Headshot_stephen_bronfmanPhilanthropy -- as my father often says -- is in the Bronfman DNA, and we are fortunate to be able to practice it generously and expansively. Representing this philanthropic tradition properly and effectively is a responsibility I embrace and will pass to my own children.

The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies' (ACBP) focus on Canadian heritage, Jewish community and Israeli culture, education, and society building is critical. Its footprint will be long-lasting, especially as it helps to put its major grantees on paths toward sustainability after it shuts its doors in 2016.

The work and mission of ACBP has always and rightly reflected the interests and passions of my father and his late wife, Andrea. I have my own, and I expect my own children to one day chart their own direction as well.

Deciding to close ACBP and direct his philanthropy through other channels shows how my father respected generational differences and transitions, aand also a changing world in which new challenges emerge and demand new philanthropic responses and approaches.

The decision reflects a philanthropic mindset to not burden a new generation with certain strictures, missions, and infrastructures. It empowers us to pursue our own visions and approaches to affect positive change. This is a desirable outcome.

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Data, Research, and Knowledge Tools — Where and When You Need Them

November 12, 2013

(Lisa Philp serves as vice president for strategic philanthropy at the Foundation Center.)

Cover_media_impactEarlier today the Foundation Center, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and Media Impact Funders, an affinity group of grantmakers, released a new report titled Growth in Foundation Support for Media in the United States (20 pages, PDF).

Headlines from the Research

As the most comprehensive and detailed picture of U.S. media-related funding by foundations to date, the research offers a number of new insights:

  • Media-related funding is substantial in size and scope -- 1,012 foundations made 12,040 media-related grants totaling $1.86 billion from 2009-11. If treated as a single category, media-related grantmaking would have ranked seventh in terms of domestic grantmaking in 2011, placing it just behind environment and ahead of science and technology, religion, and the social sciences.
  • Foundations increasingly are focused on media funding -- Media-related grantmaking grew at a faster rate than overall domestic grantmaking from 2009-11 (21 percent increase vs. 5.8 percent, respectively).
  • Funders are reacting to the changing landscape of media in the digital age -- New media investments (Web-based and mobile) outpaced those in traditional media (print, television, and radio) by a factor of four (116.5 percent increase vs. 29.4 percent, respectively).

These findings and many others will be discussed at a Media Impact Focus event on Wednesday, November 13, by a panel of media funders, filmmakers, journalists, and practitioners; analyzed in the coming weeks in blogs, columns, and op-ed pieces written by our project advisors and funders; and updated over time to track the story of how media grantmaking is evolving.

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Weekend Link Roundup (November 9-10, 2013)

November 10, 2013

Colorful-autumn-leavesOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Collaboration

Collaboration is hard, writes Third Foundation founder Jon Huggett on the Markets for Good blog. But your odds of success are greatly improved if you follow these six simple rules:

  1. Share hard goals, not values.
  2. Measure for improving, not proving.
  3. Choose the change, not who is in charge.
  4. Share credit for successful ideas, not put the "genius" on a pedestal.
  5. Spread ideas, not organizations.
  6. Embrace competition, don't discourage it.

Education

Created by the Great Schools Partnership, the Glossary of Education Reform defines and describes widely used school-improvement terms, concepts, and strategies. Useful -- and a sharp presentation.

Health/Healthcare

"Like so many freshly minted doctors, I thought I had all the answers," writes Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, on LinkedIn. But an indigent female patient, admitted "late on a winter night, homeless and helpless," taught her she didn't. "My medical training never taught me that how and where a patient lives, learns, works, and plays has more to do with his or her health than the treatments we were diligently learning. No one ever suggested that society is just as much our patient as that person waiting for us in the examining room. Our care ended at the front door of the hospital -- and that wasn’t far enough...."

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Valley Boys

November 08, 2013

(Andrew Grabois is manager of corporate philanthropy at the Foundation Center. In his last post, he wrote about the addition of corporate sustainability data to Foundation Directory Online.)

Women_on_tech_boardsMuch has been written about Twitter's IPO -- including analyses of the social media company's revenues, profits, share price, and even the stylistic turns of its S-1 prospectus. What you don't see, however, are articles or blog posts lamenting the complete absence of corporate philanthropy at the company. After all, Twitter, as the company's execs write in its prospectus summary, has "democratized content creation and distribution, enabling any voice to echo around the world instantly and unfiltered." With such an empowering, public-spirited mission, why should Twitter -- or any Silicon Valley high-flyer, for that matter -- concern itself with charitable giving or other aspects of corporate social responsibility?

The answer is that Twitter will never truly "democratize content creation and distribution" until it practices what it preaches. In that respect, it has a ways to go. For instance, more than a few people have noticed that Twitter doesn't have any women on its board of directors. And it's not alone. A well-traveled infographic created by Jim Cooke of Gawker shows that Twitter is one of four tech companies without a single female on the board -- and the other dozen companies included in the infographic scarcely do better. Taken together, the companies on Gawker's list averaged slightly more than one out of ten (13 percent) women on their boards, with those sitting at least one woman averaging closer to two out of ten (17 percent). Abysmally low, to be sure, but only marginally lower than the 14 percent reported by GMI Ratings in 2013 for S&P 1500 public companies and the 17 percent for Fortune 500 companies in 2012 as reported by Catalyst.

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Collaborative Technologies: Reducing the Friction in the System

November 07, 2013

(Gabriel Kasper is a senior manager at the Monitor Institute, a consultancy and think tank focused on philanthropy and social change that operates as part of Deloitte Consulting LLP.)

Headshot_gabriel_kasperEarlier today, the Monitor Institute and the Foundation Center released a new report called Harnessing Collaborative Technologies: Helping Funders Work Together Better (44 pages, PDF). As part of the research, we looked at more than a hundred and seventy different technological tools now available to funders, dove deeply into the literature on philanthropic collaboration, analyzed the results of recent Foundation Center surveys, and spoke with a wide range of experts from the worlds of both technology and philanthropy.

The report's main headlines won't come as a huge surprise to anyone: (1) more than ever before, funders are recognizing that they need to collaborate to effectively address the complex, intractable problems we now face; and (2) new technologies -- from simple group scheduling tools to comprehensive online collaboration workspaces -- are now available to help facilitate the often challenging process of working together.

But there's a deeper story beneath the headlines about how these emerging technologies are enabling new types of collaborations that weren't possible (or were more difficult) just a few years ago.

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5 Questions for...Rise Wilson, Director of Philanthropy, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation

November 05, 2013

Like all great artists, Robert Rauschenberg had an uncanny ability to see and shape the future. In a world that was growing smaller and in which creative technologies were more widely disseminated than ever before, he realized that the line between art and life, meaning and interpretation, high and low were increasingly arbitrary and personal.

Rauschenberg also viewed his art as a vehicle for social change and, as he grew older, actively supported people and issues that moved him. In 1990, he established the foundation that bears his name to benefit and promote awareness of the causes and groups close to his heart, which included arts education, environmental causes, and artistic collaborations of various kinds.

Rauschenberg died in 2008 at the age of 82, and today his foundation, led by its board and staff, is in the process of redefining the scope of its activities and transitioning from "a model that was artist-led toward one that serves the public good."

Recently, PND chatted by e-mail with Rise Wilson, who joined RRF as its first director of philanthropy in August, about the foundation's SEED program, which provides unrestricted operating capital to "boundary-pushing" arts organizations in their earliest stages, allowing them to build the capacity and programming.

Headshot_RiseWilsonPhilanthropy News Digest: You and your colleagues have just announced a second round of SEED grants -- $30,000 in unrestricted operating capital to start-up arts organizations around the country. Why start-up organizations?

Rise Wilson: Before I speak to the choice to focus on start-ups, I should clarify that these particular early stage organizations were selected because they were choosing different operating models, pushing the boundaries of their medium, working in an interdisciplinary way, or in some other fashion "nurturing the new." Nominators were encouraged to identify organizations who were exemplary in their efforts to experiment, take risks, and support emerging artists. So the program is not just about start-ups for start-ups' sake but the importance of investing in new and untested models.

What we know from the legacy of our founder, Robert Rauschenberg, who invested in artists at the earliest stages of their careers, is how catalyzing this kind of support can be. Early investment validates that artists -- and, in the case of the SEED program, organizations -- are on the right path. It shores up their financial and logistical capacity to pursue their vision, and it can provide more space to test out ideas -- rather than choosing the safest, most "fund-able" projects to develop.

There is a marked absence of risk capital in arts and culture. Traditional philanthropy still seems to be operating with the tacit expectation that organizations should have at least three years of bootstrapping before receiving institutional support. Though there is wisdom in assessing a potential grantee's capacity to carry out its vision, there are a great many flaws in this metric of grant-worthiness. The ability to bootstrap is often tied to access to wealth, which is not evenly distributed -- geographically, demographically, or culturally. So there is a justice component that is available in the decision to invest in early stage work. To be clear, this justice element was not a core feature in the design of the SEED program, but it's available -- and in my new post at the foundation, it's one I plan to underline.

So there is a justice component, and on a really basic and fundamental level, there is the the fact that we need to figure out how to fund good ideas. Our sector is literally filled with creative thinkers. We are in the business of creativity and creative problem-solving, yet early stage funding is so tenuous it can kill great ideas, through neglect, before they've had a chance to take root. How do you prototype and pilot when funds are only available to proven, tested programs? We have an opportunity to apply lessons and strategies from the social-enterprise sector and impact philanthropy -- to encourage innovation, which by its nature often involves untested ideas, uncertain models, and starting from scratch.

As a foundation, risk-taking is one of our core values, so it is not only the kind of work we support but the way we approach our own. We want to remove barriers for creative thinkers to do good work, even when that means they are new, working with a fiscal sponsor, or have selected a for-profit structure as a way to advance their creative endeavors.

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