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18 posts from December 2013

Weekend Link Roundup (December 28-29, 2013)

December 29, 2013

New_year_2014_shutterstockOur final roundup for the year of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector. See you in 2014!

Giving

In a Q&A on the Harvard Business Review blog, Michael Norton, an associate professor at Harvard Business School and co-author of Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending, suggests that the way corporations and individuals approach charitable giving is starting to change -- for better and worse.

Higher Education

On the Inside Higher Ed blog, Dan Greenstein, director of postsecondary success at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, argues that "higher education is at a tipping point, and that it will soon look nothing like it does today, except perhaps at a few ivy-covered, well-endowed institutions." Lots of pushback in the comments section.

Impact/Effectiveness

Tracy Palandjian, co-founder and CEO of Social Finance US, and Jane Hughes, director of Knowledge Management at the organization, have an excellent piece on the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog that looks at three possible future scenarios for the social impact bond market. They are:

  1. Boom-Bubble-Bust
  2. SIBs Are the Wave of the Future — and They Always Will Be
  3. A Successful Market for Social Outcomes

Palandjian and Hughes then examine some of the factors that will determine which scenario plays out. If you're at all interested in the impact investing space, this is a must-read.

Continue reading »

[Video] 'Apple Forecast: Immigration Reform'

December 28, 2013

Kathryn Pyle, one of our favorite PhilanTopic contributors, also is an acomplished documentary filmmaker. Her latest effort, a very short documentary titled Apple Forecast: Immigration Reform, "gives voice," in Kathryn's words, to small farmers who say our immigration system is hurting their business.

You can watch the film in its entirety below. It's also being hosted on the Web by the Francisan Action Network, where you can read a statements about the film by Kathryn and FAN executive director Patrick Carolan.

(Running time: 4:97)

To read more of Kathryn's posts for PhilanTopic, click here.

Have a thought or opinion about the doc or our immigration system? Feel free to share them in the comments section below.

Meet the New Glasspockets Web Site

December 27, 2013

(Janet Camarena is the director of the Foundation Center's San Francisco office and leads the center's Glasspockets effort. A version of this post orginally appeared on the center's Transparency Talk blog.)

Headshot_janet_camarenaLast month, we launched a redesigned and enhanced Glasspockets Web site that I hope readers of this blog will enjoy exploring and/or rediscovering. Our goal for the new site remains the same as when the site originally launched in 2010: to champion greater philanthropic transparency in an increasingly digital world. But the new site is very different and much improved from that first site -— thanks in part to our efforts to create a user experience informed by direct feedback from our stakeholders.

Of course, you might be wondering whether we need a Glasspockets site to champion transparency at all. To which my answer would be a resounding "yes." You might be surprised to learn, for example, that according to the latest data from the Foundation Center, fewer than 10 percent of foundations in the United States have a Web presence. Many of you might assume this is due to the large number of small, unstaffed family foundations that comprise the private foundation universe in the United States. But even when you look at relatively large foundations, those with assets of more than $100 million, you find that nearly a third (30 percent) of them do not have a Web site.

Clearly, many people who engage in philanthropy prefer to do so quietly and without fanfare, which is a challenge for those of us in the field-building business as well as for grantseekers and other grantmakers interested in connecting with like-minded colleagues and funders. We also recognize that, when it comes to transparency, it's often hard for grantmakers to know where to begin. Which is why the redesigned Glasspockets site makes it much easier for grantmakers to find tools they can use and steps they can take to increase their level of transparency.

Continue reading »

Newsmakers: Darren Walker, President, Ford Foundation

December 18, 2013

Headshot_darren_walkerIn September, Darren Walker became the tenth president of the Ford Foundation. Before coming to Ford, where he was vice president of the foundation's Education, Creativity, and Freedom of Expression program, Walker served as vice president for foundation initiatives at the Rockefeller Foundation and as chief operating officer of the Abyssinian Development Corporation, where he guided the organization's efforts to develop housing for low and moderate-income families in Harlem.

Recently, Michael Seltzer, a frequent contributor to PhilanTopic, spoke with Walker about the current social change environment, the influence of the foundation's activities on his life, and his hopes for the foundation going forward. Seltzer is a distinguished lecturer at the Baruch College School of Public Affairs and an affiliated faculty member of its Center for Nonprofit Strategy & Management.

Philanthropy News Digest: What is it like to be president of the Ford Foundation?

Darren Walker: Although I've been at the foundation for more than three years, in many ways I still have a lot to learn. I certainly didn't arrive here with any idea I would end up as president. When I walked through the doors of this institution for the first time, it was a transformational experience, because the Ford Foundation represents the ways in which my own life has been changed by philanthropy.

I'm a graduate of public schools. I attended public school in a small town in Texas, and I am also a graduate of the first Head Start cohort, a program that was developed out of Ford Foundation-supported research on early child development at Yale University. After high school, I attended a large land grant university -- thanks to Pell grants, another Ford Foundation-supported intervention -- so I know all about Ford's commitment to public education in this country.

After college, I worked on Wall Street and one day found myself at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, which was hosting a representative of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a creation of -- you guessed it -- the Ford Foundation. LISC had awarded a grant to the Abyssinian Development Corporation for capacity-building initiatives that would allow it to realize the aspirations of the organization's founders, who had a dream in the mid-'80s that Harlem could be a community that could regenerate itself from within. And the Ford Foundation, through LISC, believed in that dream and invested in it. And that capacity-building grant made it possible for ADC to hire me. So my journey, like the journeys of so many others, has been deeply influenced by the Ford Foundation.

I was thrilled to receive a call from the foundation's board chair, Irene Hirano-Inouye, and have her tell me that the board had voted to appoint me president. Actually, I wasn't sure how to respond, beyond saying, "Yes!" because I know that with this job comes huge responsibility, and that I stand on the shoulders of some extraordinary people.

Continue reading »

Compensating for Your Philanthropic Blind Spots

December 17, 2013

(Caroline Woodruff is a philanthropy advisor at Bessemer Trust, where she helps individual clients, families, and foundations develop strategies to meet their philanthropic and intergenerational legacy goals. Founded in 1907, Bessemer Trust is a privately owned wealth and investment management firm that serves ultra-high-net-worth families and their foundations and endowments.)

Vivienne_Harr_TwitterIPOFor those who may have missed one of her viral tweets, Vivienne Harr is the new face of the movement to end child slavery. Vivienne has raised more than $100,000 -- so far -- to eradicate child slavery by selling lemonade. (She's pictured here ringing the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange to commemorate Twitter's initial public offering on November 7, 2013.)

Vivienne was a featured guest at a gathering for Bay Area philanthropists hosted several weeks ago by the Marin Community Foundation (MCF). I attended to hear MCF president and CEO Tom Peters moderate a session with my colleague Paul Connolly, director of Philanthropic Advisory Services at Bessemer Trust, in which Paul discussed the pros and cons of what he called "moneyball philanthropy" -- a data-driven and results-oriented approach to grantmaking. At the same session, members of the audience described their common struggle to balance the "head" and "heart" in their philanthropy.

Over the years, I've observed that donors typically fall somewhere on a spectrum, with a highly intuitive mode of giving propelled by passion at one end and a very technocratic approach focused more on logic, outcomes, and data at the other. Sometimes, leaning too much toward one end of the spectrum can negatively affect results. Indeed, during the session with Paul and Tom, it became clear how important it is to identify "blind spots" in one's grantmaking practice and find others to complement your particular inclinations.

Vivienne's story is an impressive example of a donor who is driven by heart. After seeing a photo of two boys in child slavery, she set an audacious goal to do something about it: sell lemonade from her neighborhood roadside stand for 365 days and raise $100,000. In less than six months, she had surpassed her target and decided to aim even higher. She wanted to create a socially conscious company to bottle her product, brand it as "Make a Stand Lemon-Aid," and leverage a portion of the gross proceeds to support her philanthropy.

Continue reading »

A New and Improved 'Philanthropy News Digest'

Dear Friends:

Newbutton_1You might have noticed that we unveiled a new Philanthropy News Digest site a few weeks ago.

We'd gotten a lot of mileage out of the old site, which debuted back in 2006. All good things must come to an end, however, and that site was no exception. In addition to a fresh, responsive design, the new site offers greatly improved functionality and a user interface that makes it easier to keep up with philanthropy-related news and commentary, browse and post jobs, and sign up for newsletters and customized alerts. If you haven't had a chance to check it out, here are some of the things waiting for you:

  • a new search engine that organizes your results by content type, subject area, people, organization, and date posted;
  • seamless integration with our popular Twitter feed, blog, and video "Flip" chats;
  • convenient access to related links and popular stories;
  • a new and improved commenting system;
  • a design that looks good in your hand as well as on your desktop;
  • new mobile-friendly newsletter and e-alert designs; and
  • a more streamlined way to manage your profile, newsletters, and e-alerts.

We’re excited about the new site and will be making further improvements to it in 2014. In the meantime, we'd love to hear from you. What do you like about the new PND? What should we add? What can we do better?

Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below. Or e-mail or call us at feedback@foundationcenter.org | (800) 424-9836.

Thanks, as always, for reading. We look forward to serving you the best philanthropy-related news and commentary in the New Year!

-- Mitch Nauffts

Weekend Link Roundup (December 14-15, 2013)

December 15, 2013

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

Snowman_clipartEducation

Good profile on Tech Crunch of Rutgers professor Bruce Baker, the "Nate Silver of education." Like "Silver's influential and statistically nuanced election forecast blog posts, Baker has gained notoriety for reexamining data to trounce his adversary's conclusions," writes Gregory Ferenstein. "And, with Silver's new independent 538 channel, Baker's brand of statistics-heavy argument could be the future of education journalism."

Giving

In a provocative post in Salon, liberal stalwart and former Clinton administration official Robert Reich notes that "a large portion of the charitable deductions now claimed by America's wealthy are for donations to culture palaces -- operas, art museums, symphonies, and theaters" -- and "elite prep schools and universities they once attended or want their children to attend" and as such are "investments in the life-styles the wealthy already enjoy and want their children to have as well."

Was the second annual #GivingTuesday event a success? Notwithstanding the positive headlines and torrent of tweets leading up to and during the day itself, there isn't "a single shred of hard evidence [to suggest] that #GivingTuesday is good for the entire nonprofit sector," writes ML Innovations president Michael J. Rosen. Before Rosen is ready to deem the event a success, he'd like to see answers to such tough questions as: How many new donors did #GivingTuesday participants v. other nonprofits acquire in 2013? Among 2012 #GivingTuesday nonprofit participants v. other nonprofits, what is the retention rate of donors who gave on that date? And is #GivingTuesday simply changing when people give (i.e., on that Tuesday instead of Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or another day)?

Continue reading »

[Infographic] What’s Trending With Foundations and Social Media

December 14, 2013

This week's infographic comes courtesy of our talented Foundation Center and Glasspockets colleagues. Based on a January 2013 survey of more than five thousand large independent, family, corporate, and community foundations in the U.S., it illustrates the response of over eleven hundred foundations to the question: Does your foundation use social media to advance its mission?

There's a lot of info to review here, and we know you'll want to spend some time with it. So, we'll just leave you with five tips (included at the bottom) designed to jump-start your foundation's social media efforts:

  1. Follow your grantees and other foundations.
  2. Cross-promote your social media presence on you Web site, and make sure your site's URL is listed on each of your social media properties.
  3. Don't just talk at your followers, talk with them.
  4. Ask thoughtful questions.
  5. Be transparent. Share stories from your grantees. tell people about your impact.

Continue reading »

Moving the Needle: Learning, Doing and Looking Ahead

December 13, 2013

(Sherece West-Scantlebury is the president and CEO of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. This post originally appeared on the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy blog.)

Headshot_sherece_westWinthrop Rockefeller's arrival in Arkansas in 1953 was a major event. That a member of one of the wealthiest families in the world had moved to one of the poorest states in the country was a big deal. The press was understandably curious and asked about his plans. "I've got a lot to learn and a whole lot more to do," the state's future governor responded.

Decades later, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation continues the governor's "learning" and "doing," often at the same time. On the learning side of the equation, we've done two things this year that we feel are worth sharing.

The first was a retrospective on the first five years of our Moving the Needle Strategic Plan. Developed in 2007, Moving the Needle was based on close to one hundred conversations with policy makers, grassroots community leaders, business leaders, youth, and national experts on community change. Those conversations, combined with our research on best practices in economic development, social justice and closing the achievement gap, formed the framework that has guided WRF's investments for the last five years. Moving the Needle 2008 – 2013: Looking Back Going Forward is our best effort to tell the story of the short-term impact of our investments.

The second notable thing we've done this year is partnering with NCRP to look at how our strategies and practices align with our goals, the impact created by the Moving the Needle agenda, and the quality of WRF's partnerships with grantees. To that end, NCRP developed and deployed a comprehensive appraisal tool based on its Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best and recommendations from Real Results: Why Strategic Philanthropy Is Social Justice Philanthropy. Former and current grantees, applicants that did not receive funding, and stakeholders such as government representatives and peer institutions participated in the assessment.

Through this process, we gathered data on how our partners view both the impact of the Moving the Needle strategy and the way we go about meeting our mission. The full report, NCRP Assessment of Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, provides all the details. But in short, NCRP found that:

  • Our partners understand and support the Moving the Needle Strategic plan and grantmaking approach.
  • Many grantees and stakeholders see specific signs of progress in Moving the Needle, especially in the areas of education and immigration.
  • Our partners view WRF as a highly effective funder, partly because of open, accessible foundation staff and a strong sense of shared purpose.
  • We demonstrate a consistent commitment to rural communities and resident engagement.
  • We are viewed as an effective partner, and we use our convening power to foster non-competitive relationships among our partners around the state.

Lest we get too full of ourselves, it was also clear that:

  • If we are going to see the needle move more significantly in Arkansas, there needs to be additional investment in community change and economic development in the Delta.
  • Open and accessible staff does not always mean a more efficient process. We should strive to create more timely feedback loops on the "paper-work" parts of our relationships.
  • We should expand our willingness to provide core support and capacity development for resident engagement and community organizing.
  • Leadership development is a critical component of our strategy and worthy of additional investments.

After nearly twenty years in philanthropy, I've learned there is a thin line between navel gazing and strategic assessment. Navel gazing (we've all done it) takes data, gives it a thoughtful review, and files it away. That is not our plan. WRF has already begun to build better internal systems and recalibrate its grantmaking strategy in response to feedback from our partners.

Internally, we've committed to tighter response timelines and using technology to better facilitate the transactional aspects of our relationships with grantees. On the strategy side, we incorporated the findings of the assessment into the development of Moving the Needle 2.0, the strategic plan that will guide our work for the next five years.

WRF is a small foundation with a huge mission. Our ability to positively impact the opportunities of low-income Arkansans is directly related to our ability to cultivate and sustain partnerships. It's not enough for us just to "do well"; we also have to be "do well by others" if we are going to have strong partnerships that enable us to achieve our action agenda.

A regular, methodical, third-party inquiry -- how are we doing? does it make sense? what do you think? -- is a critical part of the learning we must continually engage in to make sure that all our "doing" is actually making a difference.

How do you think we're doing? Feel free to share your comments and feedback below.

-- Sherece West-Scantlebury

SIBs: Private Gain or Public Good?

December 12, 2013

(Mark Rosenman, professor emeritus, Union Institute & University, is a frequent contributor to PhilanTopic. In his previous post, he argued that foundations and advocacy organizations need to rethink how their resources can be deployed to build the infrastructure and institutions of democracy in the twenty-first century.)

Rosenman_headshotNot long ago, New York City and Goldman Sachs began to experiment with a new financial instrument known as a social impact (or pay-for-success) bond that raises capital from the private sector for nonprofit social programs which in the past would have been funded largely by government. If, after an agreed-upon period of time, the program in question is able to demonstrate success, the investors are paid back, along with a profit, by their government partner. The concept has generated a fair amount of buzz, in part because deficit-strapped governments, underfunded charities, and resource-constrained foundations see SIBs as a potential new source of program dollars.

Unfortunately, the SIB model is being touted as the next best thing without any critical examination of the assumptions behind it or the funding crisis which drives it.

What, for example, would happen if taxes were cut to the point that government is hard pressed just to fund defense/public safety, entitlements, and its own operations and so has to turn to private investors who demand a profitable return to finance critical public infrastructure and nonprofit services? If some have their way, we're likely to find out.

Continue reading »

From For-Profit to Not-for-Profit: Exploding Myths About Sector Switchers

December 09, 2013

A. Wayne Luke is managing partner of the not-for-profit practice at Witt/Kieffer, a leading executive search firm. A bridger himself, he has served in various corporate and not-for-profit roles over the course of his career and has served on the boards of  the Metropolitan Atlanta YMCA, the Atlanta Opera, Zoo Atlanta, and the Georgia Tech Alumni Association.

Bridging-the-gapIn most cases, these fears are unfounded. Corporate executives and other successful professionals tend to be pragmatic in approaching a major career change and often are genuinely passionate about finding a new challenge. Then, too, a sector switch invariably involves a cut in pay, which, when accepted, almost always is a clear indication that the individual in question is serious about his or her commitment to the not-for-profit  world.

In fact, there are many myths about bridgers in need of debunking, or at least denting. In my experience, foundations and nonprofits that open themselves up to leaders from the for-profit sector also open themselves up to new insights, new (and often better) ways of doing things, and the possibility of positive transformation. Here are a few of those myths:

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (December 7-8, 2013)

December 08, 2013

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

Civil Society

In an op-ed in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Diana Aviv, chief executive of Independent Sector, and Gary Bass, executive director of the Bauman Foundation, argue that a recent proposal from the IRS aimed at clarifying federal rules on nonprofit political activity, while well intentioned, "is flawed in so many ways that it will undermine one of the key ways through which nonprofits do their work: helping Americans understand major issues in elections and encouraging them to register to vote and cast ballots."

A thought-provoking post (and set of comments in response) by Daniel Stid on the Hewlett Foundation's new Work in Progress blog about philanthropy's role in "curing the mischief of faction." The post introduces a new Hewlett initiative to address "political polarization [in Washington] and its three most notable markers: increasing ideological coherence within and divergence between the Republican and Democratic parties, hyper-partisanship, and gridlock." The goal, writes Stid, is not to forge a "national consensus or centrist agenda that will somehow span and resolve the multiple points of disagreement that separate our parties and their affiliated coalitions." Rather, the foundation hopes, "to help make it possible for the representative institutions of the federal government to solve problems in ways that most Americans will accept and support."

Education

In The Atlantic, Alexander Russo has a roundup of the most notable education stories of 2013, including Teach for America becoming (even more of) a lightning rod; school closings in Philadelphia, Chicago, and Detroit; and the backlash against the Common Core.

Using Pope Francis' recent comments about capitalism and income inequality as a point of departure, Kaisa Snellman, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at INSEAD, argues in a post on the Harvard Business Review blog that while mobility statistics from the United States are grim, "the future looks even grimmer....For the last two years," writes Snellman, "my collaborators and I have been studying growing class gaps in various precursors of life success. And the findings are alarming. The children of college-educated parents and those of less-educated parents are raised in very different ways and are launched on very different trajectories in life...."

Continue reading »

[Infographic] Hungry Planet: Consumption Around the Globe

December 07, 2013

It's December, and in the United States the season of rampant consumerism is in full holiday swing. By the time 2013 is on its way to becoming a memory, the average American will have spent nearly $800 on gifts -- and who knows how much more on food, drink, and travel.

Like bluejeans and Hollywood blockbusters, the rest of the world can't seem to get enough of the supsersized American way of life. Yes, the United States, with just 5 percent of the world's population, consumes 24 percent of its energy resources, but rapidly developing countries such as China are catching up. And, as this infographic from InternationalBusinessGuide.org shows, when it comes to per capita energy consumption, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Denmark surpass us, while Austria consumes more calories and Ireland produces more trash.

Continue reading »

Minding the Ps and Ts of Funder Collaboration

December 06, 2013

(The following post was written by Nancy Jamison, executive director, San Diego Grantmakers, and Jennifer James, vice president of Harder+Company Community Research and a San Diego Grantmakers' funder collaboration consultant.)

Collaboration_clipartIf you are a grantmaker or work in the field of philanthropy, you understand the value of working with other funders and stakeholders to achieve shared goals. You're probably very familiar with the need to avoid working in "silos"; the power of "collaboration"; and how those things differ from "collective impact." And you almost certainly can relate to the fact that all of it is easier said than done.

At San Diego Grantmakers (SDG), a regional membership association for different types of funders, we have learned that even though the concept of working together seems straightforward, doing it is anything but. In many ways, however, grantmaker associations like ours are well positioned to facilitate collaboration among funders and across sectors. Among other things, we can be neutral conveners of grantmakers, service providers, infrastructure organizations, and business and civic leaders. And we can assist with communication and meeting coordination. As a result, this kind of support has emerged as a valued SDG member service.

The intensity and purpose of SDG's member collaborations varies. Some are learning groups comprised only of funders who meet occasionally to learn about topics of mutual interest. Sometimes this learning leads to aligned funding for specific nonprofits or projects. Sometimes it leads to convening or partnering with external stakeholders to do community problem solving or projects. We affectionately call this the "learning-to-doing continuum."

And so, though we certainly haven't discovered the foolproof, no-risk formula for successful collaboration, here are some lessons -- or collaboration "Ps & Ts" -- we've learned along the way:

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Nelson Mandela, July 18, 1918 - December 5, 2013

PND joins with millions of people around the globe in paying tribute to Nelson Mandela, a towering figure of the twentieth century. Thanks in part to his heroic example, our is a more peaceful and just world. May he always live in our collective memory.

Mandela_tribute

The Nelson Mandela foundation is collecting messages of condolence from the global community. To send a message, visit www.nelsonmandela.org/.

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    — Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

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