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17 posts from December 2015

Tips for Working With a Recruiter

December 31, 2015

Dream-job-next-exitAs a recruiter focused on the nonprofit sector, I've interacted with thousands of candidates over the years. And I've often wished that more people understood how to fully leverage the recruiter-job candidate relationship. To that end, here are some tips for working with a recruiter that will help you land your dream job in the new year.

Return our calls! A recruiter could be reaching out to you to tap your network or to see whether you're interested in a particular position. While you might not be looking for a job today, taking five minutes to return the recruiter's email or call will help you establish a relationship that could lead to your next professional opportunity. It's worth the time and effort.

Be honest and open about your compensation requirements, whether you are willing to relocate, and other potentially sticky issues, including whether you have been contacted by or are working with other recruiters. A good recruiter will be able to guide you through those issues to a satisfactory outcome – but only if you're honest and up front with her.

Leverage your recruiter's experience to help you navigate the hiring process. When working with a recruiter, be sure to ask questions about what you should emphasize, what you should downplay, and how to manage questions about gaps in your experience. It's in a recruiter's best interests to help his or her candidates shine, and you might be surprised at how effectively we can help you do that.

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Where Are We On the Road to 'Open Knowledge' in the Social Sector?

December 29, 2015

Open-doorIt's that time of year again. The time for performance reviews, grant reports, and setting annual goals. It's also the moment to set aside any illusions you have about what you still hope to accomplish in 2015 and take a hard look back at what really happened over the last year.

As is true for many of you, my performance goals are tightly bound up with my larger goals and aspirations for the social sector. Checking in on how far I have come this year often means gauging that against how far we have all come. And the thing I am most concerned with is the progress we have made toward greater openness in how we (foundations and nonprofits) share the knowledge we fund and produce.

The reason we are so deeply concerned with openness at IssueLab, and at Foundation Center in general, is because we hear again and again from individuals and organizations who want to build on what their colleagues have already learned. In other words, they want to work smarter, but they don't always have the resources to track down the knowledge that's out there on their own. To a significant extent, the knowledge foundations and nonprofits need, the feedback we seek, and the on-the-ground lessons we crave are captured in the reports, case studies, and evaluations we routinely fund and produce. Unfortunately, these are shared (or "published") in ways that may on the surface be free but are only rarely "open."

I admit, there is no easy measure of progress toward greater openness. How much of the knowledge we produce is even discoverable and accessible to the people who need it to do their work? How free is "free" if individual practitioners and organizations need to spend weeks of staff time searching for and sifting through hundreds of different websites to answer a question about what has already been done or learned? How much of what foundations know are they actually sharing with their grantees and the public? A recent post from CEP includes a statistic that really got my attention when it first came to light. In 2013, CEP reported that only 36 percent of grantees thought funders share the knowledge they have about what other nonprofits are doing to address similar challenges. By any measure, that's not enough — especially when you consider that foundations already have tools for greater knowledge sharing at their disposal.

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Weekend Link Roundup (December 26-27, 2015)

December 27, 2015

New-years-resolutionsOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at@pndblog....

Arts and Culture

Eight years after its controversial Central Library Plan was greeted with alarm and derision, the New York Public Library  is moving forward with a $300 million renovation of its historic midtown campus, and this time, library leaders say, "it's a different story." WNYC's Jessica Gould reports.

How can we talk about art and artists in a way that makes clear their contributions to quality of life in the communities we call home? Veteran policy advocate and communicator Margy Waller shares some thoughts on Americans for the Arts' ArtsBlog.

Civil Society

On the Open Society Foundations' Voices blog, OSF president Christopher Stone notes the troubling fact that, in countries around the world and for a variety of reasons, "active citizenship is under attack and the space for civic engagement is closing."

Climate Change

Andrew Simmons, founder of the JEMS Progressive Community Organization and the Caribbean Youth Environment Network and a previous winner ('94) of the Goldman Environmental Prize, talks to the folks at GEP about the global agreement forged at the recent Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC/COP21) summit in Paris and whether it is enough to save vulnerable island-nations from disaster.

Corporate Philanthropy

Based on Corporate Responsibility magazine's list of the 100 Best Corporate Citizens of 2015, the folks at the JK group share ten lessons from their work that make these companies the best in philanthropy and how yours can follow suit.

Criminal Justice

On the Marshall Project site, Vincent Schiraldi, formerly director of juvenile corrections for Washington, D.C., and a senior advisor to the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice in New York City, argues that in order to truly end mass incarceration in the U.S., "we need to completely shutter the doors of youth prisons...."

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Dashboards: Nonprofits' New Best Friend

December 22, 2015

Executive-dashboard-example-1_0If you lead or help manage a nonprofit organization, you know how hard it can be to provide clarity and transparency to your stakeholders. Revenue streams are unpredictable, databases can be hard to work with, and money has to be allocated where it is needed, not necessarily where it provides value. And all this while donors and funders insist on holding your organization accountable. Because of these and other factors, reporting systems in nonprofits often are less than state-of-the-art, spreadsheets provide numbers but not critical analysis, and meaningful data-driven conclusions are hard to come by.

That's why a growing number of nonprofit leaders and decision-makers are turning to a powerful visibility tool to overcome such obstacles: the dashboard.

Good dashboards integrate and visualize vast amounts of data from different sources into a single-screen presentation that can be understood at a glance. The most effective dashboard solutions are intuitive, visually dynamic, and present an accessible real-time look into a range of metrics. The combination of comprehensive data gathering with superior data visualization make dashboards a vital tool for organizations looking to gain critical insights and a fresh perspective on their activities.

Case study insights

To get a sense of how dashboards can have a positive impact, consider the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas's experience. Burdened by incompatible donor database and financial systems, the organization sought a solution that would integrate disparate data sources and enable it to upgrade out-of-date and hard-to-understand internal reporting mechanisms.

By implementing a powerful customized dashboard solution, UWMD was able to transform its reporting so that its board now receives timely information — including specific goals, updates on revenue and key performance indicators (KPIs), and a range of metrics related to progress toward longer-term goals — in an easy-to-understand format.

In addition to organization-wide tracking, the organization also uses dashboards for individual initiatives such as monitoring funds raised in a given year and big-picture progress on its campaigns. In a field where transparency is critical to success, making it clear to internal stakeholders where and how assets are being used is essential.

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Weekend Link Roundup (December 19-20, 2014)

December 20, 2015

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

Climate Change

"After two centuries of prosperity built on the use of coal, oil, and natural gas, representatives of nearly two hundred countries at the United Nations Climate Change Conference resolved to turn away from those fuels and embrace a new future of clean energy," writes Reid Detchon, vice president for energy and climate strategy at the United Nations Foundation. The key word in that sentence is "resolved," and while the agreement should be celebrated, the "hard work of implementation remains [to be done]." It won't be easy, but Detchon, for one, is an optimist. As is Robert Stavins, Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School and head of the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, who in an interview with the Harvard Gazette pushes back against the idea that the agreement signed in Paris was a "fraud."

Corporate Philanthropy

Tech giant Microsoft has announced an "expanded commitment" to its global corporate philanthropy and a new organization within the company, Microsoft Philanthropies, "to make this ambition a reality."

Environment

The so-called war on drugs not only has failed to impede global drug trafficking, it's also contributing to "widespread environmental degradation and accelerating climate change." Vice's Eva Hershaw has the story.

On the Huffington Post's Green blog, Laura Goldman looks at what the Philadelphia-based William Penn foundation, and others, have been doing to improve and maintain the Delaware River watershed, which provides drinking water to fifteen million people or 5 percent of the U.S. population. 

Giving

It's that time of year, and Steve Delfin,  president and CEO of America’s Charities, has six tips for getting the most out of your giving during the holiday season.

When is a pledge to give as valuable as an actual donation? More often than you'd think. The Wall Street Journal's James Andreoni and Marta Serra-Garcia explain.

Yes, taxes matter when it comes to charitable giving. But as Andrew Blackman explains in the Journal, the relationship isn't as simple as it looks. "For instance, research suggests that the system of itemized deductions the U.S. has been using for decades is much less effective at spurring donations than tax systems in other countries that...offer charities matching donations.

Still other research suggests people may even be willing to give money voluntarily to the government — if the government gives them the chance to direct the money to a cause they approve of.

Meanwhile, some scientists have found that the brain reacts the same way to making donations as it does to paying taxes, if the taxes are clearly being used for a good cause — suggesting that people may be more willing to pay taxes if they know how the money's being used. And some findings even suggest that offering deductions for charitable giving may promote good health....

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7 Ways to Strengthen Your Communications in 2016 (And Why They’ll Work!)

December 17, 2015

Npo_commsAs we prepare to close the books on 2015, it's a good time to reflect on the year we've had, make resolutions for the year ahead, and think creatively about how we can achieve our goals.

For foundations and nonprofit organizations, this often means shoring up plans and budgets in support of organizational strategies. And for those responsible for their organization's communications (or who take an active interest in the organization's communication strategy), it's also an opportunity to apply a critical eye to sharpening the effectiveness of those communications in terms of advancing the organization's goals.

Depending on the state of your nonprofit's brand, you may be looking to embark on a large-scale initiative like a rebranding or website redesign. Or you may be targeting ways to optimize, strengthen, and extend the materials you already have in place. Whatever the case, to help you increase the impact of your nonprofit's communications in the year ahead (and beyond), here are seven of the most common, high-value areas the organizations I meet with are interested in exploring.

Brand Strategy

If your organization has never committed itself to a brand strategy engagement, it's hard for me to understate the value of a branding process for surfacing insights, sharpening your communications focus, and strengthening your case for support (whatever form that takes). Similarly, if you have a brand strategy that is a few years old, here are some things you can do to make sure it still conveys who you are, what you do, and why what you do matters.

Listen to your audience. If your organization works on complex issues that are hard to unpack or lend themselves to jargon-laden language, reaching out and listening to members of your audience provides invaluable feedback and a much-needed perspective. An effective research interview process designed to explore core strategic questions is an incredibly effective way to evaluate how well-aligned your organization and its goals are with the expectations of your audience. It's also a great way to gain insights into how your target audience uses language to frame the issues you all care about — ensuring that your communications strategy is focused on your audience, speaks to it, and rings true.

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[Review] The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools?

December 16, 2015

The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools?, journalist Dale Russakoff's riveting account of how a $100 million pledge from Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg aimed at turning around the public school system in Newark, New Jersey, went very wrong, very quickly, opens with a scene from 2009. Cory Booker, then the mayor of Newark and a rising star in the Democratic Party (he would be elected to the U.S. Senate in a special election in 2013), has invited New Jersey governor-elect Chris Christie, a Republican (and today a candidate for his party's presidential nomination), to join him on a late-night tour of some of Newark's poorest neighborhoods. Sitting in the back seat of an SUV driven by Booker's security detail, the governor-elect is hearing all about Booker's approach to reducing the city's sky-high crime rates. But Booker, according to Russakoff, has another agenda on this particular evening: to enlist Christie's help in transforming public education in the city.

Book_the_prize_for_PhilantTopicAnd who wouldn't want that? Newark schools had been failing students, 95 percent of whom were black or Latino in 2009, for decades. "In twenty-three of the district's seventy-five schools fewer than thirty percent of children in grades three through eight could read at grade level," writes Russakoff. "The high school graduation rate was fifty-four percent, and more than ninety percent of graduates who attended the local community college required remedial classes." Operationally, the district was a disaster. "Clerks made up thirty percent of the central bureaucracy...yet payroll checks and student data were habitually late and inaccurate. Test and attendance data had not been entered for months, and computers routinely spat out report cards bearing one child's name and another child's grades...."

It was a daunting challenge, but Booker believed that with "Christie's absolute legal authority and [his own] mayoral bully pulpit, they could close failing district schools, greatly expand charter schools, weaken tenure protections, [and] reward and punish teachers based on their students' test scores." And so the two men, up-and-coming members of "the growing national movement seeking to reinvent public education" — a movement that included some of the nation's wealthiest philanthropists as well as President Obama and his education secretary,
Arne Duncan — made a pact then and there to fix the city's schools and, in the process, position Newark as an education reform model for struggling urban districts across the country.

Months later, Booker presented Christie with a confidential proposal titled "Newark Public Schools – A Reform Plan." The plan described a process that was top down (so as to avoid "being taken captive by unions and machine politicians") and "called for an 'infusion of philanthropic support'." Enter Zuckerberg, whom Booker greatly admired. The mayor had learned, through his extensive network, that the young tech billionaire was contemplating making a "significant philanthropic move" in the area of education. The two men eventually connected, in the summer of 2010, at the annual Sun Valley gathering of movers and shakers hosted by retired financier Herb Allen, and, after dinner on the deck of Allen's townhouse, they went for a walk. According to Russakoff, Zuckerberg told Booker "he was looking for a city poised to upend the forces impeding urban education, where his money could make a difference and create a national model." Booker responded with his pitch, and a month later he sent the Facebook co-founder a proposal that included a six-point agenda and a request for $100 million over five years — the number chosen "largely for its size and the public attention it would draw...." Zuckerberg agreed, writes Russakoff, "with the caveat that Booker would have to match it with another $100 million from other donors."

Booker's next move was to enlist Christie's help. He knew that resistance from the teachers' union and district employees would be fierce, having earlier told the governor in a confidential report that "real change has casualties and those who prospered under the pre-existing order will fight loudly and viciously." There was, after all, a lot at stake in who exercised control over "the prize": the school district's billion-dollar-a-year budget.

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Is Lack of Emotion Hurting Your Fundraising?

December 15, 2015

Mr.-SpockHave you ever wondered, after the fact, why you donated to a particular cause or organization? You hadn't planned on it. It wasn't something that had been on your radar. So why did you give?

The answer, in a lot of cases, is because it made you feel good. That's how most of us feel when we do something to help others. It's a feeling that has been well documented in studies and, recently, by the New York Times.

As a fundraising consultant, I'm often asked by nonprofit leaders how to raise money for causes or organizations that aren't perceived to be urgent or especially compelling? "We aren't curing cancer here, and we don't have any cute dogs to show people."

What I tell them is to go back to the real reasons people give. As I've said elsewhere, donors usually can be categorized as either emotional/"thoughtless" givers or "thoughtful" givers.

The key question, in many cases, is whether you've set yourself up for fundraising failure by inadvertently removing the emotion from your brand identity? Here are four mistakes organizations often make that can rob their brand of emotion and hobble their fundraising:

1. Mistakenly assume that every person is an expert. This is one of the most common mistakes made by nonprofit marketers and fundraisers – and the one that can do the most damage to your emotion-driven fundraising strategies. When promoting a cause to the public, be careful not to elevate the language, tone, and spirit of your messaging to the point the "ask" gets lost or pushed to the background. Donors like simple stories told well and are always eager to hear how their donations will benefit someone (or something) else.

2. Ignore the emotional appeal of their brand. It's always interesting when the strategists in charge of a high-profile brand decide to "evolve" it from ultra-corporate and unemotional to informal and emotion-centered. In an effort to connect with consumers, brands such as Old Spice, Dominos, Dos Equis, and IBM all have refashioned their advertising and brand messaging so as to appear more "human." Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for marketing agencies that work with nonprofits to ignore the fact that emotion is an absolutely essential component of any nonprofit brand. Branding that favors graphics over pictures of real people, polished video over real or raw footage, and designs that are "cool" rather than "hot" all tend to rob a brand of much-needed emotion – and will drag down your fundraising results.

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Weekend Link Roundup (December 12-13, 2015)

December 13, 2015

Palm-tree-decorated-with-christmas-lightsOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Corporate Sustainability

How much social and environmental impact constitutes "sustainable" performance and how should corporations measure it? In the Harvard Business Review, Martin Thomas and Mark McElroy look at what Ben & Jerry's is doing to answer that question — for itself and others.

Education

Our Foundation Center colleague Mirielle Clifford reviews The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools?, Dale Russakoff's account of how a $100 million pledge from Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg aimed at turning around the public school system in Newark, New Jersey, "went very wrong, very quickly."

Giving

On the Huffington Post's Impact blog, Patricia Illingworth, a professor in the Department of Philosophy at the D'Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University, pushes back against the congratulatory post-#GivingTuesday buzz and suggests that in the remaining days of 2015, "due diligence and effective altruism ought to guide [donors'] choices."

Over at the Markets for Good site, Andrew Means, founder of Data Analysts for Social Good and The Impact Lab, has a different take on the effective altruism movement, which, he writes, "does a very good job at saying how we should allocate donations across organizations" but isn't as clear about the fact that "ideal allocations are based upon [our] preferences, and therefore if you have different preferences you’ll end up with a different ideal allocation."

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No Cavalry Will Come to Save Our Cities: We’re the Leaders We’ve Been Waiting For

December 11, 2015

More than forty years after Dr. King asked, “Where do we go from here?” American society is still grappling with the question.

From Chicago to Minneapolis to Baltimore, our nation is in the midst of a defining moment of racial, social, and economic change. For communities of color, this moment is particularly stark and has been magnified by the courageous #BlackLivesMatter movement, which emerged in response to a long history of police violence and criminal injustice against black men and women.

CBMA_report_The_Promise_of_Place_for_PhilanTopicSocial justice, racial equity, and systems change are critical for today's black men and boys, particularly given the barriers that prevent them from realizing their full human potential. For America to prosper, we must recognize that black men and boys are assets to their families and communities and work to expand opportunities for them and improve their life outcomes.

As we have all come to realize, black men and boys face unique challenges on the path to success in education, work, and life. Statistics about these disparities are widely cited, including those from our Black Male Achievement Life Outcomes Dashboard. For example, 12 percent of black boys score at or above proficiency in eighth-grade reading, compared with 31 percent of all boys, while the black male unemployment rate of 15 percent is nearly double the 8 percent rate for all males.

With these challenging realities as a backdrop, the Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA) — along with its partner organizations and networks, including the Obama administration’s recently established My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Alliance — has long been engaged in actions to improve life outcomes and expand opportunities for black males and other young men of color.

Cities — where most of our nation’s black men and boys live — represent a critical focus of that work. We must ensure that all cities in America are equipped with the tools and resources they need to help black men and boys succeed and reach their full potential. That’s why CBMA commissioned a first-of-its-kind report titled The Promise of Place: Cities Advancing Black Male Achievement to assess how America’s cities are doing in providing support to black men and boys.

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Diversity at the California Endowment: Important Enough to Measure

December 10, 2015

About seven years ago, our board of directors engaged in a conversation about the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion at our institution. While we re-affirmed our allegiance to these values, which were present at the inception of the California Endowment, we concluded that we needed to ratchet up the seriousness of our resolve. The issues that arose included: Are we, as a foundation, committed enough to this issue to measure and track improvement? And while we have metrics for a range of equity indicators in our healthy communities work, Sons and Brothers program, overall strategic plan, etc., why don't we have them with respect to diversity in our operations and structure as a foundation?

Diversity Audit 2013 coverSo, off we went. We resolved to create a tool to assess our progress, now known as the Diversity Audit (44 pages, PDF). In it, we committed to expressing the value of, and a commitment to, diversity across a range of parameters: on our board, at the management level, among our staff and grantees, as well as among our contractors, consultants, and even investment managers. We wanted to be able to express our commitment to diversity/equity/inclusion regardless of how one might engage with the foundation.

The process of creating and then institutionalizing the Diversity Audit required the support and engagement of our board, management, and staff. There's a saying, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast." Today, we pay particular attention to recruiting new board members and senior management who value diversity, equity, and inclusion. And we look to them to ensure that our commitment to diversity "lives" beyond any one individual or position and becomes ingrained in the DNA of the California Endowment. While turnover in any organization is inevitable, we do not ever take this commitment lightly.

We also required the support of a savvy, thoughtful partner to hold our organizational hand throughout the process, so we procured the services of SPR Associates. SPR worked with our staff to develop the right kind of data collection practices and reporting platform; we needed our human resources, grants administration, contracts administration, program and learning staff, and investments team to all be in the boat. And, obviously, it required us to embark on the business of asking grantees, contractors, and consultants for their diversity information – in the right way. As a result, we now pose the diversity question almost every time we engage in a financial or business transaction.

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[Review] No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy

December 09, 2015

In No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy, Linsey McGoey, senior lecturer in sociology at the University of Essex, excoriates what she sees as the historical illiteracy of many of today's philanthropists. Armed with good intentions, wealth, and (as they would have you believe) inerrant business acumen, the new breed of "philanthrocapitalist" applies terms like impact, theory of change, and social entrepreneurship to their philanthropic activities and are intently concerned with generating "shared value." In reality, however, these "TED heads" (as McGoey calls them) are simply following in the footsteps of their philanthropic predecessors.

Book_no-such_thing_as_a_free_gift_for_PhilanTopicIndeed, the main difference between the new breed of philanthropist and their robber-baron forerunners is rhetoric, argues McGoey. Like their modern progeny, Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Ford each earned their fortunes through anti-competitive practices, aggressive lobbying for favorable legal treatment, and risky financial engineering; each used his philanthropic benevolence as public cover for the ethically dubious (and often illegal) means used to amass his wealth; and each claimed his business acumen made him a better custodian of the public good than government or traditional charity. Or, as Carnegie famously put it: "[T]he millionaire will be a trustee of the poor, intrusted [sic] for a season with a great part of the increased wealth of the community, but administering it for the community far better than it could or would have done for itself."

McGoey will have none of it. The billionaire-knows-best style of philanthropy is as paternalistic as it is ineffective, she argues, and the simple truth of that observation is as lost on today's philanthropists as it was on Carnegie and Rockefeller. The typical philanthrocapitalist insists, for example, that philanthropy has, until now, been ineffectual — a claim made without any acknowledgment of the difficulty inherent in measuring social impact, or that the actual influence of any one foundation’s grantmaking on a social problem is nearly impossible to isolate. One case is particularly instructive for McGoey: former President Bill Clinton has said in the past that microfinance is responsible for lifting more than a hundred million people out of poverty. But while it's true that more than a hundred million people have received a microcredit loan, she writes, most studies indicate that even for "successful" microfinance programs, insufficient evidence exists to demonstrate a link between their activities and poverty alleviation. Moreover, the few studies that were able to demonstrate a statistically significant link showed only very modest increases in the income of loan recipients, while several studies have found that the high interest rates attached to such loans — and favored by microfinance investors — often exacerbate rather than alleviate poverty among loan recipients. Investors, on the other hand, have seen consistently positive returns on their investments; little surprise, then, that microfinance advocates are adamant in their opposition to interest-rate caps and other regulations that would stifle the “success” of microlending.

McGoey herself further argues that today's TED heads are different from their more modest progenitors in the way they shamelessly leverage their charitable donations to advance private economic interests. Whether it's a wealthy mining magnate using a generous donation to the Clinton Global Initiative to earn himself an introduction to the foreign minister of a resource-rich developing nation, or the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supporting agricultural initiatives in Africa and South America to increase the economic influence of U.S. agribusinesses, she details how modern philanthrocapitalists consistently blur the line between charity and business. While there may be nothing legally wrong with using charitable largess to reap financial rewards, for McGoey such practices raise important ethical questions about the use of philanthropy to advance a corporation's (or nation's) economic interests.

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The 5 Dysfunctions of Philanthropy

December 07, 2015

Trust-culturesIn 2002, Patrick Lencioni wrote a book titled The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. In it, Lencioni explores the interpersonal aspects of teambuilding in a professional setting and explains how they undermine success. And while Lencioni's team operates in a fictional company, his lessons are entirely relevant to grantmakers.

Here's my take on how Lencioni's five dysfunctions can manifest themselves in philanthropy.

Dysfunction #1 — Absence of trust. Lencioni describes this as the unwillingness of team members to share their weaknesses with the rest of the group. This is completely understandable and a deeply rooted aspect of human nature. It's hard to admit weakness to your teammates when everyone is so invested in achieving success. But grantmakers take this dysfunction to a new level when it comes to dealing with grantees. The organizations we fund are just as important to our success as we are probably more so, in fact  yet how many funders are willing to admit any weakness to their grantees or confess that they don't always know the best way forward? And, as a result, how many of us can truly say we have a deep and mutually trusting relationship with the organizations and people we fund?

Dysfunction #2 — Fear of conflict. Few of us relish the idea of arguing with our colleagues, but we often are so afraid of conflict that we shy away from healthy and enlightening debate or discussion. The truth is that talking through any point of contention in a respectful way — whether it's something operational like grantmaking procedure or deeply cultural like equity and inclusion — ultimately serves to pull a team together and make it stronger in the end. Conversely, avoiding debates, even passionate ones, for the sake of maintaining harmony almost always does more harm than good. That said, grantmakers instill a fear of conflict in the hearts of grantees almost by default. After all, what organization wants to engage in conflict with the hand that feeds it? Imagine how much we'd learn, however, if our grantees trusted us enough to debate important issues.

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Weekend Link Roundup (December 5-6, 2015)

December 06, 2015

Rockefeller-center-christmas-tree-statueOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

African Americans

The Campaign for Black Male Achievement has released the inaugural Black Male Achievement Index, a "first-of-its-kind report to track and communicate how cities' efforts across the country are advancing black male achievement."

Climate Change

The University of Massachusetts has joined the growing list of educational institutions that have announced they will divest themselves of investments in coal companies. WBUR's Zeninjor Enwemeka reports.

Can so-called green bonds be a game-changer in the fight against global warming. Rockefeller Foundation president Judith Rodin thinks so and explains in the Guardian how the foundation's Zero Gap work is helping to show the way forward.

On the Barr Foundation blog, Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, a national coalition of investors, environmental organizations, and public interest groups working with companies to address sustainability issues, looks at some of the companies that are stepping up to address the climate change threat

One major American company, Google, has announced that it will nearly double the amount of renewable energy it uses to power its data centers, with six different wind and solar power projects scheduled to come online within the next two years in the U.S., Chile, and Sweden. Michael Liedtke reports for the Washington Post.

Fundraising

The San Diego chapter of the Alzheimer's Association has joined the New York chapter in splitting from the national federation, setting itself up as a purely locally operated organization. The San Diego Tribune's Bradley J. Fikes reports.

Giving

Is donor-driven charity dying? After noting on the Huffington Post's Impact blog that the latest numbers released by the World Giving Index show that while total giving is up, the number of individuals making those gifts is down by 5 percent, George McGraw, founder and executive director of digdeep.org, argues that nonprofits need to start developing new revenue models and offers a few suggestions.

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A Journey Toward Social Change Funding Starts With a Simple Step

December 04, 2015

When I came to Surdna Foundation in 2007, I spent several months just talking with people about the foundation and what they knew of it. Thanks in large measure to the extraordinary family and executive leadership up to that point, Surdna had a stellar reputation for creative, impactful grantmaking. But as I dug deeper, I realized that Surdna staff and board didn't have the language to explain why we funded the things we were funding. We couldn't articulate why some things felt right, while others simply didn't make the grade. I helped us get started on a process to carefully examine what we'd been doing for the previous twenty years — and to think together about what it was that was the glue that held that work together. Most of us could feel it and even identify which grants were bull's eyes, and which weren't.

Families_Funding_ChangeSeveral concepts emerged from that examination, concepts that formed the basis of our new mission statement: family, community, sustainability, and social justice. These core concepts felt both broadly consistent with the values that had been set forth by our founder, John E. Andrus, nearly one hundred years ago, and relevant to the work we wanted to do going forward.

Our story suggests that sometimes it only takes the simple step of naming what it is that you care about to begin the journey toward more effective, responsive philanthropy. Since adopting our new mission statement, social justice has become the key to understanding who we are as a family foundation and what work we want to do to help communities thrive across the United States. We're proud to have this process featured in a new report from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy: Families Funding Change: How Social Justice Giving Honors Our Roots and Empowers Communities (16 pages, PDF).

We share with NCRP the view that empowering communities to solve the problems of poverty, injustice, and inequity should become more prominent in the work of foundations, especially family foundations. We have long supported the work of NCRP and the principles they stand for. We have done so even as we have been on our own journey as a funder working towards those principles. We have always believed that learning is a key part of who we are and, really, core to what makes good philanthropy. I encourage you to read the Families Funding Change report and consider how Surdna's experience with social justice philanthropy, and the experiences of other featured funders, can inform your own work.

By choosing to frame our mission as one "grounded in principles of social justice," the board made explicit their understanding that equity and social justice must be a frame of reference for all of our work. Indeed, this framework reflects the values of the family today. Of course, a mission statement is merely words on a page unless it is put at the center of the work. And with our board's leadership, we have kept that mission in mind as we have built grantmaking programs and revamped the foundation strategies and staff. It has been a remarkable thing to see how our explicit naming of social justice has shaped the foundation from the bottom to the top.

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