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17 posts from January 2016

Weekend Link Roundup (January 30-31, 2016)

January 31, 2016

Woolworth_sit-inOur 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

According to Jessica Leber, a staff editor and writer for Fast Company's Co.Exist, Al Gore, at one time "possibly the gloomiest man in America," is feeling somewhat hopeful for the future of the planet, thanks in part to what he sees as the success of the recent Paris climate change talks.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Hey, you CSR types, looking to achieve more social good in 2016? Saudia Davis, founder and CEO of GreenHouse Eco-Cleaning, shares some good advice.

And Ryan Scott, founder and CEO of Causecast, a platform for cause engagement, weighs in with six reasons businesses need to increase their CSR budgets.

Criminal Justice

"It is clear," writes Sonia Kowal, president of Zevin Asset Management, on the NCRP blog, "that our justice system is designed for control rather than healing. And with the alarming demographics of national incarceration rates, it's also clear that it helps facilitate an economy of exclusion that considers many people of color to be unemployable and disposable." What can foundations and impact investors do to change that paradigm. Kowal has a few suggestions.

Education

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation has announced the launch of EDInsight, a new education-related blog that will  "provide a forum for discussing a variety of topics related to education — including teacher preparation, school quality, postsecondary attainment, use of education data and other education news and trends."

Giving Pledge

The New York Times reports that, since July, investor and Giving Pledge co-founder Warren Buffett has gifted $32 million worth of stock in Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company he controls. The Times also notes that the total represents "a relatively small part of Buffett's plan to give most of his $58.3 billion fortune to charity." Interestingly, despite giving roughly $1.5 billion a year (mostly to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) since launching the Giving Pledge in 2010, Buffett's personal net worth, most of it tied to Berkshire stock, has increased by more than $10 billion, while Bill Gates's net worth has grown by $27 billion, from $53 billion to $80 billion. In other words, neither man is giving his fortune away as quickly as he is adding to it.

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[Review]: Charity Detox: What Charity Would Look Like If We Cared About Results

January 29, 2016

Each year, hundreds of thousands of charities raise billions of dollars to fund their efforts to serve the less fortunate. But the efforts of a vast number of these charities — indeed, most of them, says Robert D. Lupton — may actually be hurting those they aim to help. And charity that does more harm than good is definitely not better than no charity at all.

Book_charity_detox_for_PhilanTopicIn Charity Detox, Lupton, the founder of Atlanta-based FCS Urban Ministries and the author of the 2011 book Toxic Charity, explores and tries to answer the question: "What would charity look like if we cared about results?" But where Lupton's earlier book exposed what he calls "the dirty little secret that on-the-ground charity workers know all too well but are loath to admit" — namely, that most anti-poverty programs not only fail to end the cycle of poverty, they perpetuate it by creating dependency — here he argues that even though charitable giving almost always makes donors feel good, the negative impact of such giving on the poor cannot be ignored. The question, then, is how can charities "detoxify" themselves so that they truly help those in need?

"The fact is," Lupton writes, "we cannot serve others out of poverty." What people living in poverty need, instead, are living-wage jobs and healthy, thriving communities. And that requires two things: economic and community development. Lupton notes that one obstacle to reforming the traditional model of "pure philanthropy" are churches, which, he argues, have been at the vanguard of the "compassion industry," dispensing “unexamined charity...that fails to ask the hard questions about outcomes." Too often, he argues, charity in the United States looks like disaster relief in its inability to distinguish between a crisis and chronic need. In contrast, when the charities Lupton was involved with in Atlanta began to actually measure outcomes and not outputs, both he and those charities were transformed for the simple reason that measuring outcomes forces nonprofits and their funders to focus on specific goals rather than a diffuse "serve-the-neighborhood" approach. The book then goes on to describe how a range of organizations and initiatives, from foodbanks and co-ops, to Christian ministries, to urban development projects, adapted their operations not only to create sustainable opportunities for the poor but also to build trust and dignity among the people they served.

In Lupton's view, the best way to accomplish that is through "comprehensive community development" — an approach requiring fundamental changes not only in organizations but in the people who work for them. What kind of change? First, charities and nonprofits need to leverage the business expertise of their supporters to accurately measure return on their charitable activities. While lots of people in nonprofits and faith-based organizations tend to view wealth and the profit motive with suspicion, he writes, real economic development is impossible without profit-making enterprises. Accordingly, nonprofits that can sustain themselves through entrepreneurial and/or earned-income activities have a better chance of creating larger, longer-term impact than those who reject or shy away from such activities. What's more, this focus on business discipline should extend to both internal operations and operating models. And there's an added benefit: organizations that operate successful businesses are in a position to provide economic opportunities, in the form of jobs, to people in the community. Offering competitive pay and health and educational benefits to one's employees is an element of what Lupton describes as doing business well, and, in turn, can help lift those employees and their families out of poverty. 

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Gen X and Millennial Women: Ready to Give in More Meaningful Ways

January 28, 2016

Professional-womenOver the past couple of decades, baby boomers have been the lifeblood of charitable giving in the U.S., their rock-steady giving fueling nonprofits' efforts to make a difference in the world. While aging boomers continue to play an outsized role in charitable giving, research tells us their giving levels will start to decline over the next few years. But with the world focused on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, it's imperative that nonprofits begin to build relationships with younger generations and inspire them to give in more meaningful ways. While a lot of attention has been focused on millennials, a generation that is even larger than the boomer generation, a growing body of evidence suggests that the next demographic cohort to step up as significant givers will be Gen Xers and "older" millennials — especially female donors between the ages of 30 and 45.

Let's look at some of the factors that could drive increased giving within this group. We know that the greatest wealth transfer in American history has already begun, as the so-called Silent generation and boomers pass on their wealth to their children and grandchildren. Indeed, according to a study from Accenture, more than $30 trillion eventually will be passed on to these younger generations. Moreover, history shows that people, as they reach their thirties and forties, begin to think about their legacy and establish giving goals, while a number of recent surveys tell us that donors in this demographic group are likely to increase their giving, with women an increasingly significant factor in that giving. In fact, according to the Women's Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, women in almost every income bracket give more than their male counterparts.

Being in a financial position to contribute in a meaningful way is only part of the reason why women between the ages of 30 and 45 are poised to become game-changers for philanthropy. A second is that women in this age group are deeply interested in and motivated to make a difference in the world. As a group, they are culturally diverse, connected to the world in new ways, and see themselves not as individual philanthropists but as members of a community. Many also are well educated, find themselves in leadership roles, and are focused on proactively shaping the environment in which their children will grow up. Yet, despite their potential as donors over the long run, they have not been a focus of the charitable sector.

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5 Questions for...Gloria Duffy, President/CEO, Commonwealth Club of California

January 26, 2016

Foreign policy elites in the West were rattled in early January after news broke that North Korea had conducted an underground test of a hydrogen bomb, its first. Although many experts doubted the claim, the action drew immediate condemnation from the United States and its allies and sparked renewed calls for tougher sanctions on North Korea — and a more forceful response from China, the Hermit Kingdom's closest ally.

Earlier this month, PND spoke with Gloria Duffy, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Club of California, the oldest and largest public affairs forum in the United States, about the news and what it means for the current sanctions regime and further nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Before joining the Commonwealth Club in 1996, Duffy served as executive director of the Ploughshares Fund and later joined the incoming Clinton administration as an assistant secretary of defense, in which position she was credited with negotiating historic agreements with Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan to dismantle their nuclear arsenals, and with Russia to prevent the spread of its weapons, materials, and know-how.

Philanthropy News Digest: How worried should we be about North Korea's claim to have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb?

Photo-gloria-duffyGloria Duffy: Well, it's just that, a claim. There's really no verification that it was a hydrogen bomb, and if it were a hydrogen bomb, it was a rather crude one. The concern is the continuing pattern of North Korea testing both nuclear devices and long-range delivery vehicles. That's the worrisome part, because they do glean data from each test, and we assume they are using that data to improve their nuclear weapons, improve the miniaturization of those weapons, and gradually build their way to having a functioning nuclear weapon on a functioning long-range delivery system.

PND: What kind of message is North Korea trying to send the United States with its actions?

GD: We like to think of ourselves as the intended target of overt messages from a country like North Korea, but it's likely they have various audiences in mind. One of the primary audiences is internal, the people of North Korea itself. There is a Communist Party Congress coming up in May, and Kim Jong-un, the country's supreme leader, clearly wants to demonstrate he's in charge, that his policies are succeeding, and that he can repel any challenges to his authority. Then there's a global audience, the main components of which are South Korea and other countries that might directly threaten North Korea or try to intervene in its affairs. So there are multiple audiences and multiple messages, but the overriding message is one of strength and power, possibly with the aim of squeezing more concess­ions from the United States and other countries in return for slowing down or moving away from its nuclear program.

PND: How secure is Kim Jong-un's hold on power?

GD: Well, that's a bit of a black box. There have been rumors of various challenges to him, and he's taken some actions against family members and others who he perhaps perceived as a threat. So, while his position appears to be strong, he is not immune to challenges, and I'm sure he's aware of that.

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Weekend Link Roundup (January 23-24, 2016)

January 24, 2016

Melted_snowman_ice_cubesOur 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

Are the residents of Flint, the majority of whom are black and many of whom are poor, the victims of environmental racism? Would Michigan's state government have responded more quickly and aggressively to complaints about its lead-polluted water if the majority of the city's residents were white and affluent? The New York Times' John Eligon reports.

"Recent events have shone a light on the black experience in dozens of U.S. cities. Behind the riots and the rage, the statistics tell a simple, damning story," writes Richard V. Reeves on the Brookings Institute blog. "Progress toward equality for black Americans has essentially halted." 

In the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Tamara Copeland, president of the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers, writes that, despite the election and re-election of Barack Obama, America is not a post-racial society, and that until the public — and philanthropy — acknowledge that the "negative treatment of a group of people based solely on race is a major contributor to poverty and inequality,...we won't be able to take the steps needed to end racial inequities."

How can America narrow its racial wealth gap? the Annie E. Casey Foundations shares four policy recommendations designed to help low-income families boost their savings and assets, "the currency of the future."

Children and Youth

On First Focus' Voices for Kids blog, Karen Howard shares the five things every presidential candidate needs to know about poverty among America's youngest children.

On the Chronicle of Social Change site, Inside Philanthropy's Kiersten Marek takes a closer look at what new leadership at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation — Peter Laugharn is the first non-Hilton family member to lead the foundation — and a doubling of assets is likely to mean for the foundation's future support of child welfare initiatives.

Community Improvement/Development

Returning to the subject of the most popular post on his blog in 2015, "trickle-down" community engagement, Vu Le argues that communities of color and other marginalized communities too often are "infantalized" by funders, a dynamic that plays out in a number of ways: a lack of trust that communities have solutions to their own problems; unrealistic expectations for communities to "get along"; and demands for communities to prove themselves with little initial support. Instead, writes Le, "[w]hy don't we try the reverse for once, and invest significant amounts in organizations led by the people who know first-hand the inequity they are trying to address." We are tired, he adds,

[of] being asked to attend more forums, summits, focus groups, answer more surveys, rally our community members, only for our opinions to be dismissed. One funder told me, "Communities need to stop complaining and start proposing solutions."

We have been. We propose solutions all the time. But if there's no trust that we actually know what we're talking about, if there's no faith that the qualitative experiences and perspectives of people who have lived through decades of social injustice are just as valid as double-blind quantitative meta-studies written up in a glossy white paper or whatever, then what's the point? The investments will be token, oftentimes trickled-down, and then that will be used to say, "You know what, we invested in you, and it didn't lead to what we wanted," further perpetuating the cycle....

In his last blog post as president of the Vermont Community Foundation, Stuart Comstock-Gay, who is leaving VCF after seven years for the top job at the Delaware Community Foundation, reflects on four questions that all Vermonters — and many other Americans — should be asking themselves.

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3 Surefire Ways to Engage the Best Volunteers

January 23, 2016

Happy_volunteersOver 60 million people spend an average of 52 hours a year volunteering their time with nonprofit organizations. Many organizations agree that volunteers are critical to their overall health and play a role in their ability to become, and remain, sustainable. Volunteers serve many functions; they can help deliver client programs, create awareness about mission and impact, and keep staff costs reasonable. But having volunteers can be a lot of work!

Before evaluating an existing volunteer program or embarking on a new one, determine what motivates your volunteers and then work toward creating, and supporting, a program that best serves their needs while advancing your mission. I recommend using the "3 R's for Happy Volunteers" as a framework for the internal conversations that will help structure your program:

Relevant. Volunteers feel most productive when their time is connected to their particular interests and skills. Volunteers excel when they feel they're in a position to leverage their expertise in service to a greater purpose. To generate maximum volunteer productivity, interview prospective volunteers to understand their motivations, skill sets, and interests before assigning them a task.

Realistic. The typical volunteer is between 35 and 64 years old and is employed. Statistically, most people who volunteer also volunteer for more than one organization. In other words, your typical volunteer leads a busy life! When structuring a volunteer program, consider the scope of the tasks being assigned. Your goal should be to expand the capacity of your organization using volunteer know-how and enthusiasm while providing your volunteers with tasks that can be accomplished without overwhelming them (i.e., some of the larger, longer-term tasks on your to-do list may require a team of volunteers working in concert with a staff member).

Rewarding. People volunteer in part so they can feel good about making a contribution to their community. When developing a volunteer program, therefore, focus on providing high-touch, meaningful work that your volunteers will be proud to talk about with their networks, colleagues, and friends. And in those cases where the work that needs to be done is more administrative or mundane in nature (see "Relevant" above), make an effort to match the right volunteer to the task. As with donors, volunteers thrive on and respond to recognition and appreciation for their efforts.

Bottom line: Happy volunteers help drive the effectiveness of our organizations, make our lives easier, and are more likely to become both financial supporters of and advocates for our cause!

Want to learn more about creating a volunteer program that meets the needs of your volunteers and your organization? Then join me for "Build a Successful Volunteer Program," a Foundation Center webinar, on February 9, from 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET. We'll talk about the questions you should ask before inviting volunteers into your organization, practical tips for choosing the right volunteers, and tactics you can use to effectively recognize and retain valuable volunteer talent. We'll also focus on practical information you can use right away to create more meaningful and lasting volunteer engagement.

New York City-based Marti Fischer is an entrepreneur, radio host, teacher, career coach, and nonprofit development consultant who helps individuals and organizations hone their communication skills in order to "Achieve Their Next." Marti can be reached through her website www.martifischergroup.com.

Big Philanthropy's Social Impact Depends on Its Social License

January 21, 2016

Approved_stampMark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan's recent pledge to donate 99 percent of their Facebook shares to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) quickly became the subject of criticism from some quarters of the not-for-profit sector.

Some of this criticism focused on how Zuckerberg and Chan decided to establish the CZI as a limited liability company (LLC), rather than as a traditional foundation.

There are some advantages to doing this — an LLC has much more flexibility to contribute to the common good by investing in for-profit companies as well as by donating to not-for-profits.

But because LLCs aren't subject to the same regulatory requirements as traditional foundations, they can, in theory, fund things that don't necessarily further charitable goals.

Criticism also has focused on how such a massive amount of money, combined with the use of a "less accountable" LLC, could lead to a further concentration of power in the hands of wealthy people such as Zuckerberg and Chan.

If nothing else, the debate has opened up an opportunity to have an important discussion about the relationship of philanthropy, particularly "big philanthropy," to the broader community — and what kinds of actions can enhance this relationship in order to maximize both philanthropy's social impact and the community's support for its work.

In this context, the concept of a "social license to operate," which has generated more attention in the private sector, particularly within the mining industry, than from the not-for-profit sector, is relevant — and reflects an increasingly common view that private companies can't just do what they want while ignoring the needs of local communities.

Defining the Social License to Operate

It's not a license in the formal sense — you don't apply for it and get it if you tick the right boxes. It's something a company earns through its actions; it's an intangible asset that a company earns and must work to maintain, in much the same way that it earns and must work to maintain its reputation.

In other words, a social license is a type of "soft" regulation, as opposed to "formal" or "hard" regulation, which is determined and enforced by government agencies and regulators.

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Ways to ‘Own’ a Movement

January 19, 2016

Blue_hand_claspAdvances in technology and the emergence of social media tools make it more possible than ever for social movements and causes to quickly spread far and wide (to go "viral" in the parlance of the moment). But how do you take a cause and transform it from an idea into something with universal appeal?

In the past, the concept of organizing, fundraising, and building a movement was focused on individuals "belonging" to a cause. In the twenty-first century, however, a successful movement isn't owned by an organization or single entity; it's owned by the people who comprise the movement itself. This idea speaks to the realities of modern constituent engagement theory and how people are perceived, whether as activists, social changemakers, supporters, or donors.

Importantly, in the research we’ve conducted, it's apparent that younger people view themselves as of a cause and not for a cause. It's a critical distinction. Young people tend not to belong to a cause but rather believe in a cause — and act accordingly.

Social movement builders who understand this understand that they have to do whatever is necessary to ensure that the qualities of purpose, authenticity, and self-actualization are embedded in their messaging when engaging supporters and would-be supporters. Without these qualities, individuals are unlikely to fully appreciate the potential of the movement or their own role in its ultimate success.

The shift I'm articulating is cultural and a function (I believe) of the instantaneous digital technologies that increasingly connect us to each other and the world. It's also something that social movement builders and leaders need to grasp in all its dimensions if they hope to be successful in harnessing the power of individuals to a common purpose. What do I mean by that? And what are the signs your cause or movement may be missing the boat?

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Weekend Link Roundup (January 16-17, 2016)

January 17, 2016

Martin-Luther-King-2016Our weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Diversity

A new report on workforce diversity in the metro Pittsburgh region is not only an incredibly important data set, writes Grant Oliphant, president of the Pittsburgh-based Heinz Endowments. It's also a reminder that the the issues the report points to are NOT just a matter of perspective, are NOT just a concern for minorities, and are NOT unfixable.

Economy

Although long-term unemployment has fallen significantly since the Great Recession, the decline has been slow and long-term unemployment still remains high. Congress could do something to address the situation, write Harry Stein and Shirley Sagawa on the Center for American Progress site, by following through with funding for the "significant" expansion of national service programs like AmeriCorps it authorized back in 2009.

Education

Can the Hastings Fund, the $100 million philanthropic entity created by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, avoid the controversy and criticism that have greeted the education reform efforts of other tech moguls? The Christian Science Monitor's Molly Jackson reports.

Immigration

"Like it or not, integration has been happening over America’s 239-year history, as members of both groups —immigrants and the U.S.-born — continually come to resemble one another. And America has benefited greatly from the economic vitality and cultural vibrancy that immigrants and their descendants have brought and continue to contribute." Writing in Fortune, Audrey Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a member of the National Academies of Sciences panel on immigrant integration, reminds us what we are missing about the immigration debate.

International Affairs/Development

On the HistPhil blog, Ruth Levine, director of the Global Development and Population Program at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and her father, Gilbert, professor emeritus of biological and environmental engineering at Cornell University, review David Rieff's new book, The Reproach of Hunger.

In a post on the Development Set, a space created by Medium for discussions of global health and development issues, Courtney Martin offers some compelling advice to young activists, advocates, and entrepreneurs interested in creating a life of meaning by helping to solve pressing social problems in the developing countries.

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[Infographic] Nonprofit Strategic Restructuring

January 16, 2016

col·lab·o·ra·tion
kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n/

noun

  1. the action of working with someone to produce or create something.
  2. traitorous cooperation with an enemy.

For many people, the word collaboration has more than one meaning. And while they may not be as derisive as the second definition above, the topic, when it comes up, almost never fails to spark lively conversation.

Which is as it should be. Nonprofit collaborations are serious affairs and should not be entered into lightly. But as our first infographic of the new year — courtesy of the folks at Tides and La Piana Consulting and our social sector outreach and GrantCraft colleagues here at Foundation Center — makes clear, collaborations, when approached strategically and with an open mind, can yield significant benefits. 

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[Review] The Self-Help Myth: How Philanthropy Fails to Alleviate Poverty

January 14, 2016

"Foundations are bizarre beasts. They are created to solve societal problems by using inordinate amounts of wealth — wealth that is inherently contradictory because it was gleaned out of the inequalities...it proposes to address."

That contradiction, shared with Erica Kohl-Arenas by a foundation program officer in an interview conducted for her new book, The Self-Help Myth: How Philanthropy Fails to Alleviate Poverty, is at the heart of what Kohl-Arenas calls the "self-help approach to poverty alleviation." It's an approach, she writes, grounded in the "belief that entrenched poverty is the result of social and economic isolation that [traps] poor people within a culture of poverty," while largely ignoring "the structural causes of poverty and inequality." As starkly illustrated by Kohl-Arenas, an assistant professor of nonprofit management at the New School in New York City, it is also an approach whose inherent limitations raise troubling questions about the ability of private philanthropy to change "the conditions of poverty or help the people [it] claims to serve."

Book_the_self_help_myth_for_PhilanTopicDrawing on case studies of the mid-twentieth-century farm workers movement and more recent foundation-funded initiatives in California's Central Valley, Kohl-Arenas documents how, over the decades, grassroots self-help initiatives have repeatedly been co-opted by private foundations into "nonthreatening service or 'civic participation' programs in keeping with [their] current funding priorities," obscuring the fact that foundations in general are reluctant to support union organizing, strikes, boycotts, and other types of "radical" activity. The surprise, for Kohl-Arenas, is that anyone would be surprised. After all, it was Andrew Carnegie, in the Gospel of Wealth (1889), who suggested that "the new rich had a responsibility to help the poor help themselves — in the interest of preventing protest," while the history of American philanthropy in the decades since is rife with examples of foundations de-politicizing and "neutralizing" initiatives that threaten the social and economic status quo. As a result, Kohl-Arenas argues, foundation-funded self-help programs have served to shift the focus from "capitalist processes that create poverty" to "the weaknesses and responsibilities of the poor."

To illustrate her argument, Kohl-Arenas devotes a chapter to the case of Cesar Chavez, whose efforts to organize and unionize farm workers in California and Florida in the 1960s and '70s have been the subject of two recent books and a movie that, in her words, "complicate [the] story most commonly told." A farm worker and civil rights activist in the 1950s, Chavez rose to national prominence in the 1960s as co-founder (with Dolores Huerta) of the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA). The broader farmworker movement had received crucial early funding, including "Depression-era grants to support migrant community and childcare centers incubated through the [Works Progress Administration]," from the San Francisco-based Rosenberg Foundation, which provided additional funding in the late 1950s and early 1960s to assist Central Valley farmworkers in building their own homes and to support so-called movement organizations. The effect of the foundation's programs, however, was to create, in Kohl-Arenas' words, farmworker leaders "more concerned with empowerment through education, relationships with mainstream institutions, and migrant-led infrastructure development," a model that, because of "its educational and relational, as opposed to confrontational and systemic, approach to self-help...garnered mainstream institutional support in local communities."

The emergence of Chavez as a social justice activist during the Delano grape strike of 1965 and the national grape boycott launched by NFWA the following year changed the picture. According to Kohl-Arenas, a younger Chavez never imagined union organizing becoming the focus of the movement, but as political unrest across the country mounted, the charismatic Chavez "rose to the occasion and became a spokesperson for the strike, both in the fields and nationally."

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Disaster Philanthropy: What Matters

January 12, 2016

Few foundations think of themselves as disaster funders … until the next disaster strikes. Their desire to be strategic and have impact leads them to shun program areas and ways of working that are reactive in nature. But the desire to help those in need is so hard-wired into foundations' DNA that many cannot help making emergency grants when news is dominated by coverage of the next big disaster. So they act quickly as the situation demands, though frequently with little knowledge of who the experienced funders are, what approaches work best, and how their giving fits into what Bob Ottenhoff of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy calls "the mosaic of funding," formed by the collective (but uncoordinated) efforts of corporations, governments, online givers, and other foundations.

Disaster-philanthropy-2015And that is precisely what makes Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy from the Center for Disaster for Philanthropy and Foundation Center so valuable. Rich in data and trends, this new online data dashboard, funding map, and report (PDF, 28 pages) frames disaster philanthropy as an emerging field mobilizing billions of dollars around the world. In them we learn that there are different types of disasters (natural, man-made, and humanitarian) and different strategic approaches to addressing them (resilience, preparedness, relief, and recovery). These and the accompanying sub-categories provide funders with an essential framework that enables them to be intentional and strategic about disasters in much the same way they are about their other funding priorities.

The report, my own long experience as a funder, and, more recently, as president of Foundation Center, sparked a few thoughts about foundation giving in response to disasters and what matters.

Media matters — Every year disasters occur around the world that we hear little or nothing about. But the ones that strike in or near our own backyard and dominate the news media are the ones that drive the lion's share of philanthropic giving. It's impossible to fund something about which you never hear and difficult to fund that which, because of lack of information, you can't understand.

Disaster type matters — The report shows that the overwhelming majority of U.S. foundation giving for disasters, some 68 percent, goes toward natural disasters, primarily storms. That makes sense. Storms strike quickly, are often devastating, and their victims did nothing to deserve the death, suffering, and havoc they create. The need is clear and funders respond. This contrasts with complex humanitarian emergencies, which are difficult to understand and frequently progress from emergencies into the types of long-term crises foundations feel they cannot effectively address. Even less support is given to what the report refers to as "man-made accidents" because when it comes to oil spills or factory disasters, foundations understandably feel that the primary burden for response should lie with the companies, governments, or others responsible for the accident in the first place.

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Weekend Link Roundup (January 9-10, 2016)

January 10, 2016

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

Children and Youth

In an op-ed in the Detroit Free Press, Kresge Foundation president Rip Rapson explains why it  is imperative to rebuild the city's early childhood ecosystem and the steps the foundation is taking to that end.

Communications/Marketing

According to the folks at Top Nonprofits, a good logo should be aesthetically pleasing, distinctive, memorable, timeless, scalable, simple enough for use in multiple mediums, and effective in communicating the qualities of your organization's brand. Sort of like these fifty logos.

What can nonprofits learn from public radio about storytelling? With the help of some podcast snippets, Aquifer Media's Will Coley explains.

Nice post by Ebola Deeply managing editor Kate Thomas illustrating how first-hand narratives can add meaning to hard data.

The Virginia Quarterly Review, a 91-year-old literary magazine published at the University of Virginia, is planning a year-long "experiment" on Instagram in 2016 featuring a series of black-and-white photographs and accompanying text. "We're improvising as we go along," VQR deputy editor Paul Reyes told Neiman Lab's Shan Wang. “The potential lies in how Instagram, as a platform, shapes content. Part of this is determined by what people want to write about, what they're sick of reading about, and how they might be motivated to push the limits of what can be done on this platform." 

On her Getting Attention! blog, Nancy Schwartz shares four reasons why your nonprofit needs to identify and launch a team of staff messengers ASAP.

Environment

To kick off 2016, three of last year's Goldman Environmental Prize recipients — Howard Wood (2015, Scotland) of the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST), Jean Wiener (2015, Haiti) of the Foundation for the Protection of Marine Biodiversity (FoProBiM) and Phyllis Omido (2015, Kenya) of the Center for Justice Governance & Environmental Action (CJGEA) — share their hopes for the new year.

Gun Violence

On Medium, Joyce Foundation president Ellen Alberding commends the series of executive actions to reduce gun deaths in America announced by President Obama on January 5 — and the president's use of research funded by the Joyce Foundation to support those actions. And here's a good piece by the Washington Post's Josh Lederman explaining the president's plan.

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For-Profit Prison Industry Not a Smart Investment

January 06, 2016

I-want-you-prison432x617If there's an adjective that defines our era, it's "smart." Smartphones, smart cars, smart policy, you name it. We live in a time when people expect and demand that everything in their lives — from their thermostat to their government — operate intelligently, transparently, and with an adherence to common sense.

That explains why there is rare cross-ideological and bipartisan support for fixing what can only be called the "dumb" criminal justice system in the United States. For the past thirty years, a "lock 'em up" approach to crime has left us with 25 percent of the world's prisoners and an incarceration system that does very little to rehabilitate people, treat people who are addicted to illicit substances, or make our communities healthier and safer.

The momentum behind change is leading to real reforms on the ground. Some truly smart new approaches to criminal justice are already making a difference, with foundations helping to lead the way.

One of the best examples is the "Public Safety Assessment," a data-based tool that gives judges guidance on whom to lock up and who to release during the period between a defendant’s arrest and trial. Created by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the tool uses the same kind of algorithms that direct drivers to routes with less traffic and allow epidemiologists to monitor disease outbreaks. The tool is used in dozens of states and jurisdictions, including here in California, and it is proven to reduce repeat offenses, overcrowding in prisons, and crime.

Most importantly, by tackling the problem on the front end — during the pretrial period — PSA applies the power of prevention, which is well documented in health care, to our broken criminal justice system.

We need to apply the same kind of smart thinking throughout the system.

Perhaps one of the best places to start is to shut down the for-profit incarceration industry, which, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, currently houses up to 8 percent of our states’ prison population and, according to the Huffington Post, half of all immigration-related federal detainees.

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A 'Big Bet' Strategy: Large Grants for the Long-Term

January 05, 2016

The long runThe Jim Joseph Foundation is about to complete its tenth year of grantmaking and continues to be a work in progress. Striving for continuous improvement involves concentrated time and effort among foundation directors and professionals. The foundation has intensified its focus on strategy in its grantmaking, governance practices, and financial and staff capacities. All this activity has created a change-management agenda, but our commitment to a founding strategic principle has not wavered: careful consideration of invited grant proposals for significant amounts of funding over four- and five-year periods.

We are often queried why the foundation makes such "big bets," enriching relatively fewer organizations with philanthropic capital when many others might benefit from foundation grant funding. This question tends especially to surface when the foundation decides to renew funding to one of its major grantees, often doing so at significant levels of funding support. Two examples of this type of funder/grantee partnership from earlier this year — Hillel International and Moishe House — offer insights regarding how and why the Jim Joseph Foundation chooses to strategically fund well-aligned grantees with large grants and long-term funding.

First, it bears noting that much of the social sector struggles incessantly to achieve organizational stability. Mario Morino posited years ago that:

Nonprofit organizations exist in a culture of dysfunction — limited capacity and modest outcomes pervade critical organizational elements such as strategic planning, staffing, training, management, financing and performance measurement. This dysfunction makes success highly improbable and calls into question the sustainability of organizations unable to adequately capitalize future growth.... (Community Wealth Ventures, Inc., "Venture Philosophy: Landscape and Expectations," Reston, VA: Morino Institute, 2000)

In this regard, the Jim Joseph Foundation spends a great deal of time conducting due diligence on potential grantees. For organizations that are mission aligned, potentially scalable with their reach, and critically positioned within the foundation's focus on education of Jewish teens, youth, young adults and young families, deep investment is inviting.

Recognizing, for example, that Hillel reaches and engages 400,000 college-age students annually, the foundation determined early in its existence to explore effective partnership with the organization. We learned quickly that Hillel would require repeated infusions of funding to build capacity in order to most effectively engage as many college students and communities as possible. Our grants for the Senior Jewish Educator/Campus Entrepreneur Initiative; evaluation of the initiative; funding for the Heather McLeod Grant and Lindsay Bellows study about Hillel's effective strategy to leverage social networks for student engagement; resources for business planning; and seed capital for Hillel projects deemed to be of high priority to a new CEO speak of our commitment to long-term investment in high-performing grantees. And the $16 million, five-year grant the foundation awarded to support Hillel in accelerating its ambitious Drive to Excellence campaign affirms this deep commitment.

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