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15 posts from January 2017

[Review] 'Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations'

January 30, 2017

One morning at the gym, I looked up at the TV and saw that New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman was promoting his latest book and opining about the state of the world following the U.S. elections. It took me a minute, between the banter and the buzzwords, but I eventually understood Friedman's reason for writing the book: like most of us, he thinks the world is moving too fast. His recommended remedy? We all need to slow down and reflect on the causes of this acceleration so that we can more confidently (and optimistically) chart our way through an increasingly complex world.

Bookcover_Thank You For Being LateAs he explains in Thank You For Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations, Friedman, a three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, writes books (The Lexus and the Olive Tree; The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century; Hot, Flat, and Crowded) "because I love…taking a complex subject and trying to break it down so…I...understand it and…readers better understand it." Reading his work, one can see the interplay between the best sellers he writes every few years and his twice-a-week musings on the op-ed page of the Times. In Thank You For Being Late, for example, he sets the table with one of his go-to subjects: Moore's law, named after Intel-co-founder Gordon Moore, who noted in 1965 that computing power had been doubling every year based on the increasing density of silicon transistors in computer chips — and was likely to continue at a similar rate for at least the next ten years. As anyone who follows tech knows, Moore's famous observation continues to bear out forty years after its predicted expiration date. And the consequences of that astounding increase in computing power serve as a backdrop against which Friedman explores three accelerating forces affecting every aspect of our lives: technology (especially cloud computing, which he calls the"Supernova"), globalization (the "Market"), and climate change ("Mother Nature").

The exponential growth in computing power and the increasing rate of innovation it drives have created, according to Friedman, an orders-of-magnitude change in digital interconnectedness, transforming how we communicate (texting, social media), shop (e-commerce), and even where we sleep (Airbnb). At the same time, he argues, the rate of change, both technological and social, enabled by this connectivity now exceeds our ability to adapt, causing many of our current political, economic, and sectarian challenges. "When fast gets really fast," he writes, "being slower to adapt makes you really slow — and disoriented."

And guess what? The world continues to speed up.

He notes, for instance, that the typical cellphone today provides SMS texting capabilities and mobile access to the Internet to anyone who can afford one, creating a previously unimaginable global exchange of goods and ideas. Residents of small towns in sub-Saharan Africa are just a text or a click away from family members in northern European cities — and everyone in between. "Globalization has always been everything and its opposite — it can be incredibly democratizing and it can concentrate incredible power in giant multinationals," he writes; "it [also] can be incredibly particularizing — the smallest voices can now be heard everywhere — and incredibly homogenizing, with big brands now able to swamp everything everywhere."

On the downside, the forces unleashed by globalization and a digitally networked world are merging with human-driven climate change to create a perfect storm of unintended, and mostly negative, consequences, with the most profound effects being felt in the most vulnerable countries and communities. Sadly, efforts to cope with the massive movement of people triggered by climate change have been woefully inadequate, not least because "when Moore's law and globalization accelerate at their current rates and your country falls behind on education and infrastructure, it falls behind at an accelerating rate as well."

The book is classic Friedman — a smorgasbord of ideas interspersed with conversations with world leaders and parking attendants. In a single chapter he might explore the potential of article intelligence, reflect on the political cataclysms of recent years, and offer policy recommendations based on lessons learned from Mother Nature. Throughout he indulges his seemingly insatiable curiosity and penchant for asking questions that border on the metaphysical. If at times it causes his narrative to feel a bit scattered — jumping from topic to topic with an alacrity that can be fatiguing — most readers won't hold it against him; in fact, it is probably what makes his writing appealing to so many.

I know: Friedman's technique is often criticized for being a form of lesson-by-anecdote that is taken more seriously than it should be. The caricature goes something like this: I was in [insert world city] for two days and took a cab to meet with [insert world leader]. While in the ride over, I spoke to my driver, who shared his view that [insert insightful comment], and all of a sudden I thought to myself: Eureka! this is the answer to [insert complex world crisis].

And it's true, to the extent that any caricature is. But the final chapters of Thank You for Being Late are much more substantive and give us the musings of a grounded, authentic, and, yes, deep thinker — not to mention a badly needed voice of reason in our current politically fraught climate. In the final pages of the book, for example, he visits his childhood home of St. Louis Park, a suburb of Minneapolis, where he grew up in an environment of "inclusion and civic idealism." Once there, he tries to see the community for what it was and is, all the while looking for the source of its still-evident civic spirit — and for lessons that can be replicated in communities across the country. The story of St. Louis Park, he writes, "is the story of how an ethic of pluralism and a healthy community got built one relationship, one breakup, one makeup, one insult, one welcoming neighbor, one classroom at a time." While nostalgia is certainly a factor in this rosy assessment, there's more to his trip down memory lane and explorations of what happens in a community where people take the time to get to know each other and build bonds across their differences — or, as he puts it, who are willing "to belong to a network of intertwined 'little platoons', communities of trust, which [form] the foundation for belonging, for civic idealism, for believing others who [are different] [can] and should belong, too." Yes, in an age of accelerating global interdependence and contact between strangers, "the bridges of understanding that we have to build are longer, the chasms they have to span much deeper." But that is the challenge.

In our ever more complicated world, generalists who wrestle with a broad spectrum of ideas and seek to help us understand often difficult issues and events are in short supply. In the crowded (and increasingly noisy) public square of the twenty-first century, reasonable, thoughtful, and generous are not adjectives applied to many: Thomas Friedman is all three, and Thank You for Being Late offers some of his best work to date.

Michael Weston-Murphy is a writer and consultant based in New York City. For more great reviews, visit the Off the Shelf section in PND.

Weekend Link Roundup (January 28-29, 2017)

January 29, 2017

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

Arts and Culture

New York Philharmonic president Matthew VanBesien's decision to step down from his position before his contract is up has raised eyebrows and some good questions about the financing and politics of cultural mega-projects. Michael Cooper reports for the New York Times.

Continued funding for the National Endowment for the Arts is rumored to be in jeopardy. In FastCoDesign, Diana Budds explains why that's a really dumb idea.

Communications/Marketing

Deep dive? Move the needle? Take this offline? Classy's Ellie Burke has put together a good list of the jargon-y nonprofit phrases we love to hate.

Higher Education

"Our current debt-based system widens the gap in educational attainment by race and class, reduces graduation rates among students who make it to college, distorts career choices, constrains entrepreneurship, delays people from buying homes and building families, reduces retirement savings and overall net worth, and lengthens the time it takes to reach median wealth in the United States." But it wasn't always this way. William Elliott explains.

Immigration

In the New York Times, David Miliband, president and chief executive of the International Rescue Committee and a former British foreign secretary, explains why the Trump administration's temporary refugee policy is un-American.

The Center for American Progress' Silva Mathema explains how Syrian refugees get to the United States and where they are resettled.

International Affairs/Development

"Today, the future of international criminal justice is more in doubt than at any point since the end of the Cold War," write Trevor Sutton, John Norris, and Carolyn Kenne on the Center for American progress site. "[And a] Trump presidency means that U.S. commitment to international criminal justice — and to human rights in general — may soon be a thing of the past...."

Colombia has become an even more dangerous place for rights activists, with five having already been killed in 2017. Anastasia Moloney reports for the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

On Monday, UN Foundation president and CEO Kathy Calvin issued a statement on the imposition, through executive order, of the Mexico City Policy, which prohibits foreign nongovernmental organizations from receiving any U.S. foreign assistance for family planning if they provide information, referrals, or services for legal abortion or lobby for abortion. 

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Sprinting in 2017

January 23, 2017

Sprint-technique2Come the New Year, the team here at Philanthropy News Digest tries to hit the ground running. This year we're gearing up for a sprint.

Not to get weedy about it, but for us that means we'll be dedicating more time than usual this month and next to making improvements to our website and workflow processes. In addition to posting lots of cool content on the blog, we'll continue to write up abstracts of the day's philanthropic news, post RFPs and jobs, conduct Q&As with sector leaders, and publish original commentary, book reviews, and articles from our many content partners. But during the sprint, we'll also be talking with our tech team about changes we'd like to make to the site.

That's where you come in. We need your input. We know what we like about the site, but we really want to know what you like — and don't — about it. Should we be doing more of something? Less of something? Is there something we're not doing that we should be doing? Features we used to publish that you miss? Has anything on the site outlived its usefulness?

Here are some other things we're curious about:

Do you open the newsletters and e-alerts we send you? If not, why not? When's the last time you visited the PND home page? Did you know the PND website has a searchable archive of more than twenty thousand news items dating back to the year 2000?

It's a big site with a lot of moving parts. We want to make it better. For you.

Leave your suggestions/feedback in the comments section below. Or email me, Matt Sinclair, at mws@foundationcenter.org.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

 

Weekend Link Roundup (January 21-22, 2017)

January 22, 2017

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

Advocacy

Whether we're talking about animal welfare, climate change, LGBT or women's issues, health care, or tax policy, the impact of advocacy is hard to measure — and that is a problem. Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther looks at what one nonprofit is doing to learn more about what it doesn't know.

Civil Society

The Obama Foundation is open for business.

Community Improvement

Zenobia Jeffries and Araz Hachadourian, contributors to Yes! magazine, continue their state-by-state exploration of community development solutions that prioritize racial justice.

Education

In Dissent, Joanne Barkan explains why Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos is the second coming of economist and free-market evangelist Milton Friedman.

Grantseeking

After introducing the FLAIL Scale, a tool that allows foundations to see whether or not their grantmaking process is needlessly irritating to grantseekers, NWB's Vu Le returns with the Grant Response Amateurism, Vexation, and Exasperation (GRAVE) Gauge, a list of the things "nonprofits do that make funders want to punch us in the jaws — or worse, not fund our programs."

Impact Investing

"With uncertainties about the next four years swirling, there is one safe prediction: Sustainability and climate change will not be high on the Trump administration’s priority list," writes Peter D. Henig, founder and managing partner of Greenhouse Capital Partners, on the Impact Alpha site. "If sustainability is to keep moving forward," he adds, "it's up to the private sector" to embrace the "opportunities [that] await mission-driven, impact-focused companies and investors."

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Designing Brand Experiences for Social Impact

January 19, 2017

Brand-experienceFocus and clarity are critical if brands hope to stand out in our message-saturated world. And for social change organizations, the challenge is even greater. When the message is about a better future, somewhere down the road, mission-driven brands must figure out ways to create a sense of urgency among their supporters to act now. Often, this means explaining concepts and ideas that can be difficult for people to understand. And even when the lift is big, organizations have to figure out ways to demonstrate tangible results and progress if they hope to sustain our engagement.

Fortunately, changes over the last few decades have provided brand designers with both an environment and the insights necessary to meet these challenges. The rise of networked technologies and digital communications, the maturation of the design field, and a recent awakening within many nonprofits about the value of their brand have combined to provide new opportunities to increase the effectiveness of the social change sector.

The challenge, then, is to understand the environment in which social change brands exist and apply this understanding to design solutions that offer the best chance to maximize your organization's impact.

The Rise of Brand in the Nonprofit Sector

It's no secret that the concept of brand has had a rough go of it in the nonprofit sector. Fortunately, more nonprofits are getting past their skepticism (if not outright resistance) to the idea and have been re-examining their relationship to "the B-word." By making smart adaptations to traditional business-centric principles, organizations like the Harvard Kennedy School, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Communications Network are helping to change the way people in the nonprofit sector think about the role of brand.

This new way of thinking, spelled out in Nathalie Laider-Kylander's and Julia Shephard Stenzel’s book The Brand IDEA: Managing Nonprofit Brands with Integrity, Democracy, and Affinity, is summarized in the book's introduction by Open Society Foundations president Christopher Stone: "A brand is a powerful expression of an organization's mission and value that can help engineer collaborations and partnerships that better enable it to fulfill its mission and deepen impact, and [is] a strategic asset essential to the success of the organization itself."

CCD_Fig1

Understood this way, a social change organization's brand is far more than just compelling messages and visuals. It's the ideas, expertise, relationships, resources, and experiences embedded in the organization's DNA, and as such it shapes organizational culture by bringing people together around a shared vision to create shared value.

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Time for Nonprofits to Step Up and Make America Good Again

January 17, 2017

NonprofitsassociationsAlthough many Americans are skeptical of Donald Trump's ability to handle his presidential duties, a majority believe he is competent to be president. Nevertheless, the charitable sector should be concerned about what his presidency could mean for nonprofit organizations — and perhaps democracy itself.

The incoming administration has claimed an electoral mandate based on false assertions of massive voter fraud. In reality, Trump lost the popular vote by more than 2 percent — over 2.9 million votes. And he owes his Electoral College victory to 75,000 votes spread across just three states: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

It's important to remember these facts as the country prepares itself for an onslaught of executive orders and regressive policy initiatives likely to come out of the White House and the Republican-controlled Congress. Needless to say, many of those initiatives will belie the core values and progressive goals of the philanthropic community.

We know that a majority of Americans support some of President-elect Trump's proposals, including lower and simpler taxes for the middle class; more spending on infrastructure, the military, and veterans' services; and term limits and new ethics rules for members of Congress (although Congress itself opposes the last two).

We also know that most Americans are opposed to Trump's proposals to lower taxes on high-income Americans, build a wall on the border with Mexico (even before Congress said it would cost taxpayers billions of dollars), and deport illegal immigrants without offering them a pathway to citizenship, as well as his preference for fossil fuels over renewable energy sources.

Furthermore, unlike the president-elect and Congress, most Americans want to see Obamacare improved, not repealed and replaced. They want to see government regulations improved, not weakened or eliminated. And while they believe small businesses pay too much tax, they believe corporations pay too little.

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How Philanthropic Is the Trump Cabinet?

Here are the facts, decide for yourself. After a bitter election season dominated by spin, lies and fake news, that may sound like a radical proposition, but it is what we do at Foundation Center. In releasing "Eye on the Trump Cabinet" as the newest feature of our Glasspockets website, our goal is track the charitable giving related to cabinet nominees and their nonprofit board service. 

Eye on the Trump Cabinet_1

 Eye on the Trump Cabinet_2

There has been a lot of speculation among philanthropic foundations about what the new administration might mean for the sector. Will lower tax rates reduce charitable giving? If government retreats from social programs will foundations be expected to take up the slack? Will new regulations be introduced to somehow influence the kinds of priorities foundations support? At the extremes, I have heard people assert: "These people (the new administration) don't know anything about philanthropy," and I've even fielded a question from a Danish reporter who wanted to know whether the controversy over the Clinton and Trump foundations would lead to the end of transparency in the sector. But what do the data tell us? 

"Eye on the Trump Cabinet" shows that, as a whole, Trump's cabinet nominees are by no means strangers to philanthropy. Indeed, collectively, they are related to twenty-five different foundations. By "related," we mean foundations that are either run by a cabinet nominee or a family member, or foundations to which they might have been affiliated or served as a board member. To learn more about those foundations, click on the links to their profiles in Foundation Directory Online and check out their 990 tax returns to learn about their operating expenses, specific grants, and investments. The data also show that cabinet nominees have served on the boards of nearly fifty nonprofit organizations focused on everything from education and veterans' affairs, to health, to children and youth. 

Eye on the Trump Cabinet_3

  Eye on the Trump Cabinet_4

With philanthropy as a lens, perhaps most notable among the nominees is Betsy DeVos, who comes from a strong family tradition of philanthropy and, together with her husband, is the co-founder of a significant foundation (the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation). Until recently, she also served as board chair for the Philanthropy Roundtable, a membership organization of foundations and donors that is a vital part of the infrastructure that upholds institutional philanthropy. Among the core beliefs of the Roundtable are that philanthropic freedom is essential to a free society and that voluntary private action offers solutions for many of society's most pressing challenges. 

Foundations and nonprofits cannot (and should not) take the place of government, in large part because their resources, while significant, are dwarfed by federal and state budgets as well as those of the business sector. On the contrary, their limited resources are valuable precisely because it is their nonprofit, independent status that gives them the freedom to innovate, take risks, support controversial causes, stick with tough challenges for the long term, and provide core support to critical societal institutions.

The relationship between government and the philanthropic sector can be one of collaboration or disagreement, or both, but that relationship has been part of the fabric of American democracy for more than a hundred years. Foundation Center, itself a nonprofit, was born in 1956 out of McCarthy-era hearings convened to determine whether foundations were supporting un-American activities. The sector's response was to create Foundation Center as a public information service that could help show that foundations had nothing to hide. We believe that transparency will, in the long run, always prove its value. How philanthropic is the new administration? Explore Eye on the Trump Cabinet, draw your own conclusions, wait, watch, and, above all, participate. 

Brad Smith is president of Foundation Center. This post originally appeared on Foundation Center's Transparency Talk blog.

Weekend Link Roundup (January 14-16, 2017)

January 16, 2017

Martin-Luther-King-Day-2017Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Advocacy

On the HistPhil blog, veteran activist/commentator Pablo Eisenberg elaborates on an op-ed he penned for the Chronicle of Philanthropy in which he argues that one way to strengthen the nonprofit sector in the Trump era is to transform Independent Sector into "a new powerful coalition solely of charities."

Arts and Culture

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has announced that it is delaying plans to build a new $600 addition for modern and contemporary art. It was hoped the new wing would be completed in time for the museum's 150th anniversary in 2020. Robin Pogrebin reports for the New York Times.

Climate Change

Bud Ris, a senior advisor for the Boston-based Barr Foundation, shares key findings from a new report that explores the city's vulnerability to rising seas and other adverse effects of climate change.

Civic Engagement

In a joint post on the foundation's blog, Case Foundation founders Jean and Steve Case argue that now is the time, in Teddy Roosevelt's words, to "get in the arena" and make a positive impact in your community.

Education

In a new post on her blog, public education activist Diane Ravitch offers her full-throated support for a statement released by People for the American Way in which PFAW spells out "the danger that [the nomination of] Betsy DeVos and the Trump agenda poses to American public education."

Giving

GoFundMe, a leader in the online crowdfunding space, has acquired social fundraising platform CrowdRise. Ken Yeung reports for VentureBeat.

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Improved Water Quality Doesn’t Mean Flint’s Problems Have Ended

January 13, 2017

CNN-flint-fire-hydrant-flushThe following statement regarding recent announcements about the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan, reflects the views of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, which is headquartered in Flint, and its president, Ridgway White. It is reprinted here with the foundation's permission.

(Image: CNN)

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At a January 11 town hall meeting, representatives from the city of Flint, state of Michigan, and federal government announced significant improvements in levels of lead, chlorine, and bacteria in Flint's drinking water, but they also advised residents to continue using filtered tap water.

Perhaps the biggest, but least surprising, takeaway from the meeting is that the repair work likely to take the longest will be the effort to rebuild public trust. This was made clear by residents who spoke out, crumpled plastic water bottles, and clapped rhythmically in unison to display their anger and skepticism.

While the improvement in water quality is good news for Flint, people who live and work here know the city's problems are far from over. The population-wide exposure to lead that resulted from government cost-cutting measures created long-term challenges that will require long-term funding and interventions to address. These include problems related to residents' health, the city's infrastructure, and the local economy, all of which have suffered significant damage.

State and — to a lesser extent — federal government already have provided some funding to address harms that have been caused. But in order to repair the many wounds that have been inflicted on Flint, government at all levels will need to make long-term, sustained investments in helping the city and its citizens recover and rise.

Here's what Flint still needs:

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Finding Our Place in a Post-Election Society…or, To Live Together, We Must Give Together

January 12, 2017

Innovation-in-giving-handsWhen the sixth call asking for our help came in days after the presidential election, we started to realize that interest in giving circles — groups of people who come together, pool their charitable donations, and decide together how to give those resources away — had never been greater.

“We’ve only ever given to our universities and political campaigns,” one caller said, echoing the sentiments of many others we spoke to. “We have no idea how to make an impact right now on the issues that came up during the campaign — but we know we want to, and we want to do it together.”

Whether you woke up on November 9 feeling shell-shocked or optimistic, you probably asked yourself: What do I do now? How can I be more engaged in my community and in causes that interest me? How can I help my obviously divided country come together and heal in the months and years to come?

If those are the kinds of questions you’ve been asking yourself, starting a giving circle might just be the answer.

In the hundred and eighty years since French diplomat and political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville published the first volume of his monumental Democracy in America, America has been known for the willingness of its citizens to form and engage in civil associations. Today, giving circles are a way for Americans to come together around their similarities — and reconcile their differences — while making a difference in their communities and society. Importantly, especially at fraught national moments like these, they also can help us find meaning in our lives by empowering us to give, in partnership and fellowship with neighbors, friends, and family, in ways that reflect our values.

Indeed, everything that giving circle members do, they do together.

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5 Questions for...Chris Gates, Executive Vice President for External Affairs, Council on Foundations

January 10, 2017

Shortly after the 2016 election, the Council on Foundations announced it had hired veteran nonprofit executive Chris Gates as executive vice president for external affairs, a new position. Gates, a former president of the National Civic League, executive director of the council's Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE) affinity group, and president of the Sunlight Foundation, had joined the council as a senior advisor earlier in the year, and for many the hire was a clear signal that the council was determined to strengthen and energize its government relations efforts in preparation for the Trump era.

Recently, PND spoke with Gates about his new role and what he — and the council — can do to help its members prepare for the next four years. 

Philanthropy News Digest: There were a lot of issues and themes in play during the recent election, including the concentration of wealth at the top of the global economy, a disturbing ratcheting up of racial tensions here in the United States, and a rise in populist sentiment across the developed world. Is philanthropy doing enough to address inequality and the hollowing out of the American middle class? Or might it be, as some have argued, part of the problem?

Headshot_Chris Gates_PTChris Gates: Well, it's definitely not part of the problem. Inequality, economic disruption, racial inequities are all areas where organized philanthropy has been very active. Now on problems of that scope and scale, you probably can never do enough; there's always room to do more. But I think it's important that we listen to voices that we haven't been paying attention to and to hear perspectives that haven't been included in our conversations.

I know there's been a lot of introspection in our field since the election. In fact, we had a conference call the day after the election with a bunch of our members where people were trying to process what they were hearing, what they needed to do differently, and what they needed to do more of. Then, a couple of weeks later, we hosted a webinar for funders that I believe attracted the largest audience we've ever had for a webinar, more than six hundred people. I think a great many funders have been thinking about how they can increase the impact of their work, where they might need to double down, and where they need to make changes and adjustments. So, no, I don't think you can ever do enough to address the kinds of big issues you mentioned, but I do think organized philanthropy has been in an active listening mode since the election, and I believe it will be very responsive in the weeks and months to come.

PND: Can you share anything with our readers from those conversations?

CG: As far as philanthropic organizations in general are concerned, there was a lot of conversation about economic insecurity and how that was reflected by candidates on both the left and right. It is not a partisan issue, and there was probably more agreement than disagreement among the various nonprofit leaders we spoke to about what needs to be done. It's also an issue that requires new thinking and additional focus from all of us, because clearly it's a concern for many, many people in this country.

There also was a lot of conversation about the racial tensions that exist in this country, as well as a recognition that philanthropy may be one of the few sectors well suited to help people address those tensions, either by funding organizations and people who are trying different things to bring people together, or by using our convening power to encourage dialogue and conversation.

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Weekend Link Roundup (January 7-8, 2017)

January 08, 2017

Snowflakes_PNG7585Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Animal Welfare

Here's some good news: China has announced it will shut down the trade of ivory within its borders by the end of 2017. Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen applauds the decision.

Higher Education

Could a favorite tax break for donors who give to the nation's wealthiest colleges and universities be curtailed by the new Congress? Janet Lorin reports for Bloomberg.

Regardless of the tax policy changes Congress settles on, many multimillion-dollar gifts won't do as much good as the donors of those gifts hope, writes Paul Connolly, director of philanthropic advisory services at the Bessemer Trust, and that’s because "too few of them are getting the sound advice they need to move from good intentions to effective contributions and real positive impact."

International Affairs/Development 

As bad as 2016 may have seemed, the long-term trend for humanity is moving in the right direction, writes FastCo.Exist contributor Adele Peters, citing research by Oxford economist Max Roser. Take poverty: two hundred years ago, most people on the planet lived in extreme poverty, but "by 1950, a quarter of the world's population had made it out of extreme poverty...[and today] 90% of the world has." Or education: "In 1820, 1 out of 10 people was literate. Now more than 8 out of 10 people in the world can read." 

These trends could be accelerated if more of the developing world's population was connected to the Internet. On the ONE blog, Samantha Urban reports on the recommendations to address the situation made by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in November 19.

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A National Day of Racial Healing on January 17 Will Help Americans Overcome Racial Divisions

January 06, 2017

Share1112-crayonsJust five days before the inauguration of Donald Trump as the country's 45th president, millions of Americans on January 16 will celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For many, memories of the civil rights icon revolve around his momentous "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, in which Dr. King called for an end to racism and for the expansion of economic opportunities for all Americans.

Dr. King's brilliance — his strategic leadership of the civil rights movement and unparalleled courage and integrity — is often overshadowed by the speech that many scholars hail as the most important public address by an American in the twentieth century. Unfortunately, the dream of equality King articulated in 1963 remains unfulfilled in many communities today — a reality that underscores the persistent structural inequities and racial bias at the root of the widespread disparities in social conditions and opportunities for people of color.

Dr. King said, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." That's the America many of us have long been working to create but, despite progress in some areas, are still seeking to realize.

The divisive rhetoric and raw emotions that raged across the country over the past year pulled the scab off a persistent wound in the American psyche, bringing the issue of race front and center and exposing the divides in our society. What can we do about it? How do we move forward on a path toward racial equity that facilitates racial healing, dismantles structural racism, and lifts vulnerable children onto the path to success?

To be sure, America has made progress over the decades. Government and the courts have enacted statutes and rulings, from Brown v. Board of Education to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the Fair Housing Act of 1968, that outlawed public discrimination while purportedly guaranteeing equal opportunity for all Americans. Yet, in too many cases, these rulings only addressed the effects of racism, not its foundations. The passage of time has made clear that government and courts can enact and uphold laws, but they can't change hearts, minds, and souls.

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5 Questions for...Jennifer Preston, Vice President for Journalism, Knight Foundation

January 04, 2017

"Quality journalism matters," writes Jennifer Preston, vice president for journalism at the John S, and James L. Knight Foundation. "It is a buttress against the torrent of fake news we've seen explode in the past year, and it can help rebuild the diminishing trust many people have in society's core institutions."

In keeping with the foundation's efforts over the last ten years to support quality journalism and the work of nonprofit news organizations, Preston and her colleagues launched the Knight News Match just before the holidays. In a recent email conversation, she spoke about the problem of fake news, the role of social media in the recent presidential election, and the matching campaign, which is open through January 19.

Philanthropy News Digest: There's been a lot of talk about fake news and its role, real or imagined, in determining the outcome of the presidential election. What is fake news, and why is it suddenly a problem?

Headshot_Jennifer_PrestonJennifer Preston: Fake news is not a new problem. Supermarket tabloids have been generating false stories and doctored photos for decades. As journalists, we spend our days reporting, verifying, checking, sifting through misinformation to uncover accurate information and verify facts before publishing. Social media — and the Internet — has accelerated the pace for spreading both journalism and false information. What is happening, of course, is the impact of social media on how we consume information. False information is flowing unfettered through social media channels and people are sharing it without knowing that what they are sharing is inaccurate. I see the concerns over fake news to be a symptom of the overall lack of trust in media and information. At Knight, we are supporting projects to help journalists and news organizations build trust with their audience by engaging more directly with community residents. As an example, we fund a Solutions Journalism project in Seattle and another in Philadelphia. We are funding the University of Oregon's Center for Journalism Innovation and Civic Engagement to create case studies and best practices for journalism engagement. And we're also supporting the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation's work in New Jersey, which has been focused in helping local online news organizations engage more closely with the communities they cover.

PND: Are you at all concerned that efforts to identify and minimize the influence of fake news could backfire by reinforcing people's existing filters and certainty in what they believe to be "real" news?

JP: It took a while, but we are seeing engineers and technologists becoming highly engaged in addressing the spread of false information, and it will be interesting to see their solutions. It is key, however, that First Amendment concerns are addressed. It was interesting to see how Facebook decided to partner with Politifact and ABC News. One of the best ways to fight misinformation is to support quality journalism, and that's why we launched the Knight News Match campaign.

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Weekend Link Roundup (December 31-January 1, 2017)

January 01, 2017

20172016Happy New Year! After a break for the holidays, we're back with our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Fundraising

Change is inevitable and trying to predict a future unknowns, known and unknown, lying in wait in the new year, what's a nonprofit to do? Rather than try to predict the future, digital strategist and Ignite Strategy group founder Jeff Rum shares some good advice about how nonprofits can best prepare for

Giving

Have you resolved to be a better giver in 2017? Forbes contributor Leila de Bruyne asked Paul English, co-founder of Kayak and Lola, for his advice on how to give any amount of money away, effectively.

Higher Education

"U.S.  economic development has stalled. We've recently learned that only about half of people born around 1980 earn more today than their parents did at a similar age. The nation’s deteriorating education sector is one important factor, culpable for both weak economic growth and rising income inequality," writes Jonathan Rothwell, a senior economist at the Gallup organization, in an article on the Brookings site. And while education costs have soared over that period, he adds, learning has stagnated. Interesting comments as well.

International Affairs/Development

The UN estimates that almost 93 million people in 33 countries will need humanitarian aid in 2017 and has issued an appeal for a record $22.2 billion to help them. The Thomson Reuters Foundation (via the New York Times) asked aid agencies to name their top three priorities for 2017

LGBTQ

There were setbacks, yes, but the news for the LGBTQ community in 2016 wasn't all bad, as dozens of state legislatures and city councils considered or pass LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinances. On the Freedom for Americans site, Adam Polaski shares both the good and the bad from the year just passed.

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Quote of the Week

  • "[W]hat struck me was the startled awareness that one day something, whatever it might be, was going to interrupt my leisurely progress. It sounds trite, yet I can only say that I realized for the first time that I don't have forever...."

    — Anatole Broyard, book critic/editor/essayist (1920-1990)

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