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15 posts from March 2017

How to Supercharge Your Advocacy Campaign With a Story

March 27, 2017

In 2001, Madison McCarthy died of sudden cardiac arrest in a kindergarten classroom. She was five years old. No one attempted CPR. Her mother, Suzy McCarthy, became the face of an American Heart Association campaign that, fourteen years later, made New York the twenty-sixth state in the country to mandate CPR training as a part of the public school curricula. More than 1.5 million students a year began learning this lifesaving skill.

Megaphone_advocacyThe McCarthys’ tragic story became the foundation of an advocacy campaign that changed policy and saved lives. I would argue that all causes have the potential to use stories to such powerful effect.

AHA didn’t discover Madison by accident. It deliberately paid attention and collected stories of loss as well as stories of CPR saving lives. It then pushed these narratives at lawmakers through emails, phone calls, news articles, and social media posts. In the critical last weeks of the campaign, patch-through calls with Suzy McCarthy’s voice moved advocates to call Gov. Andrew Cuomo in support of the CPR bill. When I heard the recording, I thought to myself: How could someone not act on that story?

Generic statistics on CPR wouldn’t have moved lawmakers to act. Stories, on the other hand, with their heroes, drama, tragedy, and hope, tap into our emotions. A good story well told has the potential to bring out the best in supporters and advocates — and in lawmakers.

Unfortunately, too few advocacy organizations use stories to their full potential. Often, my colleagues and I receive advocacy emails jammed with technical information about pending legislation. They’re almost unreadable. Advocates for your cause are people with jobs, families, and other responsibilities. Even if they care about your issue, they can only invest so much time in getting themselves up to speed on all its nuances.

Now imagine the effect of replacing all those jargon-filled explanations with a real, compelling story. Let’s talk about how you can accomplish that at your organization.

Collect your advocates’ stories. When people sit around the dinner table or a campfire, what do they do? They tell stories. But when you solicit stories in support of your cause via email or social media, which are far less personal channels, you have to be sure to ask the right question. We’ve found that the following approach works well:

  • In a sentence or two, present your issue and actionable goal.
  • Then say: “How does this issue affect you personally? Please share your story for our campaign.”
  • Watch as advocates send emails, post on social media, and respond to other people’s stories.

Identify the most compelling stories. Let’s say you collect two hundred stories. (Congrats!) Around which ones should you build your campaign?

First, zero in on the most relevant stories. Suzy McCarthy lost a child, and the proposed legislation could prevent that from happening in the future. No story could be more relevant. Second, ask for permission to use the story publicly. Understandably, some of your supporters may feel shy about becoming a campaign figurehead the way Suzy did. Third, use the most compelling stories first. Which ones truly capture what is at stake?

The best stories illustrate the consequences of inaction, be it job loss, hunger, environmental degradation, or even the possibility of death. And though you really only need one truly compelling story to get someone to take action, feel free to share quotes or short anecdotes from many.

Center your campaign on one story. The idea here is to use the voice of a single advocate for your cause to inspire others to act. Put that story on your campaign webpage. Include it in your emails to legislators (and make sure it precedes your call to action). Ask the person whose story it is to do the recording for your patch-through calls (as Suzy did for AHA).

Remember: Simplicity usually wins the day. The story you choose should translate something complex into a relatable, emotional experience. And the hashtag you choose for social media purposes should capture the essence of that story in a few words. While we’d like to believe that each and every story or argument strengthens a campaign, it doesn’t work that way. Oversharing can dilute and undermine the power of your message.

Simplifying a complex issue into a compelling story, and turning that story into a catchy hashtag, is not about pandering to short attention spans or “dumbing down” your messaging for a millennial audience. It’s being strategic. By one estimate, more than half of all emails sent since 2015 have been opened on a mobile device. Why lose a potential supporter and advocate for your cause to the fact that your message didn’t “fit above the fold” and a lot of socially engaged people didn’t scroll down far enough to find it on their smartphones?

Now, it’s possible you end up ignoring my advice because you and your colleagues have convinced yourselves your organization doesn’t have an ”exciting” story to tell. I doubt that. When patent assertion entities (PAEs) began blackmailing innovators and small businesses for patent infringement, the issue seemed dry and complicated. That didn’t deter the Consumer Technology Association, a group that supports innovators and innovation. CTA simply reframed the issue as a David vs. Goliath story. They realized the term “patent troll” captured the greed and mendaciousness of PAEs. And like trolls, PAEs were preying on the innocent — in this case, entrepreneurs and technologists. CTA’s graphic caricatures of club-wielding trolls hammered the point home.

As a result, CTA raised awareness of the issue and moved entrepreneurs and small businesses, which couldn’t afford to fight patent infringement claims in court, to share their own stories of extortion. In no time, their stories revealed that U.S. patent law was broken and motivated politicians in Washington to take action.

The point is, you can’t imagine the kinds of stories your advocates and supporters might be willing to share until you ask for them. And one good story can drive an entire campaign. Real stories shared by real people never earn the “fake news” moniker that can delegitimize research and technical information.

Ximena_hartsock_for_PhilanTopicSo lead with a story. You’ll be amazed by the results.

Ximena Hartsock is a co-founder and president of Phone2Action, a provider of social advocacy and civic engagement tools that connect constituents with their elected officials.

Weekend Link Roundup (March 25-26, 2017)

March 26, 2017

David_rockefeller_photo_jim_smeal_wireimage_getty_images_115356418_profileOur 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

The Metropolitan Museum of Art on Manhattan's Upper East Side is one of the great cultural institutions of the world. But is it a great cultural institution in decline? In Vanity Fair, William D. Cohan looks at the New York Times article and ensuing circumstances that led to the resignation of the museum's director, 54-year-old one-time wunderkind Thomas Campbell.

Climate Change

The nation's leading climate change activist is a former hedge fund manager you've probably never heard of. Wired's Nick Stockton talks to Tom Steyer, the California billionaire who is trying to save the planet.

Education

Citing new research which finds that the skills required to succeed professionally are the same as those required to succeed in K-12 education, Laszlo Bock, a member of the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development, suggests that the best place to invest scarce education reform dollars might just be where the overlap between the two is most clear.

Fundraising

Like many people, I'm a student of cognitive biases. So I was pleased to come across this post by John Haydon detailing five cognitive biases that can be leveraged to improve the success of your next fundraising campaign.

Giving

Meals on Wheels America has seen an upsurge in donations since being targeted for elimination by the Trump administration's "skinny" budget plan. Alex Swerdloff reports for Vice.

The Economist suggests that the increasing popularity of donor-advised funds may be as much about...wait for it...taxes as it is about charity.

International Affairs/Development

Foreign aid represents a tiny fraction (less than 1 percent) of the federal budget. But the Trump administration, like Republican administrations in the past, seems determined to zero it out. That would be a mistake, writes Bill Gates on his Gates Notes blog. For starters, foreign aid promotes health, security, and economic opportunity that helps stabilize vulnerable parts of the world, and whether we realize it or not, that tends to keep us all safer.

If you're smiling now, it's probably because you're Norwegian. The fifth annual World Happiness Report is out, and — surprise! — Scadinavian countries lead the pack.

Leadership

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, notes that even as "elite schools overemphasize leadership because...they're preparing students for the corporate world," a discipline in organizational psychology called "followership" is gaining in popularity. And that's a good thing.

Nonprofits

In a joint op-ed for The Hill, Council on Foundations president Vikki Spruill and Tim Delaney, president and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits, argue that efforts to weaken or repeal the so-called Johnson Amendment — a legislative provision proposed by then-Senate Minority Leader Lyndon Johnson, adopted without controversy by the Republican-controlled Senate, passed by a Republican-controlled Congress, and signed into law by President Eisenhower in 1954 — would "significantly weaken" nonprofits and the nonprofit sector "by inviting heretofore nonpartisan charitable and philanthropic organizations to endorse or oppose candidates for elected office and divert some amount of their assets away from their missions to instead support partisan campaigns."

The Trump administration's keen interest in dramatically reducing and/or eliminating federal aid for the poor and needy and replacing it with assistance from faith-based organizations reminds us of another Republican administration that was hell-bent on going down that road but abandoned the effort when reality sank in. Which begs the question, Are churches, synagogues, mosques, and other faith-based organizations any better positioned today to serve as a substitute for the government in providing for the needy and vulnerable? Emma Green reports for The Atlantic.

On her Social Velocity blog, Nell Edgington chats with the Ford Foundation's Kathy Reich about the foundation's BUILD initiative, a key element of its strategy to support the vitality and effectiveness of civil society organizations and reduce inequality, in the U.S. and the regions where it works internationally.

Philanthropy

If you're a grantmaker who's finding it difficult to remain "thoughtful and steadfast" as the world spins out of control, you're not alone, writes Huffington Post contributor and Grantmakers for Effective Organizations president Kathleen Enright. But this, too, shall pass, and in the meantime there are things you can do to make a positive difference

"Sector agnosticism" —  "the idea...that you can achieve positive societal impact working within a nonprofit or a for-profit — and that it is the impact, not the organizational type, that matters" — not only is not helpful, "it obscures the fact that the sectors play distinct and different roles," writes Center for Effective Philanthropy president Phil Buchanan in a new post on the CEP blog.

It's not what you would call a paradigm shift, but a growing number of foundations are choosing to spend down their endowments over a set period of time. Ben Paynter reports for Fast Company.

And this short statement from Bill and Hillary Clinton articulates what many of us were feeling when we heard the news that David Rockefeller had passed at the age of 101. Here's the transcript of a conversation we had with Mr. Rockefeller more than a decade ago. He was frail even then, but still sharp and exceedingly generous with his time. Godspeed, sir.

(Photo: Jim Smeal, Getty Images)

That's it for this week. Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org or share it in the comments section below....

Putting Communities First: A Collaborative Fund for the San Joaquin Valley

March 24, 2017

Sierra_health_future_is_meThe San Joaquin Valley is a testament to the troubling social, environmental, economic, and health divides that exist between individuals and communities living within relatively close proximity to one another. A mere three-hour drive from California's prosperous coastal communities, the Valley is home to a multi-billion-dollar agricultural industry, but many of the children who live there go hungry. And while the need for food assistance varies across the state, it is highest in the Valley. Data in our recently released report, California's San Joaquin Valley: A Region and Its Children Under Stress (32 pages, PDF), show that eight of the counties in the Valley are among the top nine agricultural producers in the state, and that seven of these same counties are among the ten counties with the highest child poverty rates. What's more, in six of the Valley's nine counties, over 40 percent of residents are enrolled in Medi-Cal, the state's health insurance program, while one in four schools do not have access to clean drinking water.

California also is home to more than two million undocumented immigrants, 10 percent of whom live in the region. Immigrants make up 42 percent of the agricultural workforce and 11 percent of the region's overall workforce, and emerging evidence shows that recent policy efforts have placed their safety, health, and emotional well-being at risk. In combination, these inequities place residents of the Valley at greater risk for negative, often preventable health outcomes such as childhood asthma, diabetes, depression, cancer, and trauma.

While California has provided leadership on some of the nation's most pressing health and racial equity issues, the San Joaquin Valley has been left behind. In fact, the Federal Reserve Bank has called the region "the Appalachia of the West." To address the complicated mix of challenges facing Valley communities, Sierra Health Foundation launched the San Joaquin Valley Health Fund (the Fund) to build and support a network of community organizations committed to promoting resident voices, ideas, and agency aimed at driving policy and systems change at a regional level. With an initial investment from Sierra Health Foundation and The California Endowment, the Fund is managed by The Center, a nonprofit created by Sierra Health Foundation to bring people, ideas, infrastructure, and resources to bear on the challenge of eradicating health inequities across the state. Among other things, The Center helps communities access proven practices, tap their existing knowledge and creativity, and act collectively to create the political will necessary to put their ideas into action. The investment fund is now a partnership of nine local, regional, state, and national funders, including The California Wellness, Rosenberg, W. K. Kellogg, Blue Shield of California, Wallace H. Coulter, Dignity Health, and Tides foundations.

To date, the Fund has announced grant commitments totaling more than $4.5 million to support local community organizations. This year, the Fund will support a network of sixty-eight organizations with investments totaling nearly $3 million, but there remain many worthy organizations whose participation we are unable to support.

The Fund's model brings grantees into a "learning community" cohort where organizations develop solutions to address inequities through a policy and systems change lens. Through the Fund, our nonprofit partners receive modest grants to strengthen their capacity to engage in collective advocacy while building relationships, receiving technical assistance, and sharing best practices. As a result, the fifty-eight nonprofits currently working with the Fund have agreed to support a regional policy platform that employs a social-determinants-of-health approach focused on access to health coverage, early childhood investment, affordable housing, environmental health, and employment. 

In our model, grantees are equal partners who contribute to the Fund's goal by agreeing to be mutually supportive and civically active. A powerful example of what this looks like on the ground occurred last month with Equity on the Mall, a day of advocacy at the California State Capitol. Despite heavy rain, more than a thousand San Joaquin Valley residents traveled to Sacramento to make their case for what it is needed to make California a "Golden State for All." The bipartisan list of speakers included Senate president pro tem Kevin de León, Assemblyman Devon Mathis, California secretary of health and human services Diana Dooley, and Michael Tubbs, the first African-American and youngest person elected mayor of Stockton. Community residents presented their multi-strategy policy platform to state leadership, putting their elected leaders on notice that "Valley communities are mobilizing and will no longer be overlooked, marginalized, or behave as though they have no ability to exert political influence."

Through the Fund, we are learning new lessons about the power of organizing to make meaningful and sustainable change at scale. And we are shining a light on inequity in the health, social, and economic outcomes of different regions within our great state, while contributing to solutions designed to address them. Our goal is simple: to ensure that our community partners are at the forefront of efforts to identify and lead on the issues that will require political support and systemic changes to be implemented. We have been heartened by the response of our partners who say the approach of the Fund is significantly different from that of other funders, who have come to the Valley with their own agenda rather than listening to the priorities of residents. The Fund's model works for and with residents, with a shared vision of a healthy San Joaquin Valley for all. 

This work continues to evolve, but it is well positioned to inform similar strategies in other under-resourced and overburdened regions. We encourage others to join with us to expand our impact in the Valley and, by doing so, create new models for addressing inequity and inequality across the country.

Chet_hewitt_for_PhilanTopicChet P. Hewitt is president and CEO of Sierra Health Foundation and The Center, an independent nonprofit developed and supported by the foundation. To get involved or to learn more about the San Joaquin Valley Health Fund, see www.shfcenter.org/sjvhealthfund.

How a Blueprint for Treating HIV/AIDS Is Helping Address Childhood Cancer in Africa

March 21, 2017

Globe_health_for_PhilanTopic2Roughly 15,000 new cases of cancer are diagnosed annually among American children. Eighty percent of these children ultimately are cured, which is a remarkable medical success story. But in sub-Saharan Africa, where about 100,000 new cases of pediatric cancer occur annually and 90 percent of those children will die, the story is different. It's a story of disparate access to lifesaving care and treatment, and one that — thanks to a new public-private partnership — we are taking action to change.

The Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) Foundation's SECURE THE FUTURE® program, Texas Children's Cancer and Hematology Centers, and the Baylor College of Medicine International Pediatric AIDS Initiative at Texas Children's Hospital (BIPAI) are committing $100 million over the next five years to launch Global HOPE (Hematology-Oncology Pediatric Excellence). Global HOPE is a comprehensive pediatric hematology-oncology treatment network that will help build long-term capacity in East and southern Africa with the goal of dramatically improving the prognosis of thousands of children with blood disorders and cancer. In partnership with the government of Botswana, the program will build and open a comprehensive children's cancer treatment center in Gaborone, the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa, and will establish additional centers and training programs in Uganda and Malawi.

While identifying treatments and cures for non-communicable diseases in sub-Saharan Africa has been a focus of the international public health and philanthropic communities, there has yet to be a comprehensive effort to address pediatric cancer and blood disorders in the region. These are complicated conditions, requiring subspecialty expertise, advanced medical technology, and potentially toxic medications. Despite the challenges, however, if we apply the blueprint we've developed for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), we can start saving lives now.

At the turn of the millennium, Africa was considered a lost cause by many in the medical and public health communities. HIV and AIDS had ravaged the continent. New HIV infections, including those involving transmission from mothers to babies, were occurring unabated, and African children and young adults were dying in droves. Across the southern portion of the continent, funeral homes were open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, to accommodate the demand.

Put simply, the region had too few doctors, too little medical infrastructure, and the medicines that had transformed the treatment of HIV/AIDS here in the U.S. were no more than a distant dream, causing Botswana's president, Festus Mogae, to remark, “We are threatened with extinction.”

Against that backdrop, the BMS Foundation arrived in the region with the idea that we could do something to find a solution. In short order, the foundation began awarding grants to local and international institutions and organizations interested in pursuing projects aimed at preventing and/or treating HIV/AIDS, as well as in improving the health and quality of life of those afflicted. At first, the projects were more operational in nature — providing nutritional supplements or psychosocial support. But we soon realized that in order to make a real difference, we needed to find a way to administer treatment to sick children in large numbers.

And so the BMS Foundation made a radical and unprecedented commitment: $100 million to fight HIV/AIDS among women and children living in five hard-hit countries in southern Africa, including Botswana. The foundation also made the decision to partner with the Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative to support public healthcare infrastructure in the region. In fairly short order, the situation began to change.

With support from the BMS Foundation and the government of Botswana, BIPAI built and opened a state-of-the-art Children's Clinical Center of Excellence on the campus of Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone to provide care and treatment to HIV-infected children. More than four thousand children were tested for HIV in the first year alone, and about fourteen hundred received highly-active antiretroviral therapy, the same kind of medications that were saving the lives of thousands of HIV-infected children and adults here in the U.S. The results were astonishing — plummeting rates of death, complications from disease, and hospitalizations. To immense delight, African children were benefiting from state-of-the-art treatment in exactly the same way that American children had begun to nearly a decade before.

Today, BIPAI's seven African Children's Clinical Centers of Excellence provide care and treatment to more than three hundred thousand HIV-infected children and their family members — more than are under care at any other institution in the world. And while there is more to be done, the tide has turned: the numbers of new infections and deaths from HIV in children in many countries across sub-Saharan Africa are down dramatically.

If there is a silver lining to the tragic story of HIV/AIDS in Africa, it's that the blueprint we've developed via a public-private partnership — creating infrastructure, building health professional capacity, and scaling models of care delivery — can be applied to the pediatric cancer and blood disorders that are robbing African children of their health and lives. From our experience with HIV/AIDS, we have learned how to forge partnerships and avoid competition and duplication of services. We have learned how to build clinical and laboratory infrastructure effectively. We have learned how to train and support African health professionals. We have learned that African mothers and fathers are more than capable of adhering to complex regimens of medications with the same diligence as their American counterparts. In short, we have learned that, by working together, we can do so much better than simply write off a hundred thousand young African lives to cancer and blood disorders every year.

As the global health community is coming to understand the burden that non-communicable diseases place on developing countries, we hope it will look more closely at this public-private partnership as an effective model. The success of treating children with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan African countries is shining a bright light on what is possible. Just as with HIV/AIDS, we know that pediatric cancer will challenge our commitment and compassion for some of the world's least fortunate children and families. But there is no excuse for not pursuing this fight with the same zeal and passion we all hope would be expended on behalf of our own children. We encourage other individuals and organizations to join us in this worthy effort.

Mark_kline_john_damonti Mark W. Kline is physician-in-chief at Texas Children's Hospital, the J.S. Abercrombie Professor and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, and the founder and CEO of BIPAI. John Damonti is president of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation and led its SECURE THE FUTURE program, which has invested more than $180 million in over two hundred and forty HIV/AIDS programs in twenty-two African countries.

Weekend Link Roundup (March 18-19, 2017)

March 19, 2017

Sad-Big-BirdOur 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

The Wellesley Centers for Women partnered with American Conservatory Theater to study gender equity in leadership opportunities in the nonprofit American theater. This is what they learned.

In an op-ed for Bloomberg, Earl Lewis, president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a major funder of the arts and humanities in America, suggests that any plan to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National for the Humanities "would be foolish," not least because it would "deprive ourselves and our successors of the cultural understanding central to our complex but shared national identity." 

Education

The Trump administration's call for massive cuts to national service in its first budget would deal a "devastating" blow to the education reform movement. Lisette Partelow, director of K-12 Strategic Initiatives at the Center for American Progress, and Kami Spicklemire, an education campaign manager at CAP, explain.

Environment

In a guest post for the Center for Effective Philanthropy, Keecha Harris, president of Keecha Harris and Associates, Inc. and director of InDEEP (Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity in Environmental Philanthropy), argues that if the environmental movement wants to remain relevant, its needs to do something about the "green ceiling" — i.e, the lack of diversity and inclusion within its ranks.

In a statement released earlier in the week, Nature Conservancy president Mark Tercek criticizes the White House's "misguided" budget blueprint, which assumes that "the security and prosperity of [the] country must come at the expense of critical federal investments in our natural resources." 

Hewlett Foundation president Larry Kramer argues that philanthropy has an important role to play in limiting the damage from climate change already locked in, but that to do so, it will need to respond with a much bigger effort than it has mustered to date.

Here's some good news: Despite a growing global economy, CO2 emissions have remained flat for the third year in a row. 

Giving

Does the rise of crowdfunding and social fundraising portend a future in which donors are more likely to be driven by emotion than science or metrics? Ben Paynter reports for Fast Company.

Health

"[I]n our nearly 70 years of working to make [a bright] future a reality [for every child], we have learned that a child's best chance for success in life — and for becoming an adult who fully contributes to our prosperity as a nation — is a healthy start from birth," writes Annie E. Casey Foundation president Patrick McCarthy. And having "access to health care," adds McCarthy, "helps provide that healthy start — a fact that we hope our country's leaders and decision makers bear in mind as they debate the future of the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program."

Higher Education

A new survey of some 33,000 students at 70 community colleges has turned up some shocking findings: 14 percent of community college students say they are homeless, and as many as half struggle to afford food. The Hechinger Report's Jon Marcus digs into the results.

Innovation

FastCoExist will be unveiling its first-ever World Changing Ideas Awards on March 20. Can't wait till then? Here are nine ideas that could change the world for the better in 2017 and beyond.

International Affairs/Development

Sri Lanka is experiencing its worst drought in decades. Joanne Lu reports for Humanosphere.

Philanthropy

In the Denver Post, philanthropy consultant Bruce DeBoskey shares his take on a toolkit recently released by Open Road Alliance, the Rockefeller Foundation, and Arabella Advisors that they describe as "the first practical, comprehensive framework providing guidance to funders on how to implement best practices in risk-management."

And did you know Warren Buffet has some advice for foundations that they probably won't take? Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther has the skinny.

That's it for this week. Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org or share it in the comments section below....

We Fund What We Value

March 17, 2017

Axe-hatchetThe just-released Trump budget, "America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again," proposes a $54 billion increase in defense spending and massive cuts elsewhere that will pose huge challenges for philanthropy.

Leave aside the politics (please) and consider what this means for donors. The budget calls for the complete defunding of four cultural agencies — the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Eliminating the NEA cuts $148 million; the NEH, $148 million; the IMLS, $230 million; and the CPB, $445 million. From the NEA alone, $47 million in state grants leveraged an additional $368 million in state funding. That's roughly $1 billion, plus $368 million from the states.

Science and basic research take a massive hit, with the National Institutes of Health losing almost $6 billion of its $30 billion budget. It's important to remember that 80 percent of NIH funding goes to outside researchers in universities and labs across the country — major recipients of foundation and individual donations.

Cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency have garnered headlines, with nearly a third of its budget in jeopardy; in practice, this includes the outright elimination of a program to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and half the funding for the EPA's Office of Research and Development. Funding for climate research is effectively zeroed out.

Proposed budgets are just that — proposals — and they never survive intact, but what if even half these cuts are enacted? It still translates into billions of dollars in cuts to everything from local public radio stations to rural arts programs to university research programs. The cuts would affect big cities and small towns alike. And they would directly affect programs funded by philanthropy.

Philanthropy often relies on federal and state grants to leverage its investments. A grant from a foundation makes it possible, for instance, for a nonprofit to undertake a library scoping study, which can unlock a state grant to underwrite the building's design, which can lead to a federal grant toward construction of the building. Or a donor might fund an endowed chair for a university professor, who then seeks government funding to support his or her research on a cure for cancer. Under our system, government, foundations, and individual donors work together to magnify the impact of their respective dollars.

But while philanthropy is used to working with federal and state agencies, it cannot fill the gaps that would be created by the Trump budget on its own. If the funding cuts proposed by the White House survive, foundations and donors will face many difficult choices in the months and years to come. Having to decide between funding deeply in one area or funding broadly across many areas will be a constant aggravation, at best. And because the proposed cuts are so deep, even a significant increase foundation and individual donor giving will not be enough to keep the wolf from the door. The resulting harm will be financial and cultural, medical and environmental, with jobs lost and nonprofits forced to shut down.

Headshot_Chris_MassiWe fund what we value, and the choices ahead are likely to test our values in profound ways.

Chris Massi is a senior consultant at Graham-Pelton, a global fundraising and nonprofit management consulting firm. A version of this post originally appeared on the Graham-Pelton website.

The Future of African-American Philanthropy

March 15, 2017

Circleofjoy_mediumAs the demography of America changes, the face of philanthropy is changing along with it. While African Americans have a tradition of giving, the 2016 U.S. Trust® Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy highlights new data on African-American donors that gives us a clearer picture of the future of philanthropy in the U.S. We have long known, for example, that African-American households tend to give more of their discretionary income — as much as 25 percent more — to charitable causes than white Americans, and the U.S. Trust study (114 pages, PDF) suggests that that figure increases as African Americans move into the ranks of the wealthy.

At Bridge Philanthropic Consulting (BPC), the nation's largest full-service African American-owned fundraising firm, we have logged plenty of anecdotal evidence that supports the study’s key finding — namely, that African Americans are very generous but also very careful when it comes to charitable giving. Among those surveyed for the study, 62.4 percent of African-American respondents rated themselves as "knowledgeable" or "expert" about charitable giving and philanthropy, compared to 54.8 percent of their white peers. African-American donors also are almost twice as likely as white donors to say that they carefully monitor their social investments (39.1 percent v. 21.7 percent).

This cautiousness on the part of African-American donors does not extend to online giving. African Americans are four times as likely as donors from other racial or ethnic groups to use social media to raise funds and/or awareness for a cause. And high-net-worth African-American donors report a higher degree of satisfaction from giving than white donors (66.7 percent v. 42.3 percent). At the same time, African-American and white donors both report a high degree of satisfaction from volunteering, with rates above 60 percent among both groups. Where noticeable differences show up is in the kinds of organizations each group favors. African Americans were significantly more likely than their white peers to donate to faith-based causes (71 percent vs. 53.7 percent), so-called combination purposes (54 percent vs. 41.4 percent), and higher education (49 percent vs. 34.4 percent). There is also a tradition in the black church of tithing that has instilled a sense of grassroots philanthropy in the African-American community, with African Americans who attend church 25 percent more likely to make a charitable donation than their peers who don't attend church services.

"Black philanthropy makes an enormous difference in the lives of our people and our nation," says Hugh B. Price, former president of the National Urban League and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "Our generosity runs the gamut, from tithing to our churches, sororities, fraternities, and civic clubs, to making major contributions to our collegiate alma maters, the Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Black philanthropy provides the indispensable financial foundation that guarantees the survival of vitally important nonprofit institutions while also fueling their ascent to new heights of impact and excellence."

The findings of the U.S. Trust study further suggests that organizations seeking to fundraise in the African-American community should pay special attention to those with a family tradition of giving. Among African-American respondents to the survey, 30.7 percent said they have a family tradition of giving, compared with 18.3 percent of white respondents. Perhaps more significantly, African Americans are more likely, according to the study, to encourage their younger relatives to get involved in charitable causes and giving campaigns.

"I became involved in philanthropy through a family tradition that goes back to the church," notes Dwayne Ashley, who co-founded BPC and serves as its president. "My great-grandmother was a midwife. When families could not pay her, they often gave her portions of their land, which she in turn donated to create one of the first black schools in Heflin, Louisiana. Eventually, the school became a church, [which] generations of my family and neighbors attend to this day."

As African Americans become an increasingly important part of the philanthropic equation in the U.S., nonprofit organizations have reason to be optimistic. According to the U.S. Trust study, African Americans are almost twice as likely as whites to believe that large gifts can change the world or impact society for the better (25.5 percent vs. 14.2 percent). And of those surveyed, 41.8 percent of African American respondents said they planned to increase their charitable giving in the future, compared with 24.4 percent of white respondents.

“I am excited to see the hard data matching the generosity we have observed in the black community for many years," says Reggie Van Lee, a celebrated philanthropist, founding member of the Clinton Global Initiative, and a former member of President Obama's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

Even today, many fundraising professionals still associate "donor" with a wealthy white man or woman. A growing number, however, are learning that fundraising transcends color and that meaningful long-term relationships with donors are based on mutual affinity and shared interests. Thirty years ago, I asked the 100 Black Men of America organization to help underwrite a PBS program about Paul Robeson. I was shocked to learn the organization had never been approached to do anything like that. But I wasn't surprised when it stepped up with a generous gift. That was then, and today is today. If African Americans in the past weren't a fixture on nonprofits' donor rolls, maybe it's because no one thought to ask. Isn't it time we do something about that?

M_gasby_brown_for_PhilanTopicGasby Brown is co-founder of Bridge Philanthropic Consulting and a faculty member at the Fund Raising School at Indiana University's Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. She is also the author of several books, including 7 Fatal Flaws of Nonprofit Boards and How to Fix Them.

Weekend Link Roundup (March 11-12, 2017)

March 12, 2017

Keep-calm-and-let-it-snow--680Our 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

After a decade of declining meat consumption, Americans again are eating more meat, and Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther wants to know why people "who adore their dogs and cats blithely go on consuming meat products that cause needless suffering to pigs, cows and chickens."

Education

On Medium, Nick Donohue, president/CEO of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, suggests that "education as a whole hasn't changed much since today's retirees were students themselves, sitting in class and scribbling notes in cadence with a teacher's lecture. We've operated schools as if they were industrial factories, with one size fits all approaches to teaching and learning that resemble assembly line practices. In doing so, we are doing what we did 100 years ago  —  culling and sorting the more elite students and leaving the rest behind...."

Health

In her latest annual message, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation president Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, who in April will step down as head of the foundation, shares seven lessons she has learned about improving health in America.

Immigration

There are 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. — people living here without permission from the American government — and, as the New York Times' Vivian Yee, Kenan Davis, and Jugal K. Patel illustrate in this fact-based piece, they are not necessarily who you think they are.

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Time for Philanthropy to Take Bold Action: Invest in Policy Change

March 10, 2017

Change_buttonOver the past few weeks, we've witnessed a new administration work daily to roll back rights our communities have fought hard to win, putting in jeopardy everything from immigrants' rights and economic security to educational equity and women's health.

At the same time, and despite the increasingly politicized climate in the country, we are heartened to see people stepping up and taking action in the streets, online, and in the corridors of power. In record numbers, more and more of us are becoming engaged in the political process, participating in protests, organizing our communities, and communicating with our elected officials.

Philanthropy, too, must answer the urgent calls to take action and support programs, initiatives, and tools that can help protect communities from draconian changes in policy while advancing the values we hold dear. By tools I mean policy advocacy and organizing. If we truly hope to create a just and equitable society for all Americans, we need more funders in California and around the country to invest in advocacy and organizing efforts that help vulnerable groups and communities withstand the attacks directed against them while taking proven solutions to scale. We need community leaders who know how to work with legislatures at the state and local level to shape more just policies. And those leaders need the knowledgeable and strategic support of philanthropists willing to be partners in their work.

At the Women's Foundation of California, we know we can't create opportunities for our communities without an explicit focus on policy change aimed at both dismantling barriers and expanding rights. As the only statewide foundation in California focused on gender equity, we work every day to advance the leadership of women in public policy. Over the past fourteen years, our Women's Policy Institute has worked with more than four hundred women leaders to advance gender equity through policy change. And those women, in turn, have helped pass twenty-nine laws that have improved the health, safety, and economic well-being of millions of people living in California.

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Foundations Engaging in Policy: Not an Option But an Obligation

March 08, 2017

Policy_word_cloudPhilanthropy as a sector produces an ever-increasing body of writing aimed at encouraging impact investments for the public good. Much of that writing ignores a key consideration: Any foundation involved with impact investing cannot be taken seriously if it does not engage in policy. For many foundations, particularly family foundations, the idea of engaging in policy work is daunting, and in too many cases it's viewed as something to be avoided entirely. But while too many foundations consider engaging in policy work to be risky, I argue that it is as important a function as grantmaking and evaluation. And if we take evaluation seriously, we have no choice but to share those learnings with others, including policy makers.

Most of us know that Congress has imposed stringent limits on foundations with respect to advocacy and even more stringent prohibitions on their lobbying activities. Fully aware of the power that comes with accumulated wealth, Congress enacted prohibitions against charitable institutions engaging in lobbying as early as 1934. Later, in 1954, then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson sponsored legislation to prohibit nonprofit organizations, including foundations, from endorsing or opposing political candidates, and extended that prohibition to churches. In 1976, Congress created five exceptions to the lobbying prohibition on foundations. They are: (1) making available the results of nonpartisan analysis, studies, or research that may (or may not) include advocating a particular position; (2) the discussion of broad socioeconomic policy as long as it's not designed to encourage others to take action; (3) the provision of technical advice to a government body; (4) "self-defense" lobbying with regard to action that may affect a charity's existence or tax-exempt status; and (5) communication with members of Congress as long as they are not directly engaged in direct or grassroots lobbying themselves.

The legislated restrictions on what foundations can and cannot do to influence legislation often scare foundation boards away from committing their considerable institutional power and knowledge on behalf of the most fundamental right of all: speaking out on matters of policy. Foundations can do better. Indeed, we have an obligation to do so, if only to ensure that our investments in the social sector are leveraged to maximize our impact. Policy work is not lobbying: policy is what results from listening, gathering data, and developing frameworks that support solutions. Policy informs legislation, which, when crafted well, integrates the solutions defined by policy.

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Moving the Needle on Youth Violence

March 06, 2017

GeINChicago_thumbnail_CUL-mentor-circleAccording to the Giving USA Foundation and Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Americans gave as generously as ever in 2015, setting a record for the second year in a row with total giving of $373.25 billion. That wasn't enough, however, to prevent problems such as income inequality, racism, and, here in Chicago, gun violence, from becoming even more entrenched. Which is why it is so important for donors and funders to do whatever they can to ensure that their charitable donations are making a measurable difference in addressing these and other challenges.

At Get IN Chicago, we use an evidence-based approach to move the needle on youth violence and, since 2013, have provided feedback and capacity-building support to community-based organizations providing a range of youth-focused services and interventions, from mentoring and parenting programs to community sports leagues and trauma-focused therapy.

Thanks to over two years of research and data collection and our work with more than sixty community organizations, anti-violence experts, and donor partners, we have developed five key recommendations for organizations looking to fund anti-violence initiatives and maximize the impact created by that support. Using these criteria to ensure programs' effectiveness, in 2017 we will be collaborating with more than twenty agencies to bring intensive case management, intake, mentoring, and cognitive behavioral therapy programs to high-risk youth in seven Chicago neighborhoods.

Based on that work, here are our recommendations for funders and donors:

1. Make sure the program you are thinking about funding actually addresses the needs of the target population you want to help. Our research shows that while most anti-violence programs work with at-risk youth, participants in those programs are not all subject to the same type or level of risk (i.e., violence or gang activity). That's why we have worked with programs to focus their efforts specifically on acutely high-risk youth — those at the greatest risk for gun violence, based on such factors as school absenteeism rates, mental health issues, justice system involvement, and the presence of a previously or currently incarcerated parent. Along the way, we've learned that it is essential to clearly define the population you are looking to help — not least because it makes it easier to develop a tailored strategy with respect to recruiting, engaging, and retaining participants from the target group, boosting your chances of success.

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Weekend Link Roundup (March 4-5, 2017)

No_noiseOur 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

"The right of artists and journalists to tweak the nose of power, to challenge what we believe, to criticize those in high places, to hold accountable people who otherwise might anoint themselves kings, cannot be abridged because we find it at times uncomfortable," writes Heinz Endowments president Grant Oliphant on the foundation's Point blog. And the "very real possibility that the tiny levels of federal spending for the NEA, NEH and CPB will be eliminated has...obviously nothing to do with balancing budgets or fiscal prudence. It is an attack, pure and simple, on independent and potentially critical voices. It is an expression of disdain for the magical ability of art and journalism to knit our country and its people back together again, and of cowardly antipathy toward those who dare speak unpleasant truths to power...."

Civil Society

Citing efforts to repeal the Johnson Amendment, proposed budget cuts to the IRS, pending anti-protest bills in at least sixteen states, the renewed drive to kill net neutrality, and other developments, Lucy Bernholz argues in a post on her Philanthropy 2173 that "[c]ivil society in the U.S. is being deliberately undermined" and that, just like current attacks on the press, these efforts "are both deliberate and purpose-built."

Education

In this Comcast Newsmaker video (running time, 5:09), Kresge Foundation president Rip Rapson discusses the drivers behind the foundation's early childhood work in Detroit.

Fundraising

Looking to hire a fundraising consultant? Consultant Aly Sterling has put together a nice presentation with a dozen "essential" tips for you to consider and keep in mind.

Giving

The folks at @Pay have the answers to your questions about online giving platforms.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (February 2017)

March 04, 2017

And...we're back. Lots going on — in the world and here at PhilanTopic. If you haven't already, check out what we were up to in February. Happy reading!

What have you read/watched/heard lately that got your attention, made you think, or gave you a reason to feel hopeful? Feel free to share with our readers in the comments section below. Or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Apocalypse Later? Philanthropy and Transparency in an Illiberal World

March 02, 2017

The post below by Foundation Center president Brad Smith introduces a new, year-long series of posts on PhilanTopic that will address major themes related to the center’s work: the use of data to understand and address important issues and challenges; the benefits of foundation transparency for donors, nonprofits/NGOs, and the broader public; the role of storytelling in conveying the critical work of philanthropy; and what it means, and looks like, to be an effective, high-functioning nonprofit or changemaker. We hope you’ll join us on this journey, and we welcome your thoughts and feedback.

_____

Open-Data-470x352How long will it be before nonprofit transparency takes its place alongside diceros bicornis on the endangered species list? Hopefully never, but in a world that's growing more technologically sophisticated and more illiberal, I'm beginning to think that if it's not Apocalypse Now, maybe it's Apocalypse Later.

The value of transparency

Transparency has been a boon to the philanthropic sector, making it possible for organizations like Foundation Center, Guidestar, the Urban Institute, Charity Navigator, and others to create searchable databases spanning the entire nonprofit and foundation universe. Our efforts, in turn, contribute to responsible oversight, help nonprofits raise funds to pursue their missions, and fuel online platforms that enable donors to make better giving choices. Transparency also enables foundations to collaborate more effectively, leverage their resources more efficiently, and make real progress on critical issues such as black male achievement, access to safe water, and disaster response. The incredibly rich information ecosystem that undergirds the American social sector is the envy of others around the globe — not least because it gives us a clear view of what nonprofit initiative can accomplish, how it compares and contrasts with government, and how social, economic, and environmental issues are being addressed through private-public partnerships.

Where we are today

Federal law — U.S. Code, Title 26, Section 6104 — stipulates that public access to Form 990, a federal information form that tax-exempt organizations are required to file annually, must be provided promptly on request at the exempt organization's office or offices, or within thirty days of a written request. However, exempt organizations don't have to provide copies of their Forms 990 if they make these materials broadly available through the Internet, or if the IRS determines that the organization is being subject to a harassment campaign.

In 2015, Carl Malamud, the Don Quixote of open data, dragged transparency into the digital age when he brought suit against the Internal Revenue Service to force it to make the 990s of a handful of organizations that had been filed electronically available as machine-readable open data. Malamud won, and, somewhat surprisingly, the IRS then did more rather than less to comply with the order: as of June 2016, all Forms 990 filed electronically by 501(c)(3) organizations are available as machine-readable open data through Amazon Web Services. As such, they can be downloaded directly in digital form and processed by computers with minimal human intervention. The development represents a victory not only for Malamud but for the Aspen Institute’s Nonprofit Data Project, which has toiled for years to make 990s more accessible. The idea, of course, is that free, open data on nonprofits will enable more innovators, researchers, and entrepreneurs to use the data in ways that help make the sector more effective and efficient. Since Malamud won his case, the IRS has posted some 1.7 million Forms 990 as machine-readable open data.

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Philanthropy's Responsibility to Listen

March 01, 2017

Juvenile_justice_2_for_PhilanTopicLast month, the Pittsburgh Foundation released a new report, A Qualitative Study of Youth and the Juvenile Justice System: A 100 Percent Pittsburgh Pilot Project, which calls on human services staffs, law enforcement authorities, and school officials to provide youth involved with the juvenile justice system not just a seat but a bench at the table where prevention and diversion programs are shaped and developed.

We expected the report, which builds on a substantial body of research by giants in the field such as the Annie E. Casey Foundation, to generate dialogue among our regional human services, philanthropic, and academic partners. But we were surprised that it prompted not only a local newspaper editorial but also requests for republication from an international juvenile justice organization in Brussels and a Boston-based journal that covers the nonprofit sector.

As one local advocate put it, "Who knew that talking to people would be so novel?"

The outside attention reinforces what we learned in our direct engagement with young people: their voices, which carry knowledge and authority from personal experience with the system, have been missing from the body of research on the system.

The focus on amplifying the voices of people directly affected is a core value of our 100 Percent Pittsburgh organizing principle, which we adopted in 2015 to address inequality in our region. Despite significant advances in Pittsburgh's economy, at least one-third of the regional population struggles with poverty. Research, including this 2014 Urban Institute study we commissioned, shows that youth between the ages of 12 and 24 and single women raising children are at the top of the list of groups most at risk. Young people with justice system involvement are particularly vulnerable.

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    — Margaret Mead (1901-1978)

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