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10 posts from December 2017

'Tis the Season to Give — Now More Than Ever Under Tax Reform

December 16, 2017

Holiday-charity-smart-givingGiving Tuesday broke all records this year. On November 28, a total of $274 million was donated to charity through the online campaign, as millions of individuals contributed an average of about $110 to great organizations around the globe. According to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, however, if certain provisions in the House and Senate versions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act become law, nonprofits could lose between $12 billion and $20 billion in annual charitable revenues. And that means donors will need to give a whole lot more on future #GivingTuesdays — and every other day of the year — if those nonprofits hope to maintain the same level of service they currently provide.

With Republicans racing to pass a final bill before Christmas, the outlook for nonprofits is bleak. Like the Grinch who stole Christmas, the plan making its way through Congress could steal billions in would-be donations from worthy causes. One provision in the bill is particularly damaging: the increase in the standard deduction.

By doubling the standard deduction and repealing or scaling back many itemized deductions, the plan would substantially reduce the number of taxpayers who elect to itemize their returns. The Tax Policy Center estimates that fewer than thirteen million taxpayers would itemize deductions in 2018 under the House version of the plan, down from more than 46 million under current law. The net effect: significantly reduced incentives for people to give. Urban-Brookings analysts note that most economists generally agree that tax deductions boost charitable giving — although to what degree is open to debate. Whatever the level, the likely trajectory for giving under the Republican plan is downward — an unfortunate circumstance for nonprofits, since the vast majority — 72 percent — of the more than $390 billion given to nonprofits last year came from individual donors (GivingUSA). These are the everyday givers who contribute $25, $50, or $100 to their favorite causes and many itemize those contributions.

Given these and other changes to the tax code that could undermine charitable giving, here is some advice for nonprofits seeking to sustain their good work and the donors who support them — individual givers as well as philanthropic foundations and corporations.

Let's start with corporations. Historically, companies make up the smallest slice of the overall giving pie — just 5 percent of last year's $390 billion total. That percentage includes cash gifts as well as "in-kind" donations — food, shoes, medical supplies, and other goods that nonprofits can put to work in the field. Unfortunately for nonprofits, most companies give less than 1 percent of their revenues — a rate that has fallen by half over the last two decades, notes Curt Weeden, co-director of GSEI New Strategies and author of Smart Giving Is Good Business.

The low levels of corporate support are particularly painful at a time when so many of America's one million-plus nonprofits are desperate for funding. In addition to direct giving and employee-matching programs, there is a lot more companies can do to help boost overall giving — including leveraging their national and global footprints, reputation, political clout, and employee policies.

1. Share the wealth. Given that U.S. companies are in line for the biggest corporate tax reduction in history, they should consider ramping up their charitable contributions to previous levels. Consider that companies in 2016 contributed $18.55 billion to charity; if they were to work their way back to 2 percent, they could substantially offset the projected $12 billion to $20 billion shortfall in individual giving we are likely to see under the final tax plan.

2. Double your money. One way for companies to increase their giving is to super-charge their employee giving match programs. Typically, companies match employee gifts on a 1:1 basis (up to a certain level). But if they committed, instead, to match employee gifts on a 2:1 basis, it would have the doubly positive effect of putting more money into nonprofit coffers and incentivize increased individual giving — a win-win for nonprofits and the people they serve.

3. Crowd source. The biggest bang from businesses comes less from their corporate foundations and more from their ability to leverage giving by their customers and employees. Taking advantage of the equity in their brand names, companies that participate in Red Nose Day and similar point-of-purchase campaigns are able to generate a much bigger financial impact than what individual nonprofits are able to do through standalone fundraising campaigns.

Indeed, nonprofits that work with companies to attract individual donations have seen impressive results. According to New York-based Engage for Good, an organization that helps companies with their cause-marketing efforts, the top consumer-led campaigns raised a whopping $441 million for nonprofits in 2016. Joe Waters, author and writer of the cause marketing blog Selfish Giving, suggests that businesses "have the marketing and the millennials to double or triple these totals if more of them adopted consumer-led fundraisers."

Foundations also could mitigate some of the negative effects of the tax reform bill by increasing their annual payout rates. While required by law to give at least 5 percent of the average market value of their net investment assets annually, most foundations treat that as a cap rather than a floor. Nothing, however, is preventing foundations from boosting their payout rates, and even a 1 percentage-point increase to 6 percent could yield several billion dollars more over and above the $59 billion that foundations distributed in grants last year.

Finally, individuals who do itemize should consider giving more before the end of the tax year than they normally would, enabling them to take advantage of the current standard deduction before it disappears. And in the future, individuals should do their best to maintain their pre-tax reform giving even if they decide not to itemize their returns. It's a big ask, to be sure. But the future of the nonprofit sector could very well depend on it.

It's assumed by almost everyone who pays attention to tax policy that individual giving will be negatively affected by the final bill that comes out of Congress. Combined with the impact of actions taken by the current administration and Congress to cut government support for nonprofits in almost all categories, it will be up to foundations and corporations to do what they can to fill the gap. I, for one, hope they go all out to ensure that the social sector is able to meet the needs of vulnerable communities and has the resources to support the arts and cultural institutions that represent the best of our society.

Let's make this a holiday season to remember for nonprofits, rather than one better forgotten.

Headshot_leslie_crutchfield_for_PhilanTopicLeslie R. Crutchfield is executive director of the Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI) at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business and co-author of Forces for Good and Do More than Give . GSEI operates the New Strategies Program, an executive training for nonprofit leaders on revenue diversification co-directed by Georgetown McDonough professor Bill Novelli and corporate philanthropy expert Curt Weeden.

The Role of Philanthropy in Conflict Prevention: 15 Takeaways

December 15, 2017

Number15In early November, Foundation Center hosted an event with the Geneva Centre for Security Policy and the Donors and Foundations Networks in Europe (DAFNE) that drew more than forty-five people from ten countries to discuss the role of philanthropy in conflict prevention and resolution. The energy around the topic was palpable and there was no shortage of knowledge shared. Here are my top 15 takeaways from the meeting:

1. Less than 1 percent of philanthropic funding is going to peace and security. It's true; take a look at the data. Given the currency and the social and economic costs associated with conflicts worldwide, this is a worrying figure. According to former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, "The economic and financial cost of conflict and violence in 2014 has been estimated to be US$14.3 trillion, or 13.4 percent of the global economy." So why is this area of work underfunded? Is it because foundations are more risk averse than they like to believe?

2. Philanthropy has the ability to be adaptable, flexible, and take risks. It can play a research and development role in the field of peace and security, but it must respect that this work is high stakes and requires a great deal of flexibility; it is not philanthropy as usual and there are rules to be followed when operating in a sensitive environment. Funders must carefully consider relevant contextual and cultural information when funding and working in conflict-affected environments.

3. Without peaceful and secure communities, the climate, humanitarian, and development agendas will not be realized. Conflict, humanitarian disasters, and climate change are interlinked and their effects are unevenly distributed and primarily impact economically disadvantaged communities. These different agendas can’t be realized in isolation, and we won’t make progress without expanding our efforts to prevent and resolve conflict.

4. There are roles for both large and small funders. Some smaller funders feel that the situation is just too complex for them to get involved. However, increasing the availability of small, unrestricted grants can make a critical difference in conflict-affected environments, where the context is constantly shifting and flexible funding is key. Larger grants and long-term funding are also crucial to ensure the continuity and long-term relationships necessary for effective peacebuilding programs. Regardless of size, funders large or small, can support indigenous locally led efforts, provide core support, and commit to the long term.

5. Understanding and working within the local country context is essential. This includes working with local partners and communities of differing capacities. Without it, implementations happen to a community rather than by and for a community. Not enough emphasis can be put on the fact that interventions need to be locally led, or at least co-led with local partners. They must also involve working with local communities and actually taking the time to listen.

6. Funders need to be clear about their own value statement. Why are they really there, and what can they honestly offer? Are their resources or connections adding value and do they respond to local community needs?

7. Philanthropy is part of a broader ecosystem and must work and fund in collaboration with other stakeholders as partners. Relationship development and trust are crucial to creating these partnerships and ensuring their success. It goes without saying — this takes time, so patience and investment in those relationships are key. One example is the peace process in Colombia, where philanthropy is making key contributions and working with a range of stakeholders. The Saldarriaga Concha Foundation collaborates with USAID "to implement the Inclusion for Community Development program, which serves people with disabilities who are victims of armed conflict in the Montes de Maria region of northern Colombia. In partnership with Colombia's Department for Social Prosperity (DPS) and other local government institutions, the program has helped more than a thousand families overcome extreme poverty. In addition, the program has enabled these families to build and consolidate support networks with community leaders and organizations in the region." Such efforts demonstrate the importance of multi-stakeholder partnerships in designing conflict-sensitive development interventions.

8. Long-term commitment and relationship-building are key. Preventing and resolving conflict requires consistent effort over time. Short-term, project based approaches are not well suited to the building of long-term, trust-based relationships or the achievement of sustainable outcomes. Philanthropy needs to think about how it can make longer-term commitments and not exit too early, while not overstaying or deepening dependency.

9. Philanthropy doesn't need to wait until a conflict is well under way. Foundations can take action at the onset of conflict and must move and adapt as the conflict environment changes.

10. Social media and technology should be leveraged. Amnesty International is now using satellite imagery to document and improve their response to human rights abuses. In Syria, satellite imagery and sound engineering was used to triangulate and verify accounts from survivors of a prison to create a 3D model of what was happening on the ground.

11. There is a need to better connect existing networks and look for unusual allies. In particular, different types of donors can bring varying levels of flexibility and approaches to funding, which can lead to more opportunities for blended finance and more strategic partnerships. Not one organization will ever have all the funds or all the expertise.

12. The closing space for civil society and cross-border giving are major issues. Legal and operational restrictions on civil society organizations, in particular restrictions on foreign funding, are especially prevalent in conflict-affected environments. This makes it challenging for funders to work effectively and identify the right local partners, and hence get funds to where they are most needed.

13. Leverage Sustainable Development Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. The SDGs provide a universal, global framework for development stakeholders to measure their progress against. Juan David Ferreira and Carolina Suarez of AFE Colombia understand the importance of integrating peace throughout the development agenda: "Peace interrelates closely with the SDGs, not only because peace is a specific SDG, but because a peaceful society makes it easier for development actors to engage in closing inequality gaps, work for environmental causes, establish new educational centers and health centers in different areas of the country, build capacity and create new jobs and improve quality conditions — particularly in the rural areas of the country." Want to understand how your organization is working toward achieving the SDGs? Find out here.

14. Ensure philanthropy is connected at the global and local level. Join relevant affinity groups, understand global frameworks and conventions, look at what is happening at the community level to understand the needs and challenges of those who are experiencing the issues first hand, and share this knowledge with other stakeholders across all levels of the development ecosystem to ensure philanthropy has a voice and is engaged in learning and dialogue.

15. Collect and share data so we can all better know who is doing what and where. Start by reading the Global Philanthropy Data Charter to learn how!

Not sure which organizations to connect with or read up on? Here is a list to get you started:

And in case you want to do a little more reading:

Headshot_lauren_bradfordLauren Bradford is director of global partnerships at Foundation Center.

Now More Than Ever, Foundations Need to Step Up for Democracy

December 14, 2017

Vote_counts_830_0Even before agreeing on the final details of their tax bill, Republican leaders in Congress have made it clear they hope to address the national debt — the one their bill adds a trillion dollars to over the next ten years — by cutting vital safety net programs. Indeed, the dishonest Republican plan rewards the richest one percent of American taxpayers with over 60 percent of the proposed benefits of tax "reform" while people living in poverty or who depend on Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs will lose ground. Even the elderly and the sick, as well as those whose future well-being is tied to Social Security, are likely to be sacrificed on the altar of "deficit reduction."

What can charities and philanthropy do about it? Apparently nothing, judging from the feckless efforts to protect charitable giving and the integrity of the sector during the recent tax cut battle. It's reported that nonprofit "infrastructure groups" spent over $670,000 on lobbying activities in 2017 (through September) — with little in the way of results to show for it. Additional efforts — and expenditures — by individual charities and nonprofit coalitions likewise failed to derail the regressive policy changes championed by Republicans in Congress.

It doesn't have to be that way. Charities have created little opportunity for themselves to be heard on the tax bill, and it's unlikely their collective voice could affect anything but the proposed repeal of the Johnson Amendment — an action that, if not dropped from the final bill, would turn tax-exempt organizations into partisan political action groups. One hopes, however, that charities — and foundations — will learn from this depressing experience and act to better represent the public interest in the lead up to the 2018 midterm elections — and beyond.

For charities and foundations to succeed in this endeavor, three things need to change: (1) public policy issues must be seen for what they really are; (2) charities and foundations must work to invigorate enlightened grassroots participation in the democratic process; and (3) we, especially funders, need to overcome our arrogance and self-serving timidity and recognize that, regardless of organizational mission, we will not succeed as a sector if we don't also support efforts designed to strengthen civic engagement and democracy.

In other words, if the sector is to remain a vital part of the American fabric, nonprofit and philanthropic organizations must be willing to build "people power" through democratic action.

First, the issues: Although President Trump and Republicans have insisted their tax bill is designed to benefit the middle class, it is clear it mainly benefits their donors and other wealthy individuals and corporations. By the end of the ten-year "reform" period, most taxpayers with incomes under $75,000 would see their taxes increase. And even before the provisions of the bill are scheduled to expire, people who earn their income through wages will pay higher taxes on the same amount of income than those privileged enough to set themselves up as corporations or independent contractors.

Some have called this "class warfare," and Republicans recently seem to have acknowledged as much, with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the powerful chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying that Republicans wanted to reward investors "as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it's on booze or women or movies." Meanwhile, Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) told the Washington Post that "From a truth-in-advertising standpoint, it would have been a lot simpler if we just acknowledged reality on this bill, which is it's fundamentally a corporate tax reduction and restructuring bill."

Led by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), these same Republicans are using the bigger deficits created by their efforts as a reason to eviscerate programs critical to those who aren't rich. In a testy exchange with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) recently, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) claimed that budget cuts favored by Republicans are necessary "because we don't have money anymore." Hatch then admitted that he was having "a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won't help themselves, won't lift a finger and expect the federal government to do everything."

Let's be clear: the Republican tax plan isn't about helping the middle class or those in poverty; it's a massive transfer of resources into the pockets of the already-rich. And as is also painfully clear, the next big legislative battle will be focused on more of the same — with the battleground shifting to so-called entitlement and other programs that scores of millions of Americans depend on.

Second, if charities hope to be effective in fighting these battles, they must acknowledge that they need political power to affect policy, and that the deck is stacked against them because of the very way in which political power in twenty-first century America is gained and applied — through targeted campaign contributions controlled and directed by lobbyists.

Given the makeup of the Supreme Court, it is unlikely we will see effective campaign finance reform enacted in the foreseeable future. And that means charities' public interest lobbyists will never be on an even playing field with deep-pocketed private and corporate interests. Instead, the only way for charities and the public to win this game is to change the way it is played.

Fortunately, we live in a democracy and — though it may sound anachronistic — democracy does afford ordinary people ways to gain and wield power. It's a lot easier, however, if they are supported in those efforts by charities and foundations.

If already over-burdened charities are to succeed in this work, they will need to be led and guided by nonprofit infrastructure groups and mission-area associations. But such democracy-building leadership seems to be in short supply. Instead of quixotically advocating for a universal charitable deduction, for instance, these groups should have rallied around the broader public interest. And instead of relying on lobbyists and elite-led campaigns to promote the public interest, they need to recommit to the hard work of organizing people to participate in the democratic process.

Nonprofit organizations employ over 11 million people and, on an annual basis, are supported by 63 million volunteers and millions more who donate. And those numbers pale in comparison to the countless number of people and communities directly served by charities.

That is a huge universe of people whose interests and well-being are aligned with and served by charities and nonprofits — and who would seem to be predisposed to becoming more engaged in the democratic process. Well-designed and -funded efforts to help people better understand what's at stake with respect to public policy decisions and what charities and nonprofits are doing to combat threats to the public interest would be a great start in building a powerful army of advocates and an informed and active electorate.

Building, animating, and sustaining such networks of democratically engaged people will require leadership from nonprofit infrastructure groups and nonprofit associations and coalitions, and action by charities themselves. And that takes money.

Which brings me to my final point: Foundations either seem to think they know what public policy ought to be and attempt to influence it directly through concerted grantmaking, or they fear any kind of engagement with policy and will do their best to avoid anything that might run counter to the interests of their own wealthy board members, founding families, and friends.

With the exception of a handful of philanthropies, what seems to be missing from the equation is robust support for democratic institutions and civic engagement — which, as Gary Bass and I discussed previously in these pages, attract well under 2 percent of U.S. foundations' grant dollars.

Former President Obama noted recently that, given its fragility, "We have to tend to this garden of democracy or else things could fall apart quickly….[Y]ou've got to pay attention. And vote."

That's the only route to real power for the sector in the current environment: we simply must do whatever is needed to catalyze broad-based participation in the democratic process and get people to vote.

But we won't succeed in this all-important enterprise without increased foundation support for democratic organizing. Funders are wise enough to know that. A failure to act accordingly is nothing less than an abdication of the very meaning and purpose of philanthropy.

Headshot_mark_rosenmanMark Rosenman is a professor emeritus at the Union Institute & University. To read more of Rosenman's commentary, click here.

Driving Innovation in Global Development: Why We Need Next-Generation Leaders

December 13, 2017

P1_Edible-InsectThe face of global development is changing. Shifting priorities, new organizations, new technologies — the landscape of the field is in flux. And in this era of sustainable development, a new generation of global leaders is poised to play a leading role in catalyzing change.

The Challenges Ahead

Despite decades of progress, the global community continues to grapple with urgent challenges such as poverty, malnutrition, and environmental degradation. Global trends such as urbanization, income inequality, climate change, and technological disruption increasingly are driving the scale and intensity of these challenges, forcing us to think differently and more collaboratively. The United Nations2030 Sustainable Development Agenda is emblematic of this changing landscape. The message is clear: business as usual is no longer an option.

In the area of global nutrition, these trends are already having a profound impact. Malnutrition remains one of the most pervasive challenges and is the leading underlying cause of child mortality worldwide. As the planet becomes more populated and prosperous, food production and consumption patterns are changing and stressing our fragile natural resources. With the global population on track to hit 9.8 billion people by 2050, the field of nutrition is ripe for innovation. The task at hand is significant, if not daunting: How do we sustainably meet the nutritional needs of a growing global population?

To address hard problems like these, we need to consider new approaches and sustainable solutions. The health and livelihoods of many vulnerable communities — and the planet we all share — depend on it.

Engaging Emerging Leaders

Harnessing the insights and talents of the next generation of global leaders will be critical to unlocking innovation for sustainable development. With an eye to the future, early-career professionals can help us examine problems in new ways, elevate diverse perspectives, and surface creative new ideas. We should not underestimate the value of the entrepreneurial energy that early-career professionals bring to the table. By questioning age-old assumptions and confronting problems with analytic, data-drivenc vigor, they can help us chip away at some of the barriers that have slowed our progress.

For PATH, the Hilton Prize Coalition Fellows Program has provided an invaluable opportunity to engage future leaders from around the world in tackling some of today's most persistent challenges. From investigating the potential of edible insects as a sustainable animal-source food, to unpacking the relationship between tobacco use and nutrition outcomes, to exploring the many synergies between agriculture and nutrition, our team's Hilton Prize Coalition Fellows have drawn on their diverse backgrounds to help PATH facilitate bold cross-sectoral solutions aimed at improving nutrition for people around the world.

And while we have valued the creativity and contributions of our fellows, they have gained professional development opportunities to advance their careers. During their time at PATH, our fellows have developed skills, cultivated their networks, made friends, and completed a project that addresses the next generation of health and development challenges. But the time our fellows spend with PATH is only a small part of their professional journeys, as they each embark on careers focused on creating a brighter future for people and the planet.

Investing in the Future

The scope and scale of the challenges we face necessitate immediate action. Addressing these challenges will require new ideas, creative thinking, curiosity, and humility. Our future will soon be reality for the next cohort of global development leaders. To achieve the aspirational goals we've set for ourselves for 2030, let's make sure that the next-generation thinkers of today have a seat at the table.

Katharine_kreis_for_PhilanTopicKatharine Kreis is director of strategic initiatives and lead, nutrition innovation at PATH.

Philanthropy in India Report Sparks Questions…and Opportunity

December 11, 2017

Sdgs-circleRecently, Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace, in association with Alliance magazine, Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support (WINGS), and the Centre for Social Impact and Philanthropy at Ashoka University, released a highly anticipated thought piece on the emerging philanthropic sector in India, one of the largest and most rapidly changing countries in the world.

The report, a working paper by Caroline Hartnell titled Philanthropy in India, draws on interviews with key local actors to inform us about the varying types of philanthropy, illustrate some of the current challenges and opportunities, and throw light on the history of and approaches to philanthropy in India. The report does not purport to answer all questions or predict trends, nor does it present hard numbers on giving or impact, but it does start to give an intelligible and exciting glimpse into the complexities and highly varied contexts in which philanthropy operates in a country as multifaceted as India. But because the report, understandably, offers only a partial view into Indian philanthropy, it raises as many questions as it answers.

Giving by the middle class in India is rising rapidly — this is one important insight offered by Hartnell's paper, as it may be the most significant trend in Indian philanthropy. Other findings — such as the lack of donor education about local contexts and the constantly competing interests of local and international NGOs — are more troubling but equally important, in that we see these issues over and over worldwide without doing anything to change our collective approach. And still other findings, such as that almost 33 percent of the Indian population live below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day while around 69 percent live on less than $2 a day, provide a strong call to action for philanthropy to respond to.

We often look for the "silver bullet" in reports and clear answers to send us on our way, but I strongly believe that if we are going to solve recurring and new challenges and eradicate global poverty, we need to get more reflective about the facts to help us design the right solutions; Hartnell's report helps us do exactly that.

Is too much funding going to education?

An important question raised by the report is whether education funding is the most important lever for change in India, and that begs another question: If everyone is funding education, who is funding everything else? Clearly, education is necessary to the eradication of poverty, reducing inequality, and generally improving quality of life overall. It isn't possible to come up with a total figure for giving to education due to the lack of data. In the report, however, funding to education as a key focus is mentioned over twenty times and, as the report notes, is being done by all types of philanthropists and philanthropic entities. Bain & Company's annual India Philanthropy Report, first produced in 2010 and most recently this year, claims that "the most popular causes in 2010 were education, food and housing — a list that hasn't changed significantly to this day" and that "the 2012 report…noted the abiding desire of Indian philanthropists of all stripes to invest in education." Education also received the most funding (32 percent) from CSR activities according to recently released figures by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.

The problem is that education alone will not solve our greatest development challenges; development issues are cross-cutting. Education can improve literacy, boost female empowerment, and contribute to the development of technical skills. But students won't be able to get jobs if the local economy is weak, if there are limited job opportunities because we have neglected to fund efforts to develop small and medium enterprises (or entrepreneurship in general), or if flooding caused by climate change destroys small lot farming, leaving people without a basic source of income. Even Charities Aid Foundation India notes that of the projects it managed in 2015-16, support mostly went to "safe" areas such as education and care of the elderly.

Where is the vision and funding for non-education-based initiatives and approaches? Meenakshi Batra, CEO of CAF India, asks us to imagine what would happen if the people that are giving to education gave to support all spheres of civil society. "It could yield vast resources to help solve the country's most intractable social problems." Imagine.

While I believe funding education is essential, how that funding is structured says a great deal about the value of these interventions. Who is being educated — only those that can afford it, or the nation's poorest as well? Are the funds going to support educational quality, or to getting more seats in classrooms, or both? In the report, philanthropist Luis Miranda states, "[A] lot is being spent on education…but not enough on empowering communities and funding research on why the problems exist in the first place and how they can be effectively solved." Therein lies the nexus between research and education.

Why the lack of data to inform funding decisions?

India is world renowned for its talent in data, coding, and technology and would seem to be the ideal environment for such important work to be nurtured. But this work does not yet seem to have been integrated into the philanthropic landscape. Why? The report suggests that one challenge for NGOs is that they are not ready to invest in technology or to scale their operations with the help of data because they feel they don't have sufficiently trained staff, quality databases, and adequate funding to invest in online giving tools and promotional activities. I wonder, however, if somewhere beneath the surface some data is indeed being collected but not being shared due to a lack of transparency, accountability or willingness, as well as legitimate concerns around security or storage. Without active sharing, it is also possible that the value of such data is not well understood.

What about collaboration?

Finally, is collaboration a part of the philanthropic conversation in India? A discussion of collaboration, something of a buzzword in philanthropy of late, is very much absent from the report, which finds a lack of willingness to partner to be characteristic of Indian philanthropy. It's not a new issue, but the fact remains that individual organizations cannot solve complex societal problems on their own. Philanthropy is part of a broader development ecosystem; by working with other organizations with a stake in development outcomes, philanthropy can begin to better leverage its financial resources and human capital.

Is Indian philanthropy indeed less eager to collaborate, to work in partnership and build bridges? Givers do seem to realize (in theory at least) that building social capital in communities can be difficult but is necessary, and that leveraging the existing relationships of local NGOs is a more strategic way of having impact on the ground, but there is little evidence that they are putting this into practice. The mutual mistrust between the wealthy and social activists seems likely to widen this divide even further.

Then there is collaboration with government. As Hari Menon of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation explains in the report, "[I]nterventions completely external to the government are unlikely to have the long-term sustainability and impact you can have if you do engage with and catalyze the government." Yet the ability and desire to work with government at all levels in India seems to be (not surprisingly) the exception, not the norm. The Azim Premji Foundation, for one, realized it could do more than just make grants through partnership with the government, so it added "another component in the portfolio — systems-level work, which is really a matter of orchestrating a number of partners and working with the government to achieve a particular change."

What role for the SDGs?

One framework that could help encourage and guide collaboration and assist funders to find partners and synergies across their work is the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As someone who works across numerous countries that are connected in their work through the SDGs, I paid extra attention to the role outlined in the report of the SDGs in Indian philanthropy.

The SDGs are a set of seventeen cross-cutting goals created by a multi-stakeholder process and led by the United Nations to eradicate poverty by 2030. They position the service delivery development need for education (Goal 4) along with other thematic areas; they bring in an impact measurement component and the need for better data (there are 169 targets and 230 indicators); and they encourage us to work in partnerships (Goal 17).

The SDGs Drivers Forum is just one local initiative that aims to catalyze the national engagement of private stakeholders in the SDG process. The SDGs can also help funders identify where blended finance mechanisms may be appropriate and help them better define outcomes. Funders looking for guidance should visit SDGfunders.org, which was designed to highlight who is funding which goals and where. The site also provides an SDG Indicator Wizard, a tool that allows organizations to identify exactly which goals, targets, and indicators are relevant to their work.

Philanthropy in India, as in all countries, will always face the tension between giving where a donor wants to give and giving where it is needed most; donors care about issues that align with their values and passions, and that affect their lives. I hope some of the questions I've raised stimulate others, from foundations to high-net-worth individuals and the growing cadre of middle-class givers, to think more deeply about how data, research, partnerships, and the cross-cutting nature of development issues can increase the impact of their investments in India, allowing all of us to contribute to more effective grantmaking and development outcomes there.

Headshot_lauren_bradfordLauren Bradford is director of global partnerships at Foundation Center. This post originally appeared on the Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace site.

5 Questions for…Vanessa Daniel, Founder and Executive Director, Groundswell Fund

December 07, 2017

Vanessa_danielGroundswell Fund is the largest funder of the reproductive justice movement in the United States. In addition to its CatalystRapid Response, and Birth Justice funds, the organization created the Liberation Fund in the wake of the 2016 elections to support effective grassroots organizing efforts led by women and transgender people of color across the social justice sector. A joint project of the Groundswell Fund and the newly created 501(c)(4) Groundswell Action Fund, the Liberation Fund will announce inaugural grants next week to grassroots organizations selected with the help of women leaders of color, including Alicia Garza, Ai-Jen Poo, Mary Hooks, and Linda Sarsour. 

PND spoke with Vanessa Daniel, founder and executive director of the fund, about intersectionality in the context of reproductive justice and racial equity and her hopes for the Liberation Fund. Before founding the fund in 2010, Daniel worked in grassroots organizing, advocacy, and grantmaking at the Tides FoundationSEIU, the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, and what is now Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation.

Philanthropy News Digest: You founded Groundswell Fund after working to advance LGBTQ rights as well as economic and environmental justice at various organizations. Why did you decide to focus on reproductive justice for women of color, low-income women, and transgender people?

Vanessa Daniel: When I first learned about the reproductive justice (RJ) movement in 2005, I had been working in various social justice movements for ten years. The RJ movement had been founded a decade earlier by a group of black women and was on its way to becoming the largest force in the country in terms of engaging a multiracial base of women of color, low-income women, and LGBT people on reproductive issues and as grassroots organizers and activists. I was a young, twenty-something, queer, biracial woman of color from a working-class immigrant family on one side and raised by a second-wave white feminist single mother on the other.

I had, like many women of color, experienced what I lovingly refer to as a lot of bad "movement dates." Have you ever been on a date with someone who orders for you without asking what you want? Or people who talk about themselves the whole time without asking how your day was? Well, you can have the equivalent of that date with a social justice movement. It's not true for every organization, but for example, you have a lot of labor unions that invite women to the table but don't want to talk about reproductive issues, even though these issues are important to women. You have many immigrant rights groups that don't want to talk about LGBT rights, even though there are lots of LGBT people in the immigrant communities they are organizing. You have way too many white feminist organizations inviting women of color to the table and then not talking about race, even though racism is literally killing us. The reproductive justice movement was, quite simply, the best movement date I ever had, because it was the first time I had encountered a movement that didn't require me to leave any piece of myself or anyone I loved at the door in order to enter. I could be whole.

And here's why. There are three hallmarks of RJ: First, it's multi-issue. That means it says to people, yes, we are standing with you on the right to access abortion and contraception, but we are also standing with you to stop environmental pollution that is harming reproductive health; to stop mass incarceration and immigration detention and deportation that continues an ugly legacy of breaking up families of color that dates back to slavery and mission schools and immigration exclusion acts; to expand comprehensive sex ed in the public schools along with non-stigmatizing supports for young parents that don't shame and shut them out of their education; to expand access to birthing options like midwifery that are finally shifting racial disparities that have left black women four times more likely to die as a result of childbirth than white women in this country; to fight for LGBT rights. It's a holistic movement.

Second, it centers grassroots organizing as a strategy. It doesn't believe major social change trickles down from large organizations sitting "inside the beltway"; it believes it surges up from cities and states, from ordinary people holding their elected officials accountable in their home districts.

Third, it is a multiracial movement with significant leadership from women of color working alongside white women who are able to consider things through a racial justice lens. It is tactically impossible to move the needle on most social justice issues today without the leadership and engagement of communities of color, which, polls show us, vote in a more progressive direction down ballot on nearly every issue progressives care about.

The RJ movement exemplifies what it means to build a movement with the backbone to leave no one behind. And that, I believe, is the kind of movement that all social justice activists should be looking to build. RJ is shining a light on the path the larger progressive movement needs to walk in order to be successful.

PND: It's estimated that African-American women in the United States are three to four times more likely to die of childbirth-related complications than their white counterparts, while the infant mortality rate for babies of African-American mothers is more than twice that of babies of white mothers. What's behind these racial disparities?

VD: The data has perplexed many scientists, in part because when they control for education levels, economic status, diet and behavior, and other factors, the disparities still show up in the data. This means that middle-class, college-educated black women who take excellent care of their health are still dying at higher rates than low-income white women without a high school diploma. How does one explain that? There is a growing number of scientists, including epidemiologists who believe that racism itself is a major factor in these disparities. First, the racism and implicit bias of many medical practitioners often leads them to provide substandard care to women of color. Many studies back this up; one recent study, for example, shows that people of color, including children of color, are given significantly less pain medication than are white people.

Second, and very importantly, scientists are pointing to the impact that racism, experienced on a daily basis by people of color, has on the body. The midwifery and doula models of care we support are often run by women of color or by a multiracial staff that provides high-quality, culturally competent care. Our grantee Sacred Heart Birthplace in Espanola, New Mexico, has a 2 percent cesarean section rate, compared with a state average of 24 percent, and a 92 percent breastfeeding rate at six months post-delivery, compared with a state average of 26 percent. In Florida, our grantee Common Sense Childbirth has achieved a 0 percent preterm birth rate among black women, compared with the state average of 14.2 percent.

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There’s More Than One Needle in This Haystack: The 100&Change Solutions Bank

December 05, 2017

100Change-logo_padded15Earlier today, Foundation Center launched something new and still unusual in the field of philanthropy: a site that provides access to nearly nineteen hundred proposals submitted to a foundation by organizations with ideas for solving some of society's most pressing challenges. The site, the 100&Change Solutions Bank, features submissions to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's 100&Change competition, which the foundation launched in June 2016 and which will soon announce a winner. Recognizing that it had received many more viable ideas worth funding, the foundation decided to partner with Foundation Center to bring greater visibility to those ideas, with three goals in mind: to drive investment in proposals that merit it; to facilitate collaboration and learning between organizations working on similar problems; and to inspire funders and organizations working for change to do things differently.


The 100&Change competition will end with a single winner being awarded a $100 million grant. But the competition itself generated a great many solutions worth investing in — and the number of inquiries fielded by MacArthur staff suggests that other funders know this. Rather than force 100&Change applicants to spend more time tailoring their proposals to meet the requirements of their own application processes, funders should take advantage of the work MacArthur has done to surface good ideas in a variety of fields. With the launch of the 100&Change Solutions Bank, funders now have a lot to gain by spending just a few minutes exploring the proposals they’ll find there.


Whether it's a big, global challenge like climate change or a local (yet widespread) problem like homelessness, there is more than one organization working on a solution. This diversity of actors represents a golden opportunity to learn from others' approaches — even when they are implemented in a different context — and, potentially, to collaborate. Yes, this type of learning does happen through existing networks, listservs, and working groups. But what the Solutions Bank offers is the chance to learn from organizations you may not have a connection to.

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[Review] 'The Unfinished Social Entrepreneur'

December 04, 2017

Social entrepreneur. A once-niche label for a great many people who toiled as environmentalists, civil rights activists, and suffrage fighters before any of those was a "cool" thing to be. It's also the focus of The Unfin sh d Social Entrepreneur — as the book's cover cleverly renders it — by Jonathan C. Lewis, a life-long social justice activist and accomplished social entrepreneur who has founded two socially focused enterprises, MCE Social Capital and Opportunity Collaboration; co-founded another, Copia Global; and currently serves as a trustee for the Swift Foundation, which was founded by UPS heir John Swift in 1992 with a mission to enhance the well-being of people and the environment.

Book_unfinished_social_entrepreneurIntended as a guide for current and would-be social entrepreneurs, the book outlines twenty-one themes that Lewis believes are essential values for anyone thinking about jumping into, or currently working in, the social entrepreneurship space. In short (five to ten page) chapters, Lewis uses each theme as a lens through which to explore the mindset required to be truly successful in the world of social justice, whether it's founding your own social enterprise or joining someone else's cause.

He begins with a chapter on "Justice," describing how he dropped out of college to work as a legislative aide for Nicholas C. Petris, a California state senator representing the 11th district (consisting of portions of Alameda, Contra Costa, San Joaquin, and Santa Clara counties) from 1966 to 1976 and the 9th district (encompassing most of the East Bay area) from 1976 until he was termed out in 1996. Petris's "clear sense of right and wrong; his bold embrace of new and controversial ideas; his courageous use of power; his principled instinct to fight alongside those without privilege or advantage" are, writes Lewis, "the very soul of the social entrepreneur." Lewis then weaves his personal story through chapters titled "Starting," "Passion," "Rescued," "Connection," "Failure," and "Misgivings," walking readers through the twists and turns of his journey, with each chapter highlighting a lesson learned and/or core value to be absorbed and put into practice by would-be social entrepreneurs among his readers. Taken together, they are values that — if we remain cognizant of them in our day-to-day lives, writes Lewis — will help us be better, more compassionate, and empathetic, both as human beings and as professionals.

For example, in the chapter on "Listenership," Lewis shares a moment in which he learned the value of listening "authentically," of paying attention to both verbal and non-verbal cues, and of pushing our understanding beyond the limitations of our individual frames of reference. "Listenership means hearing others: the Others who have come before us, the Others who walk alongside us, the Others who are marginalized," he writes. "Listenership is social entrepreneurship....Social entrepreneurship valorizes the listening skill because it's so fundamental, so vital, to achieving social impact." 

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Weekend Link Roundup (December 2-3, 2017)

December 03, 2017

Local-food-and-wine-roasted-chestnutsOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....


According to Claire Petersky, executive director of the Wallingford Community Senior Center in Seattle, "Only 4 percent of us end up in nursing homes, and that number is dropping. Dementia? The vast majority of us, 90 percent, have our marbles when we die, and the numbers who die with dementia is also dropping. Depression? Turns out, we are happiest at the beginnings and ends of our lives. It's called the U Curve of Happiness." Petersky's colleague, Nonprofit AF blogger Vu Le, explains why we all need to change the way we think about older adults.

Climate Change

The California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), the largest public pension fund, in the U.S., has announced an equity investment in two large wind farms, the Caney River facility in Elk County, Kansas, and the Rocky Ridge facility in Kiowa and Washita counties, Oklahoma.

An NPR analysis of grants awarded by the National Science Foundation found a steady decline in the number with the phrase "climate change" in the title or summary — a change in language that "appears to be driven in part by the Trump administration's open hostility to the topic of climate change." Rebecca Hersher reports for NPR.

Disaster Relief

Mother Jones editor Kanyakrit Vongkiatkajorn shares some good advice for those who want to help in the wake of a natural disaster.


If you haven't heard, this year's #GivingTuesday campaign (the sixth annual) was a huge success, raising more than $274 million for nonprofits working in the U.S. and around the world. Congrats to all who gave and participated!

Felix Salmon, host and editor of the Cause & Effect blog, had charitable giving on his mind this week, posting a piece on Tuesday about why it's okay if the charitable sector shrinks a little as a result of the Republican tax bills working their way through Congress ("[A] a lot of very rich people are going to see their taxes cut, and at the margin, the less you pay in taxes, the less incentive you have to try to avoid them through mechanisms like charitable giving") and following that up with a piece on Thursday that addresses the question: How do you get people to donate less money to less-effective charities, and more money to more-effective charities.

According to Network for Good, 29 percent of all online giving happens in December and 11 percent happens in the last three days of the month. Which is why you'll want to spend a few minutes with these "essential" fundraising resources compiled by Brady Josephson.

It's not exactly news anymore, but Tennessean.com business columnist Jennifer Pagliara has some good advice for those who are looking to reach out to to today’s digitally savvy contributors — millennial or otherwise.

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Joint Letter of Opposition to the Senate Tax Reform Bill

December 01, 2017

On Wednesday, the leaders of three D.C.-based nonprofit intermediary organizations — Vikki Spruill, president and CEO of the Council on Foundations; Tim Delaney; president and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits; and Dan Cardinali, president and CEO of Independent Sector — released a letter to lawmakers on Capitol Hill stating their joint opposition to the tax bill that is rapidly moving toward a vote in the U.S. Senate. You can read the full text of the letter below, and learn more about the organizations' policy-focused advocacy efforts here, here, and here.


Dear Senators,

The charitable nonprofit and foundation communities stand united in opposition to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and, in the strongest possible terms, urge a "NO" vote on the bill. The current legislation damages the civic infrastructure upon which our communities depend, and hurts the people that we serve.

We collectively represent tens of thousands of charitable and philanthropic organizations that employ millions of individuals in every state, engage tens of millions of additional individuals who serve as board members and other volunteers, and touch the lives of virtually every American every day. For 100 years, federal tax policy has incentivized this giving spirit and empowered this crucial work. Our overriding concern, and that of our member organizations, is the impact of both versions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on the people and communities we serve. On the basis of securing a sound future, maintaining our ability to serve as dedicated problem solvers in our communities, and the ability of the sector to secure resources to perform necessary work, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is fatally flawed.

The goal of simplifying the tax code and making it easier for Americans to file their taxes is admirable, but the collateral damage this simplification would cause is too great a cost. According to Republican estimates, nearly doubling the standard deduction would result in only five percent of taxpayers itemizing their tax deductions — placing the charitable deduction out of the reach for 95 percent of taxpayers. As a result, experts calculate that the absence of this powerful incentive for such a vast majority of taxpayers would reduce giving by $13 – $20 billion every year. It is regrettable that neither chamber has recognized the simple solution to this issue: a universal charitable deduction that would extend an incentive to give to all taxpayers, not just the very few who would itemize.

A decrease in giving of this scale would force charitable nonprofits to make significant cuts to their operations — meaning that millions of people will no longer have access to the services that nonprofits are currently able to offer. Economists also estimate a loss of 220,000 to 264,000 jobs in the nonprofit sector as a result of the cuts that will be necessary for many charities to keep their doors open. A bill that is designed to create jobs shouldn't be taking away the jobs of almost a quarter of a million Americans who are trying to help others.

While we were encouraged to see that the Senate bill does not contain the same provision that was buried in the House bill to repeal the so-called "Johnson Amendment,” we continue to hear that this provision may be offered as an amendment to the Senate version, or could survive in the bill post-conference. This provision alone is independent grounds for the entire tax package to be rejected. More than 5,500 nonprofits and foundations, more than 4,200 faith leaders, more than 100 religious and denominational organizations, the state law enforcement officials who focus on regulating nonprofits,  89 percent of Evangelical pastors, and 79 percent of the American public have expressed steadfast support for the law that has been in place for more than 60 years. The nonprofit and foundation communities strenuously oppose the addition of corrosive partisanship to our sector. The proposal to take this important protection away is an affront to organizations that are dedicated to improving our communities through nonpartisan engagement. Current law doesn't cost anything, but the unwanted change would cost taxpayers billions of dollars, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Our three organizations stand ready to work with Congress on future legislation to improve our communities and strengthen civil society through the tax code. However, for the reasons stated above and many more that affect the people in communities across this country that rely on our services, we must urge each of you to vote "NO" on the tax bill before the Senate.


Vikki Spruill
President and CEO
Council on Foundations

Tim Delaney
President and CEO
National Council of Nonprofits

Dan Cardinali
President and CEO
Independent Sector


Quote of the Week

  • "The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn't get worse every time Congress meets...."

    — Will Rogers (1879-1935)

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