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14 posts from March 2018

A Challenge to Philanthropy: Expand Health and Educational Opportunities for Native American Youth

March 30, 2018

Native_american_youth_standing_rockThese days, everyone is looking for new thinking about the tough challenges we face as a country. But perhaps what we need is not new thinking but the wisdom to revisit older approaches that have stood the test of time.

A value shared by many Native Americans is that all suffering is reciprocal, as is all healing. Each of us can only thrive when everyone does well.

The power of this wisdom is enormous. And it has endured despite a long history of genocide and racism toward Native Americans, helping our communities remain resilient in the face of tragedy, discrimination, and neglect.

For instance, Native American activists recently led one of the most galvanizing environmental justice campaigns in years — and it all began with a group of Native American youth leaders. Images of young people chanting "Mni wiconi — Water is life" showed up in mainstream news for the better part of 2016 in what became popularly known as the Movement at Standing Rock.

The leadership, conviction, and voices of these young people spoke to the hearts of millions of people around the globe. And their message was profound: We are protecting the most precious source of life — water. Not just for Native people, but for all humans and living beings. By having the guts to challenge the power and prerogatives of the oil industry, these youth — alongside an intergenerational community of "water protectors" — stood up for the inherent right of Native peoples to exist and determine their future.

Standing Rock showcased the power and potential Native American youth have as drivers of social change — both in their communities and across the nation.

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'100&Change' Solutions Bank: A Unique Resource for Funders

March 28, 2018

100&Change_Solutions_BankOur original goal for 100&Change, an open competition for a single $100 million grant, was fairly simple: identify a project outside our usual networks that with substantial resources disbursed over a compressed time period (three to five years) could make significant progress in addressing a critical problem. And we succeeded. In December 2017, MacArthur's board of directors selected an early childhood intervention project, a collaboration between Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee, as the recipient of the $100 million grant. The other three finalists — Catholic Relief Services, HarvestPlus, and the Rice 360° Institute for Global Health (Rice University) — were each awarded grants of $15 million and a commitment from MacArthur to help identify additional sources of funding.

After we launched the competition, however, we realized that 100&Change's open call had an important side benefit: the surfacing of a wealth of ideas for solving problems around the globe, ideas at various stages of development but good ideas nonetheless. We were logging those ideas into a database here at the foundation but soon recognized the database could be a public resource serving other funders who might find interesting projects to support, communities looking for innovative solutions to their challenges, and problem-solvers and researchers looking for others with similar interests. So, after a number of conversations and phone calls, we found ourselves collaborating with Foundation Center on the 100&Change Solutions Bank, a searchable (by geography, subject area, keyword, and Sustainable Development Goal) repository of submissions to the 100&Change competition.

Interesting, right? But maybe you're not sure how the Solutions Bank can help you. No problem. Here are four sample use cases:

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Is Your Nonprofit Leery of Lobbying? Now’s the Time to Get Over It

March 26, 2018

Advocacy-button-770-RSWhoever said "Good things come to those who wait" has never advocated for a cause, shepherded a policy through the legislative process, or run a nonprofit organization. That's especially true if your nonprofit's mission is issue-driven, and it's even more true now, when political upheaval in the Trump era and a looming election put the future of many organizations' missions in question — whether those missions are related to the arts, science and technology, feeding the homeless, fighting for workers’ rights, or another worthy cause. This year, sitting out legislative policy fights is just not an option.

Enter the question of lobbying and some timely new research from academics at George Mason University and the University of Miami. Lobbying is an uncomfortable topic for many nonprofits, but the study's authors challenge the pervasive view that the often-maligned practice is nothing more than a quid pro quo exchange of money for votes. In a piece describing the research, study co-author Jennifer Victor maintains that lobbying is about relationships and is in fact an essential part of our democracy. "[L]obbyists," she writes, "provide an efficient, effective, and knowledgeable source of high quality information that gets injected into the policy making process at all stages. This is generally a good thing, because it can significantly help lawmakers fill gaps in their knowledge base."

By now you can guess where we're going with this: not only should nonprofits revisit their thoughts on lobbying, they should also seriously consider getting in the game. Lobbying is entirely consistent with public charities' charitable and educational missions because it deals directly with the regulatory and statutory context in which groups function. And if nonprofits won't speak for the people they serve when fundamental decisions are being made, who will?

So if it's clear nonprofit groups have every incentive to lobby, we then need to ask: Can they? The good news is that there's no reason why any charitable organization should not have a robust lobbying and advocacy strategy in place.

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Weekend Link Roundup (March 24-25, 2018)

March for our lives_900Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Corporate Social Responsibility

In a post on Tech Crunch, Benetech founder Jim Fruchterman applauds BlackRock founder Larry Fink's decision to call out corporate America for its profits-only mindset. In a letter delivered to the CEOs of some of America's largest companies, Fink warns that record profits are no longer enough to garner BlackRock’s support. Instead, "[c]ompanies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate.” And two ways they can start to do that, adds Fruchterman, is to 1) put people before algorithms, and 2) treat diversity as their greatest asset.

Fundraising

Is perfectionism hampering your organization's fundraising efforts? "Instead of pursuing perfection," writes Forbes contributor David King, "set your sights on recognizing when good enough is good enough, and start making real progress on your [next] campaign."

What's the best way to get donations from millennials? Moceanic's Sean Triner shares some tips designed to help you "get them while they're young."

Giving

"Charitable giving is not like buying shares of stock or being a venture capitalist," writes Alan Cantor in a new essay on the Philanthropy Daily blog. Whereas "[i]Investors want to know about market conditions, debt ratios, and market share," it is "fiendishly difficult to come up with those kinds of measures for charitable organizations...."

With the federal deductability of state taxes a thing of the past, should high-tax states like New Jersey start thinking about creating a state charitable deduction? The Community Foundation of New Jersey's Hans Dekker thinks so.

Grantmaking

Have you ever taken the time to think about how your funding portfolio might look if your RFP process was designed to be more equitable and inclusive? On Foundation Center's Transparency Talk blog, E.G. Nelson, community health and health equity program manager at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota's Center for Prevention, explains how a recent equity scan conducted by the center led to changes in its RFP process.

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[Review] Pragmatic Philanthropy: Asian Charity Explained

March 22, 2018

Recent years have seen growing interest in and media coverage of Asian philanthropy. But the phenomenon remains under-analyzed and not well understood. In Pragmatic Philanthropy: Asian Charity Explained, authors Ruth A. Shapiro, Manisha Mirchandani, and Heesu Jang set out to examine how Asian philanthropy works, how it differs from philanthropy in the West, and what we are likely to see in the way of trends and developments in the coming years.

Book_pragmatic_philanthropyThe book, which is available as a free download and is based on thirty case studies of successful service delivery organizations (SDOs) and social enterprises as well as interviews with high-net-worth individuals, consists of nine chapters — the majority written by Shapiro. Each is devoted to a specific topic, from the laws governing philanthropy in different countries, to the strategies employed by Asian philanthropists, to the role of impact investing. Together, they present a much-needed overview of the state of Asian philanthropy in the twenty-first century.

The book opens with a brief historical survey of how charity — the act of doing good — and philanthropy — the formalized and systematic process of doing good — have evolved in various Asian countries. Differences notwithstanding, the authors make clear that there's a long history of charitable giving in Asia that is rooted in a cultural predilection to help one's family and clan and a tradition of giving to service delivery organizations (SDOs) rather than public advocacy groups.

It makes sense, therefore, that the book would focus on SDOs. They may or may not be connected to government and may or may not be social enterprises, but, as the authors emphasize, they are distinct from public advocacy organizations whose aim is to influence public policy. It's a distinction that is reinforced in the United States by the tax code — 501(c)(3)s versus (c)(4)s, for example — but which no country in Asia has codified into law. Nevertheless, it's an important distinction in Asian countries, "where donors rarely wish to cross officials at odds with challenging advocacy."

What's more, the desire to support one's kin-related networks persists, says Shapiro, because of what she calls a nonprofit "trust deficit." As she explains: "For [Asian] philanthropists, relationships are often the only means by which one can conduct due diligence." In some countries, the low levels of trust may be due to changing regulations that are ambiguous and confusing for donors; to the absence of accountability mechanisms for nonprofits when it comes to spending; to a general confusion around the goals of many nonprofits; and, finally, to a perception that a country's "best and brightest" gravitate to the for-profit sector and that nonprofits are run by less qualified individuals.

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A Conversation With Sarah Eagle Heart, CEO, Native Americans in Philanthropy

March 21, 2018

In 2011, a report from Native Americans in Philanthropy and Foundation Center found that foundation funding explicitly benefiting Native Americans had declined from 0.5 percent of overall funding to 0.3 percent over the previous decade. While there has been no follow-up to that report, Sarah Eagle Heart, CEO of Native Americans in Philanthropy, recently told PND that philanthropic support of Native causes hasn't come close to reaching 1 percent of overall funding in any year since then. And while even that level of funding is inadequate, given the need in Native communities, Eagle Heart argues, "it would be equitable."

Last year, Eagle Heart was honored with the American Express NGen Leadership Award, which is presented at Independent Sector's annual conference each fall to a "next-generation" leader whose work and advocacy have had a transformative impact on a critical societal need. Praised for her abilities as a storyteller, Eagle Heart focuses her work at NAP on educating and advocating for the needs of Native communities across the country.

Earlier this year, PND spoke with Eagle Heart about the dearth of research on Native communities in the United States, the need for greater education to raise awareness of Native issues, and the role racial healing can and must play in bringing equity to indigenous cultures.

Headshot_sarah-eagle-heartPhilanthropy News Digest: In announcing you as the winner of the 2017 American Express NGen Leadership Award, Independent Sector praised your talent as a storyteller and your ability to bridge cultures. What's the biggest story today about Native Americans that other Americans aren't hearing or don't understand?

Sarah Eagle Heart: In general, people don't pay attention — and never have paid attention — to Native Americans or our issues. And I believe one of the reasons Independent Sector chose me for the award was to raise the visibility of Native Americans. When philanthropic organizations look at Native Americans, we're just not as noticeable, statistically speaking, as other ethnic groups. As you know, Native Americans in Philanthropy worked with Foundation Center in 2011 to create a report, Foundation Funding for Native American Issues and Peoples, which showed that less than 0.3 percent of philanthropic funding goes to Native communities, even though we’re between 1 percent and 2 percent of the overall population. So, even if philanthropy increased its giving for Native causes, issues, and nonprofits to 1 percent to 2 percent of total funding, it would still be a drop in the bucket. But we're not seeing that level of funding, and we haven't seen that level of funding at any point over the twenty-seven years of Native Americans in Philanthropy's existence.

PND: Why is that?

SEH: There's not enough research to answer that question. When I started at Native Americans in Philanthropy two and a half years ago, I noticed we were not included in a lot of research reports, there was no contextual research for our communities. In philanthropy, a lot of how you get noticed, or heard, or invited to the table has to do with research. In 2015-16, for example, many of the research reports that came out had a little asterisk that said Native American populations were statistically insignificant. The researchers have since tried to walk back some of those disclaimers, but it goes to show how much philanthropy has been paying attention to Native people. I'm aware that our community is hard to gather statistics on, in part because we live in both urban and rural communities. But I don't think that should be an obstacle to better research.

Another complication is that our communities constantly have to educate funders. Our country is slowly beginning to understand, thanks to issues like the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Standing Rock protests, that we've been working for nearly thirty years to get school systems to portray American Indian history more accurately. We're doing our best to combat stereotypes and propaganda that have depicted Natives as being marginal and unimportant, that we don't count and can be ignored.

PND: Is the situation improving?

SEH: Not really. A recent study found that if you Google "Native American," it doesn't return an image of a contemporary Native person. Google another ethnic group, and you might get images of somebody sitting at a table or as part of a contemporary street scene. But for Native Americans, what you get are depictions of historical images from a hundred or two hundred years ago. You can almost understand why some people think we've vanished.

I really believe that one of the reasons it's so important Native people are heard and seen is that we have so much wisdom to share. When you look at some of the environmental and climate change issues we face, Native people saw it all coming a long time ago and have been raising the alarm for years. It's time philanthropy listened. That's where Native Americans in Philanthropy comes in. We're sharing some of that collective wisdom through our Indigenous Lifecourse research report, which is focused on sharing protective factors from an asset frame rather than a deficit frame.

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Weekend Link Roundup (March 17-18, 2018)

March 18, 2018

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

Communications/Marketing

Nonprofit communications professionals should pay more attention to their usage of hyphens. Nonprofit AF's Vu Le shares a dozen examples that demonstrate why. 

Criminal Justice

"As the U.S. confronts a growing epidemic of opioid misuse, policymakers and public health officials need a clear understanding of whether, how, and to what degree imprisonment for drug offenses affects the nature and extent of the nation’s drug problems." A new analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts finds "no statistically significant relationship between state drug imprisonment rates and three indicators of state drug problems: self-reported drug use, drug overdose deaths, and drug arrests." Pew's Adam Gelb explains.

Education

On WaPo education reporter Valerie Strauss's Answer Sheet blog, venture capitalist Ted Dintersmith offers some advice to Education Secretary Besty DeVos based on what he learned after visiting two hundred schools in fifty states.

On the Aspen Institute blog, Jennifer Bradley chats with Caroline Hill, founder of the DC Equity Lab, which invests in early stage education ventures in Washington, D.C. 

More than 50 percent of the U.S.-based education companies invested in by Omidyar Network have been founded or led by women. ON's Isabelle Hau shares some  of the lessons it has learned along the way. 

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9 Strategic (and Inexpensive!) Ways Funders Can Support Grantee Staff

March 16, 2018

Generic-supportNonprofits tend to sink or swim based not on mission and funding alone but on the talents of employees. Keeping good employees and equipping them for the work that needs to be done is one of the critical challenges frequently cited by nonprofit leaders, yet funders tend to invest much less in the "people" aspects of nonprofit organizations than they do in other areas. Indeed, businesses spend four times more per employee on leadership development than do nonprofits, while according to Foundation Center grant data from 1992-2011 less than 1 percent of foundation grant dollars are invested in nonprofit workforce development.

There are many reasons for this, from fear of getting tangled up in personnel issues to foundation charters that specify funding for programs rather than operations. However, as nonprofit organization Fund the People emphasizes, nonprofit people are nonprofit programs, and even modest investments in staff development can have significant impact.

At the Pierce Family Foundation in Chicago, our priority is capacity building and providing funding for the kind of "back office" support that keeps organizations strong and enables their programs to thrive. Given the particular experience of family members and founding staff in working for and running nonprofits prior to launching the foundation, a focus on supporting what it really takes to deliver mission was part of our vision from the beginning. It's only natural for us, therefore, to want to invest in the people whom nonprofits employ.

Below, I outline nine strategic and inexpensive ways we've invested in nonprofit staffing — and that we believe other funders interested in providing similar support can easily adapt for their own purposes.

1. Provide unrestricted general operating support. Capacity begins with staffing; do not underestimate the importance of supporting basic staffing costs by providing unrestricted general operating support. The more stable the general operating base, the more supported an organization will be in terms of staff retention, compensation, and morale. Staff also function better in non-chaotic environments that allow them to focus on how they can best put their skills to work. At the Pierce Foundation, 70 percent of our grantmaking takes the form of general op grants, and 30 percent is for specific capacity-building projects, from upgrades to CRMs and donor management software to consultant support for succession planning.

2. Offer an outside advisor for HR projects. Outside advisors can provide an objective review of a grantee's staff organizational chart, job descriptions, compensation levels, and personnel policies. We offer general workshops on topics such as "What Are You Paying and Why." We also offer private sessions with a consultant for organizations that are looking to revise their organizational chart or salary ranges, or (in a time of budget cuts) trying to combine two jobs into one. An outside advisor can make this process less painful and provide data and expertise that would not otherwise be available to an organization. We began experimenting with what made the most sense in this area because of the conversations our leading support specialist, Kris Torkelson, and Program Director Heather Parish found themselves having with grantees, many of whom did not know where to turn to for nonprofit-specific HR advice (much less a "reality check" with respect to job descriptions or comparables that can be shared with board members often reluctant to spend money on staff development).

3. Share salary data from national and regional surveys. We subscribe to the six or seven major nonprofit salary surveys because we know our grantees can't afford to and/or are unlikely to. One of our consultants combs and sorts through the surveys to identify "comparables" by position, type of organization, etc. and then shares that data with our grantees. This enables grantees to quickly see what organizations doing similar work pay their staff. Exposure to this kind of data often helps an organization understand why its staff turnover is high and can lead to needed adjustments to its salary ranges. We don't stipulate what our grantees should do with this data — that's not our role — but it typically feeds into the case for support made to their boards at budget time, as well as the longer-term planning done to ensure that an organization's ambitions align with its capacity.

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What’s New at Foundation Center (March)

March 14, 2018

FC_logoI'm shoveling out from endless snow (or slush, as it's quickly becoming) to bring you this latest update in our monthly series focused on what we're learning about the social sector, where we're speaking, the data we're collecting, and how you can contribute to those efforts. Here's more on what we were up to in February:

Projects Launched

  • Our annual Columbus Survey launched on CF Insights. This survey collects data about financial trends and operational activity at community foundations in the United States. Explore last year's results dashboard to get a snapshot of the community foundation landscape!
  • We now offer ebooks you can borrow for free to read on your device! View our collection and create a free account on the main Catalog of Nonprofit Literature homepage.

Content Published

What We're Excited About

  • Our dedicated amazing GrantSpace specialist Sandy Pon was selected as one of 2018's 50 Movers and Shakers by Library Journal. Nominated as a "digital developer," Sandy addresses the critical (and free!) information literacy needs of the nonprofit and social sector every day through our Grantspace.org platform and our Ask Us service. Congratulations to one of our game-changing librarians!
  • Our soon-to-be released GrantCraft guide on knowledge sharing to strengthen grantmaking.
  • Our women-powered work.
  • Thanks to the generous support of the Doll Family Foundation and the William J. and Dorothy K. O'Neill Foundation, Foundation Center Midwest will conclude its 40th Anniversary celebration series with a nod to the future of philanthropy. The special program, "Meet the Changemaker: Next GEN Givers, Doers & Innovators," will take place on Saturday, April 7, at our Foundation Cenrer Midwest Cleveland office.
  • We've answered over 1,500 questions about nonprofit management and the social sector more broadly through our online chat since January. (Have a question? Ask!)
  • We're giving GrantSpace — our website geared to grantseekers — a makeover so that it's easier to find what you're looking for. Keep your eyes peeled for the new site in April.
  • Foundation Center Northeast (our New York office) will be hosting a series of workshops this year as part of a grant award from the Communities of Color Nonprofit Stabilization Fund. These awards are made in order to provide capacity-building services for selected nonprofits led by and serving communities of color across New York City's five boroughs. If you're an eligible nonprofit that did not apply for 2018, we would love to discuss partnering with you to apply for a grant for 2019. For more information e-mail Kate Amanna Demcsak, New York lead, at kva@foundationcenter.org.
  • We have a newly improved and easy way to tell your story through our Foundation Center Updater. Keep us up-to-date on the work of your organization!

A Few Projects in the Pipeline

  • In partnership with the Ford Foundation, a project to expand the data on local philanthropy in India.
  • In partnership with Native Americans in Philanthropy, a project to build a web portal featuring philanthropic funding related to — and by — Native peoples.

For more on these projects or how to work with us, send us an email.

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Our staff will be speaking/appearing at these upcoming events:

Our staff will be attending and/or exhibiting at these events:

Data Spotlight

  • 236,716 new grants added to Foundation Maps in February, of which 9,865 grants were made to 6,571 organizations outside the U.S.
  • New data sharing partners: Henry County Community Foundation, REI Corporate Giving Program, Samuel N. and Mary Castle Foundation, and the Philip L. Van Every Foundation
  • Illegal fishing accounts for about 20 percent of the world's catch, costing up to $23.5 billion a year. See more on our featured landscape, FundingTheOcean.org.

Tell your story through data so we can communicate philanthropy's contribution to making a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.

If you found this update helpful, feel free to share it or shoot us an email! I’ll be back next month with another update.

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center.

[Review] The Gender Effect: Capitalism, Feminism, and the Corporate Politics of Development

March 12, 2018

It has become axiomatic within the development community that educating women and girls is the most effective way to alleviate poverty and accelerate development in the Global South. Promoted in the early 1990s by economists such as Elizabeth King, T. Paul Schultz, and former Harvard University president Lawrence Summers, the approach has since been adopted by the most powerful multilateral development institutions, including the United Nations, the World BankUSAID, and the United Kingdom's Department for International Development.

Book_the_gender_effectThe approach was given a boost in 2008, when the Nike Foundation, the main philanthropic vehicle of global sports apparel manufacturer Nike, launched a simple, powerful animated video titled the "Girl Effect," which argued that by sending a poor girl in a developing country to school, you put her in a position to secure a loan to purchase a cow, the profits from which could help her family and be used to buy more cows, until one day she had a herd, the profits from which could be used to bring clean water to her village, which would lead men in the village to invite her to the village council, where she would convince them that all girls have value. The video went viral, and the rest, as they say, is history.

But what if it isn't that simple? In The Gender Effect: Capitalism, Feminism, and the Corporate Politics of Development, Kathryn Moeller takes a deep dive into that question and finds plenty of worrisome contradictions. An assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, Moeller argues that the real effect of significant corporate investment in the empowerment of girls and women has been to mask the historical and structural conditions that perpetuate poverty in the Global South and to de-politicize the demands for fair-labor practices and a more equitable economic order by the very women and girls such investment purports to empower. Indeed, by focusing on the economic potential of adolescent girls, Moeller writes, "[t]he Girl Effect...transfers the onus of responsibility for change away from governments, corporations, and global governance institutions whose actions have led to the unequal distribution of resources and opportunities that disproportionately affect the lives and well-being of girls, women, and the poor around the world."  

Based on extensive fieldwork conducted with the Nike Foundation, its partners and grantees, program participants, and the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) — where she helped organize a session on "Investing in Women and Girls"  — Moeller finds that, in the case of the Girl Effect, the primary outcome of what she terms the "corporatized development" model has been the strengthening of Nike's legitimacy and market power without a concomitant examination of its outsourcing practices — practices that, she writes, exploit "poor, racialized female labor" and famously led, in the 1990s, to strikes and protests against the company.

To prove her point, Moeller outlines the history of and discourse around investing in women and girls, an approach predicated on the concepts of "bottom billion" capitalism, philanthrocapitalism, gender equality, and "Third World difference" (the latter defining the post-colonial adolescent girl as both victim of gender oppression and solution to economic development). In this paradigm, women and girls are seen as "instruments" that generate the highest return on investment within a development context because they tend to be "rational, efficient economic actors" willing to invest more of their income in their families and communities than are men.

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#TimesUp for the Nonprofit Gender Gap

March 09, 2018

Donor_perfect_workbook_for_womenFrom limited leadership roles to unequal pay to sexual harassment, the nonprofit community is coming to terms with its own #MeToo moment.

As a national conversation takes place around women’s issues, the surprising lack of gender diversity in nonprofit leadership along with the issues that surround it can no longer be overlooked.

For a sector that is largely funded and staffed by women, the numbers are troubling. While women make up about 73 percent of all nonprofit employees, they only hold 45 percent of nonprofit CEO roles. When it comes to pay, women nonprofit CEOs make just 66 percent of what their male counterparts make.

Fortunately, many nonprofits are having open discussions and taking action to promote gender equity in and beyond their organizations. 

In support of this crucial initiative, DonorPerfect partnered with five inspiring women who rose to the top of their organizations to create The Nonprofit Leadership Workbook for Women. This free downloadable guide commemorates Women's History Month in March, and every day, and offers a platform for these leaders to pass along what they believe it takes for more women in the nonprofit sector to ascend the ranks.

“This shift of power is so critically important. This shift in presence is so critically important,” says Marcia Coné, workbook contributor, author, and women’s advocate. “What follows is a shift in action, education, and understanding. It’s about balance and finding that there is space for both men and women to thrive, for both men and women to be safe.”

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A Conversation With Nicky Goren, President and CEO, Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation

March 06, 2018

Founded in 1944 by investment banker and Washington Post publisher Eugene Meyer — who later served as head of the War Finance Corporation, chair of the Federal Reserve, and founding president of the World Bank — and his wife, Agnes, a journalist, author, literary translator, and activist (President Lyndon Johnson credited her for helping build public support for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965), the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation in Washington, D.C., has supported efforts over the years to address racial inequity, urban poverty, and government funding (or lack thereof) for critical needs.

Nicky Goren was appointed president and CEO of the foundation in 2014, succeeding Julie L. Rogers, who had served in that position for twenty-eight years. Before joining the foundation, Goren had served as president of the Washington Area Women's Foundation and acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. In 2015 the foundation unveiled a new strategic plan focused on achieving greater racial equity in housing, education, employment, and asset building.

PND recently spoke with Goren about the process the Meyer Foundation initiated in 2014 to develop and implement a racial equity agenda, the importance of doing that work "authentically," and some things foundations new to the space should keep in mind.

Headshot_nicky_gorenPhilanthropy News Digest: While the Meyer Foundation has long supported efforts to advance equality and break the cycle of poverty for individuals and families, the foundation's 2015 strategic plan zeroes in on the "structural and causal" link between poverty and race. How did the focus on poverty and race come about? Were those discussions already happening at the foundation when you were appointed president and CEO in 2014?

Nicky Goren: At the organizational level, the conversations about race, about racism and its connection to poverty, were not yet happening when I got here. I think individual program officers from time to time had incorporated that connection into their portfolios, but it was not an organizational priority at the leadership level.

I came to the foundation with the point of view that those of us who work in philanthropy really needed to move out of our silos, move beyond thinking about grantmaking as a largely transactional activity, and think differently about how we do our work. And in my initial listening sessions as the new CEO, I was trying to understand where the opportunities were for us to deepen our impact and partnerships in the community and what the big issues were. It became clear to me pretty quickly that the big issue at the meta level was wealth inequality, and that the drivers of inequality in the region were disparities in housing, education, workforce skills, and asset building, and that the through line in all those areas was the history and legacy of systemic racism. From those community conversations it was clear that people were eager to move beyond incremental change to real transformation, which meant looking at things at the population level, which meant looking at root causes, which meant embracing systems change — and confronting racism and its role in creating and perpetuating these disparities. There was no way around it: to do our work authentically, we would have to address systemic racism.

PND: You came to Meyer from the Washington Area Women's Foundation, which focuses on improving the economic security of women and girls in the D.C. region. Did your work there inform the things you are doing at Meyer to advance racial equity?

NG: Definitely. That was the first time I was part of an organization that was using any kind of an equity lens, in that case a gender equity lens. And I was energized by what I learned in terms of the barriers to equality that women face. But in this region, low-income women are most often women of color, and the question started coming up more and more, from both funders and the communities we were working in: "Do you look at the work of the Women's Foundation through an intersectional gender and racial equity lens?" Well, it got me thinking and really helped me ask the right questions when I got to Meyer.

As for the intersectionality of economic and racial equity, at Meyer we've come to understand that the main reason for the persistent economic disparities in our region — and in other urban areas across the country — is racism. And if we don't name it and tackle the systems that perpetuate it — the institutions, policies, practices, and norms around race that lead to these economic disparities — we'll never be able to really address the challenges that low-income communities of color are facing. Naming it and looking at those challenges through a racial lens forces you to ask different questions and come up with different solutions, solutions that are more focused on the long-term and persistent barriers faced by people of color. It's about understanding the role race has played in our region's history and in our country's history so that the solutions you put in place really do make a difference in terms of addressing those disparities.

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Weekend Link Roundup (March 3-4, 2018)

March 04, 2018

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

African Americans

Writer and activist Alicia Garza, who helped found the Black Lives Matter movement, in partnership with the Center for Third World OrganizingColor of Change, Demos, Socioanalitica Research, and Tides Foundation, has announced the launch of the Black Census Project, which hopes to talk to 200,000 black people from diverse backgrounds about their hopes, dreams, and needs by August 1. African Americans in participating can take the first step and fill out the online census.

Arts and Culture

ArtsPlace funders have released a statement on the Trump administration's 2019 federal budget request.

Climate Change

Nonprofit Chronicles Marc Gunther published an op-ed about climate philanthropy, and its failure to drive real progress on the issue, in the Chronicle of Philanthropy a few weeks ago. The Chronicle has given him permission to repost it on his own blog, here

Education

This should come as a surprise to no one: in a statement released earlier this week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) called Betsy DeVos "the worst Secretary of Education this country has ever seen — by a large margin. Secretary DeVos has spent her first year bending over backwards to allow students to be cheated, taking an axe to public education, and undermining the civil rights of students across the country. [She] has failed in her job and she must be held accountable." Mother Jones's Edwin Rios has the details.

Higher Education

Public colleges and universities are facing a perfect storm of existential challenges over the next decade, and institutions in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont are the canaries in the coal mine. Lee Gardner reports for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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Newman's Owns Gets a New Life

March 02, 2018

Newmans_own_logoOn February 9, 2018, President Trump signed into law the Philanthropic Enterprise Act of 2017 as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. The new law allows private foundations to own 100 percent of a business under certain conditions. The bill was championed by Newman's Own Foundation, which owns 100 percent of No Limit, LLC, the for-profit company that produces and sells the Newman’s Own-branded line of food products. The new law allows the foundation to maintain 100 percent ownership of No Limit, assuring that all profits of the company will continue to go to charity.

Newman’s Own Foundation needed the new law to avoid a requirement that it divest itself of at least 80 percent of No Limit under the "excess business holdings rule" of Internal Revenue Code Section 4943. The excess business holdings rule generally prohibits a private foundation from owning more than 20 percent of a for-profit company. It imposes extreme penalties on a foundation that are equal to twice the value of the holdings above the 20 percent limitation. In most cases, this will completely destroy the value of the “excess” holdings to the foundation. The new law creates an exception to the excess business holdings rule for foundations that own 100 percent of a business and devote all profits to charity.

Foundations that acquire more than 20 percent of a company normally have a five-year deadline to sell their excess holdings before the penalties apply. Newman’s Own originally faced that deadline in 2013 but was able to get a five-year extension that would have expired this year. The passage of the new law relieves Newman's Own from the requirement that it divest itself of No Limit, meaning it can continue operating as it always has without interruption.

New law, new rules

The new law, Section 4943(g) of the Internal Revenue Code, permits a private foundation to own 100 percent of a company under the following conditions:

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  • "To be the object of contempt or patronising tolerance on the part of proud neighbors is one of the most traumatic experiences that individuals or societies can suffer. The response, as often as not, is pathological exaggeration of one's real and imaginary virtues, and resentment, and hostility toward the proud, the happy, the successful...."

    — Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997), "The Bent Twig: On the Rise Of Nationalism"

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