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13 posts from April 2018

What’s New at Foundation Center (April)

April 20, 2018

FC_logoI'm currently in New Orleans at the EDGE Funders Conference and am delighting in the stories and wisdom of bold, understated leaders from around the world who are pushing the traditional boundaries of philanthropy. Through conferences like these and our regular scanning and conversations, my colleagues and I have been busy keeping up with data trends and tracking philanthropy's engagement on a variety of issues. Here's a quick update:

Project launched

  • We added a new Open Knowledge Feature to Glasspockets Profiles to showcase the knowledge each foundation has contributed to Issuelab. Learn more.

Content published

What We're Excited About

  • Learning about and participating in global philanthropy conversations. Our director of global partnerships, Lauren Bradford, had this to say about Russian philanthropy.
  • Our FDO at Foundation Center YouTube channel! Have questions about how to use Foundation Directory Online to identify funding sources, build your prospect network, and win funding to support your mission? Our YouTube channel has all the answers.

Upcoming conferences and events

Our staff will be speaking at these upcoming events:

Data Spotlight

  • Funders have granted over $644 million to libraries since 2015. Learn more about funding for libraries at libraries.foundationcenter.org.
  • We reached more than 1,500 people in March through our eLearning and webinar programming on fundraising and nonprofit management.
  • 736,055 new grants added to Foundation Maps in March, of which 6,101 grants were made to 3,724 organizations outside the U.S.
  • New data sharing partner: Hugh J. Andersen Foundation
  • Foundation Directory Online currently has 140,000 foundation profiles, more than 11 million grants, and over 500,000 recipients profiles.

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

What Is That Noise?

April 19, 2018

NoiseHow many times have you been startled by a noise and thought: What in the world?

You try to ignore it, but it won't stop, so you decide to take action. You go looking for the source, find and disable it, and sigh as you walk back to your chair.

I know the feeling. It's a feeling of exasperation, the feeling you get when someone or something absolutely insists you pay attention, whether you want to or not.

It's the feeling many of us have after we've been exposed to nonprofit marketing.

Hey, I get it. Marketing is noise to some and the stuff of life for others. It can inspire, persuade, and make us fall in love. It can move us to action or dissuade us from taking a stand. It can be something we welcome into our world — or something that intrudes on us when we least expect it.

The question you need to ask is: Is our marketing something our supporters want, or is it the noise in the background they wish would stop. Based on my experience, there's too much of the latter happening in our space.

Let me explain.

When I'm asked by nonprofit organizations to evaluate or design a strategy to raise awareness of their cause or help them build a movement, the first thing I ask them is to share their marketing materials with me. I then go through those materials with an eye to identifying common themes and key messages. Often, however, my review ends with the thought, What was that noise?

Don't get me wrong. In most cases, the materials tell a good story. Many tend to feature a "heroic" individual or individuals, and almost all end with a call to action involving a donation.

Why are "hero" stories so common? And are they effective? I'm skeptical. And the reason for my skepticism is that, in most cases, the target audiences for those stories had no role in creating them.

Still with me? Let's try a thought experiment.

On a piece of paper, answer the following questions:

  • What is the real purpose of your organization?
  • Why should I care about it?
  • Who benefits from its efforts, and how am I connected to them?

I'm willing to bet the questions above caused you to sit back and spend a few minutes thinking about your answers. I'm also willing to bet your answers included some version of the following:

  • Non-specific concepts like the all-too-familiar "e" words (empower, educate, engage).
  • Statistics related to the problem your organization is working to solve or address.
  • The "hero" typically featured in your marketing materials and promotions.

Now let's try a different thought experiment. On a piece of paper, answer the following:

  • Whom do you admire at work and why?
  • Who made a difference in your life?
  • Tell me about a person you know who is going through a personal or professional challenge at the moment?

As you were writing, I'm willing to bet your fingers could barely keep up with your thoughts. Why? Because you were prompted to think about a person or persons whom you admire and have a deep affinity for. In effect, it was an exercise about first "listening" to your audience — i.e., you — before "talking" to it.

In my opinion, the exercise above underscores a real problem with the marketing materials so many of us create and use. The stories we share with supporters and potential supporters tend to be inauthentic — not because our intentions are bad, but because they have very little relatability to the individuals with whom we are communicating. They are not of the audience, by the audience, or for the audience. They are what we think our audience wants to hear.

Here's the thing: the difference between the kind of messaging our audiences want to hear and are likely to respond to and plain old noise is that the former must be created with our intended audience's participation and permission.

So don't be a noise-maker. You want the members of your audience to care about and share your marketing messages with others. And for that to happen, you need to get their input before you sit down to create a marketing campaign. But most of all, you need to be with them — authentically — before you get down to the business of talking to them.

Headshot_derrick_feldmann_2015Derrick Feldmann is the author of Social Movements for Good: How Companies and Causes Create Viral Change and the founder and lead researcher on the Millennial Impact Project.

[Review] Social Startup Success: How the Best Nonprofits Launch, Scale Up, and Make a Difference

April 18, 2018

While all founders of social startups believe their organizations do important work, some startups thrive while others flounder and eventually disappear. What distinguishes the runaway successes from the enterprises that never move beyond survival mode? In her new book, Social Startup Success: How the Best Nonprofits Launch, Scale Up, and Make a Difference, Kathleen Kelly Janus argues that the difference involves more than luck or chance. 

Social-startup-successAs a social entrepreneur herself and a lecturer in the Program on Social Entrepreneurship at Stanford University, Janus long recognized that "the struggle to scale is the most pressing challenge for the social entrepreneurship community." Over time, she writes, she "became obsessed with understanding how nonprofits can get off the treadmill and attain organizational sustainability," which she defines as being able to consistently raise $2 million in annual revenue. Faced with a lack of data, Janus and her team created "the most comprehensive survey of seed stage social entrepreneurs ever conducted," surveying scores of founders, donors, and experts, and packaging the results into a book organized into five sections that explore the elements of social startup success: Testing Ideas, Measuring Impact, Funding Experimentation, Leading Collaboratively, and Telling Compelling Stories. In the process, she came to understand that social startups that manage to get off the treadmill excel in all these areas.

In taking a data-driven approach to nonprofit success, Janus examines a number of assumptions about the sector — for example, that admitting failure is something nonprofits are reluctant to do. That's a problem, she writes, because it means too many organizations end up putting resources into programs that don't work rather than programs that do. But for Janus, those kinds of data-driven shifts are absolutely essential, in that they can serve as a "catalyst to an organization really hitting its stride and creating a distinctive identity and mission." While it can be difficult for nonprofit leaders to be open with stakeholders and donors about failure, such "radical transparency" ultimately will inspire trust on the part of funders, who respect (or shouldrespect) "thoughtful, open communication about how organizations test and monitor various approaches to maximize impact."

Ah, impact. We know it when we see it, but how does one actually measure it? First, writes Janus, we need to drop our fixation on "outputs" and start defining and tracking desired "outcomes." Lots of organizations measure outputs (e.g., how many individuals participated in a program, how many meals were served), but according to Janus, such metrics provide little or no indication of whether a program has changed someone's life for the better. After highlighting the outputs-outcomes distinction, she then walks the reader through the process of creating a theory of change, a (sometimes controversial) "tool showing the causal links between an organization's vision and its programmatic activities, detailing the intermediate outcomes and assumptions that must occur to achieve success."

Developing a theory of change forces an organization or entrepreneur to home in on the hoped-for impact of their program or intervention, enumerate the preconditions for success, and link both in a logical, measurable series of steps to the proposed intervention or program. Data collected along the way can be used to demonstrate causal relationships between actions and outcomes and course correct, if needed. Similarly, if not enough time has passed for a new program or intervention to generate the sought-after impact, one can outline "proxy indicators of impact." Janus provides an example of the latter: Aimée Eubanks Davis, founder and CEO of the organization Braven, researched literature in the field to shore up her theory of change and analyzed the intermediate outcomes of Braven's efforts to teach "soft" and networking skills to low-income college students as a way to help them secure well-paying jobs after graduation. As a result, she was able to make the case that because her program doubled participants' chances of landing an internship, it would also give them a leg up in securing a good job after graduation — on the strength of which the Peery Foundation awarded the organization a $50,000 grant well before its first cohort of students had graduated.

Like the Peery Foundation, more and more funders are coming to recognize the power of impact measurement that goes beyond the de facto "vanity metrics" of program outputs. And, according to Janus, it's critically important they do so — and that they encourage their grantees to focus more on impact than on "boosting" their existing metrics. 

Janus also addresses the idea popular among some funders that over time a greater and greater fraction of a nonprofit's revenue should come from earned income. While earned income comprises a significant share of organizations' budgets in some sectors (health, arts), it's unrealistic, in her view, to expect that all nonprofits can become self-sustaining (or even sustainable) through earned income. Writes Janus:

"The argument that nonprofits should function more like businesses…has often been pushed to the extreme....Social entrepreneurs are, by definition, working to solve problems resulting from market and government deficiencies....If bringing clean water to the 800 million people who don't have access to it, or selling mosquito nets to the 200 million suffering annually from the scourge of malaria, were profitable ventures, private companies would be doing it. Expecting social entrepreneurs to figure out how to devise profit-making solutions to such problems, when even the behemoths of modern-day capitalism can't do so, is misguided wishful thinking...."

That doesn't mean a nonprofit leader or social entrepreneur shouldn't think big when it comes to raising funds or honing their vision. For example, Laura Weidman Powers co-founded Code2040 with the goal of creating a more diverse and equitable tech industry. Powers told Janus that, even before she secured major partners like Google, she began to suspect that Code2040 was "a huge organization living in the body of a small organization." In Janus's view, that kind of attitude is exactly what a founder (and her stakeholders) needs to have if she hopes to make headway on the problem she's trying to address.

Social Startup Success won't tell founders or social entrepreneurs where to find that attitude, but it will embolden them to start thinking about how they can create smart and meaningful goals, meaningfully engage their funders and beneficiaries as partners, and make brave, strategic decisions that drive an organization's growth from the start and with the expectation that the venture will eventually scale and make a difference in the lives of many more people than it might have otherwise.

Mirielle Clifford is program officer for online resources at the New York Foundation for the Arts.

Time's Up for Philanthropy, Too

April 16, 2018

Me-too-blogAs someone who has spent the last thirty years working to end violence against girls and women, I have never been more hopeful. Women and girls are being believed. Abusers are being held accountable. Sexual violence, so long invisible, is finally becoming visible.

Yet, amid the remarkable momentum of the last six months, it is important to remember what got us here — and to consider how much more philanthropy can and must do to help ensure that all girls and women, and all people, live and work in safety and dignity.

Almost ninety years ago — twenty-four years before she sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott — Rosa Parks survived an attempted sexual assault by her white neighbor. The experience launched her activism — and led her to her role as a sexual assault investigator for the NAACP. Sixty years later, the brave, steady voice of a law professor from Oklahoma riveted a nation, as Professor Anita Hill opened a new conversation about sexual harassment and abuse.

Sixteen years after that, an activist named Tarana Burke gave voice to millions of survivors of sexual violence with two words: me too.

Today, #MeToo is fueling a national reckoning with sexual violence, as women from all backgrounds and industries come forward to share their experiences of harassment and abuse. Their testimony has been a powerful wake-up call, from Hollywood to the nation's factory floors to its farm fields. It should be a wake-up call for philanthropy, too.

#MeToo is a reminder that violence against girls and women pervades every aspect of our society. But the fact that this recognition took decades to break through in pop culture — and still has not broken through in our sector — should give us pause. What is taking so long?

It is philanthropy's role — and our unique opportunity — to seek out and support activists like Rosa Parks and Tarana Burke who are pioneering change in their communities, and whose transformative work is often overlooked and undervalued by the rest of society. Yet, for too long, foundations have treated the work of ending violence against girls and women as a niche category — separate from ambitious efforts to end racism and inequality, improve education, strengthen public health, and expand economic opportunity. As a result, according to a 2008 study, less than 2 percent of all foundation funds go toward addressing gender-based violence. We don't have that data broken out by category, but anyone working in this field can attest that only a fraction of that funding goes to support girls and women of color and transgender women, despite the fact that they suffer violence at higher rates than white and cisgender girls and women.

This failure reflects a broader misconception in our industry — that we can achieve social justice without ending gender-based violence. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, making the world safe for girls and women is inextricable from every one of our missions. We can't talk about fixing disparities in education without talking about the disproportionately harsh discipline girls of color face in our schools. We can't talk about improving our immigration system without talking about the tragic double bind aggressive law enforcement creates for victims of domestic violence. We can't talk about pay equity without understanding the role that sexual harassment plays in maintaining the wage gap for women. If we care about making progress on these issues, and so many others, we have to care about sexual violence.

That means every foundation needs to be asking tough questions about how it is addressing violence across its work, and where it can do more. It means we need to listen to and learn from survivors of sexual violence and design funding strategies based in their knowledge.

It's not enough just to reexamine the work we do externally. We also have to take a hard look at our own institutional cultures — at who holds power in our organizations and in our industry, and who is systematically excluded. Until more women, particularly women of color, are elevated to positions of power in philanthropy, we will not be able to move past our sector's — and society's — patriarchal and white supremacist roots. To do this, we need to ensure that work spaces are safe, equitable, and just; that they value, support, and promote women; and that they are committed to rooting out deep-seated racism and sexism.

As grantmakers, we have a key role to play. If we don't model these priorities ourselves, we can't effectively support them in others. So time's up on pretending that sexual violence is someone else's problem. #MeToo has opened the floodgates for more of these courageous conversations to take place, and for decisive action to follow. It's philanthropy's turn to reckon with its past and commit to a better future. We can begin by changing ourselves. And then start funding the activists who are making sure that all women and girls, and all people, can live in safety and dignity.

Headshot_pamela_shifmanPamela Shifman is the executive director of the NoVo Foundation.

Weekend Link Roundup (April 14-15, 2018)

April 15, 2018

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

Arts and Culture

Lincoln Center president Deborah L. Spar, who left the top job at Barnard College to helm the performing arts mecca, has decided to step down after only a year. Robin Pogrebin and Michael Cooper report for the New York Times.

And across the East River, the Brooklyn Museum has come under fire for its decision to hire a white woman, Kristen Windmuller-Luna, as a consulting curator for African art. Alex Greenberger reports for ArtNews.

Civil Society

Writing in openDemocracy's Transformation blog, Vern Hughes, director of Civil Society Australia, suggests that the problem with the public and private sectors' "embrace of ‘civil society’ is that it bears little resemblance to what civil society actually is or means. Most of civil society is not constituted formally or headed up by a CEO," adds Hughes. Indeed, "[j]ust 40 years ago, very few not-for-profits or charities had CEOs at all: that term was associated with the corporate sector, and few community groups or charities had even contemplated mimicking the language and culture of such a different sphere. But in just four decades all this has changed, and it has changed at an extraordinarily rapid rate, with very little public discussion or scrutiny of the enormity of the organizational transformation involved and its social and political impact."

Roused by certain statements made by Mark Zuckerberg during his testimony to Congress earlier this week, Philanthropy 2173 blogger Lucy Bernholz shares some thoughts about the often-unappreciated role that civil society organizations and nonprofits play in curating and moderating content for the Facebooks of the world.

Climate Change

The Atlantic Ocean's meridional overturning circulation — which brings warm water from the equator up toward the Atlantic's northern reaches and cold water back down through the deep ocean — hasn't been this sluggish in a millennium — a sign that "one of the most feared consequences [of climate change] is already coming to pass." Chris Mooney reports for the Washington Post.


On the Center for Effective Philanthropy bog, Miriam Heyman, a program officer at the Ruderman Family Foundation, urges funders to "prioritize disability inclusion within their own walls... [to] promote a holistic approach to inclusion...[and to] do [their] best to model that holistic approach by hiring employees with disabilities and prioritizing accessibility at all of [their] events...."


Wynne Chan, GuideStar's manager of strategy and finance, shares some thoughts about why we all should care about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) — and what can we do to model it, both personally and in our organizations.


Smart machines, artificial intelligence, and global competition are disrupting and reshaping the nature of work in ways both profound and worrying. According to The Work Ahead: Machines, Skills, and U.S. Leadership in the Twenty-First Century, an independent task force report sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations, the United States needs to create new work opportunities, better career paths, and higher incomes for its people, while developing a highly skilled and adaptable workforce, if it hopes to avoid destabilizing political consequences. 


Future Fundraising Now blogger Jeff Brooks shares a Zen-like insight and a couple of useful things it teaches us about donor behavior.


After noting that in the age of "bots" human interaction increasingly is being replaced by automation, Allison Fine and Beth Kanter argue in the Stanford Social Innovation Review that it "is incumbent upon those of us in the nonprofit and social-change sectors to start a discussion on how we both hold on to and lead with our humanity, as opposed to allowing the bots to lead." 

Congratulations to our own Sandy Pon, who has been recognized as a digital development mover and shaker by Library Journal for her work on GrantSpace, Foundation Center's online library of resources for nonprofits. Well deserved, Sandy, well deserved!


Here on PhilanTopic, Robin Snidow, board of the General Service Foundation, and Dimple Abichandani, the foundation's executive director, share some of the challenges they faced and lessons they learned after Lani Shaw, GSF's longtime executive director, passed away suddenly.

Billionaire private equity titan Stephen Schwarzman wanted to give his old school, Abington High, north of Philadelphia, $25 million. He also had a list of requests. The Abington school board and parents in the district decided it was a deal they could refuse. Kathy Boccella and William Bender report for Philly.com. 

And Washington Post News Service editor Robert Mitchell has a fascinating piece about American attitudes to Carnegie Library philanthropy in the early twentieth century, which many applauded and others rejected as plutocratic encroachment on their values and way of life.

Social Good

In an op-ed piece in the Washington Post, David S. Meyer, a professor of sociology and political science at the University of California, Irvine, poses the question: Are the protests sparked by the Parkland teens after the massacre of seventeen of their classmates a social movement or a short-lived response to a flash of youthful passion and grievance? And does it matter?

Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a note at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Embracing Leadership Transitions

April 13, 2018

Top_hands_inLeadership transitions happen all the time in philanthropy, but we rarely talk about the challenges and lessons they reveal. For the most part, our inclination is to try to keep the internal dynamics of our institutions private and (often) separate from our grantmaking. But because organizational change happens to all of us, we have come to see leadership transitions as offering lessons that can be illuminating not just to us but to our grantees and colleagues in other organizations as well.

Three and a half years ago, Lani Shaw, the longtime executive director of General Service Foundation (GSF), passed away suddenly. During her twenty years as GSF's first executive director, the foundation transitioned from being staffed by family members to having a full-time professional staff. Lani's passing put into motion a number of additional changes.

We know from experience that embracing change can be hard. But change can also propel an institution forward, because when it is embraced, it can be an opportunity to connect with our values and work in new ways. This is why, as we mark the two-year anniversary of a new executive director joining General Service Foundation, we wanted to share what we have learned on our journey.

1. Expectations: Transitioning to new leadership is just the beginning.

Robin Snidow (GSF Board Chair): It was a wake-up call when I realized that the hiring of a new executive director was only the beginning of the transition. I had my nose to the ground and was focused on the day-to-day business of keeping the foundation functioning. However unrealistic it may have been, I thought my work would be done once we hired the new ED.

That was not the case, and board chairs need to be aware. Transition means change, and change is dynamic. I wasn't trying to change anything while the executive director position remained vacant. But once Dimple [Abichandani] was hired, I knew we had to be open to changing if we wanted to take full advantage of the opportunities her hiring presented.

Lesson learned: Prepare the board for change. As board chair, don't assume your job is over or that it will get easier when you fill an executive position. That's when the fun starts!

Dimple Abichandani (GSF Executive Director): I remember a staff member saying at one point during my first few weeks here how happy she was that the transition was over and things could "return to normal." Her statement captured just how taxing it can be for an organization to go through the uncertainty of an executive transition. It took us all time to recognize that while the search process had ended, the transition was only beginning. When I look back on that period, I realize now how important it is for leadership to manage expectations.

It is also important for staff and board to be aware that a new leadership perspective may lead to opportunities to build a stronger container for the organization's work. It may also be an opportunity to build on the efforts of previous team members in new ways. All this takes time to figure out and implement.

Lesson learned: Be realistic and clear with expectations. Acknowledge that when a new leader joins a team, things will shift and evolve.

2. Culture: Change is hard because most change involves changing culture.

DA: When I started to understand that every change, big or small, represented a culture change for the organization, I started to talk explicitly about the culture I was trying to create. In the early days, I characterized changes such as moving our team to shared electronic calendars as being no big deal. When these seemingly "small" changes were not met with universal enthusiasm, I was initially baffled by why they should be difficult to implement. Slowly, I realized that what I saw as "small" changes represented a bigger cultural shift — and pain point — for the organization. So I started to be more explicit about the kind of organizational culture I was trying to foster — one that emphasized greater collaboration and integration across programs — and to connect changes, big and small, to that vision.

Lesson learned: Explicitly name culture changes as such and put them into a broader context of the culture you want to co-create.

RS: It's helpful to understand when you have a new leader in place that change is inevitable. We had to remind ourselves of this, particularly because we have a culture that we'd been building for decades. Lani was very much a part of that culture. Hearing that things needed to change is hard when you've been doing things a certain way. It can feel like a criticism and, while building trust helps, it can be difficult. However, there are ways to approach change that can make it feel less threatening and help ease the tension between preserving existing systems and being open to new ways of doing things.

Lesson learned: An attitude of "Let's try this" is important. Know that things are going to change and be open and transparent in your efforts to change longstanding culture.

3. Relationships: In your first year, focus on building relationships and establishing trust.

RS: My number-one job in the first year was to support and create the conditions that would enable our new executive director to be successful. I needed to have her back, to trust her, and to be her thought partner. Successful leadership is the foundation of a successful organization. We established trust by making sure that nothing was off limits. I encouraged Dimple to share any struggle or problem with me, and together we worked to find solutions. It was not only a way to try to solve an issue but good practice for us to learn to work together and to count on each other. Even when we could not come up with an immediate solution, we still had the confidence that we would in time because we had become a team.

Lesson learned: It's okay to go slow and focus on relationship building, which often requires time and patience. The bond between ED and board chair is a critical one, so bringing an intentional focus to that relationship is important. The foundation for a successful transition rests on creating strong internal relationships.

DA: During my first year, my number-one priority was relationship building. I was joining a foundation that had experienced a long period of stability and little change. Lani had been at GSF for more than twenty years, and we had board members who had been serving the organizations for decades. I knew that if staff and board members didn't trust or know me, then nothing would work, so I prioritized building these relationships, spending one-on-one time with board members to learn what was important to them and to get grounded by their stories and GSF's history.

My relationship with Robin was pivotal. She was a great sounding board, and I often drew on her deep knowledge of the organization, the board, and the staff. Early in my transition, I shared a challenging situation with her, and hearing her say "I have your back and I know this is hard" was wonderfully reassuring. It affirmed for me we were in this together. We got into the practice of solving problems together, which became the foundation of a positive and productive relationship — not just for us but for the entire organization.

Relationship building with the staff was also key. In my first two months, I traveled with each program officer to a gathering of grantees or fellow funders to get to know them, understand how they work, and witness how we as an institution were showing up.

Lesson learned: You can't move forward together if you don't have trust.

4. Internal Support: When a leadership transition involves a longtime executive director, an interim executive director can play an invaluable role.

RS: The decision to hire an interim executive director was based on my need to have a sounding board, a listening partner, someone to strategize with during the time GSF was without a full-time ED. I soon saw how an interim executive director can help bridge the uncertainty of change. Our interim ED was brought on with two main purposes: to support the chair in running the foundation and to help with the search for a new executive director. The unintended benefit was the support the new ED already had in place when she began her new job.

Lesson learned: Have an outside voice to support the board chair during this challenging time. A trusted interim director can help ease potential tensions between staff and board.

DA: Two years into my role, I still often think of our interim ED with gratitude because her work made my transition smoother than it might have been otherwise. Our entire team had only worked with our previous ED; having an interim ED gave them an opportunity to experience a different leadership style. Our interim ED was also very involved in the hiring process. I had the luxury of overlapping with her for almost a month, and part of her task was to structure a transition plan and facilitate an orientation retreat. Her coaching and advice as we went through the transition were invaluable.

Lesson learned: In a transition following a long-serving executive, an interim director can help prepare staff for change.

5. External Support: Find your people — your co-conspirators and confidants.

RS: It is so important to find your people and draw support and lessons from those relationships. As board chair, it was important to engage other members of the board so they were fully bought into the transition and the prospective changes that might come with it. Speaking to peers in philanthropy and nonprofits can also help answer questions and overcome challenges that may come up.

Lesson learned: Draw support and lessons from trusted partners, including board members.

DA: I have found so much joy in finding co-conspirators and confidants to lean on, getting their perspectives and learning from them. Being able to reach out and build confidential supportive relationships with other executive directors, particularly the new generation of leaders of color in philanthropy, has provided an important community for many of us, a space where we can align our work with partner organizations in ways that have a broader value and benefit.

Lesson learned: Build community with your peers. It makes the work more fun and impactful.  

Final Thoughts

The main lesson we learned from our journey is that leadership transitions are a work in progress requiring intentional focus for as long as it takes to cultivate the relationships and culture necessary to make the transition successful. From speaking to peers in philanthropy, we know that most leadership transitions involve challenges. But transitions can be joyful, too, because they enable us to connect with one another and our work in new ways. For us, taking the time to develop openness and trust meant that when challenges arose, we were more effective in coming up with solutions together. It also meant we were both in a better position to think boldly, take risks, and be brave alongside each other and in partnership with the organization as a whole.

Dimple_Abichandani_Robin_Snidow_for_PhilanTopicNo two transitions will be the same, but we can all find our own ways to embrace change and see leadership transitions as opportunities for reflection and strengthening our organizations. A successful leadership transition matters not just to the organization undergoing the change but to all of us working in the social justice ecosystem. When a transition fails, it hurts our collective efforts on behalf of equity and justice. And when transitions are successful, we are able to move closer toward our shared goal of transforming the world.

Dimple Abichandani is executive director and Robin Snidow is board chair of the General Service Foundation, which is dedicated  to building a more just and sustainable world.

Facebook, Foundations, and Democracy: Putting the 'R-word' Back Into Philanthropy

April 11, 2018

Risk is back in philanthropy. As populist rage and technological omnipotence sweep the globe, seven American foundations have stepped up in a way that only private philanthropy can.

Early this week, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, in partnership with the Alfred P. Sloan, Charles Koch, John S. and James L. Knight, and Laura and John Arnold foundations; the Democracy Fund; and Omidyar Network, announced the launch of a research initiative aimed at increasing public understanding of Facebook's role in elections and democracy. The funder consortium will pay for an "independent and diverse" committee of scholars that invites researchers to conduct research using proprietary Facebook data that “meets the company's new, heightened focus on user privacy.” To ensure an added layer of objectivity, the venerable Social Science Research Council (founded in 1923) will oversee the selection of research proposals and the peer-review process.

Slowing the game down

This is a perfect of example of how private foundations can contribute to the public good. In a volatile, contentious, and partisan time where dialogue (or lack thereof) can be measured in bots, posts, tweets, links, and likes, these foundations are using their resources and independence to declare a collective "time out." Foundations are not political parties, business, or lobbyists. Guided by mission, values, and donor intent, they have the distance and time horizon to be able to take a careful, deliberate look at what is really going on when it comes to media, elections, and democracy. Social science research, with its strict procedures for requesting proposals and conducting peer review of research, is built for methodological rigor, not for speed. In basketball, they teach you that the best way to deal with a running offense is to slow the game down. These seven foundations are doing just that.

Strength in numbers

Were any one foundation to try to do this alone, it would most likely be criticized for some kind of political or partisan bias. But the seven that have banded together on this initiative are a pretty interesting cross-section of the field. Collectively, they hold over $20 billion in assets originating in fortunes derived from technology (Hewlett, Omidyar, and the Democracy Fund), journalism (Knight), energy/finance (Arnold), the automotive industry (Sloan), and oil and manufacturing (Koch). They represent family foundations, independent foundations, and living donor foundations. They all have solid track records of grantmaking focused on improving the functioning of American democracy. But they do that in different ways. See for yourself in the network map below. Click the link and you’ll go straight to an interactive page on the Foundation Funding for American Democracy site where you can explore each and every grant made by these foundations. All these foundations are proud of their work and, unlike Cambridge Analytica, have nothing to hide.


Man the battle stations

Risk is dangerous, which is precisely why it is relatively rare in our field. It is particularly dangerous in the current environment in which even a reasonably broad-based coalition of foundations could be labeled as "partisan," "politically-motivated," "globalist," "deep state," or anything else in the growing lexicon of epithets used to discredit purveyors of information. As venerable as it is, the Social Science Research Council might also come under attack for its very commitment to social science, which some see as being dominated by a "leftist" agenda. Earlier in my career, I worked as a “social science analyst” for a government-sponsored foundation and had to survive an ideologically-motivated attempt to re-classify our positions as "small-business specialist" because social science was presumed to be dangerous. To the extent it reveals truth that people do not want to hear, maybe it is. Nevertheless, SSRC will need to be careful that none of the research funded under the initiative is obviously influenced by the political concerns or bias of the researchers.

The Icarus effect

Working on such an innovative initiative with one of the most successful technology companies on the planet has got to be heady stuff for these foundations. However, in flying close to the sun, they need to be careful not to get their wings burned. Individually, these foundations are all recognized as leaders in our sector, and collectively they constitute an impressive coalition. But their combined resources pale in significance to Facebook's, with its $484 billion market cap and 2.2 billion monthly users. Eventually, this very asymmetry could lead to the charge that the foundations are being used by Facebook as part of a multi-faceted PR campaign to polish its image as it goes through the gauntlet of congressional scrutiny, press attacks, and the regulation likely to follow.

Different concepts of time

Facebook and its fellow tech giants live in a very different world than the one inhabited by foundations and social science researchers. Exposed by the minute to competition and disruption, they are constantly evolving — adding new features, adjusting algorithms, and trying to solve the mysteries of user behavior on their platforms. They voraciously acquire patents that often provide the only reliable clue to where they are headed in the future and lock them away under layers of intellectual property protection. There is a real risk that the research supported by this initiative will turn out to be largely historical, lending deep understanding to what happened, after the fact, at a particular moment in American political history. By the time the research is approved, carried out, peer-reviewed, and published — all of them essential steps in guaranteeing fairness and objectivity — Facebook and the tech world will have mutated several times over. In other words, the challenges that this research is intended to address will have long since been superseded by challenges we can't even imagine today. Perhaps the best of the research can transcend the temporal nature of technological change and explore the underlying issues of privacy, algorithmical bias, and the hacking of public opinion that are at stake here.

Undoubtedly, the seven foundations spearheading this effort thought of all of the above —  and more — as they carefully weighed the pros and cons of taking on this important work. This is philanthropy at its best — exercising independence, applying flexible resources, collaborating across sectors, and striving to shed light on a crucial societal issue where, at the moment, there is only heat. Is it just a courageous one-off initiative by seven foundations? Or is it a sign that risk is back in philanthropy? Only time will tell.

Headshot_brad_smith_for_PhilanTopicBradford K. Smith is president of Foundation Center.

The First Year of a New Presidency Moves Philanthropy to Action

April 10, 2018

Unprecedented_Coverpage-232x300The speculation for most of us began on Wednesday morning, November 9, 2016.

Regardless of political affiliation, the election win by a presidential candidate who promised dramatic changes in governing style and policies from the prior administration meant that grantmakers might have to rethink their current strategies and, quite possibly, fundamental priorities. As the new administration's policy agenda rolled out over its first year in office, the interest areas of more and more funders were touched by the shifting political landscape.

Beyond the impact of these policy changes on individual grantmakers, we began to ponder what this meant for the field of philanthropy as a whole; not just grantmaking institutions, but also the many philanthropy-serving organizations (PSOs) and funder collaboratives that exist to strengthen funder effectiveness through joint learning, alignment, and action. We wondered whether the initial flurry of conversation had led to more formal engagement and even collaboration in responding to the evolving policy priorities. And, if it had, what was the type and scale of their responses? Were they timely? Did they have the potential for catalyzing longer-term changes in the sector?

To begin to answer these questions we talked with nearly thirty leaders of PSOs and funder collaboratives in advance of the first anniversary of the new administration. Frontline partners for grantmakers and close observers of trends across the sector, these leaders described a philanthropic field demonstrating flexibility, nimbleness, and a willingness to collaborate that can serve as a model of creative adaptation for the sector going forward. They also identified enduring challenges for the sector that have been amplified in these unpredictable times.

We've documented our findings in a new report, and key insights include:

PSOs played a critical role in enabling funder learning, dialogue, and action. The speed of policy change in the new political environment intensified the need for funders to be well-informed. PSOs were often the first call for grantmakers and have since engaged in supporting funder learning, facilitating funder networking and aligning support, enhancing opportunities for collective response, and supporting efforts to help bridge divergent perspectives among staff and boards.

The new environment accelerated important funder conversations. At least three ongoing conversations in the field of philanthropy have received an explicit boost from the current political environment. These include the importance of continuing to grow the sector's focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion; the need to think beyond issue silos and employ intersectional approaches; and the foundational benefits of creating space for dialogue across political and ideological divides through support for nonpartisan civic engagement.

While some funders remained cautious, others embraced their public voice. According to PSO leaders, not all funders expressed a need for immediate engagement in the new political environment. A few interviewees described funders who had taken a "wait and see" approach. Yet, the impact of rapidly changing policies led a greater number of funders to consider aligning their "institutional voice" with other grantmakers to maximize their potential impact. Several PSOs referenced taking the lead in crafting and coordinating shared funder statements, which created a certain measure of "strength in numbers" and undoubtedly contributed to the willingness of some to lend their name to a public position.

Not all of our questions, or those of the leaders we spoke with, could be answered through these conversations. Arguably, the most salient questions still to be addressed are:

  • Will the philanthropic sector demonstrate a sustained commitment to shared learning, collaboration, and speaking up in response to the evolving policy environment?
  • Will these practices permeate grantmakers' other funding priorities?

Melinda_fine_steven_lawrenceThroughout 2017, more funders showed themselves to possess the adaptive abilities necessary to make a difference in the twenty-first century. The years 2018, 2019, and beyond will show just how pivotal this political epoch will ultimately be for how grantmakers do their work and make a difference going forward.

Melinda Fine is director of philanthropy & strategic partnerships at TCC Group, where she leads the firm's engagements with private, family, community, and public foundations, funder collaborations, and affinity groups. Steven Lawrence is a senior research affiliate with TCC Group and a former director of research at Foundation Center. This post originally appeared on the TCC Group blog and is republished here with the permission of Fine and her colleagues.

Weekend Link Roundup (April 7-8, 2018)

April 08, 2018

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


The Hewlett Foundation's Ruth Levine argues (persuasively) that "the benefit/cost ratio for [nonprofit] annual reports is pretty unfavorable" and that "[t]they are more trouble than they're worth." 

Reinvent the wheel. Close the loop. Onboarding. Vu Le has gathered nineteen of the most annoying phrases used in the nonprofit sector.


On the BoardSource blog, Kevin Walker, president and CEO of the Northwest Area Foundation since 2008, shares five recommendations for foundations that want to do something about the lack of board diversity in the field. 


When should you start teaching your kids about charitable giving. Forbes contributor Rob Clarfeld shares a few thoughts.

Higher Education 

After a lifetime working in and around students and public schools, Harold O. Levy, executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and a former chancellor of the New York City public school system, reflects in an op-ed in the New York Times on the "troubling fact" that "[d]espite the best efforts of many, the gap between the numbers of rich and poor college graduates continues to grow."

The Times' Kyle Spencer reports that, with the price of higher education soaring, middle-class families increasingly are looking to community colleges as an option.

"For years, researchers have highlighted the vast inequities that persist in the country's K-12 education system with students of color disproportionately enrolled in public schools that are underfunded, understaffed, and thus more likely to underperform when compared with schools attended by their white peers," writes Sara Garcia on the Center for American progress site. "What has received less attention is the fact that these inequitable patterns do not end when a student graduates from high school but persist through postsecondary education."

International Affairs/Development

On his Gates Notes blog, Bill Gates reviews his late friend Hans Rosling's new book, Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World — and Why Things Are Better Than You Think — and explains why he's decided to stop talking about the "developing" world.


In a Q&A with  Anders Hofseth on the Nieman Lab site, Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, avers that with the collapse of ad-supported models for quality journalism, public service media hasn't been this important since World War II.

How biased are your favorite sources for news? You probably won't agree with the conclusions of patent attorney Vanessa Otero, who has updated a chart she first created for the Marketwatch site back in 2016.


In a post on her Social Velocity blog, Nell Edgington looks at half a dozen of the key strategic questions facing nonprofits. 


Is philanthropy driven by morality or markets? That's the question Eric Michael Johnson, a historian of evolutionary biology, asks — and tries to answer — in an essay on the Evonomics site.

In response to a recent paper ("What Makes a Strong Ecosystem of Support to Philanthropy") authored by Barry Knight and published by WINGS (Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support), Foundation center's Larry McGill argues that "there are no good reasons why philanthropy should not strive to maximize its effectiveness through appropriate forms of strategic cooperation and action, on scales that go beyond the unconnected efforts of single organizations and individuals."


Poverty in America increasingly is a suburban affair — but government programs to combat it have not changed to address it. Aaron Wiener reports for the Washington Post.

Public Affairs

Two recent op-eds — one by Jonathan P. Baird in the Concord (NH) Monitor and the other by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in the New York Times — remind us that the road to fascism unfolds in incremental steps.

On a somewhat brighter note, the Hewlett Foundation's Daniel Stid is cautiously optimistic about the future of American democracy — and, in a short piece on the Hewlett site, explains why you should be, too.

Social Media

And what does the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica controversy mean for your nonprofit's digital strategy. Beth Kanter breaks it down.

(Photo credit: Shutterstock/tungtopgun)

Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a note at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Leading Narrative Change

April 06, 2018

BigDipperActivists, philanthropists, and social entrepreneurs increasingly are focused on influencing people and shaping opinions, behaviors, and policy through narrative. There's also an increased focus on culture change through narrative.

Although the definition of the word can be nuanced, narrative generally refers to the big, overarching stories that result from the amalgamation of smaller stories. As the Narrative Initiative puts it: "What tiles are to mosaics, stories are to narratives."

Liz Manne and Erin Potts, co-founders of A More Perfect Story, offer another practical analogy to guide our understanding:

  • Stories are stars.
  • Narratives are constellations of stars.
  • Culture is the galaxy which contains the stories and narratives.

Just like constellations are groupings of stars that help us organize our understanding of the night sky, stories are assembled into narratives to more efficiently transmit our beliefs and collective meaning.

Brett Davidson, in "The Role of Narrative in Influencing Policy," offers this explanation of narrative change work:

Narratives embody fundamental assumptions by which we interpret and understand the world. Because they constitute the culture in which we live, we are often unaware of these assumptions and the narratives through which they are conveyed. Therefore we need to find ways to reveal, challenge and change them....

Working with story and narrative is different than working with messages. Working with story and narrative is multi-directional and requires active listening, a willingness to invite participation, and comfort with complexity. Today, leaders of nonprofit organizations have multiple channels for both communicating and listening, and audiences are increasingly distracted and fragmented. Working with story and narrative therefore requires leaders to be intentional about which stories to look for and share, and to select for the narratives they want to influence.

If you already are, or are interested in, leading an effort to create change through narrative (either within an institution or in the larger culture), you need to model sincere respect for the hard work involved in finding, making sense of, and sharing stories. You must demonstrate your commitment to narrative change. And, to be a true narrative leader, you must uphold the highest ethical standards.

Here are some questions to guide you, and your teams, as you engage in story and narrative work on the road to becoming "narratively" competent:

  • Do you appreciate the fact people around you make sense of their world through story? Are you committed in your own efforts to see your world through a narrative lens?
  • In your own work, are you focused on both the aspirational Big Story (i.e., the narrative), as well as the smaller stories that reinforce the narrative and help drive the movement for change? How are you inviting and motivating people to participate in and contribute to your preferred or chosen Big Story?
  • How are you listening — and making sense of what you hear? What themes are emerging in your listening? What stories are leading to engagement?
  • What are you doing to make sure you're not ignoring what is being said, or voices that may not be coming through in your listening? What are your checks for ensuring that you are not listening only to what you want, or think you need, to hear?
  • How do you include, invite, and encourage participation in your organization's narrative and story work — from participants at every level of power and access?
  • What is your understanding of how narrative is woven through complex systems? Are you recognizing, encouraging, and evaluating cultural, structural, and community narrative efforts?
  • Have you clearly articulated your organization's understanding of and commitment to ethical approaches to inclusion, representation, and permission?
  • Are you taking a long view to narrative change and cultural shift, realizing that stories and narratives are constantly emerging?
  • What does it mean to you to be leading an organization committed to narrative change?
  • Are you committed to the journey and not the product?

You want to picture your organization, its work, and the work of your allies (and opponents) as facets to be assembled, kaleidoscope style, into compelling patterns. As a change leader, you have the opportunity, responsibility, and power to influence how they come together. 

Headshot_thaler_pekarThaler Pekar, CEO of Thaler Pekar & Partners, is an internationally-recognized pioneer in organizational narrative, leadership storytelling, and persuasive communication. Click here for more by Thaler.

Going Far Together: Lessons From Convening the New York City Food Assistance Collaborative

April 04, 2018

Food insecurity_nycEach year, nearly 1.4 million New Yorkers rely on emergency food assistance. The delivery of that assistance requires a complex network of food suppliers who distribute food to a thousand neighborhood pantries and soup kitchens.

Until recently, however, there was little coordination between those suppliers. Indeed, no one really knew what food was going where, much less whether it was reaching neighborhoods where it was needed. Even had suppliers wanted to, coordination would have been nearly impossible: each supplier tracked food in different ways, and some pantries had only pen and paper sign-in sheets to record how many people they were serving.

Over the years, the key players involved in emergency food assistance in New York would gather to discuss potential projects and information they wished they could share more easily. Good intentions notwithstanding, they simply did not have the resources or incentive to follow through on this work.

In short, it was clear to all that for collaboration to happen, strategic investment was needed.

When trying to solve a complex issue, it can be tempting to identify and tackle one part of the problem — funding a simple increase in emergency food supplies, for example – without getting to the root of the problem. That's something my colleagues and I at the Helmsley Charitable Trust wanted to avoid. So in January 2015, working with the New York City Mayor's Office of Food Policy, we convened the key players in emergency food assistance in the city and invited them to create a unified strategic plan that didn't just fund their work but also aligned everyone's incentives to change and improve the system. In the years since, the New York City Food Assistance Collaborative has made a number of investments to build the capacity needed to distribute millions of pounds of food to neighborhoods where it is needed most.

None of this could have been accomplished without the eager participation of all those involved: City Harvest, United Way of New York CityNew York City Human Resources Administration, and the New York State Department of Health-Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP).

Of course, success wasn't guaranteed, and we learned some valuable lessons along the way. It wasn't enough to simply gather everyone in the same room and offer to provide the funds needed to get the process started. Instead, the following elements were critical:

1. Conditional payments. Helmsley had to establish the framework for success. We offered the funds to get the process started — and the promise of subsequent funding was conditioned on achieving future goals and milestones agreed on at the outset by members of the group.

2. An honest broker at the head of the table. In this case, the honest broker was Mayor Bill de Blasio's director of food policy, Barbara Turk. Turk had no loyalties other than to the people of New York City, and she was perfectly positioned to facilitate the group's efforts and keep the work focused on helping New Yorkers in need.

3. Consensus on a set of measurable goals. Initially, the group talked about the results of their work in terms of meals, dollars, nutritional and meal factors, and so on. Eventually, it agreed on a single shared metric that translated well across all suppliers — pounds of food. And it similarly coalesced around a shared goal — making sure that food-insecure New Yorkers have equitable access to emergency food no matter where they live. Every time the group meets, it receives reports that break down the deliveries over the past month in terms of this metric — and on the progress made toward the shared goal.

4. Resources to carry out plans. Helmsley realized significant resources were needed and provided $15 million in grants over four years in support of pantry expansions, staff salaries, and costs associated with a dedicated support team. This substantial outlay drove the necessary commitment from participating organizations' staff to engage in the difficult work of collaborative decision-making.

5. Reliable structure to support implementation decisions. The collaborative set up working groups on different topics staffed with relevant experts from each organization and assembled CEO-level representatives and private funders to oversee the work. Working groups meet every six weeks and are provided with opportunities to review data, make decisions, and get out into the field to visit neighborhoods and local pantries. In addition, the group developed standard decision-making processes around its core operations, including goal setting, data sharing, and grantmaking.

By setting the stage for stakeholders to come together and decide collectively on actions to be taken, and by providing conditional capital and critical support every step of the way, Helmsley made it possible for the major charitable food players in the city to change their emergency food delivery system. Working together, these stakeholders have:

  • built a revamped central database, FeedNYC.org, that has complete data on all the food moving through the system, as well as the capacity of the agencies responsible for distributing it;
  • used new data to identify eighteen severely underserved neighborhoods where hyper-targeted investments could make the biggest difference;
  • added the capacity to distribute fifteen million additional pounds of food annually to these underserved neighborhoods by expanding existing pantries or starting new ones where none existed; and
  • developed Plentiful, the first-ever OpenTable-style app for pantry clients, enabling users to schedule appointments so as to avoid having to wait in line. Best of all, the app is available in nine languages.

The collaborative's biggest success, however, may be the fact that collaborative members have taken on new challenges beyond the scope of the original action plan and have chosen to keep working together, extending their efforts to build pantry capacity to an additional set of underserved neighborhoods, pioneering new models for large-scale just-in-time delivery, working with a set of strategically important providers on how to survive as independent nonprofits, and looking at opportunities to scale the Plentiful app to other cities.

Ultimately, Helmsley's greatest contribution was to forge a process that helped strengthen ties and relationships among all stakeholders. Whether elbow-to-elbow around conference tables or piling into vans for pantry site visits, these relationships have inspired an ongoing exchange of ideas and mutual goals that are paving a path to future collaboration — collaboration that will continue long after we have expended our last grant dollar in support of these efforts.


(Photo credit: John Moore/Getty)

Tracy Perrizo is program officer for the Helmsley Charitable Trust's New York City program.

The Changing Landscape of Russian Philanthropy: Growth Spurts and Growing Pains

April 02, 2018

Philanthropy-in-Russia-cover-1-724x1024Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace, in association with Alliance magazine and Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support (WINGS), recently launched the second report in its Philanthropy Bridge Series — this time in partnership with CAF Russia — on the world's largest country. Russia isn't just large in geographical size, it's also large in terms of complexity. It's a country about which many of us know little yet find ourselves reading about on an almost daily basis, in turn creating curiosity and intrigue. So, what does the end of the Iron Curtain mean for philanthropy in Russia?

Russia to me is challenging to understand despite having traveled to its major cities and enjoyed its delightful culture and hospitality. This is true for understanding philanthropy there as well. Philanthropy in Russia is a working paper rather than an attempt to describe the sector in its entirety; it begins to distill what is known to create meaning. Here are some of my takeaways:

You can't understand Russian philanthropy without understanding its context. Despite the country's long and chequered history, philanthropy in Russia is relatively young, both the sector itself and even the notion of giving. Whereas philanthropy is embedded in the cultural context of many other countries, its emergence in Russia over the last three decades creates a distinction between a time in which philanthropy existed there and a time in which it did not. CAF's 2017 World Giving Index, which measures individual giving in terms of money, time, and helping a stranger (an awesome measure, by the way), ranks the Russian Federation 124th out of 139 countries surveyed. In terms of giving money, Russia ranks 104th. As the report describes it, "Russia does not appear to be a nation of givers." There are cultural and historical reasons for this. During the Communist era, public well-being was considered the responsibility of the state alone. This reinforced the notion that private charitable work should be considered a private affair and was not to be talked openly about. This may be a difficult notion for many Western philanthropists to understand, given the often default position of self and organizational promotion. Think, for example, about the purpose of a "top funders list" or the Giving Pledge page. Neither approach is right, good, or bad — just different. Twenty-seven years later, though, this does appear to be changing in Russia.

Who's giving, and how, are changing. Once thought of as a "demeaning, manipulative capitalist practice" that was forbidden (Jamie Gambrell), attitudes to philanthropy seem to be becoming more positive. Oksana Oracheva, general director of the Vladmir Potanin Foundation, believes that people are more supportive of philanthropy now, particularly as they become more involved themselves through corporate volunteerism, community philanthropy, and small individual donations. As was also the case with the Philanthropy in India report, small donations by the middle class have led to significant increases in giving in both countries. Although members of the middle class often don't give large sums, they can give smaller amounts more often (especially due to technology).

When did you last give by way of an SMS donation, particularly one that you were encouraged to make by an advertisement on television? For many of us, probably never. For a Russian, it may have been today. Numerous causes invest in storytelling through the media with a call to action to give any amount, which culturally makes philanthropy quite visible. Pretty cool.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (March 31-April 1, 2018)

April 01, 2018

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

Arts and Culture

"Attaching a donor’s name to a building, courtyard, hallway, gallery or even a restroom in return for a significant contribution has been a growing practice since the 20th century, primarily influenced by the philanthropy culture of the [United States]." And today the practice is pervasive. But what does it mean to put a wealthy donor's name on a museum's door? Linda Sugin, associate dean for academic affairs and professor of law at Fordham Law School, explores the question.

In The Politic, Jack McCordick looks at how recent changes in the admission policies of New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art may be changing it's role as "a place of refuge, a sanctuary in a city that also pledges to be one.”

Congratulations to Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem; Agnes Gund, president emerita of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA); and sculptor Richard Serra, winners of this year's J. Paul Getty Medal.


Forbes Nonprofit Council member and Give.org president/CEO Art Taylor explains the benefits of spreading your giving efforts over the full calendar year.

We promise you'll enjoy this conversation between Marc Gunther and fundraising consultant (and DAF critic) Alan Cantor about whether giving is an affair of the head or the heart.


Inequality won't solve itself. "Societies tend to become more unequal over time, unless there is concerted pushback," writes Sarah van Gelder in Yes! magazine. "Those who accumulate wealth — whether because of good fortune, hard work, talent, or ruthlessness — also accumulate power. And over time, the powerful find ways to shift the economic and political rules in their favor, affording them still more wealth and power...."

How much does luck have to do with the "logic and morality of inequality"? More than you think, argues Kaushik Basu, former chief economist at the World Bank, in an opinion piece on the Project Syndicate site.

Continue reading »


Quote of the Week

  • "The dignity of the individual will flourish when the decisions concerning his life are in his own hands, when he has assurance that his income is stable and certain, and when he knows that he has the means to seek self-improvement ...."

    — Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)

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