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10 posts from June 2018

What's New at Foundation Center Update (June)

June 15, 2018

FC_logoJust as May sees students around the world celebrating their graduation from high school or college, Foundation Center celebrated the rebranding of our learning community for the social sector and updated our strategy for presenting research findings. And we began to rethink the role that infrastructure organizations like ours should play. Here's our May roundup:

Projects Launched

  • We launched a redesigned GrantSpace.org, our home for social sector professionals. GrantSpace offers a thriving learning community with free tools and trainings designed to help nonprofits build their capacity and be more effective in their work. We're really excited about the new site and hope you'll take a few minutes to check it out!
  • We launched new research and an analysis of the drivers of financial sustainability for local civil society organizations. A collaborative effort with LINC and Peace Direct, the project, which draws on interviews with 120 stakeholders in six countries and an analysis of more than 16,000 grant records, highlights specific strategies employed by funders and CSOs designed to improve financial sustainability in a variety of development contexts. Check out the reports and custom network map at linclocal.org.

Content Published

What We're Excited About

  • Concerns about privacy and data security are very much top of mind these days and are being addressed with a variety of new strategies designed to protect one's personal digital information. On May 25, the European Union set in motion a new law, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), that changes how the personal data of individuals within the European Union and European Economic Area can be collected and used. While the law is focused on personal data, cyberspace in general is an emerging arena for broader inter-state conflict. In acknowledgement of that reality, our Peace and Security Funding Index now includes a "cybersecurity" category, which Foundation Center defines as the protection of computer networks against outside hackers, including government and non-governmental actors. The index tracks grants aimed at preventing and withstanding cyberattacks from hackers and viruses, as well as cyber terrorism and other cyber threats more broadly. According to the index, funders awarded $6.9 million in the area of cybersecurity in 2015, and we are very interested in tracking how that number changes (or doesn't) over the next few years. Take a few minutes to explore the page and be sure check out the Spotlight feature there to learn more about what different funders are doing to establish international norms around cybersecurity.
  • The Boys and Men of Color Executive Director Collaboration Circle, offered in partnership with Foundation Center South and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, has closed the application period for its next six-month cycle. The initiative is aimed at helping nonprofit leaders in the Atlanta region build their capacity to serve and achieve outcomes for boys and men of color. Due to the success of the 2017 pilot, this year's program, which starts July 20, will include twice as many organizations.
  • Foundation Center will be presenting a series of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) webinars through October. The first two are: Getting Ahead of the Curve with Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (In June) and Activating the Collective Power of Latino Engagement and Giving – A Virtuous Circle (in July).

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Our staff will be attending these upcoming events:

Services Spotlight

  • 187,297 new grants added to Foundation Maps, 3,111 of which were awarded to 1,720 organizations outside the U.S.
  • Foundation Directory Online (FDO) grantmaker profile PDFs have a new, improved layout, making them easier to print. Search more than 140,000 grantmaker profiles in FDO!

Data Spotlight

  • New data sharing partners: Anonymous Australia 1, Cancer Care Network Foundation, Collier Charitable Fund, Origin Foundation, Newsboys Foundation, Philanthropy Australia, and Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation. Send us your data and help us communicate philanthropy's efforts to make a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.
  • Year-to-date we've answered more than 5,000 questions via our live Online Librarian chat service.
  • Year-to-date we've provided custom searches for the Center for Effective Philanthropy, Grantmakers for Education, Levin College of Urban Affairs (CSU), the GHR Foundation, and Rasmuson Foundation.

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.

Foundation Center Relaunches GrantSpace.org

June 13, 2018

Skills, insights, and connections for a stronger social sector, from the foundation up!

Have you heard? Foundation Center has relaunched GrantSpace.org, its learning community connecting nonprofits to the tools they need to thrive. Through the GrantSpace portal, Foundation Center, the leading source of philanthropy data worldwide, provides self-service tools and trainings designed to help nonprofits be more effective in their work.

GrantSpace originally was launched in 2010 at a time when the economy was struggling to recover from a deep recession and most organizations were cutting back on their activities. In the years since, learning behaviors have continued to evolve, but support for professional development within the social sector has failed to keep pace. Over the past eight years, GrantSpace has aimed to deliver valuable insights and knowledge to new and experienced social sector professionals, providing them with an increasing menu of in-person and on-demand trainings, knowledge tools, and opportunities to convene with like-minded peers and experts.

"GrantSpace is more than an information hub; it has evolved to become a gateway for learning, a place that houses everything from proposal templates, to step-by-step resources on starting a nonprofit, to a collaboration database with 650+ case studies detailing joint efforts in the sector," notes Zohra Zori, vice president for social sector outreach at Foundation Center. "The new site also makes it easy for our team to curate and showcase the finest tools out there — some  developed by our own staff, and many produced by respected partners in the field. Partnership is ingrained in our DNA, and GrantSpace is a place to illustrate how Foundation Center illuminates the good work of like-minded capacity builders, intermediaries, and colleagues in philanthropy."

The new site design features an enhanced, user-centered interface for simpler navigation, while new geo-location options enable users to easily search for events, locations, and programs in their community. "For those looking for help on the go," Zohri adds, "GrantSpace is now built for mobile, so that users can access any area of the site from any device. And If you're looking for the human touch to complement your online/mobile experience, use the 'FIND US' icon on the site to find the Funding Information Network affiliate location nearest you. Online and/or in-person… we've got you covered."   

Check out the type of training we offer online, or find a Foundation Center location nearest you!

Why You Need to Build Your Nonprofit's Employment Brand and How to Do It

June 12, 2018

Employer-branding-on-hrexaminer-jan-2011-webIn the not-too-distant past, people who wanted to "do good" inevitably gravitated toward nonprofit and government work. While both still attract lots of people with a passion for causes and public service, job seekers are pursuing other career avenues as well — including social purpose businesses and social enterprises.

We have certainly seen this trend in our corner of the nonprofit universe. Community Resource Exchange provides capacity-building support to other nonprofits as well as some government agencies and foundations, and in the eleven years I've worked here competition for top talent has intensified. Those interested in providing consulting services to nonprofits now have opportunities to work for large for-profit consulting firms with nonprofit practices, smaller boutique consulting organizations, and  infrastructure organizations focused on building nonprofit capacity. And when it comes to talent, our nonprofit clients are experiencing the same thing.  

All of this speaks to the growing importance of knowing — and being able to communicate — your organization's "employment brand." Put simply, an employment brand is the image an organization projects to the outside world with the aim of differentiating itself from other groups and attracting the best talent. And while it's still more common in the private sector, employment branding is poised to spread in the nonprofit sector as talent becomes more scarce and hiring more competitive.

To be sure, many organizations (intentionally or not) promote an employment brand without labeling it as such. When I interviewed for one of my first nonprofit positions, the organization's executive director explained to me that my position would allow me to experience all aspects of how nonprofits operate, something she believed was unique to her smallish nonprofit. Her pitch worked: I took the job over a much better-compensated one. However, even if an organization intuitively understands its employment brand, there's still value in formally articulating it. 

While it's true that creating an employment brand can be energy- and resource-draining, it doesn't have to be if your organization is thoughtful in how it approaches it. Here are three steps you can take:

1Understand your organization's employee value proposition (EVP). Your organization's EVP captures the benefits staff receive in exchange for bringing their talents to your organization. This can include everything from salary (which can be a challenge for some nonprofits), mission (typically not a challenge), employee benefits package, professional development opportunities, and/or work-life balance. How your organization communicates its employee value proposition to the outside world is a crucial part of its employment brand.

You can land on your organization's EVP in a variety of ways, including through employee  interviews, focus groups, and online surveys, and/or by carving out time at a staff meeting or two. New hires are an especially useful source of information as they recently were in a position to assess your organization as a prospective place of work. Running through all these suggestions is a common theme: Ask your staff. That's the best way to make sure your EVP and employment brand are authentic. 

2. Develop an employment brand statement — even if it's just for internal use. You can go a couple of different ways here. Your brand statement can be more of an internal document that captures why people choose to join and stay at your organization and that you use to guide all your recruitment and retention activities. Or it could be a more refined statement that you post on your website and/or integrate into your job postings. Easterseals, for example, highlights two aspects of its employment brand on its website: a generous package of employee benefits and the opportunity to make real change in the lives of people with disabilities. AARP promotes its exceptional commitment to staff diversity and long-standing commitment to employee volunteerism (all staff get paid time off to pursue outside volunteer opportunities). Teach for America is another organization that articulates its employment brand well, stating on its website that both its culture of friendship and leadership development opportunities are great reasons to join the team. All of these are good examples of organizations highlighting their employment brand as part of their external messaging. 

3. Integrate your employment brand into existing recruiting activities. Your organization's employment brand is an important recruiting tool, in that it helps you make the case to potential employees and serves as a kind of "fit-filter" as you assess candidates. Just make sure your recruitment strategy matches the audience your employment brand is intended to appeal to; for example, if your brand highlights professional development and early-career mobility, use social media and other digital channels to reach younger job seekers.

Once your organization's employment brand has been defined, be sure to keep it in front of staff members. Doing so will help ground and remind them about their reasons for choosing to join your organization and will help sustain their active engagement in your mission over time. Of course, your employment brand may evolve over time, and you should be prepared to revisit it periodically and change it as needed. An out-of-date and/or inaccurate employment brand is likely to become a target for staff sniping — not inspiration.   

If your organization develops its employment brand through a thoughtful, participatory process and updates it over time (as needed), your team will be much better positioned to attract and retain talented and motivated employees. Good luck! 

Why is your nonprofit a great place to work? And how would you describe its employment brand? Feel free to share in the comments section. 

Headshot_jeff_ballow_for_PhilanTopicJeff Ballow is a director of consulting at Community Resource Exchange. You can e-mail him at jballow@crenyc.org.  

Weekend Link Roundup (June 9-10, 2018)

June 10, 2018

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


On the CEP blog, Tim Delaney, president and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits, wonders how "the 501(c)(3) community expect[s] different policy results if [it] continue[s] to ignore the urgent need to protect our common interests through defensive policy work? That's not an academic question," adds Delaney. "Right now, serious policy threats loom over foundations and nonprofits and demand immediate and aggressive pushback...."


Facebook -- remember them? -- has made it easier for people, companies, celebrities, and others to raise money on its platform. Fast Company's Melissa Locker explains.

Can nonprofits use design thinking to improve their fundraising results? Absolutely. Kathleen Kelly Janus, a social entrepreneur, author, and lecturer at the Stanford Program on Social Entrepreneurship, explains.


"Regrettably, [it is still common to] hear researchers and media equate generosity with individuals' or groups' formal charitable giving — that is, giving in, to, through, or for a charitable organization," writes Paul Schervish, retired founder and director of the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College. But, adds Schervish, "[f]ormal giving is just one aspect of generosity — and when looked at historically and globally, not the most pronounced."


In a post on the Commonwealth Fund's blog, Timothy S. Jost, an emeritus professor at the Washington and Lee University School of Law, explains how a new Trump administration court filing could lead to denial of coverage or higher premiums for the estimated 52 million Americans with preexisting conditions.

Higher Education

Is higher education in a bubble? And what does the future hold if higher ed's trajectory is "less of a sudden pop and more of a long, slow slide, and we are already on the way down?" Adam Harris reports for The Atlantic.


In many ways, this is the worst of times for the news industry, which has experienced precipitous declines in both its revenues and levels of trust (from 72 percent in 1976 to 32 percent in 2017). What can the industry do to address the damage? Nancy Watzman, editor of Trust, Media & Democracy on Medium and director of strategic initiatives for Dot Connector Studio, shares nine takeaways from Knight Foundation-sponsored research on restoring trust in the media.

In an age when notions such as "truth" and "reality" are under assault, Booker Prize-winning novelist Salman Rushdie argues in The New Yorker that it is incumbent on us "to recognize that any society's idea of truth is always the product of an argument, and we need to get better at winning that argument. Democracy is not polite," writes Rushdie. "It's often a shouting match in a public square. [And we] need to be involved in the argument if we are to have any chance of winning it...."


Nonprofit AF's Vu Le thinks basing nonprofit pay on an employee's or job candidate's salary history is a bad idea and shares four reasons why nonprofits should dump the practice.


What does power have to do with equity? And how can grantmakers better leverage power to help drive lasting, positive change in our communities? The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy's Lisa Ranghelli shares some thoughts — hers, as well as those of others — in a post on the NCRP blog.

Earlier this month, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation announced a streamlining of its priority areas. On the Devex site, Peter Laugharn, the foundation's president and CEO, shares more details about its evolving priorities.

Racial Equity

In a new post, Meyer Foundation president Nicky Goren introduces a restatement of its equity-focused strategic plan and a new racial equity resource page that includes links to information that has guided the foundation's thinking, definitions that add clarity to the way it discusses its work, and a glimpse of the local history that contributed to the state of racial equity in the D.C. region today.

Social Change

How many thoughtful, committed citizens does it take to change the world? According to a new study form the University of Pennsylvania, cultural shifts happen when "at least 25 percent of a community’s population is committed to changing what is considered the social norm." Katherine Wei reports for Sierra magazine.

Social Media

And on the GuideStar blog, Richard Nolan, a professional educator and team-building coach, shares eight simple things nonprofits can do to attract more social media followers.

(Photo Credit: Mike Segar/Reuters)

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



If You've Met One Foundation...You've Met One Foundation

June 08, 2018

Grant_application_for_PhilanTopicWriting grants is a lot like dating. Just because something worked in one relationship doesn't mean it's going to work in the next. Each relationship is unique, unpredictable, exciting, and...sometimes heartbreaking. And when we write a grant proposal, we have to be vulnerable but still present our best qualities. Ready for some foundation dating advice?

Because every foundation is unique, there are two critical components of success to grantwriting that have nothing to do with how well you craft your proposal — research and cultivation. Or in dating terms, getting to know you and courting.

First, you have to research the foundation. If you were dating, this would be like checking out someone's online profile. A grantwriter, instead, checks out the foundation's profile in Foundation Directory Online and spends some time with its 990-PFs. If the foundation issues publications, you'll want to flip through them and take note of the terminology the foundation uses and its stance with respect to your issue. If the foundation has a website, read through the program guidelines, application information, and any FAQs on the site.

As you do, keep an eye out for the foundation's preferences and restrictions. What has it funded in the past and at what level? A quick review of its tax returns (those 990-PFs) should give you a good sense of its giving patterns. One of my favorite things about Foundation  Directory Online is its mapping feature, which allows you to suss out whether a foundation has ever made a grant to a nonprofit in your city, county, or district, as well who the grant went to and the grant amount. Powerful information. It's like peeking into someone's dating history and learning how long the relationship lasted and how serious it was!

Second, make a plan for cultivating the foundation. Put on your best courting hat and give the foundation a call, write an email, or send them a letter of inquiry. Share your idea or describe your project. Be sure to put your best foot forward but remember that it's okay to show your vulnerable side. Describe your organization's strengths and the areas where it could use some help, and be sure to give the foundation a clear picture of what a relationship between the two of you would look like. Understand, too, that the foundation is likely to have its own ideas about such a relationship, and be ready to compromise.

Someone once told me that love is a competition in generosity. How can we as nonprofits reciprocate foundation generosity? Be a good communicator. Remember the little things. Anticipate the foundation's needs. Nurture the relationship. In grantmaking terms, follow through and follow up. Send progress reports. Share stories with the foundation that illustrate the impact you're having and provide it with media it can use for its own communications purposes. Do whatever you need to do to help the foundation feel good about its grant all year long.

Remember, if you've met one foundation, you've met one foundation. Each foundation is different, and they all have their own ambitions and boundaries. Building a strong relationship with a funder takes time and persistence. But when the relationship is strong, it can be one of the best things that ever happened to your nonprofit and will repay the energy you put into it many times over.

What have you found to be effective in building relationships with foundations? Have any tips to share? We'd love to hear them!

Headshot_allison_shirk_new_for_PhilanTopicAllison Shirk is executive director of Spark the Fire Grantwriting Classes on Vashon Island, Washington. To read more of her articles, click here.

[Review] Justice on Both Sides: Transforming Education Through Restorative Justice

June 07, 2018

These days, one doesn't have to look far to find a story about a confrontation involving a school officer and a student of color or to put her finger on a report detailing educational inequities associated with race, gender, and class. In her new book, Justice on Both Sides: Transforming Education Through Restorative JusticeMaisha T. Winn, a professor of education at the University of California, Davis, makes a compelling case for the use of restorative justice (RJ) practices in schools as both an antidote to these troubling trends and as a way to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline that has destroyed the lives of too many young people of color.

Book_justice_on_both_sidesMost readers are probably familiar with the case of Shakara, the sixteen-year-old student at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina who was put in a chokehold by a school officer, forcibly pulled out of her seat, and dragged across the floor and out of her classroom. Her crime? Refusing to put her cell phone away. Unfortunately, it wasn't an isolated incident, and Winn uses it to frame her questioning of the punitive practices and zero-tolerance policies in place at many public schools in the United States.

Indeed, it was Winn's own questions about Shakara's experience that became the impetus for her book. "What resources, other than arrest, were available to the administrators, teachers, and staff at Spring Valley High to address conflict in the classroom?" she asks. "How could the adults involved have responded differently? Why has it become standard practice to arrest students for such minor incidents?...I argue that we have yet to pause and thoughtfully examine such patterns as stakeholders, particularly from the perspectives of new and seasoned teachers, school staff, and students."

In her bookWinn does just that, reflecting on her experiences as a scholar, former teacher, and teacher researcher — experiences that inform her analysis of RJ practice and how best to apply that analysis to create lasting change. Having noted that under zero-tolerance policies, African-American, Latinx, and Native-American students are disproportionately subjected to harshly punitive practices, including removal from classrooms, suspension, and expulsion, she explains restorative justice as an approach to discipline that aims to address trauma that may be responsible for the student's behavior. The idea, she writes, is to build a sense of respect and mutual understanding while giving students space to take responsibility for their actions.

Perhaps most importantly, restorative justice requires both sides to be "open to the possibility of not always being right but instead making things right." As Winn explains, the three pillars of the approach are harms and needs, obligations, and engagement — in other words, determining the needs of students who cause harm and recognizing that they may have been harmed; creating a culture of accountability for both students and educators; and cultivating a participatory democracy model in the classroom.

A good deal of what Winn has learned about restorative justice is based on her experience as a participant observer at a Midwestern high school that began to adopt RJ practices in 2014 and 2015. Winn shares the perspectives of the students she got to know, students whose voices should be the most important in conversations about their needs but as often as not go unheard. She explores the technique known as "restorative justice circles," in which participants come together in a literal circle and wait for a facilitator to initiate a conversation with a prompt or question. Circle participants listen until it is their turn to speak, which comes when the "talking piece," which is passed around the circle, reaches them. Rather than being stuck with a fixed identity such as "student" or "sophomore," students are trained to be "circle keepers" (i.e., facilitators), so that they are part of the solution instead of just passive bystanders.

In her interviews with students, Winn was able to tease out their views of restorative justice, what it meant to them, and how the circles helped them evolve their understanding of justice more generally. "Before, I kinda thought [justice] was [if] you did something wrong, something wrong should be done to you. If you do something wrong you go to jail," one circle keeper told her. "But then I came here and started getting into restorative justice, and I started thinking there's a lot of things that's behind it. Not all people deserve to go to jail; some people do need counseling, but for certain crimes they always get sent there...and sometimes a little bit of counseling and connecting could probably fix whatever was damaged to make them do the crime."  

One of the recurring themes in her interviews was equality. The RJ circles allowed students to feel empowered and were a first step in the dismantling of the unequal power dynamic that exists between teachers and students. "There was mutual respect," Winn writes, "as opposed to a culture where students are expected to show respect that they do not see reciprocated." 

To get there, Winn argues, educators need to embrace four key pedagogical stances: history matters, race matters, justice matters, and language matters. Indeed, the four concepts, which are interconnected, with history as the outermost of four concentric circles and language at the center, shape the way educators engage with and build relationships with students. Winn's interviews with educators at the Midwestern high school reveal that while they had embraced the idea of "how local history is inextricably linked to both race and local power dynamics" and had become more "mindful about how one uses language to speak to and about children — especially children from historically marginalized communities," they still had work to do in terms of examining and unlearning "the social construction of race, racism, and racist lenses and ideas" and in adopting an expansive definition of justice that "insist[s] we do right by people" and work to create a world where "everyone — irrespective of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, sexuality, or ability — is able to live with dignity and is recognized as belonging."

By presenting the perspectives of both students and educators, Winn is able to highlight the impact restorative justice had on the school community as a whole and how it helped bridge the gap between administrators, staff, teachers, and students. Rather than isolating misbehaving students through suspensions and expulsion, restorative justice tries to get to the root of the problem and create a school culture in which students are able to express themselves and feel that they are being heard. The unfortunate reality, however, is that most schools have neither the will nor the resources to introduce RJ practices without compromising other priorities. "If restorative justice circles are to serve as a tool for creating and sustaining boundary-crossing social networks for students and staff," writes Winn, "then everyone in the school community must be held accountable as a stakeholder."

Based on the view that teaching is a justice-seeking endeavor and learning is a civil and human right, Winn makes the case for what she calls "transformative justice teacher education" as a way to equip teachers with the tools they need to implement restorative justice practices in their classrooms. To that end, she provides a series of subject-specific questions for teachers to consider. For example, math teachers might ask themselves: Who am I calling on and at what frequency? How can I physically set up my classroom so that all students have a chance to participate in classroom discussions? How do I create a classroom culture in which all students view themselves as "math people"? The English language arts teacher might ask: Who gets to be the reader/writer/thinker/speaker in my classroom? Who do we need to hear from? What voices/stories/perspectives are missing from the discussion? And the social studies/history teacher might ask: How can I use the subject matter to create a participatory culture in my classroom? What is the role of social studies/history in cultivating purpose and belonging?

Training teachers and enabling them to incorporate RJ practices into their classrooms is just a first step if we hope to dismantle structural racism in our schools and in society. As Winn writes, restorative justice processes "give us an opportunity and an intergenerational way to learn together to talk about race" and develop the vocabularies needed to do so. By engaging "in processes that allow us to listen to one another…we begin the process and practice of restoring justice." Surely, that is something we owe our children.

Zahra Bokhari is a development specialist at Foundation Center. For more great reviews, visit the Off the Shelf section in PND.

5 Questions for...Maurice Jones, President/CEO, Local Initiatives Support Corporation

June 05, 2018

Raised by his grandparents in rural Virginia, Maurice Jones knows from personal experience how challenging it can be to live in an underresourced community. Encouraged by his family and teachers, Jones was awarded a full merit scholarship to attend Hampden-Sydney College, a small liberal arts school in Virginia, and was selected as a Rhodes Scholar, enabling him to earn a master’s degree in international relations at Oxford University.

Jones went on to earn a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law, went to work in the private sector at a Richmond law firm, then became a Special Assistant to the General Counsel at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where he helped manage the nascent Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund. That was followed by a stint with a private philanthropy that invested in community-based efforts focused on children in Washington, D.C. After this, he spent time as the deputy chief of staff to Virginia governor Mark Warner and commissioner of the Virginia Department of Social Services. Jones then served as general manager of the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk before becoming president and publisher of the paper's parent company. From 2012-2014, he served as deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development And, immediately prior to becoming president and CEO of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation in 2016, he served as secretary of commerce and trade for the Commonwealth of Virginia, where he managed thirteen state agencies focused on the economic needs in his native state.

PND recently spoke with Jones about LISC's work in underresourced communities, the power imbalance inherent in such work, and his vision for unlocking the abundant talent and creativity that exists in those communities.

Headshot_maurice_jonesPhilanthropy News Digest: LISC works to equip underresourced communities with the resources — capital as well as knowledge and information — they need to thrive. In 2018, what is the one thing underresourced communities in America need more than anything else?

Maurice Jones: They need more investment in the talent that can be found in all these communities. And this investment needs to come in many forms.

We need to prepare people with the work skills and competencies they need for the work opportunities that already exist, as well as for the new opportunities that will be created over the coming years. This is true in every community we work in, whether it's urban or rural, large city or small municipality, town or county.

We also need to help people in these communities master the basics of finance — what people often refer to as "financial literacy," so they can break out of the cycle of debt and build wealth.

People also need to be better informed about the supports available to them. For example, a parent needs child care in order to devote hours to a job or to skills acquisition. That parent needs to know there are childcare funds they can take advantage of so that he or she can take the steps they need to achieve financial security and the kind of economic mobility so many of us take for granted.

We also need to develop more quality, available housing, and we need to find ways to attract more employers to more areas.

Everything I just mentioned is true in both the urban and rural areas in which we work, but there is one thing that is more acute in rural areas: a significant lack of development when it comes to broadband. In this day and age, if a community is going to grow in all the ways we want communities to grow, it's got to have this critical infrastructure. Broadband is like oxygen is to breathing. There are still significant swathes of rural America, however, which are inadequately supplied with high-speed broadband, and it's a problem. This underdevelopment of broadband is a huge barrier and challenge in terms of making both wealthy states and less wealthy states economically viable in the twenty-first century.

PND: What can we do to fix that?

MJ: We, as a country — the private sector, the public sector, states, localities, and companies — have to commit to getting broadband into rural areas. It's a commitment issue. And it will require significant investment. We all know that the market for broadband favors places that are densely populated. So, the economics of broadband are not favorable to rural areas. But we've simply got to figure out how to subsidize broadband in those markets and forge partnerships of providers schools, businesses, and other stakeholders to make the economics work and get that infrastructure laid. We just need the will to do it. If we commit to it, we can make it happen.

PND: I imagine you spend a lot of time thinking about the power imbalance inherent in the kind of work you do with underresourced communities. How do you address and mitigate that dynamic?

MJ: Our work is always informed by what we learn from the people who are going to be impacted by the investments we make in their community. So, we make sure they are at the table when programs or initiatives are being designed, and we spend a lot of time making sure, number one, that the residents of the communities where we work are empowered to make decisions about what that work will look like. Number two: we help residents organize and become powerful, both individually and collectively. We convene local groups, play a supporting role in terms of keeping people together, help them to develop a collective agenda, and see that agenda through to its conclusion. The third thing we do is equip community residents with the resources they need — skills, know-how, networks, relationships — so that they have more power and more agency.

PND: A growing number of foundations — including the Ford Foundation, which provided the seed funding for LISC nearly forty years ago — have moved to apply an equity lens to their grantmaking. Has the renewed focus on racial equity in philanthropy affected the work of LISC?

MJ: LISC has always embraced an equity lens in our work. You can’t work in the communities in which we work without it. Equity is part of the problem we’re trying to solve. It's something we’ve been intentional about and will continue to be intentional about. If you look at the clients we serve, 66 percent of them are people of color, 60 percent are female heads of households, minority female heads of household, and between 30 percent and 40 percent are people reentering the community after incarceration. So, there's no question you need to have an equity lens and be intentional about using it if you hope to successfully address the issues that we wrestle with in the communities where we work. We’re delighted more funders are adopting that lens, and we hope the numbers will continue to grow.

PND: Are you optimistic about the future?

MJ: I am, and the thing that makes me optimistic is that in every community in which we work, whether it's Buffalo, or New York City, or Jacksonville, or San Diego, or San Francisco, we find incredible talent. Many of these communities are considered to be "outside the mainstream," but in all of them we are constantly reminded that genius can thrive in the most unexpected places. The question is, what do we do as a society to ensure that these people are able to fulfill their promise? But, yes, the biggest source of optimism for me is that every time I'm out in a community, I encounter incredible entrepreneurs and activists and artists, and I see firsthand the things that people are doing to make their communities better. We just have to make sure they have as much opportunity to achieve their potential and dreams as anyone else living anywhere else in America.

— Matt Sinclair

Weekend Link Roundup (June 2-3, 2018)

June 03, 2018

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


In a  post on Beth Kanter's Blog, Miriam Brosseau, chief innovation officer at See3 Communications, and Stephanie Corleto, digital communications manager at the National Institute for Reproductive Health, explain how you can use digital storytelling to break down the work silos in your organization. 

"Nonprofit leaders clearly understand the power of philanthropy"s voice in advocating for the nonprofit sector," argues David Biemesderfer, president and CEO of the United Philanthropy Forum (formerly the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers), in a post on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog. So "why doesn’t philanthropy understand the power of its own voice, and/or why does it seem so unwilling to use that voice?" 

Criminal Justice

In Town & Country, Adam Rathe looks at how New York philanthropist and art world doyenne Agnes Gund is using her renowned art collection to support criminal justice reform.


On her Answer Sheet blog, Washington Post education blogger Valerie Strauss shares an "important article" by author Joanne Barkan about "the history of the movement to privatize U.S. public schools...[and] the national debate about the future of publicly funded education in this country." The long comment thread is also worth your time.


Writing on our sister GrantCraft blog, Jason Rissman, a managing director at IDEO, shares three key learnings from the BridgeBuilder Challenge, a multi-challenge partnership between OpenIDEO — IDEO's open innovation practice — and the GHR Foundation aimed at finding solutions to global challenges at the intersection of peace, prosperity, and the environment.


The United States is going through a wrenching socioeconomic transition, and nonprofit leaders need to think and "play" big if we are to get through it in one piece, argues Nell Edgington on her Social Velocity blog.  

The massive corporate tax cut passed by Congress in December is likely to explode the federal budget deficit and generate fresh assaults on federally funded entitlement programs. In his latest for PhilanTopic, Mark Rosenman argues that "[n]onprofit organizations, especially those engaged in humanservices, cannot stand by while regressive policies are proposed and advanced." 


Every year, Americans give roughly $60 billion to foundations, but just 4 percent of that ($2.5 billion) goes toward nonprofit advocacy work. Fast Company's Ben Paynter looks at five questions every donor interested in maximizing his or her charitable dollars should be asking.

Fourteen more philanthropists have joined the Giving Pledge

As foundations and others continue to engage in conversations about the need to rebalance the power dynamic in philanthropy, what role can or should advisors/consultants play? Richard Marker shares his thoughts.

It's The Economist's turn to profile the effective altruism movement and one of its leading spokespersons, Oxford University philosopher William MacAskill, who argues that promoting "inefficient" charities might actually do more harm than good.

Social Justice

In a piece originally published in the Mail & Guardian, a South African weekly, Nicolette Taylor, director of the Ford Foundation's Southern Africa office, argues that recent "[s]exual harassment scandals should be a loud wake-up call for all of us to dig deep and interrogate our ‘holier than thou’ approach to sexism and racism within our own institutions." 

Social Media

And make sure you check out this essay by Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT and an advisor to the Knight Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy. In it, Zuckerman, riffing off the work of journalism scholar Michael Schudson, looks at the six or seven things journalism can do to support and strengthen democracy.

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

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (May 2018)

June 02, 2018

In the movie Groundhog Day, TV weatherman Phil Connors, the character played by Bill Murray, is assigned to cover the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania — an assignment he disdains and decides to skip. There's a price to pay when you ignore Punxsutawney Phil, though, and the next day Connors finds himself stuck in a time loop, condemned to relive the events of Groundhog Day over and over. Which is a sort of how those of us in the Northeast are feeling after what seems like four months of overcast.

Don't despair. Our roundup of the most popular posts on the blog in May includes new posts by Jen Bokoff, Eric Braxton, Arif Ekram, Yaro Fong-Olivares, and Thaler Pekar; a couple of oldies but goodies (by Richard Brewster and Lauren Bradford); and a quick guide to digital marketing by Roubler's Daniel Ross.

What have you read/watched/heard lately that got your attention, made you think, or charged you up? Feel free to share in the comments section below.

Interested in writing for PND or PhilanTopic? We'd love to hear from you. Send a few lines about your idea/article/post to mfn@foundationcenter.org.

The System Matters in CSO Financial Sustainability

June 01, 2018

SynthesisReport_Final_hres_001-212x300Financial sustainability gets plenty of lip service in the civil society sector, and anyone who has submitted a grant application has probably written a required "sustainability plan." Despite the prominence of financial sustainability in the donor discourse on civil society, however, actually obtaining the resources needed to be resilient to the ups and downs of the donor marketplace remains a critical challenge for civil society organizations (CSOs). The challenge is particularly acute for local CSOs in middle and low-income economies, which are best-positioned to serve their communities but struggle with a limited supply of financial resources and have difficulty in accessing funding from abroad.

A Data-Driven Approach to Understanding the Issue

While the challenge is widely acknowledged, relatively little data is available on the amount and nature of support specifically designed to help improve organizations' financial sustainability or how different drivers of organizational sustainability may be more or less important in different contexts. That's why the USAID-funded Facilitating Financial Sustainability consortium, led by LINC in partnership with Peace Direct and Foundation Center, is excited to launch three new reports that together provide a comprehensive examination of the CSO financial sustainability system. The reports are accompanied by interactive funding network maps that allow users to explore the CSO financial sustainability landscape in six country contexts: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mexico, the Philippines, and Uganda.

The research is based on interviews with more than a hundred and twenty development stakeholders in the six countries and an analysis of close to eighteen thousand grant records, enabling the research team to apply numbers and rigorous analysis to how both funders and CSOs confront the question of  sustainability.

Sustainability Support: Lacking and Uneven

On the funder side, the team found that only 5 percent of total grant funding to local CSOs is explicitly targeted toward supporting organizations' financial sustainability. And in cases in which funders do focus on supporting sustainability, they tend to follow three strategies: providing unrestricted support; building organizational capacity; or developing and facilitating networks. But even support within these categories can vary considerably in its structure, with only 11 percent of unrestricted grants extending beyond one year despite the critical importance of long-term planning for organizational sustainability. There are also notable differences in how such support is distributed across sectors, with human rights-focused organizations heavily overrepresented in terms of receiving support for sustainability relative to organizations in other sectors. 

Going Beyond Technical Capacity

On the CSO side, the research team found that in addition to the organizational factors traditionally associated with driving financial sustainability (e.g., robust internal strategic and financial planning systems), in certain settings less obvious factors such as community social capital can be equally important. While international funders may come and go, a CSO's relationship with its own community remains the bedrock of its ability to operate effectively, and so some of the most successful organizations have found creative ways to build social capital. This can happen in spite of, rather than because of, funding structures; for example, one organization in Uganda took advantage of a rare unrestricted windfall from a prize competition to conduct small projects for the local community completely outside of its normal programmatic mandate but which proved critical for building buy-in to the organization's long-term success among community members.

By bringing together quantitative funder data and structured analysis of interviews with CSOs, funders, and other stakeholders, the research provides a systems-level view of the challenge of financial sustainability. From that work, it is clear that sustainability is more than any one organization's balance sheet and instead encompasses complex interactions between CSOs, funders, local institutions, and local community members. Like any good research, our analysis ends up raising as many questions as it answers, but we hope ti moves the development sector a step closer to understanding how to create vibrant and resilient organizations that serve the long-term needs of their communities.

Read the reports here.

Matthew Guttentag is a program director at LINC, a Washington, D.C.-based business that works with local and international organizations to strengthen their institutional capacity, measure their impact, and forge lasting partnerships. This post originally appeared on the LINC site and is reposted here with permission.


Quote of the Week

  • "Public education does not serve a public. It creates a public. And in creating the right kind of public, the schools contribute toward strengthening the spiritual basis of the American Creed. That is how Jefferson understood it, how Horace Mann understood it, how John Dewey understood it, and in fact, there is no other way to understand it...."

    — Neil Postman (1931-2003), American author, educator, media theorist, and cultural critic

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