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11 posts from September 2018

Achieving Racial Equity Through Cross-Sector Partnerships

September 20, 2018

Peopleincircle600Mitch Landrieu, the former Mayor of New Orleans and recipient of the 2018 JFK Profiles in Courage Award for his decision to remove four Confederate monuments from that city, noted on accepting the award that "[c]enturies-old wounds are still raw because they were not healed right in the first place. Here is the essential truth. We are better together than we are apart."

Historically, the failure to increase fairness and equity in America through cross- sector collaboration and public-private partnerships represents a complete failure at the "systems level." Fifty years of effort by government, educational and advocacy groups, corporate diversity programs, and consultants, not to mention intense media focus on the issue, have failed to make a substantial impact.

The fact is, tackling racial equity is hard, the structural and policy issues complex. As an African American, the issues of income inequality and progress on the corporate diversity front are of keen interest to me. Seeking to answer the question "What does good enough look like?", I recently spoke with more than two dozen leaders from the nonprofit, government, and business sectors and discovered that there is broad consensus that much more needs to be done to address racial inequity in America.

Public-private partnerships that pool resources and expertise and facilitate broad community support are one way to do that. The decision by Congress to include, as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, $1.6 billion in tax incentives over the next ten years to create Opportunity Zones for private investment in distressed communities is the latest attempt. While the social sector is slowly coming around to the idea that the private sector can be a force good, however, new "playbooks" are required if we hope to see meaningful change.

Unfortunately, the racial inequality debate too often resembles the debate over climate change. Most people concede that the long-term consequences of leaving the problem unaddressed would be devastating, but getting people to agree on the root causes of the problem is impossible. Despite overwhelming evidence of continued discriminatory practices in education, health care, housing, hiring, and the criminal justice system, not to mention the emergence of a field of study focused on the psychology of racial bias, many Americans remain in denial. In fact, in some areas, the data suggest that the problems of discrimination and racial bias are getting worse.

Economic Impacts

In a joint study entitled "The Competitive Advantages of Racial Equity" (32 pages, PDF), FSG and PolicyLink estimated that the elimination of racial wage gaps in the U.S. economy would boost Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by $2 trillion, or 14 percent. In other words, sticking with the status quo represents a huge cost to society.

Similarly, the 2018 edition of the National Urban League’s "State of Black America" report includes an "Equality Index" that measures the status of blacks compared to whites. On a scale of 1 to 100, the 2018 index finds that blacks on average capture 72.5 percent of the American economic pie (compared to 100 percent for whites), earn 58 percent of what whites earn, and have 4 percent of the wealth that whites have.

Other sources corroborate NUL's findings. One of them, a multi-decade analysis of black-white wage inequality and labor participation rates by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, found that a large percentage of the black-white earnings gap is not due to education or geographic location but, instead, is "unexplained."

Fig. 1.1: Components of Black-White Earnings Gap

Fig. 1.1_Earnings-GapB

Without strong networks in place, many community-based programs have consistently failed to close these gaps, even as local grassroots efforts struggle with funding options that, all too often, are focused on the short term, unconnected to larger national efforts, and burdened with significant reporting requirements. Not a formula for success.

Yes, various movements have raised awareness of these issues, but they have been less successful, at least so far, in effectuating real change. Movements such as #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter, #SayHerName, and #NeverAgain have enlisted participants from multiple socioeconomic groups and economic sectors, but, as Donald Tomaskovic-Dewey, professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst's Center for Employment Equity, has observed, they are "not so good at practice shifts at an institutional level." Intentionality, collaboration, mission alignment, and joint planning are the best way to achieve our goals in this area.

Case Studies

Through its Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) initiative, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation seeks to encourage conversation among different racial groups with the goal of bringing about transformational and sustainable change. Currently supporting programs in fourteen cites, the initiative teaches participants how to have productive discussions about race that foster mutual understanding. With the goal of strengthening its local economy, one of Kellogg's partners in the initiative, the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, has enlisted more than two hundred community-based partners to promote the importance of racial equity in four key areas:

  1. Education and Job Readiness
  2. Criminal Justice & Safety
  3. Quality of Life & Neighborhoods
  4. Income & Wealth

According to CFGB, the regional economy stands to gain more than $1 billion in annual GDP as a result of these initiatives. And by engaging multiple community groups, real progress is being made in high school graduation and employment rates.

Racial equity is an issue for every region of the country, not just western New York. Take the San Francisco Bay area. In his highly acclaimed book, The Color of Law, Richard Rothstein describes how housing segregation patterns driven by government policy since the 1940 still impact communities in the Bay Area. It's not just the South, with its history of slavery and Jim Crow, that enacted laws and policies aimed at preserving discriminatory practices and de jure segregation of the races.

On Capitol Hill recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Congressional Black Caucus staff about their Tech 2020 initiative, which is designed to put a spotlight on much-needed efforts to increase diversity in Silicon Valley's tech industry. Reminiscent of the 1977 Sullivan Principles that addressed apartheid in South Africa, the initiative's S.M.A.R.T. Principles outline the following priorities:

  1. STEAM education and job training
  2. Make tech available and affordable
  3. Address the economic stability of communities
  4. Recruit and retain black talent
  5. Target investment capital in diverse companies and communities

All are admirable, but they will require the active support and participation of a variety of governmental, corporate, and nonprofit entities if they are to be fully realized. Acronyms not backed by effective, coordinated action do not work. To be clear, when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion, there are lots of nonprofits in America that model best practices. Understanding their role within the larger ecosystem is important. At the same time, funders must provide sustainable funding in support of broad, coalition-building activities.

Funding for Racial Equity

In 2018 report on The Financial Health of the United States Nonprofit Sector (28 pages, PDF), Guidestar, a leading information provider on the sector, notes that most nonprofits are small. Of the more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S., two-thirds have a budget of less than $1 million, accounting for only 2 percent of sector total spending. In contrast, only 2 percent of nonprofits have a budget of $50 million or more, representing 80 percent of total spending. Alarmingly, the report also found that more than half of the nonprofits in the U.S. have less than a month of operating reserves.

BoardSource, the leading provider of nonprofit board support and training in the U.S., reports that lack of diversity in hiring and board representation are key reasons why more funding does not go to programs targeting minority groups. Make no mistake: funders have a critical role to play in encouraging and supporting diversity and inclusion. Underfunding overhead costs, viewing diversity initiatives as too "niche" or risky, overly burdensome grant application processes, and a tendency to favor siloed projects have been counter-productive to the cause in the past and continue to be.

In its Quantifying Hope report (36 pages, PDF), Foundation Center estimates total giving targeting black men and boys for the period 2005-2014 at $334 million. In an interview, Chris Cardona, program officer in philanthropy at the Ford Foundation, told me that Ford had committed $1 billion over five years through its BUILD initiative worldwide to organizations and networks seeking to disrupt the drivers of inequality, including discrimination based on identity and cultural narratives that undermine fairness and inclusion. To leverage that commitment, Ford recently partnered with the Kellogg Foundation and Borealis Philanthropy to create a collaborative fund focused on advancing racial equity in the sector.

An area that requires additional research, however, is overall spending targeting DE&I and racial equity initiatives. Rough estimates range from $2 billion to $4 billion, or 1 percent of overall foundation spending. Clearly, that's not enough investment to address widespread racial inequality in America. (To put it into context, Politifact and Brown University estimate the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the period 2001 -2017 at $6 trillion to $7.9 trillion, including interest.)

Can Technology Help?

Transformative, disruptive innovations in technology are changing the way every sector of the economy works. Rob Acker, CEO of Salesforce.org, describes what we are experiencing as the "4th Industrial Revolution." The Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), predictive analytics, and robotics are just a few of the emerging technologies that are going to fundamentally reshape society and our world. New cloud-based tools enable nonprofits to manage relationships with clients, donors, and volunteers and keep track of their progress in real-time. Indeed, in a Harvard Business Review article, United Way CEO Brian Gallagher offers a compelling case for shifting his organization's century-old business model and, in partnership with Salesforce, focusing on direct relationships with individual donors and volunteers.

Elsewhere, FiscalNote is an early innovator in the area of issues management, making it easy for nonprofits to automate the gathering of information related to legislative activities at the local, state, and national levels. With that information, advocacy groups can develop new strategies based on the success of local initiatives and share that information nationally, while predictive analytics provide insights on the likely success of proposed legislation. The importance of government policy reform, at all levels, cannot be overstated, and issue management tools created by the likes of FiscalNote are likely to play an increasingly important role in the racial equity conversation.


Racial equity discussions generate a good deal of passion and can be uncomfortable. At the same time, unconscious bias in the workplace often influences key decisions. Well aware of those facts, many organizations are investing in racial/gender bias training. I'm fortunate to live in the Washington, DC, area, where regular visits to the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Museum of the American Indian are powerful reminders of this country's long history of racism.

We should not assume that all Americans know that history, and it is critical that we establish a common fact base and language around it. Local grassroots organizations often understand the needs of their communities better than funders and corporations. Senior leaders have a critical role to play in driving cultural change; their input is vital. Equity in the Center's Awake to Woke to Work: Building a Race Equity Culture (38 pages, PDF) is an excellent place to start.

The expectation that one will be treated fairly is a fundamental tenet of the American creed. As Mitch Landrieu so eloquently pointed out, the root causes of structural racial inequality go back centuries, and institutional and systemic change are tough. With only three African Americans and twenty-five women counted among the CEOs of the Fortune 500, progress on the diversity in corporate America has been a slow train coming.

The S.M.A.R.T. principles outlined by the Congressional Black Caucus provide a good starting point. But such principles are useful only if buttressed by aspirational social movements that help push us to think and behave differently. There is no need to repeat past mistakes: racial reconciliation is a key enabler of economic opportunity and growth.

Headshot_michael_geeThe urgency to act before structural racism further destabilizes society and the economy has never been greater. It's time we get this right.

Michael Gee is a graduate of Boston College and the Columbia Business School and the proud father of two sons, both college grads. Previous articles on corporate diversity by Michael have appeared in the Harvard Business Review.

A Conversation With Dee Baecher-Brown, President, Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands

September 18, 2018

Scenes of catastrophic flooding caused by Hurricane Florence are a painful reminder of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, one of the deadliest and most destructive on record. After an earlier-than-usual start, the season took a turn for the worst in August when Harvey became the first major hurricane since 2005 to make landfall in the U.S., submerging large swaths of the Houston metro area and southeastern Texas. Then, in September, Irma became the first Category 5 hurricane to impact the northern Leeward Islands, including the U.S. Virgin Islands and Barbuda, which was flattened, before making landfall in the Florida keys with sustained winds of 130 mph. A few weeks later, Maria became the first Category 5 hurricane on record to strike the island of Dominica, causing catastrophic damage there, before striking Puerto Rico and leaving that U.S. territory a shambles.

Recently, PND spoke with Dee Baecher-Brown, president of the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, about the progress made in the year since Irma and Maria pummeled the islands and what donors in a disaster situation can do to balance the urgency of immediate needs with longer-term recovery goals and objectives. A full accounting of the donors who stepped up to help the Virgin Islands in the wake of the hurricanes will be included in CFVI's year-end report.

Headshot_dee_beacher-brownPhilanthropy News Digest: It's been a year since Hurricanes Irma and Maria pummeled the Virgin Islands. Now we’re watching as Florence, another powerful Atlantic hurricane, brings catastrophic flooding to the Carolinas. What are your thoughts as you watch footage of the destruction and displacement caused by Florence?

Dee Baecher-Brown: My first thought is concern. Many of our friends and family are in harm's way, and we're hoping for the best. We don't want anyone to have to experience what the Virgin Islands experienced with Irma and Maria. As the extent of the damage caused by the storm becomes clearer, we just want the folks in the Carolinas to know that we are there for them, because we know firsthand what a difference the outpouring of concern and support in the days immediately following those storms meant to us.

PND: Take us back to weeks just before Irma and Maria hit the Virgin Islands. Was your community as prepared as it could have been?

DBB: You know, that's something we've discussed many times over the course of the last twelve months. Obviously, two category 5 storms in a two-week period was unprecedented, and even though we got a little tired of that word, it does capture something people sometimes forget — namely, that it's hard to prepare for something that hasn't happened before. And the fact that we are small, fairly remote islands in the Caribbean didn't help matters.

That said, I felt CFVI was as prepared as we could have been. We had spent the last twenty-five years supporting the thoughtful, gradual growth of our community, and in terms of our own capacity we had arrived at a point where we had solid financial systems in place and were working with an amazing network of community organizations — organizations that, in my opinion, were key to our being able to help after the storms hit. In September, for example, just days after Maria hit, we were already making grants to our partners, and we were able to do that because we knew who was out there, we knew the kind of work they would be doing, and we knew they needed our support. So, yes, I felt we were as ready as we could be for something that had never happened before.

PND: What were the most acute, immediate needs in your community?

DBB: I would say the most critical immediate need was shelter. Tropical storms aren't always followed by sunny days. After Irma, there were days of rain, and people whose homes had been damaged or destroyed needed to find safe places to shelter. They needed potable water. They needed food. Many people needed health care. Our three major healthcare facilities, one on each of our islands, were severely damaged. Reestablishing communications also was critical. Reestablishing cellphone service made a huge difference in enabling first responders to get to people who needed help.

It was also important to be mindful of the trauma that individuals had just suffered, particularly children. Let me just say that we were honored to be part of a community where there was so much caring for others. It restores your faith in humanity.

PND: Were you satisfied with the response of the federal government and private philanthropy?

DBB: Well, we certainly had a lot of support. The response from the philanthropic community was pretty great. Philanthropies that had worked with us in the past, foundations like the Annie E. Casey Foundation with KIDS COUNT and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which had been a major supporter of our ongoing work in the territory, were there for us immediately. And we had some new partners, philanthropies that had not been involved in the Virgin Islands before but did outreach to CFVI to find out how they could help. The New York Federal Reserve also did major outreach to us immediately after the storms, getting in touch with the territorial government and asking how it could help. Then it flew teams of experts down to help us think through the recovery.

Again, I go back to my description of what happened as "unprecedented," and what we could rightfully expect from our partners. In most cases people did the best they could, and our community was deeply appreciative.

PND: What advice would you give to foundations, corporations, and generous Americans who want to help people who have been affected by a disaster like Irma or Maria or Florence?

DBB: One thing I would say is look to the local community foundation. Most communities have one, and in most cases no one knows a community better than its community foundation. One of the reasons CFVI was so successful in our fundraising was that other community foundations across the country were telling their donors to give to us because we were the ones with partners on the ground who would be able to act quickly and get help to those who needed it most.

Second, while I would encourage people to reach out immediately, because help is needed immediately, I would also advise them to be patient, because in most cases a community that has been affected by a disaster needs time to assess how the help it receives from outside can best be used. So it's a combination of rushing to meet immediate needs, and waiting and being patient so that you're offering help in a way that can be used to greatest effect.

PND: In addition to the timing of support, how important is the nature of the support? In other words, Is cash always the best thing to give?

DBB: You know, I don't believe cash is always best. In our situation, for example, we had neighbors on St. Croix who were actually up and running after the first storm and were able to get critically needed supplies to St. Thomas and to St. John — things like water, food, and generators. That was critical. But as time passed, it became less clear what the immediate needs were. And at that point, having donors who were willing to either give money directly or take a step back and listen to the community to understand where the gaps were made it much easier to be effective. The last thing you want is to have donations given out of the kindness of people’s hearts not be used in the best way possible. That's really the challenge for people who want to help: knowing what's actually needed at any given point in time.

— Mitch Nauffts

Tracking Hurricane Florence Disaster Relief

September 15, 2018

Updated: September 20, 2018 - 4:00 PM ET

After churning across the mid-Atlantic as a major Category 3/4 hurricane, Florence weakened as it neared the U.S. mainland, finally making landfall early Friday morning as a Cat 1, with sustained winds of 100 mph, near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. With a storm surge of more then ten feet reported in some areas of the state, the still-powerful, slow-moving storm was expected to drop biblical amounts of rain and cause extensive flooding across the Carolinas over the weekend. As of Saturday afternoon, Bloomberg was reporting that the storm had already dropped two feet of rain across southeastern North Carolina, "submerging cities...and threatening the large and environmentally precarious hog industry," while knocking out power for hundreds of thousands of people in both North and South Carolina. As of Tuesday morning, the death toll from the storm was thirty-two.

Foundation Center and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy will be tracking the private institutional response to Florence over the coming days and will post updated totals, dashboard style, here on PhilanTopic. If you have questions about methodology or sources, or would like to make sure your organization's contribution has been included in the total, please contact Andrew Grabois, manager of corporate philanthropy at Foundation Center.


(Photo credit: Reuters)

TOTAL: $31,711,000

Organization Type (pledges and commitments)

Corporate Direct Giving/
Company-Sponsored Foundations
$25,970,000 32 orgs.
Private Foundations $2,000,000 2 orgs.
Public Charities $3,741,000 5 orgs.

Top Recipients (Total Received to Date)

1. Unknown Recipient(s) $11,280,000
2. American Red Cross $6,460,000
3. Hurricane Florence Response Fund
(Foundation for the Carolinas)
4. WE Care Fund
(Wells Fargo employee assistance fund)
5. North Carolina Community Foundation Disaster Relief Fund $1,100,000
6. Feeding the Carolinas $1,000,000
7. United Way $625,000
8. Salvation Army $600,000
9. ONE SC Fund
(Central Carolina Community Foundation)
10. Rebuilding Together $350,000

Source: Foundation Center & Center for Disaster Philanthropy

Download the Data

For the latest coverage of the philanthropic sector's response to
Hurricane Florence, check out Philanthropy News Digest.

'The House on Henry Street' Exhibition (Part 2)

September 13, 2018

Yesterday, in the first installment of a two-part series, Kathryn Pyle explained how the new "House on Henry Street" exhibition came about. In part two, she talks to the people behind the project about the unique challenges they faced in trying to distill a hundred years of social work and history into a cohesive experience.

HSS_Intro panel"Given our limited resources and the small space, we realized that any attempt to describe the significance of Henry Street Settlement in the late nineteenth century and show its relevance to our time meant that it had to be a multi-platform project," historian and curator Ellen Snyder-Grenier told me when I met with her earlier this summer. "On-site displays of artifacts and text could only tell a limited story. We decided that short films could round out the history and a website could expand the exhibit, breaking down temporal and space limitations."

Keith Ragone, the exhibit designer, recommended creating a 450-square-foot gallery from two smaller rooms on the first floor of the agency’s original townhouse and then "extending" that physical space through the clever device of having two windows looking out onto a late-nineteenth-century streetscape.

Ragone and his collaborators were familiar with the extensive trove of still photographs from that era and selected a number for the exhibit and website, but they also wanted to incorporate moving images into the display. Snyder-Grenier's research led her to the Edison Company films collection at the Library of Congress.

"I was flabbergasted by the extent and scope of the collection," she told me. When she discovered the three-minute film New York City 'ghetto’ fish market, she knew she had found the key element for their "view from the windows."

Another surprise was the Visiting Nurse Service of New York Film Collection, a digitized archive housed at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. The collection includes two hundred VNS promotional films, the earliest made in 1924. Lillian Wald herself appears in one from 1927; it’s in the exhibit and is embedded in a graphic timeline on the website that takes the visitor from the 1910s into the twenty-first century.

Cantos/ New Dances (1957) is a short film featuring the work of choreographer Alwin Nikolais, who established his dance company at the Henry Street Playhouse, later named the Abrons Art Center. Nikolais served for two decades as the artistic director of the center.

"Culture and the arts have been important from the beginning, and the Abrons Art Center has presented some of the most influential artists of our times," said Susan LaRosa, a marketing and communications officer at Henry Street for the past eleven years. "It was important that we acknowledge that, and the Nikolais film highlights one of our pivotal figures."

Another short film, commissioned for the exhibition, Baptism of Fire, tells the story of Henry Street, its place in the social reform movement, and of Wald herself, who saw health care as a right and established the model of visiting nurses in response to the dire conditions that prevailed on the Lower East Side in the early part of the twentieth century. Wald went out of her way to celebrate the distinct cultures of different immigrant groups, rather than trying to force on them an "American" identity, and was also a suffragette, helped found the National Women's Trade Union League and the NAACP, and involved herself in many other progressive issues.

"We wanted to create an atmosphere in the exhibit that would take visitors back to that era but at the same time reduce the distance between past and present," said Snyder-Grenier. "The films help create a more visceral connection to the past and convey a sense that these were real people. They also help to bridge differences in a way that Lillian Wald would have appreciated."

In addition to film, the team considered using other interactive digital tools. But cost and space were limiting factors, and, as exhibit designers have learned since digital tools became widely available, sometimes less is more.

"It's difficult to pack lots of screens and interactive tools into a small space," said Snyder-Grenier. "Plus there would be an issue of competing sounds. We wanted to create an ambience related to the outside world of the Lower East Side in the front gallery section, and to the inside, domestic world of the settlement in the second gallery area, showing all the people who have created and sustained Henry Street Settlement. So even with more funding we wouldn’t have added more digital tools or material objects. The space itself, with the original fireplace and baking oven from its time as a tenement residence, is already an artifact!"

LaRosa agreed. "The exhibition will bring the humanities, in addition to our services and programs, to our broad constituency. People will learn about their roots, their history. The exhibition, with all its varied components in the gallery and in the community, will make people think. It adds another dimension to what we do."

After my initial conversation with LaRosa this spring, I decided to visit the nearby Tenement Museum to learn more about the era depicted in the exhibit. I selected the "Sweatshop" tour, which takes visitors to a turn-of-the-century Jewish family's tenement apartment, replicated in minute detail. Somewhat unbelievably, the small living space at one time also functioned as a workplace, with the family producing piecework for the city's burgeoning garment industry. According to the Museum at Eldridge Street Synagogue, the vast majority of Jewish immigrants to the U.S. at the turn of the century, most of them from Eastern Europe and Russia, settled on the Lower East Side, making it, for a time, the most densely populated place on Earth.

Today, Henry Street Settlement, the Tenement Museum, and the Museum at Eldridge Street Synagogue honor that history while connecting it to the people who call the neighborhood home: the descendants of immigrants who came to America in the early twentieth century in search of a better life, as well as more recent arrivals from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and China (with Chinatown adjoining the traditional Lower East Side and supporting its own Museum of Chinese in America).

HSS_Work ExpandsDigital tools have enabled museums, historical sites, and cultural centers, in the U.S., and around the world, to share their collections and curated exhibits far beyond their walls while enriching the experience of visitors. "The House on Henry Street" project demonstrates what is possible when service and educational NGOs and their funders recognize and find ways to share the fundamental story at the heart of their ongoing work: how they have supported their communities over time and what history can teach us about how we got here.

"Now more than ever," Henry Street executive director David Garza told me, "we must be aware of our North Star on issues of social justice, inclusion, race, equality, and the welfare of the most vulnerable among us. Through this exhibit, our history serves as the ultimate point of reference in defining our values, not only as an organization but for society as well."

"The House on Henry Street" exhibition (free to the public) officially opens to the public September 17. Visitors to the museum-like exhibit at Henry Street Settlement (265 Henry Street) on New York City’s Lower East Side will see artifacts from the late 1800s, panels of photos and text tracking the agency's history, and the Edison film of nineteenth-century street life, which animates one wall. Visitors are welcome, Mondays through Fridays, 10:00 a.m.– 6:00 p.m. The exhibition website (www.TheHouseonHenryStreet.org), also scheduled to go live on September 17, invites virtual visitors on a walking tour and enables them to view images from the exhibit as well as excerpts of the films.

Kathryn Pyle is a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. Check out her other posts here.

'The House on Henry Street' Exhibition (Part 1)

September 12, 2018

HHS_entrance signThe first time, eleven years ago, Susan LaRosa, then a new marketing officer, pulled opened a cabinet drawer in her office at Henry Street Settlement, she discovered some forgotten letters written by the agency's founder, Lillian Wald, and early twentieth-century New York City civic leaders Louis Abrons, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and Jane Addams. The existence of the letters wasn't the surprise — LaRosa knew Wald had attracted many influential New Yorkers to her project. But the discovery made her wonder whether Henry Street's remarkable history was adequately preserved and what lessons that history might have for the present.

The questions her discovery sparked eventually proved to be the catalyst for a new exhibition, opening September 17, that explores the legacy of community through the story of a remarkable institution.

When I learned earlier this year about the upcoming exhibition and its designers' plans to include documentary films, a particular interest of mine, I decided to reach out to LaRosa to learn more about how the exhibition came to be.

Founded in 1893 by Lillian Wald, Henry Street Settlement, located on the Lower East Side of New York City, was one of hundreds of settlement houses that sprang up around the country in the late 1800s, primarily in cities with large, impoverished immigrant populations drawn by the huge demand for labor in a rapidly industrializing United States.

Settlement houses soon became a feature of the Progressive Era, a period of widespread social reform that understood poverty as primarily a social phenomenon rather than a failure of individual character — a distinction that continues to generate debate in our time. Settlement houses typically offered some combination of social services, recreation, education, job training, health care, and arts and culture, all geared toward helping lower-income working people, particularly immigrants, improve their living conditions and economic opportunities. There were once more than four hundred such houses around the country, and many still operate as community resource centers.

With its roots in Wald's original mission to provide visiting nurse services to the indigent on the Lower East Side, today's "Henry Street" serves sixty thousand people at seventeen neighborhood sites and thirty public schools with social services, education, and health care programs, and operates the Abrons Arts Center. A century ago, Wald mobilized support for the agency from wealthy supporters such as Abrons, whose family was among its first clients and whose descendants have continued their involvement with Henry Street up to the present.

"I soon realized the building was oozing with history," LaRosa told me recently as we sat in Martin Luther King, Jr., Community Park behind the Henry Street offices; the space includes a rain garden, part of the organization's green infrastructure program. "I kept finding things that seemed important to preserve and make accessible to the public. But we're a working social service agency, not a museum or historical society. We didn't have the staff time or budget to even pursue a book idea."

LaRosa couldn't get the notion of preserving Henry Street's history out of her head, however, and eventually she realized that a special program would be a nice fit with the agency’s 125th anniversary in 2018. She consulted with Sally Yerkovich, a nonprofit administrator who had worked at the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and, with Yerkovich taking the lead, they developed a project inspired by people who, on a regular basis, have some connection to the history of the neighborhood and stop by looking for a tour of Henry Street and to learn more about the settlement house movement in general.

"When we decided to approach the NEH, our executive director, David Garza, was completely supportive," said LaRosa, who (with Yerkovich) dedicated a portion of her time to mobilizing the necessary human resources. The NEH approved a $40,000 planning grant, and the Sun Hill Foundation provided additional support in the form of a $20,000 grant. Ellen Snyder-Grenier, an historian and curator, and Keith Ragone, an exhibit designer, along with other experts and a panel of historians, signed on to the project.

"Even before we got the NEH grant, we began reaching out to our stakeholders, including ongoing funders like the Sun Hill Foundation," Garza told me. "These are relationships that go back decades, and there was an immediate expression of interest."

"The House on Henry Street" concentrates on the humanities aspect of Henry Street's work, engaging the surrounding community with materials in English, Spanish, and Chinese, as well as scholars interested in the Lower East Side, women’s issues, urban history, social work, and nursing.

With Snyder-Grenier, humanities scholars, media designers, and fabricators in place, NEH subsequently approved an implementation grant of $360,000 for a project manager, an exhibition designer, an evaluation expert, and a public historian. (The rest of the exhibition’s budget is still being raised.)

"The House on Henry Street" includes a permanent historical exhibit; an interactive website (www.TheHouseonHenryStreet.org); a walking tour; a series of public programs; a book; and other components. The public programs were launched this spring, while the other components will be rolled out over the next few months.

The permanent exhibit at 265 Henry Street, the organization's main office and its first headquarters, includes photos, film, artifacts, and interpretive text that tells the story of Lillian Wald and the creation of Henry Street Settlement within the larger context of the Progressive Era and the settlement house movement.

"The exhibit focuses primarily on the late 1800s and early 1900s, the period that best illuminates the factors that led to the settlement’s creation and the movement in general," Snyder-Grenier told me. "Our project scholars advised us on the various issues that surfaced in this time period: immigration, women's rights, labor, rising poverty, and more — as well as the history of the Lower East Side."

Created, as were the exhibition's media elements, by Bluecadet, "The House on Henry Street" website takes the exhibition beyond the townhouse and into the present, with photos, expository text, digital images of artifacts, and a curriculum for high school and college teachers. (The site also features a short commissioned film, Baptism of Fire, and several archival films.)

Based on extensive research and polling of current Henry Street clients, including seniors and ESL students, public historian Katie Vogel created the content for a mobile walking tour app featuring Henry Street Settlement locations and relevant neighborhood sites, enabling participants to learn about the history of Henry Street while learning more about a dynamic, modern social service agency.

The public component includes a series of lectures, discussions, food tastings, and other events, some of them organized in partnership with the nearby Tenement Museum and the Museum at Eldridge Street, while portraits of more than a hundred people who have had a special engagement with the agency are featured in "Humans of Henry Street," an informal series of photos, filmed interviews, and quoted material. Last but not least, a book (LaRosa's initial idea) will be published later this year and will include historical texts, images, and a bibliography for those interested in doing further research.

As LaRosa told me, the evolution of the project is a story of challenges, creativity, and choices.

The first challenge was figuring out how to focus the exhibition. There's a lot of history to tell, and not just about the origins of Henry Street. There's also the history of the Lower East Side, which in the late nineteenth century was home to immigrants from Germany and Ireland who, as the nineteenth century gave way to the twentieth, were joined by legions of newcomers from Eastern and Southern Europe. And there’s the history of nursing, one of the very first professions open to women, and the critical role nurses played in the well-being of immigrant families; Lillian Wald herself was a nurse, and a pioneer in the field.

In the end, as I'll explain in my next post, the designers were able to do justice to all that history through the judicious use of twenty-first century exhibition tools and aesthetics. Stay tuned!

Kathryn Pyle is a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. Check out her other posts here.

Impact Investing and Donor-Advised Funds

September 11, 2018

Inv.env.650pixAs interest in (and assets dedicated to) impact investing grows, institutional investors, foundations, and philanthropists alike are looking for an entry point into the rapidly growing field. At the same time, growing numbers of social entrepreneurs are looking to savvy investors and high-net-worth individuals as a potential source of funding.

Both groups have identified a compelling intersection of interests in the form of donor-advised funds (DAFs) that specialize in impact investment management and distribution. Charitable assets in donor-advised funds totaled $85 billion in 2017, and awareness of DAFs has grown significantly over the last five or six years. In fact, today there are three times as many donor-advised funds in the U.S. as there are private foundations.

While still just a fraction of the total, a handful of impact-focused donor-advised funds are seeking to bridge what Ayesha Khanna of the Points of Light Foundation calls "the pioneer gap" — by which she means a lack of funding for early-stage impact ventures, supply and distribution constraints, growing demand for expertise and new talent, and the role of partnerships as a lever for scale.

Thanks to the still-nascent but growing philanthropic impact infrastructure built by organizations such as RSF Social Finance, Tides Foundation, ImpactAssets, and others, savvy donors are finding it easier than ever to make impact investments in social enterprises and early-stage social entrepreneurs. Here are six things they are learning along the way:

DAFs can multiply the impact of their philanthropic dollars: Grants are a critical tool for social change, but once grant dollars are deployed, they are gone. Capital that is deployed to an impact investment — either as a loan, equity, or debt — has the potential to be redeployed to meet changing needs.

Donors appreciate that as investment gains are returned to a donor-advised fund, those gains can be recycled into future investments or deployed as grants.

It pays to leverage experience: With more and more impact funds and social enterprises springing up, it can be difficult for individuals to do adequate research and determine whether a given investment meets their financial and impact goals. That’s where an organization like ImpactAssets, which has built a multimillion-dollar portfolio of more than three hundred direct impact investments, comes in.

One helpful tool for donors looking to learn more about impact investing is the ImpactAssets 50, a free, annually updated list of fifty impact investing fund managers that can be filtered by asset class, theme, geography, asset, and third-party validation.

DAFs can eliminate the need for accredited investor/qualified purchaser status: Many private investments are limited to accredited or qualified investors — typically, investors with a net worth of more than $1 million, annual income of $200,000 ($300,000 if declared jointly with a spouse), or a general partner, executive officer, and/or director for an issuer of unregistered securities. However, donor-advised funds with assets exceeding $5 million are qualified and eligible to make impact investments for their donors. By pooling the investments of many donors, such funds can meet the overall investment requirements while lowering the minimum threshold for individual investors.

DAFs maximize efficiency: Donor-advised funds with a donor-directed custom investment program can handle all the significant and frequently cumbersome logistical and custody issues associated with privately held assets.

With private assets, transactions can involve extensive documentation involving term sheets, purchase agreements, and the like. Debt deals and revenue share agreements have to be monitored to determine whether the appropriate payments are being made. And when enterprises fail, workouts need to be arranged and agreed on, sometimes by multiple parties. In many instances, donor-advised funds are able to offer services such as document review, investment execution, conversions, monitoring, and audits.

DAFs also have a number of structural advantages. For example, the donor-advised fund sponsor typically handles all grantmaking and account management and ensures that all grants and investments are conducted in accordance with the law and best practices.

DAFs provide flexibility: Given that no one investment is right for all investors, donors often appreciate the fact that donor-advised funds have the flexibility to invest in a variety of vehicles and structures.

An early-stage enterprise may need a loan for working capital, for example, while another may need equity to get itself off the ground and a third may benefit from a revenue-share agreement. ImpactAssets has recommended an assortment of structures to its clients, including debt, equity, SAFE, convertible debt, revenue share, lines of credit, and social impact bonds.

DAFs can invest globally: Problems such as climate change and poverty cannot be tackled solely at the local or even national level. Many donor-advised funds have the capability to deploy investment and grant capital both domestically and internationally, however. Philanthropists who want to engage across different geographies often use donor-advised funds to deploy capital wherever it is needed to achieve their social and financial goals.

Headshot_sally_boulter_newIf we are to close the "pioneer gap" for social entrepreneurs and solve some of our biggest challenges, we need to use every tool in the financial toolkit. For those who are new to impact investing, a donor-advised fund can be a good place to start.

Sally Boulter is senior engagement officer at ImpactAssets.

Weekend Link Roundup (September 8-9, 2018)

September 09, 2018

6-500x500A weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....


It's coming — whether we like it or not. Automation is likely to force a third of American workers  to switch occupational categories by 2030, write James Manyika, Manisha Shetty Gulati, and Emma Dorn in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, with the largest disruption occurring among middle-income workers without a college degree. "[U]nhampered by quarterly earnings calls or the voting cycle," philanthropy can — and will need — to step up. Mantika, Gulati, and Dorn suggest four areas where it can do so.


In The New York Times Magazine, Sarah Mosle reports at length about the many challenges public school administrators face in "finding effective teachers, retaining them and helping those who need to get better."

In a photo essay in the same issue of the magazine, Brian Ulrich looks at the kinds of second jobs that teachers across the country are taking to make ends meet.

Why are many teachers forced to work second jobs? Could it be their wages are lower than ever? Sarah Holder reports for CityLab.

Global Health

On the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Impatient Optimists blog, Steven Buchsbaum, deputy director of discovery and translational sciences in the foundation's Global Health Program, reflects on the launch, nearly fifteen years ago, and subsequent progress of the foundation's Grand Challenges initiative. 


With summer a fading memory, Beth Kanter has a timely reminder about the causes and costs of lost productivity in nonprofit workplaces.

Continue reading »

An Update From the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands

September 08, 2018

Irma_USVI_940x627After a quiet start, the 2018 hurricane season is heating up, with Florence drawing a bead on the Carolinas and two other systems farther out in the Atlantic gaining strength. A year after Hurricanes Irma and Maria brought devastation to the Caribbean, it seems like a good time to ask (again): What kind of role should philanthropy play in post-disaster recovery?

Dee Baecher-Brown and George H.T. Dudley, president and chair, respectively, of the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, have been thinking about that question. In an update (below) to donors and the USVI community, Baecher-Brown and Dudley share highlights of the foundation's post-disaster grantmaking and announce the launch of a new fund aimed at sustaining that progress into the future.


To our fellow Virgin Islanders, and all who hold our islands in their hearts:

Waking up on September 6, 2018, greeted by sun, a slight breeze, and surrounded by beautiful blue waters, we were mindful that just a year ago Hurricanes Irma and then Maria were about to make landfall in the Virgin Islands, ravaging our homes, displacing our families, and destroying our businesses in two of the costliest, most destructive hurricanes in American history. In hours, the winds of destruction wiped away what so many had spent their entire lives building.

The Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands (CFVI) knows firsthand just how significant a challenge we all faced then and continue to face today. In the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, CFVI established a number of special funds to support both immediate and long-term relief and jump-start community renewal efforts. The Fund for the Virgin Islands was created the day after Hurricane Irma to respond to donors' asking "How can we help?" Before Hurricane Maria made landfall, the CFVI board of directors had already established the Friends and Families Fund for USVI Renewal. More than fifteen additional funds and fiscal sponsorships have since been established by generous donors to CFVI for the purpose of helping the Virgin Islands and Virgin Islanders to recover.

Over the past year, more than 10,000 individual donors and institutions provided over $15 million in donations and grants. People who wanted to make a difference but didn't know how or where to start were able to pool their resources with like-minded stakeholders and target help where it was most needed.

Continue reading »

5 Questions for...Craig Newmark, Founder, Craig Newmark Philanthropies

September 06, 2018

Back in the mid-1990s, Craig Newmark started an email distribution list for friends that in time would revolutionize the classified ad business. As craigslist evolved into a website serving tens of millions of people globally every month, it also became a sizeable source of revenue for its creator. With his windfall, Newmark in 2016 created Craig Newmark Philanthropies, a private foundation that works to advance people and organizations in the areas of ‎trustworthy journalism, voter protection, ‎women in technology, and veterans and military families.

Earlier this month, Craig Newmark Philanthropies awarded $1 million to DonorsChoose.org to help fund STEM classroom projects in schools where more than half of the students are from low-income households. The commitment also included #STEMStories, a social media challenge designed to bring more attention and resources to STEM teachers and their projects.

PND spoke with Newmark about his philanthropy, the #STEMStories campaign, and the future of journalism.

Headshot_craig_newmark_400x400Philanthropy News Digest: Since you created Craig Newmark Philanthropies in 2016, you've provided support to a variety of different causes, including veterans, journalism, voter registration, women in technology, and education. How would you characterize the focus of your philanthropy?

Craig Newmark: Growing up in New Jersey — in high school, U.S. history class in particular — I learned that in America we aspire to stuff like fairness and opportunity and respect for all. With respect to my philanthropy, we try to advance those values. That may sound simplistic, but from my point of view, everything I'm doing is connected to promoting and defending those values.

PND: How does your recent matching gift to DonorsChoose.org fit in with that ambition?

CN: My connection to DonorsChoose goes back about ten years or so when I met Charles Best, who runs the organization. He explained his organization to me as a form of crowdfunding, which I understood even then. He also helped me understand that teachers don't get the respect and support they deserve and have earned.

The matching gift is designed to make it easier for every American to pitch in. I think it makes sense because a lot of people have a few extra dollars they'd be happy to donate to help fund teachers. Something like 94 percent of classroom teachers have to buy some school supplies out of their own pockets. That's not right. This is a way to show them some respect.

PND: What's the significance of the #STEMStories hashtag?

CN: The #STEMStories hashtag is something we hope will connect all of the social media activity going on in support of STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education] and STEM teachers. The idea is for teachers and their supporters to help each other through social media by flagging and sharing content around that theme.

I'm an old-school '60s nerd. In fact, I was born a few years after Dr. Seuss invented the word in one of his books [Ed note: If I Ran the Zoo]. And I'm biased toward STEM. That's always been my strength. It's what I'm good at, and I feel there needs to be a lot more emphasis on it in our schools.

One obvious reason is because there are a lot of job opportunities in STEM for everyone, including underserved youth. It's a good source of jobs today and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. For example, right now, there are a lot of opportunities for cybersecurity professionals. So, I'd say that STEM is a good career opportunity area for anyone who's good with computers. And #STEMStories is a way to make more people aware of those opportunities.

Continue reading »

[Review] Modern Media Relations for Nonprofits: Creating an Effective PR Strategy for Today's World

September 04, 2018

Imagine you're on the train and the person in the seat next to you starts rubbing his arm and looking like he might faint. Then he says, "I think I'm having a heart attack!"

How would you handle the situation? Would you panic? Would you sit there and hope someone else stepped forward to help? Would you know what to do even if you wanted to help?

Whether it's a car accident or a sudden illness, the unexpected often throws people for a loop — especially if they're not prepared.

Book_modern_media_relationsThe same holds true for nonprofits: in an age of always-on digital media, a nonprofit's ability to respond effectively in a crisis situation hinges on having someone on staff who's been trained in communications. But, of course, most nonprofits don't have an in-house communications team, or even a full-time communications professional on staff. Typically, what they have is someone who has been tasked with handling the occasional call from a reporter. Often that person is the executive director, and she almost always has lots of other irons in the fire and very little time to devote to media relations.

Enter Modern Media Relations for Nonprofits: Creating an Effective PR Strategy for Today's World, by Peter Panepento and Antoinette G. Kerr (with a Foreword by Kivi Leroux Miller). In it, Panepento, a former Chronicle of Philanthropy reporter and editor, and Kerr, who wrote for the Lexington Dispatch, go beyond the basic press release and grip-and-grin photograph and provide a comprehensive set of tools with which every nonprofit operating in today's media landscape should be familiar. As they caution readers in the first few pages of the book, "effective media relations is no longer about generating press releases and making pitches to a handful of trusted outlets. It requires nuance and a willingness to try new approaches."

Not surprisingly, Panepento and Kerr take a journalist's approach to their subject, leading off with a survey of modern media (both digital and print) and getting down to brass tacks with a chapter on "Understanding Journalism" that includes a "true/false" test featuring statements such as: "We advertise in your newspaper; we should expect positive stories"; "I should expect to review a story about my organization before it is published"; and "I can offer a reporter free admission to our annual dinner."

From there, the book moves on to the basic tools of modern media relations, both old (press releases, op-eds, canned statements) and new (online pitch services, RSS feeds, video). Throughout, Panepento and Kerr advocate for the judicious use of the many tools available — avoiding, for example, the "spray and pray" method of press release dissemination and making sure, whenever one responds to a journalist, to provide them with something useful.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (September 1-2, 2018)

September 02, 2018

Labor-dayAnd...we're back with our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....


Does farm-animal advocacy work? And what does its relative lack of success tell us about advocacy more generally? Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther shares some thoughts.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

In a post on his Nonprofit AF blog, Vu Le shares twenty ways majority-white nonprofits can build authentic partnerships with organizations led by communities of color.


In honor of Labor Day and to celebrate workers across the country, the team at Charity Navigator has put together a list of five charities that are fighting for workers' rights.


On the GuideStar blog, Kay Sprinkel Grace shares four counterintuitive fundraising "truths." 

Giving Pledge

New York Times reporter David Gelles checks in with an inspirational Q&A with Turkish immigrant, Chobani founder, and billionaire Giving Pledger Hamdi Ulukaya. 


Does the kind of data we collect and report ensure everyone has a fair and just opportunity to live their healthiest life possible? Absolutely. And as Tiny Kauh explains on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health blog, a new report from PolicyLink (with support from the foundation) is "a first step toward identifying solutions for improving data and, ultimately, better health equity in our nation."

Continue reading »


Quote of the Week

  • "Follow your genius closely enough, and it will not fail to show you a fresh prospect every hour...."

    — Henry David Thoreau, Walden

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