113 posts categorized "Advocacy"

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.... 

Advocacy

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...."

Fundraising

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.

Giving

"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."

Health

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.

Journalism/Media

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...."

Nonprofits

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.

Philanthropy

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

 

 

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.

Tax Cuts (and Politics) Have Put the Safety Net at Risk. What Are You Going to Do About It?

May 30, 2018

Fish-safety-netThe demand for human services — everything from food for the hungry to family planning for those who may be struggling to take care of the children they already have — is growing. But if recent proposals floated by President Trump and congressional Republicans become policy, charities will be faced with dramatic increases in both the scale and scope of need, even as they struggle with cuts in funding to meet them.

It is urgent for nonprofits to join forces to persuade Congress to reject ideas that create greater need. Charities have to help re-establish the kind of bipartisan political agreement about safety-net programs that used to be the norm. And foundations must fuel such efforts.

In May, the U.S. House of Representatives failed to pass a Farm Bill with vital anti-hunger provisions after many of its most conservative members withheld their votes. By doing so, Freedom Caucus members hoped to get concessions on spending as well as a future vote on an anti-"Dreamers" immigration bill that the vast majority of their colleagues find too mean-spirited and extreme to consider.

Had the bill passed (as it most likely will in the coming weeks despite united Democratic opposition), it would have required that individuals enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) work at least twenty hours a week. Given the life circumstances of many SNAP participants, including some of the hardest-working people in America, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office calculates that the bill (in its current form) would deny more than a million adults and children much-needed food assistance.

Republicans base their insistence that SNAP recipients be required to work on research by the Foundation for Government Accountability, an obscure policy group headed by a former aide to Maine's ogre-ish governor, Paul LePage. FGA's work has been criticized by both conservative and liberal scholars as having no basis in credible fact, but in our current political climate it seems that many Republican lawmakers favor junk science and "alternative facts" over demonstrable reality (as they have demonstrated with notable intentionality in their opposition to action on climate change).

Desperate to cut government spending in the face of a deficit they ballooned with a $1.5 trillion tax cut, congressional Republicans and the White House are turning on those most in need — as was made clear by Trump budget director Mick Mulvaney, who wrote in a 2017 opinion piece: "Under President Trump's leadership, we're now looking at how we can respect both those who require assistance and the taxpayers who fund that support. For the first time in a long time, we're putting taxpayers first. Taking money from someone without an intention to pay it back is not debt. It is theft. This budget makes it clear that we will reverse this larceny." That's right: the Trump administration thinks government-funded social services for the poor are a form of theft.

The president is determined to continue down the same path in 2018 and has proposed cuts totaling more than $15 billion in previously approved spending, with half of that coming from the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and $100 million coming from Hurricane Sandy relief funds. Congressional Republicans fearful of what they may face in November’s midterm elections have temporarily rebuffed Trump, but the president has said he will propose an additional $10 billion in cuts to safety-net programs in the coming weeks.

The assault on human service programs goes beyond funding cuts, however. Trump, with strong support from Republican politicians, just revived a modified "gag-rule" for nonprofit family planning organizations and programs. (He had already banned international family planning groups from receiving federal government funds if they even mentioned the word abortion to their clients.)

Under the rule, any organization or program that is even partially funded by the federal government can no longer refer clients for abortion services, and their other family planning services cannot be located in a facility in which abortion services are offered or financing is shared.

The administration's action means that significant new costs will be imposed on family planning groups, many of which will be unable to absorb them. With the need for duplication of physical, administrative, and program facilities — not to mention all the computers, printers, copiers, and other equipment necessary to a well-functioning operation — the administration's policy will hamper and in some cases bankrupt family planning groups. And that, in the long run, will increase both the demand for abortions and the number of unwanted children.

The proposed rule is likely to most affect the kinds of front-line health providers that serve disadvantaged members of society. Roughly two-thirds of the individuals who use family planning services fall below the federal poverty level, and nonprofit organizations that serve them will be hard-pressed to meet the demand for their services as the number of providers continues to shrink. And even if a nonprofit can finance two separate facilities and pay two separate staffs required, practitioners in one facility will not be able to refer patients to their colleagues in the other facility, even if next door.

Indeed, if the Republicans hold on to their congressional majorities in the midterm elections, things will get worse for those in need as well as the charities that serve them. The Trump administration and Republicans in Congress already are talking about going after Social Security, Medicare, and other entitlement programs, despite the outrageous claim that the deficit they created with tax cuts for the wealthy are the reason they need to slash entitlements and safety-net programs for the rest of us.

Nonprofit organizations, especially those engaged in human services, cannot stand by while these regressive policies are proposed and advanced. They need to do everything they can to inform and activate the electorate so that Americans realize what is at stake, understand who truly represents their interests, and turn out to vote in the midterm elections.

Too much is on the line for organizations to mind their own business and narrowly focus on fundraising instead of advocacy and action. Organizations like Nonprofit Vote can help charities and foundations understand the rules about what they are allowed to do — and suggest tactics that make a difference. We're all in this together, and the time to act is now.

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

Building Democracy: People and Purpose in San Diego County

May 25, 2018

On a March evening at a community center in San Diego, Francisco "Panchito" Martinez stood at a public forum, a bedrock exercise of democracy, and before three District 8 City Council candidates.

With microphone in hand and more than a hundred people in the audience, several of whom wore headphones to listen in Spanish, Somali and Vietnamese, the college student asked the candidates about cultivating and supporting youth leaders in the eighth most-populous U.S. city.

Martinez's participation was a form of engagement in more ways than one. The youth questioned those seeking the privilege of representing people in government while also addressing the need for multi-generational civic involvement.

For Martinez, who often goes by Panchito, and other residents who questioned the candidates in English and Spanish, the forum marked a continuum of a broader community-leadership initiative in San Diego County — one driven by residents and grassroots organizations seeking greater voice and more meaningful representation in government and community affairs.

Like other parts of the U.S., San Diego County's population has been transformed dramatically over the last several decades. Today, people of color are the majority among the county's 3.3 million residents. Together, Latinos and Asian Pacific Islanders make up four out of every ten residents.

In Barrio Logan, the San Diego neighborhood that Panchito and about five thousand other people call home, there are industrial businesses as well as residences.

In this primarily Latino neighborhood south and east of the city's popular Gaslamp Quarter and within view of the Port of San Diego and U.S. Navy facilities, concerns over health are one reason why residents say local government should better mirror the makeup of this diverse region.

Positive Disruption: Pursuing Equity

Low-income families, people of color, members of the LGBT community, and various supporters are banding together with a network of nonprofit organizations. They're standing up to broaden the culture of leadership — as well as its definition — and boost civic engagement.

They're changing a system they say has overlooked their voices in community and policy decisions. They're saying political power, government representation, and decisions about spending public dollars are a shared endeavor — that the promise of U.S. democracy includes everyone.

 

 The goal is to make civic participation more accessible, and to recognize leadership across income, racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation lines. They're doing that with support from Marguerite Casey Foundation and other philanthropic investments that started years ago.

Each community organization brings a considerable focus and the presence of involved families to this enterprise in San Diego County, home to "America's Finest City."

There's the Environmental Health Coalition; the San Diego LGBT Community CenterAmerican Friends Service Committee's U.S.-Mexico border program operated out of its San Diego-area office; Engage San Diego, which works on nonpartisan voter engagement; and the Center on Policy Initiatives, a research and action institute that supports worker prosperity.

The Idea of a Network

Each organization is a grantee of the Casey Foundation, which is nurturing a national family-led movement for a just and equitable society through unrestricted grants and trust in families.

Under this framework of equity, movement building and engagement, these organizations and families are maximizing community leadership efforts through the San Diego Equal Voice Network, which was formalized in 2016.

SanDiegoDemographyData2010-insert800_MargueriteCasey0518Source: U.S. Census Bureau data via members of the San Diego Leadership Development Program

We support this network and about a dozen others nationwide.

Grantee members lead the networks, convene meetings, determine topics on which to focus and share information. There is greater amplification of people's voices, concerns and solutions, participants say, through the collective.

In 2012, these organizations illuminated a startling fact: of San Diego County's then 3 million residents, people of color accounted for 52 percent of the population but made up only 23 percent of those serving in government.

Questions quickly surfaced: Is everyone's voice being heard? Are families included in decision making? Who's missing? Who needs to be included? How do we ensure that equity drives the solution?

In other words: What can we do together to create positive change that we can't do separately?

Network members started working with other nonprofit organizations that have since become members of the network, as well as with grassroots allies.

They launched an effort to change a system that, as U.S. Census Bureau data showed, lacked equitable outcomes for residents of color. They widened their scope to include low-income families, members of the LGBT community, and any interested resident or worker in the area.

Among their goals:

  • Increase civic participation and nurture new community leaders, including young people.
  • Share leadership development resources and best practices with anyone interested.
  • Collectively track the participation of community members in various training leadership development programs.
  • Highlight what works and inform families of leadership opportunities, no matter which organization sponsored it.

Their intentionality and intersectionality dovetailed with what families were voicing, as well as with demographic shifts and investments from philanthropic organizations.

Alan Kaplan, the new director of Engage San Diego, described a goal that remains front and center for many families and the San Diego Equal Voice Network: "A San Diego where the electorate and leadership are reflective of people who live and work here."

"We're creating opportunities and vehicles to bring voices in," said Delores Jacobs, a longtime community leader who is stepping down as CEO of the San Diego LGBT Community Center.

Among those voices: Panchito and his mother, Maria. The family team, concerned about the quality of life in their neighborhood, has worked with Environmental Health Coalition for years.

Redefining Leadership and Participation

So how is this idea for change being implemented?

One of the first steps was acknowledging and legitimizing how families and individuals already were serving as community leaders. And that involved rethinking the traditional definition of leadership.

That meant recognizing:

  • A mother who joined the PTA at her child's school to address educational inequities and advocate for students who are struggling.
  • Bilingual youth who accompanied their parents to canvass neighborhoods, serve as interpreters and discuss — in Spanish or Vietnamese — voting and pollution and asthma rates, which are a major concern, especially as they impact children in Barrio Logan.
  • A parent who has two minimum-wage jobs but took time to volunteer at a nonpartisan phone bank to remind neighbors to vote.

They also acknowledged that "leader" might be shunned by immigrant residents whose government officials in their former countries are corrupt or violent.

The new definition of multilevel leadership went beyond the titles of board chair, president, and chief executive officer to include parent, youth, auntie, cousin, sister, and neighbor.

"People enter through different doors," said Diane Takvorian, executive director and a founder of Environmental Health Coalition.

Nurturing New Leaders and Regional Cooperation

The organizations had existing leadership programs, but network members found that a collective focus and a willingness to discuss and resolve different ideas invigorated the endeavor.

The Center on Policy Initiatives was already operating three leadership programs: one for new and elected officials, another named the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute, and an initiative for college students. At the center of all three: social and economic equity, awareness, diversity, and racial justice.

Center on Policy Initiatives staff also sought community leadership information from and exchanged insights with Urban Habitat, a nonprofit organization in Oakland and member of the Bay Area Equal Voice Coalition, which includes groups in San Francisco and San Jose.

In 2009, Urban Habitat pioneered its own Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute, which is being replicated nationwide. Staff members from these two organizations — in different parts of California — held phone conversations and meetings to deepen working relationships and share information.

Community Leaders in Elected Office

While boosting cooperation and broadening the definition of "leader" were part of this endeavor, advocates and families always kept the formal power of elected and appointed office in mind.

Residents and nonprofit leaders point to the path of Georgette Gómez, a community advocate who did grassroots work with the San Diego LGBT Community Center and Environmental Health Coalition.

She ran for two elected offices and now serves as a councilmember on the San Diego City Council and as chair of the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System.

Grassroots leaders say she makes it a point to hire staff of color, who understand the need for equity in public policy. They add that as a woman of color, her election wins inspire many county residents, especially those who don't see themselves represented in government or community affairs.

One policy innovation that Gómez supports, they say and her office confirms (and which has ties to her grassroots community work), is a public benefits agreement of the mind that is surfacing in other U.S. cities (including Los Angeles). Based on an organized labor concept, it ensures that qualified residents are hired for jobs in industries like construction when public dollars or tax incentives are in play. That way, residents can have equitable access to taxpayer-supported jobs.

Network members also are looking to the future by examining the composition and accessibility of these government bodies:

  • Escondido Union School District Board of Education
  • San Diego County Board of Supervisors
  • City of San Diego Planning Commission
  • Metropolitan Transit System Board of Directors
  • Port of San Diego Board of Port Commissioners

Community leaders say they plan to issue a report later in 2018  that will update their earlier survey.

A Youth Steps Up

For Panchito, who attends San Diego State University, participation and leadership run in the family.

Panchito's mother, Maria, has served on the Environmental Health Coalition board of directors. The two still work closely with the group, which has an equity and justice focus. It also helped organize the District 8 City Council candidate forum dedicated to boosting local democracy.

Panchito also works with the Barrio Logan College Institute, which says the average yearly household income for a family of four people in the neighborhood is $25,000.

In 2017, Panchito received a Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty Leadership Award from Marguerite Casey Foundation, which recognizes collaborative accomplishments by young people.

As part of the honor, Panchito traveled to Seattle to talk about grassroots-driven change in Barrio Logan with other "Shriver Warriors," young leaders from across the country. They discussed injustice, advocacy, and progress.

In March, after that San Diego City Council candidate forum, Panchito mentioned an immediate goal: becoming a member of the Barrio Logan Planning Group so as to ensure that voices of families from the neighborhood are represented at the local decision-making table.

Smaller governing bodies, community leaders say, can go unnoticed, though their members make important policy decisions or recommendations that affect low-income families and people of color in neighborhoods.

Elizabeth_posey_brad_wong_for_PhilanTopicOn April 19, the Environmental Health Coalition sent a tweet announcing the news: The 20-year-old will join the planning group — and one of his priorities will be access to healthy foods for college students.

As a member of the planning group, which includes representatives from the Port of San Diego and U.S. Navy, Panchito will study the issues. He'll also ask questions, listen carefully, and, then, cast votes.

Elizabeth Posey is program officer for the West and Brad Wong is content editor at the Marguerite Casey Foundation. This post was originally published on the Casey Foundation website.

Heroes, Collectives, and 'The Black Panther'

May 18, 2018

Sydney_composite

In the classic monomyth, or hero's journey, an individual goes on an adventure, faces and overcomes a challenge, and, as a result of that confrontation, returns home transformed. But the monomyth has long had its critics, who cite its misogyny, imperialistic slant, and tendency to exacerbate division through its focus on lone heroes and isolated villains. It's time to reconsider its ubiquitous use.

For some time now, I've warned activists and communications professionals that their well-meaning use of the monomyth framework can backfire. The familiarity of hero and villain, and of an easy-to-follow storyline, can be comforting. But people can tune out (if not actually resent) such pat and seemingly unrepresentative plots. Indeed, the embrace of simplicity and failure to honor diversity, complexity, and ambiguity can be counter-productive.

For example, elevating someone who has escaped a situation of intimate partner violence into a hero may cause those who remain trapped in such situations to feel like hapless victims. Likewise, pro-choice activists who choose to portray women who have had abortions as heroes may cause some women who are ambivalent about their decision to feel like a villain in their own stories.

While there are often good reasons to share a story that elevates a protagonist to hero status — and by extension, invites listeners to imagine themselves as heroic protagonists — the technique should be carefully deployed.

Even if we acknowledge that the hero is one person among many, and that the focus on her story is meant to be emblematic of a larger story, we are still categorizing her as good or bad, heroic or villainous.

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It’s Time to Invest in Youth Leaders

May 16, 2018

DCPSWalkout_AFA-1024x681In the months since the tragic mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, the response of youth activists has captured the attention of the nation. What has largely gone unnoticed, however, is that across the country a dynamic youth-organizing field has emerged. Over the past twenty years, groups — many of them led by low-income young people of color — have been organizing to improve education, end the school-to-prison pipeline, protect immigrant rights, and address other critical issues.

New research demonstrates that not only does youth organizing result in concrete policy changes, it also promotes positive academic, social/emotional, and civic engagement outcomes. Yet despite recent investment in youth organizing from funders like the Ford Foundation and the California Endowment, overall funding remains modest. That's unfortunate, because even as a new generation demonstrates its willingness to take on some of our toughest issues, the need for investment in the leadership of young people, especially those most impacted by injustice, has never been more important.

According to the Funders' Collaborative on Youth Organizing's National Youth Organizing Landscape Map, there are more than two hundred youth organizing groups across the country, the majority of them focused on middle and high school students of color. These groups support the development of young leaders and organize campaigns to address inequity in their communities. In Los Angeles, Inner City Struggle and Community Coalition led the campaign to ensure a rigorous college preparatory curriculum for all students. Groups such as Communities United in Chicago, Padres y Jovenes Unidos in Denver, and the Philadelphia Student Union have gotten their school districts to create policies that address racial disparities in school discipline, resulting in changes that have benefited hundreds of thousands of students. 

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (April 2018)

May 01, 2018

As not-spring turns into full-on summer, we've been busy rounding up your favorite posts from the past thirty days. Haven't had a lot of time for sector-related reads? Don't sweat it — here's your chance.

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.

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

March 26, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

March 21, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

PND: Why is that?

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

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

PND: Is the situation improving?

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

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

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Strengthening Philanthropy’s Role in the Resistance

February 08, 2018

WPI-SAC-1An increase in the minimum wage. Criminal justice reforms that have led to a 25 percent drop in the number of people incarcerated in state prisons. A Domestic Worker Bill of Rights that extended labor protections and overtime pay to five hundred thousand low-wage workers. Climate change laws that are delivering real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Expanded rights for transgender people.

Even as the federal government has become openly hostile to policy priorities such as immigrant and worker rights, environmental protections, and expanded access to health care, California has forged its own path. Not only are local and state governments standing up to oppose federal overreach, they are shaping real policy solutions that can serve as a model for the rest of the nation. And, in many cases, the state's progressive victories have been achieved with the help of philanthropic support for advocacy efforts.

For a long time, funders were wary about getting involved in policy work. That reluctance is fading as a growing number of funders realize that policy and systems change are critical levers for achieving their equity and social justice goals. And at a time when the federal government is intent on turning back the clock on progress that has benefited so many vulnerable communities, philanthropy is coming to see the value of investing in local and state policy work aimed at protecting and advancing people's rights.

But what is the best way for funders to support policy advocacy? How can foundations and other donors be more strategic about investing in policy change as a means to achieving their broader missions? And what exactly are the rules around lobbying and advocacy for foundations and their nonprofit partners?

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The False Slogan of 'Right to Work': An Attack on Worker Freedom

December 18, 2017

NoRTW_buttonToday's economy is rigged against working families and in favor of the wealthy and the powerful. That's not by accident. CEOs and the politicians who do their bidding have written the rules that way, advancing their own interests at the expense of everyone else.

Now, they're trying to get the rigged system affirmed by the United States Supreme Court. In a few months, the justices will hear a case called Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, which would make so-called "right-to-work" the law of the land in the public sector, threatening the freedom of working people to join together in strong unions.

The powerful backers in this case have made no secret about their true agenda. They have publicly said that they want to "defund and defang" unions like the one I lead. They know that unions level the economic playing field. They know that unions give working people the power in numbers to improve their lives and communities and negotiate a fair return on their work while keeping the greed of corporate special interests in check.

Union membership is especially important for people of color, historically providing them with a ladder to the middle class and helping them earn their fair share of the wealth and the value they generate. More than half of African-Americans make less than $15 per hour. But belonging to a union is likely to lead to a substantial pay raise and superior benefits. African-American union members earn 14.7 percent more than their non-union peers. The union advantage for Latinos is even greater: 21.8 percent.

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

December 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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Joint Letter of Opposition to the Senate Tax Reform Bill

December 01, 2017

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

___________

Dear Senators,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Respectfully,

Vikki Spruill
President and CEO
Council on Foundations

Tim Delaney
President and CEO
National Council of Nonprofits

Dan Cardinali
President and CEO
Independent Sector

To Close the Racial Health Gap, Philanthropy Must Itself Prioritize Wellness

October 31, 2017

In December 2009, the Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA)  convened a cross-section of leaders working to improve life outcomes of black men and boys at a leadership retreat that included a session focused on strategies for healing and self-empowerment for leaders in the Black Male Achievement (BMA) field. At the time, the BMA field was still relatively new, having been launched by CBMA at the Open Society Foundations in June 2008. What the workshop revealed was both astounding and urgent: that the very leaders working vigilantly to support black men and boys in their communities were themselves in dire need of support and information with respect to how they addressed the myriad health and lifestyle challenges they, and an alarmingly large number of African Americans, face.

Young-black-man-with-head-007-2Then, in 2014, the BMA movement was dealt a tragic blow with the news that BMe Community leader Dr. Shawn White, a renowned academic working on public health matters, had died suddenly at the age of 42 of a stress-triggered seizure due to complications from severe hypertension, a preventable disease. There was and remains little doubt that the high levels of stress associated with doing racial equity work was a critical factor in the kinds of health issues faced by leaders such as Dr. White. There is also little doubt about how these issues are exacerbated by the insidious effects of interpersonal and institutional racism — psychological, physical, and emotional — on black people and communities.

The learnings that came out of that retreat nearly a decade ago have been given new life with the release of a report issued last week by National Public Radio, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Titled Discrimination in America: Experiences and Views of African Americans, the report addresses the various types of individual and systemic discrimination that black Americans experience in a variety of arenas, including employment, buying a home, interactions with law enforcement, civic engagement, and access to health care. In each of these areas, African Americans reported frequent and consistent encounters with race-based discrimination — a finding that spans gender, education, political affiliation, geography, and socioeconomic status.

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Once and for All: Lead-Free, Healthy Kids

September 26, 2017

Baby_mother_playing_400x300We want all our children to be safe and happy — that's why we have safeguards in place to protect them. Newborns are taken home from the hospital in car seats, kindergarteners must have all their vaccines to enter school, even playground equipment is closely regulated. Yet, despite these investments in their health and safety, children are still at risk in their own homes. While we are closer than ever to eliminating lead in homes, it's still all too prevalent, seeping into the lives of our children through peeling paint, unfiltered water from unsafe pipes, and other sources.

Even though lead poisoning is entirely preventable, 535,000 children under the age of six in the United States are exposed to the dangerous toxin each year through water, paint, soil, and other sources. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "at least four million households have children living in them that are being exposed to high levels of lead." Lead exposure can lead to learning disabilities, speech delays, attention deficit disorder, reduced motor control and balance, and aggressive behavior. In fact, kids with lead poisoning are seven times as likely to drop out of school than their non-lead-poisoned peers, are six times as likely to become involved in the juvenile justice system, and as adults face increased risks of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, depression, and early mortality.

When the Flint water crisis became international news, it was easy to brush it aside as an anomaly — something that would never happen in your own town. But in 2016 a report by Reuters found three thousand localities across the country where at least 10 percent of children — double the rate of lead poisoning in Flint at the height of the crisis there — had elevated levels of lead in their blood. In some cities, "the rate of elevated [lead] tests over the last decade was 40 to 50 percent." Many of the affected communities are low-income and majority African-American and Latino populations, a sadly unsurprising fact given the stark racial disparities when it comes to addressing lead poisoning. In fact, African-American children are roughly five times more likely and Latino children nearly twice as likely to be poisoned by lead than their white peers.

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  • "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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