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24 posts categorized "Charity"

[Review] American Generosity: Who Gives and Why

May 17, 2016

Imagine a snapshot of American giving. What would it look like? Would it portray an abundantly generous America, or show a dismal lack of involvement in charitable causes and civic society? In American Generosity: Who Gives and Why, sociologists Patricia Snell Herzog and Heather E. Price address this question using a variety of methods with the goal of both broadening and deepening our understanding of how generosity is expressed, what fuels it, and what can be done to encourage more of it.

Book_american_generosityTo write their book, Herzog and Price drew on the results of Notre Dame's Science of Generosity Initiative, a Templeton Foundation-supported effort to promote interdisciplinary approaches to the study of generosity in all its forms. The initiative's findings, and Herzog and Price's presentation of those findings, offer valuable insights for the individual giver as well as scholars, religious leaders, and nonprofit practitioners and fundraisers.

The book, which draws much of its data from a nationally representative survey of more than a thousand people, is organized into a "who, what, where, why, and how much" structure. Herzog and Price begin by defining generosity as "giving good things freely to enhance the well-being of others." Although they identify nine such forms of giving, the "Big 3" are: donations of cash, time spent volunteering, and political or civic activity. (The other six encompass a wide range of actions, including the donation of one's blood or organs, estate giving, environmentally sustainable consumption, the lending of one's possessions, and "relational" giving to friends and family.)

Having defined generosity and identified its constituent forms, Herzog and Price then look at how generous Americans are, and how social and demographic factors — age, race, gender, education, income level — and regional characteristics influence generosity — "zoom[ing] out," as they put it, "from the frame-by-frame snapshots [in the earlier chapter] and survey[ing] the overall landscape of American generosity with a wide-angle lens." It's a view, they add, that lends itself to a "glass half-full perspective," in that it allows us to "see that Americans are generally quite active in working to help others."

One of the ways Herzog and Price add nuance to their portrayal and "breathe life into" the "static quantitative snapshots" is by including in-depth interviews from twelve survey participants. And one of the most interesting aspects of their analysis is the finding that while resources such as time, money, and connections do influence whether and how much someone gives, they are hardly the only factors that shape individual generosity — and don't explain why individuals with few resources often give more generously than those who have more to give. Why that might be the case is the subject of the second half of the book.

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[Review]: Charity Detox: What Charity Would Look Like If We Cared About Results

January 29, 2016

Each year, hundreds of thousands of charities raise billions of dollars to fund their efforts to serve the less fortunate. But the efforts of a vast number of these charities — indeed, most of them, says Robert D. Lupton — may actually be hurting those they aim to help. And charity that does more harm than good is definitely not better than no charity at all.

Book_charity_detox_for_PhilanTopicIn Charity Detox, Lupton, the founder of Atlanta-based FCS Urban Ministries and the author of the 2011 book Toxic Charity, explores and tries to answer the question: "What would charity look like if we cared about results?" But where Lupton's earlier book exposed what he calls "the dirty little secret that on-the-ground charity workers know all too well but are loath to admit" — namely, that most anti-poverty programs not only fail to end the cycle of poverty, they perpetuate it by creating dependency — here he argues that even though charitable giving almost always makes donors feel good, the negative impact of such giving on the poor cannot be ignored. The question, then, is how can charities "detoxify" themselves so that they truly help those in need?

"The fact is," Lupton writes, "we cannot serve others out of poverty." What people living in poverty need, instead, are living-wage jobs and healthy, thriving communities. And that requires two things: economic and community development. Lupton notes that one obstacle to reforming the traditional model of "pure philanthropy" are churches, which, he argues, have been at the vanguard of the "compassion industry," dispensing “unexamined charity...that fails to ask the hard questions about outcomes." Too often, he argues, charity in the United States looks like disaster relief in its inability to distinguish between a crisis and chronic need. In contrast, when the charities Lupton was involved with in Atlanta began to actually measure outcomes and not outputs, both he and those charities were transformed for the simple reason that measuring outcomes forces nonprofits and their funders to focus on specific goals rather than a diffuse "serve-the-neighborhood" approach. The book then goes on to describe how a range of organizations and initiatives, from foodbanks and co-ops, to Christian ministries, to urban development projects, adapted their operations not only to create sustainable opportunities for the poor but also to build trust and dignity among the people they served.

In Lupton's view, the best way to accomplish that is through "comprehensive community development" — an approach requiring fundamental changes not only in organizations but in the people who work for them. What kind of change? First, charities and nonprofits need to leverage the business expertise of their supporters to accurately measure return on their charitable activities. While lots of people in nonprofits and faith-based organizations tend to view wealth and the profit motive with suspicion, he writes, real economic development is impossible without profit-making enterprises. Accordingly, nonprofits that can sustain themselves through entrepreneurial and/or earned-income activities have a better chance of creating larger, longer-term impact than those who reject or shy away from such activities. What's more, this focus on business discipline should extend to both internal operations and operating models. And there's an added benefit: organizations that operate successful businesses are in a position to provide economic opportunities, in the form of jobs, to people in the community. Offering competitive pay and health and educational benefits to one's employees is an element of what Lupton describes as doing business well, and, in turn, can help lift those employees and their families out of poverty. 

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Help Fight Hunger This Holiday Season

December 19, 2014

Aiken+sullivanFor a majority of Americans, the holiday season is a time of celebration, feasting, and thankfulness. In the midst of our merriment, however, it's important to remember that while many of us are planning our holiday meals, millions of Americans will be wondering where they are going to get their next meal.
Feeding America recently revealed the results of its quadrennial study, Hunger in America 2014 (176 pages, PDF) — the largest, most comprehensive study of its kind. The study concluded that, in the most recent calendar year, one in seven Americans — or more than 46 million people — sought food assistance from the Feeding America network.

On the surface, people relying on foodbanks may not appear to be "hungry." They may have a home and a job. Yet all too often, they struggle to get enough to eat for themselves and, in many cases, their families. Many qualify as working poor — they work long hours but are paid such meager wages that they are forced to choose between paying the heating bill and buying food. And for a person living paycheck to paycheck, one car problem or unforeseen illness can have devastating consequences. Despite their hard work, food-insecure people often find financial stability out of reach.

Foodbanks are a lifeline for millions of people and families in need. In every county across America, they provide food for people struggling to get by. Yet while these services are critical, the provision of food alone will not solve the problem of hunger. As the plight of the working poor demonstrates, food insecurity does not exist in isolation. It intersects with other basic needs such as housing, access to health care, and employment. To truly solve the problem, we have to meet the needs of low-income families holistically and help them build a pathway out of poverty.

Recognizing this, some foodbanks have begun to partner with job training organizations, healthcare workers, financial firms, and others to help the people they serve access resources that enable them to meet other priority needs. Bank of America, for example, has committed to working with Feeding America to provide families facing hunger with access to the benefits and financial tools they need to begin building a financial safety net and, ultimately, a path to economic stability. Partnerships such as these enable food-insecure families to reach goals they once thought unimaginable, including saving for college, buying a house, and achieving financial stability.

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How the Charitable Sector Keeps Us All Afloat

October 14, 2014

Rosenman_headshotAs social and environmental problems grow worse and the resources to address them are stretched thinner, nonprofit organizations and foundations have to make hard strategic choices about where best to intervene. In effect, they need to think about their distinctive societal role when considering their options. While experienced staff, veteran board members, and expert consultants struggle with those decisions, there's an apocryphal tale that many at a recent Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits meeting found useful in terms of framing the problem.

But first, what is the distinctive role of the charitable sector in American society? That question has become more complicated with the emergence of for-profit conversions, social-benefit corporations, social impact bonds, and other types of hybrid organizational structures and market finance schemes that blur the lines between the not-for-profit and for-profit sectors.

Based on years of personal polling from the back seat of taxicabs, I have come to realize that the American public thinks charitable organizations are all about voluntarism, sacrifice, and donated income in service to those in need. Clearly, that's not true these days for large swaths of the charitable sector. What, for instance, makes a nonprofit daycare center different from a for-profit one just across the street?

When I ask them the question, nonprofit leaders most often say their organizations provide services to those who can't afford to buy them. But when you consider the increasing prevalence of third-party payers, subsidies to service users, and contracts and grants to service providers and the preferential tax treatment they often receive, along with the fact that fees-for-service generate the lion’s share of charities' income, this "market failure" rationale doesn't hold up very well.

The nonprofit leaders I've spoken to also say their organizations, as distinct from businesses, do much to improve civil society in the U.S., though they rarely provide specific examples of how their organizations do this. Similarly, nonprofits claim a distinction between sectors with regard to a strengthening of democracy, though few can point to related activities beyond their own governance.

A final distinction seems more significant: nonprofit leaders often point out that for-profit businesses are all about increasing the market for their products, while nonprofits typically work to reduce and eliminate societal need — although, again, most aren't able to say how their organizations actually do this. Still, it points to a compelling difference between the two sectors, especially when linked to nonprofit efforts to strengthen democracy and civil society.

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How Community-Based Fundraising Can Relieve the Financial Burden of a Health Crisis

October 11, 2014

Headshot_david_bakelmanEven for people who have health insurance, a health crisis often can turn into a financial crisis. Traumatic injury or illness can lead to transplants, extensive rehabilitation, and/or a lifetime of expensive medications. Uninsured expenses add up over the long term and place a significant financial burden on families who are already facing tremendous challenges.

Many people don't realize how severe this financial burden can be. But, in point of fact, it's a major problem affecting thousands of Americans and their families every year. Annual costs for a C-6 quadriplegic, for example, can range up to $111,000. Transplant patients regularly have to cover $600-$1,000 per month in out-of-pocket medication co-pays. Many patients who find themselves paralyzed after a catastrophic injury may be unable to continue working and may need to make renovations to their homes or find new transportation options. Others may need lengthy stays at specialized treatment centers or to relocate for an extended period of time.

For many patients and their families it can be uncomfortable to ask relatives and friends for financial support. That's understandable. But members of the patient's local community are often eager to help and welcome guidance on the best ways to do so. Professional organizations like HelpHOPELive provide the support necessary to help community fundraising volunteers launch and sustain successful fundraising campaigns that can help patients and their families over many months or years as they face long-term challenges with uncovered medical expenses.

With that in mind, here are a few steps for organizing a successful community-based fundraising campaign to help meet the uninsured medical expenses of someone who has experienced a catastrophic illness or injury:

Identify a support network. A support network includes a patient's family members and friends, of course, but it should also include co-workers, neighbors, and members of local clubs, schools or community faith-based organizations. For example, HelpHOPELive held a transplant fundraiser in honor of Allen West ("Wes") Edgar at his church in Alabama. More than three hundred people came together for a benefit concert and silent auction that helped raised $15,000. The funds raised helped Wes get listed for a transplant, and he received a kidney in March 2013.

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Weekend Link Roundup (September 20-21, 2014)

September 21, 2014

The link roundup is back, just in time for the autumnal equinox and what some are calling the largest climate change-related demonstration in history. Lots of other things happening as well, so let's get to it....

Charity

Writing in TIME, Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation, reminds us that the National Football League is full of players and coaches who exemplify the word "character" and work tirelessly off the field to make a difference in their communities.

On the CoinDesk site, Tanaya Macheel reports that United Way Worldwide has announced it now accepts donations in bitcoin, becoming the latest charitable institution to accept the digital currency.

Communications/Marketing

In the latest installment of her "Big Idea" podcast for the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Allison Fine speaks with Internet pioneer and Cluetrain Manifesto co-author Doc Searls about the "intention economy" and the movement to put customers' needs and desires before those of your business or organization.

On the GrantCraft blog, Marc Moorghen, communications director at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, ponders a question that most of us have asked at one point or another: What is communication all about?

And on her blog, Beth Kanter, recently returned from co-facilitating the "Impact Leadership Track" at the NTEN Leading Change Summit, addresses another good question: Does rigorous data collection thwart effective storytelling by nonprofits?

Education

In the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Betsy Doyle and Mike Perigo, a partner in and the head of the education practice at the Bridgespan Group, look at the efforts of district officials and local funders in Memphis, Tennessee, to improve the quality of instruction in Shelby County, where sixty-eight public schools are ranked in the bottom 5 percent in the state in terms of academic achievement. According to Doyle and Perigo, those efforts will be based on "a three-pronged talent strategy focused on: 1) retaining great teachers, 2) developing local teacher talent, and 3) recruiting national talent."

In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Teach for America co-founder and CEO Wendy Kopp defends her teacher-training organization from a spate of recent criticism "based on misrepresentation and toxic rhetoric." The impact of TFA, she writes,

is clear. Twelve years ago, D.C. students were scoring at the bottom compared with their peers in other large cities. Today, although there is still much to be done, schools in the nation's capital are improving faster than any other urban district's. This change is the result of the efforts of many people, but without Teach for America alumni, we'd lose much of the energy behind it. We'd lose schools chancellor Kaya Henderson and much of her cabinet, the mayor's deputy for education, the state superintendent, the past four "Teachers of the Year," the managers of the school principals, 20 percent of principals, hundreds of teachers and the leaders of many nonprofits working to support schools and students.

Would the United States really be better off if thousands of outstanding and committed people did not apply to Teach for America? We should be cheering those who devote their energy to working alongside others to meet the extra needs of our most marginalized kids. Not all of them will be teachers forever. But teachers can't solve this problem alone. We also need those who choose careers in education administration, policy, public health, law and business, who will carry with them the conviction and firsthand experience to lead change from outside the classroom....

Impact/Effectiveness

In the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Mary Kopczynski, Jesse Fripp, Katie Early, David Jeromin, and Topher Wilkins dissect four myths that have grown up around the emerging field of impact investing and then explain why it's important for everyone in the social sector "to understand the impact space as a middle ground — an ecotone — between the traditional philanthropic space and the traditional commercial space."

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[Infographic] Charitable Giving in the U.S. vs the UK

April 05, 2014

"The UK should not aspire to a U.S. model of philanthropy and tax incentives -- it is not replicable and is a unique product of social, political and historical factors," a report released by the UK-based Charities Aid Foundation back in February argues.

The report, Give Me a Break (20 pages, PDF), argues that while there are things the UK can learn from the U.S. model of philanthropy, there are features of it that the UK, which has a well-organized welfare state, cannot and should not replicate. "For instance," the report notes, "the U.S. charitable deduction is inherently biased toward those [with] higher incomes....Similarly, donations in the U.S. go disproprtionately to religious causes and education (45 percent in total)."

A few other interesting facts from the report that are included in the infographic below:

  • The oldest surviving charity in the U.S. is the Scots' Charitable Society of Boston, which was founded in 1657 and incorporated in 1786; the oldest in the UK is the King's School, Canterbury, founded in 597.
  • The average deduction claimed for donations of clothes in the U.S. in 2004 was $1,400.
  • 2.6 percent of the UK workforce is employed by the voluntary sector, while the nonprofit sector accounts for 9.2 percent of wages and salaries in the U.S.
  • Evidence from the U.S. suggests that donations go up as tax rates rise.

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Trust and Corruption

March 03, 2014

(Mark Rosenman is emeritus professor at Union Institute & University and a frequent contributor to PhilanTopic. He lives in Washington, D.C., from where he drew many of the examples of the national problems cited below.)

Rosenman_headshotSelf-serving and dishonest actions in both the public and private sectors are severely testing the trust and confidence of Americans. That's a problem for government, for courts and the criminal justice system, for corporations and business leaders, and, yes, for the nonprofit sector.

It's a much more significant problem, however, for the larger society. Are we destined to slide further toward the pernicious levels of corruption so prevalent in other parts of the world? Can the already strained fabric of American society hold as growing numbers of public, private, and charity officials scramble to profit, legally and otherwise, from their positions? What happens when the fundamental American belief in fairness is undermined by declining confidence in the institutions we all rely on?

Make no mistake, confidence in our institutions is declining. Since the early 1970s, those of us who have a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in our institutions, including banks, newspapers, and the medical establishment, has fallen dramatically – in some cases by more than 50 percent. Confidence in religion, the Supreme Court, schools, organized labor, and the presidency has fallen by 25 percent or more, while fewer than 25 percent of us have a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in big business.

Charitable organizations don't fare so well, either. Following a precipitous drop more than ten years ago, a recent survey found that over a third of Americans have "not too much" or no confidence in nonprofits. Meanwhile, Congress's approval rating has fallen to an all-time low of 10 percent.

Interestingly, the few institutions that have shown gains in public confidence include the military and the police and criminal justice system. But while the military is the most respected of American institutions, a series of recent incidents is beginning to take a toll. They include a scandal involving two Navy officers and a senior agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and a series of misconduct charges leveled at senior military officers for abusing their positions and accepting illegal gifts. His confidence shaken, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has demanded a broader investigation.

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Engaging Jewish Next-Gen Donors

August 14, 2013

(Andrés Spokoiny is president and CEO of the Jewish Funders Network. As chief executive officer of Montréal-based Federation CJA from 2009 to 2011, he was instrumental in changing the federation's operations and relationship with the community.)

Headshot_andres_spokoinyImagine you’re in a foreign country and don't speak the language. There are no dictionaries. There is no Google Translate. You aren't able to convey anything more than basic thoughts. 

I work with funders and foundations every day. In my experience, Jewish organizations, when seeking to engage a new generation of donors, often behave like tourists. They need next-gen support, but in many cases these organizations simply don't speak to next-gen donors in a language they understand. They don't bother to learn next-gen donors' motivations. They don't recognize new patterns of next-gen giving.

The world of philanthropy is facing a generational transformation. Only organizations that adapt and learn how to "speak" this new language will survive. And the need to do so will become ever more critical as this new generation of donors becomes philanthropically active and replaces their parents as the major donors for thousands of organizations. The time for these organizations to build relationships with "Jewish next-gen donors" (JNGDs) is now.

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Eye On: John Caudwell

August 08, 2013

(Caroline Broadhurst is director of Community Care Projects at the Rank Foundation and, through the Clore Social Leadership Programme, a visiting fellow at the Foundation Center. This is the first of a series of post she'll be writing about the motivations of UK donors who have signed the Giving Pledge. For more about John Caudwell and the other Giving Pledgers, visit the Foundation Center's Eye on the Giving Pledge.)

Headshot_john_caudwellFrom modest beginnings, 60-year-old John David Caudwell has established himself as one of the most successful English businessmen in modern times. After leaving school before earning what in the U.S. would've been his high-school diploma, Caudwell went to work for Michelin, the French tire manufacturer at the company’s factory in the West Midlands. Not content to remain an engineering foreman, however, he nurtured his entrepreneurial instincts and soon began to create money-making ventures, including a corner shop and mail-order motorcycle clothing business.

Combining his mechanical knowledge -- he earned an HNC in mechanical engineering while working at Michelin -- and his growing business experience, Caudwell eventually set up a car dealership, with many of his former Michelin factory friends among his loyal customers. Displaying the entrepreneurial sensibility that would become his trademark, in 1987 he took a chance on the nascent mobile phone industry, starting Midland Mobile Phones with his brother, Brian. Despite running at a loss in its first few years, the business turned into a huge success, and by the 2000s the company, by then called Phones4U, was the largest independent distributor of cellular phones in the UK, selling an average of 26 phones every minute and earning more than $1.5 billion annually.

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Protect Charitable Deductions for Stronger Communities

June 18, 2013

(Jen Klaassens is vice president of programs at the Wasie Foundation, which supports scholarship programs for students of Polish ancestry at colleges and universities in Minnesota and make grants to nonprofit charitable organizations in a number of areas.)

Headshot_jen_klaassensCongress is threatening to eliminate the charitable deduction as we know it -- at the expense of millions of people in need. Specifically, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are talking about imposing a cap or limit on the value of the charitable tax deduction as part of a bigger effort to raise additional revenue and/or "simplify" the tax code.

The charitable deduction is a unique element of the federal tax code that encourages Americans to selflessly invest in their communities. Capping or limiting the deduction is not the solution to current budget concerns.

Philanthropy spurs innovation, aids the most vulnerable, provides relief in crises, supports education and health, advances cures and scientific breakthroughs, enhances the arts, and makes investments that fuel economic growth. For every $1 a donor receives in tax relief, communities garner as much as $3 in benefits. It is highly unlikely government could find a more effective way to leverage private investment in vital community services.

The charitable deduction works. It encourages Americans to give a portion of their income to charitable causes without getting anything back, benefiting communities across the country as well as the larger economy. In many cases, donors also experience a sense of well-being from helping. Limiting or capping the deduction will reduce charitable giving, which will hurt Americans most in need. Nonprofits already struggling to balance increased demands for services with reduced income need more support, not less.

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Let's Think Smarter About the Charitable Tax Deduction

January 14, 2013

Jan Masaoka is CEO of the California Association of Nonprofits (CalNonprofits), publisher of Blue Avocado, and author of The Best of the Board Café, Nonprofit Sustainability (with Jeanne Bell and Steve Zimmerman) and The Nonprofit's Guide to Human Resources.

Jan_masaoka_headshotOn New Year's Day, lawmakers in Washington finally agreed to disagree and passed a bill to avert the so-called fiscal cliff. But with the federal government looking at another trillion-dollar deficit and record levels of debt, no idea for balancing federal expenditures and revenue will be off the table for long.

For many nonprofits, keeping the charitable tax deduction off the table is the issue. But while the issue itself may seem straightfoward, there are more nuances and choices to it than meet the eye. There are many ways, for example, to increase taxes that would not have a directly negative impact on nonprofits -- which, after all, are a huge part of the safety net for the poor, the elderly, the unemployed, and many others.

The deal made to avoid the fiscal cliff left the charitable tax deduction untouched for the most part -- and for the time being. To be clear: neither eliminating the deduction nor reducing the deductibility rate was discussed; the administration's proposal would have lowered the current cap on the deductibility of charitable gifts from 35 percent to 28 percent of one's income. The one tiny change passed was the reinstatement of the Clinton-era Pease Amendment, which will raise taxes on some of the wealthiest donors by perhaps $2,000 each.

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[Infographic] It Was a Very Good Year for Social Giving

December 15, 2012

"Just as social media has changed how we live, it’s now transforming the way we give."

That's the conclusion of MDG Advertising, the shop behind our Saturday Infographic of the Week.

From to to bottom, the infographic looks at online giving and the channels charities leverage most (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn -- in that order); offers details on donor characteristics; looks at a recent example of an online giving campaign that went viral; and ends with some trends and tips.

 

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[Infographic] The Danger of Capping Deductions

December 11, 2012

Like deer in the headlights, lawmakers in Washington, D.C., have spent the last five weeks paralyzed by the approach of the so-called fiscal cliff.  While the White House and Congress appear to be moving closer to a deal that would delay or avoid the worst effects of the cliff, the details of such a deal remain murky.

One thing that has surfaced repeatedly in negotiations between the two sides, however, is a cap on various tax deductions, including the deduction for charitable giving. As the infographic from the National Council of Nonprofits below suggests, such a cap would have an adverse impact on charitable donations -- and, by extension, local communities.

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The Stars Come Out for Sandy Relief and Recovery

November 09, 2012

Sandy_coasterSuperstorm Sandy's devastating impact on the East Coast resulted in the loss of more than a hundred lives, thousands being displaced from their homes, power outages that affected millions, and crippling disruptions of the region’s mass transit systems. The estimated financial cost of the storm may exceed $50 billion, making it one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history.

In the aftermath of a disaster like Sandy, it's not unusual to see celebrities donating their time and money to relief and recovery efforts, and this disaster is no different. According to the most recent edition of the Foundation Center's Celebrity Foundation Directory, total giving by celebrity foundations exceeds $15 billion. As the center continues to track the response to Sandy, we're again seeing celebrities step up to donate their money and talents to help those affected by the storm. Here are a few examples:

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    — Lao Tzu (605-531 BCE)

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