71 posts categorized "Collaboration"

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

Fig1.1_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.

Conclusion

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.

[Review] How Change Happens: Why Some Social Movements Succeed While Others Don't

July 30, 2018

Social movements are nothing new. People always seem to be marching for — or against — something. Part of this is due to the fact that social movements often take decades to achieve the change they seek, while many never get there.

Book_how_change_happens_3DWhile there is no simple recipe for social movement success, Leslie Crutchfield, executive director of the Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI) at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, and her research team have identified a number of patterns that distinguish successful social movements from those that didn't succeed and shares them in her latest book, How Change Happens: Why Some Social Movements Succeed While Others Don't. The six she identifies are a focus on the grassroots; a recognition of the importance of state and local efforts; a commitment to changing norms and attitudes as well as policy; a willingness to reckon with adversarial allies; acceptance of the fact that business is not always the enemy and often can be a key ally; and being "leaderfull."

Crutchfield argues that successful social change leaders invariably recognize the importance of advocating for a shift in social norms, not just policy reforms, and that they never prioritize one over the other. And to support her contention, she shares some key insights from successful change leaders. In the movement for marriage equality in the United States, for example, LGBT advocates used polling research to reframe the focus of the campaign's messaging from "rights" to "love" and "commitment," which in turn led to the dissemination of now-familiar slogans such as "Love is Love" and, eventually, a change in marriage laws.

To further illustrate how change happens, Crutchfield highlights a number of instances where a movement prevailed over a determined counter-movement that strayed from one or more of the patterns. Most telling, perhaps, is the success the National Rifle Association has had "in defending and expanding the gun rights of gun owners in the United States" through a relentless focus on grassroots organizing. Indeed, "[t]he gun rights movement's grassroots army is the reason why, despite the waves of angry anti-gun protests, heartbreaking vigils, and pleading calls for reform that erupt after each tragic mass shooting…gun violence prevention groups still largely lose ground." Over the years, NRA leaders have been laser-focused in growing and emboldening their grassroots base through community events such as barbecues and town hall meetings. In contrast, gun safety advocates have been more oriented "toward elite politics at the national level" and in "push[ing] a comprehensive gun control bill through Congress." The dichotomous results of the two approaches speak for themselves and serve as additional support for Crutchfield's contention that the single most important decision movement leaders have to make is whether "to let their grassroots fade to brown or...turn [them] gold."

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[Review] Unicorns Unite: How Nonprofits & Foundations Can Build EPIC Partnerships

July 25, 2018

Regardless of what corner of the social sector you work in, you're probably working to make the world a better place. At a time when many scorn and deride such an ambition, Unicorns Unite: How Nonprofits and Foundations Can Build Epic Partnerships urges social-sector changemakers to roll up their sleeves and get to work on improving the relationships necessary to drive the progress we all want to see.

Book_unicorns_unite_for_PhilanTopicWritten by Jessamyn Shams-Lau, executive director of the Peery Foundation, Jane Leu, founder and CEO of Smarter Good, and Vu Le, executive director of Rainier Valley Corps, the book is a highly creative attempt to deconstruct the classic dichotomy between grantmaker and grantseeker — and why not? One can't exist without the other, and changemakers often jump back and forth between the two. But first, what do they mean by "unicorn"? A unicorn, according to the authors, is "a persistent, visionary, and dedicated nonprofit or foundation professional who shines with brilliance and practices humility." And why are they great? Because they are bad-ass; they provide jobs and strengthen the economy; they handle stuff no one else wants to do; they restore and build community; they amplify voices that aren't heard; they stand defiantly against injustice; and they create hope. What's more, we all have unicorn potential inside us. Shams-Lau, Leu, and Le are here to help us find it.

The first step in that journey takes the form of a pep-talk, a much-needed moment of levity before readers are led into the nitty-gritty of all the ways in which our professional relationships are dysfunctional. The authors then dive into "What Is," highlighting some of the key issues in the "unicorn family" dynamic with real-life examples, including distrust, jealousy, power imbalance, fear, hypocrisy, time wasting, disrespect, and a lack of listening and honesty. In the process, they note that while those of us working in the sector have everything we need to foster better relationships within and beyond our organizations, too often we put ourselves into "boxes" — "Foundations are often funder-centric. Nonprofits are often nonprofit-centric. [And we] are all often egocentric" — and that these boxes often turn into "nightmares." Indeed, we spend so much time focused on what's going wrong in these nightmares that we end up perpetuating them, when we should be focused on solving problems together.

The book shares some of these nightmares, which may be therapeutic or chilling, depending on what "box" you put yourself into. In one example, a funder dangled a half-million-dollar grant in front of a nonprofit unicorn, whose staff spent sixty hours filling out their forms and spreadsheets only to have that funder ask them to let go of current staff and replace them with lower-paid staff, and then reduced the size of the grant to $100,000. In another scenario, a foundation unicorn, trying to be respectful of a nonprofit director's time, asked for materials that had already been prepared for other foundations and let the director know as soon as it was clear that his organization wasn't a good fit — only to be accused of leading him on and effectively ending the nonprofit's work by not funding it. And several foundations and nonprofits share the difficulties they have in being in the same room together as peers.

We all have these nightmares, and we all want to forget about them and move forward, but we get stuck because "we are all afraid to name, and then address, the root causes that create division in our sector." Perhaps the biggest one is, "Whose money is it?" The authors are quick to remind us that "nobody owns the money in a foundation. It belongs to the foundation, which is also not owned by anybody — not even the founder or the board. The funds in a foundation exist to serve the public good." But though we know that to be true, we act as if the money belongs to the people tasked with dispersing it, and "even if it's unconscious, money equals power." Arguably, this unequal power dynamic, more than anything else, shapes the interactions between nonprofits and foundations — and between staff members within an organization. It also leads to what the authors call the "Tyranny of the Hierarchy of Inputs," which is an incredibly useful framing of how money is too often valued above all other inputs and contributions to the outputs we are working for — things like leadership, experience, knowledge, hope, labor, creativity, caring, risk taking — and so diminishes the value of those contributions and the people who make them.

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

April 04, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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A Cooperative, Comprehensive Approach to Saving African Elephants

February 06, 2018

Elephant_cooperation_500I fell in love with wildlife as a child when I traveled to Africa with my father, who was a biologist. Back then, the beauty of the continent was difficult for me to put into words, and it stayed with me. But if I was in awe of all the different species I saw on that trip, I was overwhelmed by the elephants — so much so, that when I became a father myself, I wanted to share their beauty and majesty with my daughter. I had to wait a few years, but when she turned 15, we traveled together to the continent that had captured my imagination many years earlier.

It was not what I had expected, and my heart almost broke when I saw firsthand the devastation local elephant populations had suffered in the years since my last visit. I explained to my daughter that these magnificent creatures were being killed for their tusks — which would be smuggled out of country and turned into trinkets and bogus medical remedies to satisfy the growing consumer market in far-away countries such as China and Vietnam. What's more, at the rate they were being killed, African elephants might become extinct in my lifetime, and that her children — my grandchildren — might never have the chance to see one in the wild.

As a co-founder of a hundred-million-dollar company, I had long felt the need to give back, and when I got back to the U.S., I decided I would dedicate myself to saving the African elephant from extinction. It soon became apparent, however, that I would have to embrace unconventional strategies if I hoped to have the slightest chance of succeeding. As I returned to Africa several times over the next few years to learn about amazing organizations already working toward this goal, I realized I didn't need to start another NGO to bring a new approach or project to the table. Instead, I could create a nonprofit organization that would fund established projects and organizations already making a difference and use my connections and influence to bring those projects and organizations to the attention of donors and activists here in America.

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Weekend Link Roundup (September 2-3, 2017)

September 04, 2017

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

RosieClimate Change

Did climate change magnify the destructive power of Hurricane Harvey? Robinson Meyer The Atlantic's Robinson Meyer uncovers a fair amount of evidence which suggests that global warming is making a bad situation worse.

On the Yes! Magazine site, 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben talks with Jacqueline Patterson, director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program about the threat of climate change as a lens to understand many of the injustices confronting the planet.

Collaboration

Which of the following elements of effective collaboration is the most challenging: reaching consensus, bringing diverse perspectives to the table, taking meaningful action? Hop over to the Kauffman Foundation site and cast your vote, then read on to learn how "to apply the principles that matter to move to [a] place where collaboration can happen on a much larger scale." 

Data

Could data science be the key to unlocking the next wave of social change? Elizabeth Good Christopherson, president and chief executive officer of the Rita Allen Foundation, talks with Jake Porway, founder of DataKind, a global network of volunteers skilled in data analysis, coding and visualization, about changes in technology that are influencing the work of his organization and the prospects for accelerated social change.

Disaster Relief

The New York Times has a good roundup of federal assistance for those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Looking for commonsense advice about the best way to donate to Hurricane Harvey relief and recovery efforts? This article by Pam Fessler on the NPR site is a good place to start.

In a post on Slate, Jonathan M. Katz explains why the Red Cross, the default disaster relief recipient for a majority of corporations and individual Americans, won't "save" Houston.

And in a post on the NCRP site, Ginny Goldman, founder and former director of the Texas Organizing Project, the Houston-based affiliate of the Center for Popular Democracy, reminds Americans that "[w]hen camera crews head home and it's time to rebuild Houston, the people on the ground will need organizing capacity and legal support to fight for themselves." 

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (May 2017)

June 02, 2017

Like many of you, we're trying to make sense of all the tweets, charges/counter-charges, and executive orders emanating from the White House. One thing we do know, however: you found plenty to like here on the blog in May, including a stirring call to action from Tim Delaney, president of the National Council of Nonprofits; some excellent grantmaking advice from Peter Sloane, chair and CEO of the Heckscher Foundation for Children; a new post by everyone's favorite millennial fundraising expert, Derrick Feldmann; posts by first-time contributors Nona Evans and Jaylene Howard; and an oldie-but-goodie by fundraising consultant Richard Brewster. But don't take our word for it — pull up a chair, click off MSNBC, and treat yourself to some good reads!

What have you read/watched/heard lately that got your attention, made you think, or charged you up? Feel free to share with our readers in the comments section below. Or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Conscious Collaboration: The New Competitive Advantage for Nonprofits

May 18, 2017

CollaborationWhole Kids Foundation is a nonprofit on a mission to support schools and inspire families to improve their children's nutrition and wellness. We were established by Whole Foods Market in 2011 and operate in the U.S., UK and Canada, supporting more than ten thousand schools and reaching over five million kids. Our staff of six full-time team members is responsible for raising and investing $5 million annually. With such a small team, collaboration plays a critical role in our success.

It's unrealistic to believe that any one organization can solve today’s major societal issues alone, and so from the outset we have viewed the work of improving nutrition for children as a kind of relay. As such, it's imperative that we focus on our leg of the race — the work we are uniquely qualified and equipped to do. To achieve maximum impact, however, it's also critical for us to get to know and build relationships with organizations that are running other legs of the race. And as a leader in our field, it's important that we help other funders think about the quality of collaborations as an indicator of effectiveness.

From our roots in "conscious capitalism," a term coined by Whole Foods Market founder John Mackey to express the generative spirit of business and its capacity to create positive change in the world, we have developed an approach I call "conscious collaboration,” which is based on the idea that the tenets of conscious capitalism are as effective and powerful when implemented by nonprofit organizations.

Conscious collaborations begin with honest conversations, and the most difficult part of such conversations often is having an open dialogue about goals. Every dialogue we have with a potential collaborator begins with a simple question: "Can you help us understand your goals — both for your organization and related to anything we might do together?" If the question is not reciprocated, or if active listening is missing from the conversation when we share our goals, it's usually a good indicator that the organization is not a good partner for us.

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The Brave New World of Open Source

May 09, 2017

The following post is part of a year-long series here on PhilanTopic that addresses major themes related to the center’s work: the use of data to understand and address important issues and challenges; the benefits of foundation transparency for donors, nonprofits/NGOs, and the broader public; the emergence of private philanthropy globally; the role of storytelling in conveying the critical work of philanthropy; and what it means, and looks like, to be an effective, high-functioning foundation, nonprofit, or changemaker in the twenty-first century. As always, we welcome your thoughts and feedback.

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OpensourceAllow me to introduce myself. My name is Dave Hollander, and I'm a data scientist here at Foundation Center. The role of a data scientist is to use techniques from statistics and computer science to make sense of and draw insights from large amounts of data. I work on the Application Development team, which engineers the code in Foundation Center products you use, including Foundation Maps and the new search tool that was launched as part of the redesign of foundationcenter.org.

Like nearly every software development team, the members of the center's Application Development team share code among ourselves as we work on new projects. This allows us to work on smaller parts of a larger machine while simultaneously ensuring that all the parts fit together. The individual parts are assembled during the development phase and eventually comprise the code base that powers the final product. When finished, that code lives internally on our servers and in our code repositories, which, in order to protect the intellectual property contained within, are not visible to the outside world. The downside to keeping our code private is that it does not allow for talented programmers outside Foundation Center to review the code, suggest improvements, and/or add their own entirely new twists to it.

We plan to change that this year.

Open-source software (OSS) is a term for any piece of code that is entirely visible and freely available to the public. Anyone can pull open-source code into their computer and either use it for a personal project or change it and "contribute" those changes back to the original project. Open source is not strictly related to code, however. Wikipedia, which allows anyone to create an account for free and edit articles and entries, is also an example of an open-source project. To ensure a high-level of quality throughout, submissions to Wikipedia are evaluated by volunteer editors, and while a bad entry may sneak through on occasion, the Wikipedia community eventually will find it, review it, and amend it.

Open-source code projects work in much the same way as Wikipedia, but rather than editing text, users edit code and then submit their changes back to the project. The process can be a challenge to monitor, but today there are tools available that make it relatively easy to manage the edits of multiple users and prevent source-code conflicts. The most popular is GitHub, a free service that serves as a repository for code projects and allows any user to make copies of any other project hosted on the platform. Once a project on GitHub is copied, the user can make changes to the original code, or use the code for his or her own purposes.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (April 2017)

May 03, 2017

For those in the Northeast, April was rainy, cool, and dreary. Here on the blog, though, things were hopping, with lots of new readers and contributors. The sun is back out, but before you head outside, check out the posts PhilanTopic readers especially liked over the last thirty days.

What have you read/watched/heard lately that got your attention, made you think, or charged you up? Feel free to share with our readers in the comments section below. Or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

[Book Review] Just Change: How to Collaborate for Lasting Impact

May 02, 2017

How can the social sector create lasting impact? By changing the way it thinks about and approaches social change, writes Tynesia Boyea-Robinson in Just Change: How to Collaborate for Lasting Impact. Drawing on her experience in both the private and social sectors, Boyea-Robinson shares lessons she's learned and strategies she's found to be effective for changing how we think about and create change, how our organizations work, and how we collaborate.  

Book_just_change_3dIt's an approach well worth considering; as chief impact officer at Living Cities, a partnership of foundations, financial institutions, nonprofit organizations, and the federal government that's committed to improving the vitality of cities and urban neighborhoods, Boyea-Robinson is tasked with ensuring that the organization's investments lead to measurable impact. She also has witnessed, both in her own family and in her previous work at Year Up National Capital Region, the barriers that many poor urban children come up against, leading her to acknowledge that the challenge of creating change, let alone lasting change, is daunting.

Something like closing opportunity gaps, for example, is a complex problem, one that involves interconnected relationships unique to each situation, as opposed to a merely complicated problem, the solution to which involves many difficult steps but can be mastered and replicated. And yet, she writes, we can create lasting impact, even around complex problems, if we work together and focus on a problem's underlying cause instead of its symptoms, continually improve our efforts through ongoing feedback, use data to define the impact we are looking to achieve, and align our programs, policies, and funding streams with clearly articulated goals. 

Boyea-Robinson is careful to note that meaningful social change rarely is driven by a single individual, organization, or sector. And while forging cross-sectoral partnerships is just one of the six ways, as she puts it, to "change how you create change" (the others are focusing on bright spots, changing systems through individuals, defining success in terms of people not neighborhoods, engaging the community, and supporting racial equity), it really constitutes the core message of the book. By definition, participation in a cross-sectoral collaboration creates the possibility of achieving something bigger than any one individual, organization, or sector could achieve alone. At the same time, collaborations, if they are to succeed, require solid relationships and a high level of trust, not to mention partners who are willing to commit to a collective goal that transcends their own individual objectives or reputation.

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More Than a School

April 25, 2017

The following post is part of a year-long series here on PhilanTopic that addresses major themes related to the center’s work: the use of data to understand and address important issues and challenges; the benefits of foundation transparency for donors, nonprofits/NGOs, and the broader public; the emergence of private philanthropy globally; the role of storytelling in conveying the critical work of philanthropy; and what it means, and looks like, to be an effective, high-functioning foundation, nonprofit, or changemaker in the twenty-first century. As always, we welcome your thoughts and feedback.

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SDG_schoolsAs a unifying, universal agenda for countries around the world, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent a unique opportunity to deliver innovative solutions and much-needed development assistance to the world's poorest countries and regions. Philanthropists the world over have answered this rallying cry and are playing a critical role in filling technical and funding gaps between what is required and what is available, while also providing important intellectual capital. While the current impact of these efforts is not to be underestimated, it is crucially important that philanthropic dollars are directed in the right way, to the right projects, at the right time. Without lasting buy-in from populations and communities targeted by these investments, impact can fade rapidly and disappear altogether over time. But to really have an impact, this funding needs to go beyond standalone projects and contribute to longer-term systems change.

Here's an example of what we're talking about. A foundation or individual donor decides to pay for the construction of a new school in an impoverished village. The odds are good that, when built, the school will have an immediate impact on the local population. But if the school is not supported by parents and local stakeholders, there's a decent chance that, within a few years, it will fall into disrepair. To achieve real, lasting impact, the school should be viewed as a community-based project that, among other things, provides local youth with a competency-based curriculum and skills training that prepares them for market-driven employment opportunities.

These are real-world challenges for philanthropic investment

It is critically important that philanthropists (and other social investment types) understand the complex development "ecosystems" of the countries in which they work. Why? Because no issue is an island, and many issues overlap in a complex web of cause and effect. Those wanting to have a long-lasting impact in a country must understand this reality, invest wisely, and work with local and national stakeholders to make sure the solutions they support truly are sustainable.

One thing we have seen time and again in the development field is philanthropy and government not working with each other. This often leads to missed opportunities for collaboration, additional funding, and innovation. Philanthropy can benefit from the public sector's knowledge of current policy and development frameworks, the specific and interrelated needs of the target population, and details about what has, and has not, worked in the past. Similarly, governments too often miss out on philanthropy's deep field knowledge, agility, and tolerance of risk. To improve this situation, we believe philanthropy and government need to locate where their interests converge, identify instances where they can collaborate, and share lessons learned.

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Advocacy Funder Collaboratives

April 07, 2017

The following post is part of a year-long series here on PhilanTopic that addresses major themes related to the center’s work: the use of data to understand and address important issues and challenges; the benefits of foundation transparency for donors, nonprofits/NGOs, and the broader public; the emergence of private philanthropy globally; the role of storytelling in conveying the critical work of philanthropy; and what it means, and looks like, to be an effective, high-functioning foundation, nonprofit, or changemaker in the twenty-first century. As always, we welcome your thoughts and feedback. To access the complete suite of advocacy funder collaborative resources, visit Foundation Center's GrantCraft.org site.

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"Funders need to collaborate more." How many times have we heard that?

The good news: Funders are collaborating more. Today, there are all kinds of learning networks, aligned funding and strategy associations, affinity groups, and other structures that are making it easier for grantmakers to collaborate.

Many funders, however, are still apprehensive about funding advocacy. A Foundation Center analysis of a sample of the largest funders demonstrates that only 12.8 percent of overall foundation grantmaking explicitly supports policy, advocacy, and systems reform. The Atlantic Philanthropies observes that advocacy funding is too often "the philanthropic road not taken, yet it is a road most likely to lead to the kind of lasting change that philanthropy has long sought through other kinds of grants."

Multi-party_Advocacy_IL

It's an easy road to avoid. Publicly taking a stand on controversial issues can be dicey for foundation leaders, and supporting advocacy can be complex, time-intensive, and risky. Stir the varied interests, goals, and personalities of a diverse group of funders into the mix and it becomes even more daunting.

Given the deepening concern — and increasing activism — sparked by the recent change of administration in the U.S., that may be changing. Wherever you stand on the issues, it is hard to ignore the dramatic upswing in advocacy activity since the election. Some of it involves collaboratives successfully bringing together funders to advance important issues through public policy campaigns, communications, research, and strategic grantmaking. And they are getting results, despite the obstacles in their way.

If we're to overcome the inevitable concerns about joining an advocacy collaborative and understand what makes them successful, we need to ask: What distinguishes an advocacy collaborative from other kinds of collaboratives? For an answer, we spoke with several advocacy collaborative stakeholders. This is what we heard:

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Building and Managing Effective Collaborations for the World’s Most Vulnerable

February 24, 2017

The problems confronting the global community grow ever more complex. Fortunately, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide unprecedented focus on and a stage for results-oriented development programming. And with numerous stakeholders seeking to align their impact with the SDGs, organizations are under pressure from donors as never before to leverage projects and programs more efficiently to produce measurable outcomes.

Collaborations are an increasingly important tool to that end. But engaging in collaborations can be a daunting prospect, and such efforts can run aground if not carefully and methodically constructed around a shared vision for the future.

At times, moving to a more collaborative way of working can feel impossible. Nonprofit organizations are committed to their missions and mission-critical programs, and their success depends on being able to aggressively identify and secure resources to cover their direct and indirect costs — even if it comes at the expense of other organizations doing the same kind of work.

Benefits of Collaboration

Greater opportunities for growth

-- Can you do more together than alone?

Greater efficiencies

-- How will it affect our budget?

Access to new resources

-- Will it create greater impact?
-- Will it lead to new funding?

Shared knowledge

-- Will it make us smarter?

Shared risk/costs

-- Will we participate as a co-equal?

Enhanced economies of scale

-- Will it lead to new delivery models?

But the zero-sum mindset so prevalent in the sector is beginning to change, and more and more organizations understand that by prioritizing collaboration, they can scale their efforts and achieve a level of impact that would have been impossible if they had stubbornly continued to go it alone.

Thankfully, there are various collaborative models — including partnerships, coalitions, collective impact, shared advocacy, and strategic alliances — for creating, guiding, and implementing programs in the global development space. And what they all have in common
is a basic set of underlying principles, an insistence on a certain level of pragmatism, and an emphasis on operational flexibility.

Developing collaborative initiatives with multiple partners and seeing them through to the end also depends on the willingness and ability of the various leadership teams to apply creative thinking and problem-solving skills to the challenge at hand. Below are a number of lessons learned from our work with multiple partners on different projects that can be helpful if you are thinking about
engaging in a collaboration.

It’s the Basics That Make the Difference

Seen through the lens of the SDGs, much of the work of entities seeking to do social good, whether nonprofit, for-profit, or a public-sector or multilateral agency, frequently overlaps with the work of others seeking to address an issue affecting a particular population. But current frameworks and systems are not built for this reality and the increased collaboration needed to address it effectively — not least because it can be difficult to enlist key stakeholders, secure funding needed to support the effort, and identify the right leadership needed to bring about change.

When you decide to embark on a collaboration, preparing a scoping document will help clarify the focus of the project and make it easier to let go of things that do not fit the overall objective, in turn making it easier to sell the collaboration to your stakeholders. The scoping document should include:

  • A basic concept sketch that includes a landscape analysis, a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis, partner opportunities and benefits, and a financial analysis;
  • Core expected outcomes;
  • The reasons a collaboration is the right approach to the problem and what the population in question stands to lose if the work isn’t done collaboratively;
  • Initial success metrics (more will be developed with your stakeholders); and
  • Stakeholder criteria.

Dos and Don'ts

Do

-- Have a dedicated point of contact
-- Decide who will fill the thought-leadership role
-- Think creatively and focus on the opportunity
-- Mitigate risks in budget & program planning
-- Celebrate successes internally & externally
-- Educate donors, participants & beneficiaries

Don't

-- Rely on deputies alone
-- Turn your project into an academic exercise
-- Be close-minded
-- Cut out your partners
-- Forget to align your efforts with those of your partners

When identifying potential stakeholders, be sure to use the criteria you’ve developed, and seek the advice of peers and similar organizations for candidates that can bring unique strengths to the collaboration.

Once you’ve assessed the field of prospective stakeholders, make initial fact-finding calls to determine individual organization’s interest level, willingness to forge an ongoing relationship, and capacity to fulfill their expected role.

Proper due diligence also requires that you look at the stakeholder’s background, management team, and risk factors (e.g., past regulatory issues, funding model, SEC and
990 filings, and responsible parties).

That’s Why They Call It a Backbone

Hiring an organization to provide what is commonly called “backbone services,” or that can act as a “secretariat,” if needed, provides a flexible, multi-functional management model for the collaboration, frees up various stakeholders to focus on the desired outcomes, and acts as a sort of glue for the effort.

As a first step, ask your backbone provider to support the development of term sheets that detail activities needed to accomplish the stated goals. It should also be able to:

  • Ensure that all governance documents are in order;
  • Define stakeholder roles and responsibilities;
  • Help develop mission and vision statements;
  • Create a work plan;
  • Identify milestones against which progress can be tracked;
  • Make sure the work gets out the door; and
  • Identify and eliminate roadblocks to progress.

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With Smart Philanthropy, Anything Is Possible

February 06, 2017

Collaboration-puzzle-piecesThere are no limits to what philanthropy can accomplish if we dream big, take risks, and set aside our egos and look for ways to work collaboratively.

"That's ridiculous," some of you may be thinking."Philanthropic dollars are a drop in the bucket. The best we can hope to do is to fund effective programs and improve as many lives as we can."

The truth is, that kind of small-ball thinking is horsepucky, and we need to put it aside if we want to transform and improve our society and the world. Indeed, there's an urgent need, right now, for foundations and high-net-worth donors to invest serious money in organizations on the frontlines of transformative social change.

Think back twenty years ago, to 1997:

  • Gas was $1.22 per gallon.
  • Bill Clinton had just been inaugurated to a second term as president of the United States.
  • The Lion King had debuted on Broadway.
  • The Spice Girls had a song at the top of the pop charts.

Did anyone in 1997 believe that less than twenty years later full marriage equality for same-sex couples would be the law of the land? It didn't seem remotely possible.

But then, in 2000, leaders of the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, a California-based philanthropy, began to think about how the foundation could best support work to advance the rights of and dignity for gay people.

In 2002, the fund made a $2.5 million investment in the Freedom to Marry campaign — at the time, the largest investment ever made by a foundation in support of gay rights.

The investment by the fund got the ball rolling. In 2004, the fund, recognizing that it couldn't possibly push the campaign to success by itself, helped create the Civil Marriage Collaborative with a handful of committed, like-minded funders from across the country.

It took visionary leadership and trust to make the collaborative a reality. And working together over the next dozen years and in close partnership with the other organizations, the funders of that effort helped accomplish what had once been unthinkable.

It wasn't easy. Changing society is tough work. Even as the campaign secured many wins, it also had to deal with setbacks. But the funding partners stuck by each other and their grantees, keeping their eyes on the prize and building momentum by winning an increasing number of victories at the state level. And then, on June 26, 2015, in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land.

It was a great day for the country and the culmination of a long campaign in which funders and nonprofits worked together to make society a little more fair and just.

I'm sure many of you have a story about how the court's ruling has impacted your life. For me, it was being able to attend the wedding of my sister a little over a year ago.

And here's some more good news. These same kinds of strategies work just as well at the local and state levels.

In 2012, for example, a group of California funders launched the California Civic Participation Funders to support nonprofits in the state working to strengthen civic participation in communities of color and among other underrepresented populations. The funders involved in the effort were focused on different issues — some on health, some on immigrant rights, others on criminal justice or women's rights — but they knew that having robust civic participation from groups that traditionally have been marginalized was essential if they hoped to see success on their issue. So they decided to work together, in close partnership with their grantees, to boost civic participation in four California counties.

That work is paying off.

Last summer, for example, citizens of San Diego voted in favor of an Earned Sick Leave and Minimum Wage Ordinance that immediately raised the minimum wage to $10.50 and then raised it again on January 1,to $11.50 per hour. San Diego is not known as a progressive bastion, and very few people would have guessed that San Diegans would vote in favor of such an ordinance. But with years of sustained investment by California Civic Participation Funders, what was once unthinkable became reality. And thousands of low-income families are going to benefit.

Because I've been studying this stuff for years, I thought I'd share six things that funders should keep in mind if they are looking to maximize their impact:

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