Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....
This is the era of big data, and that's a good thing, argues Matthew Scharpnick, co-founder and chief strategy officer at Elefint Designs, in the Chronicle of Philanthropy. But, he adds, "for every new piece of valuable data, a much larger pile of useless data surrounds and obscures it. It's tough work to sift through it all to find the pieces that lead us to greater insights." Which is why,
Organizations need to understand what stories they want to tell with their data -- ideally before those data sets are even gathered. While it's important to let the data collections speak for themselves --being careful not to manipulate them to present stories that are not there -- it's equally important to gather the right kinds of data and to do so with a strategic understanding of how they can become insightful information tied to the larger narrative of the organization. When the right data are gathered in the right way and presented intelligently, that is where the magic of data begins to fulfill its promise...."
Writing on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Kelly Brown, director of the D5 Coalition, a five-year initiative to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in philanthropy, reflects on the initiative's progress at midpoint and suggests that it's a bit of mixed bag. "Those who question whether the effective inclusion of diverse perspectives has a positive influence on smart decision-making should look closer at the evidence," she writes. But at the same time, recent events
make it clear that building philanthropy's capacity to fully include diverse perspectives must be as salient and pressing for foundations as dealing with the much-buzzed issues of "big data," managing "networked organizations," "scaling what works," or fostering "collective impact." None of these approaches will reach their fullest potential if they cannot effectively manifest in a diverse and complex world that is yearning for equity....
Responding to a special report in the Chronicle of Higher Education that examined the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's postsecondary education strategy and outisize influence on the postsecondary debate, Daniel Greenstein, director of the Postsecondary Success program at the foundation, writes that while he and his colleagues welcome a rigorous public conversation about the challenges facing our education system, the report "missed the big picture." Namely, "that nearly three out of four students aren't enrolled in full-time, four-year degree programs and that the current system doesn't work for adults who are juggling jobs, family and other priorities while they also work toward a degree."
Looking to start a nonprofit or social enterprise to address a critical community need, one that will be more than just a flash in the pan? Ayesha Khanna, president of Civic Incubator, shares some practical tips to help you do just that:
- Define your objectives and what you want to accomplish.
- Develop a business model and test your assumptions.
- Find seed funding to allow you to make little bets.
- Develop diverse funding streams.
- Enroll others in your mission and work.
- Create a public relations strategy.
Has all the recent talk about overhead myths and ratios left you a bit confused? If it has, hop on over to the Charities review Council's Smart Giving Matters blog, where you'll find five surefire ways to get the full picture of a nonprofit's effectiveness.
In a new paper ("Beauty and the Beast: Can Money Ever Foster Social Transformation?") written for Hivos, a foundation in the Netherlands, Michael Edwards, one of our favorite contrarians, argues that instead of its current fixation on market-based revenue generation for social change, philanthropy should be directing more support to what he calls "democratic" and "transformational" funding models. (Back in 2012, we published a terrific series of posts by Edwards on more or less the same topic.)
In a similar vein, Josh Mailman, founder of the progressive Threshold Foundation, argues in a video on Bridgepsan's GiveSmart site that philanthropy is missing a great opportunity to "advance business accountability and business responsibility." Mailman, who was among the first investors in yogurt maker Stonyfield Farms, the Utne Reader, and household products maker Seventh Generation, believes that movements drive social change, and that "getting wealthy people involved in building movements is a really good idea, because movements are mostly people that don't have money."
"Orthodoxies are those [assumptions] we are so accustomed to that we barely think about them, let alone question them," writes Lucy Bernholz on her Philanthropy 2173 blog. In the social sector, they include things like the inviolability of property tax exemptions and the charitable deduction, intellectual property rights, and the right to privacy in the digital sphere. The problem with that approach, Bernholz adds, "is in thinking that the rules that have worked for the last century will stay the same, will work the same, will still be useful or needed for the next century. Some might. Some won't. Some shouldn't...."
In a post on the GrantCraft blog, Lisa Suchet, CEO at the UK-based Nationwide Foundation, shares some interesting learnings from the foundation's Money Matters, Homes Matter and Families Matter initiative, which awarded three-year grants to nine charities working with disadvantaged groups to address housing and homeless issues n the foundation's service area.
Writing on their Philanthropy Potluck blog, the folks at the Minnesota Council on Foundations share some findings from a new Council on Foundations report that looks at staff demographics and compensation levels at foundations around the country. Among the findings:
- The graying of foundation staff has accelerated significantly.
- There is still a large gender gap at the top of large foundations.
- Twenty-nine percent of private foundations reported that they employ people of color, while only 19 percent of community foundations said the same.
Trevor Neilson, president of the Global Philanthropy Group, advises readers of the Huffington Post Impact blog to ignore those who disparage Millennials as "lazy, entitled and narcissistic." Not true, says Neilson, who suggests, to the contrary, "that Millennials have more power than any generation in modern history to drastically improve our world for the better...."
Last but note least, kudos to the Blue Shield of California Foundation, which earlier in the week posted a downloadable version of its 2012 Grantee Perception Report -- along with a frank assessment of the dimensions in which it has improved since 2010, as well as areas where improvement is still needed.
That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. And stay cool!