74 posts categorized "Giving"

The Long Haul: Lessons From Charitable Responses to Previous Disasters

September 06, 2017

Disaster_response2-800x500While media outlets — both online and print — have been quick to offer suggestions as to how individuals should channel their charitable impulses to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey, many Americans have been inspired by the stirring images of neighbors and strangers lending a hand to help each other.

Alexis de Tocqueville, the Frenchman who documented our voluntary impulse during a tour of a young America in the 1830s, would nod knowingly if he were around to see the extraordinary outpouring of generosity we have witnessed since the first days of flooding in Texas.

Time and again over the last twenty years , I've watched Americans respond quickly and generously to a series of natural and man-made disasters. Corporations and foundations also have risen to the occasion, and the lessons they've learned from their responses are of considerable value as we all weigh how to use our resources to the greatest effect in the wake of a disaster like Harvey.

But I've also learned a few things of my own from the responses to disasters like Katrina and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and would like to share them with you.

First, businesses, foundations, civic and fraternal associations, faith communities, and the public at large must be prepared to invest in both relief and rebuilding efforts. Relief from the immediate suffering and dislocation caused by an unprecedented rain event like Harvey is, rightfully, the first order of business, and Texans know that the road ahead will be long and winding. But the rest of us must be willing to hang in with them for the long haul. As Texas governor Greg Abbott said earlier this week, "Digging out of this catastrophe is going to be a multiyear project for Texas."

After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast in the summer of 2005, Nancy Anthony, executive director of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation, recounted how her community was still responding to the mental health needs of first responders and survivors of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City ten years earlier.

Because they're seen as entities with significant resources, corporations are always under pressure to "get the money out the door" after a disaster occurs. But many companies have discovered that a pledge or commitment with a dollar amount attached to it can be announced immediately while the actual funds are distributed for different phases of the recovery and rebuilding process over time. In fact, that was the course of action taken by the Toshiba Corporation after Hurricane Katrina.

It was also heartening to see the pledge of $36 million made by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation — the largest to date for Harvey relief and recovery efforts. In announcing the gift, Michael Dell noted that "[i]t will take all of us together, over the long term, to rebuild our Texas communities." Interestingly, the foundation has chosen to pool its resources with others by seeding the Rebuild Texas Fund under the aegis of a charitable intermediary, the OneStar Foundation. The approach is consistent with the one taken after 9/11 by the New York Community Trust and the United Way of New York City, when they joined forces to create the September 11 Fund with the aim of both maximizing the impact of their own resources and creating a vehicle for thousands of others eager to contribute to recovery efforts.

Second, given the scale of the destruction caused by Harvey and regardless of the truly impressive scope of the charitable response, charity cannot presume to be a substitute for action by government at the local, state, and federal levels. It is estimated, for example, that rebuilding the flood-ravaged parts of Texas and Louisiana will far exceed the $50 billion in funds allocated by the Congress to states in the Northeast after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 — and that figure is likely to increase as the full scope of the devastation becomes apparent.

Third, while the dollar amounts attached to relief, recovery, and rebuilding efforts in Texas truly are staggering, small acts of kindness should not be discounted. The images of Houstonians helping neighbors through flooded streets will stick in people’s minds for decades. Something similar happened after the Indian Ocean tsunami created devastation from Thailand to Kenya in December 2004 and many tourists were stranded without access to telephones or other means of communication. However, American Express was able to track many survivors through their credit card charges and notified their loved ones back home, bringing unimaginable relief to countless families.

Fourth, national organizations like the American Red Cross are vital frontline responders. But the hard work of recovery and rebuilding inevitably falls on the shoulders of community-based organizations that are most attuned to local residents' needs. While most such organization are unknown to the general public and almost always are underresourced, they are in the best position to make a small contribution go a long way. In fact, after the Loma Prieta/Bay Area earthquake on October 17, 1989, the only large kitchen in the area in good operating shape belonged to Project Open Hand, the local Meals-on-Wheels organization for homebound people living with AIDS. Over the next few days, its staff and volunteers were able to get meals to many of the 12,000-plus residents of San Francisco's Marina district who had lost their homes.

Fifth, rebuilding efforts at their best must address underlying factors that contribute to a disaster's destructive impact, whatever they may be. While New Orleans cannot hope to avoid hurricanes in the future, the strengthening of the city's levees after Katrina should help to mitigate the damage and dislocation caused by future storms. Such efforts require stakeholders to raise their voices and make the case to government at all levels for the funding of preventive measures.

And finally, government, businesses, foundations, and the public must act to ensure that the lessons learned from previous disasters — and the stories of those who lost their lives or were profoundly affected — are not forgotten. In the fourth decade of the AIDS epidemic in the U.S., a number of local foundations were sufficiently moved to erect a memorial in a park in Greenwich Village to the 100,000-plus New Yorkers who have died from AIDS, while memorials and museums like those in Oklahoma City and on the site of the destroyed World Trade Center serve as much-needed reminders of those tragedies for future generations.

Recovery, rebuilding, and healing after a disaster know no timetable. However, small and big acts can ease the suffering of the survivors and help build stronger and more resilient communities. We just have to pay attention to the lessons learned by those who have already been through it.

Headshot_michael seltzerMichael Seltzer directs the New York Community Trust Leadership Fellows program at Baruch College's Marxe School of Public and International Affairs in New York City. A version of this post appears on the Philanthropy New York site.

Weekend Link Roundup (July 22-23, 2017)

July 23, 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....

Climate Change

According to the best-case scenario — a drastic reduction in greenhouse gases across the world — 48 percent of humanity will be exposed regularly to deadly heat by the year 2100. But "[e]xtreme heat isn’t a doomsday scenario," writes Emily Atkin in The New Republic, it's "an existing, deadly phenomenon — and it’s getting worse by the day. The question is whether we’ll act and adapt, thereby saving countless lives."

Puppy_with_fork_hiResCommunity Improvement/Development

In a Perspectives piece on the MacArthur Foundation website, Tara Magner and Cate A. Fox discuss how the foundation's newly appointed Chicago Commitment team is beginning to think about its work to make Chicago a more connected and equitable city, and the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.

Education

After twelve years, the Moody's Foundation has dropped its sponsorship of the Moody's Mega Math Challenge, a national math modeling competition for high school juniors and seniors, and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, which runs the competition, is looking for a new sponsor. Forbes associate editor Alex Knapp has the details.

Environment

According to a new report from international environmental NGO Global Witness, two hundred environmental activists were murdered in 2016, more than double the number who lost their lives defending the environment just five years ago. And the violence continues, with more than a hundred activists murdered in the first five months of this year. On the Skoll Foundation website, Zachary Slobig talks with Global Witness' Billy Kyte about the  “culture of impunity” that is enabling these gross violations of human rights.

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Collaboration Is the New Competitive Edge

July 04, 2017

Successful-collaborationThere aren't many secrets among friends. At least not between DonorsChoose.org, Kiva, and GlobalGiving. For nearly half a decade, my GlobalGiving colleagues and I have been sharing intel with these peers (and a few others) via monthly phone calls and occasional meet-ups. Because we're all working to improve our giving communities, nearly every strategy and tactic is open for discussion. Especially when it comes to donor engagement and retention.

Most nonprofits work tirelessly to engage and retain donors, but there isn't much data about what works online. Much of the research on giving to date has been associated with donor acquisition rather than donor retention, as the latter requires nonprofits to collaborate with researchers. Recently, however, all three of our organizations teamed up with Harvard Business School's Michael Norton and Oliver Hauser to conduct the first known synchronized A/B field test involving three nonprofits. The experiment, aimed at driving repeat donations, was generously funded by the John Templeton Foundation.

The tactic we chose to explore? Pseudo-sets. Previous research by the HBS team suggested that individuals are motivated to complete tasks when they are framed as part of a "pseudo-set" — that is, rather than just performing a single action, individuals are asked to perform three or four actions to complete the "set." In fact, research has shown that task completion can jump five-fold when people are presented with wedges of a pie chart that fill in as each task is completed (compared to the control without a set). Inspired by that idea, my colleagues and our friends at DonorsChoose and Kiva ran a large-scale field experiment across our respective crowdfunding platforms (which together reach more than 200,000 donors) to test the effect on fundraising of "pseudo-set" framing. Could the approach inspire more giving?

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A Conversation With Una Osili, Director of Research, Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy

June 23, 2017

As we reported a week or so ago, the latest edition of the annual Giving USA report shows that total giving in 2016 rose 2.7 percent (1.4 percent adjusted for inflation) from the revised estimate of $379.89 billion for 2015. Published by the Giving USA Foundation and researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, the report also found that charitable giving from individuals, foundations, and corporations — and to all nine major categories of recipient organizations — increased in 2016, just the sixth time in the last forty years that that has happened.

The numbers would seem to support the idea that many Americans, eight years after the start of the worst economic downturn since the 1930s, are feeling better about their finances. They do little, however, to explain the widespread anxiety and economic insecurity that fueled the political rise and election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. To help sort things out, PND spoke with Una Osili, director of research at the Lilly Family School of Pahilanthropy, about the report's findings and what they tell us about wealth, inequality, and the changing landscape of philanthropy in America.

Headshot_osili_una_cropped1_3Philanthropy News Digest: The big headline from this year's report is that total giving hit a record $390 billion in 2016. What's your favorite takeaway from the report?

Una Osili: A key finding is that individuals, who are responsible for 72 percent of all giving in the U.S., are the drivers of American philanthropy. If you look at the last two years, individual giving has registered the highest growth rate over that period, and this year's report confirms the observation that individuals play a critical role in philanthropy.

PND: The report found that giving to all nine recipient categories was up in 2016, a rare occurrence. Which of those categories saw the biggest gains, and what does the fact that giving was up across all categories tell you?

UO: The subsectors that saw the largest growth were the environment and the arts, followed by international. In all three of those areas, we are seeing significant innovation in terms of fundraising approaches and the use of new methods to build relationships with donors.

The takeaway here is that innovation does matter, and organizations in those sectors are breaking new ground in how they think about donor engagement and using technology. It's also interesting that the environment, and international affairs as well, are very much top of mind with donors and funders as a result of the public policy debates we've been having.

PND: You mentioned that the increase in giving in 2016 was largely driven by the 4 percent jump in giving by individuals. How closely does individual giving track income and/or wealth inequality?

UO: In general, giving trends tend to reflect overall economic growth and household wealth and income trends. In other words, individuals give when they are economically and finan­cial­ly secure. That said, inequality is an important trend to examine alongside growth in income, because as the economy has recovered we've seen that house­hold incomes at the top have recovered faster than incomes in the middle and at the bottom, and that has the potential to influence where we can expect to see growth in giving over time.

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Weekend Link Roundup (June 10-11, 2017)

June 11, 2017

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

Children and Youth

On the Annie E. Casey Foundation blog, Tracey Feild, managing director of the foundation's Child Welfare Strategy Group, shares five lessons from the foundation's recent efforts to develop tools to measure and address racial disparities in child welfare systems.

Education

"If Facebook’s [Mark]. Zuckerberg has his way, children the world over will soon be teaching themselves — using software his company helped build." The New York Times' Natasha Singer considers the efforts of Zuckerberg, Salesforce founder Marc Benioff, Netflix chief Reed Hastings, and other Silicon Valley billionaires to remake America's public schools.

Giving

In an article for Nature, Caroline Fiennes, founder of Giving Evidence, an organization that promotes charitable giving based on sound evidence, argues that "[p]hilanthropists are flying blind because little is known about how to donate money well." The solution to the problem, she adds, "lies in more research on what makes for effective philanthropy [and donor effectiveness]."

And here, courtesy of the International Council for Science's Anne-Sophie Stevance and David McCollum, research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, is an SDG-related example of exactly the kind of approach and methodology Fiennes would like to see more of.

A recent column by New York Times columnist David Brooks in which Brooks asks, "What would I do if I had a billion bucks to use for good?" raises other interesting questions, writes John Tamny on the Real Clear Markets site, including: Why do the superrich think their skills in the commercial space render them experts at charity? And: Why should the supperrich be expected to do "good" after they have created wealth — and the jobs and social advances that usually come with it?

Reid Hoffman, a supperrich Silicon Valley entrepreneur and founder of networking site LinkedIn, tells The Atlantic's Alana Semuels that having people who know how to apply capital in the service of getting things done is a good thing for social causes, as long as those same people are careful about big-footing the politics of the issue.

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Weekend Link Roundup (June 3-4, 2017)

June 04, 2017

Pittsburgh office media carousel skyline triangle  700x476Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

African Americans

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Melissa Harris-Perry, a professor in the department of politics and international affairs at Wake Forest University, television personality, and founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center, has some advice for the NAACP, which recently announced the departure of its president, Cornell William Brooks, and its intention to pursue an "organization-wide refresh."

Climate Change

Hours after Donald Trump claimed "to represent the voters of Pittsburgh in his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement," Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto announced his support for a goal of powering the city entirely with clean and renewable energy by 2035. Shane Levy reports for the Sierra Club. (And you can read Peduto's executive order to that effect here.)

Although there's no doubt that "President Trump’s decision to abandon the Paris Agreement on global warming is a short-sighted mistake," writes Nature Conservancy president Mark Tercek, the jury is still out as to whether "the decision [will] unravel the entire agreement."

Fundraising

We missed this post by Vu Le outlining the principles of community-centric fundraising when it was first published in the lead up to the Memorial Day weekend. But it is definitely worth your time.

Hey, Mr./Ms. Nonprofit Fundraiser, job got you down and almost out? Beth Kanter shares four warning signs of burnout — and easy ways to make yourself feel better.

On the GuideStar blog, BidPal's Joshua Meyer looks at five unexpected benefits of text-to-give software.

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Weekend Link Roundup (May 27-28, 2017)

May 28, 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....

Frog-in-the-Rain

Climate Change

As the Trump administration prepares to exit the Paris climate agreement, a new Global Challenges Foundation poll finds that a majority of people in eight countries — the U.S., China, India, Britain, Australia, Brazil, South Africa and Germany — say they are ready to change their lifestyles if it would prevent climate catastrophe — a survey result that suggests "a huge gap between what people expect from politicians and what politicians are doing."

Criminal Justice

On the Ford Foundation's Equal Change blog, Kamilah Duggins and William Kelley explain why and how they created a professional development program at the foundation for graduates of the Bard Prison Initiative, which creates the opportunity for incarcerated men and women to earn a Bard College degree while serving their sentence.

Diversity

A new white paper (6 pages, PDF) from executive search firm Battalia Winston sheds light on the lack of diversity within the leadership ranks of the nation's foundations and nonprofit organizations.

Education

Does the DeVos education budget promote "choice" or segregation? That's the question the Poverty & Race Research Council's Kimberly Hall and Michael Hilton ask in a post here on PhilanTopic.

Fundraising

There are mistakes, and there are fundraising mistakes. Here are five of the latter that, according to experts on the Forbes Nonprofit Council, we all should try to avoid.

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Charities Stand to Benefit From Trillions in Mandated Retirement Distributions

May 23, 2017

61mitchmillerThe same generation that sang along with Elvis, the Beach Boys, and the Beatles will be singing a different tune as they pay taxes on trillions in 401(k) and IRA required minimum distributions (RMD) this year.

In January, Edward Shane, managing director at Bank of New York Mellon, told the Wall Street Journal that he estimates boomers have roughly $10 trillion stashed away in tax-deferred savings accounts. As the first generation with 401(k)s, boomers are in a unique position to call their own tune as they decide what to do with that money. How can charities join the chorus and benefit from this potential windfall?

HBO's recent documentary Becoming Warren Buffett highlighted the homespun billionaire's pledge to give away the bulk of his wealth during his lifetime. Buffett is setting a new standard for philanthropy and — more importantly — is encouraging others to do the same. Not everyone is Warren Buffett, of course, but we can all learn from his philosophy of giving.

Boomers can make "giving while living" the norm

My parents, who are among the oldest of the boomer generation (born between 1946 and 1964), turned 70 last year. According to Pew Research, they are just two in a wave of 74.9 million boomers who will be reaching that milestone over the next decade and a half. Though only second in size (behind the millennials), the boomer generation is the wealthiest on record. That puts them in a position to give more than any previous generation.

My parents will mark another "first" this year when they hit the RMD age of 70½, meaning they will be required to withdraw monies from their retirement accounts (IRAs or other tax-deferred vehicles) or face steep penalties (50 percent of the amount not withdrawn). Of course, these distributions are taxable, and for some boomers they will represent unwanted income, which is where a proactive giving strategy comes in.

Boomers who want to establish a "giving-while-living" strategy (akin to Buffett's, in principle if not size) can take their RMD from their tax-deferred retirement savings plan and allocate those assets directly to a charity through a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD). A QCD is a direct transfer of funds from the trustee of an IRA to a qualified 501(c)(3) organization. There are other requirements: $100,000 is the maximum allowed per year, and the IRA or 401(k) holder must be 70½ or older.

The benefits of this type of planned charitable giving strategy are threefold. First, QCDs can satisfy the required minimum distribution. Second, QCDs are excluded from taxable income. And third, studies show that giving back can make you happier and feel more connected with your community.

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[Infographic] The Current and Future State of Nonprofit Philanthropy

May 13, 2017

No doubt about it, these are challenging times for nonprofits. Revenues for most organizations are flat, government support for the safety net has been singled out as something we can longer afford (or are no longer willing to pay for), competition for limited resources is increasing, and demand for services continues to grow.

This week's infographic, courtesy of the online Master of Public Administration program at the University of San Francisco, provides a snapshot of a sector poised between the certainties of the past and, well, an uncertain future. And as someone who has covered the sector for years, a couple of things jump out at me. The charitable-giving-as-a-percentage-of-GDP ratio — 2.1 percent — has been stuck right around there for years, despite the efforts of infrastructure groups, activists, academics, and celebrity philanthropists. Might it inch higher in the future, as millennials enter their peak giving years? It's possible, though there's little evidence to suggest that millennials will be more charitable than their parents and grandparents — and some to suggest that, as a group, their giving will be constrained by worrisome economic trends. The infographic includes an oddly specific intergenerational-transfer-of-wealth range — $22.2 trillion to $55.4 trillion — which suggests to me that there will be a wealth transfer of some kind over the next thirty years, but that no one really knows how much wealth will be passed on, how much of it will end up in university and foundation endowments, or how much will end up supporting the work of faith-based and human services organizations. And the number of charitable organizations in the U.S. cited below — 1.5 million — almost surely is overstated, creating a false impression of a sector that is larger and more robust than, in actuality, it is.

Elsewhere, the infographic underscores the still-significant impact of volunteers and volunteering in American society and hints at the rapid growth of online giving. But don't take my word for it. Have a look and then join us in the comments section below for a conversation about what the infographic gets right, what it gets wrong, and what you would change or add if you could.

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[Review] 'The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age'

May 11, 2017

The mega-wealthy have long been celebrated in American culture. Even in the first Gilded Age, when the likes of Carnegie, Mellon, Rockefeller, and Sage were scorned as robber barons, their wealth — and power — were much admired. In their time, these titans of America's burgeoning industrial might determined the economic destiny of millions and set the course of the nation. And their philanthropy — more than a century on — continues to echo with all the force that money can buy.

TheGiversBookShotToday, as we celebrate the dynamos of a new gilded age — their fortunes, in many cases, made younger, growing faster, moving at the speed of light — we're witnessing a second philanthropic boom. And that seemingly inexhaustible river of "private wealth for public good" brings with it the ideas and voices of those who, having made vast fortunes, are now determined to put that money to use. How society responds to and channels that torrent of money while making sure the ideas it funds best serve the interests of the American people is of broad concern.

In The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age, David Callahan gives us a grand tour of the philanthropic landscape in the opening decades of the twenty-first century while opening a window on how today's economic winners — having proved themselves in business — are eyeing philanthropy as the ultimate opportunity to convert wealth into power. But where a Matthew Josephson might have distrusted such a development, in Callahan's telling these masters of the universe are thoughtful, broad-minded, and, yes, even likable. He's not interested in taking them down, criticizing their often rapacious business practices, or pointing out the role played by fiscal and tax policy in cementing their status as the .01 percent. Instead, his is a book about the giving away, not the getting, of great wealth.

Founding editor of the Inside Philanthropy website, a founder of public policy think tank Demos, and a former fellow at the Century Foundation, Callahan has a reputation as a keen observer of philanthropy and civil society and it serves him well here. Not only does he know his subject, he's also interviewed many of the people in his book — Priscilla Chan, Eli Broad, Melinda Gates, and John Arnold, to name a few — and is able to support his own judgments with their words. And what both he and they see is a future in which giving by the mega-wealthy is going to be bigger, more sophisticated, and more focused on influencing public policy debates.

Of course, many of today's mega-wealthy, people like Warren Buffett and Michael Bloomberg, have indicated they have little interest in leaving much of their wealth behind. (In a recent 60 Minutes interview, Bloomberg joked with correspondent Steve Croft about "a guy on his death bed in a hospital with the rails around and his family looking down like vultures. And he looks up and says, 'I know I can't take it with me, but I can take the access code'.") Indeed, in the next decade alone, some $740 billion is likely to be distributed in the form of private philanthropy. And if the Giving Pledge — the Buffett and Gates effort to encourage the uber-rich to commit the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes — is any gauge, we could see another trillion dollars in private wealth making its way to nonprofit organizations and causes over the lifetimes of the one hundred and fifty-eight current "pledgers" who have signed on. (Learn more about that campaign and its signatories at the Foundation Center's Eye on the Giving Pledge feature.) How all that money will be used over the coming decades is what former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld might call a known unknown, but it undoubtedly will have important and lasting effects, and that — as well as who will decide what its impact might be — is at the center of Callahan's inquiry.

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Weekend Link Roundup (April 29-30, 2017)

April 30, 2017

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

Children and Youth

In a post on the Colorado Trust site, Kristin Jones, the trust's assistant director of communications, details three of the structural factors that, according to the latest data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation's KIDS COUNT initiative,  are holding back children in the state, with real consequences for their health.

Communications/Marketing

As if there isn't already enough in the world to disagree about, design shop Elevation has created a gallery showcasing its favorite 75 nonprofit logos. Let the games begin!

Environment

Barry Gold, director of the Environment program at the Walton Family Foundation, explains why fishing reforms recently enacted in Indonesia and the U.S. Gulf Coast region point the way to a more sustainable fishing industry in the twenty-first century.

Foundation Center has launched a new Web portal, FundingTheOcean.org, designed to help funders and activists track, inform, and inspire ocean conservation. 

The UN Foundation's Justine Sullivan shares seven reasons why the U.S. would be foolish to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Food Insecurity

On the Civil Eats site, Mark Winne talks to Andy Fisher, author of the new book, Big Hunger: The Unholy Alliance Between Corporate America and Anti-Hunger Groups, about poverty, the "business" of hunger, and Fisher's vision for a new anti-hunger movement.

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Nonprofits, Partisan Politics, and Tax Policy

April 27, 2017

Tax_cutsCalls for tax reform by the White House, Congress, and others have led to proposals that would have a direct and profound impact on nonprofit organizations and philanthropy. Of those proposals, one from the House Republicans calls for eliminating the tax deduction for charitable donations, one floated by the White House would eliminate an incentive for charitable bequests, and another from a coalition of nonprofit organizations would expand the deduction to more taxpayers. The three proposals couldn't be more different.

But while charities and donors are scrambling to preserve (or expand) their tax advantages, there are other worrisome proposals floating around. Most significantly, President Trump and the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill want to change the tax code to allow charities to engage in partisan electoral activity — while, at the other extreme, some want to disallow tax deductions for support of nonprofit advocacy and policy work.

Certainly, one can understand why most tax-exempt organizations would fight to protect the tax incentives for charitable contributions that support their work, but such efforts raise questions about whether charities and donors are worried more about their own self-interest than the public good.

Nonprofits' efforts to preserve and extend the charitable deduction would be less suspect were the organizations fighting for those policies as engaged in the debates over other government tax, budget, and policy initiatives — debates that profoundly threaten many of the causes and constituencies they exist to serve. When nonprofit and foundation leaders are missing from such debates, it becomes easier to impugn their motives for trying to preserve their own tax advantages. Protecting the charitable deduction is not an adequate surrogate for broader action.

Against this backdrop, the president's pledge to "totally destroy" the so-called Johnson Amendment prohibition on charities' involvement in partisan electoral campaigns needs to be addressed (as do other administration proposals).

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Weekend Link Roundup (March 25-26, 2017)

March 26, 2017

David_rockefeller_photo_jim_smeal_wireimage_getty_images_115356418_profileOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Arts and Culture

The Metropolitan Museum of Art on Manhattan's Upper East Side is one of the great cultural institutions of the world. But is it a great cultural institution in decline? In Vanity Fair, William D. Cohan looks at the New York Times article and ensuing circumstances that led to the resignation of the museum's director, 54-year-old one-time wunderkind Thomas Campbell.

Climate Change

The nation's leading climate change activist is a former hedge fund manager you've probably never heard of. Wired's Nick Stockton talks to Tom Steyer, the California billionaire who is trying to save the planet.

Education

Citing new research which finds that the skills required to succeed professionally are the same as those required to succeed in K-12 education, Laszlo Bock, a member of the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development, suggests that the best place to invest scarce education reform dollars might just be where the overlap between the two is most clear.

Fundraising

Like many people, I'm a student of cognitive biases. So I was pleased to come across this post by John Haydon detailing five cognitive biases that can be leveraged to improve the success of your next fundraising campaign.

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Weekend Link Roundup (March 18-19, 2017)

March 19, 2017

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

Arts and Culture

The Wellesley Centers for Women partnered with American Conservatory Theater to study gender equity in leadership opportunities in the nonprofit American theater. This is what they learned.

In an op-ed for Bloomberg, Earl Lewis, president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a major funder of the arts and humanities in America, suggests that any plan to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National for the Humanities "would be foolish," not least because it would "deprive ourselves and our successors of the cultural understanding central to our complex but shared national identity." 

Education

The Trump administration's call for massive cuts to national service in its first budget would deal a "devastating" blow to the education reform movement. Lisette Partelow, director of K-12 Strategic Initiatives at the Center for American Progress, and Kami Spicklemire, an education campaign manager at CAP, explain.

Environment

In a guest post for the Center for Effective Philanthropy, Keecha Harris, president of Keecha Harris and Associates, Inc. and director of InDEEP (Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity in Environmental Philanthropy), argues that if the environmental movement wants to remain relevant, its needs to do something about the "green ceiling" — i.e, the lack of diversity and inclusion within its ranks.

In a statement released earlier in the week, Nature Conservancy president Mark Tercek criticizes the White House's "misguided" budget blueprint, which assumes that "the security and prosperity of [the] country must come at the expense of critical federal investments in our natural resources." 

Hewlett Foundation president Larry Kramer argues that philanthropy has an important role to play in limiting the damage from climate change already locked in, but that to do so, it will need to respond with a much bigger effort than it has mustered to date.

Here's some good news: Despite a growing global economy, CO2 emissions have remained flat for the third year in a row. 

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The Future of African-American Philanthropy

March 15, 2017

Circleofjoy_mediumAs the demography of America changes, the face of philanthropy is changing along with it. While African Americans have a tradition of giving, the 2016 U.S. Trust® Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy highlights new data on African-American donors that gives us a clearer picture of the future of philanthropy in the U.S. We have long known, for example, that African-American households tend to give more of their discretionary income — as much as 25 percent more — to charitable causes than white Americans, and the U.S. Trust study (114 pages, PDF) suggests that that figure increases as African Americans move into the ranks of the wealthy.

At Bridge Philanthropic Consulting (BPC), the nation's largest full-service African American-owned fundraising firm, we have logged plenty of anecdotal evidence that supports the study’s key finding — namely, that African Americans are very generous but also very careful when it comes to charitable giving. Among those surveyed for the study, 62.4 percent of African-American respondents rated themselves as "knowledgeable" or "expert" about charitable giving and philanthropy, compared to 54.8 percent of their white peers. African-American donors also are almost twice as likely as white donors to say that they carefully monitor their social investments (39.1 percent v. 21.7 percent).

This cautiousness on the part of African-American donors does not extend to online giving. African Americans are four times as likely as donors from other racial or ethnic groups to use social media to raise funds and/or awareness for a cause. And high-net-worth African-American donors report a higher degree of satisfaction from giving than white donors (66.7 percent v. 42.3 percent). At the same time, African-American and white donors both report a high degree of satisfaction from volunteering, with rates above 60 percent among both groups. Where noticeable differences show up is in the kinds of organizations each group favors. African Americans were significantly more likely than their white peers to donate to faith-based causes (71 percent vs. 53.7 percent), so-called combination purposes (54 percent vs. 41.4 percent), and higher education (49 percent vs. 34.4 percent). There is also a tradition in the black church of tithing that has instilled a sense of grassroots philanthropy in the African-American community, with African Americans who attend church 25 percent more likely to make a charitable donation than their peers who don't attend church services.

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