465 posts categorized "International Affairs/Development"

What's New at Foundation Center Update (June)

June 15, 2018

FC_logoJust as May sees students around the world celebrating their graduation from high school or college, Foundation Center celebrated the rebranding of our learning community for the social sector and updated our strategy for presenting research findings. And we began to rethink the role that infrastructure organizations like ours should play. Here's our May roundup:

Projects Launched

  • We launched a redesigned GrantSpace.org, our home for social sector professionals. GrantSpace offers a thriving learning community with free tools and trainings designed to help nonprofits build their capacity and be more effective in their work. We're really excited about the new site and hope you'll take a few minutes to check it out!
  • We launched new research and an analysis of the drivers of financial sustainability for local civil society organizations. A collaborative effort with LINC and Peace Direct, the project, which draws on interviews with 120 stakeholders in six countries and an analysis of more than 16,000 grant records, highlights specific strategies employed by funders and CSOs designed to improve financial sustainability in a variety of development contexts. Check out the reports and custom network map at linclocal.org.

Content Published

What We're Excited About

  • Concerns about privacy and data security are very much top of mind these days and are being addressed with a variety of new strategies designed to protect one's personal digital information. On May 25, the European Union set in motion a new law, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), that changes how the personal data of individuals within the European Union and European Economic Area can be collected and used. While the law is focused on personal data, cyberspace in general is an emerging arena for broader inter-state conflict. In acknowledgement of that reality, our Peace and Security Funding Index now includes a "cybersecurity" category, which Foundation Center defines as the protection of computer networks against outside hackers, including government and non-governmental actors. The index tracks grants aimed at preventing and withstanding cyberattacks from hackers and viruses, as well as cyber terrorism and other cyber threats more broadly. According to the index, funders awarded $6.9 million in the area of cybersecurity in 2015, and we are very interested in tracking how that number changes (or doesn't) over the next few years. Take a few minutes to explore the page and be sure check out the Spotlight feature there to learn more about what different funders are doing to establish international norms around cybersecurity.
  • The Boys and Men of Color Executive Director Collaboration Circle, offered in partnership with Foundation Center South and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, has closed the application period for its next six-month cycle. The initiative is aimed at helping nonprofit leaders in the Atlanta region build their capacity to serve and achieve outcomes for boys and men of color. Due to the success of the 2017 pilot, this year's program, which starts July 20, will include twice as many organizations.
  • Foundation Center will be presenting a series of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) webinars through October. The first two are: Getting Ahead of the Curve with Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (In June) and Activating the Collective Power of Latino Engagement and Giving – A Virtuous Circle (in July).

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Our staff will be attending these upcoming events:

Services Spotlight

  • 187,297 new grants added to Foundation Maps, 3,111 of which were awarded to 1,720 organizations outside the U.S.
  • Foundation Directory Online (FDO) grantmaker profile PDFs have a new, improved layout, making them easier to print. Search more than 140,000 grantmaker profiles in FDO!

Data Spotlight

  • New data sharing partners: Anonymous Australia 1, Cancer Care Network Foundation, Collier Charitable Fund, Origin Foundation, Newsboys Foundation, Philanthropy Australia, and Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation. Send us your data and help us communicate philanthropy's efforts to make a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.
  • Year-to-date we've answered more than 5,000 questions via our live Online Librarian chat service.
  • Year-to-date we've provided custom searches for the Center for Effective Philanthropy, Grantmakers for Education, Levin College of Urban Affairs (CSU), the GHR Foundation, and Rasmuson Foundation.

If you found this update helpful, feel free to share it or shoot us an email! I’ll be back next month with another update.

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center.

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (May 2018)

June 02, 2018

In the movie Groundhog Day, TV weatherman Phil Connors, the character played by Bill Murray, is assigned to cover the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania — an assignment he disdains and decides to skip. There's a price to pay when you ignore Punxsutawney Phil, though, and the next day Connors finds himself stuck in a time loop, condemned to relive the events of Groundhog Day over and over. Which is a sort of how those of us in the Northeast are feeling after what seems like four months of overcast.

Don't despair. Our roundup of the most popular posts on the blog in May includes new posts by Jen Bokoff, Eric Braxton, Arif Ekram, Yaro Fong-Olivares, and Thaler Pekar; a couple of oldies but goodies (by Richard Brewster and Lauren Bradford); and a quick guide to digital marketing by Roubler's Daniel Ross.

What have you read/watched/heard lately that got your attention, made you think, or charged you up? Feel free to share in the comments section below.

Interested in writing for PND or PhilanTopic? We'd love to hear from you. Send a few lines about your idea/article/post to mfn@foundationcenter.org.

The System Matters in CSO Financial Sustainability

June 01, 2018

SynthesisReport_Final_hres_001-212x300Financial sustainability gets plenty of lip service in the civil society sector, and anyone who has submitted a grant application has probably written a required "sustainability plan." Despite the prominence of financial sustainability in the donor discourse on civil society, however, actually obtaining the resources needed to be resilient to the ups and downs of the donor marketplace remains a critical challenge for civil society organizations (CSOs). The challenge is particularly acute for local CSOs in middle and low-income economies, which are best-positioned to serve their communities but struggle with a limited supply of financial resources and have difficulty in accessing funding from abroad.

A Data-Driven Approach to Understanding the Issue

While the challenge is widely acknowledged, relatively little data is available on the amount and nature of support specifically designed to help improve organizations' financial sustainability or how different drivers of organizational sustainability may be more or less important in different contexts. That's why the USAID-funded Facilitating Financial Sustainability consortium, led by LINC in partnership with Peace Direct and Foundation Center, is excited to launch three new reports that together provide a comprehensive examination of the CSO financial sustainability system. The reports are accompanied by interactive funding network maps that allow users to explore the CSO financial sustainability landscape in six country contexts: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mexico, the Philippines, and Uganda.

The research is based on interviews with more than a hundred and twenty development stakeholders in the six countries and an analysis of close to eighteen thousand grant records, enabling the research team to apply numbers and rigorous analysis to how both funders and CSOs confront the question of  sustainability.

Sustainability Support: Lacking and Uneven

On the funder side, the team found that only 5 percent of total grant funding to local CSOs is explicitly targeted toward supporting organizations' financial sustainability. And in cases in which funders do focus on supporting sustainability, they tend to follow three strategies: providing unrestricted support; building organizational capacity; or developing and facilitating networks. But even support within these categories can vary considerably in its structure, with only 11 percent of unrestricted grants extending beyond one year despite the critical importance of long-term planning for organizational sustainability. There are also notable differences in how such support is distributed across sectors, with human rights-focused organizations heavily overrepresented in terms of receiving support for sustainability relative to organizations in other sectors. 

Going Beyond Technical Capacity

On the CSO side, the research team found that in addition to the organizational factors traditionally associated with driving financial sustainability (e.g., robust internal strategic and financial planning systems), in certain settings less obvious factors such as community social capital can be equally important. While international funders may come and go, a CSO's relationship with its own community remains the bedrock of its ability to operate effectively, and so some of the most successful organizations have found creative ways to build social capital. This can happen in spite of, rather than because of, funding structures; for example, one organization in Uganda took advantage of a rare unrestricted windfall from a prize competition to conduct small projects for the local community completely outside of its normal programmatic mandate but which proved critical for building buy-in to the organization's long-term success among community members.

By bringing together quantitative funder data and structured analysis of interviews with CSOs, funders, and other stakeholders, the research provides a systems-level view of the challenge of financial sustainability. From that work, it is clear that sustainability is more than any one organization's balance sheet and instead encompasses complex interactions between CSOs, funders, local institutions, and local community members. Like any good research, our analysis ends up raising as many questions as it answers, but we hope ti moves the development sector a step closer to understanding how to create vibrant and resilient organizations that serve the long-term needs of their communities.

Read the reports here.

Matthew Guttentag is a program director at LINC, a Washington, D.C.-based business that works with local and international organizations to strengthen their institutional capacity, measure their impact, and forge lasting partnerships. This post originally appeared on the LINC site and is reposted here with permission.

Weekend Link Roundup (May 26-27, 2018)

May 27, 2018

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

Civil Society

You don't want to, but you know — for the sake of our democracy — that you should. Talk, that is, to people you don't agree with. John Gable, CEO and co-founder of AllSides.com and AllSidesForSchools.org, shows you how.

Climate Change

Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther offers a hard look at "climate philanthropy" — and "the way in which the groupthink of big climate funders has helped to give us a U.S. climate movement that is neither driven by evidence nor politically powerful."

Education

The 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), often referred to as "the nation's report card," has been released, and on Valerie Strauss' Answer Sheet blog, Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, a nonprofit education group advocating for traditional public schools, looks at what some reformers have said about NAEP scores in the past and compares them to what they said this year.  

Fundraising

In a guest post on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Amy L. Cheney, president/CEO of Crayons to Computers and formerly vice president for giving strategies at the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, reminds fundraisers that in this uncertain environment, "building relationships with donors will continue to be critical," as will remembering that "a donor must believe in the cause and feel that the organization’s values affirm and strengthen her own."

Health

"At the core of the nation’s drug pricing problem is one fundamental fact," writes Commonwealth Fund president David Blumenthal. "Drug companies enjoy government-sanctioned and -enforced monopolies over the supply of many drugs."

Inequality

The big takeaway from a St. Louis Fed report based on demographic and financial information provided by 6,254 families? Your income and overall wealth-accumulating power are strongly influenced by your parents' race and whether they went to college. Jenny McCoy, a Boulder-based journalist, reports for the Colorado Trust. 

International Affairs/Development

In his latest, philanthropic strategist Bruce DeBoskey provides an introduction to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals franework, which offers "a detailed roadmap for...governments, businesses and philanthropists [looking] to make essential and significant progress on the continuing challenges that threaten billions of people — and the planet itself."

And here on PhilanTopic, Arif Ekram and Lauren Bradford share the latest data on foundation giving in support of the SDG agenda — and what the data suggests about where we are, and where we need to go. 

Nonprofits

In a guest post on Beth Kanter's blog, Heather McLeod Grant, Adene Sacks, Kate Wilkinson — co-authors of the newly released report The New Normal: Capacity Building During a Time of Disruptionargue that "well-being" is an increasingly important aspect of social change work.

Philanthropy

On his Nonprofit AF blog, Vu Le wonders why we take it for granted that tax-advantaged philanthropic dollars are not viewed and treated as "contributions toward the common good."

Prompted by a recent convening of the Funders' Committee for Civic Participation, Connie Malloy, portfolio director at the James Irvine Foundation, shares some timely reflections on equity in grantmaking.

On the Exponent Philanthropy blog, Allen Smart, a former vice president of programs and interim president at the Kate B. Reynolds Trust in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, reminds readers that equity is not just an urban issue.

The Minneapolis-based McKnight Foundation released a Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in January and, at the time, promised to keep everyone posted on subsequent changes in its policies and practices. This week, it announced one of the first changes, which is to rigorously collect demographic data from grant applicants, and it is inviting applicants to partner with it.

In a "longread" on the Guardian site, Carl Rhodes and Peter Bloom offer a familiar critique of "philanthrocapitalism," which, they argue, "is about much more than the simple act of generosity it pretends to be, instead involving the inculcation of neoliberal values personified by the billionaire CEOs who have led its charge."

Women/Girls

And on the Ford Foundation's Equal Change blog, Penny Davies, a program officer in the foundation's  Natural Resources and Climate Change program area, looks at how women around the world are mobilizing to secure land rights for their communities, exercising their vote, and pushing for greater political power and parity.

Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a note at mfn@foundationcenter.org

Foundations Have Invested $50 Billion in the SDGs, But Who’s Counting?

May 23, 2018

SDGs_logoThe Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent the most ambitious — as well as expensive — global development framework in history. The framework sets specific targets in seventeen areas, from ending poverty in all its forms (Goal 1), to combating climate change and its impacts (Goal 13), to achieving gender equality (Goal 5). But with an estimated annual price tag of $3.5 trillion, it's clear that governments alone cannot finance the SDGs and hope to achieve the framework's 2030 targets. With that in mind, all stakeholders within the development ecosystem, including private and philanthropic actors, need to step in and step up their contributions. Our research shows that while the philanthropic sector has been doing its part, it can do much more.

Foundation Center has been tracking philanthropy's support for the Sustainable Development Goals since the beginning. Our data shows that foundations have contributed more than $50 billion toward achieving the SDGs since January 2016, when the SDG agenda was formally launched, and we are tracking that number in real time — i.e., as more grantmaking data becomes available, we immediately make more SDG-related funding data available. Pretty cool! (NB: We can only track what we can collect, so if we don't have your data, we can't account for your contribution.) Using this "latest available data approach," we can confirm that philanthropy has been and will continue to play a crucial role in financing and driving the SDGs.

In a blog post in 2016, Foundation Center president Brad Smith predicted that foundations would contribute $364 billion toward achieving the by 2030. While it's too early to say whether Brad will be proved correct, the initial trends are favorable. Of the $50 billion in foundation giving we have tracked, roughly $40 billion is based on 2016 data while the rest ($10 billion) comes from foundation giving data collected in 2017 and 2018. As more data from both domestic and international foundations comes in, we estimate that total foundation giving for 2016 will increase by another 15 percent or so by December, when we'll have a more complete data set, and as more international foundations share their data for research purposes. If that trend holds through 2030, it's quite likely that foundations will contribute more than the $364 billion originally estimated by Brad.

Picking winners

It's not a surprise that Goal 3 (Ensure healthy lives) and Goal 4 (Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all) have received the lion’s share of the funding to date (both more than $18 billion). In addition to regular health-related spending, foundations also have contributed significant sums in response to various health emergencies, both natural and man-made. That list includes avian influenza, Zika virus, Ebola virus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and outbreaks of yellow fever, as well as public health emergencies caused by war, cyclones, and earthquakes. At the same time, the goal to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all has long been important to many funders and continues to attract significant funding, even in the SDG era.

Though it has received considerably less funding than the other two, it’s interesting to note that Goal 5 (Achieve gender equality) ranks third in our data — our preliminary analysis hints at a promising scenario for gender equality-related funding — while Goal 16 (Promote peaceful and inclusive societies and justice for all) is close behind in the fourth spot. Indeed, a deep dive into Goal 16-related funding reveals that a lot of the grants made in support of efforts in this area overlap with Goal 5, gender equality, which suggests to us that peace and justice are strongly correlated with gender equality and that funders are well aware of the linkage.

Foundation Funding_SDGs

Who are the top funders and recipients?

Not surprisingly, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation tops the list of  funders who have supported SDG-related efforts in terms of dollars given, while the Silicon Valley Community Foundation is currently in the fourth spot, which is quite remarkable for a community foundation. It’s also exciting to see foundations from outside the U.S. on the list, with the Wellcome Trust and Big Lottery Fund — both UK-based — occupying the second and seventh spots, respectively. This is particularly important because it suggests that while foundations outside the U.S. are making sizable grants to advance the SDG agenda,  the global development community may not be aware of the extent of that giving since the data is not being widely shared. Needless to say, the main goal of SDGfunders.org is to highlight these funding trends and use the data currently available to tell a more compelling and complete story about the progress being made toward achieving the SDGs.

What's in a number?

The foundation funding total to date (more than $50 billion) represents a tally of all foundation grants identified by Foundation Center that are consistent with the seventeen SDGs and their targets. The number is not meant to suggest that foundations have intentionally aligned all that giving with the SDGs and/or internalized the SDG framework, although that may be the case for some. In addition, about 97 percent of the total is grantmaking by U.S.-based foundations, although more  international grantmaking data is being included as it is made available to us.

Arif Ekram_Lauren_Bradford_for_PhilanTopicIt's important to emphasize that the funding totals we are reporting are based on actual data on nearly a million grants we have collected to date — not on surveys, pledges, or good intentions. As many of you know, sharing grants data has never been easier, and the more data we share as a sector, the easier it will be to demonstrate to the world how institutional philanthropy is meeting the challenge of the global goals.

To learn more about SDG-related foundation funding and how to share your data with us, please visit SDGfunders.org.

Arif Ekram and Lauren Bradford are manager and director, respectively, of global partnerships at Foundation Center.

What's New at Foundation Center Update (May)

May 17, 2018

FC_logoThe flowers are blooming (and allergies raging!), and Foundation Center work is springing ahead through conferences, webinars and trainings, and new data collection efforts. I’m back in NYC for a few days to catch my breath, enjoy the noisy (in a good way) birds, and fill you in on the many exciting things we were up to in April:

Projects Launched

  • As part of our ongoing #OpenForGood campaign, we launched a new GrantCraft guide, Open For Good: Knowledge Sharing to Strengthen Grantmaking, which explores how funders can open up and share their knowledge with the rest of the social sector, and beyond. And to recognize funders that are already knowledge sharing champions, we also launched the inaugural #OpenForGood Award at the recent GEO conference. (Congrats, GEO, on twenty years of strengthening the philanthropy field!) To nominate a foundation for our new award, visit: http://foundationcenter.org/openforgood.
  • Foundation Center's Knowledge Services staff continue to help the Council on Foundations field its annual Grantmaker Salary & Benefits Survey, which provides the sector with data on staff composition and compensation of U.S. grantmakers. Council members and non-members with paid full-time staff are invited to complete the survey by May 25, so there's still time to participate and receive access to salary benchmarking reports generated from the data collected.
  • We released our second Ghana report, which synthesizes the key outcomes from the Ghana Data Strategy and Capacity Building Workshop hosted by Foundation Center and the SDG Philanthropy Forum in November 2017. The meeting was part of our broader agenda to support the Ghanaian philanthropic sector in the areas of data capacity, collaboration, and effective grantmaking.
  • We launched two leadership series papers on GrantCraft about where power sits in philanthropic practice — From Words to Action: A Practical Philanthropic Guide to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, by Barbara Chow; and How Community Philanthropy Shifts Power: What Donors Can Do to Help Make That Happen, by Jenny Hodgson and Anna Pond. Both papers encourage funders to rethink their relationships with grantees, partners, and each other and consider what they can do to foster greater inclusivity and give more power to those who lack it.

Content Published

What We're Excited About

  • We closed our annual CF Insights Columbus Survey. Look for the report coming this June. Learn more about the survey here.
  • We just relaunched our beloved website for the social sector, grantspace.org! The site’s new and improved design makes it easy to navigate to trainings and find Foundation Center locations in your region, and you can also explore hundreds of free topical resources to build your own knowledge and capacity — from anywhere in the world!

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Our staff will be speaking at these upcoming events:

Data Spotlight

  • 356,898 new grants added to Foundation Maps in April, of which 14,423 grants were made to 2,444 organizations outside the U.S.
  • New data sharing partners: Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Inc.; Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art; Fay Fuller Foundation; Deaconess Foundation; Otto Bremer Foundation; and Stranahan Foundation. Tell your story through data so we can communicate philanthropy's contribution to making a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.
  • Year-to-date we’ve answered more than 3,000 questions via our live Online Librarian chat service.
  • Foundation Directory Online recently launched new Recipient charts! Quickly gain key insights on more than 500,000 individual Recipient profiles. You can also search 140,000 foundation profiles and over 11 million grants.

If you found this update helpful, feel free to share it or shoot us an email! I’ll be back next month with another update.

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center.

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (April 2018)

May 01, 2018

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

What have you read/watched/heard lately that got your attention, made you think, or charged you up? Feel free to share in the comments section below.

Interested in writing for PND or PhilanTopic? We'd love to hear from you. Send a few lines about your idea/article/post to mfn@foundationcenter.org.

How to Fix Our Food System

April 30, 2018

AgorecologyA good idea doesn't stay buried forever. Even with a $5 trillion agrochemical industry shoveling their propaganda on top of it.

Ten years ago, the World Bank and the United Nations initiated an assessment of the state of global agriculture by some four hundred experts around the world. The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IASTTD), as the final report was titled, concluded that gains in agricultural productivity have come at a high cost, including "unintended social and environmental consequences," and that investments in biological substitutes for agrochemicals, and in programs that support agroecology, are needed to address the situation.

At times oversimplified as "sustainable agriculture," or confused with organic agriculture, the definition of agroecology is found in in its constituent parts — agro and ecology. Agroecology puts ecological science at the center of food production. With a focus on the stewardship of soil, water and biodiversity, agroecology seeks to heighten soil fertility and moisture and regenerate ecosystems by encouraging farmers to reduce their use of chemical inputs — a leading source of pollution, soil degradation, and farmer debt.

And yet, despite lifting up the many benefits of agroecology in terms of food safety and watershed health, not to mention endorsements from fifty-eight governments, implementation of the IASTTD report has been slow, at best. Whatever the cause, many of us within the growing agroecology movement are disappointed, and angry.

Earlier this month, however, there was a glimmer of hope. At the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) Second International Symposium on agroecology, change was in the air.

Continue reading »

What’s New at Foundation Center (April)

April 20, 2018

FC_logoI'm currently in New Orleans at the EDGE Funders Conference and am delighting in the stories and wisdom of bold, understated leaders from around the world who are pushing the traditional boundaries of philanthropy. Through conferences like these and our regular scanning and conversations, my colleagues and I have been busy keeping up with data trends and tracking philanthropy's engagement on a variety of issues. Here's a quick update:

Project launched

  • We added a new Open Knowledge Feature to Glasspockets Profiles to showcase the knowledge each foundation has contributed to Issuelab. Learn more.

Content published

What We're Excited About

  • Learning about and participating in global philanthropy conversations. Our director of global partnerships, Lauren Bradford, had this to say about Russian philanthropy.
  • Our FDO at Foundation Center YouTube channel! Have questions about how to use Foundation Directory Online to identify funding sources, build your prospect network, and win funding to support your mission? Our YouTube channel has all the answers.

Upcoming conferences and events

Our staff will be speaking at these upcoming events:

Data Spotlight

  • Funders have granted over $644 million to libraries since 2015. Learn more about funding for libraries at libraries.foundationcenter.org.
  • We reached more than 1,500 people in March through our eLearning and webinar programming on fundraising and nonprofit management.
  • 736,055 new grants added to Foundation Maps in March, of which 6,101 grants were made to 3,724 organizations outside the U.S.
  • New data sharing partner: Hugh J. Andersen Foundation
  • Foundation Directory Online currently has 140,000 foundation profiles, more than 11 million grants, and over 500,000 recipients profiles.

Tell your story through data so we can communicate philanthropy's contribution to making a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.

If you found this update helpful, feel free to share it or shoot us an email! I’ll be back next month with another update.

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center.

Weekend Link Roundup (April 7-8, 2018)

April 08, 2018

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

Communications/Marketing

The Hewlett Foundation's Ruth Levine argues (persuasively) that "the benefit/cost ratio for [nonprofit] annual reports is pretty unfavorable" and that "[t]they are more trouble than they're worth." 

Reinvent the wheel. Close the loop. Onboarding. Vu Le has gathered nineteen of the most annoying phrases used in the nonprofit sector.

Diversity

On the BoardSource blog, Kevin Walker, president and CEO of the Northwest Area Foundation since 2008, shares five recommendations for foundations that want to do something about the lack of board diversity in the field. 

Giving

When should you start teaching your kids about charitable giving. Forbes contributor Rob Clarfeld shares a few thoughts.

Higher Education 

After a lifetime working in and around students and public schools, Harold O. Levy, executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and a former chancellor of the New York City public school system, reflects in an op-ed in the New York Times on the "troubling fact" that "[d]espite the best efforts of many, the gap between the numbers of rich and poor college graduates continues to grow."

The Times' Kyle Spencer reports that, with the price of higher education soaring, middle-class families increasingly are looking to community colleges as an option.

"For years, researchers have highlighted the vast inequities that persist in the country's K-12 education system with students of color disproportionately enrolled in public schools that are underfunded, understaffed, and thus more likely to underperform when compared with schools attended by their white peers," writes Sara Garcia on the Center for American progress site. "What has received less attention is the fact that these inequitable patterns do not end when a student graduates from high school but persist through postsecondary education."

Continue reading »

The Changing Landscape of Russian Philanthropy: Growth Spurts and Growing Pains

April 02, 2018

Philanthropy-in-Russia-cover-1-724x1024Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace, in association with Alliance magazine and Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support (WINGS), recently launched the second report in its Philanthropy Bridge Series — this time in partnership with CAF Russia — on the world's largest country. Russia isn't just large in geographical size, it's also large in terms of complexity. It's a country about which many of us know little yet find ourselves reading about on an almost daily basis, in turn creating curiosity and intrigue. So, what does the end of the Iron Curtain mean for philanthropy in Russia?

Russia to me is challenging to understand despite having traveled to its major cities and enjoyed its delightful culture and hospitality. This is true for understanding philanthropy there as well. Philanthropy in Russia is a working paper rather than an attempt to describe the sector in its entirety; it begins to distill what is known to create meaning. Here are some of my takeaways:

You can't understand Russian philanthropy without understanding its context. Despite the country's long and chequered history, philanthropy in Russia is relatively young, both the sector itself and even the notion of giving. Whereas philanthropy is embedded in the cultural context of many other countries, its emergence in Russia over the last three decades creates a distinction between a time in which philanthropy existed there and a time in which it did not. CAF's 2017 World Giving Index, which measures individual giving in terms of money, time, and helping a stranger (an awesome measure, by the way), ranks the Russian Federation 124th out of 139 countries surveyed. In terms of giving money, Russia ranks 104th. As the report describes it, "Russia does not appear to be a nation of givers." There are cultural and historical reasons for this. During the Communist era, public well-being was considered the responsibility of the state alone. This reinforced the notion that private charitable work should be considered a private affair and was not to be talked openly about. This may be a difficult notion for many Western philanthropists to understand, given the often default position of self and organizational promotion. Think, for example, about the purpose of a "top funders list" or the Giving Pledge page. Neither approach is right, good, or bad — just different. Twenty-seven years later, though, this does appear to be changing in Russia.

Who's giving, and how, are changing. Once thought of as a "demeaning, manipulative capitalist practice" that was forbidden (Jamie Gambrell), attitudes to philanthropy seem to be becoming more positive. Oksana Oracheva, general director of the Vladmir Potanin Foundation, believes that people are more supportive of philanthropy now, particularly as they become more involved themselves through corporate volunteerism, community philanthropy, and small individual donations. As was also the case with the Philanthropy in India report, small donations by the middle class have led to significant increases in giving in both countries. Although members of the middle class often don't give large sums, they can give smaller amounts more often (especially due to technology).

When did you last give by way of an SMS donation, particularly one that you were encouraged to make by an advertisement on television? For many of us, probably never. For a Russian, it may have been today. Numerous causes invest in storytelling through the media with a call to action to give any amount, which culturally makes philanthropy quite visible. Pretty cool.

Continue reading »

[Review] The Gender Effect: Capitalism, Feminism, and the Corporate Politics of Development

March 12, 2018

It has become axiomatic within the development community that educating women and girls is the most effective way to alleviate poverty and accelerate development in the Global South. Promoted in the early 1990s by economists such as Elizabeth King, T. Paul Schultz, and former Harvard University president Lawrence Summers, the approach has since been adopted by the most powerful multilateral development institutions, including the United Nations, the World BankUSAID, and the United Kingdom's Department for International Development.

Book_the_gender_effectThe approach was given a boost in 2008, when the Nike Foundation, the main philanthropic vehicle of global sports apparel manufacturer Nike, launched a simple, powerful animated video titled the "Girl Effect," which argued that by sending a poor girl in a developing country to school, you put her in a position to secure a loan to purchase a cow, the profits from which could help her family and be used to buy more cows, until one day she had a herd, the profits from which could be used to bring clean water to her village, which would lead men in the village to invite her to the village council, where she would convince them that all girls have value. The video went viral, and the rest, as they say, is history.

But what if it isn't that simple? In The Gender Effect: Capitalism, Feminism, and the Corporate Politics of Development, Kathryn Moeller takes a deep dive into that question and finds plenty of worrisome contradictions. An assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, Moeller argues that the real effect of significant corporate investment in the empowerment of girls and women has been to mask the historical and structural conditions that perpetuate poverty in the Global South and to de-politicize the demands for fair-labor practices and a more equitable economic order by the very women and girls such investment purports to empower. Indeed, by focusing on the economic potential of adolescent girls, Moeller writes, "[t]he Girl Effect...transfers the onus of responsibility for change away from governments, corporations, and global governance institutions whose actions have led to the unequal distribution of resources and opportunities that disproportionately affect the lives and well-being of girls, women, and the poor around the world."  

Based on extensive fieldwork conducted with the Nike Foundation, its partners and grantees, program participants, and the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) — where she helped organize a session on "Investing in Women and Girls"  — Moeller finds that, in the case of the Girl Effect, the primary outcome of what she terms the "corporatized development" model has been the strengthening of Nike's legitimacy and market power without a concomitant examination of its outsourcing practices — practices that, she writes, exploit "poor, racialized female labor" and famously led, in the 1990s, to strikes and protests against the company.

To prove her point, Moeller outlines the history of and discourse around investing in women and girls, an approach predicated on the concepts of "bottom billion" capitalism, philanthrocapitalism, gender equality, and "Third World difference" (the latter defining the post-colonial adolescent girl as both victim of gender oppression and solution to economic development). In this paradigm, women and girls are seen as "instruments" that generate the highest return on investment within a development context because they tend to be "rational, efficient economic actors" willing to invest more of their income in their families and communities than are men.

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Weekend Link Roundup (February 17-18, 2018)

February 18, 2018

Chloe-kim-02Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Education

How can we make strong learning outcomes accessible to every child in public education? Charmaine Jackson Mercer, a new member of the Education team at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, shares her thoughts.

Fundraising

Forbes Nonprofit Council member Austin Gallagher, CEO of environmental nonprofit Beneath the Waves, shares five fundraising tips for new nonprofit leaders.

Gun Control

On her Social Velocity blog, Nell Edgington argues that the pattern of social change in America — from the abolition of slavery, to women's suffrage, to the legalization of interracial marriage — should give us hope that Americans, led by moms, will come together to support commonsense gun legislation.

Health

Th real cause of the opiod epidemic that is devastating America? According to a working paper authored by Christopher Ruhm of the University of Virginia its not what you think it is. Richard Florida reports for CityLab.

Human Trafficking

Here on PhilanTopic, Catherine Chen, director of investments at Humanity United, announces that, through its Pathways to Freedom challenge, Atlanta, Chicago and Minneapolis have been invited to partner with the organization to address the urgent problem of human trafficking.

International Affairs/Development

Hungary's right-wing nationalist government has introduced legislation that would empower the interior minister to ban non-governmental organizations that support migration and pose a "national security risk" — a bill seen by many has targeting the "liberal and open-border values" promoted by U.S.-Hungarian financier/philanthropist George Soros. Reuters'Krisztina Than reports.

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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 (January 13-14, 2018)

January 15, 2018

MLKOur 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

On the Barr Foundation blog, the foundation's Climate Program co-directors, Mariella Puerto and Mary Skelton Roberts, outline "the rationale, priorities, and early steps of the foundation's newly-expanded focus on [climate] resilience."

New York Magazine's Reeves Wiedeman checks in with a fresh take on the climate advocacy of the Rockefeller family and its campaign against Exxon, one of the legacy companies of John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil.

Education

A consensus has developed over the last decade around the importance of pre-K education. So why do so many preschool teachers live on the edge of financial ruin? Jeneen Interlandi reports for the New York Times.

To kick off the new year, the editors of Education Week share ten ideas that they believe have the potential to change K-12 education in 2018.

Fundraising

Why are we so bad at predicting the future, and what can we learn from our collective obtuseness? When it comes to fundraising, writes digital marketer and self-styled charity nerd Brady Josephson, "the question shouldn't be 'What will be different in the future?' but rather 'What will be the same?'"

International Affairs/Development

It may not have seemed like it, but 2017 was the best year in human history. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof explains. And Kristof's Times colleague Tina Rosenberg reminds us that it was a pretty good year for social innovation as well.

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Quote of the Week

  • "Public education does not serve a public. It creates a public. And in creating the right kind of public, the schools contribute toward strengthening the spiritual basis of the American Creed. That is how Jefferson understood it, how Horace Mann understood it, how John Dewey understood it, and in fact, there is no other way to understand it...."

    — Neil Postman (1931-2003), American author, educator, media theorist, and cultural critic

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