332 posts categorized "Nonprofits"

Weekend Link Roundup (September 2-3, 2017)

September 04, 2017

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

RosieClimate Change

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

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

Collaboration

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

Data

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

Disaster Relief

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

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

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

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

International Affairs/Development

According to a Better Business Better World report, the UN's Sustainable Development Goals could open up an estimated $12 trillion in market opportunities in four economic systems: food and agriculture, cities, energy and materials, and health and well-being. But, writes Nazila Vali, seizing such opportunities will require many more and much stronger partnerships.

Speaking to a small crowd at the Overseas Development Institute in London, Rajiv Shah, the new head of the Rockefeller Foundation, shared the following math: If the top fifteen foundations in the United States pooled their annual giving, their collective contributions would not fill the gap left by President Trump's proposed 30 percent cuts to foreign assistance. Devex's Molly Anders reports on what Shah is doing to position his foundation for the realities of an "America First" world.

Nonprofits

What can a nonprofit board do to make sure its members are evaluated honestly for their effectiveness? In a post on his Nonprofit Management blog, Eugene Fram shares some good advice.

Philanthropy

Prompted by the recent events in Charlottesville, Nellie Mae Education Foundation president and CEO Nick Donohue argues that maybe philanthropy has become to comfortable in its response to, and efforts to combat, white privilege.

And in her monthly commentary, Kiran Ahuja, CEO of Philanthropy NW, echoes that sentiment.

On the Glasspockets blog, Nicole Richards, chief storyteller at Philanthropy Australia, the national industry association for giving Down Under, argues that when it comes to storytelling, philanthropy generally gets a failing grade. 

And the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy has launched a new blog, and it looks like it's going to be a good one. Content coordinator Abby Rolland explains what she and her colleagues hope to accomplish.

That's it for this week. Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

5 Mistakes You’re Making With Your Awareness Campaigns

August 29, 2017

Yell_at_earth_pc_1600_clrWith the busiest fundraising season fast approaching, nonprofit leaders everywhere should be spending much of their time thinking about their end-of-year fundraising campaigns. But when fundraising isn't top of mind, nonprofit leaders often turn their attention to another type of activity: the awareness campaign./p>

Awareness campaigns typically are defined as a sustained effort to educate individuals and boost public awareness about an organization's cause or issue. And in almost every instance they should:

  • target people who share your organization's beliefs and values;
  • educate those potential supporters about your issue or cause; and
  • generate new contacts for your donor database.

A well-executed awareness campaign will accomplish all three of those goals. But there's a caveat: awareness campaigns are easy to get wrong. And who needs that? So what should your organization be doing — and not doing — to raise awareness and acquire new donors? Read on to see whether you're making any of these common mistakes:

1. Your definition of success is too narrow; One of the most common misconceptions about awareness campaigns is that they should be mounted for the sole purpose of, well, raising awareness. But while an awareness campaign can be focused on awareness, there's actually a lot more involved: education (teaching the public about your issue or cause), explaining current events (and how they connect to your issue and efforts), and engagement (soliciting a low-level action on behalf of your organization or cause).

2. You didn't include an action in your materials. Regardless of your issue or cause, an awareness campaign should be designed to move potential supporters from interest to action — that is, from having a general interest in your issue to actually stepping up and doing something on behalf of the issue or cause. The thing to remember about actions in awareness campaigns is that they should be low level. While it's possible someone previously unfamiliar with your organization might be willing to sign up as a volunteer or donate on the spot, it's not usually the case (and shouldn't be something you count on). Instead, actions should be "stepped" like the rungs on a ladder: they should start small and increase in intensity/commitment over time, ultimately leading to concrete support (of time and/or money) for your organization or cause.

3. You're only focused on email signups. All awareness campaigns are about acquisition and building your constituency. But many nonprofit leaders make the common mistake of setting a goal of obtaining as many email addresses as possible — and nothing else. Unfortunately, acquisition isn't simply a question of getting someone to sign up for your email list. Why? Because these days everyone, nonprofit or otherwise, asks us for our email address — and we've become conditioned to comply. After all, what's the worst that could happen? It doesn’t necessarily mean we feel a deep connection to the company or organization...which is exactly what nonprofit and cause leaders hope for and need.

Instead of simply asking for an email address, you want to get potential supporters to take a low-level action on behalf of your issue or cause that reinforces their belief in your organization and its work. Consider asking them to sign a petition, share a video you've produced, or get their friends involved. Then build on that initial action with additional appeals aimed at deepening their engagement with — and support for — your issue or cause.

4. You spend too much time talking about your organization instead of your issue. Except in very special cases, people support organizations because they care about the issue the organization is working to address — not the other way around. Don't believe me? Consider the research. The top takeaway from our 2013 Millennial Impact report was that millennials, in overwhelming numbers, support organizations that are working to address an issue they are passionate about — not the other way around.

Now, consider your own behavior. Let's say you support the work of an organization like PETA. Did you become a supporter because you decided one day you liked the work they did, or did you become aware of PETA's work because you already cared deeply about the welfare of animals? Sure, PETA's work may have contributed to your awareness of and knowledge about the all-too-common mistreatment of animal species, but you wouldn't have paid attention to its messaging if you didn't already care about animals. The one preceded the other, and once you were moved to take action, you did so through PETA.

The same is true of most — if not all — donors. Your organization is the vehicle through which they're able to support an issue or cause they care about, and your role is, first, to make them aware of the issue itself and, second, to tell them how you're working to address it.

5. You forgot to measure (or you're measuring the wrong thing). When our clients complain about an awareness campaign that "failed," a lot of times it's because they didn't think they needed to track any metrics (after all, how do you measure someone's "awareness"?), or because they tracked the wrong metrics. Typically, this mistake is related to having too narrow a definition of what an awareness campaign should entail (see #1 above).

Thanks to things like social media, it's easy to turn to impression counts, engagement scores, and the like into metrics that help you track the effectiveness of your awareness campaigns. But while these kinds of metrics are a good starting place, they don't really tell you anything about whether the folks on the other end of your messaging became more knowledgeable about your issue or cause as a result of that messaging. In other words, don't confuse education with engagement.

So, what should you measure? Think of the cause engagement ladder as a sales funnel. Start with the end in mind (e.g., acquiring new donors or volunteers), then work backwards through lower-level actions and determine how many people are likely to take each step (or will be content to stay where they are). Let's say you want to obtain a hundred new supporters. For our purposes (and to keep the math simple), we'll estimate that each rung of the ladder has an attrition rate of 10 percent. In that scenario, you'd need 10,000 people to perform the lowest level action, of which 1,000 would move on to the next step, of which 100 would become move on to become a donor or volunteer. It might take a little more work on the front-end, but putting a solid measurement process in place will help you better understand what's working and what isn't — and how to move people along a continuum to become supporters of your cause.

So there you have it. Awareness campaigns might not be as simple to implement and measure as a fundraising campaign, but they can make all the difference in terms of keeping and growing your supporter base. If you haven't taken the plunge, what are you waiting for? September is the start of the sprint to the end of the year, and the more people you have rooting you on, the greater the chances you'll reach the finish line (and hit your fundraising targets). Good luck!

Headshot_derrick_feldmann_2015Derrick Feldmann is the president of Achieve, a research and marketing agency for causes, and the author of Social Movements for Good: How Companies and Causes Create Viral Change, now available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Weekend Link Roundup (August 26-27, 2017)

August 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....

Harvey-goes-82517_0Disaster Relief

Harvey has slammed into the Texas Gulf Coast and flooding from the rainfall accompanying the storm appears to be as bad, if not worse, than predicted. NPR has put together a very helpful list of sites and resources for those who would like to help.

Fundraising

The team behind the Fundly blog shares five tips aimed at helping your organization improve its crowdfunding goals. 

International Affairs/Development

The UN Sustainable Development Goals are a framework for what might just be the most ambitious development effort ever. And if that effort is to succeed, every dollar contributed toward one of the goals needs to be spent effectively. On the Triple Pundit site, Mandy Ryan, managing director at Changing Our World, has some good tips for companies looking to align their citizenship work with the SDGs.

And what can we learn from UNLEASH, an "innovation lab" where a thousand young people from a hundred and twenty-nine countries spent ten days in Aarhus, Denmark, developing solutions for the Sustainable Development Goals?  Catherine Cheney reports for Devex.

Journalism/Media

Google News Lab, in partnership with ProPublica, is launching a new, machine learning-powered tool to track reported hate crimes across the country. Taylor Hatmaker reports for Tech Crunch.

We were saddened to learn of the death of Jack Rosenthal, the great  New York Timesman (and our UWS neighbor), at the age of 82. In a long career at the Times, Rosenthal served as urban affairs correspondent in Washington, deputy editorial page editor, editorial page editor, editor of The New York Times Magazine, and president of the New York Times Company Foundation. Eighteen months after 9/11, we had an opportunity to interview him as he was serving in that latter role  an interview that still has much to teach us.

Nonprofits

Does your nonprofit struggle to find board members eager to advance the work of your organization instead of their own career? On her Social Velocity blog, Nell Edgington shares three questions designed to help you determine whether a prospective board member is a good fit.

Good news: Stanford Law School's organizations and Transactions Clinic has launched a website that offers free access to hundreds of sample legal documents for attorneys who represent nonprofit organizations. 

Philanthropy

Many of today’s emerging mega-philanthropists aspire to "audacious" success. But audacious social change is incredibly difficult, and it never results from a single grant or silver bullet, write Susan Wolf Ditkoff and Abe Grindle in the Harvard Business Review; instead, "it takes collaboration, government engagement, and persistence over decades." Based on a deep dive deep into fifteen breakthrough initiatives, Ditkoff and Grindle share five elements that together "constitute a framework for philanthropists pursuing large-scale, swing-for-the-fences change."

In a finance-driven economy that of late seems to reward equity holders at the expense of almost everyone else, donor-advised funds, which give donors an immediate tax break and enable them to avoid capital gains taxes on gifts of appreciated stock, have become the fastest-growing segment of American philanthropy. But do they create incentives for providers to hoard rather than distribute charitable dollars? Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther takes a deep dive into the increasingly popular, and controversial, world of DAFs.

On the Impact Alpha site, Ross Baird, president of Village Capital, asks,:After Charlottesville, does impact investing even matter?

Poverty

Is poverty the result of "the wrong mind-set," as Ben Carson, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, recently told an interviewer? On Valerie Strauss's Answer Sheet blog, Richard Rothstein, a former education reporter for the New York Times and author of the new book, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America, looks at the factors that really drive poverty in America.

Public Policy

The Washington Post's Juliet Eilperin looks at the dozen or so national monuments most at risk from an executive order signed by Donald Trump earlier this spring. 

Racial Justice

And in an op-ed in the Washington Post, Wes Moore, chief executive of the New York City-based Robin Hood Foundation,  wonders what his grandfather, who was born in South Carolina and chased out of the United States (along with the rest of his family) by the KKK when he was just six, would say about the resurgence of white supremacy in America today.

(Photo credit: Global Online Enrollment System)

That's it for this week. Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Weekend Link Roundup (August 5-6, 2017)

August 06, 2017

Sam-shepard-in-winterOur 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

We begin with this week's startling statistic. According to the Pew Research Center, one out of four black Americans have faced online harassment because of their race or ethnicity.

Arts and Culture

On the James Irvine Foundation blog, Leslie Payne, a senior program at the foundation, asks: What does it mean to participate in the arts today?

Education

On the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Jen Wilka, executive director of YouthTruth, reports  on key findings of a survey of more than 55,000 high school students that asked them how prepared they feel for life after high school.

Here on PhilanTopic, Alexis Morin, co-founder and executive director of Students for Education Reform, reports that a survey of first-generation college students conducted by her organization found that the majority of them feel unprepared for college.

And in a post for the Hechinger Report, Nicole Dobo shares key findings from Time to Act 2017: Put Data in the Hands of People, which argues that while the use of data in formulating education policy has evolved for the better, parents and teachers still find it difficult to get access to that data.

Immigration

The last time the federal government tried to slow the legal immigration to the United States by adopting a merit-based system was fifty years ago — and Lyndon Johnson was president. Alana Semuels reports The Atlantic.

Nonprofits

Writing in the MinnPost, Kristi Rendahl, an assistant professor and director of the Nonprofit Leadership Program at Minnesota State University, Mankato, argues that repeal of the so-called Johnson Amendment "would mean de facto campaign finance through religious and charitable organizations, but with none of the rules." 

In the New Hampshire Business Review, Jeff Feingold chats with nonprofit activist Robert Eggers about nonprofit stereotypes and whether nonprofits should be more politically engaged.

Philanthropy

"Philanthropy has come a long way since [Andrew Carnegie] took a childhood experience and turned it into a national legacy," writes Courtney Martin on The Development Set website. But too often, Martin adds, "it feels like we’ve lost our core wisdom about how change actually happens." What does that mean? "It means that the only philanthropy worth engaging in — both ethically and strategically speaking — is the kind that honors the wisdom of relationships and the power of money."

According to Rob Reich,  director of the Center for Ethics in Society at Stanford University, charitable foundations are a “donor-directed, perpetual, tax-subsidized exercise of the liberty to give public wealth away.” And what, Reich asks Quartz' Olivia Goldhill, is “the democratically good part about that again?"

New research from the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University finds that philanthropists in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo (Michigan) give generously to improve their respective communities, but that they go about it in vastly different ways. Jane C. Simons reports for MiBiz.com.

In Philanthropy Daily, Martin Morse Wooster, a senior fellow at the Capital Research Center in Washington, D.C., suggests that maybe "there is no one best way to give. Sometimes charity is the answer, and sometimes it is philanthropy. Sometimes program-related investments may be the right way to go." The point is, the "mix should vary with each donor and aim."

"America’s foundations spend many millions of dollars every year on investment advice. In return, they get sub-par performance." On the Transparency Talk blog, Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther explains why this may be about to change.

Science/Tech

Because "those who experience hate, marginalization, and discrimination on a daily basis know it when they see it," writes Lucy Bernholz on her Philanthropy 2153 blog, "[m]ainstream nonprofits struggling to understand how and why they must investigate the technology on which depend [their] 'values fit' would do well to turn to such groups for guidance."

Social Innovation

And almost all the way back from a self-imposed social media "break," Nell Edgington checks in with a list of ten great social innovation reads from June and July.

That's it for this week. Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (July 2017)

August 01, 2017

The most popular posts here on PhilanTopic in July include strong calls to action from sector veterans Gary Bass and Mark Rosenman, Cathy Cha, and Kate Kroeger; new posts by Blackbaud's Annie Rhodes and PEAK Grantmaking's Michelle Greanias; and a couple of "repeaters" (John Hewko's account of how Rotary International manages to stay relevant in a rapidly changing world, Kyoko's Q&A with the Rockefeller Foundation's Claudia Juech). Check 'em out (if you haven't already)!

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. Or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

4 Questions to Help You Develop Your Year-End Messaging

July 31, 2017

"Movements are built by and for the people. The people generate the movement, spread the rallying cry of the message, and depend on one another to meet the collective’s goals in addressing the social issue at hand. The people, though, are bound by a common vision and a common narrative — to change the course of an issue that has affected so many people. But how is this possible? How can an individual turn his or her attention from the general issues present in so many communities to the importance of one issue affecting a group of people they may have never met before? Or take a stand for a concept that may never even affect them personally? It comes down to the message and a story. A story based on a vision for change for people or communities that need it most."

— excerpt from Social Movements for Good

Dec-31-calendarIf you're like a lot of our clients, you're starting to work on (or at least think about) your year-end fundraising appeals. Although successful year-end campaigns are driven by a strategic combination of factors, one above all others is both critical and often the most challenging to execute: messaging.

From the belief statement (also called the opening or donor statement) and opening sentence or two to pull quotes, calls to action, and the ever-important P.S. line, you have a limited amount of space (and time) in which to capture potential donors' attention, communicate your story, and, of course, persuade them to donate.

That's a lot of work!

When it comes to developing messaging for a fundraising appeal, I'm asked one question more than any other: How do I get started? Though it can be a challenge to get past writer's block and craft effective messages for a year-end campaign, I always suggest that you first ask yourself these four simple questions:

1. What makes your organization unique? Chances are yours isn't the only organization working to address or solve your particular issue. And that's okay! A fundraising appeal is your chance to call out — loudly and clearly — what’' unique or different about your organization.

Supplemental questions to consider: Why does your organization exist (i.e., why does it do the work it does)? Whom do you serve (demographically, geographically, etc.)? What's special or compelling about the population you serve? How does your organization approach its work? What's unusual or unique about that approach? How is it different from the approach employed by other organizations?

2. Why should a donor give to your organization now? Why the sense of urgency behind your organization's appeal? Sure, responses like "It's the last chance for you to claim a tax deduction" or "Matched funds are available for a limited time" are valid, but end-of-the-year appeals really are your chance to think big.

Still struggling? Think in reverse: What won't happen if you don't hit your fundraising targets? Who won't ;be helped? What might happen if they aren't served by your organization?

3. How does your organization help people? Beyond broad responses such as “We connect people to the skills they need" or "We strengthen parents' engagement in their children's education," think more specifically about the effect your programs are having on individuals. Think about that impact on both the tangible and intangible level. Then think bigger: As a result of your organization making it possible for one person to do or have x, what are they now able to do? How has their life trajectory been affected? Are they now able to contribute to the broader community in ways they weren't before? How does the community benefit from the improved prospects of the people you serve?

4. What do you want donors to do? Why do people give? Put simply, people give because it makes them feel good. One study I examined when writing my book Social Movements for Good even found that people reacted positively when paying taxes if they believed that a portion of the amount they were paying would be used to help a local charity or cause. Your year-end appeal is the perfect time to tap into that feel-good emotion and tell potential supporters that now is their chance to make a real difference in the lives of real people, maybe even people they know.

Once you've developed (short) responses to the above questions, start to think about how to bring them all together in an effective appeal. If you're still stuck, check out these additional tips:

  • When crafting your belief statement, try starting with "We believe…" and then follow with a clear articulation of what your organization stands for.
  • Include participatory, "you"-centric language (e.g., "Are you in?") in your appeal that makes potential supporters feel as if they're joining a community of like-minded people.
  • Use emotive language that shows rather than tells. (Insider’s tip: Find another word for "impact.")
  • Share the story of a specific individual and how your organization's services/actions/efforts improved his or her life.
  • Be creative! Don't feel you have to write your appeal in a certain way simply because that's what your organization has always done. For inspiration, look at what other organizations (especially national or well-known ones) are doing to capture their share of year-end giving.

Developing fundraising messaging for the most critical giving period of the year can be daunting, but, if approached strategically, that messaging can mean the difference between a successful and a not-so-successful year-end season. If you keep the above tips in mind when thinking about your year-end campaign, come December 31 you just may be pleasantly surprised.

Headshot_derrick_feldmann_2015Derrick Feldmann is the president of Achieve, a research and marketing agency for causes, and the author of Social Movements for Good: How Companies and Causes Create Viral Change, now available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (July 15-16, 2017)

July 17, 2017

Roger-federerOur 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

Cities are where most of the world's population lives. But with the climate warming at an alarming rate, just how hot will they be by the year 2100? An interactive map created by Climate Central and the World Meteorological Organization has the scorching results.

Education

Anyone who cares about public education in the U.S. will want to check out the longish piece by Chris Ford, Stephanie Johnson, and Lisa Partelow on the Center for American progress site detailing the "sordid" history of school vouchers in America.

Quartz has a nice profile of Maggie MacDonnell, the Canadian winner of this year's $1 million Global Teacher Prize.

Health

Just how does the health system in U.S. stack up against those in other developed countries? Using data from Commonwealth Fund surveys and other sources of standardized data, the fund's Mirror, Mirror 2017 report identifies seventy-two measures relevant to healthcare system performance and organizes them into five performance domains: Care Process, Access, Administrative Efficiency, Equity, and Health Care Outcomes.

The Kaiser Family Foundation's Cynthia Cox and Larry Levitt examined the individual insurance market in early 2017 and, contrary to Republican Party talking points, found no evidence that it was collapsing; indeed, Cox and Levitt discovered that health insurers are on track to have their best year since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law.

Continue reading »

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (June 2017)

July 05, 2017

Don't know if you all agree, but it's unanimous here at PND: Whoever invented the four-day weekend deserves a medal. We've got a busy July lined up, but before we get too far into it, we figured this would be a good time to look back at the blog content you found especially interesting in June, including new posts by Rotary International's John Hewko, Battalia Winston's Susan Medina, DataViz for Nonprofit's Amelia Kohm, regular contributor Kathryn Pyle, and the Center for Social Impact Communication at Georgetown University. Enjoy!

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. Or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

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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Weekend Link Roundup (June 24-25, 2015)

June 25, 2017

Young_radcliffe_as_harry_potterOur 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

"If there's a silver lining to the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement," writes Nature Conservancy president Mark Tercek, it's "the renewed commitment to climate action we’re seeing across the country." Indeed, "[m]ore than 175 governments covering 30 percent of the global economy have pledged to reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2050. [And here] in the U.S., 13 states have formed an alliance announcing that they will enact policies to meet our Paris pledge within their borders."

Communications/Marketing

Is your nonprofit's messaging stuck in neutral? Nonprofit communications consultant Carrie Fox has a five-step reboot designed to get your communications back in gear.

Grantmaking

Even though "[r]elationships between funders and grantees may have their own unique quirks and power dynamics,...they are not fundamentally different from...other good relationships," writes Caroline Altman Smith, deputy director of education at the Kresge Foundation, on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog.

Continue reading »

A Marriage of Commerce and Cause: How Rotary Is Staying Relevant in the 21st Century

June 20, 2017

Time_to_adaptIn 1905, a lawyer, a merchant tailor, a mining engineer, and a coal dealer met in downtown Chicago. Rotary's founders initially were looking for an opportunity to build relationships and promote their businesses. A hundred and twelve years later, Rotary has matured into one of the world’s largest membership and humanitarian nonprofit organizations.

The work of Rotary's 1.2 million members combines the building of community connections with humanitarian efforts such as promoting peace, providing clean water and sanitation, preventing disease, and alleviating poverty — challenges that are just as pressing today as they were when Rotary was founded.

Yet, as is true of many large organizations in the world today, Rotary faces the ongoing challenge of staying relevant at a time when technology and organizations new to the NGO space are changing the landscape of philanthropy.

For example, the number of social sector organizations in the United States has increased some 8.6 percent since 2002, while by some estimates there are now approximately 1.44 million nonprofits registered with the IRS. Part of this growth reflects society's increased reliance on nonprofits to fill service gaps in areas where cash-strapped governments are no longer able to deliver on past promises.

In addition, with a greater range of charitable opportunities and new models for fundraising (e.g., peer-to-peer, mobile, crowdfunding), there is increased competition in the nonprofit marketplace for both supporters and donations.

In the face of these challenges, how can nonprofits like Rotary continue to thrive? Over the past few years, Rotary and its members have been thinking about that question and, after much discussion, have developed a plan to address the challenge. Below are three concrete steps we have taken or are taking.

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Weekend Link Roundup (June 17-18, 2017)

June 18, 2017

Rising-TemperaturesOur 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

On the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's Shared Experiences blog, National Assembly of State Arts Agencies CEO Pam Breaux argues that leaving support for arts to the private sector alone "would leave millions of people behind."

Communications/Marketing

On the Communications Network site, Na Eng, communications director at the McKnight Foundation, shares some of the best practices that she and her colleagues embedded in the foundation's latest annual report.

Corporate Philanthropy

In the Detroit News, Melissa Burden reports that General Motors is overhauling its $30-million-a year corporate philanthropy program — a decision that has some nonprofits and arts groups in southeastern Michigan worried.

Diversity

"Of all the things philanthropists are trying to fix," writes Ben Paynter in Fast Company, "there's one major issue the sector seems to continually ignore: itself." By which he means the "lack of racial diversity among nonprofit and foundation leaders, an issue that remains unaddressed despite having been well documented for at least fifteen years."

Grantmaking

When are program evaluations worth reading, and when are they not? On Glasspockets' Transparency Talk blog, Rebekah Levin, director of evaluation and learning at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, breaks it down

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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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The Diversity Gap in the Nonprofit Sector

June 06, 2017

Diversity logoThe lack of diversity at the highest levels of the country's corporations has become a popular topic of debate, thanks in part to a number of high-profile stories focused on the technology industry.

If there has been less criticism of the nonprofit and foundation sectors, neither is exempt from the problem. Earlier this year, Battalia Winston analyzed the leadership teams of the largest foundations and nonprofits in the United States and found that they, too, suffer from homogeneity. We found, for instance, that while 42 percent of the organizations we surveyed are led by female executive directors, 87 percent of all executive directors or presidents were white, and that there was only minimal representation of African Americans (6 percent), Asian Americans (3 percent), and Hispanics (4 percent) in those positions.

Our findings, which we've published in a white paper, The State of Diversity in Nonprofit and Foundation Leadership, are similar to those presented in a number of recent studies. A 2015 study by Community Wealth Partners, for example, found that only 8 percent of nonprofit executive directors were people of color, while a 2013 study conducted by D5 found that 92 percent of foundation executive directors were white.

While one would think that nonprofits and foundations — particularly those that support underserved communities and minorities — would prioritize diversity within their leadership ranks, attracting and recruiting diverse talent is easier said than done, especially at the leadership level. If organizations want to create sustained diversity at the top, they need to continuously cultivate a talent pipeline of diverse high-potential candidates, both internally and externally.

For any number of reasons, building a pipeline of diverse talent can be particularly challenging for nonprofits and foundations. First, the talent pool of diverse candidates is still significantly smaller than the pool of white candidates. According to a 2016 study by Young Invincibles, racial disparities in rates of higher education attainment continue to widen: between 2007 and 2015, the gap between the share of white adults with postsecondary degrees and Latinos and African Americans with postsecondary degrees increased by 2.2 and 0.4 percentage points, respectively.

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