371 posts categorized "Nonprofits"

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

What Is That Noise?

April 19, 2018

NoiseHow many times have you been startled by a noise and thought: What in the world?

You try to ignore it, but it won't stop, so you decide to take action. You go looking for the source, find and disable it, and sigh as you walk back to your chair.

I know the feeling. It's a feeling of exasperation, the feeling you get when someone or something absolutely insists you pay attention, whether you want to or not.

It's the feeling many of us have after we've been exposed to nonprofit marketing.

Hey, I get it. Marketing is noise to some and the stuff of life for others. It can inspire, persuade, and make us fall in love. It can move us to action or dissuade us from taking a stand. It can be something we welcome into our world — or something that intrudes on us when we least expect it.

The question you need to ask is: Is our marketing something our supporters want, or is it the noise in the background they wish would stop. Based on my experience, there's too much of the latter happening in our space.

Let me explain.

When I'm asked by nonprofit organizations to evaluate or design a strategy to raise awareness of their cause or help them build a movement, the first thing I ask them is to share their marketing materials with me. I then go through those materials with an eye to identifying common themes and key messages. Often, however, my review ends with the thought, What was that noise?

Don't get me wrong. In most cases, the materials tell a good story. Many tend to feature a "heroic" individual or individuals, and almost all end with a call to action involving a donation.

Why are "hero" stories so common? And are they effective? I'm skeptical. And the reason for my skepticism is that, in most cases, the target audiences for those stories had no role in creating them.

Still with me? Let's try a thought experiment.

On a piece of paper, answer the following questions:

  • What is the real purpose of your organization?
  • Why should I care about it?
  • Who benefits from its efforts, and how am I connected to them?

I'm willing to bet the questions above caused you to sit back and spend a few minutes thinking about your answers. I'm also willing to bet your answers included some version of the following:

  • Non-specific concepts like the all-too-familiar "e" words (empower, educate, engage).
  • Statistics related to the problem your organization is working to solve or address.
  • The "hero" typically featured in your marketing materials and promotions.

Now let's try a different thought experiment. On a piece of paper, answer the following:

  • Whom do you admire at work and why?
  • Who made a difference in your life?
  • Tell me about a person you know who is going through a personal or professional challenge at the moment?

As you were writing, I'm willing to bet your fingers could barely keep up with your thoughts. Why? Because you were prompted to think about a person or persons whom you admire and have a deep affinity for. In effect, it was an exercise about first "listening" to your audience — i.e., you — before "talking" to it.

In my opinion, the exercise above underscores a real problem with the marketing materials so many of us create and use. The stories we share with supporters and potential supporters tend to be inauthentic — not because our intentions are bad, but because they have very little relatability to the individuals with whom we are communicating. They are not of the audience, by the audience, or for the audience. They are what we think our audience wants to hear.

Here's the thing: the difference between the kind of messaging our audiences want to hear and are likely to respond to and plain old noise is that the former must be created with our intended audience's participation and permission.

So don't be a noise-maker. You want the members of your audience to care about and share your marketing messages with others. And for that to happen, you need to get their input before you sit down to create a marketing campaign. But most of all, you need to be with them — authentically — before you get down to the business of talking to them.

Headshot_derrick_feldmann_2015Derrick Feldmann is the author of Social Movements for Good: How Companies and Causes Create Viral Change and the founder and lead researcher on the Millennial Impact Project.

Weekend Link Roundup (April 14-15, 2018)

April 15, 2018

Uncle-sam-taxesOur 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

Lincoln Center president Deborah L. Spar, who left the top job at Barnard College to helm the performing arts mecca, has decided to step down after only a year. Robin Pogrebin and Michael Cooper report for the New York Times.

And across the East River, the Brooklyn Museum has come under fire for its decision to hire a white woman, Kristen Windmuller-Luna, as a consulting curator for African art. Alex Greenberger reports for ArtNews.

Civil Society

Writing in openDemocracy's Transformation blog, Vern Hughes, director of Civil Society Australia, suggests that the problem with the public and private sectors' "embrace of ‘civil society’ is that it bears little resemblance to what civil society actually is or means. Most of civil society is not constituted formally or headed up by a CEO," adds Hughes. Indeed, "[j]ust 40 years ago, very few not-for-profits or charities had CEOs at all: that term was associated with the corporate sector, and few community groups or charities had even contemplated mimicking the language and culture of such a different sphere. But in just four decades all this has changed, and it has changed at an extraordinarily rapid rate, with very little public discussion or scrutiny of the enormity of the organizational transformation involved and its social and political impact."

Roused by certain statements made by Mark Zuckerberg during his testimony to Congress earlier this week, Philanthropy 2173 blogger Lucy Bernholz shares some thoughts about the often-unappreciated role that civil society organizations and nonprofits play in curating and moderating content for the Facebooks of the world.

Climate Change

The Atlantic Ocean's meridional overturning circulation — which brings warm water from the equator up toward the Atlantic's northern reaches and cold water back down through the deep ocean — hasn't been this sluggish in a millennium — a sign that "one of the most feared consequences [of climate change] is already coming to pass." Chris Mooney reports for the Washington Post.

Disabilities

On the Center for Effective Philanthropy bog, Miriam Heyman, a program officer at the Ruderman Family Foundation, urges funders to "prioritize disability inclusion within their own walls... [to] promote a holistic approach to inclusion...[and to] do [their] best to model that holistic approach by hiring employees with disabilities and prioritizing accessibility at all of [their] events...."

Diversity

Wynne Chan, GuideStar's manager of strategy and finance, shares some thoughts about why we all should care about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) — and what can we do to model it, both personally and in our organizations.

Economy

Smart machines, artificial intelligence, and global competition are disrupting and reshaping the nature of work in ways both profound and worrying. According to The Work Ahead: Machines, Skills, and U.S. Leadership in the Twenty-First Century, an independent task force report sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations, the United States needs to create new work opportunities, better career paths, and higher incomes for its people, while developing a highly skilled and adaptable workforce, if it hopes to avoid destabilizing political consequences. 

Fundraising

Future Fundraising Now blogger Jeff Brooks shares a Zen-like insight and a couple of useful things it teaches us about donor behavior.

Nonprofits

After noting that in the age of "bots" human interaction increasingly is being replaced by automation, Allison Fine and Beth Kanter argue in the Stanford Social Innovation Review that it "is incumbent upon those of us in the nonprofit and social-change sectors to start a discussion on how we both hold on to and lead with our humanity, as opposed to allowing the bots to lead." 

Congratulations to our own Sandy Pon, who has been recognized as a digital development mover and shaker by Library Journal for her work on GrantSpace, Foundation Center's online library of resources for nonprofits. Well deserved, Sandy, well deserved!

Philanthropy 

Here on PhilanTopic, Robin Snidow, board of the General Service Foundation, and Dimple Abichandani, the foundation's executive director, share some of the challenges they faced and lessons they learned after Lani Shaw, GSF's longtime executive director, passed away suddenly.

Billionaire private equity titan Stephen Schwarzman wanted to give his old school, Abington High, north of Philadelphia, $25 million. He also had a list of requests. The Abington school board and parents in the district decided it was a deal they could refuse. Kathy Boccella and William Bender report for Philly.com. 

And Washington Post News Service editor Robert Mitchell has a fascinating piece about American attitudes to Carnegie Library philanthropy in the early twentieth century, which many applauded and others rejected as plutocratic encroachment on their values and way of life.

Social Good

In an op-ed piece in the Washington Post, David S. Meyer, a professor of sociology and political science at the University of California, Irvine, poses the question: Are the protests sparked by the Parkland teens after the massacre of seventeen of their classmates a social movement or a short-lived response to a flash of youthful passion and grievance? And does it matter?

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

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."

International Affairs/Development

On his Gates Notes blog, Bill Gates reviews his late friend Hans Rosling's new book, Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World — and Why Things Are Better Than You Think — and explains why he's decided to stop talking about the "developing" world.

Journalism/Media

In a Q&A with  Anders Hofseth on the Nieman Lab site, Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, avers that with the collapse of ad-supported models for quality journalism, public service media hasn't been this important since World War II.

How biased are your favorite sources for news? You probably won't agree with the conclusions of patent attorney Vanessa Otero, who has updated a chart she first created for the Marketwatch site back in 2016.

Nonprofits

In a post on her Social Velocity blog, Nell Edgington looks at half a dozen of the key strategic questions facing nonprofits. 

Philanthropy

Is philanthropy driven by morality or markets? That's the question Eric Michael Johnson, a historian of evolutionary biology, asks — and tries to answer — in an essay on the Evonomics site.

In response to a recent paper ("What Makes a Strong Ecosystem of Support to Philanthropy") authored by Barry Knight and published by WINGS (Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support), Foundation center's Larry McGill argues that "there are no good reasons why philanthropy should not strive to maximize its effectiveness through appropriate forms of strategic cooperation and action, on scales that go beyond the unconnected efforts of single organizations and individuals."

Poverty

Poverty in America increasingly is a suburban affair — but government programs to combat it have not changed to address it. Aaron Wiener reports for the Washington Post.

Public Affairs

Two recent op-eds — one by Jonathan P. Baird in the Concord (NH) Monitor and the other by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in the New York Times — remind us that the road to fascism unfolds in incremental steps.

On a somewhat brighter note, the Hewlett Foundation's Daniel Stid is cautiously optimistic about the future of American democracy — and, in a short piece on the Hewlett site, explains why you should be, too.

Social Media

And what does the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica controversy mean for your nonprofit's digital strategy. Beth Kanter breaks it down.

(Photo credit: Shutterstock/tungtopgun)

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

Leading Narrative Change

April 06, 2018

BigDipperActivists, philanthropists, and social entrepreneurs increasingly are focused on influencing people and shaping opinions, behaviors, and policy through narrative. There's also an increased focus on culture change through narrative.

Although the definition of the word can be nuanced, narrative generally refers to the big, overarching stories that result from the amalgamation of smaller stories. As the Narrative Initiative puts it: "What tiles are to mosaics, stories are to narratives."

Liz Manne and Erin Potts, co-founders of A More Perfect Story, offer another practical analogy to guide our understanding:

  • Stories are stars.
  • Narratives are constellations of stars.
  • Culture is the galaxy which contains the stories and narratives.

Just like constellations are groupings of stars that help us organize our understanding of the night sky, stories are assembled into narratives to more efficiently transmit our beliefs and collective meaning.

Brett Davidson, in "The Role of Narrative in Influencing Policy," offers this explanation of narrative change work:

Narratives embody fundamental assumptions by which we interpret and understand the world. Because they constitute the culture in which we live, we are often unaware of these assumptions and the narratives through which they are conveyed. Therefore we need to find ways to reveal, challenge and change them....

Working with story and narrative is different than working with messages. Working with story and narrative is multi-directional and requires active listening, a willingness to invite participation, and comfort with complexity. Today, leaders of nonprofit organizations have multiple channels for both communicating and listening, and audiences are increasingly distracted and fragmented. Working with story and narrative therefore requires leaders to be intentional about which stories to look for and share, and to select for the narratives they want to influence.

If you already are, or are interested in, leading an effort to create change through narrative (either within an institution or in the larger culture), you need to model sincere respect for the hard work involved in finding, making sense of, and sharing stories. You must demonstrate your commitment to narrative change. And, to be a true narrative leader, you must uphold the highest ethical standards.

Here are some questions to guide you, and your teams, as you engage in story and narrative work on the road to becoming "narratively" competent:

  • Do you appreciate the fact people around you make sense of their world through story? Are you committed in your own efforts to see your world through a narrative lens?
  • In your own work, are you focused on both the aspirational Big Story (i.e., the narrative), as well as the smaller stories that reinforce the narrative and help drive the movement for change? How are you inviting and motivating people to participate in and contribute to your preferred or chosen Big Story?
  • How are you listening — and making sense of what you hear? What themes are emerging in your listening? What stories are leading to engagement?
  • What are you doing to make sure you're not ignoring what is being said, or voices that may not be coming through in your listening? What are your checks for ensuring that you are not listening only to what you want, or think you need, to hear?
  • How do you include, invite, and encourage participation in your organization's narrative and story work — from participants at every level of power and access?
  • What is your understanding of how narrative is woven through complex systems? Are you recognizing, encouraging, and evaluating cultural, structural, and community narrative efforts?
  • Have you clearly articulated your organization's understanding of and commitment to ethical approaches to inclusion, representation, and permission?
  • Are you taking a long view to narrative change and cultural shift, realizing that stories and narratives are constantly emerging?
  • What does it mean to you to be leading an organization committed to narrative change?
  • Are you committed to the journey and not the product?

You want to picture your organization, its work, and the work of your allies (and opponents) as facets to be assembled, kaleidoscope style, into compelling patterns. As a change leader, you have the opportunity, responsibility, and power to influence how they come together. 

Headshot_thaler_pekarThaler Pekar, CEO of Thaler Pekar & Partners, is an internationally-recognized pioneer in organizational narrative, leadership storytelling, and persuasive communication. Click here for more by Thaler.

Weekend Link Roundup (March 31-April 1, 2018)

April 01, 2018

Easter-eggsOur 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

"Attaching a donor’s name to a building, courtyard, hallway, gallery or even a restroom in return for a significant contribution has been a growing practice since the 20th century, primarily influenced by the philanthropy culture of the [United States]." And today the practice is pervasive. But what does it mean to put a wealthy donor's name on a museum's door? Linda Sugin, associate dean for academic affairs and professor of law at Fordham Law School, explores the question.

In The Politic, Jack McCordick looks at how recent changes in the admission policies of New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art may be changing it's role as "a place of refuge, a sanctuary in a city that also pledges to be one.”

Congratulations to Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem; Agnes Gund, president emerita of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA); and sculptor Richard Serra, winners of this year's J. Paul Getty Medal.

Giving

Forbes Nonprofit Council member and Give.org president/CEO Art Taylor explains the benefits of spreading your giving efforts over the full calendar year.

We promise you'll enjoy this conversation between Marc Gunther and fundraising consultant (and DAF critic) Alan Cantor about whether giving is an affair of the head or the heart.

Inequality

Inequality won't solve itself. "Societies tend to become more unequal over time, unless there is concerted pushback," writes Sarah van Gelder in Yes! magazine. "Those who accumulate wealth — whether because of good fortune, hard work, talent, or ruthlessness — also accumulate power. And over time, the powerful find ways to shift the economic and political rules in their favor, affording them still more wealth and power...."

How much does luck have to do with the "logic and morality of inequality"? More than you think, argues Kaushik Basu, former chief economist at the World Bank, in an opinion piece on the Project Syndicate site.

Continue reading »

Is Your Nonprofit Leery of Lobbying? Now’s the Time to Get Over It

March 26, 2018

Advocacy-button-770-RSWhoever said "Good things come to those who wait" has never advocated for a cause, shepherded a policy through the legislative process, or run a nonprofit organization. That's especially true if your nonprofit's mission is issue-driven, and it's even more true now, when political upheaval in the Trump era and a looming election put the future of many organizations' missions in question — whether those missions are related to the arts, science and technology, feeding the homeless, fighting for workers’ rights, or another worthy cause. This year, sitting out legislative policy fights is just not an option.

Enter the question of lobbying and some timely new research from academics at George Mason University and the University of Miami. Lobbying is an uncomfortable topic for many nonprofits, but the study's authors challenge the pervasive view that the often-maligned practice is nothing more than a quid pro quo exchange of money for votes. In a piece describing the research, study co-author Jennifer Victor maintains that lobbying is about relationships and is in fact an essential part of our democracy. "[L]obbyists," she writes, "provide an efficient, effective, and knowledgeable source of high quality information that gets injected into the policy making process at all stages. This is generally a good thing, because it can significantly help lawmakers fill gaps in their knowledge base."

By now you can guess where we're going with this: not only should nonprofits revisit their thoughts on lobbying, they should also seriously consider getting in the game. Lobbying is entirely consistent with public charities' charitable and educational missions because it deals directly with the regulatory and statutory context in which groups function. And if nonprofits won't speak for the people they serve when fundamental decisions are being made, who will?

So if it's clear nonprofit groups have every incentive to lobby, we then need to ask: Can they? The good news is that there's no reason why any charitable organization should not have a robust lobbying and advocacy strategy in place.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (March 24-25, 2018)

March for our lives_900Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Corporate Social Responsibility

In a post on Tech Crunch, Benetech founder Jim Fruchterman applauds BlackRock founder Larry Fink's decision to call out corporate America for its profits-only mindset. In a letter delivered to the CEOs of some of America's largest companies, Fink warns that record profits are no longer enough to garner BlackRock’s support. Instead, "[c]ompanies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate.” And two ways they can start to do that, adds Fruchterman, is to 1) put people before algorithms, and 2) treat diversity as their greatest asset.

Fundraising

Is perfectionism hampering your organization's fundraising efforts? "Instead of pursuing perfection," writes Forbes contributor David King, "set your sights on recognizing when good enough is good enough, and start making real progress on your [next] campaign."

What's the best way to get donations from millennials? Moceanic's Sean Triner shares some tips designed to help you "get them while they're young."

Giving

"Charitable giving is not like buying shares of stock or being a venture capitalist," writes Alan Cantor in a new essay on the Philanthropy Daily blog. Whereas "[i]Investors want to know about market conditions, debt ratios, and market share," it is "fiendishly difficult to come up with those kinds of measures for charitable organizations...."

With the federal deductability of state taxes a thing of the past, should high-tax states like New Jersey start thinking about creating a state charitable deduction? The Community Foundation of New Jersey's Hans Dekker thinks so.

Grantmaking

Have you ever taken the time to think about how your funding portfolio might look if your RFP process was designed to be more equitable and inclusive? On Foundation Center's Transparency Talk blog, E.G. Nelson, community health and health equity program manager at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota's Center for Prevention, explains how a recent equity scan conducted by the center led to changes in its RFP process.

Continue reading »

9 Strategic (and Inexpensive!) Ways Funders Can Support Grantee Staff

March 16, 2018

Generic-supportNonprofits tend to sink or swim based not on mission and funding alone but on the talents of employees. Keeping good employees and equipping them for the work that needs to be done is one of the critical challenges frequently cited by nonprofit leaders, yet funders tend to invest much less in the "people" aspects of nonprofit organizations than they do in other areas. Indeed, businesses spend four times more per employee on leadership development than do nonprofits, while according to Foundation Center grant data from 1992-2011 less than 1 percent of foundation grant dollars are invested in nonprofit workforce development.

There are many reasons for this, from fear of getting tangled up in personnel issues to foundation charters that specify funding for programs rather than operations. However, as nonprofit organization Fund the People emphasizes, nonprofit people are nonprofit programs, and even modest investments in staff development can have significant impact.

At the Pierce Family Foundation in Chicago, our priority is capacity building and providing funding for the kind of "back office" support that keeps organizations strong and enables their programs to thrive. Given the particular experience of family members and founding staff in working for and running nonprofits prior to launching the foundation, a focus on supporting what it really takes to deliver mission was part of our vision from the beginning. It's only natural for us, therefore, to want to invest in the people whom nonprofits employ.

Below, I outline nine strategic and inexpensive ways we've invested in nonprofit staffing — and that we believe other funders interested in providing similar support can easily adapt for their own purposes.

1. Provide unrestricted general operating support. Capacity begins with staffing; do not underestimate the importance of supporting basic staffing costs by providing unrestricted general operating support. The more stable the general operating base, the more supported an organization will be in terms of staff retention, compensation, and morale. Staff also function better in non-chaotic environments that allow them to focus on how they can best put their skills to work. At the Pierce Foundation, 70 percent of our grantmaking takes the form of general op grants, and 30 percent is for specific capacity-building projects, from upgrades to CRMs and donor management software to consultant support for succession planning.

2. Offer an outside advisor for HR projects. Outside advisors can provide an objective review of a grantee's staff organizational chart, job descriptions, compensation levels, and personnel policies. We offer general workshops on topics such as "What Are You Paying and Why." We also offer private sessions with a consultant for organizations that are looking to revise their organizational chart or salary ranges, or (in a time of budget cuts) trying to combine two jobs into one. An outside advisor can make this process less painful and provide data and expertise that would not otherwise be available to an organization. We began experimenting with what made the most sense in this area because of the conversations our leading support specialist, Kris Torkelson, and Program Director Heather Parish found themselves having with grantees, many of whom did not know where to turn to for nonprofit-specific HR advice (much less a "reality check" with respect to job descriptions or comparables that can be shared with board members often reluctant to spend money on staff development).

3. Share salary data from national and regional surveys. We subscribe to the six or seven major nonprofit salary surveys because we know our grantees can't afford to and/or are unlikely to. One of our consultants combs and sorts through the surveys to identify "comparables" by position, type of organization, etc. and then shares that data with our grantees. This enables grantees to quickly see what organizations doing similar work pay their staff. Exposure to this kind of data often helps an organization understand why its staff turnover is high and can lead to needed adjustments to its salary ranges. We don't stipulate what our grantees should do with this data — that's not our role — but it typically feeds into the case for support made to their boards at budget time, as well as the longer-term planning done to ensure that an organization's ambitions align with its capacity.

Continue reading »

What’s New at Foundation Center (March)

March 14, 2018

FC_logoI'm shoveling out from endless snow (or slush, as it's quickly becoming) to bring you this latest update in our monthly series focused on what we're learning about the social sector, where we're speaking, the data we're collecting, and how you can contribute to those efforts. Here's more on what we were up to in February:

Projects Launched

  • Our annual Columbus Survey launched on CF Insights. This survey collects data about financial trends and operational activity at community foundations in the United States. Explore last year's results dashboard to get a snapshot of the community foundation landscape!
  • We now offer ebooks you can borrow for free to read on your device! View our collection and create a free account on the main Catalog of Nonprofit Literature homepage.

Content Published

What We're Excited About

  • Our dedicated amazing GrantSpace specialist Sandy Pon was selected as one of 2018's 50 Movers and Shakers by Library Journal. Nominated as a "digital developer," Sandy addresses the critical (and free!) information literacy needs of the nonprofit and social sector every day through our Grantspace.org platform and our Ask Us service. Congratulations to one of our game-changing librarians!
  • Our soon-to-be released GrantCraft guide on knowledge sharing to strengthen grantmaking.
  • Our women-powered work.
  • Thanks to the generous support of the Doll Family Foundation and the William J. and Dorothy K. O'Neill Foundation, Foundation Center Midwest will conclude its 40th Anniversary celebration series with a nod to the future of philanthropy. The special program, "Meet the Changemaker: Next GEN Givers, Doers & Innovators," will take place on Saturday, April 7, at our Foundation Cenrer Midwest Cleveland office.
  • We've answered over 1,500 questions about nonprofit management and the social sector more broadly through our online chat since January. (Have a question? Ask!)
  • We're giving GrantSpace — our website geared to grantseekers — a makeover so that it's easier to find what you're looking for. Keep your eyes peeled for the new site in April.
  • Foundation Center Northeast (our New York office) will be hosting a series of workshops this year as part of a grant award from the Communities of Color Nonprofit Stabilization Fund. These awards are made in order to provide capacity-building services for selected nonprofits led by and serving communities of color across New York City's five boroughs. If you're an eligible nonprofit that did not apply for 2018, we would love to discuss partnering with you to apply for a grant for 2019. For more information e-mail Kate Amanna Demcsak, New York lead, at kva@foundationcenter.org.
  • We have a newly improved and easy way to tell your story through our Foundation Center Updater. Keep us up-to-date on the work of your organization!

A Few Projects in the Pipeline

  • In partnership with the Ford Foundation, a project to expand the data on local philanthropy in India.
  • In partnership with Native Americans in Philanthropy, a project to build a web portal featuring philanthropic funding related to — and by — Native peoples.

For more on these projects or how to work with us, send us an email.

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Our staff will be speaking/appearing at these upcoming events:

Our staff will be attending and/or exhibiting at these events:

Data Spotlight

  • 236,716 new grants added to Foundation Maps in February, of which 9,865 grants were made to 6,571 organizations outside the U.S.
  • New data sharing partners: Henry County Community Foundation, REI Corporate Giving Program, Samuel N. and Mary Castle Foundation, and the Philip L. Van Every Foundation
  • Illegal fishing accounts for about 20 percent of the world's catch, costing up to $23.5 billion a year. See more on our featured landscape, FundingTheOcean.org.

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.

#TimesUp for the Nonprofit Gender Gap

March 09, 2018

Donor_perfect_workbook_for_womenFrom limited leadership roles to unequal pay to sexual harassment, the nonprofit community is coming to terms with its own #MeToo moment.

As a national conversation takes place around women’s issues, the surprising lack of gender diversity in nonprofit leadership along with the issues that surround it can no longer be overlooked.

For a sector that is largely funded and staffed by women, the numbers are troubling. While women make up about 73 percent of all nonprofit employees, they only hold 45 percent of nonprofit CEO roles. When it comes to pay, women nonprofit CEOs make just 66 percent of what their male counterparts make.

Fortunately, many nonprofits are having open discussions and taking action to promote gender equity in and beyond their organizations. 

In support of this crucial initiative, DonorPerfect partnered with five inspiring women who rose to the top of their organizations to create The Nonprofit Leadership Workbook for Women. This free downloadable guide commemorates Women's History Month in March, and every day, and offers a platform for these leaders to pass along what they believe it takes for more women in the nonprofit sector to ascend the ranks.

“This shift of power is so critically important. This shift in presence is so critically important,” says Marcia Coné, workbook contributor, author, and women’s advocate. “What follows is a shift in action, education, and understanding. It’s about balance and finding that there is space for both men and women to thrive, for both men and women to be safe.”

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Weekend Link Roundup (March 3-4, 2018)

March 04, 2018

Rising-pricesOur 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

Writer and activist Alicia Garza, who helped found the Black Lives Matter movement, in partnership with the Center for Third World OrganizingColor of Change, Demos, Socioanalitica Research, and Tides Foundation, has announced the launch of the Black Census Project, which hopes to talk to 200,000 black people from diverse backgrounds about their hopes, dreams, and needs by August 1. African Americans in participating can take the first step and fill out the online census.

Arts and Culture

ArtsPlace funders have released a statement on the Trump administration's 2019 federal budget request.

Climate Change

Nonprofit Chronicles Marc Gunther published an op-ed about climate philanthropy, and its failure to drive real progress on the issue, in the Chronicle of Philanthropy a few weeks ago. The Chronicle has given him permission to repost it on his own blog, here

Education

This should come as a surprise to no one: in a statement released earlier this week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) called Betsy DeVos "the worst Secretary of Education this country has ever seen — by a large margin. Secretary DeVos has spent her first year bending over backwards to allow students to be cheated, taking an axe to public education, and undermining the civil rights of students across the country. [She] has failed in her job and she must be held accountable." Mother Jones's Edwin Rios has the details.

Higher Education

Public colleges and universities are facing a perfect storm of existential challenges over the next decade, and institutions in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont are the canaries in the coal mine. Lee Gardner reports for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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Newman's Owns Gets a New Life

March 02, 2018

Newmans_own_logoOn February 9, 2018, President Trump signed into law the Philanthropic Enterprise Act of 2017 as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. The new law allows private foundations to own 100 percent of a business under certain conditions. The bill was championed by Newman's Own Foundation, which owns 100 percent of No Limit, LLC, the for-profit company that produces and sells the Newman’s Own-branded line of food products. The new law allows the foundation to maintain 100 percent ownership of No Limit, assuring that all profits of the company will continue to go to charity.

Newman’s Own Foundation needed the new law to avoid a requirement that it divest itself of at least 80 percent of No Limit under the "excess business holdings rule" of Internal Revenue Code Section 4943. The excess business holdings rule generally prohibits a private foundation from owning more than 20 percent of a for-profit company. It imposes extreme penalties on a foundation that are equal to twice the value of the holdings above the 20 percent limitation. In most cases, this will completely destroy the value of the “excess” holdings to the foundation. The new law creates an exception to the excess business holdings rule for foundations that own 100 percent of a business and devote all profits to charity.

Foundations that acquire more than 20 percent of a company normally have a five-year deadline to sell their excess holdings before the penalties apply. Newman’s Own originally faced that deadline in 2013 but was able to get a five-year extension that would have expired this year. The passage of the new law relieves Newman's Own from the requirement that it divest itself of No Limit, meaning it can continue operating as it always has without interruption.

New law, new rules

The new law, Section 4943(g) of the Internal Revenue Code, permits a private foundation to own 100 percent of a company under the following conditions:

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Breaking Through Branding B.S.: The Benefits of Nonprofit Brand Strategy

February 27, 2018

Branding-strategyWhen I tell people I work on brand strategy for mission-driven organizations, I get a lot of blank stares and raised eyebrows. I get it: brand strategy is a bit of a buzzword these days and not exactly easy to define. Adding to the confusion, there's a lingering perception that brand strategy belongs exclusively to the corporate world, that it's something mega brands like Nike, Coca Cola, and Starbucks leverage to woo new customers in a crowded marketplace.

So this article is for all those interested in, confused by, or skeptical about nonprofit brand strategy. It's my answer to the raised eyebrows, a proclamation of my firmly held conviction that a well-articulated brand strategy can be transformative for organizations working to create social change.

Agreeing on a Definition

Our team has written a lot about brand theory, and my aim in this article is to move beyond theory and discuss some of the tangible outcomes of a successful nonprofit brand strategy. But to make sure we're all on the same page, I first want to quickly review what brand and brand strategy are.

There are many definitions of brand, but for our purposes let me define it as the collective perception of an organization shared by its customers or constituents. Brand lives in the minds and experiences of all the different people who come into contact with an organization, including staff, board members, donors, beneficiaries, etc. Brand strategy is an articulation of how a brand is meant to be understood and expressed. At Constructive, we break down brand strategy into the ideas that drive and position an organization, the messages that express them, and the designed experiences that translate these ideas into more tangible deliverables such as a visual identity, communications collateral, and digital presence.

So with that out of the way, how does a successfully defined brand strategy actually help social change organizations accomplish their mission?

A Gut Check

In my opinion, some of the greatest benefits to be gained from a brand strategy engagement come from the process itself.

Brand strategy engagements typically (and always should) begin with extensive research and analysis of the organization and its existing brand. At Constructive, this phase is known as "discovery," and our research can take the form of interviews with internal and external audiences, surveys, peer analyses, and workshops with organizational leadership and staff. The culmination of this phase is a brand assessment that articulates the organizational goals for the brand strategy engagement, the perceived weaknesses and strengths of the organization's current brand, and a plan for mitigating challenges and leveraging opportunities.

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Weekend Link Roundup (February 24-25, 2018)

February 25, 2018

George-harrison-guitar-1963-via-APOur 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 an op-ed piece originally published in The Hill, Mott Foundation president Ridgway White argues that eliminating funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, as the Trump administration has proposed, would strip "resources from a successful initiative rooted in communities, dismissing decades of evidence proving that consistent participation by students in quality afterschool programs leads to improved school attendance, better grades and higher graduation rates...."

Education

New York has the nation's most diverse public school system. It also is the most segregated. Michelle Chen reports for The Nation

With lots of support from the tech industry, "computer science for all" is making its way into k-12 curricula across the nation. But whose interests are being served, students' or the industry's? And given rapid advances in artificial intelligence, will the short-term focus on filling today's tech-sector jobs ultimately backfire? Benjamin Herold and the Education Week team explore theses questions with some leading thinkers in the field, including Code.org founder Hadi Partovi, the CSforAll Consortium's Ruthe Farmer, the National Science Foundation's Janice Cuny, and University of Michigan professor Megan Tompkins-Stange, who tracks trends in education philanthropy.

On Medium, Nellie Mae Education Foundation president Nick Donohue lays out his hopes for a strategic planning process recently announced by the organization — a process that aims to build on its belief that "to prepare all of New England’s students to succeed, [it needs] to focus on where the need and opportunity gaps are...[which] means thinking more deliberately about how [it] serves low-income students and students of color."

Fundraising

On the GuideStar blog, Adam Weinger shares five strategies designed to boost your fundraising results with matching gifts.

Gun Violence

Inside Philanthropy's Philip Rojc has a roundup of the handful of celebrities and philanthropists who have gone public with support for the student-led #NeverAgain movement that has dominated headlines and acted as a focal point for gun reform advocates nationwide since the mass shooting at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School ten days ago.  

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