398 posts categorized "Nonprofits"

Small Charities Are Being Left Behind by Big Data for Social Good Initiatives

August 10, 2018

Big-Data-webData has the potential to help nonprofit organizations work at a scale larger than ever before and to solve problems more efficiently and effectively. Data can help organizations improve their monitoring and evaluation, determine where the biggest problems lie and where the most value can be added, influence policy through evidence, increase their reach, and enhance their fundraising capabilities.

But big data analytics and artificial intelligence have mainly been developed for and by the private sector. The good news is that third sector organizations increasingly are using data for social good, from predicting child welfare needs and monitoring climate change to working toward new cancer treatments.

Large nonprofits can use their brand power to leverage data-sharing partnerships with private companies, pay for expensive data-analytics services, or hire in-house data scientists. But for smaller charities, working with new data methods and analytics requires capacity, funding, and partnerships they typically don't have and can't easily secure.

That was underscored by Lloyd's Bank UK Digital Business Index 2016, which found that almost half of UK charities lack basic digital skills and that 80 percent are not investing in digital technology at all, let alone in big data. It's not difficult to see why: if comes down to a choice between hiring a program officer or a data officer, or between acquiring data analytics capabilities and additional project funding, most charities will choose to spend their limited resources in ways most likely to impact their constituents and communities.

Here at the Social Innovation Exchange (SIX), we recently conducted a global scan highlighting how data is being used in different ways for social good, emerging challenges in the field, and how philanthropy can be and is engaged in this work.

For starters, philanthropy can help level the playing field by addressing some of the biggest obstacles facing small charities in using data for good, including often-prohibitive costs, a lack of human capital, insufficient leverage to form data philanthropy partnerships, and a difficult regulatory environment.

But there is hope.

Below, we highlight four examples of how philanthropy is supporting smaller charities to better engage in this work:

1. Funding. The Paul Hamlyn Foundation and City Bridge Trust recently provided support to Khulisa, a small UK criminal justice charity, to hire a dedicated analyst to help it implement a strategic plan designed to shift the organization toward evidence-led work and give it more influence in policy conversations, thus driving greater systemic change.

2. Human resources and additional capacity. Uptake.org, the philanthropic arm of data analytics company Uptake, recently granted $1 million to the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University to establish a Machine Learning for Social Good fund that will provide free machine learning and data science assistance to nonprofit organizations and governmental agencies. Elsewhere, DataKind UK, funded by Omidyar Network and others, brings together teams of pro bono data scientists with social change organizations on projects that use data to transform their work.

3. Access to data. Through its Data Labs project, New Philanthropy Capital is serving as a trusted intermediary between nonprofits and government agencies, enabling the former to access government data for the purposes of program impact measurement. Challenge prizes sponsored by foundations and private organizations are another way for organizations to access large amounts of data. In 2013, for instance, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Grand Challenges Explorations program awarded grants to six nonprofit projects focused on bringing together large datasets to solve social problems. One winner, NetHope's Open Humanitarian Initiative, built a tool to help humanitarian charities share their data in real time, helping to save more lives both during and after a disaster.

4. Enabling Environment. The UK-based Charities Aid Foundation has launched the Future:Good initiative with the goal of highlighting the ways in which civil society can play a positive role in shaping and responding to new technological trends. That work includes encouraging government to make technology a key part of its civil society strategy and supporting the idea that civil society organizations are intrinsic to the conversation around responsible technology.

Beyond increasing the use of data for good, there's another pressing reason charities should be supported in their efforts to collect and use data.

In this digital moment, privacy and security breaches and the manipulation of public opinion are top-of-mind concerns for people everywhere. The growing concentration of data in private hands means that individuals and smaller organizations are often left without a voice with respect to these issues and on how data is being used (and abused) to shape our lives.

In this critical moment, philanthropy needs to look for ways to engage smaller charities in this work — not only to keep them from being left behind, but also to ensure that their voice — and the voices of the communities they represent — are heard in the important debates around the ethical use of data.

Headshot_kendra_schreiner_jordan_jungeKendra Schreiner is a research and projects assistant at SIX and a postgraduate student at the London School of Economics, where she studies international development and humanitarian emergencies. 

Program director Jordan Junge leads SIX's work ob the future of social innovation and manages the SIX Funders Node, an international collective of fifty foundations from more than fifteen countries, in which role she helps them to be better funders of innovation by connecting them to their peers. 

 

For Your Consideration: Your First Job Should Be a Nonprofit Job

August 03, 2018

Top_chance_change_GettyImageSIf you asked me my freshman year of college where I thought I would be in fifteen years — or even where I would be after graduation — I would not have said "working in the nonprofit sector." I had earned a B.A. in philosophy, politics and law from Binghamton University in upstate New York, and I had every intention of attending law school. But life often takes you in surprising directions, and when a job opened up at The Blue Card, a national nonprofit that provides resources and financial assistance to struggling Holocaust survivors, I knew it was something I needed to do.

I started at the organization in 2009 as a program coordinator, became a program director the following year, and in 2013 took on the leadership role of executive director. My grandparents had fled Nazi persecution, so I had a personal connection to the organization's work. And by making it possible for me to work toward a mission I believe in, the job has given me back as much — and more — as I've put into it.

So to those college grads who are heading out into the world, allow me this piece of advice: think about taking a nonprofit job as your first job.

I know, it's not the craziest idea you've ever heard. Research from Johns Hopkins University shows that, collectively, nonprofits are the nation's third largest employer, behind only the retail and manufacturing sectors. And while I could go on and on about why the nonprofit sector is a wonderful place to begin your career, I'll give you my elevator pitch.

There's plenty of room to grow. The best thing about working at a nonprofit organization is the relative lack of bureaucracy. In fact, most nonprofits are places where you can turn any role into a "stretch role" — that is, a place where you can seek out and perform tasks that fall outside your official job responsibilities. It's not that most nonprofit managers will let you take ownership of a project; in many cases, you'll be expected to. Take it from me, a crash course in grantwriting, budget planning, or government relations can put you on the fast track to a job with even more responsibility.

Nonprofits also provide lots of opportunities for moving around. Not loving the job you were hired to fill? Although you may not be paid as well as your peers in the for-profit sector, you're likely to find it a lot easier to switch to a different department or try something completely different.

There's no lack of opportunities to build marketable skills. When it comes to building marketable skills, new nonprofit employees often are surprised at how quickly they are thrown into the deep end of the pool — I'm talking about everything from writing and editing, to social media marketing, to budgeting, analytics, and project management.

Because most nonprofits have no choice but to be entrepreneurial, they also tend to be great places for honing your soft skills — interpersonal, critical thinking, social, and emotional. And with the rapid emergence of the competitive digital economy, soft skills such as empathy, adaptability, resourcefulness, creativity, ability to manage, and tolerance for risk are becoming more and more desirable to all types of employers.

There's little chance of getting sidetracked. Working at a nonprofit is a good way to gain real-world experience while you are attending, or contemplating, grad school. One reason is that nonprofit employers tend to be more flexible than for-profits about part-time or non-traditional work schedules. During my time at The Blue Card, for instance, I've been able to earn an MBA.

Whether it comes as a surprise or not, one day, like me, you might even wake up and realize the job you thought you would only have for a year or two is a job that you love and hope to have for years to come. A recent survey from nonprofit job site Work for Good found that once people start working in a nonprofit, they tend to stick around. Of the 58 percent who started their careers outside the nonprofit sector and switched over, 88 percent said they planned to stay in the sector. The survey also found that mission-driven workers tend to be committed to their work, with 93 percent of respondents — nearly three times the national average — saying they are highly or somewhat engaged in their jobs.

"Opportunity" is a word I use a lot when talking about what nonprofit and philanthropic organizations have to offer to someone just starting his or her career. As with any job, however, opportunity is only what you make of it. Here are a few additional pieces of advice for those interested in taking full advantage:

  • Say "yes." Most people starting out at a nonprofit will find themselves being asked to take on tasks they might never get close to as a junior employee at a for-profit corporation. It could be anything from representing your organization at a conference, to networking with stakeholders and decision makers, to public speaking. When those doors open, say "yes" and try to walk through them with confidence and pep in your step.
  • Be transparent about your goals. When you're speaking to prospective nonprofit employers, let them know the kind of role you're looking for — or (if it's the case) that you're thinking about pursuing a postgraduate degree. That way, both you and your future employer will be on the same page about needs — yours and theirs.
  • Embrace the start-up mindset. Nonprofits come in all shapes and sizes, but it's a pretty good bet you'll be asked to jump right in and get your hands dirty. That's good, and you should use it to your advantage. Ask to be allowed to try on different hats, and show that you're are a team player who will do what it takes to get the job done.
  • Show your passion for the cause. If you're thinking about going to work for a nonprofit, know that the work is about more than the job description. Any prospective nonprofit employer will want to see that you're a good fit with the organization's mission and culture. Nonprofits tend to be cause driven for a reason, and your employer will want to know that the cause is as important to you as it is to your future colleagues.

Maybe you don't know what you want to do for the rest of your life, or what industry you'd like to apply your field of study to. That's okay. A nonprofit career has shown me that there's more than one way to make use of my degree and my talents. It's shown me that working to further a mission or cause I feel totally connected to is extremely rewarding. And it's shown me that while doing good often means making sacrifices, it doesn't have to mean sacrificing my career.

Headshot_masha_pearl_2018_for_PhilanTopicMasha Pearl is executive director of The Blue Card, the only organization in the United States with the sole mission of providing direct, ongoing aid to Holocaust survivors in need. To learn more about the organization and its programs, visit www.bluecardfund.org.

Every Person Counts: Why Philanthropy Must Help Save the Census

July 31, 2018

2020_censusIn philanthropic circles, when we talk about protecting democratic institutions and values we often focus on expanding voting rights, improving representation, and connecting impoverished communities with the resources they need. However, all these issues — and many others — are tied to another fundamental pillar of American democracy: the decennial census.

Every decade since 1790, the government has counted the American population, as mandated by the Constitution. While it took the Fourteenth Amendment to ensure that all people were counted equally, the census has nonetheless performed an essential role in maintaining and improving our democracy. Today, our country uses census data to apportion congressional representation; to draw federal, state, and local legislative districts; and to enforce civil rights laws. Businesses use census data to decide where to open, offer jobs, and provide goods and services. The census helps cities and states identify locations for large infrastructure projects like schools, senior centers, public transportation, hospitals, and police services. It determines how roughly $700 billion in federal funds in 2015 were distributed and allocated to programs such as Medicaid, Head Start, and Section 8 housing.

If the 2020 census yields inaccurate data, programs like these — and the people who depend on them — will be in serious jeopardy. Projects may be deprived of crucial funding and entire communities denied fair representation in government. In other words, the consequences of a poorly conducted census will ripple through the public and private sectors, and through civil society, for at least the next ten years.

Unfortunately, there are mounting challenges to achieving a fair, accurate, and complete census in 2020.

The Census Bureau notes that certain populations — people of color, young children, and rural households among them — have been undercounted historically. On top of that, Census Bureau researchin 2017 revealed that the current political climate could further discourage census participation. According to the bureau's own Center for Survey Management, concerns about data sharing and privacy are growing, "particularly among immigrants or those who live with immigrants," which in turn could have a "disproportionate impact on hard-to-count populations."

In March 2018, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross intensified the problem by adding a question about citizenship to the census, which Ross said at the time was at the request of the Department of Justice. The decision was made, however, without first testing the impact the question might have on response rates and quality. Most experts, including six former directors of the bureau, agree that adding the question will likely lead to the undercounting of already marginalized communities, including communities of color and those that are home to significant numbers of immigrants. In fact, back in January, months before Ross made his decision, the Census Bureau clearly stated the addition of the question "harms the quality of the census count."

The evidence we do have suggests this will be the case. A new analysis shows that in 2016, when a small sample of the population was asked the citizenship question on the American Community Survey (ACS), it went unanswered by a whopping 6 percent of respondents — more than any other question that will be included in the 2020 census. (To put that in perspective: 6 percent of the entire country is millions of people.) Moreover, in recent focus groups, participants of color were alarmed about the citizenship question and believe members of their communities will be less likely to fill out the census if the question is included.

At the same time, the 2020 census also will be the first census conducted primarily online, and this uncharted territory is filled with potential challenges. In light of the ongoing conversation about cybersecurity, for instance, are we certain that census data will be kept confidential and secure? Will the public be able to identify bogus efforts to obtain their personal information? Are we prepared to deal with intentional campaigns to spread misinformation? Beyond security, there are many questions about access. Will online forms be optimized for lower-income individuals who rely on smartphones? And how does the Census Bureau plan to bridge the digital divide to reach rural, low-income, and minority respondents? Unfortunately, we're not sure of the answers to any of these questions, in part because the technology has not been thoroughly tested. In fact, while the bureau planned to conduct three tests of the system, two were canceled.

Compounding our concerns about technology, the census has been suffering from a severe lack of funding. Typically, Congress ramps up funding three years before the census itself, but in 2017 no such increase was approved. As a result, the bureau is way behind where it should be in terms of conducting opinion research and getting the word out (in multiple languages). Even though Congress recently approved additional census spending, there are no guarantees the increase will be enough — or will be renewed in 2019.

The good news is that we still have time. Those of us working in philanthropy cannot make up the shortfall in federal funding for the census, but we can leverage our resources and expertise to make sure it is fair and successful.

Right now, a coalition of foundations and advocates is working with civil rights leaders, census experts, business leaders, faith-based groups, digital specialists, and others to develop and implement a strategic response to these challenges. This unique initiative includes a plan to reject the citizenship question, leverage digital opportunities to get the word out, and launch a robust outreach effort to encourage the public, especially those who are hardest to count, to step up and be counted.

To date, more than sixty-five funders have provided strategic funding to more than seventy organizations for census-related work, and we are beginning to see results. Awareness of the issue is higher, and happening earlier, than ever before. The Census Bureau's 2018 budget has been significantly increased. And legal challenges to the citizenship question have grown steadily in number. This is only a beginning, however. To continue with our strategy and shore up the census over the next two years, those of us in philanthropy still need to raise an additional $35 million for the national effort — and more at the state level for local outreach to hard-to-count communities.

That's why we need your help. Every philanthropist and foundation has a stake in the census, no matter what they fund, or where. It is incumbent on us to do whatever we can to guarantee that it proceeds accurately and apolitically, ethically and efficiently. But we are running out of time.

Together, we must use our voices, our platforms, and our networks to push for the removal of the citizenship question, identify trusted voices in communities likely to be undercounted who are willing to promote participation, and make sure that the data the census generates is inclusive and accurate. We must be prepared to contribute our financial resources, infrastructure, influence, and expertise to those working on the ground.

Ultimately, the census is not just about the survey. It's about the future. If it fails to yield an accurate count, communities will be starved of crucial resources, and all of us, but especially those with the least power — people living in poverty, children of color, new immigrants — will have to live with the consequences. The next decade of data-driven decision-making for our democracy is on the line. Every person in America counts, and it's up to us to make sure they're counted.

Gary D. Bass, Antonia Hernández, Barbara Picower, and Darren Walker are the chief executives (respectively) of the Bauman Foundation, California Community Foundation, the JPB Foundation, and the Ford Foundation. Bass is, in addition, an affiliated professor at Georgetown's McCourt School of Public Policy and chair of the funder collaborative to promote a fair and accurate census described above.

[Review] How Change Happens: Why Some Social Movements Succeed While Others Don't

July 30, 2018

Social movements are nothing new. People always seem to be marching for — or against — something. Part of this is due to the fact that social movements often take decades to achieve the change they seek, while many never get there.

Book_how_change_happens_3DWhile there is no simple recipe for social movement success, Leslie Crutchfield, executive director of the Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI) at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, and her research team have identified a number of patterns that distinguish successful social movements from those that didn't succeed and shares them in her latest book, How Change Happens: Why Some Social Movements Succeed While Others Don't. The six she identifies are a focus on the grassroots; a recognition of the importance of state and local efforts; a commitment to changing norms and attitudes as well as policy; a willingness to reckon with adversarial allies; acceptance of the fact that business is not always the enemy and often can be a key ally; and being "leaderfull."

Crutchfield argues that successful social change leaders invariably recognize the importance of advocating for a shift in social norms, not just policy reforms, and that they never prioritize one over the other. And to support her contention, she shares some key insights from successful change leaders. In the movement for marriage equality in the United States, for example, LGBT advocates used polling research to reframe the focus of the campaign's messaging from "rights" to "love" and "commitment," which in turn led to the dissemination of now-familiar slogans such as "Love is Love" and, eventually, a change in marriage laws.

To further illustrate how change happens, Crutchfield highlights a number of instances where a movement prevailed over a determined counter-movement that strayed from one or more of the patterns. Most telling, perhaps, is the success the National Rifle Association has had "in defending and expanding the gun rights of gun owners in the United States" through a relentless focus on grassroots organizing. Indeed, "[t]he gun rights movement's grassroots army is the reason why, despite the waves of angry anti-gun protests, heartbreaking vigils, and pleading calls for reform that erupt after each tragic mass shooting…gun violence prevention groups still largely lose ground." Over the years, NRA leaders have been laser-focused in growing and emboldening their grassroots base through community events such as barbecues and town hall meetings. In contrast, gun safety advocates have been more oriented "toward elite politics at the national level" and in "push[ing] a comprehensive gun control bill through Congress." The dichotomous results of the two approaches speak for themselves and serve as additional support for Crutchfield's contention that the single most important decision movement leaders have to make is whether "to let their grassroots fade to brown or...turn [them] gold."

A more recent trend benefiting social movements is the growing willingness of the private sector to get behind and support so-called "double-bottom-line" values. According to Crutchfield, businesses increasingly are interested in demonstrating their social and environmental bona fides — in part due to pressure from activists and in part in pursuit of increased profits — and sometimes both. From beverage and car companies working with groups like MADD to promote safer drinking and driving habits to businesses increasingly opting for more inclusive choices in their branding strategies, businesses have proven to be an influential force in driving social change.

At the end of the day, however, a social movement is only as effective as its leaders, and the most effective leaders, writes Cructhfield, are those willing to share power and "lead from behind." Indeed, a "leaderfull" movement (a term inspired by the thinking and writing of civil rights activist Ella Baker) successfully harnesses the energy of many, rather than a few, and channels that energy into a common cause. According to Crutchfield, leaderfull movements share three traits: they empower local grassroots leaders to step forward; they are built around coalitions of like-minded and "unusual suspects"; and they are filled with people who have a "lived experience" of the problem and are empowered to speak and act on behalf of the organization. Indeed, we can see the idea in action in recent movements like #BlackLivesMatter and the gun control advocacy work propelled by the students from Parkland High School in Florida.

All this sounds good on the theoretical level, but young people and activists are looking for more than theory. Fortunately, each chapter of How Change Happens offers practical advice, tactics, and long-term strategies designed to help movement leaders and participants advance their cause. In the chapter on reckoning with adversarial allies, for instance, Crutchfield stresses the importance of forging consensus, building trust, and settling on concrete goals. She also warns readers about the traps of policy disagreement, personality conflict, and arguments over who gets credit. (It will be interesting to watch #BlackLivesMatter and the student-led gun control movement — both strong at the grassroots but without a unifying policy objective — wrestle with these traps as they continue to advance their respective causes.)

So what do the findings in How Change Happens mean for social change? According to Crutchfield, it depends on where you sit. Foundations and high-net-worth donors, policy officials and agency heads, business leaders, and citizen activists all bring specific assets and have different roles to play in the process. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation's largest healthcare philanthropy, committed $700 million over a decade in support of tobacco control initiatives and played a critical role in that movement's success. Few entities have those kinds of financial resources at their disposal, however, and cash is no guarantee of success. (In fact, over-generous donors have been known to smother, undermine, and destroy movements.) Instead, each of us needs to reflect on the unique assets we bring, as individuals or organizations, to the table and think creatively about how we can "operationalize" those assets in service to the cause.

As Crutchfield makes clear, movement building is process-oriented, relational, and iterative. With a diverse set of examples that spans decades, issue areas, and organizational composition, her book is a reminder that past holds countless lessons that can inform how we create meaningful, sustainable change today and into the future. And while the examples she shares are largely drawn from the U.S., her findings will resonate with today's movement leaders and the legions of activists driving movements around the world. That's a good thing because, as Crutchfield puts it, "change rises up to the top, not the other way around."

Sarina Dayal is a Knowledge Services associate at Foundation Center. For more great reviews, visit the Off the Shelf section in PND.

[Review] Unicorns Unite: How Nonprofits & Foundations Can Build EPIC Partnerships

July 25, 2018

Regardless of what corner of the social sector you work in, you're probably working to make the world a better place. At a time when many scorn and deride such an ambition, Unicorns Unite: How Nonprofits and Foundations Can Build Epic Partnerships urges social-sector changemakers to roll up their sleeves and get to work on improving the relationships necessary to drive the progress we all want to see.

Book_unicorns_unite_for_PhilanTopicWritten by Jessamyn Shams-Lau, executive director of the Peery Foundation, Jane Leu, founder and CEO of Smarter Good, and Vu Le, executive director of Rainier Valley Corps, the book is a highly creative attempt to deconstruct the classic dichotomy between grantmaker and grantseeker — and why not? One can't exist without the other, and changemakers often jump back and forth between the two. But first, what do they mean by "unicorn"? A unicorn, according to the authors, is "a persistent, visionary, and dedicated nonprofit or foundation professional who shines with brilliance and practices humility." And why are they great? Because they are bad-ass; they provide jobs and strengthen the economy; they handle stuff no one else wants to do; they restore and build community; they amplify voices that aren't heard; they stand defiantly against injustice; and they create hope. What's more, we all have unicorn potential inside us. Shams-Lau, Leu, and Le are here to help us find it.

The first step in that journey takes the form of a pep-talk, a much-needed moment of levity before readers are led into the nitty-gritty of all the ways in which our professional relationships are dysfunctional. The authors then dive into "What Is," highlighting some of the key issues in the "unicorn family" dynamic with real-life examples, including distrust, jealousy, power imbalance, fear, hypocrisy, time wasting, disrespect, and a lack of listening and honesty. In the process, they note that while those of us working in the sector have everything we need to foster better relationships within and beyond our organizations, too often we put ourselves into "boxes" — "Foundations are often funder-centric. Nonprofits are often nonprofit-centric. [And we] are all often egocentric" — and that these boxes often turn into "nightmares." Indeed, we spend so much time focused on what's going wrong in these nightmares that we end up perpetuating them, when we should be focused on solving problems together.

The book shares some of these nightmares, which may be therapeutic or chilling, depending on what "box" you put yourself into. In one example, a funder dangled a half-million-dollar grant in front of a nonprofit unicorn, whose staff spent sixty hours filling out their forms and spreadsheets only to have that funder ask them to let go of current staff and replace them with lower-paid staff, and then reduced the size of the grant to $100,000. In another scenario, a foundation unicorn, trying to be respectful of a nonprofit director's time, asked for materials that had already been prepared for other foundations and let the director know as soon as it was clear that his organization wasn't a good fit — only to be accused of leading him on and effectively ending the nonprofit's work by not funding it. And several foundations and nonprofits share the difficulties they have in being in the same room together as peers.

We all have these nightmares, and we all want to forget about them and move forward, but we get stuck because "we are all afraid to name, and then address, the root causes that create division in our sector." Perhaps the biggest one is, "Whose money is it?" The authors are quick to remind us that "nobody owns the money in a foundation. It belongs to the foundation, which is also not owned by anybody — not even the founder or the board. The funds in a foundation exist to serve the public good." But though we know that to be true, we act as if the money belongs to the people tasked with dispersing it, and "even if it's unconscious, money equals power." Arguably, this unequal power dynamic, more than anything else, shapes the interactions between nonprofits and foundations — and between staff members within an organization. It also leads to what the authors call the "Tyranny of the Hierarchy of Inputs," which is an incredibly useful framing of how money is too often valued above all other inputs and contributions to the outputs we are working for — things like leadership, experience, knowledge, hope, labor, creativity, caring, risk taking — and so diminishes the value of those contributions and the people who make them.

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What's New at Foundation Center Update (July)

July 18, 2018

FC_logoSummer is a time to break from routine, rejuvenate, and reevaluate. As the thermometer climbs, Foundation Center is doing its part to refresh its thinking and processes to better serve the social sector. With that in mind, here's our June roundup:

Projects Launched

  • IssueLab launched its special Democracy Collection. In it, you'll find reports about election and campaign administration, voting access and participation, government performance and perceptions of that performance, the role of the media in democracy, and more. With the midterm elections fast approaching, this is a collection I'm personally digging into with added interest. Check it out and suggest an addition.
  • CF Insights launched the 2017 Columbus Survey Results Dashboard, which provides access to the most up-to-date, comprehensive dataset reflecting the current financial state of community foundations in the United States. The latest iteration of the dashboard also has new social media functionality that makes it easier for community foundations to raise their visibility in their communities by sharing their rankings with stakeholders and the public.
  • Our decades-old Funding Information Network (FIN) launched two new partnership packages in June that are designed to help libraries, community foundations, co-working spaces, and nonprofit resource centers better meet their local social sector needs.
  • Glasspockets launched a website refresh featuring a more user-friendly path for participation in the "Who Has Glass Pockets" transparency assessment and benchmarking tools. New content areas include how (and why) you can (and should) participate, and what to do if you're not sure where to start.
  • SDGfunders.org was re-launched with a new, dynamically updated dashboard. The platform tells the story of how philanthropic dollars are being used to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) goals and aims to foster better coordination among those working to build a better future for all.

Content Published

What We're Excited About

  • We'll be launching our 2017 Annual Report later this month. Look for stories on the importance of sharing knowledge, delivering data to local communities, strengthening the global philanthropic sector, servicing the needs of community foundations, and more.
  • We'll also be launching a new GrantCraft guide on participatory grantmaking at the end of the summer. Check out these videos from funders already engaged in the practice answering commonly asked questions about shifting the power in decision-making. Stay tuned for more!
  • Later this summer, our Midwest office will partner with DigitalC and Microsoft to launch the first Data Maturity Survey for Northeast Ohio/Cuyahoga County.

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Our staff will be attending these upcoming events:

Services Spotlight

  • 436,678 new grants added to Foundation Maps in June, of which 14,033 grants were made to 4,014 organizations outside the U.S.
  • Foundation Directory Online now includes more than 12 million grants. See this Eye on FDO blog post to learn more about the new Organization Search feature in FDO.
  • New data sharing partners: Ausherman Family Foundation, Inc.; Australian Executor Trustees; Brooks Foundation; Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation; Lord Mayors Charitable Foundation; Media Development Investment Fund; Susan McKinnon Foundation; Mutual Trustees; and We Raise Foundation. Tell your story through data so we can communicate philanthropy's contribution to making a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.
  • We provided custom searches for the Chronicle of Philanthropy and Executives' Alliance for Boys and Men of Color.
  • We're hosting a Proposal Writing Boot Camp in Detroit, MI, July 25-27

Data Spotlight

  • Funders have made grants totaling $3.8 billion in support of ocean and coastal waters around the world. Learn more at FundingTheOcean.org.
  • In 2016, foundation funding for SDG 10, Reducing Inequalities, totaled over $340 million. Check out the latest data on SDG funding at SDGfunders.org.

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

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center.

Weekend Link Roundup (July 14-15, 2018)

July 15, 2018

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

Education

In the twenty-first century, are private secondary schools antithetical to the public good? On the Aeon site, Jack Schneider, a scholar of education history and policy at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, considers the arguments for and against.

Environment

Ireland has announced that it will completely divest itself of investments in fossil fuels over the next five years, becoming the first country to make such a commitment. Adele Peters reports for Fast Company.

Governance

According to a new report from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, nonprofit boards "that include a higher percentage of women tend to have board members who participate more in fundraising and advocacy. [And members] of these boards also tend to be more involved in the board's work." You can view the full report (58 pages, PDF) here and the executive summary (8 pages, PDF) here.

Health

A little bit of good news. A report from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association finds that the rate of opioid use disorder among its members declined last year to 5.9 per 1,000, compared to 6.2 per 1,000 the year before, while the decline in opioid prescriptions being filled by doctors has fallen 29 percent nationally since 2013. Christopher Zara reports for Fast Company.

Higher Education

Forbes contributor Josh Moody tries to answer the question: Why are there so few women at the top of the Ivory Tower?

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Weekend Link Roundup (June 30-July 1, 2018)

July 01, 2018

Lionel-Messi-en-souffrance-lors-de-France-Argentine_w484Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Civic Tech

International Affairs/Development

On the GuideStar blog, Gabe Cohen, the organization’s senior director of marketing and communications, talks with Mari Kuraishi, president of GlobalGiving (which she co-founded with Dennis Whittle in 2001), about the organization's founding and early years and the values and qualities the organization is looking for in its next leader.

Leadership

In the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Vu Le suggests that the best leaders may be those who are "willing to give up the things they care about, not out of pity and charity, but in recognition of and in response to systemic injustice. Among other things, it means sometimes we men do not apply for that perfect job, even if we think we are well qualified for it. It means white allies sometimes do not take the microphone, literally or figuratively, so that others can have a chance to speak and be heard. It means larger organizations sometimes do not pursue catalytic grants, even if they have a high chance of getting them, and instead support the smaller, grassroots organizations led by marginalized communities. It means foundations share decision-making power with nonprofits and communities who have lived through the inequity they are trying to address."

LGTBQ

Kee Tobar, a Stoneleigh Foundation Emerging Leader Fellow and an attorney in the Youth Justice Project at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, marks the end of Pride Month with a guest post on the Generocity site that highlights the "closet to poverty pipeline" in which too mnay LGBTQ youth find themselves trapped.

Nonprofits

Jutt back from a busy week at the IFC-ASIA: Ecoystems for Good conference in Thailand, Beth Kanter shares some tips that will help you design a formal reflection process that can lead to improved project or event results.

On the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Naomi Orensten, CEP's director of research, shares the latest results of a survey of funders it periodically conducts to better understand their perceptions across a number of dimensions of CEP's work, engagement with and use of its research, and experiences as users of its assessment and advisory services.

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Weekend Link Roundup (June 23-24, 2018)

June 24, 2018

USATSI_10905933Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Advocacy

In the face of political change and uncertainty, advocacy organizations "are being called on to do more and do it faster while funders scramble to implement strategies that best support them. Yet current operating realities for advocacy organizations pose distinct hurdles to staying adaptable and nimble." On the Nonprofit Finance Fund blog, Annie Chang and Elise Miller look at three common dynamics in the social advocacy space and explain what they mean for nonprofits and funders.

Demography

In a majority of U.S. states, deaths now outnumber births among white people, "signaling what could be a faster-than-expected transition to a future in which whites are no longer a majority of the American population." Sabrina Tavernise reports for the New York Times.

Education

Education Week's Madeline Will reports on a study from the RAND Corporation and the American Institutes for Research (with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), which found that the Gates Foundation’s "multi-million-dollar, multiyear effort aimed at making teachers more effective largely fell short of its goal to increase student achievement — including among low-income and minority students."

Health

"Many of us may be familiar with cultural competency — being respectful and responsive to the health beliefs and practices — and cultural and linguistic needs — of diverse population groups," writes Jennifer McGee-Avila, a third-year doctoral student in an interdisciplinary program offered by the Rutgers School of Nursing and New Jersey Institute of Technology in Urban Systems. "[But to] achieve a deeper understanding of our patients, it is essential for providers to practice 'cultural humility' and acknowledge the unique elements of every individual's identity."

Giving

The secret to happiness is...giving to others? In a guest post on the GuideStar blog, Moshe Hecht, chief innovation officer of crowdfunding program Charidy, explains the science of lasting happiness.

Grantmaking

On our sister GrantCraft blog, the Jim Joseph Foundation's Seth Linden and Jeff Tiell explain why the foundation has begun to invest in "small experiments as a way of learning about the creativity and innovation that is happening in the Jewish world."

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'Skin in the Game' and the Importance of Board Giving

June 19, 2018

Skin_in_the_gameWhen we engage with new clients, we always begin with the imperative — up front and with clarity — that in order for a campaign or fundraising project to be successful, 100 percent board participation is required. Board members, as the legal stewards of an organization, must lead by example. And the impact of their participation goes well beyond the individual gifts themselves.

Nonprofit organizations rely on their boards for many things: governance and budgeting, guidance, community involvement and, of course, fundraising. Though some boards downplay the fundraising aspect, we believe it's essential that each board member be an active participant in ensuring the financial health of the organization on whose board they serve. The boards that waffle on this target by not articulating a clear expectation upfront are the ones that most often fall short of their fundraising and leadership goals. In fact, the majority of successful organizations report high board giving rates, while studies have found that board giving is more positively correlated with overall fundraising success than any other single factor.

Many boards have mandatory giving policies. According to a recent BoardSource survey, 68 percent of nonprofit organizations have a policy requiring board members to make a personal contribution on an annual basis. Some boards have a "give or get" policy that allows board members to either give a personal gift or to raise funds from family and friends equal to the amount of the required gift. We prefer a "give and get" approach, obligating a board member to lead with a personal investment and inspiring others by saying "join me," rather than outsourcing that responsibility to others.

Not every board has a policy that requires board giving. For those that do, the process is straightforward and requires a simple call to remind board members of their obligation. The process of new board member recruitment and orientation should include an early and candid conversation about fundraising expectations and financial obligations. Board leadership must set a good example by giving first and publicly announcing their gift as a way to encourage others.

Of course, board members may feel unmotivated to give, for any number of reasons. They might not understand why their contribution is necessary. Compared to major gifts, annual gifts from individual board members might seem inconsequential. If board giving is not a precondition of board membership, some board members may feel uncomfortable broaching the topic and will avoid asking because they feel embarrassed; they don't want to feel like they're pressuring their fellow board members, or stretching them beyond what they are able to do. Others may feel that contributing their time is sufficient and a gift isn't necessary. (While time is valuable, the giving of actual dollars by board members is important to the financial health of nonprofits and creates a culture of giving that may not develop otherwise.) 

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What's New at Foundation Center Update (June)

June 15, 2018

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

Projects Launched

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

Content Published

What We're Excited About

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

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Our staff will be attending these upcoming events:

Services Spotlight

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

Data Spotlight

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

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

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center.

Foundation Center Relaunches GrantSpace.org

June 13, 2018

Skills, insights, and connections for a stronger social sector, from the foundation up!

Grantspace_promo
Have you heard? Foundation Center has relaunched GrantSpace.org, its learning community connecting nonprofits to the tools they need to thrive. Through the GrantSpace portal, Foundation Center, the leading source of philanthropy data worldwide, provides self-service tools and trainings designed to help nonprofits be more effective in their work.

GrantSpace originally was launched in 2010 at a time when the economy was struggling to recover from a deep recession and most organizations were cutting back on their activities. In the years since, learning behaviors have continued to evolve, but support for professional development within the social sector has failed to keep pace. Over the past eight years, GrantSpace has aimed to deliver valuable insights and knowledge to new and experienced social sector professionals, providing them with an increasing menu of in-person and on-demand trainings, knowledge tools, and opportunities to convene with like-minded peers and experts.

"GrantSpace is more than an information hub; it has evolved to become a gateway for learning, a place that houses everything from proposal templates, to step-by-step resources on starting a nonprofit, to a collaboration database with 650+ case studies detailing joint efforts in the sector," notes Zohra Zori, vice president for social sector outreach at Foundation Center. "The new site also makes it easy for our team to curate and showcase the finest tools out there — some  developed by our own staff, and many produced by respected partners in the field. Partnership is ingrained in our DNA, and GrantSpace is a place to illustrate how Foundation Center illuminates the good work of like-minded capacity builders, intermediaries, and colleagues in philanthropy."

The new site design features an enhanced, user-centered interface for simpler navigation, while new geo-location options enable users to easily search for events, locations, and programs in their community. "For those looking for help on the go," Zohri adds, "GrantSpace is now built for mobile, so that users can access any area of the site from any device. And If you're looking for the human touch to complement your online/mobile experience, use the 'FIND US' icon on the site to find the Funding Information Network affiliate location nearest you. Online and/or in-person… we've got you covered."   

Check out the type of training we offer online, or find a Foundation Center location nearest you!

Weekend Link Roundup (June 9-10, 2018)

June 10, 2018

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

Advocacy

On the CEP blog, Tim Delaney, president and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits, wonders how "the 501(c)(3) community expect[s] different policy results if [it] continue[s] to ignore the urgent need to protect our common interests through defensive policy work? That's not an academic question," adds Delaney. "Right now, serious policy threats loom over foundations and nonprofits and demand immediate and aggressive pushback...."

Fundraising

Facebook -- remember them? -- has made it easier for people, companies, celebrities, and others to raise money on its platform. Fast Company's Melissa Locker explains.

Can nonprofits use design thinking to improve their fundraising results? Absolutely. Kathleen Kelly Janus, a social entrepreneur, author, and lecturer at the Stanford Program on Social Entrepreneurship, explains.

Giving

"Regrettably, [it is still common to] hear researchers and media equate generosity with individuals' or groups' formal charitable giving — that is, giving in, to, through, or for a charitable organization," writes Paul Schervish, retired founder and director of the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College. But, adds Schervish, "[f]ormal giving is just one aspect of generosity — and when looked at historically and globally, not the most pronounced."

Health

In a post on the Commonwealth Fund's blog, Timothy S. Jost, an emeritus professor at the Washington and Lee University School of Law, explains how a new Trump administration court filing could lead to denial of coverage or higher premiums for the estimated 52 million Americans with preexisting conditions.

Higher Education

Is higher education in a bubble? And what does the future hold if higher ed's trajectory is "less of a sudden pop and more of a long, slow slide, and we are already on the way down?" Adam Harris reports for The Atlantic.

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If You've Met One Foundation...You've Met One Foundation

June 08, 2018

Grant_application_for_PhilanTopicWriting grants is a lot like dating. Just because something worked in one relationship doesn't mean it's going to work in the next. Each relationship is unique, unpredictable, exciting, and...sometimes heartbreaking. And when we write a grant proposal, we have to be vulnerable but still present our best qualities. Ready for some foundation dating advice?

Because every foundation is unique, there are two critical components of success to grantwriting that have nothing to do with how well you craft your proposal — research and cultivation. Or in dating terms, getting to know you and courting.

First, you have to research the foundation. If you were dating, this would be like checking out someone's online profile. A grantwriter, instead, checks out the foundation's profile in Foundation Directory Online and spends some time with its 990-PFs. If the foundation issues publications, you'll want to flip through them and take note of the terminology the foundation uses and its stance with respect to your issue. If the foundation has a website, read through the program guidelines, application information, and any FAQs on the site.

As you do, keep an eye out for the foundation's preferences and restrictions. What has it funded in the past and at what level? A quick review of its tax returns (those 990-PFs) should give you a good sense of its giving patterns. One of my favorite things about Foundation  Directory Online is its mapping feature, which allows you to suss out whether a foundation has ever made a grant to a nonprofit in your city, county, or district, as well who the grant went to and the grant amount. Powerful information. It's like peeking into someone's dating history and learning how long the relationship lasted and how serious it was!

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Weekend Link Roundup (June 2-3, 2018)

June 03, 2018

MortarboardsOur 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

In a  post on Beth Kanter's Blog, Miriam Brosseau, chief innovation officer at See3 Communications, and Stephanie Corleto, digital communications manager at the National Institute for Reproductive Health, explain how you can use digital storytelling to break down the work silos in your organization. 

"Nonprofit leaders clearly understand the power of philanthropy"s voice in advocating for the nonprofit sector," argues David Biemesderfer, president and CEO of the United Philanthropy Forum (formerly the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers), in a post on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog. So "why doesn’t philanthropy understand the power of its own voice, and/or why does it seem so unwilling to use that voice?" 

Criminal Justice

In Town & Country, Adam Rathe looks at how New York philanthropist and art world doyenne Agnes Gund is using her renowned art collection to support criminal justice reform.

Education

On her Answer Sheet blog, Washington Post education blogger Valerie Strauss shares an "important article" by author Joanne Barkan about "the history of the movement to privatize U.S. public schools...[and] the national debate about the future of publicly funded education in this country." The long comment thread is also worth your time.

Innovation

Writing on our sister GrantCraft blog, Jason Rissman, a managing director at IDEO, shares three key learnings from the BridgeBuilder Challenge, a multi-challenge partnership between OpenIDEO — IDEO's open innovation practice — and the GHR Foundation aimed at finding solutions to global challenges at the intersection of peace, prosperity, and the environment.

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    — Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

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