388 posts categorized "Nonprofits"

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.

Journalism/Media

In many ways, this is the worst of times for the news industry, which has experienced precipitous declines in both its revenues and levels of trust (from 72 percent in 1976 to 32 percent in 2017). What can the industry do to address the damage? Nancy Watzman, editor of Trust, Media & Democracy on Medium and director of strategic initiatives for Dot Connector Studio, shares nine takeaways from Knight Foundation-sponsored research on restoring trust in the media.

In an age when notions such as "truth" and "reality" are under assault, Booker Prize-winning novelist Salman Rushdie argues in The New Yorker that it is incumbent on us "to recognize that any society's idea of truth is always the product of an argument, and we need to get better at winning that argument. Democracy is not polite," writes Rushdie. "It's often a shouting match in a public square. [And we] need to be involved in the argument if we are to have any chance of winning it...."

Nonprofits

Nonprofit AF's Vu Le thinks basing nonprofit pay on an employee's or job candidate's salary history is a bad idea and shares four reasons why nonprofits should dump the practice.

Philanthropy

What does power have to do with equity? And how can grantmakers better leverage power to help drive lasting, positive change in our communities? The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy's Lisa Ranghelli shares some thoughts — hers, as well as those of others — in a post on the NCRP blog.

Earlier this month, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation announced a streamlining of its priority areas. On the Devex site, Peter Laugharn, the foundation's president and CEO, shares more details about its evolving priorities.

Racial Equity

In a new post, Meyer Foundation president Nicky Goren introduces a restatement of its equity-focused strategic plan and a new racial equity resource page that includes links to information that has guided the foundation's thinking, definitions that add clarity to the way it discusses its work, and a glimpse of the local history that contributed to the state of racial equity in the D.C. region today.

Social Change

How many thoughtful, committed citizens does it take to change the world? According to a new study form the University of Pennsylvania, cultural shifts happen when "at least 25 percent of a community’s population is committed to changing what is considered the social norm." Katherine Wei reports for Sierra magazine.

Social Media

And on the GuideStar blog, Richard Nolan, a professional educator and team-building coach, shares eight simple things nonprofits can do to attract more social media followers.

(Photo Credit: Mike Segar/Reuters)

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

 

 

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!

Second, make a plan for cultivating the foundation. Put on your best courting hat and give the foundation a call, write an email, or send them a letter of inquiry. Share your idea or describe your project. Be sure to put your best foot forward but remember that it's okay to show your vulnerable side. Describe your organization's strengths and the areas where it could use some help, and be sure to give the foundation a clear picture of what a relationship between the two of you would look like. Understand, too, that the foundation is likely to have its own ideas about such a relationship, and be ready to compromise.

Someone once told me that love is a competition in generosity. How can we as nonprofits reciprocate foundation generosity? Be a good communicator. Remember the little things. Anticipate the foundation's needs. Nurture the relationship. In grantmaking terms, follow through and follow up. Send progress reports. Share stories with the foundation that illustrate the impact you're having and provide it with media it can use for its own communications purposes. Do whatever you need to do to help the foundation feel good about its grant all year long.

Remember, if you've met one foundation, you've met one foundation. Each foundation is different, and they all have their own ambitions and boundaries. Building a strong relationship with a funder takes time and persistence. But when the relationship is strong, it can be one of the best things that ever happened to your nonprofit and will repay the energy you put into it many times over.

What have you found to be effective in building relationships with foundations? Have any tips to share? We'd love to hear them!

Headshot_allison_shirk_new_for_PhilanTopicAllison Shirk is executive director of Spark the Fire Grantwriting Classes on Vashon Island, Washington. To read more of her articles, click here.

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.

Nonprofits

The United States is going through a wrenching socioeconomic transition, and nonprofit leaders need to think and "play" big if we are to get through it in one piece, argues Nell Edgington on her Social Velocity blog.  

The massive corporate tax cut passed by Congress in December is likely to explode the federal budget deficit and generate fresh assaults on federally funded entitlement programs. In his latest for PhilanTopic, Mark Rosenman argues that "[n]onprofit organizations, especially those engaged in humanservices, cannot stand by while regressive policies are proposed and advanced." 

Philanthropy

Every year, Americans give roughly $60 billion to foundations, but just 4 percent of that ($2.5 billion) goes toward nonprofit advocacy work. Fast Company's Ben Paynter looks at five questions every donor interested in maximizing his or her charitable dollars should be asking.

Fourteen more philanthropists have joined the Giving Pledge

As foundations and others continue to engage in conversations about the need to rebalance the power dynamic in philanthropy, what role can or should advisors/consultants play? Richard Marker shares his thoughts.

It's The Economist's turn to profile the effective altruism movement and one of its leading spokespersons, Oxford University philosopher William MacAskill, who argues that promoting "inefficient" charities might actually do more harm than good.

Social Justice

In a piece originally published in the Mail & Guardian, a South African weekly, Nicolette Taylor, director of the Ford Foundation's Southern Africa office, argues that recent "[s]exual harassment scandals should be a loud wake-up call for all of us to dig deep and interrogate our ‘holier than thou’ approach to sexism and racism within our own institutions." 

Social Media

And make sure you check out this essay by Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT and an advisor to the Knight Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy. In it, Zuckerman, riffing off the work of journalism scholar Michael Schudson, looks at the six or seven things journalism can do to support and strengthen democracy.

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

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (May 2018)

June 02, 2018

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

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

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

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

Tax Cuts (and Politics) Have Put the Safety Net at Risk. What Are You Going to Do About It?

May 30, 2018

Fish-safety-netThe demand for human services — everything from food for the hungry to family planning for those who may be struggling to take care of the children they already have — is growing. But if recent proposals floated by President Trump and congressional Republicans become policy, charities will be faced with dramatic increases in both the scale and scope of need, even as they struggle with cuts in funding to meet them.

It is urgent for nonprofits to join forces to persuade Congress to reject ideas that create greater need. Charities have to help re-establish the kind of bipartisan political agreement about safety-net programs that used to be the norm. And foundations must fuel such efforts.

In May, the U.S. House of Representatives failed to pass a Farm Bill with vital anti-hunger provisions after many of its most conservative members withheld their votes. By doing so, Freedom Caucus members hoped to get concessions on spending as well as a future vote on an anti-"Dreamers" immigration bill that the vast majority of their colleagues find too mean-spirited and extreme to consider.

Had the bill passed (as it most likely will in the coming weeks despite united Democratic opposition), it would have required that individuals enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) work at least twenty hours a week. Given the life circumstances of many SNAP participants, including some of the hardest-working people in America, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office calculates that the bill (in its current form) would deny more than a million adults and children much-needed food assistance.

Republicans base their insistence that SNAP recipients be required to work on research by the Foundation for Government Accountability, an obscure policy group headed by a former aide to Maine's ogre-ish governor, Paul LePage. FGA's work has been criticized by both conservative and liberal scholars as having no basis in credible fact, but in our current political climate it seems that many Republican lawmakers favor junk science and "alternative facts" over demonstrable reality (as they have demonstrated with notable intentionality in their opposition to action on climate change).

Desperate to cut government spending in the face of a deficit they ballooned with a $1.5 trillion tax cut, congressional Republicans and the White House are turning on those most in need — as was made clear by Trump budget director Mick Mulvaney, who wrote in a 2017 opinion piece: "Under President Trump's leadership, we're now looking at how we can respect both those who require assistance and the taxpayers who fund that support. For the first time in a long time, we're putting taxpayers first. Taking money from someone without an intention to pay it back is not debt. It is theft. This budget makes it clear that we will reverse this larceny." That's right: the Trump administration thinks government-funded social services for the poor are a form of theft.

The president is determined to continue down the same path in 2018 and has proposed cuts totaling more than $15 billion in previously approved spending, with half of that coming from the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and $100 million coming from Hurricane Sandy relief funds. Congressional Republicans fearful of what they may face in November’s midterm elections have temporarily rebuffed Trump, but the president has said he will propose an additional $10 billion in cuts to safety-net programs in the coming weeks.

The assault on human service programs goes beyond funding cuts, however. Trump, with strong support from Republican politicians, just revived a modified "gag-rule" for nonprofit family planning organizations and programs. (He had already banned international family planning groups from receiving federal government funds if they even mentioned the word abortion to their clients.)

Under the rule, any organization or program that is even partially funded by the federal government can no longer refer clients for abortion services, and their other family planning services cannot be located in a facility in which abortion services are offered or financing is shared.

The administration's action means that significant new costs will be imposed on family planning groups, many of which will be unable to absorb them. With the need for duplication of physical, administrative, and program facilities — not to mention all the computers, printers, copiers, and other equipment necessary to a well-functioning operation — the administration's policy will hamper and in some cases bankrupt family planning groups. And that, in the long run, will increase both the demand for abortions and the number of unwanted children.

The proposed rule is likely to most affect the kinds of front-line health providers that serve disadvantaged members of society. Roughly two-thirds of the individuals who use family planning services fall below the federal poverty level, and nonprofit organizations that serve them will be hard-pressed to meet the demand for their services as the number of providers continues to shrink. And even if a nonprofit can finance two separate facilities and pay two separate staffs required, practitioners in one facility will not be able to refer patients to their colleagues in the other facility, even if next door.

Indeed, if the Republicans hold on to their congressional majorities in the midterm elections, things will get worse for those in need as well as the charities that serve them. The Trump administration and Republicans in Congress already are talking about going after Social Security, Medicare, and other entitlement programs, despite the outrageous claim that the deficit they created with tax cuts for the wealthy are the reason they need to slash entitlements and safety-net programs for the rest of us.

Nonprofit organizations, especially those engaged in human services, cannot stand by while these regressive policies are proposed and advanced. They need to do everything they can to inform and activate the electorate so that Americans realize what is at stake, understand who truly represents their interests, and turn out to vote in the midterm elections.

Too much is on the line for organizations to mind their own business and narrowly focus on fundraising instead of advocacy and action. Organizations like Nonprofit Vote can help charities and foundations understand the rules about what they are allowed to do — and suggest tactics that make a difference. We're all in this together, and the time to act is now.

Headshot_mark_rosenmanMark Rosenman is a professor emeritus at the Union Institute & University. To read more of Rosenman's commentary, click here.

Are You Too Predictable?

May 28, 2018

Yes-n-maybeEarlier this month, I got the kind of call that so many donors get from the organizations they support.

"Derrick, great to hear your voice. It's been a while. I'd like to sit down and share an update on our work, get your thoughts on our progress, and see if you’d be interested in talking about ongoing support."

This from an organization that calls me once a year. Like clockwork. The first week of May — just in time for the organization's fiscal-year-end close.

I know what you're thinking. Shame on them for calling just once a year. But actually, the decision to call annually was at my request. Before I made the request, they would send someone to visit with me over coffee two or three times a year, and we would always have the same conversation:

  • How is my family
  • How is work, and have I traveled to any new destinations lately
  • Quick update on his or her family
  • Quick update on what's new at the organization
  • Update on my last gift and how my dollars were used
  • Earnest request for a gift renewal

Not that there's anything wrong with that kind of exchange or the topics we covered. It's just that it's the same each and every time. As in: predictable. 

It's not really a surprise, because the organization itself is stable, efficient, and reliable. I expect a certain level of impact no matter what I do or how much I give. If I give X, I'll get Y 99 percent of the time.

Which is wonderful for donors who are looking to back sure things — and donors who want their donations to result in predictable programmatic impact. I honor and wholeheartedly support that position. I want that, too.

But the problem with being a predictable organization is that you may wind up being taken for granted. And let's face it, not all donors are looking for predictable. Some donors are attracted to new, different, and out-of-the-box. It's the way they're wired.

Meeting with me on a regular basis to give me the same pro-forma updates conditions me, the donor, to become less interested in what you're doing over time. In fact, the last time I met with the nice development professional from the organization mentioned above, I told her, "You don’t have to meet with me if you have other donors that require your attention." I should have told her that, in the future, an update via email would be just fine.

The danger in all this is that, in being predictable, you eventually lose your relevance for supporters. Nonprofit organizations that stand out for their supporters tend to be very good at helping their supporters understand how their work benefits the populations they serve as well as how that work fits into the larger societal picture.

Confused? Let's compare the conversation I described above to a recent communication I received from another organization. It was an email, and it got my attention:

"Derrick, hoping all is well with you. If you have some spare time and would be interested, I'd like to give an update on changes at the federal level that will impact our work and the precautions we are taking to address those changes. Please know we're doing everything possible to make sure we continue to be there for the people who depend and rely on us — and to partner with other organizations that find themselves in the same situation. Because you've been a loyal supporter in the past, I'd be happy to give you an update on those efforts. Just let me know, and I’ll connect with your assistant to find a time that's convenient."

You know what? I jumped at it. Not because I'm an especially curious person, but because it opened up the possibility of a whole new conversation about other ways I might be able to help the organization, including connecting them with my contacts and networks. When we sat down, our meeting covered the following:

  • How I'm doing and how my family is doing
  • New developments related to my work
  • What's happening at the federal level related to the organization’s work
  • Various strategies under consideration by the organization to address those policy changes
  • The media narrative and how it applies (or doesn't) to the organization's work
  • My interest in keeping in touch or receiving regular updates on the policy changes in question

I now receive biweekly emails from the organization that include a link to an article from a news source related to the organization's issue and what the article means (or doesn't) in terms of the organization's ability to carry out its work. I look forward to those emails, as well as to my meetings with and other communications from the organization.

What does all this have to do with you? Well, like me, you may be a donor who tends to overthink his relationship with the causes you are passionate about. Or you may be a donor who desires predictability. But the reality is, donors tend to support organizations that deliver impact on a consistent, reliable basis and that can help them understand and keep abreast of all the crazy things happening in the world today. Absent the latter, predictability is, well, predictable.

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

Weekend Link Roundup (May 26-27, 2018)

May 27, 2018

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

Civil Society

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

Climate Change

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

Education

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

Fundraising

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

Health

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

Inequality

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

International Affairs/Development

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

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

Nonprofits

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

Philanthropy

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

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

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

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

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

Women/Girls

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

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

Heroes, Collectives, and 'The Black Panther'

May 18, 2018

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In the classic monomyth, or hero's journey, an individual goes on an adventure, faces and overcomes a challenge, and, as a result of that confrontation, returns home transformed. But the monomyth has long had its critics, who cite its misogyny, imperialistic slant, and tendency to exacerbate division through its focus on lone heroes and isolated villains. It's time to reconsider its ubiquitous use.

For some time now, I've warned activists and communications professionals that their well-meaning use of the monomyth framework can backfire. The familiarity of hero and villain, and of an easy-to-follow storyline, can be comforting. But people can tune out (if not actually resent) such pat and seemingly unrepresentative plots. Indeed, the embrace of simplicity and failure to honor diversity, complexity, and ambiguity can be counter-productive.

For example, elevating someone who has escaped a situation of intimate partner violence into a hero may cause those who remain trapped in such situations to feel like hapless victims. Likewise, pro-choice activists who choose to portray women who have had abortions as heroes may cause some women who are ambivalent about their decision to feel like a villain in their own stories.

While there are often good reasons to share a story that elevates a protagonist to hero status — and by extension, invites listeners to imagine themselves as heroic protagonists — the technique should be carefully deployed.

Even if we acknowledge that the hero is one person among many, and that the focus on her story is meant to be emblematic of a larger story, we are still categorizing her as good or bad, heroic or villainous.

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What's New at Foundation Center Update (May)

May 17, 2018

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

Projects Launched

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

Content Published

What We're Excited About

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

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Our staff will be speaking at these upcoming events:

Data Spotlight

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

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

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center.

Engage From the Inside! How Internal Branding Strengthens Nonprofits (Part 1)

May 15, 2018

Brand-graphicImagine you work at a nonprofit or a foundation with a decent-sized staff (a few dozen to as many as a hundred employees). It might be a national research institute or a local community development organization. It has several departments focused on different issues or areas of operation. There may be physical offices catering to different needs or populations. It might even be part of a larger network of organizations.

Whatever the situation, each day everyone comes to work and does his or her best to contribute to the organization's mission. But while there's a sense of what you're all working towards, there are disconnects. Silos and knowledge gaps are stifling innovation and affecting results. New funding streams have led to mission creep. The organization has grown, added lots of new faces, and its strategic plan needs revisiting. Staff have very different ways of talking about the organization's work.

The result is fragmentation that's making people inside the organization less effective — and is confusing lots of people outside the organization. So leadership decides it's time to address the problem by working on the organization's branding with the goal of creating clarity and getting everyone on the same page.

Falling Short of Our Goals

Branding is important to the success of any organization, but it's particularly important for those in the nonprofit sector. Social impact work is complex and often abstract; results can be more difficult to measure (and achieve) than in the for-profit world; and the temptation of new opportunities for impact (and the funding that comes with them) means mission creep is always a concern.

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Weekend Link Roundup (May 12-13, 2018)

May 13, 2018

Pexels-photo-414659Our 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

Power is shifting at the top of U.S. museums — and that's a good thing. Nadja Sayej reports for the Guardian.

Communications/Marketing

If the latest Atlas video released by Boston Dynamics hasn't got your attention...well, take a look. But before Atlas and his pals decide that we're all so much useless wetware, you might be wondering what the implications of AI for nonprofit marketers are. Forbes contributor Dionisios Favatas, digital lead for the award-winning Truth Initiative, a youth tobacco prevention campaign, shares some thoughts.

Google has rather sneakily announced significant changes to its popular Google Ad Words program. In a post republished on Beth Kanter's blog, Whole Whale's George Weiner fills in the details.

Health

New menu labeling rules that require chain restaurants and other food retailers to provide calorie counts and other nutrition information to their customers are about to go into effect. How did we get here? And how do the guidelines connect to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health vision? The foundation's Jennifer Ng'andu explains

Higher Education

"Anyone who believes that public higher education is crucial to our democracy should be alarmed by the recent suggestions by George Mason University’s president that donations to the institution from the Charles Koch Foundation have had 'undue influence in academic matters,' " writes Rudy Fichtenbaum, a professor emeritus of economics at Wright State University and president of the American Association of University Professors, in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Why? Because such donations threaten the twin principles of shared governance and academic freedom that "ensure that institutions of higher education serve the public interest, as opposed to the narrow special interests of big corporations, wealthy donors, or powerful politicians." 

The 18-year-olds graduating high school this spring have known schools as sites of violence their entire lives. How can higher education support them and help advance the movement they have started to prevent gun violence in schools? On the Inside Higher Ed site, Kathleen McCartney, president of Smith College, shares some thoughts.

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A Quick Guide to Digital Marketing for Nonprofits

May 02, 2018

Dig-marketingDonating to charity has changed for the better over the last few years. These days, pretty much everything takes place online, and giving to charity or supporting a good cause is no different. Which is why charities and nonprofits hoping to stand out had better have a robust online presence.

There are lots of ways to do that, but here are a few basics your organization should be thinking about:

1. Email marketing. Email is one of the best ways to reach supporters and potential donors. Whether your goal is to boost the number of subscribers to your newsletter, keep supporters and volunteers up to date on recent developments, or kick off a fundraising campaign, email is one of the least expensive and most effective ways to do it.

But it's important that your email content and presentation be engaging. Emails that consist of big chunks of dry text and cliched images are more likely to hurt than help. Try to send two but no more than four emails a month — and don't forget to include a CTA (call to action)! (You’d be surprised how many organizations don't.)

One good solution for those just getting into email marketing is MailChimp, an email marketing platform/service that makes it easy to format and structure your email newsletters for maximum impact.

2. Social media presence. Social media has changed the world — mostly for the better. It's a great tool for charities and nonprofits, not least because platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest make it easy to share all sorts of campaign materials. With a few lines of code, you can also add social sharing buttons to your website and emails. Why is that important? The more people who follow you, the more donations you're going to receive!

3. Donation pages. Your organization's donation pages should be clear and to the point. People just don't have the time to comb through paragraphs of information and instructions — you want to make it as easy for them to donate to your organization online as it is to purchase a book or a buy pair of socks.

Continue reading »

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (April 2018)

May 01, 2018

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

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

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

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Quote of the Week

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

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

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