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1319 posts categorized "Philanthropy"

Winning Marriage Equality

June 24, 2016

Marriage_equality_for_PhilanTopicOn June 26, 2015, history was made when the U.S. Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land. This victory for social justice would not have been achieved without the efforts of tenacious leaders and litigators, diverse LGBT organizations, straight allies, elected officials, celebrities, and, most importantly, hundreds of thousands of people toiling at the grassroots level. But a crucial, and largely unknown, force was also at work: the Civil Marriage Collaborative, a consortium of foundations that helped change hearts and minds — and moved the country toward marriage equality.

The Civil Marriage Collaborative (CMC) was created in 2004 at a time when there was strong backlash against the idea of gay marriage. Less than a year earlier, the Massachusetts high court had ruled that the state's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, a decision that prompted a media and political firestorm. President George W. Bush called for amending the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, and similar measures started making their way to the ballots in more than a dozen states. The LGBT movement was overwhelmed: it did not have the financial or operational capacity to mount the larger public education, policy advocacy, and litigation effort needed to deal with the onslaught.

A Vision to Win

That;s when a handful of foundations came together to create the CMC, which would work in tandem with Freedom to Marry, an organization founded in 2003 that would eventually become the engine of the marriage equality movement. Launched with a grant from the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, and led by Evan Wolfson, Freedom to Marry was based on a simple premise: Civil unions and domestic partnerships did not go far enough in removing obstacles for gays and lesbians in virtually every area of mainstream life. And by securing marriage equality, the LGBT community would gain rights in many other areas, such as in health care and the right to adoption.

No individual foundation could achieve this goal by itself, which is why the collaborative spirit of the CMC was so vital, both financially and logistically. From 2004 to 2015, the CMC and its funders contributed together and separately $153 million to build and strengthen a broad and diverse grassroots constituency and powerful public education apparatus to advance the marriage equality movement. Just as important, the CMC and its funders played a critical role in helping the LGBT movement develop, coalesce around, and pursue a shared strategy to secure the freedom to marry, state by state, and then nationwide. Indeed, the formation of the Civil Marriage Collaborative proved to be a classic example of how foundations could come together and effect social change on a massive scale for relatively little money.

It was not an easy task. Along the way, the movement faced losses and other major setbacks —  California's anti-marriage measure Proposition 8, just to name one. By exploiting fear and ignorance about gay people, opponents had real success in claiming that marriage equality would damage the institution of marriage and harm kids. Much of the problem at the ballot box could be traced to a perceived values gap: research showed that most Americans didn't think gay people shared their values. Instead, they saw gays and lesbians as unconnected to family, church, and other societal institutions.

The movement knew it wasn't connecting with the public and began investing in deep psychographic research to determine what was really going on inside people's heads. This more exhaustive research —  which involved focus groups, multi-hour interviews with carefully selected individuals, and developing and testing dozens of different approaches —  was quite expensive. The initial investment cost ten times more than a typical statewide poll in California, not even factoring in the expenses of further research and testing. Finding the money was extraordinarily challenging.

Changing Hearts and Minds

Over time, we learned that our side was making a huge mistake leading with an "equal rights and benefits" argument, which is what superficial polling said was the best approach. Why was that a mistake? In hindsight, it seems painfully obvious: the research showed that when straight people were asked why they got married, they said for love and commitment. But when asked why gay people got married, the straight respondents said "for rights and benefits." In other words, our "rights and benefits" frame only reinforced the belief that gay people were operating from an entirely different values frame —  love vs. a better dental plan.

From that point on, the movement changed its message: Gay marriage was not about rights and responsibilities —  it was about love. And we learned that the most effective messengers were not gay couples, but rather parents or grandparents of gay and lesbian people who had been married for decades. It was a strategy that resonated with everyone. The marriage movement had finally found to way to move hearts and minds on marriage.

The CMC and its partners kept moving forward, consistently aligning grant dollars behind the marriage movement's shared strategic plan. That involved supporting a wide range of related activities, including national coordination through Freedom to Marry, litigation, public education, community organizing, and robust communications. In key states, for example, foundation dollars supported public education campaigns that included door-to-door canvassing, polling, phonebanking, the mobilization of faith communities, and earned and paid media.

There were many ups and downs and it wasn't a flashy approach, but it played a significant role in getting marriage equality across the finish line, dramatically increasing public support for marriage equality, and relegating laws like "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act to the dustbin of history.

It's not every day in a social justice movement when you can actually win and say that the job is done now, but in the case of marriage equality, that's exactly what has happened. Both Freedom to Marry and the Civil Marriage Collaborative are triumphantly shutting their doors, a testament to what foundations can bring to the table, particularly when they work together. It also shows what can happen when we remain true to our values, when we connect our hopes and dreams to a broader vision for the nation, and when we take action to ensure that everyone has opportunities to thrive.

Matt_foreman_for_PhilanTopicMatt Foreman is a senior program director with the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr., Fund in San Francisco and was a member of the Civil Marriage Collaborative. This post originally appeared in Washington Monthly.

Partners in the Civil Marriage Collaborative included Atlantic Philanthropies, the Calamus Foundation (DE), the Calamus Foundation (NY), the Columbia Foundation, the David Bohnett Foundation, the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, the Ford Foundation, the Gill Foundation, Horizons Foundation, the Johnson Family Foundation, the Kevin J. Mossier Foundation, Open Society Foundations, the Overbrook Foundation, and an anonymous donor.

A Conversation With Steve Case: The 'Third Wave' and the Social Sector

June 23, 2016

Anyone of a certain age remembers when free America Online software — delivered on 3.5" floppy disks and then in CD form — seemed to arrive in the mailbox on an almost-daily basis. Although its genesis was in online gaming, the company soon evolved into an online services company and, by the early 1990s, was one of the leaders of the tech world, innovating and helping to build the infrastructure for the online world we know today. In the words of the company's co-founder and former chair, Steve Case, AOL was part of the "first wave" of innovation driven by the Internet.

By the early 2000s, a "second wave" of Internet-enabled innovation featuring apps and mobile phone technologies had sparked a new communications revolution, with companies such as Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook leading the way and birthing a new generation of billionaires. Even as this second wave was cresting, however, a third wave of innovation was forming in its wake. In his new book, The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur's Vision of the Future, Case lays out his vision of an emerging era in which almost every object is connected to the Internet and the network of all networks "stops belonging to Internet companies.…The entrepreneurs of this era are going to challenge the biggest industries in the world, and those that most affect our daily lives. They will reimagine our healthcare system and retool our education system. They will create products and services that make our food safer and our commute to work easier."

PND spoke with Case, who chairs the Case Foundation and, with his wife, Jean, is a signatory of the Giving Pledge, about what these changes mean for the social sector and how nonprofits, large and small, can partner with business and government to solve some of our most pressing challenges.

Headshot_steve_casePhilanthropy News Digest: What you have labeled the "third wave" of Internet-enabled innovation will affect many areas of interest to the social sector, including health and health care, education, and food and agriculture. Do you see this next wave of innovation as a boon for nonprofits and social entre­preneurs?

Steve Case: I think it can be. Obviously, there are different folks focusing on different things in different ways. And there will always be an important role for nonprofits to deal with issues that, frankly, only nonprofits can deal with. But some of the sectors you mentioned — health care and education, food, agriculture — I think there's a role there for entrepreneurs to build companies that can have an impact.

One of the big things I talked about in the book — and which the Case Foundation has been championing for years — is the importance of partnerships. Partnerships between startups and other organizations — whether it's other companies, nonprofits, or government — will become more important in the nonprofit sector generally and will have a significant and, I think, positive impact on some of the sub-sectors you mentioned.

PND: The Case Foundation has always emphasized the importance of working across sectors. How do you think the changes brought about by the third wave of Internet-enabled innovation will affect its own work?

SC: I think we'll continue on the path we've been on. We've been talking about some of the issues around cross-sector collaboration for the nearly twenty years the foundation has been around. In the last few years, we've focused on things like impact investing, inclusive entrepreneurship, leveling the playing field so every entrepreneur who has an idea has a shot, and we'll continue with those efforts and try to use all the levers available to us.

Jean [Case] has spent a lot of time on impact investing. Part of her focus is advocating for policy changes that actually free up and expand more impact investing capital. The kinds of things we're focused on at the foundation are very much in sync with the kinds of things I address in the book.

PND: The MacArthur Foundation, along with the Chicago Community Trust and the Calvert Foundation, recently launched a $100 million impact investment initiative in Chicago aimed at accelerating the efforts of organizations there to address a variety of educational disparities, the lack of access to healthy food in many neighborhoods, the shortage of affordable housing, and other critical needs. While $100 million is a lot of money, it's a relatively modest sum given the scope and scale of the needs. Is impact investing the future of social service funding?

SC: I'm not sure it's the future, but it's certainly part of the future. I wouldn't want to suggest it's a way to solve all problems. Obviously, it isn't. But it is a new lever, a new platform that will gain traction and will be very helpful in accelerating and maximizing social impact across the country and the rest of the world.

I would add that sometimes these investments can be catalytic; you can't just measure them by the actual dollars put in. When we started AOL thirty-one years ago, we raised $1 million in venture capital in our initial funding round, and it took us a while to really scale the company, but eventually we did. A decade ago, the Case Foundation invested a couple of million dollars in Network for Good and platforms like MissionFish (now part of the PayPal Giving Fund), and those investments have generated more than $2 billion dollars in contributions to thousands of nonprofits. So sometimes the investments have substantially greater impact than the actual size of the original check would suggest.

As I mentioned, sometimes the key is a partnership. Network for Good and MissionFish chose not to go it alone, but instead figured out how they could work together, pool some capital, and focus on specific issues they considered important. I think that's a good model, and having foundations looking at some of these issues in a broader, more integrated context is something we'd like to see more of.

We've done some work, for example, with the Kresge Foundation, which is doing a lot of different things in Detroit. One of the things it invested in, alongside Revolution, our investment firm, was Shinola, a Detroit-based maker of handcrafted watches. It's also making significant investments in rebuilding key parts of the city's infrastructure and is allocating some of its capital for direct investments in companies that can be catalysts for change, whether that's in the area of job creation, rebuilding neighborhoods, or driving economic growth in the city and the region.

PND: What, in your view, is needed to inspire more of these types of partnerships — and attract larger sums of money into impact investing experiments?

SC: In part, I think it's about awareness. A few years ago, most people I ran into didn't know about impact investing, or certainly weren't talking about it. It's also about building coalitions, which is why partnerships are so important. Some of it is engaging on the policy side. There are impediments that are holding back investment in the impact space, including some of the ERISA rules that were limiting or constraining some institutional investors — pension funds, typically — from making impact investments. One of the catalysts for the venture capital revolution three decades ago involved changes to the rules prohibiting large institutional investors from investing in venture as an asset class. When the rules were recently changed, it unleashed a lot of capital.

The last factor is success. Momentum begets momentum. As people see more of these initiatives and companies succeed, it will encourage others to take a closer look. And as those people pursue it and begin to have some success, many of them will devote larger sums to it. Again, sometimes these things just take time.

PND: Collaboration can be a challenge for nonprofits — not that it's easy for anyone — in part because nonprofits tend to be the partner at the table with the fewest resources. Do you think the third wave does anything to change that dynamic?

SC: I think it does, in two respects. One is that technology, particularly the Internet, is an unparalleled platform for mobilizing action. Awareness first, and then action. There are plenty of examples, including the Arab Spring and the way many politicians now run their campaigns. So you've got technology leveling the playing field and giving everybody a voice, giving people the ability to aggregate many voices and create networks around ideas. That will only accelerate.

The other is this growing emphasis on partnership and policy — what I call the "Ps" of the third wave. While the focus right now may be more on the company side of things, those same kinds of principles are going to drive a lot of innovation and success in the social sector over the next ten to twenty years.

PND: Business isn't always viewed as the most trustworthy player when it comes to addressing social and environmental challenges. Some would argue that's because so many business leaders are eager to promote the idea that the sole function of business in a free-market economy is to maximize shareholder value. Is that a fair critique?

SC: The view that profit should be the only concern of business is the traditional, Milton Friedmanesque view of capitalism, and it's a view that many investors and CEOs share. But I think it's changing. The interest in and growth of things like impact investing demonstrates that. Benefit corporations didn't really exist five years ago. I don't know what the current number is, but there are probably a couple thousand registered B corps in the U.S., and their boards are charged with tracking and reporting against the company's impact or purpose, not just its profit. There's also a growing recognition among companies that younger people and the millennial generation want to work for companies that stand for more than profit and they want to invest in companies that stand for more than profit.

I understand the traditional critique of business. As I said earlier, I don't think business by itself can solve all social problems; there's a role for nonprofits, there's a role for government, there are roles for lots of folks in the social sector. But business can have a bigger role in solving some of the problems we face than it has in the past. It will require a different mindset on the part of business leaders, of course, and that's one of the reasons I'm excited about the momentum that is building around impact investing. I also think it will be helpful to a lot of communities around the country, and around the world, if there's a more inclusive approach to entrepreneurship and the playing field is leveled so that anybody with an idea for a business or social enterprise has a shot at making it a reality.

PND: What could persuade corporate leaders to adopt a double- or even triple-bottom-line view of the world?

SC: Many corporate leaders already have. While the majority of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies may still be focused on profit maximization, there's a growing recognition in corporate America of the importance of purpose and there are many conversations going on about how business can transition to a different, more socially and environmentally focused kind of model. I have no doubt that ten, twenty years from now there will be more companies focused on and tracking their impact in those areas and not just focused on profit.

PND: Obviously, technology will be a key driver of future innovation. But nonprofits, especially smaller nonprofits, often don't have the infrastructure in place to take advantage of it. Do you worry about a widening tech divide among nonprofits? And what, if anything, can be done to lower the barriers to participation for smaller nonprofits?

SC: That's a concern, sure, but I believe the continued development of a variety of different platforms will make it relatively easy for smaller nonprofits to take advantage of new technologies and will help level the playing field. I'm not particularly worried about that.

Earlier, I mentioned Network for Good as an example. A decade or so ago, Jean and I and others at the Case Foundation sensed that the Internet could be an important fundraising platform for nonprofits, but most nonprofits didn't have the expertise or the capacity to take advantage of the opportunity. Backing an initiative like Network for Good, which basically was a platform that all nonprofits could use and plug into at essentially no cost, was a way to provide those tools more broadly. Today, crowdfunding sites, platforms like Kickstarter and others, are doing the same kind of thing, and smartphones have been a game-changer in terms of leveling the playing field. In Africa, for example, a few years ago most farmers had no idea what the price of their particular crop should be or even what the weather a few days out was likely to be. But now, thanks to smartphones, farmers in Africa are empowered in ways that simply weren't possible before.

PND: In the book you talk about some of the things down-on-their luck cities and marginalized urban neighborhoods are doing to encourage entrepreneurial activity. How might that apply to social sector organizations working in those communities?

SC: There's remarkable momentum building around entrepreneurialism in many places. We've visited dozens of cities in our Rise of the Rest tours over the last couple of years, and I'll give you two examples based on what we saw. Seventy-five years ago Detroit was the most innovative city in the country, and then it kind of lost its entrepreneurial mojo, it lost 60 percent of its population, and then it went bankrupt. Now it's fighting its way back, which is most evident downtown. And a lot of that renewed economic activity has been driven by cross-sectoral partnerships between government, foundations, and business -- both small and large businesses. There's still a lot of work to be done, it's not going to happen overnight, but it's creating a new sense of hope in Detroit. There's a sense of possibility and opportunity there that didn't exist five years ago.

New Orleans is another example. Ten years ago, the city was reeling from Katrina and lots of people had left, many of them for good. Now, there's a great startup scene in the city and very encouraging things are happening in the school system, in part because city leaders and school officials, post-Katrina, are much more open to trying new things. You even have a couple of dozen education software companies in New Orleans, some of them started by former teachers.

So, there's no question we're seeing greater interest and more investment in Rise of the Rest cities. And it's not just Detroit and New Orleans; I could give you a couple of dozen other examples. But the important point is that these communities are more vibrant today than they were a decade ago, they are seeing more job growth, more economic growth, and they're providing better services. And when that happens, a lot of good things can happen. We can debate what the priorities are or should be, but at least now the residents of those cities are seeing investment grow for the first time in a long time, are seeing tax revenues grow, and have an opportunity to think about the best way to allocate those resources for the greater good. It's the way our system is supposed to work, and we're very excited to see it happening in many places around the country.

Matt Sinclair

[Review] Policy Patrons: Philanthropy, Education Reform, and the Politics of Influence

June 20, 2016

From the fight over Common Core and concerns about charter school expansion to the fallout from Mark Zuckerberg's $100 million gift to the public school district in Newark, New Jersey, the role of philanthropy in shaping education reform has been a topic of discussion for years. Indeed, foundation funding for education has nearly quadrupled over the last three decades, while major funders like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation have been routinely criticized for their top-down approach and outsize influence in advancing specific reform agendas.

Cover_policy_patronsWhat role, then, should foundations play in supporting education reform? In Policy Patrons: Philanthropy, Education Reform, and the Politics of Influence, Megan E. Tompkins-Stange, an assistant professor at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, explores the question by comparing the "outcome-oriented" models of Gates and Broad with the more traditional "field-oriented" approaches of foundations such as Ford and Kellogg. Based on archival material and extensive interviews conducted anonymously with foundation and grantee executives and staff as well as education experts, her book offers a nuanced look at how major education funders view their reform strategies — and how they are viewed by others.

Founded in 2000 and 1999 in Seattle and Los Angeles, respectively, the Gates and Broad foundations are the "new players" in the field of education philanthropy, which before their emergence on the scene had been the domain of East Coast institutions like the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Annenberg and Ford foundations. It was the latter's $500 million Annenberg Challenge, launched in 1993 and now widely viewed "as a failure due to its dilution of capital across too many school districts, resulting in a lack of concentrated impact," however, that really brought philanthropy's role in education reform to the fore. In contrast, Bill Gates and Eli Broad, who are closely identified with the rise of philanthrocapitalism in the mid-2000s, have focused their efforts on achieving "concrete outcomes that yield significant return on investment...initiatives that reflect market-based values, such as choice and competition." In their view, Tompkins-Stange writes, foundations "should act as effective, efficient problem solvers that can circumvent bureaucratic blockages and catalyze innovation."

In 2006, Gates, whose support earlier in the decade for the creation of "small schools" within large public schools had little impact, shifted his focus and that of his foundation from structural education reform efforts to systemic reform, with an emphasis on teacher effectiveness and state standards and assessments. According to a former staffer, the foundation had "a very explicit theory of action about working at the state level to create a policy environment that would be supportive of the kinds of changes that [Gates] wanted to make." At the federal level, Gates has supported both Common Core and the Obama administration's Race to the Top and Investing in Innovation (i3) initiatives. Between 2005 and 2010, the share of its education funding allocated to policy advocacy — which, according to a Gates official, enables the foundation "to get maximum leverage out of the program invest that we make" — quadrupled, to 20 percent annually ($78 million in 2009).

In addition to its support for Common Core, the Broad Foundation has invested heavily in charter management organizations, "merit pay" for teachers, alternative pathways to certification, training professionals from other fields to become urban district administrators and principals, and the restructuring of district governance. Since 2012, it also has pursued a strategy to more directly target policy change through "transformative" federal and state policy investments — directing 40 percent to 50 percent of its resources to such efforts.

In the more traditional field-oriented camp, which holds that foundations "should be vehicles to foster citizenship and mobilize broad political participation," the Ford Foundation, since its founding in 1936, has supported what a staffer describes as "the basic infrastructure of citizen action...civil society groups, networks, alliances...for people to organize themselves for progressive causes." For example, it supported groups advocating for policy reform in support of civil rights in the 1960s, funded scholars and public interest law institutions working to advance school financing reform in the 1970s, and more recently has pushed for expanded learning time in public schools. Under its new president, Darren Walker, it also has announced that it will focus 100 percent of its resources on efforts to address inequality, in all its guises, even as it continues to support its "core values of building [the] capacity of communities to participate — building more agency and power, and offsetting efforts of elites and business leaders." As one Ford staffer told Tompkins-Stange: "Elites don't understand what policies [are] best for communities that are underserved. It's a disconnect to have an education strategy that's market driven [and] might drive away the creation of good schools in neighborhoods with low capacity."

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation is another major philanthropy that has been involved in policy advocacy since its founding. Recently, the foundation reorganized its programs into three cross-cutting areas — education and learning, health and well-being, and family economic security — so as to better serve vulnerable families across program areas and "build collective policy action." It differs, however, from Gates, Broad, and even Ford in that it engages in policy "behind the scenes" rather than directly. "[I]n a subtle and understated way," one staffer told Tompkins-Stange, "it's part of our DNA here…that we give voice to those who are invisible and voiceless in policy conversations" and let "grantees speak for themselves."

Embedded in the Gates and Broad foundations' DNA, in contrast, is the entrepreneurial mindset of their living donors, both of whom founded and led hierarchical corporations, are accustomed to executive control, and view social issues as problems that can be solved by applying data-driven technological solutions (in Bill Gates' case), or putting the "right people" with managerial expertise into leadership positions (in Eli Broad's case). Both foundations are driven by a "tremendous sense of urgency" to achieve "transformative," "game-changing," and "major" impact, Tompkins-Stange writes, and their staff "often view[s] democratic governance as a hindrance or obstacle." Both foundations also are willing to use their respective founders' brand and political capital to influence policy, seeing it as a means to more efficiently achieve desired outcomes.

In contrast, both WKKF and Ford, "as a first-order priority, value the democratic engagement of broad populations in decision-making processes as opposed to focusing on efficient and effective outcomes," writes Tompkins-Stange, and view their roles as "infrastructure developers, facilitators of debates, and conveners of people." For both these foundations, the ability to influence policy is "an end in and of itself — a way to build grassroots coalitions and to increase the democratic mobilization of the communities."

The different approaches shape how the foundations select and manage grantees, frame problems and solutions, and evaluate outcomes. In broad outline, outcome-oriented foundations tend to retain centralized control of an initiative; tend to select elite-run "grasstops" organizations as their grantees; choose issues that are amenable to technical solutions informed by a clear theory of change; and evaluate results using quantifiable metrics that can demonstrate impact. Field-oriented foundations, on the other hand, tend to delegate more control to their grantees; prefer to work with community-based organizations; adopt an adaptive approach to address multifaceted problems that may not lend themselves to straightforward solutions; and integrate both quantitative and qualitative metrics to assess impact within a broader ecosystem of variables. One striking example of the former's need to maximize ROI, writes Tompkins-Stange, is the Gates Foundation's decision early on not to focus on men and boys of color because it was a small, high-cost, hard-to-serve population — "not a very good use of your dollar," as one interviewee who had worked with the foundation put it.

Yet the differences between the two approaches are not always cut and dried, and indeed some foundations are exploring a "bottom-up versus top-down mix." For instance, at Gates, which in the past has worked primarily with "key influentials," there is now a push to reach out to grassroots civil rights groups, a former executive at the foundation said, because "they know they've got to work with organizations that are representing minority communities." And Ford is working with both grassroots and grasstops partners, "insiders" and "outsiders" — a shift initiated by former Ford president Luis Ubiñas (2008-2013), who came to the foundation from global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, that reflects a "greater emphasis on a foundation-centric locus of control and more emphasis on elite engagement." At the same time, one Ford official said, an influx of staff with managerial backgrounds who have been pushing for programs and projects with more defined timelines and outcomes has created some internal tension.

Of course, suspicion of top-down philanthropy and, more broadly, foundation policy activism is as old as the 1916 Walsh Commission's concern about wealthy industrialists' "meddling" in education and social issues, McCarthy-era accusations that foundations were "seed-beds of subversion" disguised as philanthropies, and 1960s congressional hearings that resulted in the Tax Reform Act of 1969, which, among other things, prohibited foundations from acting as "direct agents of influence" on any legislation or political campaign. Such concerns are alive and well in 2016, writes Tompkins-Stange, who heard from a number of interviewees that the Gates Foundation's significant investment in education reform might be construed as an effort to "strong-[arm] public policy" and could open the broader sector up to criticism. Some interviewees also worried that the push by some foundations to work more closely with government could lead to a group-think mindset, that reforms could be derailed when administrations change, and that sudden mid-course corrections on the part of foundations could damage the work of their grantees — concerns that could be grouped under the broader rubric of accountability, or lack thereof.

Indeed, "[a]ctive cultivation of broad processes of democratic deliberation represents one of the few mechanisms for foundations to demonstrate their accountability and legitimacy to the broader public," writes Tompkins-Stange. Unfortunately, the outcome-oriented approach, despite its emphasis on metrics and accountability, is often seen as not being accountable to low-income families of color who are directly affected by the education reforms championed by the foundations Tompkins-Stange examines in her book. And while the charge that "plutocratic processes" will never truly contribute to pluralistic, inclusive, democratic change applies to both types of foundations, the sheer size of a funder like Gates and the over-concentration of foundation resources in a few issues areas raises real concerns.

So what's a foundation to do? While Tompkins-Stange concludes that there is no single right answer, she is clearly concerned that so many people are willing to promote the outcome-oriented philanthrocapitalist approach as "common sense," "obvious," and "powerfully intuitive." Citing a 1981 critique of foundations' "class privilege," she writes: "The real success of a particular class's push for societal predominance occurs when it uses it political, moral, and intellectual leadership to articulate a basic world view that subordinate classes come to adopt." Moreover, given the financial, social, and political influence that foundations have on public policy, questions of democratic governance simply must be debated in more depth. As a Ford official told her, the sector needs "to think more rigorously about the conditions under which different approaches to philanthropy are more or less effective and more or less legitimate....[T]here are certain areas where it's fine to take a…directed top-down, scientific, concentrated approach, and there are other areas where it [is] disastrous to do that."

Who should lead the charge? Several interviewees suggested that major infrastructure organizations like the Council on Foundations, Independent Sector, and Foundation Center (PND's parent organization) should take more of a proactive stance with respect to these issues, while others noted that, given the ideological diversity of the foundation world, "professional associations were justifiably reluctant to spearhead a normative conversation." Nevertheless, as inequality of all kinds continues to increase in the U.S. — and around the world — a serious debate about the role of inclusive, democratic processes in philanthropy and the foundation world would seem to be in order. Policy Patrons offers a hopeful glimpse into how such a discussion might begin.

Kyoko Uchida is PND's features editor. For more great reviews, visit our Off the Shelf section.

Weekend Link Roundup (June 18-19, 2016)

June 19, 2016

Gettyimages-orlando-candlelight-vigilOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Communications/Marketing

Getting Attention! blogger Nancy Schwartz offers some good advice to nonprofit communications professionals about the right (and wrong) way to respond in the wake of the unthinkable.

Democracy

The editorial board of the Guardian captures perfectly why the public assassination of British MP Jo Comer by a right-wing extremist was such a cowardly, heinous act — and why it should be a wakeup call for everyone who cherishes decency, open debate, and a commitment to both democracy and humanity.

Education

How did a Montana-based foundation help boost the high school graduation rate in that state to its highest level in years? The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation's Mike Halligan explains.

Big data and analytics were supposed to "fix" education. That hasn't happened. Writing on the Washington Post's Answer Sheet blog, Pasi Sahlberg, a visiting professor of practice at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and author of the best-selling Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn About Educational Change in Finland?, and Jonathan Hasak, a Boston-based advocate for disconnected youth, explain why and look at something that actually could make a difference.

International Affairs/Development

On the Humanosphere site, Seattle-based journalist Lisa Nikolau reports on a UNDP study which finds that one in three Latin Americans who have escaped poverty since 2003 — an estimated 25 million to 30 million women and men — risk sliding back into poverty if economic growth in the region does not pick up.

Knowledge Management

IssueLab has unveiled a new iteration of its popular online service. Here on PhilanTopic, IssueLab's Gabi Fitz explained why that's a big deal. (And, while you're at, be sure to read Marc Gunther's take on why the IssueLab reboot is a big deal.)

Philanthropy

In the wake of the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the Center for Effective Philanthropy's Kevin Bolduc shares some poignant thoughts about what philanthropy is and how, most of the time, it reflects what is best in us.

On the Fast.Co Exist site, Ben Paynter looks at what is likely to happen to the millions of dollars that has been raised for victims of the Orlando shootings through crowdfunding site GoFundMe. And if you're thinking about donating to support victims of the tragedies and their families, be sure to read these giving tips from the BBB Wise Giving Alliance.

On the NCRP blog, Caitlin Duffy shares highlights of the organization's recent assessment of the New York Community Trust, the third-largest (and one of the oldest) community foundation in the U.S. Among other things, the NCRP report recommends that the Trust "explicitly articulate a unifying vision and values statement for an equitable city" and "improve [its] communications tools, including [its] website, to more effectively convey how [its] goals and strategies align with its vision and values."

Wrapping up their two-part series for Exponent Philanthropy on what is "missing" in modern philanthropy, Open Road Alliance's  Laurie Michaels and Maya Winkelstein explain how funders and nonprofits can proactively manage risk at a project’s earliest stage

As PND and other outlets reported earlier this week, the Rockefeller Foundation' Judith Rodin has announced that she plans to step down as president after nearly a dozen years in the job. "Executive transitions can result in full-scale changes in strategy and style, as we have seen at others of the country's large foundations," writes Nonprofit Quarterly's Ruth McCambridge in response to the announcement. "It will be interesting, as we watch [the search for Rodin's successor] come to fruition, to see how much of Rockefeller’s recent commitments have to do with Rodin’s leadership and direction as opposed to a deep institutional commitment."

Transparency

Nonprofit sector veteran Alan Cantor shares his thoughts on the Silicon Valley Community Foundation's recent attempt to create more transparency around the $479 million in grants it distributed in 2015 — including some of the questions the foundation didn't answer.

Since 2005, Clinton Global Initiative members have made more than 3,400 Commitments to Action — "new, specific, and measurable plans that they implement to make a positive impact in our communities and around the world." On the Clinton Foundation website, Elsa Palanza, director of commitments at CGI, shares key findings from a study on "the small subset (approximately 6%) of commitments that [have gone] unfulfilled."

And speaking at the recent CGI America meeting in Atlanta, former President Bill Clinton shares some of the lessons he has learned from the Clinton Foundation's efforts over the years to address a range of social and environmental problems over the years. (Video; running time: 4:48.)

(Photo credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

That's it for now. What have you been reading/watching/listening to? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org or via the comments section below....

Foundation Transparency: Game Over?

June 16, 2016

Data_unlockedThe tranquil world of America's foundations is about to be shaken, but if you read the Center for Effective Philanthropy's new study — Sharing What Matters, Foundation Transparency — you would never know it.

Don't get me wrong. That study, like everything CEP produces, is carefully researched, insightful, and thoroughly professional. But it misses the single biggest change in foundation transparency in decades: the release by the Internal Revenue Service of foundation 990-PF (and 990) tax returns as machine-readable open data.

Clara Miller, president of the Heron Foundation, writes eloquently in her manifesto Building a Foundation for the 21St Century: "the private foundation model was designed to be protective and separate, much like a terrarium."

Terrariums, of course, are highly "curated" environments over which their creators have complete control. To the extent that much of it consists of interviews with foundation leaders and reviews of their websites — as if transparency were a kind of optional endeavor in which foundations may choose to participate, if at all, and to what degree — the CEP study proves that point.

To be fair, CEP also interviewed the grantees of various foundations (sometimes referred to as "partners"), which helps convey the reality that foundations have stakeholders beyond their four walls. However, the terrarium metaphor is about to become far more relevant as the release of 990 tax returns as open data literally makes it possible for anyone to look right through those glass walls to the curated foundation world within.

What Is Open Data?

It is safe to say that most foundation leaders and a fair majority of their staff do not understand what open data really is. Open data is free, yes, but more importantly it is digital and machine-readable. This means it can be consumed in enormous volumes, at lightning speed, directly by computers.

Once consumed, open data can be tagged, sorted, indexed, and searched using statistical methods to make obvious comparisons while discovering previously undetected correlations. Anyone with a computer, some coding skills, and a hard drive or cloud storage can access open data. In today's world, a lot of people meet those requirements, and they are free to do whatever they please with your information once it is, as open data enthusiasts like to say, "in the wild."

Today, much government data is completely open. Go to data.gov or its equivalent in many countries around the world and see for yourself.

The theory behind open data, increasingly born out in practice, is that making information available leads to significant innovation for the public good, while the demand for and use of such data also improves its accuracy and quality over time. And some open data is just fun: one of my personal favorites is the White House visitors list!

What is the Internal Revenue Service Releasing?

Thanks to the Aspen Institute's leadership of a joint effort — funded by foundations and including Foundation Center, GuideStar, the National Center for Charitable Statistics, the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies, and others — the IRS has made 1 million Form 990s and 40,000 Form 990PF available as machine-readable open data.

Previously, all Form 990s had been released as image TIFF files, essentially a picture, making it both time-consuming and expensive to extract useful data from them. Credit where credit is due; a kick in the butt in the form of a lawsuit from open data crusader Carl Malamud helped speed the process along.

The current test phase includes only those tax returns that were digitally filed by nonprofits and community foundations (990s) and private foundations (990PFs). Over time, the IRS will phase in a mandatory digital filing requirement for all Form 990s, with the intent to release them all as open data. In other words, that which is born digital will be opened up to the public in digital form. Because of variations in the 990 forms, getting the information from them into a database will still require some technical expertise, but it will be more feasible and faster than ever before.

The Good

The work of organizations like Foundation Center — which has built expensive infrastructure in order to turn years of 990 tax returns into information that can be used by nonprofits looking for funding, researchers trying to understand the role of foundations, and foundations themselves seeking to benchmark themselves against their peers — will be transformed.

Work will shift away from the mechanics of capturing and processing the data to higher-level analysis and visualization to stimulate the generation and sharing of new insights and knowledge. This will fuel greater collaboration between peer organizations, innovation, the merging of previous disparate bodies of data, better philanthropy, and a stronger social sector.

The (Potentially) Bad

The world of foundations and nonprofits is highly segmented, idiosyncratic, and difficult to understand and interpret. GuideStar and Foundation Center know this.

But many of the new entrants who are attracted by the advent of open 990 data do not. They will most likely come in two forms: startups claiming their new tools will revolutionize the business of giving, and established private-sector companies seeking new market opportunities. Neither is intrinsically bad and both could lead to some degree of positive disruption and true innovation.

The potential downside could be two-fold. Funders inevitably will be intrigued by the startups' technological prowess and newness and divert funding toward them. Foundations are free to take risks, which is one of their virtues. But while needs grow, funding for the data and information infrastructure of philanthropy is limited, technology literacy among foundations is relatively low, and many of these startups will prove to be shooting stars (anybody remember Jumo?).

The second category of new entrants is far more complex and will come in the form of for-profit data-analytics companies. Some of these have business models and immensely sophisticated black-box technologies that rely heavily on government contracts for defense and national security. They will be lured by the promise of lucrative contracts from big foundations and mega-nonprofits and the opportunity to demonstrate social responsibility by doing good in the world.

But these for-profit analytics companies will quickly discover that there is only one Gates Foundation among the 87,000 private foundations and only a handful of richly-resourced nonprofits among the 1.3 million in the IRS registery. And those who choose to contract the services of "Big Analytics" will need to consider the potential reputational consequences of aligning their "brands" with the companies behind them.

Sound defensive? Not at all: Foundation Center welcomes the competition, has been building for it since 2010, and knows the challenge can only make us and the social sector better.

The Ugly

Once 990 data is "in the wild," it is possible, if not probable, that conclusions will be drawn that foundations find uncomfortable, if not unfair. Those who are new to the field and relatively uninformed (or uninterested) in its complexity may make claims about executive compensation based on comparisons of foundations of wildly disparate size and scope.

The same could be done with overhead rates, payout, or any other figure or calculation that can be made based on information found in the 990-PF. Some foundations already chafe when responsible sector advocates like the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) use Foundation Center data to rank foundations according to its Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best. Imagine claims coming over the transom from individuals and organizations whose core values do not include a belief in the practice of philanthropy and a normative vision for how it could be better.

Another potential consequence lies at the intersection of the open 990 data and the growth of impact investing. This was the spirit in which Clara Miller introduced her terrarium analogy to highlight what she sees as the artificial disconnect between the controlled, strategic, and curated world constructed by the grants side of foundations and the sometimes contradictory forces at work in the larger economy in which their assets are invested.

Foundations like Heron are striving to put 100 percent of their assets toward mission, while others like the Rockefeller Brothers Fund are divesting their investment portfolios from fossil fuels and, rather than exacerbate the problem, are re-investing those assets in ways that further the goals of their climate change grantmaking.

A recent (and as yet unpublished) Foundation Center survey found that 60 percent of foundations do not engage in impact investing and have no plans to do so. That is their choice, but open 990 data may well put them in a position of having to publicly explain it.

For example, using Foundation Center databases, I searched across several hundred thousand foundation 990-PF returns and found thirty-seven foundations that hold Corrections Corporation of America stock in their investment portfolios. These foundations may well believe, as the majority of foundations insist, that the purpose of the investment arm of the foundation is to generate the highest sustainable return possible in order to fund the mission through grants. But if a foundation holding that stock is striving to work on juvenile justice or improve the lives of black men and boys, an investigative reporter or activist might well ask why they are investing in a corporation that runs private, for-profit prisons

It's 10:00pm, Do You Know Where Your 990 Is?

With the game over for foundation transparency, the big takeaway is to know your 990-PF (or 990 for community foundations). Before you know it, it will be transformed from a bureaucratic compliance document into one of your foundation's key communications vehicles.

Right about now, you may be thinking: "What about the website re-design we spent all that money on, with our new logo, carefully crafted initiative names, and compelling photos?" It's still important, and you can follow the lead of those foundations guided by the online transparency criteria found on Foundation Center's Glasspockets website.

But while fewer than 10 percent of all foundations have websites, they all file 990 tax returns. As the IRS open data release unfolds and mandatory digital filing kicks in, the 990-PF will become one of the primary sources of information by which your individual foundation will be known and compared to others.

I recently asked a group of foundation CEOs whether they ever had an in-depth discussion about their 990-PFs among their board members and was met with blank stares. In a world of digital transparency, this will have to change. As 990s become a data source and communications vehicle, the information on them will need to be clear, accurate, and ,above all, a faithful representation of how each individual foundation makes use of the precious tax exemption it has been granted to serve the public good.

A few simple tips for starters:

  • Take advantage of Section 15 (block 2) to talk about your priorities, grant process, limitations, and restrictions.
  • In Section 15 (block 3), write the correct legal name for each grantee organization and include its EIN or BRIDGE ID
  • In the same section, write clear and compelling descriptions for the purpose of each grant (more than you might think, people look at foundations by what they fund).
  • Make sure all numbers on the form add up correctly (you'd be surprised!).

Regardless of how each of us may feel about the greater transparency demanded of foundations, it is inevitable. Philanthropy is essential to American society and a positive source for good in a challenging world.

As the terrarium walls insulating individual foundations fall, we will surely face a few moments of anxiety and discomfort. But greater transparency, fueled by open IRS data, can only make us more conscientious stewards of our resources, more effective decision makers, and better collaborators on our way to achieving greater impact in the world.

Game over? It's just beginning!

Brad Smith is president of Foundation Center. This post originally appeared on Glasspockets' Transparency Talk blog.

IssueLab at 10: The Technology and Art of Sharing Knowledge

June 13, 2016

Issuelab_splashEarlier this year, Foundation Center president Brad Smith noted that producing knowledge is one of the most important but least-developed sources of foundation influence.

I couldn't agree more. But as one of the staff responsible for managing the center’s IssueLab knowledge-sharing service, I can testify that it’s not because there's a lack of knowledge being produced by foundations. It's because too many of the evaluations, case studies, and reports produced by the sector never get shared or only reach a limited audience.

This week we are relaunching the IssueLab platform to address the problem head on. While the redesign has given us an opportunity to rework the platform's technology in a way that will enable us to more efficiently scale our efforts in the years to come, one of the most important things to come out of the process has been a much-needed reminder of how and why researchers, nonprofits, and funders use the site.

A New Approach to Synthesis

Consider the humble synthesis report. As an incredibly valuable but not yet widely adopted tool in the foundation toolbox, the synthesis report is an excellent example of what’s possible when foundations share — and apply — lessons learned from past projects.

Issuelab_freshwater_tweetOver the last couple of years, IssueLab has worked closely with the Rockefeller Foundation to synthesize existing evidence with respect to two critical issues: the management of sustainable fisheries and the use of incentive-based tools for managing fresh water globally. Both reviews were based on hundreds of reports from nonprofits and foundations — exactly the kind of reports Brad Smith refers to in his post and that IssueLab collects every day. Caroline Kronley, managing director for strategy at Rockefeller, had this to say about the value of synthesis reviews:

At the Rockefeller Foundation, we build our initiatives around promising solutions that make the best use of our and others’ resources. We can't do this well without understanding what’s already been tried — both successfully and less so. Synthesis reviews help us focus our efforts where they will have the greatest potential for impact.

And Nancy MacPherson, managing director for evaluation at Rockefeller and Kronley's colleague, put her finger on another important dimension of syntheses, and of IssueLab more generally.

It really is a commitment to a balanced look at what works as seen through a broader spectrum of interests and perspective. It also helps us test our assumptions about what works and why in a timely and manageable way. In addition, Issue Lab makes all the source data for each synthesis review available to others to take further, reanalyze, and build on as a public good. This is a huge contribution to the field. I don’t know of any other synthesis review process that does that.

In other words, synthesis reviews, which both draw on and are added to the IssueLab collection, enable researchers, foundations, and nonprofits to build on evidence from a broader base of practice-based knowledge than they might normally use.

A Much-Needed Approach to Knowledge Sharing

What was underscored for us again and again during the redesign process is that synthesis projects like the ones mentioned above are quite literally the tip of the iceberg.

IssueLab is relaunching with almost 20,000 resources in 38 different issue areas from 7,000+ organizations around the world. Almost every one of these resources includes a lesson that was learned. Many of them were funded directly by foundations. Together, they represent one of the greatest assets possessed by the social sector. But only if we share them.

By design, IssueLab is a democratic space. We accept any data-driven work that includes complete citations and references as long as it is published or funded by a social sector organization, foundation, or university-based research center and is free and accessible to the public. Which means that 20,000 is just a start!

Now that we've upgraded the technology, I'm eager to see the sector embrace IssueLab as a learning space, whether that means discovering a single report that casts a critical issue in a whole new light or stumbling on a well-executed synthesis of hundreds of reports. I encourage you to create an account and share what your organization is learning. Who knows what someone else might do with that knowledge?

I also invite you to share with me by email or in the comments section below how you use IssueLab to share research, whether it’s your own or someone else’s.

Gabriela Fitz is director of knowledge management initiatives at Foundation Center and a co-founder of IssueLab.

Weekend Link Roundup (June 11-12, 2016)

June 12, 2016

Enough is enoughAfter a couple of weeks off, we're back with our weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

In Forbes Co.Exist, Jessica Leber reports that the world's population is (very) slowly beginning to move away from coastlines increasingly threatened by sea-level rise.

Data

On the Forbes site, five nonprofit executives share their strategies for collecting and analyzing data in order to get the highest return on investment.

Education

Yes, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is avery big player in the education reform field, and, yes, it has experienced its fair share of failures. But, writes Education Post contributor Caroline Bermudez, the foundation really should get more credit for owning up to those failures and for its willingness to experiment and take risks.

Fundraising

What's the worst piece of advice for a professional fundraiser? How about "Find your voice" or "Be yourself," says Future Fundraising Now's Jeff Brooks. Why? Because "[g]ood fundraising is not a mirror that reflects your beliefs and excellence. It's a mirror that [should reflect] your donors' values and excellence."

Continue reading »

A Collaborative Investment to Build Shared Outcomes for Our Field

June 09, 2016

Generation-Now-Cover-232x300A couple of years ago, four foundations set out to find the answer to a critically important question: How do we measure the success of our Jewish teen engagement and education initiatives?

The question, while specific, also spoke to a real need. Our foundations recognized the importance of engaging the next generation of Jews in Jewish life as a way to ensure the vibrancy and longevity of our community. But there was a gap between what our community's teen initiatives accomplished and what our actual long-term goals were — and are.

To address this need, we came together to invest in a significant way in research on Jewish teens. The result is a new report, Generation Now: Understanding and Engaging Jewish Teens Today.

The research that informs the report was designed to identify a set of shared outcomes to be used across various programs when assessing Jewish teen education and engagement initiatives. Not only were we pleased with the clarity of that research, we were also pleased with the process. For example:

  • We found it very helpful to partner with a highly knowledgeable and trusted voice in the field — in this case, The Jewish Education Project's David Bryfman, who already had strong relationships with many of the parties involved in these efforts. Bryfman led the work in partnership with an experienced research team.
  • All parties involved — national and local funders, practitioners, and teens themselves —demonstrated a willingness to move away from old frameworks (both for teen programs and their evaluation) designed by adults to a new framework that takes into account the voices and interests of a new generation of teens.
  • We made sure the researchers conducted focus groups with teens and interviewed parents and practitioners. As a group, we then reviewed what was learned, proposed a set of outcomes, tested them with stakeholders, refined them based on that feedback, and then retested. We made sure that what we had developed through the process strongly reflected what we had heard from the teens themselves.
  • To help ensure that our efforts would lead to actual, positive change on the ground, toward the end of the process we brought in experts to "translate" the shared outcomes into draft survey questions for teens in communities across the country. The survey questions then went through an iterative review and refinement process with funders, practitioners, and teens.

Continue reading »

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (May 2016)

June 04, 2016

Greetings from Northeast Ohio, where the seventeen-year cicada are vibrating their tymbals to beat the band. We're pretty excited, too — about our lineup of popular posts from May featuring pieces by a whose who of social sector luminaries. So grab a cold beverage and your noise-canceling headphones and let us know what you think in the comments section below....

Got a submission you'd like to share with our readers? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

5 Questions for...Harvey V. Fineberg, President, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

May 25, 2016

Established in 2000 by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore and his wife, Betty, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation holds assets of $6.56 billion and in 2013 was the ninth largest U.S. foundation by asset size and tenth in total giving. With a focus on "[tackling] large, important issues at a scale where it can achieve significant and measurable impacts," the foundation's main program areas include science, environmental conservation, patient care, and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Harvey V. Fineberg, M.D., Ph.D., joined the foundation as president in January 2015. Prior to that, he served as president of the Institute of Medicine (2002-14) and as provost of Harvard University (1997-2001), following thirteen years as dean of the university's School of Public Health. A co-founder and former president of the Society for Medical Decision Making, Fineberg has served as a consultant to the World Health Organization and serves on the boards of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (which he chairs), the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the China Medical Board.

PND spoke with Fineberg via email about the foundation's approach to grantmaking in the areas of environmental conservation, scientific research, and patient care.

Harvey_v_finebergPhilanthropy News Digest: As Gordon and Betty Moore, you, and foundation staff have made clear over the years, the Moore Foundation supports fundamental scientific research and embraces experimentation in its grantmaking. Are those two things ever in conflict? And how do you and your colleagues find the proper balance between them?

Harvey Fineberg: Our support for fundamental research enables scientific breakthroughs. We embrace a systematic or "scientific" approach in all of our grantmaking, whether in basic research, environmental conservation, patient care, or at home in the Bay Area.

The systematic approach in grantmaking means that we rely on evidence and investigation, focus on long-term goals, and place a premium on defining measurable outcomes. We develop clear hypotheses that guide our investments. Along the way we continually test our assumptions, challenge our thinking, and, as necessary, adjust our course in pursuit of those outcomes.

In our grantmaking, we are prepared to aim high; we like to identify a path to success, and we are willing to fail in pursuit of a worthy goal. We know that accomplishing big things can take time, and we are investing for the long term.

PND: From your vantage point, does the foundation's focus on evidence make it an outlier in the philanthropic world?

HF: Gordon Moore has encouraged us to "swing for the fences." As we aim to tackle complex, important problems, we understand the world may change in profoundly important ways that we cannot predict. We work diligently to drive change to a certain scale or scope and understand there are times we may fall short. When things don't go according to plan — for better or worse — the most important thing we can do is learn from that experience and try to improve the next time.

Continue reading »

Native Voices Rising: Critical Leadership in Institutional Philanthropy

May 23, 2016

NAP-Logo1Earlier this year, I received news that Valorie Johnson, a program officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, was planning to retire. As one of the few Native Americans working at a foundation, I celebrated her many accomplishments in the philanthropic sector. But I also grieved the impending loss of one the few Native influencers in philanthropy.

Why are there so few of us working in philanthropy? Who's addressing the issue? And, most importantly, why is the inclusion of Native voices so critical to effective philanthropic leadership?

A recent article in the Nonprofit Quarterly described philanthropy's disappointing attempts at diversity: "[N]either the numbers in terms of diversity of staffing and governance nor the dynamics of this landscape has changed much since 2008. The pipeline is still not working to move people of color into philanthropy, or to move women and people of color up in hierarchies, as quickly as white men…."

Philanthropy has invested millions of dollars in various initiatives to increase diversity in the field, including the D5 Coalition, a five-year effort to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the philanthropic sector. Eighteen affinity groups and organizations, including Native Americans in Philanthropy (NAP), founded the coalition in 2010, and while there has been progress in tracking much-needed data and advocating for increased Native representation in philanthropy, a significant amount of work remains to be done.

It's true that the small number of Native Americans working at foundations is related to the broader barriers to diversity in the field. But I would like to offer a few additional insights for your consideration:

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (May 21-22, 2016)

May 22, 2016

Arthur-conan-doyleOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

Just as we often hear that it's easier to make money than to give it away, it seems as if donors and foundation leaders are learning that it's easier to divest from fossil fuel companies than it is to invest in clean energy. Fortune's Jennifer Reingold reports.

Economy

America's middle class is shrinking. The Pew Research Center lays it out in depressing detail.

Giving Pledge

So you've amassed a few hundred million or even a billion dollars and now want to help those who are less fortunate. A good place to start, writes Manoj Bhargava, founder of Billions in Change and Stage 2 Innovations, in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, is to understand the problem before funneling money into a solution, stop relying on traditions and assumptions, and make your philanthropy about serving, not helping.

Health

In a post on RWJF's Culture of Health blog, the foundation's Kristin Schubert says it's time for public health officials, school administrators, and parents to reframe the way we think about the links between health, learning, and success in life.

International Affairs/Development

Why should U.S. foundations take the global Sustainable Development Goals seriously? Because, writes NCRP's Ed Cain, they "constitute the broadest, most ambitious development agenda ever agreed to at the global level for getting the world off of its self-destructive, unsustainable path. [They] reflect the interconnectedness of social, economic and environmental challenges and solutions. [And they]...tackle inequality, governance and corruption."

Continue reading »

A New Power Grid: Reflections on 'Building Healthy Communities' at Year 5

May 19, 2016

Health_exercise_for_PhilanTopicSystems change, policy change, narrative change, and people power are terms we use often at the California Endowment.

Together, they represent what's happening in fourteen geographically diverse communities across the state thanks to our Building Healthy Communities (BHC) initiative. Just as important is the state-level systems and policy change work we've supported to help strengthen local efforts. Taken together, they represent the comprehensive vision behind BHC, a ten-year, $1 billion initiative launched in 2010 to advance statewide policy, change the narrative, and transform communities in California that have been devastated by health inequities into places where all people have an opportunity to thrive.

As 2015 came to a close and we reached the halfway point of BHC, we thought it important to look back at the first five years of the initiative and document what we've learned to date. And because transparency in philanthropy is critical to the growth and effectiveness of the field, we want to share those insights with others.

A significant portion of the BHC plan involves a "place-based" focus on fourteen communities. Of equal importance is how the collective learning and energy generated by those communities help promote health, health equity, and health justice for all Californians. In other words, BHC is a place-based strategy with a broader goal of effecting statewide change.

So, what we have learned? It starts with this: BHC will be successful when three things happen to benefit the health of young people in lower-income communities:

Continue reading »

Investing in Infrastructure for Impact

May 18, 2016

Abstract_tree_vector_imageThe U.S. nonprofit sector is in many respects the envy of the world for its strength and diversity. And it continues to grow in scale and complexity. But investments in our shared infrastructure are not yet sufficient to meet the challenges ahead

"Like a body without a backbone, a sector without a strong infrastructure will crumble," wrote Cynthia Gibson, then of the Carnegie Corporation, and Nonprofit Quarterly Editor-in-Chief Ruth McCambridge in a 2008 special issue of that magazine dedicated to infrastructure. Eight years later, with the level of investment essentially flat, we are echoing that sentiment with a renewed call for foundations to invest in strengthening the sector.

Nonprofits and foundations have, among many achievements, helped citizens secure their human rights, responded to domestic and international crises, fed the hungry, cured diseases, offered a rich array of arts and cultural programming, and protected our environment.

Yet we all aspire to see the sector be much more effective tomorrow than it is today. That can only happen if we invest in strengthening it, and that's not happening to the degree that it could or should.

We need the data systems and technology platforms that fuel communication and learning. We need training programs that support the growth of staff and volunteers. We need the research to understand what works and what doesn't. And we need advocacy for new levels of excellence and for policies that support our work.

This work is being done, but not with the level of support it should have. The organizations we lead, GuideStar and the Center for Effective Philanthropy, are among more than twenty "infrastructure organizations" that are formally calling on foundations to step up their level of support for infrastructure. We ask them to consider dedicating at least 1 percent of their grantmaking budgets to strengthening the sector.

Continue reading »

[Review] American Generosity: Who Gives and Why

May 17, 2016

Imagine a snapshot of American giving. What would it look like? Would it portray an abundantly generous America, or show a dismal lack of involvement in charitable causes and civic society? In American Generosity: Who Gives and Why, sociologists Patricia Snell Herzog and Heather E. Price address this question using a variety of methods with the goal of both broadening and deepening our understanding of how generosity is expressed, what fuels it, and what can be done to encourage more of it.

Book_american_generosityTo write their book, Herzog and Price drew on the results of Notre Dame's Science of Generosity Initiative, a Templeton Foundation-supported effort to promote interdisciplinary approaches to the study of generosity in all its forms. The initiative's findings, and Herzog and Price's presentation of those findings, offer valuable insights for the individual giver as well as scholars, religious leaders, and nonprofit practitioners and fundraisers.

The book, which draws much of its data from a nationally representative survey of more than a thousand people, is organized into a "who, what, where, why, and how much" structure. Herzog and Price begin by defining generosity as "giving good things freely to enhance the well-being of others." Although they identify nine such forms of giving, the "Big 3" are: donations of cash, time spent volunteering, and political or civic activity. (The other six encompass a wide range of actions, including the donation of one's blood or organs, estate giving, environmentally sustainable consumption, the lending of one's possessions, and "relational" giving to friends and family.)

Having defined generosity and identified its constituent forms, Herzog and Price then look at how generous Americans are, and how social and demographic factors — age, race, gender, education, income level — and regional characteristics influence generosity — "zoom[ing] out," as they put it, "from the frame-by-frame snapshots [in the earlier chapter] and survey[ing] the overall landscape of American generosity with a wide-angle lens." It's a view, they add, that lends itself to a "glass half-full perspective," in that it allows us to "see that Americans are generally quite active in working to help others."

One of the ways Herzog and Price add nuance to their portrayal and "breathe life into" the "static quantitative snapshots" is by including in-depth interviews from twelve survey participants. And one of the most interesting aspects of their analysis is the finding that while resources such as time, money, and connections do influence whether and how much someone gives, they are hardly the only factors that shape individual generosity — and don't explain why individuals with few resources often give more generously than those who have more to give. Why that might be the case is the subject of the second half of the book.

Continue reading »

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