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1151 posts categorized "Philanthropy"

Weekend Link Roundup (April 25-26, 2015)

April 26, 2015

Ss-150425-nepal-earthquake-09Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector...

Disaster Relief

In the aftermath of a major natural disaster like the powerful earthquake that struck Nepal yesterday, early assistance -- in the form of money -- is the best and most effective kind of assistance. On her Nonprofit Charitable Orgs blog, Joanne Fritz shares other ways to help victims of a natural disaster.

Nearly $10 billion in relief and reconstruction aid was committed to Haiti after the devastating January 2010 earthquake in that impoverished country. Where did it all go? VICE on HBO Correspondent Vikram Gandhi reports.

Education

Has the education reform movement peaked? According to New York Times columnist Nick Kristof, "The zillionaires [who have funded the movement] are bruised. The idealists are dispirited. The number of young people applying for Teach for America, after 15 years of growth, has dropped for the last two years. The Common Core curriculum is now an orphan, with politicians vigorously denying paternity." Which is why, says Kristof, it might be time to "refocus some reformist passions on early childhood."

Evaluation

On the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Johanna Morariu, director of the Innovation Network, shares five grantmaker and nonprofit practices "that undermine or limit the ability of nonprofit organizations to fully engage in evaluation."

Fundraising

What is social fundraising? Liz Ragland, senior content and marketing associate at Network for Good, explains.

Nonprofit With Balls blogger and Game of Thrones fan Vu Le has some issues with the donor-centric model of fundraising. "When [it's] done right," he writes, "it’s cool; when it’s done wrong, we sound like the used car salesmen of justice...."

Impact/Effectiveness

Foundations -- and nonprofits -- "need to bring a sharper focus to performance. They've known that for years," writes Marc Gunther on his Nonprofit Chronicles blog. "That’s a polite way to say it," but, he adds, 

foundations need to do more than provide support for performance assessment. They need to insist that nonprofits measure their impact. Teachers didn't ask students if they wanted to take tests; they required them.

Foundations should do the same. Politely, of course.

Leadership

Gary Hamel's recap in the Harvard Business Review of an address by Pope Francis to the leaders of the Roman Curia is a couple of weeks old, but the wisdom in it is, well, timeless.

Nonprofits

In a guest post on Beth Kanter's blog, Joan Garry, the "Dear Abby" of nonprofit leadership, argues that two trends, the rapid growth of the nonprofit sector and the retirement, in ever-greater numbers, of boomer CEOs, "lead...to one inescapable conclusion. We need a new generation of leaders...."

Philanthropy

Couldn't make it to the Council on Foundation's annual conference in San Francisco? No worries. You can watch CoF president Vikki Spruill's opening remarks here.

In Forbes, CauseWired founder Tom Watson suggests that the idea "the Clinton Foundation has been less than forthcoming in its disclosure of data is preposterous, unfair, and unworthy of anyone interested in the truth...."

The Chronicle of Philanthropy's Megan O'Neil reports on efforts by thousands of nonprofits and foundations to galvanize the attention of high-ranking leaders and ordinary citizens around the SDGs -- the "successors to the eight millennium-development goals, or MDGs, set by the UN in 2000."

"[I]n the spirit of improving together," the Walton Family Foundation's Karen Minkel and Marc Holley share a story on the Philanthropy Roundtable blog about how the foundation "evaluated a failed strategy and used the findings and input from community leaders to alter [its] investments in the Arkansas and Mississippi Delta." What did the foundation learn? For starters, they write, the idea

that one organization and one plan could succeed where both the private and public sectors have failed was perhaps too audacious. At the very least, our theory of change was wrong. We know how to fund meaningful particular projects in the Delta. But, like others who've embarked on comprehensive community change efforts, we haven't discovered the way to help transform an entire community....

UK-based consultant Jake Hayman, founder of Future First, shares twenty things that "some (not all) foundations do some (not all) of the time that I don't think they should do."

Social Entrepreneurship

"[E]very single one of us has something unique and...important to contribute to the larger world, writes Nell Edgington on her Social Velocity blog. "It could be a work of literature, a portfolio of photographs, a game-changing idea. The human race does not possess just a handful of geniuses,... rather every human possesses genius within him. Sometimes that genius is artistic, sometimes it’s political, sometimes it’s entrepreneurial, or it may be something completely different. It is up to each of us to figure out what our genius is and put in the tireless effort...to unearth and [share it]...."

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 box below....

5 Questions for...Judith Shapiro, President, Teagle Foundation

April 24, 2015

Judith Shapiro has spent decades in and around higher education in the United States. The first female professor in the department of anthropology at the University of Chicago, where she taught from 1970 to 1975, Shapiro joined the faculty at Bryn Mawr College in 1975 as a member of the department of anthropology and later served as acting dean (1985-86) and provost (1986-94) of the college. She went on to serve as president of Barnard College — the first person to come through the New York City school system to do so — from 1994 to 2008 and was named president of the New York City-based Teagle Foundation in 2013. Shapiro has researched and written widely about gender differences, social organization, cultural theory, and missionization, and throughout her career has spoken out on a broad range of topics.

Headshot_judith_shapiroPhilanthropy News Digest: You spent most of your career in academia, including fourteen years as president of Barnard College. Is being a foundation president a lot different than being a college president?

Judith Shapiro: I loved being president of Barnard. But the job was unremitting, whereas my job here doesn't feel as if it consumes my entire life. Being a college president is really strenuous, but having that in my background is espec­ially useful to this particular foundation. One interesting difference in my situation is that, for the most part, I spent my academic career in elite institutions: Brandeis, Columbia, University of Chicago, Bryn Mawr, Barnard. But since coming to Teagle, I've been exposed to a much wider variety of institutions and learned that there are truly interesting things going on in all kinds of institutions.

It's good that there's diversity in our educational sector, not only among institutions of higher education, but also among foundations, and among foundations that are involved in higher education. Lumina, for example, can focus on policy-related issues in higher education, Mellon can dig into the arts and digital humanities, and Sloan has a nice focus on undergraduate STEM, whereas Teagle doesn't specialize in any of those areas. So there's a nice division of labor among foundations, but also opportunities for them to coordinate and cooperate. You know that foundations often like their grantees to collaborate, and it's a good thing for foundations to work with each other as well.

PND: That type of collaboration often comes with challenges. As an anthropologist, how would you recommend that some of the cultural challenges be addressed?

JS: Some of the challenges are very real. The Center for Effective Philanthropy examined how foundations can and do work together and found that, in some cases, the cost of the collaboration in terms of coordinating activities was so great that the foundations collaborating really had to step back and decide whether the partnership made sense. In general, I think the pooling of funding is a good idea, but you have to find a way to combine the distinctive focus and identity of the various partners and avoid getting carried away by the kind of institutional narcissism that results in organizations competing with or not paying attention to each other.

PND: You're known as someone who is willing to comment on a broad range of issues — not exactly a trait one associates with foundation presidents. Do you think foundation presidents should speak out more frequently on important national issues?

JS: They certainly should speak out on issues that are relevant to the mission of their foundation. During my years as a college president, I felt that the role of communicator-in-chief was a particularly important part of my job description. The bully pulpit is a tool that can and should be used to advance the work of a foundation. Both of my predecessors here at Teagle, Bob Connor and Rich Morrill, did that to wonderful effect. So, if an issue is important to the mission, yes, I think it's a good thing for a foundation president to speak out, even a responsibility.

On issues that are not directly relevant to the foundation's mission, on the other hand, I would say, "First, do no harm." I remember Larry Summers, when he was president of Harvard, speaking at a conference dedicated to women in science and suggesting that the shortage of women in certain disciplines was in part due to gender differences in mathematical ability. Well, we all know what happened next. He later said he was not speaking as president of Harvard. But when you're the president of Harvard, it's very hard not to speak as the president of Harvard.

In my case, I have written on issues related to my area of social science expertise, to my teaching experience, and to my experiences as a college president — issues that are not necessarily relevant to the work we do here at Teagle. And in those cases, I do not identify myself as the president of the Teagle Foundation, but rather as someone affiliated with Bryn Mawr or Barnard.

In terms of issues that do not fall into my area of expertise but which are of concern to me as a citizen of the United States — I may have strong opinions about how to address climate change, for example — I tend not to speak out publicly. So I support the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Natural Resources Defense Council, but I don't see the point of speaking out on their issues in my role as a foundation president.

PND: Teagle has supported a number of blended learning initiatives and projects in which at least part of a formal education program is delivered electronically. How are digital technologies and the shift to a digital economy changing the way students are approaching higher education?

JS: We're trying to help faculty at our partner institutions incorporate online resources into classes so that class time is used in a more interactive, productive way

I'm also on the board of the University of the People, which is entirely virtual — even the administra­tion is virtual. Its goal is to reach populations — both abroad and in the U.S. — which otherwise wouldn't have access to higher education. Not surprisingly, a lot of those programs tend to have a strong career focus.

Ethnographically speaking — again as an anthropologist — we need to better understand how students are operating in these new worlds of digitally delivered information and learning. That doesn't mean we have to go native completely; students can benefit from more traditional habits and ways of learning. And just as there was a slow food movement that emerged in response to fast food, we may see a the emergence of a slow teaching or learning movement that is dedicated to helping young people focus on one thing in a way that enables them to learn it more thoroughly and comprehensively.

PND: You recently traveled to Cuba. How might the U.S.-Cuba reset affect U.S. foundations?

JS: Actually, the trip I took was organized by the Bryn Mawr Alumni Association; I spent nineteen years at the college as a faculty member and as provost. The trip was scheduled months ahead of time and it was a total and utter coincidence that it took place in the wake of the major changes announced by the Obama administration. Clearly, it turned out to be very, very exciting. When we got to Havana, we ran into Senator [Pat] Leahy (D-VT) in the hotel, which had both the American and Cuban flags flying out front.

As for foundations and the new spirit of détente, it's hard to say what will happen or what they should do. Teagle is a small foundation, and we have not worked internationally. If you're David and not Goliath, you've got to be very careful about where you aim. Our approach is to be good partner to our grantees. We don't assume we have all the answers, and what we do grows out of the interactions we have with the organizations we support.

But, certainly, larger foundations with more resources may start thinking about establishing connections with civil society groups in Cuba, and I hope they do. The needs in the country are enormous, and the prospect of U.S. foundations beginning to allocate some of their resources to address those needs is a wonderful thing to contemplate. I think any help will be gratefully welcomed by the Cuban people. And I hope that kind of spirit prevails as foundations here look to deepen their engagement with Cuba and the Cuban people.

Matt Sinclair

Empowering Women Through Homeownership and Volunteering

April 23, 2015

Habitat_for_Humanity_buildA home is more than just the bricks, mortar, and lumber used to build it. It’s an investment that many families make to lay the groundwork for a more prosperous future. Yet even as the housing market continues to improve, many low-income families, particularly those headed by single mothers, struggle to provide a stable, safe, and healthy home environment for their children.

“It all comes down to giving people in this country [a shot at success], and the single most important shot is a place to live securely,” said Vice President Joe Biden at a forum in April co-hosted by Habitat for Humanity International at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “Ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they have a base and a foundation and an opportunity. All they are asking for is a chance, a chance to raise their families and build their dreams.”

Millions of women across the country are hoping to become homeowners one day and lift their families out of poverty. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 18 million women were living in poverty in 2013, an all-time high. Single mothers and their children are particularly vulnerable, with nearly six in ten poor children living in families headed by women.

In Lynwood, California, single mother Nikki Payton and her three daughters currently live with family members, sharing a room in a small two-bedroom house. Because all three daughters have health issues and suffer from asthma, Payton applied to purchase a Habitat for Humanity home so her family could live in a healthier environment. In Detroit, Marketta Jackson, a single mother of six, lives with her family in housing in desperate need of repairs. It’s also difficult for her mother, who uses a wheelchair. Jackson looks forward to some day having a home where her mother can get around easily and her family feels safe and secure. 

Women like Payton and Jackson are the reasons Habitat’s Women Build program exists. Women Build is about recruiting, educating, and empowering women to build simple, decent homes in their communities. To spotlight the homeownership challenges faced by women, Habitat partnered with Lowe’s in 2008 to launch the first annual National Women Build Week. Since then, through National Women Build Week projects, more than sixty-two thousand female volunteers have helped build twenty-three hundred Habitat for Humanity homes across the U.S.

The Women Build program does more than provide safe, healthy homes for families. Working on a Habitat home can boost a woman’s confidence and positively impact her life. Tara Young’s life was transformed when she moved into a Habitat home in August 2014. The single mother from Long Beach works as a preschool teacher. Before moving into her Habitat home, Young and her two kids were sharing a room in a family member’s house. Young describes the feeling of owning her own home as “priceless.” “It’s been a really great experience I wouldn’t trade for the world,” she says. “If I think about what I’ve accomplished, just the whole experience, it brings tears to my eyes. I know that I wouldn’t have been able to purchase the home without Habitat.”

But the new owners of Habitat homes are not the only ones empowered by the Women Build program. Young has continued to volunteer with the organization and this year will be joined by her daughter, Ajhanae, in giving other Habitat families in Los Angeles the same “hand-up” they received.

This year, from May 2-10, more than fifteen thousand volunteers across the U.S. will participate in National Women Build Week. In Pittsburgh, Noreen Gramm and her two daughters will help rehab a home in partnership with a low-income family. The Gramms have participated in two previous Women Build projects and have learned how to cut, measure, and hang drywall; use various power tools; sand and paint walls; and do landscaping. Gramm said she enjoys working side-by-side with her daughters and believes they’ve greatly benefited from their volunteer experience, gaining the confidence to try new things on their own.

Lisa_marie_nickerson_for_PhilanTopicThese women exemplify the determination and commitment of Habitat homeowners and volunteers. Thanks to them and thousands more, we’re able to continue building homes, community, and hope — in the U.S. and around the world. Join us in our efforts to create opportunities and a path out of poverty for women and their families.

Learn more about Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build program.

Lisa Marie Nickerson is associate director of the Women Build program at Habitat for Humanity International.

 

Black Male Achievement: Seizing the Moment in Detroit

April 20, 2015

Headshot_tonya_allenAt a March meeting in Detroit, a number of stakeholders committed to improving outcomes for young men of color sat around a table, sharing the words that best captured how they are experiencing the beginning of citywide work on the My Brother's Keeper initiative.

They shared words such as powerful, encouraged, and committed. All good things to hear.

When it came time for the one youth participant, a senior from Detroit's East Village Preparatory High School, to share, he paused and said quietly, "I just feel loved."

That's one of the best things I've heard in a long time. I want all young men of color in Detroit and across the nation to know, without a doubt, that they are important to our future, worthy of our investment, and indeed loved.

As president and CEO of the Skillman Foundation, chair of the Campaign for Black Male Achievement, and co-chair (with Bob Ross of the California Endowment) of the nationally focused Executive Alliance, I have the honor of being in a position to drive what's happening locally in my city of Detroit, as well as across the country.

And what I see – and work to encourage – is a growing momentum. In Detroit, stakeholders are meeting on an urgent schedule to create a citywide plan to improve outcomes for young men of color. That plan includes four platforms for action – education, health, workforce development, and safety. I'm encouraged to see who is at the table; they include not just longtime partners who have devoted decades to this work and know it well, but also new partners, including representatives from the city's business sector, bringing unique ideas, energy, and resources.

In late spring, in accordance with the White House's MBK playbook, Detroit will host a summit to share the final report, including policy recommendations, with the community. By 2020, our goal is to see graduation rates for young men of color reach 90 percent in the city of Detroit. In the six neighborhoods where we are working, we've already seen rates go up almost 20 percent since 2008. With intention and the right alignment of community partners, we know we can reach our goals.

Nationally, because of concerted efforts like the Campaign for Black Achievement, I've seen scores of foundations and corporations commit to work toward the same goals. This alignment of resources and action has the potential to address disparities affecting young men of color in an unprecedented way.

Overall, in Detroit and across the country, I see two concurrent trends. One is a collective recognition that we must change the narrative and acknowledge that young men of color are assets. The other is the recognition that our young men are in many ways hurting. What I also see is an America confronted by a crucial moment and the knowledge that young men of color need our collective action more than ever. They deserve our support and our commitment.

They deserve our love.

Tonya Allen is president and CEO of the Skillman Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the lives of children in Detroit. This piece first appeared in the research brief Quantifying Hope: Philanthropic Support for Black Men and Boys, published by the Campaign for Black Male Achievement and Foundation Center.

Weekend Link Roundup (April 18-19, 2015)

April 19, 2015

Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector...

National-cherry-blossom-festivalData

How can nonprofits use data to create a culture of continuous improvement. Beth Kanter explains.

Evaluation/Effectiveness

In a post on her Giving Evidence site, Caroline Fiennes suggests that charities are being asked to do too much evaluation -- and presents some evidence to support her argument.

Writing on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Nancy Baughman Csuti, director of research, evaluation and strategic learning at the Colorado Trust, says that funders can and should

engage in deeper conversations with grantees to understand their needs regarding evaluation, continue to provide general operating support, and, with that, encourage time to review results, reflect, and adapt. We can encourage grantees to share what they have learned and provide resources and assistance for them to do so, and do the same ourselves. As funders, we should jump on the opportunities to encourage our grantees to embrace a culture of evaluation and learning that results in seeing problems and solutions differently. And always, we must do ourselves what we ask of grantees....

Human/Civil Rights

Civil society and human rights groups find themselves in a new world characterized by "multiplicity," public disillusionment, and growing non-institutional activism, writes Lucia Nader on the Transformation  blog. And if they want to remain relevant, she adds, they'll need to find a balance "between preserving what has already been achieved, and deconstructing, innovating, reinventing and transforming [themselves]."

Journalism/Media

Is the nonprofit news model sustainable? Based on his reading of Gaining Ground, How Nonprofit News Ventures Seek Sustainability, a new report from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Inside Philanthropy's Paul M.J. Sucheki has his doubts.

Nonprofits

$23.07/hr. That's Independent Sector's latest estimate of the value of volunteer time. More here.

Philanthropy

A family foundation set up to exist in perpetuity may not be around for a long if the kids have no interest in running it. Wall Street Journal reporter Veronica Dagher shares five things that family foundations can do to empower the next generation to carry the family legacy forward.

On the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog, Mulago Foundation director Kevin Starr shares the seven commandments of effective funding.

Exponent Philanthropy has compiled a nice list of resources for "foundations, giving circle members, donor advised fund holders, and individual donors [who] are intentionally keeping their operations lean and their ears to the ground."

Social Good

On Thursday, online crafts bazaar Etsy became only the second B Corps to go public. The question now, writes The New York Times' Hiroko Tabuchi, is whether "Wall Street will embrace a company that puts doing social and environmental good on the same pedestal with, if not ahead of, maximizing profits."

There is more money in the world than at any point in human history, so why doesn't it reach the places that need it most? Writing on the Transformation blog, Fran Boait, executive director of Positive Money, explains.

In a short essay adapted from his new book, The Road to Character, New York Times columnist David Brooks reminds us that "people on the road to inner light do not find their vocations by asking, what do I want from life? They ask, what is life asking of me? How can I match my intrinsic talent with one of the world's deep needs?" 

Social Media

Does your nonprofit have an Instagram strategy? Are you and your colleagues unsure why you need one? Kivi Leroux Miller shares 50+ nonprofit Instagram accounts that might change your mind.

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 box below....

Key Milestones in Campaign for Black Male Achievement

April 18, 2015

5 Questions for…Bill McKibben, Co-Founder, 350.org

April 17, 2015

Forty-five years after the first Earth Day in 1970, efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have stalled and the planet faces the potentially devastating effects of accelerating climate change. At the same time, calls for educational and philanthropic institutions to rid themselves of investments in fossil fuel companies have gotten louder and a grassroots divestment movement has emerged from college campuses across the country.

PND asked noted environmental activist and author Bill McKibben about the impact of the fossil fuel divestment movement, the role of philanthropy in the fight against climate change, and the prospect that something meaningful will come out of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris later this year.

Bill_mckibben_for_PhilanTopicPhilanthropy News Digest: The name of the organization you co-founded, 350.org, refers to the goal of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from the current level of 400 parts per million to 350 ppm — a level, according to climatologist James Hansen and others, that is necessary to preserve conditions on Earth similar to those which prevailed as humans evolved and flourished. Where do things stand as of 2015? And do we have any chance of meeting the 350 ppm target?

Bill McKibben: Where we stand is the CO2 level in the atmosphere climbs 2 ppm annually — and the Arctic and the Antarctic are dealing with preposterous changes that even the most pessimistic scientists thought would take many decades to arrive, oceans are acidifying, and the cycle of floods and droughts is deepening. If we managed to get off fossil fuels with great haste — if we worked at the outer edge of the possible — then by 2100 forests and oceans would have sucked up enough carbon that we'd be moving back toward 350 ppm. Much damage would be done in the meantime, but perhaps not civilizational-scale damage. But that window is small, and closing.

PND: 350.org’s Fossil Free campaign aims to convince educational and religious institutions, governments, and other organizations that serve the public good to divest their investment portfolios of fossil fuel companies. One frequently heard criticism of the campaign is that it is trying to put out a fire with a garden hose. That is, getting a few dozen or hundred institutional investors to divest their portfolios of fossil fuels will have no measurable impact on the activities of large energy companies — or on other investors who may see an opportunity as those stocks are sold. What’s wrong with that argument?

BM: If it was all anyone was doing, it would not be enough, not even close. Of course, we're also fighting against new pipelines and coal mines, and for the rapid spread of renewable energy. But divestment is one of the things that knits it together — it's been the vehicle for spreading the news that these companies have four times the carbon in their reserves than any scientist thinks we can safely burn. That's why everyone, up to the president of the World Bank, has hailed divestment as a crucial part of the fight.

Continue reading »

5 Questions for...Claudia Natera, Coordinator, Alternativas y Capacidades

April 16, 2015

Organized philanthropy in Mexico, as elsewhere in Latin America, is still in its nascent stages, and getting a handle on who is doing what and where can be difficult. To address the dearth of good information about philanthropy in Mexico, in 2013 Foundation Center partnered with Alternativas y Capacidades, a civil society organization that works to promote transparency and accountability in the Mexican philanthropic sector, and two other organizations to create Fondos a la Vista, a clearinghouse for information on civil society organizations in Mexico.

Recently, the Foundation Center's Marie DeAeth spoke with Claudia Nateria, the coordinator of the Fondos a la Vista project, about the some of the challenges confronting the Mexican philanthropic sector and the work her organization is doing to address those challenges.

Marie DeAeth: What are some of the significant features of the philanthropic sector in Mexico?

Headshot_claudia_nateraClaudia Natera: One significant feature is its size. When compared to other Latin American countries, the Mexican philanthropic sector is considerably smaller. For instance, Chile, Brazil, and Argentina have a higher number of nonprofit organizations relative to their populations. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía, or INEGI), there are around forty thousand civil society organizations (CSOs) in Mexico, although we do not have information on all of them. Only about seven thousand organizations are authorized as tax exempt by the Mexican Tax Administration Service (Servicio de Administración Tributaria, or SAT); there are twenty-four thousand other nonprofits that receive government funding. Keeping in mind that some organizations could appear on both registries at the same time, we have information on around twenty-seven thousand organizations. That means that there are approximately thirteen thousand nonprofit organizations that are operational, but the fact that they are not registered with SAT or the National Institute of Social Development (Instituto Nacional de Desarrollo Social, or INDESOL) makes it difficult to gather information about them.

Another challenge for philanthropy in Mexico is a lack of confidence on the part of society. A 2013 national survey showed that Mexicans are willing to help each other, with nearly eight out of ten saying they had made a charitable donation in the last year. However, only one out of ten did so through a civil society organization. That means Mexicans prefer to give money to people on the street than to a CSO. According to the survey, one of the main reasons for that is the distrust the average Mexican feels toward civil society organizations specifically and toward institutions in general. This lack of confidence is a serious challenge for the philanthropic sector in Mexico and one that we have to try to overcome through better transparency practices.

MD: What are some of the other challenges you face?

CN: In addition to a lack of confidence in the sector, one major challenge is the small number of grantmaking entities in Mexico. In Fondos a la Vista we've identified only about two hundred grantmakers focused solely on giving funds to other organizations. And most of those grantmakers do not provide money for capacity-building programs or initiatives. As a result, many nonprofits in Mexico struggle to secure funding, which weakens their ability to perform their work. The challenge for us is to create awareness in the Mexican grantmaking community about the importance of funding capacity-building projects as part of their social investment strategies, which would help them achieve greater social impact.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (April 11-12, 2015)

April 12, 2015

Lincoln_shotOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector...

Corporate Philanthropy

Indiana Business Journal reporter J.K. Wall looks at how Eli Lilly & Co. is shifting its corporate philanthropy from an approach focused on social responsibility to one that emphasizes "shared value."

Fundraising

In a post for the Evelyn & Walter Haas Jr. Fund, writer and consultant Cynthia Gibson asks whether organizations that work to foster a "culture of philanthropy," a mindset in which "fundraising is seen less as a transactional tactic and more of a way of operating," are more likely "to boost their giving levels and donor retention; strengthen trust, cooperation and engagement among board and staff members; and align mission and program goals more seamlessly with revenue generation." What do you think? Click on over to the Haas Fund site to share your thoughts.

Governance

Long admired for its no-tuition policy, Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in Manhattan began in 2014 to assess incoming freshman a tuition fee of $20,000 — a decision that led to student protests and media scrutiny of the school's financial dealings. Earlier this week, New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman launched an investigation of focused on the Cooper Union board's "management of the school's endowment; its handling of its major asset, the iconic Chrysler Building; its dealings with Tishman Speyer Properties, which manages the skyscraper; and how the school obtained a $175 million loan from MetLife using the building as collateral." New York Times writer James B. Stewart reports.

Human/Civil Rights

On the D5 Coalition blog, Ben Francisco Maulbeck, president of Funders for LGBTQ Issues, shares some thoughts about what foundations can do to support LGBT communities in the wake of the "religious freedom" bill signed into law by Indiana governor Mike Pence.

International Affairs/Development

On the Global Dashboard blog, policy analyst and researcher David Steven looks at five ways co-facilitators have made the targets for the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals worse.

Continue reading »

Want to Improve Health? Help People Use and Share Their Data

April 10, 2015

Withings scaleIn 1823, a young French physician, Pierre Charles Alexandre Louis, published a controversial article urging doctors to compile, share, and study statistics about their patients. He said that by recognizing larger trends across a community, physicians could more effectively treat individual patients. One of Louis' findings, based on thousands of case histories and autopsies he conducted, was that the common practice of bloodletting was probably not a good idea.

Many of his colleagues initially disagreed, but it was hard to argue with Louis' numbers, and bloodletting soon fell out of favor. Meanwhile Louis' "numerical method," as he called it, expanded beyond specific treatment to include background information on patients – their ages, their jobs, where and how they lived – and laid the foundation for modern epidemiology and today's clinical trials.

Today an exponentially greater revolution in health information sharing is under way. New technology is offering everyone, not just health professionals, vastly more health-related data than we could have imagined even a few years ago. This new era of data, both big (populations) and small (individuals), offers remarkable opportunities to improve health, by helping to stop the twenty-first century equivalents to bloodletting – those unhealthy behaviors and unnecessary medical procedures that are draining our physical, mental, emotional, and economic well-being.

Continue reading »

5 Questions for...Karen McNeil-Miller, President, Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust

April 07, 2015

They are communities which nurtured many of us and to which many of us return when we want to recharge and reconnect. The fact that they are rural and removed from the economic dynamism driving the revitalization of urban areas across the country also means they often lack the capital  financial and human – needed to improve the circumstances of people who call them home. That organized philanthropy, like much of corporate America, finds it relatively easy to overlook such communities further complicates the situation.

One foundation looking to change that dynamic is the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, a philanthropy established in 1946 by Kate Gertrude Bitting Reynolds, the wife of William Neal Reynolds, chairman of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, to improve the health and wellness of low-income residents of North Carolina. In March, PND spoke with Karen McNeil-Miller, the trust’s president, about Healthy Places North Carolina, a new place-based initiative focused on rural areas of the state.

Headshot_karen_mcneil-millerPhilanthropy News Digest:  The Reynolds Charitable Trust has always supported efforts to improve the health of North Carolinians. What's new about Healthy Places NC?

Karen McNeil-Miller: Well, for us, almost everything. For instance, we're not leading with money, which is a huge thing. We're not going into these communities saying, "Here's our agenda, apply for a grant." We're going into these communities and, essentially, are trying to help them organize themselves. In a way, we're leading from behind instead of leading from in front. The trust is deferring its goals to the goals of the community; we want the community to determine what it needs or what it would like to change, and then we'll bring our resources to bear to help them achieve those goals.

PND:  Beyond a lack of resources, what are some of the challenges unique to rural communities that you aim to address through the initiative?

KMM: Well, one of the things we want to address is the building of human capacity. These days, it's hard to get folks to move to rural communities, which means if you want to help these communities thrive, you have to build the leadership capacity of the people who are already there. 

We also want to help them, where we can, with access to care. In so many rural communities, you may have a primary care physician or two, but hospitals and specialty care are much less common. So, through the initiative, we've been helping community-based organi­zations invest in tele-health infrastructure, whether it's tele-psychology, or tele-therapy, or even tele-osteo­pathic medicine. 

Of course, one of the most plentiful assets in rural communities is land. So helping communities make the best use of their land assets, whether it's through building an amenity like a playground, or bike or walking trails, or any of the other things that make communities more livable and healthy, is something we're interested in.

What's harder to address is job creation. But if we can help local people see the connection between physical and mental health and economic health and help them build their capacity to partner with local government to create the kinds of amenities that help attract jobs and improve quality of life for everyone, that will be big. We want everybody to start thinking that health is their business, not just the purview of healthcare institutions. It's about broadening the conversation to people who don't normally see themselves in the health business, to people in law enforcement, to people in the educational system, to business and industry, and bringing them all together to talk about what they can do to make their community the healthiest community possible. 

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Weekend Link Roundup (April 4-5, 2015)

April 05, 2015

Baseball_grassOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector...

Community Improvement/Development

"[T]he stories of individuals, communities and organizations who are working to help... transform [Detroit] street by street — in small and much larger ways — are often overlooked," writes Frances Kunreuther, co-director of the Building Movement Project, on the Transformations blog. In contrast, Detroiters who are working at the neighborhood level "know that the real promise of urban transformation comes not from the outside in, but from the inside out — building a new city from the bottom up."

Education

The debate in Congress over reauthorization of "No Child Left Behind," former President George W. Bush's signature education initiative, is a useful reminder, writes Diane Ravitch in the New York Review of Books, that "[p]overty is the major obstacle to equal education. To overcome that obstacle requires not only investing greater resources in the education of poor children, but creating economic opportunity and jobs for their parents."

Fundraising

In the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Michael Anft reports on research which shows "the charity world lacks a basic understanding of how donors' brains work, how would-be donors behave in certain situations, and what incentives can successfully woo them."

NPR reports that the dramatic shift in fundraising engendered by social media -- think Movember, the Ice Bucket Challenge, and Giving Tuesday -- is putting pressure on large national nonprofits to rethink their walk-related events.

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McKnight Foundation’s Strategic Framework, Updated for 2015-2017

April 02, 2015

StrategyWith 2015 in full swing, we are pleased to share with you the McKnight Foundation's new Strategic Framework, updated and refreshed for 2015-2017. This is the second iteration of this important document, the first of which was developed in 2011 and implemented for 2012-14. We got good mileage out of our inaugural framework during the first three years, and we are excited to put the new one — a slightly streamlined model which retains the parts that worked well and revises those that needed tuning up — to use during the next three.

McKnight's Strategic Framework is very much a living document, which — like our work — must evolve in response to a changing environment if it is going to remain useful and relevant. We intentionally took an open and collaborative approach to the updating process, inviting input from stakeholders connected to McKnight's mission at all levels. Naturally, our board and staff were highly engaged; but we took a further step this time around, turning to our network of grantees, peers, and other partners for ideas on mapping our strategic course based on their unique contexts.

I want to thank everyone who responded to my earlier blog post inviting input as we updated the previous framework. It was gratifying to hear affirmations of McKnight's embrace of adaptive action in addressing complex challenges and changing external conditions. There were also comments specific to individual program areas and suggestions for new issues we should consider, all of which were shared with relevant staff. I also heard from several foundation and nonprofit colleagues that they had used the framework format for their own reflection and planning efforts. Thank you for contributing to our process; your input helped make the final product relevant and useful to us, our peers, and our partners.

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Weekend Link Roundup (March 28-29, 2015)

March 29, 2015

Umbrella_april-showersOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector...

Collaboration

On the Rockefeller Foundation blog, Zia Khan, the foundation's vice president for initiatives and strategy, shares four "counter-intuitive lessons" about cross-sector collaboration.

Data

On the Markets for Good blog, Bill Anderson, technical lead for the Secretariat of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), examines the potential for a people-based data revolution across Africa.

Education

50CAN, a network of local education advocates "learning from and supporting each other," has launched a new blog called The Catalyst to help local education leaders develop policy goals, craft their advocacy plans, and secure lasting change.

On the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation blog, Cari Schneider, director of research and policy for Getting Smart, suggests that one of the least appreciated barriers to effective education reform is definitional in nature.

Fundraising

Why do people give to charity? The Guardian explains.

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The German Philanthropic Sector: A Conversation With Rupert Graf Strachwitz

March 26, 2015

Dr. Rupert Graf Strachwitz is director of the Berlin-based Maecenata Institute for Philanthropy and Civil Society, an independent academic center established in 1997. A political scientist and historian and the son of a German diplomat and English writer, Graf Strachwitz chaired the German Advisory Council on Global Change from 1995 to 2001 and has been a contributor to the Johns Hopkins Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project since 1990. He was interviewed by Emily Keller, international data relations liaison at Foundation Center.

Emily Keller: What is unique about German philanthropy?

Headshot_rupert_graf_strachwitzRupert Graf Strachwitz: The huge diversity in function, size, operating methods, governance, and vision is arguably the most unique feature of the German philanthropic sector. A uniform foundation model does not exist in Germany, nor do German foundations conform to an international model.

EK: How would you describe the philanthropic sector in Germany?

RGS: The German philanthropic sector looks back on a very long history. The oldest foundations still in existence probably go back to the first millenium. The greater part of these foundations were connected to the established churches. People donated funds, real estate, building materials, and time, and engaged artists to build, embellish, restore, and maintain church buildings. An estimated fifty thousand of these foundations still exist under the auspices of the established churches, plus an additional fifty thousand that serve immediate church purposes. Through the many political upheavals and changes that have marked German history, these institutions survived.

Secular foundations in Germany also have a long history that goes as far back as the Middle Ages. Approximately two hundred and fifty of these remain and many of them are more than five hundred years old. Some had a single donor back in the day, while others were started by what we would call crowdfunding efforts today. They operated hospitals, hospices, and other related business, and made grants in support of universities, schools, and other institutions.

Due to this complex history, German foundations still perform four distinct functions, with larger foundations quite regularly performing more than one: ownership, by which I mean not holding assets but fulfilling their purpose through the exercise of ownership rights; operational; grantmaking; and supporting individuals in need.

In recent years, major grantmaking foundations have tried — successfully, in most cases — to become more operational by managing their own programs and/or institutions. Most of our nongovernmental universities, a new phenomenon, are owned and operated by foundations.

Another important aspect of the German philanthropic sector is the fact that philanthropic institutions come in a variety of legal forms. Besides a special form of legal entity described in the Civil Code that is remarkable for not having outside owners or being subject to a specific form of government regulation, foundations may exist as trusts without legal personality, limited companies (gemeinnuetzige GmbH), or foundations under public law, which are arms-length components of government. The latter includes philanthropic foundations as well as private benefit or family foundations.

Public benefit foundations in many cases are not created and endowed by private citizens but by corporations, membership organizations, government bodies, and, more recently, even other foundations. The common denominator among them is their adherence to the founder's intent in perpetuity.

Unlike many other countries, German philanthropic institutions are not restricted in their choice of assets, with the exception of particularly risky ones. Some of Germany's major foundations are sole or majority shareholders of major corporations. Others may own and manage agricultural and forestry businesses, vineyards, publishing enterprises, or other non-related businesses.

About half of all the foundations in Germany today were created in the past fifteen years, with a significant number also having been created in the 1990s. That first wave followed the extinction of a large number of foundations which faced the loss of their assets in the hyperinflation after World War I, having been required by law to invest in government bonds.

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