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Abdul Latif Jameel: Empowering Communities to Help Themselves

June 27, 2017

At the annual summit of the Family Business Council-Gulf (FBCG) in Dubai, Foundation Center's Lisa Philp led a plenary session on philanthropy in action in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. She was joined by Hassan Jameel, deputy president and vice chair, Abdul Latif Jameel Domestic Operations, and Caroline Seow, director of sustainability, Family Business Network International. Philp is working with FBCG and FBN International to shine a light on thoughtful and sustainable philanthropy in the GCC. This post — part of a year-long series here on PhilanTopic that addresses major themes related to the center’s work — is an adaptation of a case study she wrote on lessons learned from Community Jameel.

Jameel_philpAbdul Latif Jameel is an international diversified business with operations in seven major industries — transportation, engineering and manufacturing, financial services, consumer products, land and real estate, advertising and media, and energy and environmental services. Founded in 1945 as a small trading business that later evolved into a Toyota distributorship in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the company has achieved this scale and market success in just over seven decades.

The company's entrepreneurial founder, the late Abdul Latif Jameel, saw that better personal transportation could empower businesses and individuals and, in turn, advance the economic development of his nation. With that vision to guide him, he established an extensive operations infrastructure and over time built the largest vehicle distribution network in Saudi Arabia. Along the way, the company developed comprehensive expertise across the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey (or "MENAT"), the region in which it operates, fashioning a reputation for building the "infrastructure of life." Today, Abdul Latif Jameel has a presence in more than 30 countries and employs 17,000 people from over 40 nationalities.

Jameel was a visionary and dynamic entrepreneur who dedicated his family and company to meeting the needs of his fellow Saudis. In 2003, Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel, who had been named chair and CEO of the company a decade earlier, created Abdul Latif Jameel Community Services, or "Community Jameel," as it is known today. Community Jameel has evolved into a sustainable social enterprise organization focused on six priority areas: job creation, global poverty alleviation, food and water security, arts and culture, education and training, and health and social. From its headquarters in Jeddah, the organization coordinates a rage of programs focused on the development of individuals and communities in the MENAT region and beyond.

Holding the Mirror

Community Jameel's mission is to empower people to improve their lives and the lives of those around them — in effect, to "help communities help themselves." It's a mission that is distinct from many charitable organizations in the region, in that it seeks to address global societal and economic problems at the source rather than merely mitigating their symptoms. Three generations of the Jameel family are engaged with the organization, honoring Abdul Latif Jameel's commitment to sustainable development and the pursuit of positive social change.

Initiatives under the Community Jameel umbrella include:

  • Bab Rizq Jameel, a jobs program that has helped create more than 720,000 job opportunities globally since 2003, including over 490,000 in Saudi Arabia;
  • Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, a global network of affiliated professors based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Grameen-Jameel, a pioneering microfinance program supporting the MENAT region;
  • Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab at MIT, which conducts research to help combat worldwide water scarcity and food supply shortages;
  • Jameel Gallery for Islamic Art at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Jeddah Sculpture Gallery, and Jameel Houses of Traditional Arts in Jeddah, Cairo, and Scotland; and
  • MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Start-up Competition, which promotes entrepreneurship and innovation across the Arab world.

Connecting the Dots

The seeds for the successful Bab Rizq Jameel (BRJ) job-creation program were planted in 2003 when Abdul Latif Jameel (the company) took some of its vehicles and trained unemployed young men to become taxi drivers. Adhering to its philosophy of sustainability and economic independence, the company asked those who received automobiles to pay them off, interest-free, as they earned money from driving. Over time, young men participating in the program became taxi owners as well as drivers.

BRJ grew quickly and began to fund other entrepreneurial activities using the same principle of low- or no-interest loans targeting populations such as women working from home. Additional avenues included the establishment of employment service centers around the country to put those looking for work in touch with potential employers and setting up training programs to help unemployed Saudis obtain or sharpen their skills.

Over the years, BRJ has created programs that link job seekers and employers, offer interest-free loans to small-business entrepreneurs, and provide remote and home-based job opportunities. The team responsible for developing these job-creation initiatives recognized the need to inform and educate potential participants about their programs. Television campaigns become one way to spread the message; consultation opportunities at employment services centers were another. With the goal of providing consistently excellent customer service and being able to gauge whether a potential candidate for a program was serious enough about his future to stick with a new job or startup business, BRJ employment consultants themselves were asked to undergo continuous training.

The team also learned an important lesson about partnering with employers for its Direct Recruitment program. BRJ had to ensure that any employer it worked with would provide high-quality training and ongoing career development opportunities to program participants, not just short-term job opportunities. Because many employers were unaware of benefits that an employment center could bring them, reputable companies and other organizations had to be found and cultivated for inclusion in the BRJ database.

Government support of the program has been another success factor, thanks in part to BRJ's work to foster relationships with key officials, align its efforts with government employment goals, and take the time to explain experimental approaches and answer questions as models were developed. In addition, BRJ found that creating mutually beneficial partnership with existing organizations helped broaden employment-generating opportunities. This willingness to partner — to bring the right resources together at the right time to solve a problem, not just short-term but over the long-term — has informed the simple tagline the organization uses today: "Community Jameel — Together for Good."

Creating Impact

Jameel_panelOne goal of Abdul Latif Jameel's corporate strategy is to help "people who strive for better to have better: better means, better lives, better prospects." As Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel explains: "We can do this because we are determined in our quest for new potential. We succeed because, through our business and through Community Jameel, we never lose sight of why this matters."

This orientation is reflected in the evolution of Abdul Latif Jameel from a small distributorship into a diversified international conglomerate, of Community Jameel from a small experiment into a sustainable multi-faceted social enterprise, and of Bab Rizq Jameel from a small project into an organization that employs seven hundred people.

Community Jameel projects typically blend a Jameel family member's passion and desire to make a difference with experimentation; leverage the family business's expertise, people, and networks; and include a thorough analysis of the lessons learned. The initiatives launched and supported by Community Jameel are either owned and operated by Community Jameel itself or are organized and managed by external partners with relevant expertise. Examples of the latter include partnerships with MIT focused on global poverty alleviation, food and water security, and education initiatives; a microfinance partnership with Grameen Foundation; and partnerships to promote arts and culture with the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Prince's School of Traditional Arts. Based on strong relationships, mutual respect, shared goals, and an entrepreneurial approach, all these efforts have grown organically over the years.

New BRJ initiatives often begin with research designed to understand needs in the community, an audit of available resources, and a small pilot to test the program. Pilots that have demonstrated success have been replicated in Egypt, Turkey, and Morocco. The organization keeps the door open for new collaborations, is always looking to increase the number of branches in countries already serviced, and welcomes new partnerships in countries not yet in its portfolio.

BRJ also seeks opportunities to support other Abdul Latif Jameel business units and activities. An example is corporate sponsorship. The company is the title sponsor of the Saudi Professional League, a soccer league with fourteen teams now known simply in Arabic as Dawry Jameel (or the Jameel League). Abdul Latif Jameel sees Dawry Jameel as an opportunity to bring people together, to entertain, to engage, and to contribute to the ongoing development of Saudi society. In just three years, BRJ has created more than ten thousand stadium jobs for young Saudis who work as snack sellers and field crew employees.

Its many achievements and the organization's success in generating job opportunities through its social media platforms resulted in BRJ receiving the Arab Social Media Influencers Award in the Corporate Social Responsibility category in 2015. A few years earlier, BRJ received an award from the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation for Entrepreneurs for "Best Initiative to Support Entrepreneurship in Arab Countries." And in 2008, Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel was presented with the King Abdul Aziz Medal of the First Order, Saudi Arabia's highest civilian honor, by His Majesty King Abdullah in recognition of his personal contribution to job-creation initiatives for young Saudi men and women.

Next Steps

In October 2016, BRJ signed a memorandum of understanding with Uber, the networked personal transportation company, to support job creation, education, and resources for Saudi nationals seeking opportunities in taxi ownership and operation. A month later, BRJ signed a second agreement with Careem, the MENAT region's leading app-based car booking service, to provide income and training opportunities for Saudi citizens who wish to work in the transportation services sector.

These collaborations reflect the shared interest of all parties in supporting Saudi citizens and creating more transportation jobs. BRJ's partnerships with Uber and Careem also are closely aligned with Saudi Arabia's "Vision 2030," which calls for a prosperous, sustainable national economy based on making the most of the Saudi people's potential and the emerging "gig" economy.

Abdul Latif Jameel is constantly seeking out new markets, creating new job opportunities, developing new partnerships, and finding new ways to create value. All of it is done with a clear purpose: to help people advance their quality of life by unlocking their potential. Through Community Jameel, Abdul Latif Jameel is a pioneer in the MENAT region in driving positive social change. The work of BRJ and the social enterprise in which it is embedded has enabled the Jameel family to recognize and support the needs of tens of thousands of young people in the region.

The story of Abdul Latif Jameel, Community Jameel, and the Jameel family's philanthropic journey offers a number of helpful lessons for other family businesses and families:

1. Passion:To successfully engage family members over multiple generations, allow individuals to explore their unique passions for social causes. Members of the Jameel family are united in their passion for visual art — both traditional and contemporary — and they have leveraged this passion into programs that showcase world-class art, bring arts education to students, and support the careers of artists.

2. Experimentation: Don't be afraid to test new ideas. Experiment and learn. Then experiment again. Not everything will work, but the bigger obstacles to success and real impact are a failure to try and "planning paralysis" that limits action. BRJ started from a humble experiment involving ten young men. It has grown through smart pilot projects, iterative learning, and good strategy.

2. Community: Be sure to connect with the community you're hoping to serve, even if it's a country or an extended region. Too many philanthropists ignore this step and instead launch programs that do not take into account local needs and circumstances.

3. Expertise:Don't be afraid to hire advisors or staff with issue-based expertise and practical implementation knowledge for programs you choose to run yourself. For bigger initiatives, it may make more sense to partner with an international NGO with expertise and experience in the subject area and targeted geographic region.

4. Evolution:Just as family businesses must anticipate and adapt to changes in the marketplace, family philanthropy must also evolve to stay relevant. Finding a balance between sustaining financial support for older efforts that are working and advancing new opportunities can be a challenge, but the return is worth the effort.

Hassan Jameel offers the following advice: "Let your family's core business values also serve as guideposts for your giving. Ours are respect, improve, pioneer, and empower. We respect and consult with the people we are serving. We have feedback loops to help us improve our results. We pioneer through pilot projects that are of deep interest to family members. And we seek to empower communities with our efforts."

And he adds: "[I]t is important to pick a starting point and to allow your family the opportunity to experiment, learn, revise, and repeat."

May others find the inspiration to forge their own paths to success and significance.

Lisa Philp is a senior advisor at Foundation Center. You can contact her at llp@foundationcenter.org. For more posts in our FC Insight series, click here.

 

Weekend Link Roundup (June 24-25, 2015)

June 25, 2017

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

Climate Change

"If there's a silver lining to the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement," writes Nature Conservancy president Mark Tercek, it's "the renewed commitment to climate action we’re seeing across the country." Indeed, "[m]ore than 175 governments covering 30 percent of the global economy have pledged to reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2050. [And here] in the U.S., 13 states have formed an alliance announcing that they will enact policies to meet our Paris pledge within their borders."

Communications/Marketing

Is your nonprofit's messaging stuck in neutral? Nonprofit communications consultant Carrie Fox has a five-step reboot designed to get your communications back in gear.

Grantmaking

Even though "[r]elationships between funders and grantees may have their own unique quirks and power dynamics,...they are not fundamentally different from...other good relationships," writes Caroline Altman Smith, deputy director of education at the Kresge Foundation, on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog.

International Affairs/Development

In a powerful Ted Talk recorded in Vancouver, British Columbia, the International Rescue Committee's David Miliband argues that the global refugee crisis "is not just a crisis; it's a test of us in the Western world, of who we are and what we stand for....[It] is about the rescue of us and our values, as well as the rescue of refugees and their lives."

A new report from UNHRC, the United Nations' refugee agency, says that at the end of 2016 there were 65.6 million people forcibly displaced worldwide — some 300,000 more than a year earlier. And of the total, 22.5 million are refugees, the highest number ever recorded.

Here's a silver lining: In 2016, for the second year in a row, the Syrian crisis was the largest recipient of private humanitarian funding, with $223 million going towards the crisis and the neighboring refugee-hosting countries. The Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy team reports on foundation efforts to ameliorate the crisis.

The World Bank is reinventing itself from a lender for major development projects to a broker for private sector investment. What are the implications of the shift for poverty reduction efforts globally? Felix Stein, a research affiliate at the University of Cambridge, and Devi Sridhar, professor of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, report for the Conversation.

Are foundations missing an opportunity by not focusing more of their development resources on cities? Christopher Swope, managing editor of Citiscope, explains why many of the world's largest cities are well positioned to drive progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.

Nonprofits

Here on PhilanTopic, Amelia Kohm, founder of DataViz for Nonprofits, explains why, for nonprofits looking to boost their impact, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Philanthropy

North Carolinians will be interested in the update filed by Z. Smith Reynolds executive director Maurice "Mo" Green on the foundation's "emerging direction," which was formulated during a yearlong strategic assessment and planning process aimed at learning more about the changing needs of people in the state.

GrantAdvisor, a new web service launched (in California and Minnesota, with more states to follow in 2018) by nonprofit rating site Great Nonprofit, the California Association of Nonprofits, and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, "facilitates open dialogue between nonprofits and grantmakers by collecting authentic, real-time reviews and comments on grantseekers’ experiences working with funders to encourage more productive philanthropy." You can check it out here.

In an open letter to Jeff Bezos, Forbes contributor Jake Hayman urges the Amazon.com founder to rethink his intention to use Twitter to crowdsource his philanthropy with a focus on immediate short-term needs.

The New York Community Trust's Lorie Slutsky and philanthropy consultant (and PhilanTopic contributor) Kris Putnam-Walkerly also have some advice for Bezos.

Bezos was in the news for another reason last week: Amazon's acquisition of  John Mackey's high-end grocery purveyor, Whole Foods. For City Journal contributing editor Howard Husock, the deal is a reminder to the "quasi-capitalist" movement (of which Mackey is a member in good standing) that "good service, low prices, and beating competitors still matter." Adds Husock, those "managing the endowments of major foundations — a number of whom have announced that they will use impact investing to guide both grant-making and asset-investment strategy — should pay attention."

And in a Quartz article that originally appeared in the digital magazine Aeon, Barry Lam, an associate professor of philosophy at Vassar College, argues that the kind of "moral clarity" we have about the dead hand of the past "disappears as soon as we move from politics to wealth." Indeed, in philanthropy, Americans have (and celebrate) "a huge industry dedicated to executing the wishes of human beings after their death."

That's it for this week. Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

A Conversation With Una Osili, Director of Research, Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy

June 23, 2017

As we reported a week or so ago, the latest edition of the annual Giving USA report shows that total giving in 2016 rose 2.7 percent (1.4 percent adjusted for inflation) from the revised estimate of $379.89 billion for 2015. Published by the Giving USA Foundation and researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, the report also found that charitable giving from individuals, foundations, and corporations — and to all nine major categories of recipient organizations — increased in 2016, just the sixth time in the last forty years that that has happened.

The numbers would seem to support the idea that many Americans, eight years after the start of the worst economic downturn since the 1930s, are feeling better about their finances. They do little, however, to explain the widespread anxiety and economic insecurity that fueled the political rise and election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. To help sort things out, PND spoke with Una Osili, director of research at the Lilly Family School of Pahilanthropy, about the report's findings and what, if anything, they tell us about wealth, inequality, and the changing landscape of philanthropy in America.

Headshot_osili_una_cropped1_3Philanthropy News Digest: The big headline from this year's report is that total giving hit a record $390 billion in 2016. What's your favorite takeaway from the report?

Una Osili: A key finding is that individuals, who are responsible for 72 percent of all giving in the U.S., are the drivers of American philanthropy. If you look at the last two years, individual giving has registered the highest growth rate over that period, and this year's report confirms the observation that individuals play a critical role in philanthropy.

PND: The report found that giving to all nine recipient categories was up in 2016, a rare occurrence. Which of those categories saw the biggest gains, and what does the fact that giving was up across all categories tell you?

UO: The subsectors that saw the largest growth were the environment and the arts, followed by international. In all three of those areas, we are seeing significant innovation in terms of fundraising approaches and the use of new methods to build relationships with donors.

The takeaway here is that innovation does matter, and organizations in those sectors are breaking new ground in how they think about donor engagement and using technology. It's also interesting that the environment, and international affairs as well, are very much top of mind with donors and funders as a result of the public policy debates we've been having.

PND: You mentioned that the increase in giving in 2016 was largely driven by the 4 percent jump in giving by individuals. How closely does individual giving track income and/or wealth inequality?

UO: In general, giving trends tend to reflect overall economic growth and household wealth and income trends. In other words, individuals give when they are economically and finan­cial­ly secure. That said, inequality is an important trend to examine alongside growth in income, because as the economy has recovered we've seen that house­hold incomes at the top have recovered faster than incomes in the middle and at the bottom, and that has the potential to influence where we can expect to see growth in giving over time.

PND: As PND and other news outlets have reported, there was a spike in donations to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and other progressive nonprofit groups in the weeks after Donald Trump was elected president. Are you able to say what kind of impact, if any, the election had on last year's giving totals and trends?

UO: I think it may be a bit early to completely unpack how the results of the election affected giving. But as I mentioned, what the 2016 election did do was to raise public awareness of certain issues, whether it's the environment, civil liberties, or reproductive rights. And I think the heightened awareness of these and other policy issues has the potential to influence giving going forward.

PND: In the release that accompanied the report, your col­league Patrick Rooney is quoted as saying that we saw something of "a democratization of philanthropy in 2016." What did he mean, and what are the main factors driving that trend?

UO: I think the point he is making is that giving in 2016 was more broad-based. As you noted, all nine major subsectors showed growth, including the arts, the environment, education, human services, and health. In addition, we did notice that in several categories it wasn't just mega-gifts that were driving the increase.

PND: Have you and your colleagues done any work on how donor-advised funds sponsored by large commercial firms might be changing the way Americans give?

UO: This year, Giving USA has a supplement on donor-advised funds that's included in the report. And one of the areas we look at is how donor-advised funds are growing, and the implica­tions of that growth for charitable giving.

PND: And they are?

UO: Well, one is the idea that individual donors benefit from having an increased array of tools from which to choose. The question then becomes, How can nonprofits adapt to this changing landscape, and what are the public policy issues that will emerge within the growing popularity of donor-advised funds raise?

PND: What side of the debate do you land on? Are donor-advised funds a net-plus or net-minus for charitable giving?

UO: There’s definitely an opportunity for more research on donor-advised funds, not least because to date there really hasn't been much updated data on how donors are using them. I think the release of the report is an opportunity to raise awareness about the need for more research in this area.

PND: Back to the headline number of $390 billion. That's a big number, but as a percentage of GDP it's the usual 2 percent, in inflation-adjusted terms, that we've come to expect. Do you have an explanation for why the giving-to-GDP ratio never seems to budge?

UO: Well, $390 billion is a large number, and it's impressive on its own terms. However, the U.S. economy is much bigger than $390 billion, and it would take a lot more growth in philanthropy — holding all other factors constant — to actually boost that ratio. 

PND: Have we seen an expansion of the giving-to-GDP ratio at any point over the last, say, twenty-five years?

UO: Well, in the 1990s, we did see giving as a share of GDP rise quite significantly. It went from about 1.7 percent in 1996 to about 2.2 percent in 2001. And then it fell back again during the Great Recession, when it went down to 1.9 percent. I know, these seem like small changes, but the uptick in the 1990s was quite interesting, because the 1990s were a period of economic expansion, and with that we witnessed significant wealth creation, in the tech industry and other sectors, as well as a significant number of foundations being created. So, what we saw in the '90s is that it is possible to move the needle on giving as a percentage of GDP, but it would take a lot more giving to make it happen.

PND: Have you collected any data on giving by region? And if you have, what does it tell you about how generous, say, newly minted billionaires in Silicon Valley are?

UO: Those numbers are hard to analyze and compare across regions and time. However, we are seeing with some of the younger tech donors that they are starting their philanthropy earlier in life, which is a very different pattern. They're starting in their twenties and thirties to make very significant gifts, and they're also thinking about their giving in new ways. Many of tech donors are looking at new forms of giving, whether that's impact investing, or collaborative models of giving, or something like what Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have done with the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, which, as you know, is an LLC that does grantmaking, impact investing, and engages in political advocacy. So we're seeing the new tech donors opt for different models and seeking to innovate in philan­thro­py, just as many of them have done in their business careers.

PND: Have you and your colleagues adjusted your methodology so as to capture some of these newer giving models? I can't imagine it would be easy, but is it something you've discussed or would like to do?

UO: I'm glad you asked. The school has done some work in this area — I'm thinking in particular of a report we issued about three years ago on program-related investments and how they are changing the philanthropic sector. But the chal­lenge is that while some types of impact investments — PRIs, for example, which are a formal part of our tax code and count toward a foundation's payout rate — have been well tracked over time, approaches like mission-related investments, where foundations can apply a specific percent of their assets toward their mission, are more difficult to track because each foundation may be defining their terms differently. Again, because of the growing interest in some of these newer approaches, I think it represents an opportunity for the Lilly School over the next few years.

PND: It's mid-June as we speak, and the stock market is up more than 20 percent since the beginning of the year. Is the stock market a good indicator of future giving, and would you be surprised, based on the perfor­mance of the major indices so far, if the headline number in next year's Giving USA report surpasses $400 billion?

UO: The stock market is one of our indicators in terms of correlation with giving over time, and as we begin to look at what is happening in 2017, we've seen, as you said, strong returns within the equity market. But there are still six months left in the year, so we'll just have to wait and see where we end up, especially because so many donors tend to wait till the end of the year to do a lot of their giving. We should also pay attention to other economic factors, including growth in GDP, personal income growth, and so on.

PND: And the four-handle on the overall giving number for 2017?

UO: Given the overall patterns we're seeing so far this year, there's a very good chance we'll not only hit the $400 billion mark but exceed it. But don't forget, there are still six months left in the year.

PND: Right. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

UO: Exactly.

— Mitch Nauffts

A New Interactive Snapshot of the Community Foundation Field

June 22, 2017

Thanks to the efforts of the 250+ community foundations who answered the call to participate in this year's Columbus Survey, the CF Insights team at Foundation Center is ready to share the results of our fiscal year (FY) 2016 annual survey with the field and beyond. I’m thrilled to announce that the findings can be accessed through our brand new, interactive Columbus Survey Results Dashboard.

Known among community foundations as the field’s "annual census," the Columbus Survey provides a current, comprehensive financial and operational snapshot of the community foundations that participated. Their responses, in turn, allow us to report on community foundation activity and general trends in the field over the last year, as well as better understand how community foundations are sustaining their work.

The new dashboard captures the activity of over 90 percent of the estimated asset dollars held by the field and represents an exciting step forward, as it allows community foundation leaders, staff, and others to view snapshot data in a format that’s intuitive and easy to understand. In addition, the interactive environment provides users with greater control over which subsets of data are displayed, while the platform itself makes it easier for us to get the data and our analysis to those who need it, more quickly.

CF_Insights2016_fig1A few key findings did rise to the surface as we were analyzing the 2016 data:

Asset growth across the field was a bit more pronounced in 2016. After seeing asset growth stall in 2015, the 2016 survey results show an uptick in change rates, with the median increase across the entire field of respondents coming in at 5.2 percent, up from a virtually flat 0.7 percent the previous year. Solid stock market returns may be a factor in the increase, and it will be interesting to see whether this is the start of a new trend.

Reported gifts received by the largest 100 community foundations in the U.S. (by asset size) increased to a new high of $8.2 billion. The increase represents a significant recovery from 2015, which saw a decline in reported gifts received for the first time since 2009, during the depths of the Great Recession.

Grantmaking by the foundations in our sample, which has steadily increased for five consecutive years, now totals $6.8 billion. This shouldn't be surprising, as community foundations continue to grow their assets and maintain their payout rates. It should be noted, however, that this figure does not include the several other ways in which foundations invest in their communities. Even while engaging in such activities, traditional grantmaking by community foundations continues to grow.

CF_Insights2016_fig2

There are key differences among community foundations of different sizes. Smaller community foundations, often younger and focused on asset growth, tend to have a much higher proportion of funds that are allocated to growth through investments, while larger community foundations have a far higher proportion of pass-through funds. In addition, the proportion of assets in donor-advised funds tends to increase along with the overall asset size of the community foundation. These two factors also reflect the ability of larger community foundations to provide flexible grantmaking options to their donors.

In addition to key findings from this year's survey, the Columbus Survey Results Dashboard also features our four top 100 rankings lists. Our Top 100 Community Foundations by Asset Size list shows the range in asset size among those ranked, while Top 100 by Distribution Rate, Top 100 by Total (Gift & Grant) Transactions, and Top 100 by Gifts per Capita allow community foundations of all sizes to see how they are positioned vis-à-vis their peers in various ways; determine how their overall strategy aligns with their rankings; and enhance their visibility in their communities by sharing their rankings with stakeholders and the public.

I invite community foundations and anyone looking to learn more about the current state of the field to check out the 2016 Columbus Survey Results Dashboard today!

David Rosado is the member services manager for CF Insights. If you'd like more information about this or any of our other resources, or would like to receive updates related to CF Insights, visit cfinsights.org, or e-mail David (dar@foundationcenter.org) or Diana Esposito (dce@foundationcenter.org).

A Marriage of Commerce and Cause: How Rotary Is Staying Relevant in the 21st Century

June 20, 2017

Time_to_adaptIn 1905, a lawyer, a merchant tailor, a mining engineer, and a coal dealer met in downtown Chicago. Rotary's founders initially were looking for an opportunity to build relationships and promote their businesses. A hundred and twelve years later, Rotary has matured into one of the world’s largest membership and humanitarian nonprofit organizations.

The work of Rotary's 1.2 million members combines the building of community connections with humanitarian efforts such as promoting peace, providing clean water and sanitation, preventing disease, and alleviating poverty — challenges that are just as pressing today as they were when Rotary was founded.

Yet, as is true of many large organizations in the world today, Rotary faces the ongoing challenge of staying relevant at a time when technology and organizations new to the NGO space are changing the landscape of philanthropy.

For example, the number of social sector organizations in the United States has increased some 8.6 percent since 2002, while by some estimates there are now approximately 1.44 million nonprofits registered with the IRS. Part of this growth reflects society's increased reliance on nonprofits to fill service gaps in areas where cash-strapped governments are no longer able to deliver on past promises.

In addition, with a greater range of charitable opportunities and new models for fundraising (e.g., peer-to-peer, mobile, crowdfunding), there is increased competition in the nonprofit marketplace for both supporters and donations.

In the face of these challenges, how can nonprofits like Rotary continue to thrive? Over the past few years, Rotary and its members have been thinking about that question and, after much discussion, have developed a plan to address the challenge. Below are three concrete steps we have taken or are taking.

1. Staying relevant for boomers and millennials. Organizations in the twenty-first century must structure themselves in ways that encourage sustained engagement opportunities, especially with respect to a millennial generation that tends to identify with causes and social impact more than with hierarchically organized institutions. Of the approximately 80 million millennials living in the United States, a recent study showed that 87 percent are interested in volunteering or participating in their company's corporate social responsibility programs, while nearly half have volunteered for a cause or nonprofit in the past month.

At the same time, it is equally important that we engage people at the other end of the demographic spectrum. As the New York Times reported in 2015, organizations like Rotary are an attractive option for the 10.6 million Americans over the age of 65 who want to stay active and engaged and who are eager and in a position to give back to society.

The importance of this change is underscored by the insights of Michael McQueen, an author, business consultant, and Rotary member. In the diagram below, McQueen illustrates the fact that sustained relevance is rarely linear, and that when an organization has passed its peak relevance (the red x), a reinvention is in order if it hopes to remain relevant.

Rotary_Silent Pulse
Fig. 1: What is Your Silent Pulse?, Michael McQueen

 

Organizations can avoid the downward slide by taking appropriate action, which is what Rotary did when a series of independent surveys revealed that many non-members (and even some of our members) could not fully explain our mission, or why people should join.

After lots of analysis and introspection, we began to address these issues by sharpening and strengthening our brand identity. That effort has borne fruit, as we surpassed our target of $1 billion in current and projected endowment assets two years early. We also were recently ranked no.3 in a CNBC and Charity Navigator profile of the top 10 charities changing the world in 2016.

2. A unifying cause: eradicating polio from the face of the earth. Staying relevant in a rapidly changing world also involves setting audacious, transformational organizational goals that serve to engage and motivate members and supporters. In Rotary's case, the big one has been the eradication of polio globally.

In 1985, Rotary, a nongovernmental organization — not a government ministry or multilateral institution like the UN — had the audacity to take on the challenge of eradicating polio. Thanks to our efforts and those of our partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), the incidence of polio around the world has been reduced by 99.9 percent over the last thirty years — making it one of the most successful public-private global health partnerships ever.

There were four key factors that enabled Rotary and its large, diverse membership to achieve this goal and stay focused on it for three decades.

The cause was relevant to our members. Polio was endemic in a hundred and twenty-five countries when Rotary announced its goal to eradicate the disease in 1985. Rotary is an international organization, and, as a result, many Rotary members had first-hand experience of the disease and the suffering it causes.

Hands-on participation. The use of the oral polio vaccine made it possible for any Rotary member or supporter to become a vaccinator and forge a deeply personal and emotional connection to a cause that went beyond simply writing a check or attending a fundraising event.

Results were measurable. Success and victory were easily measured — you either had polio cases in the world or you did not. Our members set themselves a concrete and achievable goal with clear metrics for success.

We didn't do it alone; finding good partners is crucial. When Rotary decided to tackle polio in 1985, we knew we couldn't do it alone. So we assembled a coalition in 1988 to achieve the goal — the United Nations Children's Fund, the World Health Organization, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, joined more recently by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — and allowed each to define its role in the effort.

As part of GPEI, Rotary has leveraged its unique strengths in fundraising (Rotary members have contributed more than $1.6 billion to the eradication effort), advocacy, awareness raising, vaccination initiatives, and enlisting the support of governments.

One irony of this incredible project is that we could become victims of our own success. Over the three decades that we have worked to end polio, there was always the danger that the goal would become less relevant to a younger demographic, particularly in developed countries where the virus had been eradicated. To avoid mission fatigue, our response has been to highlight the opportunity of being a part of history and contributing to the eradication of a human disease for only the second time ever, after smallpox in 1980. The approach has resonated.

3. Shifting the paradigm: social good becomes part of the value proposition. As the world rises to the challenge of a new set of ambitious United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, nonprofits able to blend commerce and cause will play a key role. Organizations that do this effectively also will be well positioned to meet millennials’ insistence on integrity, accountability, and social good as core corporate values.

Making these values part of your organizational DNA is critical. At Rotary, the promotion of business ethics and our focus on maximizing positive social good is a core organizational principle. Rotary's Four-Way Test — which asks of the things we think, say, or do: Is it true? Is it fair? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? And will it benefit all? — has guided Rotary leaders and members for more than a century.

In the for-profit sector, however, adding social value is not always embedded in a company's mission, and corporate social responsibility initiatives often can seem like discretionary add-ons to a firm’s business objectives.

If that is to change, the social value of a company's work must become a key performance indicator for executives in the way that share value currently is.

The question, then, is how to unlock the significant potential of the private sector as a key engine of sustainable growth and a force for improving lives globally. This is where nonprofits can lead. NGOs can help bridge the gap between private capital and local causes, providing the capacity, leadership, and experience needed to forge smart partnerships.

For example, Rotary partnered with global healthcare company Abbott to offer Mega Wellness camps in India and Brazil. These are daylong events where doctors and laboratory assistants provide free consultations and healthcare information to all walk-in patients about a range of health issues. Over the life of the partnership, Rotary and Abbott teamed up to provide care to 26,226 people at thirty-eight different events, and Rotary volunteers helped raise awareness of the camps, mobilized support within the various communities, and helped spread the word about the benefits of polio immunization.

Partnerships like this also help Rotary establish a legacy for our flagship polio program by demonstrating to communities in which we work our commitment to public health more broadly and our ability and willingness to provide resources to back that commitment up. Last but not least, they provide a framework for a deeper, more sincere commitment from the private sector beyond the limitations of strategic corporate social responsibility. And that helps advance an ongoing paradigm shift in the for-profit world from a model where shareholder value and the maximization of profit are all that matter to one where creating positive social impact is a core element of every company’s model.

So, as nonprofit leaders, how can you ensure that your organizations are positioned to compete for hearts, minds, and dollars in the twenty-first century? It's pretty simple: Stay true to your DNA but take steps to make sure you stay relevant; identify a big, audacious goal that motivates your teams and mobilizes your supporters; and maximize your impact through smart partnerships. Do all three and your organization is likely to not only survive but thrive in the years to come.

Headshot__John_HewkoJohn Hewko is the general secretary of Rotary International and the Rotary Foundation.

Weekend Link Roundup (June 17-18, 2017)

June 18, 2017

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

Arts and Culture

On the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's Shared Experiences blog, National Assembly of State Arts Agencies CEO Pam Breaux argues that leaving support for arts to the private sector alone "would leave millions of people behind."

Communications/Marketing

On the Communications Network site, Na Eng, communications director at the McKnight Foundation, shares some of the best practices that she and her colleagues embedded in the foundation's latest annual report.

Corporate Philanthropy

In the Detroit News, Melissa Burden reports that General Motors is overhauling its $30-million-a year corporate philanthropy program — a decision that has some nonprofits and arts groups in southeastern Michigan worried.

Diversity

"Of all the things philanthropists are trying to fix," writes Ben Paynter in Fast Company, "there's one major issue the sector seems to continually ignore: itself." By which he means the "lack of racial diversity among nonprofit and foundation leaders, an issue that remains unaddressed despite having been well documented for at least fifteen years."

Grantmaking

When are program evaluations worth reading, and when are they not? On Glasspockets' Transparency Talk blog, Rebekah Levin, director of evaluation and learning at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, breaks it down

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Weekend Link Roundup (June 10-11, 2017)

June 11, 2017

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

Children and Youth

On the Annie E. Casey Foundation blog, Tracey Feild, managing director of the foundation's Child Welfare Strategy Group, shares five lessons from the foundation's recent efforts to develop tools to measure and address racial disparities in child welfare systems.

Education

"If Facebook’s [Mark]. Zuckerberg has his way, children the world over will soon be teaching themselves — using software his company helped build." The New York Times' Natasha Singer considers the efforts of Zuckerberg, Salesforce founder Marc Benioff, Netflix chief Reed Hastings, and other Silicon Valley billionaires to remake America's public schools.

Giving

In an article for Nature, Caroline Fiennes, founder of Giving Evidence, an organization that promotes charitable giving based on sound evidence, argues that "[p]hilanthropists are flying blind because little is known about how to donate money well." The solution to the problem, she adds, "lies in more research on what makes for effective philanthropy [and donor effectiveness]."

And here, courtesy of the International Council for Science's Anne-Sophie Stevance and David McCollum, research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, is an SDG-related example of exactly the kind of approach and methodology Fiennes would like to see more of.

A recent column by New York Times columnist David Brooks in which Brooks asks, "What would I do if I had a billion bucks to use for good?" raises other interesting questions, writes John Tamny on the Real Clear Markets site, including: Why do the superrich think their skills in the commercial space render them experts at charity? And: Why should the supperrich be expected to do "good" after they have created wealth — and the jobs and social advances that usually come with it?

Reid Hoffman, a supperrich Silicon Valley entrepreneur and founder of networking site LinkedIn, tells The Atlantic's Alana Semuels that having people who know how to apply capital in the service of getting things done is a good thing for social causes, as long as those same people are careful about big-footing the politics of the issue.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (May 2017)

June 02, 2017

Like many of you, we're trying to make sense of all the tweets, charges/counter-charges, and executive orders emanating from the White House. One thing we do know, however: you found plenty to like here on the blog in May, including a stirring call to action from Tim Delaney, president of the National Council of Nonprofits; some excellent grantmaking advice from Peter Sloane, chair and CEO of the Heckscher Foundation for Children; a new post by everyone's favorite millennial fundraising expert, Derrick Feldmann; posts by first-time contributors Nona Evans and Jaylene Howard; and an oldie-but-goodie by fundraising consultant Richard Brewster. But don't take our word for it — pull up a chair, click off MSNBC, and treat yourself to some good reads!

What have you read/watched/heard lately that got your attention, made you think, or charged you up? Feel free to share with our readers in the comments section below. Or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Xavier de Souza Briggs, Vice President, Economic Opportunity and Markets, Ford Foundation: Changing the World Through Mission-Related Investing

June 01, 2017

In April, Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, the second largest foundation in the United States and one of the most influential in the world, announced a billion-dollar commitment over the next decade to mission-related investments (MRIs). In making the announcement, Walker expressed a belief widely shared within his organization that "MRIs have the potential to become the next great innovation for advancing social good." Walker further suggested that foundations needed to expand their imaginations and tools if they hoped to successfully address "the large-scale problems facing the world today" and added that they shouldn't "neglect the tremendous power of markets, including the capital markets, to contribute."

Ford isn't the first foundation to commit itself in a significant way to mission-related investing, although its commitment would appear to be the largest by a foundation to date. Since the late 1990s, the F.B. Heron Foundation in New York City has distinguished itself as a pioneer in the field, and under the leadership of its president, Clara Miller, has become increasingly willing to challenge others "to jettison outdated operating models that leave resources untapped in the face of systemic social ills." Foundations such as Kresge, Packard, and Surdna have followed suit.

Shortly after Walker's announcement, PND spoke with Xavier de Souza Briggs, vice president for economic opportunity and markets at the Ford Foundation, about the foundation's decision, how and where the funds will be allocated, and what the move means for the field of impact investing.

De Souza Briggs joined the foundation from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was a professor of sociology and urban planning in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. An award-winning author, commentator, and educator, he served from January 2009 to August 2011 as associate director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Obama White House. His most recent book, Moving to Opportunity: The Story of an American Experiment to Fight Ghetto Poverty, was published by Oxford University Press in 2010.

Headshot_xavier-de-souza-briggs_220Philanthropy News Digest: Let's start with a question I'm sure many of our readers are asking.What are mission-related investments?

Xavier de Souza Briggs: MRIs are investments that pursue both attractive financial returns and social impact, also known as social returns, and they are made from a foundation's endowment, rather than counted against its program payout. That's the IRS definition, not ours, and private foundations have been making them for a while, albeit not on the scale of a billion dollars.

PND: Why did Ford decide that this was the right time to allocate a billion dollars to MRIs?

XSB: Well, first of all, we felt it was important, at this particular moment, to align as many of our assets as possible with our mission. That includes our grantmaking, of course, and our program-related investments, which, again as defined by the IRS, is the other kind of impact investment that foundations can make. Our building in Manhattan, where we've convened changemakers and social sector leaders for many years, is an important asset, too. But we've never made investments toward our mission out of our endowment, and we felt that, at this moment, the impact investment market was ready for us to take this step. And the board agreed, which is why it approved MRIs of up to a billion dollars over ten years. Now, we're going to be careful and gradual about how we put those funds to work, but we're quite excited about the opportunity.

PND: Did the board have any reservations?

XSB: The board had a set of smart questions. Are the investable opportunities really there? Are we confident that we can generate social return in addition to financial return, which is better understood and more easily measured? They were good, smart questions, and the board was very prudent in its approach to oversight. But ultimately it concluded, based on the foundation's many years of experience with impact investing, that we were ready and the market was ready, and that by stepping up now we could help catalyze a broader movement in the impact investing field, which includes not only foundations but other major institutional investors such as pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, and university endowments. That's where the really big pools of investable capital are, and that's where the larger promise lies.

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Weekend Link Roundup (May 27-28, 2017)

May 28, 2017

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

Frog-in-the-Rain

Climate Change

As the Trump administration prepares to exit the Paris climate agreement, a new Global Challenges Foundation poll finds that a majority of people in eight countries — the U.S., China, India, Britain, Australia, Brazil, South Africa and Germany — say they are ready to change their lifestyles if it would prevent climate catastrophe — a survey result that suggests "a huge gap between what people expect from politicians and what politicians are doing."

Criminal Justice

On the Ford Foundation's Equal Change blog, Kamilah Duggins and William Kelley explain why and how they created a professional development program at the foundation for graduates of the Bard Prison Initiative, which creates the opportunity for incarcerated men and women to earn a Bard College degree while serving their sentence.

Diversity

A new white paper (6 pages, PDF) from executive search firm Battalia Winston sheds light on the lack of diversity within the leadership ranks of the nation's foundations and nonprofit organizations.

Education

Does the DeVos education budget promote "choice" or segregation? That's the question the Poverty & Race Research Council's Kimberly Hall and Michael Hilton ask in a post here on PhilanTopic.

Fundraising

There are mistakes, and there are fundraising mistakes. Here are five of the latter that, according to experts on the Forbes Nonprofit Council, we all should try to avoid.

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President's Budget Proposal Targets Foundations

May 26, 2017

TargetWhile most of the media coverage of President Trump's proposed budget has focused on his plan to eliminate sixty-six programs and slash funding for hundreds more, until now one major aspect of the plan has escaped attention: the White House budget blueprint silently, yet effectively, targets private philanthropy as the fallback subsidy for government programs that would be downsized or eliminated.

For Fiscal Year 2018, which begins October 1, 2017, the Trump budget proposes to cut $54 billion from "non-defense" (mostly domestic) programs that provide jobs, food, housing, safety, health care, education, and more for tens of millions of individuals across the country. Yet, the president's Budget Message to Congress, Budget Summary, Major Savings and Reforms, and Appendices all fail to disclose how the budget would simultaneously cut government spending and address people's ongoing needs. Where will those tens of millions of people turn if these programs are cut on October 1?

As the Washington Post reports, "Trump's plan would put the onus on states, companies, churches and charities to offer many educational, scientific and social services that have long been provided by the federal government."

The White House cannot realistically expect the states to meet the markedly increased unmet human need caused by its proposed cuts to domestic spending. More than half the states have been in deficit mode during the last year, and more than half already are projecting budget shortfalls for their next fiscal year. Compounding the problem: the states, on average, receive 30.1 percent of their revenues from the federal government. When the federal government cuts domestic spending, that includes cuts to the states. For example, the FY2018 budget blueprint proposes eliminating the Community Development Block Grant ($2.9 billion) and Community Services Block Grant ($731 million) programs, which together provide funds for states and localities to spend on anti-poverty programs, emergency food assistance, affordable housing, public improvements, and public services. The proposed budget is rife with recommended cuts that the states cannot absorb, and which would leave tens of millions of people without a safety net.

Contrary to the Washington Post analysis above, anyone thinking that for-profit companies will step in to fill the gap is misguided. The very reason people in need turn to charitable nonprofits and governments is because they cannot afford what for-profit businesses charge.

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Weekend Link Roundup (May 20-21, 2017)

May 22, 2017

Pause-button-2Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Communications/Marketing

Does your organization have a strategy for dealing with the media? To help its members think beyond the press release, dispel misperceptions about working with the media, and provide practical guidance on how to approach this powerful medium, Exponent Philanthropy has released A Funder's Guide to Engaging With the Media, which includes the five building block of a successful media strategy highlighted in this post on the organization's PhilanthroFiles blog.

"Why do so many nonprofits take on the burden of producing the equivalent of a magazine a month [i.e., your monthly newsletter] that gets an average 1.5 percent click through rate and 14 percent open rate?" That's one of the controversial questions Ally Dommu poses in a post on the Big Duck site. Before you do anything rash, take a look at some of the other questions Dommu poses in her post and read the half a dozen or so comments submitted in response to her post.

Education

Budget documents obtained by the Washington Post offer the clearest picture yet of how the Trump administration intends to shrink the federal government's role in education and give parents more opportunity to choose their children's schools. Emma Brown, Valerie Strauss, and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel report

Environment

In his first four months as president, Donald Trump has walked back many of the promises he made to supporters on the campaign trail. One thing is absolutely clear, however: he is committed to rolling back a half-century of environmental regulations and protections supported, at different times, by majorities in both parties. And that, according to the findings of a new Pew Research Center survey, puts him at odds with a majority of Americans.

Global Health

On the Devex site, Rebecca Root shares five key takeaways from her conversations with attendees at the recent G-20 meeting on global health innovation.

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Conscious Collaboration: The New Competitive Advantage for Nonprofits

May 18, 2017

CollaborationWhole Kids Foundation is a nonprofit on a mission to support schools and inspire families to improve their children's nutrition and wellness. We were established by Whole Foods Market in 2011 and operate in the U.S., UK and Canada, supporting more than ten thousand schools and reaching over five million kids. Our staff of six full-time team members is responsible for raising and investing $5 million annually. With such a small team, collaboration plays a critical role in our success.

It's unrealistic to believe that any one organization can solve today’s major societal issues alone, and so from the outset we have viewed the work of improving nutrition for children as a kind of relay. As such, it's imperative that we focus on our leg of the race — the work we are uniquely qualified and equipped to do. To achieve maximum impact, however, it's also critical for us to get to know and build relationships with organizations that are running other legs of the race. And as a leader in our field, it's important that we help other funders think about the quality of collaborations as an indicator of effectiveness.

From our roots in "conscious capitalism," a term coined by Whole Foods Market founder John Mackey to express the generative spirit of business and its capacity to create positive change in the world, we have developed an approach I call "conscious collaboration,” which is based on the idea that the tenets of conscious capitalism are as effective and powerful when implemented by nonprofit organizations.

Conscious collaborations begin with honest conversations, and the most difficult part of such conversations often is having an open dialogue about goals. Every dialogue we have with a potential collaborator begins with a simple question: "Can you help us understand your goals — both for your organization and related to anything we might do together?" If the question is not reciprocated, or if active listening is missing from the conversation when we share our goals, it's usually a good indicator that the organization is not a good partner for us.

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A Call for Inflection Point Funding

May 15, 2017

Broken_ladder"A strategic inflection point is the time in the life of business when its fundamentals are about to change. That change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end."

– Andrew S. Grove, Only the Paranoid Survive

It's always been important to think about how private philanthropy can fill gaps in the social safety net that government, with its lower risk tolerance, cannot. At the Heckscher Foundation for Children, we're increasingly attracted to inflection point funding — not a new concept but an approach that provides a different lens through which to look at our efforts. What makes inflection point funding interesting, in my opinion, is that, in addition to strategic partnerships with other funders, catalytic initiatives, and targeted solutions, it forces us to look hard at the obstacles that keep low-income youth from realizing their full potential.

Inflection point funding seeks to change the course of young people's lives at key junctures. I think of it as a ladder offering underserved children a way out of poverty. A child may move easily through the early stages of development, but at some point a rung in her development ladder will be missing or broken. Then what? In too many cases, she gets tired or discouraged and stops trying to climb.

Most of us are familiar with the ladder metaphor. Less familiar are the challenges so many disadvantaged and underserved kids face when trying to climb the ladder to success. Suppose, however, that with philanthropic support, we could develop solutions that enabled every underserved child to reach the next rung, and the rung after that, and the rung after that (or even the first rung). If you look at inflection point funding as a way to support kids who desperately want to climb the ladder to a brighter future, you'll understand why we're attracted to it as an approach.

That said, it isn't always easy to identify inflection point opportunities. There are no guidelines, only questions in need of answers. My own first question always is: Could our funding for a strategic intervention create opportunities for  young people to reach new heights? And, conversely, could the failure to solve the problem lead to other obstacles and challenges for the young people we were hoping to help?

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Weekend Link Roundup (May 13-14, 2017)

May 14, 2017

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

Arts and Culture

Although President Trump has signed into law a $1.1 trillion appropriations bill, bringing to an end (for now) months of debate over his administration's controversial budget blueprint, the future of arts funding in America remains uncertain, write Benjamin Laude and Jarek Ervin in Jacobin. Critics who accuse the president of philistinism are missing the point, however. "For better or worse," they write, "the culture wars ended long ago. These days, with neoliberalism's acceleration, nearly every public institution is under assault — not just the NEA. If we want to stop the spread of the new, disturbing brand of culture — the outgrowth of an epoch in which everything is turned into one more plaything for the wealthy — we'll need a more expansive, more radical vision for art."

On the Mellon Foundation's Shared Experiences blog, the foundation's president, Earl Lewis, explains why the National Endowment for the Humanities is an irreplaceable institution in American life.

Data

In a post for the Packard Foundation's Organization Effectiveness portal, Lucy Bernholz, director of the Digital Civil Society Lab at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, reflects on the process that led to the center's Digital Impact Toolkit, a public initiative focused on data governance for nonprofits and foundations.

According to The Economist, the most valuable commodity in the world is no longer oil; it's data. What's more, the dominance of cyberspace by the five most valuable listed firms in the world — Alphabet (Google's parent company), Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft — is changing the nature of competition while making the antitrust remedies of the past obsolete. "Rebooting antitrust for the information age will not be easy," the magazine's writers argue. "But if governments don't want a data economy dominated by a few giants, they will need to act soon."

Food Insecurity

According to Feeding America's latest Map the Meal Gap report, 42 million Americans were "food insecure" in 2015, the latest year for which complete data are available. That represents 13 percent of U.S. households — a significant decline from the 17 percent peak following the Great Recession in 2009. The bad news is that those 42 million food-insecure Americans need more money to put food on the table than they did before. Joseph Erbentraut reports for HuffPo.

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