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1310 posts categorized "Philanthropy"

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

May 25, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PND: The foundation has chosen not to invest in efforts to address global climate change directly. Yet many of the land, marine, and freshwater ecosystems the foundation is working to conserve are directly affected by both the causes and effects of climate change. Is conservation enough to save critical ecosystems on a planet that seems to be warming rapidly?

HF: Arguably, the threat of climate change affects everything. It is undoubtedly one of the most important challenges of our time. The question for any foundation, including ours, is how to focus and apply your resources, and that means making choices about what you do and what you do not do. A foundation can try to influence the world in many ways: you can focus on problems, people, institutions, or causes. In general, we choose to focus on solving big problems. We often invest in human capital and institutions, but with the larger goal of achieving a better outcome in solving one or more problems. We are a problem-driven, rather than a cause-based, organization.

Our conservation program seeks to redress the degradation of ecosystems and to secure biodiversity. As the world's leading private funder of Amazon conservation, for example, we have likely contributed to greater carbon sequestration than many others working directly on climate issues. In our case, that result was incidental rather than a prime motive.

PND: In addition to directing 40 percent of its grant dollars — about $100 million annually — to basic science, the Moore Foundation, in partnership with the Science Philanthropy Alliance, is encouraging other funders to support scientific research. Why is it important for philanthropy to support basic research?

HF: Progress in society depends on basic research. While the opportunities for discovery have never been greater, commitment to and funding for science — from government, industry, and philanthropy — fall far short of what is needed to accelerate progress. As a nation, we must invent in research if we wish to remain in the forefront of fields such as super-computing, cybersecurity, space exploration, energy, and health care.

An unprecedented amount of wealth is accumulating in private hands. The Science Philanthropy Alliance, which we helped establish, recognizes that private funders and philanthropies have access to the kind of flexible dollars needed for early discovery and basic research and is designed to advise and inspire those who are so inclined to support that research. Private funders and the philanthropic sector have the opportunity to invest in riskier endeavors than many government agencies are able to tolerate. We can deploy resources more quickly, select topics with higher risk (and commensurately higher gain), and feel comfortable with investments that are long-term in nature. Private philanthropy will never be able to replace the scale of government funding, but it can serve as society's venture capital.

PND: The U.S. health sector is a complex $3 trillion industry in the throes of change as a result, in part, of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Some would argue that change is not happening fast enough. How can the philanthropic sector, and the Moore Foundation more specifically, help accelerate the change?

HF: The U.S. healthcare system is going through a period of substantial change, some of it for the better. There are a variety of external pressures, some a consequence of the Affordable Care Act, others the result of changing population demographics and technological advancements.

The health sector is vast, and for those of us in philanthropy, it is important to focus our efforts if we wish to make an impact. As a foundation able to invest $40 million a year in patient care-related efforts, we recognize that it is not feasible for us to take on comprehensive systems change.

Yet, with focus, we can make a positive difference. We aim to improve the experience and outcomes of patient care, and there are many ways to do this. With the advice of key healthcare experts and our own examination of the field and what others are doing, we identified serious illness and end-of-life care as areas ripe for action.

End-of-life care affects everyone, be it as a patient or a family member. Unfortunately, in too many situations, a patient's preferences are not known, let alone honored. That is not good for health care. It is not good for society.

The IOM report Dying in America; new payment reforms from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; and Being Mortal, a best-selling book from Atul Gawande, M.D., are all signals of growing readiness for change within the field. We believe that with strategically focused investments, we can help accelerate the momentum of change on this critical issue.

Kyoko Uchida

Native Voices Rising: Critical Leadership in Institutional Philanthropy

May 23, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

  • When foundations seek to diversify their staffs, they often look to hire talent from the populations that benefit from their funding. Very few foundations focus their giving on Native American populations, so hiring Native staff may not be seen as a priority.
  • Native Americans are still dogged by stereotypes and myths. For example, some of you might be thinking: "Wow! I didn't know Edgar was Native American. Does he live on a reservation?" A foundation leader even confessed to me her fear of hiring Natives because she believed Natives were incapable of getting along with members of other minority groups.
  • Philanthropy is hardly a new concept for Native communities, many of which embrace a culture of reciprocity (as opposed to professionalized giving). As a result, Natives may not seek out foundation jobs. And many Natives prioritize working within our own tribes or communities instead of large, mainstream, and mostly white-led organizations.
  • Institutional philanthropy for the most part is the product of affluent white men, some of whom earned their wealth through business practices and/or policies that were harmful to Native populations. The lasting impact of colonization has resulted in the majority of Native families in the United States living in dire poverty far from the ivory towers of philanthropy.

The ugly cycle of philanthropic divestment has been compounded by the lack of Native representation in the field, which only serves to exacerbate the lack of understanding between foundations and the communities they aim to support.

Despite these disparities, I'm excited about the inclusion of Native voices in philanthropy and the growing availability of philanthropic resources to support funders, as well as efforts to increase Native representation in the leadership pipeline.

Thanks in part to the good work of Native Americans in Philanthropy, there is a growing awareness among funders of the significant disparity in support for Native communities. We know, for example, that an abysmal 0.3 percent of all foundation funding is directed to organizations that work on behalf of Native American communities. NAP also has been an invaluable resource in terms of convening funders on key issues, as it will be again this week during its 11th Annual Philanthropy Institute, a three-day conference that brings together Native and non-Native philanthropists, funders, tribal, and nonprofit leaders to discuss opportunities to support and advance Native causes.

Others are actively working to improve the funding landscape as well. Native Voices Rising is a grantmaking collaborative jointly led by the Common Counsel Foundation and Native Americans in Philanthropy that supports organizing, advocacy, and civic engagement activities involving American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian populations. In addition to producing research on the state of Native-led organizing, the collaborative has developed one of the best grantmaking mechanisms for funders interested in investing in Native-led organizations led by decision makers from Native communities.

Headshot_Edgar_VillanuevaSo, yes, it's true that a growing number of us can be found in the sector actively working to increase funding for Native communities. However, this work can be improved, across the board, if other leaders in the sector put aside preconceived notions about Native people and instead celebrate and embrace the values shared by Native communities and traditional philanthropy. Investments in diversifying philanthropic leadership are imperative not only for the health and well-being of Natives communities going forward – but for our idea of America as a place that provides opportunities for all.

Edgar Villanueva is vice president of programs and advocacy at the Schott Foundation for Public Education and a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. Follow him on Twitter @VillanuevaEdgar.

Weekend Link Roundup (May 21-22, 2016)

May 22, 2016

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

Climate Change

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

Economy

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

Giving Pledge

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

Health

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

International Affairs/Development

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

Nonprofits

On the TechCrunch site, Kevin Barenblat, a co-founder and president of Fast Forward, looks at three ways tech innovations are helping to reinvent how nonprofits address social problems. 

On the Forbes site, five nonprofit leaders from the Forbes Nonprofit Council pinpoint some of the challenges that may be holding you back from making your organization a success.

Nell Edgington has a good interview on her Social Velocity blog with Isaac Castillo, director of outcomes, assessment, and learning at Venture Philanthropy Partners. 

In the Harvard Business Review, Charities Defense Council founder Dan Pallotta argues that the decentralized structure of the charitable sector is undermining its effectiveness -- so much so, in fact, that what the sector really needs is the mother of all mergers.

In the first installment of a two-part series for the Nonprofit Quarterly, Tim Delaney, president and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits, looks at the recent data on funding for nonprofit infrastructure organizations (the organizations that Pallotta would like to see united under a single banner) and asks three questions: Why has overall infrastructure funding fallen from 0.85% of total giving in 2006 to just 0.60% in 2012? Why the pronounced bias for philanthropy-specific infrastructure versus the essentially stagnant support for nonprofit infrastructure? What's at risk if support for nonprofit infrastructure continues to be tepid in the face of vastly greater policy threats to the work of foundations and charities, and vastly greater numbers of entities for nonprofit infrastructure to support?

And here on PhilanTopic, GuideStar's Jacob Harold and the Center for Effective Philanthropy's Phil Buchanan explain why all foundations need to support nonprofit infrastructure. 

Philanthropy

What will it take to reverse the chronic under-investment in rural communities by philanthropy. NCRP executive director Aaron Dorfman has a few ideas.

As media coverage and public awareness of philanthropy have increased over the last decade and a half, so has criticism of it. In the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Karl Zinsmeister, creator of The Almanac of American Philanthropy, reviews a dozen common criticisms of philanthropy -- and offers a spirited defense.

Social Good

After taking a pounding from the Wall Street Journal for a single "CGI commitment, made six years ago...[that]  involved a private company...performing a social good," the Clinton Foundation responds on Medium with an explainer that details how the CGI model and impact investment work.

Transparency

On his Nonprofit Chronicles blog, Marc Gunther looks at what Russian-born Daniil and David Liberman are doing to bring radical transparency to the nonprofit sector.

And Carnegie Corporation Vartan Gregorian explains what a commitment to transparency looks like for a large, stablished foundation.

Women/Girls

In a sponsored piece for the New York Times, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation explains why and how efforts to collect data about women and girls drives social progress, and what it is doing to support those efforts.

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

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

May 19, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

  • 100 percent coverage of and access to health-promoting health services for young people is the norm;
  • 100 percent of California schools have wellness and school climate policies and practices; and
  • 100 percent of California cities and counties have established local health-promoting policies.

The thinking behind these three targets is simple: the wellness of young people is optimized when the "systems" they encounter on a regular basis — the healthcare system, their schools, their neighborhoods — support what families want and need for their children's health and well-being. And while those targets are critical to the success of BHC, the ultimate goal is for the power dynamics in the fourteen communities to shift to such an extent that families are able to hold local officials accountable for full ongoing implementation of family- and youth-friendly policies.

That's not to say we haven't made progress on accountability. Residents of the fourteen communities are working hard to hold local officials accountable across a wide range of issues, including access to safe, clean water; parks equity; living wage laws; common sense school discipline that keeps kids in school; fair school funding practices; and access to health care and coverage for all Californians regardless of immigration status.

Already, thousands of residents from BHC communities, young and old, are standing shoulder to shoulder to address these challenges. They are demonstrating courageous leadership. What they are accomplishing in their neighborhoods and at the state level exceeds all our initial expectations. They are the heroes of the unfolding story that is Building Healthy Communities.

In the five years since we first launched the BHC initiative at an event in City Heights with First Lady Michelle Obama, our board, staff, and community partners have been working hard to catalyze the kind of change needed to bring us closer to the goal of health and justice for all. We also commissioned three independent reviews of our progress, lessons, and mistakes. Over this past year, we reviewed the reports with our board and staff; we listened to and learned from our community partners; and then we got busy making needed adjustments.

Robert_k_rossIn the spirit of transparency and accountability, we share what we've learned with our colleagues in philanthropy. The report, A New Power Grid: Building Healthy Communities at Year 5 (28 pages, PDF; or Executive Summary, 8 pages, PDF), documents our progress, lessons learned, and key changes we are making at the midpoint of the initiative. I welcome and encourage your feedback. Email us at PowerGrid@CalEndow.org.

Robert K. Ross, M.D., is president and CEO of the California Endowment.

Investing in Infrastructure for Impact

May 18, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

These organizations represent a diverse coalition that also includes BBB Wise Giving/Give.org, BoardSource, the Center for High Impact Philanthropy, the Council on Foundations, D5, Exponent Philanthropy, the Forum of Regional Association of Grantmakers, Foundation Center, Global GivingGrantmakers for Effective Organizations, Media Impact Funders, the National Council of Nonprofits, the Nonprofit Finance Fund, Nonprofit Quarterly, the Philanthropy Workshop, Social Finance, Stanford PACS, Stanford Social Innovation Review, TechSoup, and VolunteerMatch.

All of us are very grateful to the handful of funders that have made significant investments in "infrastructure" organizations. But as Lindsay Louie, program officer at one such foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, noted last year, citing Foundation Center data, "Philanthropy is growing, but infrastructure funding isn't keeping pace." (Disclosure: Hewlett has supported both our organizations and one of us used to work there.)

That needs to change. In a letter the organizations sent this month to all U.S. foundations making more than $2.5 million in grants annually, we argue that "civil society needs infrastructure to ensure that nonprofits and foundations can act with integrity and impact." Because, while much has been achieved, much more can be done.

"Collectively, we waste hundreds of millions of dollars in a fundraising process that is full of duplication and confusion," we argue. "Nonprofits struggle to find the right staff with the right skills. The power imbalance between foundations and nonprofits dampens the honest conversations that are so critical to any partnership. Too often nonprofit leaders do not reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. Too few organizations admit failure; and, thus, few learn from it."

No one of our organizations is addressing all these issues. But, collectively, we're working on them all. And we all believe that, while the sector has done much good, it can do much better. We won't get there without paying attention to strengthening the sector. Simply importing frameworks or approaches from business or government doesn't work. The challenge of nonprofit effectiveness is unique, requiring its own dedicated infrastructure.

We know foundations often hesitate to support infrastructure organizations because they see such grants as coming at the expense of support of the "core work" of their programs. But that's a false choice.

How does strong infrastructure make a difference? The lines are not actually hard to draw. Take VolunteerMatch, for example, which has connected more than ten million individuals to volunteering opportunities, providing nonprofits with crucial resources to help them achieve their goals. Or BoardSource, which has helped thousands of nonprofits improve their board governance. These organizations provide resources and insight that nonprofits need – and can't find elsewhere.

But we have come together not to make the case for specific, individual organizations. We have come together instead to seek a stronger network of infrastructure organizations that, working individually and collectively, can help strengthen the sector. That includes the signatories of the letter to funders, but also many, many other organizations. We don't speak for anyone but ourselves, but we also know we represent just a slice of the infrastructure.

Each foundation will make its own choices about what slices appeal to them. Some foundations may seek to target their infrastructure support to organizations working to increase diversity of leadership in the sector. Others may focus on improvements in technology to increase nonprofit efficacy. Others might focus on policy-oriented efforts. Still others might do a little of everything.

We're asking foundations to support organizations whose work is focused on creating the conditions in which nonprofits across programmatic areas and communities can thrive, making quicker progress toward the achievement of their goals. An investment in the right infrastructure really is an investment in impact.

Jacob Harold is president and CEO of GuideStar and Phil Buchanan is president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy. (Ed note: PND is a service of Foundation Center, one of the signatories to the "investing in infrastructure" letter mentioned in Harold and Buchanan's post.)

[Review] American Generosity: Who Gives and Why

May 17, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading »

Philanthropy's Role in Creating Tomorrow

May 16, 2016

Globe_hands_for_PhilanTopicChange in the world and our communities is happening at breathtaking speed. This accelerating rate of change makes the challenging work of doing good even more difficult. Foundations are trying to make the world a better place, but we are often using yesterday's information to do so.

When deciding what we will fund next year, we look at six-month-old grant applications, year-old grant reports, and six-year-old census data. But these methods are no longer up to the task. The Institute for the Future held a wonderful training last fall on the future of philanthropy in which the guiding question was: "Foundations will exist in ten years, but will they be relevant?"

Relevancy is not a question that foundations are used to asking themselves. But as we watch Mark Zuckerberg avoid the traditional structure of a foundation and, instead, opt to set up an LLC for his community impact work, it makes many of us pause and ask, "How do our institutions, which look almost the same as they did in Andrew Carnegie's time, need to adapt to meet the challenges of tomorrow?" That question has led me to an interest in futurism and interviewing leaders who are thinking differently about making the world a better place — individuals like Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Unite, Dr. Eric Jolly from Minnesota Philanthropy Partners, StartUp Box founder Majora Carter, and Obi Felten of Google X.

Based on these conversations, I believe it is our responsibility, as philanthropic leaders, to learn the skills needed to understand and create the future we want for our communities. And to that end, I’ve developed a three-step process to help philanthropic leaders escape from the busy-ness of today to create the better world of tomorrow.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (May 14-15, 2016)

May 15, 2016

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

Children and Youth

Brain development in young children is critical to their readiness for school and success later in life. "But preventable poverty and toxic stress can impede and derail a child's early brain development," write Marian Wright Edelman and Jackie Bezos on the Huffington Post's Politics blog. Which is why, "[i]n addition to quality interactions with parents, grandparents and other caregivers, young children need access to a full continuum of high quality early learning opportunities...."

Climate Change

Where's the beef? More to the point, asks Marc Gunther on his Nonprofit Chronicles blog, why aren't environmental groups working actively to reduce meat consumption and the number of factory farms, two of the biggest contributors to global warming?

Corporate Philanthropy

In Fortune, American Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern shares what she has learned over eight years in that position about what business and nonprofits can teach each other.

Data

On the Hewlett Foundation's Work in Progress blog, Sarah Jane Staats has five questions for Ruth Levine, director of the foundation's Global Development and Population Program, about the existing gender gap in data.

Education

How can we fix public education in America? The answer, says the Grable Foundation's Gregg Behr in a Q&A with Forbes contributor Jordan Shapiro, starts with the way kids learn.

On her Answer Sheet blog, the Washington Post's Valerie Strauss has the second part of an email conversation between noted education reform critic Diane Ravitch and hedge fund manager Whitney Tilson, a supporter of such efforts. And if you missed the first part of the conversation, you can catch up here.

Have school-choice policies solved the problem they were meant to address -- namely, the strong link between a child's educational outcomes and the neighborhood conditions in which he or she has grown up? The Washington Post's Emma Brown reports.

Continue reading »

Blind Spots No More: Introducing Transparency Trends

May 13, 2016

There are some lessons you learn that you never forget. "Mirror, signal, blind spot" is one of those lessons for me, dating all the way back to driver's ed when I was equal parts excited and horrified that someone was handing me the keys to a moving vehicle. I still recall the teacher emphasizing how important it is when changing lanes to first check the mirror for what is behind you; signal to let others know you are entering/exiting a lane; and then to check your blind spot, assuming there is someone invisible to you that only looking over your shoulder and out the window will reveal.

So, is our new Glasspockets' Transparency Trends a mirror, a signal, or a viewer for revealing the blind spots a foundation may be creating? It actually serves all these purposes. Transparency Trends, created with support from the Barr Foundation, aggregates the data we have collected from all foundations that have taken and publicly shared their "Who Has Glass Pockets?" self-assessment transparency profiles and allows the user to interact and display the data in a variety of ways.

The default view displays data about all 77 participating foundations, and users can perform a number of helpful transparency benchmarking activities with the tool, including:

  • Learn which transparency elements are most and least commonly shared online;
  • Access lists of which participating foundations share each transparency indicator;
  • Access statistics about the sharing frequency of each transparency element;
  • Compare a specific foundation to a select peer group by region/asset/foundation type; and
  • Download a customized report detailing suggested improvements for a particular foundation.

Continue reading »

5 Questions for...José García, Program Officer, Strong Local Economies, Surdna Foundation

May 12, 2016

You don't need a political scientist to tell you something is amiss in America. It's there, lurking, in the presidential primary campaigns of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, in our social media feeds, in between the lines of recent reports detailing falling mortality rates and rising rates of opioid addiction among working-class Americans. It's part frustration, part anger, but mostly anxiety about the economy and our economic future. Where have good jobs for average Americans gone? Are technology and globalization benefiting or hurting the economy? And where will new good jobs — the kind that make it possible for young Americans to pay off their student loans, buy a home, raise a family — come from?

Through its Strong Local Economies program, the New York City-based Surdna Foundation supports the development of a robust and sustainable economy in three ways: encouraging business development and acceleration, fostering equitable economic development, and working to improve job quality and career pathways. Recently, PND spoke with Surdna's José García about Ours to Share: How Worker Ownership Can Change the American Economy (50 pages, PDF), a new report published by the foundation that examines the potential of worker-owned firms and employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) to create a more productive, stable, and equitable economy.

Headshot_jose_garcia_blogPhilanthropy News Digest: What big macro trends is the Ours to Share report responding to? And how does it fit into the broader Strong Local Economies portfolio at Surdna?

José García: Our interest in fostering a strong local economy is one of the reasons we released the report. It responds in part to the growing number of low-quality jobs generated by the U.S. economy. We recognize that it's important for the economy, for workers, and for our shared prosperity to increase the number of well-paying jobs. These are good jobs, jobs that give people a chance to move into the middle class and a chance at a better future. We're in a period in which wages have stagnated while at the same time debt levels, for most Americans, have increased. Meanwhile, the top fraction of a percent has seen its wealth soar, resulting in a significant increase in inequality. Of course, growing inequality has an impact on economic growth, in that it leads to a decline in the number of people with discretionary income to spend. Here at Surdna, we believe the creation of good jobs is a critical factor in wealth creation and a key component of any agenda aimed at strengthening local economies. It's not a panacea, but we do see it as essential.

PND: It's a coincidence that the report is being released in the middle of a presidential primary season that has seen a self-proclaimed democratic socialist on the Democratic side make a serious run at his party's nomination. But the timing is kind of perfect, isn't it?

JG: I would love to say we planned to release the report during primary season, because you're right, the timing couldn't be better. And one of the reasons is because worker co-ops are a bipartisan idea. From the bipartisan passage of the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), legislation that created employee stock ownership options for workers, to the more recent creation of a bipartisan Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus, both sides of the aisle have favored and continue to support actions to increase the levels of ownership in society. And that is what worker co-ops and employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) do — they create good jobs for workers and, at the same time, they give workers a piece of the ownership pie.

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Turning a Visit Into an Immersive Experience

May 11, 2016

Immersive_learningThe Jim Joseph Foundation invests in curated immersive learning experiences and the training of talented educators who facilitate them. From a pedagogical view, these kinds of experiences stand in contrast to the simpler "trip to the museum," which by itself typically lacks the educational component needed to catalyze learning. In contrast, an immersive learning experience provides an opportunity for a participant's growth in terms of knowledge, character, and identity.

One example of the value of such an opportunity is found in a 1970 study of Sesame Street[1] (which premiered in 1969). The study sought to determine whether socioeconomic status (SeS) was a determining factor in whether young children (ages 3 to 5) benefited from watching the program. In the study, there was a difference in baseline performance between those with low SeS and high SeS, although both segments exhibited material improvement on assessments after regularly watching the program.

In a subsequent study that examined the same age group[2], however, researchers noted a profound divergence and determined that certain children not differentiated by SeS excelled at a far greater rate than other participants. The X-factor? Parents. When one or more parents collectively watched episodes with their children, researchers noticed that children’s measurable skill sets increased more than the skills sets of those whose parents did not. The result pointed to the "curated experience" as an important and defining one.

This idea of curation permeates each of the Jim Joseph Foundation's strategic priorities: Increase the Number and Quality of Jewish Educators and Education LeadersExpand Opportunities for Effective Jewish Learning, and Build a Strong Field for Jewish Education. Three grants — to George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development, the American Friends of the Israel Museum, and the Contemporary Jewish Museum's Innovation Fund — represent the symbiotic actualization of these strategies.

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[Review] The Reproach of Hunger: Food, Justice, and Money in the Twenty-First Century

May 10, 2016

To critique a critic: that is the task before me. In The Reproach of Hunger: Food, Justice, and Money in the Twenty-First Century, David Rieff offers an erudite and well-researched analysis of the problem of world hunger and the challenges associated with international development. While occasionally dense, his book both exposes the contradictions of the philanthrocapitalist dogma currently in vogue and challenges readers to reexamine the causes of growing development inequality among countries.

Bookcover-the-reproach-of-hungerIn outlook, Rieff, whose previous books include Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West (1997), A Bed for the Night: Humanitarianism in Crisis (2003), and At the Point of a Gun: Democratic Dreams and Armed Intervention (2006), is unapologetically pessimistic. "Hunger and poverty are inseparable," he writes, "and despite the many real successes in poverty reduction in many parts of the Global South, it is highly unlikely that these gains will be sustainable if rises in the price of staple food significantly outstrip the rise in incomes of the poor as a result of sound development policies." Due to the 2007-08 global economic crisis, recent extreme weather events, commodities speculation, and the diversion of corn to ethanol production, he notes, there is a "new normal" for global food production characterized by high prices and surging demand. And "[i]f significant changes to the global food system are not made, a crisis of absolute global food supply could occur sometime between 2030 and 2050…when the world's population will have risen…to nine or perhaps even ten billion."

Central to Rieff's critique is what he sees as philanthrocapitalism's unquestioning adherence to the secular faith of progress first promoted by eighteenth-century Enlightenment thinkers, subsequently nurtured by Gilded Age capitalists, exalted by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, and promoted today by their neoliberal acolytes. The intellectual embodiment of this hope, says Rieff, can be found in the thought and work of Bill and Melinda Gates, the development economics of Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs, and political scientist Francis Fukuyama's triumphalist "end of history" thesis that capitalism and democracy were inevitable following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

While Rieff seems to delight in putting a few dents in Sachs's worldview, his real aim here is to carve out space for a thoughtful critique of the historical, economic, and social forces underpinning international development as it is presently understood and practiced. To that end, he frequently challenges the "impatient optimism" advocated by the Gateses as well as their foundation's technocratic approach to the problems of global poverty and hunger. Similarly, he has little patience for those who insist that the line between the public and private sectors has been "blurred" — a trope, he says, that disingenuously ignores the ideological underpinnings of the neoliberal system, resulting in impoverished dialogue and the dismissal of intellectual alternatives.

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Weekend Link Roundup (May 7-8, 2016)

May 08, 2016

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

Civil Society

"Digital data are different enough from time and money — the two resources around which most of our existing institutions are designed — that it's time to redesign those institutions."  In a post on her Philanthropy 2173 blog, Lucy Bernholz explains why and how.

Community Improvement/Development

We didn't catch it in time for last week's roundup, but Forbes contributor Ruchika Tulshyan's profile of the Detroit-based New Economy Initiative, a startup entrepreneurship fund focused on inclusive economic development, is well worth a read.

Also in Forbes, the Manhattan Institute's Howard Husock argues that "a Detroit-style 'grand bargain' approach could — with the same level of financial contributions from both big philanthropy and organized labor — break stalemates and allow [other Rust Belt] cities to restore funding for the city services on which their economies depend."

Education

In Inside Philanthropy, Mike Scutari shares highlights of a new case study, Dancing to the Top: How Collective Action Revitalized Arts Education in Boston (48 pages, PDF), written by sector veteran Cindy Gibson for Boston Public Schools Art Expansion (BPS-AE), a multiyear effort to expand arts education in schools across the district. Gibson calls the initiative described in the study "one of the most strategic initiatives" she's ever seen and praises the funding collaborative behind the efforts as "really collaborative." Definitely worth a read.

Environment

Long considered a disaster when it comes to pollution and environmental degradation, China is beginning to appreciate the seriousness of the situation -- and its responsibilities as the second-largest economy in the world -- and is pursuing a number of solutions to environmental challenges at home and beyond. The Nature Conservancy's Mark Tercek reports.

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[Review] Hoping to Help: The Promises and Pitfalls of Global Health Volunteering

May 06, 2016

Global health volunteering — medical missions, health brigades, "flying" surgeons — is a huge and growing enterprise. An estimated two hundred thousand Americans engage in such activities each year, and their time is valued at more than $750 million — not including the hundreds of millions of dollars in direct costs such as air travel, administration, and supplies.

Book_hoping_to_help_for_PhilanTopicDespite this enormous investment of resources, very little is known about the actual benefits of short-term volunteer service trips, of which the vast majority last less than two weeks. Volunteer trips are seen as opportunities to "make a difference" or to "give back," and most people who engage in such activities intuitively believe they accomplish some measure of good. Yet whether these efforts actually benefit the host communities, how those benefits are measured, and what other objectives are involved are rarely discussed or considered.

As they have grown in popularity, such activities — often grouped under the heading of "voluntourism" — have become a target of criticism. In a scathing critique in the Guardian a few years back, Somalian blogger Ossob Mohamud wrote: "Voluntourism almost always involves a group of idealistic and privileged travelers who have vastly different socio-economic statuses vis-à-vis those they serve. They often enter these communities with little or no understanding of the locals' history, culture, and way of life. All that is understood is the poverty and the presumed neediness of the community, and for the purposes of volunteering that seems to be enough."

Judith N. Lasker engages this debate with her latest book, Hoping to Help: The Promises and Pitfalls of Global Health Volunteering. A professor of sociology at Lehigh University, Lasker examines the landscape of short-term volunteer trips; the benefits and drawbacks of such activity from the perspective of the sponsoring organizations, the volunteers, and the host communities; and what can be done to make such activity more effective, particularly for the latter. The research on which the book is based includes a national survey of a hundred and seventy-seven U.S.-based sponsor organizations, more than a hundred interviews, and participant observation by the author on two short-term trips.

To assess effectiveness, one has to identify program goals, and in the case of voluntourism that ends up being more complicated than simply saying "improving the health of host communities." Indeed, sponsoring organizations — which include churches, universities, hospitals, and NGOs, as well as large corporations and other profit-making companies — often state that providing health services and building public health capacity in underresourced communities is one of their primary goals. However, organizations oftentimes have other, competing interests, including their ability to recruit talented professionals and their own financial sustainability. "[E]nhancing the organization's reputation" and "promoting volunteers' personal growth," writes Lasker, "are often considered just as important [as any benefits created for the host community], raising questions about whether a focus on them might reduce the effectiveness of a group in promoting health."

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Philanthropy as a Platform for Civic Leadership

May 04, 2016

Civic-Engagement-Green-ShootsPhilanthropy often is the tie that binds communities together. From city to city, state to state, country to country, the vast majority of people benefit from andor participate in philanthropy. The true power of philanthropy, however, lies beyond the art and practice of grantmaking and is tied up with its ability — and responsibility — to equip and empower communities to move forward on their own.

As an institution, philanthropy is uniquely positioned to meet the ever-changing needs of communities, empowering them to drive a variety of projects, programs, organizations, and campaigns that serve hundreds and, at times, thousands. The work we do is, in many ways, the secret sauce — although the recipe for change doesn't always come in the form of a check. Indeed, while our financial capital is important, equally as important is the reputational, social, and intellectual capital we bring to the table. Just as communities are powered by the residents that live and work in them, foundations are powered by the people within them. And, in many cases, those people are very much a part of the fabric of the communities they are working to improve.

When I'm not meeting with grant partners, much of my time is spent with business and government leaders trying to identify collaborative approaches we can take to tackle the complex issues facing our communities. In early April, for instance, I met with Dave Bing (the former mayor of Detroit, retired Hall of Fame basketball player, and respected businessman) to brainstorm strategies focused on addressing the summer employment crisis that affects many teenagers and young adults in the region.

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