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1412 posts categorized "Philanthropy"

Weekend Link Roundup (March 25-26, 2017)

March 26, 2017

David_rockefeller_photo_jim_smeal_wireimage_getty_images_115356418_profileOur 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

The Metropolitan Museum of Art on Manhattan's Upper East Side is one of the great cultural institutions of the world. But is it a great cultural institution in decline? In Vanity Fair, William D. Cohan looks at the New York Times article and ensuing circumstances that led to the resignation of the museum's director, 54-year-old one-time wunderkind Thomas Campbell.

Climate Change

The nation's leading climate change activist is a former hedge fund manager you've probably never heard of. Wired's Nick Stockton talks to Tom Steyer, the California billionaire who is trying to save the planet.

Education

Citing new research which finds that the skills required to succeed professionally are the same as those required to succeed in K-12 education, Laszlo Bock, a member of the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development, suggests that the best place to invest scarce education reform dollars might just be where the overlap between the two is most clear.

Fundraising

Like many people, I'm a student of cognitive biases. So I was pleased to come across this post by John Haydon detailing five cognitive biases that can be leveraged to improve the success of your next fundraising campaign.

Giving

Meals on Wheels America has seen an upsurge in donations since being targeted for elimination by the Trump administration's "skinny" budget plan. Alex Swerdloff reports for Vice.

The Economist suggests that the increasing popularity of donor-advised funds may be as much about...wait for it...taxes as it is about charity.

International Affairs/Development

Foreign aid represents a tiny fraction (less than 1 percent) of the federal budget. But the Trump administration, like Republican administrations in the past, seems determined to zero it out. That would be a mistake, writes Bill Gates on his Gates Notes blog. For starters, foreign aid promotes health, security, and economic opportunity that helps stabilize vulnerable parts of the world, and whether we realize it or not, that tends to keep us all safer.

If you're smiling now, it's probably because you're Norwegian. The fifth annual World Happiness Report is out, and — surprise! — Scadinavian countries lead the pack.

Leadership

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, notes that even as "elite schools overemphasize leadership because...they're preparing students for the corporate world," a discipline in organizational psychology called "followership" is gaining in popularity. And that's a good thing.

Nonprofits

In a joint op-ed for The Hill, Council on Foundations president Vikki Spruill and Tim Delaney, president and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits, argue that efforts to weaken or repeal the so-called Johnson Amendment — a legislative provision proposed by then-Senate Minority Leader Lyndon Johnson, adopted without controversy by the Republican-controlled Senate, passed by a Republican-controlled Congress, and signed into law by President Eisenhower in 1954 — would "significantly weaken" nonprofits and the nonprofit sector "by inviting heretofore nonpartisan charitable and philanthropic organizations to endorse or oppose candidates for elected office and divert some amount of their assets away from their missions to instead support partisan campaigns."

The Trump administration's keen interest in dramatically reducing and/or eliminating federal aid for the poor and needy and replacing it with assistance from faith-based organizations reminds us of another Republican administration that was hell-bent on going down that road but abandoned the effort when reality sank in. Which begs the question, Are churches, synagogues, mosques, and other faith-based organizations any better positioned today to serve as a substitute for the government in providing for the needy and vulnerable? Emma Green reports for The Atlantic.

On her Social Velocity blog, Nell Edgington chats with the Ford Foundation's Kathy Reich about the foundation's BUILD initiative, a key element of its strategy to support the vitality and effectiveness of civil society organizations and reduce inequality, in the U.S. and the regions where it works internationally.

Philanthropy

If you're a grantmaker who's finding it difficult to remain "thoughtful and steadfast" as the world spins out of control, you're not alone, writes Huffington Post contributor and Grantmakers for Effective Organizations president Kathleen Enright. But this, too, shall pass, and in the meantime there are things you can do to make a positive difference

"Sector agnosticism" —  "the idea...that you can achieve positive societal impact working within a nonprofit or a for-profit — and that it is the impact, not the organizational type, that matters" — not only is not helpful, "it obscures the fact that the sectors play distinct and different roles," writes Center for Effective Philanthropy president Phil Buchanan in a new post on the CEP blog.

It's not what you would call a paradigm shift, but a growing number of foundations are choosing to spend down their endowments over a set period of time. Ben Paynter reports for Fast Company.

And this short statement from Bill and Hillary Clinton articulates what many of us were feeling when we heard the news that David Rockefeller had passed at the age of 101. Here's the transcript of a conversation we had with Mr. Rockefeller more than a decade ago. He was frail even then, but still sharp and exceedingly generous with his time. Godspeed, sir.

(Photo: Jim Smeal, Getty Images)

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

Putting Communities First: A Collaborative Fund for the San Joaquin Valley

March 24, 2017

Sierra_health_future_is_meThe San Joaquin Valley is a testament to the troubling social, environmental, economic, and health divides that exist between individuals and communities living within relatively close proximity to one another. A mere three-hour drive from California's prosperous coastal communities, the Valley is home to a multi-billion-dollar agricultural industry, but many of the children who live there go hungry. And while the need for food assistance varies across the state, it is highest in the Valley. Data in our recently released report, California's San Joaquin Valley: A Region and Its Children Under Stress (32 pages, PDF), show that eight of the counties in the Valley are among the top nine agricultural producers in the state, and that seven of these same counties are among the ten counties with the highest child poverty rates. What's more, in six of the Valley's nine counties, over 40 percent of residents are enrolled in Medi-Cal, the state's health insurance program, while one in four schools do not have access to clean drinking water.

California also is home to more than two million undocumented immigrants, 10 percent of whom live in the region. Immigrants make up 42 percent of the agricultural workforce and 11 percent of the region's overall workforce, and emerging evidence shows that recent policy efforts have placed their safety, health, and emotional well-being at risk. In combination, these inequities place residents of the Valley at greater risk for negative, often preventable health outcomes such as childhood asthma, diabetes, depression, cancer, and trauma.

While California has provided leadership on some of the nation's most pressing health and racial equity issues, the San Joaquin Valley has been left behind. In fact, the Federal Reserve Bank has called the region "the Appalachia of the West." To address the complicated mix of challenges facing Valley communities, Sierra Health Foundation launched the San Joaquin Valley Health Fund (the Fund) to build and support a network of community organizations committed to promoting resident voices, ideas, and agency aimed at driving policy and systems change at a regional level. With an initial investment from Sierra Health Foundation and The California Endowment, the Fund is managed by The Center, a nonprofit created by Sierra Health Foundation to bring people, ideas, infrastructure, and resources to bear on the challenge of eradicating health inequities across the state. Among other things, The Center helps communities access proven practices, tap their existing knowledge and creativity, and act collectively to create the political will necessary to put their ideas into action. The investment fund is now a partnership of nine local, regional, state, and national funders, including The California Wellness, Rosenberg, W. K. Kellogg, Blue Shield of California, Wallace H. Coulter, Dignity Health, and Tides foundations.

To date, the Fund has announced grant commitments totaling more than $4.5 million to support local community organizations. This year, the Fund will support a network of sixty-eight organizations with investments totaling nearly $3 million, but there remain many worthy organizations whose participation we are unable to support.

The Fund's model brings grantees into a "learning community" cohort where organizations develop solutions to address inequities through a policy and systems change lens. Through the Fund, our nonprofit partners receive modest grants to strengthen their capacity to engage in collective advocacy while building relationships, receiving technical assistance, and sharing best practices. As a result, the fifty-eight nonprofits currently working with the Fund have agreed to support a regional policy platform that employs a social-determinants-of-health approach focused on access to health coverage, early childhood investment, affordable housing, environmental health, and employment. 

In our model, grantees are equal partners who contribute to the Fund's goal by agreeing to be mutually supportive and civically active. A powerful example of what this looks like on the ground occurred last month with Equity on the Mall, a day of advocacy at the California State Capitol. Despite heavy rain, more than a thousand San Joaquin Valley residents traveled to Sacramento to make their case for what it is needed to make California a "Golden State for All." The bipartisan list of speakers included Senate president pro tem Kevin de León, Assemblyman Devon Mathis, California secretary of health and human services Diana Dooley, and Michael Tubbs, the first African-American and youngest person elected mayor of Stockton. Community residents presented their multi-strategy policy platform to state leadership, putting their elected leaders on notice that "Valley communities are mobilizing and will no longer be overlooked, marginalized, or behave as though they have no ability to exert political influence."

Through the Fund, we are learning new lessons about the power of organizing to make meaningful and sustainable change at scale. And we are shining a light on inequity in the health, social, and economic outcomes of different regions within our great state, while contributing to solutions designed to address them. Our goal is simple: to ensure that our community partners are at the forefront of efforts to identify and lead on the issues that will require political support and systemic changes to be implemented. We have been heartened by the response of our partners who say the approach of the Fund is significantly different from that of other funders, who have come to the Valley with their own agenda rather than listening to the priorities of residents. The Fund's model works for and with residents, with a shared vision of a healthy San Joaquin Valley for all. 

This work continues to evolve, but it is well positioned to inform similar strategies in other under-resourced and overburdened regions. We encourage others to join with us to expand our impact in the Valley and, by doing so, create new models for addressing inequity and inequality across the country.

Chet_hewitt_for_PhilanTopicChet P. Hewitt is president and CEO of Sierra Health Foundation and The Center, an independent nonprofit developed and supported by the foundation. To get involved or to learn more about the San Joaquin Valley Health Fund, see www.shfcenter.org/sjvhealthfund.

Weekend Link Roundup (March 18-19, 2017)

March 19, 2017

Sad-Big-BirdOur 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

The Wellesley Centers for Women partnered with American Conservatory Theater to study gender equity in leadership opportunities in the nonprofit American theater. This is what they learned.

In an op-ed for Bloomberg, Earl Lewis, president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a major funder of the arts and humanities in America, suggests that any plan to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National for the Humanities "would be foolish," not least because it would "deprive ourselves and our successors of the cultural understanding central to our complex but shared national identity." 

Education

The Trump administration's call for massive cuts to national service in its first budget would deal a "devastating" blow to the education reform movement. Lisette Partelow, director of K-12 Strategic Initiatives at the Center for American Progress, and Kami Spicklemire, an education campaign manager at CAP, explain.

Environment

In a guest post for the Center for Effective Philanthropy, Keecha Harris, president of Keecha Harris and Associates, Inc. and director of InDEEP (Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity in Environmental Philanthropy), argues that if the environmental movement wants to remain relevant, its needs to do something about the "green ceiling" — i.e, the lack of diversity and inclusion within its ranks.

In a statement released earlier in the week, Nature Conservancy president Mark Tercek criticizes the White House's "misguided" budget blueprint, which assumes that "the security and prosperity of [the] country must come at the expense of critical federal investments in our natural resources." 

Hewlett Foundation president Larry Kramer argues that philanthropy has an important role to play in limiting the damage from climate change already locked in, but that to do so, it will need to respond with a much bigger effort than it has mustered to date.

Here's some good news: Despite a growing global economy, CO2 emissions have remained flat for the third year in a row. 

Giving

Does the rise of crowdfunding and social fundraising portend a future in which donors are more likely to be driven by emotion than science or metrics? Ben Paynter reports for Fast Company.

Health

"[I]n our nearly 70 years of working to make [a bright] future a reality [for every child], we have learned that a child's best chance for success in life — and for becoming an adult who fully contributes to our prosperity as a nation — is a healthy start from birth," writes Annie E. Casey Foundation president Patrick McCarthy. And having "access to health care," adds McCarthy, "helps provide that healthy start — a fact that we hope our country's leaders and decision makers bear in mind as they debate the future of the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program."

Higher Education

A new survey of some 33,000 students at 70 community colleges has turned up some shocking findings: 14 percent of community college students say they are homeless, and as many as half struggle to afford food. The Hechinger Report's Jon Marcus digs into the results.

Innovation

FastCoExist will be unveiling its first-ever World Changing Ideas Awards on March 20. Can't wait till then? Here are nine ideas that could change the world for the better in 2017 and beyond.

International Affairs/Development

Sri Lanka is experiencing its worst drought in decades. Joanne Lu reports for Humanosphere.

Philanthropy

In the Denver Post, philanthropy consultant Bruce DeBoskey shares his take on a toolkit recently released by Open Road Alliance, the Rockefeller Foundation, and Arabella Advisors that they describe as "the first practical, comprehensive framework providing guidance to funders on how to implement best practices in risk-management."

And did you know Warren Buffet has some advice for foundations that they probably won't take? Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther has the skinny.

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

We Fund What We Value

March 17, 2017

Axe-hatchetThe just-released Trump budget, "America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again," proposes a $54 billion increase in defense spending and massive cuts elsewhere that will pose huge challenges for philanthropy.

Leave aside the politics (please) and consider what this means for donors. The budget calls for the complete defunding of four cultural agencies — the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Eliminating the NEA cuts $148 million; the NEH, $148 million; the IMLS, $230 million; and the CPB, $445 million. From the NEA alone, $47 million in state grants leveraged an additional $368 million in state funding. That's roughly $1 billion, plus $368 million from the states.

Science and basic research take a massive hit, with the National Institutes of Health losing almost $6 billion of its $30 billion budget. It's important to remember that 80 percent of NIH funding goes to outside researchers in universities and labs across the country — major recipients of foundation and individual donations.

Cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency have garnered headlines, with nearly a third of its budget in jeopardy; in practice, this includes the outright elimination of a program to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and half the funding for the EPA's Office of Research and Development. Funding for climate research is effectively zeroed out.

Proposed budgets are just that — proposals — and they never survive intact, but what if even half these cuts are enacted? It still translates into billions of dollars in cuts to everything from local public radio stations to rural arts programs to university research programs. The cuts would affect big cities and small towns alike. And they would directly affect programs funded by philanthropy.

Philanthropy often relies on federal and state grants to leverage its investments. A grant from a foundation makes it possible, for instance, for a nonprofit to undertake a library scoping study, which can unlock a state grant to underwrite the building's design, which can lead to a federal grant toward construction of the building. Or a donor might fund an endowed chair for a university professor, who then seeks government funding to support his or her research on a cure for cancer. Under our system, government, foundations, and individual donors work together to magnify the impact of their respective dollars.

But while philanthropy is used to working with federal and state agencies, it cannot fill the gaps that would be created by the Trump budget on its own. If the funding cuts proposed by the White House survive, foundations and donors will face many difficult choices in the months and years to come. Having to decide between funding deeply in one area or funding broadly across many areas will be a constant aggravation, at best. And because the proposed cuts are so deep, even a significant increase foundation and individual donor giving will not be enough to keep the wolf from the door. The resulting harm will be financial and cultural, medical and environmental, with jobs lost and nonprofits forced to shut down.

Headshot_Chris_MassiWe fund what we value, and the choices ahead are likely to test our values in profound ways.

Chris Massi is a senior consultant at Graham-Pelton, a global fundraising and nonprofit management consulting firm. A version of this post originally appeared on the Graham-Pelton website.

The Future of African-American Philanthropy

March 15, 2017

Circleofjoy_mediumAs the demography of America changes, the face of philanthropy is changing along with it. While African Americans have a tradition of giving, the 2016 U.S. Trust® Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy highlights new data on African-American donors that gives us a clearer picture of the future of philanthropy in the U.S. We have long known, for example, that African-American households tend to give more of their discretionary income — as much as 25 percent more — to charitable causes than white Americans, and the U.S. Trust study (114 pages, PDF) suggests that that figure increases as African Americans move into the ranks of the wealthy.

At Bridge Philanthropic Consulting (BPC), the nation's largest full-service African American-owned fundraising firm, we have logged plenty of anecdotal evidence that supports the study’s key finding — namely, that African Americans are very generous but also very careful when it comes to charitable giving. Among those surveyed for the study, 62.4 percent of African-American respondents rated themselves as "knowledgeable" or "expert" about charitable giving and philanthropy, compared to 54.8 percent of their white peers. African-American donors also are almost twice as likely as white donors to say that they carefully monitor their social investments (39.1 percent v. 21.7 percent).

This cautiousness on the part of African-American donors does not extend to online giving. African Americans are four times as likely as donors from other racial or ethnic groups to use social media to raise funds and/or awareness for a cause. And high-net-worth African-American donors report a higher degree of satisfaction from giving than white donors (66.7 percent v. 42.3 percent). At the same time, African-American and white donors both report a high degree of satisfaction from volunteering, with rates above 60 percent among both groups. Where noticeable differences show up is in the kinds of organizations each group favors. African Americans were significantly more likely than their white peers to donate to faith-based causes (71 percent vs. 53.7 percent), so-called combination purposes (54 percent vs. 41.4 percent), and higher education (49 percent vs. 34.4 percent). There is also a tradition in the black church of tithing that has instilled a sense of grassroots philanthropy in the African-American community, with African Americans who attend church 25 percent more likely to make a charitable donation than their peers who don't attend church services.

"Black philanthropy makes an enormous difference in the lives of our people and our nation," says Hugh B. Price, former president of the National Urban League and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "Our generosity runs the gamut, from tithing to our churches, sororities, fraternities, and civic clubs, to making major contributions to our collegiate alma maters, the Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Black philanthropy provides the indispensable financial foundation that guarantees the survival of vitally important nonprofit institutions while also fueling their ascent to new heights of impact and excellence."

The findings of the U.S. Trust study further suggests that organizations seeking to fundraise in the African-American community should pay special attention to those with a family tradition of giving. Among African-American respondents to the survey, 30.7 percent said they have a family tradition of giving, compared with 18.3 percent of white respondents. Perhaps more significantly, African Americans are more likely, according to the study, to encourage their younger relatives to get involved in charitable causes and giving campaigns.

"I became involved in philanthropy through a family tradition that goes back to the church," notes Dwayne Ashley, who co-founded BPC and serves as its president. "My great-grandmother was a midwife. When families could not pay her, they often gave her portions of their land, which she in turn donated to create one of the first black schools in Heflin, Louisiana. Eventually, the school became a church, [which] generations of my family and neighbors attend to this day."

As African Americans become an increasingly important part of the philanthropic equation in the U.S., nonprofit organizations have reason to be optimistic. According to the U.S. Trust study, African Americans are almost twice as likely as whites to believe that large gifts can change the world or impact society for the better (25.5 percent vs. 14.2 percent). And of those surveyed, 41.8 percent of African American respondents said they planned to increase their charitable giving in the future, compared with 24.4 percent of white respondents.

“I am excited to see the hard data matching the generosity we have observed in the black community for many years," says Reggie Van Lee, a celebrated philanthropist, founding member of the Clinton Global Initiative, and a former member of President Obama's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

Even today, many fundraising professionals still associate "donor" with a wealthy white man or woman. A growing number, however, are learning that fundraising transcends color and that meaningful long-term relationships with donors are based on mutual affinity and shared interests. Thirty years ago, I asked the 100 Black Men of America organization to help underwrite a PBS program about Paul Robeson. I was shocked to learn the organization had never been approached to do anything like that. But I wasn't surprised when it stepped up with a generous gift. That was then, and today is today. If African Americans in the past weren't a fixture on nonprofits' donor rolls, maybe it's because no one thought to ask. Isn't it time we do something about that?

M_gasby_brown_for_PhilanTopicGasby Brown is co-founder of Bridge Philanthropic Consulting and a faculty member at the Fund Raising School at Indiana University's Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. She is also the author of several books, including 7 Fatal Flaws of Nonprofit Boards and How to Fix Them.

Weekend Link Roundup (March 11-12, 2017)

March 12, 2017

Keep-calm-and-let-it-snow--680Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Animal Welfare

After a decade of declining meat consumption, Americans again are eating more meat, and Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther wants to know why people "who adore their dogs and cats blithely go on consuming meat products that cause needless suffering to pigs, cows and chickens."

Education

On Medium, Nick Donohue, president/CEO of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, suggests that "education as a whole hasn't changed much since today's retirees were students themselves, sitting in class and scribbling notes in cadence with a teacher's lecture. We've operated schools as if they were industrial factories, with one size fits all approaches to teaching and learning that resemble assembly line practices. In doing so, we are doing what we did 100 years ago  —  culling and sorting the more elite students and leaving the rest behind...."

Health

In her latest annual message, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation president Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, who in April will step down as head of the foundation, shares seven lessons she has learned about improving health in America.

Immigration

There are 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. — people living here without permission from the American government — and, as the New York Times' Vivian Yee, Kenan Davis, and Jugal K. Patel illustrate in this fact-based piece, they are not necessarily who you think they are.

Continue reading »

Time for Philanthropy to Take Bold Action: Invest in Policy Change

March 10, 2017

Change_buttonOver the past few weeks, we've witnessed a new administration work daily to roll back rights our communities have fought hard to win, putting in jeopardy everything from immigrants' rights and economic security to educational equity and women's health.

At the same time, and despite the increasingly politicized climate in the country, we are heartened to see people stepping up and taking action in the streets, online, and in the corridors of power. In record numbers, more and more of us are becoming engaged in the political process, participating in protests, organizing our communities, and communicating with our elected officials.

Philanthropy, too, must answer the urgent calls to take action and support programs, initiatives, and tools that can help protect communities from draconian changes in policy while advancing the values we hold dear. By tools I mean policy advocacy and organizing. If we truly hope to create a just and equitable society for all Americans, we need more funders in California and around the country to invest in advocacy and organizing efforts that help vulnerable groups and communities withstand the attacks directed against them while taking proven solutions to scale. We need community leaders who know how to work with legislatures at the state and local level to shape more just policies. And those leaders need the knowledgeable and strategic support of philanthropists willing to be partners in their work.

At the Women's Foundation of California, we know we can't create opportunities for our communities without an explicit focus on policy change aimed at both dismantling barriers and expanding rights. As the only statewide foundation in California focused on gender equity, we work every day to advance the leadership of women in public policy. Over the past fourteen years, our Women's Policy Institute has worked with more than four hundred women leaders to advance gender equity through policy change. And those women, in turn, have helped pass twenty-nine laws that have improved the health, safety, and economic well-being of millions of people living in California.

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Foundations Engaging in Policy: Not an Option But an Obligation

March 08, 2017

Policy_word_cloudPhilanthropy as a sector produces an ever-increasing body of writing aimed at encouraging impact investments for the public good. Much of that writing ignores a key consideration: Any foundation involved with impact investing cannot be taken seriously if it does not engage in policy. For many foundations, particularly family foundations, the idea of engaging in policy work is daunting, and in too many cases it's viewed as something to be avoided entirely. But while too many foundations consider engaging in policy work to be risky, I argue that it is as important a function as grantmaking and evaluation. And if we take evaluation seriously, we have no choice but to share those learnings with others, including policy makers.

Most of us know that Congress has imposed stringent limits on foundations with respect to advocacy and even more stringent prohibitions on their lobbying activities. Fully aware of the power that comes with accumulated wealth, Congress enacted prohibitions against charitable institutions engaging in lobbying as early as 1934. Later, in 1954, then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson sponsored legislation to prohibit nonprofit organizations, including foundations, from endorsing or opposing political candidates, and extended that prohibition to churches. In 1976, Congress created five exceptions to the lobbying prohibition on foundations. They are: (1) making available the results of nonpartisan analysis, studies, or research that may (or may not) include advocating a particular position; (2) the discussion of broad socioeconomic policy as long as it's not designed to encourage others to take action; (3) the provision of technical advice to a government body; (4) "self-defense" lobbying with regard to action that may affect a charity's existence or tax-exempt status; and (5) communication with members of Congress as long as they are not directly engaged in direct or grassroots lobbying themselves.

The legislated restrictions on what foundations can and cannot do to influence legislation often scare foundation boards away from committing their considerable institutional power and knowledge on behalf of the most fundamental right of all: speaking out on matters of policy. Foundations can do better. Indeed, we have an obligation to do so, if only to ensure that our investments in the social sector are leveraged to maximize our impact. Policy work is not lobbying: policy is what results from listening, gathering data, and developing frameworks that support solutions. Policy informs legislation, which, when crafted well, integrates the solutions defined by policy.

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Weekend Link Roundup (March 4-5, 2017)

March 06, 2017

No_noiseOur 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

"The right of artists and journalists to tweak the nose of power, to challenge what we believe, to criticize those in high places, to hold accountable people who otherwise might anoint themselves kings, cannot be abridged because we find it at times uncomfortable," writes Heinz Endowments president Grant Oliphant on the foundation's Point blog. And the "very real possibility that the tiny levels of federal spending for the NEA, NEH and CPB will be eliminated has...obviously nothing to do with balancing budgets or fiscal prudence. It is an attack, pure and simple, on independent and potentially critical voices. It is an expression of disdain for the magical ability of art and journalism to knit our country and its people back together again, and of cowardly antipathy toward those who dare speak unpleasant truths to power...."

Civil Society

Citing efforts to repeal the Johnson Amendment, proposed budget cuts to the IRS, pending anti-protest bills in at least sixteen states, the renewed drive to kill net neutrality, and other developments, Lucy Bernholz argues in a post on her Philanthropy 2173 that "[c]ivil society in the U.S. is being deliberately undermined" and that, just like current attacks on the press, these efforts "are both deliberate and purpose-built."

Education

In this Comcast Newsmaker video (running time, 5:09), Kresge Foundation president Rip Rapson discusses the drivers behind the foundation's early childhood work in Detroit.

Fundraising

Looking to hire a fundraising consultant? Consultant Aly Sterling has put together a nice presentation with a dozen "essential" tips for you to consider and keep in mind.

Giving

The folks at @Pay have the answers to your questions about online giving platforms.

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Apocalypse Later? Philanthropy and Transparency in an Illiberal World

March 02, 2017

The post below by Foundation Center president Brad Smith introduces a new, year-long series of posts on PhilanTopic that will address major themes related to the center’s work: the use of data to understand and address important issues and challenges; the benefits of foundation transparency for donors, nonprofits/NGOs, and the broader public; the role of storytelling in conveying the critical work of philanthropy; and what it means, and looks like, to be an effective, high-functioning nonprofit or changemaker. We hope you’ll join us on this journey, and we welcome your thoughts and feedback.

_____

Open-Data-470x352How long will it be before nonprofit transparency takes its place alongside diceros bicornis on the endangered species list? Hopefully never, but in a world that's growing more technologically sophisticated and more illiberal, I'm beginning to think that if it's not Apocalypse Now, maybe it's Apocalypse Later.

The value of transparency

Transparency has been a boon to the philanthropic sector, making it possible for organizations like Foundation Center, Guidestar, the Urban Institute, Charity Navigator, and others to create searchable databases spanning the entire nonprofit and foundation universe. Our efforts, in turn, contribute to responsible oversight, help nonprofits raise funds to pursue their missions, and fuel online platforms that enable donors to make better giving choices. Transparency also enables foundations to collaborate more effectively, leverage their resources more efficiently, and make real progress on critical issues such as black male achievement, access to safe water, and disaster response. The incredibly rich information ecosystem that undergirds the American social sector is the envy of others around the globe — not least because it gives us a clear view of what nonprofit initiative can accomplish, how it compares and contrasts with government, and how social, economic, and environmental issues are being addressed through private-public partnerships.

Where we are today

Federal law — U.S. Code, Title 26, Section 6104 — stipulates that public access to Form 990, a federal information form that tax-exempt organizations are required to file annually, must be provided promptly on request at the exempt organization's office or offices, or within thirty days of a written request. However, exempt organizations don't have to provide copies of their Forms 990 if they make these materials broadly available through the Internet, or if the IRS determines that the organization is being subject to a harassment campaign.

In 2015, Carl Malamud, the Don Quixote of open data, dragged transparency into the digital age when he brought suit against the Internal Revenue Service to force it to make the 990s of a handful of organizations that had been filed electronically available as machine-readable open data. Malamud won, and, somewhat surprisingly, the IRS then did more rather than less to comply with the order: as of June 2016, all Forms 990 filed electronically by 501(c)(3) organizations are available as machine-readable open data through Amazon Web Services. As such, they can be downloaded directly in digital form and processed by computers with minimal human intervention. The development represents a victory not only for Malamud but for the Aspen Institute’s Nonprofit Data Project, which has toiled for years to make 990s more accessible. The idea, of course, is that free, open data on nonprofits will enable more innovators, researchers, and entrepreneurs to use the data in ways that help make the sector more effective and efficient. Since Malamud won his case, the IRS has posted some 1.7 million Forms 990 as machine-readable open data.

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Weekend Link Roundup (February 25-26, 2017)

February 26, 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....

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African Americans

As Black History Month winds down, here are six facts about black Americans, courtesy of Pew Research, that everyone should be aware of.

Arts and Culture

The Trump administration has targeted the National Endowment for the Arts for elimination. In a piece for the Huffington Post, Mark McLaren, editor in chief of ZEALnyc, explains why that would be a disaster for communities across the country.

Civil Society

As an antidote to the "filter bubble" problem, the Aspen Institute's Citizenship & American Identity Program has launched an initiative, What Every American Should Know, that asks Americans to answer the question: "What do you think Americans should know to be civically and culturally literate?" Kimber Craine explains.

In a short but sobering post on her Philanthropy 2173 blog, Lucy Bernholz speculates that nonprofit groups and civic associations may have "already lost any digital space in which we can have private conversations."

Climate Change

"As the Trump administration prepares to launch what is shaping up as unprecedented assault on environmental regulations,...environmental groups are getting little help from their so-called partners in corporate America," writes Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther. "At a perilous moment for the environment, big business is mostly silent." Why won't American business push for action on climate? And why is it a big deal? Gunther explains.

Health

In a piece for the Kaiser Health News network, Julie Rovner reports that support among Americans for the Affordable Care Act is growing as the Republican-controlled Congress moves to repeal it.

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Why We Make Free, Public Information More Accessible — and How You Can Help

February 17, 2017

An appeal from our IssueLab colleagues Gabi Fitz and Lisa Brooks.

File_folder_lockOne of the key roles the nonprofit sector plays in civil society is providing evidence about social problems and their solutions. Given recent changes to policies regarding the sharing of knowledge and evidence by federal agencies, that function is more critical than ever.

Nonprofits deliver more than direct services such as running food banks or providing shelter to people who are homeless. They also collect and share data, evidence, and lessons learned so as to help all of us understand complex and difficult problems.

Those efforts not only serve to illuminate and benchmark our most pressing social problems, they also inform the actions we take, whether at the individual, organizational, community, or policy level. Often, they provide the evidence in "evidence-based" decision making, not to mention the knowledge that social sector organizations and policy makers rely on when shaping their programs and services and individual citizens turn to inform their own engagement.

In January 2017, several U.S. government agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture, were ordered by officials of the incoming Trump administration not to share anything that could be construed as controversial through official communication channels such as websites and social media channels. (See "Federal Agencies Told to Halt External Communications.") Against that backdrop, the nonprofit sector's interest in generating and sharing evidence has become more urgent than ever.

IssueLab's mission is to provide free and immediate access to the knowledge nonprofits and foundations produce about the world as it is — as well as the things individuals and organizations are doing to make it better. We know there's no such thing as a post-truth society, and we are committed to supporting nonprofits and foundations in their efforts to gather and disseminate facts and evidence.

Seeking Volunteer "Factivists"

Providing access to evidence and lessons learned is always important, but in light of recent events, we believe it's more necessary than ever. That's why we are asking for your help in providing — and preserving — access to this critical knowledge base.

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Weekend Link Roundup (February 11-12, 2017)

February 12, 2017

Abraham_Lincoln_O-77_matte_collodion_printOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Fundraising

If you believe measurement is key to the success of your fundraising program, writes HuffPo contributor Brady Josephson, then you really need to pay attention to these four metrics.

Giving

Did you know actor Kevin Bacon is the brains behind a website that links other celebrities to people and grassroots organizations doing good work. Inc.'s John Botinott has the story.

"Even after we've chosen our cause, a mere 3 percent of us base our gifts on the relative efficacy of nonprofit groups [working to address] that...cause." In a Q&A with Grid's Heather Shayne Blakeslee, ethicist Peter Singer (The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically) explains how we can do better.

Immigration

"Many in our region agree that parts of the immigration system must be improved to make the country more secure. But closing our borders to the terrorized in the name of preventing terror seems a step backward," writes Pittsburgh Foundation president Maxwell King. "And any policy that attempts to punish immigrants that are already part of the fabric of our society seems needlessly harsh. The vast majority of Americans want an immigration policy that effectively controls illegal immigration, but also allows for the appropriate levels of annual legal immigration that serve the needs of communities across the nation." We couldn't agree more.

In an essay in The Atlantic, David Blight, a professor of history at Yale University, suggests that "[o]ne place to begin to understand our long history with the controversies over immigration" is with Frederick Douglass, the most important African-American leader of the nineteenth century and "for nine years a fugitive slave everywhere he trod."

In a strong statement posted on the foundation's blog, San Francisco Foundation CEO Fred Blackwell pledges the foundation's support to immigrants and their families in the Bay Area, to constituencies targeted by Islamophobes, to grantees and nonprofit organizations on the front lines of the immigration battles to come, to faith leaders working to build bridges to and between immigrant communities, and to donors committed to just and fair inclusion for all residents of the Bay Area.

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The World Is Upside Down: What Are Human Rights Funders Doing About It?

February 10, 2017

On January 21, a day after the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump, an estimated four million people participated in the Women's March on Washington and in sister marches worldwide. The feelings among the participants — strength, sorority, solidarity, anger, rebellion, humor, hope — were mixed. The marchers had many demands, including sexual and reproductive rights and action on climate change. Even more than a protest of the new president's policies, the march spoke to the power of intersectional social justice movements. Days later, President Trump revived a ban prohibiting federal resources from supporting international groups that perform or provide information on abortion as a family-planning option. A day after that, the president signed executive orders reactivating the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, despite resistance and protest from local, indigenous, and global communities.

Trump's first week in office was devastating for the human rights community. But it is a problem that is not unique to the U.S. In Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and many other countries in Latin America and around the world, we see similar threats. The human rights community is facing a global crisis that requires a global response.

IHRFG_Highlights_2017_coverIt was against this backdrop that I started reading the new edition of the International Human Rights Funders Group (IHRFG) and Foundation Center's Advancing Human Rights: Update on Global Foundation Grantmaking report. As I was reading, I came across many interesting takeaways — areas for which funding had increased or decreased, for example, as well as some new findings, including the growing visibility and critical role of Global South and East funders in advancing human rights — and the importance of collaboration.

According to the report, Global South and East funders provided $63.5 million through 2,259 grants to 1,837 recipients working to protect and promote human rights in 2014. Many of these donors are women’s funds that have taken the lead in mobilizing local and international resources that wouldn't otherwise get to grassroots groups in their countries and regions. It is not surprising. therefore, that Fondo Centroamericano de Mujeres (FCAM) and the African Women's Development Fund made the list of Global South and East funders who delivered the most grants, with 155 and 153, respectively. What can these funders teach the field of philanthropy? Here are a few thoughts:

Funders cannot address today's global challenges in isolation; we need to understand and build on the linkages among those challenges.

According to the report, 37 percent of the financial support provided by human rights funders was allocated to advocacy, systems reform, and implementation, while only 7 percent and 3 percent supported public engagement and grassroots organizing. What does this tell me? We have to do more to ensure that the voices of the most marginalized populations and communities are heard in the rooms where decisions are made. And we need to come up with more resources to make this a reality, to strengthen dialogue across movements, and to establish open spaces and platforms where funders can engage with each other.

Across movements for social justice, there is more that binds us than divides us. Whether we call ourselves human rights funders or not, to make the greatest impact, we have to pay attention to the commonalities and links that exist between our fields. We see, for example, an increase in the criminalization of social mobilization across movements; of indigenous peoples facing threats for defending their land and traditional practices; of restrictions on abortion, creating higher risks for pregnant women affected by health epidemics such as Zika. Tackling these problems in isolation only reduces our impact and increases the chances of duplicated effort. Therefore...

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Professional Preparation: A "Value Add" for Educators and Their Employers

February 09, 2017

In October 2016, the Jim Joseph Foundation released a final evaluation conducted by American Institutes for Research of its Education Initiative — in three top-rated Jewish education institutions — Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), and Yeshiva University (YU) — to increase the number of educators and educational leaders who are prepared to design and implement high-quality Jewish education programs. The foundation and AIR have shared some of the key findings and lessons learned from the initiative. AIR also is releasing a series of blogs that delve more deeply into important findings from the evaluation — the second of which, below, discusses the value of professional preparation programs and the key characteristics that distinguish those programs as excellent.

Jim_joseph_foundationWhether in a classroom, at a camp, at locations in a city, or in nearly any other environment, effective Jewish learning experiences can enrich lives and help cultivate deep, long-lasting relationships among participants. Over the last two decades especially, Jewish education and engagement experiences developed for teens and young adults have focused on opportunities to create peer communities and friendships, develop leadership skills, and strengthen cultural and religious beliefs while enabling youth to voice their opinions and serve their communities. An important aspect of many of these initiatives is a high level of accessibility and inclusiveness, so that people of various backgrounds and differing levels of prior engagement in Jewish life feel valued, respected, and welcomed.

A Need to Raise the Bar

With the growing popularity of these offerings, both by well-established organizations and in the form of innovative projects, there is an urgent need for the professionalization of individuals responsible for designing, conducting outreach for, and facilitating them. Jewish Community Centers (JCCs), congregations, youth groups, camps, Hillel, and social justice organizations in particular offer many of these experiences — and as a result are driving increased demand for talented, well-trained professionals eager to work in this space.

At the moment, however, no degree requirement exists for individuals tasked with delivering such influential Jewish experiences. The Jim Joseph Foundation's Education Initiative, a recently completed $45 million, six-year investment in three top-rated Jewish education institutions — Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), and Yeshiva University — in part aimed to fill this void by increasing opportunities for and improving access to professional preparation programs for educators, aspiring leaders, middle managers, and directors and executive directors in the field of Jewish education. The initiative was based on the premise that higher education institutions are uniquely equipped to promote the research-based knowledge and decision-making tools needed by professionals to design and deliver a range of excellent educational practices for a particular age group in different settings.

We previously shared other key outcomes and findings of the initiative, including the number of new educators trained and new training programs developed. Now, we want to home in on the value of professional preparation for the individuals and organizations that offer Jewish learning experiences.

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