1490 posts categorized "Philanthropy"

[Review] 'Generation Impact: How Next Gen Donors Are Revolutionizing Giving'

November 21, 2017

A new generation of donors is expected to inherit an estimated $59 trillion dollars by 2061 and to allocate almost half that sum to charitable causes. In addition to this unprecedented transfer of wealth, there are also a growing number of next-generation donors who have earned their own fortunes at a relatively young age and are currently, or will soon be, engaged in philanthropy in a significant way.  

Gen-impact-book-1In Generation Impact: How Next Gen Donors Are Revolutionizing Giving, authors Sharna Goldseker and Michael Moody set out to illuminate the "collective mindset" of this emerging cohort of Gen X and millennial philanthropists, who, as a result of almost unprecedented wealth creation and concentration, are ushering in a "golden age of giving" marked not only by significantly more financial resources available for charitable causes than in the past but by dramatic shifts in the traditional norms of philanthropy. These shifts are the impetus for Goldseker and Moody's book; through interviews and surveys with hundreds of younger philanthropists, as well as first-person accounts from thirteen next-gen donors, they aim to help the social sector understand who these next-generation donors are, how they're giving, and how they're likely to approach change-making efforts in the years to come.  

The authors call these next-gen donors "Generation Impact" because they're hyper-focused on seeing the needle actually move with respect to the various issues they are passionate about. Many want to understand an organization's theory of change; others are eager to go on site visits to see the impact created by their support, while still others want to review hard data that shows the success (or lack thereof) of a program or organization. This focus on results also goes hand-in-hand with a desire to not just fund organizations, but to invest their own time and talent in causes that are important to them. That can take many forms, from volunteering with an organization before becoming engaged as a donor, to connecting with the beneficiaries of a program that they're thinking about funding, to lending their skills and expertise to organizations in addition to (or instead of) writing a check. "Experiencing it with your own hands and eyes is a must," one donor tells Goldseker and Moody.  

Many of these next-gen donors also are beginning their engagement with philanthropy at a relatively young age and will continue giving throughout their lives; as a result, they strive to bring their full selves to their philanthropic endeavors instead of merely viewing charitable giving as an add-on to their professional and personal lives. As one donor puts it: "Philanthropy is not just something that you do; it is very much a part of who you are."  

And while they continue to give through traditional vehicles like family foundations and donor-advised funds at community foundations, next-gen donors increasingly are turning to less traditional vehicles such as crowdfunding platforms and impact investments, are supporting social enterprises and hybrid organizations that blur the lines between for- and nonprofit, and are often focused on working with others to effect change. "They are hungry," write Goldseker and Moody, "for meaningful connections with peers in similar situations of philanthropic affluence so that they can connect personally, to learn and grow together and be more effective in their giving."

Given all that, it's surprising the authors make a point of mentioning the "paucity of other sources of learning in the philanthropic field" for next-gen donors, a lack that leads them, in their words, to seek out their peers for strategic advice. Many infrastructure groups, in fact, including the Jewish Teen Funders Network, Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, and the Council on Michigan Foundations, have resources and programs geared to providing next-gen donors with a "roadmap" for their philanthropic journey. Here at Foundation Center, we recently developed YouthGiving.org — a platform designed to connect, inspire, and inform youth grantmaking, enabling younger donors to not only find and connect with peers, but to learn about other next-gen donors' experiences, failures, successes, and collective impact.

More importantly, what do these shifts mean for the social sector? The authors do a great job of taking the themes surfaced by their research and offering practical advice around what those themes are likely to mean for nonprofits, other philanthropists, and next-gen donors themselves. Younger donors may be rethinking the way Americans give, but, as Goldseker and Moody argue, they're also revolutionaries who respect tradition and will continue to support many of the same causes funded by older generations: indeed, next-gen donors "are earnestly and eagerly searching for ways to honor their elders' legacies and adapt their giving to have maximum impact."  

This should be comforting news to nonprofits that worry their donor support will dry up as younger philanthropists become a bigger force in the field. Still, Goldseker and Moody caution that nonprofits hoping to benefit from the intergenerational transfer of wealth will need to adapt and do a better job of showing the impact of their younger donors' gifts. Other key takeaways for nonprofits include the need to focus on developing meaningful relationships with next-gen donors by aligning with their values, providing them with personal experience of the programs they support, and encouraging them to donate their time and professional skills in addition to (or even instead of) financial resources.

Key takeaways for family foundations looking to engage the next generation include the need to ensure that governance structures give real voice to younger family members, to embrace transparency and use generational differences to their advantage, and to provide younger family members with opportunities to connect with, learn from, and collaborate with their peers in philanthropy. The authors also stress that next-gen donors should respect the boundary between being "hands on" and micromanaging or asking for too much from organizations that are looking for help and support. Or, as they put it: "They will need to keep the inherent power divide in mind, to check in with their partners on the other side of the funding table, and, above all, to listen to what people and organizations really need."  

Goldseker and Moody are incredibly optimistic about next-gen donors who are coming into the field and their potential to meaningfully move the needle on many of our most pressing social problems. Indeed, they believe that impact created by next-gen donors will be greater than the impact created by earlier generations of philanthropists — not only because they are likely to have more resources at their disposal, but because they're more entrepreneurial, more focused on concrete results, and more invested in using new tools to produce those results and effect meaningful, lasting change. It's up to nonprofits and other philanthropists, they write, to adapt to and embrace these new attitudes and behaviors. And it's up to next-gen donors to use their significant privilege and resources strategically, while listening respectfully, to maximize their impact.

Erin Nylen-Wysocki is manager of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center. For more great reviews, visit the Off the Shelf section in PND.

 

Learning From Abroad: Philanthropy’s Role in Spreading Social Innovation

November 20, 2017

Four_idea_lightbulbsDid you know the toothbrush was first invented in China, or that the idea for kindergarten originated in Germany? The United States has benefited from great ideas from other countries for years. As grantmakers — whether a national philanthropy or a local funder — we can learn so much by embracing the notion that good ideas have no borders.

At the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), I direct an effort explicitly tasked with searching the globe for ideas with the potential to improve health and health care in the U.S. And as the foundation continues on its ambitious journey to build a national Culture of Health, my colleagues and I are casting a wide net with our own learning efforts to bring the best ideas and solutions forward.

Finding promising ideas from abroad isn't always easy. It requires time and commitment. Making global ideas accessible and adaptable so that the communities we serve can implement them successfully can be challenging. But I am optimistic. Our efforts to learn from abroad have led us to the work of many organizations and experts who are advancing ideas in areas as diverse as creating a new workforce to support frail elders, building new partnerships to disrupt community violence, and bringing disengaged youth back into the fold.

Our journey also has led us to efforts like ChangeX that are laser-focused on transforming communities with great ideas and social innovations.

Launched in Ireland in 2015, ChangeX International has inspired and supported hundreds of community-led innovations around the world, providing a roadmap for leaders to  drive change in their own neighborhoods. The ChangeX platform finds and packages proven ideas for local adaptation. For instance, Welcome Dinner is a program where residents of a community seek out newly settled refugees and immigrants to share a meal. Because of ChangeX, the idea, which originated in Sweden, has spread quickly throughout Europe and is now helping build social cohesion in communities in the U.S. Men's Shed, an Australian innovation, has become a global movement in ten countries that makes it possible for retired men to come together in dedicated community spaces to find meaning, new skillsets, and friendship. GirlTrek has turned a low-cost, high-impact solution — walking — into a health movement that activates thousands of black women to be change makers.

These are just a few of the many innovations ChangeX is spreading around the world.

With RWJF's support, last year ChangeX launched its first U.S. expansion in Minnesota, and to date more than a hundred local projects are up and running across the state. What's interesting to me is that some of the proven and promising solutions on the ChangeX platform emerged directly from local needs and local values. For example, Sambusa Sunday started in Minneapolis when local Somalis wanted to thank the many residents who supported them during a recent spike in anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment. Featuring free chai tea and Somali pastries called sambusas, these public events bring together neighbors of all backgrounds and nationalities. We're also finding that these innovations are easily adapted for use in other communities, provided local leaders are given the right resources and tools to move them forward.

ChangeX, and adapting global ideas to uniquely local circumstances, sometimes feels a bit like gardening: You take a cutting from a healthy, vibrant plant; root it; and transplant it in another locale, where, with proper care, support, and cultivation, it too can flourish.

As we — funders and grantmakers — look for ways to build stronger, more vibrant communities here in the U.S., we should explore what other countries are doing well. Platforms like ChangeX are a great place to start.

I invite you to join me and my colleagues at RWJF on this global learning journey. What spaces are you currently exploring that could be informed by looking outside our borders? What global efforts do you see holding promise for supporting U.S. communities?

Great ideas are out there. Let's work together to find them!

Headshot_karabi_acharyaKarabi Acharya directs the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s strategies for global learning as it identifies best practices in other countries and adapts them to improve the social determinants of health in communities in the United States. 

Weekend Link Roundup (November 18-19, 2017)

November 19, 2017

Say no to sexual harassmentOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Communications/Marketing

"In a world where there is 'an avalanche of crazy things coming out of the [current] administration', communications professionals find themselves having to rethink how they communicate both internally and externally," writes Jason Tomassini, associate director for editorial at Atlantic Media Strategies, on the Communications Network site. At the recent ComNet17 conference, Tomassini and the network invited attendees to participate in a discussion about how they're navigating communications challenges in the current political environment. Here are four key takeaways from that discussion.

Disaster Relief

The Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, the fund created by Houston mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County judge Ed Emmett, has announced a second round of grants totaling $28.9 million to nintey nonprofits. The Houston Chronicle's Mike Morris has the details.

Giving

Although the giving traditions of the Rockefeller family were established almost a hundred and fifty years ago, writes Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisor's Melissa Blackerby, modern philanthropists can still learn from the family's values and example.

Gun Violence

In the HuffPost, Melissa Jeltsen and Sarah Ruiz-Grossman use data collected by Everytown for Gun Safety to argue that most mass shootings in America are related to domestic violence.

Higher Education

The dueling Republican tax bills working their way through Congress have implications for exempt sectors of the economy that could fundamentally change the way they operate. In this Weekend Edition segment, NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro talks to Raynard Kington, president of Grinnell College, a small liberal arts college in Iowa with a large endowment, about the Republican proposal to levy an excise tax on endowment income.

Nonprofits

Nonprofit AF blogger Vu Le has re-posted to his own blog his NPQ think piece on the future of the nonprofit sector.

Forbes contributor Christian Johnson, co-founder and CEO of Seed Consulting Group, suggests that nonprofit leaders can learn from cardiologists and the complex information and alert systems they rely on to more effectively run their organizations.

Philanthropy

In his annual president's message, a somber Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, notes the passing of two Rockefeller family members "who profoundly shaped the character and work of th[e] foundation over many decades" and shares some thoughts about the challenges confronting the nation and the global community.

In the Nonprofit Quarterly, Martin Levine suggests there's "a not-so-quiet storm brewing in the structure of philanthropy," as donors of all sizes increasingly turn their back on private foundations and look to new vehicles, such as limited liability corporations and donor-advised funds, that "allow them greater control and less oversight."

Could foundations achieve greater impact if they made grants the way venture capital firms approach their investments, focusing not on organizations per se but on industry disruptors? Gabe Kleinman, head of portfolio services and content/marketing at Obvious VC, considers the implications.

Here on PhilanTopic, Fiduciary Trust's Joel Mittelman and Stacy K. Mullaney explain why, in an extended low-rate environment, a "total return" approach makes sense for foundations and endowment managers.

The Philanthropy Workshop (TPW), which works to "inspire, transform, and catalyze a network of effective philanthropists as a means to a more just, sustainable, and enriching world," is looking to hire a chief executive officer. Learn more about the opportunity here.

Public Policy

In The Hill, Independent Sector president/CEO Dan Cardinali and Council on Foundations president/CEO Vikki Spruill decry House Republicans' targeting of the Johnson Amendment, a 63-year-old measure that prohibits 501(c)(3) organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. Repeal of the provision, write Cardinali and Spruill, would result in billions of dollars of anonymously contributed dollars being funneled through nonprofits for partisan political purposes. And with all that money flowing through new, opaque channels, it would only be

a matter of time until scandal erupts, resulting in congressional hearings, IRS probes and public calls for a crackdown.
Think for a moment what that might look like: The IRS could impose vastly increased reporting requirements on nonprofits, a move that would increase the cost of fundraising and reduce spending on missions.
Religious organizations, for the first time, could be forced to file a Form 990, and all nonprofits could face greater scrutiny of their donor lists. Most ominously of all, Congress would feel pressured to eliminate the charitable deduction entirely to prevent government-subsidized funding of political campaigns....

Lucy Bernholz shares her own take on the so-called Brady amendment in a post on her Philanthropy 2173 blog.

In The Atlantic, Derek Thompson details the many bad arguments for getting rid of the estate tax. And here's the left-leaning Center for American Progress' dire take on repeal.

Frequent PhilanTopic contributor Mark Rosenman doesn't mince words as he lays out all the ways that Republican tax "reform" will hurt the charitable sector.

And believe it or not, there are a few millionaires and billionaires in the country — actually, more than four hundred — who have come out and just said "no" to the idea of cutting their taxes.

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

The Worst Tax Reform That Money Can Buy

November 15, 2017

Tax-reformCharities and foundations are lucky. Often their self-interest and the public interest seem to be in conflict. But not this month, thanks to Congressional Republican efforts to "reform" the U.S. tax system.

In simple terms, the Republican plan is an effort to transfer more than $1.5 trillion from public purposes, government, and charities in order to further enrich already fantastically wealthy individuals and corporations. Under both the House and Senate plans, far less of the proposed cuts would benefit middle-class folks — many of whom would actually end up paying more in taxes. And even if Republican leaders' hopes to finance their scheme through cuts to Medicare and Medicaid fail, many of the other so-called reforms would profoundly hamstring our nation's ability to address critical social needs.

It's the same old class warfare that Republicans have promoted since the days of Ronald Reagan, and it must be opposed for the sake of both the nonprofit sector and the people and causes who rely and depend on the sector.

As detailed elsewhere, standard deduction provisions alone would cost charities more than $13 billion in donations each year. Changes in the estate tax, which the House proposes to eliminate and the Senate would reform by doubling the exempt amount, would also have a devastating impact. When the tax was suspended for a year in 2010, bequests dropped by over a third; full repeal would cost the Treasury $270 billion over a decade that might otherwise fund critical needs across America. Yet the Republican proposals allow the top one-fifth of one-percent, the very wealthiest 00.2 percent of Americans, to keep that money, even though most of it has never been and never would be taxed.

Simply put, the various tax policies being pushed in both the House and Senate would significantly cut charitable donations and otherwise harm nonprofits in order to finance giveaways to Americans who already hold a disproportionate share of the nation's wealth.

Why are Republicans willing to cause so much harm to charities and ordinary people? Because, as has been candidly admitted by Republican politicians themselves, their donors and wealthy CEOs (often one and the same) expect it and have even threatened them if they fail to deliver. And, as a harbinger of worse things to come, some Republican-aligned groups are spending upwards of $40 billion to sell middle-class voters on the plan.

In a further move to serve their own narrow interests, House Republicans are angling to repeal the Johnson Amendment and allow 501(c)(3) organizations to engage in partisan political activity. If they succeed and donors start to use tax-exempt charities to fuel their own partisan agendas, the Treasury stands to lose more than $2 billion in tax receipts, and nonprofit organizations of all persuasions are likely to become embroiled in terribly divisive partisan debates over policy. They would also be much more susceptible to coercion by their donors — and by government contract and grant officials — to adopt partisan positions, or face the consequences.

Other provisions hidden in the House or Senate bills — and, remember, provisions in either bill can become law through the work of the final conference committee — do harm to certain charities and those they serve. One proposal would tax the endowment earnings of large universities. As it stands currently, this would cost those institutions a cool $3 billion a year, money that might otherwise be used for student financial aid. It would also open the door to such policies being extended to other charitable entities and funding streams.

Related proposals would hurt university students more broadly and directly. The deduction for student loan interest would disappear, with potentially devastating consequences for roughly twelve million Americans. Student tuition waivers also would be taxed. In total, another $65 billion would be taken from students to finance the Republicans' money grab — even as the same politicians push regressive policies that will exacerbate inequality and make it harder for the working class to realize the American dream.

Under another Republican "reform," universities, hospitals and other charities would no longer be able to finance new facilities and capital improvements through tax-free bonds issued by state and local governments, raising the cost of education and health care by close to $40 billion. School teachers' deduction for the cost of the supplies they buy (only covering the initial $250 they spend) would disappear. And the close to nine million Americans who claim a medical expense deduction (many of them served by nonprofits) are more likely to become even sicker as they watch the transfer of more than $180 billion in tax benefits to the wealthy and large corporations. Seniors would be hurt the most.

There's more. For the first time ever, charities would find certain of their practices subject to fiscal disincentives. Compensation of over $1 million paid to any staffer would be subject to an excise tax.

Now, while some might favor discouraging excessive compensation packages in the charitable sector (I among them), others (I among them) argue that: first, without competitive salaries, large nonprofit hospital systems and similar entities will be unable to today attract the qualified people they need to run those operations; second, that government ought not to impose such disincentives on nonprofits without commensurate action on corporations that have driven up executive compensation to egregious multiples of the average worker’s wage; and third, that it is a terrible precedent for politicians to decide which charitable practices they like or don't like and to use tax policy to enforce their preferences.

Other policy provisions will dramatically impact ordinary Americans. While capping the deduction for mortgage interest is likely to hurt those with more expensive homes, House Republicans don't seem to mind the fact that tax-payers in cities with the highest cost of living — places that, not coincidentally, tend to vote Democratic — will be penalized the most. So, too, the Senate's plan to eliminate the deduction for state and local taxes — a provision that would disproportionately affect those living in "blue" localities.

As "ambitious" as the House, Senate, and White House "reform" packages may be, they clearly work to the detriment of charities and the public. Even as Republicans try to sell their efforts as a boon for the middle class, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has had to admit that the upshot for 25 percent of those in such income brackets is a higher tax bill. Indeed, it is wealthy people like Donald Trump who already pay far less than their fair share of taxes who will benefit the most.

No matter which of these specific proposals survive initial votes in the House and Senate, no matter which of the president's regressive ideas are adopted, and no matter what kind of bill emerges from the conference committee for a final vote, the "reforms" gleefully touted by Republicans will be ruinous for the nation. Charities and organized philanthropy need to stand up and speak out now — for themselves and for the public and the planet — before it's too late.

Headshot_mark_rosenmanMark Rosenman is a professor emeritus at the Union Institute & University. To read more of Rosenman's commentary, click here.

Philanthropy and Conflict Transformation

November 13, 2017

Conflict_transformationCarnage on the streets of New York, London, and Paris has taught us that anyone can be affected by violent conflict. In an interconnected world, borders mean little and war spreads easily. Such attacks, where anyone can become a victim, have their roots in deeper social problems.

Violent conflict brings death, lost homes, displaced persons, and spoiled lives. It costs money, too. The Global Peace Index estimates the 2017 cost of violence across the world at $14.3 trillion (or 12.6 percent of global GDP).

The response of philanthropy to these problems has historically been modest. According to the Peace and Security Funding Index, 290 U.S. foundations gave $357 million in 2014 (the latest date for which figures are available). The mismatch between the scale of the problem and the size of resources stimulated discussion at a workshop organized by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP), Foundation Center, and Donors and Foundations Networks in Europe (DAFNE) on October 30. Some forty-five funders, peace organizations, NGOs, and think tanks concluded that there was a need to learn from each other and to join up the field.

Jean Marc Rickli from GCSP gave a lightning tour of recent conflicts across the world. A few high-intensity armed conflicts are causing large numbers of civilian casualties. Elsewhere, progress promoting peace and justice, together with effective, accountable and inclusive institutions, remains uneven across and within regions. Over the past thirty years, the face of violent conflict has changed markedly. Rather than standoffs between states, conflict is more likely to be based on asymmetrical power relations. Conflicts have become more scattered over a wider area and are driven by nationalism or differences in ideology.

Celia McKeon, from Rethinking Security, identified the drivers of modern conflict: social and political marginalization, inequality, climate change, competition for resources, racism, nationalism, hyper-masculinity, and growing militarization. In studying strategies for national security, she found a reliance on elite-level dialogue, a focus on short-term matters, and unrealistic time frames for post-conflict recovery. Much less attention is paid to preventive work and root causes and support for actors on the ground. Alex Bryden from the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of the Armed Forces (DCAF) echoed these comments, suggesting that security policy was often muddled in suggesting, for example, that more private security is a good thing. The failure to address these factors demonstrates the weakness of global governance and the widespread failure of institutional solutions to peacebuilding.

In the light of the complexity of the issues and the risks entailed, it is perhaps not surprising that many philanthropies find the issue of conflict difficult to engage with. However, as Larry McGill from  Foundation Center observed, the experience of the Peace and Security Funders Group demonstrates that there is much scope for constructive engagement and described a wealth of different interventions in twenty-three different issue areas — from building coalitions to training journalists. Avila Kilmurray, drawing on her work with the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland and Foundations for Peace, and citing her recent study for Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace (PSJP), pointed out that grantmaking in divided societies is different because efforts can be undermined by a bomb going off at any time. Both small and large grants are important, though a small unrestricted grant that allows freedom to spend money in a variety of ways is often better than large grants tied to restricted programmatic goals. There is a key role in research and development for foundations — trying out things that might work and sticking with issues over the long haul. A key task is working with communities that are affected by violence and engaging them in the solutions.

In afternoon workshops, participants explored the challenges facing NGOs and funders working in conflict prevention and resolution. They highlighted the need for a thorough understanding of the context and the causes of the conflict; clarity of purpose and the building of trust between donors and project implementers underpinned by alignment of mission; a preparedness to take risks; and a commitment to a scale and duration appropriate to the conflict and its resolution.

The conclusion of the workshop was that the field needs new energy and thinking. In her summing up, Lauren Bradford from Foundation Center noted that while lots of things are happening in different spaces, the field should be brought together in a way that would yield an ecosystem supportive of the skills, knowledge, and expertise of different actors. A useful vehicle for doing this is SDG 16, whose goal is to "promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels."

There was widespread agreement on the need for a follow-up meeting focused on strengthening connections. A useful place to start this process would be at the annual meeting of the Peace and Security Funders Group due to take place in Minneapolis in May 2018.

Barry Knight bio picBarry Knight oversees the work of the Webb Memorial Trust, supports Foundations for Peace, and works with the Global Fund for Community Foundations, the Arab Reform Initiative, WINGS, and the European Foundation Centre. He is also co-chair of the Working Group on Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace and has previously advised the Ford Foundation and Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. The author or editor of fourteen books on poverty, civil society, community development, and democracy, Knight recently published Rethinking Poverty. What Makes a Good Society?

How to Keep Me Scrolling Through What You Are Sharing

November 02, 2017

Hello, my name is Tom and I am a Subscriber. And a Tweeter, a Follower, a Forwarder (FYI!), a Google Searcher, and a DropBox Hoarder. I subscribe to blogs, feeds, e-newsletters, and email updates. My professional title includes the word "knowledge," so I feel compelled to make sure I'm keeping track of the high volume of data, information, reports, and ideas flowing through the nonprofit and foundation worlds (yes, it is a bit of a compulsion…and I'm not even including my favorite travel, shopping, and coupon alerts).

It's a lot, and I confess I don't read all of it. It's a form of meditation, I guess, for me to scroll through emails and Twitter feeds while waiting in line at Aloha Salads. I skim, I save, I forward, I retweet, I copy and save for later reading (later when?). In fact, no one can be expected to keep up, so how does anyone make sense of it all, or even find what we need when we need it? Everyone being #OpenForGood and sharing everything is great, but who's reading it all? And how do we make what we're opening up for good actually good?

Making Knowledge Usable

At some point, we've all battled Drowning in Information-Starving for Knowledge syndrome (from John Naisbitt's Megatrends — though I prefer E.O. Wilson's "starving for wisdom" theory). The information may be out there, but it rarely exists in a form that is easily found, read, understood, and (most importantly) usedFoundation Center and IssueLab have made it easier for people in the sector to know what is being funded, where new ideas are being tested, and what evidence and lessons are available. But to really succeed, nonprofits and foundations will have to upload and share many more of their documents than they do now. And we need to make sure that the information we share is readable, usable, and easy to apply.

1-2-3-reporting-model

DataViz guru Stephanie Evergreen recently taught me a new hashtag: #TLDR – "Too Long, Didn't Read."

Evergreen proposes that every published report be available in three formats — a one-page handout with key messages, a three-page executive summary, and a 25-page report (plus appendices). That way,  "scanners," "skimmers," and "deep divers" can access the information in the form they prefer and in the time that's available to them. Such an approach also requires writing (and formatting) differently for each of these different audiences. (By the way, do you know which one you are?)

From Information to Influence

But it isn't enough to make your reports accessible, searchable, and easily readable in both a short and long form; you also have to include the information people need to make decisions and take action. It means deciding in advance who you hope to inform and influence and what you want them do with that information. If you expect people to read, learn from, and apply the information you're sharing, you need to be clear about your reason for sharing it, and you need to give people the right kind of information.

Too many times I've read reports that include promising findings and interesting lessons, and then I race through all the footnotes and the appendices at the back of the report looking for resources that could point me to the details or implementation guidance. Alas, I usually wind up trying to track down the authors by email or phone.

2005 study of more than one thousand evaluations focused on human services found only twenty-two that shared any analysis of implementation learnings — i.e., the lessons people learned about how best to put the program or services in place. We can't expect other people and organizations to share your knowledge and what you've learned if they cannot access information that helps them use that knowledge and apply it to their own programs and organizations. YES, I want to hear about your lessons and "a-ha" moments, but I also want to see data and an analysis of the common challenges faced by all nonprofits and foundations:

  • How to apply and adapt program and practice models in different contexts
  • How to sustain effective practices
  • How to scale successful efforts to additional people and communities

This means making sure your evaluations and reports include a frank discussion of the challenges related to implementation — challenges that others are likely to face. It also means placing your findings in the context of existing knowledge and learnings and using commonly accepted definitions that make it easier to build on the knowledge created by others. For example, in our recent middle school connectedness initiative, our evaluator, Learning for Action, reviewed the literature first to identify the specific components of and best practices in youth mentoring, thus enabling us to build the evaluation on what had been done in the field by others, report clearly about what we learned about our own initiative, and share that knowledge with the field. 

So please plan ahead and define your knowledge sharing and influence agenda up front, and as you're doing so keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • Who do you hope reads your report?
  • What information should it share in order to be useful and used?
  • Review similar studies and reports and determine in advance what additional knowledge you'll need to share, as well as what you plan to document and evaluate.
  • Use common definitions and program model frameworks so that others are able to build on the accumulated knowledge of the field and not have to start from scratch each and every time.
  • Pay attention to the implementation, replication, and management challenges (staffing, training, communication, adaptation) that others are likely to face.
  • Disseminate your evaluation widely via conferences, in journals, through your networks, and in IssueLab's open repository.

And if you do all of the above, I will be happy to read through your report's footnotes and appendices the next time I'm waiting in line for a salad!

Headshot_tom_kellyTom Kelly (@TomEval, TomEval.com) is vice president of knowledge, evaluation and learning at the Hawai‘i Community Foundation and has been learning and evaluating as a practitioner since the beginning of the century.  This post originally appeared as part of Glasspockets' #OpenForGood series, which explores new tools, promising practices, and inspiring examples of foundations that are opening up the knowledge they acquire for the benefit of the larger philanthropic sector and is presented in partnership with the Fund for Shared Insight.

[Review] 'The Clean Money Revolution: Reinventing Power, Purpose, and Capitalism'

October 27, 2017

I'm not sure what to think about The Clean Money Revolution: Reinventing Power, Purpose, and Capitalism, Joel Solomon's memoir-cum-manifesto about the importance of taking "a mission-based" approach to finance and investment. I certainly appreciate Solomon's passion for the environment and his sincere belief that we need to move from an economic system built on exploitation to a more "regenerative" system. But I didn't much care for his omission of the poor and people of color in his call for "revolution," or his apparent blindness to his own white privilege; for the many bold claims backed up by engaging anecdotes but little data; or for his limited understanding of the world of private foundations. To be fair, Solomon, the chair of Renewal Funds, a mission-based venture capital firm, acknowledges that the book is written from the perspective "of an older, rich, white male heterosexual," and he "apologize[s] in advance for [the] narrow context and perspective." Still, the book has some glaring blind spots that undermine its impact and, ultimately, expose the superficiality of its premise.

Cover_The_Clean_Money_Revolution_BookLet's start with the positive. The Clean Money Revolution is full of interesting personal anecdotes, making it read more like a memoir than a self-help investment guide. Solomon has led a very interesting life and has played a part in growing many consumer brands that have become household names, including Stonyfield Farms and Ben & Jerry's. He grew up in Chattanooga and, after graduating from Columbia University, spent his early twenties bumming around the western United States. Following a diagnosis of PKD (polycystic kidney disease), he began to look into organic food and "healthy" living and eventually landed in an "intentional community" of "gypsy gardeners" on Cortes Island,  at the head of Georgia Strait between mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island: "I was 25 with long hair and a bushy beard," he writes. "I rarely wore shoes. It was a good time." On the island, at something called Linnaea Farm, "an early model of money transformed by intentional 'cleaning'," Solomon developed an appreciation for the environment and a passion for organic food systems. It's also where he met Drummond Pike, "an early adopter social entrepreneur" who went on to found the Tides Foundation, as well as Robert and Penny Cabot, old-money philanthropists who would later influence his investment strategies.

Solomon eventually accepted a caretaking position at OrcaLab on the even more remote Hanson Island, where he spent months at a time alone, communing with nature and observing the "complexity, diversity, and interdependence" of the island's ecosystem; reading widely in philosophy, history, and anthropology; and developing what would become a lifelong passion for self-reflection and contemplation. Then he received a $50,000 payout from one of his father's real estate investments — which he invested in Hollyhock Farm, a property on Cortes Island that today is a not-for-profit leadership learning center, and Stonyfield, then a nonprofit organic farming school with seven cows.

Soon after, Solomon's father died and he received a $3 million inheritance. The rest of the book details his (usually) successful investments in small businesses focused on natural food systems and local communities. Many of the stories Solomon has to tell are inspiring, and his sincerity is apparent. But it is difficult, at times, not to question his assumption that readers will relate to his adventures in finance, or be interested in his investing advice. About a third of the way through the book, for instance, he observes: "If you have more than enough money, there is a vast opportunity to move capital from stock markets and massive corporations to dynamic small businesses that generat[e]  innovation, relationship, and community."  If is only a two-letter word, but it conveniently elides an assumption that undermines the tale Solomon has to tell: capitalism can be transformed from something inherently exploitative and immoral into something regenerative and moral — but only by those with the capital to do so.

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Why Evaluations Are Worth Reading – or Not

October 26, 2017

EvaluationTruth in lending statement: I am an evaluator. I believe strongly in the power of excellent evaluations to inform, guide, support, and assess programs, strategies, initiatives, organizations, and movements. I have directed programs that were redesigned to increase their effectiveness, their cultural appropriateness, and their impact based on evaluation data; helped to design and implement evaluation initiatives here at the McCormick Foundation that changed the way we understand and do our work; and have worked with many foundation colleagues and nonprofits to find ways to make evaluation serve their needs for greater understanding and improvement.

One of the best examples I've seen of excellent evaluation within philanthropy came with a child abuse prevention and treatment project. Our foundation had funded almost thirty organizations that were using thirty-seven tools to measure the impact of treatment. Many of those tools were culturally inappropriate, designed for initial screenings, or inappropriate for other reasons, and staff from organizations running similar programs had conflicting views about them. Program staff here wanted to be able to compare program outcomes using uniform evaluation tools and to use that data to make funding, policy, and program recommendations, but they were at a loss as to how to do so in a way that honored grantees' knowledge and experience. A new evaluation initiative was funded that included the development of a "community of practice" to:

  • create a unified set of reporting tools;
  • learn from the data how to improve program design and implementation, and use data systematically to support staff/program effectiveness;
  • develop a new rubric that the foundation could use to assess programs and proposals; and
  • provide evaluation coaching for all organizations participating in the initiative.

The initiative was so successful that the participating nonprofits decided to continue to work together beyond the initial scope of the project to improve their own programs and better support the children and families they serve. This "Unified Project Outcomes" article describes the project and the processes that were established as a result in far greater detail.

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Finally! A Global (Data) Language!

October 25, 2017

Trying to get global consensus on anything is nearly impossible. But in collaboration with a dynamic cohort of individuals and organizations, we've managed to develop a new manifesto with respect to the structure and sharing of data about global philanthropy that is valued across contexts. Meet the new Global Philanthropy Data Charter.

GDC_infographic
Philanthropy, and more broadly, civil society, play a large and increasingly visible role in solving complex societal issues around the globe. Over the last twenty years, as private wealth in countries around the world has exploded, we've seen a significant increase in giving by institutions and individuals. At the same time, technology adoption and economic populism have emerged from the shadows while foreign aid to the least developed countries has declined. Established in 2000, the Millennium Development Goals paved the way, in 2015, for the multi-stakeholder Sustainable Development Goals. Each step in this evolution was guided by data. Good data? Not always. But in our rapidly changing world, everyone must tell their own story — or risk having it told for them. The good news? Philanthropy has had to become more transparent, more accountable, and more effective. Rather than siloed efforts, maximizing impact based on smart giving and shared learning has become a collective world-wide aspiration.

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Weekend Link Roundup (October 21-22, 2017)

October 22, 2017

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

Education

In 2010, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made a $100 million gift in support of a major overhaul of the public school system in Newark, New Jersey. To be spearheaded by then-Newark Mayor Cory Booker (now a U.S. senator) and New Jersey governor Chris Christie, the effort stumbled out of the gate and became the object of derision (as well as the subject of a well-reviewed book by education reporter Dale Russakoff). But a new study from a team led by a Harvard University researcher finds that the performance of students in the district has improved significantly in English (although not so much in math) since 2010. Greg Toppo reports for USA Today.

Giving

In a post for Forbes, Kris Putnam-Walkerly offers ten reasons why community foundations are your best for disaster relief giving.

On Beth Kanter's blog, Alison Carlman,  director of impact and communications at GlobalGiving, challenges the conventional wisdom that donors are fatigued by the series of disasters that have hit the U.S. , Mexico, and Caribbeanf.  

Interestingly, a new study from Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy shows that since the early 2000s, volunteering and charitable giving in the United States has dropped roughly 11 percent. And, as a country, our generosity appears to have peaked around 2005, with giving hitting an average of $1,024 annually; in 2015, the most recent year measured, that number dropped to $872. Eillie Anzilotti reports for Fast Company.

In the Stanford Social Innovation Review Jennifer Xia and Patrick Schmitt, students at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, note that while the largest wealth transfer in human history will take place over the next twenty years, most nonprofits are poorly positioned to take advantage of it.

In a video on the CNBC site, tech entrepreneur Alexandre Mars, the "French Bill Gates," argues that giving is something that anyone can — and everyone should — do.

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5 Questions for...Mark Brewer, President and CEO, Central Florida Foundation

October 19, 2017

In September, with the Houston area still wringing itself out after the historic rains dropped by Hurricane Harvey two weeks earlier, parts of the Caribbean and Florida suffered their own disaster, as Hurricane Irma became the first Category 5 storm on record to hit the Leeward Islands and then moved over much of Florida as a Category 3 storm, causing millions of Floridians to evacuate and leaving the Florida Keys cut off from the mainland.

Recently, PND spoke with Mark Brewer, president and CEO of the Orlando-based Central Florida Foundation, about the relief and recovery efforts in his region and what the foundation is doing to help nonprofits in the area get back to normal.

Philanthropy News Digest: What is the extent of the damage in the region served by CFF?

Mark_Brewer_Central Florida FoundationMark Brewer: Finding the answer to that question has been an evolving process. As I'm sure you know, there are three phases to these events: response, recovery, and rebuilding. In some parts of the region we're still in response mode, in part because of the widespread electrical outages and water-related issues in the counties on the coast. But response and recovery is going to look different here than it does in South Florida and the Caribbean, even though we suffered a large amount of unseen damage.

This morning [September 25], for example, more than a hundred daycare centers didn't open because they suffered damage to their buildings or their employees couldn't get into work. That translates into thousands of people who couldn’t get to work because they didn't have child care. So when you look out at the roads, things look like they're clearing up, the tree branches are being removed. But when you start looking at nonprofits in the region, you see that they're struggling to get back to full strength.

PND: What are the most immediate needs, and how do you think things will unfold over the next several months?

MB: The response phase is wrapping up. Most of the power has been restored, and people are starting to get back into their normal routines. Recovery is about getting back to business as usual. It's not just those daycare centers, it's also about making certain that everyone who cares for people with disabilities, children, and the elderly are back in business and the overall "quality-of-life-system" in the region operates as it’s supposed to. For the rest of 2017, we're going to be moving into recovery and making certain that service providers are operational and have what they need. Then for most of 2018, I think it will be a mix of recovery and rebuilding as it becomes clearer who was able to recover from the storm and who wasn't. Remember, while we're happy to have FEMA on the ground, it can sometimes take months  even years  for FEMA to pay the bills. That means you will see a lot of nonprofits that are stressed in terms of their capacity to help people with things that they've been told they'll be reimbursed for later.

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Weekend Link Roundup (October 14-15, 2017)

October 15, 2017

California-fire-story7-gty-ml-171012_4x3_992Our 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

We've always admired Herb Alpert — chart-topping musician, innovative record producer/executive, generous philanthropist — and are happy to pass on the news that his foundation has a brand brand new website.

Economy

"[F]or the first time since World War II, American children have only a 50-50 chance of earning more than their parents" — proof that our "economic system is broken," and why jobs and opportunity are America's most pressing challenge, writes Rockefeller Foundation president Rajiv J. Shah.

Giving

How might tax reform affect charitable giving? On the NPR site, Jonathan Meer, a professor at Texas A&M University and an expert on charitable giving, shares his analysis.

Cash-strapped though they may be, cause-driven millennials are finding ways to support causes and organizations aligned with their passions and concerns. Justin Miller, co-Founder and CEO of CARE for AIDS, a faith-based NGO that provides holistic care to families affected by HIV/AIDS in East Africa, explains.

Grantmaking

On the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Anthony Richardson, a program officer at the Nord Family Foundation in Ohio, argues that it is critically important for funders "to listen and be discerning about what may be most helpful — and what may indeed be unintentionally harmful — to organizations doing challenging work on the front lines."

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5 Questions for...Rye Young, Executive Director, Third Wave Fund

October 12, 2017

The Third Wave Fund, an activist fund led by and for women of color and intersex, queer, and trans people under the age of 35, recently launched a pilot effort, the Our Own Power fund, aimed at fostering grassroots organizations in the gender and reproductive justice fields. Rye Young, a trans-activist and executive director of the fund, spoke with PND via email about the importance of representation — the notion that organizations representing vulnerable communities should be led by members of those communities and what nonprofits and foundations can do to boost representation within their organizations and in the sector more generally.

Philanthropy News Digest: What can nonprofits and foundations do to increase self-representation within their organizations?

Rye YoungRye Young: An important first step that many organizations skip is to acknowledge that there is a representation problem in the first place, and to appreciate that this problem does not have an easy fix because it is the result of many factors. There needs to be a conscious effort made to understand how this lack of representation came to be and why it hasn’t been addressed.

Once that understanding has been established, real conversations need to take place focused on why self-representation should be an organizational goal and to determine how far the organization’s leaders are willing to go. For instance, how much funding should be allocated to training? Are those in leadership positions who come from outside the community served by the organization willing to step down from their roles? Can job qualifications be changed or replaced with something more appropriate?

When deciding what steps it can and should take, the organization also must acknowledge the legitimacy of the problem and the many factors behind it. The root causes behind the lack of representation are varied, layered, and deeply embedded within most organizations. So, any decisions arrived at to address the problem must be long-term, and there must be buy-in at all levels of the organization.

PND: Can you give us an example of the kinds of things that result in a lack of representation?

RY: Racism, patriarchy, ageism, ableism — all can result in staff and board members not being members of the community being served, and in turn that can lead to a culture, a set of norms, practices, and values that are reflective of a more privileged or dominant group. And addressing the issue should go beyond changes in leadership or a few key staff; it has to involve a deep examination the organization’s work at every level, from mission and values, to its theory of change, to programs and its human resources policies.

Another example of a root cause could be that your field requires certain types of specialized education, eliminating many eminently qualified candidates and resulting in a small, privileged pool of “qualified” applicants. But there are many drivers. What’s important is that we all do some deep thinking and learning as to what exactly is going on at our own institutions.

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Funding Disability Arts

October 09, 2017

The following post is part of a year-long series ;here on PhilanTopic that addresses 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 emergence of private philanthropy globally; the role of storytelling in conveying the critical work of philanthropy; and what it means, and looks like, to be an effective, high-functioning foundation, nonprofit, or changemaker in the twenty-first century. As always, we welcome your thoughts and feedback.

Fudning for disability artsThe stage has been set for a new and vibrant era of funding for disabled artists and disability arts. A spate of innovative programs — Dance/NYC’s Disability. Dance. Artistry. Fund, Alliance for Artist Communities’ Creative Access Fellowship Program, and the Apothetae and Lark Playwriting Fellowship, among others — are putting new dollars into art made by and with disabled people and raising the bar for the broader philanthropic sector.

With CreateNYC, released this summer, the City of New York established the first cultural plan in the United States with disability-specific strategies for expanding cultural access, including a new fund for disabled artists, cultural workers, and audiences. In this and other ways, the city is modeling the kind of leadership that is urgently needed at all levels of government.

Because they embrace disability as a positive artistic and generative force, these efforts are already generating value. They also represent a shift in arts philanthropy, where the exclusion of disabled people is entrenched and where niche disability-specific funds largely have been limited to facility improvements or programs focused on the therapeutic and educational benefits of the arts. And they are demonstrating how, by funding the field of disability arts and its workforce, philanthropy can move the whole creative sector forward — and, by extension, drive social change.

The moment is rife with opportunity. On the one hand, there are opportunities for more expansive disability-specific funds. Indeed, a new generation of disability arts organizations and fiscally sponsored projects is primed for capacity-building investments, and there are critical gaps in funding for disabled artists along the artistic development continuum, from public school classrooms to professional studios and stages.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (September 2017)

October 03, 2017

September 2017. A month most of us would like to forget. But while folks in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands were being pounded by Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria, our colleagues here at the Foundation Center were doing yeoman's work tracking the hundreds and millions of dollars (more than $300 million at last count) in corporate, foundation, and individual commitments for relief and recovery efforts. For folks interested interested in doing a deeper dive into who gave what, we posted (and regularly updated) some great tables during the month (see below) — as well as great posts by Michael Seltzer, Surina Khan, Tracey Durning, and Chris Kabel (Kresge Foundation), Amy Kenyon (Ford Foundation), and Sharon Z. Roerty (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation). Check it out...and RIP Tom Petty — our hearts are broken.

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

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