1524 posts categorized "Philanthropy"

Weekend Link Roundup (Jan. 27-28, 2018)

January 28, 2018

640_2015_01_02_15_45_20_04_2015_08_23_13_12_33Our 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

Following recent allegations of workplace misconduct leveled at Human Society of the U.S. chief executive Wayne Pacelle, Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther takes a closer look at charges of widespread sexual harassment and gender bias in the animal welfare movement. 

Arts and Culture

Be sure to check out the Q&A on Barry's Blog, a service of the Western States Arts Federation, with John E. McGuirk, the recently retired director of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation's Performing Arts Program.


On the Inside Philanthropy site, IP contributor Mike Scutari asks: When should nonprofit institutions keep a gift that has been tainted by the bad actions of the giver?


You've been awarded a grant and now the deadline for reporting your program's outcomes is looming. Should you invest as much time and effort into writing the final project report as you did in writing the grant proposal? On the Philanthropy Front and Center-Cleveland blog, Jenna Gonzales, a program associate at the San Antonio Area Foundation, shares six things you can do to "articulate your impact and demonstrate you are a credible partner to consider for future grant opportunities."

Higher Education

At a time when postsecondary educational attainment in the United States remains below 50 percent for the 25-34 year-old age group, "the vast, affordable, and extraordinarily diverse community college system is central to the national debate about access and quality in postsecondary education, and about work life readiness for the next generation of Americans." The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's Mariët Westermann explains

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[Review] Putting Wealth to Work: Philanthropy for Today or Investing for Tomorrow?

January 24, 2018

At some point in their lives, high-net-worth individuals with philanthropic inclinations must answer an age-old question: Do I commit all (or most of) my resources to charitable causes in my lifetime, or should I create a giving vehicle that exists in perpetuity?

Book_putting_wealth_to_workIn Putting Wealth to Work: Philanthropy for Today or Investing for Tomorrow?, social sector veteran Joel L. Fleishman, director of the Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society at Duke University, examines the two sides of the question, finding strengths — and weaknesses — in both approaches and ultimately concluding that the correct answer is not either/or but both/and. In arriving at that conclusion, he also provides readers with an overview of modern American philanthropy, including the fairly recent advent of the Giving Pledge and the growing popularity of funder collaboratives; a brief history of limited-life foundations (i.e., foundations that have decided to "spend down" their corpus by a specific date); and a framework for critically evaluating this ever-green conundrum.

In the book (a follow-up to his well-received The Foundation: A Great American Secret; How Private Wealth Is Changing the World), Fleishman carefully deconstructs the arguments commonly made by "anti-perpetuity" critics and in the process does his best to separate fact from fiction. For example, anti-perpetuity critics often cite Henry Ford II's resignation from the board of the Ford Foundation in 1976 as evidence that foundations created to exist in perpetuity inevitably depart from their founding donor's intent. Fleishman, however, debunks the "myth" that Ford "should be regarded as the poster child for departure from donor intent," arguing that "no donor intent had been embodied in the legal instrument that created the…[f]oundation." He goes on to attribute the persistence of the myth to the conservative-leaning Philanthropy Roundtable, which has "kept alive a questionable interpretation of Henry Ford II's role in, [and] resignation from, the Ford Foundation," as well as other similarly inclined think tanks for "imputing departure from donor intent specifically to liberal foundations." The reality, writes Fleishman, is that "thousands of foundations that were founded by now-deceased donors do not appear to have wavered to any significant degree in trying to fulfill the intention of their founders."

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Weekend Link Roundup (January 13-14, 2018)

January 15, 2018

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

Climate Change

On the Barr Foundation blog, the foundation's Climate Program co-directors, Mariella Puerto and Mary Skelton Roberts, outline "the rationale, priorities, and early steps of the foundation's newly-expanded focus on [climate] resilience."

New York Magazine's Reeves Wiedeman checks in with a fresh take on the climate advocacy of the Rockefeller family and its campaign against Exxon, one of the legacy companies of John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil.


A consensus has developed over the last decade around the importance of pre-K education. So why do so many preschool teachers live on the edge of financial ruin? Jeneen Interlandi reports for the New York Times.

To kick off the new year, the editors of Education Week share ten ideas that they believe have the potential to change K-12 education in 2018.


Why are we so bad at predicting the future, and what can we learn from our collective obtuseness? When it comes to fundraising, writes digital marketer and self-styled charity nerd Brady Josephson, "the question shouldn't be 'What will be different in the future?' but rather 'What will be the same?'"

International Affairs/Development

It may not have seemed like it, but 2017 was the best year in human history. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof explains. And Kristof's Times colleague Tina Rosenberg reminds us that it was a pretty good year for social innovation as well.

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Catalytic Philanthropic Capital Can Supercharge Affordable Housing Nonprofits

January 05, 2018

Hoousein-affordabilityThe housing crisis in the United States is getting worse. What was already a challenging situation has been compounded by the increasing frequency of severe weather events like hurricanes Harvey and Irma, as well as by proposed federal budget cuts for fiscal 2018 that would slash HUD programs by $6.2 billion. These and other factors are putting great strain on the insufficient resources set aside to help low-income people maintain an adequate standard of living.

This crisis cannot be solved by the public, private, or government sectors alone. A problem of this scale requires innovative, multisector solutions designed to preserve affordable housing, drive system change, and create economic opportunity for those who need it most.

Rising real estate prices and job growth are not signs of housing stability

Rising real estate prices aren't a solution to the problem; if anything, they're exacerbating it. According to a 2017 report by the Urban Institute, the market provides only twenty-one adequate, affordable, and available (AAA) units for every hundred renter households with income at or below 30 percent of the area median income.

Even in places where job opportunities are improving, the housing crisis is worsening. One-third of all U.S. households are paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing, yet between 2005 and 2015 the number of rental units costing less than $800 per month declined by 2 percent, while the number of units costing more than $2,000 increased 97 percent. Cities like Boston have witnessed a booming job market, leading to a population spike, followed by a development boom. Investors are buying land and sitting on it, waiting for values to rise even higher and leaving little to no property for affordable housing. Naturally occurring affordable housing — housing that is affordable without public subsidy — is at risk for acquisition and flipping, resulting in higher risk of eviction for people already living on the edge.

This scenario is playing out all across the country. Naturally occurring affordable housing is being lost at an alarming rate to developers with deep pockets who acquire the properties with plans to raise rents.

I see firsthand the many innovative organizations across the country that are working to narrow the gap between housing needs and access. But financial constraints often affect an organization's ability to operate at full capacity. The restrictions placed on nonprofits' use of funds can be overwhelming, and nonprofits spend too much time navigating the complex maze of funding restrictions that could be better spent delivering and improving on services. If organizations were not confined by these strict rules and mandated to spend funds on specific tasks, they could respond more quickly and effectively.

Nonprofit housing solutions

Entrepreneurial nonprofit housing organizations are nimble, deploy large amounts of capital, and have an enormous impact on the lives of the individuals and families they serve. When equipped with the necessary resources — specifically, access to enterprise-level capital — magic happens and organizations with tried-and-true solutions achieve even deeper impact and change lives. The Housing Partnership Network (HPN) creates vehicles to aggregate capital for its members; with flexible, longer-term, lower-cost capital, our members are able to deploy that capital at scale and in an accelerated fashion.

One standout example is the Housing Partnership Equity Trust (HPET). This first-of-its-kind social benefit real estate investment trust (REIT) was founded by and invested in by HPN members to compete against for-profit, market-rate buyers with easy access to cash who are buying up multi-family properties that provide homes for residents typically earning 50 percent to 80 percent of area median income — that is, working poor and middle-income people.

Because our nonprofit members are prohibited from raising equity on their balance sheets, in the past they needed months, sometimes years, to raise the funds needed to purchase properties. HPET provides entrepreneurial nonprofit housing organizations with the capital needed to compete in the market, purchase properties, and preserve housing affordability. HPET's members include well-known community development organizations and change makers like Aeon in Minnesota and Eden Housing in California, organizations whose established relationships make them the preferred "go-to" partners in their communities.

What is the solution? Capital.

While we've found ways to create positive impact during the ongoing housing crisis, the challenge we now face is replicating those solutions at scale. And the solution to this challenge is capital, enterprise capital, in the form of investments in high-performing organizations.

Vehicles like HPET work. But they are limited by a lack of capital. Impact can be unlocked through structures that bring together investors seeking stable returns, surety of deployment, and long-term housing solutions for hard-working families seeking access to good schools, affordable transportation options, and financial peace of mind. The good news, as HPET demonstrates, is that capital can be deployed on a significant scale and in ways that meet institutional investors' needs. And that is where real impact happens.

The beneficiaries of those investments are the home health aides and teachers who live in our housing, contribute to our communities, and make up the fabric of our neighborhoods. The track record of our members and of HPET — nearly five years after its launch — is evidence of our commitment to the long-term preservation of affordable housing in America. Stable housing is a springboard to economic opportunity and success for residents and their communities. By providing high-performing entrepreneurial nonprofits with unrestricted capital, we reduce their dependence on federal programs and better position them for sustainability regardless of future changes in federal policy.

While private philanthropy is pivotal to the future of affordable housing, it can only do so much. Yes, it can provide enterprise-level funding, but its real value lies in its ability to seed initiatives that bring private capital to bear in the form of debt and equity (rather than grants). Philanthropic dollars can have catalytic impact as well. The Ford Foundation is evidence of this; by allocating $1 billion of its endowment to mission-related investments over the next ten years, Ford is betting it can both broaden and deepen its impact. If other foundations follow Ford's lead, they, too, can position themselves to harness the full power of their endowments and expertise — and help shape the real estate market in ways that will benefit millions of low- and middle-income Americans.

We are at a crossroads. We have seen innovative nonprofits across the country develop truly impressive solutions to the nation's housing crisis. But without access to enterprise-level capital, it will be difficult for them to bring their solutions to scale. The time to act is now.

Headshot_rebecca_reganRebecca Regan is executive vice president at the Housing Partnership Network, a Boston-based business collaborative of one hundred of the nation’s leading affordable housing and community development nonprofits.

5 Questions for...Lateefah Simon, President, Akonadi Foundation

January 04, 2018

At 40, Lateefah Simon has spent more than half her life as a civil rights advocate and racial justice leader. She was a 17-year-old mother when she went to work for the Center for Young Women's Development and was just 19 when she became the organization's executive director. In the years that followed, she helped position the center as a national leader in the movement to empower young women of color — an achievement for which she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2003. She later led the creation of San Francisco's first reentry services division, headed the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, and served as a program director at the Rosenberg Foundation, where she helped launch the Leading Edge Fund in support of the next generation of progressive movement leaders in California.

In 2016, Simon became the second president of Akonadi Foundation, whose mission is "to eliminate structural racism that leads to inequity in the United States." PND spoke with her about the work required to build a movement focused on racial equity — and philanthropy's role in that effort.

Philanthropy News Digest: The Akonadi Foundation, which is headquartered in Oakland, is focused on "building a localized racial justice movement." Why is it important for the racial justice movement to act locally?

Headshot_lateefash_simon_2017Lateefah Simon: What those of us in philanthropy and those working on the ground doing movement-building work know is that many of the racialized policies that have divided communities, from juvenile justice to local policing to school policies, have taken place on the municipal level. We also know that our efforts have to be extremely strategic to undo these policies — for example, the disproportionate overuse of school suspensions and expulsions against black and brown students that has been standard policy for many, many years.

To create racial justice in our communities, we have to go deep — to the source, where the policies come from, and also to the culture. Our work is not just about going after and disrupting racist policy but also about ensuring that all communities of color are working together, understanding that one group's organizing, movement-building, and advocacy work will benefit other groups. If we're fighting for anti-gentrification policies in Chinatown, African-American and Latino communities are going to be able to use those efforts to inform their own organizing, and so on.

PND: The foundation takes an "ecosystem" approach to its grantmaking. What do you mean by ecosystem grantmaking, and why do you believe it's the right approach for your movement at this time?

LS: Five years ago, the Akonadi Foundation set out to envision what Oakland could look like in ten years. Oakland has been a cradle of social movements — and is best known, of course, as the birthplace of the Black Panther Party. There's a historical narrative here around race and the interconnectedness of people of color coming together to defeat horrific racist policies; it's our legacy. In our ambition to create a ten-year period of change, our thought was, even as a small foundation, we need to make grants that address the ecosystem in which "justice" is created and delivered. We know that here in Oakland, for example, we have a responsibility to fund base-building groups that are enlisting people willing to fight back, to fund groups that are going to craft policy prescriptions, and groups that will — when those campaigns have succeeded — ensure implementation of those prescriptions as well as follow-up advocacy and legal oversight of the policies.

And just as importantly, we know that if we are pushing communities to organize and fight campaigns, culture has to be at the center of this work; much of our cultural work as people of color is about staking claim to a city we helped build. So thinking about how change happens, about how the people of Oakland move toward justice — it's broad, and must be led by an "ecosystem" of grant partners who are in movement together.

In 2018, we're going to be engaging our grantees and having them give us a better idea of where we are. The world has completely changed in the last year. And because the world has changed, and the conditions of our city have changed, it's important for us to go back and look at our theory of change and redefine and reexamine how ecosystem grantmaking needs to work.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts 2017

January 02, 2018

It's no surprise, perhaps, that the most popular item on the blog in 2017 was a post, by Michael Edwards, from 2012. Back then, the country was clawing its way back from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and the future, if not exactly bright, was looking better. Two thousand-seventeen, in contrast, was...well, let's just say it was a year many would like to forget. Edwards, a former program officer at the Ford Foundation and the editor of the Transformation blog on the openDemocracy site, had agreed to write a four-part series (check out parts one, two, and four) on the Bellagio Initiative, an effort funded by the Rockefeller Foundation to produce a new framework for philanthropic and international development, and his third post had much to say about how and when, in development work, we measure, how we use and interpret the results, and who decides these things — concerns as relevant today as they were in the final year of Barack Obama's first term in office.

Of course, smart thinking and useful advice never go out of fashion — as the posts gathered below amply demonstrate. Indeed, with an administration and majorities in both chambers of Congress seemingly determined to roll back many of the progressive gains achieved over the last half-century, nonprofits and social entrepreneurs working to protect the rights of marginalized and vulnerable populations, undo the vast harm caused by a systemically biased criminal justice system, combat the corrosive effects of money on our politics, and address the existential threat posed by climate change will need all the smart thinking and useful advice they can lay their hands on. So, sit back, buckle your seat belt, and get ready for 2018. It's going to be an...interesting year.

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.

Interested in writing for PND or PhilanTopic? We'd love to hear from you. Send a few lines about your idea/article/post to mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Weekend Link Roundup (December 30-31, 2017)

December 31, 2017

2017-2018Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....


In his final post of the year, Nonprofit Chronicles blogger (and transparency advocate) Marc Gunther shares what (and why) he and his wife gave to charity in 2017.  


"The world's 500 richest people have increased their wealth by $1tn (£745bn)...this year due to a huge increase in the value of global stock markets," the Guardian reports. In fact, as 2017 comes to a close, the "world’s super-rich hold the greatest concentration of wealth since the US Gilded Age at the turn of the 20th century, when families like the Carnegies, Rockefellers and Vanderbilts controlled vast fortunes...." 

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos ($99bn) tops the list, followed by Bill Gates ($91.8bn) and Warren Buffett ($85.3bn). For those interested in tracking such things, the Bloomberg Billionaires Index provides statistical profiles, updated on a daily basis, of the hundred richest people in the world.

The Republican tax bill signed into law by President Trump just before Christmas is likely to worsen inequality in the United States. Referring to the bill as "a lump of coal" for average Americans, the California Wellness Foundation suggests in a statement on its website that the new law will further cement America's status as "a nation of profound inequality" and regrets the fact that it "was enacted despite the fact that so many were not in favor of it." The foundation closes with a call to "other funders committed to the public good to join with us as we move forward with even greater resolve to build the power of the many, not the few." 


"The nonprofit sector is woefully lacking creative destruction. Mediocre and weak organizations are still attracting funding and the best organizations are not accessing the funding they need to achieve real impact." Catarina Schwab and Lindsay Beck hope to change that with something called an impact security. Devin Thorpe reports for Forbes

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Thoughts on ‘As the South Grows’

December 27, 2017

As-the-South-Grows-cover-232x300As someone who has shed plenty of blood and tears after almost twenty years living and breathing Southern philanthropy, I am thrilled with the deep and committed work of Grantmakers for Southern Progress and the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) on the As the South Grows series of publications. The writers — Ryan Schlegel and Stephanie Peng — spent a great deal of time outside the walls of their offices to capture the authentic voice of residents of six Southern sub-regions that have had small to middling philanthropic investment over the years.

My experience as a locally embedded Southern funder — first with the Rapides Foundation and then the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust — over the past couple decades prompted a reaction to both what is presented and what I hope will be addressed in future reports. The following observations come from a same church/different pew perspective of someone who has spent the bulk of his professional career trying to get philanthropic activity connected to local champions in a way that makes sense to funders and communities alike.

1. Large regional or national funders increasingly want long-haul relationships. For decades, I have observed the lack of large funder investment in the South. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some particularly underresourced and isolated places in the region have never had any formal funder investment — ever.

Southern communities can certainly use financial resources focused on locally produced efforts to drive community development and improvement. But it is just as, if not more, important that large funder involvement focus on: 1) the inclusion of these places as part of national learning platforms; and 2) enabling these communities to tap into the wealth of intellectual and social capital that national funders can access on their behalf.

For example, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health prize recognized the small town of Williamson, West Virginia (population 3,100), in 2014 with a $25,000 award. The award paved the way for government funders to support new work around built environment, healthy foods, economic development, and other initiatives designed to benefit this coal-country town.

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Weekend Link Roundup (December 16-17, 2017)

December 17, 2017

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

Civil Society

Philanthropy 2173  blogger Lucy Bernholz has released the latest edition of her Blueprint year-in-review survey and is inviting readers (and everyone else) to share their civil society predictions for 2018, which she will review in a live discussion on January 11 with David Callahan (@InsidePhilanthr), Trista Harris (@TristaHarris), Julie Broome (@AriadneNetwork), and moderator Crystal Hayling (@CHayling).

Democrat Doug Jones's victory over Republican Roy Moore in the special election to fill Attorney General Jeff Session's vacated seat in deep red Alabama was "a victory for the black women-led voter registration and mobilization movement...that has been working against stiff headwinds for months — decades, really — to ensure democracy prevails in a state with some of the most onerous barriers to voting in the country," writes Ryan Schlegel on the NCRP blog. 

And here on PhilanTopic, Mark Rosenman argues that the threat to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid represented by the Republican tax plan making its way through Congress means that, now more than ever, foundations need to step up for democracy.


Can a little behavioral economics help nonprofits raise more money? Bloomberg View columnist and legal scholar Cass R. Sunstein thinks so.


There’s no one right way to give. But there are lots of things you can do to make yourself a better giver. The folks at Bloomberg Business have put together a great guide to help you get started.

In his latest, Denver Post On Philanthropy columnist Bruce DeBoskey reviews Generation Impact: How Next Gen Donors Are Revolutionizing Giving, by Sharna Goldseker and Michael Moody. And be sure to check out our review, by the Foundation Center's Erin Nylen-Wysocki, here.

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'Tis the Season to Give — Now More Than Ever Under Tax Reform

December 16, 2017

Holiday-charity-smart-givingGiving Tuesday broke all records this year. On November 28, a total of $274 million was donated to charity through the online campaign, as millions of individuals contributed an average of about $110 to great organizations around the globe. According to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, however, if certain provisions in the House and Senate versions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act become law, nonprofits could lose between $12 billion and $20 billion in annual charitable revenues. And that means donors will need to give a whole lot more on future #GivingTuesdays — and every other day of the year — if those nonprofits hope to maintain the same level of service they currently provide.

With Republicans racing to pass a final bill before Christmas, the outlook for nonprofits is bleak. Like the Grinch who stole Christmas, the plan making its way through Congress could steal billions in would-be donations from worthy causes. One provision in the bill is particularly damaging: the increase in the standard deduction.

By doubling the standard deduction and repealing or scaling back many itemized deductions, the plan would substantially reduce the number of taxpayers who elect to itemize their returns. The Tax Policy Center estimates that fewer than thirteen million taxpayers would itemize deductions in 2018 under the House version of the plan, down from more than 46 million under current law. The net effect: significantly reduced incentives for people to give. Urban-Brookings analysts note that most economists generally agree that tax deductions boost charitable giving — although to what degree is open to debate. Whatever the level, the likely trajectory for giving under the Republican plan is downward — an unfortunate circumstance for nonprofits, since the vast majority — 72 percent — of the more than $390 billion given to nonprofits last year came from individual donors (GivingUSA). These are the everyday givers who contribute $25, $50, or $100 to their favorite causes and many itemize those contributions.

Given these and other changes to the tax code that could undermine charitable giving, here is some advice for nonprofits seeking to sustain their good work and the donors who support them — individual givers as well as philanthropic foundations and corporations.

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The Role of Philanthropy in Conflict Prevention: 15 Takeaways

December 15, 2017

Number15In early November, Foundation Center hosted an event with the Geneva Centre for Security Policy and the Donors and Foundations Networks in Europe (DAFNE) that drew more than forty-five people from ten countries to discuss the role of philanthropy in conflict prevention and resolution. The energy around the topic was palpable and there was no shortage of knowledge shared. Here are my top 15 takeaways from the meeting:

1. Less than 1 percent of philanthropic funding is going to peace and security. It's true; take a look at the data. Given the currency and the social and economic costs associated with conflicts worldwide, this is a worrying figure. According to former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, "The economic and financial cost of conflict and violence in 2014 has been estimated to be US$14.3 trillion, or 13.4 percent of the global economy." So why is this area of work underfunded? Is it because foundations are more risk averse than they like to believe?

2. Philanthropy has the ability to be adaptable, flexible, and take risks. It can play a research and development role in the field of peace and security, but it must respect that this work is high stakes and requires a great deal of flexibility; it is not philanthropy as usual and there are rules to be followed when operating in a sensitive environment. Funders must carefully consider relevant contextual and cultural information when funding and working in conflict-affected environments.

3. Without peaceful and secure communities, the climate, humanitarian, and development agendas will not be realized. Conflict, humanitarian disasters, and climate change are interlinked and their effects are unevenly distributed and primarily impact economically disadvantaged communities. These different agendas can’t be realized in isolation, and we won’t make progress without expanding our efforts to prevent and resolve conflict.

4. There are roles for both large and small funders. Some smaller funders feel that the situation is just too complex for them to get involved. However, increasing the availability of small, unrestricted grants can make a critical difference in conflict-affected environments, where the context is constantly shifting and flexible funding is key. Larger grants and long-term funding are also crucial to ensure the continuity and long-term relationships necessary for effective peacebuilding programs. Regardless of size, funders large or small, can support indigenous locally led efforts, provide core support, and commit to the long term.

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Now More Than Ever, Foundations Need to Step Up for Democracy

December 14, 2017

Vote_counts_830_0Even before agreeing on the final details of their tax bill, Republican leaders in Congress have made it clear they hope to address the national debt — the one their bill adds a trillion dollars to over the next ten years — by cutting vital safety net programs. Indeed, the dishonest Republican plan rewards the richest one percent of American taxpayers with over 60 percent of the proposed benefits of tax "reform" while people living in poverty or who depend on Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs will lose ground. Even the elderly and the sick, as well as those whose future well-being is tied to Social Security, are likely to be sacrificed on the altar of "deficit reduction."

What can charities and philanthropy do about it? Apparently nothing, judging from the feckless efforts to protect charitable giving and the integrity of the sector during the recent tax cut battle. It's reported that nonprofit "infrastructure groups" spent over $670,000 on lobbying activities in 2017 (through September) — with little in the way of results to show for it. Additional efforts — and expenditures — by individual charities and nonprofit coalitions likewise failed to derail the regressive policy changes championed by Republicans in Congress.

It doesn't have to be that way. Charities have created little opportunity for themselves to be heard on the tax bill, and it's unlikely their collective voice could affect anything but the proposed repeal of the Johnson Amendment — an action that, if not dropped from the final bill, would turn tax-exempt organizations into partisan political action groups. One hopes, however, that charities — and foundations — will learn from this depressing experience and act to better represent the public interest in the lead up to the 2018 midterm elections — and beyond.

For charities and foundations to succeed in this endeavor, three things need to change: (1) public policy issues must be seen for what they really are; (2) charities and foundations must work to invigorate enlightened grassroots participation in the democratic process; and (3) we, especially funders, need to overcome our arrogance and self-serving timidity and recognize that, regardless of organizational mission, we will not succeed as a sector if we don't also support efforts designed to strengthen civic engagement and democracy.

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Philanthropy in India Report Sparks Questions…and Opportunity

December 11, 2017

Sdgs-circleRecently, Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace, in association with Alliance magazine, Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support (WINGS), and the Centre for Social Impact and Philanthropy at Ashoka University, released a highly anticipated thought piece on the emerging philanthropic sector in India, one of the largest and most rapidly changing countries in the world.

The report, a working paper by Caroline Hartnell titled Philanthropy in India, draws on interviews with key local actors to inform us about the varying types of philanthropy, illustrate some of the current challenges and opportunities, and throw light on the history of and approaches to philanthropy in India. The report does not purport to answer all questions or predict trends, nor does it present hard numbers on giving or impact, but it does start to give an intelligible and exciting glimpse into the complexities and highly varied contexts in which philanthropy operates in a country as multifaceted as India. But because the report, understandably, offers only a partial view into Indian philanthropy, it raises as many questions as it answers.

Giving by the middle class in India is rising rapidly — this is one important insight offered by Hartnell's paper, as it may be the most significant trend in Indian philanthropy. Other findings — such as the lack of donor education about local contexts and the constantly competing interests of local and international NGOs — are more troubling but equally important, in that we see these issues over and over worldwide without doing anything to change our collective approach. And still other findings, such as that almost 33 percent of the Indian population live below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day while around 69 percent live on less than $2 a day, provide a strong call to action for philanthropy to respond to.

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5 Questions for…Vanessa Daniel, Founder and Executive Director, Groundswell Fund

December 07, 2017

Groundswell Fund
 is the largest funder of the reproductive justice movement in the United States. In addition to its CatalystRapid Response, and Birth Justice funds, the organization created the Liberation Fund in the wake of the 2016 elections to support effective grassroots organizing efforts led by women and transgender people of color across the social justice sector. A joint project of the Groundswell Fund and the newly created 501(c)(4) Groundswell Action Fund, the Liberation Fund will announce inaugural grants next week to grassroots organizations selected with the help of women leaders of color, including Alicia Garza, Ai-Jen Poo, Mary Hooks, and Linda Sarsour. 

PND spoke with Vanessa Daniel, founder and executive director of the fund, about intersectionality in the context of reproductive justice and racial equity and her hopes for the Liberation Fund. Before founding the fund in 2010, Daniel worked in grassroots organizing, advocacy, and grantmaking at the Tides FoundationSEIU, the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, and what is now Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation.

Philanthropy News Digest: You founded Groundswell Fund after working to advance LGBTQ rights as well as economic and environmental justice at various organizations. Why did you decide to focus on reproductive justice for women of color, low-income women, and transgender people?

Heashot_vanessa_danielVanessa Daniel: When I first learned about the reproductive justice (RJ) movement in 2005, I had been working in various social justice movements for ten years. The RJ movement had been founded a decade earlier by a group of black women and was on its way to becoming the largest force in the country in terms of engaging a multiracial base of women of color, low-income women, and LGBT people on reproductive issues and as grassroots organizers and activists. I was a young, twenty-something, queer, biracial woman of color from a working-class immigrant family on one side and raised by a second-wave white feminist single mother on the other.

I had, like many women of color, experienced what I lovingly refer to as a lot of bad "movement dates." Have you ever been on a date with someone who orders for you without asking what you want? Or people who talk about themselves the whole time without asking how your day was? Well, you can have the equivalent of that date with a social justice movement. It's not true for every organization, but for example, you have a lot of labor unions that invite women to the table but don't want to talk about reproductive issues, even though these issues are important to women. You have many immigrant rights groups that don't want to talk about LGBT rights, even though there are lots of LGBT people in the immigrant communities they are organizing. You have way too many white feminist organizations inviting women of color to the table and then not talking about race, even though racism is literally killing us. The reproductive justice movement was, quite simply, the best movement date I ever had, because it was the first time I had encountered a movement that didn't require me to leave any piece of myself or anyone I loved at the door in order to enter. I could be whole.

And here's why. There are three hallmarks of RJ: First, it's multi-issue. That means it says to people, yes, we are standing with you on the right to access abortion and contraception, but we are also standing with you to stop environmental pollution that is harming reproductive health; to stop mass incarceration and immigration detention and deportation that continues an ugly legacy of breaking up families of color that dates back to slavery and mission schools and immigration exclusion acts; to expand comprehensive sex ed in the public schools along with non-stigmatizing supports for young parents that don't shame and shut them out of their education; to expand access to birthing options like midwifery that are finally shifting racial disparities that have left black women four times more likely to die as a result of childbirth than white women in this country; to fight for LGBT rights. It's a holistic movement.

Second, it centers grassroots organizing as a strategy. It doesn't believe major social change trickles down from large organizations sitting "inside the beltway"; it believes it surges up from cities and states, from ordinary people holding their elected officials accountable in their home districts.

Third, it is a multiracial movement with significant leadership from women of color working alongside white women who are able to consider things through a racial justice lens. It is tactically impossible to move the needle on most social justice issues today without the leadership and engagement of communities of color, which, polls show us, vote in a more progressive direction down ballot on nearly every issue progressives care about.

The RJ movement exemplifies what it means to build a movement with the backbone to leave no one behind. And that, I believe, is the kind of movement that all social justice activists should be looking to build. RJ is shining a light on the path the larger progressive movement needs to walk in order to be successful.

PND: It's estimated that African-American women in the United States are three to four times more likely to die of childbirth-related complications than their white counterparts, while the infant mortality rate for babies of African-American mothers is more than twice that of babies of white mothers. What's behind these racial disparities?

VD: The data has perplexed many scientists, in part because when they control for education levels, economic status, diet and behavior, and other factors, the disparities still show up in the data. This means that middle-class, college-educated black women who take excellent care of their health are still dying at higher rates than low-income white women without a high school diploma. How does one explain that? There is a growing number of scientists, including epidemiologists who believe that racism itself is a major factor in these disparities. First, the racism and implicit bias of many medical practitioners often leads them to provide substandard care to women of color. Many studies back this up; one recent study, for example, shows that people of color, including children of color, are given significantly less pain medication than are white people.

Second, and very importantly, scientists are pointing to the impact that racism, experienced on a daily basis by people of color, has on the body. The midwifery and doula models of care we support are often run by women of color or by a multiracial staff that provides high-quality, culturally competent care. Our grantee Sacred Heart Birthplace in Espanola, New Mexico, has a 2 percent cesarean section rate, compared with a state average of 24 percent, and a 92 percent breastfeeding rate at six months post-delivery, compared with a state average of 26 percent. In Florida, our grantee Common Sense Childbirth has achieved a 0 percent preterm birth rate among black women, compared with the state average of 14.2 percent.

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There’s More Than One Needle in This Haystack: The 100&Change Solutions Bank

December 05, 2017

100Change-logo_padded15Earlier today, Foundation Center launched something new and still unusual in the field of philanthropy: a site that provides access to nearly nineteen hundred proposals submitted to a foundation by organizations with ideas for solving some of society's most pressing challenges. The site, the 100&Change Solutions Bank, features submissions to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's 100&Change competition, which the foundation launched in June 2016 and which will soon announce a winner. Recognizing that it had received many more viable ideas worth funding, the foundation decided to partner with Foundation Center to bring greater visibility to those ideas, with three goals in mind: to drive investment in proposals that merit it; to facilitate collaboration and learning between organizations working on similar problems; and to inspire funders and organizations working for change to do things differently.


The 100&Change competition will end with a single winner being awarded a $100 million grant. But the competition itself generated a great many solutions worth investing in — and the number of inquiries fielded by MacArthur staff suggests that other funders know this. Rather than force 100&Change applicants to spend more time tailoring their proposals to meet the requirements of their own application processes, funders should take advantage of the work MacArthur has done to surface good ideas in a variety of fields. With the launch of the 100&Change Solutions Bank, funders now have a lot to gain by spending just a few minutes exploring the proposals they’ll find there.


Whether it's a big, global challenge like climate change or a local (yet widespread) problem like homelessness, there is more than one organization working on a solution. This diversity of actors represents a golden opportunity to learn from others' approaches — even when they are implemented in a different context — and, potentially, to collaborate. Yes, this type of learning does happen through existing networks, listservs, and working groups. But what the Solutions Bank offers is the chance to learn from organizations you may not have a connection to.

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Quote of the Week

  • "For in tremendous extremities human souls are like drowning men; well enough they know they are in peril; — nevertheless, the sea is the sea, and these drowning men do drown...."

    — Herman Melville (1819-1891)

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