95 posts categorized "Public Affairs"

On 'Fake' Victories and the Need to Act

August 02, 2018

American-Poverty-768x512While no one would argue that Donald Trump is a student of history, he and other Republicans seem to have taken a lesson from a former "dean" of the Senate, George Aiken (R-VT), who was alleged to have said of U.S. involvement in Vietnam that we should simply "declare victory and get out." How else to explain the things Trump and Republican politicians are doing to "address" poverty in America?

Most of us have learned that the president, members of his administration, and his congressional allies are adept at creating "alternative facts" through exaggeration, misrepresentation, and plain old dissembling. After a one-day summit meeting in June with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un generated nothing in the way of detailed policy agreements, Trump declared that the North Korean nuclear threat had been eliminated. (Real-world developments subsequently invalidated the president’s assertions.) Similarly, at an extraordinary press conference following an unprecedented private meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, the president dismissed the consensus view of American intelligence agencies that Russia was actively working to undermine our electoral and democratic processes and declared that no such threat exists. And now the president is focusing his magical-thinking act on the home front.

In July, the Trump administration declared "victory" in the War on Poverty — the unofficial name for a series of federal initiatives introduced in the 1960s by the Johnson administration to help people move out of poverty and provide assistance to those in need — and declared that poverty in the United States was no longer a problem the federal government need worry about. The administration's declaration was stunning on two counts: Republicans have a long history of opposing the War on Poverty, and poverty remains a huge problem in America.

Established measures of poverty show that in 2016 about 12.7 percent of Americans — roughly 43 million people — lived in poverty. And a recent United Nations study found that 18.5 million Americans are facing "extreme impoverishment." In fact, close to 2 percent of the population – more than 5 million of us — live on no more than $4 a day, including government assistance. Even more alarming, more than a few moderate-income Americans are included in a Federal Reserve study which found that 40 percent of us would not be able to cover an unexpected $400 expense without having to sell something or borrow the money.

But using a controversial consumption argument, the White House denies these realities and claims that fewer than 10 million Americans, or only about 3 percent of us, are poor. Sadly, the president and his spokespeople are both wrong and disingenuous in their efforts to declare victory in the War on Poverty. Their proclamations are simply a reflection of an intensifying Republican war not on poverty but on the poor themselves.

Reinforcing a point I made here in May is the fact that Republicans are working very hard to cut more than $4.6 trillion from funding for mandatory entitlement programs, with over half that amount coming out of programs — Medicaid, SNAP, TANF, Pell Grants, the ACA — that overwhelmingly benefit low- and moderate-income Americans. Meanwhile, even as they target supports for the poor and needy, the president and conservative politicians are looking to augment their $1.5 trillion in tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Americans with a proposal to index capital gains to inflation — an action that would add another $100 billion to the deficit, increase income inequality in the U.S., and further weaken our democracy.

Not content with their "victory," the White House also is trying to make federal medical, food, and housing assistance more “contingent” on beneficiaries’ ability to work — despite the fact that an analysis of an earlier but similar proposal found that the majority of the people who benefit from such programs are either elderly, disabled, or already work. In other words, insisting that those who are physically unable to work must work in order to qualify for benefits will merely punish the already over-burdened poor.

It's enough to make one think the White House and Republicans in Congress view the poor, rather than poverty, as the enemy. How else to explain the IRS's use of private debt collection agencies to go after tax delinquents — such agencies garner at least a third of the funds they recover from families facing "economic hardship" — when most unpaid taxes are owed by the 1 percent of taxpayers who are self-employed?

Nonprofit organizations and foundations should be able to see through the "alternative facts" used to justify Republican attacks on the poor. They're the same kind of "facts" promoted by the climate change deniers who are shaping the Trump administration's environmental policy, by federal officials and lawmakers who are weakening animal and wildlife protections, by Republican appointees who are methodically eroding consumer safeguards and making it harder for students to defend themselves against avaricious for-profit schools, by conservative politicians determined to eviscerate workers’ rights and roll back longstanding workplace protections.

As I've said here before: "Nonprofit organizations [and foundations]...cannot stand by while these regressive policies are proposed and advanced. They need to do everything they can to inform and activate the electorate so that Americans realize what is at stake, understand who truly represents their interests, and turn out to vote in the midterm elections.

"Too much is on the line for organizations to mind their own business and narrowly focus on [operations] … instead of advocacy and action. Organizations like Nonprofit Vote can help charities and foundations understand the rules about what they are allowed to do — and suggest tactics that make a difference."

Headshot_mark_rosenmanWhat was true in May is even more true today. We're all in this together; the time to act is now.

 (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

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

Every Person Counts: Why Philanthropy Must Help Save the Census

July 31, 2018

2020_censusIn philanthropic circles, when we talk about protecting democratic institutions and values we often focus on expanding voting rights, improving representation, and connecting impoverished communities with the resources they need. However, all these issues — and many others — are tied to another fundamental pillar of American democracy: the decennial census.

Every decade since 1790, the government has counted the American population, as mandated by the Constitution. While it took the Fourteenth Amendment to ensure that all people were counted equally, the census has nonetheless performed an essential role in maintaining and improving our democracy. Today, our country uses census data to apportion congressional representation; to draw federal, state, and local legislative districts; and to enforce civil rights laws. Businesses use census data to decide where to open, offer jobs, and provide goods and services. The census helps cities and states identify locations for large infrastructure projects like schools, senior centers, public transportation, hospitals, and police services. It determines how roughly $700 billion in federal funds in 2015 were distributed and allocated to programs such as Medicaid, Head Start, and Section 8 housing.

If the 2020 census yields inaccurate data, programs like these — and the people who depend on them — will be in serious jeopardy. Projects may be deprived of crucial funding and entire communities denied fair representation in government. In other words, the consequences of a poorly conducted census will ripple through the public and private sectors, and through civil society, for at least the next ten years.

Unfortunately, there are mounting challenges to achieving a fair, accurate, and complete census in 2020.

The Census Bureau notes that certain populations — people of color, young children, and rural households among them — have been undercounted historically. On top of that, Census Bureau researchin 2017 revealed that the current political climate could further discourage census participation. According to the bureau's own Center for Survey Management, concerns about data sharing and privacy are growing, "particularly among immigrants or those who live with immigrants," which in turn could have a "disproportionate impact on hard-to-count populations."

In March 2018, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross intensified the problem by adding a question about citizenship to the census, which Ross said at the time was at the request of the Department of Justice. The decision was made, however, without first testing the impact the question might have on response rates and quality. Most experts, including six former directors of the bureau, agree that adding the question will likely lead to the undercounting of already marginalized communities, including communities of color and those that are home to significant numbers of immigrants. In fact, back in January, months before Ross made his decision, the Census Bureau clearly stated the addition of the question "harms the quality of the census count."

The evidence we do have suggests this will be the case. A new analysis shows that in 2016, when a small sample of the population was asked the citizenship question on the American Community Survey (ACS), it went unanswered by a whopping 6 percent of respondents — more than any other question that will be included in the 2020 census. (To put that in perspective: 6 percent of the entire country is millions of people.) Moreover, in recent focus groups, participants of color were alarmed about the citizenship question and believe members of their communities will be less likely to fill out the census if the question is included.

At the same time, the 2020 census also will be the first census conducted primarily online, and this uncharted territory is filled with potential challenges. In light of the ongoing conversation about cybersecurity, for instance, are we certain that census data will be kept confidential and secure? Will the public be able to identify bogus efforts to obtain their personal information? Are we prepared to deal with intentional campaigns to spread misinformation? Beyond security, there are many questions about access. Will online forms be optimized for lower-income individuals who rely on smartphones? And how does the Census Bureau plan to bridge the digital divide to reach rural, low-income, and minority respondents? Unfortunately, we're not sure of the answers to any of these questions, in part because the technology has not been thoroughly tested. In fact, while the bureau planned to conduct three tests of the system, two were canceled.

Compounding our concerns about technology, the census has been suffering from a severe lack of funding. Typically, Congress ramps up funding three years before the census itself, but in 2017 no such increase was approved. As a result, the bureau is way behind where it should be in terms of conducting opinion research and getting the word out (in multiple languages). Even though Congress recently approved additional census spending, there are no guarantees the increase will be enough — or will be renewed in 2019.

The good news is that we still have time. Those of us working in philanthropy cannot make up the shortfall in federal funding for the census, but we can leverage our resources and expertise to make sure it is fair and successful.

Right now, a coalition of foundations and advocates is working with civil rights leaders, census experts, business leaders, faith-based groups, digital specialists, and others to develop and implement a strategic response to these challenges. This unique initiative includes a plan to reject the citizenship question, leverage digital opportunities to get the word out, and launch a robust outreach effort to encourage the public, especially those who are hardest to count, to step up and be counted.

To date, more than sixty-five funders have provided strategic funding to more than seventy organizations for census-related work, and we are beginning to see results. Awareness of the issue is higher, and happening earlier, than ever before. The Census Bureau's 2018 budget has been significantly increased. And legal challenges to the citizenship question have grown steadily in number. This is only a beginning, however. To continue with our strategy and shore up the census over the next two years, those of us in philanthropy still need to raise an additional $35 million for the national effort — and more at the state level for local outreach to hard-to-count communities.

That's why we need your help. Every philanthropist and foundation has a stake in the census, no matter what they fund, or where. It is incumbent on us to do whatever we can to guarantee that it proceeds accurately and apolitically, ethically and efficiently. But we are running out of time.

Together, we must use our voices, our platforms, and our networks to push for the removal of the citizenship question, identify trusted voices in communities likely to be undercounted who are willing to promote participation, and make sure that the data the census generates is inclusive and accurate. We must be prepared to contribute our financial resources, infrastructure, influence, and expertise to those working on the ground.

Ultimately, the census is not just about the survey. It's about the future. If it fails to yield an accurate count, communities will be starved of crucial resources, and all of us, but especially those with the least power — people living in poverty, children of color, new immigrants — will have to live with the consequences. The next decade of data-driven decision-making for our democracy is on the line. Every person in America counts, and it's up to us to make sure they're counted.

Gary D. Bass, Antonia Hernández, Barbara Picower, and Darren Walker are the chief executives (respectively) of the Bauman Foundation, California Community Foundation, the JPB Foundation, and the Ford Foundation. Bass is, in addition, an affiliated professor at Georgetown's McCourt School of Public Policy and chair of the funder collaborative to promote a fair and accurate census described above.

Philanthropy in the War Zone

July 12, 2018

Broken-glassMost of the things philanthropists care about — civility, moderation, partnership, consensus — are fast disappearing. Our country, and much of the world, seem to be moving to a kind of scorched-earth politics in which division along ethnic, racial, religious, gender and identity lines is the currency of power. As ideologies become more rigid, people increasingly are balkanized into spatially segregated communities and social media echo chambers. In this kind of undeclared war, being right and winning are all that matter, with seemingly no aisle to cross and no common ground.

How should foundations navigate the world of 2018 and beyond? How can they? To be sure, foundations have something valuable to contribute — flexible resources free from market, electoral, and fundraising pressures. But will they use them to fight, transcend, or simply ignore the conflict that surrounds them?

Fight to Win…

As long as they do not run afoul of IRS restrictions on explicitly partisan political activity and lobbying to influence specific legislation, foundations and their grantee partners may and often do engage in politics (with a small "p"). One way to track foundations’ political engagement is to look not at the "what" of their grantmaking but the "how." At Foundation Center, we refer to these as "support strategies," which include cross-cutting approaches such as advocacy, coalition building, accountability, grassroots organizing, litigation, and systems reform. Collectively, these approaches have accounted for $27.5 billion in funding around the world since 2006. While that is less than 6 percent of total grantmaking over the same period, it is a significant amount and, in recent years, has grown. When we have more complete data for 2017 and 2018, I’m sure it will show the trend is accelerating.

“As befits a sector that prides itself on its diversity of perspectives, foundations have different views of what the solutions should be....”

Foundations are also striving to make American democracy itself work better. Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy (a web portal developed by Foundation Center) shows that since 2011 more than 5,600 foundations have made some $4.2 billion in grants for work related to campaigns, elections and voting, government effectiveness and transparency, and civic participation. As befits a sector that prides itself on its diversity of perspectives, these foundations have different views of what the solutions should be. Consider, for example, a grant from the Grogan Family Foundation to Judicial Watch "to fight corruption and voter fraud" and a grant made by the Joyce Foundation to the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Fund for "…developing and promoting a reform agenda that includes redistricting, judicial independence and voting rights." Both foundations and their grantees are working to improve the electoral process, but they have diagnosed the problem differently and are supporting quite different remedies.

Implicit to the theories of change that guide this kind of work is the idea that approaches developed by grantees eventually will be reflected in party platforms and government policy. But there are plenty of indications that growing numbers of Americans view the political establishment, government institutions, and parties themselves as part of the problem rather than the solution. Increasingly, we find ourselves mired in a culture war in which the rules of engagement seem to reward portraying "the other" as an enemy to be vanquished, rather than as a potential partner in the search for a common future. In such a war, foundations increasingly will need to ask themselves and their grantees how far they are willing to go to "win." Should foundations support groups that dehumanize immigrants by derisively describing government policy toward them as “catch and release” (a term whose origins relate to sport fishing)? Should they support groups that demonize their opponents when they casually label them Nazis or fascists?

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Weekend Link Roundup (June 23-24, 2018)

June 24, 2018

USATSI_10905933Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Advocacy

In the face of political change and uncertainty, advocacy organizations "are being called on to do more and do it faster while funders scramble to implement strategies that best support them. Yet current operating realities for advocacy organizations pose distinct hurdles to staying adaptable and nimble." On the Nonprofit Finance Fund blog, Annie Chang and Elise Miller look at three common dynamics in the social advocacy space and explain what they mean for nonprofits and funders.

Demography

In a majority of U.S. states, deaths now outnumber births among white people, "signaling what could be a faster-than-expected transition to a future in which whites are no longer a majority of the American population." Sabrina Tavernise reports for the New York Times.

Education

Education Week's Madeline Will reports on a study from the RAND Corporation and the American Institutes for Research (with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), which found that the Gates Foundation’s "multi-million-dollar, multiyear effort aimed at making teachers more effective largely fell short of its goal to increase student achievement — including among low-income and minority students."

Health

"Many of us may be familiar with cultural competency — being respectful and responsive to the health beliefs and practices — and cultural and linguistic needs — of diverse population groups," writes Jennifer McGee-Avila, a third-year doctoral student in an interdisciplinary program offered by the Rutgers School of Nursing and New Jersey Institute of Technology in Urban Systems. "[But to] achieve a deeper understanding of our patients, it is essential for providers to practice 'cultural humility' and acknowledge the unique elements of every individual's identity."

Giving

The secret to happiness is...giving to others? In a guest post on the GuideStar blog, Moshe Hecht, chief innovation officer of crowdfunding program Charidy, explains the science of lasting happiness.

Grantmaking

On our sister GrantCraft blog, the Jim Joseph Foundation's Seth Linden and Jeff Tiell explain why the foundation has begun to invest in "small experiments as a way of learning about the creativity and innovation that is happening in the Jewish world."

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Tax Cuts (and Politics) Have Put the Safety Net at Risk. What Are You Going to Do About It?

May 30, 2018

Fish-safety-netThe demand for human services — everything from food for the hungry to family planning for those who may be struggling to take care of the children they already have — is growing. But if recent proposals floated by President Trump and congressional Republicans become policy, charities will be faced with dramatic increases in both the scale and scope of need, even as they struggle with cuts in funding to meet them.

It is urgent for nonprofits to join forces to persuade Congress to reject ideas that create greater need. Charities have to help re-establish the kind of bipartisan political agreement about safety-net programs that used to be the norm. And foundations must fuel such efforts.

In May, the U.S. House of Representatives failed to pass a Farm Bill with vital anti-hunger provisions after many of its most conservative members withheld their votes. By doing so, Freedom Caucus members hoped to get concessions on spending as well as a future vote on an anti-"Dreamers" immigration bill that the vast majority of their colleagues find too mean-spirited and extreme to consider.

Had the bill passed (as it most likely will in the coming weeks despite united Democratic opposition), it would have required that individuals enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) work at least twenty hours a week. Given the life circumstances of many SNAP participants, including some of the hardest-working people in America, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office calculates that the bill (in its current form) would deny more than a million adults and children much-needed food assistance.

Republicans base their insistence that SNAP recipients be required to work on research by the Foundation for Government Accountability, an obscure policy group headed by a former aide to Maine's ogre-ish governor, Paul LePage. FGA's work has been criticized by both conservative and liberal scholars as having no basis in credible fact, but in our current political climate it seems that many Republican lawmakers favor junk science and "alternative facts" over demonstrable reality (as they have demonstrated with notable intentionality in their opposition to action on climate change).

Desperate to cut government spending in the face of a deficit they ballooned with a $1.5 trillion tax cut, congressional Republicans and the White House are turning on those most in need — as was made clear by Trump budget director Mick Mulvaney, who wrote in a 2017 opinion piece: "Under President Trump's leadership, we're now looking at how we can respect both those who require assistance and the taxpayers who fund that support. For the first time in a long time, we're putting taxpayers first. Taking money from someone without an intention to pay it back is not debt. It is theft. This budget makes it clear that we will reverse this larceny." That's right: the Trump administration thinks government-funded social services for the poor are a form of theft.

The president is determined to continue down the same path in 2018 and has proposed cuts totaling more than $15 billion in previously approved spending, with half of that coming from the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and $100 million coming from Hurricane Sandy relief funds. Congressional Republicans fearful of what they may face in November’s midterm elections have temporarily rebuffed Trump, but the president has said he will propose an additional $10 billion in cuts to safety-net programs in the coming weeks.

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Building Democracy: People and Purpose in San Diego County

May 25, 2018

On a March evening at a community center in San Diego, Francisco "Panchito" Martinez stood at a public forum, a bedrock exercise of democracy, and before three District 8 City Council candidates.

With microphone in hand and more than a hundred people in the audience, several of whom wore headphones to listen in Spanish, Somali and Vietnamese, the college student asked the candidates about cultivating and supporting youth leaders in the eighth most-populous U.S. city.

Martinez's participation was a form of engagement in more ways than one. The youth questioned those seeking the privilege of representing people in government while also addressing the need for multi-generational civic involvement.

For Martinez, who often goes by Panchito, and other residents who questioned the candidates in English and Spanish, the forum marked a continuum of a broader community-leadership initiative in San Diego County — one driven by residents and grassroots organizations seeking greater voice and more meaningful representation in government and community affairs.

Like other parts of the U.S., San Diego County's population has been transformed dramatically over the last several decades. Today, people of color are the majority among the county's 3.3 million residents. Together, Latinos and Asian Pacific Islanders make up four out of every ten residents.

In Barrio Logan, the San Diego neighborhood that Panchito and about five thousand other people call home, there are industrial businesses as well as residences.

In this primarily Latino neighborhood south and east of the city's popular Gaslamp Quarter and within view of the Port of San Diego and U.S. Navy facilities, concerns over health are one reason why residents say local government should better mirror the makeup of this diverse region.

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Facebook, Foundations, and Democracy: Putting the 'R-word' Back Into Philanthropy

April 11, 2018

Risk is back in philanthropy. As populist rage and technological omnipotence sweep the globe, seven American foundations have stepped up in a way that only private philanthropy can.

Early this week, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, in partnership with the Alfred P. Sloan, Charles Koch, John S. and James L. Knight, and Laura and John Arnold foundations; the Democracy Fund; and Omidyar Network, announced the launch of a research initiative aimed at increasing public understanding of Facebook's role in elections and democracy. The funder consortium will pay for an "independent and diverse" committee of scholars that invites researchers to conduct research using proprietary Facebook data that “meets the company's new, heightened focus on user privacy.” To ensure an added layer of objectivity, the venerable Social Science Research Council (founded in 1923) will oversee the selection of research proposals and the peer-review process.

Slowing the game down

This is a perfect of example of how private foundations can contribute to the public good. In a volatile, contentious, and partisan time where dialogue (or lack thereof) can be measured in bots, posts, tweets, links, and likes, these foundations are using their resources and independence to declare a collective "time out." Foundations are not political parties, business, or lobbyists. Guided by mission, values, and donor intent, they have the distance and time horizon to be able to take a careful, deliberate look at what is really going on when it comes to media, elections, and democracy. Social science research, with its strict procedures for requesting proposals and conducting peer review of research, is built for methodological rigor, not for speed. In basketball, they teach you that the best way to deal with a running offense is to slow the game down. These seven foundations are doing just that.

Strength in numbers

Were any one foundation to try to do this alone, it would most likely be criticized for some kind of political or partisan bias. But the seven that have banded together on this initiative are a pretty interesting cross-section of the field. Collectively, they hold over $20 billion in assets originating in fortunes derived from technology (Hewlett, Omidyar, and the Democracy Fund), journalism (Knight), energy/finance (Arnold), the automotive industry (Sloan), and oil and manufacturing (Koch). They represent family foundations, independent foundations, and living donor foundations. They all have solid track records of grantmaking focused on improving the functioning of American democracy. But they do that in different ways. See for yourself in the network map below. Click the link and you’ll go straight to an interactive page on the Foundation Funding for American Democracy site where you can explore each and every grant made by these foundations. All these foundations are proud of their work and, unlike Cambridge Analytica, have nothing to hide.

Democracy-maps-constellation

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The First Year of a New Presidency Moves Philanthropy to Action

April 10, 2018

Unprecedented_Coverpage-232x300The speculation for most of us began on Wednesday morning, November 9, 2016.

Regardless of political affiliation, the election win by a presidential candidate who promised dramatic changes in governing style and policies from the prior administration meant that grantmakers might have to rethink their current strategies and, quite possibly, fundamental priorities. As the new administration's policy agenda rolled out over its first year in office, the interest areas of more and more funders were touched by the shifting political landscape.

Beyond the impact of these policy changes on individual grantmakers, we began to ponder what this meant for the field of philanthropy as a whole; not just grantmaking institutions, but also the many philanthropy-serving organizations (PSOs) and funder collaboratives that exist to strengthen funder effectiveness through joint learning, alignment, and action. We wondered whether the initial flurry of conversation had led to more formal engagement and even collaboration in responding to the evolving policy priorities. And, if it had, what was the type and scale of their responses? Were they timely? Did they have the potential for catalyzing longer-term changes in the sector?

To begin to answer these questions we talked with nearly thirty leaders of PSOs and funder collaboratives in advance of the first anniversary of the new administration. Frontline partners for grantmakers and close observers of trends across the sector, these leaders described a philanthropic field demonstrating flexibility, nimbleness, and a willingness to collaborate that can serve as a model of creative adaptation for the sector going forward. They also identified enduring challenges for the sector that have been amplified in these unpredictable times.

We've documented our findings in a new report, and key insights include:

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Weekend Link Roundup (April 7-8, 2018)

April 08, 2018

Cherry-blossomsOur 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

The Hewlett Foundation's Ruth Levine argues (persuasively) that "the benefit/cost ratio for [nonprofit] annual reports is pretty unfavorable" and that "[t]they are more trouble than they're worth." 

Reinvent the wheel. Close the loop. Onboarding. Vu Le has gathered nineteen of the most annoying phrases used in the nonprofit sector.

Diversity

On the BoardSource blog, Kevin Walker, president and CEO of the Northwest Area Foundation since 2008, shares five recommendations for foundations that want to do something about the lack of board diversity in the field. 

Giving

When should you start teaching your kids about charitable giving. Forbes contributor Rob Clarfeld shares a few thoughts.

Higher Education 

After a lifetime working in and around students and public schools, Harold O. Levy, executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and a former chancellor of the New York City public school system, reflects in an op-ed in the New York Times on the "troubling fact" that "[d]espite the best efforts of many, the gap between the numbers of rich and poor college graduates continues to grow."

The Times' Kyle Spencer reports that, with the price of higher education soaring, middle-class families increasingly are looking to community colleges as an option.

"For years, researchers have highlighted the vast inequities that persist in the country's K-12 education system with students of color disproportionately enrolled in public schools that are underfunded, understaffed, and thus more likely to underperform when compared with schools attended by their white peers," writes Sara Garcia on the Center for American progress site. "What has received less attention is the fact that these inequitable patterns do not end when a student graduates from high school but persist through postsecondary education."

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Is Your Nonprofit Leery of Lobbying? Now’s the Time to Get Over It

March 26, 2018

Advocacy-button-770-RSWhoever said "Good things come to those who wait" has never advocated for a cause, shepherded a policy through the legislative process, or run a nonprofit organization. That's especially true if your nonprofit's mission is issue-driven, and it's even more true now, when political upheaval in the Trump era and a looming election put the future of many organizations' missions in question — whether those missions are related to the arts, science and technology, feeding the homeless, fighting for workers’ rights, or another worthy cause. This year, sitting out legislative policy fights is just not an option.

Enter the question of lobbying and some timely new research from academics at George Mason University and the University of Miami. Lobbying is an uncomfortable topic for many nonprofits, but the study's authors challenge the pervasive view that the often-maligned practice is nothing more than a quid pro quo exchange of money for votes. In a piece describing the research, study co-author Jennifer Victor maintains that lobbying is about relationships and is in fact an essential part of our democracy. "[L]obbyists," she writes, "provide an efficient, effective, and knowledgeable source of high quality information that gets injected into the policy making process at all stages. This is generally a good thing, because it can significantly help lawmakers fill gaps in their knowledge base."

By now you can guess where we're going with this: not only should nonprofits revisit their thoughts on lobbying, they should also seriously consider getting in the game. Lobbying is entirely consistent with public charities' charitable and educational missions because it deals directly with the regulatory and statutory context in which groups function. And if nonprofits won't speak for the people they serve when fundamental decisions are being made, who will?

So if it's clear nonprofit groups have every incentive to lobby, we then need to ask: Can they? The good news is that there's no reason why any charitable organization should not have a robust lobbying and advocacy strategy in place.

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Weekend Link Roundup (March 17-18, 2018)

March 18, 2018

NCAA_basketballOur 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

Nonprofit communications professionals should pay more attention to their usage of hyphens. Nonprofit AF's Vu Le shares a dozen examples that demonstrate why. 

Criminal Justice

"As the U.S. confronts a growing epidemic of opioid misuse, policymakers and public health officials need a clear understanding of whether, how, and to what degree imprisonment for drug offenses affects the nature and extent of the nation’s drug problems." A new analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts finds "no statistically significant relationship between state drug imprisonment rates and three indicators of state drug problems: self-reported drug use, drug overdose deaths, and drug arrests." Pew's Adam Gelb explains.

Education

On WaPo education reporter Valerie Strauss's Answer Sheet blog, venture capitalist Ted Dintersmith offers some advice to Education Secretary Besty DeVos based on what he learned after visiting two hundred schools in fifty states.

On the Aspen Institute blog, Jennifer Bradley chats with Caroline Hill, founder of the DC Equity Lab, which invests in early stage education ventures in Washington, D.C. 

More than 50 percent of the U.S.-based education companies invested in by Omidyar Network have been founded or led by women. ON's Isabelle Hau shares some  of the lessons it has learned along the way. 

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Newman's Owns Gets a New Life

March 02, 2018

Newmans_own_logoOn February 9, 2018, President Trump signed into law the Philanthropic Enterprise Act of 2017 as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. The new law allows private foundations to own 100 percent of a business under certain conditions. The bill was championed by Newman's Own Foundation, which owns 100 percent of No Limit, LLC, the for-profit company that produces and sells the Newman’s Own-branded line of food products. The new law allows the foundation to maintain 100 percent ownership of No Limit, assuring that all profits of the company will continue to go to charity.

Newman’s Own Foundation needed the new law to avoid a requirement that it divest itself of at least 80 percent of No Limit under the "excess business holdings rule" of Internal Revenue Code Section 4943. The excess business holdings rule generally prohibits a private foundation from owning more than 20 percent of a for-profit company. It imposes extreme penalties on a foundation that are equal to twice the value of the holdings above the 20 percent limitation. In most cases, this will completely destroy the value of the “excess” holdings to the foundation. The new law creates an exception to the excess business holdings rule for foundations that own 100 percent of a business and devote all profits to charity.

Foundations that acquire more than 20 percent of a company normally have a five-year deadline to sell their excess holdings before the penalties apply. Newman’s Own originally faced that deadline in 2013 but was able to get a five-year extension that would have expired this year. The passage of the new law relieves Newman's Own from the requirement that it divest itself of No Limit, meaning it can continue operating as it always has without interruption.

New law, new rules

The new law, Section 4943(g) of the Internal Revenue Code, permits a private foundation to own 100 percent of a company under the following conditions:

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Weekend Link Roundup (February 17-18, 2018)

February 18, 2018

Chloe-kim-02Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Education

How can we make strong learning outcomes accessible to every child in public education? Charmaine Jackson Mercer, a new member of the Education team at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, shares her thoughts.

Fundraising

Forbes Nonprofit Council member Austin Gallagher, CEO of environmental nonprofit Beneath the Waves, shares five fundraising tips for new nonprofit leaders.

Gun Control

On her Social Velocity blog, Nell Edgington argues that the pattern of social change in America — from the abolition of slavery, to women's suffrage, to the legalization of interracial marriage — should give us hope that Americans, led by moms, will come together to support commonsense gun legislation.

Health

Th real cause of the opiod epidemic that is devastating America? According to a working paper authored by Christopher Ruhm of the University of Virginia its not what you think it is. Richard Florida reports for CityLab.

Human Trafficking

Here on PhilanTopic, Catherine Chen, director of investments at Humanity United, announces that, through its Pathways to Freedom challenge, Atlanta, Chicago and Minneapolis have been invited to partner with the organization to address the urgent problem of human trafficking.

International Affairs/Development

Hungary's right-wing nationalist government has introduced legislation that would empower the interior minister to ban non-governmental organizations that support migration and pose a "national security risk" — a bill seen by many has targeting the "liberal and open-border values" promoted by U.S.-Hungarian financier/philanthropist George Soros. Reuters'Krisztina Than reports.

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Cities Are Raising the Bar and Building Beloved Communities Where Black Men and Boys Can Thrive

February 16, 2018

Cbma_promise_of_placeTo build beloved communities across America where black men and boys are healthy, thriving, and able to achieve their fullest potential — that is the Campaign for Black Male Achievement's (CBMA) core mission and rallying cry.

CBMA's work is driven by the unwavering belief that black men and boys are assets to our communities and our country, that they possess untapped potential and brilliance, and that they thrive when given opportunities to succeed. We cannot truly prosper as a nation when any group is left behind and forced to exist on the fringes of society. The well-being of black men and boys is directly connected to the well-being and strength of our families, communities, and nation as a whole.

Over the past decade, CBMA has supported leaders in cities across the United States who are working to accelerate positive life outcomes for black men and boys and whose efforts are moving the needle in measurable ways. To chart and track the progress happening in these cities, in 2015 CBMA developed the Black Male Achievement (BMA) City Index, which scores cities based on their level of engagement with and investment in black men and boys. In conjunction with the new index, we released Promise of Place, a first-of-its-kind report series that assessed commitments and targeted initiatives across fifty cities focused on supporting black men and boys. A few weeks ago, we released a follow-up report, Promise of Place: Building Beloved Communities for Black Men and Boys, that explores whether those cities are keeping their promises. Encouragingly, we have found that most cities have in fact increased their investments and actions in support of black men and boys.

The new Promise of Place report finds that, since 2015, 62 percent of the cities included in the index have ramped up their efforts to support black males across a variety of focus areas and needs, with scores based on five key indicators: demographic mix, commitment to black men and boys, presence of national initiatives supporting black men and boys, targeted funding supporting black men and boys, and CBMA membership. Detroit and Washington, D.C., remain the two highest scoring cities, each with a score of 95, while Jackson (Mississippi), Seattle (Washington), Omaha (Nebraska), and Mobile (Alabama) saw the greatest improvements in their scores. Cities not captured in the first report — including Denver and Yonkers, New York — have since become highly engaged in leading black male achievement efforts.

To be clear, the BMA City Index is not a ranking of which cities are doing the best with respect to this work. Rather, it is meant to serve as a starting point to see what commitments and engagements cities are making to black men and boys. It is imperative that city and community leaders hold their cities accountable to these commitments and continue to collaborate on measuring the impact of their efforts.

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Building City Leadership to Combat Human Trafficking

February 15, 2018

Top_image_humanity_unitedIn America's small towns and big cities, in fields and on construction sites, in restaurants and bars, homes, and local businesses, slavery still exists in a pernicious, often-hidden form. Exploited for their labor and for sex, human trafficking victims are men, women, and children. There is no one race, face, or nationality.

Nor is there a single solution to the problem, given the different circumstances of human trafficking and the different needs of survivors. Yet funding for anti-trafficking efforts over the last fifteen years has mainly flowed through the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services, with an emphasis on strengthening a federal and local law enforcement approach and ensuring that victims receive services. Local efforts have also focused on large police operations to combat sex trafficking. Much less has been done to identify and respond to labor trafficking, which is often misunderstood or mischaracterized as employment disputes.

In an effort to develop and spur bold, cross-sectoral approaches to the challenge of ending human trafficking in all its forms, Humanity United, in 2013, launched the Partnership for Freedom, a public-private partnership aimed at catalyzing new ideas, data, commitments, and actions in the anti-trafficking movement through three "innovation challenges." In our third and final challengePathways to Freedom, Humanity United and the NoVo Foundation, in collaboration with 100 Resilient Cities, challenged the twenty-four 100RC member cities in the U.S. to propose a holistic, comprehensive approach to the problem of trafficking. We are pleased to announce that three of those cities — Atlanta, Chicago, and Minneapolis — have been invited to partner with us to tackle this pressing challenge.

To support the three cities as they develop and implement citywide plans to address labor and sex trafficking and better support survivors, Pathways to Freedom will award each city funding for a senior fellow for two years who will serve directly at the highest levels of municipal government. The fellow will work across multiple city agencies and with a range of community stakeholders. Each winning city also will receive technical assistance to fill knowledge gaps with respect to labor trafficking.

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  • "The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away...."

    — Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

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