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104 posts categorized "Social Good"

‘Justice Matters’ and the Power of Film to Persuade

June 12, 2017

JusticeMattersEach year, Justice Matters, a special series within Filmfest DC, the annual Washington, DC International Film Festival, shines a spotlight on some of the best new social issue films from around the globe. This year, three of the films were judged outstanding by jurors and audience members.

Filmmakers throughout the history of the medium have felt the need to address injustice, poverty, and other social concerns, prodding audiences to reflection and action, a tradition that continues today. As Filmfest DC founder and director Tony Gittens noted in launching Justice Matters in 2010: "What better city to highlight this tradition than our nation's capital, the vortex of ongoing debate on how best to further democracy and equitable treatment for all." And what better time than the present.

I was happy to catch the Justice Matters 2017 program during this year's festival in April. I had attended Justice Matters in 2012, highlighting 5 Broken Cameras in an earlier PhilanTopic post and was eager to see this year's selection of films, especially The Good Postman, an intimate story about the flood of Syrian refugees into Europe set in Bulgaria, where I'd lived for two years.

This year's lineup included eight award-winning films that explore some of the most pressing challenges of our time and some of the most creative and courageous responses to those challenges: corporate corruption (150 Milligrams); corrosion of public trust and the need for a free press (All Governments Lie: Truth, Deception, and the Spirit of I.F. Stone); the privatization of public education (Backpack Full of Cash); refugee integration (The Good Postman); the crisis in Syria (Last Men in Aleppo); and climate change (Tomorrow). Two of the films mined the past for lessons and inspiration: one a personal recollection of the U.S. invasion of Grenada (The House on Coco Road); and a musical quest set during Freedom Summer (Two Trains Runnin’).

(All the films should be available in other festivals, theaters, broadcast, or on the Internet. More information about each is on the Justice Matters site and/or on the films' websites.)

Jurists for the series included Conrad Martin, executive director, the Stewart R. Mott Foundation and executive director of the Fund for Constitutional Government; Montré Aza Missouri, founder and director, Howard Film Culture; and Kathryn Washington, director of diversity and innovation at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The impetus for Justice Matters was provided by two Filmfest DC fans. Ken Grossinger, who had a career as a community and labor organizer, and Michelíne Klagsbrun, an artist, have always been deeply concerned about social and economic justice. In 2007, they started the CrossCurrents Foundation to support those interests. A family foundation, CrossCurrents' broad funding interests include civic engagement and the environment, peace and security, civil rights, and public art. Both founders had been attending Filmfest for many years and appreciated seeing films that addressed issues they cared about.

"I always believed in the power of art to inspire social movements, to work toward social change," Klagsbrun told me.

Grossinger came to appreciate that potential through his wife, Klagsbrun. "Organizers know how to move the needle a few percentage points," he said. "But I realized that for shaping public opinion, there is nothing like the arts. There's a transformative power there that penetrates hearts and minds in a way that political discourse doesn't. And film offers visibility to issues on a scale beyond the reach of many approaches to community organizing. Together, a strong film coupled with an organizing strategy can advance social change."

Soon after they created their foundation, the couple contacted Gittens with a proposal to establish the Justice Matters film series and award. Gittens was enthusiastic about the idea and hired Linda Blackaby, a longtime festival programmer whose career has centered around connecting films with communities and who was already advising the festival on its annual lineup. (She's now the festival's senior programming consultant and has curated the Justice Matters series since its inception.)

"Over the past eight years, Justice Matters has featured forty-one films," Blackaby told me. "And thanks to the Wyncote Foundation, we've been able to create that community connection, too: taking films out to schools and other settings, using social media to reach new audiences, and bringing the filmmakers and resource people to post-screening discussions."

That combination of films-plus-impact appealed to Grossinger and Klagsbrun. "We were involved early on with Good Pitch, which really influenced our thinking in this area," said Klagsbrun.

Good Pitch helps filmmakers find financial support for production costs and community engagement activities, connect with nonprofit organizations working on the issues captured in their films, and build relationships with industry representatives. It's supported by a range of funders, and though it now offers a variety of events around the world, its core program remains focused on filmmakers who are trained to "pitch" their films to a select group of potential donors and partners.

"Good Pitch gets it right in their approach to advancing social change," said Grossinger. "They provide support for both production — the making of the film — and for impact. The filmmakers learn through Good Pitch that it is as important to understand organizations and the work they do as it is to produce a film about those same issues. Good Pitch links the two. We've supported the production and subsequent organizing of several films through Good Pitch."

The CrossCurrents Foundation has continued to look for new ways to carry out its mission, supporting a range of projects, including the mural project in Baltimore that helped sustain that community as it was grappling with the death of Freddie Gray. And it continues to look for ways to support film. Grossinger and Klagsbrun are enthusiastic, for example, about a new project: Double Exposure, a three-day film festival featuring investigative journalism-inspired documentaries and a concurrent symposium for film projects developed by teams of filmmakers and journalists. As traditional media has cut back on its coverage of complex issues, and many online media sources offer only superficial coverage of such issues, policy experts and consumers alike recognize the role that serious films can play in sustaining good journalism.

Blackaby's work on the audience-engagement component in Justice Matters relates to that concern and takes advantage of the festival's home base in Washington, as Gittens, from the beginning, hoped it would.

Feras Fayyad, co-director of Last Man in Aleppo, is Syrian; as a filmmaker in that war-torn country he was jailed and tortured. He now lives in exile in Denmark but continues to receive death threats. The film is about two men who work for the volunteer Syria Civil Defense group, or White Helmets, an NGO that became famous for its work rescuing victims of the intensive shelling and bombing of the Syrian city of Aleppo.

"We provide links to White Helmets and two other NGOs, and Feras promotes involvement from the audience," says Blackaby. "It's an example of some of the films we show that have a very clear activist agenda. But our aim is also to support these filmmakers in their professional development, to help them continue to bring social issues to the fore. Feras was here for four days, watching the other films, meeting those filmmakers, and making contacts that will continue to sustain his work."

For Damani Baker, the director of The House on Coco Road, the project was personal: his family was living in Grenada when the U.S. invaded the country in 1983. But the film also is an informed exploration of the politics of the Reagan years. Justice Matters set up interviews for Baker with WPFW's "Voices With Vision" host Netfa Freeman, a political analyst at the progressive Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C, who interviewed him for one of the post-screening discussions, and Kojo Nmandi, host of the Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU, who interviewed him after a second screening — a more substantive experience for the filmmaker and the audience than the usual post-screening Q&A.

Through a collaboration with DC-based Teaching for Change, screenings and post-screening discussions of The House on Coco Road, Backpack Full of Cash, Two Trains Runnin’, and All Governments Lie also were taken to six local high schools. In addition to conversations with the directors and producers, students met with Judy Richardson, a former Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee member and civil rights activist who shared her own personal experiences behind the events depicted in Two Trains Runnin’. (For more details and great photos about those events, check out this report on the Teaching for Change website.)

Not all social issue films have a concrete impact agenda, however. "Sometimes there are short-term measurable outcomes to a film's social change goal," Blackaby says. "But the experience of viewing a film can also resonate over time, deeply affecting one’s consciousness and understanding."

For their part, Grossinger and Klagsbrun see increasing interest in film within the grantmaking community.

"I participated in an arts and social justice workshop some eight years ago organized by Claudine Brown, who at the time worked at the Nathan Cummings Foundation. The meeting took place immediately in advance of the annual Grantmakers in the Arts national conference," Grossinger (a GIA board member) told me. "Only fifteen people came. But several years later, we had to close registration for the same event at one hundred. And subsequently, GIA held an all-day meeting designed to bring film funders together with other arts funders to explore possibilities for collaboration. Foundation board members still need to be persuaded, but many grantmakers agree that it's a winning strategy to fund film production and the associated impact campaigns, especially when the film's content lines up with a foundation’s priorities."

At a brunch at the Grossinger-Klagsbrun home in Georgetown, on the next-to-final day of the festival, the filmmakers, the community engagement partners, the Filmfest DC staff and consultants, the award jurists, and funders gathered to celebrate. In thanking everyone and reiterating his vision for the festival, Gittens emphasized the potential of film, even in a time when we're challenged to make sense out of the nonsensical.

"I want the audience to be changed," said Gittens. "I want them to walk out of the screening thinking and feeling differently than when they walked in. And I think Justice Matters makes that happen."

The next day Grossinger announced the Justice Matters jurors' awards: best film, 150 Milligrams, with an honorable mention for The Good Postman and the overall festival audience award for best documentary going to Last Men in Aleppo.

Kathryn Pyle is a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. Check out her other great posts for PhilanTopic here.

Xavier de Souza Briggs, Vice President, Economic Opportunity and Markets, Ford Foundation: Changing the World Through Mission-Related Investing

June 01, 2017

In April, Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, the second largest foundation in the United States and one of the most influential in the world, announced a billion-dollar commitment over the next decade to mission-related investments (MRIs). In making the announcement, Walker expressed a belief widely shared within his organization that "MRIs have the potential to become the next great innovation for advancing social good." Walker further suggested that foundations needed to expand their imaginations and tools if they hoped to successfully address "the large-scale problems facing the world today" and added that they shouldn't "neglect the tremendous power of markets, including the capital markets, to contribute."

Ford isn't the first foundation to commit itself in a significant way to mission-related investing, although its commitment would appear to be the largest by a foundation to date. Since the late 1990s, the F.B. Heron Foundation in New York City has distinguished itself as a pioneer in the field, and under the leadership of its president, Clara Miller, has become increasingly willing to challenge others "to jettison outdated operating models that leave resources untapped in the face of systemic social ills." Foundations such as Kresge, Packard, and Surdna have followed suit.

Shortly after Walker's announcement, PND spoke with Xavier de Souza Briggs, vice president for economic opportunity and markets at the Ford Foundation, about the foundation's decision, how and where the funds will be allocated, and what the move means for the field of impact investing.

De Souza Briggs joined the foundation from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was a professor of sociology and urban planning in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. An award-winning author, commentator, and educator, he served from January 2009 to August 2011 as associate director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Obama White House. His most recent book, Moving to Opportunity: The Story of an American Experiment to Fight Ghetto Poverty, was published by Oxford University Press in 2010.

Headshot_xavier-de-souza-briggs_220Philanthropy News Digest: Let's start with a question I'm sure many of our readers are asking.What are mission-related investments?

Xavier de Souza Briggs: MRIs are investments that pursue both attractive financial returns and social impact, also known as social returns, and they are made from a foundation's endowment, rather than counted against its program payout. That's the IRS definition, not ours, and private foundations have been making them for a while, albeit not on the scale of a billion dollars.

PND: Why did Ford decide that this was the right time to allocate a billion dollars to MRIs?

XSB: Well, first of all, we felt it was important, at this particular moment, to align as many of our assets as possible with our mission. That includes our grantmaking, of course, and our program-related investments, which, again as defined by the IRS, is the other kind of impact investment that foundations can make. Our building in Manhattan, where we've convened changemakers and social sector leaders for many years, is an important asset, too. But we've never made investments toward our mission out of our endowment, and we felt that, at this moment, the impact investment market was ready for us to take this step. And the board agreed, which is why it approved MRIs of up to a billion dollars over ten years. Now, we're going to be careful and gradual about how we put those funds to work, but we're quite excited about the opportunity.

PND: Did the board have any reservations?

XSB: The board had a set of smart questions. Are the investable opportunities really there? Are we confident that we can generate social return in addition to financial return, which is better understood and more easily measured? They were good, smart questions, and the board was very prudent in its approach to oversight. But ultimately it concluded, based on the foundation's many years of experience with impact investing, that we were ready and the market was ready, and that by stepping up now we could help catalyze a broader movement in the impact investing field, which includes not only foundations but other major institutional investors such as pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, and university endowments. That's where the really big pools of investable capital are, and that's where the larger promise lies.

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The Brave New World of Open Source

May 09, 2017

The following post is part of a year-long series here on PhilanTopic that addresses major themes related to the center’s work: the use of data to understand and address important issues and challenges; the benefits of foundation transparency for donors, nonprofits/NGOs, and the broader public; the emergence of private philanthropy globally; the role of storytelling in conveying the critical work of philanthropy; and what it means, and looks like, to be an effective, high-functioning foundation, nonprofit, or changemaker in the twenty-first century; As always, we welcome your thoughts and feedback.

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OpensourceAllow me to introduce myself. My name is Dave Hollander, and I'm a data scientist here at Foundation Center. The role of a data scientist is to use techniques from statistics and computer science to make sense of and draw insights from large amounts of data. I work on the Application Development team, which engineers the code in Foundation Center products you use, including Foundation Maps and the new search tool that was launched as part of the redesign of foundationcenter.org.

Like nearly every software development team, the members of the center's Application Development team share code among ourselves as we work on new projects. This allows us to work on smaller parts of a larger machine while simultaneously ensuring that all the parts fit together. The individual parts are assembled during the development phase and eventually comprise the code base that powers the final product. When finished, that code lives internally on our servers and in our code repositories, which, in order to protect the intellectual property contained within, are not visible to the outside world. The downside to keeping our code private is that it does not allow for talented programmers outside Foundation Center to review the code, suggest improvements, and/or add their own entirely new twists to it.

We plan to change that this year.

Open-source software (OSS) is a term for any piece of code that is entirely visible and freely available to the public. Anyone can pull open-source code into their computer and either use it for a personal project or change it and "contribute" those changes back to the original project. Open source is not strictly related to code, however. Wikipedia, which allows anyone to create an account for free and edit articles and entries, is also an example of an open-source project. To ensure a high-level of quality throughout, submissions to Wikipedia are evaluated by volunteer editors, and while a bad entry may sneak through on occasion, the Wikipedia community eventually will find it, review it, and amend it.

Open-source code projects work in much the same way as Wikipedia, but rather than editing text, users edit code and then submit their changes back to the project. The process can be a challenge to monitor, but today there are tools available that make it relatively easy to manage the edits of multiple users and prevent source-code conflicts. The most popular is GitHub, a free service that serves as a repository for code projects and allows any user to make copies of any other project hosted on the platform. Once a project on GitHub is copied, the user can make changes to the original code, or use the code for his or her own purposes.

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[Review] The Power of Kindness: The Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life (Tenth Anniversary Edition)

April 11, 2017

Ours is not a particularly big-hearted species. Many of us come of age believing that success is measured in dollars and that kindness, compassion, and a willingness to turn the other cheek are behaviors best left to fools. Our generosity, meager as it often is, is reserved for kith and kin, and when extended to others often comes with a price. We would rather be feared and respected than loved and admired. And so it goes.

Book_the_power_of_kindness_2In The Power of Kindness: The Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life, Italian psychotherapist Piero Ferrucci rejects this ethos and instead asks his readers to reflect on what it truly means to be kind. To help us, Ferrucci explores nineteen "qualities" he deems to be the essential components of kindness, ranging from virtues such as forgiveness, empathy, and patience to honesty, a sense of belonging, and gratitude.

His reasons for doing so aren't solely altruistic. Ferrucci points to a multitude of studies which show that kindness and its related qualities are good for our health and overall sense of well-being. Not, he argues, that we should be kind simply because it's good for us, as though kindness were like "broccoli or exercise" but because, as studies show, we are hardwired to be kind. What's more, Ferrucci argues, integrating kindness more fully into our lives need not be a thankless sacrifice. Instead, we should think of it as bringing a musical instrument into tune with itself. Not necessarily easy, but so essential to our humanity that without it we are, by definition, diminished.

Much has changed in the ten years since the first edition of The Power of Kindness, translated from the Italian by Vivien Reid Ferrucci, was published. The new edition includes a preface by the Dalai Lama, a new introduction by the author, and a chapter on an additional quality, harmlessness, and its relationship to kindness. Like its predecessor, the new edition also addresses many timeless themes, offering advice calibrated to a wide range of situations and leaving ample space for readers to reflect on their own beliefs, priorities, and vulnerabilities. And yet, against the backdrop of our current contentious and deeply polarized political climate, I often found myself considering Ferrucci's advice and guidance and wondering whether the book stands the test of time.

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Do Bots Have a Role in Social Change?

February 23, 2017

ChatBotsIt's not every day you find yourself talking about sex with a chatbot named CiCi. But that's exactly the situation I found myself in a couple of weeks ago.

Chris Eigner, CEO of the digital product agency Epsilon Eight and the engineer behind CiCi, had asked me to test out the sex education bot before he released it publicly. While I'm usually an eager user of technologies in beta, I found myself feeling sheepish about talking to a bot about sex. So I decided to outsource the task to a friend, who had me ask CiCi a question about condoms. The bot's response was both mature and relevant: "There is nothing wrong with having sex so long as you are mature enough to handle the responsibilities and consequences."

Feeling like we were off to a good start, I decided to tell CiCi that I was "asking for a friend," just as one might in a conversation with a real person. CiCi's response was sweet: "You can't put a price on true friendship."

What may sound like a simple exchange was actually a remarkable experience. CiCi was capable of being simultaneously educational and personable. Interactions like this — casual, informative, bot-driven — increasingly will be part of our lives, and we should be careful not to underestimate how significant this development is likely to be for the future of social change efforts.

Despite calls for the sector to be more innovative, our field is a late adopter of new technologies. The ascendancy of bots represents a real opportunity for us to do better. Rather than delaying adoption, we can and should begin developing and using these tools at the same time as — not after — the usual early adopters.

But what does it mean to adopt chatbots as a tool for creating social change? And how can social change organizations use them to advance their cause in a time of political turmoil and resource constraints? Let's look at four valuable applications:

Fundraising growth. Interaction and automation are essential to scaling your fundraising efforts, and chatbots can take those efforts to a new level. charity: water has already launched a chatbot that allows supporters to engage with and donate to the organization via Facebook Messenger. Don't be surprised to see, in the not-too-distant future, other organizations scale their fundraising rapidly with one-click giving that enables anyone to donate to an organization like GLAAD simply by sending a rainbow emoji.

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Finding Our Place in a Post-Election Society…or, To Live Together, We Must Give Together

January 12, 2017

Innovation-in-giving-handsWhen the sixth call asking for our help came in days after the presidential election, we started to realize that interest in giving circles — groups of people who come together, pool their charitable donations, and decide together how to give those resources away — had never been greater.

“We’ve only ever given to our universities and political campaigns,” one caller said, echoing the sentiments of many others we spoke to. “We have no idea how to make an impact right now on the issues that came up during the campaign — but we know we want to, and we want to do it together.”

Whether you woke up on November 9 feeling shell-shocked or optimistic, you probably asked yourself: What do I do now? How can I be more engaged in my community and in causes that interest me? How can I help my obviously divided country come together and heal in the months and years to come?

If those are the kinds of questions you’ve been asking yourself, starting a giving circle might just be the answer.

In the hundred and eighty years since French diplomat and political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville published the first volume of his monumental Democracy in America, America has been known for the willingness of its citizens to form and engage in civil associations. Today, giving circles are a way for Americans to come together around their similarities — and reconcile their differences — while making a difference in their communities and society. Importantly, especially at fraught national moments like these, they also can help us find meaning in our lives by empowering us to give, in partnership and fellowship with neighbors, friends, and family, in ways that reflect our values.

Indeed, everything that giving circle members do, they do together.

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Weekend Link Roundup (January 7-8, 2017)

January 08, 2017

Snowflakes_PNG7585Our 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

Here's some good news: China has announced it will shut down the trade of ivory within its borders by the end of 2017. Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen applauds the decision.

Higher Education

Could a favorite tax break for donors who give to the nation's wealthiest colleges and universities be curtailed by the new Congress? Janet Lorin reports for Bloomberg.

Regardless of the tax policy changes Congress settles on, many multimillion-dollar gifts won't do as much good as the donors of those gifts hope, writes Paul Connolly, director of philanthropic advisory services at the Bessemer Trust, and that’s because "too few of them are getting the sound advice they need to move from good intentions to effective contributions and real positive impact."

International Affairs/Development 

As bad as 2016 may have seemed, the long-term trend for humanity is moving in the right direction, writes FastCo.Exist contributor Adele Peters, citing research by Oxford economist Max Roser. Take poverty: two hundred years ago, most people on the planet lived in extreme poverty, but "by 1950, a quarter of the world's population had made it out of extreme poverty...[and today] 90% of the world has." Or education: "In 1820, 1 out of 10 people was literate. Now more than 8 out of 10 people in the world can read." 

These trends could be accelerated if more of the developing world's population was connected to the Internet. On the ONE blog, Samantha Urban reports on the recommendations to address the situation made by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in November 19.

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Weekend Link Roundup (December 31-January 1, 2017)

January 01, 2017

20172016Happy New Year! After a break for the holidays, we're back with our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Fundraising

Change is inevitable and trying to predict a future unknowns, known and unknown, lying in wait in the new year, what's a nonprofit to do? Rather than try to predict the future, digital strategist and Ignite Strategy group founder Jeff Rum shares some good advice about how nonprofits can best prepare for

Giving

Have you resolved to be a better giver in 2017? Forbes contributor Leila de Bruyne asked Paul English, co-founder of Kayak and Lola, for his advice on how to give any amount of money away, effectively.

Higher Education

"U.S.  economic development has stalled. We've recently learned that only about half of people born around 1980 earn more today than their parents did at a similar age. The nation’s deteriorating education sector is one important factor, culpable for both weak economic growth and rising income inequality," writes Jonathan Rothwell, a senior economist at the Gallup organization, in an article on the Brookings site. And while education costs have soared over that period, he adds, learning has stagnated. Interesting comments as well.

International Affairs/Development

The UN estimates that almost 93 million people in 33 countries will need humanitarian aid in 2017 and has issued an appeal for a record $22.2 billion to help them. The Thomson Reuters Foundation (via the New York Times) asked aid agencies to name their top three priorities for 2017

LGBTQ

There were setbacks, yes, but the news for the LGBTQ community in 2016 wasn't all bad, as dozens of state legislatures and city councils considered or pass LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinances. On the Freedom for Americans site, Adam Polaski shares both the good and the bad from the year just passed.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (November 2016)

December 05, 2016

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...and Hannukkah...and Kwanzaa...and the end of an especially eventful year. Before you get busy with your end-of-year tasks and holiday chores, take a few minutes to check out some of the PhilanTopic posts that other readers enjoyed and found useful in November....

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

Weekend Link Roundup (December 3-4, 2016)

December 04, 2016

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

Aging

America is aging rapidly, and for "elder orphans" — the growing number of seniors with no relatives to help them deal with physical and mental health challenges — the future is a scary place. Sharon Jayson reports for Kaiser Health News.

Animal Welfare

Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther looks at the animal welfare movement, which, he writes, "is energized these days by the commitment, brainpower and moral fervor of a impressive group of activists in their 20s and 30s...crying out in opposition to what they see as an evil but widely-accepted practice."

Data

On her Philanthropy 2173 blog, Lucy Bernholz explains why, given the threats the incoming Trump administration poses "to free assembly, expression, and privacy," the nonprofit and philanthropic communities need to do more to manage and protect their digital data.

Education

Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump's pick to be U.S. Secretary of Education, is a wealthy supporter of "school choice" and, as "one of the architects of Detroit's charter school system,...partly responsible for what even charter advocates acknowledge is the biggest school reform disaster in the country." In an op-ed in the New York Times, Douglas N. Harris, a professor of economics at Tulane University and founding director of the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans, explains why her "nomination is a triumph of ideology over evidence that should worry anyone who wants to improve results for children."

In a letter to the editor of the Washington Post, Paul J. Deceglie of Fairfax, Virginia, argues that poverty, not school choice (or lack thereof), is the chief driver of poor student performance.

In a new installment of The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Re:Learning podcast, Goldie Blumenstyk chats with Jim Shelton, who recently was hired by the hired by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to head up its education work.

Fundraising

Guest blogging on Beth Kanter's blog, Rob Wu, CEO and co-founder of CauseVox, shares six insights the so-called sharing economy tells us about the future of fundraising.

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Weekend Link Roundup (November 26-27, 2016)

November 27, 2016

Wollman-rinkHope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving holiday. This week's roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector is a little shorter than normal. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog.... 

Environment

While the public recognition that comes with high-profile awards can help protect indigenous activists, many fear that the increased visibility is making them easier to target. Barbara Fraser reports for Indian Country.

Interesting profile in the Mount Desert Islander of Roxanne Quimby, the founder of the Burt's Bees natural cosmetics empire and the driving force behind the recently designated 83,000-acre Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine.

Health

Is spending on health care in the U.S. unacceptably high, or are we beginning to "bend the cost curve"? Katherine Hempstead, director and senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, shares some data designed to shed some light on an inherently murky situation.

Inequality

In remarks delivered at the OECD Cities for Life Global Summit on Inclusion, Innovation and Resilience on November 22, Ford Foundation president Darren Walker told those in attendance that he believes "inequality is the greatest threat to our society, in part because not only can it lead to violence and extremism at its worst, but by limiting opportunity and mobility, ultimately it generates hopelessness. And that hopelessness makes it harder to believe that change is possible." Worth your time to read the full text of his remarks.

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Weekend Link Roundup (November 5-6, 2016)

November 06, 2016

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

Arts and Culture

As generational change continues to roil the arts sector, what will the future look like for arts organizations? Emiko Ono, a program officer in the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s Performing Arts Program, explores that question in the Fall 2016 issue of the GIA (Grantmakers in the Arts) Reader.

Civic Engagement

In a Q&A on the Carnegie Corporation website, the foundation's Geri Mannion and Jay Beckner of the Mertz Gilmore Foundation chat with Carnegie visiting media fellow Gail Ablow about how foundations can support voting rights litigation.

Have American politics ever been so divisive? Or is this year's election simply a case of  plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Regardless of how one feels about the tone and tenor of the 2016 presidential election, it is important to remember, writes Carnegie Corporation president Vartan Gregorian, that, throughout our history, we have "managed to avoid allowing ourselves to be manacled by all-powerful overlords or permitting the strength of our democracy to be leeched away by the fear of what the future may bring. That does not mean," he continues, "that we must not constantly be mindful of the importance of preserving our democratic principles and defending the individual freedoms that are the legacy of our founders' trust in the nation they established...."

Fundraising

On her Fired Up Fundraising blog, Gail Perry shares six tips for crowdfunding your way to #GivingTuesday success. But don't wait — this year's #GivingTuesday is November 29. On that day, PND and the Foundation Center will be helping a handful of lucky nonprofits get the word out by sharing our social media feeds. For details, check out this post.

Nonprofits

In the Stanford Social Innovation Review, nonprofit veteran Ann-Sophie Morrissette examines five myths that help to perpetuate burnout among nonprofit employees.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (October 2016)

November 02, 2016

Seven... Seven more days of this dumpster fire of an election before (with a little luck) we can all get back to our lives and routines. If that seems like an eternity, may we suggest spending some of it on the great reads below you all voted to the top of our most popular posts list for October. And don't forget to cast your vote, along with the hundreds who already have, in our Clinton/Trump-themed poll of the week....

What did you read/watch/listen to in September that made you pause, made you think, made you hopeful? Feel free to share with our readers in the comments section below. Or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (June 2016)

July 03, 2016

Happy Fourth of July weekend! Hope you're spending it with family and friends. Before we head back out with more shrimp for the barbie, we thought we'd revisit some of the great content we shared here on PhilanTopic in June. Enjoy!

What did you read/watch/listen to in June that got your juices flowing? Feel free to share with our readers in the comments section below. Or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Design Vendors Are Destroying Nonprofit Organizations!

June 30, 2016

Stop_figureven·dor

/ˈvendər,ˈvenˌdôr’/

Noun

  • a person or company offering something for sale, especially a trader in the street.
  • a person or company whose principal product lines are office supplies and equipment.

Synonyms: retailer, seller, dealer, trader, purveyor, storekeeper, shopkeeper, merchant, salesperson, supplier, peddler, hawker; scalper, huckster, traffic

__________

Over the last sixteen years I've learned that if there's a word folks in the nonprofit community love to use to describe design firms, it's vendor. Maybe it's me, but every time I hear it used in conversation or read it in an RFP, the "V-word" is accompanied by the soothing sound of nails on a chalkboard. I don't believe I'm being thin-skinned here, but applying vendor to a design firm like Constructive is, well, a bit insulting.

"What's the big deal?" you might be thinking. "Why should I care?"

Both good questions. The short answer is that if you work for a nonprofit and are tasked with researching and choosing a design firm to lead your organization through a website redesign or other design project, using the word vendor is symptomatic of a bigger problem. It suggests a mindset that misunderstands what design is. That shortchanges the value of good design and the value a social change organization can get from working with a design firm. And that damages the kind of relationship any nonprofit would want to build when working with one.

Sounds serious! But if I'm overstating the case, I'm only overstating it slightly.

To understand what's so troubling about putting the "vendor" label on design firms, it's helpful to deconstruct the term itself. Take a look again at the definition of vendor and its synonyms at the top of this article. Pretty uninspiring, right? By definition, a vendor doesn't provide insight or strategic value. Vendors have customers, not clients. (Does any nonprofit really want to be treated by their design firm as a "customer"?!). At best, they are trying to sell you something — usually a commoditized product or service. At worst, the thing they are trying to sell you is a lemon.

Would anyone in their right mind want a vendor to do something for them as important as design?! Well, it depends on how you view design.

So why is vendor used so frequently in the nonprofit sector to describe the design firms that play such a critical role in translating organizational strategy into tangible experiences? I don't believe it’s because anyone is intentionally minimizing the value that design firms bring to the table. (If anything, the case for strategic communications in the sector is on the rise.) To me, it's a subtle sign of a more widespread misunderstanding that can lead to missed opportunity — one that's often exacerbated by design firms themselves and the organizations that hire them.

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