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99 posts categorized "Social Good"

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.

Giving circle members learn together. Members of giving circles talk about the values and passions they hope to bring to their giving and then decide where and how they want to direct  their resources. Together, they learn about the landscape of organizations and activists working on or with the issues and communities they care about. Instead of simply reacting to a grant proposal or fundraising appeal, giving circles offer their members proactive opportunities that start with the question: “What’s the change we want to make in the world?” — and provide a platform from which they can help drive that change.

Giving circle members give together. Rather than simply learning about issues and organizations doing good work, giving circle members do things together. They pool their charitable resources, enabling them to have  a greater financial impact than any one member of the group could have on his or her own, and, together, they direct those resources to people and organizations in a position to use them. Giving circle members also build relationships with the organizations to which they give, frequently provide strategic guidance or pro bono services, and in many cases even agree to serve as board members for those organizations. For most people, giving circles provide a powerful experience of giving — active, hands-on, and with endless opportunities for impact.

Giving circle members are together. Giving can be a solitary affair in which a person with resources and a checkbook or credit card responds to a direct request for funds. Giving circles transform this experience into something that is vibrant, values-based, and communal. Imagine sitting in a room with people you like, talking about how to make a difference together on  issues that matter to all of you, or  meeting new people in your community who are interested in  coming together to create positive change. Giving circles fulfill a fundamental human need for sociability and friendship, and can be as formal or informal, homogeneous or heterogeneous, social or educational as their members need or want them to be.

FeliciaHermann_JoelleAsaroBermanAmerica finds itself in a moment of flux. This is your chance to shape the moment by starting (or joining) a giving circle. It’s easier than you think, and it will connect you to your community — and your country — in ways you might never have imagined. What are you waiting for?

Felicia Herman is the executive director of Natan, a giving circle in New York, and is founder and incoming advisory board chair of Amplifier. Joelle Asaro Berman is the executive director at Amplifier.

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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Millennials and the Presidential Election Cycle: Does Cause Engagement Change in an Election Year?

June 21, 2016

Patriotic-thumbs-up-buttonFew things in the life of our nation serve to heighten awareness of particular social issues and causes more than a presidential election cycle. And given the historic (and boisterous) nature of this particular cycle, my research team and I wanted to understand how – if at all – millennials' philanthropic interests and engagement might change in response to the campaigns mounted by various major-party candidates, and whether these changes were influenced by demographic factors such as gender, age, and political ideology.

Our research has consistently shown that millennials value cause-related work and make a point of engaging with causes that align with their interests. At the same time, the research we've conducted to date in 2016 shows that millennials are more likely to passively engage with a cause – for example, signing a petition – than actively engage through volunteering, participating in a demonstration, or making a donation.

Indeed, although three out of four (76 percent) millennial respondents in the first phase of our study believe they can help to affect change on a social issue in which they're interested, only one out of two (50 percent) had volunteered for and/or donated to a cause aligned with an issue they care about in the past month. Our research also uncovered that, to date, slightly more than half had supported a community project (defined as any kind of cause work that addresses the shared concerns of members of a defined community) aligned with a cause they're interested in, while only one in three had participated in a demonstration (i.e., a rally, protest, boycott, or march) in the past month.

In contrast, two out of three millennial respondents indicated they had signed a petition related to an issue they care about in the past month.

Cause Engagement by Gender

When looking at cause engagement by gender, the first wave of our 2016 research (March to May 2016) found that male millennial respondents are more engaged in cause participation of all types (volunteering, donating, supporting community projects, participating in demonstrations, signing petitions) during this presidential election year than are female millennial respondents.

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Weekend Link Roundup (June 11-12, 2016)

June 12, 2016

Enough is enoughAfter a couple of weeks off, we're back with our weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

In Forbes Co.Exist, Jessica Leber reports that the world's population is (very) slowly beginning to move away from coastlines increasingly threatened by sea-level rise.

Data

On the Forbes site, five nonprofit executives share their strategies for collecting and analyzing data in order to get the highest return on investment.

Education

Yes, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is avery big player in the education reform field, and, yes, it has experienced its fair share of failures. But, writes Education Post contributor Caroline Bermudez, the foundation really should get more credit for owning up to those failures and for its willingness to experiment and take risks.

Fundraising

What's the worst piece of advice for a professional fundraiser? How about "Find your voice" or "Be yourself," says Future Fundraising Now's Jeff Brooks. Why? Because "[g]ood fundraising is not a mirror that reflects your beliefs and excellence. It's a mirror that [should reflect] your donors' values and excellence."

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Mission-Driven Architecture

June 08, 2016

Womens-opportunity-centersIt's not unusual for architecture and engineering firms to work on a pro-bono basis or for a reduced fee on "mission-driven" projects. In such cases, firms often are willing to trade profit for the reward of doing work that is rewarding in other ways. Some firms also take on such projects because the work is likely to raise their profile and, down the road, benefit their bottom line. Most importantly, populations in need also benefit. Schools and clinics are built where there were none, local people are employed and taught marketable skills, and the project — if planned well and executed efficiently — gives a boost to the local economy that is felt long after the construction dust has settled and the architects and engineers have moved on.

That said, I believe communities in developing countries would be better served if my fellow professionals and their NGO partners approached many of these projects differently and incorporated, from the outset, new thinking about how they are budgeted.

In the traditional budgeting model, firms wait for an RFP to come in over the transom or for an organization to come calling with a project (and budget) in mind. The problem with that, more often than not, is that the budget is woefully inadequate: whether it's a school, a clinic, or some other piece of critical local infrastructure, it typically includes only enough for the "basics," with little or no thought given to the kinds of "nice-to-haves" that would enable the project to serve the community in a more sustainable way. Systems for recycled rainwater, thoughtful waste management, proper siting to take advantage of passive solar — all too often, such considerations are non-starters in the budgets we see.

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Weekend Link Roundup (May 21-22, 2016)

May 22, 2016

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

Climate Change

Just as we often hear that it's easier to make money than to give it away, it seems as if donors and foundation leaders are learning that it's easier to divest from fossil fuel companies than it is to invest in clean energy. Fortune's Jennifer Reingold reports.

Economy

America's middle class is shrinking. The Pew Research Center lays it out in depressing detail.

Giving Pledge

So you've amassed a few hundred million or even a billion dollars and now want to help those who are less fortunate. A good place to start, writes Manoj Bhargava, founder of Billions in Change and Stage 2 Innovations, in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, is to understand the problem before funneling money into a solution, stop relying on traditions and assumptions, and make your philanthropy about serving, not helping.

Health

In a post on RWJF's Culture of Health blog, the foundation's Kristin Schubert says it's time for public health officials, school administrators, and parents to reframe the way we think about the links between health, learning, and success in life.

International Affairs/Development

Why should U.S. foundations take the global Sustainable Development Goals seriously? Because, writes NCRP's Ed Cain, they "constitute the broadest, most ambitious development agenda ever agreed to at the global level for getting the world off of its self-destructive, unsustainable path. [They] reflect the interconnectedness of social, economic and environmental challenges and solutions. [And they]...tackle inequality, governance and corruption."

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[Review] Social Movements for Good: How Companies and Causes Create Viral Change

April 30, 2016

When I think back to the social movements I learned about as a kid — from women's suffrage to civil rights — I picture grainy, black-and-white photos of people, young and old, with picket signs marching through the streets. While social movements today share many of the same elements, they would be largely unrecognizable to the early to mid-twentieth century leaders and social reformers who paved the way for today's activists. In Social Movements for Good: How Companies and Causes Create Viral Change, Derrick Feldmann adeptly dissects many of the social movements we've become familiar with, distinguishing them from movements of the past and, in so doing, reveals how contemporary social movements emerge, gain momentum, and, in some cases, sustain themselves long enough to change the world.

Bookcover_social_movements_for_goodFeldmann, the founder of cause engagement firm Achieve (and a regular contributor to Philanthropy News Digest), begins by drawing a distinction between the social movement traditionally understood and social movements for good. The latter, argues Feldmann, "establish a platform of awareness, individual action, outcomes, and sustainable change beyond initial participation and triumph," in contrast to social movements "focused solely on injustice and policy change in the immediate term." The ultimate outcome of a social movement for good may not be policy change but rather continued support and awareness at the level of the individual, as is the case with the "Movember" prostate-awareness campaign that takes place during the month of November.

In addition to this difference in end goals, the vehicles through which social movements for good tend to disseminate their message also differ from those used by more traditional social movements. In an age in which technology affects nearly every aspect of our lives, it shouldn't surprise anyone that it has become a key driver of the way we champion the issues we care about. In fact, our ability to reach potential supporters and champions for the causes we care about has never been greater, thanks to the virtual social networks that connect us. More than mere distribution channels, those networks and platforms have changed the nature of how we communicate. And yet, as Feldmann notes, social movements today "are more challenged than ever to get to the viral stage, given the rise in mass media outlets and the onslaught of shorter messages."

What makes Feldmann's narrative believable is his inclusion of first-person accounts. His interviews with individuals who have actually succeeded in catalyzing social change range from social sector celebrities such as Scott Harrison, founder of charity: water, to passionate millennials on college campuses. And while they've all managed to garner a fair amount of public attention and inspire individuals to take action, their narratives also demonstrate that there are many ways to get there. Indeed, their stories reinforce a point that Feldmann makes from the beginning: empathy — a trait we all possess, regardless of age, race, or gender — is at the heart of all social movements.

To illustrate his point, Feldmann tells the story of a marketing campaign that asked Alaskans to donate some of the annual payout they receive from the Alaska Permanent Fund, an endowment funded by the state's mineral royalties, to a nonprofit of their choice. The campaign featured two different messages: "Make Alaska Better" and "Warm Your Heart." The latter resulted in a higher response rate of more than 30 percent than the former and a donation rate of 55 percent — proof, of sorts, that the "warm glow" feeling one gets from helping others isn't just something concocted by fundraising professionals to separate you from your hard-earned cash, but rather one of the key building blocks of any social movement.

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