Connect With Us
YouTube
RSS

91 posts categorized "Social Good"

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.

Continue reading »

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.

Continue reading »

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."

Continue reading »

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.

Continue reading »

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."

Continue reading »

[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.

Continue reading »

Sector Switching: Making the Jump From For-Profit to Non-Profit

April 12, 2016

Jumping-acrossSector switchers — job candidates who have decided to move from the for-profit sector to the nonprofit world — are increasingly common. Many job seekers I talk to are seeking work that feels more meaningful and mission-driven. But it's not always easy to make the move. Candidates often struggle to frame their experience in a way that makes sense to nonprofit employers and sometimes find it difficult to break through the initial resistance to the fact their background is in a different sector.

In other words, making the leap from the for-profit to non-profit sector requires serious research and preparation as well as changes to the way you talk about yourself and your work. Below are five tips that will help ensure you make the move successfully:

1. Do your homework. Not every nonprofit is going to value and/or know how to leverage the business-world skills you bring to the table. Spend some time learning about the nonprofits in your region and what they do. For extra credit, research the backgrounds of their key leaders, looking for anything that might indicate the organization is open to hiring people from other sectors.

2. Network, network, network. Relentless networking is an absolute must if you hope to be a successful sector switcher. Using the research you've done on the nonprofit leaders in your city or region, create a networking list. Next, figure out who in your own network can connect you to the key people at the nonprofits you're interested in. Finally, prepare an elevator pitch for your own contacts that briefly spells out the kind of job you are looking for, why you are a good fit for the position, and what you are asking your contact to do (introduction? information about a particular organization? resume advice?).

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (March 19-20, 2016)

March 20, 2016

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

African Americans

In the New Yorker, Jelani Cobb considers the ongoing debate surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement.

Data

With its combination of "engaging" visuals and "data-driven interactivity," data visualization could be the answer to opaque spreadsheets and dry, little-noticed statistics. Or not. The challenge, writes Jake Porway on the Markets for Good site, "is that data visualization is not an end-goal...[i]t is often the final step in a long manufacturing chain along which data is poked, prodded, and molded to get to that pretty graph.  Ignoring that process is at best misinformed, and at worst destructive."  

What makes data "clean" and why does it matter? Jenny Walton, a customer advocate at donor relationship software company Bloomerang, explains.

Education

It's a familiar story. Walmart, the world's largest retailer, moves into a small town or suburban community and "disrupts" its local competitors out of business. Less familiar is the story about Walmart, increasingly under threat from online competitors, leaving a town or community -- and taking its low-paying jobs along with it. A business story, yes. But as Jeff Bryant, director of the Education Opportunity Network, explains on Valerie Strauss' Answer Sheet blog, it's also a story about closed or underfunded public schools.

Can privately funded charter schools and district schools co-located in the same building learn to live together in a way that benefits kids and teachers from both schools equally? The folks at the Walmart Foundation, a major funder of charter schools, highlight one promising example from Los Angeles.

Inequality

Not New York. Not San Francisco. The U.S. city with the widest income disparity is Boston, where nearly half of residents make less than $35,000 a year and, for most folks,  inflation-adjusted incomes haven't risen in three decades. That stark reality is one of the findings contained in a new study by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, a report that "portrays a local economy sharply divided by race, class, and education, with shrinking opportunities for those trying to climb the economic ladder." The Boston Globe's Katie Johnston reports.

Continue reading »

The One Strategy You Need to Design an Effective Website

March 02, 2016

Bigstock-Web-Design-For many organizations, a website is the biggest window into their work and values, helping their supporters and other audiences understand what the organization believes in and stands for, what it does, and why its work matters. In many cases, it also is a critical component of the day-to-day operations behind those efforts, whether as a publishing platform for knowledge sharing and thought leadership, or as a direct link to the organization's events management and CRM systems.

Nonprofits, educational institutions, and businesses whose work is dedicated to advancing positive social or environmental change must not only make sure their websites meet all the criteria by which the success of websites in general are measured (i.e., usability, visual design, and compelling content), their websites also must paint a much bigger picture of the organization — elevating its issue(s), educating audiences, and generating action while clearly communicating everything in the context of the organization's mission and values. No surprise, then, that at Constructive we believe that as purposeful as organizations tend to be about developing the strategies and actions needed to drive change, they should be equally focused on the decisions that determine whether their websites contribute to those goals.

Unfortunately, many organizations with incredibly inspiring missions too often end up with a website that falls flat and leaves their audiences more confused than committed, more exhausted than energized.

Why is this?

The Discontent of Our Disconnect

When organizations set out to redesign a website, the problems in need of solving on every organization's list inevitably include things like: "confusing; not user friendly," "content and resources hard to find," "not engaging or visually appealing," "difficult to update," and, most telling of all, "fails to clearly communicate our mission and work."

It is baffling how so many organizations can go through a lengthy website design engagement and still wind up with something that fails not only in website-specific areas like usability, visual design, and technology, but also in terms of the most important strategic goal of all — clearly communicating an organization's mission.

The reason, I believe, is actually quite simple.

Continue reading »

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (February 2016)

March 01, 2016

A couple of infographics, a book review by Matt, a short Q&A with the MacArthur Foundation's Laurie Garduque, an oldie but goodie from Michael Edwards, and great posts from Blake Groves and Ann Canela — February's offerings here on PhilanTopic beautifully capture the breadth and multiplicity of the social sector. Now if we could only get it to snow....

What did you read/watch/listen to last month that made you think, got you riled up, or restored your faith in humanity? Share with the rest of us in the comments section below, or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

How to Mobilize Youth in Service

February 26, 2016

GlobeHandsAny young person can be a hero. Few embody that truism better than Hawaiian Brittany Amano, who at the age of 12 founded a nonprofit organization called the Future Isn't Hungry. But a young person shouldn't have to found an organization in order to make a difference. The good news is they don't have to.

While Brittany's entrepreneurial drive and success are unique, her passion for public service is not. According to a 2012 study by DoSomething.org, 93 percent of young people in America say they are interested in volunteering, yet only a fraction end up taking the steps needed to actually become involved. As the executive director of the Jefferson Awards Foundation, I've been privileged to meet many young people across the country who are determined to serve their communities. And along the way I’ve learned that the biggest barrier to youth participating in service is accessibility.

Based on the lessons we have learned from our three youth-oriented programs, the Jefferson Awards Foundation has established a four-step process that engages young people in service by focusing on their interests and making participation easy, fun, and accessible. The steps are:

1. Ask kids what they care about. You’d be amazed by the things young people notice — and by how deeply they think about issues that matter to them. If a kid sees a homeless veteran on the street, she's likely to wonder about the reasons behind the veteran's homelessness and how she can help. If he sees milk bottles piling up in the trash bins in his cafeteria, he's likely to wonder how he can get his school to recycle. Simply asking kids what kinds of problems they've been thinking about and their ideas to solve them can lead to an overwhelmingly constructive response that can be channeled into public service.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (February 13-14, 2016)

February 14, 2016

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

Civic Engagement

While the Latino population of the United States has quintupled over the last forty years, Latino voter registration has not kept pace. The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy's Ryan Schlegel argues that foundations committed to long-term systemic change can do more than they have been to close the gap and shares four things they should bear in mind as they consider investing in civic and electoral participation.

Disaster Relief

Things are not looking good at the American Red Cross. ProPublica's Justin Elliott files the nonprofit news outlet's latest report on the beleaguered relief organization and its embattled CEO, Gail McGovern.

Education

As teach for America celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary, Kristina Rizga, an education reporter for Mother Jones, looks at how America's "most controversial" education organization is changing its ways.

Health

Writing on Quartz, Allison Schrager notes that the future is looking increasingly scary for the world's richest countries, and that's because their success in combating the traditional causes of death among the elderly — heart disease, cancer, and strokes — means degenerative diseases that impair cognition, particularly Alzheimer's, are on the rise. Indeed, Alzheimer's, the flip side of people living longer,  "is the third most common cause of death among Americans older than 85. And it's not just heart-wrenching for its victims and their loved ones; it has consequences for the economy."

Continue reading »

[Review] Getting Beyond Better: How Social Entrepreneurship Works

February 12, 2016

Changing the world is a lot like writing a novel: many people say they want to, but only a few actually accomplish their goal, and fewer still succeed in creating something that gets noticed.

Cover_getting beyond betterIn Getting Beyond Better: How Social Entrepreneurship Works, business strategist Roger L. Martin and Sally R. Osberg, president and CEO of the Skoll Foundation, provide an overview of the burgeoning field of social entrepreneurship and share the stories of several social entrepreneurs who have changed — and are changing — the world for the better. And, like the entrepreneurs they highlight — nearly all of whom have been recognized by the Skoll Foundation for their efforts — Martin and Osberg mostly succeed in their objectives, providing a definitional framework for the field, explaining the joys and challenges of the work, and finding compelling examples of people who have overcome those challenges.

Martin and Osberg define social entrepreneurship as direct action aimed at transforming, rather than incrementally improving, an existing system; in the process, a new equilibrium is created. Moreover, social entrepreneurs work in "ways that do not fit neatly into the traditional modes of government and business." Whereas businesses are constrained by a need to earn profits, and government-led change efforts are designed to provide services to citizens rather than cultivate new customers, social entrepreneurs are able to "[negotiate] these constraints. The creative combination of elements from both poles...is what enables [them] to build models designed for a particular context."

Through their work at the Skoll Foundation and the Skoll World Forum, Osberg and Martin have observed that transformative change involves four key stages: first, the social entrepreneur must understand the system she is trying to change; then, she must envision a future in which that system has been changed, build a model for achieving the change, and, finally, scale a solution.

It is not enough, for example, to be repulsed by a tradition such as foot binding or female genital cutting that has been standard practice in certain societies for centuries. Rather, the social entrepreneur "sets out to make sense of the problematic equilibrium itself: how did it come to be and why does it persist?" To do that, Martin and Osberg write, the social entrepreneur must "navigate three powerful tensions" with respect to the world they wish to change: abhorrence and appreciation; expertise and apprenticeship; and experimentation and commitment.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (February 6-7, 2016)

February 07, 2016

Black-history-month-1Our 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

In The Atlantic, Andy Horwitz, founder and publisher of Culturebot, examines the recent history of funding for the arts in America and concludes that while the arts themselves aren't dead, the system by which they are funded is increasingly becoming as unequal as the country itself.

Criminal Justice

On the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy blog, Ben Barge, a field associate at the NCRP, shares highlights from a recent panel discussion, "Mass Incarceration: The Rural Perspective," featuring Lenny Foster, director of the Navajo Nations Correction Project; Nick Szuberla, executive director and co-founder of Working Narratives & Nations Inside; Kenneth Glasgow, executive director of the Ordinary People Society and co-chair of the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People's Movement; and asha bandele, director of grants, partnerships and special projects at the Drug Policy Alliance.

Giving

A new report from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy finds that "women give more than their male peers at virtually all income levels, even though women in general earn less and have less money in retirement than men." In a piece for the Wall Street Journal, Debra Mesch, Eileen Lamb O'Gara Chair in Women's Philanthropy and director of the Women's Philanthropy Institute, discusses the findings.

Health

Good post by Marc Gunther (Nonprofit Chronicles) on why this Super Bowl is likely to be the last one he ever watches.

International Affairs/Development

On Monday, the World Health organization declared the outbreak of Zika virus a global public health emergency. The New York Times' Sabrina Tavernese and Donald G. MacNeil, Jr. report.

According to UNICEF, more women and children are now migrating to and through Europe than adult males -- and many children are traveling alone. In related news, organizers of the annual Syria pledging conference are requesting a record $9 billion from the international donor community by the end of 2016. In comments to the New York Times, Jan Egeland, a former Norwegian diplomat who heads the Norwegian Refugee Council, characterized the humanitarian response to the Syrian refugee crisis as grossly inadequate and said, "What we are witnessing now is a collective failure to deliver the necessary support to the region. We are witnessing a total collapse of international solidarity with millions of war victims."

"If social scientists and policy makers have learned anything about how to help the world's poorest people, it's not to trust our intuitions or anecdotal evidence about what kinds of antipoverty programs are effective, write Dean Karlan,a professor of economics at Yale and founder of the nonprofit Innovations for Poverty Action, and Annie Duflo, the organization's executive director, in the New York Times. Rigorous randomized evaluations, on the other hand, "can show us what works and what doesn't....Hope and rhetoric are great for motivation, but not for figuring out what to do."

There was some good news on the global public health front in January. The UN Foundation's Jenni Lee has a roundup.

Continue reading »

Contributors

Quote of the Week

  • "I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality...."

    — Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)

Subscribe to Philantopic

Contributors

Guest Contributors

  • Laura Cronin
  • Derrick Feldmann
  • Thaler Pekar
  • Kathryn Pyle
  • Nick Scott
  • Allison Shirk

Tweets from @PNDBLOG

Follow us »

Tags

Other Blogs