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Newsmakers: Darren Walker, President, Ford Foundation

September 21, 2015

Headshot_darren_walkerPhilanTopic is on vacation this week. While we're away, we'll be sharing some of our favorite posts from the last year or three. This post was originally published in December 2013. Enjoy.

In September, Darren Walker became the tenth president of the Ford Foundation. Before coming to Ford, where he was vice president of the foundation's Education, Creativity, and Freedom of Expression program, Walker served as vice president for foundation initiatives at the Rockefeller Foundation and as chief operating officer of the Abyssinian Development Corporation, where he guided the organization's efforts to develop housing for low and moderate-income families in Harlem.

Recently, Michael Seltzer, a frequent contributor to PhilanTopic, spoke with Walker about the current social change environment, the influence of the foundation's activities on his life, and his hopes for the foundation going forward. Seltzer is a distinguished lecturer at the Baruch College School of Public Affairs and an affiliated faculty member of its Center for Nonprofit Strategy & Management.

Philanthropy News Digest: What is it like to be president of the Ford Foundation?

Darren Walker: Although I've been at the foundation for more than three years, in many ways I still have a lot to learn. I certainly didn't arrive here with any idea I would end up as president. When I walked through the doors of this institution for the first time, it was a transformational experience, because the Ford Foundation represents the ways in which my own life has been changed by philanthropy.

I'm a graduate of public schools. I attended public school in a small town in Texas, and I am also a graduate of the first Head Start cohort, a program that was developed out of Ford Foundation-supported research on early child development at Yale University. After high school, I attended a large land grant university -- thanks to Pell grants, another Ford Foundation-supported intervention -- so I know all about Ford's commitment to public education in this country.

After college, I worked on Wall Street and one day found myself at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, which was hosting a representative of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a creation of -- you guessed it -- the Ford Foundation. LISC had awarded a grant to the Abyssinian Development Corporation for capacity-building initiatives that would allow it to realize the aspirations of the organization's founders, who had a dream in the mid-'80s that Harlem could be a community that could regenerate itself from within. And the Ford Foundation, through LISC, believed in that dream and invested in it. And that capacity-building grant made it possible for ADC to hire me. So my journey, like the journeys of so many others, has been deeply influenced by the Ford Foundation.

I was thrilled to receive a call from the foundation's board chair, Irene Hirano-Inouye, and have her tell me that the board had voted to appoint me president. Actually, I wasn't sure how to respond, beyond saying, "Yes!" because I know that with this job comes huge responsibility, and that I stand on the shoulders of some extraordinary people.

PND: The Ford Foundation has been a long-distance runner when it comes to addressing social issues like poverty. Today, we face some of the most serious social challenges we've seen since the 1960s -- both in terms of holding the line on the progress we've made and in putting forward new solutions designed to help low-income individuals and communities build assets and resilience. Are you discouraged by the magnitude of the challenges we face?

DW: It's easy to be dismayed by the current state of social justice in our country and around the world. But it is important to remember the remarkable progress we have made. There was a time, not too long ago, when every indicator of social mobility for low-income and marginalized communities was improving -- employment among urban black males in the 1990s saw tremendous gains, we saw significant reductions in the level of homelessness, and more African-Americans and Latinos were matriculating to institutions of higher education. Although it wasn't always even, for almost forty years, from the early 1960s through the 1990s, we saw progress. We've fallen back some, so it's particularly important we remember that history and not be discouraged. A certain set of circumstances contributed to the conditions which prevail today. That said, we have faced these problems before and made huge progress in addressing them, and we can do so again.

I am actually hopeful and quite excited about what the Ford Foundation can do to address some of these challenges. There are thousands of new foundations out there, and together we have an opportunity and the potential to make a tremendous difference in the lives of poor and vulnerable people. That is very exciting. So, no, I am not discouraged. I am energized. We have work to do, but as Martin Luther King, Jr. asserted, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." The journey toward justice is a two-steps-forward, one-step-back affair. That process will always be with us.

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Knowledge Is Power: LGBTQI and Human Rights Funders, Disaggregate Your Data!

July 20, 2015

Lgbt-handprintWhen several LGBTQI funders set out in 2013 to better understand the landscape of funding for trans* human rights, our first stop was the International Human Rights Funders Group (IHRFG) and Foundation Center's groundbreaking data set on global human rights funding. To our surprise, we found very little information about funding for trans* people specifically. When I went looking last month for data on funding dedicated to lesbian, bisexual, and queer women, I found the same gap. This, I realized, is because most foundations report their funding for "LGBT" people as just that: "LGBT."

We know, however, that the LGBT acronym masks a huge diversity of communities, needs, and human rights priorities. Lesbian and queer women may be more concerned with addressing family violence or changing cultural narratives about sexuality than overturning a colonial sodomy law. Trans* activists may be focused on ending the discriminatory policing of trans* women of color or passing laws that allow people to self-determine their legal gender. Intersex activists are seeking specific protections against non-consensual genital surgeries and other rights-violating medical interventions on intersex bodies. From Astraea’s nearly forty years of supporting queer and trans activism with a racial, economic, and gender justice lens, we also know that foundation funding for LGBTQI rights does not match this diversity of agendas. Without dedicated attention to lesbian and queer women, trans*, and intersex folks, "LGBT" too often means the leadership and priorities of cisgender gay men.

Without attention to other identities we hold, "LGBT" also often means the more privileged aspects of our movements in terms of race, class, and age. It would be easy to look at the LGBT funding dedicated to marriage equality in the U.S., for example, and say that our work is getting done. But we know that LGBTQI justice will only come when all people experience legal and lived equality, and when we are all free from hatred, discrimination, and violence. That is why we need an LGBTQI agenda that dismantles racial, gender, and economic inequality, and why we need to look not only at the gender breakdown of "LGBT" but also the proportion of funding that supports organizing by and for communities of color, as well as poor and working-class folks. Our data must reflect the intersectional reality of our lives and our movements.

This year's Advancing Human Rights report tells us that LGBT funding represented 5 percent of all foundation human rights dollars in 2012 and has held relatively steady over the past three years. If we are going to meet the demand from growing LGBTQI movements pursuing human rights around the world, we absolutely need to grow the overall pie. But we should also look at where the funding available to us is going. Which constituencies are receiving support? Whose agendas are they funding and amplifying?

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (April 2015)

May 02, 2015

PhilanTopic hosted lots of great content in April, including opinion pieces by Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Tonya Allen, president and CEO of the Skillman Foundation in Detroit; and Peter Sloane, chairman and CEO of the New York City-based Heckscher Foundation for Children; Q&As with Bill McKibben, co-founder of; Karen McNeil-Miller, president of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust in North Carolina; and Judith Shapiro, president of the New York City-based Teagle Foundation; a terrific book review from the formidable Joanne Barkan; thought-provoking posts from regular contributors Mark Rosenman and Derrick Feldmann; and a great Storify assembled by our own Lauren Brathwaite. But don't take our word for it...

What have you read/watched/listened to lately that made you think? Share your finds in the comments section below, or drop us a line at

Empowering Women Through Homeownership and Volunteering

April 23, 2015

Habitat_for_Humanity_buildA home is more than just the bricks, mortar, and lumber used to build it. It’s an investment that many families make to lay the groundwork for a more prosperous future. Yet even as the housing market continues to improve, many low-income families, particularly those headed by single mothers, struggle to provide a stable, safe, and healthy home environment for their children.

“It all comes down to giving people in this country [a shot at success], and the single most important shot is a place to live securely,” said Vice President Joe Biden at a forum in April co-hosted by Habitat for Humanity International at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “Ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they have a base and a foundation and an opportunity. All they are asking for is a chance, a chance to raise their families and build their dreams.”

Millions of women across the country are hoping to become homeowners one day and lift their families out of poverty. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 18 million women were living in poverty in 2013, an all-time high. Single mothers and their children are particularly vulnerable, with nearly six in ten poor children living in families headed by women.

In Lynwood, California, single mother Nikki Payton and her three daughters currently live with family members, sharing a room in a small two-bedroom house. Because all three daughters have health issues and suffer from asthma, Payton applied to purchase a Habitat for Humanity home so her family could live in a healthier environment. In Detroit, Marketta Jackson, a single mother of six, lives with her family in housing in desperate need of repairs. It’s also difficult for her mother, who uses a wheelchair. Jackson looks forward to some day having a home where her mother can get around easily and her family feels safe and secure. 

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5 Questions for…Nancy Northup, President and CEO, Center for Reproductive Rights

March 23, 2015

Nancy_northup_for_PhilanTopicMore than forty years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a woman's right to have an abortion in Roe v. Wade, a number of states have passed laws designed to restrict women's access to reproductive health services, including emergency contraception and abortion. In Congress, meanwhile, the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding of abortion services in most cases and has routinely been attached as a "rider" to annual appropriations bills for the Department of Health and Human Services, recently was attached to the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act — a bill designed to protect citizens or permanent residents of the United States who have been trafficked and/or sexually assaulted or abused.

We asked Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, a global human rights organization that uses constitutional and international law to secure women's reproductive freedom, about these legislative trends, efforts to push back against them, and the road ahead.

Philanthropy News Digest: Your organization recently launched a campaign, "The War on Women Is Over! If You Want It," that was inspired by Yoko Ono and John Lennon's 1970 "War Is Over" campaign. What are the goals of the campaign, and what kind of response has it generated?

Nancy Northup: We launched the campaign on the forty-second anniversary of the historic Roe v. Wade decision with the goal of inspiring current activists engaging and educating new audiences about the profound threats to women's freedom here in the United States. We're thrilled with the support we have received so far, from men and women across the country. Celebrities like Taylor Schilling, Susan Sarandon, Martha Plimpton, John Lithgow and Yoko Ono herself have all thrown their weight behind this campaign, and we couldn't be more grateful.

We were inspired by the power and history of Yoko Ono and John Lennon's 1970 "War Is Over" peace movement, which brought together thousands of anti-war activists across the country and unified them behind a simple message. And we are incredibly fortunate and grateful to have the personal blessing of Yoko Ono as we go forward with the campaign.

PND: The inclusion of the qualifier "If You Want It" would seem to suggest that society — women and men — have become complacent about women's reproductive freedom in the decades since Roe v. Wade. Why is that?

NN: There are countless dedicated people — clinic escorts, providers, doctors, lawyers, youth activists, researchers, elected officials, writers, volunteers, and donors — actively engaged in the fight for women's reproductive freedom. The vast majority of Americans support women's access to safe and legal abortion as part of a full range of reproductive health care. But the anti-choice community has waged a successful propaganda war, based on fear and misinformation, to marginalize the seven in ten Americans who want to see Roe v. Wade upheld, and that has made people feel alone and reluctant to speak up. This campaign is about giving the silent members of our majority an opportunity to make themselves seen and heard.

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5 Questions for...Virginia Witt, Co-Founder and Director, NO MORE Campaign

March 16, 2015

As the United Nations' Commission on the Status of Women meets this month to highlight progress in advancing gender equality, the status of women and girls worldwide continues to be the focus of media coverage, reports, and social media campaigns. But despite progress in areas such as access to education and health care, global statistics for domestic violence continue to alarm: Nearly 33 percent of women in high-income countries, 46 percent of women in Africa, and 41 percent of women in South and Southeast Asia say they have suffered physical or sexual violence, while only 14 percent of cases are reported to the police and the majority of victims do not seek support services.

Recently, PND spoke with Virginia Witt, co-founder and director of NO MORE, a public awareness and engagement campaign supported by an alliance of foundations, nonprofit organizations, and corporations, about efforts to end domestic violence and sexual assault in the United States and globally. Witt has served as a senior executive in a variety of nonprofit and philanthropic organizations, leading strategic initiatives and public awareness campaigns to advance public health, education, and social justice issues.

Headshot_virginia_wittPhilanthropy News Digest: According to a recent report from the United Nations, 35 percent of women worldwide are estimated to have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence — with higher rates in many lower-income countries. What is the connection between violence against women and poverty?

Virginia Witt: Violence against women definitely was an urgent topic at the United Nations Beijing +20 Summit last week, as it should be every week. The UN statistics are very telling in terms of the magnitude of the problem, and we have seen commitments to address the issue building around the world. In many societies, women are not on an equal footing with men, and we know there is a strong connection between violence against women, gender inequality, and poverty. At NO MORE, however, we recognize that domestic violence and sexual assault go beyond gender, culture, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status, and that economic empowerment is a crucial piece of the puzzle.

PND: According to the UN report, a "major obstacle to ending violence against women is the persistence of discriminatory attitudes and social norms that normalize and permit violence." To what extent do you think awareness-raising campaigns like NO MORE can make a measurable difference in changing such attitudes?

VW: We know from our own research that simply starting a conversation about these issues can make it easier to help someone. There is so much silence, shame, and stigma attached to domestic violence and sexual assault. When survivors see the conversation opening up, they feel more comfortable about coming forward and seeking help. On our NO MORE Gallery, thousands have come forward — many of them survivors who are sharing their stories for the first time — to say "NO MORE" to domestic violence and sexual assault. NO MORE is a platform for survivors and bystanders to speak out, to feel supported, to feel empowered. We saw with HIV/AIDS that awareness efforts broke down the stigma around the disease over time and opened up new opportunities for those working at the community level to help those affected by the disease. We’re starting to see the same shift happening around domestic violence and sexual assault.

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[Review] 'A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity'

February 10, 2015

Cover_A-Path-AppearsA recent survey conducted by World Vision found that, despite the growing list of humanitarian crises around the world, 80 percent of Americans did not plan to increase their charitable giving in 2014. Discouraging perhaps, but not surprising. Those without the means to fund large-scale interventions tend to feel helpless in the face of widespread suffering, with many believing that a modest donation cannot possibly make a difference in addressing seemingly intractable problems, while others worry that little of their money will ever reach the intended beneficiaries.

In their new book, A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity, award-winning New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof and his wife, former journalist-turned-investment banker Sheryl WuDunn, beg to differ: You can make a difference. But to do so, you have to be thoughtful and intentional in your approach. That means: 1) doing research to ensure that your gift benefits the target population; 2) volunteering your time and expertise when possible; and 3) engaging in advocacy.

The authors, whose 2009 book Half the Sky examined ways to expand opportunity for women and girls in the developing world, here broaden their canvas to include efforts to expand opportunity for all marginalized populations, in the U.S. as well as abroad, with a particular focus on poverty alleviation. It's a formidable challenge, and Kristof and WuDunn do their best to make it comprehensible by breaking it down into parts: how effective interventions can make a lasting impact; how nonprofit organizations can maximize both their income and impact; how giving can benefit the giver.

According to Kristof and WuDunn, these days individual donors can be more confident about the effectiveness of their donations, for a number of reasons: anti-poverty interventions and development projects have become more evidence-based and cost-efficient in recent years; the Web makes it easier for donors to learn about the impact of their giving; and, increasingly, development projects are run more transparently and with greater buy-in and expertise from local communities. Indeed, the book, as much as anything, is a compilation of admiring portraits of nonprofit practitioners, social entrepreneurs, and activists working to remove barriers to opportunity. At the same time, it emphasizes the importance of (and increasing use of) rigorous randomized controlled trials to ensure that interventions are evidence-based and effective. And in highlighting organizations such as Evidence Action, MDRC, and the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy, organizations that do the un-sexy but essential work of research and evaluation, it aims to empower individuals to think critically about the programs and charities they choose to support.

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Philanthropy in India: Dasra’s First Forum in the U.S.

December 17, 2014

The enthusiasm on display at the Dasra Philanthropy Forum on November 10 could have fueled a week-long conference. Hosted by the Ford Foundation, the day-long event brought together more than thirty speakers, five panels, and a crowd of over a hundred philanthropy, nonprofit, and social business leaders to discuss philanthropy in India, with a special focus on empowering the country's 113 million adolescent girls.


Based in Mumbai, Dasra (which means "enlightened giving" in Sanskrit) works to bring about sustainable, long-term social change in the world's second-most populous country. For the past five years, the organization has convened key stakeholders for an annual week-long conference to discuss, explore, and evaluate the challenges the country is facing, as well as how the private and public sectors  can work together to create greater impact. The event at Ford marked the organization's debut in the U.S., and the opening plenary remarks delivered by Tarun Jotwani, the organization's chair, charged the room with energy and anticipation of the conversations to follow.

The brainchild of Deval Sanghavi and Neera Nundy, Dasra was founded in 1999 to help transform the practice of philanthropy in India. In the years since, its staff has grown from eight to nearly eighty. Their efforts, in turn, have affected some 730,000 lives across India, of whom 325,000 have been women and children. In 2013, the organization created the Dasra Girl Alliance, a public-private partnership with USAID and the UK-based Kiawah Trust — subsequently joined by the Piramal Foundation — to ensure that every woman in India feels safe and empowered and that every girl receives an education. Indeed, it is the organization's belief that "Girls are essential agents of change in breaking the cycle of poverty and deprivation." To give girls in India the tools they need to realize that vision, Dasra aims to raise $30 million for health- and education-related initiatives, of which $9 million has already been raised, and to have changed the lives of over a million women and girls by 2018.

In the meantime, there's lots of work to be done. According to the World Bank, while India's GDP grew from $834 million in 2005 to more than $1.8 trillion in 2013, less than 10 percent of the country's population earns enough to pay income tax. As Deval Sanghavi noted, "Macroeconomics is not going to solve this problem; we need private philanthropy to complement government and business efforts."

Back at the Ford Foundation, the conference's format balanced well-attended panel discussions with smaller sessions offered concurrently. Many of the former featured Indian philanthropists who shared personal stories of their efforts to rally Indians around the idea of change, while others focused on the importance of partnerships and how investments in girls must connect to the broader themes of economic prosperity and stronger communities. Parallel sessions included discussions focused on the country's new Corporate Social Responsibility Law (which requires corporations to spend 2 percent of their net profits on charitable causes) and how it could affect the country's economy; the role of foundations in India; and how Mann Deshi, the largest microfinance bank in Maharashtra, with more than 165,000 clients, is improving the economic well-being of women from low-income communities.

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Profiles in Compassion: Sister Rosemary Niyurumbe

October 13, 2014

Headshot_sister-rosemary-nyirumbeRecently, I attended a screening of the documentary "Sewing Hope," an hour-long film about the efforts of Sister Rosemary Niyurumbe, a Catholic nun living in Uganda, to help girls and young women abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army, the cult-like militia led by Joseph Kony that was the subject of the viral "Invisible Children" campaign in 2012.

Narrated by the actor Forrest Whitaker, the film grabs you from the first frame. In harrowing detail, it describes how girls from rural villages were abducted from their homes and forced to commit unspeakable acts of violence against their own family members in order to prove their loyalty to the LRA. Many of the girls were raped and tortured, with Kony himself responsible for dozens if not hundreds of rapes, and many became pregnant and ended up bearing children. Girls that were able to escape often found themselves ostracized by family members and friends who viewed them as damaged goods.

Hearing about these girls, Sister Rosemary, the director since 2001 of the Saint Monica's Girls Tailoring Center in Gulu, Uganda, and one of TIME's 100 Most Influential People for 2014, realized she had to do something. Before long, she had opened doors of the center to as many of these girls as she could find and set about teaching them how to sew and make dresses, handbags, and other goods, imparting skills that can help them provide for themselves and secure a desperately needed measure of independence. Displaced children were placed in school and given a new lease on life, away from the horrors of Kony's atrocities.

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Eleanor Roosevelt and Data Post-2015

October 01, 2014

Headshote_angela_haricheTwo weeks ago, I was down with the flu AND jetlagged, so all I could manage to do in the evenings was get under a blanket and watch all fourteen hours of "The Roosevelts" on PBS. I thought it was riveting and the timing was perfect. It has been a particularly busy time for us at Foundation Center and there have been an inordinate amount of meetings and conferences around the annual meeting of the UN general assembly. Happily, most of the people sharing a table with me at these events had also been watching "The Roosevelts." We all admitted it was nice for once to discuss something else other than the grind during the lunches and coffee breaks!

So, it was no surprise when Kathy Calvin, president of the United Nations Foundation, said at a recent Ford Foundation event, "Channel your inner Eleanor Roosevelt post-2015." I think that was my best tweet all week. But what does it mean? Well, Eleanor certainly was a force. In fact, she was the driving force behind the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and was able to move the needle on things in the face of incredible resistance. And "post-2015" is about what comes after the Millennium Development Goals effort comes to an end next year.

The event brought together leaders from philanthropy, the UN, business, and civil society to talk about philanthropy and the role of the sector in the coming years. Brad Smith, president of Foundation Center, and Helena Monteiro from WINGS (Worldwide Initiative for Grantmaker Support) convened a session that focused on the data and knowledge needed to a) get a better grip on what we know and don’t know about funding for global development goals; b) how to get an accurate picture of development progress; c) how to build standards and trust so working together isn't so hard; d) how to climb the mountain of definitions when so many cultures (both organizational and geographic) name things differently; and e) how to remember that we are talking about people's lives here. It was noted during the session that ten years ago nobody would have wanted to attend a session on data!

So what came out of it?

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Weekend Link Roundup (July 19-20, 2014)

July 20, 2014

Headshot_stritch_garnerOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the nonprofit sector....


In The Atlantic, Meredith Broussard, an assistant professor at Temple University, notes that asking poor school districts to give standardized tests inextricably tied to specific sets of books they can't afford to purchase is unfair to teachers, administrators, and students.

host of NPR's "Here & Now" program, Melinda Gates admitted that implementation of the Common Core, the national education guidelines in math and reading which the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have strongly supported is the "tricky" part. "Let's be honest," Gates told Hobson.

The implementation of this is going to take some time. It has to be done carefully, it has to be done with teachers on board and they need to get some time before they can actually teach appropriately in the classroom. So you've got to make sure that the assessments and the consequences for teachers and students don’t happen immediately at the same time. And I think we got those two pieces overlapped and that’s why you got so much controversy....

Food Insecurity

A troubling article by Tracie McMillan in National Geographic finds that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2006 decision to track "food insecurity" instead of "hunger" -- "shifting the focus from whether people [are] literally starving to whether staying fed [is] a problem" -- has led to a startling new picture of America in which 1 in 6 Americans -- some 49 million people -- "can't count on not being hungry."


Is the primary role of charity to fight poverty? That's the question raised by Meredith Jones, president and CEO of the Maine Community Foundation, in a thought-provoking post on the MaineCF blog.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the "America Gives More Act" (H.R. 4719). As The Nonprofit Times reports, the package of five measures is designed to increase charitable giving by boosting the deductible limit of food donations from 10 percent to 15 percent and guaranteeing fair market value regardless of demand; allowing individuals age 70.5 or older to make gifts from their IRAs without incurring withdrawal penalties; allowing a deduction to be taken for a conservation land easement; allowing gifts made until the individual tax filing deadline (April 15) to be deducted from the prior year's taxes; and reducing the excise tax on the investments of large private foundations from a rate of 2 percent to 1 percent; the latter provision is not scheduled to take effect until 2015. No word as yet as to when the Senate plans to take up the bill.

Forbes reports that Warren Buffett had broken his personal giving record -- set last year -- with gifts of Berkshire Hathaway class B stock totaling $2.8 billion. The recipients of Buffett's generosity include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (16.59 million shares worth $2.1 billion), the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation (shares worth $215 million), and the Howard G. Buffett, Sherwood, and NoVo foundations — run by his children Howard, Susan and Peter, respectively — each of which received shares of BH stock worth $150 million.

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Different Kind of Support for Domestic Violence Victims

June 29, 2014

Marla_mogulAfter leaving a successful corporate career to start my own business, losing my husband to lymphoma, and raising our children on my own, I was looking for a place to put my energy and a way to connect with my Chicago community. After trying a number of things, I realized what I really wanted to do was to help other people.

Fortunately, I had a long-time friend, Alan Weintraub, who was a social worker and had helped develop a number of programs for populations in need. In one of our conversations, Alan shared with me the difficulties endured by victims of domestic violence. Listening to him, I knew what I needed to do next.

After researching the needs of domestic violence victims and the services currently available to them in Chicago, I learned that many agencies provide crisis intervention, counseling, and shelter services — intense, serious, and challenging work — and that many also do great work as advocates on behalf of domestic violence victims. But as far as I could tell, the one thing many of these women — and an overwhelming majority of domestic violence victims are women — didn’t have was an opportunity, however brief, to escape from the daily struggle to rebuild their lives. I decided I wanted to do something about that. And so, in 2012 Alan and I co-founded A Night Out, a nonprofit that treats women in domestic violence shelters to an evening at a concert, comedy show, or some other outing.

Each Night Out is designed to offer hope and a much-needed respite from the daily fear, strife, and hardship that victims of domestic violence typically experience. The women who agree to join us often do so with some hesitation, feeling they don’t deserve to be pampered. But they almost always come away with a sense of empowerment, gratitude, and a strong desire to push forward to overcome their pasts and create a better future for themselves.

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NGO Aid Map: See More. Do Better.

June 13, 2014

Headshot_julie_montgomeryThere are certain moments in your life that you never forget. Some of mine include graduating from college, buying a home, and having a baby. The same thing happens in one's career, and for me, Wednesday was one of those moments.

For the past six years, InterAction has been using online maps to help tell our members’ story. Wednesday was important because we launched a new global map on InterAction's NGO Aid Map, one that will allow us to tell this story as it applies to all countries and all sectors.

As the world of development actors continues to grow and expand, it is more important than ever to make aid smarter. One way to help improve aid is through data sharing, but in the midst of a data revolution, how does one make sense of it all?

It may sound simple, but gathering up-to-date, standardized data from NGOs is no small feat, even for InterAction — an alliance made up of more than one hundred and eighty individual organizations working to advance human dignity and fight poverty around the world.

Collecting data is one thing, but ensuring that it stays relevant, useful, and accessible is a massive undertaking. That is why we built the NGO Aid Map, an online platform that demonstrates, using maps and other data visualizations, where our members work and what they do around the world. Through data, we can help determine whether we are on the right track to fighting poverty.


Now that you know why Wednesday mattered to me, I'd like to share five reasons why NGO Aid Map should matter to you:

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (May 2014)

June 01, 2014

It was a rough month for Typepad, the blogging service/platform used by tens of thousand of blogs, including PhilanTopic. On two separate occasions during the month, the platform was subjected to significant DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks that knocked it completely offline. In fact, we were down for the better part of six days. Despite the inconvenience, it was a busy month here, as some of our favorite contributors -- Allison Shirk, Derrick Feldmann, and Foundation Center president Brad Smith -- checked in with popular posts. Here's another chance to catch up on some of the things you may have missed....

What have you read/watched/listened to over the last month that made you think, surprised you, or caused you to scratch your head? Share your finds in the comments section below....

Our Girls Are in Trouble, Too

May 28, 2014

Headshot_cathy_weissI was thrilled recently to read about the Foundation Center's new report Building a Beloved Community: Strengthening the Field of Black Male Achievement. The report details the exciting and long overdue work in the area of black male achievement and provides recommendations for strengthening that work.

At Stoneleigh Foundation, we are familiar with the disparities that black males — particularly boys and young men — face, and we believe that, to improve life outcomes for this population, it is imperative to understand what it means to be a young black male in the context of current and past realities. We are certain that policies for serving these boys and young men can be successful only if we consider the intergenerational cycles of neglect and trauma that have been hardwired into their brains. Using a gendered and, in this case, cultural lens to approach public policy is necessary to advance a targeted and effective strategy.

We at Stoneleigh applaud the "intensified focus" on black males, and we look forward to having more partners join us in redressing the policies that have resulted in such unfortunate realities for too many.

Similarly, we would like to see the same gendered lens applied to girls when devising policies that affect young, at-risk females. Research shows a basic lack of awareness of how the challenges faced by girls differ from those of boys — and how we can and should serve girls differently. At a recent symposium hosted by Stoneleigh, we explored the unique challenges girls are facing, how coping with these challenges often leads to system involvement, and why girls are falling through the cracks of the current "one size fits all" child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

Compared to previous generations, adolescent girls are getting into trouble with the law and with their peers at unprecedented rates. Girls in the child welfare system experience more teen pregnancies, bad birth outcomes, and poor health, and they are more likely to abuse their own children. And for many girls, the child welfare system leads directly to the juvenile justice system. But why? And what are we doing to support girls so that system involvement doesn't lead to these heartbreakingly too-common outcomes?

Our systems are failing girls because we have yet to seek the answers to these questions. We must explore ways to better harness the strength and resilience of girls, and that starts with understanding who they are, the challenges they face, and what they need to thrive. Let's take a cue from the powerful work being done to address the challenges faced by our at-risk boys and young men, and apply the same focus to girls. Our collective success depends on it.

Cathy Weiss is executive director of the Philadelphia-based Stoneleigh Foundation, which works to improve the life outcomes of vulnerable children and youth and also funds fellowships for individuals working to improve the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. The foundation recently convened a symposium titled "What About the Girls?" that brought together leaders in juvenile justice and child welfare to discuss the concept that girls can only be served effectively if we begin to understand the unique challenges they are facing.


Quote of the Week

  • "The two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why...."

    — Mark Twain (1835-1910)

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