A Conversation With Ann Mei Chang, Author, 'Lean Impact: How to Innovate for Radically Greater Social Good'

November 14, 2018

Poverty. Mass migration. Economic dislocation. Climate change.

The problems confronting societies around the globe are big and getting bigger. The resources available to address those problems, however, are shrinking, as governments burdened by huge debts and future obligations and corporations wary of controversy pull back from “feel-good” causes and collective action. And while countless foundations and civil society groups continue to fight the good fight, their resources seem Lilliputian compared to the magnitude of the challenges we face.

It’s a moment that demands big thinking, bold thinking but also creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. The kind of thinking we’ve come to expect from Silicon Valley, the global epicenter of a certain kind of innovation and can-do spirit. The question, for many, is: What, if anything, can technologists teach nonprofits and social entrepreneurs about social change?

In her new book, Lean Impact: How to Innovate for Radically Greater Social Good, Ann Mei Chang, a respected social change-maker and technologist, tackles that question head-on. Based on interviews with more than two hundred social change organizations spanning almost every continent, the book distills the lessons learned by change-makers over the years into a set of "lean" principles for nonprofits looking to innovate their way to greater impact.

PND recently spoke with Chang about the genesis of the book, the sometimes testy relationship between tech and the nonprofit sector, and her advice for millennials and social entrepreneurs impatient with the slow pace of change.

AnnMeiChang-32Philanthropy News Digest: How did you get into social change work?

Ann Mei Chang: I studied computer science in college and then worked in Silicon Valley for over twenty years, at big companies like Google, Apple, and Intuit, as well as a number of start-ups. But I had known since my mid-twenties that I wanted to spend the first half of my career in tech, and the second half doing something more meaningful, something to make the world a better place. I hoped I would be able to make that change, and I was committed to it, although I didn't know exactly when or how. But as I got closer to that point in my career, in my early forties, I began to look around at all the things I cared about, and decided to focus on global poverty, as it seemed to be at the root of so many other problems I cared about.

I recognized there was a lot I needed to learn about a very different space. I ended up taking a leave of absence from Google and went to the State Department on a fellowship, where I worked in the Secretary's Office of Global Women’s Issues, with a focus on issues around women and technology. Soon, I was hooked. I resigned from Google and signed on for another year. After the State Department, where a lot of the work takes place at the ten-thousand-foot level, I joined a nonprofit called Mercy Corps to learn how the real work was being done in the trenches.

Then I was offered my dream job — as the first executive director for the Global Development Lab at USAID, the agency's newest bureau with an inspiring two-part mission. The first part was to identify breakthrough innovations that could accelerate progress in the global development and humanitarian aid work that USAID does. And the second was to look at how we could transform the practice of global development itself by bringing new tools and approaches to table. The first was the "what," and the second the "how."

It fit exactly into the way I was beginning to think about what was really needed to make a difference. That's why it felt like a dream job — it was an opportunity to do this work at the largest aid agency in the world, in the belly of the beast, so to speak, but where I'd be responsible for thinking about how we could work differently and more effectively.

PND: It's an interesting career trajectory, in that it bridges the worlds of both technology and social change. In your experience, do technologists get social change? Or do they tend to see it as another problem that simply needs to be "engineered"?

AMC: That really depends on the technologist. As with everything, people in tech exist on a spectrum. I've known people in tech who think that technology can solve everything — we'll build a smart phone app and that will somehow end global poverty. There can be a naiveté and hubris, especially when you’re building products for people who live in contexts that you’re not that familiar with.

But there's also a thriving community of tech people in the global development sphere — we call it ICT4D, or information communication technologies for development — who are both technologists and development professionals looking at the intersection between the two. This community has developed something called the principles for digital development, which embody the best practices for the responsible use of technology in development.

One of the really exciting things that happened while I was in government was the creation of US Digital Services and 18F, where a lot of people from the tech sector came in to work for the govern­ment and saw that their skills could be put to use to help the government better serve people. It was catalyzed by the debacle with HealthCare.gov, which caused a lot of people to recognize that tech had something it could contribute that would really make a difference.

PND: Your book, Lean Impact, builds on a book called The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries. If we grant that there are some things nonprofits and government can learn from business — and, more specifically, from Silicon Valley — would you also grant that there are things that nonprofits do at least as well as business?

AMC: I would answer that question a couple of ways. It's true that businesses, nonprofits, and governments function very differently and have different cultures, different processes, and so forth. That said, there are a number of factors that are causing that to change.

One is that in the world of social good, all these players need to work together if they hope to create sustainable change at scale. No one sector is capable of solving most of these problems on their own. And two is what I heard repeatedly in the course of my over two hundred interviews for the book — more and more of the most interesting work is happening at the intersection of sectors. It used to be that nonprofits did good and companies made money. Now you're seeing more nonprofits trying to build sustainable business models and more businesses trying to do good, because their employees, their customers, their stakeholders, and their investors are demanding it. You still have nonprofits and for-profits, but the gap between them is narrowing.

Eric's book has been incredibly popular and successful in the business world, but I've also talked to a lot of people who work in the social sector who have picked it up, were inspired by it, and said, "This makes so much sense, I want to do it." But they feel stuck. There are a lot of reasons for that, but basically it comes down to a number of struc­tural impediments that make it harder for nonprofits to innovate.

So, the idea behind Lean Impact is to build on these best practices for innovation and adapt them for the unique challenges of doing social good. None of this is rocket science. But it can be hard to do in the context in which we work.

PND: Innovation is a key theme of the book. How do you define it? And why does it need to be lean?

AMC: I think those questions go together. In the book I quote Edison, who famously said, "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." That's very much true of innovation. It's one percent inspiration, which is the big idea, the invention, if you will. That's the part that people tend to focus on when we talk about innovation, because it's sexy. Someone comes up with some whiz-bang gadget and everyone goes, "Wow."

But I think innovation and the book is about the ninety-nine percent — the blood, sweat, and tears that is involved with taking that initial germ of a good idea and testing, iterat­ing, improving it; creating a business model; and building the infrastructure and operations to bring it to real impact in the real world.

The book looks at how to do that. Remember, despite being considered among the most innovative companies on the planet, Google didn’t "invent" search and Facebook didn't "invent" social networking. They built on existing ideas and relentlessly focused on improving the algorithms, the user interface, and the feature set, until, over time, they were head-and-shoulders above their competitors.

In the social sector, there tends to be focus on the big idea, the flashy thing no one has thought of before versus the blood, sweat, and tears needed to take an idea that is already out there and figuring out how to really make it work in a context in which it could have real impact.

PND: You're a believer in the importance of setting audacious goals. But I think many people engaged in social change work would argue that, given the constraints on resources, setting big audacious goals is a non-starter. Do they have a point?

AMC: The book is organized around three principles, and one of them is about the importance of thinking big. And yes, the nonprofit sector tends to plan based on constraints. They look at the money they have, the existing staff, or the size and scope of a particular grant and ask, What can we do with these resources? But that rarely makes an appreciable dent in the problem. The organizations that I have found to be the most impressive and most successful were the ones that think big and plan based on the real needs in the world. It forces them to make different decisions. Can I give you an example?

PND: Sure.

AMC: There's a social enterprise based here in New York called VisionSpring. They've identified an invention that has proven to improve productivity and learning. You know what I'm talking about. Eyeglasses. It's a technology that has been around for seven hundred years, and yet two and half billion people who could benefit still don't have a pair. So, VisionSpring set out to address this huge gap. They started out in two countries, India and El Salvador, and they hired "vision entrepreneurs" to go into rural areas to do eye exams and sell eyeglasses at a very low-cost. And these vision entrepreneurs came back with amazing stories about kids who were suddenly able and eager to learn and people who thought they'd never be able to see well again who could suddenly see and work and contribute to the community. These are results most nonprofits would have been very happy with: We had some resources, and we did some good, right?

But, for VisionSpring it wasn't enough. It was doing good and on to something that mattered. But it was also losing money on each person it served and was never going to raise enough money to reach all the people who could benefit from a pair of eyeglasses.

So it pivoted. It moved to a hub-and-spoke model by setting up vision centers in urban areas to serve a higher-end clientele. And with the profits, VisionSpring was able to cross-subsidize outreach to more rural areas. Under the new model, the organization soon became financially self-supporting, which is something most nonprofits would be happy about. But VisioinSpring still wasn't satisfied. Even though it was on financially solid ground, it would take decades for it to set up centers around the world to reach all the people who might benefit from a pair of eyeglasses.

So it pivoted again. This time it partnered with BRAC — one of the biggest global development organizations around — to leverage its existing network of community healthcare workers in every corner of Bangladesh. By working with BRAC, VisionSpring was able to train those community healthcare workers to provide eye exams and sell low-cost glasses across the country. It was a win-win, because it gave BRAC another benefit they could offer their constituents, while VisionSpring was able to get eyeglasses to a lot more people. Together, they've now helped over a million people. Which is pretty impressive. Today, VisionSpring has hundreds of partnerships through which they've been able to reach over four and a half million people. Again, most people would consider that a huge success.

But the organization still wasn't satisfied. The way VisionSpring saw it, they'd only reached a tiny fraction of the two and a half billion people who needed eyeglasses. So their most recent pivot was to spin out a new nonprofit called EYElliance, which brings together eyeglass manufacturers, governments, and nonprofits to look at the market and policy failures that are behind the supply-demand gap — things like the fact that eyeglass manufacturers aren't incentivized to invest in low-cost glasses or distribute them in rural areas and that governments tend not to include vision care in the services they provide. One of their first successes was an MOU they signed with the government of Liberia to integrate vision care into the national health and public school systems. One can imagine what that might mean for one of the poorest countries in the world. And as the coalition continues to focus on systems changes like that, you can see the potential for it to maybe, just maybe, get to that two and a half billion in need.

PND: You mentioned that the book is centered around three guiding principles. What are the other two?

AMC: The first is to think big. The idea is to have an audacious goal that moves the needle on the real need in the world.

The second is to start small. Too often, social entrepreneurs and nonprofits do the opposite: they think too small and start too big. Funders tend to ask nonprofits to set achievable goals and deliver reliably on them. That's not a recipe for innovation. The beauty of starting small is that it allows you to experiment when you don't yet have a solution to the problem and to validate your assumptions before making a bigger investment. It also makes it easier for nonprofits to try out more options and find the best one, to take more risk, to learn more quickly and cheaply, and to adapt and improve on their solution.

The third principle is to relentlessly seek impact. By that, I mean staying intently focused at every step of the way on your big audacious goal, and avoiding all the things that can throw you off track. In the book I encourage people to fall in love with the problem rather than their solution. Often, it's the opposite: we fall in love with a solution — because it's what we have been promoting, become attached to, feel pride of ownership for, or can't let go of. In the process, we can forget to ask ourselves whether it’s actually going to solve the problem. VisionSpring could have gotten very attached to its idea of vision entrepreneurs; they were doing some good and they had great stories to tell. But because it held on lightly to that particular path and kept returning to what its original audacious goal was, it realized it had to pivot — not once, not twice, but three times — and find even more effective ways to achieve its goal.

PND: What is the role of time in all of this? Should organizations looking to scale their impact ignore how long it might take or is taking? Or is time irrelevant to the equation?

AMC: Well, you've got to have both long- and short-term goals. Your big audacious goal should be your North Star that keeps you headed in the right direction. But by definition it's usually a long-term goal and is not granular enough to guide your short-term decisions. From a day-to-day standpoint, I recommend focusing on innovation metrics. In The Lean Startup Eric Ries coined the term "vanity metrics" for the kind of numbers that quantify activity and look good, but often are not a meaningful measure of progress. In the nonprofit space, this tends to be aggregate numbers like the number of people reached or touched. In contrast, innovation metrics capture the unit metrics that are the underlying drivers of real impact. In the book, I break those down into three buckets: value — is this something people demand, will come back for, and will tell their friends about; impact — does what you're delivering create the social benefit you intend; and growth — do you have an engine to drive scale to somewhere approximating the need that exists.

PND: Many of the case studies in the book feature NGOs and nonprofits working in a developing world context. Should we infer from that that it's easier to scale impact in a developing world as opposed to a developed world context?

AMC: No, not at all. I worked at USAID, Mercy Corps, and the State Department, which were all focused on global poverty, so I've had a lot more personal experience in this area. But at least a third of the examples in the book concern domestic organizations and efforts. Part of my research for the book was to learn more about the work that is happening domestically and about organizations that are innovating and pioneering new approaches to problems here in our backyard.

PND: Do you have an example you can share with us?

AMC: One example I like is an organization called Summit Public Schools, which operates a dozen charter schools in the Bay Area and Washington State. One reason I find them inspiring is that they have been rapidly innovating in the field of education, a field where impact can take years to fully realize. When Diane Tavenner started SPS, her big audacious goal was to have 100 percent of SPS' diverse student body graduate from college. She and her team started with a couple of schools, adopted the best educational practices they could find, and hit the ground running. Eight years later, when SPS' first cohort of students graduated from college, the graduation rate for those kids was much higher than average. Again, most people would say, "Hey, that's a huge success."

But Diane wasn't satisfied, because she had a big audacious goal, and 100 percent meant 100 percent. She also wasn’t willing to wait another eight years to see whether a new set of enhancements might succeed. Instead, she decided to focus on building innovation, iteration, and data into the culture of SPS so that teachers and administrators in SPS schools could speed up their pace of learning.

And that's what they did. In a space where, traditionally, it's very hard to innovate, SPS created a system where they could run week-long variations, trying a mix of elements such as lecture time, one-on-one mentoring, personalized learning with computers, group project time, and so on. They also introduced variety into the curriculum, changed the physical configuration of classrooms, and looked at a bunch of other dimensions of the school day. Each week they would gather data from individual student learning assessments, focus groups, and student and teacher feedback, to see what was working and what wasn't. Now, of course, the data collected wasn't going to tell you definitively whether this kid or that kid would, down the road, graduate from college. But it did tell them which elements of the curriculum and school day were more engaging and resulted in improved learning. With these iterations over the course of a year, they were able to fine-tune their approach and come up with a personalized learning model that was significantly better than the model they started with.

The students who were exposed to that approach haven't graduated college yet, but in the past year 99 percent of them were admitted to college. What's even more exciting is the SPS model is now being replicated at over three hundred different public schools in forty different states. Dianne and her team recognize that they would never be able to run enough schools themselves, but they have developed the capacity to be able to experiment and innovate much more quickly than most schools and school districts, and that should benefit everyone in the long run.

PND: The elimination of global poverty by 2030 is one of the seventeen UN Sustainable Development Goals. Do you think that's an achievable goal? And how might the principles outlined in your book help the global community achieve that goal as well as the other SDGs?

AMC: All indications are that we are not on track to achieve many of the SDGs by 2030, including ending extreme poverty. I often hear people focus on the $2 trillion to $3 trillion annual funding gap that is needed to get us all the way there. It's completely unrealistic, of course, to think that we're going to somehow magically come up with $2 trillion or $3 trillion — if anything, foreign-aid dollars are more likely going to decline over the next decade. The only other alternative I can see is to innovate our way into better, more cost effective, more scalable solutions to these problems. That is, we need to get dramatically greater bang for the buck for the dollars we do have. Of course, that means innovation. If we shift our attention and apply more of the kinds of approaches I try to elevate in the book, we have a far better chance of achieving many more of the SDGs.

PND: After thirty-plus years of globalization and technology-driven disruption, we're seeing a serious populist backlash to many of the consequences of those phenomena in countries like Hungary, Poland, Italy, Brazil, and, yes, the U.S. What advice would you give to a young social entrepreneur with a great idea and a burning desire to change the world?

AMC: Well, the political landscape certainly has changed, and national­ism and populism are on the rise. But there are still a huge number of institutions out there that are continuing to drive and push for social change, whether its foundations or multilateral institutions like the World Bank and USAID or governments, including ours. At the same time, new problems are rearing their heads and demanding attention. I do think there's a ton of passion and interest among millennials to step up and take responsibil­ity for making the world a better place, and we're seeing that in the increased interest in things like impact investing and the drive to hold all com­panies, but especially giant multinationals, accountable. There's a real interest in the responsibility we all have to society and the planet.

The nonprofit space is changing as well. There's more emphasis on the need for rigor and on the need to scale, and that's part of what I think Lean Impact is trying to do — to take some of the techniques that have been honed by business and put them to work to solve some of the world's most important problems.

As for advice I might give, I think it really comes down to the principles outlined in the book. Don't get too attached to your big idea. Lots of people have great ideas, and most of them end up falling by the wayside. Be open to the possibility that your idea may need to be tweaked or even discarded and fall in love with the problem you want to solve instead.

Be audacious about your goals and what you’re trying to accomplish and remember: the foundation of innovation is an audacious goal. If your goals can be achieved with business as usual, there's no reason to take the risks needed to achieve something great. As I tell my teams, what would you do if you had to deliver ten times as much as what you're doing today? It forces you to think out of the box, to take some risks, and to try some things that are different.

Finally, get out there and start building, experimenting, and start learning. Be humble about what you know and don't know. And be relentless about trying and failing, trying and fail­ing, and finding the best path forward. Great things have never been achieved by those who were afraid to fail.

— Mitch Nauffts

Tracking California Wildfire Disaster Relief - 2018

November 13, 2018

Updated: November 13, 2018 - 3:30 PM ET

Exurban development, Santa Ana winds, and a decade-long drought driven by a warming climate — those are some of the factors that came together over the weekend to create and feed some of the worst wildfires California has ever seen. As of Tuesday, the Camp Fire in the Sierra Nevada foothills north of Sacramento had destroyed the town of Paradise, torched 6,700 homes and structures, and claimed the lives of 42 people (with 200 more missing or unaccounted for), making it the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in the state's history. Farther south in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, the Woolsey and Hill fires had ravaged parts of Malibu, Westlake Village, and Thousand Oaks, killing two people and forcing the evacuation of dozens of others.

As we did with hurricanes Florence and Michael, Foundation Center will be tracking institutional pledges and commitments to wildfire relief and recovery efforts over the coming days and weeks. To make sure your company or organization's pledge have been included in the total, or for questions about methodology or sources, contact Andrew Grabois, manager of corporate philanthropy at Foundation Center.

Woolsey Fire

(Photo credit: Hans Gutknecht/Digital First Media/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images)

TOTAL: $1,375,000

Organization Type (pledges and commitments)

Corporate Direct Giving/
Company-Sponsored Foundations
$1,375,000 4 orgs.
Private Foundations $0 0 orgs.
Public Charities $0 0 orgs.

Top Recipients (Total Received to Date)

1. Unknown Recipient(s) $1,000,000
2. American Red Cross
(national)
$250,000
3. United Way of Northern California $50,000
4. Ventura County Community Foundation $50,000
5. Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation $25,000

Source: Foundation Center & Center for Disaster Philanthropy

Download the Data

Check out Philanthropy News Digest for the latest coverage of
the philanthropic response to the wildfires in California.

Weekend Link Roundup (November 10-11, 2018)

November 11, 2018

11-10-2018-malibu-fire-pchA weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Civil Society

On the twenty-ninth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Richard Marker reflects on "the fragility of civil society, the brevity of memory, and the destructive hubris of leaders motivated by xenophobic rage."

Criminal Justice

In the New York Times, Michelle Alexander, author of the acclaimed The New Jim Crow, hails "the astonishing progress that has been made in the last several years on a wide range of criminal justice issues." But she warns that "[m]any of the current reform efforts contain the seeds of the next generation of racial and social control, a system of 'e-carceration' that may prove more dangerous and more difficult to challenge than the one we hope to leave behind."

Environment

The world is drowning in stuff, writes Elizabeth Seagran, PhD, a staff writer for Fast Company. Isn't it time for nonprofits and foundations to do the environment a favor and just say no to all the cheap swag they hand out at conferences and events?

Giving

Nice post on the Charity Navigator blog about philanthropically minded celebs who have turned giving into an art.

Governance

On the GuideStar blog, Bill Hoffman, CEO of Bill Hoffman & Associates, LLC, a Tampa-based consulting firm, shares six things individual nonprofit board members can do to support their CEO's success.

Grantmaking

In part two of a new series on the PEAK Grantmaking site, Dr. Streamline looks at the role human nature plays in any change effort and offers this advice: "When you embark on a streamlining effort, it makes sense to plan for resistance so that it doesn't surprise you. Think about who to engage up front, what the likely fears and losses will be, how and when you’ll communicate, and the support and training you will offer."

Health/Healthcare

The votes (most of 'em) have been counted, and the "results, both federal and state, will have important consequences for health care," write Donald Moulds, Sara R. Collins, Rachel Nuzum, Akeiisa Coleman, and Shawn Bishop on the Commonwealth Fund's Turning Point blog. With roughly four in ten Americans turning out to vote across the country choosing health care as the most important problem facing the country, and more than seven in ten saying the nation's health care system needs major changes, the stakes are high.

Work is a powerful determinant of health and well-being. But in an economy where the nature of work and job security is changing rapidly, Americans are paying the price. David Adler and Paul Tarini report for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health blog.

Nonprofits

Are national charity watchdog groups up to the job of thoroughly vetting the hundreds of thousands of active nonprofits in the U.S.? Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther is not convinced, and he thinks it's a pretty big problem for the sector.

It can start innocently enough with a simple misunderstanding about priorities and a testy conversation or two, but if a nonprofit leader isn't careful, things can go downhill quickly from there. On his Nonprofit AF blog, Vu Le takes a closer look at the Wheel of Disillusionment and how it can destroy workplace relationships and organizational cultures.

Philanthropy

Are foundations living up to the expectation that they be transparent about their successes and failures and share with each other what they are learning? asks Ellie Buteau on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog. Two new CEP reports suggest that foundations are not being as transparent about what they are learning and offer some reasons why they may not be sharing more about what they are learning.

And on the Transparency Talk blog, our Foundation Center colleague Janet Camarena chats with Yvonne Belanger, director of learning and evaluation at the Barr Foundation, about the foundation's efforts to gauge its impact and support ongoing learning among staff, grantees, and the fields in which it works.

That's it for this week. Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a note at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Current Trends in Philanthropy: U.S. Foundation Support for Climate Action

November 09, 2018

IStock-470785468Released last month, the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report paints a bleak picture of the disastrous consequences facing the planet if the average global temperature climbs 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The authors of the report warn that humanity will have to cut carbon emissions to almost half the 2010 level as early as 2030 in order to avoid long-lasting and potentially irreversible impacts from climate change, including the loss of many important ecosystems.

The issue of climate change and the impact of human activity on the environment has been hotly debated and has received significant attention from U.S. foundations. According to Foundation Center data, the largest one thousand U.S. foundations gave between $232 million and $261 million annually for climate-related issues between 2011 and 2015, with the exception of 2012, when a large infusion of funds into the ClimateWorks Foundation pushed the annual total to $340 million.

This represents about one percent of giving during that period but does not represent all giving that may contribute to the mitigation of climate change and its effects. Indeed, as much as another 3 percent of foundation giving over that period related to energy issues or sustainable agriculture may have supported efforts to address energy usage and current agricultural practices so as to lessen their contributions to global warming.

Fig1.1_climate action

Energy efficiency and electrification, in particular, have been a significant focus of foundation funding for climate action, with 57 percent of all climate change-related grants funded by the largest one thousand U.S. foundations between 2011-15 related to energy efficiency or renewable energy efforts. Food and agriculture, on the other hand, represented only 3 percent of climate action funding over the same period. Increasingly, however, foundations are recognizing the importance of sustainable food production in tackling climate change and are approaching the issue through an intersectional lens, as evidenced by initiatives such as Project Drawdown.

Fig. 1.2_climate action

The year 2015 also saw the adoption of the Paris Agreement, which the United States initially signed but, at the behest of the Trump administration, subsequently withdrew from. Given that the deployment of capital and funding is a critical factor in efforts to de-carbonize the global economy, the withdrawal of the U.S. from the agreement raises the question as to whether and how foundation giving has changed in response.

Detailed grantmaking data for 2016 (and subsequent years) is still being compiled, so it's difficult to draw any conclusions about the immediate response of foundations to the Trump administration’s decision. That said, several major foundations have announced significant commitments since the agreement was ratified in 2015.

Bloomberg Philanthropies, for instance, has announced climate change-related commitments or challenges totaling more than $200 million since 2015. The Ikea and MacArthur foundations have made commitments in the $40 million to $50 million range. And many private foundations announced large climate change commitments at the recent Global Climate Action Summit, the most notable of which was a $4 billion pledge over five years made by twenty-nine foundations from around the world.

A September 2018 survey of ten prominent foundations in Europe and the U.S. conducted on behalf of the Climate Action Pledge corroborates the largely anecdotal view that philanthropy in support of climate change-related action is growing. Among these ten funders, who collectively account for more than $240 million of climate change funding annually, seven reported that their funding in support of climate action increased between 2015 and 2018, while six expect to increase it over the next two years.

Grantmakers also are using tools such as impact or mission investments to fund climate change activities. One example: climate (or "green") bonds — bonds designed to raise funds for climate and environmental projects — have grown exponentially in value, from $9 billion in 2013 to $80 billion in 2016. And estimates by the Climate Bonds Initiative and Citigroup suggest that the green bond market could reach $1 trillion per year by 2020.

Commitments and investments such as these represent a good first step in what promises to be a decades-long project. But as the latest IPCC report makes clear, bold, collective action from both private and public actors will be needed if the global community hopes to avoid the most dire impacts of climate change.

Larry McGill is vice president of knowledge services and Supriya Kumar is a knowledge services research analyst at Foundation Center. The center would like to thank the King Baudouin Foundation for support that helped make this series possible.

Weekend Link Roundup (November 3-4, 2018)

November 04, 2018

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

Arts and Culture

According to a new Indiana University study, more than half of arts and culture nonprofits in the state report that demand for their services has increased over the past three years, and an even larger share reports that their expenses had increased more than their revenues, suggesting that most arts groups in the state operate in the red.

Environment

Most of us have stereotypes about who is, and isn't, an environmentalist. Most of us are wrong. Linda Poon reports for CityLab.

Higher Education

The Great Recession seems to have made a new generation of college students wary of the humanities. In The Atlantic, Jeffrey Selingo reports on what some liberal arts schools are doing to protect their investment.

Universities and colleges will have to work fast, because the AP reports that Amazon has launched a program to teach more than ten million students a year how to code, with a focus on kids and young adults from low-income families.

Journalism/Media

NewsMatch, the largest grassroots fundraising campaign in support of nonprofit news organizations, is underway. With support from a diverse group of foundations, including the Democracy Fund, the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, the Gates Family Foundation (through the Colorado Media Project), the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Wyncote Foundation, the campaign will double donations to a hundred fifty-five nonprofit newsrooms in nearly every state across the country through December 31.

Nonprofits

As a society, we make "big bets" on lots of things — the importance of a quality education for all, the exploration of space, the outcome of the Super Bowl and World Cup. So why, asks Social Velocity's Nell Edgington, don't we make big bets on the nonprofit sector?

Philanthropy

In a Q&A with Devex's Catherine Cheney, Rajiv Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, discusses the foundation's new areas of focus, its increased emphasis on data and collaboration, and it efforts to draw more commercial investment to international development priorities.

The Knowledge Services team here at Foundation Center has kicked off a new "current trends in philanthropy" series with a look at the big picture and posts on international grantmaking by U.S. foundations and foundation funding for democracy.

On the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Jennifer Oldham, a program and communications officer at The Healing Trust, looks at three "non-traditional" ways funders can support their grantees.

Everyone knows that winning a big lottery prize is the first step on the road to ruin. But what if you took your winnings and, after paying some bills, used the rest to start a private foundation? Vox's Kelsey Piper looks at what happened when Evan Sparks, an editor at Philanthropy magazine, floated the idea on Twitter.

Racial Equity

Almost ten years after the Chicago-based Woods Fund identified racial equity as a priority, the foundation is taking an additional step in its journey by prioritizing its racial equity focus within an updated set of grantmaking guidelines. Foundation president Grace B. Hou explains the reasons for the change and what it means for current and future grantees.

Social Change

In the eighth of a ten-installment series of Q&As with millennial changemakers who are working across sectors to bring about change on the issues they care about, the Case Foundation chats with Michael Smith, executive director of My Brother's Keeper (MBK) Alliance and director of youth opportunity programs at the Obama Foundation.

In a week that saw several instances of deadly violence in spaces that were supposed to be safe, California Wellness Foundation president Judy Belk urges Americans not to accept hatred of others as “the new normal.” Violence," she writes, is "a public health issue, a problem that impacts many communities and can be solved through education, public policies and collective action," and funders must use their resources and bully pulpits "to speak out against hate and to support peace and justice for all."

"Facing such ugliness...we cannot allow ourselves to become inured," writes Barr Foundation president Jim Canales. "This is not normal. This is not right. And this is not who we are.

More than ever, we have an obligation to be present, to stand up and be counted, and to meet the challenge of this moment head on. For those of us in philanthropy, we must determine what of our resources, power, and voice we will deploy. We may feel our greatest contribution is to speak out in defense of the ideals and values our country stands upon. We may be focused on ensuring our partners on the front lines have the support they need to face these crises. Or both. And more....

Heinz Endowments president Grant Oliphant attended Sunday night's vigil at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh's  Squirrel Hill neighborhood and reports that it was "vibrant in its celebration of Judaism and Jewish life, broad in its embrace of the broader community, [and] offered one of the most inspiring collection of speeches I have ever heard. The theme at the heart of every single one was that love triumphs over hate, and will again. But this," Oliphant adds, "we must remember: Not by accident. Not without intention. And not without action." 

And in a post on the IS site, Independent Sector president Dan Cardinali shares four things the sector, "as organizations and individual citizens," can do to address the ugliness and drive change.

That's it for this week. Shalom and peace be with you.

Current Trends in Philanthropy: U.S. Foundation Support for Democracy

November 02, 2018

Heading into the midterm elections, we've seen heightened interest in the role that philanthropy plays in democratic societies, both globally and in the United States. Although foundations are prevented by law from engaging in partisan political campaigning, the regulations leave plenty of room for foundations to engage with democracy in other ways.

In 2013, a group of eight foundations commissioned Foundation Center to create an online knowledge portal, Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy, to help them better understand the range of approaches foundations are taking to strengthen democratic institutions and democracy in the United States.

Funding democracy grab

The portal features a data tool that shows how foundations have invested in four areas related to U.S. democracy: 1) Campaigns, Elections, and Voting; 2) Civic Participation; 3) Government/Civil Liberties; and 4) Media. Since 2011, Foundation Center has documented 57,000+ democracy-related grants made by more than 6,000 foundations totaling $5.1 billion. This represents about 1.5 percent of all grantmaking by U.S. foundations over that period.

Two subtopics within democracy funding currently are generating a great deal of interest among U.S. foundations — media and democracy, and immigrant rights. The impact of big-dollar philanthropy itself on democracy also has received scrutiny.

Media and Democracy. Interest in understanding and combating digital disinformation and so-called fake news has increased noticeably in the democracy funding space in recent years. In March 2018, for example, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation announced a commitment of $10 million over two years through its Madison Initiative to help address the problem that digital disinformation poses for democracy. As part of its commitment, Hewlett has partnered with six other foundations (the Alfred P. Sloan, Charles Koch, John S. and James L. Knight, and Laura and John Arnold foundations; the Democracy Fund; and Omidyar Network) to fund Social Science One, a new research commission tasked with using Facebook data to analyze the role of social media on elections and democracy.

Interestingly, the term "fake news" appeared in Foundation Center's grants database as far back as 2006-07 in descriptions of two grants awarded to the Center for Media and Democracy, a nationally recognized watchdog that tracks the role of money in U.S. politics. It wasn't until 2017, however, that the term began appearing in grant descriptions on a regular basis. The largest recent grant referencing "fake news" was awarded by the Ford Foundation in 2017 to the First Draft project at Harvard University's Shorenstein Center on Media in support of the project's efforts to study the impact of fake news and "fight mis- and disinformation online."

Philanthropy also actively supports "truth in media" organizations situated at different points on the political spectrum. Since 2016, we've tracked $4 million in grants awarded to the Reston, Virginia-based Media Research Center, whose mission is "to expose and neutralize the propaganda arm of the Left." Over the same period, we've also identified $5.2 million in foundation grants to D.C.-based Media Matters to America, a "progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media."

Given the increased focus on the role that media plays in our democracy, it's interesting to note that when we first began to talk to foundations about funding for a democracy portal and associated grants classification framework in 2013, the question of whether to include a category for media was hotly debated among funders who supported the project. Some democracy funders viewed media as an entirely separate program area within their grantmaking portfolios. Despite some pretty vehement objections, the group ultimately decided to include a category for media in the taxonomy. (It's doubtful any such objection regarding inclusion of the term would be raised today.)

Immigrant Civil Rights and Rapid Response. In the summer of 2018, several foundations mobilized to respond to the Trump administration’s family separation policy by providing funding for immigrant legal services as well as financial support for broader litigation aimed at ending family separation and similar policies. Funders such as the James Irvine Foundation and the Boston-based Barr Foundation announced a series of grants aimed at providing legal representation for affected immigrants, while Borealis Philanthropy, a philanthropic intermediary that partners with grantmakers to expand their reach and impact, issued a request for proposals for its Immigration Litigation Fund, a funder collaborative established to ensure that the nation's immigration enforcement system is fair, humane, and prioritizes the civil and human rights of those vulnerable to deportation.

Philanthropic mobilization in response to the administration’s family separation policy reflects a broader trend of the Trump era (particularly with respect to civil and political rights) in which foundations are experimenting with various methods to get resources to those who need them quickly through rapid-response funds. The Emergent Fund, a funder collaborative developed after the 2016 presidential election to respond to challenges to the civil and human rights of minority populations in the U.S., is one such example, as is the Pop Culture Collaborative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to catalyzing "just and authentic narratives about people of color, Muslims, immigrants, and refugees through entertainment and mass media."

At the same time, it would be a mistake to assume that all (or even a majority of) U.S. foundations are pro-immigration. Indeed, general operating support provided over many years to nonprofits such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform, the Center for Immigration Studies, and Numbers USA has helped these organizations position themselves as key influencers with respect to Trump administration immigration policies. Similarly, the D.C.-based Federalist Society, long a favorite grantee of conservative-leaning foundations, has become, for both the administration and Republicans in Congress, the go-to source for lists of reliably conservative judicial nominees.

Impact of Philanthropy on Democracy and Public Policy. A relevant meta-level trend (if not a funding trend, exactly) is the increasing concern caused by the growth of big-dollar philanthropy in the U.S. generally, and its impact more specifically on public policy and our democratic institutions. Prominent voices in that conversation include Stanford professor Rob Reich, journalist Anand Giridharadas (author, most recently, of Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World), and Inside Philanthropy founder and editor David Callahan (author of The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age).

The contention that private foundations are an inherently undemocratic form used by multi-millionaires and billionaires to avoid taxes, circumvent government, and shape American society more to their liking coexists with the view that foundations — with their flexible resources free from market, electoral, and fundraising pressures — are part of the solution to the problems of democracy in the twenty-first century, rather than the problem. Regardless of where you land on the issue, Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy is a good starting point for anyone who'd like to learn more about what funders are actually doing to shape and strengthen democracy and democratic institutions in the United States.

As always, feel free to share your comments and feedback below. In our next post, we'll take a closer look at U.S. foundation support for climate change-related efforts.

Larry McGill is vice president of knowledge services and Anna Koob is a manager of knowledge services at Foundation Center. The center would like to thank the King Baudouin Foundation for support that helped make this series possible, as well as the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Democracy Fund, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the JPB Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, the Rita Allen Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund for their support of the Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy site.

Current Trends in Philanthropy: International Giving by U.S. Foundations

November 01, 2018

Global-giving-report-coverInternational giving by large U.S. foundations reached an all-time high of $9.3 billion in 2015, up some 306 percent, from $2.1 billion, in 2002, when Foundation Center first started tracking it on an annual basis. During the same period, international giving also increased as a percent of total giving, from 13.9 percent in 2002 to 28.4 percent in 2015.

While the number of grants to international organizations and causes has stayed relatively stable, up some 31 percent (from 10,600 to 13,900) since 2002, average grant size has increased more than three-fold, from $200,900 in 2002 to $604,500 in 2015.

Much of that growth can be attributed to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which accounted for more than half (51 percent) of all international giving from 2011 to 2015. When Gates Foundation grantmaking is excluded, we see that international giving grew at a somewhat slower rate (21 percent) during the five-year period, reaching a high of nearly $4 billion in 2015.

Like foundation giving in general, international giving by U.S. foundations is largely project-focused: despite continued calls from nonprofit leaders for foundations to provide more general operating support, 65 percent of international giving by U.S. foundations from 2011 to 2015 was for specific projects or programs. (General support refers broadly to unrestricted funding and core support for day-to-day operating costs. Project support or program development refers to support for specific projects or programs as opposed to the general purpose of an organization. For more information, see https://taxonomy.foundationcenter.org/support-strategies.)

Data also show that U.S. foundations continue to fund international work primarily through intermediaries. From 2011 to 2015, 28 percent of international giving was channeled through U.S.-based intermediaries, 30 percent went through non-U.S. intermediaries, and just 12 percent went directly to organizations based in the country where programs were implemented. What’s more, just 1 percent of international giving was awarded in the form of general support grants directly to local organizations, and those grants were substantially smaller in size, averaging just under $242,000, while grants to intermediaries averaged just over $554,000.

It's important to note that these intermediaries vary in type and structure, and include:

  • International nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) operating programs in a different country than the country where they are headquartered.
  • U.S. public charities re-granting funds directly to local organizations.
  • Organizations indigenous to their geographic region but working across countries (i.e., not just in the country where they are headquartered).
  • Multilateral institutions working globally (e.g., the World Health Organization, Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria).
  • Research institutions conducting public health research or vaccination programs targeted at specific countries that are not the country where they are headquartered.

Unsurprisingly, health was the top-funded subject area supported by U.S. foundations in the 2011 to 2015 period, with grants totaling $18.6 billion accounting for 53 percent of international grantmaking.

Community foundations also have participated in the growth of international giving by U.S. foundations in recent years, with international giving by community foundations more than tripling, from $103 million in 2011 to $315 million in 2015, and community foundations' share of overall international giving by U.S. foundations more than doubling, from 1.4 percent in 2011 to 3.4 percent in 2015.

That growth was largely driven by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF), whose international grantmaking accounted for 63 percent of all international giving by U.S. community foundations in 2015. Even when excluding SVCF, however, international giving by U.S. community foundations increased 71 percent from 2011 to 2015, strongly suggesting a shift in the community foundation field toward a more global understanding of community. (For more about this trend, see Local Communities with Global Reach: International Giving by U.S. Community Foundations.)

The majority (53 percent) of international giving was for programs that address global issues in general, rather than in a specific region or country. The top-funded region was sub-Saharan Africa, which received $9 billion from 2011 to 2015 and accounted for 25 percent of international giving, with the Gates Foundation accounting for 72 percent of all grant dollars benefiting sub-Saharan Africa during the five-year period. Asia & the Pacific was the second-most funded region, receiving $6.6 billion and accounting for 19 percent of international giving, followed by Latin America & Mexico, which benefited from $2.7 billion and accounted for 8 percent of international giving overall.

The Closing of Civil Society Space – Is It Affecting Grantmaking?

Globally, governments continue to propose and pass legislation that impacts how civil society operates. In many countries, these restrictions have complicated direct grantmaking by U.S. foundations to local organizations.

Between 2012 and 2015, the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law identified ninety-eight laws designed to constrain the freedoms of association or assembly that had been proposed or enacted across more than fifty-five countries; 36 percent of those laws limited international funding of local civil society groups. (Rutzen, Douglas, "Aid Barriers and the Rise of Philanthropic Protectionism," International Journal of Not-for-Profit Law / vol. 17, no. 1, March 2015, https://www.icnl.org/research/journal/vol17ss1/Rutzen.pdf.)

How are governments restricting civil society organizations' access to international funding? In some countries, national governments now require pre-approval before a grant can be made and/or grantees must secure permission in advance before they can receive foreign funds. Some governments also mandate that all foreign funding must be routed through a government entity, while other countries have chosen to stigmatize local organizations receiving foreign support through "foreign agent" laws, and still others have enacted foreign funding caps for local nonprofits and/or levied taxes on funding provided by foreign sources. Governments also have used counterterrorism and anti-money laundering as justifications for instituting complicated, often-onerous reporting and registration requirements for grantmakers and grantees.

Even as governments continue to enact restrictions on cross-border funding, Foundation Center data (from 2015) does not yet show any correlation between the amount of funding flowing from U.S. foundations to a given country and that country’s score on the Index of Philanthropic Freedom (an indicator of the health of the enabling environment for cross-border flows for the period 2014–15). Of the twenty countries that received the most direct funding from U.S. foundation in 2015, five scored lower than the global average of 3.4, indicating a challenging legal environment for cross-border giving. India is a notable example, ranking fourth by direct giving but receiving a score of just 2.1.

These findings challenge our assumptions about the impact of the legal environment on funding flows and suggest a more complex relationship than one might expect. It's clear U.S. foundations remain committed to channeling funds to countries where the legal environment is growing increasingly unfriendly. But because the index is relatively new and represents the first attempt to crosswalk philanthropic funding data with data on the enabling environment, it's too early to assess how accurately it has captured shifts in funding.

Still, any exploration of the relationship between the legal environment for cross-border giving and funding flows raises important questions: Why does a significant amount of funding reach certain difficult environments and not others? Are any of the strategies and mechanisms for channeling funds to countries with difficult legal environments transferable across individual country contexts? And how have other funding flows, including individual donations and bilateral aid, been affected by the imposition of legal restrictions?

U.S. Foundation Grantmaking in the Context of the Sustainable Development Goals

With the United Nation's adoption of the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015, U.S. foundations gained a new and powerful framework through which to reflect upon their international giving. Moreover, since the SDGs are globally applicable, they provide a useful lens through which to think about domestic giving as well.

The SDGs are a set of seventeen interconnected global goals that together represent an urgent call for action by all countries — developed and developing — to end poverty, improve health and education, reduce inequality, spur economic growth, tackle climate change, and preserve the planet's oceans and forests. To ensure the goals are achieved, each individual goal has a set of targets and indicators associated with it so that progress toward success can be measured.

Sdgs_frameDeveloped through a multiyear, multi-stakeholder process that included representatives from the philanthropic sector, the SDG framework was implemented on January 1, 2016. It's important to note that the SDGs are not just an initiative created and led by the United Nations but one that all development actors, including foundations, can use and apply in their own work, whether they work internationally or not. Because the goals are universal, the work of any foundation, so long as it seeks to improve the human condition, is considered part of the larger global development effort.

Although challenging to assess at this early stage, philanthropy's support of the SDG framework is being tracked through an online platform, SDGfunders.org, that also serves as a knowledge hub for foundation executives looking to better understand what the SDGs are and to demonstrate to funders how their work may already align with the SDG framework. To that end, the site aggregates data on how the work of U.S. (and some global) foundations maps to the framework and, with the help of a simple tool called the SDG Indicator Wizard, enables funders to understand which SDGs and their associated targets and indicators are relevant to their own work.

So what does the data tell us? In the two-plus years since the launch of the framework, philanthropy has made a substantial contribution toward achieving the goals. Since January 2016, U.S. foundations have provided more than $72 billion in support of SDG-relevant work. And projections based on analyses of foundation funding trends since 2010 suggest that foundations' total contribution to the SDGs between 2016 and 2030 are likely to exceed $360 billion and could total as much as $500 billion. Three factors may push the amount even higher: the continued growth of philanthropy around the world; greater access to philanthropic data as the sector modernizes; and increasing awareness of the SDGs among foundations as the framework is embraced by governments, NGOs, and the private sector.

Given the historical funding preferences of U.S. foundations (see my previous post), it's not surprising that Goal 4 (Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all) and Goal 3 (Ensure healthy lives) have received the lion's share of the funding to date ($24 billion and $22 billion, respectively). Education has long been a priority for many U.S. funders and continues to attract significant funding. And foundations also have contributed significant sums in response to various health emergencies in recent years, in addition to their usual health-related giving.

We would also note that the SDGs are a useful mechanism for coordinating philanthropy’s efforts as it works alongside the UN, governments, the private sector, and nonprofits to achieve its broad development goals and objectives. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development speaks directly to the crucial role of philanthropy in achieving the SDGs:

We welcome the rapid growth of philanthropic giving and the significant financial and non-financial contribution philanthropists have made towards achieving our common goals. We recognize philanthropic donors’ flexibility and capacity for innovation and taking risks and their ability to leverage additional funds through multi-stakeholder partnerships. …We welcome efforts to increase cooperation between philanthropic actors, Governments and other development stakeholders. …We encourage philanthropic donors to give due consideration to local circumstances and align with national policies and priorities. We also encourage philanthropic donors to consider managing their endowments through impact investment, which considers both profit and non-financial impacts in its investment criteria....

The SDGs represent an important step toward the realization of a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable global future, and we look forward to continuing to track progress made in achieving them.

In my next post, I'll look at U.S. foundation funding for one of the most important issues of our time: democracy. Until then, feel free to share your feedback in the comments section below.

Headshot_larry_mcgillLarry McGill is vice president of knowledge services at Foundation Center. The center would like to thank the King Baudouin Foundation for support that helped make this series possible.

Current Trends in Philanthropy: The Big Picture

October 29, 2018

Thebigpicture"Philanthropy" in the United States is a vast industry composed of individuals, foundations, and corporations that, in 2017, contributed $410 billion to charitable causes, an amount roughly equivalent to 2 percent of gross domestic product.

Of this total, nearly 70 percent is contributed by individuals, with more than half of that comprised of giving to congregations. The second largest source of philanthropic giving (some 24 percent) comes from grants made by private foundations like Gates, Ford, and Hewlett, which, along with a few dozen other major foundations, dominate a diverse ecosystem populated by tens of thousands of foundations of all sizes. Third is bequests, through which people designate universities, hospitals, and other tax-exempt organizations as beneficiaries in their wills. And last comes corporations — a surprise to many observers, who, given the dominant position of the private sector in the U.S. economy, no doubt assume that businesses play a far greater role in philanthropy.

My organization, Foundation Center, compiles comprehensive data on the more than 87,000 active U.S. foundations and, working with partners around the world, a growing number of foundations and foundation-like organizations in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. The center envisions a world enriched by the effective allocation of philanthropic resources, informed public discourse about philanthropy, and broad understanding of the contributions of nonprofit activity to transform lives and increase opportunity for all.

We also see U.S. philanthropy as having arrived at a critical juncture. Buoyed by a strong economy, U.S. foundations find themselves navigating a complex landscape in a volatile and highly polarized political environment. Foundations have something valuable to contribute in this environment —  namely, flexible resources free from market, electoral, and fundraising pressures. How they choose to use those resources to advance their work over the next few years is of interest to most Americans.

In a series of blog posts to be published over the next few weeks, we will look at some of the emerging issues that are getting the attention of U.S. foundations and will consider a number of frameworks (e.g., the Sustainable Development Goals) that are shaping the flow of philanthropic resources to different parts of the world. We'll also examine a variety of modalities — from traditional grant funding to experimentation with crypto-currencies — that foundations are using to advance their missions.

As many of you are aware, a growing chorus is questioning the foundation model, even as some donors are looking to experiment with new forms of philanthropy. A handful of younger philanthropists (Mark Zuckerberg, Pierre Omidyar) have opted to create limited liability corporations instead of setting up private foundations and have declared that their investments in social good will be directed to a broad spectrum of organizations and vehicles, not just tax-exempt nonprofits. Still, the predominant organizational form for U.S. philanthropy is the private grantmaking foundation, followed by corporate, operating, and community foundations. These legal structures and the regulatory framework in which they are embedded provide considerable flexibility for experimentation and innovation, and their continued popularity suggests that, for now at any rate, the "new philanthropy" is more of a rhetorical device than an actual phenomenon.

General Trends in U.S. Grantmaking: Subject Areas and Support Strategies

Notwithstanding the growth and innovation that characterizes twenty-first-century philanthropy, a number of its hallmarks persist. U.S. foundations have long prioritized funding in the areas of health and education, and that continues to be the case. Of the $69 billion awarded by U.S. foundations in 2016, roughly 30 percent went to health-related causes or organizations, while 25 percent went to education. Indeed, these two areas have accounted for roughly half of all U.S. foundation grantmaking (by dollars) for as long as Foundation Center has collected this kind of data, going back to the 1960s.

U.S. foundations also have long prioritized program support over general operating support. In 2016, just over 40 percent of the grant dollars awarded provided support for specific programs, with general operating support accounting for 20 percent. But persistent calls for change by nonprofit organizations and philanthropic watchdog groups over the past fifteen years have resulted in a steady, albeit gradual, increase in the amount of general operating support provided by foundations. Between 2002 and 2008, for example, general operating support accounted for 16.5 percent of total giving, while more recently (2009-2015) general operating support has averaged 19.8 percent of total giving on an annual basis.

The two population groups that tend to benefit the most from U.S. foundation giving are the economically disadvantaged and children and youth, capturing 39 percent and 20 percent of grant dollars, respectively, in 2016. Support for the economically disadvantaged in particular has grown over the past ten to fifteen years, up from 20 percent of total grant dollars in 2005 — a near doubling, on the face of it, of grant dollars targeting this population group. It's more likely, however, that U.S. grantmakers have become more intentional in targeting the intended beneficiaries of such grants. In other words, socioeconomic status has become a more frequently-used lens through which foundations make decisions about where and how to direct their giving. While a growing number of advocacy groups have been encouraging grantmakers to also employ gender and racial equity lenses in their grantmaking decisions, there is less evidence to suggest that foundations are doing so. It will be interesting, over the next few years, to see whether that changes.

Funding for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Infrastructure

This is an area of special interest to Foundation Center, which has been a critical part of the infrastructure for philanthropy for six decades. First, some background.

The nonprofit sector contributed more than $930 billion to the U.S. economy in 2014, according to data compiled by the National Center for Charitable Statistic. Nonprofit organizations — of which there are more than a million in the U.S. — work to address a broad range of issues — and employ an array of creative strategies in doing so. Given the sector's size and complexity, a substantial set of supporting organizations have emerged over time to assist them in that work. These organizations (generally nonprofits themselves) provide increasingly essential services to the field, including strategic planning, evaluation and assessment, board and staff development, data and research, legal services, and business modeling.

Infrastructure organizations (like Foundation Center) can be grouped into three main categories:

  1. Philanthropy-focused organizations and networks provide services primarily in support of the work of foundations and other philanthropic entities.
  2. Nonprofit-focused organizations and networks provide services in support of the work of nonprofit organizations or the nonprofit sector in general.
  3. Multi-sector organizations provide services in support of the work of organizations both within and beyond the social sector.

The continued viability of these organizations (especially those in the first two groups) relies heavily on the support of the philanthropic sector. A 2018 study conducted by Foundation Center found that U.S. foundations contributed $1.94 billion dollars in support of the nonprofit and philanthropic infrastructure between 2004 and 2015 —  about 0.7 percent of all foundation giving over that period.

The need for infrastructure has grown as the work of philanthropy has grown in complexity. U.S. philanthropy has become more global, more strategic, more focused on impact, and more collaborative. Outside the U.S., philanthropy has expanded rapidly, as has the global philanthropic infrastructure, with half of all non-U.S. infrastructure organizations founded after 2000.

Support for philanthropic infrastructure, however, has not kept pace with changes in the field. Between 2004 and 2015, total giving by U.S. foundations rose 66 percent, while giving for infrastructure organizations grew just 25 percent. And since 2004, funding for non-U.S. infrastructure organizations has declined some 43 percent.

It is perhaps fair to ask whether U.S. funders should continue to shoulder the majority of the burden to support non-U.S. infrastructure organizations (beyond membership fees), as they have since the founding of the European Foundation Centre in 1989. This is a critical time in the development of the global philanthropic infrastructure, however, and outside the U.S., that infrastructure is poorly resourced even as the demand and need for it increases.

In my next post, I'll take a look at some of the current trends in international grantmaking by U.S. foundations. In the meantime, feel free to comment below and/or drop me a note (ltm@foundationcenter.org) with your questions.

Headshot_Lawrence_McGillLarry McGill is vice president of knowledge services at Foundation Center. Foundation Center would like to thank the King Baudouin Foundation for support that helped make this series possible.

Weekend Link Roundup (October 27-28, 2018)

October 28, 2018

Pittsburgh synogogue vigil union sq 353A weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

In September, we reported on a coalition of mostly U.S.-based foundations and philanthropies that have pledged $4 billion to combat climate change. But what exactly can charitable efforts on that scale do to slow the pace of global warming and help people cope with its consequences? More than you think, writes Morten Wendelbo, a research fellow at American University, on The Conversation site.

Civil Society

Palaces for the People, a new book by Eric Klinenberg, a sociology professor at New York University and director of its Institute for Public Knowledge, examines how "social infrastructure" — libraries, parks, playgrounds, gardens, child care centers, churches, and synagogues — help us form some of our most significant and abiding connections. These spaces are also crucial, Klinenberg argues, for bridging divides and safeguarding the values of democracy. Katie Pearce reports for Johns Hopkins University's Hub.

Education

A lot of kids graduate high school unprepared for success in college and beyond. A new study from the New Teacher Project, a national nonprofit focused on teacher development and educational programming, puts most of the blame on school itself. Eillie Anzilotti reports for Fast Company.

Environment

The environmental movement is a lot of great things, but diverse isn't one of them. Vu Le's organization, Rainier Valley Corps, is creating a new program called the Green Pathways Fellowship designed to addressed the situation. In his latest post, Le shares a few components of the program. 

Equity

"[Philanthropy] defines people as 'low-income', 'at-risk', 'high-crime', 'low-literacy'. We define people by stigmatizing labels," Trabian Shorters, a former Knight Foundation VP who founded BME (Black Male Engagement) Community, tells Generocity's Julie Zeglin. A better approach would be to frame our narratives in terms of assets. Or as Shorters tells Zeglin: "[T]o really advance equity, you have to remind those who are really concerned with these questions that all of us are striving to do the best we can under the conditions that we're dealt. When you remind people of that, then we look at solutions entirely differently."

Giving Pledge 

Paul Allen, who died earlier this month at the age of 65, was single and had no kids. He also is believed to be the wealthiest signer of the Giving Pledge — a non-binding commitment by wealthy donors to give away more than half of their assets to charity in life or in their wills. The task of managing his $20 billion estate — and Allen's philanthropic legacy — now falls to his sister, Jody, and many in the worlds of business and philanthropy will be watching closely. Theodore Schleifer reports for Recode.

Higher Education

In the New York Times, Reihan Salam, executive editor of National Review, suggests that the "power and influence" of the most richly endowed universities in the country "is unbefitting a democratic society" and that they may not be "generating public benefits commensurate with the extraordinary public privileges they enjoy, including, most of all, their favorable tax treatment."

Philanthropy

Bringing non-family members, people with diverse perspectives, and professional advisors into the decision-making fold can help family foundations move past family dynamics and take greater risks, write Ruth Cummings and Sharon Alpert in "Diversifying Perspectives and Sharing Power at a Family Foundation," the latest installment in NCRP's and the Stanford Social Innovation Review's Power in Philanthropy series. The series also includes excellent posts by Kathleen Enright, Luz Vega-MarquisJim Canales and Barbara HostetterAlison Corwin, and Grant Oliphant.

What does effectiveness in philanthropy mean, and what does it look like? On the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Phil Buchanan and Naomi Orenstein are looking for your input, perspective, and suggestions as they set out to refresh CEP's definition of effectiveness.

Chronicle of Philanthropy contributor Tyler Nickerson has a good Q&A with Edgar Villanueva, vice president for programs and advocacy at the Schott Foundation for Public Education and author of the just-released Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance.

(Photo credit: EV Grieve)

That's it for this week. Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a note at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

What's New at Foundation Center Update (October)

October 24, 2018

FC_logoAs the change of seasons brings cooler weather, I spend more time thinking about cozying up with a good book. Here at Foundation Center, we've released a lot of new content that might make for good armchair reading material. Read on to learn more:

Projects Launched

  • We're thrilled to have launched GrantCraft's latest guide, Deciding Together: Shifting Power and Resources Through Participatory Grantmaking, a first-of-its-kind look at how funders can cede decision-making power about funding decisions to the communities they aim to serve. The guide is complemented by a suite of resources at participatorygrantmaking.org. This was a labor of love for me over the past nearly two years and I’m biased, but I really think you should read this!
  • September was Nonprofit Radio Month and a number of Foundation Center staff, including Grace Sato and David Rosado of our Knowledge Services team and Susan Shiroma of our Social Sector Outreach team, were guests on Tony Martignetti’s Nonprofit Radio show, which was broadcast to viewers across the country from our beautiful library at 32 Old Slip in Manhattan's Financial District. Be sure to check out Grace, David, and Susan talking with Tony about why data matters, community foundations, and family foundations.
  • Foundation Maps: Australia was launched at the Philanthropy Australia National Conference. A joint effort of Philanthropy Australia and Foundation Center, this interactive platform is designed to facilitate greater transparency and insights about the grantmaking practices of Australian foundations.
  • In partnership with a group of community foundation leaders, CF Insights conducted a field-wide survey of community foundation CEOs to determine the level of demand for a formalized network that would help them connect with one another on issues relevant to the community foundation field. Check out the results of the survey here.
  • Foundation Center, GlobalGiving, and GuideStar released BRIDGE (Basic Registry of Identified Global Entities) information as open data, making it easier to identify and share information about entities around the world that are working to advance social good. The launch of BRIDGE open data represents both a cross-organizational collaboration as well as a collaboration between our Data and Technology and Knowledge Services teams.
  • During this webinar, Grantmakers of Western Pennsylvania, Northeastern Pennsylvania Grantmakers, and Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia announced the joint launch of Pennsylvania Foundation Stats, a new online dashboard that provides a window on the philanthropic landscape in Pennsylvania as well as four distinct regions in the state.

Content Published

In the News

What We're Excited About

  • We're partnering with the Early Childhood Funders' Collaborative and the Heising-Simons Foundation on a new interactive mapping tool that will serve as a valuable starting point for funders and practitioners looking to support the learning and development of young children across the country. The tool is expected to launch in December
  • Foundation Center South doubled its Boys and Men of Color (BMOC) Executive Director Collaboration Circle funding with a $20,000 grant from the Charles M. & Mary D. Grant Foundation. The funds will support BMOC in the metro Atlanta region through a range of activities, including building the capacity of leaders and organizations, identifying and actively engaging leaders in and outside of philanthropy committed to investing in BMOC, and improving public policy in support of BMOC.
  • We'll be launching a brand-new self-paced e-learning course, How to Start a Major Gift Program, in November.
  • And we'll be participating in a panel discussion, Demystifying Nonprofit and Foundation Collaboration, at the IS-sponsored Upswell gathering in November, where we'll discuss valuable insights related to how you can create collaboration opportunities among your peers and with your grantees.

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Our staff will be attending these upcoming events:

Services Spotlight

  • 212,359 new grants added to Foundation Maps in September, of which 45,078 grants were made to 6,810 organizations outside the U.S.
  • Update Central is back in Foundation Directory Online. Register for monthly alerts to ensure you’re up-to-date on grantmaker leadership changes and new foundations.
  • New data sharing partners: Muncie Altrusa Foundation; Harry M., Miriam C. & William C. Horton Foundation; Catherine McCarthy Memorial Trust Fund; and United Way of Western Connecticut. Tell your story through data so we can communicate philanthropy's contribution to making a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.
  • 18 new organizations have joined our Funding Information Network this year, including the Puerto Rico Science Technology and Research Trust, the First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania, and the Roswell Public Library in Georgia.

Data Spotlight

  • Did you know that 8 percent of all human rights funding is granted to support civic and political participation? Funders around the globe are working to support the right to peaceful assembly, informed voting, and full participation in political processes. Explore humanrightsfunding.org to learn more.
  • In honor of Global Handwashing Day (October 15), we're highlighting the fact that more than 920 funders have made grants totaling $273 million to support basic sanitation and health education around the world. Check out WASHfunders.org to learn more about funders working to solve the world's water and sanitation crises.
  • Lastly, we completed custom data searches for Oregon State University, the ClimateWorks Foundation, the Bush School, Texas A&M University, McKinsey & Company / Minnesota Community Foundation, and California Environmental Associates (CEA).

If you found this update helpful, feel free to share it or shoot us an email. I'll be back next month with another update!

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center.

Weekend Link Roundup (October 20-21, 2018)

October 21, 2018

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

Agricultural

The challenges facing the world's food systems are great and becoming greater. To avoid disaster, food producers, politicians, and consumers must pursue a new vision that "account[s] for human health and nutrition, environmental impact, and the hundreds of millions of jobs that depend on farming," writes Roy Steiner, managing director, food, at the Rockefeller Foundation. That will require at least four major transformations: a shift to more "flexitarian" diets; dramatic reductions in food loss and waste; stepped-up efforts to build and conserve soils; and applying our best technologies to the most underserved regions and populations.

Civil Society

"During much of the last century, philanthropic foundations based in the United States exported American ideals about democracy, market economies, and civil society. That mission was made possible by ideological support from and alignment with the U.S. government, which, in turn, imbued foundations with prestige and influence as they operated around the world," writes Ford Foundation president Darren Walker in Foreign Affairs. But, adds Walker,

American philanthropies such as the Ford Foundation can no longer count on such support. Nor can they be sure that the goals of increased equality, the advancement of human rights, and the promotion of democracy will find backing in Washington.
As U.S. leadership of the global order falters, American foundations must blaze a new path. The first step will be recognizing difficult truths about their history. The old order they helped forge was successful in many ways but also suffered from fundamental flaws, including the fact that it often privileged the ideas and institutions in prosperous Western countries and failed to foster equitable growth and stability in poorer countries. For all the good that American philanthropies have done, they have also helped perpetuate a system that produces far too much inequality. Their task today is to contribute to the construction of a new, improved order, one that is more just and sustainable than its predecessor....

In a time when society seems to be coming apart at the seams, libraries may just be "the last safe, free, truly public space where people from all walks of life may encounter each other.” In Quartz, Jenny Anderson looks at how libraries are reinventing themselves for the twenty-first century.

Climate Change

"I do not expect every foundation, corporation, and nonprofit to make climate change its top priority; there are many urgent issues that demand attention," writes Packard Foundation president Carol Larson on the foundation's website. "But if you care about children, if you care about health, or you care about economic development, you have to care about climate change. There is a role for every organization to play, and an urgent need for every organization to seize the opportunities in front of it...."

Continue reading »

A Conversation With Lori Villarosa, Founder and Executive Director, Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity

October 19, 2018

Lori Villarosa’s career in philanthropy has been driven by twin passions: to do good and to fight injustice. As a program officer at the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation in the 1990s, she managed the foundation’s U.S. Race Relations portfolio, which was focused on addressing institutional and societal racism in American society and improving race and ethnic relations. Informed by the videotaped beating of Rodney King, an African-American taxi driver, by four white LAPD officers after a routine traffic stop and the officers’ subsequent acquittal by an all-white jury — and the spasm of outrage and violence that followed the announcement of the verdict — the work was, as Villarosa puts it, “incredibly challenging” and, inevitably, led to a backlash. Undeterred, Villarosa left Mott a few years later to start the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity (PRE), which, since its inception in January 2003, has directly engaged hundreds of foundation representatives in discussions of racial equity and, in particular, how they can advance the mission of achieving racial equity through their own philanthropic institutions.

That work, as well as the work done by CHANGE Philanthropy (formerly known as Joint Affinity Groups), was instrumental in establishing racial justice and racial equity as areas deserving of and, indeed, demanding greater attention and funding from foundations. And foundations, hesitantly at first but with increasing urgency, have responded. Now a project of the Tides Center, PRE continues to be part of that movement, working diligently and creatively to increase the amount and effectiveness of resources aimed at combating institutional and structural racism in communities across the country.

Earlier this year, PND spoke with Villarosa about the difference between racial equity and racial justice, the challenges of racial equity/justice work in the Age of Trump, and the lessons she and her colleagues have learned as they have worked to create a more just society.

Headshot_lori_villarosaPhilanthropy News Digest: I'd like to start with a definitional question. Is there a difference between racial equity and racial justice, or can the terms be used interchangeably?

Lori Villarosa: PRE is actually working on two publications right now that are diving into that question in different ways. We'll be sharing a mix of what advocates say about the distinctions and relationship between the terms and how funders who are doing work in this arena are understanding and using them.

PRE put out one of the earliest definitions of what it means to use a racial equity lens in grantmaking in a guide we developed in conjunction with GrantCraft. Julie Quiroz, who was a principal at Mosaic Consulting at the time and is now with Movement Strategy Center, and I wrote that a racial equity lens included the following components: analyzing data and information about race and ethnicity; understanding racial disparities — and learning why they exist; looking at problems and their root causes from a structural standpoint; and naming race explicitly when talking about problems and solutions. The guide was also very clear about a racial equity lens needing to be used intersectionally with other lenses such as gender or sexual orientation, and it also spoke about the importance and role of power and of organizing.

We wanted to be even more explicit about it when we launched the process to update the guide earlier this year. Most of the advocates and funders we have been interviewing see racial equity as addressing the distribution of resources, privileges, and burdens — related to the quantitative, with some qualitative mixed in — across racial/ethnic group lines. They — and we — tend to use the phrase "racial justice" more when looking both at the power to define issues — and what it takes to secure that power — and more generally looking at outcomes that are ultimately transformative and positive for all. We plan to elaborate on this more in the report and will address the strategies that activists and funders are using to advance both concepts — and what they see as the relationship between the two. It was interesting to me, for example, that while many believe racial equity is one indicator on the path to racial justice, we spoke to others who thought the terms could be, or are less, interdependent than that.

In our work, we try to bring clarity and precision to the language around this work where it’s useful and meaningful, yet not be so precious about it that it keeps people from entering into the work, at whatever stage. And we recognize that while there are distinctions, there is considerable work that needs to be done to achieve both greater racial equity and greater racial justice. Where we do get more particular is when people substitute "equity" as a way to avoid talking about race and racism explicitly, or when they substitute "social justice" as a catch-all phrase and maybe focus their program on class but not race.

PND: What was the impetus behind the formation of PRE? Was it a single event or conversation, a series of events, or something else entirely?

LV: I was a program officer at the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation in the 1990s and had worked with colleagues there, as well as with community and national racial justice partners and some of our peer funders, to develop and move a portfolio and broader body of work aimed at addressing issues of structural racism. The approved mission statement of the portfolio I managed was: "To address institutional and societal racism and improve race and ethnic relations." That was in 1994, at a time when that language was pretty cutting-edge, and we were able to fund many of the organizations that led much of the work on structural racism nationally. It was incredibly challenging work, in that it was often unchartered territory, and the discomfort people felt when confronted by the truth of our collective history and the eventual backlash the work generated wasn't unique to our institution. Without getting into the weeds, there came a point after the UN World Conference Against Racism in South Africa, and after 9/11, where many of our early investments started to gain a different level of traction, and it became clear after twelve years of building that body of work that if we wanted to keep supporting the racial justice field and advance it in the direction it needed to move, we would have to focus more of our efforts on increasing the pool of funders willing to invest in work to address structural racism.

So I left the foundation to launch PRE with seed support and a founding board that primarily consisted of the leaders we had been investing in, and our goal was to get the rest of philanthropy to join us. I was very intentional about partnering with existing infrastructure organizations, what we used to call affinity groups and regional associations of grantmakers and we now call philanthropy-serving organizations [PSOs], and making sure that we were guided by folks in the racial justice field rather than by funders — while being responsive, of course, to the needs of change agents within foundations.

Continue reading »

Philanthropy's Under-Investment in Holding High Finance Accountable: A Gamble We Can’t Afford

October 17, 2018

Monopoly_top_hatTen years ago, President George W. Bush signed into law the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, authorizing $700 billion in federal funding to buy troubled assets from banks deemed to be in danger of failing as a result of the subprime foreclosure crisis.

A lot has changed since then, but one thing has remained the same: progressive philanthropy continues to under-prioritize efforts to hold the financial industry accountable.

It's a choice that risks undermining the headway progressive foundations are making on issues of inequality and wealth building. Placing big bets on policies designed to lift up low- and moderate-income communities while failing to address the accountability of financial institutions is a gamble we cannot afford to take — not least because it puts at risk the very people we are trying to serve.

American households lost $16 trillion in wealth in the years after the 2007-08 financial crisis. And while some experts estimate that Americans have regained $14.6 trillion, or 91 percent, of those losses in the decade since, the collapse affected different segments of society unequally, with the gains just as unequally distributed. In other words, both the crash and the recovery increased inequality in America.

The impact on African Americans was especially profound. Nearly 8 percent of African-American homeowners lost their homes to foreclosure in the years after the crisis, compared with only 4.5 percent of white homeowners, and between 2007 and 2010 African Americans saw their retirement accounts lose 35 percent of their value. Indeed, according to the National Association of Realtors, African Americans lost fully half their wealth as a result of the financial crisis.

It's not just the likelihood of future financial crises that should give philanthropic leaders pause; it's also the fact that an under-regulated and unaccountable financial industry will continue to target communities of color and low-income communities with sketchy products and put vulnerable households at risk.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (October 13-14, 2018)

October 14, 2018

105499618-4ED5-BL-HurricaneMichaelV2-101018.600x337A weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

As the global climate continues to warm, there's a "material difference" between 1.5 degrees C of warming and 2 C degrees. Kelly Levin, a senior associate with the World Resources Institute's global climate program, looks at some of them. And Adele Peters, a staff writer at Fast Company, suggests that holding warming to the former, while difficult, might not be impossible.

According to a poll conducted by researchers from Yale, George Mason University, and Climate Nexus, a majority of voters in North Carolina post-Hurricane Florence are worried about climate change (60 percent) and think it's appropriate to talk about the issue when disaster strikes (55 percent). HuffPost's Jeremy Deaton reports.  

Disaster Relief

Hurricane Michael, one of the most powerful storms ever to strike the continental U.S., hammered the Florida Panhandle before carving a path of destruction across Georgia and North Carolina. We're tracking institutional pledges and commitments to relief and recovery efforts here. And Fast Company has put together a list of fifteen things you can do to help the storm's victims.

Education

On her Answer Sheet blog, Kevin Welner, a co-director of the Schools of Opportunity project and director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado, and Linda Molner Kelley, a co-director of Schools of Opportunity and director for outreach and engagement at the University of Colorado, look at how William C. Hinckley High School in Aurora, Colorado, used a restorative justice approach to change its culture.

Giving

As we head into the holiday season, families and friends should think about allocating some of the money they planned to spend on gifts to a commonly determined cause, writes philanthropy consultant Bill DeBoskey. "Imagine the result," adds DeBoskey, "if each of us pledged to donate to a worthy cause just 10 percent of what we would otherwise spend on holiday gifts, food and candy."

Continue reading »

Tracking Hurricane Michael Disaster Relief

October 12, 2018

Updated: November 13, 2018 - 3:30 AM ET

Hurricane Michael first showed up in early October as a low-pressure area in the western Caribbean. After meandering for a few days, it began to organize itself and then intensified rapidly as it moved past Cuba into the Gulf of Mexico, becoming a tropical depression on October 7 and a Category 1 hurricane just twenty-four hours later. By Tuesday, October 9, it had strengthened into a Cat 3 with winds of more than 120 mph, and by the time it smashed into the Florida Panhandle near Mexico Beach on Wednesday, October 10, it was a Cat 4 with sustained winds of 155 mph.

For many, the unprecedented nature of the storm — the most intense tropical cyclone to strike the U.S. since Andrew in 1992, the third most intense storm in terms of barometric pressure ever to make landfall in the U.S., and the strongest hurricane to strike the Florida Panhandle on record — was disturbing, its rapid intensification and the path of destruction it carved across four states cause for alarm, coming as it did just days after the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report warning of dire consequences if greenhouse gas emissions are not cut dramatically over the next decade. As of October 30, the death toll had risen to forty-five, including thirty-five people in Florida, and estimates of the damage were holding steady at between $8 billion and $30 billion.

As we did with Florence, Foundation Center will be tracking institutional pledges and commitments for relief and recovery efforts here on PhilanTopic. To make sure your company or organization's pledge have been included in the total, or for questions about methodology or sources, please contact Andrew Grabois, manager of corporate philanthropy at Foundation Center.

Mexico Beach destruction

(Photo credit: Reuters)

TOTAL: $35,755,272

Organization Type (pledges and commitments)

Corporate Direct Giving/
Company-Sponsored Foundations
$25,255,272 58 orgs.
Private Foundations $500,000 2 org.
Public Charities $10,000,000 9 orgs.

Top Recipients (Total Received to Date)

1. Unknown Recipient(s) $14,800,000
2. American Red Cross
(national)
$7,947,272
3. Multiple recipients $7,200,000
4. Florida Disaster Fund $2,850,000
5. Volunteer Florida $500,000
6. United Way Worldwide $375,000
7. Team Rubicon $325,000
8. Salvation Army $275,000
9. Samaritan's Purse $250,000
10. Center for Disaster Philanthropy $250,000

Source: Foundation Center & Center for Disaster Philanthropy

Download the Data

Check out Philanthropy News Digest for the latest coverage of
the philanthropic response to Hurricane Michael.

Nonprofit Boards and Risk

October 11, 2018

RiskWhile most nonprofits know they need to be forward thinking in order to create change, many are (understandably) focused on the day-to-day delivery of programs and services and don't know how to proceed. It's a challenge to strategize about future plans or consider taking on new activities and programs with broader impact when resources are limited and the organization's staff and leadership already have their hands full. Which is why it is especially important for nonprofit boards to weigh and be willing to recommend taking calculated risks. Is yours?

What follows are some commonsense tips for nonprofit board members who are ready to help take their nonprofits to the next level.

Think data. A good strategic planning process should focus resources on the programs likely to have the greatest impact on the groups served by an organization, and data needs to be at the heart of that process. Every program (as well as every internal department) generates data. Making time to identify trends and patterns in that data in order to be more strategic and identify risk is the first step on the road to creating impact.

Assess current risks. In Green Hasson Janks' most recent nonprofit report, Board Governance: The Path to Nonprofit Success, one of the firm's principals, Mark Kawauchi, notes that "a significant percentage of nonprofits are not incorporating and addressing risks in their strategic plans." Mark goes on to suggest that nonprofits with sufficient resources should conduct a comprehensive risk management assessment that incorporates both the organization's operations and its programs.

Continue reading »

The Importance of Listening for and Sharing Stories

October 10, 2018

Share_your_story­When leaders of today's most vibrant social movements gather in a ballroom for a day to share advice and lessons learned, we ought to listen — and not just because as leaders of nonprofits competing for people's attention, dollars, and time, we should welcome opportunities to learn as much as we can about how best to apply our efforts to bring about change.

In September, leaders from the Ad Council, the Born This Way Foundation, Young Invincibles, the Transgender Law Center, the MBK Alliance, the National Geographic Society, and other organizations and causes gathered in Washington, D.C., at the Influence Nation Summit to talk about the tactics they've used in the past to move large numbers of people to take action.

Running through their remarks were two critical points that many nonprofits struggle to operationalize: 1) Listening is more important than talking; and 2) Sharing authentic stories with a compelling message is at the heart of every successful movement.

Listening is more important than talking

If you're a professional fundraiser, you've heard the admonition to focus on your donors and establish them as the "hero" of the narratives you share with supporters and stakeholders. You've been told to use "you" in your messaging instead of "we," to evoke donors' empathy by appealing to their emotions, and to assure them that whatever your organization has accomplished is due to their generosity and passion for the cause.

Imogen Napper, one of the speakers at the Influence Nation Summit, is a marine biologist and a National Geographic Sky Ocean Rescue Scholar who is focused on ridding the oceans of plastic, including plastic fibers found in clothing. Without listening to the online conversation around the topic, however, you might think Napper supports a ban on synthetic fibers in apparel. Not so. As she told attendees at the summit, "Plastic is a fantastic material as it is so versatile....Seventy percent of clothes are made of plastic. Therefore, it would be difficult and often expensive to completely avoid it." What people want instead, she said, is access to information that allows them to make informed decisions about the clothing they buy.

Continue reading »

Philanthropy Delivers an Outcome — and Its Name Is Brett Kavanaugh

October 07, 2018

Kavanaugh_swearing_inWhen the U.S. Senate voted 50-48 on Saturday to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, it was a significant victory for the Federalist Society, and for the foundations that support the organization. It also represented something — an outcome and real impact — that philanthropists of all persuasions crave, and it was achieved through, that’s right, general support grants.

Widely credited for writing the playbook that has guided the Trump administration's judicial nominations strategy, the Federalist Society, by any measure, has been wildly successful. Since Donald Trump's inauguration in January 2017, the U.S. Senate has approved two of his picks for the Supreme Court and some fifty lower court judges. With an additional hundred and fifty appellate and district court seats to be filled, the administration, with the help of the Federalist Society, is on track to have put in place nearly a quarter of all active judges by the end of 2019.

The organization describes itself as a

group of conservatives and libertarians interested in the current state of the legal order. [The Society] is founded on the principles that the state exists to preserve freedom, that the separation of governmental powers is central to our Constitution, and that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be….This entails reordering priorities within the legal system to place a premium on individual liberty, traditional values, and the rule of law. In working to achieve these goals, the Society has created a conservative and libertarian intellectual network that extends to all levels of the legal community....

As a 501(c)(3) organization, the society receives tax-deductible donations from individuals, but foundations contribute roughly one-quarter of its annual funding. Since 2006, 127 foundations have made $39 million in grants to the organization, 53 percent of which has come from five foundations: the Lynde and Harry Bradley, Templeton, Mercer Family, and Sarah Scaife foundations, in addition to the Searle Freedom Trust. Nearly half of those grants have provided general operating support to the organization, giving it the freedom to use those resources to further its goals without donor-imposed restrictions.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (October 6-7, 2018)

0930-bks-kabaservice-superJumboA weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Advocacy

"[W]e are in a season when the electorate has the obligation to choose our future," writes Richard Marker on his Wise Philanthropy blog. "And the philanthropy world has an obligation to weigh in on many of these matters. We have everything at stake in re-asserting a stable and civil society, eliminating poverty, rejecting racism and xenophobia, and urging systemic equity. The challenge for us is to not be intimidated by those who would limit our outspokenness under the guise of accusing us of partisanship. Of course, there are legal limitations to what we can lobby for and what lobbying we can support. But our rights, I would say even our obligations as funders, to advocate for constitutional rights, civil society, and equity for all are virtually unlimited."

Children/Youth

On the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health blog, Martha Davis, a senior program officer at the foundation, shares six recommendations for communities that are developing collaborative, place-based approaches aimed at ensuring that all children have a solid foundation of safety.

In a Q&A on the Case Foundation blog, Justin Cunningham, the millennial co-founder of Social Works, discusses what he and his colleagues are doing to empower youth in Chicago.

Giving

The team at GiveWell has made a number of changes to the organization's cost-effectiveness model.

Grantmaking

In a post on the GrantCraft blog, Jen Bokoff, director of stakeholder engagement, announces the release of the latest GrantCraft guide, Deciding Together: Shifting Power and Resources through Participatory Grantmaking, which was created in partnership with researcher/writer extraordinaire Cynthia Gibson.

Continue reading »

How to Recruit, Engage, and Retain Millennial Board Members

October 03, 2018

Millenials_on_boardHere's a well-documented fact: in the nonprofit sector, most boards are lacking in diversity, especially when it comes to people of color and women. (We wrote about the former, and how to change it, a couple of months ago.) We also know that more diversity on a board tends to bring positive, lasting results to the organizations governed by those boards. There's another population that is often overlooked for board service, however, one that is well positioned to bring new and different perspectives to nonprofit board deliberations. I'm talking about millennials.

According to BoardSource, 57 percent of nonprofit board members are over the age of 50, while only 17 percent are under 40 (about the age of the oldest millennial). While work experience and years of service often translate to effective board service, so, too, can the fresh perspective and ground-level experience that younger professionals often possess. In our work at Community Resource Exchange, we see the value that young people bring to nonprofit boards. For example, one of our clients recently was looking to re-engage and strengthen its board, and it did so by recruiting a group of twenty- and thirty-something program participants to join the board. In no time, the new board members were able to provide their (significantly older) colleagues with first-hand knowledge of the organization's programs and share their deep understanding of social media and cultural trends. In this and many other ways, the fresh perspective of the younger board members reinvigorated the older board members and energized them to engage with new ideas, emerging technologies, and the increasingly important role of social networks.

This is precisely the kind of value-add nonprofits should seek out in board members. All too often, though, boards are seen solely as a source of funding for the nonprofits they serve. The proper role of a board of directors is much more than that. Boards are tasked with setting the direction of the organization, ensuring that it has adequate resources, and providing fiduciary oversight. They support the strategic direction of the organization by helping to set that strategy, making connections to ensure its successful implementation, and monitoring activities, outcomes, and goals. When we move beyond the narrow conception of board service as fundraising and see it for the important governance role it is, then the value of having millennials on a board is even easier to see. By introducing younger perspectives and experiences into board deliberations, governance tends to become more creative, flexible, and plugged into our rapidly changing world. And who wouldn't want that? Ready to get started? Read on!

Continue reading »

Philanthropy and Cyber-Security  

October 01, 2018

CyberSecurity-796x532With more than a trillion dollars flowing last year from donors and government agencies to grantees in the United States alone, online thieves have discovered fertile hunting ground. In the three years since hackers stole usernames, passwords, IP addresses, and other account data from some 700,000 nonprofits that used the Urban Institute’s online tax filing system, cyberattacks have only gotten more clever, and the stakes higher.

To thwart hackers, organizations in the philanthropy space need to focus on both common security practices and their special vulnerabilities, from the bottom to the top of the organization.

Foundations and nonprofits have the same security concerns as any business, but they also have particular needs based on their mission-driven orientation compared to, say, a retailer or bank. "You often have part-time or volunteer employees, and they like to be helpful," says Mark Walker, knowledge management and technology officer at the Jessie Ball duPont Fund. "And many philanthropic workers wear multiple hats, which means the person responsible for watching over security may not have time to be as thorough as they'd like."

Philanthropy often involves large transfers of money between organizations or people who don't interact daily. That gives hackers an opportunity to trick inexperienced employees who are unfamiliar with how cyber-crooks operate. "They'll contact you with a sense of urgency to act," says John Mohr, chief information officer at the MacArthur Foundation. "If the president of your foundation asks you to wire money quickly, you might not stop to wonder if it's really her."

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (September 29-30, 2018)

September 30, 2018

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

Corporate Social Responsibility

As we've seen after other natural disasters recently, U.S. corporations and companies are stepping up to help the folks in the Carolinas who've been affected by flooding caused by Hurricane Florence. On a related note, Business Insider's Chelsea Greenwood has compiled a list of the ten companies that gave the most to charity in 2017.

The Forbes Business Development Council shares some good advice for small business looking to be charitable. 

Economy

Sso-called gig work promises a measure of flexiblity and independence that traditional jobs don't. But the pay is lousy, and people are starting to figure that out. A new report from the JPMorgan Chase Institute offers three sobering conclusions about the gig economy. Christopher Rugaber reports for the AP.

Health

How can we reverse the obesity epidemic? Washington Post contributor Tamar Haspel shares six commonsense suggestions.

International Affairs/Development

The world has made excellent progress in reducing poverty over the last twenty-five years, write Bill and Melinda Gates in an opinion piece for the New York Times. But thanks to "the unfortunate intersection of two demographic trends," that progress could stall, or even be reversed, if appropriate action is not taken.

Nonprofits

In Forbes, Ben Paynter shares findings from a new report issued by Fidelity Charitable which suggest that nonprofits should be doing more to court entrepreneurs as donors.

On the Guidestar blog, Becca Bennett and Jordan Ritchie offer some guidelines designed to help nonprofits get the most from their boards.

It's a crazy world we live in, and sometimes the best way to respond to it is to give ourselves a break. Social Velocity's Nell Edgington explains why it's important and what you can do to defeat that voice in your head which keeps whispering, "Don't even think about."

Continue reading »

[Review] 'You Can't Be What You Can't See: The Power of Opportunity to Change Young Lives'

September 26, 2018

Concrete, practicable solutions to society's urgent challenges are rare, in part because the debate around such issues too often is driven by philosophical differences and partisan political calculation. What is needed instead are compelling stories that explain those challenges through the eyes of the people affected and suggest possible solutions based on their lived reality. You Cant Be What You Can't See, by Milbrey W. McLaughlin, tells one such story.

Book_you_cant_be_what_you_cant_seeIn the book, McLaughlin, the David Jack Professor Emeritus of Education and Public Policy at Stanford University and founding director of the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities, documents what happened to more than seven hundred young people from Chicago's Cabrini-Green public housing project who participated in CYCLE, an out-of-school-time tutoring program started in 1978 in the basement of Cabrini-Green's LaSalle Street Church. Over the next decade and a half the program evolved into a comprehensive afterschool and summer support program for neighborhood youth, the history of which McLaughlin traces through the lives of the young people who participated. Along the way, we learn, through the kids' own voices, how the program altered the trajectory of their lives for the better.

For much of its existence, Cabrini-Green — which comprised the Frances Cabrini Row-houses and the William Green Homes — was portrayed by the national media as a sort of urban version of the Wild West, a place where crime, drugs, and guns were all-too-common and lawlessness prevailed. Like many narratives, this one was overly simplistic. McLaughlin starts her story at the beginning, in the early 1940s, when the Chicago Housing Project built Cabrini-Green "to replace the crime-ridden slum widely known as Little Hell with clean, family-friendly, affordable housing" for (mostly) white families. As those families grew more prosperous in the post-WWII boom and began moving to suburbs, low-income black families, many on public assistance, moved in.

The 1950s and 1960s were "a time of hope and relative racial calm" in Cabrini-Green. The two-story row houses were a great option for low-income families with children, and major high-rise expansions of the complex in 1958 and 1962 meant that more low-income families could afford to live there. "It was paradise compared to what you had before," remembers Craig Nash, a CYCLE alum who became coordinator of CYCLE's I Have Dream scholarship program. "When the high-rises first went up, they were beautiful. There were trees, there were families — mother, father, children, working families."

But over time, the effects of the "redlining" practices that were common at the Chicago Housing Authority during the period began to shift "the make-up of Cabrini-Green from the 1960s-era community of two-parent, working families to, by the late 1970s, "an economically, racially, and socially segregated" series of projects comprising thousands of units, mostly occupied by struggling black single mothers. "Neighborhoods are not accidents," Tim Huizenga, an early CYCLE board member, told McLaughlin. "They are the products of systematic sorting processes….For a while, the high-rises were decent places to live. But, for a variety of reasons, eventually they became the place where people that just had no options were living." As the condition of the buildings and in the neighborhood declined along with expectations, gang violence, teenage pregnancy rates, and social and institutional isolation increased, creating a toxic dynamic that fed on itself.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (September 22-23, 2018)

September 23, 2018

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

Communications/Marketing

"Anyone with a desire to manipulate opinions...knows that our digital dependencies make it easier than ever to do so through supposedly trustworthy institutions," writes Lucy Bernholz on her Philanthropy 2173 blog. What does that mean for nonprofits? "If your communications strategy still assumes that 'hey, they'll trust us — we're a nonprofit' or 'hey, this is what the data say,' " then it's time for your organization to "reconsider both what you say, how you say it, how you protect what you say, and your expectations and responses to how what you say gets heard and gets used."

Democracy/Public Affairs

In a new post on its website, the Community Foundation Boulder County looks at the work of Common Cause to ensure an accurate, representative census count in 2020.

On the Glasspockets blog, Janet Camarena, director of transparency initiatives at Foundation Center, chats with Jennifer Humke, senior program officer for journalism and media at the John D. and Catherine T.  MacArthur Foundation, about how foundation support for participatory media can strengthen American democracy.

Disaster Relief

Roughly 70 percent of the money and resources donated after a disaster like Herricane Florence goes to immediate response efforts, but recovery from such a disaster requires long-term investment. (Just as the folks in Puerto Rico.) Is there a better way to do disaster relief? asks Eillie Anzilotti in Fast Company. And while you're at it, check out our Hurricane Florence dashboard, which is tracking the private institutional response to the storm.

International Affairs/Development

The latest edition of the Commitment to Development Index, which ranks twenty-seven of the world's richest countries by how well their policies help improve lives in the developing world, has Sweden edging out Denmark (which led the index last year) as the top performer. The Center for Global Development has the details

In his latest, Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther piggybacks on ongoing assessments of a Catholic Relief Services direct-cash-transfer program in Rwanda to remind people that scale does not always equal impact.

In advance of this year's meeting of the UN General Assembly, the Rockefeller Foundation is asking folks to weigh in on what they think is the most solvable of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Continue reading »

What's New at Foundation Center Update (September)

September 22, 2018

FC_logoHurricane season is upon us, and we'll be regularly sharing data here on PND with you about where funding for rebuilding is going. Grace Sato from our knowledge services team will also be speaking about disaster funding along with special guests from philanthropy on Tony Martignetti's radio show later this month. We've been working on sharing data and knowledge about other timely topics as well:

Projects Launched

  • We released a new report, The State of Global Giving by U.S. Foundations: 2011-2015. The report is the latest in a decades-long collaboration between Foundation Center and the Council on Foundations focused on analyzing trends in international grantmaking by U.S. foundations and is the tenth jointly published report since the collaboration began in 1997. In addition to a detailed look at trends by issue area, geographic region, population group, and donor strategy, the analysis also relates these trends to key events and developments, including the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals campaign, the emergence of Ebola in West Africa, repeal of the global gag rule, and the increasing legal restrictions faced by civil society organizations in countries around the world. Check out features in FastCompany and Alliance magazine, and this Slate Money podcast!)
  • Just in time for the midterms, our Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy site has a new look, making it easier to navigate from the funding tool to the IssueLab research collection to a collection of infographics. Check it out at foundationcenter.org.
  • It's Nonprofit Radio Month! The third episode of Nonprofit Radio Month at Foundation Center aired September 21 and was focused on building relationships with family foundations. The episode features Tony Martignetti in conversation with our most popular fundraising expert, Senior Social Sector Librarian Susan Shiroma; Stuart Post, executive director of the Meringoff Family Foundation; and a Meringoff Foundation grantee, Read Alliance executive director Danielle Guindo. Check it out, and join us every Friday in September from 1:00-2:00 pm ET for more Nonprofit Radio.
  • Foundation Center Northeast (NY) will host Arts Month in October, featuring a variety of panels, programs, and networking opportunities for artists and arts organizations.

Content Published

In the News

What We're Excited About

  • Our president, Brad Smith, was named to the 2018 NPT Power & Influence Top 50.
  • CF Insights has launched a new publication on CEO professional development.
  • Foundation Center has a robust portfolio of custom training for organizations (and/or grantees of foundations). Now is the time to invest in building the capacity of your staff/grantees. Email us at fctraining@foundationcenter.org for more info.
  • On September 25, in partnership with GlobalGiving and GuideStar, Foundation Center will launch BRIDGE (Basic Registry of Identified Global Entities) information as open data, making it easier to identify and share information on social sector entities around the world.

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Our staff will be attending these upcoming events:

Services Spotlight

  • 158,719 new grants added to Foundation Maps in August, of which 17,063 grants were made to 2,059 organizations outside the U.S.
  • Update Central is back in Foundation Directory Online Professional! Register for monthly alerts to ensure you're up-to-date on grantmaker leadership changes and new foundations.
  • New data-sharing partners: Bennelong Foundation; Buhl Regional Health Foundation; Community Foundation for Monterey County; Connecticut Health Foundation, Inc.; English Family Foundation; LA84 Foundation; Light a Single Candle Foundation; Perpetual Trustees; SumOfUs; Woodward Hines Education Foundation; and Wyoming Community Foundation. Tell your story through data so we can communicate philanthropy's contribution to making a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.
  • Eighteen new organizations have joined our Funding Information Network in 2018, including the Puerto Rico Science Technology and Research Trust, First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania, and the Roswell Public Library in Georgia.

Data Spotlight

  • As the country gears up for the midterms, we're looking at who's funding U.S. democracy. Did you know that more than 3,000 funders have made grants totaling $1.7 billion in support of civic participation? Learn more at foundationcenter.org.
  • Funders have granted nearly $400,000 in 2018 to organizations working in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda. Learn more about funding for this region at equal-footing.org.
  • We completed custom data searches for the Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership and the Executives’ Alliance for Boys and Men of Color.

If you found this update helpful, feel free to share it or shoot us an email. (And I'm curious: Did you read through to the end? If you did, tweet your favorite Foundation Center resource to @fdncenter with the hashtag #FCLove and you’ll be entered to win some swag!) I'll be back next month with another update.

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center.

Achieving Racial Equity Through Cross-Sector Partnerships

September 20, 2018

Peopleincircle600Mitch Landrieu, the former Mayor of New Orleans and recipient of the 2018 JFK Profiles in Courage Award for his decision to remove four Confederate monuments from that city, noted on accepting the award that "[c]enturies-old wounds are still raw because they were not healed right in the first place. Here is the essential truth. We are better together than we are apart."

Historically, the failure to increase fairness and equity in America through cross- sector collaboration and public-private partnerships represents a complete failure at the "systems level." Fifty years of effort by government, educational and advocacy groups, corporate diversity programs, and consultants, not to mention intense media focus on the issue, have failed to make a substantial impact.

The fact is, tackling racial equity is hard, the structural and policy issues complex. As an African American, the issues of income inequality and progress on the corporate diversity front are of keen interest to me. Seeking to answer the question "What does good enough look like?", I recently spoke with more than two dozen leaders from the nonprofit, government, and business sectors and discovered that there is broad consensus that much more needs to be done to address racial inequity in America.

Public-private partnerships that pool resources and expertise and facilitate broad community support are one way to do that. The decision by Congress to include, as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, $1.6 billion in tax incentives over the next ten years to create Opportunity Zones for private investment in distressed communities is the latest attempt. While the social sector is slowly coming around to the idea that the private sector can be a force good, however, new "playbooks" are required if we hope to see meaningful change.

Unfortunately, the racial inequality debate too often resembles the debate over climate change. Most people concede that the long-term consequences of leaving the problem unaddressed would be devastating, but getting people to agree on the root causes of the problem is impossible. Despite overwhelming evidence of continued discriminatory practices in education, health care, housing, hiring, and the criminal justice system, not to mention the emergence of a field of study focused on the psychology of racial bias, many Americans remain in denial. In fact, in some areas, the data suggest that the problems of discrimination and racial bias are getting worse.

Economic Impacts

In a joint study entitled "The Competitive Advantages of Racial Equity" (32 pages, PDF), FSG and PolicyLink estimated that the elimination of racial wage gaps in the U.S. economy would boost Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by $2 trillion, or 14 percent. In other words, sticking with the status quo represents a huge cost to society.

Similarly, the 2018 edition of the National Urban League’s "State of Black America" report includes an "Equality Index" that measures the status of blacks compared to whites. On a scale of 1 to 100, the 2018 index finds that blacks on average capture 72.5 percent of the American economic pie (compared to 100 percent for whites), earn 58 percent of what whites earn, and have 4 percent of the wealth that whites have.

Continue reading »

A Conversation With Dee Baecher-Brown, President, Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands

September 18, 2018

Scenes of catastrophic flooding caused by Hurricane Florence are a painful reminder of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, one of the deadliest and most destructive on record. After an earlier-than-usual start, the season took a turn for the worst in August when Harvey became the first major hurricane since 2005 to make landfall in the U.S., submerging large swaths of the Houston metro area and southeastern Texas. Then, in September, Irma became the first Category 5 hurricane to impact the northern Leeward Islands, including the U.S. Virgin Islands and Barbuda, which was flattened, before making landfall in the Florida keys with sustained winds of 130 mph. A few weeks later, Maria became the first Category 5 hurricane on record to strike the island of Dominica, causing catastrophic damage there, before striking Puerto Rico and leaving that U.S. territory a shambles.

Recently, PND spoke with Dee Baecher-Brown, president of the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, about the progress made in the year since Irma and Maria pummeled the islands and what donors in a disaster situation can do to balance the urgency of immediate needs with longer-term recovery goals and objectives. A full accounting of the donors who stepped up to help the Virgin Islands in the wake of the hurricanes will be included in CFVI's year-end report.

Headshot_dee_beacher-brownPhilanthropy News Digest: It's been a year since Hurricanes Irma and Maria pummeled the Virgin Islands. Now we’re watching as Florence, another powerful Atlantic hurricane, brings catastrophic flooding to the Carolinas. What are your thoughts as you watch footage of the destruction and displacement caused by Florence?

Dee Baecher-Brown: My first thought is concern. Many of our friends and family are in harm's way, and we're hoping for the best. We don't want anyone to have to experience what the Virgin Islands experienced with Irma and Maria. As the extent of the damage caused by the storm becomes clearer, we just want the folks in the Carolinas to know that we are there for them, because we know firsthand what a difference the outpouring of concern and support in the days immediately following those storms meant to us.

PND: Take us back to weeks just before Irma and Maria hit the Virgin Islands. Was your community as prepared as it could have been?

DBB: You know, that's something we've discussed many times over the course of the last twelve months. Obviously, two category 5 storms in a two-week period was unprecedented, and even though we got a little tired of that word, it does capture something people sometimes forget — namely, that it's hard to prepare for something that hasn't happened before. And the fact that we are small, fairly remote islands in the Caribbean didn't help matters.

That said, I felt CFVI was as prepared as we could have been. We had spent the last twenty-five years supporting the thoughtful, gradual growth of our community, and in terms of our own capacity we had arrived at a point where we had solid financial systems in place and were working with an amazing network of community organizations — organizations that, in my opinion, were key to our being able to help after the storms hit. In September, for example, just days after Maria hit, we were already making grants to our partners, and we were able to do that because we knew who was out there, we knew the kind of work they would be doing, and we knew they needed our support. So, yes, I felt we were as ready as we could be for something that had never happened before.

Continue reading »

Tracking Hurricane Florence Disaster Relief

September 15, 2018

Updated: November 13, 2018 - 11:00 AM ET

After churning across the mid-Atlantic as a major Category 3/4 hurricane, Florence weakened as it neared the U.S. mainland, finally making landfall early Friday morning as a Cat 1, with sustained winds of 100 mph, near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. With a storm surge of more then ten feet reported in some areas of the state, the still-powerful, slow-moving storm was expected to drop biblical amounts of rain and cause extensive flooding across the Carolinas over the weekend. As of Saturday afternoon, Bloomberg was reporting that the storm had already dropped two feet of rain across southeastern North Carolina, "submerging cities...and threatening the large and environmentally precarious hog industry," while knocking out power for hundreds of thousands of people in both North and South Carolina. As of early October, the death toll from the storm had risen to fifty-one.

Foundation Center and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy will be tracking the private institutional response to Florence over the coming days and will post updated totals, dashboard style, here on PhilanTopic. To make sure your company or organization's pledge has been included in the total, or for questions about methodology or sources, please contact Andrew Grabois, manager of corporate philanthropy at Foundation Center.

Florence-from-space

(Photo credit: Reuters)

TOTAL: $54,267,000

Organization Type (pledges and commitments)

Corporate Direct Giving/
Company-Sponsored Foundations
$41,361,000 79 orgs.
Private Foundations $5,500,000 5 orgs.
Public Charities $5,406,000 9 orgs.

Top Recipients (Total Received to Date)

1. Unknown Recipient(s) $15,976,000
2. American Red Cross (national) $10,650,000
3. Hurricane Florence Response Fund
(Foundation for the Carolinas)
$5,100,000
4. WE Care Fund
(Wells Fargo employee assistance fund)
$3,000,000
5. Delivering Good $3,000,000
6. North Carolina Community Foundation Disaster Relief Fund $1,440,000
7. Feeding the Carolinas $1,000,000
8. Good360 $1,000,000
9. United Way Hurricane Florence Recovery Fund $625,000
10. Salvation Army $600,000

Source: Foundation Center & Center for Disaster Philanthropy

Download the Data

Check out Philanthropy News Digest for the latest coverage of
the philanthropic response to Hurricane Florence.

'The House on Henry Street' Exhibition (Part 2)

September 13, 2018

Yesterday, in the first installment of a two-part series, Kathryn Pyle explained how the new "House on Henry Street" exhibition came about. In part two, she talks to the people behind the project about the unique challenges they faced in trying to distill a hundred years of social work and history into a cohesive experience.

HSS_Intro panel"Given our limited resources and the small space, we realized that any attempt to describe the significance of Henry Street Settlement in the late nineteenth century and show its relevance to our time meant that it had to be a multi-platform project," historian and curator Ellen Snyder-Grenier told me when I met with her earlier this summer. "On-site displays of artifacts and text could only tell a limited story. We decided that short films could round out the history and a website could expand the exhibit, breaking down temporal and space limitations."

Keith Ragone, the exhibit designer, recommended creating a 450-square-foot gallery from two smaller rooms on the first floor of the agency’s original townhouse and then "extending" that physical space through the clever device of having two windows looking out onto a late-nineteenth-century streetscape.

Ragone and his collaborators were familiar with the extensive trove of still photographs from that era and selected a number for the exhibit and website, but they also wanted to incorporate moving images into the display. Snyder-Grenier's research led her to the Edison Company films collection at the Library of Congress.

"I was flabbergasted by the extent and scope of the collection," she told me. When she discovered the three-minute film New York City 'ghetto’ fish market, she knew she had found the key element for their "view from the windows."

Another surprise was the Visiting Nurse Service of New York Film Collection, a digitized archive housed at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. The collection includes two hundred VNS promotional films, the earliest made in 1924. Lillian Wald herself appears in one from 1927; it’s in the exhibit and is embedded in a graphic timeline on the website that takes the visitor from the 1910s into the twenty-first century.

Cantos/ New Dances (1957) is a short film featuring the work of choreographer Alwin Nikolais, who established his dance company at the Henry Street Playhouse, later named the Abrons Art Center. Nikolais served for two decades as the artistic director of the center.

"Culture and the arts have been important from the beginning, and the Abrons Art Center has presented some of the most influential artists of our times," said Susan LaRosa, a marketing and communications officer at Henry Street for the past eleven years. "It was important that we acknowledge that, and the Nikolais film highlights one of our pivotal figures."

Continue reading »

'The House on Henry Street' Exhibition (Part 1)

September 12, 2018

HHS_entrance signThe first time, eleven years ago, Susan LaRosa, then a new marketing officer, pulled opened a cabinet drawer in her office at Henry Street Settlement, she discovered some forgotten letters written by the agency's founder, Lillian Wald, and early twentieth-century New York City civic leaders Louis Abrons, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and Jane Addams. The existence of the letters wasn't the surprise — LaRosa knew Wald had attracted many influential New Yorkers to her project. But the discovery made her wonder whether Henry Street's remarkable history was adequately preserved and what lessons that history might have for the present.

The questions her discovery sparked eventually proved to be the catalyst for a new exhibition, opening September 17, that explores the legacy of community through the story of a remarkable institution.

When I learned earlier this year about the upcoming exhibition and its designers' plans to include documentary films, a particular interest of mine, I decided to reach out to LaRosa to learn more about how the exhibition came to be.

Founded in 1893 by Lillian Wald, Henry Street Settlement, located on the Lower East Side of New York City, was one of hundreds of settlement houses that sprang up around the country in the late 1800s, primarily in cities with large, impoverished immigrant populations drawn by the huge demand for labor in a rapidly industrializing United States.

Settlement houses soon became a feature of the Progressive Era, a period of widespread social reform that understood poverty as primarily a social phenomenon rather than a failure of individual character — a distinction that continues to generate debate in our time. Settlement houses typically offered some combination of social services, recreation, education, job training, health care, and arts and culture, all geared toward helping lower-income working people, particularly immigrants, improve their living conditions and economic opportunities. There were once more than four hundred such houses around the country, and many still operate as community resource centers.

With its roots in Wald's original mission to provide visiting nurse services to the indigent on the Lower East Side, today's "Henry Street" serves sixty thousand people at seventeen neighborhood sites and thirty public schools with social services, education, and health care programs, and operates the Abrons Arts Center. A century ago, Wald mobilized support for the agency from wealthy supporters such as Abrons, whose family was among its first clients and whose descendants have continued their involvement with Henry Street up to the present.

Continue reading »

Contributors

Quote of the Week

  • "Ignorance and prejudice are the handmaidens of propaganda. Our mission, therefore, is to confront ignorance with knowledge, bigotry with tolerance, and isolation with the outstretched hand of generosity. Racism can, will, and must be defeated...."

    — Kofi Annan (1938-2018)

Subscribe to Philantopic

Contributors

Guest Contributors

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

Tweets from @PNDBLOG

Follow us »

Archives

Other Blogs

Tags