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30 posts from December 2010

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (December)

December 31, 2010

As we do every month, here's a list of the most popular PhilanTopic posts over the last thirty days. Enjoy. And have a very Happy (and safe) New Year!

What's the best thing you've read/watched/heard this month? Let us know in the comments section below...

Year in Review: People in the News

December 30, 2010

The year opened on a sad note, as philanthropy marked the passing of two prominent matriarchs: Ruth Lilly and Evelyn Haas. But it was also a time to recognize and pay tribute to their amazing generosity in supporting a range of causes.

Lilly, the last surviving great-grandchild of pharmaceutical magnate Eli Lilly, died in January at the age of 94. Over the course of her life, Lilly gave the bulk of an estimated $800 million fortune to a wide variety of causes and organizations, most in her home state of Indiana. But it was her unprecedented $100 million gift to the Modern Poetry Association, the publisher of Poetry magazine, in 2002 that endeared the reclusive Lilly to millions and revealed something deeply personal about her: She was a poet at heart.

Haas, who died in February at the age of 92, was best known for her family's giving in the Bay Area. Through the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, Haas and her husband, the late Walter A. Haas, Jr., gave more than $364 million to hundreds of cultural, civic, and social-service organizations in the area. Haas had a special passion for the arts and served as a longtime trustee of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Arts and the San Francisco Symphony. She also loved the outdoors and served as board director of the World Wildlife Fund in the 1970s and 1980s.

"With her husband, Walter, Evelyn dedicated her life to the least among us, and her passion, generosity, and leadership will be missed," said outgoing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, longtime representative of California's 8th congressional district, which covers most of the City and County of San Francisco. "I will miss her as my neighbor and friend. San Francisco has indeed been blessed by the generosity of Walter and Evelyn Haas and the entire Haas family."

Philanthropy suffered another loss in June, when it was announced that J. Paul Getty Trust president and CEO James N. Wood had died at the age of 69. An internationally recognized leader in the arts, Wood came out of retirement in February 2007 to take the top job at the trust -- the wealthiest institution devoted to the visual arts in the world -- and was instrumental in providing stability and restoring the institution's credibility after a period of internal dissension and upheaval.

In September, John Kluge, who had topped the Forbes 400 list from 1989 to 1991, died at the age of 95. A media pioneer and passionate philanthropist, Kluge's notable gifts included historic Morven Farm, which was valued at $45 million when he donated it to the University of Virginia; more than $100 million to Columbia University for minority scholarships and faculty diversity efforts; and $60 million to the Library of Congress.

A number of sector leaders announced their retirements in 2010. The group included Harriet Zuckerman, senior vice president and director of research universities and the humanistic scholarship program at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Howard Dodson, head of the New York Public Library's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture for the last twenty-six years; Colorado Trust president and CEO Irene Ibarra; Association of Fundraising Professionals president and CEO Paulette Maehara (effective March 2011); New York Philharmonic president Zarin Mehta (after the 2011-12 season); and Nathan Cummings Foundation president and CEO Lance E. Lindblom (effective December 31, 2011).

In addition, several leaders in the sector were appointed to new positions in 2010. In February, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation announced that Rachel Garbow Monroe, former COO of the foundation, had been named president, while Seedco, a national nonprofit that works to advance economic opportunity for people and communities in need, named longtime nonprofit and government leader Barbara Dwyer Gunn as its president and CEO. In April, Jo Ann Jenkins, previously COO of the Library of Congress, was announced as the new president of the AARP Foundation. And in October OMB Watch founder Gary Bass announced that he was leaving the organization to become CEO of the Bauman Family Foundation.

As the year came to a close, Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley tapped a major foundation leader, Chicago Community Trust president and CEO Terry Mazany, to serve as the temporary CEO of the Chicago public school system. Mazany, who will continue to lead the trust while the city seeks a permanent replacement for outgoing CPS chief executive Ron Huberman, has twenty-plus years of experience in urban school reform and has guided the trust's long-standing efforts to improve the quality of public education in the city.


Year in Review: Noteworthy Gifts

Philanthropy-1 For many Americans, 2010 was characterized by continuing economic uncertainty and challenges. It was no surprise, therefore, that charitable giving, even among the mega-wealthy, reflected that uncertainty, with the number of gifts of $100 million or more up only slightly over 2009, when seven such gifts were announced, and way down from 2008, when at least fifteen such gifts were announced.

As they often are, educational institutions were the focus of many of the largest gifts, both eight- and nine-figure. In January, the Lawrenceville School, a four-year co-ed boarding school in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, received a $60 million bequest from the estate of Henry C. Woods, an alumnus, former English teacher, and trustee of the school, and his wife, Janie, for scholarships and other programs. Six weeks later, the first nine-figure gifts of the year were announced by two mid-South institutions of higher education: Oklahoma State University, which received a $100 million challenge gift from energy tycoon and alumnus T. Boone Pickens, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, which received an anonymous $200 million bequest in support of medical research related to aging.

A number of healthcare institutions also received major gifts in the early part of the year. In January, the Burnham Institute for Medical Research in La Jolla, California, announced a five-year, $50 million endowment gift from South Dakota businessman T. Denny Sanford to expand and accelerate the institute's cutting-edge medical research. In April, the University of California, San Diego Health System received $75 million from the family of Joan and Irwin Jacobs for a medical center at the school's La Jolla campus. And in June, UCSF Children's Hospital announced a five-year, $100 million gift from Salesforce.com founder, chairman, and CEO Marc Benioff and his wife, Lynne, to support the construction of a new hospital.

No gift received more attention, however, than the $100 million pledged by Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to launch a foundation that will work closely with Newark mayor Cory Booker to improve the long-troubled public school system in that New Jersey city. The gift was especially noteworthy for being the largest made to-date by the 26-year-old entrepreneur, whose fortune Forbes puts at $6.9 billion, and for being many times larger than any gift ever made to the Newark school system.

Other noteworthy gifts announced in the second half of the year included a $100 million challenge grant from the Open Society Foundations to Human Rights Watch; a $100 million pledge from businessman Henry R. Kravis to Columbia Business School; and $50 million each from Cogent Systems founder Ming Hsieh and the Annenberg Foundation to the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. In addition, Georgetown University received an $87 million bequest from Harry J. and Virginia Toulmin to support medical research at the school, while Cornell University announced an $80 million gift from David and Patricia Atkinson to endow the David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, which they had established with a smaller gift in 2007.

The year came to a close with a bang, as two major arts-focused gifts were announced. In November, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded three grants totaling $50 million to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., for efforts to reach underserved K-12 students, expand research and public programs, and support the design and construction of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is scheduled to open on the Mall in 2015. And toward the end of the month, the National Gallery of Art announced what was the largest gift of the year: a collection of more than two hundred pieces of early American furniture assembled by George M. and Linda H. Kaufman that is estimated to be worth more than $250 million.

Indeed, despite the uncertain economic climate, many well-off individuals were willing to dig deep into their pockets to support nonprofits and the causes they believe in. The Benioffs, for example, increased the size of their gift to UCSF Children's Hospital from the $20 million they initially planned to give to $100 million because of the difficult economy. "I had never really thought about doing a $100 million gift. That was significantly more than anything we'd done before," Marc Benioff told the Wall Street Journal. "We strongly believe in giving back to the San Francisco community that has given so much to us, and where the majority of the employees at Salesforce.com live. Additionally, given the decline in personal philanthropic giving and reduced government funding, we recognize that we need to do more."


Year in Review: Two Steps Forward, One Back for Social Innovation Fund

Sif_billions_cover As the year opened, the $50 million Social Innovation Fund, a White House initiative designed to support innovation in social change work, was viewed as a promising new venture by nonprofit leaders hopeful the Obama administration, having passed healthcare reform and bailed out Wall Street, would turn its attention to the nation's struggling nonprofits. At the same time, many experts were critical of the White House for not adequately funding the effort.

In May, the Corporation for National and Community Service, which houses SIF, announced commitments totaling $45 million over two years from the Open Society Foundations ($10 million), Omidyar Network ($10 million), Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation ($10 million),  Skoll Foundation ($10 million), and Doerr Family Foundation ($5 million) to match SIF grants and/or invest in other innovative community solutions. (Over the summer, it was announced that additional private commitments had been secured, bringing the matching total to $74 million.)

In July, CNCS announced the eleven winners of the inaugural round of SIF grants: Boston-based Jobs for the Future ($7.7 million over two years); the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) ($4.2 million over one year); the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City ($5.7 million over one year); San Francisco-based REDF ($3 million over two years); the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky ($2 million over two years); the Missouri Foundation for Health ($2 million over two years); the National AIDS Fund ($3.6 million over one year); New Profit, Inc. ($5 million over one year); the New York City-based Edna McConnell Clark Foundation ($10 million over one year); D.C.-based Venture Philanthropy Partners ($4 million over two years); and the United Way of Greater Cincinnati ($2 million over two years). Under the rules of the competition, eight of the SIF grantees were to select sub-grantees through a competitive process within six months of receiving their SIF funds.

Although initial concerns about the adequacy of funding for SIF may have been addressed by the willingness of private funders to participate in the effort, the initiative faced scrutiny of a different sort when, following the July grant announcement, the nonprofit press raised questions about the award to New Profit, Inc., a Massachusetts-based venture philanthropy fund that previously had employed SIF's executive director, Paul Carttar, in an executive position. As nonprofit bloggers rushed to attack or defend the fund and the process used to select its inaugural grantees, it was revealed that Carttar had recused himself from the process at the outset.

Nevertheless, questions about transparency and conflicts of interest lingered into the fall, when the New York Times reported that the inspector general charged with oversight of the Corporation for National and Community Service would audit the fund's selection process. According to the Times, the audit, which CNCS had requested, could lead to recommendations for changes in how SIF distributes funds it receives from Congress.

By year's end, it seemed as if the fund's critics and supporters had agreed to a temporary truce. And as Billions of Drops in Millions of Buckets author Steve Goldberg argued, when all is said and done it may come down to the investigation being "yet another case where a responsible government agency is trying to do the right thing in the way that it manages taxpayer money."

Update (1/10/11): An earlier version of this post stated that, in May, CNCS announced  matching commitments to SIF totaling $50 million, including $5 million from "a consortium of twenty national and regional funders led by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations." That was inaccurate. What CNCS in fact announced in May was a total commitment of $45 million over two years from five private foudations to match SIF grants and/or invest in other innovative community solutions.

The May 27 CNCS press release also noted that an independent consortium of more than twenty national and regional funders led by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations had "come together to invest almost $5 million in the 'Scaling What Works' initiative, to provide complementary funding for key initiatives to build the infrastructure needed for the long-term success of the SIF [sic]."

That language wasn't as clear as it could have been. As our colleagues at GEO pointed out in an e-mail earlier today, Scaling What Works was launched last year with the support of an independent coalition of twenty-two funders who contributed a total of $4.65 million "to expand the number of grantmakers and public sector funders across the country that are prepared to partner with each other and promising nonprofits as they grow their impact." More importantly, while the initiative's goals complement those of the Social Innovation Fund, it is an autonomous project of GEO -- albeit one "eager to support collaborative learning and action among the organizations that directly participate in the Social Innovation Fund, and between these organizations and the broader field of grantmakers."

We regret the error.


Year in Review: Microfinance Experiences Growing Pains

Microfinance-women It was a year characterized by change, and controversy, in the world of microfinance.

In January, microfinance institutions (MFIs) were put to the test when a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, leaving millions of people homeless and countless livelihoods shattered. In a country where, pre-earthquake, 80 percent of residents lived on less than $2 a day, MFIs have always been important as "banks to the poor," and have always faced challenges. After the quake, however, they provided an indispensable lifeline to millions of people trying to rebuild their lives and businesses, even as the financial health of many became as precarious as that of the customers they serve.

Indeed, in the year since the quake, the share of microcredit clients in Haiti who have defaulted or are at risk of defaulting has more than doubled, to 18 percent (compared with the international rate of almost 3 percent), while fully a quarter of the $38 million in microcredit loans outstanding could end up in default. And with only a third of the $6 billion pledged for reconstruction efforts at a United Nations donors conference in March having been committed to specific projects, coupled with fresh travails like the recent cholera outbreak and post-election violence, MFIs in Haiti will continue to be challenged.

Elsewhere, MFIs experimented with new approaches, often funded by foundation and corporate dollars. In January, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded a total of $38 million to eighteen MFIs to make savings accounts available to the rural poor in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, while in February the Grameen Foundation announced a three-year, $3 million grant from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation to expand its program to increase microfinance volunteerism among senior working professionals.

That same month, Global Partnerships, which provides capital and expertise to "social enterprise" MFIs, announced that it had launched a modest expansion into Mexico, where lack of competition had kept microfinance interest rates high, while Grameen announced an effort to better target poor clients in Mali and Senegal.

By mid-year, however, many longtime proponents of microfinance had begun to lament the growing commercialization of the field, as a number of for-profit banks began to take advantage of market discontinuities to charge exorbitant interest rates and impose steep fees on clients. Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus, widely credited with developing the microcredit concept, even argued that microcredit interest rates should be no more than 15 percent above the cost of capital — a "test" that 75 percent of MFIs worldwide would fail, according to data from the Microfinance Information Exchange.

The profits-versus-altruism debate heated up over the summer, when one of the world's largest microlenders, India-based SKS Microfinance, went public, raising $358 million. Eyebrows were raised when it was revealed that the company's founder, Vikram Akula, and other investors, including a number of prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalists, stood to profit handsomely from the IPO. Also embroiled in the controversy was Seattle-based Unitus, an international nonprofit that works to accelerate the growth of microfinance. In July, the organization, whose stake in SKS was worth millions after the IPO, shocked the nonprofit community when it announced it was laying off its forty-person staff and exiting the microfinance field. The announcement led many to question the motives of the organization's board members, at least four of whom had invested personally in SKS and stood to realize sizable profits from its going public.

By the end of the year, reports started to emerge that Indian microfinance institutions were facing many of the same difficulties as struggling MFIs in Haiti. Indeed, in November it was reported that almost all borrowers in Andhra Pradesh, one of the country's largest states, had stopped repaying their loans — egged on by local politicians who accused the microcredit industry in India of profiting on the backs of the poor. The SKS public offering and for-profit MFIs charging sky-high interest rates helped fuel public outrage, and by year's end legislators had passed a law that restricts how companies can lend and collect money.

"We created microcredit to fight the loan sharks; we didn't create microcredit to encourage new loan sharks," Yunus told a group of financial officials at the United Nations back in the spring. "Microcredit should be seen as an opportunity to help people get out of poverty in a business way, but not as an opportunity to make money out of poor people."


Year in Review: 'Giving Pledge' Off to Fast Start

December 29, 2010

Givingpledge Although few people had heard of it before June, the Giving Pledge campaign launched by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates generated enough discussion -- pro, con, and in between -- over the next five months to make it one of the top philanthropic stories of 2010.

Conceived over the course of a year by Buffett and the Gateses, the campaign was unveiled to the public in a June Fortune magazine article in which the billionaire philanthropists laid out their plan to encourage the nation's wealthiest individuals to give at least half their fortunes to charity, either during their lifetimes or at death.

The first phase of the campaign targeted individuals on the Forbes 400 -- an annual list compiled by Forbes magazine of the four hundred wealthiest Americans. In 2009, individuals on the list had a combined net worth of roughly $1.2 trillion. Were every member of the list to sign the pledge -- which, as Buffett and Gates noted at every opportunity, is a moral rather than a legal commitment to give -- it would translate into an extra $600 billion for charitable causes. With total U.S. charitable giving surpassing $300 billion in each of the previous three years, many were quick to label the campaign one of the most important developments in philanthropy in decades. Others were more skeptical, noting that the short-term impact of the campaign was likely to be modest -- in part because many of those signing the pledge already were well-established philanthropists whose giving wasn't likely to increase in a significant way as a result of their participation.

Six weeks after the campaign was unveiled to the public, the first cohort of Giving Pledge signatories -- forty in all -- was announced. It included Los Angeles businessman and philanthropist Eli Broad and his wife, Edythe; Oracle Corporation co-founder and CEO Larry Ellison; Hilton Hotels co-chairman Barron Hilton; Business Wire founder Lorry I. Lokey; filmmaker George Lucas; eBay founder and chairman Pierre Omidyar and his wife, Pam; former eBay president Jeff Skoll; media tycoon Ted Turner; and New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. In August, Buffett publicly stated that he was thrilled by the response and praised many who had signed on for committing "to sums far greater than the 50 percent minimum level."

With the campaign well launched, Buffett and the Gateses set their sights on other countries, in particular emerging economic powerhouses such as China and India whose economies are growing rapidly and generating enormous wealth. In October, Buffett and Bill Gates traveled to China -- second only to the United States in the number of individuals with a net worth of at least a billion dollars. Despite press accounts of meeting invitations unopened and widespread confusion over the purpose of their trip, the two Americans managed to meet with fifty or so Chinese tycoons to discuss philanthropy and pronounced the trip a success.

Meanwhile, back home, another seventeen individuals and families had signed on to the pledge by early December. They included America Online founder Steve Case and his wife, Jean; Wall Street financier Carl Icahn; and Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg -- at 26 the youngest person, by a significant margin, to sign the pledge so far. "People wait until late in their career to give back. But why wait when there is so much to be done?" Zuckerberg said in announcing his participation in the effort. "With a generation of younger folks who have thrived on the success of their companies, there is a big opportunity for many of us to give back earlier in our lifetime and see the impact of our philanthropic efforts."

Philanthrocapitalism co-authors Matthew Bishop and Michael Green, vocal supporters of the campaign, agreed. Writing on their blog in December, Bishop and Green said that billionaires who signed the pledge should turn their attention quickly to what they planned to do with the money they had committed, adding, "The sooner that conversation begins, the better."

Whether he agreed or not, Gates, ever the ambitious visionary, expressed his hope toward the end of the year that the campaign would not only increase philanthropic giving in the U.S. and around the world, but that it would improve the practice of philanthropy as well. "We will never be able to measure how much the group gets people to do more giving or do it in a better way," Gates told the New York Times. "However, I think the impact is likely to be quite positive."


Year in Review: Gulf Coast Oil Spill Tops List of Environmental Concerns

Deepwater_pelican_profile Climate change, deforestation, species loss
-- all took a back seat, for a few months at least, to the biggest environmental story of the year, the disastrous explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20 and subsequent discharge of oil. Before it was capped in mid-July, the deep-sea gusher pumped more than two hundred million gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico -- the worst oil spill in U.S. history -- wreaking havoc on the region's fishing and tourism industries and threatening long-term damage to the region's fragile ecosystems.

Not that the news on the environmental front was all that bright before the Deepwater blowout. In February, a report from the Pew Environment Group suggested that rapid melting of Arctic snow and sea ice could cost the world a minimum of $2.4 trillion by 2050. The urgency of the global warming problem was underscored later in the month when the Boston-based Barr Foundation, New England's largest private foundation, pledged $50 million over five years to help make the metro Boston region a national leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And in July, the New York City-based Ford Foundation made an even larger climate change commitment, pledging $85 million over five years to help rural and indigenous people play a more active role in the stewardship of the natural resources around them and ensure that future global climate change initiatives addressed their needs.

Still, the BP spill dominated headlines for the better part of the year -- which made the lackluster charitable response that followed in its aftermath all the more surprising. Community foundations in the region were among the first to respond, with the Greater New Orleans Foundation establishing a Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund in early May to support those in the fishing and tourism industries affected by the disaster, while the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice made an early grant to support a Florida marine laboratory monitoring the Gulf's marine life. But six weeks after the explosion, only $4 million had been donated to relief and recovery efforts (compared with the more than $580 million contributed within eight days of Hurricane Katrina's landfall).

A number of corporations eventually did step up with significant donations of cash and/or in-kind goods. They included Pepsi, which contributed $1.3 million through its Pepsi Refresh Project to nonprofits proving support and assistance to people in the Gulf Coast region; Chevron, which gave $750,000 to the National Audubon Society; and BP, which gave $25 million to three research institutions working in the Gulf. In addition, the nonprofit X Prize Foundation launched a $1.4 million competition, the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge, to encourage the development of solutions to cleaning up oil spills.

If the BP spill overshadowed most other environmental efforts in 2010, it also served, as William Meadows, president of the Wilderness Society, said in June after his organization received a three-year grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, as "a tragic reminder of why the transition to renewable energy is so essential."

Meadows was hardly alone in holding that view. In October, David and Patricia Atkinson pledged $80 million to Cornell University to endow the Center for a Sustainable Future they had created on campus in 2007. "The environment, energy, and economic development are heavily interrelated; problems of sustainability can only be addressed with a multidisciplinary approach," said Atkinson, a retired general partner of Philadelphia-based Miller, Anderson, & Sherrerd LLP. "As the pressures of rapid population growth take hold, to avoid a crisis it's important to address issues of sustainability preemptively."


A 'Flip' Chat With...Brad Smith, President, Foundation Center

December 28, 2010

(This is the twelfth in our series of conversations with thought leaders in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. You can check out other videos in the series here, including our previous chat with Lesley Chilcott, producer of Waiting for 'Superman'.)

For our final 'Flip' chat of the year, we asked Foundation Center president Brad Smith to share his thoughts on a few of the most important topics of 2010 –- the slow economic recovery and its impact on giving, the Giving Pledge campaign, and the meaning of transparency in a philanthropic context.

In the second video -- we decided to split the Q&A into two parts -- Brad discusses five trends that are likely to change philanthropy over the next decade. Enjoy!

(If you're reading this in an e-mail, click here.)

(Running time: 5 minutes, 35 seconds)


(Running time: 5 minutes, 19 seconds)

What do you think? Do you agree with Brad's predictions? Any you would add or challenge? Let us know in the comments section below....

-- Regina Mahone

Year in Review: Race to the Top and Education Reform

December 27, 2010

Change_sign The battle over healthcare reform early in the year and then the buildup to the midterm elections overshadowed one of the Obama administration's more ambitious goals in 2010: furthering efforts to reform America's struggling public education system.

Headed by former Chicago Public Schools chief Arne Duncan, the U.S. Department of Education kicked off the year with two major announcements: a $250 million public-private expansion of the Educate to Innovate program, which aims to boost learning and achievement in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields; and, a few weeks later, a proposed $1.35 billion expansion of its signature Race to the Top program, a comprehensive effort, backed by a $4.35 billion investment, "to incentivize excellence, spur reform, and promote the adoption and use of effective policies and practices" in the nation's public school systems. In March, sixteen finalists from a pool of forty-six states and the District of Columbia were announced in the first round of the competition, followed, a few weeks later, by an announcement of the first two states to receive grants: Delaware ($100 million) and Tennessee ($500 million).

Those announcements were followed, in August, by news that grants totaling more than $3.2 billion had been awarded to an additional nine states -- Florida ($700 million), New York ($700 million), Georgia ($400 million), Maryland ($400 million), North Carolina ($400 million), Ohio ($400 million), Massachusetts ($250 million), Hawaii ($75 million), and Rhode Island ($75 million) -- as well as Washington, D.C. ($75 million), leading Duncan to declare the first year of the program a success. However, an issue brief published by the Foundation Center in June as part of the Foundations for Education Excellence initiative argued that the future success of Race to the Top would depend, in no small measure, on the federal government's willingness to include private grantmakers in the development of education reform policies and on grantmakers committing to being engaged, long-term partners in the process.

Indeed by then, a coalition of private foundations had already announced its intention to invest up to half a billion dollars in education reform efforts, with some of that money designated to match funds from the Department of Education's $650 million Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund, which provides grants to local agencies, nonprofits, and school districts with a demonstrated record of improving student achievement, reducing dropout rates, increasing high school graduation rates, and/or increasing college enrollment and completion rates. The foundations involved in the effort -- the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Lumina, Casey, GatesMott, Ford, MacArthur, and Kellogg foundations -- also joined forces to create the Foundation Registry i3, an Internet portal where education reform groups could apply for matching funds from coalition partners in a single step.

"Much of what Secretary Duncan is currently addressing at the department builds on existing foundation investments in education," said Carnegie Corporation president Vartan Gregorian. "As such, the twelve foundations realized this is a significant moment to seriously advance student learning so that all of our young people are prepared to succeed in a global economy and for citizenship in a complex world. It was time to maximize our collective efforts."

No review of the year in education philanthropy would be complete without mention of Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, two of America's most successful technologists and respected "philanthrocapitalists."

In September, the 26-year-old Zuckerberg, the nation's youngest billionaire, announced a $100 million matching gift to establish a foundation dedicated to supporting reform efforts in Newark, New Jersey's long-troubled public school system, while Gates, the country's wealthiest individual, continued, largely through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to be a major supporter of education reform at the elementary, secondary, and higher education levels.

Indeed, as the year came to a close, Gates, in remarks to the Council of Chief State School Officers, called on the nation's state education superintendents to take the difficult steps needed to restructure their public education budgets, which have been battered by the economic downturn. "Our best chance to change budgets starts now," Gates told those in attendance. "Your appropriations committees will see the state school budgets and ask you to show them an easy way out. I think you can tell them -- 'there is a way out, but it's not easy'. You can lead this change, but you can't be expected to do it alone. You'll need friends in business and philanthropy to stand with you. You can count on me….The design of our schools, the way we teach, the way we budget -- has kept so much human energy locked up inside. Let's unleash it."


Year in Review: Economy Continues to Challenge

December 26, 2010

Econ_crisis Although it was announced in September that the Great Recession officially ended in June 2009, nonprofits and foundations -- not to mention millions of Americans -- continued to be challenged by an uncertain economy in 2010.

With the unemployment rate edging close to 10 percent and underemployment running at 17 percent, it was no surprise that demand for emergency assistance continued to grow during the year. A February report from Feeding America found that the number of Americans seeking emergency food assistance had increased 46 percent since 2006, while an April report from the Pew Economic Policy Group found that 23 percent of unemployed Americans had been jobless for a year or more -- the highest rate since World War II. Human service providers were further challenged by widespread and serious problems with government contracts and grants, an October report from the Urban Institute found.

The perfect economic storm of 2009 continued to vex nonprofits in 2010, causing many to seek mergers and alliances while forcing others to lay off staff, make service cuts, and/or look for other ways to tighten their belts. "We expect 2010 to be another treacherous year for many nonprofits that routinely take heroic measures to meet demand for services," said Nonprofit Finance Fund president and CEO Clara Miller in March. "While the 'coping mechanisms' we're seeing are encouraging, we also need to make fundamental changes to the way the sector is financed."

Whether grantmakers were doing enough to help nonprofits and the sector in the wake of the downturn was an increasingly contentious topic as the stock market moved off its 2009 lows and endowment values began to recover. A May report from the Philanthropic Collaborative argued that U.S. foundations had been flexible, targeted, and quick to act in response to the crisis, while a June report from the Center for Effective Philanthropy suggested that a significant percentage of nonprofits believed that foundations had provided insufficient communication and little in the way of useful help to them in response to the downturn.

Despite the continuing challenges confronting the sector, the second half of the year offered signs of hope. A September report from the Fiscal Policy Institute found evidence of job growth, if not robust economic recovery, in New York State, one of the most economically challenged states in the country, while a number of media outlets (including Philanthropy News Digest) reported in November that, for the first time in two years, nonprofit online job boards had seen a jump in the number of postings, signaling a possible improvement in the nonprofit job market.

Meanwhile, a November research advisory from the Foundation Center found that while it may take several years for foundation giving to return to levels it hit in the middle of the decade, giving should rebound slightly next year after being flat in 2010. "The foundation community is adapting in our dramatically changed environment," said Steven Lawrence, the center's director of research and author of the advisory. "Even though the 2010 economy has been anything but predictable, foundations are working with greater efficiency, holding their giving steady, and a number are planning for growth."


Year in Review: Disasters in Haiti, Pakistan Spur Divergent Aid Response

As we have for the last eight years, we'll be looking back this coming week on the year in philanthropy that was. But this year we're adding a wrinkle and will be sharing individual pieces with our PhilanTopic readers in advance. Our first story looks at the two major natural disasters, in Haiti and Pakistan, that occurred in 2010 -- and the divergent responses mounted in their wake. Let us know if we missed anything.


Haiti_presidential_palace The year got off to a dreadful start when, barely two weeks in, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck near Haiti's impoverished capital of Port-au-Prince, killing an estimated 220,000 people, injuring 300,000 more, and leaving 1.5 million people homeless in a country that was already the poorest in the Western hemisphere.

The global response to the disaster was swift, as donor governments, multinational corporations, and humanitarian organizations pledged hundreds of millions of dollars within days of the quake. Notable early commitments included $100 million each from the World Bank; $10 million from the United Kingdom; and $4 million from the Open Society Institute. Individual donors also gave generously to disaster relief efforts, taking advantage of still-young social media and mobile messaging platforms to contribute to international aid and humanitarian organizations, which raised record sums of money in a short period of time. Within three days of the quake, for example, the American Red Cross had raised $37 million for relief efforts in Haiti -- $8 million of that via a text message campaign.

Even as commitments of assistance poured in, international aid workers struggled to reach survivors with food, shelter, and medical care. But as frustration levels among survivors and aid workers mounted, aid groups began to criticize donor nations for releasing pledged funds too slowly. While more than $5.3 billion had been committed by the world's governments by midsummer, including $900 million from the United States, only a third of that had been spent by November.

Indeed, as the international community began to turn its attention to long-term rebuilding efforts, major immediate challenges remained. By year's end, tens of thousands of survivors were still living in tents, medical services remained limited, and Port-au-Prince was littered with rubble. Complicating the situation, long-held fears of a major disease outbreak became a reality in November when cholera claimed the lives of at least a thousand people. In response, the William J. Clinton Foundation pledged an extra $2 million, much of that to address the cholera outbreak, while the U.S. government committed an additional $120 million to recovery efforts.

In stark contrast to the earthquake in Haiti, the Indus River flooding that devastated a large swath of Pakistan beginning in July generated a relatively tepid response from individual donors and the global aid community. Whether because of Pakistan's physical distance from Europe and North America, the problematic security situation in the country, or the relatively low number of casualties, far less money was raised for relief and recovery efforts there. The flooding was a major catastrophe, however, obliterating villages and infrastructure, destroying millions of hectares of crops, killing countless head of livestock, and upending the lives of some twenty million people -- more than the number of fatalities recorded in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 earthquake in Kashmir, and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti -- combined. In August, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon characterized the crisis as a "slow-motion tsunami" and called on donors to respond to "one of the greatest tests of global solidarity in our times."

Nearly a month after the flooding began, however, only half the $460 million in emergency funding called for by the UN had been raised. And despite a pickup in support from Muslim countries, organizations, and individuals toward year's end, the response from the global community came nowhere close to matching the estimated $43 billion hit suffered by the country's economy.


2010: The Year in Review

Pnd_year_review_2010 The year opened on a horrific note, with a January earthquake in Haiti killing an estimated 250,000 people and leaving millions more homeless. While international aid and humanitarian groups rushed to provide assistance, the scale of the destruction, logistical bottlenecks, and bureaucratic red tape seemed to defeat their best efforts. Indeed, by year's end, the situation on the ground had improved only marginally, underscoring yet again the challenges associated with coordinating and sustaining long-term recovery efforts in poor (and poorly governed) countries.

Just a few months later, bad news from Haiti was crowded out by news of a second disaster, this time in the Gulf of Mexico, where BP's Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank in April. As underwater cameras broadcast live video of the busted well spewing crude into the Gulf at the rate of 50,000 barrels a day, BP and the federal government scrambled to contain the damage. It wasn't until mid-July -- too late for the region's fishing and tourism industries -- that they succeeded in capping the well, but even as the UK-based oil giant pledged tens of millions to clean up the mess and make reparations, the long-term environmental impact of the worst marine oil spill in the history of the industry remained an open question.

As if to confirm the old saying that bad things happen in threes, heavy monsoon rains in Pakistan in July coupled with large-scale deforestation in the Himalayan foothills soon led to unprecedented flooding in the world's sixth-most populous country. As the floodwaters rose throughout the month of August, eventually destroying millions of hectares of crops and upending the lives of some twenty million people, the United Nations moved to mount a relief effort. But whether because of Pakistan's distance from Europe and North America, the problematic security situation in the country, or the relatively low number of casualties, donors in the developed world for the most part responded with expressions of sympathy and turned their attention elsewhere.

On a more upbeat note, a campaign by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates to get billionaires on the Forbes 400 list to pledge half their wealth to charity met with surprising success; a White House initiative to identify and leverage support for innovative social problems was launched and, after a stumble or two, gained its footing; and the U.S. economy continued to recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Before we close the books on 2010, the editors of PND look back at some of the important philanthropic stories and personalities of the year just passed.

This Week in PubHub: Impact Investing

December 21, 2010

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center's online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her last post, she looked at nine reports on the topic of funder collaboratives.)

As part of our year-end survey of foundation practices and trends, this week PubHub is featuring reports about impact investing -- also called mission-related investments -- as one way of leveraging private capital to address social and environmental issues.

What does the current impacting investing landscape look like from a financial market point of view? According to Impact Investments: An Emerging Asset Class, a new report from JPMorgan Chase, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Global Impact Investing Network, impact investing -- defined as investments that seek to generate positive impact beyond financial return more proactively than socially responsible investments -- is at an inflection point. With a range of investors, from philanthropic organizations to financial institutions to wealthy individuals, having adopted the approach, impact investments are now viewed as an asset class requiring a unique set of investment and risk management skills, organizational structures, industry associations, and education, not to mention standardized metrics and benchmarks. A recent survey also found that new impact investors increasingly expect risk-adjusted returns that compete with traditional investments and do not believe they need to sacrifice financial return in exchange for social impact. The report puts the global value of such investments at $400 billion to $1 trillion over the next ten years in the areas of housing, rural water delivery, maternal health, primary education, and financial services.

The classification and benchmarking of impact investments may boost interest among individual donors, who cite the immaturity of the market as a key barrier in a recent survey by Hope Consulting. The report, Money for Good: The US Market for Impact Investments and Charitable Gifts From Individual Donors and Investors, also found that half the market opportunity is for smaller investments under $25,000 and that investors are more concerned about downside risk than upside returns; and that only 10 percent of the dollars allocated to impact investing would be "cannibalized" from donors' charitable giving. To unlock impact investing's market potential of impact investing, however, the authors suggest that more clarity, awareness, and information targeting financial advisors is needed.

Maximizing Impact: An Integrated Strategy for Grantmaking and Mission Investing in Climate Change, a report from FSG Social Impact Advisors, explores how foundations can link their grants with their impact investments. The report illustrates how, for example, a foundation might use its conventional stock portfolio to reduce global carbon emissions through shareholder advocacy, purchase conservation land easements as a subsidized investment, or guarantee initial losses on a transformative investment fund that finances the installation of energy-saving equipment with future utility bill savings -- while continuing to award grants for climate change advocacy and research. Indeed, only by including mission-related investments in the mix, the report argues, can a foundation address the many dimensions of a complex issue like climate change.

Though not specifically about impact investing, Caring to Change proposes a related approach in its report Foundations for the Common Good: Foundations will be more effective in advancing their own missions when they base their grantmaking on basic universal values such as diversity and equal opportunity. The report's authors call on foundations to analyze their role in advancing an issue, bring people and organizations together to work for the common good, and seek synergies across program and issue areas.

What benefits -- or risks -- do you see in impact investing? Know of any examples of investments that are making a significant social impact without sacrificing financial returns? We'd love to hear about them. 

And don't forget to visit PubHub, where you can browse hundreds of publications on a range of philanthropy-related topics.

-- Kyoko Uchida

Estate Tax and Charitable Giving

December 20, 2010

The estate tax, which was allowed by Congress to expire in 2010, will return in 2011 -- at a much lower rate than the one in effect at the beginning of the decade. Under the eleventh-hour deal struck by Congress and the White House, the rate in 2011 will be 35 percent -- down from 45 percent in 2009 and the 55 percent rate that prevailed in 2001 -- while the individual exemption for estates subject to the tax will jump to $5 million ($10 million for couples), up from $1 million earlier in the decade.

According to the New York Times, less than one-half of 1 percent of those who die in 2011 will be subject to the tax, in contrast to the 10.5 percent who paid it in 1977. What's more, the deal agreed to by Congress and the White House is only in effect for two years, which means we'll be right back where we were a couple of months ago, debating tax "increases" and "cuts" -- during an election cycle, no less -- before we know it.

So what ;are the implications of the estate tax deal for charitable giving over the next two years? Will the total value of charitable bequests continue to fall, as ;it did in 2009, level off, or start to rise when (and if) the economy recovers? Will family foundation formation slow, or will it continue along the rising trajectory it has followed for the last decade or so? And what does the continued concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands portend for the economically battered nonprofit sector?


Weekend Link Roundup (December 18 - 19, 2010)

December 19, 2010

Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....


OGS_TimeofYear Network for Good's Katya Andresen reminds nonprofit fundraisers and marketers to be extra good as 2010 comes to a close, because, as the organization's new Online Giving Study shows, more than 20 percent of all online giving happens in the last forty-eight hours of the calendar year.


On the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy blog, Aaron Dorfman explains why the Nathan Cummings Foundation's recent white paper on shareholder activism is one of "the very best publications release[d] this fall."


"In the quest for transparency, it is important for foundations to refrain from selecting certain indicators simply because they are easily quantifiable," writes Center for Effective Philanthropy vice president for research Ellie Buteau on the Foundation Center's new Transparency Talk blog. "Rather, foundations must commit to having the difficult conversations and doing the soul searching required to get clear on what they are trying to achieve -- and how -- before they can begin to consider measuring success...."

Nonprofit Management

As part of the Case Foundation's new blog series on "accidental entrepreneurs," Sokunthea Sa Chhabra shares advice offered by AnyClip.com CEO Nate Westheimer in a recent presentation detailing how anyone can launch a nonprofit for less than $60.


Philanthropy 2173 blogger Lucy Bernholz looks into her crystal ball and shares her best guesses as to what philanthropy will look a decade from now. According to Bernholz, by 2020:

  • Philanthropy will be operating under a fundamentally different set of rules;
  • More spend-down foundations will have been created;
  • Gaming and game pedagogy will be built in to philanthropic problem solving;
  • Disaster relief giving will be more structured and planned;
  • The value of impact investing will surpass that of charitable giving;
  • Institutional philanthropy will be more collaborative;
  • Data analysis and visualization will be key skills for philanthropists;
  • Foundations and nonprofits will still be here;
  • Giving by mobile phone will replace credit-card donations;
  • "Scale" will be less associated with "getting bigger" and have more to do with being "networked."

In a two-part series on the Philanthrocapitalism blog (here and here), Matthew Bishop and Michael Green share their favorite nonprofit books of the year. Their respective lists include Stephen Goldsmith's The Power of Innovation: How Civic Entrepeneurs Ignite Community Networks for Good; Arianna Huffington's Third World America: How Our Politicians Are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream; and Peter Buffett's Life Is what You Make It: Find Your Own Path to Fulfillment.

And in this video on The Economist Web site, Matthew Bishop shares his predictions for philanthropy in 2011.

Social Media

Over at the Huffington Post, Beth Kanter pushes back against some of the points in a recent George Weiner post about "the pitfalls of crowdsourced philanthropy."

And Kanter's Zoetica colleague, Geoff Livingston, gives props to Facebook's PR department for "their masterful (and somewhat annoying) job" of creating the "Facebook Effect" -- the domino-like phenomenon that unfolds whenever Facebook has a new announcement; their news, says Livingston, "essentially derails the entire communications social Web conversation for hours or even days."

That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at rnm@foundationcenter.org and have a great week!

-- Regina Mahone

Quote of the Week

  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."

    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

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