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17 posts from April 2012

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (April 2012)

April 30, 2012

Two terrific Q&As, two posts by our favorite story expert Thaler Pekar, and a nice post by frequent contributor Laura Cronin -- just some of the great content featured on PhilanTopic in April:

What have you been reading/watching/listening to lately?


Weekend Link Roundup (April 28-29, 2012)

April 29, 2012

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


Responding to news that "Covering the Night," Invisible Children's offline event in support of its KONY 2012 campaign, was less than a rousing success, Allison Fine writes on her blog that the organization failed to attract widespread support because it "overlooked a fundamental tenant of networked activism: do what you do best and network the rest." Adds Fine:

Invisible Children has spent years honing its expertise in online organizing. And it showed in the initial outburst of support associated with the video and [the fact that] tens of thousands of people signed up to participate [in] Cover the Night....I think [the event] fizzled because on land organizing is simply not what Invisible Children does best. A better approach would have been to partner with an organization with the core competency of on land organizing, a group like Oxfam perhaps...."

In a guest post on the Communication Network's blog, Spitfire Strategies senior vice president Erin Campbell Boltz and former Greenpeace USA executive director John Passacantando offer a checklist for nonprofits that are planning issue campaigns. Their recommendations include: set a clear goal, know the opposition and arm yourselves to face them, play to your strengths, and engage the right coalition partners. Developed by Spitfire and the Communications Leadership Institute with funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Just Enough Planning Guide provides an interactive step-by-step framework for mapping out a public advocacy campaign strategy.


Courtesy of the Browser, MIT economics professor Daron Acemoglu, co-author (with James Robinson) of the book Why Nations Fail, discusses four books and one paper that explain how and why the United States and other Western societies have become less equal over the last thirty years and what it means for the future.


"The charitable marketplace is consumed with big talk about the need for transparency, yet many nonprofits, along with their boards and their funders, operate with their heads in the sand," writes Todd Cohen on his Inside Philanthropy blog. "If nonprofits, boards, and funders do not wake up soon, nonprofits will continue to struggle, leaving as victims the clients who count on them to provide the programs and services they need more than ever in our shattered economy...."


Guest blogging at Beth's Blog, Laura Quinn and Chris Bernard of Idealware share a case study included in the report Unleashing Innovation: Using Everyday Technology to Improve Nonprofit Services that demonstrates how technology can spur innovation and improve service delivery.


In a long piece on the National Education Association site, Alison R. Bernstein, director of the Institute for Women's Leadership and a former vice president at the Ford Foundation, looks at the growing corporatization of philanthropy -- and doesn't much like what she sees. Writes Bernstein:

Corporatization is important because it is rapidly becoming the preferred way of doing the "business" of grant making and it is influencing both new and older foundations, large and small, in ways that I believe may undermine the diversity of the philanthropic world. Just to put all of this in context: there are approximately 72,000 foundations in the U.S., half of which have been created in the last 30 years. This explosive growth in philanthropy is proof that numerous individuals got very rich during the Reagan Revolution. In looking for models of how to give away money, more and more corporate givers, family foundations, and community trusts are modeling themselves along the lines of Gates, not Ford or Mellon. The question is why? Why do they think Gates is a more effective model? Why is large-scale grantmaking intrinsically better than carefully scaled efforts to make a difference? Why are leaders and practices from the corporate sector preferable to those of the nonprofit sector? Why are phrases like "strategic grantmaking" dominating the discourse of the day? (Parenthetically, would anyone proudly claim to be an unstrategic donor?) And where is evidence that this is happening?...

On the White Courtesy Telephone blog, Greater New Orleans Foundation president/CEO Albert Ruesga proposes a set of principles that would govern the way progressive funders collaborate so as to strengthen their collective efforts. Inspired by the Sullivan Principles, which were adopted voluntarily by more than a hundred companies with operations in apartheid-era South Africa, Ruesga's principles include: the Do 'With' Rather Than 'To' Principle; the Maximize Coordination Principle; the Drop Everything Else You're Doing Principle; the Get the Money Out of Politics Principle; the Everything Is Connected Principle; and the Empowerment Principle. With the hope that his post sparks an actual conversation, Ruesga writes, "I see the development of these principles as much more than another idle flipchart exercise."

Manwhile, over on NCRP's Keeing a Close Eye blog, Niki Jagpal commends Ruesga for his post and adds two principles to his list:

  • The provision of unencumbered long-term support -- i.e., core support of sufficient duration to address pressing social needs.
  • Bolstering the capacity of our (limited) think tanks because conservative funders have succeeded at moving a policy agenda by funding similar institutions that feed policy to the Hill.

In a recent Forbes article, Rahim Kanani interviews Rockefeller Foundation president Judith Rodin about the foundation's centennial celebrations and how the foundation views its anniversary as a critical opportunity to raise the effectiveness of its work and advance solutions to pressing global challenges.

On Health Affairs' GrantWatch Blog, Tom David challenges foundations to take the information shared at their annual conferences and networking events -- many of which are held in the spring -- and "actually go out and make them happen." Writes David:

Whether it's collective impact or impact investing or whatever the big idea of the moment is, considerable buzz is generated [at these events], blog posts are published, tweets are tweeted, and then we return to our respective corners of the country. What's waiting when we arrive home is often a pile of grant applications and files awaiting action. The pressure to meet the deadline for the next board meeting too often trumps our best intentions to apply those new ideas from the conferences to the way we do business.

Meanwhile, the context in which we operate is...chronic crisis mode. The economy may be slowly recovering, but the human toll of unemployment and foreclosure and lack of health insurance and underperforming schools continues to mount. Governments are stretched to the limit in their ability to maintain even basic services. To someone observing the situation in the United States from afar, it would be clear that this is not a time for business as usual....

Social Media

On her Nonprofit Marketing blog, Network for Good's Katya Andresen shares an infographic that highlights the most popular social networking sites and how best to use them.

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

-- The Editors

A 'Flip' Chat With Courtney O'Malley, Vice President, Starr Foundation

April 27, 2012

(This video was recorded as part of our "Flip" chat 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 Jennifer McCrea, a senior research fellow at the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations and the originator of the "exponential" approach to fundraising.)

Established by Cornelius Vander Starr, an insurance entrepreneur who founded C.V. Starr & Co. and other companies later combined by his successor, Maurice R. "Hank" Greenberg, into what became American International Group (AIG), the New York City-based Starr Foundation is one of the biggest foundations you've never heard of. Chaired by Greenberg, the foundation, which earlier this week announced a $50 million gift in support of the Tri-Institutional Stem Cell Initiative (Tri-SCI), a project of Memorial Sloan-Kettering, Rockefeller University, and Weill Cornell Medical College, ranks forty-ninth on the Foundation Center's list of the largest U.S. foundations by asset size and forty-fifth by total giving but keeps a relatively low profile.

Earlier this month, PND sat down with foundation vice president Courtney O'Malley, one of ten full-time staff at the foundation, to talk about the foundation's history and areas of interest, its no-unsolicited-proposals policy, and its approach to transparency.

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

(Running time: 6 minutes, 2 seconds)


The Foundation Center has an entire Web site, Glasspockets.org, dedicated to foundation transparency. To learn more about our efforts to bring transparency to the world of philanthropy, check out this Powerpoint presentation narrated by FC president Brad Smith.

Have a thought or comment you'd like to share? Use the comments section below...

-- Mitch Nauffts

Curtailing Democracy

April 26, 2012

(The following post was written by Mark Rosenman, a Washington-based scholar-activist and director of Caring to Change, a D.C.-based effort to promote foundation grantmaking for the common good, and Gary D. Bass, executive director of the Bauman Foundation and affiliated professor at Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute. In his previous post, Rosenman wrote about widening inequality in the philanthropic sector.)

Voice-of-the-peopleNonprofit organizations have fewer rights today than they did last year. Thanks to language pushed by Republicans in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012, charities face yet another coordinated campaign by conservatives to quash popular democracy. And unlike past "defund the left" efforts, this legislation wasn't caught in time by charity leaders to prevent its passage.

Those efforts began in 1981 with a proposal from the right-wing Heritage Foundation, were pushed by the Reagan White House throughout the early and mid-'80s, morphed into major Republican congressional legislative activity in the mid-'90s, and have come back around in various forms since then. Some have tried to limit what charities can do with private contributions; others have tried to expand the types of activities that are prohibited by charities that receive federal funding. Most of these prior attempts were stopped by watchdog organizations -- sometimes working as part of a broad-based coalition -- but only at considerable expense.

And yet conservatives continue to try to chip away at the right of nonprofit groups to engage in advocacy. For example, there is now a law on the books that prohibits nonprofit social welfare (503[c][4]) organizations that lobby from receiving federal grants. Similarly, grantees of the Legal Services Corporation face greater restrictions on advocacy than do other federal grantees.

Over the years, many grantmaking foundations have been alarmed by these attacks. Like much of society, they recognize that a strong, vibrant nonprofit sector helps to build a strong, vibrant democracy. A key element in that equation is the ability of nonprofits to speak out on public policy issues, to challenge institutional power, and to encourage people to get more involved in democratic decision-making. One legacy of earlier attacks on nonprofit advocacy was that a small number of foundations provided support for nonprofit sector watchdogs to monitor these attacks and to help build nonprofits' capacity to engage in advocacy. Alas, while laudatory, that funding was limited and episodic.

Strikingly, over the past few years even the modest amount of foundation funding available for watchdogs and advocacy capacity-building efforts has been scaled back. Key organizations no longer have staff dedicated to monitoring these issues and some organizations that devoted all their work to this cause no longer can. As these trends continue, we should expect that nonprofits will be even less prepared for future assaults on nonprofit advocacy.

The newly enacted appropriations law expands the long-standing and widely accepted prohibition on using federal grant funds for nonprofit lobbying to include "any activity to advocate or promote" any "proposed, pending or future" tax increase (at any level of government) or any "future requirement or restriction" on a "legal consumer product" (e.g., tobacco and alcohol products, junk foods and beverages) -- even when such efforts reflect the very purpose of public funding. None of these key terms is defined, and the scope is disturbingly vague and broad.

The new law also restricts the use of federal funds for many types of regulatory and administrative actions. This means that many groups that comment on state regulations, for example, will no longer be able to under their federal grant. Combined, these changes significantly restrict the advocacy rights of the nonprofit sector as well as the core functions of the public sector to promote and protect people's and communities' interests.

The law is limited at this point to programs funded through the appropriations bill that covers the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Education, as well as several independent agencies. But it is easy to see that conservatives will likely want to extend these restrictions to other spending bills that affect the arts, the environment, and many other issues across the nonprofit world.

Consider a few illustrations: a charity might receive federal funding to address the scourge of cancer by reducing tobacco use. To that end, it might launch a public service campaign about the health dangers of cigarettes, especially for minors. Or a charity might get a federal grant to combat the epidemic of obesity in the U.S. They might promote ideas for raising funds for obesity-prevention campaigns or to help reimburse government for the costs of treating obesity-related diseases, including a surcharge on sodas and other sugary foods.

Under the new law, charities would likely no longer be able to undertake these types of activities. Charities are already not permitted to use federal funds to lobby, but they certainly should be able to use federal funds to educate and suggest ideas to the public and policy makers on social issues when consistent with the purposes of a grant. It strengthens our communities when policy makers receive information from independent nonpartisan parties such as government grantees. And their research and policy ideas often are vital to improving the quality of life in our communities. All of this has been made more difficult and in many cases prohibited under the new law.

Let's be clear about this: The new legislation really is a case of the public interest losing out to private ones. Charities tend to advocate on and for issues and in debates where the voices of average people aren't really heard; they work to promote the common good. Additional restrictions on charities' free speech rights are a pointed example of how moneyed interests impose their will on ordinary people and the groups that try to serve them -- and of the need for nonprofit advocacy.

The new law was developed by Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT) and is supported by a number of powerful industries, including the American Beverage Association. Why would a trade association want new restrictions on nonprofit advocacy? Maybe it's because it wants to kill federal funding of programs that address anti-obesity and other public health campaigns that could affect the public's attitude and behavior with respect to sweetened drinks. Knowing how hard that is, they go after the speech rights of public health charities that get federal funding -- all part of a continuing conservative attack on nonprofit speech.

Participating in the broader assault on nonprofit advocacy rights is Cause of Action, an organization established a few months before the restrictions were enacted that's directed by a former staffer to Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-CA) Oversight and Government Reform Committee (and before that a legal associate at one of the militantly free-market/limited government Koch Family Foundations).

Cause of Action has written to at least twenty grant recipients of a federal program that funds anti-obesity and -tobacco activities warning that they may have engaged in illegal lobbying activities. It was writing, it said, only "as a convenience" and to let the organizations know that they may be subject to civil penalties and private lawsuits.

Both are tactics reminiscent of right-wing efforts dating to 1980s to stifle charitable advocacy work. Back then, the threat or actual filing of SLAPP suits (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) had a chilling effect on nonprofits' efforts to build democratic participation and otherwise affect public policy for the common good. Often filed by corporations and deep-pocket conservatives, the practice became so frequent that it earned its own acronym. You can be certain that the threat of lawsuits implied by Cause of Action will have a similar effect.

Democracy depends on ordinary people having a voice in policy decisions that affect them, and ordinary people depend on charities to advocate for and promote initiatives that improve their lives and the well-being of their communities. Efforts by conservatives and big business to deny charities some of their power to increase democratic participation limits charities’ ability to address critical problems and issues, and, ultimately, is corrosive of society and representative government itself.

Foundations must understand -- and embrace -- the absolutely critical role they play in providing support for charity watchdogs working to protect the advocacy voice of the nonprofit sector. At a time when the wealthiest people and corporations in this country are hell-bent on rigging the political system for their own gain, it is essential that private philanthropy step up and fund the people and organizations who are working to build a stronger voice for the common good.

-- Mark Rosenman and Gary Bass

The Art of Inclusion: New York Funders Mobilize to Make the Arts More Accessible

April 24, 2012

(Laura Cronin is a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. In her last post, she spoke with Douglas Bauer, executive director of the New York City-based Clark Foundation, about the foundation's efforts to build the capacity of its grantees.)

Disability_symbolsIf a person with a serious vision, hearing, or mobility impairment came to your office on business or joined your organization as an employee, you would do whatever you needed to to accommodate that person so he or she could do his or her job. Indeed, most people would be embarrassed if their employer failed to create an accessible work space for such a guest, while failure to do so for a new employee is illegal.

But what if everyone at the office gathered around the virtual water cooler on a Monday morning to share their excitement about the latest blockbuster exhibition at the local art museum or the holiday performance at the local concert hall? Would your colleague have been there on Saturday along with everyone else? Would the museum or concert hall have been equipped to accommodate a patron who is blind or hearing impaired? Would any of their foundation grant dollars have been dedicated to figuring out how to make it possible for that potential audience member to enjoy its offerings?

Gains won as a result of the 1990 passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are now so familiar -- curb cuts, kneeling buses, signs in Braille -- that it is tempting to assume that issues of concern to people with disabilities have been embraced by the field of philanthropy. Unfortunately, the data tell a different story. According to the Disability Funders Network (DFN), of the $45.7 billion in foundation grants awarded in 2011, only $559 million -- less than three percent -- was directed to disability issues.

Continue reading »

Scan 2.0: New GrantCraft Guide Helps Funders Scan in the Digital Age

April 23, 2012

(Lisa Philp is vice president for strategic philanthropy at the Foundation Center and director of GrantCraft.)

Scanning_landscapeWhen funders want to do more than just make good grants, they often seek targets of opportunity -- places where their support could be especially influential, help develop a new direction or innovation, or align with others to accomplish more. Activities that accomplish these goals are what we mean by "scanning the landscape."

A new GrantCraft guide, Scanning the Landscape 2.0, is filled with examples of scans that have helped funders find a strategic direction, hear from key constituencies, understand emerging issues, map the funding environment, and synthesize information and find gaps. An update of a 2004 publication, the revised edition retains perennial wisdom from the earlier piece and, through fifteen new interviews with funders in the U.S. and Europe, explains how technology is making scanning faster and easier than ever before.

Whether formal or free-form, what scans have in common is a focus on gathering information from disparate sources, making sense of it, and learning from the information that comes in. Among the take-away points in the guide:

  • Think of scanning as a golden opportunity to pause and listen to key constituencies, but also those beyond your usual networks.
  • Check in with colleagues at various points along the way so they can help you see things you don't see and make connections. Consider teaming up with other funders to scan together.
  • Investigate and take advantage of technology tools such as searchable databases, news and research streams, and data visualizations to scan effectively.
  • Give yourself permission to scan continuously, even if you need to find ingenious ways to fit it into an overly busy schedule.

Scanning the Landscape 2.0 can be downloaded at no charge from the GrantCraft Web site. (New users will be asked to complete a free registration process.)

-- Lisa Philp

Weekend Link Roundup (April 21-22, 2012)

April 22, 2012

Green-earth-dayOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Civil Society

In the Encyclopaedia of Informal Education, writer, activist, and sometime PhilanTopic contributor Michael Edwards bemoans the lack of clarity around the term civil society and attempts to restore some precision to the debate over its meaning. In the process, he reminds us that "Recognizing that civil society does indeed mean different things to different people is one of the keys to moving forward, because it moves us beyond false universals and entrenched thinking."


On her Non-Profit Marketing blog, Katya Andresen shares four trends, including the growing popularity of peer networks, likely to shake up nonprofit marketing. "People listen to each other more than us, so we need to stop viewing social media as another form of getting our message out," writes Andresen. "Its primary value is that it allows other people to get the message out, for us."


On the Kauffman Foundation's Growthology log, Dane Stangler looks at the evolution of entrepreneurship and how the very definition of the word entrepreneur has broadened over the years. Writes Stangler: "In its original use by Jean-Baptiste Say, it was someone who undertook economic activities and capitalized on arbitrage opportunities. Joseph Schumpeter ushered in the modern way in which people typically use the term by equating it with newness -- new products, services, combinations, business models, etc. Israel Kirzner saw entrepreneurs as those who targeted and eliminated disequilibria in the economy (for Schumpeter, entrepreneurs created those disequilibria)." Today, however, "the word has come to be so overused as to potentially lose a great deal of meaning...."


In a guest post on the Knight Blog, Shannon Dosemagen, director of community engagement at the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science, a 2011 Knight News Challenge winner, explains how the decision by Google to license community-created aerial maps from the lab's archive could lead to better policy and replace commercial and government data as a recognized representation of sites of civic and environmental concern.

Higher Education

The New York Times' Room for Debate series takes up the question of whether wealthy colleges deserve their tax breaks, with contributions from economist Sandy Baum; Michael McPherson, president of the Spencer Foundation; the American Entreprise Institute's Frederick Hess; Barbara Gitenstein, president of the College of New Jersey; Andrew Coulson, director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute; Osamudia James, an associate professor of law at the University of Miami; and Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

International Affairs/Development

About.com's Joanne Fritz reminds readers who are thinking about doing a little "voluntourism" this summer to use common sense and follow these tips from the Center for Responsible Travel.


On his Inside Philanthropy blog, Todd Cohen offers his take on some of the investment strategies that have emerged in recent years to scale up or expand proven nonprofit programs.


Idealist researcher/blogger Putnam Barber reminds nonprofit organizations, many of which do not have to file their Form 990s until May 15, to make sure they have answers to three important questions:

  • When is our filing deadline?
  • What do we need to know to be sure we stay current with all the rules and regulations?
  • Who is going to file our Form 990-N?

Social Entrepreneurship

Over at Dowser, J. Gregory Dees, a professor in the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University and creator of the first course in social entrepreneurship in the U.S., challenges New York Times' columnist David Brooks' characterization of social entrepreneurship as something young people do to "avoid political participation and...[tackle the] 'corruption, venality, and disorder head-on'." Writes Dees:

Social entrepreneurs do not discourage political participation -- they invent new mechanisms for achieving the public good. Quite often solutions to problems require not just mobilizing political support but actually demonstrating how to solve problems that have confounded others.... Social entrepreneurs serve as society"s "learning laboratory," developing, testing, and refining new approaches to problems in ways that government agencies, with all their budgetary, bureaucratic, legislative, jurisdictional, and political constraints cannot do. These innovators represent the kind of decentralized problem solving that Nobel laureate Douglass North identifies as essential for any society to achieve what he calls "adaptive efficiency," the ability to adjust and thrive in the face of new challenges and shifting problems....

Social Media

On her blog, Allison Fine weighs in on the value of a Facebook "like." Writes Fine:

The notion of creating a direct equation of how much it cost to get one person to like a Facebook page and how much that person bought or gave as a result might satisfy the bean counters, but misses the larger point of why social media are so much more powerful than broadcast media. If you’re just looking for one, or ten, or one hundred thousand stand alone customers or donors, then there is no extra value in using social media. You could have just sent out a direct mail piece for that. The value in using social media is that every person, every like, comes with their own network that can be activated in an instant, and at no additional cost, for the organization. And that value, the value of having an army of your most ardent fans, affects far more than the development department....


On the Foundation Center's Transparency Talk blog, Mark Hager, associate professor of nonprofit studies at Arizona State University's School of Community Resources and Development, explains how students in his Theory and Practice of Philanthropy course are using Glasspockets indicators to evaluate private foundations and "reflect critically on the value of transparency and how well the Glass Pockets assessment captures the concept." In the coming weeks, Hager will share thoughts from the student who "presented the most interesting observations about foundations, transparency, and the 'Who Has Glass Pockets' indicators." Stay tuned.

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

-- The Editors

Investing in the Environment: A PubHub Reading List

April 21, 2012

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center's online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her previous post, she highlighted reports that address some of the issues and legal questions raised by the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate.)

Earth-day2012Protecting the environment has long been a priority for many philanthropic organizations; the Goldman Environmental Prize, for example, is now in its twenty-third year. But what about public and private investments in the environment? With global climate change threatening to halt and even reverse the social and economic gains we've seen in the developing world since the fall of the Berlin Wall, one would think that policy makers, multilateral agencies, institutional investors, and private philanthropy would be eager to collaborate to help mitigate the worst of its effects. In honor of Earth Day, today we're highlighting two reports that look at aspects of the clean energy landscape.

According to Impact at Scale: Policy Innovation for Institutional Investment With Social and Environmental Benefit (64 pages, PDF), a report from InSight at Pacific Community Ventures and the Initiative for Responsible Investment at Harvard University, the emerging field of impact investing -- investing with the intention of generating measurable social or environmental benefit in addition to financial returns -- will only gain traction when it succeeds in attracting large institutional investors. Indeed, with total assets of more than $20 trillion worldwide, institutional investors (e.g., pension funds, insurance companies, and private endowments) are key players in global capital markets and could do much to legitimize impact investing as a viable alternative to more traditional investment approaches. To unlock the potential of the field, however, public policy must be adjusted to incentivize institutional impact investment by offering, among other things, co-investment opportunities, tax credits, and subsidies for industries and sectors that meet specific impact goals.

For example, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 created incentives for solar energy development that, according to the report's authors, helped boost U.S. solar manufacturing capacity:

The legislation created a federal investment tax credit (ITC) incentive for solar energy equal to 30% of expenditures on commercial and residential solar energy systems. Initially applicable for only two years, the tax credit was extended for an additional year with the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006, and again for eight years in 2008 with the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act. This last version also allowed utilities to qualify for the tax credit. Between the creation of the ITC in 2006 and year-end 2010, U.S. solar manufacturing capacity quadrupled, with the vast majority of growth in 2009 and 2010. While not solely responsible for the market expansion, the ITC was a substantive driver and policy certainty provided by the eight-year extension has helped to catalyze private investment in the field....

Funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, the report notes that institutional investors' fiduciary duty to fund beneficiaries can be a constraint:

Institutional asset owners have the potential, through their investments, for delivering social and environmental impacts at scale. But for public policy to help achieve this goal, it must take into account the nature of asset owners as investors and, in the near term, overcome perceptions of impact investing as a new, idiosyncratic, or niche market....

According to the report, targeted engagement of institutional asset owners should include: 1) an "enabling" strategy directed at investors to provide flexibility and "investability" in target markets; 2) an "integrative" strategy directed at intermediaries; and 3) a "developmental" infrastructure-building strategy to support nascent markets.

Where do we stand, then, in terms of investments in clean energy? Global investment in solar, wind, biofuels, and other renewable energy sources, as well as energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies, reached a record $263 billion in 2011, according to Who's Winning the Clean Energy Race? 2011 Edition (56 pages, PDF), a report from the Pew Charitable Trusts and Pew Environment Group, with the G-20 countries contributing 95 percent of the total and more than half of that, some $128 million, going into solar. The report also found that the U.S. reclaimed its global leadership position in 2011 -- after falling to second place in 2009 and third place in 2010 -- with $48.1 billion in clean energy investments, an increase of 42 percent, followed by China ($45.5 billion) and Germany ($30.6 billion). "At the end of 2011, more than 565 GW of clean energy generating capacity was in place globally, 50 percent more than installed nuclear generating capacity," the report notes.

And what role did public investment play in supporting the sector? "In response to the global economic crisis...,

government stimulus plans allocated more than $194 billion for clean energy efforts. By the end of 2011, almost three-fourths of those funds ($142 billion) had reached the sector. More than $46 billion in stimulus funding for clean energy was spent in 2011, more than half of that by the United States and China together. Of the $53 million that remains, 67 percent ($35.7 billion) is expected to be spent in 2012....

But even though the U.S. led in total clean energy investment, as well as investments in solar, energy efficiency technologies, and biofuels, its leadership "is likely to be short-lived"  because of policy uncertainty. Indeed, nothing "appears likely to stem the long-term shift in the clean energy sector's center of gravity as investment swings from the West (Europe and the United States) to the East (Asia) and from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern."

Both reports suggest there is an urgent need for long-term public policies which incentivize institutional and other private investment in businesses that deliver environmental and social benefit. Without a policy framework to guide those investments and a market infrastructure to support them, however, the U.S. could end up losing the clean energy race and suffer the environmental, social, and economic consequences.

Eager to learn more about investments in clean energy, clean energy technology, and the economic impact of global climate change? Check out these reports, all of which can be found in PubHub:

Have a report or comment you'd like to share? Use the comment section below...

-- Kyoko Uchida

Justice Matters | Filmfest DC

April 18, 2012

(Kathryn Pyle is a frequent contributor to PhilanTopic. In January, she blogged about the lessons a new generation of activists can learn from the civil rights documentary Freedom Riders.)

Filmfest_dcHow do you tell a new story about the Palestinian conflict, one that touches audiences in a different way, goes beyond the nightly news images, and sparks new ideas and discussion?

For filmmaker Emad Burnat, co-director of 5 Broken Cameras, which is being shown as part of the Justice Matters series at Filmfest DC in Washington this week, the answer was personal. "There have been many films made about Palestine, but the filmmakers didn't live the situation, didn't know the reality. I live there; and I was always filming. My cameras were part of the non-violent resistance that my village, Bil'in, mounted against the Israeli occupation of our lands. I used my camera to protect myself and my friends and the other villagers. And when it came to shaping a story out of the seven hundred hours I'd filmed over seven years, I realized that it had to be my story; the story of my own experience."

That personal connection has struck a chord: 5 Broken Cameras premiered at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) last fall; showed at the Sundance Film Festival in January, where it won the World Cinema Directing Award for documentaries; and has gone on to screen at numerous festivals and win many more prizes. This summer it will be featured in several Israeli festivals and on Israeli television and will open in the U.S. as well.

Burnat, who had been a farmer, got a camera to film his new baby in 2005 and then turned it on the conflict in his village, sharing his extraordinary footage with international news agencies. He met his co-director, Guy Davidi, an Israeli there to film a documentary, and together, with support from the Global Perspectives Project of the International Television Service (ITVS) and IDFA's Jan Vrijman Fund, they created 5 Broken Cameras.

Continue reading »

Simple Stories and Complex Narratives

April 17, 2012

(Thaler Pekar is a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. In her last post, she wrote about narrative, big data, and the future of communication.)

Simplicity_complexityInvisible Children's Kony 2012 video, the most viral ever, is an almost perfect mashup of up-to-the-minute advocacy messaging and tactics: the personal story frame; the clear antagonist and invitation to the viewer to imagine him or herself as the hero; the explicit call to action executed across multiple platforms; the use of simple narrative; even the appeal to young people's concern that mass media ignores their voices.

That said, I find many things about the video to be unsettling. Never mind its strong support for a militaristic solution, or its use of a questionable dominant narrative (an issue that was addressed in the organization's follow-up video); I want to address the global conversation the video has sparked around the telling of complex versus simple stories. Is there a place for simple stories in advocacy? If your organization is seeking to solve a complex problem, must it always share complex stories?

Invisible Children has a clearly defined goal: "to arrest [the warlord Joseph Kony], disarm the LRA and bring the child soldiers home" -- and Kony 2012 invites viewers to engage with that story solely on the basis of the organization's proffered solution. Detractors of the video rightly note that the story of conflict in Uganda is far more complex than the video presents -- precisely because they themselves view the conflict through the lens of complex systemic change.

I don't happen to think simple stories are needed to share complex narratives. (I use "narrative" to refer to the larger story and frame, and "story" as the small episodes and moments that encapsulate the larger narrative.) People are emotionally complex, live complex lives, and can relate to authentic, emotionally complex stories. The longevity of The New Yorker, the popularity of This American Life, the respect and attention paid the deeply reported journalism of ProPublica attest to our willingness to thoroughly engage with complex long-form narratives.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (April 14-15, 2012)

April 15, 2012

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


Thanks in part to the proliferation of social media and a loss of faith in institutions of every kind, foundations and nonprofit organizations must rethink how they communicate and hold themselves accountable, argues Lucy Bernholz on her Philanthropy 2173 blog. "The kind of organizing that led Komen to change its decision and that is now calling for change from Gates is easier than ever," writes Bernolz.

It can be turned on in an instant and reach unprecedented scale at unprecedented pace. Boards of directors of nonprofits and foundations need to know this, they need to expect it, and they need to engage with both critics and supporters. They need, in other words, to govern in a new landscape in which each and every decision they make may be the one that transforms supporters into critics (Komen) or turns educational policy grants into part of national outrage about gun laws and racial justice [i.e., Gates Foundation support for a conservative advocacy organization known as ALEC].

Is this about a social media policy? I don't think so. Is it about governance, engagement, conversation, accountability, structural consistency, clarity of mission, and a willingness to remain civil while participating in difficult areas of work riven with disagreement? Yes. Nonprofits are part of civil society which thrives only when it is filled with multiple points of view and diverse approaches to problem solving. The "public" will not agree with every decision a foundation or nonprofit makes and they have a right to express that disagreement. Foundations and nonprofits have a right (and a responsibility) to make their decisions and expect a public response to them....


On her Getting Attention blog, Nancy Schwartz "nonprofitizes" a list of content marketing tips from top chefs originally compiled by MarketingProfs.com. Her list includes:

  • Use fresh ingredients. Fresh content retains its natural flavor. Avoid stale or processed content -- your supporters will know it and hate it.
  • Keep the menu simple. Don’t overcomplicate content or muddy the dish with too many flavors.
  • Experiment in the kitchen. Try new forms of content and solicit feedback so you know what's not working -- and what is.

Visit GettingAttention.org for the complete list.


On the HuffPost Media site, Kevin Murphy, president of the Berks (PA) County Community Foundation, suggests that the death of traditional journalism is going to force philanthropy to step up and fund alternatives. "[A]s foundations realize the profound impact of losing the communications vehicles that tie our society together," writes Murphy,

they're going to recognize the imperative of supporting journalism in their field or community. At a global level, funders rely on journalism to help the public understand challenges like world wide poverty, climate change and human rights violations.

Without the ability to hear from, and communicate with the populations they serve, foundations will find their mission nearly impossible to accomplish. So, they'll solve that problem....


On her Non-Profit Marketing blog, Katya Andresen shares management lessons from Steve Jobs included in a recent Harvard Business Review article by Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson. Her favorite -- "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." -- was something Jobs told Isaacson he had first come across in that icon of '70s counterculture, the Whole Earth Catalogue.

On her blog, Rosetta Thurman offers a few suggestions for organizations interested in supporting the next generation of nonprofit leaders. Among other things, Thurman advises nonprofit executives to increase the number of professional development opportunities availble to young staffers and to require each employee to draft a career development plan.


In advance of the annual conference of the Global Philanthropy Forum later this week in Washington, D.C., Jane Wales, president and CEO of the World Affairs Council and vice president of philanthropy and society at the Aspen Institute, considers the philanthropic legacy of Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller and connects it to some of the tools and approaches championed by a new generation of philanthropists.

On the BlackGivesBack blog, Tracey Webb announces the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's Cultures of Giving Donor Challenge, a ten-day online competition designed to boost funding for nonprofits working to address the critical needs of communities of color.

Social Entrepreneurship

Writing on the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog, Jason Saul, the founder/CEO of Mission Measurement, shares five takeaways from the 2012 Skoll World Forum: it's okay to make an economic return from trying to solve a social problem; measurement is no longer optional; it's cool to be corporate; people want to move the needle; and we're entering a new age of social entrepreneurship.

Social Media

In a guest post at Beth's Blog, Frank Barry, Internet strategy manager at software company Blackbaud, shares findings from the 2012 Nonprofit Social Networking Benchmark Report. Writes Barry: "We learned a lot of things, but one prevailing theme stood out -- despite limited budgets and staffing, nonprofits continue to find great value in their fast-growing social networks."

In the latest installment of her Chronicle of Philanthropy Social Good podcast series, Allison Fine chats with Alliance for Youth Movements co-founder Stephanie Rudat about how and why a few recent social action movements, including Kony 2012 and Change.org's Trayvon Martin petition, went viral.

Social Media for Social Good author Heather Mansfield discusses hashtag spamming, which "can do more harm to your nonprofit's brand on Twitter than good." Writes Mansfield: "Too many hashtags in one tweet can look messy or nonsensical, decrease click-through rates, and subtly communicate to your followers than you are a hashtag spammer -- i.e., you're not really monitoring or participating in the conversation around a certain hashtag, just spamming it in hopes of getting more followers, which doesn't work by the way." What do you think? Is less more when it comes to hashtags in tweets? Use the comments section below to share your thoughts.

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

-- The Editors

5Qs for...Karen Zelermyer, President and CEO, and Andrew Lane, Chair, Funders for LGBTQ Issues

April 10, 2012

For the past thirty years, Funders for LGBTQ Issues has worked to mobilize philanthropic resources for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities and has regularly published reports on the progress of the sector. Forty Years of LGBTQ Philanthropy 1970-2010 (44 pages, PDF), its most recent report, found that over the past four decades nearly eight hundred foundations invested more than $771 million in support of LGBTQ issues, with 86 percent of that funding awarded in the last decade. And while the amount represents just 0.13 percent of all giving by U.S. foundations over that period, it represents a big leap forward for the gay rights movement.

Prior to joining Funders for LGBTQ Issues in 2005, Karen Zelermyer was deputy director of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice and also served on the Funders for LGBT Issue board from 1999 to 2003 (the last two years as co-chair). Lane, executive director of the Johnson Family Foundation, previously served as president of the Paul Rapoport Foundation. In 2011, he was appointed by the White House to the Executive Committee of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, where he serves as co-head of the alliance’s LGBT Populations Task Force.

KarenandLane_headshotPhilanthropy News Digest: Although the first known foundation grant to a lesbian and gay organization was awarded in 1970, grantmaking to such organizations didn't really pick up until the early 1980s. How did the emergence of HIV/AIDS in the mid-1980s alter the funding environment for LGBTQ issues and organizations?

Andrew Lane: The report tells the story of the LGBT philanthropy movement, but there's a parallel story, which is that of the gay rights movement in this country. As a relatively young social justice movement, it grew tremendously during that period. The HIV/AIDS epidemic also transformed the organizational landscape within the LGBT community and our approach to doing policy and advocacy work. I think it really galvanized our willingness to make demands and fight hard to see that those demands were respected. I think there is an analogous story around LGBT philanthropy. As the movement matured, our community of grantmakers also matured and began to take a much more aggressive approach to advocacy in terms of our issues. The other dynamic the report touches on is that we lost many, many gay and bisexual men to AIDS, some of whom were very wealthy and left their estates to be used specifically for LGBT or HIV/AIDS causes.

PND: How important was the work of celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor and Princess Diana in shining a light on the needs of the LGBTQ community? And is there anyone on the scene today with a comparable impact on the visibility of LGBTQ issues?

Karen Zelermyer: That's a complicated question, because while both Elizabeth Taylor and Diana clearly were strong allies and friends of the LGBT community, their focus was HIV/AIDS, not LGBT issues specifically. So in some ways I think the question is have there been other celebrities, today or in the past, who have played the same role for the LGBT community that those two played for HIV/AIDS. Andrew and I had an interesting conversation earlier, and we both came up with the same name. Care to guess?

PND: Lady Gaga?

KZ: Right. I mean, there certainly have been others who helped to focus attention on LGBT issues. Rock Hudson, for example, whose HIV diagnosis was covered up until his death, when both it and his homosexuality sparked widespread public discussion. Or Ellen DeGeneres.

AL: Yes. Although, I don't really think of Ellen as operating within an institutional frame the way we do. It will be interesting to see where Lady Gaga goes with her support and advocacy. But there's every reason to feel good about her passion and generosity. It's good to have allies.

PND: According to the report, between 2007 and 2010 the share of LGBTQ funding from foundations going to organizations focused on the needs of LGBTQ people of color increased from 9 percent, or about $7.8 million, to more than 14 percent, or almost $45 million. To what do you attribute the increase?

KZ: There were two major factors, and I think we were one of them. In 2007, amid the strategic planning process for our LGBT Racial Equity campaign, we determined that if any part of our community was left behind or not supported, we would not have succeeded in reaching our goals. We also set a high bar for our original goal, which was to move funding for people of color issues to 15 percent of overall LGBTQ funding, recognizing that while it was not as high as it needed to be, it represented a significant increase.

I think the other big factor has been the Arcus Foundation, which over the last five years has focused on issues of racial equity as a funding priority. The foundation, which has put enormous resources into addressing the needs of LGBTQ people of color, actually accounts for a significant portion of that increase.

PND: The fatal beating of college student Matthew Shepard in 1998 served to highlight the hatred and violence faced by many LGBTQ people. Research suggests that in the years following Shepard's death, grantmakers invested nearly $70 million in efforts to address hate crimes nationwide. Has the recent increase in cyber-bullying had a similar impact on giving to LGBTQ groups?

AL: Well, I would broaden it beyond cyber-bullying to bullying in general. In the report, we note that a great deal of money -- more than $64 million in the last forty years -- has been awarded in support of education and safe schools. Not all that funding addressed bullying, and not all of it was in support of school work. But bullying definitely has become a big issue. It's also worth noting the fact that young people are coming out of the closet at earlier ages. In the same way that the LGBT community is facing a graying of our population, my guess is we're going to see growth in numbers at the younger end of the spectrum.

Still, for me personally, it has been very frustrating to see how challenging it has been to affect change around the issue of bullying, particularly at the federal level. There is tremendous need, but figuring out how to create the kind of impact that really improves kids' lives has been challenging. I think there's a tendency sometimes, particularly on this issue, for funders to focus on supporting efforts aimed at enacting new policies. Some assume that if an anti-bullying law passes, everything will be fine. But the reality is that kids' lives in school are much more complicated than that. New legislation may be the least effective solution.

KZ: Changing the law is hugely important, but unless we're able to figure out how to change people's hearts and minds around these issues, the gay rights movement will be where the reproductive rights movement is right now. The laws can change, but to what end if the culture doesn't?

PND: Projects and organizations working to address issues and rights related to relationship status received more than fifteen hundred grants totaling $75.2 million between 1970 and 2010, making it the single largest funding area among LGBTQ funders. Now that a number of states have legalized gay marriage, with more expected to do so in the not-too-distant future, do you think that trend will continue? And what are some of the other needs in the LGBTQ community that need to be addressed?

AL: Well, there is no question that we have achieved some significant victories in the last decade with respect to marriage and relationship recognition, but we still have a long way to go. As a result of the media coverage, however, we have had a unique opportunity to engage people about the realities of LGBT life. There is no question that this has been one of the important ways in which we have been able to humanize our community.

That said, there are still tremendous needs in the LGBT community. We've already noted, briefly, the needs of queer youth and aging LGBT people. Research also shows that LGBT people are disproportionately likely to live in poverty, and that LGBT people of color continue to experience health and well-being disparities. Let's not forget hospital visitation. Even though it doesn't get anywhere near the level of attention that marriage or bullying or suicide do, that single act on the part of the Obama administration probably will do more to affect the lives of LGBT people -- whether they're single, partnered, or married -- than any in recent history.

One of the unique things Funders for LGBT Issues tries to do is to give voice to the diversity represented in the community. But LGBT philanthropy has to recognize that we're moving ahead on twenty different fronts at any given point in time. Marriage is one of them, and it's an important one. But we are perfectly capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time. One of the reasons we feel so passionate about the need to grow this sector is because we see the range of needs involving the transgender community, for example, whose organizations are much less developed and generally smaller. A bigger sector will enable us to address a more diverse range of needs.

KZ: We're at an exciting moment, both within philanthropy and within the social justice movements we support. There is value in working together. We're much stronger together than alone, and we've seen this in the many cases around marriage equality issues, where organizations like the NAACP and United Farm Workers of America have stepped up. Or the ways in which the LGBT movement has stepped up in support of immigration and a host of other issues not LGBT-specific. Right now, there are somewhere between three hundred and three hundred and fifty foundations making grants annually in support of LGBT issues. At the same time, there's a greater openness within philanthropy to LGBT issues, part of a cultural shift that is happening. Andrew and I hope we'll be able to inspire some of those other foundations to turn that openness into actual support. It's certainly a challenge for us, but it's also a challenge for the field.

PND: A challenge and an opportunity?

AL: Absolutely.

KZ: For all of us, yes.

-- Regina Mahone

Weekend Link Roundup (April 7-8, 2012)

April 08, 2012

Easter-eggsOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....


On Wednesday, the Case Foundation announced the winners in the "Fearless" category of this year's DoGooder Nonprofit Video Awards." The winning organizations, which "used their videos to experiment and...take risks," are Invisible People, the Global Health Media Project, the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation for the Benefit of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities, and Partnership at Drugfree.org.

On her Getting Attention blog, Nancy Schwartz says that while the second Kony 2012 video from nonprofit Invisible Children addresses a number of the criticisms voiced after the organization's first video became a global YouTube sensation in March, the video ultimately falls short. "[CEO and narrator Ben] Keesey is spot on in recognizing the necessity of building the organization's credibility," writes Schwartz. "But this video just doesn't do the job for me: it's beautifully produced emptiness...."


About.com's Joanne Fritz shares findings from a new Convio report which found that online giving is "growing just about as fast as retail e-commerce, and sometimes more," including 16 percent in 2011, compared to 15 percent for e-commerce.

International Affairs/Development

Earlier this week, Human Rights Watch received two Peabody Awards -- a rare honor for a nongovernmental organization -- for two multimedia features it produced in 2011: one on civil society activists in Russia and the second about abuses against people living near the Porgera gold mine in Papua New Guinea. Congrats to HRW on its excellent work.

On her Good Intentions Are Not Enough blog, Saundra Schimmelpfennig is curating blog posts in support of A Day Without Dignity on April 26, a 24-hour event conceived as a "counter-campaign" to the TOMS One Day Without Shoes, which aims to raise awareness of "the impact a pair of shoes can have on a child's life."


Rosetta Thurman, who recently celebrated her five-year blogging anniversary, takes a closer look at The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop, and Keep Tomorrow's Employees Today, a new book by Jeanne C. Meister and Karie Willyerd which notes, among other things, that "by the year 2020, there will be [five] generations working side by side in the workplace, with Millennials (professionals born roughly between 1980-2000) representing 50% of the workforce."


On NCRP's Keeping a Close Eye blog, Yna Moore shares a list of ten questions she believes broadcast journalist Charlie Rose, who has a reputation for asking hard-hitting questions, would ask an executive at a private foundation. Her list includes:

  • Have you ever regretted providing a particular grant to a nonprofit? And conversely, is there a nonprofit whose grant request you turned down previously but now wish you approved?
  • You give out about 5-6 percent of your foundation's assets in grants each year. How are you using the other 95 percent of your assets to achieve your mission?
  • Some critics say there's a double standard when it comes to what people view as appropriate pay for executives at a large foundation compared to acceptable compensation for executives of nonprofit grantees. Where do you stand on this issue? Should there be a cap when it comes to executive compensation for leaders of foundations?

A great start. What would you add to Moore's list?

On her Philanthropy 2173 blog, Lucy Bernholz offers a great set of links related to data and stories, data and philanthropic transparency, and data and change.

Back from the Skoll World Forum in Oxford, Philanthrocapitalism authors Matthew Bishop and Michael Green explain why philanthrocapitalists "have a crucial role to play in the new model for global problem-solving."

And Tactical Philanthropy blogger Sean Stannard-Stockton makes it official: After five years as one of the most thoughtful and widely followed bloggers in the philanthropy space, he's calling it quits. Writes Stannard-Stockton, "It [has been] a magnificent five years for me and the most intensively intellectually stimulating experience I've ever had....But that time is done for me. Having put off officially ending this blog by declaring myself on sabbatical for the past five months, it is now time for me to face the fact that I'm not coming back to philanthropy blogging any time soon."

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

-- The Editors

The Individual Mandate: A PubHub Reading List

April 06, 2012

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center's online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her previous post, she highlighted reports about efforts to improve access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene in the developing world.)

Last week, the Supreme Court heard arguments with respect to the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act's so-called "individual mandate." But how much of the debate did you really understand? Framed by the media as a choice between the power of the federal government to coerce individuals to purchase something they may not want and the significant costs associated with "free-riding" in the healthcare system, the debate tends to give short shrift to the nuances and complexities of the legislation and existing legal precedent. (To cite one example: a March 2011 Kaiser Health Tracking Poll found that "opposition [to the legislation] falls markedly when people are told that the mandate will not change the existing health care arrangements of most Americans.") With that in mind, this week we're taking a closer look at a couple of reports that address some of the issues and legal questions raised by the individual mandate.

Urban_mandateperspectiveAccording to The Individual Mandate in Perspective (3 pages, PDF), a new issue brief from the Urban Institute, "if the ACA were in effect today, 94 percent of the total population (93 percent of the non-elderly population) or 250.3 million people out of 268.8 million non-elderly people — would not face a requirement to newly purchase insurance or pay a fine." That's because 33 percent of those under age 65 are exempt from the requirement due to income level, while of those who are not exempt, 86 percent will keep the employer-sponsored, nongroup, or public insurance coverage they already have.

So if the vast majority of Americans are exempted from the requirement or will remain covered under their existing plans, who is subject to the mandate? According to the report, roughly

26.3 million Americans who are currently uninsured will be required to newly obtain coverage or pay a fine. In this group, 8.1 million people will be eligible to receive free or close-to-free insurance through Medicaid or CHIP and can avoid the mandate penalties if they do so; hence our finding that 18.2 million Americans (6 percent of the total population, 7 percent of the non-elderly population) will be required to newly purchase coverage or face a penalty. Of that 18.2 million, 10.9 million people will be eligible to receive subsidies toward private insurance premiums in the newly established health insurance exchanges, but will have to make partial contributions toward their coverage. About 7.3 million people -- 2 percent of the total population (3 percent of the population under age 65) -- are not offered any financial assistance under the ACA and will be subject to penalties if they do not obtain coverage....

Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the issue brief also notes that by keeping currently insured healthy individuals in nongroup and small group markets and attracting newly eligible healthy individuals, the mandate will help to stabilize premiums.

Bna_evidentiaryWhat, then, is the legal basis for challenging the constitutionality of the individual mandate? According to Examining the Evidentiary Basis of Congress's Commerce Clause Power to Address Individuals' Health Insurance Status (21 pages, PDF), a report from the Bureau of National Affairs that also was funded by RWJF, the question is whether the Commerce Clause of the Constitution gives Congress "the constitutional power to apply a 'minimum essential coverage requirement' on most non-elderly Americans." In other words, does "being uninsured [amount] to an activity that substantially affects interstate commerce"? Congressional findings with respect to the relationship between the individual mandate and interstate commerce are based on a wealth of evidence, the report notes:

Evidence amassed and analyzed by health services researchers sheds considerable light on the economic spillover effects of being uninsured, not only on individuals and their families, but more importantly in the context of the minimum essential coverage requirement, on community and regional health care systems and the economy as a whole....

The Courts of Appeal for the Sixth and D.C. circuits both upheld the constitutionality of the requirement, and in doing so considered that:

Virtually everyone participates in the market for health care delivery and they finance these services by either purchasing an insurance policy or by self-insuring....Thus, set against the Act’s broader statutory scheme, the minimum coverage provision reveals itself as a regulation of the activity of participating in the national market for health care delivery and specifically, the activity of self-insuring for the cost of these services....

In contrast, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Alabama, Georgia and Florida, focused narrowly on the requirement that individuals enter the health insurance market and rejected any link between the requirement and an individual's activity in the broader economy:

Because the Supreme Court's prior Commerce Clause cases all deal with already-existing activity -- not the mere possibility of future activity (in this case, health care consumption) that could implicate interstate commerce -- the Court never had to address any temporal aspects of congressional regulation. However, the premise of the government’s position that most people will, at some point in the future, consume health care -- reveals that the individual mandate is even further removed from traditional exercises of Congress’s commerce powers....

The Supreme Court's decision, expected in June, will depend in part on how the court frames the problem the Affordable Care Act is intended to solve, the report concludes. How Justice Antonin Scalia's framing of the "broccoli question" during oral arguments ("Everybody has to buy food sooner or later, so you define the market as food. Therefore, everybody is in the market. Therefore, you can make people buy broccoli") plays out in terms of the final ruling, on the other hand, is anybody's guess.

Interested in learning more about the individual mandate provision? Check out these reports, all of which can be found in PubHub:

And feel free to use the comments section to share other reports of interest on the topic, as well as your thoughts about the mandate and the upcoming Supreme Court decision.

-- Kyoko Uchida

On 'Exponential Fundraising': A 'Flip' Chat With Jennifer McCrea, Senior Research Fellow, Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations

April 04, 2012

(This video was recorded as part of our 'Flip' chat 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 Big Duck principal and founder Sarah Durham.)

On Monday, the Nonprofit Research Collaborative announced findings from its latest report on charitable giving. Among other things, the Nonprofit Fundraising Study, 2011 (47 pages, PDF) found that 53 percent of the 1,602 charities surveyed saw donations increase in 2011, while 70 percent said they expect to see additional growth in 2012. Even so, the economy remains a concern for many nonprofit organizations, with about a third of respondents saying economic issues, nationally and globally, pose the greatest challenge to the success of their fundraising efforts in 2012.

Absent a tooth fairy or mega-millions lottery for charities, fundraisers in the nonprofit sector must use a variety of techniques to boost their organization's income in these uncertain times. Enter "exponential fundraising," an approach coined by Hauser Center senior research fellow Jennifer McCrea that aims to alter the buyer-seller dynamic that often characterizes donor-fundraiser relationships.

"We get very stuck in....this transactional mindset of 'what have you done for me lately', instead of actually having real conversations with people," explains McCrea. "Our work is so much more powerful if we can remove that buyer-seller dynamic and we can actually allow our passion for making a difference together shine through…."

For almost a quarter-century now, McCrea has worked to share her approach to fundraising with others -- most recently through a year-long course she teaches at Harvard's Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations, as well as on a one-to-one basis with nonprofit leaders from a wide range of fields.

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

(Running time: 6 minutes, 41 seconds)

Do you raise funds for a nonprofit organization or charitable cause? What's working for you in this uncertain post-recessionary environment? And has anyone tried McCrea's "exponential" approach? If so, we'd love to hear what you found worked (and maybe didn't). Use the comments section below....

-- 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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