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20 posts from December 2012

2012 Year in Review: Impact Investing, Other New Forms of Giving Gain Traction

December 31, 2012

Pnd_yearinreview_2012Impact investing -- the practice of making loans and equity investments in nonprofits and socially minded businesses working to generate measurable social or environmental impact with the expectation that the money will be repaid over time -- and other new forms of giving continued to gain traction in 2012, thanks in part to the efforts of organizations like the Nonprofit Finance Fund, Omidyar Network, and the Skoll and Rockefeller foundations.

The year got off to a flying start when, in February, NFF announced a $40 million New Markets Tax Credit allocation in support of community development projects across the United States; an initiative of the U.S. Treasury Department, the NMTC program enables nonprofits to affordably complete facility improvements and finance projects in low-income areas around the country. In March, Omidyar Network and ACCION International made a $3.2 million investment in Zambia-based Mobile Transactions to boost financial transactions across the Zambian economy. In April, the Skoll Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development launched a $44.5 million global initiative to identify and fund high-impact social entrepreneurs who have created workable innovations and sustainable, scalable business models. And, in May, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced its participation through its Knight Foundation Enterprise Fund in a $3.7 million Series A venture financing round for Umbel, a privately held digital audience measurement company.

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2012 Year in Review: Underserved Communities Targeted for Larger Share of Philanthropic Pie

Pnd_yearinreview_2012The amount of money flowing to nonprofit organizations serving underserved populations and communities of color, and the number of private funders backing such programs, continued to grow in 2012, even as support for those communities from other sources was declining.

Over the course of the year, a number of foundations announced multimillion-dollar commitments to programs designed to address the needs of underserved communities and communities of color. They included the Ford Foundation, which announced a commitment of $100 million over ten years to extend its Ford Fellows program to young scholars from traditionally underrepresented groups; the Lumina Foundation, which awarded $11.5 million to thirteen partnerships working to increase college graduation rates among Latino-American students; the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which announced an investment of $9.5 million over three years to improve the health and success of boys of color; and the California Community Foundation, which launched a multimillion-dollar initiative to expand educational and employment opportunities for African-American teenage boys in Los Angeles.

A number of corporate grantmakers also stepped up their support for underserved populations. They included Walmart, which through its foundation awarded $3.35 million to six women's foundations working to help economically vulnerable women achieve financial and economic security; AT&T, which announced a huge, $250 million commitment over five years to improve graduation rates among at-risk youth; and the UPS Foundation, which in February awarded $6 million to nearly a hundred and twenty organizations working to promote diversity and support underserved communities across the country and in June announced grants totaling $6.9 million to support the same kind of work globally.

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Weekend Link Roundup (December 29-30, 2012)

December 30, 2012

Happy_new_yearTo help mark the end of another eventful year, we've rounded up a dozen or so of our favorite "best of" and nonprofit trendspotting pieces. Have a list you'd like to share? Let us know in the comments section below.


On her Non-Profit Marketing blog, Katya Andresen shares Trendwatching's list of consumer trends to keep an eye on and weighs in on what each could mean for nonprofits in 2013.

And in a two-part series on her Getting Attention blog (here and here), Nancy Schwartz lists the nonprofit marketing trends that are "must-dos" for your organization in 2013.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Kula CEO Gerrit McGowan looks back at some of the CSR high- and lowlights of 2012 -- and tells us what companies looking to take their CSR programs to the next level will be doing in 2013.


As it has it has for many years, Foreign Policy magazine closes out 2012 with an eclectic list of the top global thinkers -- a list that includes Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett, George Soros, Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, novelists Haruki Murakami and Chinua Achebe, and Russian environmentalist Yevgenia Chirikova.

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[Inforgraphic] 2012 Conservation Victories

December 29, 2012

After Sandy, after Newtown, after a presidential election that was too long and cost way too much, we wanted to do our small part to end the year on a positive note. So here, courtesy of the Pew Environment Group, is an encouraging look at some of the important wins for the environment, the planet, and all of us in 2012.

Let's hope there are more to come in 2013. 

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Weekend Link Roundup (December 22-23, 2012)

December 21, 2012

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


Philanthropy 2173's Lucy Bernholz wants to know which would have a greater effect on charitable giving: "[G]etting rid of the tax deduction or removing the ability to give anonymously." Cast your vote here.

In the most recent installment of her Social Good podcast series, Allison Fine chats with Giving Tuesday creator Henry Timms, deputy director of the 92nd Street Y, about "the phenomenally successful first year of the event."

"The day took on a life of its own," Fine says on her blog. "Organizations broadened the original concept to include volunteerism as part of the 'donations' for the day and it became [part of] a larger conversation about creating what Henry called Opening Day for the giving season."


As part of its annual awards program, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy is asking people to help choose the three grantmaking institutions that "embody philanthropy at its best."

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No Truth or Consequences

December 19, 2012

(Mark Rosenman is an emeritus professor at the Union Institute & University and directs Caring to Change in Washington, D.C. You can read some of his other posts on PhilanTopic here, here, here, and here.)

Rosenman_headshotNonprofit leaders, as well as those in government and the corporate world, seem unwilling to accept responsibility for their decisions and actions. Recently, the founding president of Social Accountability International, a nonprofit that works to advance the human rights of workers around the world, failed to live up to her organization's name when she vaguely defended SAI's decision to award its highest certification to a Bangladesh garment factory that burned down just weeks after its most recent inspection, killing more than two hundred and sixty workers.

As in so many similar situations, instead of acknowledging responsibility for a mistake and accepting the consequences, leaders like the president of SAI are quick to lay that responsibility on others -- and then support only minimal consequences for those assigned the blame. The corporate world saw an example of this after one of the greatest environmental disasters in recent memory, the Deepwater Horizon blow-out that released nearly five million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Executives of BP, which had leased the rig and owned the rights to the undersea drilling site, remain free while two employees who were on the scene have been indicted for negligence related to the disaster.

Similarly, when it comes to the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent economic meltdown, corporate leaders who contributed mightily to the collapse have escaped responsibility for their wrongdoing. Not one top executive of Countrywide Financial, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Bear Sterns, or any other Wall Street firm has gone to jail, even as millions of Americans continue to suffer the economic consequences of their actions.

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Gun Violence and Mental Illness: A Resource List

December 18, 2012

Mentalhealth_manseatedWe are all struggling to process the shocking violence that erupted in Newtown, Connecticut, on Friday. That the cold-blooded murder of twenty-eight people, including twenty small children, can be blamed, in part, on permissive gun laws and a culture soaked in graphic depictions of violence is, for many, indisuptable. Others point to Adam Lanza's precarious mental state -- and the failure of those who loved him to reach out for help -- as a contributing factor. For those interested in learning more about the increasingly intertwined issues of gun violence and mental health, we offer the following list of resources:

Issuelab, a service of the Foundation Center, has assembled a special research collection that explores the problem of gun violence in America, and what Americans can do about it.

A quick search of Foundation Directory Online yields this list of funders who support mental health services for youth and/or autism research/services:

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Newsmaker: Shawn Dove, Campaign Manager, Campaign for Black Male Achievement, Open Society Foundations

December 17, 2012

Headshot_Shawn Dove_In October, the Open Society Foundations and the Foundation Center released a report, Where Do We Go From Here? Philanthropic Support for Black Men and Boys  (40 pages, PDF), which found, among other things, that philanthropic support for African-American men and boys has risen steadily over the past decade, from $10 million in 2003 to $29 million in 2010. At a time when nearly every major indicator of economic, social, and physical well-being shows that African-American males do not have access to the opportunities they need to thrive, the philanthropic sector is working to address this critical need on two fronts: by supporting organizations in the "black male achievement field" and by spotlighting the fact that more needs to be done to tackle racial and economic inequality in America.

In the foreward to the report, Shawn Dove, manager of the OSF-based Campaign for Black Male Achievement, noted that former Open Society board member Lani Guinier has long argued that African-American males are not unlike "canaries in the coalmine," in that their socioeconomic plight foreshadows many negative trends that eventually will affect the broader society. That explains why, for many, the well-being of African-American men and boys is not a "black issue." It is, as Dove said when we spoke to him recently, "an American issue." Moreover, he added, "[g]rantmakers should not enter th[e] field with the expectation that they can parachute in and save the day....We need to look at what's working, and to spread the word about what success looks like."

After more than twenty years working in the fields of youth development, education, and community building, including stints as a director of a Beacon School in Harlem, as creative communities director for the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts, and as vice president for MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, Dove joined OSF in 2008. PND spoke with him in November, shortly after the release of the report.

Philanthropy News Digest: We've been told that America in 2012 is a post-racial society. Is it?

Shawn Dove: I guess that depends on one's definition and interpretation of "post-racial." If one's definition is a society in which there are no racial disparities when it comes to opportunity, access, and equity, I would say, "Not so much." In 2012, America aspires to be post-racial. But judging by the wealth gap, ethnic and racial disparities in access to high-quality education, and the number of people of color in the House and Senate, I'd say we still have some work to do.

PND: Countless studies and papers have outlined the many root causes of racial inequality in America. If the causes are clear, why do large portions of the African-American community continue to be adversely affected by disparities in education, health care, and employment?

SD: You know, that is the billion-dollar question. Two of our grantee partners, the American Values Institute and the Opportunity Agenda, have done extensive research on implicit bias in America, and what their research revealed was that far too many people hold unconscious racial prejudices that affect their decision making when interacting with races other than their own. So while retail sales managers, for example, will say they don't have racist attitudes or are not prejudiced, they'll also resist putting people of color, specifically African-American males, in roles that have direct contact with customers.

Americans of all ethnicities still have an exceedingly difficult time having honest conversations about race. There are a number of organizations and leaders who are organizing people to have discussions about racial disparities in our society, but a lot of work still needs to be done to change the behaviors that perpetuate inequality in this country.

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Weekend Link Roundup (December 15-16, 2012)

December 16, 2012

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


On the Keeping a Close Eye blog, Sean Dobson of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy shares some takeaways for grantmakers from Steven Spielberg's new film Lincoln. "Many, if not most, foundations work on issues -- education, health care, environment -- that cry out for systemic solutions that only government can provide," writes Dobson. "But as Spielberg's [movie] shows once again, enacting systemic solutions into law is very difficult in this country. That of course does not mean grantmakers should shy away from the challenge. In fact, if they are serious about achieving their missions, recognition of the challenge should prompt them to fight harder than ever for systemic solutions."

Dobson goes on to identify the different types of grantmaking that would help to meet said challenge:

  • Investing in those who are most in need;
  • Investing in systemic change, not band aids; and
  • Investing for the long haul.


"If you're bad at direct mail, don't think you'll find a refuge from your shortcomings by focusing on social media marketing," writes Jeff Brooks in a post on his Future Fundraising Now blog. "In fact, if your direct mail is ineffective, your social media will likely fail even more spectacularly than your mail does...."

On her Non-Profit Marketing blog, Katya Andresen shares findings from three new reports from Network for Good and partners that all came to the same conclusion: "Online giving is significantly up this year."

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[Infographic] It Was a Very Good Year for Social Giving

December 15, 2012

"Just as social media has changed how we live, it’s now transforming the way we give."

That's the conclusion of MDG Advertising, the shop behind our Saturday Infographic of the Week.

From to to bottom, the infographic looks at online giving and the channels charities leverage most (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn -- in that order); offers details on donor characteristics; looks at a recent example of an online giving campaign that went viral; and ends with some trends and tips.


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Improving Your Online Engagement: A 'Flip' Chat With Chris Tuttle

December 14, 2012

(The video below 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 Beth Kanter, co-author of Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World.) 

At 501 Tech NYC's final event of the year, marketing/communications strategist Chris Tuttle shared twenty-five things that nonprofits can do in the next year to better engage their constituents online. (A "storified" recap of the event can be found here.) Best of all, most of the items on Tuttle's list can be implemented without the help of a Web designer or developer. 

A former Blackbaud consultant who established his own consulting firm in 1999, Tuttle currently works for the Arcus Foundation, a New York City-based philanthropy that seeks to advance LGBT equality and conserve and protect the great apes. 

PND spoke with Tuttle right after Thanksgiving about his work in the nonprofit communications field and the importance of analytics for nonprofits. During our chat, he also explained why social media usage by nonprofits has not peaked and mentioned a few social media tools and sites that nonprofits should pay attention to in 2013. 

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WASHME: Making WASH Orgs Sustainable

December 12, 2012

The Foundation Center has been collecting collaboration stories for its Nonprofit Collaboration Database, a searchable collection of 670+ profiles that gets 2,000+ visits every month. And this one just came in. (Have a story you'd like to share? Learn more here.)

"Sustainability is one of the most pressing issues facing the WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) sector today. More than 30 percent of WASH projects fail after two to five years." -- Sustainability WASH Web site

In 2011, a group of NGOs, funders, and academics started to ask hard questions about the sustainability of their own programs and those of other organizations in the WASH sector. One result of that effort was Sustainable WASH, an online platform for assessing, learning about, and sharing best practices in the field.

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[Infographic] The Danger of Capping Deductions

December 11, 2012

Like deer in the headlights, lawmakers in Washington, D.C., have spent the last five weeks paralyzed by the approach of the so-called fiscal cliff.  While the White House and Congress appear to be moving closer to a deal that would delay or avoid the worst effects of the cliff, the details of such a deal remain murky.

One thing that has surfaced repeatedly in negotiations between the two sides, however, is a cap on various tax deductions, including the deduction for charitable giving. As the infographic from the National Council of Nonprofits below suggests, such a cap would have an adverse impact on charitable donations -- and, by extension, local communities.

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Embracing the 'I' in Philanthropy

December 10, 2012

(Josh Baron is a partner at Banyan Family Business Advisors. This is his first post for PhilanTopic).

Family_philanthropyOver the last decade or so, there has been a movement to treat philanthropy more like business. Under this "new philanthropy" rubric, giving money to good causes is considered successful to the extent that it produces a measurable impact on society. While some fantastic success stories have emerged from this approach, overall it has yet to gain much traction among the world's leading philanthropists, who still often equate giving with altruism. For many, the value of philanthropy is somehow diminished if it is motivated by anything other than unadulterated altruism: if it's not pure, it's not worth doing.

This is a real tragedy. Focusing on the benefits that philanthropy creates solely for the good of society severely and unproductively limits its reach. In reality, the decision to spend time and money to promote the welfare of others is rarely driven by pure altruism. People may participate in philanthropy for a whole range of reasons: a desire to secure their legacy, burnish their reputation, create opportunities for their children, or increase the loyalty of their employees and customers.

There's nothing wrong with having multiple motivations. It doesn't mean one lacks a heartfelt desire to make a difference, and the value of the work isn't reduced by wondering: "What's in this for me?"

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Weekend Link Roundup (December 8-9, 2012)

December 09, 2012

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

Arts and Culture

On its Web site, the James Irvine Foundation unveils a snazzy new infographic format to share what it has learned about arts and arts organizations in California through the work of its Arts Innovation Fund.

Climate Change

In an impassioned post on the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy's Keeping A Close Eye blog, Lisa Ranghelli urges foundation leaders to get involved in the fight against a warming planet.


On his Future Fundraising Now blog, Jeff Brooks, author of the Fundraiser's Guide to Irresistible Communications, provides a timely reminder to fundraisers to "keep calm."


On the Philanthropy Potluck blog, Minnesota Council on Foundations research manager Anne Bauers shares findings from NTEN's The State of Nonprofit Data report, which found that a lack of expertise, issues of time and prioritization, and challenges with technology, among other things, are holding many organizations back from tracking and using data more effectively.

To help organizations looking to close their data skills gap, Beth Kanter, co-author (with KD Paine) of Measuring the Networked Nonprofit, shares some data visualization resources that she's come across recently.

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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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