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20 posts from September 2013

What Innovation in Education Really Means – Doing What Works!

September 06, 2013

(Dr. Tiffany Cooper Gueye is chief executive officer of BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life), a national nonprofit that aims to transform the academic achievement, self-confidence, and life trajectories of children living in underresourced urban communities.)

Headshot_Tiffany-Cooper-GueyeWhen the "No Child Left Behind Act" was signed into law by President George W. Bush in January 2002, there were an estimated 141 million cell phones in use in the United States. Today the number of active wireless devices stands at 326 million and the majority of them are tablets or smartphones -- devices that were the stuff of science fiction back in 2002. Needless to say, technological innovation transformed the telecommunications industry in a few short years -- and the world changed forever.

Sadly, we've seen no such transformation in education since the enactment of legislation that was meant to shine a light on student achievement gaps and schools with consistently poor outcomes. Yes, government leaders are quick to trumpet the latest "innovation" in the field and "experts" obsess over every fad and new technology, but poor schools and student achievement gaps are as much a part of the education landscape today as they were in 2002. And that's a shame, because we already have some of the tools and approaches we need to make huge leaps forward in the way we educate our children.

Case in point: summer learning.

Summer learning works, and the lack of it in places where it's most needed clearly compromises student achievement and school success. Indeed, we have decades of research quantifying the reality of summer learning loss and a growing body of evidence about the value of summer learning programs. Yet for millions of children, summer learning loss is an accepted fact of life.

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Creating Enduring Value at a Corporate Foundation: Bridging the Gap Between Brand and Cause

September 04, 2013

(Christine Park is president of the New York Life Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the New York Life Company. Since its inception in 1979, the foundation has made nearly $170 million in charitable contributions to national and local nonprofits.)

Headshot_chris_parkOver more than twenty years as a corporate grantmaker, few things have left a deeper and more lasting impression on me than the professionalism, commitment to change, and caring of my colleagues in the world of corporate foundations. Of course, having the type of meaningful, long-term impact we all aspire to is easier said than done.

Effecting social change as a corporate foundation head can be challenging -- but the ability to make a difference is enormous when you can marshal the attention and resources of your organization, deploy them in a way that is focused, innovative and flexible, and work in true partnership with your grantees. At the New York Life Foundation, we've been able to do just that through an innovative, business-aligned, and issues-focused advocacy approach. To clarify: our approach is not about engaging in Advocacy in the traditional sense -- that is, politically focused efforts to influence public policy or resource allocation decisions on issues where there are frequently divergent points of view. Instead, we practice advocacy with a lower case "a" -- with a focus on raising awareness, education, and public concern for issues where there is a clear and compelling need and little rational dispute as to the merits of the issue. I'd like to share the story of one such campaign.

* * * *

It has been estimated that one in seven Americans lose a parent or sibling before age 20. The death of a loved one is incredibly hard and isolating for children, engendering feelings of sadness, anger, loneliness, confusion, and guilt -- emotions that all too often are suffered in isolation.

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After Overhead: Investing in Nonprofit Financial Fitness

September 03, 2013

(Rebecca Thomas is a vice president at the Nonprofit Finance Fund, where she has strategic responsibility for national arts initiatives, funder partnerships, and product development efforts that advance NFF's profitability, visibility and impact.)

Headshot_rebecca_thomasRecent efforts to end the overhead myth are to be applauded. But they don't go far enough. Funders also need to focus on nonprofit resiliency.

Increasingly, funders understand that "overhead" costs directly support an organization's ability to deliver results and that the overhead ratio shouldn't be used as a simplistic indicator of an organization’s ability to deliver on its mission. The bigger opportunity here, however, is to go beyond funding the full costs of delivering specific services to build an organization's financial strength through surpluses and savings.

After all, many nonprofit organizations that routinely fund their administrative and fundraising expenses often are operating perilously close to the financial brink. They lack the resources to develop innovative approaches to service delivery, take calculated operational risks, manage unexpected funding shortfalls, and cultivate new, more reliable streams of revenue. The loss of one big government contract, an unanticipated facility emergency, or a period of economic distress can be enough to push these agencies over the edge.

Nonprofit Finance Fund's 2013 State of the Sector survey showed that, three years after the official end of the recession, the majority of nonprofits are still unable to address the needs of people and communities they serve. While more than 70 percent funded overhead by bringing in enough revenue to cover their expenses, only 48 percent reported an ability to meet service demand, and 90 percent said the outlook for people they serve will be less certain or the same in the coming year.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (August 2013)

September 02, 2013

It's the start of a new month, which means it's time to look back at the most popular posts on PhilanTopic over the last thirty days:

What did you read/watch/listen to in August that PhilanTopic readers should know about? Share your favorites in the comments section....

Labor Day Weekend Link Roundup (September 1-2, 2013)

September 01, 2013

Laborday2013A special holiday weekend roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Civil Rights

On its NOW blog, the Georgia Center for Nonprofits commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom with a look at the persistant disparities in employment, educational achievement, and upward mobility between Afrian Americans and whites as illustrarted by several recently released reports.

Before the fiftieth anniversary becomes a footnote, be sure to take a look at the ten-part Washington Monthly series on race in America that we re-posted here on PhilanTopic in the weeks leading up to Wednesday's events.

Communications/Marketing

From the folks at Optimind Technology, here's a great infographic with thirty digital marketing statistics you can't afford to ignore.

Impact/Effectiveness

Writing in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, William Burckart, managing director of Impact Economy's North America unit and a contributing author to the forthcoming New Frontiers of Philanthropy (Lester M. Salamon, ed., Oxford University Press), argues that impact investing, one of the buzziest memes in philanthropy at the moment, "is not well understood outside of a relatively small group of early adopters, and even this band of innovators harbors multiple, sometimes-incompatible interpretations of the concept." What's more, writes Burckart, although this "form of foundation investing has long been approved by government regulators," outside of a handful of foundations -- Ford, F.B. Heron, Kellogg, Mary Reynolds Babcock, K.L. Felicitas -- "it is an idea that has never gotten much traction."

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