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21 posts from January 2014

[Infographic] International Financial Inclusion Funding

January 11, 2014

Our first infographic of 2014 comes courtesy of the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), which aims to create "a world in which everyone has access to the financial services they need to improve their lives."

Based on the most recent CGAP Funder Survey, the infographic shows that international funders committed at least $29 billion in 2012 to support financial inclusion -- an increase of 12 percent over 2011. CGAP attributes the healthy increase to an improved global economic environment and the willingness of donor governments, which represent more than 70 percent of the estimated total, to step up despite continued pressure on public resources.


To explore the full data set generated by the survey, click here.

Have an infographic you'd like to share with PhilanTopic's readers? Use the comments section to shoot us a link.

A Life Well Lived

January 10, 2014

Headshot_greg_deesI was surprised and saddened to hear that Greg Dees passed away in late December at the too-young age of 63. While I didn't know Dees personally, I had heard his name often over the years, admired his seminal piece on social entrepreneurship, and always hoped I'd get a chance to interview him.

Beth Battle Anderson did know Dees; in fact, she helped him found the Center for Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship at Duke University in 2001 and served as its managing director for many years. Her tribute to her colleague, which appeared on the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog yesterday, is beautifully written and deeply moving. I was especially struck by this passage:

But as I reflected further and heard from others who had story after story to share of all that Greg had meant to and done for them — the support he lent, guidance he gave, opportunities he created, doors he opened — I realized that I alone could not claim this special status. The true brilliance of Greg Dees was the incredible and broad impact he had on so many people and institutions. Yes, he had a brilliant and inquisitive mind and an incredible ability to frame ideas, make connections, and pose questions in new and insightful ways. And thus he could hold his own with academics across a multitude of disciplines while also adding value to social entrepreneurs across a range of fields. But what really set him apart was his empathy, his selflessness, and his humanity. Greg helped everyone feel smarter and special; helped everyone believe that they had talent and a role to play in this work; and helped everyone see some connection between his or her interests, skills, and passions and the exciting, emerging field he was a part of. Greg scaled his impact beyond his wildest dreams, beyond what he may have even fully grasped himself, by never having it be about advancing "Greg Dees" yet always making "Greg Dees" available to others -- institutions and individuals alike....

There are many ways to measure a life. Greg Dees lived an admirable one and set the bar high for the rest of us.

-- Mitch Nauffts

The Evidence-Based Secret to Achieving 'Big Goal' Philanthropy

January 08, 2014

(Jeff Rosenberg is the advocacy and social marketing practice leader at Crosby Marketing Communications, an advertising agency with offices in Annapolis and Washington, D.C., whose accounts include the federal organ donor awareness campaign, digital marketing and creative development for the EPA's ENERGY STAR program, and anti-poverty campaigns for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.)

BHAG"Going big" is the talk of philanthropy. Pursuing bold, audacious goals and achieving truly transformative change -- like ending childhood hunger or eradicating poverty -- is becoming a key strategy for many philanthropies and nonprofits working to address social ills. But going big actually can discourage individual activists and supporters from taking action. Fortunately, research by social marketers and behavioral economists teaches us how we can ensure that a going-big approach really motivates individuals to do something.

In a widely read article in the Fall 2013 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Bill Shore and Darrell Hammond, founders and CEOs of, respectively, Share Our Strength and KaBOOM!, write: "The foundation on which many nonprofits is built is flawed and simplistic, focused on a symptom rather than the underlying set of problems....As a result, change is incremental, not big or bold enough to make a lasting and transformative impact." In response, Share Our Strength has changed its focus from making grants to leading a national campaign to end childhood hunger in America by 2015. And KaBOOM! has expanded its focus from building playgrounds in underserved areas to being a leading advocate for the value of play, with the larger goal of ensuring that all children, especially those living in poverty, get the play, and playspaces, they need to grow up to be healthy and successful adults.

Here's the challenge: how do you convince individuals to take action, to donate money or volunteer, for example, in support of big goals when incremental efforts are easier to sell? Experiments in the fields of social psychology and behavioral economics suggest we are less likely to feel compassion or donate money when we are distracted by thinking about the size or scope of a problem. Simply put, big numbers or a big problem can cause us to become paralyzed by analysis -- or what scientists call psychophysical numbing. One study even found that potential donors who are shown a photo of a single person in need of assistance are more likely to give than those who are shown a photo of two people in need. The trick in social marketing (i.e., applying marketing principles in service to the greater good) is to tap into this feeling of being connected with a "one" while challenging your potential supporters to think more broadly about social change. How do we motivate people to pursue big goals and meaningful change when the research makes it clear that "big" can be a disincentive?

There are several ways, actually:

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (January 4-5, 2014)

January 05, 2014

Cold_thermometerOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector. Looking forward to a year of great posts and stimulating disussion in 2014!


What does it take to measure your marketing or communication strategies well? That's the topic of this month's Nonprofit Blog Carnival, which is being curated by the tireless Beth Kanter. Here, according to Beth, is how the carnival works:

  • Write up a post with examples, tips, methods or cautionary notes on the art or science of measurement for communications or marketing.
  • Write anything you want as long as it is about measurement and learning from your data.
  • E-mail a permalink to your post to nonprofitcarnival@gmail.com by Monday, January 27.
  • Check Beth’s Blog on Wednesday, January 29, to see if your post is included and enjoy a bump in traffic as the carnival is promoted across the Web.

To learn more, check out this post on Beth's Blog.


On the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog, the Case Foundation's Kate Ahern looks at two reports released in the fall that "provide new insights on promising financial returns from a range of impact investments."


Gene Takagi, a San Francisco-based nonprofit and exempt organizations attorney and thoughtful observer of the sector, shares ten of the most popular posts published on his Nonprofit Law Blog in 2013.

Continue reading »

[Review] 'The Business Solution to Poverty: Designing Products and Services for Three Billion New Customers'

January 04, 2014

The "three billion customers" in the subtitle of Paul Polak and Mal Warwick's new book is a reference to the 2.7 billion people worldwide who live on less than $2 a day — those at the "bottom of the pyramid" (BoP), to use the phrase coined by C.K. Prahalad in his 2006 book The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid; Eradicating Poverty Through Profits. According to Polak and Warwick, however, only one of the case studies in Prahalad's book illustrates the successful execution of a business model based on serving BoP customers. Moreover, in the years since the publication of that groundbreaking book, many companies looking to do the same have failed, even as multilateral organizations, donor countries, foundations, and NGOs have spent tens of billions on development aid — with limited success.

Bookcover_biz_solution_povertyThe Business Solution to Poverty, Polak, a pioneer in market-based ventures designed to serve the poor and the author of Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail, and Warwick, former chairman of the Social Venture Network and a co-founder of Business for Social Responsibility, describe "a set of ideas that we believe — in fact, we know — can help end poverty for hundreds of millions of families around the world." It's a sort of mantra they repeat in the same declarative, confidently optimistic manner throughout the book: Only "big global businesses launched either by independent entrepreneurs or by existing multinational corporations" can sustainably serve the poor, because they are the only enterprises large enough to attract enough capital to serve the needs of those at the bottom of the pyramid. Accordingly, Polak and Warwick write, each of these enterprises must set "a ten-year goal of building a customer base of at least 100 million, achieve revenues of at least $10 billion or more per year, and realize sufficient profitability to attract both indigenous and international commercial investors while minimizing [their] environmental impact."

Ambitious? Yes, but then they're talking about nothing less than ending global poverty. So how do they propose to do it?

The key, according to Polak and Warwick, is an approach called "zero-based design," which, they note, begins from "a position of assumed ignorance": Instead of thinking of ways to adapt existing product design to local conditions, "you assume that nothing you have previously done will be suitable...and set out instead to determine what poor people themselves believe will best meet their needs." The application of zero-based design to a business that can market an essential product or service to people living on less than $2 a day, in turn, should be informed by eight principles: a thorough understanding of customers' needs and aspirations; transforming local economies by creating entirely new markets; designing for scale as a central focus of the enterprise; implementing "ruthless affordability" technologies and "supremely efficient" business processes; designing for a generous profit margin that energizes private capital and market forces; designing for radically decentralized last-mile distribution networks that employ local people; aspirational branding; and flexible innovation.

Continue reading »

5 Questions for...Sterling Speirn, President, W.K. Kellogg Foundation

January 03, 2014

Breakfast cereal pioneer Will Keith Kellogg established the foundation that bears his name in 1930. Known as the W.K. Kellogg Child Welfare Foundation in its original incarnation, the foundation spent its first decade working mainly in and around its hometown of Battle Creek, Michigan, with a focus on improving the health of children in the region. Over the decades, the foundation's interests grew in line with its assets; by its seventy-fifth anniversary in 2005, those assets totaled some $6 billion, putting the foundation among the largest private philanthropic organizations in the world, even as a focus on children remained a mainstay of its grantmaking portfolio.

Widely viewed as one of the more effective private philanthropies in the U.S., the foundation benefited over the years from steady leadership provided by a handful of thoughtful, dedicated chief executives. After stints as a middle school English teacher, a lawyer, and president/CEO of the Peninsula Community Foundation (1992-2005), Sterling Speirn became the eighth person to lead the foundation in January 2006.

PND chatted with Speirn in December as he was celebrating the launch of a new community leadership initiative and getting ready to step down as president/CEO after nearly eight years. His successor, La June Montgomery Tabron, is a twenty-five year veteran of the foundation and the first woman and African American to serve in that position.

Headshot_sterling_speirnPhilanthropy News Digest: The announcement of your community leadership initiative describes it as Kellogg's return to leadership development. When did Kellogg exit that space? And how does the new initiative differ from the foundation's previous efforts in the leadership development area?

Sterling Speirn: Well, we never really exited leadership development. We've had a variety of programs over the years -- the one we're probably best known for was the Kellogg National Leadership Program, which ran for fifteen, sixteen years, from the 1980s to the 1990s. But since then we've funded leadership programs in the health professions and in food policy work, and we've done leadership work in terms of endowed professorships and sustainable agriculture. We're always just sort of coming back into the space in different ways.

How this is different from previous Kellogg leadership development initiatives is that it's place- as well as category-focused. The overarching framework for the initiative is vulnerable children, but we have four geographic areas of focus -- New Mexico, Mississippi, Michigan and New Orleans, with one national cohort of racial equity fellows. So, it's both place-based and, programmatically speaking, focused on kids and our existing racial equity work.

PND: The initiative seems to be built around a bottom-up as opposed to top-down approach. Is that an accurate characterization?

SS: I don't know if I'd say top-down or bottom-up. It's sort of inside-out, in that it involves a healthy cross-section of leaders, young and emerging as well as older. It's probably more accurate to say it's a diverse approach to identifying and developing leaders. And, again, because it's place-focused, we expect to end up with cohorts comprised of fellows from very different domains -- education, health, family economic security, and so on. It's different, too, because we plan to emphasize not just individual leadership work, but the connective work that unites each cohort of fellows, with the goal of developing not just individual leaders but networks of leaders.

Continue reading »

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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