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24 posts from February 2014

South Africa Sets Example for World but Still Has Work to Do

February 10, 2014

(Achmat Dangor is the Ford Foundation’s representative for Southern Africa in Johannesburg. Darren Walker is president of the Ford Foundation. This  op-ed originally appeared in Business Day, a national daily newspaper based in Johannesburg, South Africa, and is reprinted here with permission of the Ford Foundation. )

FordFdn_logoIn 2004, a decade into South Africa's extraordinary experiment with democratic government, Archbishop Desmond Tutu reminded us that we could "kiss reconciliation and forgiveness goodbye unless the gap between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots, is narrowed."

Today, ten years on, Tutu's words ring truer than ever.

For all of South Africa's astounding progress, inequality is still the single greatest impediment on the long walk to freedom — for inequality stands between the promise of democracy and the achievement of justice. That inequality is undemocratic is a basic truth that applies not just here, but in democratic nations around the world.

As supporters and champions of South Africa, we at the Ford Foundation have marvelled at its social and economic advances.

Since apartheid's abolition, the percentage of people living on less than $2 a day has been halved. Clean water and electricity, harbingers of economic development, are spreading. Illiteracy is on the decline.

And yet, while the lives of South Africa's poorest have improved a great deal, they haven't improved relative to the wealthiest.

The International Monetary Fund tells us that half of the country's total income goes to the top 10 percent of earners, while the bottom 20 percent of earners take in only 2.7 percent of national income.

Simply put, South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world — in spite of the fact that its constitution is the world's most democratic.

How do we address this paradox?

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Weekend Link Roundup (February 8-9, 2014)

February 09, 2014

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

Fundraising

Interested in learning how to run a successful online fundraising campaign? Slava Rubin of Indiegogo tells you how in this animated video.

Governance

With foundations subject to more stringent tax laws and regulations than ever before, writes Virginia P. Sikes in the Nonprofit Quarterly, foundation boards and executives need to pay special attention to self-dealing, compensation for personal services, excess business holdings, and grants to charities that lobby -- "four areas from which complications and issues often arise."

Nonprofits

In a post on her blog, Beth Kanter draws a useful distinction between organizational cultures that are data-informed as opposed to data-driven. Among other things, writes Kanter, data-informed cultures

have the conscious use of assessment, revision, and learning built into the way they plan, manage, and operate. From leadership, to strategy, to decision-making, to meetings, to job descriptions -- a data-informed culture has continuous improvement embedded in the way it functions. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are the specific quantifiable metrics that an organization agrees are necessary to achieve success. They are the mileposts that tell a data-informed organization whether they are making progress toward their goals....

Philanthropy

In a letter posted on the James Irvine Foundation Web site, Jim Canales, president of the foundation since 2003, says good-bye, as he gets ready to head east to the Boston-based Barr Foundations, to the visionaries, the truth-tellers, the optimists, the ego-less, and the merely curious who have been "essential to the progress that the Irvine Foundation has made and who have personally contributed to my growth and learning as CEO."

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[Infographic] Obamacare By the Numbers

February 08, 2014

Not since the Social Security Act was proposed, debated, and enacted in the 1930s has a federal statute generated has much controversy as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly called the Affordable Care Act and better known as Obamacare.

Much of that debate, at least in the public arena, has been characterized by anecdote and emotion and has been light on facts. The infographic below, which was created by Healthcare AdministrationDegree.net, goes some way to filling that void. Regardless of your position on Obamacare, we're pretty sure you'll learn something from it.

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The ‘Fine Print’ of a Grant Agreement

February 07, 2014

(Steven Green is the director of grants management and administration for the Jim Joseph Foundation, which seeks to foster compelling, effective Jewish learning experiences for young Jews in the United States. In his previous post, he looked at how the budget review process can be used to strengthen a foundation-grantee partnership.)

Headshot_steven_greenOn one of my first days in Negotiations class at Goizueta Business School, Professor Earl Hill explained that the negotiation of terms was often more important than bargaining for price. Often, a car buyer will invest a multitude of hours doing research on the exact make, model, and even color of the vehicle he or she plans to purchase. After visiting multiple dealerships, comparing Blue Book prices, and even figuring out the appropriate trade-in value of an old vehicle, the buyer will enter the dealership ready to pay a price that is firmly fixed in his or her mind. The terms of the sale, including the financing, closing costs, documentation fee, and timing, may not figure into the customer's mindset, even though they greatly influence the overall cost of the vehicle.

How does this example, you're probably wondering, relate to a grantmaking foundation and a grantee that both want to achieve positive outcomes? Think of it this way: the "fine print" matters — and can be the difference between success and failure.

One way the Jim Joseph Foundation tries to ensure grantee success is by sending draft grant agreements to grantees that include explicit terms and conditions for grant payments. In the grant agreement, the goals of the grant itself are established by the foundation and, once established, are not altered. But the benchmarks of the grant are determined by the grantee. Only after the agreement has been reviewed and expectations are understood is the document finalized. The requested deliverables in the agreement generally include:

  • status update on the organization and program being funded;
  • progress on stated objectives and measures of success that were previously submitted;
  • annual or biannual budget reports and financial information (depending on the organization); and
  • projected dates and payment amounts.

Fundamentally, the foundation and grantee must reach a shared understanding on numerous items in order to agree on the terms and conditions of a grant award and payments. This understanding includes steps and a timeline for grant implementation; funds needed to support the implementation steps; monitoring activities; evaluation (and the expense associated with it); and other items.

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It’s the Year of Impact Investing: What Does That Mean for Foundations?

February 06, 2014

(Beth Sirull is president of Pacific Community Ventures, which, in partnership with ImpactAssets and Duke University's Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship, recently published the report Impact Investing 2.0: Insights: The Way Forward — Insight From 12 Outstanding Funds.)

Headshot_beth_sirullA growing body of evidence suggests that, as more investors get comfortable with the concept of impact investing — deploying capital with the intention of producing social benefits alongside financial returns — 2014 will be the year impact investing ceases to be a buzzword and becomes a real option for financial firms, pension funds, and endowed institutions. Indeed, research by JPMorgan Chase projects that impact investments worldwide will approach $1 trillion by 2020, while a 2013 survey by the World Economic Forum suggests that nearly two-thirds of U.S.-based pension funds expect to make an impact investment in the future. Meanwhile, major Wall Street firms such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have already assembled teams dedicated to impact investing. What does all this mean for foundations, and what role should and can they play in the fast-growing impact investing field?

The term impact investing was coined in 2007, but activities of this kind have been around for much longer. Since 1969, when program-related investments (PRIs) were created under the U.S. tax code, private foundations have provided more than $4 billion in unconventional financing for enterprises and activities that further their charitable purposes in areas such as poverty alleviation and education. In recent decades, socially responsible and sustainability-oriented investments have expanded in the public markets and in private equity.

In the last few years, attention has largely been focused on building the supply side of the impact investing field. The Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) has convened a group of more than sixty investors representing $11 trillion in assets under management, including $60 billion in impact investments; the White House has used its bully pulpit to activate investors; and in 2013 the G8 created the Global Social Impact Investment Task Force. All this activity is promising, but it isn't enough to unleash the true potential of impact investing in terms of delivering game-changing social, economic, and environmental gains.

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Why Take the 2014 'State of the Nonprofit Sector' Survey?

February 04, 2014

(Tessa Borell is an associate in the Knowledge and Communications department at the Nonprofit Finance Fund. A version of the following also appears on the NFF site.)

Nff_logoIn the two weeks since we opened our 6th Annual State of the Sector Survey, we have been captivated by the challenges and triumphs that nonprofit leaders and organizations are responding to as they work to serve their communities.

One of them, a workforce development organization, is experimenting with new fundraising methods:

"We initiated development campaigns targeted to specific audiences to support specific pieces of our work and also initiated 'friendraisers' at board members' homes where we can talk about what we do and how we need their support."

Another, a human services organization, is struggling to serve a new demographic:

"We are having to adapt programs to meet the needs of a younger generation of veterans and one that includes significantly more women."

These and other stories like them draw attention to a number of broader themes -- and mean even more in the context of thousands of data points which show organizations pivoting away from (or toward) government funding sources, engaging thoughtfully with individual donors or foundations, moving to earned-revenue business models for the first time, or even considering mergers and collaborations.

By identifying the financial and management issues nonprofit leaders are facing and then quantifying their shared experiences, my colleagues and I are amassing an impressive dataset that puts these and other stories in the context of the needs of the nonprofit sector. And we are leveraging this dataset to advocate for change.

Consider the following examples of how findings from previous years' surveys have been used:

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Hacking Education: Open Data Unleashed

(Vlad Dubovskiy is a data scientist at DonorsChoose.org, a New York City-based nonprofit that connects individual donors to classroom projects at public schools around the country.)

Headshot_vlad_dubovskiyIt often feels like the technology revolution has bypassed the nonprofit world. While news stories featuring companies that have embraced exciting technologies such as wearable computing and delivery drones are everywhere, to those of us who work in and with nonprofits it often seems as if our sector is beyond the reach of such innovations.

It doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, a growing number of nonprofits are taking advantage of new technology and tech tools, especially when it comes to data analysis. At DonorsChoose.org, an online charity where people donate to classroom projects posted by teachers around the country, we’ve always put a premium on data analysis as a way to understand donation patterns across geographic regions and areas of interest. The resulting insights have driven smarter decisions internally that have enabled us to exceed our fundraising goals and help more students.

Recently, we released a Giving Index that highlights a number of important trends among our donors and has helped us better respond to the needs of public school teachers around the country. The index summarizes 2013 data covering nearly 340,000 donors, $60.2 million in donations, and more than 130,000 school projects. We’ve been able to crunch and publish that data using Looker, a data discovery tool that enables us to search our data much like Google might. As the data scientist at DonorsChoose.org, I use Looker to create search parameters and models of our data — and then share those models with our operations, partnerships, and marketing teams, who use them to generate mission-critical insights.

Using Looker, we’ve uncovered some intriguing observations about how our supporters give to education projects listed on the DonorsChoose site. For instance:

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Weekend Link Roundup (February 1-2, 2013)

February 02, 2014

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

Communications/Marketing

The 2014 Nonprofit Blog Carnival is off to a roaring start, having pitched its tent on Beth Kanter's blog during January. The topic for the month was how do you measure your nonprofit's marketing or communication strategies, and close to twenty posts were submitted, including contributions from Niki Kidd, a principal at Social Change Consulting ("Using Data to Assess Your Peers"); David Hartstein, WiredImpact's "storyteller and measurement guy" ("8 Metrics To Measure Online Fundraising"); Lori Jacobwith ("If You're Only Sharing Boring, Unclear Data, What's the Point?"); Cassie Bair, vice president of marketing at Mobile Accord ("Measure the Love in Your Mobile Communication Program"); and the Ad Council's Anastasia Goodstein ("Nonprofits and Big Data: An Inside Look at How the Ad Council Is Leveraging Data for Social Change"). Good stuff.

Fundraising

In a post on her About.com site, Joanne Fritz highlights six mistakes that nonprofits make in their online fundraising. Based on responses to something called the Online Fundraising Scorecard survey, they include not personalizing emails with a person's first or last name, forcing potential donors to navigate three or more pages before they can actually make a gift, and not suggesting a next step for donors once they've made a gift and had been thanked.

Higher Education

If you only have time to read one longish post this weekend, make it Clay Shirky's latest, "The End of Higher Education's Golden Age." In it, Shirky, a Distinguished Writer in Residence at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University, argues that the model of higher education that developed in the U.S. in first half of the twentieth century was "perfectly adapted to an environment that no longer exists." What's more, writes Shirky, higher education's present difficulties -- its growing unaffordability, dependence on "contingent labor" (i.e., poorly paid grad students), unhelpful focus on elite institutions, inability to adapt to changing demographics -- are "the bill coming due for forty years of trying to preserve a set of practices that have outlived the economics that made them possible." As always from Shirky, a well-researched and thought-provoking essay.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (January 2014)

February 01, 2014

Yes, it's been cold, but look on the bright side: There are only twenty-eight days in February. While you're waiting for warmer temps to arrive, why not pour yourself a cup of something warm and join us as we revisit the most popular posts here on PhilanTopic in January:

What have you been reading/watching/listening to? Feel free to share your favorites in the comments section below....

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  • "[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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