« October 2018 | Main

9 posts from November 2018

Weekend Link Roundup (November 17-18, 2018)

November 18, 2018

61ucszqqXOL._SX425_A weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Evaluation

On the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Jehan Velji and Teresa Power of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation share one of the lessons the team there has learned as the foundation pursues its limited-life strategy: the most important goal of evaluation is not to determine whether a program works or doesn't work, but to discover how to make a program work better over time.

Giving

Giving Compass, a nonprofit platform that is "organizing the world's information to make it easier to give well," recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. Interim CEO Stephanie Gillis reflects on what she and her team have learned over the last twelve months.

Guest blogging on the GuideStar blog, the Identity Theft Resource Center shares a few tips designed to help you avoid scammers and keep your personal data safe this giving season.

Health

Inadequate access to quality health care is a big problem in many rural areas. On the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health blog, Melissa Bosworth, executive director of the Eastern Plains Healthcare Consortium, a five-hospital in Hugo, Colorado, shares five recommendations for anyone interested in improving rural health access and equity.

Nonprofits

Nonprofit leaders need to stop saying "There's only so much money to go around," writes Vu Le on his Nonprofit AF blog. It's "a counter-productive self-fulfilling prophecy" that jeopardizes the future of your organization — and besides, your communities deserve better.

In the same vein, Nell Edgington shares some thoughts about how nonprofits can break through the financial glass ceiling — a level above which the money just won't grow —  that seems to exist for so many of them.

Looking for a good read this holiday season? Check out this list from Beth Kanter of books that should be on every nonprofit professional's reading list.

Philanthropy

In the Winter 2019 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Rob Reich a professor of political science at Stanford University's Graduate School of Education and co-director of its Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (publisher of the Review), argues that the policies that structure American philanthropy are not only broken and ineffective, they are  indefensible. "The array of policies designed to stimulate the charitable donations of ordinary citizens and the philanthropic projects of the wealthy — chiefly through private foundations — subvert, rather than support, democratic aims," writes Reich. "Philanthropy too often undermines democracy, and it is our policies — not the preferences of individual donors or operations of particular nonprofits — that are largely to blame."

On the HistPhil blog, Kristin A. Goss, Kevin D. Gorter Associate Professor of Public Policy and Political Science at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, and Jeffrey M. Berry, Skuse Professor of Political Science at Tufts University, argue that, with the "rise of highly directive 'strategic philanthropy', "it is no longer possible to think of [private] foundations solely as passive dispensers of charitable benevolence." Rather, as  Duke University's Joel Fleishman suggested in his 2007 book The Foundation: A Great American Secret; How Private Wealth Is Changing the World, they have become a type of interest group. And if we think of them as such, write Goss and Berry, then we need to ask: Whose interests do .philanthropies (and living donors) represent? How do they think about this question and go about answering it? What sources of information and other inputs do they use to devise their giving strategies? And What role do they play in democratic governance, as innovators, collaborators, and adversaries?  

Anti-Semitism and anti-black racism are "deeply intertwined and mutually reinforcing," write Jeanne Isler and Timi Gerson on the NCRP blog, and funders need to work together to develop smarter strategies for combating them.

That's it for this week. Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a note at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

How We Actually Show Our Support

November 16, 2018

ActNowbuttonRecently, after a conference panel discussion, a young woman approached me as I was leaving the stage with a request I hear often from nonprofit professionals:

"Derrick, it would be great if you could show your support by tweeting and liking what we're doing."

Now, I happened to know she was part of a good cause and genuinely cared about the people her organization was serving. But the request was a little unsettling. Did she want me to show my support for her organization? Or for the people the organization was trying to help?

Let's examine the distinction.

We can show support for a cause in any number of ways. We can quietly make a donation through Facebook or an organization's website, create a scholarship in honor of a favorite teacher, or go big and make a lead gift for a building that will have our name on it. We can sign a petition, write our representatives in Congress, share an image or post on social media, or boycott a company or product. We can even walk, run, or bike for a cause or grow a mustache for a month.

All of these are tangible displays of how we, as an individual, feel about an issue — or, more accurately, about the people affected by that issue.

What these actions are not are displays of how we feel about an organization.

Someone who wears a pink hat or shaves her head is not doing it to say, "OMG, this organization is so great!" By putting her beliefs and personal experience out there for others to see, she is standing up and proclaiming, unequivocally, "I care, and I want everyone to know I care. And I hope you'll care, too."

That's why the post-panel discussion request bothered me. As representatives of our organizations, we want people to appreciate the work our organizations do and keep it top-of-mind. But such a mindset runs counter to how people in real life actually engage with a cause.

Instead of asking me (and others) to and acknowledge our support for your organization's work, ask us to actually do something — preferably in the company of others — that shows our commitment to the cause and at the same time advances it.

#VoteTogether is an organization and campaign that encourages people to turn the act of voting into a fun group activity. The organization invites families, friends, and neighbors to "join" nonpartisan block parties, BBQs, and other neighborhood events during the early-voting period and on Election Day itself and encourages them to share their experiences — and celebrate their civic engagement — through their favorite social media sites. As the #VoteTogether website says: "We want to generate a positive shared experience around voting and can’t wait for you to get involved."

And you know what? It works. In two pilot programs, #VoteTogether celebrations helped increase voter turnout in the precincts where they happened by from one to four percentage points.

Or take 412 Food Rescue, a nonprofit in Pittsburgh that notifies individuals in the community who have downloaded its Food Rescue Hero app when a local restaurant has surplus food it plans to throw away. Individuals who receive an alert then have the option of volunteering to pick up the surplus food and delivering it to someone in the community who needs it — on their way home from work, for example, or while they're out shopping. According to 412 Food Rescue, the app has helped boost food security in the food-insecure populations it serves by some 88 percent while keeping perfectly good food out of landfills and enabling people who are passionate about the problem of hunger in America to see the impact of their efforts immediately.

That's what I mean when I tell you to turn your supporters into the heroes of your organization's story. Don't ask them to blow your organization's horn. Instead, ask them to join, with others just like them, in doing the work. Then, and only then, ask them to share their personal story of what that was like and what it meant to them.

At the end of the day, supporters don't know your board or your staff, or really care, one way or the other. What they do care about, deeply, is the issue you are working to address, and like you they are looking for things they can do to make their small part of the world a better place.

By pointing them to something concrete they can do, you'll be doing more than you know to advance your organization's work.

Happy Holidays, everyone.

Headshot_derrick_feldmann_2015Derrick Feldmann (@derrickfeldmann) is the author of Social Movements for Good: How Companies and Causes Create Viral Change and the founder and lead researcher for the Millennial Impact Project.

A Conversation With Ann Mei Chang, Author, 'Lean Impact: How to Innovate for Radically Greater Social Good'

November 14, 2018

Poverty. Mass migration. Economic dislocation. Climate change.

The problems confronting societies around the globe are big and getting bigger. The resources available to address those problems, however, are shrinking, as governments burdened by huge debts and future obligations and corporations wary of controversy pull back from “feel-good” causes and collective action. And while countless foundations and civil society groups continue to fight the good fight, their resources seem Lilliputian compared to the magnitude of the challenges we face.

It’s a moment that demands big thinking, bold thinking but also creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. The kind of thinking we’ve come to expect from Silicon Valley, the global epicenter of a certain kind of innovation and can-do spirit. The question, for many, is: What, if anything, can technologists teach nonprofits and social entrepreneurs about social change?

In her new book, Lean Impact: How to Innovate for Radically Greater Social Good, Ann Mei Chang, a respected social change-maker and technologist, tackles that question head-on. Based on interviews with more than two hundred social change organizations spanning almost every continent, the book distills the lessons learned by change-makers over the years into a set of "lean" principles for nonprofits looking to innovate their way to greater impact.

PND recently spoke with Chang about the genesis of the book, the sometimes testy relationship between tech and the nonprofit sector, and her advice for millennials and social entrepreneurs impatient with the slow pace of change.

AnnMeiChang-32Philanthropy News Digest: How did you get into social change work?

Ann Mei Chang: I studied computer science in college and then worked in Silicon Valley for over twenty years, at big companies like Google, Apple, and Intuit, as well as a number of start-ups. But I had known since my mid-twenties that I wanted to spend the first half of my career in tech, and the second half doing something more meaningful, something to make the world a better place. I hoped I would be able to make that change, and I was committed to it, although I didn't know exactly when or how. But as I got closer to that point in my career, in my early forties, I began to look around at all the things I cared about, and decided to focus on global poverty, as it seemed to be at the root of so many other problems I cared about.

I recognized there was a lot I needed to learn about a very different space. I ended up taking a leave of absence from Google and went to the State Department on a fellowship, where I worked in the Secretary's Office of Global Women’s Issues, with a focus on issues around women and technology. It didn't take long before I was hooked. I resigned from Google and signed on for another year. After the State Department, where a lot of the work takes place at the ten-thousand-foot level, I joined a nonprofit called Mercy Corps to learn how the real work was being done in the trenches.

Then I was offered my dream job — as the first executive director for the Global Development Lab at USAID, the agency's newest bureau with an inspiring two-part mission. The first part was to identify breakthrough innovations that could accelerate progress in the global development and humanitarian aid work that USAID does. And the second was to look at how we could transform the practice of global development itself by bringing new tools and approaches to table. The first was the "what," and the second the "how."

It fit exactly into the way I was beginning to think about what was really needed to make a difference. That's why it felt like a dream job — it was an opportunity to do this work at the largest aid agency in the world, in the belly of the beast, so to speak, but where I'd be responsible for thinking about how we could work differently and more effectively.

PND: It's an interesting career trajectory, in that it bridges the worlds of both technology and social change. In your experience, do technologists get social change? Or do they tend to see it as another problem that needs to be "engineered"?

AMC: That really depends on the technologist. As with everything, people in tech exist on a spectrum. I've known people in tech who think that technology can solve everything — we'll build a smart phone app and that will somehow end global poverty. There can be a naiveté and hubris, especially when you’re building products for people who live in contexts that you’re not that familiar with.

But there's also a thriving community of tech people in the global development sphere — we call it ICT4D, or information communication technologies for development — who are both technologists and development professionals looking at the intersection between the two. This community has developed something called the principles for digital development, which embody the best practices for the responsible use of technology in development.

One of the really exciting things that happened while I was in government was the creation of US Digital Services and 18F, where a lot of people from the tech sector came in to work for the govern­ment and saw that their skills could be put to use to help the government better serve people. It was catalyzed by the debacle with HealthCare.gov, which caused a lot of people to recognize that tech had something it could contribute that would really make a difference.

PND: Your book, Lean Impact, builds on a book called The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries. If we grant that there are some things nonprofits and government can learn from business — and, more specifically, from Silicon Valley — would you also grant that there are things that nonprofits do at least as well as business?

AMC: I would answer that question a couple of ways. It's true that businesses, nonprofits, and governments function very differently and have different cultures, different processes, and so forth. That said, there are a number of factors that are causing that to change.

One is that in the world of social good, all these players need to work together if they hope to create sustainable change at scale. No one sector is capable of solving most of these problems on their own. And two is what I heard repeatedly in the course of my over two hundred interviews for the book — more and more of the most interesting work is happening at the intersection of sectors. It used to be that nonprofits did good and companies made money. Now you're seeing more nonprofits trying to build sustainable business models and more businesses trying to do good, because their employees, their customers, their stakeholders, and their investors are demanding it. You still have nonprofits and for-profits, but the gap between them is narrowing.

Eric's book has been incredibly popular and successful in the business world, but I've also talked to a lot of people who work in the social sector who have picked it up, were inspired by it, and said, "This makes so much sense, I want to do it." But they feel stuck. There are a lot of reasons for that, but basically it comes down to a number of struc­tural impediments that make it harder for nonprofits to innovate.

So, the idea behind Lean Impact is to build on these best practices for innovation and adapt them for the unique challenges of doing social good. None of this is rocket science. But it can be hard to do in the context in which we work.

PND: Innovation is a key theme of the book. How do you define it? And why does it need to be lean?

AMC: I think those questions go together. In the book I quote Edison, who famously said, "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." That's very much true of innovation. It's one percent inspiration, which is the big idea, the invention, if you will. That's the part that people tend to focus on when we talk about innovation, because it's sexy. Someone comes up with some whiz-bang gadget and everyone goes, "Wow."

But I think innovation and the book is about the ninety-nine percent — the blood, sweat, and tears that is involved with taking that initial germ of a good idea and testing, iterat­ing, improving it; creating a business model; and building the infrastructure and operations to bring it to real impact in the real world.

The book looks at how to do that. Remember, despite being considered among the most innovative companies on the planet, Google didn’t "invent" search and Facebook didn't "invent" social networking. They built on existing ideas and relentlessly focused on improving the algorithms, the user interface, and the feature set, until, over time, they were head-and-shoulders above their competitors.

In the social sector, there tends to be a focus on the big idea, the flashy thing no one has thought of before versus the blood, sweat, and tears needed to take an idea that is already out there and figuring out how to really make it work in a context in which it could have real impact.

PND: You're a believer in the importance of setting audacious goals. But I think many people engaged in social change work would argue that, given the constraints on resources, setting big audacious goals is a non-starter. Do they have a point?

AMC: The book is organized around three principles, and one of them is about the importance of thinking big. And yes, the nonprofit sector tends to plan based on constraints. They look at the money they have, the existing staff, or the size and scope of a particular grant and ask, What can we do with these resources? But that rarely makes an appreciable dent in the problem. The organizations that I have found to be the most impressive and most successful were the ones that think big and plan based on the real needs in the world. It forces them to make different decisions. Can I give you an example?

PND: Sure.

AMC: There's a social enterprise based here in New York called VisionSpring. They've identified an invention that has proven to improve productivity and learning. You know what I'm talking about. Eyeglasses. It's a technology that has been around for seven hundred years, and yet two and half billion people who could benefit still don't have a pair. So, VisionSpring set out to address this huge gap. They started out in two countries, India and El Salvador, and they hired "vision entrepreneurs" to go into rural areas to do eye exams and sell eyeglasses at a very low-cost. And these vision entrepreneurs came back with amazing stories about kids who were suddenly able and eager to learn and people who thought they'd never be able to see well again who could suddenly see and work and contribute to the community. These are results most nonprofits would have been very happy with: We had some resources, and we did some good, right?

But, for VisionSpring it wasn't enough. It was doing good and on to something that mattered. But it was also losing money on each person it served and was never going to raise enough money to reach all the people who could benefit from a pair of eyeglasses.

So it pivoted. It moved to a hub-and-spoke model by setting up vision centers in urban areas to serve a higher-end clientele. And with the profits, VisionSpring was able to cross-subsidize outreach to more rural areas. Under the new model, the organization soon became financially self-supporting, which is something most nonprofits would be happy about. But VisioinSpring still wasn't satisfied. Even though it was on financially solid ground, it would take decades for it to set up centers around the world to reach all the people who might benefit from a pair of eyeglasses.

So it pivoted again. This time it partnered with BRAC — one of the biggest global development organizations around — to leverage its existing network of community healthcare workers in every corner of Bangladesh. By working with BRAC, VisionSpring was able to train those community healthcare workers to provide eye exams and sell low-cost glasses across the country. It was a win-win, because it gave BRAC another benefit they could offer their constituents, while VisionSpring was able to get eyeglasses to a lot more people. Together, they've now helped over a million people. Which is pretty impressive. Today, VisionSpring has hundreds of partnerships through which they've been able to reach over four and a half million people. Again, most people would consider that a huge success.

But the organization still wasn't satisfied. The way VisionSpring saw it, they'd only reached a tiny fraction of the two and a half billion people who needed eyeglasses. So their most recent pivot was to spin out a new nonprofit called EYElliance, which brings together eyeglass manufacturers, governments, and nonprofits to look at the market and policy failures that are behind the supply-demand gap — things like the fact that eyeglass manufacturers aren't incentivized to invest in low-cost glasses or distribute them in rural areas and that governments tend not to include vision care in the services they provide. One of their first successes was an MOU they signed with the government of Liberia to integrate vision care into the national health and public school systems. One can imagine what that might mean for one of the poorest countries in the world. And as the coalition continues to focus on systems changes like that, you can see the potential for it to maybe, just maybe, get to that two and a half billion in need.

PND: You mentioned that the book is centered around three guiding principles. What are the other two?

AMC: The first is to think big. The idea is to have an audacious goal that moves the needle on the real need in the world.

The second is to start small. Too often, social entrepreneurs and nonprofits do the opposite: they think too small and start too big. Funders tend to ask nonprofits to set achievable goals and deliver reliably on them. That's not a recipe for innovation. The beauty of starting small is that it allows you to experiment when you don't yet have a solution to the problem and to validate your assumptions before making a bigger investment. It also makes it easier for nonprofits to try out more options and find the best one, to take more risk, to learn more quickly and cheaply, and to adapt and improve on their solution.

The third principle is to relentlessly seek impact. By that, I mean staying intently focused at every step of the way on your big audacious goal, and avoiding all the things that can throw you off track. In the book I encourage people to fall in love with the problem rather than their solution. Often, it's the opposite: we fall in love with a solution — because it's what we have been promoting, become attached to, feel pride of ownership for, or can't let go of. In the process, we can forget to ask ourselves whether it’s actually going to solve the problem. VisionSpring could have gotten very attached to its idea of vision entrepreneurs; they were doing some good and they had great stories to tell. But because it held on lightly to that particular path and kept returning to what its original audacious goal was, it realized it had to pivot — not once, not twice, but three times — and find even more effective ways to achieve its goal.

PND: What is the role of time in all of this? Should organizations looking to scale their impact ignore how long it might take or is taking? Or is time irrelevant to the equation?

AMC: Well, you've got to have both long- and short-term goals. Your big audacious goal should be your North Star that keeps you headed in the right direction. But by definition it's usually a long-term goal and is not granular enough to guide your short-term decisions. From a day-to-day standpoint, I recommend focusing on innovation metrics. In The Lean Startup Eric Ries coined the term "vanity metrics" for the kind of numbers that quantify activity and look good, but often are not a meaningful measure of progress. In the nonprofit space, this tends to be aggregate numbers like the number of people reached or touched. In contrast, innovation metrics capture the unit metrics that are the underlying drivers of real impact. In the book, I break those down into three buckets: value — is this something people demand, will come back for, and will tell their friends about; impact — does what you're delivering create the social benefit you intend; and growth — do you have an engine to drive scale to somewhere approximating the need that exists.

PND: Many of the case studies in the book feature NGOs and nonprofits working in a developing world context. Should we infer from that that it's easier to scale impact in a developing world as opposed to a developed world context?

AMC: No, not at all. I worked at USAID, Mercy Corps, and the State Department, which were all focused on global poverty, so I've had a lot more personal experience in this area. But at least a third of the examples in the book concern domestic organizations and efforts. Part of my research for the book was to learn more about the work that is happening domestically and about organizations that are innovating and pioneering new approaches to problems here in our backyard.

PND: Do you have an example you can share with us?

AMC: One example I like is an organization called Summit Public Schools, which operates a dozen charter schools in the Bay Area and Washington State. One reason I find them inspiring is that they have been rapidly innovating in the field of education, a field where impact can take years to fully realize. When Diane Tavenner started SPS, her big audacious goal was to have 100 percent of SPS' diverse student body graduate from college. She and her team started with a couple of schools, adopted the best educational practices they could find, and hit the ground running. Eight years later, when SPS' first cohort of students graduated from college, the graduation rate for those kids was much higher than average. Again, most people would say, "Hey, that's a huge success."

But Diane wasn't satisfied, because she had a big audacious goal, and 100 percent meant 100 percent. She also wasn’t willing to wait another eight years to see whether a new set of enhancements might succeed. Instead, she decided to focus on building innovation, iteration, and data into the culture of SPS so that teachers and administrators in SPS schools could speed up their pace of learning.

And that's what they did. In a space where, traditionally, it's very hard to innovate, SPS created a system where they could run week-long variations, trying a mix of elements such as lecture time, one-on-one mentoring, personalized learning with computers, group project time, and so on. They also introduced variety into the curriculum, changed the physical configuration of classrooms, and looked at a bunch of other dimensions of the school day. Each week they would gather data from individual student learning assessments, focus groups, and student and teacher feedback, to see what was working and what wasn't. Now, of course, the data collected wasn't going to tell you definitively whether this kid or that kid would, down the road, graduate from college. But it did tell them which elements of the curriculum and school day were more engaging and resulted in improved learning. With these iterations over the course of a year, they were able to fine-tune their approach and come up with a personalized learning model that was significantly better than the model they started with.

The students who were exposed to that approach haven't graduated college yet, but in the past year 99 percent of them were admitted to college. What's even more exciting is the SPS model is now being replicated at over three hundred different public schools in forty different states. Dianne and her team recognize that they would never be able to run enough schools themselves, but they have developed the capacity to be able to experiment and innovate much more quickly than most schools and school districts, and that should benefit everyone in the long run.

PND: The elimination of global poverty by 2030 is one of the seventeen UN Sustainable Development Goals. Do you think that's an achievable goal? And how might the principles outlined in your book help the global community achieve that goal as well as the other SDGs?

AMC: All indications are that we are not on track to achieve many of the SDGs by 2030, including ending extreme poverty. I often hear people focus on the $2 trillion to $3 trillion annual funding gap that is needed to get us all the way there. It's completely unrealistic, of course, to think that we're going to somehow magically come up with $2 trillion or $3 trillion — if anything, foreign-aid dollars are more likely going to decline over the next decade. The only other alternative I can see is to innovate our way into better, more cost effective, more scalable solutions to these problems. That is, we need to get dramatically greater bang for the buck for the dollars we do have. Of course, that means innovation. If we shift our attention and apply more of the kinds of approaches I try to elevate in the book, we have a far better chance of achieving many more of the SDGs.

PND: After thirty-plus years of globalization and technology-driven disruption, we're seeing a serious populist backlash to many of the consequences of those phenomena in countries like Hungary, Poland, Italy, Brazil, and, yes, the U.S. What advice would you give to a young social entrepreneur with a great idea and a burning desire to change the world?

AMC: Well, the political landscape certainly has changed, and national­ism and populism are on the rise. But there are still a huge number of institutions out there that are continuing to drive and push for social change, whether its foundations or multilateral institutions like the World Bank and USAID or governments, including ours. At the same time, new problems are rearing their heads and demanding attention. I do think there's a ton of passion and interest among millennials to step up and take responsibil­ity for making the world a better place, and we're seeing that in the increased interest in things like impact investing and the drive to hold all com­panies, but especially giant multinationals, accountable. There's a real interest in the responsibility we all have to society and the planet.

The nonprofit space is changing as well. There's more emphasis on the need for rigor and on the need to scale, and that's part of what I think Lean Impact is trying to do — to take some of the techniques that have been honed by business and put them to work to solve some of the world's most important problems.

As for advice I might give, I think it really comes down to the principles outlined in the book. Don't get too attached to your big idea. Lots of people have great ideas, and most of them end up falling by the wayside. Be open to the possibility that your idea may need to be tweaked or even discarded and fall in love with the problem you want to solve instead.

Be audacious about your goals and what you’re trying to accomplish and remember: the foundation of innovation is an audacious goal. If your goals can be achieved with business as usual, there's no reason to take the risks needed to achieve something great. As I tell my teams, what would you do if you had to deliver ten times as much as what you're doing today? It forces you to think out of the box, to take some risks, and to try some things that are different.

Finally, get out there and start building, experimenting, and start learning. Be humble about what you know and don't know. And be relentless about trying and failing, trying and fail­ing, and finding the best path forward. Great things have never been achieved by those who were afraid to fail.

— Mitch Nauffts

Tracking California Wildfire Disaster Relief - 2018

November 13, 2018

Updated: November 17, 2018 - 8:30 PM ET

Exurban development, Santa Ana winds, and a decade-long drought driven by a warming climate — those are some of the factors that came together over the weekend to create and feed some of the worst wildfires California has ever seen. As of Saturday, November 17, the fast-moving Camp Fire north of Sacramento had destroyed the town of Paradise, destroyed 9,700 homes, displaced 52,000 people, and claimed the lives of 71 people (with 1,100 more missing or unaccounted for), making it the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in the state's history. On Thursday, smoke from the fires had so compromised air quality in the region that state officials were forced to declare a public health emergency. "This is an extremely dangerous and exceptional event that has few parallels in U.S. history," said Dr. Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground. Meanwhile, in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, the Woolsey and Hill fires had ravaged parts of Malibu, Westlake Village, and Thousand Oaks, killing three people and forcing the evacuation of dozens of others.

As we did with hurricanes Florence and Michael, Foundation Center will be tracking institutional pledges and commitments to wildfire relief and recovery efforts over the coming days and weeks. To make sure your company or organization's pledge have been included in the total, or for questions about methodology or sources, contact Andrew Grabois, manager of corporate philanthropy at Foundation Center.

Woolsey Fire

(Photo credit: Hans Gutknecht/Digital First Media/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images)

TOTAL: $2,570,000

Organization Type (pledges and commitments)

Corporate Direct Giving/
Company-Sponsored Foundations
$2,070,000 9 orgs.
Private Foundations $0 0 orgs.
Public Charities $500,000 1 org.

Top Recipients (Total Received to Date)

1. Unknown Recipient(s) $1,000,000
2. American Red Cross
(national)
$775,000
3. Multiple Recipients $650,000
4. United Way of Northern California $50,000
5. Ventura County Community Foundation $50,000
6. Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation $25,000
7. Wildfire Relief Fund (California Community Foundation) $20,000

Source: Foundation Center & Center for Disaster Philanthropy

Download the Data

Check out Philanthropy News Digest for the latest coverage of
the philanthropic response to the wildfires in California.

And for more data on philanthropic giving for disasters since 2011, check out
our Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy mapping platform.

Weekend Link Roundup (November 10-11, 2018)

November 11, 2018

11-10-2018-malibu-fire-pchA weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Civil Society

On the twenty-ninth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Richard Marker reflects on "the fragility of civil society, the brevity of memory, and the destructive hubris of leaders motivated by xenophobic rage."

Criminal Justice

In the New York Times, Michelle Alexander, author of the acclaimed The New Jim Crow, hails "the astonishing progress that has been made in the last several years on a wide range of criminal justice issues." But she warns that "[m]any of the current reform efforts contain the seeds of the next generation of racial and social control, a system of 'e-carceration' that may prove more dangerous and more difficult to challenge than the one we hope to leave behind."

Environment

The world is drowning in stuff, writes Elizabeth Seagran, PhD, a staff writer for Fast Company. Isn't it time for nonprofits and foundations to do the environment a favor and just say no to all the cheap swag they hand out at conferences and events?

Giving

Nice post on the Charity Navigator blog about philanthropically minded celebs who have turned giving into an art.

Governance

On the GuideStar blog, Bill Hoffman, CEO of Bill Hoffman & Associates, LLC, a Tampa-based consulting firm, shares six things individual nonprofit board members can do to support their CEO's success.

Continue reading »

Current Trends in Philanthropy: U.S. Foundation Support for Climate Action

November 09, 2018

IStock-470785468Released last month, the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report paints a bleak picture of the disastrous consequences facing the planet if the average global temperature climbs 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The authors of the report warn that humanity will have to cut carbon emissions to almost half the 2010 level as early as 2030 in order to avoid long-lasting and potentially irreversible impacts from climate change, including the loss of many important ecosystems.

The issue of climate change and the impact of human activity on the environment has been hotly debated and has received significant attention from U.S. foundations. According to Foundation Center data, the largest one thousand U.S. foundations gave between $232 million and $261 million annually for climate-related issues between 2011 and 2015, with the exception of 2012, when a large infusion of funds into the ClimateWorks Foundation pushed the annual total to $340 million.

This represents about one percent of giving during that period but does not represent all giving that may contribute to the mitigation of climate change and its effects. Indeed, as much as another 3 percent of foundation giving over that period related to energy issues or sustainable agriculture may have supported efforts to address energy usage and current agricultural practices so as to lessen their contributions to global warming.

Fig1.1_climate action

Energy efficiency and electrification, in particular, have been a significant focus of foundation funding for climate action, with 57 percent of all climate change-related grants funded by the largest one thousand U.S. foundations between 2011-15 related to energy efficiency or renewable energy efforts. Food and agriculture, on the other hand, represented only 3 percent of climate action funding over the same period. Increasingly, however, foundations are recognizing the importance of sustainable food production in tackling climate change and are approaching the issue through an intersectional lens, as evidenced by initiatives such as Project Drawdown.

Fig. 1.2_climate action

The year 2015 also saw the adoption of the Paris Agreement, which the United States initially signed but, at the behest of the Trump administration, subsequently withdrew from. Given that the deployment of capital and funding is a critical factor in efforts to de-carbonize the global economy, the withdrawal of the U.S. from the agreement raises the question as to whether and how foundation giving has changed in response.

Detailed grantmaking data for 2016 (and subsequent years) is still being compiled, so it's difficult to draw any conclusions about the immediate response of foundations to the Trump administration’s decision. That said, several major foundations have announced significant commitments since the agreement was ratified in 2015.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (November 3-4, 2018)

November 04, 2018

Every voteA weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Arts and Culture

According to a new Indiana University study, more than half of arts and culture nonprofits in the state report that demand for their services has increased over the past three years, and an even larger share reports that their expenses had increased more than their revenues, suggesting that most arts groups in the state operate in the red.

Environment

Most of us have stereotypes about who is, and isn't, an environmentalist. Most of us are wrong. Linda Poon reports for CityLab.

Higher Education

The Great Recession seems to have made a new generation of college students wary of the humanities. In The Atlantic, Jeffrey Selingo reports on what some liberal arts schools are doing to protect their investment.

Universities and colleges will have to work fast, because the AP reports that Amazon has launched a program to teach more than ten million students a year how to code, with a focus on kids and young adults from low-income families.

Journalism/Media

NewsMatch, the largest grassroots fundraising campaign in support of nonprofit news organizations, is underway. With support from a diverse group of foundations, including the Democracy Fund, the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, the Gates Family Foundation (through the Colorado Media Project), the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Wyncote Foundation, the campaign will double donations to a hundred fifty-five nonprofit newsrooms in nearly every state across the country through December 31.

Nonprofits

As a society, we make "big bets" on lots of things — the importance of a quality education for all, the exploration of space, the outcome of the Super Bowl and World Cup. So why, asks Social Velocity's Nell Edgington, don't we make big bets on the nonprofit sector?

Continue reading »

Current Trends in Philanthropy: U.S. Foundation Support for Democracy

November 02, 2018

Heading into the midterm elections, we've seen heightened interest in the role that philanthropy plays in democratic societies, both globally and in the United States. Although foundations are prevented by law from engaging in partisan political campaigning, the regulations leave plenty of room for foundations to engage with democracy in other ways.

In 2013, a group of eight foundations commissioned Foundation Center to create an online knowledge portal, Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy, to help them better understand the range of approaches foundations are taking to strengthen democratic institutions and democracy in the United States.

Funding democracy grab

The portal features a data tool that shows how foundations have invested in four areas related to U.S. democracy: 1) Campaigns, Elections, and Voting; 2) Civic Participation; 3) Government/Civil Liberties; and 4) Media. Since 2011, Foundation Center has documented 57,000+ democracy-related grants made by more than 6,000 foundations totaling $5.1 billion. This represents about 1.5 percent of all grantmaking by U.S. foundations over that period.

Two subtopics within democracy funding currently are generating a great deal of interest among U.S. foundations — media and democracy, and immigrant rights. The impact of big-dollar philanthropy itself on democracy also has received scrutiny.

Media and Democracy. Interest in understanding and combating digital disinformation and so-called fake news has increased noticeably in the democracy funding space in recent years. In March 2018, for example, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation announced a commitment of $10 million over two years through its Madison Initiative to help address the problem that digital disinformation poses for democracy. As part of its commitment, Hewlett has partnered with six other foundations (the Alfred P. Sloan, Charles Koch, John S. and James L. Knight, and Laura and John Arnold foundations; the Democracy Fund; and Omidyar Network) to fund Social Science One, a new research commission tasked with using Facebook data to analyze the role of social media on elections and democracy.

Interestingly, the term "fake news" appeared in Foundation Center's grants database as far back as 2006-07 in descriptions of two grants awarded to the Center for Media and Democracy, a nationally recognized watchdog that tracks the role of money in U.S. politics. It wasn't until 2017, however, that the term began appearing in grant descriptions on a regular basis. The largest recent grant referencing "fake news" was awarded by the Ford Foundation in 2017 to the First Draft project at Harvard University's Shorenstein Center on Media in support of the project's efforts to study the impact of fake news and "fight mis- and disinformation online."

Philanthropy also actively supports "truth in media" organizations situated at different points on the political spectrum. Since 2016, we've tracked $4 million in grants awarded to the Reston, Virginia-based Media Research Center, whose mission is "to expose and neutralize the propaganda arm of the Left." Over the same period, we've also identified $5.2 million in foundation grants to D.C.-based Media Matters to America, a "progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media."

Continue reading »

Current Trends in Philanthropy: International Giving by U.S. Foundations

November 01, 2018

Global-giving-report-coverInternational giving by large U.S. foundations reached an all-time high of $9.3 billion in 2015, up some 306 percent, from $2.1 billion, in 2002, when Foundation Center first started tracking it on an annual basis. During the same period, international giving also increased as a percent of total giving, from 13.9 percent in 2002 to 28.4 percent in 2015.

While the number of grants to international organizations and causes has stayed relatively stable, up some 31 percent (from 10,600 to 13,900) since 2002, average grant size has increased more than three-fold, from $200,900 in 2002 to $604,500 in 2015.

Much of that growth can be attributed to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which accounted for more than half (51 percent) of all international giving from 2011 to 2015. When Gates Foundation grantmaking is excluded, we see that international giving grew at a somewhat slower rate (21 percent) during the five-year period, reaching a high of nearly $4 billion in 2015.

Like foundation giving in general, international giving by U.S. foundations is largely project-focused: despite continued calls from nonprofit leaders for foundations to provide more general operating support, 65 percent of international giving by U.S. foundations from 2011 to 2015 was for specific projects or programs. (General support refers broadly to unrestricted funding and core support for day-to-day operating costs. Project support or program development refers to support for specific projects or programs as opposed to the general purpose of an organization. For more information, see https://taxonomy.foundationcenter.org/support-strategies.)

Data also show that U.S. foundations continue to fund international work primarily through intermediaries. From 2011 to 2015, 28 percent of international giving was channeled through U.S.-based intermediaries, 30 percent went through non-U.S. intermediaries, and just 12 percent went directly to organizations based in the country where programs were implemented. What’s more, just 1 percent of international giving was awarded in the form of general support grants directly to local organizations, and those grants were substantially smaller in size, averaging just under $242,000, while grants to intermediaries averaged just over $554,000.

It's important to note that these intermediaries vary in type and structure, and include:

  • International nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) operating programs in a different country than the country where they are headquartered.
  • U.S. public charities re-granting funds directly to local organizations.
  • Organizations indigenous to their geographic region but working across countries (i.e., not just in the country where they are headquartered).
  • Multilateral institutions working globally (e.g., the World Health Organization, Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria).
  • Research institutions conducting public health research or vaccination programs targeted at specific countries that are not the country where they are headquartered.

Unsurprisingly, health was the top-funded subject area supported by U.S. foundations in the 2011 to 2015 period, with grants totaling $18.6 billion accounting for 53 percent of international grantmaking.

Continue reading »

Contributors

Quote of the Week

  • "Ignorance and prejudice are the handmaidens of propaganda. Our mission, therefore, is to confront ignorance with knowledge, bigotry with tolerance, and isolation with the outstretched hand of generosity. Racism can, will, and must be defeated...."

    — Kofi Annan (1938-2018)

Subscribe to Philantopic

Contributors

Guest Contributors

  • Laura Cronin
  • Derrick Feldmann
  • Thaler Pekar
  • Kathryn Pyle
  • Nick Scott
  • Allison Shirk

Tweets from @PNDBLOG

Follow us »

Archives

Other Blogs

Tags