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15 posts from November 2018

Funding for Democracy and Participatory Grantmaking: Two Sides of the Same Coin

November 29, 2018

In the wake of the U.S. midterms, it's easy to feel good about democracy and democratic practice. For those of us who were able to, exercising one’s right to vote can feel energizing. And the ubiquity of the 'I Voted' sticker on social media platforms offers a nice counterpoint to the all-too-common assertion that democracy is dying.

Trends cited as evidence of democracy's demise — dwindling participation in civic life, attacks on the press meant to undermine its legitimacy, the proliferation of digital disinformation, the rise of authoritarianism in formerly democratic countries — have been joined by renewed scrutiny of philanthropy, which finds itself under fire (once again) for being an anti-democratic tool of wealthy elites intent on shaping the world to their benefit. This criticism, however, exists alongside the reality that there are foundations funding efforts to strengthen democracy and loosen the grip of elite interests on the levers of power.

Democracy_twitter

Indeed, there's a substantial amount of philanthropic grantmaking informed by a belief that democracy is worth saving. At Foundation Center, we've captured this funding for the United States in a data tool, Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy, that we developed in partnership with the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Open Society Foundations, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Democracy Fund, and the Hewlett, JPB, MacArthur, and Rita Allen foundations. The platform makes publicly available information on 57,000+ grants awarded by more than 6,000 foundations since 2011 in support of democracy, including efforts to foster an engaged and informed public and promote government accountability, as well as funding for policy research and advocacy.

Grants that meet Foundation Center criteria are included in the platform regardless of whether a grantmaker self-identifies as a "democracy funder." And grants are not limited to a particular segment of the political spectrum. On the platform, you'll find grants awarded to the Young America’s Foundation, which is "committed to ensuring that increasing numbers of young Americans understand and are inspired by the ideas of individual freedom, a strong national defense, free enterprise, and traditional values," alongside grants to People for the American Way, which was "founded to fight right-wing extremism and defend constitutional values under attack, including free expression, religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy."

Across the four major funding categories represented in the tool — Campaigns, Elections, and Voting; Civic Participation; Government; and Media — you'll also find support for activities that challenge the status quo in the U.S. and run counter to the interests of the power elite.

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Hill-Snowdon Foundation's Courageous Philanthropy Defends Democracy

November 28, 2018

Since winning an NCRP Impact Award in 2014, the Hill-Snowdon Foundation has been unrelenting in calling out white supremacy and anti-black racism while taking risks to invest in black-led social change work.

2014-ncrp-impact-awards-winner-badgeThe D.C.-based foundation's grantmaking has long been bold, but the leadership it has modeled through its Defending the Dream Fund matches the urgency of the real threats to our democracy. The foundation's decision in 2017 to simplify its practices and collaborate with other funders in creating the fund has resulted in more than $1 million in rapid-response grants being moved to groups working to fight policies that threaten the most vulnerable populations in the United States.

Even in 2015, however, the foundation knew this moment in American history — one that has seen the emergence of movements calling for just and fair elections, human rights for LGBTQ people and people of color, and economic equity — would not last forever.

So the foundation launched its Making Black Lives Matter initiative (MBLM), pushing philanthropy to look beyond the immediate moment and invest in longer-term infrastructure for black-led social change work. Grantees, funding partners, and other nonprofit groups in the community have rated that work as the most impactful they have done in recent years.

How did the foundation do it?

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5 Questions for… David Egner, President/CEO, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation

November 27, 2018

Established by the late owner of the NFL's Buffalo Bills with more than a billion dollars in assets, the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation plans to spend those assets down, with a focus on western New York state and southeastern Michigan, by 2035.

David Egner was appointed president and CEO of the foundation in 2015, having served prior to that as president and CEO of the Detroit-based Hudson Webber Foundation. A fixture in Michigan philanthropy for decades, first as an executive assistant to longtime W.K. Kellogg Foundation CEO Russ Mawby, then as director of the Michigan Nonprofit Association and executive director of the New Economy Initiative, Egner is using his extensive knowledge, experience, and connections to make the Detroit and Buffalo metro region better places to live and work.

PND recently spoke with Egner about Ralph Wilson and his vision for the foundation and the two regions he loved and called home.

Headshot_david_egnerPhilanthropy News Digest: Who was Ralph C. Wilson? And what was his connection to Buffalo and southeastern Michigan, the two regions on which the foundation focuses most of its giving?

David Egner: Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. was a tremendously successful businessman and the beloved founder and former owner of the National Football League's Buffalo Bills.

The four life trustees he appointed to lead the foundation decided to focus its giving in the Detroit and Buffalo regions — southeastern Michigan and western New York — where Mr. Wilson spent most of his life and was the most emotionally invested. He had called metro Detroit home since he was two, and Buffalo became a second home after 1959 through his ownership of the Bills.

But above all, he's remembered for being a lover of people and of everyday difference makers. We want the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation to be a testament to his spirit, and that ethos helps guide who we are, what we do, and how we help shape communities.

PND: Why did Mr. Wilson, who lived to be 95, decide to structure the foundation as a limited lifespan foundation?

DE: It was a very personal decision. First and foremost, it was born out of his desire to have an impact on everything he touched. Doing so ensures that the foundation’s work will be completed within the lifetimes of the people who knew him best, our four life trustees, and that its impact will be immediate, substantial, and measurable.

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Weekend Link Roundup (November 24-25, 2018)

November 25, 2018

Givingtuesday3A 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

What role might foundations play in addressing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES), a significant risk factor for a variety of health and social problems across the lifespan? John Mullaney, executive director of the Nord Family Foundation, has been thinking about that for some time now and, in a post here on PhilanTopic, shares his thoughts.

Climate Change

Thirty years after The New Yorker published "The End of Nature," Bill McKibben's seminal article about the greenhouse effect, McKibben returns to the pages of the magazine with a look at what we have learned in the decades since about climate change, extreme weather, and their impact on human society. You will not be encouraged.

Education

On the HistPhil blog, Leslie Finger, a political scientist and lecturer on government and social studies at Harvard University, considers some of the implications of foundation grants to state education agencies.

Fundraising

It's not enough for nonprofits to simply thank their donors, says Vu Le, who shares twenty-one tips designed to help you and your organization be better at recognizing and appreciating the people who support your work.

On the Bloomerang blog, Terri Shoemaker, chief strategy officer at Abeja Solutions in Phoenix, Arizona, pays tribute to "the small donor. The little ones. Those generous folks that give when they can to a mailing, online, or even to your very specific appeal on social media."

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'The Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America': Exhibit at Haverford College

November 21, 2018

"They're selling postcards of the hanging…"
— Bob Dylan, “Desolation Row”

Hank Willis ThomasI've listened to "Desolation Row" hundreds of times since it was first released in 1965, but only recently did I learn that it tells the story of the 1920 lynching of three African-American men in Duluth, Minnesota, where Dylan was born. On an interactive map at a current exhibit about lynching at Haverford College, on the Main Line west of Philadelphia, I found that horrific event — and discovered in the exhibit a group of artists whose response to the history of lynching brings the issue into the present in forceful and creative ways.

The history of lynching is generally known to mainstream American society and is better known to the African-American community, the primary target of lynching, as well as other targeted communities, including foreigners, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinos. But like so much of the history of slavery and Jim Crow, the details have often been lacking or relegated to the background. Now, thanks to new digital technologies that make it easier to access and cross-reference public records, oral histories, and other types of documentation, researchers are creating a more complete understanding of lynching in the post-bellum and Jim Crow eras. For instance, while it has long been known that the states of the Confederacy were the scene of most lynchings, we are learning that communities in the North and West like Duluth were also the scene of lynchings, leading to the inescapable conclusion that the message implicit in such atrocities was intended to be a national one.

The challenge for all of us is what to do with that knowledge.

The Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit legal assistance and advocacy organization based in Montgomery, Alabama, has documented more than four thousand lynchings in the U.S. between 1877 and 1950. The organization published a report on its findings (now in its third edition) and has established a National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a museum, a research center, and community-based partnerships focused on registering lynching sites.

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The Power of the Arts to Heal

November 20, 2018

Muzika2The Nord Family Foundation has been exploring the role we can play regarding emerging evidence about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES), a significant risk factor for a variety of health and social problems across the lifespan and a major factor in much of the work we fund. One of our recent grantees in this area is the Resilient Richland Initiative (RRI) in Columbia, South Carolina, one of several NFF-funded projects that are working to address trauma-informed care.

Our decision to support RRI is based on numerous conversations with leaders and officials from nonprofits, government, and schools who struggle to address complex social issues rooted in ACEs, which researchers have defined as physical or emotional abuse or neglect, sexual abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse or mental illness in the home, parental separation or divorce, having an incarcerated household member, and, in rare cases, not being raised by both of one's biological parents. According to researchers, the effects of sustained trauma during childhood and adolescence have an impact on adolescent health and educational status, increasing the likelihood of an adolescent having to repeat a grade, lowering his or her resilience, and increasing his or her risk for learning and behavioral issues, suicidal ideation, and early sexual activity and pregnancy. For too many in our nation, these factors can lead to a life of poverty and desperation.

Once ACEs have been diagnosed, the goal is to create resilience in the individual in which it has been diagnosed, with a focus on the assets — as opposed to risks and deficits — that he or she possesses, including such things as coping skills and family and community supports.

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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.

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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."

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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.

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Tracking California Wildfire Disaster Relief - 2018

November 13, 2018

Updated: December 5, 2018 - 4:30 AM 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 on November 8 in California to create some of the worst wildfires in the history of the state. As of December 2, the Camp Fire north of Sacramento had been 100 percent contained, but not before burning more than 153,000 acres, obliterating 17,000+ structures and most of the town of Paradise, and claiming the lives of 88 people (with 25 people still unaccounted for), making it the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history. Farther to the south, in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, the Woolsey and Hill fires were also 100 percent contained, after having claimed the lives of three people and consuming 1,640 structures. According to catastrophe modeler RMS, insured losses from the wildfires are expected to range between $9 billion and $13 billion.

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: $16,843,500

Organization Type (pledges and commitments)

Corporate Direct Giving/
Company-Sponsored Foundations
$12,120,000 41 orgs.
Private Foundations $0 0 orgs.
Public Charities $3,973,500 6 orgs.
Other $750,000 1 org.

Top Recipients (Total Received to Date)

1. Unknown Recipient(s) $4,760,000
2. American Red Cross
(national)
$2,965,000
3. Multiple Recipients $2,247,500
4. North Valley Community Foundation $1,835,000
5. Tri Counties Bank Camp Fire Fund $1,000,000
6. Wildfire Relief Fund (California Community Foundation) $645,000
7. United Way of Greater Los Angeles $500,000
8. 3Core, Inc. $500,000
9. Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation $385,000
10. Women Economic Ventures $250,000

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.

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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.

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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?

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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."

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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.

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