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7 posts from January 2019

Weekend Link Roundup (January 19-20, 2019)

January 20, 2019

Shutdown+Architect+of+the+Capitol+US+Customs+and+Border+ProtectionA 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

According to a poll funded by the Knight Foundation, there "remain some aspects of American life where political partisanship does not yet dominate" — and philanthropy is one of them. Martin Morse Wooster reports for Philanthropy Daily.

Climate Change

"Despite its stature as a major funder of climate-change solutions, [the] MacArthur [Foundation] continues to finance the fossil-fuel industry," writes Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther, and "does so deliberately...by seeking out opportunities to invest in oil and gas...."

Communications/Marketing

On her Getting Attention! blog, Nancy Schwartz shares four steps you can take in 2019 to develop a more effective marketing plan.

Fundraising

Pamela Grow shares ten things your nonprofit can do to make 2019 its most successful fundraising year ever.

Andrea Kihlstedt, president of Capital Campaign Masters and co-creator of the Capital Campaign Toolkit, explains why capital campaigns can be a boon to major gift programs.

Inequality

The racial wealth gap is worse than it was thirty-five years ago. Fast Company's Eillie Anzilotti has the details.

Innovation

"[I]f innovation is essential to the ultimate achievements of the sector, we should spend less time on success, and more time on failure." Rohini Nilekani, philanthropist, social entrepreneur, and writer; and Kyle Zimmer, social entrepreneur and Schwab Foundation Fellow, talk with the folks at the World Economic Forum about failure and the social sector.

International Affairs/Development

A decade ago, microfinance was touted as the solution to global poverty. It hasn't worked out that way. Vox's Stephanie Wykstra takes an-depth look at its successes and failures.

Nonprofits

As we look ahead to a new year, Social Velocity's Nell Edgington has some hopeful words for nonprofit leaders and changemakers.

Is not having a COO a risk for a nonprofit organization? Eugene Fram explores that question through the lens of three different examples.

Philanthropy

Ford Foundation president Darren Walker ushers in the New Year with a clear-eyed analysis of the factors behind our current season of discontent and calls on philanthropy to "dedicate [itself], anew, to the cause of justice."

"Philanthropy's version of the 'gig economy' has bedeviled the progressive nonprofit sector for decades," argues Ryan Schlegel on the NCRP blog. "Nonprofit leaders chase program grants that pay some portion of their bills — effectively serving as short-term contractors for foundations – while hoping one day their luck will break with a general support grant that gives them time and space to actually lead." It's a dynamic, adds Schlegel, that is limiting the effectiveness of progressive foundations and their grantees.

In the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Antony Bugg-Levine, CEO of the Nonprofit Finance Fund and a former program officer at the Rockefeller Foundation, shares seven questions he now wishes he had asked himself and his former foundation colleagues back in the day.

In a guest post on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Joanne Kelley, CEO of  the Colorado Association of Funders, a regional philanthropy-serving organization, shares three themes that emerged from an effort in her state to encourage openness and feedback in the philanthropic sector, with the goal of increasing both foundation and nonprofit effectiveness. 

On the Transparency Talk blog, our colleague Janet Camarena chats with Lani Evans,  manager of the Vodafone New Zealand Foundation, the newest foundation with "glasspockets."

Angela Hariche, editor-in-chief at Two Lane Media, has a good Q&A with sector veteran Heather Grady, currently a vice president at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

And the McKnight Foundation, a family foundation based in Minnesota, has unveiled a new mission statement.

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

The Persistence of False and Harmful Narratives About Boys and Men of Color

January 17, 2019

The following essay is adapted from His Story: Shifting Narratives for Boys of Men of Color: A Guide for Philanthropy (66 pages, PDF), which was developed by the Perception Institute for the Executives' Alliance for Boys and Men of Color. The guide is based on discussions and learnings from the 2015-2017 Narrative Change Collective Action Table hosted by the Executives' Alliance for Boys and Men of Color and was largely written by the Perception Institute's Alexis McGill Johnson and Rachel Godsil.

Toolkit_singlePages-pdf-v2-640x822The tragic, brutal, and untimely deaths of boys and men of color in the last few years reinforce an all-too-familiar feeling:  being a male of color in the United States is perilous. What boys and men of color are experiencing in the real world, we also know, does not veer too far from what's happening in the narratives that have come to shape the lived experience for many boys and men of color. Stories that "dehumanize" young men of color and question their value to society abound. And stories that "super-humanize" the physical characteristics of boys and men of color create fear and distrust. The common denominators in these stories are dominant narratives — stories about boys and men of color that are distorted, repeated, and amplified through media platforms, both traditional media and social media, which fuel negative and vilifying perceptions and bring them to scale. In our work, we've come to define these dominant narratives as the "dragon" we are trying to "slay."

In order to slay the dragon, we first need to understand what a narrative is, how it becomes dominant, and then how current narratives cause harm to our boys and men of color. A narrative is a spoken or written account of connected events. In other words, it is a story we tell to make meaning. Narratives become dominant through repetition, particularly when told about a minority culture through the lens of the ruling culture.

Dominant narratives inform how a majority of people in society perceive and interact with one another. They are comprised of stories and archetypes that portray people of different races and ethnicities — black, Latino, Asian, or Native American — as caricatures rather than as distinct and unique human beings. For boys and men of color, the stereotypes may differ depending upon the particular race or ethnicity and historical context, but for each group, these stereotypes are distorted and limiting. Think, for example, of Black and Latino men and how stereotypes depict them as dangerous, threatening, and poor. In contrast, the dominant narratives of white men portray them as hardworking, industrious, innovative, and successful.

Dominant narratives, while constantly evolving, are rooted in the racial history of the United States, specifically the parts of that history that we do not often discuss, such as slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and other times of racial bias. As we describe in more detail in the toolkit, the effects of being defined by a dominant narrative infuse every aspect of life for boys and men of color, from housing and education to health care and career opportunities, making them more vulnerable to violence and more likely to end up in jail.

Dominant narratives about boys and men of color can also trigger or be reinforced by internalized negative self-perceptions among community members. The stories we tell about each other influence the stories we see in ourselves, making our narrative challenges both interrelated and mutually reinforcing — the external reinforcing the internal and vice versa. But it is often the dominant narrative that does the most work in driving how others see boys and men of color and how they see themselves. While the toolkit focuses on boys and men of color, these same processes are also applicable to narratives about other populations, including women and girls of color.

The Impact of Dominant Narratives

Dominant narratives of boys and men of color constrain how we perceive their potential and limit our expectations of them. In a sense, narratives become reality as boys and young men of color have their opportunities for advancement truncated throughout their lives. As boys, they are irrationally perceived as threatening rather than innocent; as students, they are labeled as disruptive rather than recognized for their academic potential; as job applicants, they are disproportionately passed over, sometimes for less-qualified candidates.

At the same time, boys of color are more likely than their peers to attend schools that have fewer experienced educators and lack resources. They are less likely to emerge from high school prepared for college and less able to compete for good jobs or access startup capital for business ventures. Most unjustifiably — and shamefully for the broader culture around them — they experience extremely high levels of contact with the juvenile and criminal justice systems. In moments of crisis, dominant narratives lead to the assumption that the behavior of boys of color must be harmful and deadly, which in turn precipitates unjust and dangerously false interpretations of this behavior. When held as a society, dominant narratives both mirror and, perversely, provide justification for the scant allocation of institutional resources for boys and men of color, limiting their opportunities and providing system-wide barriers to their success.

All of these factors can also lead to internalized racism or internalized oppression, causing boys and men of color to see themselves through the lens of the false dominant narratives that limit their opportunity and shape their lives. As Professor Laura Padilla has noted, internalized oppression and racism are insidious forces that cause marginalized groups to turn on themselves, often without even realizing it. The combined effect of internalized oppression and internalized racism is often devastating — it can reinforce self-fulfilling negative stereotypes, resulting in self-destructive behavior.

Donna Bivens has described the phenomenon further:

Because internalized racism is a systemic oppression, it must be distinguished from human wounds like self-hatred or "low self esteem," to which all people are vulnerable. It is important to understand it as systemic because that makes it clear that it is not a problem simply of individuals. It is structural. Thus, even people of color who have "high self-esteem" must wrestle with the internalized racism that infects us, our loved ones, our
institutions, and our communities....

This last point is a crucial reminder that as we pursue our work, we must be mindful that dominant narratives affect communities internally as well as externally. This phenomenon is particularly noteworthy given the far reach and impact of media with the advancement of technology. For this reason, we can no longer have separate messages for an internal and external audience; rather, narrative change work must effectively address both audiences collectively and consistently.

Framing and the Limits of Traditional Responses

Given what we know about how dominant narratives and the damage they can inflict, why can we not seem to do more to address them? The simple answer is that the go-to approaches we have used for decades are either outdated or ineffective to address the scale of the challenge. In fact, they can even backfire on us.

Since the civil rights movement, three major innovations in communications and thinking about race and racism have furthered our understanding about how race functions in our society and provided the basis for our appeals beyond the civil rights community for progressive policies and changes in practice:

Disparity Documentation: data-driven analysis used to demonstrate the lack of full inclusion of people of color in society.

Structural Analysis of Policy and Opportunity: recognition that racial and economic inequalities stem from policies that determine institutional opportunities or create exclusionary barriers for people of color.

Intersectionality: recognition of the complex means by which marginalization and oppression operate in a person's everyday life as a result of embodying multiple interconnected and overlapping stigmatized social identities such as race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality.

While these approaches are critical to analysis and determining policy positions, they can be detrimental to the work of persuading the broader public that the policy position should be adopted. These approaches are not only insufficient to challenge dominant narratives, they may reinforce them. Egalitarian thinking has prevailed, yet our unconscious mind, which determines most of our behavior, remains highly influenced by stereotypes, racial anxiety, and preference for the dominant in-group. Our data, history, and logic are sound; however, social science research over the past two decades tells us that we need to move beyond the rational in order to compel change.

As a result, these approaches — which have helped paint a broad portrait of the experiences of people of color in America — cannot translate data into a sense of moral urgency or empathy. With competing explanations for racial gaps and disparities, they do not inspire those not affected directly by racial bias to create change. They do not help manage racial anxiety or racial tension, which seem to have spiked in recent years. And most importantly, they can create a sense of inevitability or intractability of racial subordination within communities of color that triggers hopelessness and despair.

When emotions and fear are primary drivers of human behavior, "rationality" becomes irrelevant. To be successful in persuading others, we must affirm the centrality of emotions and values in our reactions to race and gender. We need to create a meaningful cultural shift in the conversation about race when ideas about race are entrenched in both our discourse and language (prompting predictable reactions) and also in our unconscious minds.

Advocates should be aware of the missteps, or insufficiencies, in every stage of the narrative-building process so that we can foster open-mindedness and collaboration rather than cause further polarization. Through this work, then, we need to build upon, supplement, critique — and most importantly not be limited to — the frames we have used in the past.

The toolkit includes some often-used frames derived from our policy-driven approaches that have been developed over the years. Each has done valuable and important work in the fight against racism. But each frame also has accompanying challenges or limitations that can impede the narrative expansion we seek.

The frames described are critical components of our work: we must teach more accurate history; "whiteness as a default" is a reality we must address; identifying and building upon our shared values will be part of coalition building; and we must work to prevent the harms that stem from both implicit and explicit biases. However, these frames are inadequate and incomplete. The focus of our shared work is to create opportunities for sustained behavior change. If our current frames haven't been effective in challenging the distorted perceptions and dominant narratives about boys and men of color and people of color overall — and evidence suggests we have not — we need to find new approaches.

[Review] 'Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance'

January 16, 2019

In Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance, Edgar Villanueva, vice president of programs and advocacy at the Schott Foundation for Public Education, asserts that colonialism is not a thing of the past, but lives on, like a virus, in existing systems and structures, including philanthropy and social finance. In the book, Villanueva, an enrolled member of the Lumbee Tribe and a veteran of the philanthropic sector who has worked in program positions at the Marguerite Casey Foundation and Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, examines how colonization has affected the sector and his own life, and offers a prescription for rectifying its most pernicious consequences.

Decolonizing_wealth_shadowOne of the first things he does is draw a distinction between colonialism and immigration: immigrants come to a new country expecting to abide by the existing laws of the land; colonialism, in contrast, is all about imposing control over new lands and expropriating their resources — by force, if necessary. Colonialism is about establishing dominance over others, which Villanueva likens to a "zombie invasion" in that "[c]olonizers insist on taking over the bodies, minds, and souls of the colonized."

To make his point, Villanueva points to the history of Indian boarding schools in the United States. In the late nineteenth century, as the so-called Indian wars were winding down, the federal government forcibly separated tens of thousands of Native children from their families and communities and sent them off to schools where their "education" included being stripped of their cultural identity. Children were not allowed to use or be called by their own names or to speak their Native language. The philosophy, as the founder of the first off-reservation boarding school put it, was to "kill the Indian, and save the man." The psychic, social, and cultural trauma experienced by Native children in these often-brutal environments was compounded by malnutrition, forced labor, and other forms of physical abuse that went unmarked and unaddressed.

At its heart, though, colonialism is about white supremacy; it is, writes Villanueva, "racism in institutional form," and all institutions and systems in the United States, even the most well-intentioned, have been distorted by its legacy. In the first half of the book, Villanueva provocatively describes the way this has played out over time using the slave plantation as an analogy. Overseers are generally white men or white-controlled institutions, the owners of wealth and power whose ill-gotten gains derive from the exploitation of land, resources, and people. People of color working within these institutions are like house slaves, often silenced or pushed out if they do not go along with the status quo. Communities of color are the field slaves, supplicants for assistance whose need was caused by exploitation.

According to Villanueva, the goal of the colonizer is to accumulate as much wealth as possible. In the U.S., that wealth was created by centuries of genocidal policies, land confiscation, and slavery, followed by a century of discriminatory laws and practices that denied communities of color access to white-controlled sources of wealth.

But if the love of money is the root of all evil, money itself, for Villanueva, is value neutral, neither good nor evil. Which means it can be used to help facilitate healing from trauma and restore harmony to a world out of balance. In the second half of the book, Villanueva suggests what this "decolonizing" of wealth might look like.

It begins with an acknowledgement of our history, deep grief over how the colonizer mindset has affected us all (regardless of the color of our skin), and genuine apologies. It also requires moving money to where the trauma is deepest — something that can only be known by those who have experienced it. Just as federally qualified health centers must have a governing board comprised of a majority (at least 51 percent) of patients in order to qualify for federal funds, Villanueva wonders what things would look like if half of all foundation staff and boards were comprised of individuals from the communities being served. One example: the Potlatch Fund, a Native-led nonprofit in Seattle, Washington, allocates all of its grant dollars to Native peoples, and its by-laws require that two-thirds of its board seats be held by Native Americans. He then points to the emergence of participatory grantmaking in philanthropy and participatory budgeting at the municipal level as signs of the growing democratization of institutional decision-making.

At the same time, a foundation's investment strategies cannot be divorced from its mission. Institutional philanthropy cannot expect to drive meaningful change when only 5 percent of the assets it controls is allocated to grantmaking while the other 95 percent is invested in pursuit of financial returns — often in the very companies creating the social and environmental problems foundations are trying to address. Aware of this conundrum, the F.B. Heron Foundation, in 1996, began taking steps to use its corpus more intentionally as a means of generating greater social impact. Half a dozen years later, in 2012, the foundation made the decision to invest a hundred percent of its assets in service to its mission. What might happen if every foundation committed to using its assets the same way?

Inevitably, decolonizing wealth must address the issue of reparations — an issue, writes Villanueva, that institutional philanthropy, with more than $800 billion sitting in endowments, has the means to address. Of that $800 billion, only 5 percent is distributed in the form of grants each year, and only 8 percent of that is explicitly targeted to communities of color. A sector created to do good, says Villanueva, simply must do better. To that end, he floats the idea of a "reparations tithe" — a voluntary commitment by foundations to direct 10 percent of their assets to the establishment of a trust fund that would provide grants to Native American and African American communities in support of asset- and wealth-building initiatives.

Villanueva closes his book by reminding readers of the Native principle of "All My Relations" — a world in which everyone and everything is interconnected and interdependent. "All My Relations means that everyone is at home here," he writes. “Everyone has a responsibility in making things right. Everyone has a role in the process of healing, regardless of whether they caused or received more harm. All our suffering is mutual. All our healing is mutual. All our thriving is mutual.” Like two other recent publications, Anand Giridharadas' Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World and Rob Reich's Just Giving: Why Philanthropy Is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better, his book is a valuable critique of the ways in which philanthropy perpetuates inequities, hierarchy, and oppression and an urgent call for it to engage more deeply in the healing process.

Grace Sato is a Knowledge Services manager at Foundation Center. For more great reviews, visit the Off the Shelf section in PND.

Driving Improved Access to Quality Health Care in Developing Countries

January 14, 2019

Project_cure_volunteersDespite the many impressive advances in public health we hear about on a regular basis, access to high-quality health care remains a pressing global issue. In developing countries, where traditional barriers to quality health care are exacerbated by inadequate medical infrastructure and a shortage of providers, millions of people suffer and die from conditions for which effective interventions exist simply because of a lack of access to needed care and resources.

According to a World Health Organization/World Bank Group report, at least 400 million people globally do not have access to one or more essential health services, while 6 percent of people in low- and middle-income countries are pushed further into poverty by health care-related spending. Tragically, a recent study published in The Lancet estimates that 15.6 million preventable deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries every year, including 8.6 million that probably could have been prevented through high-quality health care. Of those 8.6 million deaths, some 5 million involved patients who received poor health care.

Statistics like these underscore the fact that access to quality health care is an urgent problem — one that demands a coordinated, multi-faceted response. Underresourced health systems in developing countries invariably mean a shortage of trained health care workers, limited inventories of medical supplies and medications, and inadequate public health surveillance systems. To address these issues, efforts must be made not only to increase access to care on the ground, but to enhance existing medical infrastructure.

Fortunately, effective strategies and solutions have been created and implemented to help close gaps in health care delivery. Through their program expertise and targeted grants, philanthropic organizations can further leverage the knowledge and existing relationships of organizations on the ground to maximize impact and create healthier futures for millions of people.

Project C.U.R.E., the world's largest supplier of donated medical supplies and equipment, is one such organization. Recognizing that public health systems in developing countries have limited resources to purchase even the most commonplace medical devices — equipment that is critical for the safe and effective prevention, as well as diagnosis and treatment, of disease — it is collaborating with the AmerisourceBergen Foundation, a not-for-profit grant making organization focused on supporting global health-related initiatives, to launch a program that will provide local health care workers in developing countries with the equipment, as well as training, needed to help vulnerable populations.

To that end, an initial grant of $50,000 from ABF to Project C.U.R.E. will help support USAID's Health System Strengthening (HSS) program, an effort to better equip doctors and nurses in developing countries to treat disease, deliver vaccines, perform life-changing surgeries, and make safe childbirth the norm. The grant also will support training for medical professionals participating in the American Academy of Pediatrics' Helping Babies Survive (HBS) program, which provides neonatal care and nutrition for infants and young children around the globe.

Headshot_clark_mazottiThe collaboration of Project C.U.R.E. and the AmerisourceBergen Foundation is a small example of how philanthropy can support improved access to quality health care in developing countries. Through multi-level coordination, nonprofit and philanthropic organizations, working together, can begin to break down the barriers that keep vulnerable populations from receiving the reliable, high-quality health care they need. Won’t you join us?

Gina Clark is executive vice president and chief communications and administration officer at AmerisourceBergen and is president of the AmerisourceBergen Foundation. Jan Mazotti is director of communications, marketing and Public Relations at Project C.U.R.E.

Be Bold, Take Risks

January 10, 2019

Take_the_leapEvery year for the last decade or so, organizations have shared their ideas for engaging millennials with me and then asked for my feedback. Thinking about it over the holidays, I realized I received about the same number of approaches in 2018 as in previous years.

I've been studying millennial cause engagement with the Case Foundation for most of that time and have shared all kinds of research findings and insights through the Millennial Impact Project and the newer Cause and Social Influence initiative. Organizations seek me out for advice about their own particular situation, especially as it relates to what is now the largest generation in America. Typically, they do so for one of the following reasons:

  1. they have not been able to cultivate a younger donor base;
  2. their past success is being challenged by new ways of looking at their issue, new technologies, or both;
  3. their donor engagement levels have plateaued; and/or
  4. their revenues have been trending downward and the future looks grim.

After a decade of fielding such approaches, I can usually sniff out whether an organization has what it takes to change — and by that, I mean the kind of change needed not only to attract a new and younger audience, but to engage any person, regardless of age, with an interest in their cause.

Change is hard. It demands a willingness on the part of leadership and staff to leave the status quo behind and push in the direction of a new guiding vision. In other words, it requires people to be fearless.

This kind of approach to change is detailed beautifully by Jean Case in her new book, Be Fearless: 5 Principles for a Life of Breakthroughs and Purpose.

In her book, Jean describes a set of five principles that can be used by any individual or organization to become more relevant and valued in today's fast-changing world. The five principles are:

1: Make a Big Bet. To build a movement or drive real change, organizations (or individuals) need to step outside their comfort zone and make an audacious bet on something they ordinarily would reject as too ambitious or difficult. And the risks associated with a big bet, says Jean, can be mitigated, if organizations are willing to learn and course correct along the way.

If you want to target a younger demographic, go ahead and do it in a big but measurable way that will teach you something. A/B testing one line in an email campaign to a purchased list is a small bet involving little risk and with little potential for changing anything. Building a canvassing team to collect emails at, say, a popular music festival and then tracking engagement after the event is over is a bigger bet involving more time and expense for an unknown return. Creating a mobile unit to travel to locales around the country where younger people tend to live, work, and play and then identifying influencers, micro-influencers, and potential supporters is a much bigger, more expensive bet and thus a much bigger risk. But it's big bets like that which lead to new discoveries and have the potential to propel your cause or movement forward.

2: Be Bold, Take Risks. We all need space and the permission to take risks, especially If we are looking to advance a cause or build a movement. Absent a willingness to take risks, we inevitably become complacent and are unlikely to ever tap into the creativity and enthusiasm needed to drive real change.

Internally, then, organizational cultures need to change from a stance of avoiding risk to one in which it is embraced. In practice, cause leaders should document the risks and lessons that may result from a new idea, campaign, or approach, then inform and reassure staff that though an action has its risks, the potential outcomes and learnings to be gleaned from it are worth more in the long run than not doing anything at all.

3: Make Failure Matter. Each action we take as an organization or individual brings us a step closer to defining a new hypothesis or proving an existing one. I get excited when someone calls me and says, "We tried this and it didn't work, but we learned something" — not because I want to see them fail, but because I know they're taking steps to creating an even better movement or organization built on tested methods and disciplined iteration.

Before you launch your next call to action, campaign, or event, take the time to gather from your internal stakeholders all the hypotheses you hope to test and then post them on a wall or whiteboard. Then, after the campaign or event is over, regroup and determine which of the hypotheses proved out and which didn't, what you think you learned, and what you need to test next.

4: Reach Beyond Your Bubble. "Partnership" is an overused word in the nonprofit sector. Today, being a partner is an expectation, as is finding ways to join forces with others around a common approach to social impact. That said, it tends to be the unlikely partnership that generates the most meaningful change for the issues we serve.

In other words, look beyond the tried-and-true partners you've always worked with and identify organizations and individuals in other sectors who may have a unique asset you can use to advance your cause or movement. It could be a tech company whose technology can help make your approach more impactful for your constituents, or an entity that serves the same constituency but with a different product or value proposition.

5: Let Urgency Conquer Fear. The time to take action is now. Not tomorrow. Today. It's imperative for your organization to develop a sense of urgency about its issue, because a sense of urgency is often the only thing that drives us to find time to make change. Look at any direct mail appeal you received in December: I bet every single one pointed to the urgency of the situation — and most of them probably included an explicit deadline In their call to action ("Act before midnight on December 31!").

Not convinced? What if I told you your organization has a built-in structural need to engage its donors and supporters right now. Give up? It's this: 18 percent of the contacts in your database go bad each year. If you don’t address your donor engagement problem now, you'll be launching your next campaign or call to action already behind. Today is always the best time to experiment, to adopt a new approach, to try something risky that may lead to a breakthrough.

In her book, Jean invites us to ask ourselves, "What would you do if you weren't afraid?" — and to answer fearlessly. As I hope I've helped you see, being fearless doesn't mean you have to climb the highest mountain, swim the deepest ocean, or cross the hottest desert. And it doesn't mean you have to gamble your organization's future on an all-or-nothing bet. What it does require is thinking big, being intentional, making (and learning) from mistakes, and taking action, even if it's a small step — today and not tomorrow. You can do it. Good luck, and Happy New Year!

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

Caring for the City’s Caregivers

January 08, 2019

Housing_affordabilityThat wise woman Rosalyn Carter once said, "There are only four kinds of people in the world. Those who have been caregivers. Those who are currently caregivers. Those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver." We all have a stake, one way or another, in caregiving and in what happens to the individuals who provide that valuable service. And here in New York City, caregivers, quite simply, deserve better care from all of us.

A City in Need of Assistance

New York City turns to its not-for-profit human services sector for essential caregiving for people without homes, parents, or job prospects and, of course, for caregiving services that enable older New Yorkers to age in their communities, living independently with the assistance they need to stay connected to friends and meaningful activity. According to the city's Department for the Aging (DFTA), there are approximately 1.64 million older adults currently residing in the city's five boroughs. As these individuals age, their need for a range of services will grow, and the role that not-for-profits like JASA play in providing those services will become ever more critical.

The continued health of not-for-profit human service organizations relies heavily on employees who interact directly with their clients. Navigating the complexities of the legal, social services, and healthcare systems, not to mention simple life activities, can be challenging at times for any senior, but for those struggling with health, housing, and other issues, it can be overwhelming. There is a real need for the work my organization does, and that need continues to grow.

At the heart of our work are the relationships we build. The key to providing quality services hinges on being able to recruit and retain individuals who genuinely care and are able to establish a connection to the client that fosters trust. Finding skilled individuals is the first challenge. It is not uncommon in 2019 to hear not-for-profit employers say there are more jobs out there than qualified applicants to fill them.

The second, and perhaps even more critical challenge, is retaining good people once you've brought them into your agency. This is particularly true when speaking about social workers, case workers, home health aides — anyone advocating for, providing a necessary service to, or offering older adults assistance in navigating the many challenges they typically face as residents of a large city with a complex and often confusing network of services.

Client trust is key to what we do, and as they say, it is something that must be earned. A revolving door of individuals who continually need to re-familiarize themselves with a client's unique situation tends to breed hostility and distrust. Those feelings, in turn, make it harder for a caregiver to fully learn and understand the challenges that a client faces, and to identify solutions that will benefit her. There's also an added burden on staff when colleagues leave and there are fewer individuals to share the workload — a too-common occurrence that tends to increase stress and reduce an agency's ability to provide quality services, which may prompt still more staff turnover.

Building a Network of Support for Caregivers

There are many dimensions to engaging and retaining good employees. Meaningful work may be the biggest draw — because, to be candid, no one ever went into social work for the money. But there are other incentives, including:

  • having a supervisor who respects you and listens to what you have to say
  • getting recognition for your contributions
  • feeling part of the organization and knowing that it appreciates what you do and what you care about
  • mentoring and professional development

And, of course, compensation that is fair. This is always a challenge. As a not-for-profit agency, we stretch every dollar we take in to provide the critical services New York City's seniors need. Having to rely on government contracts makes it especially difficult. State and city requirements for program staffing and salaries, as well as indirect program costs, stress our bottom line. The burden of ever-increasing accountability adds to the financial challenges we face.

The city's commitment to an increased minimum wage is a good start in terms of bolstering hiring and fostering retention, in that it helps individuals on the lowest end of the pay scale. But there are knock-on effect to a higher minimum wage. Individuals who are supervising minimum-wage employees who are earning more money as of January 1 may find themselves at the same pay level as the people they supervise. Don’t they deserve a pay raise? Where does an agency, hamstrung by inflexible state and city contracts, find the dollars to create a fair pay scale for all its employees?

New York City not-for-profit agencies quite simply find themselves between a rock and a hard place. Advocating for increased wages for hourly workers makes good sense and is the right thing to do. Higher salaries tend to result in a more skilled, committed workforce and better employee retention rates, and ultimately result in a better service model. But if government isn't adequately compensating agencies that provide services, those agencies inevitably will seek out philanthropic dollars to make up the shortfall — and that, as we know, is not something that can be counted on as a consistent, steady source of income.

Here in New York, in addition to inadequate government contracts, employers also face the issue of a higher-than-average cost of living. The reality is that many workers in New York City simply cannot get by doing the work they are trained to do.

A recent report from the New York City comptroller Scott M. Stringer asserts that New York City is suffering from an affordable housing crisis, with individuals at the low end of the pay scale being forced to devote up to 74 percent of their income on housing. We certainly see it affecting the city’s older adult population, with our affordable housing units for seniors having, in some cases, a ten-year waiting list.

And we hear it from our employees as well.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is working to create more affordable housing units in the city, an effort that is to be applauded. Affordable housing is critical to attracting employees to the social services. But the sad reality is that the mayor’s actions to date are not enough. Employees earning minimum wage cannot afford New York's "affordable" housing. And if workers cannot afford to live here, where will agencies find the employees they need to meet the demand for and provide ever-more-critical services?

In his report, Stringer lays out several steps the city could take to help align affordable housing to the need, including working more closely with nonprofit developers to create affordable housing units on city-owned property. But that is only part of the solution. Common sense tells us that a more comprehensive, coordinated government effort is needed if we are to move the needle on this issue. The city and state desperately need federal dollars to address the city’s housing crisis — a crisis that grows more serious by the month for not-for-profits that provide vital community services.

At the end of the day, attracting and retaining workers who provide care to elderly and other vulnerable populations is not just the responsibility of the not-for-profit agencies who employ them; it also the responsibility of government — city, state, and federal — and the officials we elect to represent us.

Headshot_Kathryn_HaslangerKathryn Haslanger was appointed chief executive officer of JASA, a nonprofit agency serving older adults, in November 2012. The organization's services, which include affordable housing, adult protective services, elder abuse prevention and intervention, legal services, health promotion, mental health, home care, and home-delivered meals, are designed to keep seniors — of all races, religions, and economic backgrounds — living safely in their own homes, in familiar surroundings, with independence, dignity, and joy.

Building the Power of Immigrants and Youth of Color

January 02, 2019

BP+LCF+Siren+Rally059852Services, Immigrant Rights & Education Network (SIREN) - Bay Area has spent the last several years building the political power of immigrant and youth voters with the aim of shifting the political landscape in the region and across the state. In 2018, we doubled down on our commitment to building this political muscle by registering more than fifteen thousand new immigrant and youth voters, contacting a hundred and sixty thousand already-registered voters, and mobilizing more than two hundred volunteers. In the 2018 midterm elections, our efforts helped generate one of the highest turnouts in state history for a midterm and resulted in the passage of critical local and state ballot measures, as well as the defeat of House members opposed to immigrant rights. 

One of SIREN's youth leaders, Miguel, participated in phone banking and door-to-door canvassing of Spanish-speaking voters. Although Miguel and his family cannot vote because of their immigration status, the day after the election he told us: "The community was my voice at the polls yesterday. Immigrants and youth came out and demonstrated our power in Northern California and the Central Valley. Through our voting power, we are passing policies in our state and region that are impacting our families, and we will carry our momentum into 2019 to fight for immigrant rights and protections for immigrant youth."

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  • "Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary...."

    — Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)

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