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10 posts from July 2019

What's New at Candid (July 2019)

July 30, 2019

Candid logoWhenever someone asks me how things are going with our newly minted Candid, I honestly reply "it's never dull!" There are a lot of moving pieces as we develop our Candid 2030 strategy while continuing to share insights on everything from human rights funding to our nonprofit data profiles. After you've read through this update, please shoot me an email about what you'd like to hear from us going forward.

Project Highlights

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Candid in the News

I was honored to author two articles recently, one in the Chronicle of Philanthropy on lifting up philanthropy's unheard voices and another in Alliance magazine on a powerful learning experience many of us had at the recent United Philanthropy Forum conference. Candid also has been featured in several recent articles:

To check out more mentions of Candid in the news, see our press page.

Services Spotlight

Data Spotlight

  • The performance of the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team at the 2019 World Cup has generated renewed interest in gender-based pay-discrimination and equal pay for women. Take a look at how funders are supporting equality rights and freedom from discrimination for marginalized groups, including more than $84 million in grants for Women and Girls.
  • Data collected through the U.S. Census every ten years is a key factor in the distribution of more than $675 billion in federal funding. In advance of the 2020 census, foundations have joined forces with advocates and census experts to help support an accurate count. We've identified 53 grants, ranging from $5,000 to $3 million, awarded since 2011 that reference the census. Learn more here.
  • The number of eBooks checked out in June was 123, bringing the total number of eBook checkouts over the life of the program to 1,746. In addition, the number of eBook user registrations in June was 86, bringing the total to 1,253. We now have 209 eBooks in our collection, including 183 unique titles.
  • We completed custom data searches for the Center for Effective Philanthropy, the Community Foundation of Hawaii, the Federal Reserve of St. Louis, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, the National Endowment for the Arts, and School of Philanthropy and Public Policy at the University of Southern California.
  • Last but not least, we welcomed ten new data sharing partners in June: the Beverly Jackson Foundation, the Fouress Foundation, the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, the Lynch Foundation, the Michigan Humanities Council, Proteus Action League, the Michael Reese Health Trust, the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Canton, Warsh-Mott Legacy, and the WCA Foundation. Tell your story through data so we can communicate philanthropy's contribution to making a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.

If you found this update helpful, feel free to share it or shoot us an email. I’ll be back next month with another update.

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Candid.

Native Wisdom: A Review of Edgar Villanueva’s 'Decolonizing Wealth'

July 26, 2019

Cover_decolonizing_wealthIn his book, The Wretched of the Earth, published in 1961, Frantz Fanon noted what he considered to be the necessary conditions for the overthrow of colonialism: "To tell the truth, the proof of success lies in a whole social structure being changed from the bottom up." He added that "establishing a social movement for the decolonization of a person and of a people" was critical in disrupting the legacy of colonialism.

Almost sixty years later, Edgar Villanueva picks up on Fanon's call to action in his book Decolonizing Wealth. In the book, Villanueva places a spotlight on how colonialism has been perpetuated and stresses the importance of eliminating it from circles of wealth and, in particular, philanthropy, making it perhaps the most refreshing and insightful of the recent spate of books on foundations.

Villanueva is a rare combination: both a grantmaker and a member of the Lumbee Tribe, one of eight state-recognized Native American tribes in North Carolina. Drawing on Native American wisdom, he presents an eye-opening prescription for how foundations can dismantle the unequal power dynamic that historically has separated funders from the nonprofit organizations they support. Invoking the understanding common among indigenous people of medicine as "a way of achieving balance," he outlines what he terms "Seven Steps to Healing" — Grieve, Apologize, Listen, Relate, Represent, Invest, and Repair — with the caveat that the steps are less a checklist for funders to complete than an invitation to them to embark on a journey of "decolonization."

Differentiating himself from many of philanthropy's contemporary critics, Villanueva does readers a great service by focusing their attention on the grantmaking process. It's hardly a secret that change in the ways foundations operate is long overdue. What's so refreshing about Villanueva's approach is his application of a decolonization lens to that call to action, drawing on his own experience as a member of the Lumbee, the very first people on the North American continent to experience directly the arrival of and subsequent colonization by Europeans. In the process, he reminds readers that white supremacy on the North American continent has its origins in the 1400s and establishes the connection between that long, shameful legacy to current organized philanthropic practices. His blueprint for addressing that legacy offers a powerful set of arguments as to why those most impacted by the activities of foundations should be more involved in foundations' decision-making processes and why foundation officials have to go beyond their current practices and take steps to bridge the divide between grantmakers and grantees.

Villanueva moves quickly from his deconstruction of how foundation practices are embedded in colonialism to solutions, noting that they are easily found in the practices and traditions of the continent's indigenous peoples. "All of us who have been forced to the margins," he writes, "are the very ones who harbor the best solutions for healing, progress and peace, by virtue of our outsider perspective and resilience." At the same time, his sense of "otherness" empowers him to ask difficult questions. He addresses, for instance, the question of where foundations choose to locate their offices. Are they located in  neighborhoods that foundations have targeted for their support? Are they designed and run in a way that is welcoming or intimidating for grantees? Even more challengingly, he probes the extent to which foundations must come to grips with the sources of their wealth, at one point asking whether foundations should actively seek out ways to address the business abuses of their founders? In many ways, Villanueva is both championing and reviving a point of view with a long tradition in organized philanthropic practice in the U.S., but doing so with a powerful new idiom and moral authority.

Perhaps most importantly, Decolonizing Wealth calls on foundations to give up or (at a minimum) share control of their decision-making with the people most affected by those decisions. Over the last several decades some family foundations and public foundations have taken modest steps in this direction. On July 28, 1961, for example, the Taconic Foundation invited a handful of civil rights leaders, including the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., to its offices in New York City to brief its trustees, foundation officials, and representatives of both the White House and the U.S. Department of Justice. The aim of the meeting was to bring other funders to the table to support voter registration efforts in the South. Other foundations have discovered the double value of adding grantee representatives to their board and hiring individuals from "affected communities" as program officers, while a growing number of foundations are tapping leaders in the fields they support to serve as trustees. (At many family foundations, those who serve in such roles typically are term-limited while family members are not.)

In San Diego, the Jacobs Family Foundation provides support to local partners involved in the Village at Market Creek, a sixty-acre community development plan for the city's Diamond Neighborhoods area that was created by teams of community residents. The foundation’s philosophy is to leverage its entire asset base for the benefit of its partners and grant recipients, and as a step in that direction the foundation has located an office in the neighborhood. Another example is Philadelphia-based People's Fund (today known as the Bread and Roses Community Fund), which has long supported grassroots social justice organizations. In the 1970s, all grant decisions made by the fund had to be voted on at an annual meeting open to "grantee partners" as well as donors and other stakeholders.

Twenty-five years later, as a program officer at the Ford Foundation, it was my turn to be exposed to the strongly-held belief (in the case of Ford) that those most affected by social and economic challenges are in the best position to craft optimal solutions to those challenges. Then, in 2011, while reading Janny Scott's book A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother, I learned about the work that Ann Dunham, Obama’s mother, did as a program officer for Ford in Indonesia in the 1970s. A  trained anthropologist, Dunham did not just sit in the foundation's Jakarta office and review proposals. Instead, she got out "in the field" and talked with local villagers and their elders about the challenges their communities faced. As a result of those conversations, she was able to craft grants that more directly responded to the aspirations of the people and communities Ford was there to help.

In a similar fashion, in the mid-80s, Ford engaged as consultants a number of frontline responders to the AIDS pandemic, including health officials, the chief executive officer of GMHC, and gay men either infected or affected by AIDS/HIV, to suggest strategies that would be most effective in stemming its devastation. (As the founding executive director of Funders Concerned About AIDS, I was privileged to be one of those who served in that capacity.) More often than not, such changes were due to the actions of well-placed individuals rather than from a structural analysis on the part of staff and board.

More recently, Jennifer and Peter Buffett's NoVo Foundation stepped in to help the women's movement in New York City create a place where women can gather. Similar places have existed for decades in cities as diverse as Rome and San Francisco. But New York, which has been a locus of women's organizing dating back to the nineteenth century, lacked such a hub. To correct the situation, NoVo stepped up and purchased a former correctional facility for women on Manhattan's West Side to serve as the site for the project and engaged a variety of stakeholders, including formerly incarcerated women  — "a circle of women leaders who bring wide-ranging skills, perspectives, and experience to the project" —  to make decisions about its use.

These examples suggest that the kind of participatory decision-making championed by Villanueva exists in philanthropy, but that they remain the exception rather than the rule. Which makes his book an even more powerful call to foundations to be focused and intentional as they embark on this journey.

In the final analysis, Villanueva's message is simple: the beneficiaries of foundation grants should be at the decision-making table. And if the field is to take seriously his call to action, then action is the next step. One hopeful sign that such change might be in our future can be seen in the fact that more than forty thousand people, including many foundation officials, have flocked to hear Villanueva speak since his book’s publication last year. Logical next steps to build the movement to decolonize organized philanthropy would include sharing stories of foundations that are on this journey; seeding programs at foundation gatherings in the Americas, Europe, Australia, and other continents whose governments are engaged in colonization; publishing case studies of participatory philanthropy; enlisting other voices as ambassadors; and continuing to collect and share emerging practices. We all must continue to explore new ways of creating greater equity between the institutions that hold the money and those who seek our support. Let this time in philanthropy be the moment of change.

Michael Seltzer is a distinguished lecturer at the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs, Baruch College, City University of New York, board  chair of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa-USA, and a long-time contributor to PhilanTopic. A version of this review originally appeared on the HistPhil blog. To read more of Michael's posts for PND, click here.

Changing the Way Candid Serves You

July 23, 2019

ZBlog 2 Option 2Announcing Foundation Center and GuideStar had joined forces was just the beginning — now the real work of being Candid has started. We're busy combining operations on a number of fronts, and starting up new and exciting projects, too. I mentioned one of our most important initiatives in a previous post: the transition from our four regional library centers to our 400+ Funding Information Network (FIN) partner locations. We've received some thoughtful questions about what this evolution might mean for you.

What's happening to Candid's libraries?

We're not changing whom we serve, we're changing how we serve.

We've been around a long time, and over the years we've heard feedback from people who have struggled with our metro locations in terms of accessibility, hours, and parking fees and availability. Our current footprint of library locations in specific metro areas also locks our teams in to commitments behind the desk. Plus, now that we've become Candid, we have two offices in both the San Francisco Bay Area and Washington, D.C.

ZBlog 4 Option 1By the end of 2019, our Bay Area and Washington, D.C., offices will have been combined so that we have one office each in Oakland and D.C., while our Atlanta and Cleveland teams will be operating out of co-working or partner sites. We will no longer provide in-person library services at these locations, but you will still be able to get all of your questions answered through in-person trainings with our partner network and online services (more on this below).

Our largest office and library in New York will continue to operate in its full current form (still providing library services and trainings). We'll also begin experimenting with local programming close to Williamsburg, Virginia, where a large contingency of Candid team members are based.

How will these changes affect my local nonprofit community?

We're focused on continued and increased engagement in your community. Candid's mission continues to be to connect people who want to change the world to the resources they need to do it — research, collaboration, and training are the ways we accomplish that mission.

Our transition away from providing direct in-person library services at our own offices will free up our teams to interact directly with audiences beyond our own four walls. Taking our D.C. metro area location as an example: three of our FIN partners are within a ten-mile radius of our current location, and all three are Metro accessible. Our D.C. team plans to offer three to five classes per month at local partners and other locations, and they also plan on holding monthly training events at the University of the District of Columbia.

What does the Funding Information Network do?

Over more than sixty years, we've built up our Funding Information Network, which is made up of more than 400 partner locations across the U.S. and around the world. In 2018, 24 new partners joined the network, and visitors at our partner sites executed more than half a million searches on Candid databases.

Screen Shot 2019-07-08 at 2.59.29 PMThese public libraries, universities, and resource centers will continue to offer access to Candid databases on-site, free to the public. They also host our low- or no-cost fundraising trainings, including advanced courses such as our Proposal Writing Boot Camp.

In 2018, our partner locations led 166 trainings. In addition to these programs, our own Candid staff hosted 80 programs at partner locations that were attended by more than 1,500 people. And next year, thanks to the transition away from our own four library centers, Candid staff will be able to offer even more programs at these locations. You can find the current training schedule at our GrantSpace calendar.

How do network partners support local nonprofits?

The first way is through access to, and on-site assistance with, Candid databases like Foundation Directory Online. One of our partner locations in Michigan told us, "It is wonderful to have this resource and the teaching tools at our disposal. People come into our library looking for information on how to write or search for grants all the time. Being able to point them to GrantSpace or schedule an orientation to the database helps our community."

Network partners undergo Candid certification each year to become experts at navigating our databases and other resources. In addition, Candid offers a substantial amount of training to our partners, including a deep dive into what Candid is and what changes they can expect. More than 98 percent of our Funding Information Network partners meet, if not exceed, the partnership standards we've set out.

ZBlog 4 Option 2We track these standards each year, and we are constantly seeking new ways to ensure that our partners have access to and are provided training on Candid resources. Our regional staff works directly with our partners and hosts monthly and quarterly calls to continue building their capacity to serve your needs on the ground. In addition, we host annual conferences and training sessions with our FIN partners to keep them up to date and prepared to assist you.

The second way our partners support local nonprofits is through trainings. A partner from Ohio said, "The first class I ever taught resulted in an individual writing a letter of introduction to a foundation not accepting applications, getting asked to apply, and receiving a $50,000 grant. I just spoke to a frequent database user who has almost solidified a $500,000 grant for her nonprofit which works to bring military personnel back from overseas."

One of our partners in Arkansas shared, "Last year, a person was at our location quite frequently for most of the year. Now that person has succeeded in establishing a new enterprise locally that assists homeless LGBTQ young adults in Central Arkansas."

Another partner, from Georgia, said, "[Being a Funding Information Network partner] enables us to meet our strategic goals of building the community and partnering with other organizations to bring needed programs and resources to the community. The classes we offer have led to partnerships with nonprofits."

Check the local calendar on grantspace.org to see upcoming community events and use our map tool to find partners near you.

What if I can't get to a partner location?

You can connect with us online, anywhere, anytime. We have developed robust direct online reference services at grantspace.org, where you can get customized help from a real Candid staffer who has the expertise to help with any of your fundraising or nonprofit questions. In 2018, our Online Librarian service addressed more than 135,000 questions. Engaging with us via our online reference service is free, and even easier than a visit — you don't need to find parking to ask us your quick or in-depth questions.

ZBlog 5 Option 2Grantspace.org also continues to be a comprehensive online learning site, with access to thousands of knowledge resources/tools, blogs, videos, and, of course, a vast calendar of in-person, live-online, and on-demand training programs available at your fingertips. In 2018, we delivered 116 webinars and self-paced elearning courses to nearly 20,000 participants.

We also continue to build out our eBooks collection, ensuring anytime, anywhere access to our online collection of information resources. An average of one hundred users a month are taking advantage of this free service.

Whom can I contact if I have more questions?

Please don't hesitate to reach out to any of our team members with questions or ideas:

Western region: Michele Ragland Dilworth
Northeastern region: Kim Buckner Patton
Southern region: Maria Azuri
Midwestern region: Teleangé Thomas

We are thrilled for the opportunity this new operating model presents Candid and are very excited to meet with more of you across the U.S. As always, you can connect with me directly to talk about how we can serve you better.

Zohra Zori is vice president for social sector outreach at Candid.

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Learn more about what Candid can offer you today
Learn more about GrantSpace's live and on-demand trainings
Learn more about the Funding Information Network
Learn more about our eBooks lending program

 

Drive Commitment and Change With 'Moments'

July 18, 2019

Ripple-effectOrganizations are always on the lookout for strategies that can help them engage supporters or build their movements. When I interact with an organization or cause that is seeking to build a constituency, I like to ask two questions:

  1. What’s the next milestone you are working toward?
  2. What are you doing right now to increase your supporter base in advance of that milestone? 

A few definitions here will be helpful:

  • A milestone is an incremental achievement that leads to a "moment" within a movement. The milestone Is achieved by the community working together.
  • A moment is a one-time (or short-term) convergence of actions, informal or organized, that is fueled by cultural, political, and/or social events leading to a surge of individual participation and self-organizing by supporters.
  • An issue or cause is an existing state of affairs (societal, environmental, political) recognized by society as contrary to its values but that can be improved by people working together and taking advantage of community resources.

As a leader of a mission-driven organization, your work is to break new ground for your issue or cause. You’re the visionary always on the lookout for that movement-altering moment when public awareness, supporter engagement, and a broader narrative of progress come together to create progress.

Moments are incredibly powerful in the life of an issue or cause -- and for the supporters and people you serve. They’re the catalysts that drive your colleagues and supporters to commit themselves to the work every day, and they represent an enormous opportunity to strengthen your issue’s relevance to and resonance with both loyal and as-yet-unidentified supporters.

After I've gotten answers to my first two questions above, I usually move on to another set of questions. To design an effective moment, leaders of mission-driven organizations and movements need to get clarity on the following:

  1. Is your current supporter base loyal enough (and have you prepared them well enough) to help your issue by spreading a new narrative that brings others to the cause/movement?Who are the people who will be energized by your next moment, and how can you inspire them to be a voice and recruiter for your issue or cause?
  2. Typically, the only thing loyal and potential supporters have in common is an interest in your issue. And their awareness of what to do and how to do it, as well as their willingness to take action, almost always Is a function of their prior involvement with the issue or cause. This means you need to create different approaches for different audiences.

With that in mind, here are a couple of suggestions:

Maximize affinity and loyalty of current supporters

The goal here is to deepen the connection of your current supporters to your issue or cause by inspiring them to act. The idea, always, is action fuels commitment.

Step 1. Announce the upcoming milestone.

Step 2. Ask your current supporters for their help in reaching the milestone and share with them educational resources, actions they can take, and opportunities to develop DIY events and programs that will inspire and encourage others to support your issue/cause.

Step 3. Be sure to build in reporting and recognition mechanisms.

Here’s an example of an education-and-action pathway for your current supporters:

Table 1.1: Education-and-Action Pathway

Audience Goals Sample Actions Rationale
Current supporters Create a sense of belonging Supporter shares own "Why I believe" narrative about the issue Taking an action, especially if it involves sharing a personal story, makes a person feel more connected to an issue or cause

 

Increase understanding Supporter performs 3-4 CTAs that enhance his/her belief narrative (e.g., post on social media, attend event) The more actions a supporter takes, the deeper his/her understanding of the issue/cause

 

Inspire further action Supporter recruits peer/friend to issue/ cause and initiates conversation about it

 

Creates excitement and reinforces engagement when others respond positively to the same belief narrative

 

Table 1.2: Key Elements of Pathway

Action → Response → Action → Response →
Initiates pathway (e.g., sign a pledge or petition) Individual receives 3-5 automated emails with links to organized content (e.g., video, quiz, link to individualized achievement tracking) Individual completes call-to-action (e.g., “Bring one new person into the movement”) Those who complete CTA are publicly recognized and become part of the movement (e.g., showcase their picture/story)

 

Focus on new audiences already aligned with milestone

Recruiting new supporters to an issue/cause requires a different approach.

Step 1. Use targeted outreach to identify individuals who are already aligned with the upcoming milestone.

Step 2. Design an engagement program that inspires these micro-influencers to recruit their peers to the issue/cause. The program should incorporate a variety of tactics, from online display ads to face-to-face recruitment at programs and events that members of the targeted audience are likely to attend.

Step 3. Provide your micro-influencers with a digital environment (e.g., password-protected collection of online resources) specifically designed to engage them. Include an opt-in mechanism for those who want to pursue more intensive engagement.

Moments reinforce belief and drive active commitment

I’ve said this before: reinforcement of belief is a powerful factor in deepening an individual's involvement in an issue or cause and in creating a powerful sense of identity among like-minded people. Moments serve these purposes by demonstrably raising awareness of an issue among the public and inspiring some of them to act. By encouraging your supporters to achieve well-defined milestones, your organization will be advancing its issue or cause and helping to shape public discourse around the issue or cause.

But, remember: engaging supporters in your issue or cause should be your primary objective, while Increasing support for your organization should be a secondary goal. If supporters are passionate about an issue or cause, they will find -- and support -- the organizations that are most effective at advancing that issue or cause.

When organizations keep their issue or cause front and center and focus on moving it forward, moment by moment, good things inevitably follow.

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.

Open Educational Resources: A Viable Alternative in a Changing Landscape

July 17, 2019

Online_texbooksIn May, two of the textbook market's biggest publishers, Cengage and McGraw-Hill Education, announced plans to merge. The merger will lead to the formation of a new company, McGraw Hill, with a market cap of $8.5 billion, rivaling publishing giant Pearson for dominance of the textbook market. Currently, a mere five publishers control more than 80 percent of that market, and the creation of McGraw Hill will further reduce competition.

With textbook prices rising year after year, a merger of this magnitude could spell disaster for students. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, textbook prices increased 88 percent between 2006 and 2016. Given the growing monopolization of the textbook market, alternative modes of access such as open educational resources are becoming an urgent priority for schools and students across the country.

Inclusive Access: Part of the Problem

As textbook publishers have seen sales of their print materials decline, they have turned to a new subscription-based model called "inclusive access," in which students pay a flat fee to access educational materials. Inclusive access has been likened to the streaming model increasingly popular in other media, including movies (Netflix) and music (Apple Music). The consumer is no longer purchasing a product but rather digital access to a product for a set period of time.

Publishers tout two major benefits of the inclusive-access model. The first is its ability to provide students with access to educational materials on the first day of class. In the traditional model, students often are forced — due to economic pressures — to wait until after they've received their financial aid packages to order physical textbooks. Inclusive access sidesteps this problem by incorporating the charge as a course fee via the school's billing system.

The second benefit, according to publishers, is that it delivers a "win" for affordability. Students pay a single per-semester fee ranging between $100 and $150 (depending on the publisher). In theory, the fee covers all educational materials used by the student. While the cost may seem reasonable, at least initially, that reasonableness rests on the assumption that instructors will only use materials available through the inclusive access system. If, however, an instructor decides to exercise her academic freedom and chooses a text outside a publisher's inclusive access catalog, an additional financial burden is placed on her students. One can easily imagine a scenario where two of a student's four classes are "inclusive access" and the other two are not, requiring the student to pay for additional texts on top of the per-semester inclusive access fee.

Cengage recently introduced Cengage Unlimited, a platform dedicated to inclusive access that charges $119.99 a semester for access to Cengage's digitized back-catalog. In 2018, McGraw-Hill Education significantly expanded the implementation of its own inclusive-access model. If past trends are any indicator, the price tag associated with both catalogs will increase dramatically post-merger.

The inclusive-access model raises not only pricing concerns but also concerns with respect to student data and privacy. As publishers gravitate toward the model, they are beginning to collect large amounts of data and analytics about students. Indeed, groups like the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) have raised concerns that this data collection — which can include a student's physical location, study habits, and data related to individual learning outcomes — poses privacy risks.

Open Educational Resources: A Viable Alternative?

There is a better alternative. Open educational resources (OER) are freely licensed materials that reside in the public domain and can include textbooks, full courses, tests, software, and more. As the materials are free to use and can be accessed at any time, there is no concern about students not having access on the first day of class. And because the materials can be accessed free of charge, OER delivers on the promise of affordability.

Even better, OER seems to improve student outcomes, with studies attributing a more than 12 percent increase in grades for Pell-eligible students who use open educational resources. When coupled with the fact that 17 percent of underrepresented minority students indicate that the cost of educational materials has forced them to withdraw from a course, OER is the right choice at the right time for today's college students.

With the recently announced merger between two of the largest textbook publishers in the country, concern is growing that prices on all materials provided by publishers, including inclusive access materials, will rise. But if policy makers, educational institutions, and faculty take steps to invest time and money into the creation of high-quality OER, the grip that publishers have on educational materials will weaken. In turn, a higher OER adoption rate will render mergers and the worry about potential price hikes increasingly irrelevant.

Philanthropy can play a role in supporting the expansion of OER and lowering the costs of textbooks. By investing in the field, foundations and other donors can help provide students with access to educational materials and spur their academic success. Foundations such as the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Lumina Foundation, and the Michelson 20MM Foundation are just a few examples of philanthropies that have funded the growth of OER in recent decades. The field is ripe with opportunity for additional leadership.

Headshot_ryan_Erickson_Kulas_philantopicRyan Erickson-Kulas is program officer of open educational resources at the Michelson 20MM Foundation.

Stop Differentiating Between Program and Administrative Support

July 15, 2019

Siegel_family_endowment_workforceAs the director of special projects at Siegel Family Endowment, I spend a lot of time talking to folks in the philanthropic sector about their approaches to funding. It's an opportunity to get in the weeds with others about their strategic priorities and to build an understanding of innovation and best practices in the field.

And for years now, I've heard funder after funder draw the same false distinction between supporting an organization's administrative costs and its program costs.

There's one thing they're ignoring when they make this kind of distinction: You can't have one without the other.

If there's a single prerequisite for running an effective program, it's having the right administrative structures in place to do so. HR, compliance, reporting, fundraising, finance, IT —  they're all critical factors in determining whether a program ultimately succeeds or fails.

Designating funding as programmatic merely forces nonprofits to be cheap, not prudent. With the majority of funding supporting programmatic work instead of the infrastructure needed to make such work possible, nonprofits are often forced to skimp on the very things that can ensure the efficacy and sustainability of their work.

Unfortunately, there's no magic formula that funders can use when deciding how their grants should be allocated. If they want to be nimble and responsive, they need, instead, to be clear in their expectations and receptive to an organization's changing needs. Big administrative needs (like new software purchases or upgrading office space) are unlikely to be an annual expense,  but when they are needed, the impact on an organization's budget — and programmatic work — tends to be outsized.

My big recommendation for funders? Start by asking grantees where they have had to cut corners. An organization's long-term success is a function of the health of the infrastructure that makes its work possible in the first place, and we as funders owe it to our grantees to cultivate a relationship with them that’s honest, open, and bi-directional.

Grantmakers have an opportunity in 2019 to shift their thinking on how responsible, responsive funding works. Let's help our grantees be as effective as they can be by investing in every aspect of their work and not just cherry-picking the things that appeal to us.

Headshot_jessica_johansen_siegel_familyJessica Johansen is director of special projects at Siegel Family Endowment. A version of this post originally appeared on the SFE website.

'College Means Hope': A Path Forward for the Justice-Involved

July 12, 2019

Michelson_20MM_smart_justice"Former gang members make incredible students. The same skills that made me a good drug-dealer — resiliency, hustle, determination — I now use on campus to succeed in school," Jesse Fernandez tells the audience attending our panel discussion at this year's Gang Prevention and Intervention Conference in Long Beach.

I was on stage with Jesse as co-moderator for the first education-focused panel in the conference's history. (The Michelson 20MM Foundation convened the panel, tapping Jesse, Taffany Lim of California State University, Los Angeles, and Brittany Morton of Homeboy Industries to share their experiences.) Only 25, he has come a long way from the gang life he once knew. Today, he interns for Homeboy Industries, helping other students on their path to college; has finished an associate's program in Los Angeles; and has studied abroad at Oxford University. He may not look like a typical college student, but he speaks with the certainty and eloquence of someone who has been in school for years.

"College means hope. It means understanding your identity. For me, it was learning about my indigenous heritage, what it means to be Chicano, and how my community has been affected by violence and loss."

I first met Jesse over a lunch of chilaquiles (with salsa verde) and agua fresca (Angela's Green Potion is a "do not miss") at Homegirl Café, an L.A. staple since the 1990s. The café is run by former gang members and offers a safe space for people coming out of prison, providing many of them with their first job and creating a pipeline to sustainable employment. It's so popular that Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and other politicians on the national stage have stopped in for a bite while in town.

Jesse is one of thousands of justice-involved students attending college in California. The exact number is unknown, as public colleges in the state do not require the disclosure of a criminal history. Many students choose to self-identify in order to take advantage of resources specific to the justice-involved population. Others, says Morton, academic program coordinator for Homeboy, are still trying to overcome the perceived "stigma" of having been incarcerated.

"Imagine getting released from prison after twenty-plus years on the inside, and you've never used a computer before. Then you get to campus, and every form, assignment, and application is online. It's intimidating for people and there is a lot of shame connected to these experiences."

It's estimated that 53 percent of formerly incarcerated people have a high school diploma or GED, yet fewer than 5 percent have completed college (Vera Institute of Justice). Persistence in postsecondary education is fraught with challenges, especially for non-traditional students. The typical formerly incarcerated person has served more than two years in prison, has at least one minor child, and is over the age of 30. In the year after their release, they earn around $9,000 in wages. A year of community college in California costs around $10,000, putting postsecondary opportunities squarely out of reach for most people who have served time.

Making a Difference

That's where peer-led organizations like Homeboy Industries, Project Rebound, and Underground Scholars come into play. All three not only provide a physical space and financial resources to help justice-involved students graduate, they also cultivate a sense of belonging and deserving that stretches far beyond campus.

"The first thing people think when they hear about college opportunities for 'felons' is, why?" says Morton. "Why waste your resources on people who have messed up time and time again. Why focus on college when people with a criminal record can't even find jobs or stable housing. Why? My response is always, why not? Why not give people who have been let down by our education system a first chance at success? Why not help them become leaders, change-makers, peer mentors. Why not give them a sense of hope that they can strive higher and make an impact."

What's more, the programs have proven to be successful — for students, colleges, and even for taxpayers. Initial outcomes data demonstrates that programs for justice-involved students help keep students enrolled, out of incarceration, and on a path to economic stability. They also save money. For every $1 invested in correctional education, there is a resulting $4 to $5 return in avoided costs from reduced recidivism and increased employment.

While California has led the country in providing resources to justice-involved students, we still have a long way to go. Recent legislative efforts in Sacramento have helped catalyze a new push for expanded postsecondary opportunities. If enacted by the state legislature, the Smart Justice Student Fund would provide an additional $25 million to community colleges in support of justice-involved students both on campus and in prison.

This winter, Jesse Fernandez will be continuing his education at the University of California, Berkeley, where he hopes to major in Chicano Studies. He says he has already connected with other students on campus who were formerly incarcerated — and that has made it "easier to imagine the day-to-day of being a full-time college student at a place like Berkeley."

In a few years, Jesse will be part of a new generation of justice-impacted college students who strive to become leaders and visionaries in the fight for criminal justice reform in the United States. The first step is helping the public understand that people who are incarcerated deserve opportunities to better themselves above and beyond the limitations and barriers our systems have placed on them.

Headshot_allison_berger_philantopicAllison Berger is program officer for the Michelson 20MM Foundation's Smart Justice program.

[Review] The Business of Changing the World: How Billionaires, Tech Disrupters, and Social Entrepreneurs Are Transforming the Global Aid Industry

July 10, 2019

Gone are the days when major donor governments and multilateral agencies poured large sums into international development projects that were evaluated mainly by the level of the donors' generosity. As Raj Kumar explains in The Business of Changing the World: How Billionaires, Tech Disrupters, and Social Entrepreneurs Are Transforming the Global Aid Industry, the foreign aid industry, in the United States and elsewhere, is undergoing a huge transformation: once dominated by a handful of players, the sector is being reinvented as a dynamic marketplace hungry for cost-efficient, evidence-based solutions.

Tbcw-book-coverAs the co-founder of Devex, a social enterprise and media platform for the global development community, Kumar has a unique perspective on the emerging trends, key players, and new frameworks and philosophies that are shaping the development sector. And as he sees it, the sector is undergoing three fundamental changes: first, an opening up to diverse participants; second, a shift from a wholesale to a retail model of aid; and third, a growing focus on results-oriented, evidence-based strategies.

According to Kumar, the diversification of participants and, consequently, of strategies, both characterizes and is contributing to the growing success of this new era of aid. Prior to the twenty-first century, the sector was dominated by large agencies such as USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) and the World Bank functioning as an oligopsony in which aid strategies were relatively homogeneous and any latitude to innovate was limited. Thanks in part to the wealth accumulated by tech billionaires such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, however, that is changing and the sector today operates and is informed by a much broader range of perspectives.

One result of the influx of tech dollars and expertise into the sector has been a demand for results, often in the form of a measurable return on those investments. But despite the broader diversity of approaches, failure is still part and parcel of the field, and Kumar offers some insights into why. An example he cites repeatedly is Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Initiative, which never fully delivered on its thesis that providing laptops to children in the developing world would go a long way to closing education gaps. As Kumar notes, past evaluations of the program have found that laptops did not do much to improve children's learning — in part because the initiative failed to adequately train teachers or develop curricula tailored to computer-based learning — and he uses the example to highlight the importance of pilot-testing projects to determine their efficacy before implementing them at scale.

Indeed, while veteran development hands may commend Negroponte for his ambition and good intentions, a new generation of development professionals is more interested in setting goals by which a project's success (or failure) can be measured and conducting rigorous evaluation to determine whether it meets those goals. In a resource-constrained world, Kumar argues, such an approach is the best way for aid groups and their funders to avoid the opportunity costs of a failed project and harness their limited funds for maximum impact.

Another important change in the sector is the shift away from the traditional decision-making model in which decisions were made by well-compensated individuals embedded in institutions at a significant remove from the people in need of help. In the new world of aid, writes Kumar, donors and aid experts have to let go of the mindset that they know best, step back, and listen to the intended beneficiaries about how that aid should be put to use. "Only by asking...questions, listening carefully, watching how people actually behave and react in the real world, and then designing programs to address those realities," he writes, "will we be able to get the kind of results we want."

That also means that aid programs need to incorporate behavioral science- and human psychology-based approaches to ensure that the funded intervention will be both widely adopted and effective. In support of his argument, Kumar cites the example of an insecticide-treated mosquito net distribution effort. While a standard cost-benefit analysis most likely would conclude that such nets are a reasonable and cost-effective intervention, aid groups that took the time to interview the intended beneficiaries soon learned that mosquito nets distributed through previous campaigns were hardly ever used because they are too hot to sleep under and are not easy to set up. By doing a better job of focusing on "people, not widgets," aid groups stand a much better chance of ensuring that projects are executed efficiently and goals are met.

In addition to these broad trends and themes, Kumar looks at the ways in which the emerging aid industry has embraced a more diverse cast of players — including so-called social enterprises, which he defines as businesses "established with the sole purpose of meeting an important social need [that create] shared value for all those involved — the producers, the organization, customers, and the broader society." From Hello Tractor, an app modeled on Uber that connects Nigerian farmers who are not fully utilizing their tractors to farmers in need of a tractor, to microfinance platform Kiva, Kumar illustrates how social entrepreneurs are transforming the aid sector with technology and, crucially, a behavioral-science mindset, creating solutions that address the specific needs of a specific target population in real time.

While it's perhaps unrealistic to expect all businesses to operate with the sole intention of meeting a social need, Kumar argues that such enterprises could pave the way for more businesses to adopt the idea of shared value, creating what the World Economic Forum has called a "fourth sector." One way for corporations to become more socially responsible is to ignore the notion that people at the "bottom of the pyramid" (a phrase coined by C.K. Prahalad in his 2004 book The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid) can never function as a market. Instead, companies need to embrace the idea that the vast number of people who fall into that category are more than enough to create aggregate demand — and a profit — for any business and create products and services specifically for the BoP.

Kumar also examines the emergence of "retail" aid, as seen in the growing popularity of crowdfunding sites like Kiva and direct cash transfers, and notes that "frictionless" digital technologies are putting increasing pressure on "wholesale" models of aid to incorporate local input, monitor results continually, make course corrections as needed, and ensure that projects are self-sustaining over time. Such changes go hand-in-hand with "a new ethos" of what Kumar calls "open source aid" — organizational cultures that embrace the humility required to share results (including failures), openly and in the spirit of collective learning.

Despite the credit he gives social entrepreneurs and businesses for embracing market solutions, Kumar recognizes that systemic problems do not always lend themselves to a quick market or technological fix. One organization that seems to understand that is Teach for All, a global network of independent, locally led and governed partner organizations that has trained more than sixty-five hundred individuals to serve as educators in their communities. As he explains, if Teach for All's progress in transforming local educational systems has been slower and less quantifiable than might be the case with a more disruptive Silicon Valley solution, its approach is better suited to the "complex, emotionally fraught, politicized [education] system" in most countries. In other words, where market-based solutions may succeed in reducing complexity, they often fail to address many of the fundamental issues responsible for a system's underperformance.

Like education, extreme poverty is a challenge far too complex to be solved by a simple market-based solution. Today, seven hundred and forty-six million people around the world live in extreme poverty (defined as living on less than $2 a day), and, from conflict situations to "extractive institutions," Kumar points to the many systemic factors perpetuating the problem. So, if market-based solutions are unlikely to solve the problem, what will? Kumar thinks the answer lies in embracing a results-based approach to aid delivery, including the collection of real-time data that enables aid groups to track and disseminate the successes (and failures) of their interventions and drive awareness of and support to those deserving of more attention; and demanding that billionaire donors be held accountable for the support they provide. Good intentions and "giving pledges" are not enough in the twenty-first century, he writes; instead, we must do everything in our power to ensure that the resources provided by billionaire philanthropists produce real, meaningful results.

Kumar notes that even if foreign aid succeeded in eradicating extreme poverty in a given country, in most cases it would still leave 3 percent of that country's population living below the poverty line. While some readers might find this to be an oddly pessimistic note on which to end the book (coming as it does on the book's second-to-last page), it's more a case of Kumar wanting to highlight the urgent need for efficiency and effectiveness in aid delivery. Simply put, we cannot afford to waste resources on "best" guesses, insufficiently evaluated initiatives, and serial failures. The aid community, donors as well as those on the front lines, must listen to and engage with those they seek to serve so as to better understand the problem, think outside the box, and harness the power of data to produce desperately needed results. As Kumar reminds us, it is not enough to do good; it needs to be done well.

Avi Bond is a Knowledge Services intern at Candid.

 

An Engaged Board Is a Fundraising Machine 

July 03, 2019

Table-clipart-board-director-11Is your board pulling its weight in terms of fundraising? An active, engaged board can be a huge difference-maker for a nonprofit. We choose board members, after all, for their skills, connections, and potential to boost fundraising revenue — and they usually will, as long as we make an effort to encourage them to put those skills and connections to work.

Here are a few tips to help you do that:

Boost your board's fundraising capacity. You selected your board members for their knowledge, acumen, and abilities, but you still need to familiarize them with your brand, help them engage with your team, and make sure they're aware of your organizational needs and fundraising plans. The best way to do that is by boosting their engagement with staff and distributing tasks based on their specific interests and abilities.

Get and stay connected. If you're only seeing your board members during board meetings, you are missing out on much of what they have to offer. Be sure to invite board members to any community events you hold or workshops you host. An invitation to tour your facility or join you for an on-site visit where they can meet your volunteers and clients also is a good idea. Not only will it help them feel more connected to the organization, it will give them opportunities to network in the community as well as material for stories they can share in support of the organization.

While not every member of your board will be willing or able to take advantage of every invitation, many will, and doing so will help strengthen their rapport with each other and your work. Updating them on a regular basis about your work, your successes, and your ongoing funding needs also will help them feel like they are connected and an integral part of the overall effort.

Not everyone wants to ask for funds. You're likely to discover that some board members are far better at asking for donations or gifts on your behalf than others. Not everyone on your board has the same skill set (that's a good thing), and board members who are reluctant to solicit others for donations or gifts (whatever their reason) should be able to contribute in other ways. Remember the classic "Cycle of Fundraising." Being able to identify and cultivate potential patrons and supporters, thank current donors, and involve all your donors more deeply in your work are all key to successful board fundraising.

Stewardship improves your bottom line. If you're already bringing in plenty of funds but don't seem able to effectively support all the initiatives you've launched or dream about, the problem might lie in your inability to retain donors over time. One or more board members who focus on stewardship and helping donors feel connected to your organizational outcomes can go a long way to ensuring your organization’s sustainability without you needing to raise additional dollars from new donors in a neverending cycle. Both sides of the equation — effective fundraising and donor stewardship — ultimately drive your organization's ability to fulfill its mission.

Stock your board with experts. In the twenty-first century, you need to embrace and model diversity by putting people on the board of different ages, from different backgrounds (professional and personal), and with different expertise. I can't overstate how important this is to board fundraising, as it will give your organization more skills, connections, and perspectives to leverage and draw on. Chances are pretty good that the three lawyers you were considering for the board all share the same connections, while the advertising pro probably has a completely different group of colleagues and acquaintances to draw on when it comes to fundraising and networking.

Make it easy. If you know you're going to need your board's help on a specific campaign or for a specific event, you should let them know well in advance. If asking for board assistance is left to the last minute, your board members are unlikely to have enough time to help. (They're busy people, which is why they're on your board.) If your "ask" is tied to a specific need, project, or time of year, write up the main talking points for board members to refer to when they are talking with potential donors or supporters. You can also pre-draft an email that they can personalize to their own liking but that includes everything about your organization you'd like them to share with their networks. Lastly, images of the people and community you serve, figures and statistics that underscore your good work, and other talking points will make it easier for your board members to articulate exactly what its your organization does and why it's so important.

Your board plays — or should play — a critical role in your organization’s fundraising success. If it doesn't, get them engaged and actively working for you now. You’ll see a difference in your organization's capacity to serve its target population almost immediately. Good luck!

Headshot_jeb_bannerJeb Banner is the founder and CEO of Boardable, a nonprofit board management software provider, as well as two nonprofits, The Speak Easy and Musical Family Tree. He also serves as a board member of United Way of Central Indiana and ProAct Indy.

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (June 2018)

July 01, 2019

Is it us, or does chronological time seem to be accelerating? Before the first half of 2019 becomes a distant memory, take a few minutes to check out some of the most popular posts on the blog in June. And remember: You're not getting older, you're gaining wisdom.

Interested in contributing to PND or PhilanTopic? We'd love to hear from you. Drop us a note at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

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