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8 posts from January 2020

Losing the Red Cross Would Be the Real Disaster

January 23, 2020

Red cross(Ed note: this post originally was published on PhilanTopic in November 2014 and is being republished as criticism of the Australian Red Cross for allegedly holding back donations for bushfire victims mounts.) 

As a disaster researcher and scholar of nonprofit management, I've followed the (well publicized) travails and (hardly publicized) successes of the American Red Cross over the years.

I've met its national staff at research conferences and local staff at state and county emergency management meetings, where I've served on the board of my local Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD). I participated with hundreds of other invited experts in the governance audit that resulted in the "American National Red Cross Governance Modernization Act of 2007." I’ve monitored the commentary after a ProPublica/National Public Radio exposé of the Red Cross appeared last week. And based on my observations, I have developed a healthy respect and sympathy for the Red Cross.

Bet you didn't see that coming.

There's no disputing the fact that the public needs better results from the Red Cross. The organization has been essential to our welfare since the day it was chartered by Congress to be our national disaster response agency — primus inter pares among hundreds of agencies known collectively as voluntary organizations active in disaster. In fact, the Red Cross predates the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) by seventy-nine years.

Congress has entrusted a good part of disaster-related mass care and sheltering to the Red Cross. Somewhat less rationally, Congress imposed this public mandate on the Red Cross without much aid; the agency is expected to meet our nation's disaster relief needs largely through the philanthropic generosity of Americans.

Further complicating matters, the Red Cross has been plagued for years by leadership issues — issues that aren't easy to resolve because they are rooted in a number of larger, systemic problems:

Greater forces of nature. Climate change makes it harder for all disaster relief agencies to achieve their mission. In the ProPublica/NPR story, a Red Cross executive observes the challenge of "scaling up" for Sandy, a storm that covered an area half the size of Europe. The organization's inability to do that was due to climate change, not internal organizational problems. In 2005, disaster relief agencies reached the same conclusion when they reported that the impact of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina was many times larger than their capacity to deal with back-to-back disasters. The lesson is clear: As disasters get larger and more complex, we all have to work together to scale our disaster-response capacity.

Shortage of experienced staff. An increase in "superstorms" demands better frontline staff. However, internal reorganizations and massive layoffs triggered by a drop in donations have increased turnover and demoralized staff at the Red Cross. In my county last week, the national Red Cross laid off three of its four paid staff, including one of the state's most experienced disaster response professionals. That trend must be reversed. This is a unique and challenging profession. There are no easy substitutes. Disaster responders are trained to be flexible and resourceful because, as they often point out, every disaster is unique. Thus, disaster researchers and other observers note the challenge of getting it right every time. It takes training and experience, which depends, in turn, on stable, consistent funding to keep high-quality, experienced chapter staff (one of the Red Cross's most important assets) on the front lines.

National leaders at odds with grassroots base. The Red Cross traditionally has had a strong internal culture that fosters staff commitment ("lifers"). Any organization, whether for-profit or nonprofit, that finds itself at odds with its grassroots base is in trouble. There's no denying the impact on morale of the systemic leadership problems at the Red Cross, but they go much further back than the current CEO's tenure. Before Gail McGovern was hired, the Red Cross cycled through more than a half dozen CEOs and interim CEOs in as many years. Friction between national and chapter staff isn't new, and it's clear that, to some degree, the organization's national leadership has been in denial about it. The solution is for the national board to recognize its responsibility to improve the organization's culture and to invest in the base. The board began that process with a governance restructuring six years ago and has followed up with a healthy investment in inter-organizational collaboration and public transparency initiatives. The tone is changing, and I am encouraged by that fact. But more needs to be done.

Shirking our collective responsibility to be prepared. Unfortunately, public criticism of the Red Cross has not been accompanied by an equally vigorous public discussion of our responsibility as citizens to prepare ourselves in advance. Ask any emergency responder what he or she wants from us, and you'll get the same answer: "Make a plan and assemble a kit. We can help you best when you help yourself." One of the most active Red Cross campaigns is about family and workplace emergency preparedness (see also FEMA's excellent resources at www.ready.gov).

I'm a scholar but also a citizen. From a rational point of view, the most dangerous outcome of the ProPublica/NPR story would be a second "disaster" in the form of an escalating public mistrust of the Red Cross, resulting in fewer donations and an even weaker paid and volunteer force that is demoralized by the public's lack of understanding about the good work they do every day. Increased turnover will worsen the kind of staffing issues the organization faces. More political and media scrutiny is likely to result in more, not less, questionable decision making at the top (e.g., diverting assets for public relations junkets).

So what can we do? First, get yourself prepared. Second, be generous. This is not the time to withdraw support from the Red Cross. The organization operates like an army but on exponentially less funding. McGovern runs a $3.5 billion enterprise on a fraction of the salary of a college football coach. And she does it with largely volunteer (albeit well-trained) labor. Disaster agency budgets go through "feast" or "famine" periods. Try holding on to a good workforce when faced with that kind of budget uncertainty. An operation with twenty-nine thousand staff and four hundred thousand volunteers needs stable funding if its job is to deploy anywhere in the United States after any disaster and help any citizen, regardless of age, disability, creed, or race, who needs it.

Local Red Cross employees are not only highly respected, they are some of the hardest-working people I know. Sit in an emergency planning meeting with them in any local community, and they will have their phones/radios on, ready to leave for a house fire, flood, ice storm, or tornado on a moment’s notice. Some day that house might be yours.

The Red Cross should be held accountable for problems of its own making. We should hold ourselves accountable for the rest.

Headshot_beth_gazleyBeth Gazley is associate vice provost for faculty and academic affairs at Indiana University's Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. This post was first published here on PhilanTopic in November 2014 and is being republished as criticism of the Australian Red Cross for allegedly holding back donations for bushfire victims mounts. 

Marketing Tech for Nonprofits: A Refresher Course for 2020

January 20, 2020

SocialNetworkIconsTeaserAs we start a new year, marketing has never been more important for nonprofits. And when it comes to growing and expanding your audience, your nonprofit needs the right digital marketing strategy if wants to make progress.

Unfortunately, too many nonprofits struggle to maximize the impact of their marketing efforts c and often it's because those efforts are an incoherent, unfocused mess. An effective digital marketing strategy should accomplish some, if not all, of the following:

  • reach new audiences that support your mission
  • convert more website visitors and/or supporters into donors
  • convince your existing donors to continue their support
  • support other goals such as boosting registrations, securing recurring donations, and obtaining signatures for petitions

Perhaps most importantly, your digital marketing strategy should aim to "make your donor an action hero" (as fundraising consultant Claire Axelrad puts it) by centering his or her experience in your organization's broader work. Donor- and constituent-centric messaging can be extremely effective in motivating support and keeping audiences engaged with your mission. And the best way to ensure it does is to have a clear game plan at the start of the year and/or before each campaign is launched.

Ready to get started? Let's begin with a quick review of some of the marketing tools at your disposal and then look at hot they fit together.

Types of Marketing Vehicles and Platforms

Here's a quick overview of the different categories of digital marketing vehicles and tools at your nonprofit's disposal:

Your organization's website. Your organization's site is one of your most important marketing assets, so you need to make sure it's returning value each and every week. To be effective, a site needs to serve as an anchor or central hub for your marketing campaigns (more on this later), so if it could use a design refresh or update or is in need of back-end technology upgrades, now is the time to act. Before you do, check out our guide to nonprofit Web design projects to learn more about what you can expect from the process.

Email and direct marketing. Email continues to be one of the most effective ways to market your nonprofit to supporters, but too many organizations get it wrong. Generic email blasts to any and everyone simply aren't an effective way to engage supporters, let alone motivate them to give. Focus, instead, on building your email lists, segmenting them into groups, and creating automated email streams based on your campaign's specific goals. We also include direct mail in this category, as it can be extremely effective when backed up with good data and the right strategies.

Social tools. This category includes social media posts and platforms, peer-to-peer fundraising tools, and advocacy software. All can be great for growing your audience, especially when you port your messaging to mobile. Mobile advocacy tools, in particular, are a great way to supercharge your campaigns, meet supporters where they live, and provide them with new ways to take action to advance your mission.

Online marketing tools and techniques. This category includes things like online advertisements and search engine optimization (SEO) strategies. In terms of online advertising, your nonprofit's best bet is to check out Google AdWords, which the tech giant offers at no charge to eligible nonprofits. (For an overview of AdWords and the Google grants that nonprofits can use to underwrite them, click here.) SEO strategies require more back-end work on your site and site content, but when implemented properly they can significantly boost your organization's online visibility.

Although the categories above include the most important digital marketing tools and vehicles, you’ll get the biggest band for your buck by implementing two or more of them in combination. As we always tell clients, digital marketing works best — and the return on investment is greatest — when your tech and marketing actively support one another.

Tying Your Tools Together in a Multi-Channel Campaign

A multi-channel marketing campaign is a strategic marketing effort that pulls together a number of  different vehicles and tools.

The idea is to use each vehicle or tool to target your audience in a different way, with the aim of driving all that traffic to a central hub where visitors are encouraged to complete a "target action" such as:

  • making a donation
  • signing up for a newsletter or other communications
  • registering for an event
  • creating a peer-to-peer fundraising page

The target action is the end-goal of any multi-channel campaign. Think of it this way: What concrete action do you want people to take after they've engaged with your marketing materials? 

Without concrete goals and target actions, it's harder to focus your marketing efforts and keep your audiences engaged. Marketsmart's guide to engagement fundraising calls this unfocused, usually ineffective approach "spraying and praying." If you’re focusing on donor acquisition and cultivation, for instance, you definitely want to avoid this approach.

In other words, a multichannel marketing strategy is effective only if you keep your goals and target actions centered in your messaging. Let’s look at some of the steps in the process:

Sample Multichannel Marketing Campaign

For this example, imagine you represent an animal rescue organization in the Northeast. Your upcoming campaign is all about reaching new donors across the region, building your base of support to help fund ongoing operations, and expanding the audience for future campaigns. You want the campaign to be as engaging as possible, knowing that giving to your annual fund might not be as exciting for some donors.

First, set a specific goal — for example, secure x number of individual donations from new supporters during the campaign.

Setting a concrete KPI like the above gives you a stable reference point for evaluating the campaign’s progress once it's under way. You'll also want to map out a timeline for your campaign based on the parameters of your broader fundraising efforts.

Next, review your marketing toolkit and figure out what else you’ll need to do to set up a multichannel campaign in support of your goals:

  • Website. Create a landing page featuring an embedded donation form that can serve as the central hub for the campaign. All your other vehicles and channels should direct traffic to this page, with the goal of converting new visitors into donors.
  • Social media accounts. Post regular updates about the campaign to your social media channels, making sure to always include a link to the campaign landing page. Create a series of contests and viral challenges that encourage users to share your posts — this is how most of your new supporters will learn about you. Be sure to link your social media posts to the main campaign page, where your social media followers can learn more about your organization and make a donation.
  • Email. With an integrated email solution, you can segment your supporters into different groups and customize marketing messages for each group. For instance, you might want to send one kind of message to lapsed donors and another to non-donor email subscribers, or create different messages to share a campaign update, promote a new blog post or video, or make a direct appeal for support.
  • Digital ads. Use online ads to target the audiences most likely to be interested in your campaign. For our animal rescue organization, a local news site or pet store website might be a smart choice. Google offers advanced tools designed to make it easier to target different audience groups.
  • Google AdWords. With your AdWords grant, you can craft an ad that will appear at the top of Google search pages for keywords likely to deliver potential supporters. Keywords like "pet rescue Massachusetts" or "Northeast animal shelter" might be good choices. And again, be sure to link your AdWords ad directly to your campaign landing page.
  • Search engine optimization. For SEO, focus on creating and writing great content for your organization’s website that is targeted to specific keywords. An informative blog post about "New York animal cruelty laws," for example, would be of interest to readers likely to support your organization. Well-designed SEO strategies can go a long way to raise the visibility of your organization and drive more visitors to your site over the long run.

Don't forget to link your marketing channels so that they support one another. Ask your email subscribers to follow your organization on Instagram or Facebook, or create social media posts that encourage followers to click through to your website’s blog to learn more about a campaign or check out a video, then use that post to drive readers to your campaign's donation page.

No matter how you end up structuring your campaign, don’t forget that the key to success is to get potential supporters to engage with your content and complete a target action. Use your digital content to engage, excite, and connect with potential supporters, and then drive them to your donation page. With the right integrations, multiple marketing channels can also help you capture a ton of digital engagement data that you can use to inform future campaigns and projects!

The Importance of Tech Integrations

Integrating tools means creating a connection between different software applications that allows for the free flow of data. This is especially important when it comes to digital marketing, insofar as the kind of data generated by digital tools and channels makes it easier to track your results, measure audience engagement, and analyze performance over time.

In the example above, the animal rescue organization would want, at a minimum, to integrate its CRM or database with its donation page and email client. This will allow it to easily create segmented mailing lists and track engagement rates. An integrated donation tool also will automatically save all the transaction data generated by the donation page and, ideally, connect that information to an existing donor profile (if the donor has engaged with the organization in the past).

This kind of integration explains much of the appeal of a platform like Salesforce, where integrated apps allow data to flow between a central database and various donor engagement tools. (Check out Double the Donation's reviews for some examples of Salesforce apps for nonprofits.)

Again, the idea is that easy access to your engagement data enables you to make better decisions around how to engage your supporters. No more guessing (in theory, at least)!

Digital marketing has never been more important. Increasing your visibility online in 2020 is key to expanding your online footprint and building a solid foundation on which to grow. The "right" strategies, tools, and content will keep your existing supporters engaged with your mission — which is critical for long-term donor retention and organizational sustainability — and make it easier to attract new supporters and volunteers.

Alas, too many organizations take a rather haphazard approach to digital marketing and don't even realize what they may be missing out on. Don’t be that organization! Take some time this month to review your marketing efforts and, if you don’t already have one, determine what you need to develop a digital multichannel strategy. We think it'll be the smartest investment you ever make. Best of luck!

Headshot_carl_diesing_for_philantopicCarl Diesing is co-founder and managing director of DNL OmniMedia, where he works with nonprofits to strengthen their fundraising and build their capacity to drive social change.

Five Things Your Agency Can Do to Deliver Results for Families

January 17, 2020

Sykes_foundation_whole_familyIndividuals are whole people made up of a rich mix of physical, intellectual, social, emotional, and spiritual parts. Individuals exist within families, and families are the heart of our communities. In many ways, working families earning low wages are the backbone of our country, working the jobs that keep America running.

But many American families are struggling. Despite an uptick in the economy, more than 8.5 million children currently live in poverty, and they are often concentrated in neighborhoods where at least a third of all families live in poverty. Others are just a paycheck away from falling into poverty. For these families, a simple change in circumstance for a family member — a reduction in working hours, an illness, even the need for a car repair — affects the entire family's long-term well-being.

At Ascend at the Aspen Institute and the Pascale Sykes Foundation, we collaborate with families, nonprofits, government agencies, advocacy groups, and others to advance family well-being through a whole family or two-generation (2Gen) approach. Such an approach addresses challenges through the lens of whole people living in intact families, equipping children and the adults in their lives with the tools to collectively set and achieve goals, strengthen relationships with each other, and establish the stability of the family unit so that every member is able to reach his or her full potential.

In our work every day, we see the many meaningful ways in which a whole family approach benefits families and creates opportunities for service organizations to reach vulnerable populations, scale their work, and fulfill their missions. Here are five things your agency can do to shape its work in ways that will benefit families and support family members as they define, create, and realize the futures of which they dream.

1. Recognize the multi-faceted nature of human aspirations. Issues affecting family well-being such as economic stability, educational success, housing security, and health all overlap and impact one another. For instance, parents may notice that the financial challenges they struggle with are affecting their performance at work, their relationships with each other, and their children's school performance. Developing a plan to improve a family's financial stability in such a scenario must also factor in how parents or caregivers manage their careers, relationships, and time spent with their children. The tools and services designed to support families must look at parents and caregivers holistically, as both individuals and as members of a family.

2. Be intentional about working with every member of the family. Outdated models of service provision that require, say, a constituent to be an unmarried female or have an income that falls below a certain threshold tend to result in a crisis-oriented approach to service delivery. Too often with these models, a family doesn't qualify for help unless it is coming apart or has fallen into poverty. But because families are comprised of individuals, individual family members' challenges (and successes) are often a function of the dynamics in the larger unit. When we encourage members of a family to work together to support each other’s goals, we are helping to strengthen the bonds within the family and, in doing so, facilitating long-term family stability before a family falls into crisis.

3. Tailor services and support to families' goals. After working with families to establish goals, service providers should work together to equip each family with the tools and social supports needed to reach those goals. But remember, an approach to service provision that works well for one family may not work for a different family. Families know themselves and what they hope to achieve better than anyone else, which means service providers need to listen to families if they hope to effectively support those families as they work toward their goals. Again, when families are encouraged to plan their own future, they are more invested in the steps needed to get there.

4. Prioritize relationships between family members to create lasting results. Young people perform better in school and later in life when they have a reliable network of people in their lives — peers, family members, teachers, coaches, mentors — whom they can tap for advice and support. Our work has shown this is also true for families. For example, in interviews we conducted with formerly incarcerated women, the women often stressed the pivotal role of relationships with members of their extended families in helping them navigate the transition from incarceration back into society, pursue college or a credential, and persist in the face of challenges and hardship. As they succeeded and rebuilt their lives, many of the women also became a source of social capital in their families and communities. The same is true of a family we worked with that wanted to develop a healthier lifestyle. Once goals had been established and family members had agreed to them, family members held each other accountable for achieving them, providing support and encouragement to each other along the way. And once family members started to see improvement in their own health, they decided to give back some of what they had been given by serving as mentors for other families with similar aspirations. Bottom line: Social capital is a resource that grows.

5. Emphasize collaboration. In our work, we've seen how separate funding streams for service providers tend to create a fragmented approach to the provision of services that is not only detrimental to providers but also weakens families. Whether related to health care, housing, or school, families often have to travel from location to location to receive needed services. This can put a heavy and sometimes insurmountable burden on people who work full-time, or who face transportation or language barriers, preventing them from seeking support. What's more, the advice they receive often is not coordinated and may even conflict with the advice received from another agency, be impractical, or just plain overwhelm them.

At the Pascale Sykes Foundation, we believe strongly in the value of formal, collaborative partnerships among service providers that support a whole family approach and encourage multiple agencies to come together to provide a full spectrum of services designed to move families closer to their goals. In such a model, agencies meet regularly to manage and modify plans, share data, and synchronize their efforts to better serve families. They also work together to measure behavioral outcomes for the adults and children they serve — a crucial component of any whole family approach. Instead of operating individually, service providers in a collaboration are freed from seeing one another as competitors and instead value each other as teammates who share resources, discuss and set priorities, and accomplish goals together. Indeed, preliminary evidence shows that the stronger the collaboration between service providers, the greater the chances their collective efforts will lead to family success.

Frances_sykes_marjorie_simsWhole family approaches have demonstrated that families living in poverty can succeed despite the obstacles they face. Organizations that adopt such an approach can expect to make a bigger, more meaningful difference in their communities. To do so, however, service providers, government agencies, and funders must work collaboratively — with one another and the families they are trying to support. It's the best way to advance our respective missions and create lasting change for the communities we serve.

Frances Sykes is the president of the Pascale Sykes Foundation and Marjorie Sims is the managing director of Ascend at the Aspen Institute.

Reimagining Power Dynamics From Within: How Foundations Can Support Child and Youth Participation

January 16, 2020

Youth_climate_activists_350orgInvolving children and young people in our work — as grantees, consultants, researchers, and/or key informants — helps support their right to shape how the issues that affect their lives are addressed and makes our work as funders more impactful. Philanthropies should consider the right to participation — a key right in democracies — an important aspect of their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts.

The climate movement, for instance, has been very successful in drawing critical attention to the power of children and young people to organize and pressure governments to take action on an issue of urgent concern to them. Other examples include mobilizing support for the Sustainable Development Goals, gun violence prevention, and the rights of working children.

If, as funders, we are committed to supporting young climate activists at the local, national, and international levels, we also need to create spaces within our organizations for them to influence our thinking and ways of working. At the Open Society Foundations, the Youth Exchange team strategy refers to this as "modeling behavior," a form of "prefigurative politics": creating, here and now, in our organizational practices, the change we want to see more generally in society. While many in the philanthropic space already support young activists and guidelines already exist as to how to provide financial and non-financial support to child and youth organizers and child- and youth-led organizations, there are many others who wonder how they can do that.

The Open Society Youth Exchange team thought the start of a new year would be a good time to share some best practices — drawn from our own experiences as well as literature in the field — with respect to engaging children and young people in donor spaces and conversations and giving them the space to tell us how best to support their movements generally and the climate movement more specifically.

While recognizing that young leaders can benefit from specific types of support, we would emphasize that it is important to help create a broad base of support that transcends constituencies, movements, and generations. In addition, some of the recommendations shared below to support child and youth participation can also be made for or adapted to other groups, who may also experience similar barriers.

Nine Basic Requirements for Child and Youth Participation

To create effective and sustained participation, funders need to move away from one-off consultations and engage children and young people in ongoing processes and governance structures. Those who are in charge of organizing opportunities for children and young people as part of a strategic planning process, convening, or less formal conversation can use the "nine basic requirements for effective and ethical participation" outlined by the Committee on the Rights of the Child (General Comment no. 12) on "the right of the child to be heard." These basic requirements are the gold standard for youth and child participation and can help funders plan and monitor participation processes. According to the principles, participation should be transparent and informative, voluntary, respectful, relevant, child-friendly, inclusive, supported by training, safe and sensitive to risk, and accountable.

The power of personality is evident in the youth climate movement, in which inspiring young problem-solvers have emerged as highly visible and effective leaders. But when inviting children and young people to join conversations, it is important to look beyond charisma to make sure they legitimately represent their constituencies and are already situated within strong networks. The best approach, we have found, is to ask network leaders to nominate the individuals who will represent them. It's also important to support platforms that help child and youth representatives from different groups connect with one another and build trust. The latter can take time, so it's important to build some extra time into your planning.

To identify representatives who are most likely to be effective, network leaders must have a clear understanding of the aims, nature, and scope of the engagement: Are children and young people being invited to share their views on an issue area in which the foundation as a whole would like to engage? Are they being asked to help shape something more specific, like a portfolio of work? Are they being asked to comment on the best tools for supporting the movement (e.g., grantmaking, fellowships, or advocacy)? Funders need to be clear and share details about the role that children and young participants are likely to play.

Participation must be transparent, informative, and relevant. It is acceptable, for example, to tell participants that what they have to say will be considered, but that it will be considered in the context of other conversations. It is not acceptable to invite children and young people to the table without having any intention to act upon their ideas and suggestions.

Participation must be inclusive. Funders must include young activists from diverse backgrounds, with an additional focus on groups that have experienced various forms of discrimination. "Youth" is a large and heterogeneous demographic. Funders need to recognize that layered and intersecting identities are at play in everyone's life and that "young" is only one identity, age only one indicator. For many young people, age does not even register among the aspects of identity they consider most important (e.g., race/ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation). We therefore feel that the "youth lens" needs to be combined with additional lenses to create the necessary conditions for meaningful engagement. For example, children and youth from Indigenous communities and from the Global South should be front and center, since they are the cohorts most likely to be affected by the climate crisis. When engaging young people in the United States, funders need to remember the importance of engaging young activists of color, including those with a disability. Disability inclusion reinforces the message that spaces in which conversations take place are accessible for all participants. We also make a point of using the phrase "child and youth participation" to highlight the importance of including those who are younger — not least because the climate movement is full of very young organizers, organizers who may feel they are being ignored when only the word "youth" is used.

If we want to include young people in meaningful and respectful ways, we need to make adjustments to our own processes. Ideally, that should begin with the involvement of young people as early in the process as possible. It's not enough to give them a seat at the table; we need to make sure they are involved in setting up the table and are taking part in the journey from the very start. At the same time, it also means being clear that young participants have the choice to limit or step away from their responsibilities, as participation always needs to be voluntary.

Participation should be respectful, relevant, and take into consideration children's and young people's own priorities and interests as well as their existing commitments to study, work, and free time. This may require funders to be ready to organize meetings during "after-school" evening or weekend hours. It may also necessitate efforts to inform and get permission and support from parents and caregivers.

Participation should be youth- and child-friendly and respectful of the skills, experiences, and competencies of young people. Respect also needs to be shown in the scheduling of the convening itself and any preparation work. By involving children and young people in the early stages of planning, tasks and planning sessions can be made more participatory, allowing everyone to engage to their maximum potential. During the planning process, funders should also ask young people to identify in advance which sessions they feel most equipped or excited to contribute to, rather than assuming they will be interested in and available to attend every session. While some young activists are experienced public speakers, all participants should always be given the support and tools they need to feel comfortable when faced with new situations and public responsibilities. For instance, the young people who do choose to speak at convenings almost always appreciate being shown around the venue beforehand so they can familiarize themselves with the space — a very simple yet important recommendation. And, of course, when inviting children and young people to be part of our processes or conversations, we always need to be mindful of the inherent power dynamics at play, due not only to differences in age but also to our status as donors.

For full-day meetings, agendas can be designed to highlight sessions that are more "participatory." Depending on the intended outputs of the convening (e.g., a summary or action document prepared by participant groups), it can be helpful to connect with young people in advance to ask them how they might best contribute. In some situations, young people may prefer to present their ideas or stories in creative visual ways. We need to schedule time for those visuals to be shared and commented on by all participants, rather than limiting the discussion to a few minutes during a break.

Because their role is crucial, adult collaborators need to be confident, supportive, and skilled at facilitating intergenerational dialogues. For example, if a young person is part of a panel presentation, the facilitator can make sure that any questions addressed to that individual can be answered by any of the young invitees who are present. Also, questions from young people to other panelists can be prioritized to ensure that their voices are heard. Young people can also be skilled facilitators and conveners, especially if provided with training, mentoring, and experiential opportunities. In sum, participation should be supported by training in facilitation, effective communication, and children's rights for both adults and young people.

Whenever young people are involved in an activity, it is of utmost importance to conduct a risk assessment and develop a safety plan that includes clear safeguarding procedures: participation always needs to be safe and sensitive to risk for participants. This is particularly important when engaging young people under the age of 18, who are, from a legal point of view, minors. In such cases, the organization should make child protection a priority, and young participants and their accompanying adults should know how to report their concerns if anything problematic occurs. Similarly, if there is a videographer, or if video or photos are taken, it is imperative to obtain informed consent from the young participants and their legal guardians in advance.

Lastly, funders and conveners should be accountable to participants, which means children and young people should be given feedback about the degree to which their views were taken into account and have the opportunity to share feedback about their experience. While this can be done in a post-event debriefing session, anonymous feedback opportunities sometimes elicit more detail. In addition, longer-term planning with and by young people and adults is encouraged as a way to support more sustainable opportunities for young activists to be engaged in governance processes that affect them.

Rachele_tardi_zachary_turkAll of us in philanthropy should remind ourselves that including children and young people in conversations about issues of importance to them is a key aspect of DEI and should keep in mind the principles behind and best practices for engaging young activists in our work. It is up to us to mirror and model the processes of inclusion and the participation of children and young activists whom we seek to support through our grantmaking and advocacy efforts. In many areas, they are already leading the way. It's important we initiate and sustain, within our own organizations, an ongoing dialogue with them about the systemic change we all want to see.

Rachele Tardi is senior program manager and Zachary Turk is a program officer in the Youth Exchange program at the Open Society Foundations.

Looking to Africa's Future: The Promise of Transnational Ties

January 14, 2020

African_gradNearly seven years ago, when I became president of Yale University, five of the top twelve — and eleven of the top twenty — of the world's fastest growing economies were in Africa, even though the continent faced serious challenges. Amid discussions of sobering events and hopes for the future, Yale took a stand for the promise of education, scholarship, and research — a promise that is particularly significant across Africa, home to a vibrant and growing population of young people. That year, 2013, I launched the Yale Africa Initiative as a way to create new partnerships between Yale and institutions on the continent. 

Africa's economic development remains impressive, but even more spectacular is the growth and promise of its youth. The continent's youth population is expected to increase by 522 million over the next three decades, while in the rest of the world, over the same period, it will decline by 220 million. By 2050, one-third of people on the planet age twenty-four or younger will call the continent home. As they come of age, these young people will take their place among the world's leaders and innovators — meaning we all have an interest in Africa's future.

As a university professor, I am focused on higher education, though primary and secondary education are, of course, critical. Higher education is essential to economic growth, and it also delivers a broad range of benefits, including progress toward gender equality, improvements in individual and public health, strengthened civic  institutions, and enhanced creativity and skills among those who serve society. 
 
Collaborative research and teaching that bridge national borders and cultures can further amplify the positive effects of colleges and universities. Through student and faculty exchanges, institutions of higher education can engage with diverse viewpoints and experiences, improving the scholarship and education they support and deliver. In these enriching environments, students also learn what they can contribute to an increasingly interconnected global community. Yes, they gain the education needed to become productive workers, but more importantly they also acquire the skills and knowledge needed to become business owners, entrepreneurs, and employers; create new knowledge; and transform their communities, their countries, and the planet. Graduates of Yale Law School, for instance, serve as judges and officials for some of the most important courts in the world. These scholars and practitioners are taking the knowledge and wisdom they have gained through their international education to transform the landscape of jurisprudence across Africa and elsewhere.

Earlier this year, I learned about the accomplishments of Adebayo Alonge, a graduate of the Yale School of Management and Lagos Business School, both of which members of the Global Network for Advanced Management. Adebayo won the grand prize in the Hello Tomorrow Global Challenge, a world-renowned startup competition, for RxScanner, a handheld nanoscanner that authenticates drugs and helps patients avoid dangerous counterfeits. The company he built around the technology currently operates in Canada, China, Myanmar, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, and Nigeria, and he has plans to expand it further. Adebayo's story is just one example of how the opportunity to study in the United States and Nigeria can help power innovation and entrepreneurship.

Like many global universities, Yale has forged a number of partnerships with educational and research institutions in Africa. For instance, Makerere University, Uganda's largest institution of higher education, and Yale collaborate on a variety of research, including investigations of treatments for non-communicable diseases, patient empowerment, and women's health. In the short term, scholars from both Makerere and Yale benefit from exposure to different clinical settings that widen their perspectives, knowledge, and skills. In the longer term, these types of collaborative efforts will increase clinical capacity, improve medical access, and enhance public health, in both countries.

As more nations take a step back from the global community and focus their attention inward, universities must step up and fill the void, providing transformative educational opportunities for students and fostering innovative discoveries that improve lives. There is so much more to do, from creating partnerships and forging transnational ties, to building on the tremendous promise of young people around the globe. As we move inexorably toward 2050, the future increasingly will look  like Africa — full of promise, energy, determination, innovation, and resilience.

Peter Salovey is the president of Yale University. This article was distributed by African Media Agency on behalf of Yale and appears here with AMA and Yale's permission.

How Philanthropy Can Benefit From Tapping Into Instagram Communities

January 13, 2020

Instagram_logoJudging from media coverage and online conversations, it's clear we're living in a time of heightened social consciousness ("wokeness"). Whether that sentiment is driven by genuine concern for the fate of the planet and the welfare of others or a simple desire to be part of a collective is unimportant: people being willing to live less selfishly is a good thing.

That said, changing attitudes and ways of seeing the world don't automatically translate into economic or cultural impact. If we hope to drive meaningful action and change the world, this emerging way of seeing things needs to be broadened, deepened, and communicated as widely as possible. And the key to all that is social media.

When you strike the right tone and activate the right influencers, social media can transform a disparate group of strangers into a unified force for good. And if you were asked to pick one social media platform to focus your organization's resources on, it would have to be Instagram. While the image-friendly platform doesn't have the broad reach of Facebook, it's a powerful platform in its own right and has been growing in popularity, especially among millennials and their younger siblings.

Intrigued? Here are some things to keep in mind as your organization starts to think about using  Instagram to bolster its social-change efforts:

Images drive emotion. Fundraising campaigns typically struggle to gain traction when they rely on text-based messaging alone: even the most persuasive prose can feel removed from matters of life and death, and while it's possible to read about and empathize with the plight of someone living in poverty, too often most of us simply read those appeals and put them aside before getting on with our business.

Knowing this is how most people respond to text-based appeals, charities have learned the value over the years of incorporating imagery into their appeals, whether still photos, videos, or both. If a picture is worth a thousand words, just one powerful photo of a person in need can spark the kind of emotional response from a potential supporter that ultimately leads to action.

Imagery can also be used to illustrate data points and key statistics in ways that make often lifeless material come alive. One of the classic techniques is to combine an affecting image with a dark overlay and an associated statistic rendered in bold text. When done well and shared on Instagram, such an image can easily go viral and spread to other social media platforms.

Community = donations. As persons of average means in an era of billionaire philanthropy, many of us feel disaffected and powerless. Yes, we might have the resources to help one person, but what can any of us do about the root causes of urgent social or environmental problems? It can be all too easy to throw up our hands and trust (or hope) that folks with the money to make a big difference will do so.

In recent years, however, we've seen crowdsourcing emerge as a an important fundraising tool — and a way to bring lots of geographically dispersed individuals together to change things for the better.

On Instagram, crowdsourcing campaigns should focus on the simple experience of supporting a cause and sharing it with others. The best way to do that is to use engagement-building posts designed to get your followers invested in watching the campaign grow as more people get involved. When someone on Instagram sees people they're following donating to and supporting a cause, it makes them want to jump on the bandwagon. Rare is the person who doesn't want to be known as and acknowledged for being compassionate, so take advantage of your followers' generosity and be sure to amplify their posts in support of your cause.

Live video can humanize your supporters. Thanks to Instagram Live (live streaming on the platform) and IGTV (an associated app that allows you to save hour-long videos to the platform), Instagram has become a useful tool for the production and distribution of live video, which  can go a long way in terms of communicating authenticity. After all, prerecorded videos with high production values and a lot of polish look great but often feel cold and soulless.

Presented in the right way, live video pushes social media users to see your donors and supporters as people like them. It favors unscripted testimonials over canned statements and formulaic pledges — spontaneity instead of contrivance.

It's also great for answering questions from a curious (and relatively young) follower base. Because there are so many outlets and options for charitable giving, people will always want to know one thing above all others: Why should I support your charity or cause instead of another? Hosting a live Q&A gives you an opportunity to tell people, face-to-face, why your organization or cause is deserving of their support and develop a personal connection to them at the same time.

For anyone with an important message to convey, social media in general, and Instagram in particular, is the place to be in 2020. With its tremendous reach, focus on strong visuals, and robust support for live video, Instagram is a fantastic tool for  creating engagement with your issue or cause and mobilizing supporters. If you're not using it, now is the time to get started!

Rodney_Laws_EPIO_for_PhilanTopicRodney Laws is an editor at Ecommerce Platforms, a website that evaluates ecommerce platforms and provides ecommerce business advice.

Few Large U.S. Foundations Changed Giving Priorities After 2016 Presidential Election

January 07, 2020

White_HouseIn early 2019, Candid asked 645 of the largest U.S. foundations whether they had changed their funding priorities in 2017 and 2018 as a result of the 2016 presidential election. The vast majority (88 percent) of the respondents said their organizations made "few or no changes" to their giving priorities during the two years following the election. About one in eight (12 percent) reported making "some notable changes."

These results differ slightly from a similar survey conducted by Exponent Philanthropy in early 2017. Nearly one-quarter of the participants in that survey — foundations with few or no staff, philanthropic families, and individual donors — said they expected to make some changes to their philanthropic giving as a direct result of Donald Trump's election.

Not surprisingly, foundations reporting "few or no changes to their giving priorities" in Candid’s 2019 survey felt little need to further explain why this was the case.  "Staying the course" was a common refrain.

Foundations that reported making "some notable changes" identified five causes in particular for which they felt additional support was needed, given shifts in the political environment: 1) immigration, 2) civic engagement/democracy, 3) equity/social justice/intolerance, 4) the environment, and 5) health care. In some cases, foundations also established "rapid response" funds to help grantees that might be facing new or urgent challenges in carrying out their work.

Foundations that made "few or no changes to their giving priorities"

Most foundations that made "few or no changes to their giving priorities" following the 2016 election felt no need to further explain why this was the case. Those that did offer explanations tended to refer to factors such as donor intent or unwavering adherence to the organizations’ respective missions or strategic plans.

  • "The foundation follows donor intent, so our grantmaking does not tend to change with political shifts."
  • "The foundation’s funds are committed to funding existing programs in our founders' areas of interest and in areas where they lived during their lifetimes."
  • Community foundation: "Most grantmaking is advised by donors or committees for specific purposes."
  • "The election had no effect on our mission so no need to change the focus."
  • "Strategic priorities are generally set by [the] board for a multiyear (10-12 years) time frame."
  • "It makes no difference which party is in control of the government. Our giving priorities are the same."

Some foundations with mandates to focus their giving within specific regions or whose giving is primarily international felt that the national political climate was largely irrelevant to their ongoing work, as did others with highly specific missions.

  • "We are aware of political dynamics but that did not change our focus on rural Minnesota."
  • "The foundation makes grants for overseas mission activities. Therefore, we are not normally affected by politics in the U.S."
  • "Our tightly defined mission serves the fields of art history and art conservation, training professionals in these fields, and supporting their research. The nature of this work has not been altered by the 2016 election."
  • "The foundation supports STEM research in higher education. Program strategies were set in prior years. Research opportunities are rarely changed by individual electoral contests but are instead shaped by wider societal trends."

For many foundations, staying the course but with an increased sense of urgency was the right course of action.

  • "Our existing priorities became more endangered/underfunded, so we stayed the course."
  • "Our focus on legal services, including immigration and social justice, predates the 2016 election by two years; we have increased funding for immigration legal services but much of what we fund has been in the cross-hairs of the current administration so staying on course is appropriate given the current environment."
  • "Our giving is focused at the state level, and our state for the last several decades has been Republican-led. A change in federal leadership has not changed the issues we have focused on — conservation, public education, and health access — but rather reiterated the importance of our work."

Some foundations noted that "staying the course" was especially important if in fact the priorities of other foundations working in the same area were shifting due to political change:

  • "Our foundation focuses exclusively on international grantmaking. Our grantmaking process is guided by our 2016-2020 strategy, which was set before the U.S. election. While other foundations have pulled their funding from international efforts, we have stayed the course, even more so because of other foundations' shifting priorities within the current political climate."
  • "During challenging political times, with many diverting their funds away from the arts towards more urgent political action, the foundation continued funding according to its mission in recognition of the role the arts play in creating a more just and empathetic society, and to avoid destabilizing grantee organizations."

A couple of foundations noted that if shifts in approach to the work were needed, those adjustments would fall more to their grantees than to the foundation:

  • "[Our] grantees were basically the same — with a couple exceptions. Their work shifted."
  • "Education and climate change remain our areas of focus. Federal policies certainly affect these areas, but they don't change our strategic priorities, so much as our grantees' response and approach."

Finally, the idea that political change could have any bearing on how a foundation sets its giving priorities was received with horror by a handful of foundations:

  • "WE STAY FAR AWAY FROM ANYTHING CLOSE TO 'POLITICS.'"
  • "I can't understand why one would ask this question. Are you suggesting a political motive? This question is an insult to our trustees."

Foundations that made "some notable changes in giving priorities after the 2016 U.S. election"

The 12 percent of surveyed foundations that said they made "some notable changes in giving priorities after the 2016 U.S. election" cited five topic areas in particular that required their urgent attention — immigration (3.1 percent), civic engagement/democracy (1.7 percent), equity/social justice/intolerance (1.6 percent), the environment (1.4 percent), and healthcare (1.2 percent). Many of these initiatives overlapped.

Immigration

  • "Launched an immigrant and refugee funder collaborative with other funders to support response to federal policy changes."
  • "The foundation granted to organizations to support staffing for DACA case management and DACA reimbursements."
  • "Yes! We added community service grants specifically to address new problems facing immigrant and minority communities."

Civic engagement/democracy

  • "We added an initiative around civil engagement to encourage more people to participate in government at all levels."
  • "We created a Democracy & Civil Society area of interest in 2017. It was funded again in 2018 and will continue for 2019."
  • "We created three time-limited 'special projects' to strengthen checks and balances within the government and in civil society. We also expanded existing programs to combat misinformation and promote trust in journalism, protect press freedom, and strengthen the security of elections. Finally, we increased our capacity for research and sensemaking through the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group and other efforts."

Equity/social justice/intolerance

  • "After the 2016 elections, the foundation's board authorized the creation of an 'Opportunity Fund' to 'create an enduring portfolio of investments that promote fairness and equity, justice, and opportunity.' The fund has been targeted, in particular, on 'efforts designed to safeguard civility and decency, advance civil rights, counteract hate, support immigrant and refugee communities, and provide legal support to underserved communities.'"
  • "Anti-conservative and anti-free speech bias on college campuses increased and giving changed to support free speech and viewpoint diversity."
  • "New focus on women's rights and social justice."

Environment

  • "Our Environment Program began to fund efforts that could rapidly respond to emergent threats to the U.S. system of environmental and public health laws, regulations, and policies."
  • "It's a temporary surge. Foundation staff have developed three strategic initiatives to which we will target these new dollars in ways that we are confident will build and engage new conservation constituencies, address immediate threats, and seize conservation opportunities across the western U.S. and Canada. In this moment, we trust this surge in funding will accelerate their work."

Health Care

  • "We continued to support organizations that were assisting with enrollment [in ObamaCare] and continued to support advocacy organizations in trying to prevent more Medicaid cuts."
  • "We focused more on policy and advocacy work for mental health and substance abuse."
  • "Due to the threat to reproductive rights and to immigrant women, we added a category for reproductive rights and immigrant women."

Other changes

Some foundations stepped up the level of giving in their existing areas of focus, while others developed "rapid response" funds:

  • "Some additional funding set aside for federal response since the new Administration had an effect in nearly all of our program areas."
  • "The election was one of several factors that indicated a need for greater capacity among some of our partners across the South. Others include policy implications that harm the communities we care about."
  • "The board authorized an increase to the foundation's Presidential Discretionary fund to provide 'additional capacity to make opportunity, one-time investments precipitated by the new political and policy environment.'"
  • "In FY17, the fund conducted a rapid response grantmaking program ($100k total) to assist current grantees to advance and/or defend the social safety net, protect vulnerable immigrants and refugees, prevent violence and hate crimes, with emphasis on anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, or respond to government censorship or reputational attack."

Finally, a few foundations said that although they made some notable changes in giving priorities after the election, these actions were not related to changes in the political climate:

  • "The foundation's board approved a new mission in 2017, which resulted in some changes in giving priorities, although there was no direct correlation between this and the 2016 U.S. election."
  • "Reorganization of the foundation, new president in 2017."

Headshot_larry_mcgillLarry McGill is vice president of knowledge services at Candid. This post originally appeared on the Candid blog. For more of his thoughts., click here

Weekend Link Roundup (January 4-5, 2020)

January 05, 2020

5W4htUpm6GwJkWfemfytV4-1024-80Happy New Year! Before you get back to work for real, check out our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

To see what climate change could portend for ordinary Americans, look no further than California, where over the last decade, as the Los Angeles Times' Deborah Netburn writes, "[t]he wildfires were more destructive. The drought was the longest on record. And the storms, when they finally came, unleashed more water than [the] dams could contain."

Fundraising

Ready for another year of fundraising? Future Fundraising Now's Jeff Brooks wants to help and has pulled together a list of his favorite fundraising blogs

And fundraising expert Pamela Grow shares eleven things you can do to make 2020 your most successful fundraising year yet.

Giving

Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther shares the thinking behind the charitable donations he and his wife, Karen, made in 2019.

In an op-ed in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, nonprofit CEOs Alejandra Castillo, Susan Dreyfus, James Firman, Brian Gallagher, Gail McGovern, and Jonathan Reckford make the case that, after nearly two years of data, the evidence is clear: charitable giving is down, and changes in the 2017 tax law are to blame.

Global Health

There are only eight organizations on charity rating site GiveWell's list of top global charities and one of them is the San Jose-based Fistula Foundation. In a new post on the GiveWell blog, Catherine Hollander updates the organization's work on the foundation, which it continues to consider "a top charity contender."

Health

Commonwealth Fund president David Blumenthal (with research help from Gabriella Aboulafia) reviews the top developments in health care in 2019 on the fund's To The Point blog. 

Higher Education

"In the modern university, all sources of money, be they gifts from donors, corporate grants, or investments, can be tainted in some way.... [And] students, faculty members, and alumni...are demanding that universities take responsibility for their role in laundering wealthy philanthropists’ reputations and allowing outside influence on research." But are they? Nell Gluckman, a senior reporter at the Chronicle of Higher Education, takes a closer look.

International Affairs/Development

On the HistPhil blog, Álvaro Morcillo Laiz, a scholar of international relations, considers "U.S. foundations’ funding of education, the elaboration of statistics, and human rights activism in Latin America as producing public goods." 

Nonprofits

In a post on the Charity Navigator blog, Michael Thatcher, the nonprofit ratings organization's president and CEO, looks back at the things he and his team achieved and learned in 2019, and what they have planned for 2020.

Philanthropy

On the Candid blog, Larry McGill, our vice president for knowledge services, shares findings from a survey of six hundred and forty-five of the largest U.S. foundations conducted in early 2019 that asked if they had changed their funding priorities in 2017 and 2018 as a result of the 2016 presidential election. Check out Larry's post to learn more.

Social Good

And writing on the Equities.com site, Thomas Kostigen explains why he thinks impact investing is likely to become a bigger fact in the financial services and  money management worlds in 2020.

(Image: @ NASA EOSDIS)

That's it for now. Drop us a line at Mitch.Nauffts@Candid.org if you have something you'd like to share. And Happy Thanksgiving to all! We'll be next Sunday with another roundup.

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