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10 posts from October 2020

5 Questions for...Michael Nyenhuis, President and CEO, UNICEF USA

October 22, 2020

UNICEF — the United Nations Children's Fund — is probably best known to Americans of a certain age for the orange trick-or-treat boxes it has been distributing to young trick-or-treaters since the 1950s. The successor to the International Children's Emergency Fund, which was created in 1946 to address the needs of children and mothers affected by the far-reaching devastation of World War II, the social welfare organization today works to improve the lives and defend the rights of children in a hundred and ninety-two countries and territories. 

Recently, PND spoke with Michael Nyenhuis, president and CEO of UNICEF USA, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization established in 1947 to support UNICEF's work on behalf of the world's children, about the organization's historic decision to allocate funding and resources to help a handful of cities in the United States become more child-friendly, what it is doing to adapt its Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF campaign to our new COVID reality, and his advice to nonprofits trying to make their message heard in a very noisy world.

Headshot_michael_nyenhuisPhilanthropy News Digest: You joined UNICEF USA as president in March, after the World Health Organization had declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Given your experience in the humanitarian aid and development field, what were your immediate concerns for the organization?

Michael Nyenhuis: There were two. One was our ability to respond to COVID effectively around the world. UNICEF has done a terrific job of delivering personal protective equipment to forty million healthcare workers in some of the neediest countries and providing critical wash and sanitation supplies for seven and a half million people in countries that don't have the infrastructure we have here in the United States. We've all seen how challenged our response in the U.S. was, so you can imagine how much more difficult it is in far less resourced places, but, as I say, UNICEF did a terrific job of responding to the crisis in the short term.

My other concern was the impact of the pandemic on the critical health and education and nutrition programs that UNICEF operates around the world. We provide basic vaccines for 45 percent of the world's children, and yet our ability to deliver those vaccines and get kids vaccinations when they need them was compromised by the shutdowns and disruptions to supply chains. We're still seeing the impacts. There are a billion and a half kids out of school around the globe, and most of them lack the technology to access a curriculum. It's those kinds of basic programs for children, which UNICEF, under normal circumstances, provides so effectively, that were interrupted by the virus. And the question was, and is, "How do you to take meaningful measures to stem the spread of COVID and at the same time keep those programs going?"

PND: Clearly, there are COVID-related needs everywhere. In August, your organization announced that, for the first time in its history, it would allocate funding and resources to help cities in the United States become more child-friendly. The initial cohort of cities includes Houston, Minneapolis, and San Francisco. What was the reasoning behind the decision to devote resources to the U.S, and was the inclusion of Minneapolis in the initial cohort connected to the killing of George Floyd and the protests sparked by his killing?

MN: Actually, the idea of UNICEF USA working more directly on children's issues here in the United States has been simmering for some time, and the decision to go ahead wasn’t just a response to recent events. Our tagline at UNICEF is "for every child," and for some time now we've been thinking about the needs of vulnerable kids in some of the wealthier countries that typically provide a large portion of the resources for UNICEF programs globally.

UNICEF also has a framework called "Child-Friendly Cities" that it has used effectively in communities around the world, over three thousand of them to date, where we work with municipalities to help them develop child-friendly policies and programs and think about how they're using their budgets and resources to positively impact children. We started to see that as an opportunity here in the U.S. as well.

So, all that had been going on behind the scenes, and then more recent events, COVID in particular, really ended up shining a light on the needs of kids in underprivileged communities and communities of color here in the U.S. that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID. The racial justice issues that came to the fore after the killing of George Floyd simply accelerated our plan to move forward with the Child Friendly Cities Initiative, and that's what we've been doing.

We actually had a meeting last year with officials from cities that were interested in the initiative, and Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Houston were among those cities. They also happen to be cities we were already in conversation with, so the fact that Minneapolis is one of the first cities to work with us is more coincidental than anything, but I think the timing is fortuitous.

PND: With whom will you be working in those cities?

MN: Well, typically we work with the department in the mayor's office or city government that is responsible for child-focused programs in the community. Sometimes that's the health department, sometimes it's the education department, sometimes it’s a combination. And our work with them is based on looking at the policies they’ve developed that impact children and making sure they are child-friendly. If we feel they aren't, we have templates they can use and different ways for them to think about modifying, adding, or adopting those policies to more effectively promote healthy, productive, and safe environments for children in their communities.

Beyond that, our efforts to convene public-sector agencies and child-serving not-for-profits focused on improving conditions for kids — especially vulnerable kids — and get them talking about how they can work together to make sure kids have the things they need to thrive often serves as a catalyst for more effective programming. I'm talking about things like equitable access to health care and a more equitable distribution of parks and playgrounds where kids can play safely. We're in conversation with dozens of cities that have expressed interest in the initiative, and our aspirational goal is for every community across the country to develop child-friendly programs aligned with our framework, because, again, it's a tested and proven approach to making communities more safe, secure, and healthy for children.

PND: Most Americans know UNICEF from its orange Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF boxes. Obviously, Halloween is going to look different this year. What percentage of your annual fundraising revenue is tied to Halloween, and what are you doing to adapt to our new COVID reality?

MN: Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF is an iconic part of the fall fundraising season here in the United States, and millions of kids have been involved in it over the seventy years we've run the program. Over that time, we've raised $180 million for programs that impact kids around the world. But beyond the money, it is a program that engages kids when they're young and helps them think about the globe in a different way and recognize that they are global citizens who can do something to make a difference for other children in other places who may not be as fortunate.

I Trick-or-Treated for UNICEF when I was a kid, and it really made me understand that the world was bigger than my neighborhood and that there were children in faraway places who didn't have the things I was lucky to have and had needs I could hardly imagine. No doubt, it’s one of the things that led me to humanitarian and development work. And, you know, I speak all the time to supporters of UNICEF who had their first exposure to the organization through our Trick-or-Treat boxes. So, the program is bigger than just what we're able to raise every year, although it is an important part of our budget. It's really about creating global citizens who are going to be interested in other people, other countries, and global causes the rest of their lives.

You won't be surprised to hear that this year we're pivoting because of the COVID crisis to a virtual trick-or-treat experience. And what we've cooked up is really pretty amazing and is going to be fun for kids to participate in. Kids who sign up will get to track how much they raise through their own virtual trick-or-treat box and decide where they want their money to go — we'll give them several options for how the money they raise can be invested to help other kids around the world. To learn more and register, just go to trickortreatforunicef.org.

PND: Excellent. As a former journalist, do you have any advice for nonprofit communications professionals who may be struggling to get their message heard at this very, very noisy time?

MN: I don't know that it's advice, but what I would tell people is that the challenges we are experiencing here in the U.S., whether it's COVID or racial injustice or a dysfunctional political system, are challenges that people in other countries are also experiencing. Take South Sudan, for instance. I was having a conversation with our team there a couple of weeks ago, and all the pre­cautions we are taking here to prevent and slow the spread of COVID — masking and social distancing and delaying the start of schools — all those things are happening in South Sudan, too. But even though there are similarities, the depth of the need and the capacity needed to recover from something like COVID in a place like South Sudan is very, very different. So, while it can be useful to draw parallels, let's not lose sight of the reality in really resource-poor countries, and let's not forget that people in those countries need our help as much as they ever did.

— Mitch Nauffts

For organizational resilience and impact, focus on business model not overhead

October 21, 2020

Conflict dynamics brainstormIt has always been a source of angst for ambitious not-for-profit organizations: how to ensure they can sustain and scale up impact while also building resilience to weather financial or other shocks. Often the focus is on increasing core or unrestricted funding and covering general operating costs through grant overhead.

The COVID-19 pandemic and national responses to it have exacerbated this challenge and, in doing so, have brought into stark relief important structural problems within the not-for-profit sector. What have been perennial issues for many not-for-profits — sustaining impact, financial resilience — are now existential ones.

In recent years, even prior to the pandemic, governments, private foundations, and other donors have openly recognized the need to cover a greater portion of not-for-profit organizations' general operating costs through grant funding. That in itself is a good thing. But I do not believe this approach, on its own, will lead to the long-term resilience of ambitious not-for-profits, nor will it enable them to effectively scale impact.

What will ensure more resilience and the ability to scale up not-for-profit organizations is the pursuit of new and creative business models that fit with their missions and activities.

In this article, I draw on my and colleagues' experiences of growing Conflict Dynamics International, a sixteen-year young not-for-profit working to prevent and resolve violent conflict and alleviate human suffering arising from conflicts.

Common not-for-profit business model

A common business model for not-for-profit organizations is that the organization secures contributions from donors to fund its charitable work. This support can be for the core operations of the organization or it can be for particular programs or projects. In either case, it can be restricted or it can be unrestricted in terms of intended use. Let's call this the Contribution-Based Business Model.

With this business model, not-for-profit organizations must fund their non-program expenses through a combination of: (i) contributions for general operating support; (ii) restricted core funding; and/or (iii) institutional overhead applied to program direct costs. [1]

In Conflict Dynamics' experience, the institutional overhead on grants from non-United States governmental sources has been in the range of 7 percent to 13 percent (see below). Many private foundations allow for institutional overhead in this range also, while a few support overhead costs at a higher level (e.g., MacArthur Foundation, up to 29 percent). In our area of practice, for organizations receiving funding from U.S. government agencies, the Negotiated Indirect Cost Rate Agreement (NICRA) can cover overhead, as I understand it, up to 22 percent.

From the not-for-profit's perspective, the core value exchange through the Contribution-Based Business Model goes something like this: "We (not-for-profit) will deliver social impact; you (donor) will provide funding and other resources to support the activities towards that impact."

Challenges with this business model

In our sixteen years of working in some of the most challenging conflict situations in the world, we have learned that the Contribution-Based Business Model is not sufficient to scale the impact of our organization and ensure its resilience. Perhaps it is better suited to not-for-profit organizations working in less-volatile situations, or those that deliver predictable program services, or have reached a higher level of annual revenue.

The types of shocks we have to insulate ourselves from are generally funding shocks. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic is a unique, seismic shock. We have been able to adapt our program activities, and at the same time we have seen the funding shock from the pandemic. Conflict Dynamics is fortunate to have many wonderful supporting partners; however, even in normal times we have on occasion experienced U-turns on donor pledges, long delays in the disbursement of funds, and non-renewal of grants when the political situation changes unexpectedly (either at source or country of implementation!).

Back to the Contribution-Based Business Model, I see a number of challenges:

  1. In recent years, many governmental donors in particular have been reducing the percentage and scope of coverage of allowable institutional overhead on grants. For the types of grants we secure for our work, the following donors allow these overhead percentages: Sweden Ministry for Foreign Affairs (13 percent); Switzerland Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (10 percent to 13 percent); United Kingdom Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (10 percent); European Union (8 percent); Netherlands Ministry for Foreign Affairs (7 percent); etc.
  2. Many institutional donors have pulled back on the amount of general operating support and other core funding they are providing to not-for-profit organizations, preferring instead to fund projects. A colleague recently referred to this as the "projectization" of funding. This has direct tangible impacts on the ability of the organization to grow its infrastructure, as well as impacts in terms of staff retention, professional development opportunities, staff morale, and so on.
  3. When organizations are funding their core operations through heavy reliance on program-related overhead, the organization becomes vulnerable if its programs do not continue or face funding gaps. If experienced program staff and institutional memory are lost, this places additional demands on the organization.
  4. Whether for core- or program-specific funding, this business model requires the organization to proactively pursue new grants on a near continuous basis to ensure its sustainability. The transaction costs for securing a large number of smaller individual contributions are very high, and so that generally requires that the organization first reach a certain level of revenue and capacity.
  5. The fixed overhead on program grants induces dependency on this type of funding, because organizations get stuck in a Catch-22 of having to invest significant time in program fundraising, especially when scaling, which takes away from efforts to secure the resources to sustain the core of the organization.
  6. This business model makes it difficult to break through the small- to middle-size stage of growth. This is the "too small to be big, and too big to be small" range of $2 million to $8 million in annual revenue. At $3 million to $4 million average annual revenue, Conflict Dynamics is in this range. The reason for this difficulty is that economies of scale only kick in when the organization exceeds approximately $8 million to $10 million annual revenue. At $8 million in annual program revenue and 10 percent average overhead rate, the overhead amount would be $727,272 a year.
  7. Scaling impact may require upfront investments in new programs or new geographic areas. When there is high reliance on grant-related overhead, there are generally not a lot of funds available to invest in exploring new opportunities.

Ultimately this business model on its own results in constrained and unreliable funding for not-for-profit organizations. That reality, and the consequences for intended impact have been well recognized. Several institutional donors have made commitments to provide more general operating support or restricted core funding, both prior to and during the pandemic:

Much of these commitments and intended actions focus on what donors can do to help non-profits, and they also generally focus on the same business model. Some of the proposed arrangements for donors to help grantees cover overhead costs include outcome-based funding and all-in-one project pricing.[5]

Moreover, some donors are pursuing an approach based on equity philanthropy, whereby loans and investments are made to fund not-for-profit programs. This seems best suited to organizations offering program services that generate predictable revenue streams.

Conflict Dynamics' experience of donor funding flexibility during the pandemic has been mixed: in general, there has been a marked slowdown of decision-making on new funding; one private foundation partner has provided significant grant flexibility in light of the impact of COVID-19; and most governmental donors have not afforded much flexibility with their existing grants.

A constellation of business models

If the Contribution-Based Business Model is not the way to go, then what is?

I believe that for ambitious not-for-profit organizations to build their resilience and scale impact, they need to operate with a variety of business models. This means going further than the obvious strategy of diversifying sources of funding, to diversifying the actual business model itself.

Conflict Dynamics has been exploring an approach based on a "constellation" of five inter-related business models, all oriented toward realizing greater social impact.

Business model 1: Contribution-based. I am not suggesting "throwing out the baby with the bath water"; a contribution-based business model will continue to be an important model for not-for-profit organizations. But organizations need to push for more realistic overhead percentages on program funding, longer grant periods, more funding for core expenses, and so on. In its last three fiscal years, our grant revenue for programs averaged approximately 98 percent of our total revenue....so we have more work to do here.

Business model 2: Monetization. The second component of the constellation of business models focuses on monetizing something that the organization already does. This is about extracting added value from the organization's expertise, analysis, networks, and so on. For example, Conflict Dynamics has gained a lot of experience in the monitoring and evaluation of peacebuilding programs and is in a position to offer monitoring and evaluation services, for a fee, to other organizations.

Business model 3: Unrelated business income. In certain circumstances, tax exempt not-for-profit organizations can generate revenue from unrelated business income. In the United States, the Internal Revenue Service has stringent criteria for what constitutes unrelated business income, which can be subject to tax.[6]  There are exemptions. One area of interest is rental income. During FY2018–19, Conflict Dynamics had total office lease expenses of $109,429, of which $26,782 was covered out of institutional overhead. With an approximate average overhead rate of 10 percent on program grants, we had to bring in roughly $294,600 in program grants just to cover this single expense. Ownership of a larger office property can reduce or eliminate rental costs and generate income through the subleasing of office space.

I realize the pandemic is not an ideal time to get into commercial real estate; looking to the future, however, there will be opportunities in certain areas and locations to provide other not-for-profits with co-working spaces.

Business model 4: Investments. The fourth business model focuses on investment income. Organizations can approach donors to make an initial short-term investment for the purposes of kick starting an endowment. With a one-year investment of $100 million and a fairly conservative return, the organization could realize revenue of, say, $7 million over twelve months. That would provide the initial funding for an endowment for the organization, which would in turn could provide roughly $490,000 of unrestricted revenue a year. For an organization with an annual  budget of $5 million, that represents nearly 10 percent of its total revenue.

This level of investment is not implausible; recently, the MacArthur Foundation adopted an approach in one of its program areas, the 100&Change initiative, where it makes a very large investment in a single organization over three years. Through the initiative, in year one, it made an award to Sesame Workshop and International Rescue Committee in the amount of $100 million.

Business model 5: For-profit feeder. Not-for-profit organizations can set up separate for-profit ventures with the aim of funneling the profit from the venture into the not-for-profit entity. Many large corporations have charitable foundations, and the approach here is to do the same in reverse. This assumes that the not-for-profit can design and execute a profitable business model.

This business model also affords the opportunity to seek equity investments. In addition, certain types of entities, including public benefit corporations (B Corp) in the U.S., are eligible to receive program-related investments (i.e., low-cost loans) from private foundations.

All these components should be viewed as building blocks that can be combined in different configurations, depending on the needs and capacities of the organization; they are not mutually exclusive. In other sectors, governments and foundations facilitate reduced-risk "sandboxes" to experiment with business/regulatory models. Perhaps it's time for the social sector to test these and other components in a sandbox environment designed for its own unique needs.

Where does this leave us?

When I visited the Palais des Nations — the seat of the United Nations Office in Geneva — in late 2019, I was surprised to see the direct effects of the cash-flow crisis that the UN has been battling. To cite just one small example, some elevator banks were intentionally closed to save money, and some meeting rooms were out of use. The lesson is that when it comes to business model vulnerability, size really doesn't matter.

Covering more core costs through more unrestricted funding may be necessary, but it won't be sufficient to guarantee greater resilience and enable not-for-profit organizations to scale their impact. That requires the adoption of diverse and overlapping business models. The COVID-19 pandemic surely provides added impetus for moving quickly in such a direction.

Headshot_Gerard McHughGerard McHugh is founder and president of Conflict Dynamics International. A serial entrepreneur with more than thirty years' experience in international conflict resolution, humanitarian affairs. and health care, he recently founded a new venture, AidX, to help ordinary people achieve the extraordinary. This post originally appeared on Conflict Dynamics' Medium channel and is reprinted here with permission.

Notes:

1. In this article, the term "general operating support" relates to unrestricted funding for the operations of the organization. The term "core funding" refers to funding for the core activities of the organization and can be restricted or unrestricted.

2. For more information on the Grand Bargain, see https://interagencystandingcommittee.org/about-the-grand-bargain [Accessed October 12, 2020]

3. Maria Di Mento, "Five CEOs of Wealthy Foundations Pledge to Do More to Help Charities Pay Overhead," The Chronicle of Philantrophy, September, 4 2019. Available at: https://www.philanthropy.com/article/5-CEOs-of-Big-Foundations/247063 [Accessed October 12, 2020]

4. James B. Stewart and Nicholas Kulish. "Leading Foundations Pledge to Give More, Hoping to Upend Philanthropy." The New York Times, June 10, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/10/business/ford-foundation-bonds-coronavirus.html [Accessed October 12, 2020]

5. These are some of the approaches identified in the work of the Bridgespan Group’s "Pay What It Takes" initiative. See: https://www.bridgespan.org/insights/library/pay-what-it-takes/pay-what-it-takes-philanthropy [Accessed October 12, 2020]. See also: Jeri Eckhart-Queenan, Michael Etzel, & Sridhar Prasad, "Pay-What-It-Takes Philanthropy," Stanford Social Innovation Review Vol. 14 №3 (Summer 2016).

6. United States Dept. of the Treasury Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Tax on Unrelated Income of Tax Exempt Organizations, IRS Publication 598 (February 2019). Available at: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p598.pdf [Accessed October 12, 2020]

5 Questions for Walter Katz, Vice President, Criminal Justice, Arnold Ventures

October 19, 2020

After beginning his career as a public defender in Southern California, Walter Katz spent the next three decades in public service, serving as an independent police auditor in San Jose, California, and as deputy inspector general for the County of Los Angeles Office of Inspector General (OIG) before returning to his hometown of Chicago in 2017 to serve as deputy chief of staff for public safety in the administration of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel. In that role, Katz oversaw one of the most complex police reform efforts in the United States and served as a co-negotiator of a consent decree enacted in 2019 that resulted in the design and development of the city's Office of Violence Prevention.

PND recently spoke with Katz about the summer of protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, what calls for defunding the police mean, and the role of philanthropy in driving change.

Headshot_walter_katzPhilanthropy News Digest: There have been a number of high-profile killings of unarmed African Americans by police officers over the last few years. What was different about George Floyd's death? And what do you make of the fact that protests across the nation sparked by his death were multi-racial and multi-generational?

Walter Katz: I think many people not involved in criminal justice reform had moved on from those earlier killings. There are so many other issues competing for our attention, from climate change, to political uncertainty, to the pandemic. But seeing video of that officer use his knee to choke the life out of George Floyd, with impunity and seemingly without any concern for George Floyd's humanity, really focused people on what is happening in this country. It was such a shocking thing that people across the country were forced to acknowledge that this kind of activity on the part of the police cannot be tolerated, that the reforms of the past several years have not had the anticipated effect, and that more urgent action is needed.

As for the protests, I think they're a reflection of the America in which we live. In the past, advocates and activists for change were maybe more siloed off into their own particular issues, but young people today are much more connected intersectionally. The connections between, say, housing policy and policing and underinvestment in communities of color are apparent and readily made; there's a broader understanding of how things connect to and influence each other.

Here at the foundation, we're encouraged by how well the public seems to understand the cross-cutting relationships between, say, police reform and public safety and what we need to do to reduce violent crime. And once you look at the connections between those kinds of issues, it immediately raises questions. How should we respond to people in real time who are in crisis? When someone calls 911 with a tip or problem, should the response always be to send a police officer to the scene? Might it be more effective, depending on the situation, to send a mental health worker or a social worker or a community intervention specialist? Does every single call to the police require an armed response? All of this calls for really thoughtful conversations and for good-faith efforts to dig into data about what works and what doesn't and seeing where that data leads us.

Our Data Driven Justice Project is expressly trying to ask those kinds of questions: What does an effective co-responder model look like? Law enforcement and other first-responders are sent to all sorts of calls, including people who are unhoused or people living with mental illness. First-responders, through no fault of their own, tend to only see the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the surface, however, the person may have a long history with a variety of social services. Being able to have that information is critical, and that requires that we break down silos — not only operational silos, but data silos. First-responders should have access to as much of the data that is out there as possible. Local governments may already have it, but it's often hidden away in a completely different data warehouse. The role of data in all this and how we help jurisdictions that are trying to make it more accessible is something the foundation is thinking carefully about.

PND: The signature demand of protests this summer was a call for the police to be "defunded." Is that something that could happen over the next couple of years?

WK: One of the challenges of the call to defund has been the lack of clarity as to what the term actually means. Some say "abolition" is the goal, but when asked what "abolition" means, some people will say "no police," while others will say "a transformation of public safety that's not necessarily exclusive to policing." The distinction depends on the messenger, and it's the cause of a lot of confusion. City councils that are grappling with these issues have been approving police budgets for years, and I'm concerned that some of the cuts we're hearing about are not being done with a lot of rigorous analysis. In the weeks after George Floyd's death, there was a sort of reflexive "respond in the moment" quality to some of the actions taken. But I believe the rhetoric around "defunding" will evolve into something more thoughtful with respect to what communities want, what they expect, and what the budgeting process should look like. I would say that, in general, we need to have better-informed policy making and budget making. Collective bargaining by our elected officials, for example, needs to be more transparent and we need more accountability from our law enforcement leadership.

PND:What else can policy makers do to make police departments more accountable to their communities?

WK: Elected officials need to be more engaged. They need to ask tougher questions of police departments about budgets and policies and union contracts, and tougher questions about legal settlements that are brought to city council for approval. I've had a lot of exposure to county boards and supervisors and city councils, and there's significant variation in the level of interest and engagement in those kinds of critical public policy issues. Our elected municipal leaders have to be just as accountable with respect to the current crisis as law enforcement officials. To those elected officials I would say, Get out and talk to people in the community. Get out and talk to street cops. Take a few ride-alongs and see for yourself what is going on in your community. I'm calling on politicians not only to be more engaged but to ask a lot of tough questions and to hold themselves, and their police departments, accountable.

PND:In the context of policing, what is qualified immunity? And are police unions a barrier to meaningful police reform?

WK: I'll give you the short answer: An officer is not liable for violating the civil rights of an individual when the court finds that the purported violation was not well-settled law. In essence, a qualified immunity hearing is a motion brought by a defendant officer in a civil rights action in federal court. And the defense is "the thing I'm accused of doing was either a) not a violation of civil rights, or b) even if it was, it was not well-settled law, so I, the officer, was not on proper notice that this would be a civil rights violation if I engaged in whatever conduct I'm accused of."

Traditionally, the qualified immunity decision by a judge would rest on that two-part formulation. But a lot of the courts have skipped to the second part — on whether or not it was well-settled law. The problem is that by ignoring the first part, the courts have not established good jurisprudence for the police as to what conduct is or is not constitutional. And that has become a grave difficulty for plaintiffs, who say there are plenty of cases where, for example, a police shooting has occurred at the end of a foot pursuit. We need to have clarity in cases like that, but instead the courts say, it's not well-settled law. Our argument is that the courts must provide guidance on what the law is. That is where some of the challenges have come from regarding qualified immunity.

With regard to the police unions, I would say that the academic evidence on their impact on reform is scanty. But the research published to date appears to demonstrate that collective bargaining leads to reduced accountability, more frequent use of force, and, from what I have heard about a soon-to-be published paper, more deadly force being brought to bear against Black people. All that is very concerning. When a union says it will fight a consent decree tooth and nail in court or mount an effort to recall a city council member — as a police union in Orange County, California, recently did successfully — I think the answer to your question is pretty clear: police unions are a barrier to policing reform. There are places where police unions have been partners in progress, but not nearly enough, and in general their focus is on pay and benefits and to make sure that the due process rights of their membership are protected.

PND: What is the role of philanthropy in this discussion? Can it actually do anything to move the needle on the reforms that African Americans and others around the country are demanding?

WK: In this moment, I think there are remarkable opportunities for philanthropy at all levels. Advocates and activists have been showing the way on reform for a number of years now, and philanthropy needs to follow. And as it supports calls for more accountability and transparency in policing — and criminal justice more generally — it should insist on having as much as information as it can about interventions and policies that work, and those that don't. It should insist on knowing as much as it can about various structural barriers to reform, about the impact of sunshine laws, about the so-called Law Enforcement Officers' Bills of Rights. Those are all things where we can help deepen the knowledge base, highlight what works, and support advocates pushing much-needed, thoughtful reform.

Matt Sinclair

The role of offline and online behavior in advancing social causes

October 15, 2020

In May, when George Floyd, a Black man, was killed while in police custody, igniting protests across the country decrying police brutality against African Americans, the research team I lead at Cause and Social Influence was already tracking the response of young Americans to COVID-19. As spring turned into summer and the two issues merged into a nationwide movement centered around demands for racial justice, our researchers were able to observe in real time the forces that motivated individuals, nonprofits, companies, and allied causes to take action.

Indeed, it was an unprecedented opportunity for us to study how online and offline behavior feed off each other to create and drive a movement. And while we aren't claiming to show definitively that one kind of activity led to another, we were able to identify a number of patterns and connections among certain kinds of online and offline actions.

Looking more closely at the response to the virus and the protests sparked by George Floyd’s death, we noticed some commonalities:

The power of corporate influence. Our research revealed that 80 percent of young Americans believe corporations can influence attitudes toward the virus through their actions*, while 75 percent believe they can have a "great deal" or "some" influence on mitigating racial inequality‡. As we were fielding our survey, for example, Nike’s "Play for the World" campaign was encouraging Americans to stay indoors and social distance; by the time Nike ended the campaign, it had generated 732,000 likes on Instagram and a total of about 900,000 social media engagements (Instagram, Twitter).

Lack of trust. Our research revealed that, in June, nearly 50 percent of young Americans thought President Trump was addressing racial issues "not well at all," with only 12 percent of respondents overall (and 16 percent of white respondents) saying he was handling the issue "moderately well." The same month, messages out of the White House or from Trump related to racial inequality or the pandemic were followed by spikes in social media activity*‡. An interview the president gave to FOX News' Chris Wallace that zeroed in on the administration’s response to COVID generated millions of tweets and retweets on Twitter. Tweets put out by the president calling an elderly protester "an antifa provocateur" generated a combined 531,000 responses; similarly, a Twitter announcement of a Trump campaign rally in Tulsa, the site of a notorious race riot in 1921, generated 3.6 million tweets.

Fig1.1_Trump Perf on Racial Issues

Our analysis also revealed some differences in activism around the two issues:

Social media played a larger role as an information source for racial justice activists than as a source of information about COVID-19. According to our research, young people initially relied on local government (37 percent) and family members (30 percent) for information on COVID-19*, while 76 percent said they turned to social media "often" as a source for news and information related to racial equity‡. At about the same time, the first week of June, the hashtags #BLM and #BlackLivesMatter generated more than 1 million tweets, while across all social media platforms hundreds of thousands of individuals shared updates containing references to Black Americans who had died in police custody.

Young Americans are more likely to turn to celebrities and online influencers for information about racial equity than for information about COVID-19. Our research revealed that in the first month of the pandemic, 40 percent of young Americans said they took some kind of action related to the pandemic because of something a celebrity or online influencer said or did, while in the  month following George Floyd's death, 52 percent of all respondents (and 58 percent of Black respondents) said they took action because of something a celebrity or online influencer said or did. In early June, a Black Lives Matter special featuring comedian Dave Chappelle garnered 22 million YouTube views. Later in June,  #ObamaDayJune14 generated more than 500,000 tweets, while a tweet by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stating that "The United States of America should not have secret police" generated nearly 500,000 likes and was the #3 trending tweet that day.

Different immediate responses. Our research also found that, initially, young people were inclined to shop locally as the best way to help out with the pandemic, and that only 25 percent said they were sharing COVID-19 information via their social media channels*. In the week after George Floyd's death, however, the top actions taken by young people in response to his death were posting on social media and signing petitions,‡ including 2 million social engagements featuring a #BLM or #BlackLivesMatter hashtag and 1.6 million using the hashtag #BlackoutTuesday.

Our conclusion: Social media tends to bring together both like-minded people and people with polarizing views across all types of divides — including income level, geography, age, education, work experience, etc. — for "conversations" that unfold in real time. The impacts of the COVID pandemic and calls for racial justice will continue to overlap in the lead up to the election in November; what happens after that is anyone's guess. But by examining offline actions and online engagements and conversations, we can begin to understand the interplay of dramatic events and social movements in real time and how each contributes to, and reinforces, action to advance a cause.

To see all the research and sources referenced in this article, visit: causeandsocialinfluence.com/ActionsAndOnlineDiscourse.

Headshot_derrick_feldmann_2015Derrick Feldmann (@derrickfeldmann) is the founder of the Millennial Impact Project, lead researcher at Cause and Social Influence, and the author of the new book, The Corporate Social Mind. Read more by Derrick here.

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* Influencing Young America to Act, Special COVID-19 Research Report - Spring 2020, causeandsocialinfluence.com/2020research.

Influencing Young America to Act, Special Report - June 2020, causeandsocialinfluence.com/2020research-june.

Evaluation has a key role to play in racial equity work

October 13, 2020

EvaluationAs a woman of color, evaluator, and nonprofit leader for more than ten years, I am encouraged to see a growing number of foundations and nonprofits embrace efforts to advance racial equity and justice.

At this uncertain moment in our history, we have an opportunity to heal, restore, and create a more inclusive and abundant future for all. It is an opportunity, however, that could disappear as quickly as it emerged — if we don’t seize it.

As we have learned over the last six months, efforts to address racial tensions and inequities and promote healing and narrative change are desperately needed. Those efforts can and should be evaluated.

The good news is that foundations and nonprofits can build on work that is already under way. Through its $24 million Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) initiative, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation is one of the foundations leading the way in investing in and evaluating such efforts.

Last year, my firm worked with a client to evaluate a TRHT program whose objective was to ease racial tensions and promote healing and narrative change among young people through book groups. In the process, we learned some surprising things.

A number of participants had "aha" moments — like the European-American youth who came to realize that saying the n-word, even in a song, was problematic. But there was another, more common outcome: Adult book group leaders were among those who most benefited from the program, with many saying the program helped them recognize their own implicit biases and understand what systemic racism really looks like at the level of the individual.

That unexpected outcome highlighted the need for more training and support for adult group leaders. Based on our findings, in year two of the program the client was able to enhance both the value it delivered and to foster more healing and peace-building in the community. Our big takeaway was this: nonprofits and foundations working to advance racial equity can be more effective by rigorously evaluating those programs.

Foundations and nonprofits should also foreground long-standing inequities in their evaluation efforts — inequities that often obscure root causes underlying the problem we are trying to address. A skilled evaluator can help surface such complex dynamics.

For example, when BECOME was asked to evaluate a first round of grants awarded by the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities in support of innovative approaches to neighborhood safety in Chicago, we started with a literature review of violence prevention programs in other jurisdictions.

In the process, we discovered that interventions such as job programs or social and emotional skills training focus on the immediate needs of individuals. But adult violence also is linked to factors more distant — such as redlining or trauma due to heightened exposure to violence. Community violence too often is the legacy of policies that, over time, forcibly segregated communities by race and income, tilting the playing field against Black, indigenous, and other people of color. No matter how well designed an intervention might be, if it fails to address such root causes, it is unlikely to succeed.

One of the key findings we were able to share with the team at the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities is that interventions delivered in a consistent fashion and coordinated with other actions had the most impact. That kind of approach is now a feature of the current iteration of the Chicago Fund for Safe & Peaceful Communities initiative.

Last but not least, we have learned that evaluation is most effective when it is culturally responsive and engages multiple stakeholders — especially those likely to be impacted by the intervention — in the process of developing questions, designing solutions, and recommending next steps based on lessons learned.

The resulting combination of learning, engagement, informed design, and collaborative implementation is much more likely to lead to programs that deliver safety and security, health and well-being, and education for all.

To create a society in which thriving communities of color and economic opportunity for all is the norm, we need to take steps now to address the root causes of poverty and racial injustice. Evaluation can help us do that.

Headshot_dominica-mcbrideDominica McBride, PhD, is the founder and CEO of BECOME, a nonprofit organization that uses evaluation as a tool to advance social justice and thriving communities.

America is ready for a more equitable economy and society

October 12, 2020

Hands holdingThe social ferment we're seeing in Louisville, Kenosha, and many other parts of America is fueled by more than a legitimate revulsion over systemic racism as manifested in discriminatory policing. It has broader underpinnings, led by widespread frustrations with economic inequality.

We believe a substantial portion of Americans, and not just communities of color, support stronger government efforts to narrow these inequality gaps and create a world that works for everyone. And we have survey data to prove it.

For instance, we've found that most Americans support guaranteeing a job for those able and willing to work; suspending rent and mortgage payments (without requiring repayment) for the remainder of this pandemic-wracked year; expanding the Child Tax Credit to provide a refund for children in all low-income families; and mandating that employers follow fair hiring practices that remove barriers to employing people with a criminal history after they have served their sentences.

These are among the findings from a nationwide survey of a thousand adults, and an additional oversample of four hundred Black adults, conducted between August 28 and September 1 by Lake Research Partners. The survey was commissioned by the Othering & Belonging Institute at the University of California at Berkeley and Prosperity Now, and the over-sampling of Blacks was needed to obtain statistically reliable results for a group typically underrepresented in surveys.

The survey found substantial support for a range of possible reforms. The idea of increasing taxes on large corporations to provide grants to Black entrepreneurs was backed by 68 percent of Black respondents, 51 percent of Latinx respondents, and 43 percent of White respondents. In addition, 71 percent of Black respondents support providing payments to Black Americans as restitution for slavery and generations of discriminatory policies, while 24 percent of whites do.

The survey found widespread support, across all ethnic groups, for police reforms that might avert future atrocities such as the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. It showed that nearly three-fourths of Black Americans, two-thirds of Latinx respondents, and three-fifths of whites said they would place a high priority on "having community-resource professionals like social workers, paramedics, or mental-health workers respond alongside police officers in encounters involving homelessness, drug addiction, mental illness, or nonviolent offenses."

Smaller majorities of these groups also supported an alternative version in which community-resource professionals would respond to such calls instead of police officers. Roughly two-thirds of Americans, across all racial lines, would require police officers to live in the cities or towns where they work.

Clearly, our nation's racial and economic divides won't be resolved overnight. But the survey's findings are encouraging, and it's no time to let politics steer us away from feasible, even-if-partial, progress.

In short, the survey identifies common ground with respect to real solutions, as a majority of people across the United States of different racial and ethnic backgrounds support broad economic programs to help close the racial wealth divide. This includes policies designed to guarantee jobs or ensure people's ability to pay for basic necessities such as housing.

Even where there's disagreement, there is space for us to talk with each other. These are complicated issues, and even in these extraordinary times, it's encouraging to see people grappling with them and making good-faith efforts to find a way forward. In fact, rather than stymying progress it seems that the dual crisis of social unrest and COVID-19 is giving our nation an opportunity to create a new economy that serves all Americans.

A holistic approach to building an inclusive economy would require balancing solutions to the most immediate financial needs of the most vulnerable households — in particular, households of color — and the creation of and advocacy for longer-term solutions. The survey's findings suggest the need for proactive efforts to create broader consensus around longer-term policy mechanisms as well as targeted policies to address the specific realities of the most vulnerable groups.

As this presidential campaign enters the final stretch, let's not be distracted by political name-calling but instead seize on the nation's appetite for a fairer, more equitable society.

Powell_cunninghamjohn a. powell is a professor of law and the director of the Othering & Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley. Gary L. Cunningham is the president and CEO of Prosperity Now, a D.C.-based nonprofit focused on financial security for all Americans.

Why don’t nonprofits have the tech they need?

October 08, 2020

Bootcamp+Jan19+1The world had big challenges — even before a global pandemic arrived. According to the Social Progress Index, we were on pace to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 no sooner than 2094, more than sixty years too late. And in the meantime, COVID-19 has set many efforts back.

Normally, when businesses imagine how they might do twice as much, or ten times as much, with the same money or the same number of people, they think about using technology as their engine of innovation. Why is it that the nonprofit sector behaves differently?

I've spent the last thirty years bringing technology to places and needs where Silicon Valley doesn't go because they aren't lucrative enough. In that time, I've recognized several recurring issues that have hampered the social sector from using technology to be more effective.

Lack of investment

A host of negative memes continue to circulate in the nonprofit sector among social sector leaders and the donors that fund them, leading to massive underinvestment in technology. Here are a few of them:

Money should be spent on helping people; tech is overhead. Most funders view tech as overhead, even when it has huge benefits for social mission outcomes. The message to NGO leaders is, Deliver more services. It's not unusual that a social sector leader dismisses spending even 10 percent of his/her budget on tech, even when such an investment would double the organization's impact.

Tech costs too much. Even though many makers of technology offer special nonprofit discount programs and most tech people working in nonprofits take big pay cuts, there is a widespread perception that technology and tech people are too expensive.

Tech doesn't work. The generally bad quality of advice given to nonprofits and foundations amplifies the idea that tech is expensive and doesn't work. I spend much of my time helping other nonprofits by doing "anti-consulting," which is talking them out of terrible ideas someone told them they should do. The average nonprofit does not need an app that no one will download or a magical blockchain solution.

Lack of strategic tech talent. Nonprofits generally lack the strategic tech talent they need to apply technology for maximum impact. Even in nonprofit organizations with a tech team, tech expertise is often seen as a support function, like accounting or facilities. Yes, IT services are important to a modern organization to keep the laptops operating and the email flowing. But segregating tech from core program activities results in huge missed opportunities to increase the social impact of a nonprofit.

An ambitious for-profit startup company wouldn't dream of launching without strategic tech talent on the senior management team, an individual (or individuals) who can help other members of the team understand what's working and what isn't and facilitate rapid learning.

While there are certainly some exciting nonprofits out there that, effectively, are software companies at their core, including Skoll Award-winning social enterprises like Benetech, Kiva, and Thorn, this is not an argument that every nonprofit needs its own team of software developers. However, every nonprofit that is ambitious about scaling needs its own strategic tech leader whose interests are fully aligned with the nonprofit's social mission. A strategic tech leader can advise where to apply technology to best effect and how to acquire it successfully.

Lack of infrastructure

When a modern for-profit company gets created, there is extensive technology infrastructure readily available. This includes common data standards that make it easy to connect different pieces of tech together. Just about every industry has dozens of cloud-based SaaS platforms that a new company can rent and that  compete on features, price, and ease of setup.

Outside of a few bright spots like public health, the nonprofit sector lacks this infrastructure. Underinvestment in tech means common SaaS platforms aren't built or available, which results in what I call the "cult of the custom." Too many nonprofits and agencies assume that their programmatic needs are unique and overpay to get custom or semi-custom tech solutions that generally end up being of poor quality. Can you imagine every dental office or golf course believing it needs to create its own unique software to operate?

If your nonprofit is the only customer for a unique piece of software built just for it, it's also the only entity paying for upgrades to that piece of software. As a result, your costs are generally higher because they are not spread over many customers.

With nonprofits already operating without enough funding, especially during the pandemic, all these dynamics lead to even more cycles of underinvestment in tech.

Advancing social change with tech

The time for technology in social change has come. The pandemic has underscored the need for tech capabilities. Fortunately, there is a new wave of nonprofits, donors, and coalitions who collectively realize that an integrated tech strategy is essential to achieving a social mission — just as it is essential for ambitious for-profit companies. Technology has immense untapped potential to help advance social innovation, benefiting humanity and the planet. It is time to tap that potential.

Jim-Fruchterman-squareJim Fruchterman is the CEO of Tech Matters, a nonprofit tech company in Silicon Valley that helps social change leaders understand what tech can and can't do and builds tech solutions that solve social problems. This post originally appeared on the Techonomy site and is republished here with permission.

A conversation with Mari Kuraishi, President, Jessie Ball duPont Fund

October 06, 2020

Mari Kuraishi came to prominence as president of GlobalGiving, which she co-founded with her husband, Dennis Whittle, in 2002. During her time there, the crowdfunding platform facilitated over $514 million in giving by more than a million donors to twenty-seven thousand projects around the world. In 2011, Kuraishi, who previously had worked at the World Bank, where she spearheaded the launch of the Development Marketplace, was named one of Foreign Policy's 100 Global Thinkers for "crowdsourcing worldsaving." Since January 2019, she has served as president of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund in Jacksonville, Florida.

PND recently spoke with Kuraishi — who chaired the board of GuideStar before it combined with Foundation Center in 2019 to form Candid and then served as co-chair of the Candid board during its first year — about the impact of crowdfunding on the global development landscape, her work at the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, and what she has learned about the social sector's response to urgent problems.

Mari_kuraishi_jessie_ball_dupontPhilanthropy News Digest: After seeing firsthand through your work at the World Bank the difficulty local officials and social entrepreneurs often had in securing funding for their development projects, you and your husband co-founded the world's first crowdfunding platform. Back then, what made you think individuals in developed countries would be willing to participate directly in the funding of such projects?

Mari Kuraishi: That is a very good question, because back in 2000 when we left the World Bank there actually was very little evidence that people were ready to give online, let alone to projects based thousands of miles away. To be sure, many generous donors existed, giving to brand-name NGOs like CARE, Oxfam, or the International Red Cross, but even those organizations were not yet online. Still, we were convinced that individual donors would give if they had a platform through which to do it. We were also sure that changes in technology would transform people's sense of proximity, and we knew that proximity was a key driver of generosity. What we weren't so sure about was how quickly it would happen.

PND: How has the popularity of crowdfunding and crowdfunding sites changed the international development landscape in the last dozen years or so?

MK: That's a little harder to calculate. Crowdfunding has definitely transformed giving in the U.S. since we founded GlobalGiving; online giving now represents almost a tenth of giving overall, starting from almost zero in 2000. That means more than $4 billion flowed through online giving platforms in 2019. What part of that $4 billion goes to international development projects, I can't tell you. But I do know this: in 2002, when we put up the first version of our website, we processed $25,000 in donations. This year it looks like GlobalGiving will process close to $100 million in donations to thousands of project leaders all over the world.

PND: While you were at GlobalGiving, the organization developed a framework of core values that included things like "always open" and "listen, act, learn, repeat." The emphasis on listening, on solutions developed by those on the front lines, and on continuous improvement through evidence-based learning has been adopted by many other nonprofits and foundations in recent years. Do you think what appears to be a gradual shift away from top-down funding models to more bottom-up crowdsourced models is here to stay?

MK: You're speaking right to my confirmation bias. I'm the woman who thought online giving was around the corner at the end of the year 2000. Yes, I think respecting the problem-solving capacities of communities and local leaders is here to stay. Not only are we seeing hashtags like #shiftthepower, we're seeing movements like Black Lives Matter and the Women's March come to the fore, so I cannot help but think that citizen leadership is on the rise. And perhaps I'm splitting hairs here, but it's not necessarily a shift away from top-down to bottom-up, so much as there is a scope for both types of leadership and action — just in different contexts.

PND: You are a firm believer in using data to grow and strengthen trust between funders and nonprofits. Is the sector making progress in that area, and what are some of the challenges that may be slowing that progress?

MK: Yes, I think we are making progress in the use of data to grow and strengthen trust between funders and nonprofits. First, data is easier and cheaper to collect and analyze; we have technology to thank for that. Second, we have emerging standards for what data matters — ranging from the philosophical, conceptual, and qualitative frameworks provided by movements like Leap Ambassadors, centered around the Leap of Reason initiative launched by Mario Morino, to the specific and granular, like the GuideStar/Candid Exchange profile. All of this creates a way for organizations to benchmark their own status and progress. I see three challenges in this regard: first, data scientists are still scarce and expensive in the social sector; second, not as many funders understand how to interpret the data, which means that sometimes we don't make the jump into trust-based philanthropy as readily as we might; and, finally, not everyone agrees that the corollary to greater transparency from nonprofits is more unrestricted funding.

PND: What is your take on how COVID-19 is impacting charitable giving in general and crowdfunding for development projects in particular?

MK: You should probably ask Alix Guerrier, my successor, as he's the man at the helm of crowdfunding in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. I can tell you, though, that what I've heard from grantees at the Jessie Ball duPont Fund — who do not engage in international development — is that their traditional models of fundraising, which rely in great part on in-person events, have taken a hit, and that has spurred them to think a lot more about the potential for crowdfunding to fill the gaps.

PND: The Jessie Ball duPont Fund's grantmaking activities are guided by two strategic themes: equity and placemaking. What are the foundation's top priorities at the moment? And have the COVID-19 crisis and this summer's protests against systemic racism changed how you approach those priorities?

MK: Our priorities are in striking the right balance between seeking specific opportunities for change while also meeting the needs of our grantees and enhancing their resilience and effectiveness. To that end, we've built out an ambitious technical assistance program for grantees focused on fundraising, listening to constituent feedback, building capacity around data and equity, and achieving organizational transparency. The COVID-19 crisis really pushed us to undertake this as a hedge against the speed and magnitude of change that the crisis wrought. The protests against systemic racism redoubled our commitment to equity, which we had identified as a core direction through a strategy review we conducted last year. It has also increased the urgency I personally feel around making sure that we are not perpetuating systemic injustices through the patterns and processes of our grantmaking.

PND: As of the beginning of the year, about a third of the fund's endowment was invested in a socially responsible manner or to achieve a positive social or environmental impact. Can you tell us about the kinds of impact investments the fund is looking to make?

MK: The majority of our socially responsible investments, roughly $108 million, are in portfolios of companies that have been screened for best business practices, such as anti-discrimination, gender and racial equity, workforce development, wealth creation, and anti-pollution, among others.

About 6 percent, $18 million, is invested in high-impact funds and companies focused on affordable housing, support for small businesses, medical/social service tech, and clean energy. Illumen Capital, for instance, has a double bottom line of anticipated market-rate return and social impact. By directing capital to women- and people of color-owned businesses, Illumen finds traditionally overlooked value and doubles down by also working with financial managers to reduce their implicit biases in investing.

The Jessie Ball duPont Fund is largely place-based and about $12 million of our high-impact investments are in the communities Mrs. duPont cared about. These investments have mostly been in community development financial institutions (CDFIs) that provide access to affordable capital to developers, as well as individuals who might not qualify for traditional commercial bank loans but need money for a car, mortgage, or to capitalize a small business.

PND: Asian Americans have not always been front and center in movements for racial and social justice. Why is that, and do you think it is changing?

MK: Yes, you're right that Asian Americans are underrepresented in movements for racial and social justice. But we did have people like Fred Korematsu, who explicitly challenged the internment order for Japanese Americans all the way up to the Supreme Court — and lost — and Yuri Kochiyama, who was at Malcolm X's side when he was assassinated. Both were radicalized by their experience of internment, and perhaps that points to an answer to your question about Asian Americans and racial or social justice. Perhaps, as a community, we have tended to not tell those stories of injustice — except for extremely visible and acute events like the internment — and thereby have not mobilized our own communities. I do think that Asian-American Gen Z-ers and millennials seem to be as fired up as their peers — my personal favorite is K-pop fans mobilizing for Black Lives Matter — but I'll admit my conclusion is based entirely on an anecdote here.

PND: Your professional career has included stints at a huge, well-resourced multilateral organization, at a social enterprise startup, and now at an established private foundation. What have those experiences taught you about the ways in which the social sector responds to urgent problems and about what it might do differently to create more impact and really move the needle on those problems? Are you hopeful it will be able to do so?

MK: That's difficult to distill into a short answer, but here's a take. Large, well-resourced multilateral organizations organize their inputs and subject their business processes to scrutiny, much like large, for-profit multilateral institutions do, with one exception: their results aren't subject to competition. Social enterprise startups usually have to compete to get attention and capital to survive, but many don't have the resources to invest in other resources, such as human capital. The foundation world isn't really impacted by competition, either. I'd say that I was forced into greater accountability and transparency and soul-searching at the startup than at either of the two other places. So, the one thing I might say is that competition, channeled well, matters.

It would be good, I think, for us in the foundation and multilateral-aid worlds, to hold ourselves accountable to a greater degree of transparency, such as benchmarking ourselves to common standards. Of course, I can foresee the potential for dispute around those standards, so perhaps we just start with greater transparency and see where it leads us. But the urgency of the need to become more effective than we are today, I think, is undeniable. It's the only feasible response to what Jon Kabat-Zinn calls the "Full Catastrophe," because in the short run at least, we can't magically come up with more resources to dedicate to the growing list of challenges we face.

— Kyoko Uchida

What’s at stake with Trump’s Supreme Court nominee: health care and civil rights

October 05, 2020

SCOTUS-ext-daySenate Republicans' rush to fill the vacant U.S. Supreme Court seat before the election is a terrible blow to Black people's civil rights and the health of our communities.
 
In her twenty-seven years on the Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a champion of civil rights. During those same years, Republican presidents and senators moved the court further and further from its duty to protect racial equity and the rights of working people.
 
During the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, we counted on the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the constitutional principle of equality under law. We have counted on federal courts to enforce the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, federal laws that finally put the force of law behind the idea that Black people are included in the U.S. Constitution's opening words, "We, the people..."
 
Today's Supreme Court, in contrast, is a far cry from the court that did away with legal segregation, a far cry from the court that upheld civil rights laws won with the blood, sweat, and tears of Black people and our allies in the struggle for equality.
 
Justice Ginsburg was often a key vote in 5-4 decisions that protected civil rights, and as the right solidified its power on the court, she was often a prophetic voice dissenting from abominations like the gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013.
 
As part of a political deal to help him win the White House, Donald Trump turned over selection of judges to a hard-right legal movement that wants to reverse many of the social justice gains of the past century.
 
Any Trump nominee would have been a threat to the causes for which Ginsburg devoted her life.
 
Judge Amy Coney Barrett believes Obamacare is unconstitutional, and there's a case coming before the Supreme Court just a week after the election that will give her and other right-wing justices a chance to undermine access to health care and legal protections for pre-existing conditions, right in the middle of a pandemic.
 
In a case that raises alarms about her commitment to racial equity, Coney Barrett voted to deny a hearing to a Black man who worked for a company that assigned staff to different stores based on their race.
 
If she is confirmed, our ability to count on federal courts to protect our rights will be diminished further. Yet just a month before Election Day, with many Americans already voting, this is a top priority for Senate Republicans.
 
Here’s what Senate Republicans aren't doing while they confirm every judicial appointee, no matter how extreme or unqualified, President Trump sends their way:
 
Dealing with the COVID crisis that is killing Black and brown people at a far higher rate than white people — or providing sufficient relief for working people thrown into dire economic straits by the pandemic.
 
Taking up the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would bring back federal protections for voting rights that were once embraced by politicians from both parties.
 
Acting on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would bring greater accountability to law enforcement and protect people of color from racist and discriminatory policing.
 
The push by Trump and Senate Republicans to shift the Supreme Court to the right while ignoring the urgent needs of our community and our demands for justice is the ultimate evidence of how important this election is to America, especially to Black America.
 
Do not sit this one out. Get registered. Make a plan to vote. And vote like your life depends on it.
 
Headshot_Ben_Jealous-PFAWBen Jealous is president of People For the American Way and the People For the American Way Foundation. A graduate of Columbia University and Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, Jealous became the youngest-ever president and CEO of the NAACP  in 2008. 

Why playgrounds matter in rural America: insights for rural donors and funders

October 01, 2020

Kaboom_salamanca-3The neighborhood playground is a critical asset that helps make communities resilient places where kids can thrive and residents can connect. But in many rural communities across the country, factors like physical distance, countywide recreation policies, and the lack of a local tax base can limit children's ability to access these spaces and the benefits they generate for health and well-being. This fact gains even more urgency when considering the deep disparities in rural childhood health outcomes.

Through decades of work partnering with rural communities, KABOOM! has come to understand that location is critically important in shaping the opportunities and barriers that kids and communities experience.

Addressing health outcomes with playspace equity

"Playspace equity" means every child has access to playspaces that deliver critical outcomes for child health, development, learning, and social and emotional well-being — regardless of factors such as race, ethnicity, or family income. KABOOM!, a national nonprofit, is working to achieve that vision.

For more than 23 years, KABOOM! has worked with communities to transform 17,000 playspaces, engage more than 1.5 million community members, and expand access to playspaces for 11 million kids. The community is at the heart of the process, with residents and kids engaged throughout the design, construction, and maintenance phases to ensure that the final playspace reflects their unique needs and expectations. According to a survey, 94 percent percent of KABOOM!-led respondents believe their playground project helped strengthen relationships among neighborhood residents and among community partners.

The approach also inspires optimism, as community members work toward a collective goal that will benefit future generations. KABOOM!’s engagement process focuses on the existing assets in each community has and supports a greater vision for what it would like to see for its kids.

Playspaces: supporting broader strategies to support rural communities

Last year, KABOOM! teamed up with the Colorado Health Foundation and the community of Trinidad, Colorado, to complete a project at the Las Animas Fairgrounds. Trinidad is a small rural community with just over eight thousand residents, 20 percent of whom experience poverty at some point during the year. Throughout the engagement process, local partners cited high rates of obesity and the mental health impacts of social isolation and increased time using technology as top concerns.

Together with the community, KABOOM! helped build an Adventure Course for teens that serves more than a thousand kids annually. The Adventure Course also provides a community gathering space, which is critically important in a location where public space is limited or hard to access. Afterschool programs and home school students use the space frequently, and the local fire department can be spotted on the course during training exercises.

In Bastrop County, Texas, KABOOM! worked with a local nonprofit, Bastrop County Cares, to build a playspace in Stoney Point. The support from multiple agencies and resident leadership ensured the project would be part of a greater effort to develop county spaces for families in the region. With the help of funding from the St. David's Foundation, KABOOM! was able to support the community and build on the existing coalitions that had been established. The community reports a measurable difference in play activities, with more than 90 percent of respondents to a survey of build volunteers affirming that the amount of time kids spend playing has increased.

In western New York, KABOOM! partnered with the Rural Revitalization Corporation, the City of Salamanca, and the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation. Salamanca has a population of just over five thousand residents, with a little more than 20 percent experiencing poverty. The city sits on top of the Tribal lands of the Seneca Nation and, due to lack of funding and a smaller tax base, has found it difficult to secure support for capital projects like park infrastructure. But KABOOM! was able to help the community build a state-of-the-art Adventure Course that now provides more than nine hundred and fifty children with a safe place to play. Six months after the build was complete, playground participation had increased by 20 percent.

A KABOOM!/funder partnership is well positioned to respond to a number of challenges faced by funders looking to engage with rural communities:

  1. The KABOOM! model generates a cohort of volunteers — many of whom have had no contact with the funder in the past. A successful KABOOM! build can be a springboard for other community-led community development projects.
  2. The local site sponsor, whether a church, community based-nonprofit or a rural Housing Authority (for example), often expands the funder's network of interested and eligible grantees and responds directly to the frequently heard funder’s lament, "There is no one to fund."
  3. The model is scalable and creates a level of interest in surrounding communities.
  4. The funder is the administrative intermediary with KABOOM! and can mitigate the challenges faced by rural communities in accessing outside resources.

In our conversations with rural communities, residents often express frustration that national programs don't have anything for them: most best practice models are built on urban density. The KABOOM! partnership provides an opportunity for a very active rural engagement that is scaled to communities' needs and culture — all in the context of a community-led design and build process. It's an example of how funders and donors can bring resources to rural places that are more than the sum of the parts and a reminder that the best rural philanthropy supports a sustainable community ownership structure.

(Photo credit: KABOOM!)

Allen_smart_lysa_ratliff_PhilanTopicAllen Smart is the founder of PhilanthropywoRx and Lysa Ratliff is acting CEO and vice president, partnership development at KABOOM!. This post originally appeared on the Giving Compass website.

 

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