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21 posts from May 2022

The future of philanthropy: A commentary by Keith Leaphart

May 09, 2022

Keyboard_red_donate_button_GettyImagesThe concept of “philanthropy” has long been synonymous with large foundations, corporations, the wealthy, and black-tie galas and other big events. However, in recent years, I’ve been seeing an ongoing shift—a shift that is going to create a new era of philanthropy that will involve more people and celebrate the collective impacts of everyday donors.

When the pandemic hit, organizations had to adapt their fundraising and outreach efforts. It was no longer possible to bring people together for in-person events or rely on the same strategies. While this drastic change was initially devastating for the sector, many charities quickly learned how to leverage technology and social networks to reengage donors and raise funds.

The future of philanthropy, which I believe is already here, is about connecting a greater number of people with the causes they care about through technology and the social ecosystem. We’ve already seen this concept emerge—especially among younger generations. On popular social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook, users can actively encourage their friends and followers to donate to causes in their profiles or for their birthdays through a single post or link. These capabilities make it easier for ordinary people to give and amplify their charitable impacts—which is key to the sustainability of philanthropy....

Read the full commentary by Keith Leaphart, founder and CEO of Philanthropi and board chair of the Lenfest Foundation.

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

The sustainable nonprofit: Optimizing operations for community impact

May 06, 2022

News_globe_keyboard_solution_GettyImages.jpgThe past two years have been defined by disruption, and for many individuals and organizations, the prospect of more change may be intimidating. In fact, half of respondents to a recent Innovation Process Design (IPD) survey of community foundations said they worry about overwhelming staff with process changes. In reality, however, thoughtfully examining and optimizing operations—the day-to-day organizational activities that define how an organization achieves its objectives—can actually help philanthropic and nonprofit organizations recapture time, improve accuracy, increase coaching, and otherwise enhance their community impact.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a significant driver of change over the past two-plus years, as organizations scrambled to adjust to a rapidly evolving work environment and shifting community needs. According to the IPD survey, 92 percent of organizations installed virtual meeting systems to support a remote workforce, and 66 percent went paperless. Further, 66 percent of survey respondents reassigned job responsibilities and 61 percent overhauled operations.

Now, with two-thirds of organizations anticipating appreciable growth as the pandemic eases, changes are likely to continue through 2022 and beyond. Quite simply, organizations will have to make changes if they hope to keep up with demand. In light of that anticipated growth, 65 percent of organizations plan to bring in a major new operation in the coming year, 83 percent plan to expand or add programs, and 43 percent plan to create or execute a new strategic plan....

Read the full column article by Lee Kuntz, founder and president of Innovation Process Design Inc. 

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

The consequences of climate change: A commentary by Kathy Stevens

May 05, 2022

Cricket_Photo by Janet Holmes_Catskill Animal Sanctuary At Catskill Animal Sanctuary, we’re deeply connected to the 150 acres that have been our home for the past 21 years: warm pastures where contented cows sunbathe, ponds where ducks swim for hours, fields for horses to run and roll in, and graceful willows dipping their branches low for goats to nibble on.

Each year, Earth Day invites us all to reflect on our relationship to the land—particularly as we see the impact of human activity on our beloved planet. And at Catskill Animal Sanctuary, the evidence is all around us.

Our vanishing trees

The consequences of climate change are being felt across the globe, with climate refugees (often already vulnerable people) at the forefront of this emergency. While we are more geographically fortunate than many, we, too, are experiencing changes at our Hudson Valley refuge that can’t be chalked up to the vicissitudes of “weather”....

Read the full commentary by Kathy Stevens, founder and executive director of Catskill Animal Sanctuary.

(Photo credit: Janet Holmes)

A Just Transition: A Q&A with Ozawa Bineshi Albert, Monica Atkins, and Marion Gee, Co-Executive Directors, Climate Justice Alliance

May 04, 2022

Headshots_ozawa_bineshi_albert_monica_atkins_marion_gee_climate_justice_alliance_PhilanTopicLaunched in 2013, Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) is an alliance of 82 urban and rural frontline communities, organizations, and supporting networks working to advance a Just Transition away from extractive systems of production, consumption, and political oppression and toward resilient, regenerative, and equitable economies. Ozawa Bineshi Albert, Monica Atkins, and Marion Gee have led the organization as co-executive directors since July 2021.

Albert joined CJA from the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN)—a founding member of CJA—where she was a founding board member and helped create an Indigenous Feminist Organizing School and an International Feminist Organizing School. She began her organizing career with the Coalition for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Native Lands’ Toxics Campaign at Greenpeace and has held leadership positions at SAGE Council, the Center for Community Change, the SouthWest Organizing Project. Atkins, who previously worked for Cooperation Jackson as well as several labor organizations, became CJA’s southeast regional organizer in 2017 and organizing director in 2020. She has helped advance the organization’s Black Caucus in its efforts to engage frontline Black communities and to hold spaces for and center Black leadership within the climate justice movement. And Gee, who served as managing director at CJA from 2015 to 2021, previously worked as a fundraising, events, and communications consultant for social and environmental justice organizations, as development and communications director at Rose Foundation, and as interim climate program director at Sierra Nevada Alliance

PND asked the co-executive directors about what a Just Transition entails, the organization’s priorities, the shared leadership structure, the importance of centering BIPOC communities within the climate justice movement, and the climate solutions announced at COP26.

Philanthropy News Digest: What does a Just Transition look like, in concrete terms?

Marion Gee: When we think of a Just Transition, we think of the transition that many of our members are already bringing to life in their own communities. That is because first and foremost, Just Transition is a local, place-based vehicle to move away from the harmful dig, burn, dump, fossil fuel economy—what we call the extractive economy—to one that is grounded in communities’ well-being and livelihoods. For example, in the neighborhood of Sunset Park in Brooklyn, New York, on an industrial waterfront that has been historically polluted, over half of the residents are people of color and immigrants and largely working class. The poverty rate is above the city average and affordable housing is out of reach for many. This community was one of the many that was hit with flooding after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

A local community organization, UPROSE, organized with their neighbors and other partners to spearhead what would become the first community-owned solar cooperative in New York State—an 80,000-square-foot rooftop solar garden that residents of Sunset Park can subscribe to own— and which is set to be up and running next year. This will save around 200 households and small businesses on their utility bills and will provide clean energy for the first time to these families. Essentially, the community found a way to transition to an energy source that would lessen the fossil fuel pollution they had been exposed to for decades—which had caused high rates of asthma and other disease—and built a community-owned and designed alternative that would ensure community empowerment, health, and wealth. That is what we mean by a Just Transition....

Read the full Q&A with Ozawa Bineshi Albert, Monica Atkins, and Marion Gee, co-executive directors of the Climate Justice Alliance.

Three things you can do instead of founding a nonprofit

May 03, 2022

Hands_collaboration_trust_GettyImages_Prostock-StudioSome years ago I was teaching an undergraduate class on fundraising at a local university. Courses like that didn’t exist when I was a student. That would’ve been game-changing, considering that I had to cobble together learnings from macroeconomics, microeconomics, accounting, and business pedagogy for a senior project intended to translate those learnings into the nonprofit sector.

The students were bright and asked great questions. After one session, a student approached with an inquiry, and when I asked him to clarify, he responded with enthusiasm: “Because I want to start my own nonprofit.” He explained that this new nonprofit would provide hyper-specialized care to a hyper-select population of women in need.

In his words: Kind of like Planned Parenthood, but totally different. In my words: Identical to Planned Parenthood, with a different logo.

We see a lot of this energy for something new right now—in light of the pandemic, ongoing reckoning with and efforts to address racial injustice and inequity, and all the residual traumas of the past few years —much like we often do after natural disasters, economic downturns, and other national or global experiences. But “new” isn’t always “improved,” and there is something to be said for the experience of experience.

Through experience, we often learn that we can do our best work by being part of something, rather than being our own something.

“It’s never been easier to start a business. That is true,” entrepreneur Greg Hartle said over a decade ago. “But, no one ever tells you the rest of that statement. It’s also never been harder to succeed.” Hartle was talking specifically about the challenges of new startup businesses, especially in an already-crowded field. In the U.S. social sector, there are roughly 1.8 million nonprofits—that’s roughly one organization per 183 Americans.

Numbers don’t lie, but they also don’t tell the whole truth. Many of these institutions are doing fine work. However, unless the aforementioned student—or any future nonprofit leader—has the solution for the specific cause, it’s best to spend time working within the field before making the leap to incorporating, identifying a board, filing with the state agency and the IRS, putting together an inaugural fundraising plan, crafting a marketing/branding strategy, and so on.

To be sure, there are some fabulous new nonprofits out there. Some have found a niche, aren’t duplicative in their efforts, and have gained traction. I volunteer on the boards of several such organizations because of the founders’ passions. These businesses did it the right way by putting together strong teams that play the long game. Yes, I said businesses. A dangerous number of nonprofit founders don’t fully realize (or choose not to realize) that their burgeoning organization is a business and not simply a weekend passion project. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,  only about half of new businesses survive for five years; just 36 percent make it a decade.

The reasons why so many organizations fail are myriad, such as offering services that overlap with other nonprofits, being slow to leverage technology and sustainable systems, or failing to stay focused on the original impetus for the organization (mission creep).

There are a few alternative options for well-meaning go-getters, and these can be as fulfilling as starting your own organization—without adding to the millions of nonprofits that already exist.

First, volunteer. So many organizations out there need your help and support, and sources like VolunteerMatch, AllForGood, and Idealist can help you find opportunities in your neighborhood. Volunteering is a really great way to learn about what it actually takes to make an organization run, and run well—things like budgeting, internal/external communication, and fostering an inclusive organizational culture.

Then, consider group giving. Get some family, friends, colleagues, and others together and donate funds as part of a giving circle. Sometimes one way we can change the world is not by injecting a new business into the environment but by corralling people—and their financial resources—together to invest in change.

Finally, raise resources as a guest. If neither of the options above are for you, you might consider partnering with a fiscal sponsor that can help you raise tax-deductible resources for your project or cause. Fiscal sponsors can accept donations on your behalf (for a small fee) and get those funds to you without your having to go through the arduous process of founding a nonprofit.

Our sector is crowded and growing—there were 40 percent fewer organizations only a decade ago. And although it’s inspiring to see so many do-gooders committing to social good, competition is real. “As more and more organizations enter the nonprofit arena,” Spencer Creal mused, “attention from donors and volunteers becomes increasingly precious.”

There are many ways to focus and contribute our energy that doesn’t distract and dilute the good work of our sector. And for those who wish to dive further, there are plenty of great resources to help you assess where you are in your process and learn about what makes for an effective nonprofit.

(Photo credit: Getty Images/Prostock Studio)

Headshot_Evan_Wildstein_2021.2_PhilanTopicEvan Wildstein is a fundraiser and nonprofiteer in Houston, Texas.


The sustainable nonprofit: A social issue support journey

May 02, 2022


I have been thinking a lot lately about how our clients are connecting with the public to build community for the social issues and movements they represent. It all started with variations we began to notice in our social issue campaign data in the last six months.

We started to see that the number of people being exposed to and engaging with an organization’s content on social media platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok was extremely high—so high, in fact, that this activity was driving some of the highest levels of engagement since Cause & Social Influence began tracking this data. At the same time, however, the rates of acquisition of email addresses and/or text numbers were low—drastically low in some cases, as compared to previous campaigns.

After many meetings and conversations about our observations, we came to several conclusions: We are in an era of high consumption; platforms want to keep people within their ecosystems; and while email addresses and text numbers are valuable commodities worth working for, they won’t come easily, especially from younger audiences, regardless of the social issues they support. Moreover, perhaps we should not be overly focused on email and text conversions....

Read the full column article by Derrick Feldmann, lead researcher at Cause and Social Influence.

(Photo credit: Uriel Mont via pexels)

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