139 posts categorized "Arts and Culture"

'Accelerating a cultural shift toward justice': A commentary by Favianna Rodriguez

August 23, 2021

CreatingConstellations_center_for_cultural_powerThe roots that grow the cultural field we need today

Earlier this summer, Mackenzie Scott made a massive $2.7 billion investment in support of 286 organizations working to spark change and empower individuals. My organization, the Center for Cultural Power, was one of them. We received a gift of $11 million — $3 million to build our long-term capacity and $8 million for the Constellations Culture Change Fund, which is developing a multiracial field at the intersection of arts and social justice. Now, two months later, the impact of the donation is visible in the acceleration of our implementation plans to provide funds to communities still reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The water that Scott's gift pours on the deep roots many local arts organizations have grown in our cultural ecosystem is a lifeline. She relied on the principles of Trust-Based Philanthropy to surface trusted movement leaders and organizations that are underresourced. If other philanthropists were to follow her lead, they could nourish a nascent field that would not only disrupt inequities in the arts but accelerate a cultural shift toward justice....

Read the full commentary by Favianna Rodriguez, founder of the Center for Cultural Power.

Impact investing in the 'creative economy' to strengthen local economies: A commentary by Deb Parsons

August 10, 2021

Fabric_bolts_arts_creative_GettyImages_oksixImpacting the creative economy with philanthropic funds

What do film and fashion have to do with philanthropy?

For a growing number of impact investors, these industries and others that make up the "creative economy" are a powerful lever to strengthen local economies, build resilient communities, and support an equitable COVID-19 recovery. Increasingly, impact investors are using foundations and donor-advised funds to make investments in a variety of local, national, and even international creative economy enterprises that are driving positive social and environmental change. With its focus on solutions that prioritize people and the planet, impact investing complements traditional grantmaking by leveraging the power of markets to create positive change....

Read the full commentary by Deb Parsons, managing director at ImpactAssets.

(Photo credit: GettyImages)

'Systems change work is intrinsic to creative youth development': A commentary by Daniel R. Lewis

August 09, 2021

Lewis_Prize_for_Music_awardeeSupporting creative youth development as systems change work

In her recent blog post announcing $2.7 billion in commitments to equity-oriented nonprofits across the country, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott writes: "Arts and cultural institutions can strengthen communities by transforming spaces, fostering empathy, reflecting community identity, advancing economic mobility, improving academic outcomes, lowering crime rates, and improving mental health."

[...] As a longtime arts philanthropist, reading Ms. Scott's post, I couldn't help but recognize the work she was describing as systems change — a vision my organization, the Lewis Prize for Music, has set for itself [...] While the pandemic magnified the already apparent need for young people to develop artistic and employable media arts skills, calls for racial justice showed the imperative for adults to provide movement-building support and guidance to young people. The CYD field has simultaneously addressed both of these needs.

Systems change work is intrinsic to CYD, and the holistic approach of CYD is itself systems change....

Read the full commentary by Daniel R. Lewis, founder and chair of the Lewis Prize for Music.

How nonprofits are navigating the real estate market in an almost-post-COVID-19 New York City

August 06, 2021

New_york_city_Katie Haugland BowenBefore the COVID-19 pandemic, the real estate landscape had always been a challenge for New York City nonprofits, with rent-related cost often being the second-largest expense of a nonprofit's budget and venue-dependent organizations allocating an even greater portion of their budgets to real estate. The pandemic's unprecedented impact on companies and organizations across the world varied by sector; for nonprofits, the effects were compounded by increased uncertainty around funding, physical closures, and, for many, the inability to fully transition to remote work while continuing to serve their missions.

Some organizations could not transition to remote work because in-person services were essential to their programmatic offerings, while others continued to work in physical offices because they faced low funding or technology barriers that prevented them from switching to remote work or elected not to do so because of the impact on work culture and productivity. For example, nonprofits committed to advocacy work, many of which rely on dynamic brainstorming sessions to analyze issues and advance strategies, found Zoom meetings a poor substitute. Those organizations eagerly returned to their offices as soon as they could, implementing safety protocols while getting "back to business." Nonprofits that work to address food insecurity also had personnel who were considered essential employees and were expected to come to work each day to package meals and deliver them to those in need.

Now, organizations that were able to transition to virtual operations are returning to varied levels of in-person work and navigating a hybrid work balance. Employees are increasingly expecting more flexibility from their employers about where — and sometimes when — they work, and employers are eager to capitalize on any benefits from this shift. Both nonprofit and for-profit organizations with fewer employees in the office on any given day are asking whether there might be a way to reduce real estate expenses. Without the obligation of coming into the office, can staff be hired in locations where the cost of living is lower and, therefore, at lower salaries?  

At the same time, some organizations appear to be emerging from pandemic restrictions in better financial shape than before. Early on in the pandemic, it was predicted that many venue-dependent organizations like theaters and healthcare providers that require physical space to deliver on their missions would have to close their doors permanently. However, for many in the performing arts sector, this has not turned out to be the case. As a general rule, nonprofit performing arts groups require subsidies to support their programming in normal times; therefore, less programming requires fewer subsidies. If an organization could maintain its donor base (i.e., the source of the subsidies) while reducing expenses, there was the opportunity to build a one-time surplus. 

One nonprofit client of my company, Denham Wolf Real Estate Services, that has provided social services to the community for decades, saw its revenue increase more than 10 percent over the past year, thanks to donors recognizing the increased need for the organization's services during the pandemic. With the advent of work-from-home, this nonprofit was able to convert unused office space to program space, thereby improving efficiency and saving on expenses. Other nonprofits, however, were not so fortunate.

The pandemic compelled organizations across the sector to reevaluate their real estate and, in many cases, adapt to new modes of service delivery. Healthcare facilities, for example, have had tremendous success transitioning to using telehealth to provide necessary services to individuals and communities. To accommodate populations that lack access to technology and Internet services, some nonprofits have redesigned their sites or, in some cases, taken on additional space to provide computers and make telehealth services readily available to all.

In commercial buildings, landlords have been struggling to retain existing tenants and write leases for new ones, which has resulted in more robust incentive packages. In addition to lowering rents, landlords are offering longer free-rent periods and increasing tenant improvement allowances. Tenants looking to sublet space may also add incentives, including access to shared conference rooms, phone systems, and receptionists. For tenants looking to sign new leases, particularly for office space, there are very good opportunities in the marketplace.

Each nonprofit faces a unique situation that requires careful planning to ensure good decision making. As nonprofits reevaluate the role of real estate in support of their missions, there is also an opportunity to re-engage with the community to help determine the optimal way to connect in this altered landscape. Service organizations are using this opportunity to communicate with their clients and better understand how they can best serve them, whether that means keeping the same services or offering new ones. Needless to say, the goal is always to do what is right for the people they serve, and if budgets are constrained, taking into account community input and evaluating programs is critical. Many organizations are receiving positive feedback from those exchanges and even increased community support through fundraisers or volunteers, which fosters a deeper connection with the community. While this process can be both exciting and daunting, aligning operations and budgets with the current needs and desires of those being served can inform a more sustainable future.

Looking to recovery, nonprofits are presented with a real estate landscape that is gradually stabilizing. Indoor spaces for work and events are cautiously reopening, and some remote work adjustments remain permanent. Organizational attitudes are shifting from preemptive planning to actual decision making — a shift reflected most clearly in the rising rates of lease signings and extended lease terms, which are once again reaching five to ten years. However, as organizations plan their return to the office, they're taking the time to fundamentally reevaluate space requirements, usage, and purpose of having a physical location. Across the board, nonprofits are reconsidering how square footage requirements and location, among other factors, will be most efficient for serving their communities. 

Throughout the pandemic, it has been encouraging to see the tenacity and creativity of the nonprofit sector's efforts to adapt and persist. The continued dedication to a mission-first approach in the sector through these incredibly challenging times reaffirms our confidence in the nonprofit community. The commitment and ingenuity of the staff and volunteers providing services to their communities, whether in a physical space or through a screen, are both inspiring and impressive.

(Photo credit: Katie Haugland Bowen)

Headshot_Paul_Wolf_DenhamWolfRealEstate_PhilanTopicPaul Wolf is co-founder and president of Denham Wolf Real Estate Services and has more than thirty years of development, brokerage, and nonprofit consulting experience.

'Philanthropy must have its own racial reckoning': A Q&A with Rashid Shabazz

July 30, 2021

Headshot_rashid_shabazz_critical_mindedRashid Shabazz is the inaugural executive director of Critical Minded, a grantmaking and advocacy initiative founded in 2017 by the Ford and Nathan Cummings foundations to support cultural critics of color in the United States by building a cultural ecosystem celebrating the multiplicity of perspectives from critics of color. Shabazz joined Critical Minded after serving as the chief marketing and storytelling officer for Color of Change, where he helped push for accountability within the media to more accurately portray Black narratives, and as vice president of communications for Campaign for Black Male Achievement, where he created programs that directly challenged false narratives about Black men and boys and expanded access to resources and financial support.

PND asked Shabazz about how philanthropy could more systematically address social inequities in arts funding practices, the steps museums and galleries should take to advance equity, and how Critical Minded is working to narrow gaps found in the underrepresentation of cultural critics of color in art spaces. Here is an excerpt:

Philanthropy News Digest: Despite the efforts of several leading foundations, arts organizations of color and those serving low-income communities in both urban and rural communities face distinct challenges in securing equitable funding. In what ways can philanthropy more systematically address social inequities in its arts funding practices?

Rashid Shabazz: Philanthropy must have its own racial reckoning. It must acknowledge its role in fostering disparities and reinforcing the systems that we are working to dismantle. Foundations generally are not accountable to anyone outside of their donors and boards, so how do we ensure communities of color become part of the decision-making processes? In the past decade, there has been a movement to see grantees as partners and collaborators who specifically address the racial disparities in how funding reaches organizations led by people of color. Yet we know that the funding remains embarrassingly minuscule. So, it means philanthropy must take more risks and be more disruptive. It must be "decolonized," as Edgar Villanueva says. This means shifting the measures and requirements so that more racial equity can be achieved by allowing resources to flow not only to the largest, most sophisticated, and strongest organizations with existing infrastructure but also making big bets on communities of color and shifting wealth so the infrastructure can be created for BIPOC-led organizations to also thrive....

Read the full Q&A with Rashid Shabazz here.

 

 

 

 

Twenty years after 9/11, still fighting the criminalization and dehumanization of our communities

July 15, 2021

DRUM protest for excluded workers_risetogether_philantopicOn September 15, 2001, Balbir Singh Sodhi was planting flowers outside the gas station he owned in Mesa, Arizona, when Frank Silva Roque, a white Boeing aircraft mechanic, saw Sodhi's turban, a sign of his Sikh faith, and shot and killed him. Silva Roque then drove through town and shot two people of Middle Eastern descent, who thankfully survived. Roque was apprehended the next day and is now serving a life sentence.

Sodhi's murder was just one of an onslaught of hate crimes committed in the wake of 9/11. Nor were hate crimes committed by individuals the only threat to targeted communities. The Department of Homeland Security spearheaded the criminalization of Black, African, Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian (BAMEMSA) immigrant men through humiliating racial profiling programs like the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS). Tens of thousands of Black and Brown men were forced to line up at federal agencies to register for ongoing government surveillance based on religion, ethnicity, and national origin, targeting foreign nationals from twenty-five countries. Before the program was finally dismantled in 2016, thousands of families were torn apart and entire communities were devastated by job losses, deportations, and ongoing harassment.

Stories of interpersonal and structural violence against BAMEMSA communities after 9/11 are ubiquitous, but so are the stories of activists rising to these challenges and leading a vibrant movement to secure their rights and inclusion. Members of the Sikh community formed the Sikh Coalition, a nonprofit that has won numerous court cases against workplace discrimination, school bullying, racial profiling, and hate crimes and has secured the passage of groundbreaking religious rights laws and significant policy improvements. Community-based activist organizations like Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM), founded in 2000 to build the power of South Asian and Indo-Caribbean low wage immigrant workers, youth, and families in New York City, mobilized to support the victims of state-sponsored discrimination, offering "know your rights" training, holding vigils and protests at federal agencies, documenting civil rights violations, and working in solidarity with other social justice organizations to demand policy change.

That movement includes the founding of the RISE Together Fund (RTF) in 2008, the first national donor collaborative dedicated to supporting directly impacted voices to lead policy and social change in BAMEMSA communities. Housed at Proteus Fund, the RISE Together Fund is led by an all-women team, each of whom identifies with the communities we support, connecting our personal and political commitments to build a just, multiracial, feminist democracy.

This year, as we mark two decades since 9/11, we're reflecting on the milestones of our movement, including working with grassroots organizations over four years to organize against the Muslim & Africa Bans, a series of Supreme Court-approved restrictions on travel to the United States from thirteen countries — which was finally rescinded on day one of the Biden administration. We also helped increase voter turnout among BAMEMSA communities by mobilizing significant support for civic engagement initiatives. We partnered with Dr. Tom Wong, a specialist in identifying high-potential voters of color, who worked with twelve grantees, including the Georgia Muslim Voter Project, on non-partisan voter messaging, outreach, and technical support.

Despite these many successes, BAMEMSA communities continue to be underinvested in and excluded from broader conversations and philanthropic opportunities around racial justice and immigrant justice. We also are up against a tidal wave of funding in support of efforts to demonize and criminalize our communities. According to a 2019 report authored by Abbas Barzegar and Zainab Arain, between 2014 and 2016, more than a thousand organizations funded thirty-nine groups with a total revenue capacity of $1.5 billion that foment hate toward BAMEMSA communities. While RTF and our philanthropic partners are making great strides in supporting BAMEMSA communities, we have a long way to go to fully address their continued criminalization and dehumanization.

Since 2009, RTF has worked with longtime field partner ReThink Media to ensure that BAMEMSA movement leaders speak for themselves and build media savvy. ReThink offers fieldwide spokesperson training, messaging research and guidance, op-ed writing support, and direct connections to journalists. The overarching goal of RTF is to direct grants toward building a long-term, sustainable movement and work alongside grantees and the wider BAMEMSA field to develop and amplify a collective voice — a voice that is particularly critical this year in countering nationalistic sloganeering and offering more critical perspectives that address the ongoing harms of the 9/11 era.

Throughout 2021 and 2022, RTF is offering a variety of opportunities for funders to learn more about our communities and support their efforts to build a stronger democracy — through funder briefings, panel discussions, and blog posts. In June we co-hosted a funder briefing with Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) about supporting impacted communities; in October we will hold a panel discussion on "The 20th Anniversary of 9/11: BAMEMSA Women Activists Leading Resistance and Resilience" at the CHANGE Philanthropy UNITY Summit; and in collaboration with Democracy Fund and Mission Partners, we are working to publish a series of blog posts to educate philanthropy about the successes and challenges of the BAMEMSA movement. We are speaking with funders about opportunities to support the urgent needs of grantees in their efforts to mobilize around the 9/11 anniversary, such as locally focused arts and culture programming to share the experiences of BAMEMSA communities over the past two decades. There are opportunities for partners to support BAMEMSA field leaders with long-term cultural strategy training and coaching to help them communicate their work more effectively to wider audiences and coherently connect post-9/11 harms to broader conversations on surveillance, policing, and racial justice.

While the anniversary is an important moment for us to reflect on the successes and challenges of the BAMEMSA field, our work is ongoing. Policy advocacy is needed to address the ongoing criminalization of our communities, such as efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp and defund Homeland Security grants used to support spying and psychological warfare in BAMEMSA communities. We must fund ongoing nonpartisan voter engagement efforts outside of federal election years, and we need to protect field leaders who face doxxing and threats online with robust digital security support. Given that 80 percent of our grantee organizations are led by women of color, we need to support their leadership with resiliency training and capacity building efforts to empower their work well into the future.

As we approach the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, we at RTF reaffirm our commitment to support communities who have been on the front lines of creating a just society and we invite fellow funders to support BAMEMSA communities in this important year.

(Photo credit: Desis Rising Up & Moving)

SheilaBapat_ClaireDowning_AlisonKysia_DeborahMkari_RTF_philantopicSheila Bapat, is senior program officer, Claire Downing is program officer, Alison Kysia is grant writer, and Deborah Makari is program assistant for the RISE Together Fund at Proteus Fund.

A moment for arts and social change

July 06, 2021

Museum_of_Chinese_in_AmericaMacKenzie Scott's latest $2.74 billion round of grants made big news for the outsized impact one donor can have on the nonprofit sector and for its focus on tackling inequities. Also notable was the number of arts and cultural groups among the grantees — more specifically, organizations created by and for people of color who work every day to put arts and culture at the forefront of social transformation. 

This support indicates a sophisticated understanding of the primacy of cultural expression as a place of engagement with one another and society at large — essential to transformation for the common good.

Scott said the grants to organizations "from culturally rich regions and identity groups that donors often overlook" were aimed at "empowering voices the world needs to hear." As co-chairs of the Mosaic Network & Fund — which funds and promotes arts and cultural groups of color in New York City and is one of the beneficiaries on the list — we couldn't agree more.

These groups have been tireless in their efforts to showcase aesthetic excellence, preserve diverse cultural traditions, and advance social change, despite being resourced at a level vastly incommensurate with their importance. For example, Ballet Hispánico, a fifty-year-old contemporary dance company that performs classical and contemporary works, trains young dancers, and functions as a source of pride and identity for the community from which it arises. The smaller Mama Foundation for the Arts provides a vital training ground for youth gospel singers. Institutions like these are cultural markers that lift up the voices, stories, and experiences of Americans whose contributions are minimized in or excluded altogether from artistic canons.

Then there are groups such as the First People's Fund, which is investing in Native American artists and culture bearers to preserve handed-down traditions while acting as economic anchors for their communities, and the Museum of Chinese in America, which challenges false, harmful stereotypes to more fully tell the stories of Americans of Chinese descent. These groups bring to light overlooked or misunderstood facets of American history and culture. 

Still others have missions that intentionally fuse art and activism and incubate artists within the heart and soul of their communities. The Laundromat Project — whose early art projects were set in neighborhood laundromats — intertwines art making and community building, supporting creative leaders who rally neighbors around common causes such as housing and health and wellness. And Harlem-based Firelight Media develops documentary filmmakers of color and produces films about communities of color, often reaching national audiences.

These groups are ideal conduits for gathering and broadcasting the thoughts and ideas of people whose voices are scarcely heard. Art and culture tell us who we are and help us organize to tackle the urgent issues of our times, such as mass incarceration, immigration, and climate change.

Creating and presenting art is always a labor of love, but Scott's gifts remind us that artists and the groups that nurture them are an important investment. If we are to tell the American story fully and in all its richly textured splendor, their work is vital.

Equally important, it's time for all of us to join Scott in giving long overdue, meaningful recognition and support to African-American, Latinx, Asian-American/Pacific Islander, Arab-American, and Native American arts organizations that are essential to the vibrancy of our society. While we cannot all make gifts as large as Scott's, we must recognize the transformational role each of us can and must play to ensure that the arts embody the voices of all communities.

(Photo credit: Museum of Chinese in America)

Maruine_Knighton_Kerry_McCarthy_Mosaic_NYCT_PhilanTopicMaurine Knighton and Kerry McCarthy are co-chairs of the Mosaic Network & Fund in the New York Community Trust.

 

How nonprofits can evolve following a time of uncertainty

July 01, 2021

News_sheet_musicAs the country begins to reopen after more than a year of uncertainty and isolation, the need for a sense of community and belonging is greater than ever. There couldn't be a better time for nonprofit organizations to double down on their commitment to the communities they serve.

According to a recent study commissioned by Fidelity Charitable, 25 percent of current donors plan to increase their donations in the coming year and 54 percent intend to maintain their donation levels. What's more, most donors plan to support local charities. This trend presents a unique opportunity for local organizations committed to purpose-driven work to step up and lead.

For the Brooklyn Youth Music Project (BYMP), a small nonprofit dedicated to teaching and inspiring young musicians from diverse backgrounds, the inability to hold in-person rehearsals and performances caused us to think differently about our fundraising tactics — just as we were coming up on our tenth anniversary. We are certainly not alone in this situation; studies have shown that the pandemic has negatively impacted activities such as volunteering across all sectors around the world.

By changing our perspective on what's possible and staying focused on how to continue serving our community, BYMP was able to evolve and make this a record-breaking year right out of the gate. We did so by employing five principles that can help nonprofits ensure success and sustainability in even the most challenging times:

1. Re-commit. The three part-time employees who make up BYMP — with the support of a committed board of directors — stayed true to our mission despite the challenges we faced.

As an organization that is based on in-person rehearsals and performances, having to shift to a world gone virtual was a daunting task. By keeping our mission of serving the children and families in our community (many of whom had been with BYMP for years) in focus, we were able to find new ways of working and connecting with them. Re-committing to our mission meant doing whatever we could, and had to, to keep the kids connected through music. This also included being fully transparent with our community as to what was, and was not, possible.

2. Shake up the status quo. When faced with unprecedented circumstances, the sooner you acknowledge that old ways of operating need to be upended, the better. We did so by embracing technology that enabled us to leverage virtual events and showcase our students as well as broaden our reach beyond our local community. More on this in Principle 5.

3. Take chances. Unforeseen obstacles presented an opportunity for us to step out of our comfort zones and expand our horizons. We seized the opportunity to dial up our presence by scheduling five concerts over the course of the year — doing virtually something we never could have done in person, even in a milestone anniversary year, due to the resource and logistical needs of staging live events. Taking risks and stepping outside the collective comfort zone is the essential path to organizational growth.

4. Assess your results. Take a thorough inventory of your fundraising tactics and determine what worked and what could have had more impact. Our efforts resulted in record event attendance at virtual fundraisers and performances. Most importantly, donations from our first two fundraisers resulted in a 100 percent increase in donations over 2019. So we will look to incorporate virtual events into our program schedule moving forward, peppering them in with in-person events once pandemic protocols are lifted.

5. Learn new skills. Taking time to learn new skills and programs goes a long way in helping the professional development of your team and strengthening your organization's assets. A win-win for everyone. While it requires an initial investment in time, the long-term results can make for a strong return on investment. For example, the time our staff spent learning video and audio editing for online concerts was substantial, but the skills we gained will continue to pay off for years to come. In addition, by using existing free tools, we expanded our reach and made it easier for both new and existing supporters to donate. With YouTube Premiere, we increased views of a single video by more than 400 percent, and the text-to-mobile feature enabled by Pledge.com helped increase our donations during our concert watch parties.

The good news, as evidenced by the philanthropic community's uncharacteristically responsive, quick, and flexible support for COVID-19 relief efforts, is that individuals and corporations can approach local philanthropy with a sense of urgency. In fact, according to McKinsey & Company, one of the keys to ushering in a new era of giving is for large-scale donors to invest in local charities as a way to test and learn and fine-tune their efforts, which in turn can help inform their corporate giving models in advance of supporting national or even global initiatives. So, the task at hand is to make this a long-term reality for nonprofits large and small and those charged with more evergreen, mission-driven programming. Let's keep local charities front and center by re-committing to our missions, shaking up the status quo, taking chances, assessing our results, and learning new skills. These actions will drive forward motion, keep the momentum going, and help develop new ways of connecting with potential donors. This way, smaller charities can become an integral part of ongoing high-impact giving rather than a stepping-stone to larger organizations. There is room for everyone, and the benefits of local giving can be immediately felt within one's own community, which is reason enough to step outside our comfort zones and push through with confidence and conviction.

Every challenge presents an opportunity. In the words of Thomas Edison, "When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this, you haven't."

Pat Gunther_Brooklyn_Youth_Music_Project_PhilanTopicPat Gunther is managing director of Brooklyn Youth Music Project. She has more than twenty-five years of combined experience in nonprofit arts administration and project management.

Donors have an opportunity to build on last year's strong giving

August 17, 2020

Closed_coronavirus_united_wayAccording to Giving USA 2020: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2019, charitable giving increased 4.2 percent in current dollars, to $449.64 billion, in 2019, making it the second highest year for charitable giving (when adjusted for inflation). While it's too soon to tell what that will mean for 2020, such a strong show of support for the charitable sector is an encouraging sign in what otherwise is an uncertain philanthropic environment, thanks to the spread of COVID-19.

Clearly, many Americans view generosity as an important part of their lives. The Giving USA data from 2019 and the philanthropic trends we've seen in past recessions (as reported in Giving USA) can help us understand what we should expect in these uncertain times.

A strong economy in 2019 resulted in more giving by individuals, corporations, and foundations, as well as increases in giving to organizations in all but one of the nine recipient categories tracked by Giving USA — six of which recorded their highest ever giving totals (adjusted for inflation) in 2019. The analysis also found that the growth in giving in 2019 was driven by a jump in giving by individuals, which rose 4.7 percent and logged its second-highest dollar total (adjusted for inflation) ever — and which handily remains the largest single source of charitable giving at 69 percent of total giving. In recent years we've also seen giving by foundations comprising an increasingly larger share of total giving emerge as a trend; in 2019, that share was 17 percent for the second year in a row, the highest on record.

The uncertainty around the COVID-19 situation in the United States makes it almost impossible to predict when and how quickly the economy will fully recover. Giving USA found that in 2007-09, the period immediately preceding and following the financial crisis, foundation giving grew 3 percent, even as overall giving declined 12 percent. And to date in 2020, we've seen foundations increase both the number and dollar amount of the grants they make to help fill gaps created by the virus, as well as accelerated distributions from donor-advised funds.

Dunham + Company's own study found that the oldest donors, regular churchgoers, and self-described conservatives were more likely to say they would maintain their giving at last year's levels or increase it. Many also cited COVID-19 as the main reason they plan to give more. However, the study also found that many donors were anxious about the virus and its impacts, causing a quarter (25 percent) of respondents to say they plan to cut back on their giving. From where we sit, the charitable organizations that have had success since the virus emerged as a public health crisis have pivoted quickly to donor-centric communications that emphasize the challenges donors might be facing while also affirming the relevance of their missions. Indeed, a number of our clients have recorded some of the best daily giving totals in their history over the past few months.

Conversely, the organizations that have struggled are those that have not been able to pivot, for whatever reason, to online giving and/or have not diversified their base of support. I'm particularly concerned for nonprofits in education and the arts, culture, and humanities — organizations that rely on major gifts or do not have large endowments — even though giving to these sectors saw double-digit growth in 2019. If they hope to maintain both their relevancy and viability, it will be important for these organizations, once we're on the other side of the pandemic, to be able to demonstrate that they weathered the storm and are in a good position to continue serving their communities.

Ultimately, donors have an opportunity and a responsibility to make their dollars count on behalf of the organizations and sectors they care about most. We still have time in 2020 to make this a year of solid philanthropic support for the charitable sector.

Rick Dunham_PhilanTopicRick Dunham is the immediate past chair of the Giving USA Foundation and founder and CEO of Dunham + Company. He has spent more than forty years in marketing, fundraising, and organizational development for nonprofit organizations. Giving USA, the longest-running and most comprehensive report of its kind in America, is published by the Giving USA Foundation and is researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Foundations Step Up Funding for COVID-19 Response Efforts (April 1-11, 2020)

April 11, 2020

COVID19As COVID-19 spreads globally and in the United States, private foundations are stepping up with funding to meet the immediate needs of individuals and vulnerable populations impacted by the virus. The "quick-hit" roundup below captures some of the foundation activity in response to COVID-19 over the last two weeks. Items are sorted in alpha order, by state and, within states, by foundation name.

For more coverage, check out PND's COVID-19 page and Candid's COVID-19 popup page.

CALIFORNIA

Akonadi Foundation, Oakland, CA | $1 Million

The Akonadi Foundation has announced it will allocate $1 million from its endowment to make grants to people-of-color-led organizations and initiatives in Oakland responding to communities impacted by COVID-19. With the public health crisis highlighting racialized inequities nationwide, the foundation has re-launched its So Love Can Win Fund — originally launched in 2016 with the aim of seeding a vision of a safe, healed, and racially just Oakland — to provide one-time rapid response grants of up to $10,000 to meet emerging community demands and/or help organizations cover their revenue losses.

Eisner Foundation, Los Angeles, CA | $500,000

The Eisner Foundation has committed $500,000 to create a Rapid Response grant program that will award grants to nonprofits helping older adults combat social isolation in Los Angeles County. One-year grants ranging from $5,000 to 50,000 will support technological or logistical solutions that enable organizations to adapt quickly now and have better infrastructure in place for their long-term work. Priority will be given to intergenerational solutions as well as current or recent grantees.

Heising-Simons Foundation, Los Altos, CA | $2 Million

The University of California, San Francisco has announced a $2 million grant from the Heising-Simons Foundation to establish a COVID Response Initiative at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center (ZSFG), a public hospital operated by the San Francisco Department of Public Health and a UCSF partner. The grant will enable physicians and trainees to better triage and treat COVID-19 patients who require hospitalization and create appropriate care plans for individuals who do not. The grant also will support COVID-19 screening and on-site testing at ZSFG and help provide personal protective equipment for nurses, respiratory technicians, and physicians.

Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Agoura Hills, CA | $10 Million

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation has announced grants totaling $10 million in support of efforts to protect the homeless population in Los Angeles from COVID-19 and help African countries prepare for an outbreak. Grants include $2.25 million to Brilliant Corners in support of a partnership with the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services; $500,000 to the California Community Foundation; $2.25 million to United Way of Greater Los Angeles; $500,000 to Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO); $3 million to the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa; and $1.5 million to UNICEF.

James Irvine Foundation, San Francisco, CA| $22 Million

The James Irvine Foundation has announced commitments totaling $22 million aimed at helping grantees weather the economic storm caused by mandatory lockdowns related to the spread of COVID-19. As part of its Recession Resilience Project, the foundation will provide $20 million in immediate emergency funding to grantees of the foundation's Better Careers, Fair Work, and Priority Regions initiatives working to protect and advance the prospects of low-wage workers, and approximately $2 million to help other grassroots organizations in California weather the public health emergency. The foundation also plans to relax and/or renegotiate restrictions on current grants; reduce restrictions on the use of new grants; postpone or eliminate other requests it makes of grantees, including site visits and progress reports; and continue its efforts to listen to and work with its grantees and the communities they serve.

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Museums Should Lead in Socially Responsible Investing

September 11, 2019

Plant-Growing-In-Savings-CoinsMuseums and galleries all over the world have been grabbing headlines lately as a result of controversies over the source of funding from donors and trustees.

Artists and members of the public have objected to sponsorship from companies and individuals linked to the sale of opioids, tobacco, fossil fuels, private prisons, or the manufacture of tear gas. But the outcry overlooks a bigger opportunity for endowed cultural institutions to signal their values: how they invest.

The financial investments of four museums that have been criticized — the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art — total more than $6 billion. Turning down a few million dollars in individual donations because of where the money comes from might feel good. But it ignores how these institutions invest the billions of dollars they already control.

Cultural institutions generally invest in public equities. It is reasonable to assume at least a portion of their public equity allocation is in an index fund, such as the S&P 500, which includes the very same types of companies — tobacco, weapons manufacturing, and fossil fuels — that are objected to in connection with controversial donors.

Yet there are hundreds of alternative vehicles that could allow for values-driven investing — including index funds such as the MSCI KLD 400 Social index and the S&P 500 ESG index. These exclude companies that produce negative social and environmental impacts. Then there are exchange-traded funds aligned with issues of race and social justice, gender equity, alternative energy production, and the UN sustainable development goals. In fact, in the U.S., $12 trillion is currently invested for positive environmental and social impact through funds such as these — one-quarter of all assets under management. So why aren't cultural institutions investing in these opportunities?

Mention the topic of socially responsible investing and people often ask whether investors sacrifice financial returns when they introduce factors such as environmental stewardship and good governance into investment decision making. The answer is no.

In fact there is a growing body of evidence demonstrating that socially responsible investments outperform conventional ones. Wealth advisers such as Perella Weinberg and impact investors as diverse as the state of North Carolina and the Russell Family Foundation are sharing their evidence and portfolio experience to prove it.

Cultural institutions should be at the forefront of socially responsible investing, and this is where their boards can help. So far, it is small arts organizations that are leading the way. Over the past few months, Building for the Arts and Creative Capital each invested in the NYC Inclusive Creative Economy Fund, the first impact investment vehicle targeting low-income communities. And in June, the Souls Grown Deep Foundation committed its entire $1 million endowment to an impact investment strategy focused on promoting racial and social justice and economic opportunity in the arts.

These three organizations see their investment portfolios as another tool to advance their mission. Larger operations such as the Ford Foundation, the Heron Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund have also demonstrated how to align the endowment of a nonprofit institution with its values.

Science and natural history museums including the Field Museum and the American Museum of Natural History have divested from fossil fuels in alignment with their stance on climate change. The time has come for our largest cultural institutions to demonstrate similar leadership.

Let's bring the best of Wall Street and Museum Mile together.

Headshot_laura_callananLaura Callanan is founding partner of Upstart Co-Lab and former senior deputy chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. Maxwell Anderson also contributed to this article, which originally appeared in the Financial Times and is republished here with permission.

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (March 2019)

April 01, 2019

It's April 1 and you're no fool — which is why you'll want to settle in with a glass of your favorite beverage and check out some of the posts PhilanTopic readers couldn't get enough of in March. We'll be back with new material in a day or two. Enjoy!

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

What Is the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Thinking?

March 06, 2019

Untitled_1960After more than forty-five years in the museum field as a curator, director, consultant, museum studies professor, writer, and trustee, I have observed that in spite of an abiding concern for the integrity of their collections, and despite the sincere anguish expressed whenever a collection is destroyed by a natural disaster or is sacrificed to human impulse, museums too often are willing to compromise that integrity.  

What? 

Museums are willing to violate the public trust?  

Yes. And they do it when they sell objects from their collections on the open market. 

By now, most of you have read or heard that the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is planning to sell Mark Rothko's Untitled, 1960, which it has not exhibited since 2002The picture has an enviable provenance, and Sotheby's will auction it this spring in New York City. Reports in the media say that proceeds from the sale will be used by SFMOMA to acquire art by people of color and women, as well as to establish an endowment for future acquisitions. Estimates of what the painting might fetch range from $30 million to $50 million — an amount, it would seem, SFMOMA trustees could raise among themselves if they were truly interested in keeping an important example of the work of one of the world's foremost abstract expressionists in the museum's collection.  

Why does it matter?

Museums are more than just repositories of stuff. They long ago evolved beyond their origins as cabinets of curiosities and today function as social hubs, conveyors of cultural status, catalysts for economic development, and retail trade operations, as well as places for object-based learning, contemplation, and enjoyment.

Notwithstanding the cumulative impact of these changes, the core precept of museums as thing-centered operations is what makes them unique. The museum was invented as a place where the tangible is used to explain the intangible. Collections are assembled for their evidentiary value, the objects in them providing direct proof of the topic at hand. And once they've been selected, those objects should be preserved and protected. The obligation to preserve and honor objects that have been acquired plays out most obviously in the areas of safe and secure storage, scholarly access, and public exhibitions. Indeed, museums have been so successful in making this point that the response to selling a work, as SFMOMA has decided to do with one of its Rothkos, is almost always calamitous.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (November 2018)

December 02, 2018

Devastating wildfires in California, a freak early season snowstorm in the Northeast, and a blue wave that flipped control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the Democrats' favor — November was at times harrowing and never less than surprising. Here on PhilanTopic, your favorite reads included new posts by John Mullaney, executive director of the Nord Family Foundation in Amherst, Ohio, and Jeanné L.L. Isler, vice president and chief engagement officer at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy; three posts by Larry McGill, vice president of knowledge services at Foundation Center, from our ongoing "Current Trends in Philanthropy" series; and oldies but goodies by Thaler Pekar and Gasby Brown, as well as a group-authored post by Nathalie Laidler-Kylander, May Samali, Bernard Simonin, and Nada Zohdy. Enjoy!

What have you read/watched/heard lately that got your attention, made you think, or charged you up? Feel free to share in the comments section below.

Interested in writing for PND or PhilanTopic? We'd love to hear from you. Send a few lines about your idea/article/post to mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Weekend Link Roundup (November 24-25, 2018)

November 25, 2018

Givingtuesday3A weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Arts and Culture

What role might foundations play in addressing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES), a significant risk factor for a variety of health and social problems across the lifespan? John Mullaney, executive director of the Nord Family Foundation, has been thinking about that for some time now and, in a post here on PhilanTopic, shares his thoughts.

Climate Change

Thirty years after The New Yorker published "The End of Nature," Bill McKibben's seminal article about the greenhouse effect, McKibben returns to the pages of the magazine with a look at what we have learned in the decades since about climate change, extreme weather, and their impact on human society. You will not be encouraged.

Education

On the HistPhil blog, Leslie Finger, a political scientist and lecturer on government and social studies at Harvard University, considers some of the implications of foundation grants to state education agencies.

Fundraising

It's not enough for nonprofits to simply thank their donors, says Vu Le, who shares twenty-one tips designed to help you and your organization be better at recognizing and appreciating the people who support your work.

On the Bloomerang blog, Terri Shoemaker, chief strategy officer at Abeja Solutions in Phoenix, Arizona, pays tribute to "the small donor. The little ones. Those generous folks that give when they can to a mailing, online, or even to your very specific appeal on social media."

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Quote of the Week

  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."


    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

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