36 posts categorized "Capacity Building"

Candid Deepens Commitment to Communities

April 09, 2019

In February 2019, Foundation Center and GuideStar joined forces to become Candid. Read our press release for more context on why we made this move.

Candid logoBringing Candid's vision to life means we’ll need to take a transformative approach to delivering our programs and services to nonprofits — on the ground and online. Some of Candid's many core assets include the resources that you have come to rely on from Foundation Center: our virtual and in-person trainings; Foundation Directory Online (FDO), our signature database for finding funding; Grantspace.org, our one-stop online portal for nonprofit professionals; and our Funding Information Network (FIN), which comprises of 400+ mission-aligned partners in the U.S. and across the globe providing on-the-ground support to strengthen their communities.

As Candid, we'll deepen our investment in these existing services. We'll double-down on our efforts to share the most up-to-date information on what it takes to build impact-ready, sustainable organizations. And as the world's largest source of information on nonprofit organizations, we'll be able to deliver to you the most up-to-date data and intelligence you need.

Through our network of FIN partners, we'll ensure that our services are available, far and wide. In all locations outside of our New York headquarters, we'll be making a shift from operating our own libraries to focusing on enhanced offerings for libraries and other community-based organizations through our FIN program. Pairing the focus on the FIN with direct delivery of trainings by our team via pop-up programs across our existing key markets — and regionally — will further enable us to deepen and widen accessibility to our resources to communities, small and large. Read on for more details.

What does this mean for Candid's library resource centers in the U.S.?

By the end of 2019, we will move our Atlanta and Cleveland teams into a shared space with partner organizations. We will combine our GuideStar and Foundation Center offices in San Francisco/Oakland and Washington, D.C. (Foundation Center staff will move into GuideStar locations in these cities). We will no longer provide in-person library services at these locations. Rather than asking you to come to us for in-person training or access to our fundraising tools, our team will be coming to a neighborhood near you: we’ve already scheduled pop-up visits and trainings at local FINs or other convenient places around the country and look forward to seeing you there.

Our public space in New York will continue to operate in its current form (still providing library services and trainings) and will eventually take on more of an incubator/laboratory role, enabling us to test new training programs, tweak, and systematize them so that we can deliver new content to the field. We'll also begin experimenting with local programming close to Williamsburg, Virginia, where a large contingency of Candid team members are based.

Note that Candid will continue providing direct online reference services at grantspace.org, and we'll further build out our eBooks collection, ensuring anytime, anywhere access to our online collection of information resources.

How will Candid's training programs change?

Short-term: They won't. Our team will continue delivering services and trainings to meet the needs of our community. We are committed to delivering all the great in-person programs that we're known for — from cohort learning circles to Proposal Writing Boot Camps, to larger annual convenings. The only difference is that we will host many of these programs out in the community rather than in our own offices.

Long-term: Candid's programs will only get better. Combining Foundation Center's rich data and research skills with the robust services provided by GuideStar will lead to an expanded — and more diverse — portfolio of offerings to you. 2019 will be a year of strategizing and planning for a future where we can better serve the community we care about most: you.

Who can you contact if you have more questions?

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

Candid West (San Francisco): Michele Ragland Dilworth
Candid Northeast (New York + Washington, D.C.): Kim Buckner Patton
Candid South (Atlanta): Maria Azuri
Candid Midwest (Cleveland): Teleangé Thomas

We are thrilled for the opportunity this new operating model presents Candid; one in which we can more deliberately activate our time and talent to build the capacity of communities large and small, while we continue to deepen our programmatic impact in the cities where our staff are based. As always, you can connect with me directly to brainstorm on how we can serve you better.

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

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

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.

Five Elements for Success in Capacity Building

February 28, 2019

Capacity-buildingAsk any nonprofit leader and you're likely to hear that investments in capacity make a meaningful difference to organizations. Research backs this up. A study of Meyer Foundation grants found that investments in capacity produced positive, long-term financial results for grantees, regardless of the type of capacity-building grants provided.

Recent research from Candid and the Council on Foundations shows that from 2011 to 2015, U.S. foundation funding for capacity building and technical assistance targeting beneficiaries outside the U.S. jumped from $555.4 million to $900.1 million — a sizable increase but still less than ten percent of total international giving.

There are certain barriers that may help explain why foundations aren't devoting more funding to capacity building. Nonprofits may be reluctant to share information about their capacity-building needs with funders because they're not sure whether such sharing will have repercussions on future funding decisions. We're also learning that because organizations have unique needs, tailored approaches to capacity building tend to be the most effective, but they also make supporting capacity building more resource-intensive for foundations.

While there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution to capacity building, there are commonalities in the approaches that have proven to be successful. Over the years, Community Wealth Partners, a social sector consulting firm, has worked with several foundations and their nonprofit grantees to design, deliver, and evaluate capacity-building programs. Now we're partnering with GrantCraft to publish a series of case studies that provide an in-depth look at five foundations' approaches to supporting nonprofit capacity.

Looking across our work over the years, we have identified five elements we think should be part of any capacity-building effort. We share these recommendations with the hope that foundations factor them into their capacity-building plans and that nonprofits seek out and request this type of partnership from their funders.

1. Commit for the long term. The ability to be successful over the long haul requires ongoing attention to organizational capacity — think of it as a sort of personal healthcare plan for nonprofits.

The Wells Fargo Regional Foundation is one funder that provides long-term support to community development organizations leading neighborhood revitalization initiatives — often involving commitments of eleven years or more. The foundation knows that the work grantees are doing to bring about change at the local level can take decades, and it is committed to ensuring that organizations leading the charge have the skills and financial resources they need to see that change through. To that end, the foundation begins by listening to grantees to understand their needs and then designs and delivers programs to meet those needs as they emerge, including training, coaching, and assistance designed to help grantees build financial sustainability and collaborative capacity.

2. Co-create solutions with stakeholders. A common criticism of capacity building is that it can feel paternalistic. And this is more likely to happen when foundations make assumptions about what grantees need and design services without their input. Capacity building should be grounded in two-way conversation between foundations and nonprofits. Nonprofit leaders know best the context of their work and what types of support are likely to make the biggest difference. Grantmakers should seek out these insights and engage grantees in the design of capacity-building approaches.

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9 Strategic (and Inexpensive!) Ways Funders Can Support Grantee Staff

March 16, 2018

Generic-supportNonprofits tend to sink or swim based not on mission and funding alone but on the talents of employees. Keeping good employees and equipping them for the work that needs to be done is one of the critical challenges frequently cited by nonprofit leaders, yet funders tend to invest much less in the "people" aspects of nonprofit organizations than they do in other areas. Indeed, businesses spend four times more per employee on leadership development than do nonprofits, while according to Foundation Center grant data from 1992-2011 less than 1 percent of foundation grant dollars are invested in nonprofit workforce development.

There are many reasons for this, from fear of getting tangled up in personnel issues to foundation charters that specify funding for programs rather than operations. However, as nonprofit organization Fund the People emphasizes, nonprofit people are nonprofit programs, and even modest investments in staff development can have significant impact.

At the Pierce Family Foundation in Chicago, our priority is capacity building and providing funding for the kind of "back office" support that keeps organizations strong and enables their programs to thrive. Given the particular experience of family members and founding staff in working for and running nonprofits prior to launching the foundation, a focus on supporting what it really takes to deliver mission was part of our vision from the beginning. It's only natural for us, therefore, to want to invest in the people whom nonprofits employ.

Below, I outline nine strategic and inexpensive ways we've invested in nonprofit staffing — and that we believe other funders interested in providing similar support can easily adapt for their own purposes.

1. Provide unrestricted general operating support. Capacity begins with staffing; do not underestimate the importance of supporting basic staffing costs by providing unrestricted general operating support. The more stable the general operating base, the more supported an organization will be in terms of staff retention, compensation, and morale. Staff also function better in non-chaotic environments that allow them to focus on how they can best put their skills to work. At the Pierce Foundation, 70 percent of our grantmaking takes the form of general op grants, and 30 percent is for specific capacity-building projects, from upgrades to CRMs and donor management software to consultant support for succession planning.

2. Offer an outside advisor for HR projects. Outside advisors can provide an objective review of a grantee's staff organizational chart, job descriptions, compensation levels, and personnel policies. We offer general workshops on topics such as "What Are You Paying and Why." We also offer private sessions with a consultant for organizations that are looking to revise their organizational chart or salary ranges, or (in a time of budget cuts) trying to combine two jobs into one. An outside advisor can make this process less painful and provide data and expertise that would not otherwise be available to an organization. We began experimenting with what made the most sense in this area because of the conversations our leading support specialist, Kris Torkelson, and Program Director Heather Parish found themselves having with grantees, many of whom did not know where to turn to for nonprofit-specific HR advice (much less a "reality check" with respect to job descriptions or comparables that can be shared with board members often reluctant to spend money on staff development).

3. Share salary data from national and regional surveys. We subscribe to the six or seven major nonprofit salary surveys because we know our grantees can't afford to and/or are unlikely to. One of our consultants combs and sorts through the surveys to identify "comparables" by position, type of organization, etc. and then shares that data with our grantees. This enables grantees to quickly see what organizations doing similar work pay their staff. Exposure to this kind of data often helps an organization understand why its staff turnover is high and can lead to needed adjustments to its salary ranges. We don't stipulate what our grantees should do with this data — that's not our role — but it typically feeds into the case for support made to their boards at budget time, as well as the longer-term planning done to ensure that an organization's ambitions align with its capacity.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (June 2015)

July 01, 2015

Book reviews from two of our favorite contributors, a timely look at the future of community foundations from Silicon Valley Community Foundation president Emmett Carson, a thought-provoking post on the relationship between philanthropy and inequality by Foundation Center president Brad Smith, a cool infographic from CECP and the Conference Board, and great advice for nonprofits from Claire Axelrad and Bethany Lampland — all that and more helped make June the second-busiest month ever at PhilanTopic. Best of all, you've got a long holiday weekend to catch up on the good stuff you may have missed. Have a happy and safe Fourth!

Read, watched, or listened to anything lately that surprised or made you think? Share your find with others in the comments section below, or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Communicating the Lia Fund’s Sunset Plans to Grantees

May 04, 2015

Sunset_13Randy Lia Weil believed in beauty, fairness, the human heart, and the wisdom of nature in all things. She was a dancer, teacher, Feldenkrais practitioner, and artistic spirit. Gracious, graceful, and exceedingly generous, she was the catalyst for many people to create new possibilities for their lives and their dreams.

Prior to her passing in 2006, she created a trust and named a number of friends and colleagues from diverse disciplines with experience in nonprofit organizations to act as advisors to help identify potential grantees. This group created a small private foundation, The Lia Fund, to carry on her values and help realize them in the world.

The Lia Fund made its first set of grants in 2008, and for six years made grants to social change organizations in the areas of climate solutions, community arts, and holistic health and healing that promoted a holistic view of the world informed by the wisdom of nature. In recognition of the great need for resources to support grassroots organizations, especially in the aftermath of the 2008 recession, the foundation decided to spend down its assets, making its last grants in 2014.

The foundation was thoughtful in its decision to spend down, and used that decision to drive transparency in awarding grants and communicating clearly with grantees. Because of the early nature of its decision, the $5 million in grants awarded to a hundred and seven organizations were progressive, purposeful, and appropriately communicated so as to make an impact during the foundation's lifespan.

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A Generational Transition

November 13, 2013

(Stephen Bronfman is executive chair of Claridge, an investment firm started by his father, Charles, and co-chairs the Claudine and Stephen Bronfman Family Foundation. He also serves as president of the Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Family Foundation, is a director of the David Suzuki Foundation, and chairs the Combined Jewish Appeal 2014 Campaign. This post, the second in the "Making Change by Spending Down" series, a joint project of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies and GrantCraft, orginally appeared on the GrantCraft blog.)

Headshot_stephen_bronfmanPhilanthropy -- as my father often says -- is in the Bronfman DNA, and we are fortunate to be able to practice it generously and expansively. Representing this philanthropic tradition properly and effectively is a responsibility I embrace and will pass to my own children.

The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies' (ACBP) focus on Canadian heritage, Jewish community and Israeli culture, education, and society building is critical. Its footprint will be long-lasting, especially as it helps to put its major grantees on paths toward sustainability after it shuts its doors in 2016.

The work and mission of ACBP has always and rightly reflected the interests and passions of my father and his late wife, Andrea. I have my own, and I expect my own children to one day chart their own direction as well.

Deciding to close ACBP and direct his philanthropy through other channels shows how my father respected generational differences and transitions, aand also a changing world in which new challenges emerge and demand new philanthropic responses and approaches.

The decision reflects a philanthropic mindset to not burden a new generation with certain strictures, missions, and infrastructures. It empowers us to pursue our own visions and approaches to affect positive change. This is a desirable outcome.

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After Overhead: Investing in Nonprofit Financial Fitness

September 03, 2013

(Rebecca Thomas is a vice president at the Nonprofit Finance Fund, where she has strategic responsibility for national arts initiatives, funder partnerships, and product development efforts that advance NFF's profitability, visibility and impact.)

Headshot_rebecca_thomasRecent efforts to end the overhead myth are to be applauded. But they don't go far enough. Funders also need to focus on nonprofit resiliency.

Increasingly, funders understand that "overhead" costs directly support an organization's ability to deliver results and that the overhead ratio shouldn't be used as a simplistic indicator of an organization’s ability to deliver on its mission. The bigger opportunity here, however, is to go beyond funding the full costs of delivering specific services to build an organization's financial strength through surpluses and savings.

After all, many nonprofit organizations that routinely fund their administrative and fundraising expenses often are operating perilously close to the financial brink. They lack the resources to develop innovative approaches to service delivery, take calculated operational risks, manage unexpected funding shortfalls, and cultivate new, more reliable streams of revenue. The loss of one big government contract, an unanticipated facility emergency, or a period of economic distress can be enough to push these agencies over the edge.

Nonprofit Finance Fund's 2013 State of the Sector survey showed that, three years after the official end of the recession, the majority of nonprofits are still unable to address the needs of people and communities they serve. While more than 70 percent funded overhead by bringing in enough revenue to cover their expenses, only 48 percent reported an ability to meet service demand, and 90 percent said the outlook for people they serve will be less certain or the same in the coming year.

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Introducing the 'Open Places' Initiative

April 08, 2013

(Kenneth H. Zimmerman is director of U.S. programs for the Open Society Foundations. This post originally appeared on OSF's Voices blog.)

Headshot_Ken_ZimmermanAcross the United States, local communities face an ever more challenging environment: dramatic shifts in federal and state funding, advances in technology, and large-scale demographic change. Each of these affects how low-income communities and communities of color are able to access political, economic, and civic opportunities. In response to these shifts, the Open Society Foundations is launching a new effort, the Open Places Initiative, to advance the ability of local communities to achieve equal opportunity and promote vibrant democratic practices.

As part of the initiative, planning grants of roughly $100,000 each have been awarded to eight sites. The awards will enable an assortment of nonprofits in each of these places to plan how to create sustainable change in areas such as effective and accountable government, civic engagement, criminal justice reform, and equal educational opportunity.

In late 2013, OSF will award up to five of these sites long-term implementation grants of up to $1 million a year, for a minimum of three years -- and, potentially, a full decade.

The eight sites selected to receive grants are Albuquerque, New Mexico; Buffalo, New York; Denver, Colorado; Jackson, Mississippi; Louisville, Kentucky; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; San Diego, California; and Puerto Rico. We are pleased with the geographic diversity of these sites as well as the diversity of communities represented.

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[Review] 'Charity Case: How the Nonprofit Community Can Stand Up for Itself and Change the World'

September 20, 2012

(Chuck Bartelt is electronic grant information liaison at the Foundation Center. You can read some of her other reviews here, here, here, and here.)

I'm about to shock you. Twice.

First, did you know that telemarketing firms that solicit donations for charitable causes typically keep 90 percent of the money they raise? That's right: for every ten dollars you donate to a cause through one of these firms, only one dollar actually makes it to the charity in question. And did you know that a substantial percentage of the remaining dollar can be eaten up by executive salaries, advertising, and other overhead, leaving only pennies for the cause you thought you were supporting?

These are just a few of the facts revealed in Dan Pallotta's new book, Charity Case: How the Nonprofit Community Can Stand Up for Itself and Change the World. And if you're like me, you're probably feeling a little cheated right now.

But here's the second shock: according to Pallotta, there's nothing wrong with that.

How can that be? Pallotta argues that executive compensation and overhead expenses cannot be considered in isolation when gauging an organization's effectiveness or efficiency. On the contrary, embracing the tools of capitalism (competitive salaries, advertising, lobbying, etc.) may be the best way for charities to maximize their donations and ultimately deliver superior services and programs.

It's an ends-justifies-the-means approach that many will find at odds with the spirit of the social — or, as Pallotta calls it, humanitarian — sector, and it's one Pallotta embraces unapologetically in his book.

Not surprisingly, Pallotta has had personal experience with these issues. As a younger man, he was an admirer of Werner Erhard, whose Hunger Project was criticized for being self-promotion disguised as philanthropy. Then, in 1994, he founded Pallotta TeamWorks, a for-profit organizer of fundraisers for breast cancer and AIDS charities that eventually closed its doors after a dispute with the Avon Products Foundation. He has since founded Advertising for Humanity, which offers business strategy and branding services to nonprofits, and writes a blog for the Harvard Business Review that, like his earlier book, Uncharitable, champions the view that the tactics and methods of capitalism are not incompatible with social sector work; in fact, adopting them is best thing that could happen to it.

But is a mashup of capitalism and do-gooding really possible?

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[Commentary] If Nonprofits Fail

July 05, 2012

Jennifer Talansky is vice president of knowledge and communications at the Nonprofit Finance Fund, a national nonprofit that provides a continuum of financing, consulting, and advocacy services to nonprofits and funders nationwide. Talansky held previous marketing positions at Credit Suisse Asset Management, Partnerships for Parks, Hearst Magazines Brand Development, and JP Morgan's Private Client Group.

NFF-logoRecently, the Nonprofit Finance Fund released the results of its 2012 State of the Nonprofit Sector Survey. The response to those results has varied widely based on who is interpreting the data. While many who are well-acquainted with the long history of the sector's financial woes saw the results as confirmation of their own experiences, some saw the results and told us, "That doesn't look so bad!" This divergence of perspective about what constitutes a healthy nonprofit sector begs the question: What is an acceptable level of instability -- or even failure -- within the sector?

Nonprofit financial health can be an abstract and technical subject. Let me start with a look at something more familiar. I live in New York City, where there's a pizza joint on almost every corner. Unless she has a favorite or is a friend of the owner, most New Yorkers don't blink if one of these pizza places goes out of business. Heartless as it may seem, it's the kind of economic Darwinism that one grows used to in a city with high commercial rents and an overabundance of almost everything.

Yet, there are repercussions to this kind of churn beyond a more limited pizza choice. The revenue once generated by the shuttered pizza joint supported the owner or group of owners, their families, other dependents, and employees. Its taxes contributed to the maintenance and expansion of the city's infrastructure, including teachers, police, and trash pickup. Perhaps the owners also donated to a local charity, or gave their time to a local business association. And because their basic needs were covered, the pizza shop owners and employees probably did not need to access some of the social safety-net services that a growing number of people in the city have come to rely on. With the failure of that one pizza place, the community lost all the economic and social good that was bound up in it.

Now let's take my example a step further and shift our thinking to the nonprofit sector. Like the pizza place, nonprofits contribute to their local economies in a variety of ways, including rent, the regular purchase of supplies, job creation, and more.

But imagine that the "business" at risk of failing is a domestic violence shelter. And that we're no longer in New York City but instead in a rural community in the Midwest. And that this particular shelter is the only safe haven for women and children within fifty miles. Is it acceptable from a community perspective if the shelter only has enough money to cover the next thirty days of its expenses, as is the case for one in four of the more than forty-six hundred organizations we surveyed? Or that it's like the 50 percent of survey respondents that don't expect to have the resources to keep up with demand for their services in 2012?

One of the more powerful aspects of the survey is its reflection of the collective voice of the organizations working to provide some of the most critical social services in our communities. But we mustn't succumb to statistical numbness: the survey numbers aggregate many individual stories, and each of those stories has local -- or wider -- meaning. For instance, it sounds great that "only" 20 percent of the organizations responding to the survey had to reduce or eliminate programs in the past year. Yet among these nine hundred organizations, 63 percent were unable to keep up with demand for their services. From Georgia to Texas to Montana, this simple fact has serious repercussions for the populations and communities that depend on those organizations and services.

Indeed, consider what a leader of one of those organizations told us: "We have seen a dramatic increase in the need for our services. As available resources decrease across the country, the demand for basic needs continues to grow....Domestic violence is the leading cause of homelessness among women and children in the nation. It takes more than a roof over [one's] head to break the cycle of homelessness, particularly when domestic violence is involved....Our greatest challenge is securing a steady stream of revenue and funding for services and programs."

So when we look at the numbers, it may seem like a small victory that "only" 31 percent of survey respondents finished 2011 with a deficit -- which means the other 69 percent either broke even or ended the year with a surplus. And yet, among the more than twelve hundred organizations that said they ran a deficit in 2011, 39 percent were human services organizations -- precisely the kind of organizations that provide the basic safety-net services that the most vulnerable in our communities rely on -- while another 15 percent work to educate our children.

And as if that's not sobering enough, when respondents filled out the survey in late January, 34 percent of those with a deficit in 2011 were already anticipating operating in the red in 2012. Are the rest of us willing to accept the possibility that, with two (or more) consecutive years of deficits on the books, many of these organizations may have to shut their doors? Do we, as a society, have a plan to replace the critical services they provide? The answers to those questions are unclear, the stakes are high, and, unfortunately, failure is a possibility.

NFF launched its annual sector survey in January 2009, during the darkest days of the recession. The nonprofit financial picture painted in the response to that first year's survey was pretty grim. Our hope, as the economy improved (albeit slowly) in the three-plus years since then, is that we would see a similar positive shift in the nonprofit sector's finances. That has not been the case and any improvements along the way have been modest.

Let's be honest: Business as usual is not working. The business models, revenue sources, and practices that have long been mainstays of the nonprofit sector are no longer adequate to see us through the challenging times that lie ahead. We must consider other approaches that tap new sources of money, generate new cross-sectoral partnerships and ideas, and help identify new solutions to persistent social problems. Because without fundamental change -- change that involves both innovation and more risk taking -- we will see the same disappointing results year after year. And that's a prospect that none of us should be willing to tolerate.

To see the results from the most recent NFF survey and from past annual surveys, please visit http://nonprofitfinancefund.org/survey. For individual stories behind the numbers, the "In their Words" section is likely to be of special interest. And for a more localized look at a particular sub-sector or state, we encourage you to check out our new NFF Survey Analyzer, which lets you easily filter the data in multiple ways.

-- Jennifer Talansky

Which Nonprofits Are Most Ready for Capacity Building?

June 20, 2012

(Alice Hill, a senior consultant at the TCC Group, has over twelve years of experience in the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors, with specific expertise in program design and implementation and nonprofit organizational capacity building. Hill served as project manager of the Challenge Fund for Journalism initiative.)

Alice_hill_TCCWith funds limited, foundations must constantly assess how their money is best spent -- and support for organizational capacity-building support is no exception. How can a funder determine which nonprofit is most likely to benefit from this sort of investment? After all, change is something many talk about, but few actually accomplish. It turns out that, at least in the nonprofit world, desire to change trumps many other factors that are used to gauge "readiness."

A recent study of an initiative to strengthen nonprofit journalism organizations found that mindset matters most. It is not just a willingness to change, but an embrace of the often-messy work of transformation that is the most important indicator of capacity-building success.

The Challenge Fund for Journalism, which I managed, was an innovative funder collaborative that provided matching grants and capacity-building support to fifty-three nonprofit media organizations. Launched in 2004, the initiative brought together and pooled funding from the Ford, Knight, McCormick, and Ethics and Excellence in Journalism foundations and enlisted the management consulting firm TCC Group to provide one-on-one coaching and other resources to participants to guide them on a journey of change.

Collectively, CFJ helped the organizations leverage $3.6 million in grants into almost $9.5 million in matches. Eighty-five percent of the grantees reported that they experienced some positive organizational change, and 90 percent stated that they were able to maintain the progress they had made in diversifying revenues.

My colleagues at TCC and I decided to dig deeper to understand which factors were most important to success. We examined nine criteria that were used to determine readiness at the beginning of the initiative, such as turnover in leadership and management, financial stability, and prior experience with organizational development efforts. Based on experience, we had a sense of what we would find, and our hunch was confirmed. Only one factor significantly correlated with positive outcomes: leaders' motivation to change. The initiative achieved the greatest impact with nonprofit media groups that were ready for transformation at the outset of our engagement with them.

What did this motivation look like? Those groups that flourished most had at least one leader who embraced adaptation and was able to give voice to the need to overhaul business models. He or she was able to turn this recognition into a bold vision for the organization's future. Just as critical, these leaders had the ability to inspire this mindset in others and mobilize teams of supporters. In other words, a leader who could do what so many have found elusive: take the idea of change and turn it into action.

One group I coached, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, was one of these success stories. The center's leaders were highly motivated to confront difficult questions, listen to new ideas, and engage in the complicated work of shifting their practices. They devised innovative approaches to both fundraising and earned income. They articulated a compelling vision and worked at better involving their board, building their networks, and engaging in planning. Executive director Andy Hall notes that "the greatest value of the initiative was that it enabled the center to try out new strategies for growth. Ultimately, we wound up changing our business model."

So, how can funders screen for something as hard to pin down as motivation? At TCC Group, we start with listening. During an in-depth conversation, one can begin to detect whether a nonprofit leader wants a check -- or "seal of approval" from a foundation -- as opposed to being genuinely interested in improving organizational effectiveness. For example, does he or she resist the results of an organizational assessment or challenge the validity of the tool or process? Does a leader invite senior staff and board members to join the conversation? Does a leader demonstrate at the outset a basic understanding of how the organization could grow and improve

In our experience, having a competitive process to select grantees, even if it involves a few relatively simple steps, goes a long way toward weeding out groups and leaders who lack motivation. It's helpful to conduct an organizational assessment upfront, talk about the findings with key leaders, and agree on what needs to be addressed. In this way, funders can be more intentional about looking for the mindset that will put an organization on the path to success.

-- Alice Hill

5Qs for...Alandra Washington, Deputy Director, W.K. Kellogg Foundation

February 15, 2012

Alandra_washingtonIn January, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, with support from Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, released a report based on the work of its Cultures of Giving program, which since 2005 has supported identity-based funds that serve groups traditionally underserved by larger philanthropic institutions. Among other things, the report, Cultures of Giving: Energizing and Expanding Philanthropy by and for Communities of Color (112 pages, PDF), offers a glimpse into the strategies and lessons learned by the largest single funder of identity-based funds in the country and challenges other funders to develop new ways to collaborate with and advance identity-based philanthropy.

As the report suggests, philanthropy in the United States is becoming more diverse -- not only because there are more ways to give than ever before, but also because giving by communities of color is on the rise. And while those communities have supported leadership development and social change initiatives for decades, the growth in identity-based funds has boosted the visibility of such giving. "Communities of color are overflowing with practices of philanthropy and giving, and have been for a long time," says Alandra Washington, deputy director at the Kellogg Foundation. "But very few people in communities of color define their traditions of giving as 'philanthropy.'"

Washington, who joined the foundation in 2002 and oversees its Family Economic Security and Education and Learning programs, served for five years prior to that as CEO of the Greater East St. Louis Community Fund and before that led the New Spirit Organizing Office, also in St. Louis. PND recently spoke with her about the report.

Philanthropy News Digest: From your perspective, what has been the biggest change in philanthropy over the last twenty years?

Alandra Washington: As the report points out, how we define philanthropist and philanthropy have changed a lot over the last twenty years. Today, we're seeing members of communities that are most at-risk pool their resources to address problems in those communities. Small gifts, when combined, can be quite effective in addressing local issues. And, of course, the explosion of new technologies and platforms, things like mobile giving, has made it easier for individuals across the socioeconomic spectrum to give.

PND: How do you and your colleagues define identity-based philanthropy? What are some of the advantages of an identity-based approach for communities of color? And what are some of the challenges?

AW: At its most basic level, identity-based philanthropy is a collective investment in a community by members of that community focused on addressing problems -- across race, class, gender, or whatever else it might be -- affecting that community. One advantage of this type of giving is that it allows individuals who already are giving back to their communities to organize and pool not just their resources but also their knowledge, influence, energy, skills, and pride to build social capital.

At the same time, as with any group working to actualize social change and address specific injustices, our identity-based grantees have come up against a number of social, political, and economic challenges. Volatility in the stock market, for example, has been a challenge for identity-based funds. Even so, they have been able to work around the ongoing economic uncertainty and raise and distribute a record amount of money.

PND: Did the recession have an effect on identity-based philanthropy?

AW: The whole sector was affected by the recession. Unlike traditional donors, however, communities of color continued to give at increasing rates and levels. As the report shows, 63 percent of Latino households now make charitable donations, as do nearly two-thirds of African American households, to the tune of about $11 billion per year. While communities of color weren't immune to the economic downturn, a 2005 paper by John J. Havens and Paul G. Schervish found that aggregate charitable giving by African Americans was increasing at a faster rate than either their aggregate income or wealth. In fact, identity-based funds now raise and distribute nearly $400 million annually, which, as our report notes, is roughly the same as what a foundation with $8 billion in assets would award in grants annually.

PND: The report examines not only what worked for the Cultures of Giving program at the Kellogg Foundation, but also what didn't and why. What was the biggest surprise for you in the report? And what does the foundation hope to gain by sharing this information with the public?

AW: I was most surprised by the resiliency of these organizations and how they learned from their challenges, learned from their failures, and were willing to go back to the drawing board to figure out innovative solutions when confronted with challenges.

By sharing this information with the public, the foundation hopes to show funders and donors alike that there are resources, networks, influencers, and change strategies happening across these communities. We're hoping that others seek out and partner with identity-based groups and leverage their resources. People should walk away from the report knowing that communities of color and identity-based groups have power, influence, and resources, and that they are a great go-to partner.

PND: What advice would you give to funders looking to support identity-based funds?

AW: I would tell them to approach communities of color with a listen-and-learn attitude. It is important for them to understand that this is an emerging field and that there is a lot to learn. Yes, they should also look for ways to partner and collaborate, but first they need to learn as much as they can about the communities they are looking to fund, what's most important to them, and what their approach is to giving. Finally, I would say that funders should try to identify opportunities to leverage the human resources of these communities. All grantmakers, not just those supporting communities of color as part of their mission, should know that there's a cadre of folks in these communities who are willing, able, and ready to partner with them.

-- Regina Mahone

Can Philanthropy Put Humpty-Dumpty Back Together Again?

February 02, 2012

(Michael Edwards is a leading expert on global civil society and the author of Small Change: Why Business Won't Save the World. This is the second in a series of posts in which he looks at different aspects of the Bellagio Initiative, an effort funded by the Rockefeller Foundation to produce a new framework for philanthropic and international development collaboration in pursuit of human well-being. Click here to read the first post in Edwards' series, "Well-Being and Philanthropy," and here to read/download the Bellagio paper from which the quotation below is taken.)

"The more one disaggregates the components of well-being into smaller and more manageable pieces...the more each piece can be measured and controlled in order to improve returns....[B]ut the same pieces can't simply be re-arranged to the same effect in different contexts...."

MikethirdsectorcroppedOne of my most important career lessons was taught to me by Sithembiso Nyoni, an activist in Zimbabwe. "No country in the world has developed itself through projects," she said, reflecting on the tendency of NGOs to fund their own small bits and pieces of development and hope that they add up to something more substantial over time.

Unfortunately, because the larger structures of society evolve organically rather than in assembly line fashion, they rarely do. The long and messy processes that drive our politics, culture change, and institution-building can neither be predicted nor controlled, especially if the outcome is something as complex as well-being. In that sense, development is poetry and foreign aid is prose.

Of course, a clear sense of purpose and direction is important to success. In contrast to Zimbabwe, that was one of the things that distinguished South Korea, Taiwan, and other societies that developed quickly after World War II. But as the experience of those countries also shows, clear goals were balanced by the flexibility to pursue them in lots of different ways as circumstances changed. "Evolution is always surprising," wrote Whole Earth Catalog creator Stewart Brand, "so make room for it. If you let things flourish you get a wild ride, but you also get sustainability." That's been true of all game-changing experiences in development right up to the Arab Spring.

Tension between "local ownership" and "outside intervention" has been woven through the history of development efforts for half a century or more, and it's unlikely to disappear as long as foreign aid is a tool in the foreign policy toolkit. Accountability to taxpayers, concerns about corruption, and a desire to show more "value for money" have all reinforced a project-by-project mentality that a decade ago seemed to be fading in favor of unrestricted support. Projects that are carefully planned and monitored do offer the prospect of more control, even if their influence over the deeper drivers of development is weak. On the plus side, there are many ways to leverage the impact of projects -- including through policy advocacy, capacity building, networking, and knowledge-creation -- so that they become more than small pieces in a jigsaw that can never be completed.

Nevertheless -- and here's the link to current trends in philanthropy -- the idea that successful projects can be "replicated" or "scaled-up" has, for reasons I don't entirely understand, become an article of faith. There are striking similarities between the Millennium Villages Project in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, and the Harlem Children's Zone in New York City. Both have received significant injections of resources in an effort to demonstrate that good results are possible without broader changes in the surrounding environment. The same goes for school-reform efforts and the Obama administration's Social Innovation Fund. Other schools and communities will learn from these experiences and follow a similar path, or so the theory goes.

Except that they don't, because the resources aren't there, or because the same innovation doesn't work or isn't valued when transported to another setting, or because those broader forces have a nasty habit of kicking the ladder away just when you least expect it.

If that's the case, why do pilot projects (or "policy experiments," as they are often referred to in the U.S.) continue to exercise such a powerful hold on the imagination of philanthropists? Perhaps it's because they accomplish other things that are important, like building support for their favored approaches, strengthening networks of people prepared to back them, and keeping alive the comforting thought that social progress can be removed from the influence of politics, economic restructuring, and social struggle.

Even if it could, it would be something of a pyrrhic victory, threatening to sacrifice long-term improvements in the infrastructure of problem-solving for short-term advances in services and other material indicators of success. As fifty years of trial and error in development make clear, however, investing in people's capacities to innovate is much more important than replicating any particular innovation.

But how we do measure success in that kind of scenario? And is there a way to knit all these different approaches together in a positive and constructive fashion? That's the subject of next week's posts.

-- Michael Edwards

2011 Year in Review: Foundations Bet Big on New Initiatives

December 30, 2011

Global, public-private, collaboration, thinking big -- these were some of the themes in play as foundations sought to boost their impact while addressing some of the most pressing challenges at home and abroad in 2011.

In the field of international development, the Chevron-sponsored Niger Delta Partnership Initiative Foundation and USAID pledged $50 million in February to support programs that promote economic development, improve the capacity of government and civil society institutions, and help reduce conflict in the oil-rich Niger Delta region. A month later, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation announced a five-year, $50 million commitment to help improve water conditions for more than one million people in sub-Saharan Africa and areas of India and Mexico -- a commitment that included a grant to the Foundation Center to build an online portal to serve as a central hub for information about water-related issues. In July, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation stepped up its own commitment to WASH issues by awarding grants totaling $41 million in support of efforts to increase access to affordable long-term sanitation solutions for millions of people in the developing world. And in October, George Soros and the Open Society Foundations pledged $27.4 million to the Millennium Villages Project to boost development in villages across rural sub-Saharan Africa.

Closer to home, a number of foundations announced major initiatives benefitting underserved communities and vulnerable populations. In April, the Home Depot Foundation launched a three-year, $30 million initiative to address veterans' housing issues; in May, the New York City-based NoVo Foundation announced a ten-year, $80 million initiative to strengthen the movement to end violence against women and girls; and in July, the California Endowment announced the creation of a $200 million public-private loan fund, the California FreshWorks Fund, to support efforts to increase access to healthy and affordable food in underserved communities.

Filmmakers and performing artists also were beneficiaries of bold thinking on the part of foundations in 2011. In January, the New York City-based Ford Foundation committed $50 million over five years to help identify and support a new generation of documentary filmmakers; in February, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Maryland, announced a $60 million documentary film initiative of its own; and in October, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation announced a ten-year, $50 million commitment to support more than two hundred individual artists in the field of jazz, theater, and contemporary dance.

Finally, in the area of health and health care, in September the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation's largest healthcare philanthropy, announced the launch of a three-year, $100 million "impact" fund to help its grantees leverage additional funding from multiple sources and share solutions that actually improve health and health care for all Americans. As part of the effort, RWJF awarded $10 million to NCB Capital Impact, a national Community Development Finance Institution (and the program administrator for the California Endowment's FreshWorks Fund), to create a low-interest credit facility that will support the development of Green House nursing homes over the next ten years.

"Our goal with this initiative is to go beyond traditional grantmaking, to drive social change, achieve measurable impact, and collaborate with partners who can help us achieve our mission," said RWJF president and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey. "This commitment allows us to better leverage our funding and spread innovative models, like the Green House Project."

Related Links

Ford Foundation Announces $50 Million for Documentary Film Initiative (1/19/11)

HHMI Launches Documentary Film Unit (2/08/11)

Chevron, USAID Pledge $50 Million to Improve Living Standards in Nigeria (2/21/11)

Hilton Foundation Commits $50 Million to Help Improve Global Water Conditions (3/23/11)

Home Depot Foundation Launches $30 Million Initiative to Address Veterans' Housing Issues (4/14/11)

NoVo Foundation Establishes $80 Million Initiative to End Violence Against Women and Girls (5/20/11)

Latin American Water Funds Launched With $27 Million in Funding (6/15/11)

Gates Foundation Announces $42 Million to Address Global Sanitation Issues (7/20/11)

California Endowment Announces $200 Million Public-Private Loan Fund (7/22/11)

Rockefeller Foundation, Partners Launch Initiative on Role of Philanthropy in International Development (8/10/11)

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Establishes $100 Million Impact Capital Fund (9/12/11)

Soros Pledges $27.4 Million to Aid Development in Rural Africa (10/04/11)

Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Commits $50 Million to Support Individual Artists (10/21/11)

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