133 posts categorized "Children and Youth"

Five Things Your Agency Can Do to Deliver Results for Families

January 17, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 16, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Nine Basic Requirements for Child and Youth Participation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Best-Kept Secret: A Strategic ‘Pivot’

December 10, 2019

Greater-Denver-Jewish-Community-Study-2018-300x300There are countless examples of strategic "pivots" to point to in the for-profit world, many of them from the not-too-distant past. Remember when Amazon just sold books, when Netflix mailed DVDs, or when the Gap was a record store that sold Levi's? It's rare, on the other hand, to hear about nonprofits making the same kind of massive changes in strategy. Of course, taking a risk in Silicon Valley (where companies are expected to produce financial returns for their investors) is different than risk-taking in the nonprofit world, where organizations are responsible for having an impact on a social or environmental problem.

But pivoting — a shift in strategy that helps an organization achieve its desired impact — is crucial for nonprofits that want to succeed over the long-term. "Pivot" doesn’t have to be a bad word or signal failure. Think of it, instead, as a natural part of organizational evolution.

Pivots can be large or small, but they should emerge from a clear understanding of what is working and what is not. Using data (e.g., performance metrics, evaluations, and direct observation) to decide whether or not it's time to pivot will ensure that you pivot in the right direction. This kind of intentionality, coupled with the ability to admit what isn't working, makes a strategic pivot different than just throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks.

Organizations that don't pivot eventually end up stuck doing the same old thing, even when evidence points them in another direction. In such a scenario, funders often start to wonder about their investment in a "stuck" organization and whether it's truly creating the impact they would like to see. To help nonprofits that are struggling with the pivot issue, as well as funders who may be sitting on the other side of the table, I wanted to share a story about a pivot made by my organization, UpStart, what we learned from it, and how you can benefit from the same kind of thinking and tactics.

UpStart's flagship initiative in Colorado was our Teen Fellowship program, which each year engaged twenty-four fellows in the fundamentals of social entrepreneurship through a Jewish lens. This program was a part of the larger Denver-Boulder Jewish Teen Initiative to increase engagement of diverse local Jewish teens. In the fellowship, teens worked in small teams to solve a particular problem in their respective communities, developing new initiatives and learning key skills that would help them navigate the world. The program was rated favorably by the teens who participated, but from an outcomes perspective it was becoming increasingly clear it was off-strategy.

UpStart had just updated its theory of change (which affected the organization’s national and local programming, including ours in Colorado), and it was clear that our Teen Fellowship program did not align with the framework. Under the updated theory of change, the organization's goal is not to directly provide experiences for people looking to explore their Jewish identity; instead, we work to inspire bold leaders who are building game-changing Jewish experiences — and connect them to each other to amplify their impact. What's more, the fellowship program was too small to really make the kind of impact we were looking for, and in a landscape already rich with opportunities for teens, it was simply one more option in a crowded field.

We knew Jewish teens would be disappointed when they heard about the decision, so after carefully considering our goals for the region, and in consultation with our funder, the Rose Community Foundation, we decided to transition to a program that would have a wider reach, deeper alignment with our regional strategy, and a clearer connection to our tactical goals.

Explaining the logic behind the transition, Vanessa Bernier, Jewish Life program officer for the Rose Community Foundation, said, "Our goal is to be responsive to changing demographics, which means demonstrating an openness to new ideas, strategies, and innovations. We value our long-standing partnerships with grantees and working together to address the evolving needs of the community."

That was the green light we needed to create the Change Accelerator for Teen Educators, an intensive program that equips individuals with the practical skills needed to identify and launch bold initiatives that meet the ever-evolving needs of Jewish teens in the Denver/Boulder region.

Because we are in the business of helping organizations make change, we took a page out of our own book and leveraged adaptive design — a framework authored by UpStart associates Maya Bernstein and Marty Linsky that brings together the fundamentals of design thinking and adaptive leadership.

We also designed the "pivot" knowing we would need to get our funders on board, identify the outcomes we wanted to achieve, and ensure that our messaging addressed key stakeholder concerns.

As your organization is thinking about making a pivot of its own, consider the following three questions, which are informed by the adaptive design framework:

Who needs to be on board? For our pivot, we knew we needed the leadership of our Colorado team to assess the strategy and provide implementation recommendations. We also needed the green light from UpStart's national leadership team, as well as our funders.

Before presenting the details of a pivot to stakeholders, consider carefully what your data, evaluations, direct observations, and experience have to say about how your audience is likely to receive the new program and why a pivot is needed. Then, share that data with those authorized to make the final decision.

How clear are you about your goals and outcomes? Before moving forward with our pivot, we confirmed the primary reason for making the change by looking at both our theory of change and the impact our funders wanted to see: increasing the reach of our programs. Today, our new program directly serves seven teen educators at six different organizations across the Denver/Boulder region, where they are in a position to have a positive impact on dozens, if not hundreds of teens (many more than the original program).

When you're ready to flip the switch on your pivot, be sure to engage your stakeholders in a dialogue around the best path forward. Creating transparency around the process will help ensure that there's alignment between you and your funder(s).

Who will be affected when you make the pivot? Any time a nonprofit pivots, there will be people who are excited about the change and those who aren't. In pivoting away from our Teen Fellowship program, we knew that teens, parents, and several community partners in the region would feel the loss. We also realized we needed to help other stakeholders understand why it was time for a change.

Once you decide to make a pivot, be clear with your stakeholders about the reasons why. When you communicate with them, be sure to paint a picture of the impact you’re hoping to realize, whom you hope to help, and how you plan to achieve your new goals and objectives.

Our pivot represented a risk for us, but we were able to leverage our data and experience to make the case to our funder, the Rose Community Foundation, with transparency and the appropriate level of urgency. The foundation was already invested in our success, and because we had put a significant amount of time into building a relationship with the team there, and they in us, we didn't think twice about approaching them and trusting that they would be a thoughtful partner in helping us settle on our best next steps.

As nonprofit expert Vu Le wrote in a recent post on his Nonprofit AF blog, "The best, most helpful program officers see themselves as partners in the work....Working with them is fun, and I never feel like I have to hide anything, such as when things don't go well. This sort of relationship fosters transparency, trust, and respect, which leads to more effective strategies that benefit the communities we serve."

By fully committing to an intentional, strategic pivot, nonprofits can put themselves in a position to more quickly adapt to the diverse needs of the communities they serve. UpStart, like so many other nonprofits and funders, is striving to create a more just, vibrant, and inclusive future, and increased participation in Jewish life is one part of that bigger picture. Our recent pivot has helped us increase our impact and effectiveness, and as our community and region continue to change, we'll be looking for other such opportunities.

Headshot_Sarah Kornhauser_UPDATEDSarah Kornhauser is Director, Colorado for UpStart, which is part of the Denver-Boulder Jewish Teen Initiative. The initiative is one of ten such initiatives across the country comprising the Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Funder Collaborative.

Building the Community We'd Like to See

August 08, 2019

Logo_BCYFPresident Trump recently made disparaging remarks about Baltimore that made headlines across the country. His comments stoked anger and outrage. He tarred Baltimore with a broad and reckless brush without offering even a token gesture of support from his administration.

This president has learned it is easy to throw stones. He hasn't learned how to pick up stones and build. Instead of tearing us down, Baltimore needs leaders at the state and federal levels who are committed to building.

Like many American cities, Baltimore struggles with the long-term consequences of disinvestment and segregation: aging infrastructure, dwindling resources, and too few opportunities for young people.

And so our city celebrated the creation of the historic Baltimore Children and Youth Fund as a beacon of hope and possibility, and as a commitment to the city's most important resource for the future: our young people.

BCYF was launched in 2015 by Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young, who was then the president of the Baltimore City Council. The fund was approved by voters in November 2016 with more than 80 percent support. The non-lapsing fund is supported through an annual set aside of property tax revenue.

Baltimore is only the third city in the nation to create such a fund, and it is the only fund of its kind that has included a racial equity and community participatory lens in grant selections. You will not find this sort of program anywhere in the country.

Why does this matter?

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (June 2018)

July 01, 2019

Is it us, or does chronological time seem to be accelerating? Before the first half of 2019 becomes a distant memory, take a few minutes to check out some of the most popular posts on the blog in June. And remember: You're not getting older, you're gaining wisdom.

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

Youth Apprenticeship: Accelerating a Path to College and Career Success 

June 13, 2019

MachineapprenticeWe seem to have reached a consensus that, in today's economy, it's nearly impossible to secure a quality job and get on the path to economic stability without postsecondary education. But the reality of student loan debt and surveys which show college graduates don’t feel prepared for their career of choice challenges the narrative that a successful future is intrinsically linked to a college degree.

Reality is also hitting employers' bottom lines as businesses of all sizes and in a variety of fields, including information technology, manufacturing, finance, and healthcare, struggle to fill good-paying positions. The pipeline that used to lead young people through high school and, ultimately, to the skills needed to secure those jobs is broken — and it might not have ever worked equitably, anyway.

It's clear our country needs additional, widely accessible postsecondary options that provide young people with the foundational skills, experiences, and credentials they need to thrive in a rapidly changing economy.

K-12 systems, institutions of higher education, and industries alike have been searching for solutions that reflect the current and future state of work, with little success. For decades, philanthropy has been investing to improve educational outcomes and college access, and it, too, recognizes that new approaches are needed, and fast.

That's why we funded the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship (PAYA), a multi-stakeholder New America-led initiative to promote more equitable and sustainable pathways to economic mobility. PAYA aims to do this by partnering with educators and employers to build more scalable long-term solutions that have been proven to help youth acquire the skills they need to navigate the rapidly changing world of work.

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Advancing Child Welfare's New Imperative: Ensuring a Stable, Loving Home for Every Child

June 10, 2019

HLT01819During the early 2000s, the number of international adoptions reached unprecedented levels. At the same time, a number of high-profile celebrities adopted children born overseas, raising the visibility of a pathway that has provided loving, permanent homes to thousands of children since the 1950s.

In the years since, international adoption numbers have fallen
82 percent, with just 4,059 children joining families in the United States in 2018, according to a U.S. State Department report.

A host of complex factors have contributed to the decline. These range from the implementation of initiatives to help children remain with their birth families and increased domestic adoption in some countries, to changes in adoptive family eligibility in others. Some countries have closed their international adoption programs due to concerns about unethical practices — or for reasons of politics. In many cases, however, the process has simply become too difficult or costly for families seeking to adopt a child from overseas.

For children waiting for families, this is a devastating trend.

Across the globe, millions of children are growing up in overcrowded, underfunded orphanages. Many have never experienced the love and nurturing care of a devoted parent or caregiver. And many have special medical or developmental needs — needs that too often go unmet.

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5 Questions for…Lori Bezahler, President, Edward W. Hazen Foundation

May 02, 2019

In 2000, Lori Bezahler was young, idealistic and running the Education and Youth Services division of a large nonprofit in New York. She came across an ad that piqued her interest: Public Education Program Officer Edward W. Hazen Foundation. Bezahler was intrigued by the foundation’s idea that organizing could be used as a tool to change the conditions that adversely affect people’s lives, with a focus on communities of color and in the area of education. So she applied for and got the job. A few years later, in 2004, Barbara Taveras, the foundation's then-president, decided to step down. The foundation's board conducted a search for Taveras's replacement and chose Bezahler.

In the decade and a half since, Bezahler and the Hazen Foundation have been in the forefront of the movement for racial justice in American society, supporting the leadership of young people and communities of color in dismantling structural inequity based on race and class. To accelerate that work at this critical juncture, the Hazen board announced in March that the foundation would be spending down its endowment over the next five years in support of education and youth organizing, with a focus on racial justice.

PND spoke with Bezahler shortly after the board’s announcement to learn more about how and why the decision to spend down was made, how it will be executed, and what the foundation hopes to achieve over the next five years.

Headshot_lori_bezahlerPhilanthropy News Digest: The Hazen Foundation was established in 1925, making it one of the oldest private foundations in the United States. For decades, the foundation focused its resources on "the lack of values-based and religious instruction in higher education." Then, in the 1970s, it began to focus on public education and youth develop­ment, and in the late '80s it shifted its focus to community organizing for school reform. In 2009, under your leadership, the foundation made another shift, and began to focus more explicitly on race as the basis of oppression. Can you speak, broadly, to the process and the people who’ve helped shaped the foundation’s evolution over the last ninety-plus years?

Lori Bezahler: I'm glad you brought up the foundation's establishment, because I think Edward and Helen Hazen, the couple who created it, were really interesting people. They were childless themselves and were involved, during their lifetimes, in a number of char­ities that focused on young people. A lot of that work influenced the founding docu­ments of the foundation and its approach from the beginning, especially the importance of thinking about young people in terms of their whole selves, thinking about character development, about the way each of us incorporates our values and our beliefs into our lives. That's been a common thread through all the years and decades of the foundation's work. And over that span of time, a couple of people have been especially important in shaping the institu­tion that is Hazen today.

The first is Paul Ylvisaker, who was well known for the urban planning and anti-poverty work he did for the Johnson administration in the 1960s and later at the Ford Foundation, before becoming a dean at Harvard. He also was a trustee of the Hazen Foundation. From what I've read of our history and in board minutes and things like that he was influential in a number of ways. One was thinking about policies and their impact in broad structural terms. The other was the decision to recommend bringing Jean Fairfax, who just passed away at the age of 98, onto the board. At the time, Jean was a young African-American woman and lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and as far as we can tell from our research, she was the first African-American woman to be appointed to the board of a national foundation. In that role, she was instrumental in bringing attention to issues of race and representation by demanding that prospective grantees of the foundation share information about the demographics of their leadership, the nature of the community they served, and whether leadership was representative of that community. Jean was instrumental in moving the foundation's board to think more intentionally about where we, as an institution, put our dollars and the importance of self-determination.

There were others who followed in her footsteps. Sharon King led the foundation for a few years in the late 1980s, and it was under her leadership that the foundation began its work in the field of community organizing, or, as Sharon used to say, with organizations that had their feet in the community, that were grounded and embedded in the com­munity and not parachuting in, and that had leadership that was representative of the community.

After Sharon left, Barbara Taveras took over as president and really built out the foundation's understanding of organizing. She was very thoughtful in considering how a foundation could and should relate to the field through partnering, listening, and acting in a learning mode, rather than a prescriptive mode.

There were also a number of people who helped move the foundation in the direction of having an explicit focus on race. The person I would call out especially in that respect is Daniel HoSang, who was appointed to the board when he was at the Center for Third World Organizing and today is an associate professor of American studies and ethnic studies at Yale. Dan was a member of the board for ten years and really championed the idea that the foundation should specify race as a focus and think about it structurally rather than individually. He was crucial in that regard.

PND: Your board recently announced that the foundation was going to spend out its endowment over the next five years. How did that decision come about?

LB: The impetus to consider a dramatic change in how the foundation does business came about as the result of a sort of fundamental questioning of the foundation's role in a time that presents us all with great challenges but also great opportunities. It's a moment that is lifting up the potential and possibilities for the very work the Hazen Foundation has spent so many years doing. The relationships we've created, in the fields of youth organizing, racial and education justice; the way we've been able to bring that kind of work into the broader philanthropic conversation and raise it up to some of our peers and partners — all that figured into it.

And all those different factors caused us to pause and say, Are we stepping up? Are we doing everything we can be doing? Clearly, there are assumptions around perpetuity in philan­thropy, and they're based on some good thinking. I'm not saying that perpetuity is ridiculous — it's not. If you look at the numbers, you actually spend more over time, it gives you the opportunity to build something and be there for the long haul.

But there are moments when it's not enough, when the damage done by misguided policies or irresponsible leadership in the short-term will have ripple effects across time that demand you think differently about how you use your resources. And when, on top of that, there's an established body of work that you can build on to do something meaningful by concentrating your resources — well then you don't really have a choice.

That was the question we asked ourselves, and the process to get to the announcement took nearly two years. We did a lot of research, everything from literature scans to interviews to surveys. We talked to lots of people in the field, including our grantees and partners. We talked to people who had served in leadership roles in other spend-down institutions and asked them what worked and what didn't work, what were the pros and what were the cons. We looked at other options besides spending down. And we did a lot of financial modeling. I mean, we conducted an enormous amount of research, because I think the board felt very strongly that if we were going to do this, if we were going to turn out the lights on this institution and the work we have been supporting over many decades, it's got to be done in a way that is meaningful. The approach was deliberate and rational, but we also did a lot of soul searching about what it all meant and whether we were doing everything possible to fulfill the mission of the institution or whether there was something different we needed to do.

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Newsmaker: Cathy Cha, President, Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund

February 07, 2019

Cathy Cha, who officially stepped into the role of president of the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund in January, has long worked to advance new models for how foundations can collaborate with advocates, communities, and government to achieve greater impact. Cha joined the Haas, Jr. Fund in 2003 as a program officer. From 2009 to 2016, she managed its immigrant rights >portfolio, leading efforts to bring together funders and local leaders to strengthen the immigration movement in California. For the past two years, Cha served as vice president of programs at the Fund.

Cha co-created and led the California Civic Participation Funders, an innovative funder collaborative that is supporting grassroots efforts across California to increase civic participation and voting among immigrants, African Americans, and other underrepresented populations. She also worked with legal service providers and funder partners to launch the New Americans Campaign, which has helped more than 370,000 legal permanent residents in eighteen cities become U.S. citizens, and helped jumpstart efforts to create the African American Civic Engagement Project, an alliance of community leaders, funders, and local groups working to empower African-American communities.

PND asked Cha about new efforts at the fund, its priorities for 2019, and the evolving role of philanthropy in bringing about a more just and equal society.

Headshot_Cathy_ChaPhilanthropy News Digest: Your appointment to the top job at the fund was announced in January 2017, and you're stepping into the shoes of Ira S. Hirschfield, who led the fund for twenty-eight years. What did you do to prepare during the two-year transition period? And what was the most important thing you learned from Ira?

Cathy Cha: One of Ira's greatest contributions was the way he encouraged the fund's board, staff, and grantees to really dream about how to have more impact in the world. That dare-to-dream philosophy has allowed us and our partners to reach ambitious goals — from achieving marriage equality to making California the most immigrant-affirming state in the country.

Today, the fund remains committed to supporting people's best aspirations of what's possible for their communities. In 2018, we co-launched the California Campus Catalyst Fund with a group of undocumented student advocates and community experts. With investment from thirteen funders, we're now supporting thirty-two urban, suburban, and rural public college and university campuses across the state to significantly expand legal and other support services for undocumented students and their families at a time of incredible need. It's a great example of how philanthropy can work with community partners to catalyze and support solutions that make a real difference.

PND: Over the last two years, the fund managed an organizational transition that included the expansion of the board to include members of the next generation of the Haas family and the hiring of new staff at both the program and senior leadership levels. What was the overarching strategy behind those moves, and what kind of changes do you hope they lead to?

CC: During this transition, we were intentional about addressing a couple of key questions. How can we keep this organization relevant and responsive in a volatile and changing environment? And how can we set ourselves up to write a bold new chapter in the Haas, Jr. Fund's work? We want to be positioned for bigger impact to meet today's and tomorrow's challenges. We're building a leadership and staff team that represents and affirms the fund's enduring values. Our new board members are committed to building on their grandparents' legacy, and they bring new and valuable perspectives to the fund's work. We have staff members who have lived the immigrant experience, people who are LGBT, and individuals who are the first in their families to go to college. Whether I'm working with our board or the staff, I see a team with deep connections to the communities and the issues we care about, a profound belief in civil rights values and leveling the playing field, and an abiding commitment to excellence and progress. That gives me real hope and confidence for the future.

PND: In January you said you would "be launching a process in the weeks ahead to explore how the fund and our partners can strengthen our impact." What can you tell us about that process?

CC: These are extremely trying times for our country. Many communities we care about are feeling threatened and vulnerable. Given the challenges of this moment, as well as the opportunities that come with the changes we've experienced at the fund, it's an opportune time for us to think creatively about how we can have more impact.

Like any other foundation, we are always evaluating how we can do a better job. But in the coming months, we want to take some time to think in new ways about how to make sure we're doing everything we can to make a positive difference and up our game. That's going to mean reflecting on some of the lessons from our recent work, weighing where we've made mistakes and why, and understanding how we can maximize the huge potential of our staff and our nonprofit, government, and business partners to make the world a better, fairer place.

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Weekend Link Roundup (December 15-16, 2018)

December 16, 2018

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

Children and Youth

Once a thriving center of industry, Hudson, New York, was hit hard by de-industrialization over the closing decades of the twentieth century. But a recent wave of gentrification has made it a darling of tourists and second-home owners — a renaissance that hasn't benefited all its residents, write Sara Kendall and Joan E. Hunt on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health blog. Kendall, a co-founder and assistant director of Kite’s Nest, a center for liberatory education in Hudson, and Hunt, co-director of the Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood, share some of what they have learned through the Raising Places, an initiative funded by RWJF that has spent the last year exploring ideas about how to create healthier communities that are also vibrant places for kids to grow up.

The Philanthropic Initiative's Robin Baird shares some of the themes related to the critical work of supporting young people that kept popping up at the 2018 Grantmakers for Education Conference in San Diego.

Civic Engagement

Martha Kennedy Morales, a third-grader at Friends Community School, a small private Quaker school in College Park, Maryland, ran for class president and lost, by a single vote, to a popular bot in the fourth grade. Then she got the surprise of her life. The Washington Post's Valerie Strauss shares what happened next on her Answer Sheet blog.

Fundraising/Marketing

On the GuideStar blog, George Crankovic, an experienced copywriter and strategist, shares three fundraising lessons he learned the hard way. 

Getting Attention! blogger Nancy Schwartz shares some advice for development and fundraising folks who want to use stories and photos of clients in their organizations' fundraising materials but also want to be respectful of their privacy.

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Weekend Link Roundup (December 8-9, 2018)

December 09, 2018

F2abfbb4-60b6-4641-ae9f-37fc3299453b-Dole_BushA weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Children and Youth

Here on PhilanTopic, the Heising-Simons Foundation's Barbara Chow, and Shannon Rudisill, executive director of the Early Childhood Funders Collaborative, discuss  the results of a joint effort to map the last ten years of philanthropic giving in the field of Early Childhood Care and Education

Climate Change

On the Surdna Foundation site, Helen Chin, director of the foundation's Sustainable Environments program, explains how a recent rethinking of the program was an "opportunity to build community resilience...in partnership with grantees working at the frontlines in communities of color — communities hardest hit by climate change, disinvestment, and racist planning practices."

A caravan of Central American migrants "seeking relief from a protracted drought that has consumed food crops and contributed to widespread poverty," hundreds of millions of people in India at increased risk of not having enough water, prolonged drought in the Horn of Africa that has "pushed millions of the world's poorest to the edge of survival" — all, writes Landesa's Karina Kloos, "are stark reminders that the most severe consequences of climate change are being inflicted upon people living in the Global South...."

Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg traveled to Iowa this week to take the temperature of Democratic primary voters and while there vowed to make climate change "the issue" of the 2020 presidential race. Trip Gabriel reports for the New York Times.

Criminal Justice

A new report funded by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation found that the arrest rate for California has dropped 58 percent since 1989, reaching a historic low of 3,428 per 100,000 residents in 2016. The report also found that individuals who are arrested tend to be nonwhite, younger, and male; that racial disparities in arrests have narrowed; that overall declines are mainly due to plummeting arrest rates for juveniles and young adults; and that women account for nearly a quarter of all arrests.

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A Conversation With Barbara Chow, Heising-Simons Foundation, and Shannon Rudisill, Early Childhood Funders Collaborative

December 04, 2018

This month, the Heising-Simons Foundation, the Early Childhood Funders Collaborative, and Foundation Center will be launching a joint effort to map the last ten years of philanthropic giving in the field of Early Childhood Care and Education. The resulting interactive map of the funding landscape is publicly available and offers a valuable starting place for funders and practitioners to explore historical giving data in the context of demographic and education indicators. The map also includes deep dives into the evidence base around professional development and family engagement efforts, two areas of particular growth and interest to the field. A free webinar about the project will be held starting at 1:00 pm EST on December 12.

In advance of the launch, we spoke with Barbara Chow, director of the education program at the Heising-Simons Foundation, and Shannon Rudisill, executive director of the Early Childhood Funders Collaborative, about the project.

Headshot_chow_rudisill_compFoundation Center: Tell us about your motivations for commissioning and/or participating in this effort.

Barbara Chow: Well, we were about to start a strategic planning process, so naturally, the first question we set out to address was, how does our past and future funding fit into the larger funding landscape? We recognized that our understanding of the landscape was largely anecdotal as opposed to empirical. So, our interest was in figuring out whether what we had assumed to be true could be validated by grants data.

I realized that this was not the first time I had encountered this question. Usually, a foundation works with a consultant to conduct a series of interviews for the purpose of understanding the funding priorities of other foundations. The limitation of this approach, in my experience, is that as soon as the scan is completed it’s often out of date because one of the foundations has embarked on its own strategic planning process and will soon be on to something different. The real value in working with Foundation Center on this is that the map is dynamic and continuously updated with new data. It doesn't require human beings to go back and redo it every time a foundation wants to scan the field.

Shannon Rudisill: This project and the idea of hosting it with the Early Childhood Funders Collaborative is a natural fit for us. As our name says, we are about helping philanthropic collaborations in the area of early childhood get started, deepen their work, and thrive. The map is a fantastic tool for helping both national and regional foundations identify others who are working on these issues and who have similar goals.

The other reason this is a great resource to have sitting with the Early Childhood Funders Collaborative is because, as a publicly available resource, it’s not only available to ECFC members and early childhood funders, it’s also available to funders who are focused on K-12 education, poverty alleviation, and family economic success. We’re seeing a lot of outreach from folks working in those areas, and this tool can serve them as well.

Foundation Center: After spending a significant amount of time with both the grantmaking data and the evidence review, what are some of your takeaways?

Barbara Chow: I have four main takeaways.

My first takeaway is that, according to the map, between 2006 and 2016, philanthropy invested a little more than $6 billion in early childhood education. It's not a huge amount, especially when you think about it in relationship to public-sector funding for the issue, which is a much bigger number, and the clear and unequivocal return on investment for the field. Even though so many foundations are supporting powerful work, the scale overall is pretty small.

Shannon Rudisill: One way to think about it is that when looking at the total philanthropic funding over ten years, it's about two-thirds of annual public funding for the Head Start program.

Barbara Chow: The second thing I took away from the map is that the ECE funding landscape is fairly fragmented. When we look more closely at the $6 billion of funding over ten years, we see that the number of recipients and number of funders is not that different. Unlike some other fields, the bulk of the money is not going to a few nonprofits; in the case of ECE, it's going to a lot of different groups. In some ways that mirrors the fragmentation of early childhood care and education generally in this country. Unlike K-12, which has a lot of challenges and can be a hard system to move but nevertheless is a system, ECE isn’t. It's an amalgamation of many, many different funding sources, each with their own interests and each subject to different regulations from different levels of government, whether federal, state, or local. And that has resulted in a lot of challenges for providers, who struggle to meet all the different requirements from different government agencies, as well as for families, who have to contend with a maze of different, non-intersecting requirements. This fragmentation is a topic that the ECE field talks and worries a lot about, and it is something that philanthropy is trying its best to address. But the numbers here suggest a lot of dispersion, despite what in my experience has been a high level of collaboration in the early childhood grantmaking community.

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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.

The Power of the Arts to Heal

November 20, 2018

Muzika2The Nord Family Foundation has been exploring the role we can play regarding emerging evidence about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES), a significant risk factor for a variety of health and social problems across the lifespan and a major factor in much of the work we fund. One of our recent grantees in this area is the Resilient Richland Initiative (RRI) in Columbia, South Carolina, one of several NFF-funded projects that are working to address trauma-informed care.

Our decision to support RRI is based on numerous conversations with leaders and officials from nonprofits, government, and schools who struggle to address complex social issues rooted in ACEs, which researchers have defined as physical or emotional abuse or neglect, sexual abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse or mental illness in the home, parental separation or divorce, having an incarcerated household member, and, in rare cases, not being raised by both of one's biological parents. According to researchers, the effects of sustained trauma during childhood and adolescence have an impact on adolescent health and educational status, increasing the likelihood of an adolescent having to repeat a grade, lowering his or her resilience, and increasing his or her risk for learning and behavioral issues, suicidal ideation, and early sexual activity and pregnancy. For too many in our nation, these factors can lead to a life of poverty and desperation.

Once ACEs have been diagnosed, the goal is to create resilience in the individual in which it has been diagnosed, with a focus on the assets — as opposed to risks and deficits — that he or she possesses, including such things as coping skills and family and community supports.

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What's New at Foundation Center Update (October)

October 24, 2018

FC_logoAs the change of seasons brings cooler weather, I spend more time thinking about cozying up with a good book. Here at Foundation Center, we've released a lot of new content that might make for good armchair reading material. Read on to learn more:

Projects Launched

  • We're thrilled to have launched GrantCraft's latest guide, Deciding Together: Shifting Power and Resources Through Participatory Grantmaking, a first-of-its-kind look at how funders can cede decision-making power about funding decisions to the communities they aim to serve. The guide is complemented by a suite of resources at participatorygrantmaking.org. This was a labor of love for me over the past nearly two years and I’m biased, but I really think you should read this!
  • September was Nonprofit Radio Month and a number of Foundation Center staff, including Grace Sato and David Rosado of our Knowledge Services team and Susan Shiroma of our Social Sector Outreach team, were guests on Tony Martignetti’s Nonprofit Radio show, which was broadcast to viewers across the country from our beautiful library at 32 Old Slip in Manhattan's Financial District. Be sure to check out Grace, David, and Susan talking with Tony about why data matters, community foundations, and family foundations.
  • Foundation Maps: Australia was launched at the Philanthropy Australia National Conference. A joint effort of Philanthropy Australia and Foundation Center, this interactive platform is designed to facilitate greater transparency and insights about the grantmaking practices of Australian foundations.
  • In partnership with a group of community foundation leaders, CF Insights conducted a field-wide survey of community foundation CEOs to determine the level of demand for a formalized network that would help them connect with one another on issues relevant to the community foundation field. Check out the results of the survey here.
  • Foundation Center, GlobalGiving, and GuideStar released BRIDGE (Basic Registry of Identified Global Entities) information as open data, making it easier to identify and share information about entities around the world that are working to advance social good. The launch of BRIDGE open data represents both a cross-organizational collaboration as well as a collaboration between our Data and Technology and Knowledge Services teams.
  • During this webinar, Grantmakers of Western Pennsylvania, Northeastern Pennsylvania Grantmakers, and Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia announced the joint launch of Pennsylvania Foundation Stats, a new online dashboard that provides a window on the philanthropic landscape in Pennsylvania as well as four distinct regions in the state.

Content Published

In the News

What We're Excited About

  • We're partnering with the Early Childhood Funders' Collaborative and the Heising-Simons Foundation on a new interactive mapping tool that will serve as a valuable starting point for funders and practitioners looking to support the learning and development of young children across the country. The tool is expected to launch in December
  • Foundation Center South doubled its Boys and Men of Color (BMOC) Executive Director Collaboration Circle funding with a $20,000 grant from the Charles M. & Mary D. Grant Foundation. The funds will support BMOC in the metro Atlanta region through a range of activities, including building the capacity of leaders and organizations, identifying and actively engaging leaders in and outside of philanthropy committed to investing in BMOC, and improving public policy in support of BMOC.
  • We'll be launching a brand-new self-paced e-learning course, How to Start a Major Gift Program, in November.
  • And we'll be participating in a panel discussion, Demystifying Nonprofit and Foundation Collaboration, at the IS-sponsored Upswell gathering in November, where we'll discuss valuable insights related to how you can create collaboration opportunities among your peers and with your grantees.

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Our staff will be attending these upcoming events:

Services Spotlight

  • 212,359 new grants added to Foundation Maps in September, of which 45,078 grants were made to 6,810 organizations outside the U.S.
  • Update Central is back in Foundation Directory Online. Register for monthly alerts to ensure you’re up-to-date on grantmaker leadership changes and new foundations.
  • New data sharing partners: Muncie Altrusa Foundation; Harry M., Miriam C. & William C. Horton Foundation; Catherine McCarthy Memorial Trust Fund; and United Way of Western Connecticut. Tell your story through data so we can communicate philanthropy's contribution to making a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.
  • 18 new organizations have joined our Funding Information Network this year, including the Puerto Rico Science Technology and Research Trust, the First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania, and the Roswell Public Library in Georgia.

Data Spotlight

  • Did you know that 8 percent of all human rights funding is granted to support civic and political participation? Funders around the globe are working to support the right to peaceful assembly, informed voting, and full participation in political processes. Explore humanrightsfunding.org to learn more.
  • In honor of Global Handwashing Day (October 15), we're highlighting the fact that more than 920 funders have made grants totaling $273 million to support basic sanitation and health education around the world. Check out WASHfunders.org to learn more about funders working to solve the world's water and sanitation crises.
  • Lastly, we completed custom data searches for Oregon State University, the ClimateWorks Foundation, the Bush School, Texas A&M University, McKinsey & Company / Minnesota Community Foundation, and California Environmental Associates (CEA).

If you found this update helpful, feel free to share it or shoot us an email. I'll be back next month with another update!

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center.

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  • "Let the watchwords of all our people be the old familiar watchwords of honesty, decency, fair-dealing, and commonsense...."

    — Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919)

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