175 posts categorized "Climate Change"

[Review] The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story of the Future

September 16, 2020

23499-The-Uninhabitable-Earth_David-Wallace-Wells-1Published in February, before the COVID-19 pandemic and national protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd grabbed the world's attention, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells provides an utterly disturbing picture of the many ways in which global warming will transform every aspect of life on the planet — changes, according to Wallace-Wells, likely to lead to untold human suffering and quite possibly the extinction of our species. As he frames what follows in the first line of the book, "it is worse, much worse, than you think."

A deputy editor at New York, Wallace-Wells first came to the attention of the public three years ago with an article in that publication about the perils of climate change. In it, he outlined some of the repercussions we are likely to face if we fail to take meaningful action to slow global warming, and his book expands on that warning. Or, as he puts it, the book is not "about the science of warming; it is about what warming means to the way we live on this planet."

The many examples he marshals in support of that statement are grim and left this reader with a sinking feeling that has been hard to shake. As Wallace-Wells writes, efforts to hold the average global temperature below 2°C above pre-industrial levels already seem doomed, and for every half degree of warming societies will experience a 10 percent to 20 percent increase in the likelihood of armed conflict. By 2050, the global production of fossil fuel-based plastic is expected to triple, and it is possible there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans. With a 2.5°C increase in warming, the planet may experience a global food deficit. In the American West, wildfires will consume sixteen times more acreage than they do today. With a 4°C increase, hundreds of cities will be inundated by sea-level rise, and in many others venturing out of doors will be life-threatening. An additional 200 million people will become climate refugees.

But Wallace-Wells doesn't confine himself to the familiar dangers of rising sea levels, ocean acidification, or furnace-like temperatures rendering mega-cities uninhabitable. As an environmental studies major, I have read about the likelihood of an increase in interpersonal conflict and domestic violence due to increasing temperatures, but I hadn't heard about the unpredictable ways in which gut microbiota may react to a warming planet. Wallace-Wells describes unknowns like these as "elements of chaos," and warns that no single one, but rather many in combination, are what is likely to bring about our demise.

There is little to take comfort from in the book, and that's intentional. Just four years ago, the Paris climate agreement committed the global community to keeping global temperature rise below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C. (The United States pulled out of the agreement after Donald Trump's election.) Tragically, the former worst-case scenario now looks like an improbable best-case outcome, with some climate experts predicting four degrees of warming by 2100. Because such numbers are small and an abstraction for most people, we tend to seek reassurance and comfort by trivializing the difference between them. But as noted above, Wallace-Wells makes sure his readers comprehend how catastrophic the consequences of one extra degree of warming are likely to be. And when we start to contemplate the now worst-case outcome of six to eight degrees of warming, the level of uncertainty — and catastrophe — can barely be comprehended.

If there's a silver lining in the book it is that Wallace-Wells does not want to shock his readers into paralysis: "I am optimistic," he writes. "I know there are horrors to come….But those horrors are not yet scripted." In other words, the future is editable, and it's up to each of us to decide how much worse — or better — it will be. Indeed, dozens of solutions to global warming have been proposed and the technologies to implement them exist. So why hasn't the global community been able to come together and move them forward?

From normalization of the risks (think frog in a pot of water) to fear of the unknown, Wallace-Wells outlines many possible reasons as to why we have settled into uneasy complacency. And yet, he remains optimistic, writing in closing, "if there is to be any chance of preserving even the hope for that happier future…[c]all me crazy, or better yet naive, but I still think we can."

Though the sentiment is meant to leave the reader feeling she can make a difference, it doesn't do much to erase the existential dread that permeates the book. Yes, we want to be optimistic, but that dread keeps tugging at us, sapping our energy and resolve. Wallace-Wells implores us to snap out of it. As yet another record-setting wildfire season in the American West makes all too clear, we need to lean into that dread and ramp up our sense of urgency, not to mention agency, with respect to global warming. Educating ourselves about the challenge is a great way to start and sharing what we learn with others is a critical next step. Climate change is everyone's problem, in that almost everyone will be impacted. As he writes, "there is no single way to best tell the story of climate change….Any story that sticks is a good one."

Wallace-Wells has written a pretty powerful one.

Headshot_issy_nesciIzzy Nesci, a former intern in the Insights department at Candid, is an environmental studies major at Bucknell University.   

COVID-19 Is Prompting a Global Response From Impact Investors

May 13, 2020

Impact investing_610x308For most of us, the coronavirus pandemic is the first truly global crisis of our lifetimes. But while signs of progress against the virus have emerged from parts of Asia and Europe, infections and virus-related deaths continue to climb in the United States, and it seems as if large parts of the Global South are still in the early stages of their infection curves.

Our extensive webs of human connection are the proximate cause of the virus's rapid spread around the globe, highlighting, like nothing in recent memory, our global interconnectedness.

Ironically, those same links are also critical to the solution to the problem.

Across the impact investing community, COVID-19 is prompting a global response that those of us in the impact investing community have been proud to witness. Impact investors are doing what they do best: leveraging the power of finance to address the world's biggest challenges. It is already becoming clear that the ripple effects of the pandemic intersect with many of the goals impact investors have focused on for years: broadening access to affordable health care and housing, creating quality jobs, and building more sustainable agriculture and energy systems.

Among the hundreds of member organizations in the Global Impact Investing Network, tangible actions aimed at changing the course of the pandemic are unfolding. At the GIIN, we see those actions falling into three primary phases: a response phase, with a focus on immediate health and financial needs; a recovery phase, with a focus on rebuilding and tackling the social and economic impacts of the pandemic; and a resilience phase, with a focus on long-term systems change.

In many cases, impact investors are adjusting financing terms for existing investees as a first and immediate response. By making debt repayment terms more forgiving, impact investors are ensuring that social and environmental enterprises can continue to provide critical services — even as many struggle to overcome virus-related cash crunches.

Many impact investors also are offering bridge loans to their investees. Such loans are meant to help businesses cover expenses like payroll, rents, and other operational costs until emergency government aid arrives or consumer demand revives. Others in the GIIN network are expanding microfinance eligibility criteria and loan size, while still others are actively seeking out new investments that can help the world address the global public health emergency — proving, if nothing else, that not all liquidity has dried up.

Development banks across nearly all continents are issuing new bonds at a rapid clip. The proceeds will finance projects with broad COVID-related impacts. These projects are focused on things like improving the efficiency of healthcare systems, supporting the unemployed, and reducing friction in disrupted supply chains.

While we expect the near-term response by impact investors to the pandemic to grow in volume, actions by development finance institutions indicate that many in the impact investing community are thinking a step ahead to the medium-term investments needed to address a host of issues, including global under- and unemployment and inadequate health care, during the post-pandemic recovery phase.

As these efforts take shape, a central theme is becoming clear: in order to be truly effective, the global post-pandemic recovery will require the full spectrum of capital — from philanthropic to commercial. As things stand, we are seeing signs that blended-finance structures — long noted for their potential to bring different types of investors together to address urgent challenges — could rise to a new level of prominence. Such structures use philanthropic grants or concessionary capital to reduce investors' risk and catalyze the entry of larger pools of market-rate-seeking capital into investments with the potential to drive deep impact.

Just as we need to rely on one another more than ever during this crisis, we also need investors and grantmakers to work together as never before. But as we work together to respond to and recover from the impacts of the coronavirus, we must not lose sight of our longer-term goals. The crisis is laying bare deep inequities in our healthcare and financial systems and causing the most harm to those who were already the most vulnerable: the poor, the ill and elderly, minority communities, women and girls. As we strive to become more resilient in the years after the crisis has passed, we must do everything in our power to prevent those inequities from taking hold again.

Our collective efforts over the coming months are likely to shape the way we approach the biggest global challenges we face for decades to come — challenges such as the climate emergency, which, like COVID-19, ignore international borders.

Headshot_giselle_leungAs you begin, in the coming months, to chart your "new normal," I urge you to remain mindful of that broader perspective and to hold tight to a shared vision of a more just, equitable, and resilient future — and to invest in it.

Giselle Leung is managing director of the Global Impact Investing Network.

Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic, the SDGs Are More Relevant Than Ever

May 10, 2020

SdgThe world is dealing with a crisis of monumental proportions. The novel coronavirus is wreaking havoc across the globe, destroying lives and ruining livelihoods. The primary cost of the pandemic as calculated in the loss of human life is distressing, but the knock-on effects in terms of the global economy, people's livelihoods, and sustainable development prospects are even more alarming. Indeed, the International Monetary Fund estimates that the global economy has already fallen into recession, and while the full economic impact of the crisis is difficult to predict, the ultimate cost is likely to be extraordinary and unprecedented.

That is why we must all support the United Nations' call to scale up the immediate health response to the virus, with a particular focus on women, youth, low-wage workers, small and medium enterprises, the informal sector, and vulnerable groups who were already at risk. Working together we can save lives, restore livelihoods, and get the global economy back on track.

At the same time, the pandemic has utterly exposed fundamental weaknesses in our global system of governance and demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt how poverty, inadequate health systems, underresourced educational systems, and sub-optimal global cooperation can exacerbate a crisis like COVID-19. These are exactly the kinds of challenges the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are meant to address.

The rapid spread of the virus has come at a time when the SDGs were beginning to get traction and a significant number of countries were making progress in implementing them. But with the world today consumed by the need to contain the virus and mitigate its many adverse and debilitating impacts, countries are resetting their priorities and reallocating resources to deal with the challenge.

Emerging evidence of the broader impact of the coronavirus crisis on efforts to achieve the SDGs should be troubling for all. UNESCO estimates that some 1.25 billion students globally have been affected by the pandemic, posing a serious challenge to the attainment of Sustainable Development Goal 4, while the International Labour Organization (ILO) projects that some 25 million people could lose their jobs over the coming months, dealing a serious blow to progress on Sustainable Development Goal 8 — and that is likely just the tip of the iceberg.

Crucially, in many parts of the world, the pandemic also is creating roadblocks to progress on clean water and sanitation targets (Goal 6), addressing pervasive inequality (Goal 10), and, perhaps most importantly, addressing the twin crises of global poverty (Goal 1) and hunger/food insecurity (Goal 2). Indeed, the World Bank estimates that pandemic will push an additional 11 million people into poverty.

In other words, what we cannot afford to do in this critical moment is to de-link the global response to the pandemic from action on the SDGs. Indeed, by continuing to make progress on the SDGs, we will be putting ourselves on a firmer path to dealing with global health risks and the emergence of new infectious diseases in the future. Achieving SDGs Goal 3, for instance, will mean that we succeeded in strengthening the capacity of countries to conduct early warning surveillance, reduce the risk of contagious pathogens from spreading, and manage the situation promptly and effectively should they be faced with such a situation.

As the global community strives to deal with the challenges posed by the pandemic, we must seek to turn the crisis into an opportunity and ramp up our actions to support and ultimately achieve the goals by 2030. The world has the knowledge and expertise to muster the full complement of resources needed to to do that. Buoyed by a spirit of solidarity, governments, businesses, multilateral organizations, and civil society have been able to raise and direct trillions of dollars to defeat the virus. We can do the same to defeat global poverty, reduce inequality, provide a quality education to all, protect the climate, and build a more just and sustainable global economy. All that is missing is the political will.

As governments, business, and civil society around the world respond to the impacts of the pandemic, it is incumbent on all of us to stay focused on the underlying factors that have exacerbated those impacts. We cannot relent in our efforts, even amid this painful pandemic, to address people's basic needs, protect the beauty and diversity of our planet, and build a fairer and more just world. COVID-19 reminds us that we face common, global challenges that can only be solved through united, global action. In a crisis like this, we are only as strong as our weakest link.

Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and Erna Solberg are, respectively, president of the Republic of Ghana and prime minister of Norway and co-chairs of the UN Secretary-General's Eminent Group of Advocates for the Sustainable Development Goals.

5 Questions for...Ellen Dorsey, Executive Director, Wallace Global Fund

April 29, 2020

Ellen Dorsey has served since 2008 as the executive director of the Wallace Global Fund, where she helped launch Divest-Invest Philanthropy, a coalition of more than two hundred foundations that have pledged to divest their portfolios of fossil fuel companies and deploy their investments to accelerate the clean energy transition. Dorsey and Divest-Invest Philanthropy signatories were awarded the 2016 inaugural Nelson Mandela – Graca Machel Brave Philanthropy Award.

Earlier this month, the fund announced that it would pay out 20 percent of its endowment this year in support of COVID-19 relief and ongoing systemic change efforts and called on other funders to increase their grantmaking. 

PND spoke with Dorsey about the fund's decision-making process, the moral obligations of foundations in a time of crisis, and the longer-term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dorsey_EllenPhilanthropy News Digest: What was the impetus behind the fund's decision to commit 20 percent of the endowment to grantmaking in 2020, and how did you and the board arrive at that amount? 

Ellen Dorsey: We have said for a while now that philanthropy cannot engage in business as usual, either by failing to align our investments with our missions or not giving at a level commensurate with the seriousness of the many challenges we face. Before COVID-19, we were already calling for philanthropy to declare a climate emergency and increase giving levels over the next ten years. COVID-19 was yet another overlapping shockwave added to the list of threats that compounded our sense of urgency.  

For too long, philanthropy has been content to give the bare minimum — the 5 percent required by law — while growing its endowments. Even before COVID-19, the Wallace Global Fund felt it was unethical for any foundation to grow its endowment during a five-alarm fire, particularly given the many financial and logistical challenges faced by our grantees. 

As for the percentage decision, it happened organically. We were already planning to spend a significant percentage of our endowment this year on critical work being done within our core priority areas, and we invested 100 percent of our stock market gains — close to 22 percent — in 2018. Keeping our investments aligned with our mission is something that has long been a board priority. We see this as consistent with the legacy of our founding donor, former U.S. Vice President Henry A. Wallace, and his warning that democracies must put people before profits if they plan to survive. 

PND: In a joint opinion piece with the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy's Aaron Dorfman, you argued that "it is no time for philanthropy to think about cutting back...[instead, it should] give more to address the public-health crisis while continuing to fund existing social and systemic change efforts." You've said elsewhere that preserving foundation endowments instead of boosting granmaking was "both immoral and a failure to honor the mandate that foundations have to serve society." Have you received any pushback from CEOs at other foundations? And do you think philanthropy will take this "opportunity to fundamentally rethink past practices and upend the status quo," especially with respect to the mandatory 5 percent payout requirement?

ED: Ultimately, it's an empirical question. We will see. Right now, many foundations are stepping up and making significant pledges to address COVID-19 and the related economic crisis. Will enhanced giving continue as the reality of reduced endowments sinks in later this year and persists into 2021? The fallout of COVID-19, coupled with the spiraling climate catastrophe, requires dramatically more funding, not less. We have a decade to fundamentally reduce emissions and change the energy base of our global economy while creating more sustainable and equitable systems.

What we need from philanthropy goes beyond simply spending more. Frankly, if ever there was a time to fund system change work, it is now. We need to break the corporate capture of democracy, create new patterns of ownership, change the growth-only measures of economic and societal success, level patterns of inequality, and meet the basic human needs of billions, all while reversing the climate catastrophe barreling down on humanity. Philanthropy needs to support movements that are advancing new paradigms, support systemic theories of change that confront our unjust system, and invest its money in a way that is consistent with these values.

PND: As you've acknowledged, some foundations have taken steps to provide more — and more flexible — support for nonprofits, while more than seven hundred foundations have signed on to the Council on Foundationspledge to do so. Are we seeing a shift among foundations toward more grantee-centered practices? Or will things revert to the status quo after we get to the other side of this crisis?

ED: History shows that there is a tendency among philanthropy to scale back when times get tough. For example, in the immediate aftermath of the Great Recession, philanthropic grantmaking dropped by 15 percent. We've been really encouraged to see the groundswell of statements calling for philanthropy to use this moment to break that bad habit. It is particularly important given the unique vulnerabilities faced by nonprofits, movements, and the communities they serve. 

It is hard to say right now whether the status quo will fully return in any sector, but I will say that philanthropy has an obligation to resist it. Getting rid of COVID-19 will do nothing to stop the dire consequences we were already facing as the result of a number of threats, most notably climate change. In fact, if society returns to its established habits of emitting more carbon into the atmosphere, damaging or destroying ecological habitats, and giving corporations free rein to pursue the myth of limitless economic growth, the consequences of climate change will only continue to worsen.

The same could also be said for economic inequality, the rising privatization of public resources around the world, gender-based violence in the Global South, and the rise in misogyny faced by women around the world. There is no vaccine for social injustice. We cannot allow ourselves to be so relieved once the COVID-19 crisis has passed that we ignore the fissures in society it has exposed. Philanthropy has both an opportunity and a duty to partner with people-centered movements that are fighting for systems change and broad, structural reform today, and we must continue to support them in the aftermath of this pandemic. 

PND: This is not the first time the Wallace Global Fund has used its investment portfolio to boost the impact of its grantmaking; in 2018, the fund pledged to invest all its gains from the previous year into organizations working to advance social and environmental justice. Have you seen tangible returns on those investments?

ED: Yes, without a question. We have already seen positive impacts from our funding and there are results to come that we cannot yet see. We fund progressive social movements and systemic change work both globally and in the U.S. We believe building people power is the necessary ingredient to challenging entrenched economic and political interests. We have been funding the fossil fuel divestment movement for over a decade and, to date, there are more than a thousand institutions  around the globe that have divested — institutions with a combined $14 trillion under management. We have funded the youth climate movement, the so-called climate strikers, and those calling for a Green New Deal. They are changing the debate on climate in truly significant ways. We're also supporting groups around the world that are challenging authoritarian governments and defending basic human rights.  

Often those fights seem insurmountable, but defending the front lines is often the only antibody to the virus of authoritarianism and is essential if we are to preserve our democratic ideals and way of life. In the U.S., our grantees are working to transform conditions of inequality, defend democratic institutions, get toxic money out of our political system, and break up monopolies. These are big and audacious goals, not easy to measure in the near term, but they absolutely are critical in terms of the system change work we need. I think it's fair to say we would rather invest in deep change than obsess about lowest-common-denominator metrics. 

PND: What, if anything, do the systemic social change efforts you've urged your philanthropic peers to support — climate action, defending the rights of marginalized populations, strengthening civil society and democracy — have to do with the public health and economic emergencies caused by COVID-19?

ED: It's true that all those issues were issues before COVID-19. For example, we know that seven hundred people a day were dying from poverty in the U.S. before the virus ever reached our shores. But COVID-19 has laid bare the many ways in which it is not the great equalizer many claim it is.

Communities of color have been disproportionately devastated by the virus. Places with higher levels of carbon-based pollution are seeing corresponding spikes in death rates. Voting rights are under increasing threat from a lack of contingency planning and stalled efforts to expand vote-by-mail nationally. And as millions of small businesses were forced to close their doors — many for the last time — American billionaires made more than $300 billion.

These injustices are all interconnected. One of the movement leaders who inspires me most, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II of the Poor People's Campaign, has built a movement on the simple yet profound notion that the struggles against systemic racism, inadequate health care, poverty, voter suppression, ecological devastation, environmental injustice, and human rights abuses are not separate struggles at all. We are dependent on each other in our quest for liberation, and our narratives must be bound together if we hope to win.

— Kyoko Uchida

Jeff Bezos and Climate Change

March 17, 2020

Jeff_bezosJeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon and, according to Forbes, the world's richest man, has asserted himself in the race to address our greatest global threat, the climate crisis. In February, Bezos announced he was donating $10 billion to fight a problem that is affecting the entire planet…and one that is currently exacerbated by corporations such as his own.

Some might argue that, by making this pledge, Bezos is guilty of greenwashing — trying to persuade the public that he, and his company, are doing more to protect the environment than they actually are. The evidence would seem to support that view. In fiscal year 2018, the online retailer was one of the worst polluters in the United States, emitting 44.4 million metric tons of carbon, far exceeding the emissions of other trillion-dollar companies such as Apple, Alphabet, and Microsoft, as well as package delivery giants UPS and FedEx. And globally, the company is ranked with oil and gas producers as one of the top two hundred carbon emitters in the world. Bezos himself has come under fire in recent months for silencing climate activists within Amazon, Inc. and dodging climate agreements, even while committing the company to carbon neutrality by 2040.

When philanthropists from the tech world set out to solve complex social problems, they often adopt an outcome-oriented approach. Drawing on their business expertise, they want to be able to see and report on short-term, measurable results.

Other philanthropists approach their giving through a field-oriented lens, involving many different stakeholders and tackling the problem from several angles — leading, in many cases, to more sustainable, long-term impact.

Bezos alluded to this field-oriented approach in his announcement, stating that he intends to fund "scientists, activists, NGOs." But the language he uses is so vague that it's difficult to know which form his climate change philanthropy will take. The structure of the Bezos Green Fund, the main vehicle for his climate change philanthropy, is also unclear. Will it be structured in a way that enables it to lobby for policy change? How will Bezos's position as president and CEO of Amazon and his personal stake in the company affect the fund's grantmaking choices? Will it favor grantees that demonstrate a full commitment to immediate climate action, or will Bezos's money amplify the voices of more moderate groups that, intentionally or otherwise, actually slow progress on the climate change front? Given the ambiguity of his February statement, it's hard to know.

As things stand, Bezos’s call to "protect [Earth], together" rings hollow, given that his company is a massive contributor to the climate crisis and gives no sign of changing its stripes. If Jeff Bezos truly wants to be a leader in combating climate change, he needs to walk the talk. He could, for instance, commit to more aggressive climate-friendly initiatives within Amazon itself, such as investing in green packaging and transportation. Amazon's one-day delivery service is responsible for a large share of its carbon footprint, and the company should be rethinking how it provides that service. As Amazon Employees for Climate Justice have noted, "Amazon...has work to do: halting its support of the fossil fuel industry, stopping donations to climate-denying politicians and think tanks, and stopping enabling the oppression of climate refugees."

For the sake of the planet — and the perceived legitimacy of the Bezos Green Fund — Jeff Bezos needs to offer the rest of us a more transparent and comprehensive climate change strategy. And he needs to step up the pace of climate action within Amazon itself. It is time for both Bezos and Amazon to take meaningful action to address climate change. If and when they do, we can only hope other major corporations follow suit.

(Photo: AP: Cliff Owen)

Sierra Stephens, Lillie Heyman, and Hannah Connors are undergrad students at the University of Michigan's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

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More:

Jeff Bezos Pledges $10 Billion To Fight Climate Change, Planet's 'Biggest Threat'

Bezos Commits $10 Billion to Climate Action

Why doesn’t Jeff Bezos pay more tax instead of launching a $10bn green fund?

Amazon's Jeff Bezos pledges $10bn to save Earth's environment

Five Strategies for Advancing Your Mission in 2020

March 04, 2020

Social_media_icons_for_PhilanTopicThe months leading up to the presidential election in November are a critical period for philanthropic and nonprofit leaders interested in shaping public discourse around a range of issues. It promises to be a period when Americans weigh everything from plans to make health care and college more affordable to new ideas for addressing the opioid crisis, climate change, national security, and economic growth. It's also likely to be a period when philanthropy is called on to highlight important issues, contribute to and inform the national dialogue, and advocate for the public interest.

In the coming weeks, leaders at private and corporate foundations, NGOs, and nonprofits will have an opportunity to leverage the presidential election cycle to raise awareness of — and drive engagement with — their issues. From the debates and primaries still to come to the party conventions and the election itself, the moment is ripe for action.

For social-sector leaders inclined to act, there are five key elements to effective issues advocacy:

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (January 4-5, 2020)

January 05, 2020

5W4htUpm6GwJkWfemfytV4-1024-80Happy New Year! Before you get back to work for real, check out our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

To see what climate change could portend for ordinary Americans, look no further than California, where over the last decade, as the Los Angeles Times' Deborah Netburn writes, "[t]he wildfires were more destructive. The drought was the longest on record. And the storms, when they finally came, unleashed more water than [the] dams could contain."

Fundraising

Ready for another year of fundraising? Future Fundraising Now's Jeff Brooks wants to help and has pulled together a list of his favorite fundraising blogs

And fundraising expert Pamela Grow shares eleven things you can do to make 2020 your most successful fundraising year yet.

Giving

Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther shares the thinking behind the charitable donations he and his wife, Karen, made in 2019.

In an op-ed in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, nonprofit CEOs Alejandra Castillo, Susan Dreyfus, James Firman, Brian Gallagher, Gail McGovern, and Jonathan Reckford make the case that, after nearly two years of data, the evidence is clear: charitable giving is down, and changes in the 2017 tax law are to blame.

Global Health

There are only eight organizations on charity rating site GiveWell's list of top global charities and one of them is the San Jose-based Fistula Foundation. In a new post on the GiveWell blog, Catherine Hollander updates the organization's work on the foundation, which it continues to consider "a top charity contender."

Health

Commonwealth Fund president David Blumenthal (with research help from Gabriella Aboulafia) reviews the top developments in health care in 2019 on the fund's To The Point blog. 

Continue reading »

'Future-Fit' Philanthropy: Why Philanthropic Organizations Will Need Foresight to Leave a Lasting Legacy of Change

April 10, 2019

Future_start_gettyimages_olm26250To be considered transformational, any philanthropic organization should aim for lasting impacts that go beyond their immediate beneficiaries. Yet, in the face of what the UK's Ministry of Defense recently characterized as "unprecedented acceleration in the speed of change, driving ever more complex interactions between [diverse] trends," the longer-term future of philanthropy, and the success of individual programs, are at risk as never before.

Philanthropy is already trying to deliver on a hugely ambitious vision of a better future. Taking the Sustainable Development Goals as one marker, this includes, within just over a decade, ending poverty, ending hunger, and delivering universal healthcare. Progress is struggling to match aspirations: the UN has found that globally, hunger is on the rise again and malaria rates are up due to antimicrobial resistance.

With the accelerating pace of change, new trends are set to bring huge opportunities — and threats — often both at once. Two examples: new technologies in the field of synthetic biology, and the fourth Industrial Revolution. Other trends — climate change, demographic shifts, democratic rollback — may be familiar, but their pace, trajectory, and impact remain radically uncertain.

The trends of the coming ten to twenty years have the potential to reverse hard-won progress, distort the outcomes of interventions, radically change the geography and distribution of need, and outpace the philanthropy business model altogether.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (February 9-10, 2019)

February 10, 2019

Homepage-large-fc-and-gs-are-candid_tilemediumA weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

"Someday, perhaps, an entire nation could be powered by renewable energy, but that day is too far off to deal with the climate threat," say Joshua S. Goldstein and Staffan A. Qvist in a new book called called A Bright Future: How Some Countries Have Solved Climate Change and the Rest Can Follow. Instead, Goldstein and Qvist tell Marc Gunther, countries should be looking to nuclear as the short-term answer to the problem. For many in the environmental community, that is a non-starter. Gunther explores the dilemma.

Governance

Writing on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Kim Williams-Pulfer, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, shares some thoughts on nonprofit boards and the diversity imperative.

International Affairs/Development

On the OECD Development Matters site, Benjamin Bellegy, executive director of the Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support (WINGS), shares his thoughts on how philanthropy can best contribute to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals agenda.

Journalism/Media

Journalism and the news media in the U.S. are in trouble, the traditional business model for news threatened with extinction by the consolidation of eyeballs and ad dollars on a few mega-platforms. Forbes contributor Michael Posner looks at the conclusions of a new report funded by the Knight Commission on Trust, Media, and Democracy and finds that while the report diagnoses the problem well, "its recommendations do not go far enough."

Continue reading »

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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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (November 2018)

December 02, 2018

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

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

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

Weekend Link Roundup (November 24-25, 2018)

November 25, 2018

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

Arts and Culture

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

Climate Change

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

Education

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

Fundraising

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

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

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Current Trends in Philanthropy: U.S. Foundation Support for Climate Action

November 09, 2018

IStock-470785468Released last month, the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report paints a bleak picture of the disastrous consequences facing the planet if the average global temperature climbs 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The authors of the report warn that humanity will have to cut carbon emissions to almost half the 2010 level as early as 2030 in order to avoid long-lasting and potentially irreversible impacts from climate change, including the loss of many important ecosystems.

The issue of climate change and the impact of human activity on the environment has been hotly debated and has received significant attention from U.S. foundations. According to Foundation Center data, the largest one thousand U.S. foundations gave between $232 million and $261 million annually for climate-related issues between 2011 and 2015, with the exception of 2012, when a large infusion of funds into the ClimateWorks Foundation pushed the annual total to $340 million.

This represents about one percent of giving during that period but does not represent all giving that may contribute to the mitigation of climate change and its effects. Indeed, as much as another 3 percent of foundation giving over that period related to energy issues or sustainable agriculture may have supported efforts to address energy usage and current agricultural practices so as to lessen their contributions to global warming.

Fig1.1_climate action

Energy efficiency and electrification, in particular, have been a significant focus of foundation funding for climate action, with 57 percent of all climate change-related grants funded by the largest one thousand U.S. foundations between 2011-15 related to energy efficiency or renewable energy efforts. Food and agriculture, on the other hand, represented only 3 percent of climate action funding over the same period. Increasingly, however, foundations are recognizing the importance of sustainable food production in tackling climate change and are approaching the issue through an intersectional lens, as evidenced by initiatives such as Project Drawdown.

Fig. 1.2_climate action

The year 2015 also saw the adoption of the Paris Agreement, which the United States initially signed but, at the behest of the Trump administration, subsequently withdrew from. Given that the deployment of capital and funding is a critical factor in efforts to de-carbonize the global economy, the withdrawal of the U.S. from the agreement raises the question as to whether and how foundation giving has changed in response.

Detailed grantmaking data for 2016 (and subsequent years) is still being compiled, so it's difficult to draw any conclusions about the immediate response of foundations to the Trump administration’s decision. That said, several major foundations have announced significant commitments since the agreement was ratified in 2015.

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Current Trends in Philanthropy: International Giving by U.S. Foundations

November 01, 2018

Global-giving-report-coverInternational giving by large U.S. foundations reached an all-time high of $9.3 billion in 2015, up some 306 percent, from $2.1 billion, in 2002, when Foundation Center first started tracking it on an annual basis. During the same period, international giving also increased as a percent of total giving, from 13.9 percent in 2002 to 28.4 percent in 2015.

While the number of grants to international organizations and causes has stayed relatively stable, up some 31 percent (from 10,600 to 13,900) since 2002, average grant size has increased more than three-fold, from $200,900 in 2002 to $604,500 in 2015.

Much of that growth can be attributed to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which accounted for more than half (51 percent) of all international giving from 2011 to 2015. When Gates Foundation grantmaking is excluded, we see that international giving grew at a somewhat slower rate (21 percent) during the five-year period, reaching a high of nearly $4 billion in 2015.

Like foundation giving in general, international giving by U.S. foundations is largely project-focused: despite continued calls from nonprofit leaders for foundations to provide more general operating support, 65 percent of international giving by U.S. foundations from 2011 to 2015 was for specific projects or programs. (General support refers broadly to unrestricted funding and core support for day-to-day operating costs. Project support or program development refers to support for specific projects or programs as opposed to the general purpose of an organization. For more information, see https://taxonomy.foundationcenter.org/support-strategies.)

Data also show that U.S. foundations continue to fund international work primarily through intermediaries. From 2011 to 2015, 28 percent of international giving was channeled through U.S.-based intermediaries, 30 percent went through non-U.S. intermediaries, and just 12 percent went directly to organizations based in the country where programs were implemented. What’s more, just 1 percent of international giving was awarded in the form of general support grants directly to local organizations, and those grants were substantially smaller in size, averaging just under $242,000, while grants to intermediaries averaged just over $554,000.

It's important to note that these intermediaries vary in type and structure, and include:

  • International nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) operating programs in a different country than the country where they are headquartered.
  • U.S. public charities re-granting funds directly to local organizations.
  • Organizations indigenous to their geographic region but working across countries (i.e., not just in the country where they are headquartered).
  • Multilateral institutions working globally (e.g., the World Health Organization, Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria).
  • Research institutions conducting public health research or vaccination programs targeted at specific countries that are not the country where they are headquartered.

Unsurprisingly, health was the top-funded subject area supported by U.S. foundations in the 2011 to 2015 period, with grants totaling $18.6 billion accounting for 53 percent of international grantmaking.

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Weekend Link Roundup (October 27-28, 2018)

October 28, 2018

Pittsburgh synogogue vigil union sq 353A weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

In September, we reported on a coalition of mostly U.S.-based foundations and philanthropies that have pledged $4 billion to combat climate change. But what exactly can charitable efforts on that scale do to slow the pace of global warming and help people cope with its consequences? More than you think, writes Morten Wendelbo, a research fellow at American University, on The Conversation site.

Civil Society

Palaces for the People, a new book by Eric Klinenberg, a sociology professor at New York University and director of its Institute for Public Knowledge, examines how "social infrastructure" — libraries, parks, playgrounds, gardens, child care centers, churches, and synagogues — help us form some of our most significant and abiding connections. These spaces are also crucial, Klinenberg argues, for bridging divides and safeguarding the values of democracy. Katie Pearce reports for Johns Hopkins University's Hub.

Education

A lot of kids graduate high school unprepared for success in college and beyond. A new study from the New Teacher Project, a national nonprofit focused on teacher development and educational programming, puts most of the blame on school itself. Eillie Anzilotti reports for Fast Company.

Environment

The environmental movement is a lot of great things, but diverse isn't one of them. Vu Le's organization, Rainier Valley Corps, is creating a new program called the Green Pathways Fellowship designed to addressed the situation. In his latest post, Le shares a few components of the program. 

Equity

"[Philanthropy] defines people as 'low-income', 'at-risk', 'high-crime', 'low-literacy'. We define people by stigmatizing labels," Trabian Shorters, a former Knight Foundation VP who founded BME (Black Male Engagement) Community, tells Generocity's Julie Zeglin. A better approach would be to frame our narratives in terms of assets. Or as Shorters tells Zeglin: "[T]o really advance equity, you have to remind those who are really concerned with these questions that all of us are striving to do the best we can under the conditions that we're dealt. When you remind people of that, then we look at solutions entirely differently."

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Quote of the Week

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


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

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