59 posts categorized "Covid-19"

To help communities survive crises, trust and invest in their leadership

September 08, 2020

Kresge_fresh_lo_initiative_2Amid multiple ongoing crises, foundations are struggling with how best to support the nonprofit sector — in particular, community-based organizations working to address a raging pandemic, police violence, and systemic racism.

Led by people with a wealth of lived experience, community-based groups have long been a critical source of support for under-resourced neighborhoods struggling to rise above interconnected challenges, including insufficient access to fresh and affordable food, clean air, and safe, healthy housing.

By listening to and investing in local organizations, philanthropy has helped accelerate resident-centered collaborative approaches that have made it possible for such groups to pivot to meet immediate COVID-related needs and maintain their financial footing during an economic downturn that has forced many nonprofits to shut their doors.

One such group, the Memphis-based Binghampton Development Corporation (BDC), which works to promote people-first property development, support affordable home ownership, and train new food entrepreneurs in English, Spanish, and Arabic, hasn't missed a beat since COVID emerged as a public health crisis earlier this spring. Although the virus forced the organization to pause its regular programming to ensure proper social distancing, it is still hard at work making sure the small food businesses it supports have the resources they need to navigate these uncertain times and sustain themselves in a post-pandemic world. Recently, for example, it secured a catering deal for one local entrepreneur to prepare food for emergency medical staff, helping that small business owner earn the income needed to survive while supporting critical frontline workers.

And BDC isn't alone. Montbello Organizing Committee, a group of community organizers and developers based in Denver’s multiracial Montbello neighborhood, responded to the pandemic by immediately organizing emergency food distribution and working with partners to distribute meals to more than eight hundred people a day. In New Brunswick, New Jersey, resident-led nonprofit Elijah's Promise has provided twice-daily meals to locals out of its community soup kitchen and is serving more than three times as many meals today as it did before the virus became a concern. And through its Corner Store Witness initiative, the Chicago-based Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) and its community partners recently held a virtual convening to discuss the challenges immigrant-owned corner stores in inner-city neighborhoods are facing and what can be done to provide a path forward to long-term healing and the building of real community power. All these organizations are working locally to meet the needs of the communities in which they are embedded and are examples of the idea that in times of crisis, hyper-local investment is essential for community survival.

About five years ago, the Kresge Foundation developed a grant program, Fresh Local & Equitable (FreshLo), to support resident-led approaches to community challenges that prioritizes cultural expression and food as a social determent of health. A joint initiative of Kresge's Health and Arts & Culture programs, FreshLo intentionally integrates food, art, and creative approaches to community building to drive neighborhood revitalization equitably.

One of our top priorities is raising up resident-centered, collective action that includes the voices of those who live and work in the community. During the grantmaking process, we intentionally looked for neighborhoods that have lacked access to foundation funding — especially those in the South and Midwest. We knew that groups on the ground were already doing important community-driven work and we hoped the funding we could provide would help seed new networks, bring resident-led projects to life, and develop infrastructure that could support their neighborhoods over time.

The twenty-three community-based groups we selected were already doing the work needed to drive long-term neighborhood change — the type of work Kresge has been exploring for nearly a decade through its Creative Placemaking efforts, which are based on the idea that progress depends on a more nuanced understanding of urban inequality and how arts, culture, and community-engaged design intersect with strategies to expand opportunities for residents in low-income communities.

It was the social cohesion and vision shared by residents in these neighborhoods that excited us and created, in our view, the essential pre-conditions for long-term change. That vision also served as a vital ground wire for the collective action needed to mitigate some of the impacts related to the pandemic and structural racism.

Over the past six months, we've seen these organizations evolve their programs and services to meet emerging needs of their communities. We had a hunch that investing in resident-driven collective action and cultural solutions would help strengthen communities that had been neglected for decades; the pandemic has proven that hunch right. The results of our grantees' efforts show that place-based, culture-first investing is critical in times of crisis.

In Minnesota, Native-led community organization and FreshLo grantee Dream of Wild Health has tripled its farmland with support from Kresge. During a pandemic — when food sovereignty is paramount — the organization's sustainable farming practices, informed by Indigenous knowledge and traditions, have proven key to meeting the growing food needs of its community. Not only is the group cultivating its land to yield more fresh produce for current and future generations, it's also delivering food to elders who are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill with the virus and supporting other members of the community impacted by COVID and ongoing protests against racial injustice.

Similarly, In Oakland, FreshLo grantee Planting Justice has spent decades mobilizing people impacted by mass incarceration to work toward neighborhood revitalization and food sovereignty. Since the pandemic began, the organization has shifted work at its plant nursery to provide critical produce and smoothie distribution to more than a thousand neighbors a week. As its community faces job loss and economic challenges, it also has taken on forty paid interns, creating new opportunities for professional development and routing money to local families, supported by additional COVID-response funding from Kresge.

Like Montbello, Elijah's Promise, and IMAN, the organization's ability to quickly pivot and use resources where they are most needed is a testament to the trust it has built up and its commitment to its neighbors. Investments in social infrastructure and the leadership of groups like Dream of Wild Health and Planting Justice can only strengthen their work.

For historically underresourced and marginalized neighborhoods, and the people who live in them, responding to crises is nothing new. But they are more likely to survive a crisis when strong community connections already exist and they receive the support needed to take neighborhood-level action. The lessons from the FreshLo initiative suggest that investments in social cohesion, local leadership, and community enterprises can yield huge dividends.

The crises we are grappling with today — and those to follow — require that we lean on our neighbors. The strongest safety nets are constructed out of local knowledge, relationships, and community action, and philanthropy should do what it can to support them.

(Photo credit: Kresge Foundation Fresh Local & Equitable Initiative)

Stacey_Barbas_Regina_R_Smith_PhilanTopic

Stacey Barbas is a senior program officer in the Health program and Regina R. Smith is managing director of the Arts & Culture program at the Kresge Foundation.

Leading and succeeding during a crisis

September 02, 2020

Diversity_business_people_hands_pxfuelIn the summer of 1999, Michigan State University launched the Campaign for MSU with the aim of raising $1.12 billion, the most audacious fundraising campaign in its history. A few months in, I was recruited to lead fundraising efforts for the university's Libraries, Computing, and Technology department.

I had been working in Los Angeles for several years in various development roles at the California State University system and saw the position at MSU as a logical next step, one that afforded a number of career development opportunities. As I began to get comfortable in my new role, it became clear that the traditional fundraising playbook was no longer as relevant as it had once been. The department needed an approach that combined equal parts creativity, entrepreneurial risk-taking, and a willingness to experiment. After all, we were competing with other departments and professional schools at the university, each commanding a unique loyalty and importance in the eyes of their alumni. So during football season, we capitalized on our prime location within earshot of Spartan Stadium by inviting alumni and established donors and prospects to a tailgate party. Librarians from the university would be on hand to answer questions, marketing materials and campaign flyers would be distributed, and relationships with new and sustaining donors would be forged and strengthened.

And then September 11 happened. Until then I had never been in a position to lead others during a crisis. It's one thing to come up with a creative campaign and see it through from start to finish, accepting the risks and owning the results. But what had been a competition of sorts with other university departments for scarce dollars changed abruptly after the attacks.

As I worked alongside colleagues in other departments in the days that followed, my mindset shifted from competition to collaboration. Regardless of the task at hand, the question I kept asking myself was: How can I fulfill my duties and help my colleagues be successful?

One of the keys to success in higher education development work is traveling around the country to meet donors in person and earn their trust. But in the weeks and months after 9/11 some at the university were understandably reluctant to get on a plane.

Our solution to the problem was to pursue an approach that emphasized fundraising for the university as a whole, as opposed to fundraising for individual departments. And what quickly became apparent in my in-person visits and phone calls with high-net-worth alumni was their deep, unabashed appreciation for the fact that departments that sometimes competed with each other for precious resources were now collaborating. We were a single team with a single mission: strengthen the university we worked for and loved.

Learning to collaborate during a crisis was a key building block in my leadership development. And taking collective action to achieve a unifying goal while keeping the best interests of one's colleagues in mind has never been more important than it is today.

At the Gary Sinise Foundation, where I serve as chief operating officer, the coronavirus pandemic has forced us to adapt our business model to ensure continuity in our mission — serving the nation's military, veterans, first-responders, and their families. In coordination with the marketing and communications department, we launched a dedicated campaign called Emergency COVID-19 Combat Service. Donations made to the campaign have bolstered our First Responders Outreach program and enabled us to increase the number of grants we award to underfunded fire and police departments. Since we launched the campaign on April 1, we've raised and distributed more than $1.43 million, enabling sixty-one first-responder departments to purchase 5,650 pieces of personal protective equipment and gear. Financial assistance, grocery gift cards, and other forms of support have reached countless individuals and families struggling to make ends meet.

We've also expanded our Serving Heroes initiative, delivering thousands of additional free meals to healthcare workers at hospitals across the country as well as service members and their families at military bases in the U.S. and overseas.

The ongoing success of the campaign is largely attributable to our employees making a seamless transition to working remotely. We decided at the outset of the pandemic to shift staff and resources to departments in need; for example, our events team was called on to support the outreach department, which fields dozens of calls a day and supports an untold number of veterans, Gold Star families, and others seeking various forms of assistance.

In the months since COVID-19 upended our routines, many of our employees, empowered by leadership, their peers, and their own initiative, have developed new skills, revealing unknown talents and interests that benefit not only the organization but their future careers.

As the public health emergency continues to impact communities across the United States, nonprofit organizations are dealing with multiple crises affecting not only their day-to-day operations but their internal and external stakeholders as well.

Although the economy is slowly recovering, millions of Americans remain unemployed and Americans' mental health and well-being remains precarious. And with recent protests reawakening the nation's conscience, some kind of tipping point seems to be near.

Working to address these crises at both the individual and organizational levels has forced me to evolve as a leader — one who grounds her actions in empathy — and has reinforced for me the values of collaboration and personal empowerment. As was the case some twenty years ago, the question I continue to ask myself is: How can I fulfill my duties and help my colleagues be successful?

(Photo credit: pxfuel)

Elizabeth_Fields_PhilanTopic

Elizabeth Fields is COO and Brandon Black is  senior communications writer at the Gary Sinise Foundation.

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

August 17, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

International grantmaking during COVID: a focus on equitable access to education in Latin America

August 12, 2020

International grants_tinker foundationIt’s safe to say that no person or organization is having the 2020 they expected. At the Tinker Foundation, the pandemic has caused us to shift course significantly as Latin America, the region central to our mission, struggles with a once-in-a-century health, economic, and social crisis. And while our home base is New York City, we are challenging ourselves to put our assets to work for the organizations and communities at the epicenter of the pandemic there.

Like many other foundations, when the coronavirus emerged we reached out to our current grantees to offer support. At that point, in mid-March, we questioned whether it might seem "U.S.-centric" to send a communication about a virus that had not yet reached large swaths of the hemisphere. In retrospect, that concern seems quaint. By mid-May, a New York Times headline, "Latin America’s Outbreak Rivals Europe’s. But Its Options Are Worse," was sounding the alarm. As of this writing, the region leads the world in deaths from COVID-19.

As we talked with our grantees, we noted how quickly many were mobilizing amid the uncertainty (and despite, in some countries, official denials that the virus was a problem). One grantee, the Argentine fact-checking and investigative journalism organization Chequeado, repurposed travel funds from a grant to prototype a website dedicated to combating misinformation about the virus. Within weeks, they had secured additional funding and launched a regional effort with more than twenty other organizations.

Within Tinker, we recognized the need to begin taking action — just as our grantees had — while at the same time laying the groundwork for more substantive grantmaking. We started small, reallocating funds from other budget lines to support rapid-response grantmaking. These early grants prioritized the immediate needs of vulnerable populations, including the millions of Venezuelan migrants and refugees unable to work as stay-at-home orders rolled out across Latin America. Two small grants to Tinker grantee partners in Central America focused on vulnerable children affected by school closures. Another sought to support civil society organizations working to shift strategies in response to the crisis.

As we began making plans for the remainder of the year, the scale of the COVID catastrophe in Latin America became clearer. Ecuador experienced a devastating early wave of infections that collapsed the health system in Guayaquil, its largest city. Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and Peru all appeared in the list of seven countries with the highest incidence of COVID. A virus first introduced to Latin America by international travelers returning home from abroad was now tightening its grip on vulnerable populations across the region, from residents of crowded informal settlements, to migrants and refugees, to Indigenous and Afro-descendent communities.

As a midsize foundation, we knew we had to make the most of our grantmaking resources. But we had other important assets we could draw on, too, including longstanding relationships and networks, operational flexibility, and an engaged board willing to operate differently in response to a crisis. In addition to maintaining some longer-term grantmaking across our program areas, we decided it made sense to identify one COVID-related priority to focus on in the remainder of the year and give it our all.

Discussions with grantees, staff, experts, and board members all pointed to the impact of the pandemic on education, an existing Tinker program area. We learned, for instance, that by June, 95 percent of students in the region were out of school. As in other parts of the world, ministries of education, administrators, and teachers had quickly shifted gears — introducing online instruction strategies meant to replace classroom instruction. And yet past crises suggested that students would incur significant learning losses, and that many would not return to school at all, with the impacts likely greatest among students who had faced barriers to equitable education pre-pandemic.

In late June, Tinker launched a $500,000 funding initiative to help address the specific educational challenges generated by the pandemic. Over the coming months, we will partner with Latin America-based civil society organizations working to address the near-term effects of school closures. Many of these organizations have already hit the ground running, using their own resources to fill gaps, pilot innovative approaches, and support teachers and students. Additional funding can enable further experimentation and help consolidate and scale what is already working. Critically, the initiative will seek to complement and build on the priorities and initiatives of public education systems in the region.

The enormous response to our initiative highlights the urgent need for more funding for education as the virus continues to upend systems and the status quo. We received more than five hundred letters of inquiry, approximately five times what a typical call for applications from our Education program attracts. Following a review of a subset of full proposals, we will announce grants in September.

The applications we’ve received speak to the predictable but profound challenges of ensuring equitable access to education in a pandemic context — particularly in rural and low-income urban areas where students have limited access to the Internet or Internet-enabled devices. The proposed projects also demonstrate the resilience and creativity of schools, teachers, and civil society organizations, all of whom are imagining new ways to reach and engage students, as well as reinvigorating older tools like community radio. A number of applications call for investment in social-emotional learning and other efforts to address the trauma occasioned by the pandemic as a critical enabler of continued learning.

Following this round of special grants, we will work closely with our partner organizations to learn from their work and identify broader areas for research and innovation, larger-scale funding, and policy change. As a foundation that works across Latin America, we also hope to connect and convene local actors that share a commitment to protecting access to education throughout the crisis.

COVID-19 has created profound challenges across many domains — all of them competing for policy makers' and the public's attention. But when we look back on this challenging time, it may well be disruption to education that casts the longest shadow over Latin America. If millions of students fall behind or become permanently disconnected from school, the impact could last at least a generation. At Tinker, we will continue to support those in Latin America who are imagining and taking action to ensure a better future for the region’s children and young people.

Headshot_caroline_kronley_squareCaroline Kronley is president of the New York City-based Tinker Foundation. Prior to joining the foundation, she worked as managing director for strategy at the Rockefeller Foundation, leading the development of new programmatic initiatives, and before that she was a management consultant at Katzenbach Partners and at Booz & Company, where she served a broad range of clients on strategy and organizational performance.

Nonprofits: it’s time to redefine your corporate relationships

August 11, 2020

Rethink your corporate relationshipsNonprofits are looking at one of the best opportunities in decades to redefine their corporate partnerships for the betterment of their constituents.

The public's expectations with respect to the role business should play in addressing social inequities has shifted dramatically over recent years. In this moment, how corporations decide to meet these expectations has enormous implications for nonprofit leaders. Our latest research, The Corporate Social Mind Research Report, includes two findings that argue strongly for a rethink of the nonprofit-corporate funder relationship: 1) these days, Americans expect companies to have an opinion on pressing social issues; and 2) companies actually do influence how individuals act in support of particular causes.

It is our view that both findings create an opportunity, even a responsibility, for nonprofits to help companies successfully engage customers, employees, and stakeholders in taking action on social issues.

Large segments of the American public are hungry for accurate information about the issues they care about and are looking for ways to meaningfully engage in change. And these days they have added publicly owned companies to their list of go-to sources for such information. If your nonprofit hasn’t already redefined its relationships with its corporate funders, it's time to get started.

Here are a couple of things you can do:

Reposition your nonprofit as a subject-matter expert. Nearly half (46 percent) of consumers we surveyed expect a company to know how its products or services are impacting society. This represents a golden opportunity for nonprofits to step up as subject-matter experts. Many nonprofits are well-positioned to provide information about corporate impact at every level of a corporation’s operations, from product design, to supply chain management, to branding and marketing.

In our survey, almost 60 percent of respondents said they believe companies should make clear where they stand on racial equity, social justice, and discrimination, while almost half want the same for the environment/climate change. Again, nonprofits, in their role as experts, can help companies define their positions and craft messaging around their issue. Companies know their business and customers, but a nonprofit is more likely to understand who is (and isn't) affected by an issue and how a business might be impacting its constituents. In other words, nonprofits can educate, inform, and help companies build knowledge about an issue and bring a more authentic, public-focused perspective to its internal conversations.

Partners in change. When we asked, "What actions have you (as a consumer) taken in the last three weeks because a company asked you to get involved in a social issue?" we learned that:

  • 25 percent of those who responded to the survey posted or shared something related to an issue;
  • 21 percent started to or increased their purchases of local products and/or services;
  • 20 percent said they had made an in-kind donation to a charity; and
  • 20 percent said they had made a cash donation to a cause or charity.

In addition, a quarter (26 percent) of respondents think companies should engage their employees in fundraising or volunteering for a social cause or issue. Many nonprofits are well positioned to offer easy and customized access to such opportunities, educating employees about their issue and the company’s role in creating impact while underscoring its commitment to the issue.

Our survey results illustrate the potential of authentically engaged companies to make a difference. Viewed holistically, social issues cut across all segments of society, from companies, to donors, to voters and policy makers, to beneficiaries, consumers, and investors. Social change happens when all of these groups ignore their traditional roles and organizational boundaries and join forces to advance solutions to an issue.

The two most prominent issues in 2020, COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter, are causing many companies to rethink their role in advancing social change. Matching the level of engagement of their customers is likely to be a challenge for many of them, but one well worth the effort. Nonprofits are well-positioned to support companies and help inform their decisions and actions. As companies work to develop more effective and meaningful approaches to urgent social issues, nonprofits have a unique opportunity to redefine the corporate-nonprofit relationship by significantly enhancing the value they bring to it.

Headshot_derrick_feldmann_2015Derrick Feldmann (@derrickfeldmann) is the founder of the Millennial Impact Project, lead researcher at Cause and Social Influence, and the author of the new book, The Corporate Social Mind. You can read more by Derrick here.

Women and the changing face of philanthropy

July 29, 2020

Women_high_fives_GettyImages_PhilanTopicAs the current global public health crisis galvanizes people to give, women are well positioned to accelerate changes in the philanthropic landscape that are already in motion.

According to Giving USA's recently published Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2019, charitable giving in America totaled nearly $450 billion in 2019, the second-highest total ever (adjusted for inflation) and a 4.2-percent increase from 2018.

And while conventional wisdom might have predicted a decline in giving over the first three months of 2020 due to COVID-19, the pandemic has actually motivated Americans to give at a rate higher than seen in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and after the 9/11 attacks. Further evidence of Americans' generosity was provided by Fidelity Charitable, which released a report in June showing that grant awards from its donor-advised funds since the beginning of the year totaled some $3.4 billion, up 28 percent over the six-month period in 2019.

Another survey, this one conducted by the Community Foundations Public Awareness Initiative, found an 80 percent year-over-year increase in gifts to thirty-two community foundations from March to May 2020.

"Before the pandemic started, women were increasing their giving and broadening beyond what they might normally support," Jennifer Alcorn, deputy director of philanthropic partnerships for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, told Forbes. "From research and development, local food banks, giving direct relief to families across the country, to global health — women are a driving force behind the increase in giving we're seeing right now."

This shifting dynamic is best understood as a movement started by women eager to engage in philanthropy that has the potential to benefit women. According to the Boston Consulting Group, private wealth held by women grew from $34 trillion to $51 trillion between 2010 and 2016 — an increase of 50 percent in just six years. It's a trend likely to continue, as a significant amount of the private wealth projected to change hands over the next few decades is likely to be transferred to women.

What's more, it seems that philanthropy comes naturally to women. A 2017 study by the University of Zurich found that women are more likely than men to engage in prosocial behavior (defined as voluntary behavior intended to benefit others), including simple acts of kindness and donating to charity. Indeed, research supported by PayPal found that women give more to charity despite earning 19 percent less than men, and that as they age they become even more generous.

Perhaps most importantly, women are taking control of their own destiny. A study by the Women's Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis found that women increasingly are spearheading efforts focused on addressing women's issues. Specialized women's funds and foundations are going beyond grantmaking to achieve impact, engaging in activities such as relationship-building, partnerships, and policy advocacy to pursue broader social change.

All of this affirms what I have witnessed as a professional philanthropist and social activist: as women secure more power for themselves, the face of philanthropy will continue to change. It is vital that women shape those trends with intention and an eye to strategy.

One way women who engage in philanthropy can be consequential is to encourage increased support for nonprofits working to empower women and girls, including organizations focused on preventing and funding a cure for breast cancer, providing relief for women who are victims of domestic violence, and supporting female entrepreneurs. While women are exceedingly generous when it comes to donating to other important causes, just 1.6 percent of Americans' charitable giving goes toward nonprofits that work to empower and advocate for women and girls. If women better support one another, others will surely follow and increase their support for women who find themselves at risk.

Women also can more effectively support each other by approaching philanthropy strategically and with the goal of maximizing their return on investment. Individually and collectively, we can be more discerning when deciding where to give and using data to shape our decisions. Viewing giving as a business whose ultimate objective is to deliver the best result for the greatest number of girls and women almost always will amplify the impact of one's gift.

At the Ruderman Family Foundation, we use an intersectionality lens to focus our philanthropic investments: empowering marginalized communities and women to take a more active role in shaping their lives. My experience over the last twenty years has taught me that our approach to  managing challenges and creating solutions works. Philanthropy has proved to be one of the best vehicles we have to express our values and put to work our skills and expertise. I know, and my experience has taught me, that women and girls can be powerful agents of change, and it is up to  philanthropy to help them fulfill that destiny in the boldest way possible.

The tangible impact of women's giving will continue to change the world. The COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity to accelerate this much-needed revolution.

Shira Ruderman_PhilanTopic Shira Ruderman is the executive director of the Ruderman Family Foundation.

Students still need emergency aid. Funders must step up to fill the gap.

July 24, 2020

Mother_college_student_son_GettyImages_PhilanTopicjpgIn response to the coronavirus pandemic, colleges, nonprofits, government, and philanthropy moved quickly to disburse emergency aid to students, many of whom found themselves without reliable access to food, housing, and technology after their campuses were forced to close. And with job losses affecting both working students and families, that support may have temporarily allayed the fears of students who wondered whether they would ever be able to return to school.

But for two groups of students — those ineligible for federal financial assistance, including undocumented students, and those, like student-parents, with additional financial needs — much-needed relief was in short supply. When government is either unwilling or unable to support students working to make their lives and communities better, philanthropic institutions have a duty to fill the gap. As a new school year marked by uncertainty draws closer, more emergency aid is needed, especially for students whose educational aspirations may slip through the widening cracks created by the pandemic.

While the federal CARES Act provided $6.3 billion in emergency grant funds for colleges and universities to distribute to students, the U.S. Department of Education's original guidance for the funds left out undocumented students, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, and international students, creating confusion for months and in some cases slowing the distribution of aid to other students.

What's more, the funds provided by the CARES Act could only be used for food, housing, and expenses directly related to the cost of attendance, leaving many students without adequate support to continue their education. For student-parents, in particular — who need to support children as well as themselves — expenses almost always exceed the assistance provided by their schools. Even before the pandemic, the cost of food, housing, and child care — which in many states is costlier than tuition or rent — made it difficult for student-parents to complete a degree. Single mothers, for instance, are more likely than any other group of women to have started but not finished college and just 8 percent of single student-moms graduate on time.

As more funders and institutions of higher education begin to examine how their investments can be used to advance racial equity, it's also important to note that 40 percent of all Black women in college are mothers. Clearly, success in closing racial and gender equity gaps in college success will remain elusive if we ignore the needs of student-parents.

DACA recipients enroll in college at about the same rate as their peers, but they are four times less likely to complete a degree. They also are ineligible for Pell grants or other forms of federal financial aid, which makes the high cost of tuition a significant barrier to their ability to complete their education. And while mental health issues disproportionately impact undocumented students' postsecondary success, many undocumented students are unable to qualify for affordable health insurance.

With limited emergency aid available to student-parents and unavailable to most undocumented students, the long-term success of both groups is in doubt and should be a priority for philanthropy going forward.

There's no shortage of research on the economic and societal benefits of investments in these groups. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has increased high school graduation and college enrollment rates and raised productivity and earnings among DACA recipients. Immigrants and international students make significant contributions to the U.S. economy as well as the innovations needed to address the challenges we face and keep the country competitive in a globalized economy.

Likewise, student-parents are risers and earn better grades than non-parenting students. Investing in their success not only helps them, it also benefits their children. Parents who complete a degree have access to higher-paying jobs and, on average, double their income over the course of their working lives, while studies have shown that even a $1,000 increase in salary can result in as much as a 27 percent increase in a child's cognitive development. We all benefit when committed learners are given an opportunity to realize their potential.

Philanthropy is uniquely suited to address these gaps in emergency aid funding — and many funders are already leading the way. In California, the College Futures Foundation and Mission Asset Fund created a statewide emergency aid fund that prioritizes undocumented students, foster youth, and those who are housing insecure. Edquity, which both of our organizations — Imaginable Futures and ECMC Foundation — support, joined Course Hero and Believe in Students to allow anyone to contribute to a pool of emergency funds that will be distributed to students not eligible for CARES Act aid.

Our own organizations invested in emergency aid efforts when the outbreak and subsequent spread of the virus forced campuses to close: Imaginable Futures targeted $400,000 of its emergency aid funding to student-parents and, because they have higher living expenses, required that funding be set at least $1,200 per student-parent, while ECMC Foundation made more than $1.5 million in direct emergency aid grants that went primarily to students who are not eligible for federal financial aid.

Still, as uncertainty looms over the upcoming school year, the educational dreams of 454,000 undocumented students and nearly four million student-parents hang in the balance. With the crisis likely to extend into the fall, we need more philanthropic investment in emergency aid for students left behind by federal programs. Educational equity, economic mobility, breaking the cycle of poverty, racial justice — none of these ambitious goals are realistic if students do not have the resources to succeed.

Undocumented students, DACA recipients, student-parents attend classes and study while navigating family care, financial insecurity, housing instability, and hunger. They fight for their education and their future every day. It is time we fight with them.

(Photo credit: GettyImages)

Vinice davis_jessica_haselton_PhilanTopic

Vinice Davis is a venture partner at Imaginable Futures and an investor in Edquity. Jessica Haselton is director of Education Innovation Ventures at ECMC Foundation and an investor in and board member of Edquity.

What grantees need most — a partner

July 21, 2020

NorthBergen_Healthy_Places_by_DesignFor better or worse; for richer, for poorer; through sickness and health.

You may not associate this vow with your typical funder — unless you've had the good fortune to partner with New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI).

Among the many things that make NJHI unique is the value it places on shifting power to communities, making longer-term commitments so that grantees have the time needed to achieve community transformation, and forming authentic relationships with grantees and partners.

NJHI was established in 1987 as a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). In New Jersey, RWJF's home state, NJHI plays a leading role in advancing the foundation's efforts to build healthier communities through grantmaking and investments. Since its inception, NJHI has supported more than forty statewide funding initiatives encompassing over five hundred grantees across all twenty-one counties in the state, making grants in support of youth-led initiatives, health and well-being, mental health, and community-based capacity development.

Recognizing that the communities it supports are best positioned to create the most impact and sustainable change, the organization strives to be flexible, nimble, and innovative. "We allow community partners to determine the best use of grant funds based on their specific community needs," says NJHI director Bob Atkins. "We have focused our grantmaking on engaging more voices and stakeholders in the communities in which we work, and to have them inform our thinking and approaches to making their communities healthier and more equitable."

As a community-led funder and partner focused on a single state, NJHI can make multiple investments in the same communities in ways that are strategic and complementary, rather than duplicative. "It has been exciting to see past and current grantees weave in elements of what they first received funding for five or ten or fifteen years ago," says NJHI deputy director Diane Hagerman. "We know that changes to health outcomes may not be seen for five or even ten years, so seeing work that was funded in the past resurface in a more current context speaks to the commitment of communities to make lasting change."

NJHI also recognizes that needs and context are not the same across communities, even within a single state. "We've analyzed our approach and become increasingly aware that some of our more distressed communities want help to build their own organizational and collaborative capacity," Hagerman notes. To address those requests, NJHI increased the amount of technical assistance it provides to applicants from distressed communities, many of which don't have a paid grant writer on staff.

More recently, a reimagining of NJHI's approach put greater focus on how it works with communities — as opposed to for communities. "One of the most valuable roles we can play," says Atkins, "is to set the table for grantees and community partners while they decide and create buy-in around what will help them achieve their goals." As such, NJHI leverages its influential role as connector and convener to help its community partners expand their networks and access additional resources, including coaching and collaborative learning and networking opportunities. Such investments provide exceptional returns in terms of building capacity at the community level.

"NJHI not only invests in communities, it invests in leaders and has built a movement across the state of people passionate about health equity," says Mary Celis, director of health initiatives at United Way of Passaic County. "Being a part of the NJHI family means you always have thought-leaders to problem-solve with and learn from."

NJHI's responsiveness during the COVID-19 pandemic provides another example of how it has grounded its investments in relationships. The large number of coronavirus infections and deaths in the state have underscored the important policy and systems work NJHI grantees do to address health disparities in their communities. NJHI was quick, for example, to provide timely funding resources and other critical information to grantees, and it devoted its April monthly Learning Collaborative session to an open discussion about the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in grantee communities. It was reassuring for NJHI grantees and partners to hear a funder be transparent about the ways in which the crisis has impacted the work it funds, and that the funder was committed to providing maximum flexibility in terms of its current grants.

The focus on developing meaningful partnerships has been critical to NJHI's efforts to reduce health disparities and create healthier communities in New Jersey. "This work cannot be accomplished alone or in silos," Atkins says. "To be effective in what we are trying to achieve requires partnering with our communities and other organizations. We don't want to simply be seen as 'the funder' — we are their partners, committed to learning from and alongside them."

That strategy serves NJHI, its grantees, and their communities well — and New Jersey is a healthier state because of it.

(Photo credit: New Jersey Health Initiatives/North Bergen Municipal Alliance)

Joanne Lee_PhilanTopicJoanne Lee is collaborative learning director at Healthy Places by Design, an organization that serves as a strategic partner for communities and those who invest in them.

Calling all science funders: biomedical research needs a lifeline

July 16, 2020

Women_medical_research_scientists_GettyImagesWhen research institutions and universities were forced to shut down in March, clinical trials, therapeutic development, and discovery science ground to a halt. While researchers are slowly returning to their labs and restarting their experiments, the scientific world is contending with a loss of productivity and funds that cannot be addressed by simply restarting the stopped clock.

Years of research designed to advance treatments and cures for diseases such as Alzheimer's, diabetes, and depression have been compromised. Researchers at public institutions have reported that critical tools in the development of medical therapies have been lost. Clinical research for diseases other than COVID have seen dramatic setbacks because patients have been unwilling or otherwise unable to assume the risk associated with in-person evaluation for a clinical trial. Some funders are helping researchers address these problems by rearranging budgets and awarding no-cost grant extensions. But such approaches do not take into account the extent of the losses incurred by the shutdown.

Personnel needed to be paid throughout the closures. Re-establishing animal and cell models to replace those that had to be destroyed requires new funds, not just an extension of funds. To make an analogy with the private sector, if science were a business, the last three months would be seen as a series of grievous losses, with the threat of bankruptcy always in the background. But scientific experimentation is not the same as business. The closures weren't just setbacks: our loved ones live with diseases that science is trying to find cures or treatments for, and the COVID-related setbacks of the last three months have resulted in slower development of — and, in some cases, a complete abandonment of — treatments with the potential to save lives.

Layered on top of the very real losses in the lab are the impacts on people — the dedicated researchers who quietly drive scientific progress. Academic science is a notoriously difficult career path: pre-COVID numbers suggest that just 23 percent of biomedical PhDs pursue a career in academic science. But since March, many scientists have seen their job security and long-term prospects thrown into question. Early-career scientists about to move into new faculty positions have had job offers rescinded or delayed, or are competing for fewer available openings. New faculty report struggling to collect sufficient data to be competitive in the federal grants process. Those who are parents may not be able to return to work, given the impact the pandemic has had on child care. This translates into fewer women in the lab, when there are already too few.

At this critical moment, the biomedical research community urgently needs philanthropists to take three steps:

1. Increase budgets for currently funded projects. Science funders know how important flexible funding is. Increasing grant budgets now not only will help mitigate some of the research setbacks of the last three months, it also will underwrite the additional personnel time and equipment needed to get back to square one on experiments that were abandoned.

2. Modify policies and programs to support vulnerable scientists. Science needs scientists. In order to provide those who are brave enough to pursue a career in scientific research with a fair shot, it is important to recognize that certain groups of scientists are more at risk of losing their funding, abandoning the field, or both due to COVID-related pressures. Postdoctoral fellows and newly minted research faculty need stable funding in order to establish their ideas. Female scientists who are also parents are facing greater childcare responsibilities — a fact that is already showing up in fewer grant submissions by women scientists, falling publication rates, and reduced participation in COVID research. And Black and brown scientists who face persistent roadblocks to advancement in their careers need support now more than ever to help them overcome decades of discrimination in funding as well as fewer publication and job opportunities.

3. Strengthen the health research sector. Finally, philanthropy must do more to ensure that organizations working to advance and support biomedical research stay afloat. These organizations play a key role in driving patient-focused progress and accelerating therapeutics in specific areas. Support for organizational overhead — keep-the-lights-on funding— is hopelessly "unsexy" but massively important, in that it keeps experts on the job who are critical to vetting and shepherding good science in its journey from the lab to real-world applications.

In a recent discussion about the actions needed to overcome COVID-19, Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, "People keep asking me, 'What's the one thing we have to do?' The one thing we have to do is understand that there is not one thing."

This is just as true for science in the context of the pandemic. COVID-related impacts on biomedical logistics, funding, and human talent have put the entire biomedical research ecosystem at risk. Without immediate attention and support for that research and the scientists who work to advance it, there is little hope we will develop new and improved treatments for the thousands of diseases that annually impact millions of people around the globe.

(Photo credit: GettyImages)

Altimus-Cara_PhilanTopicCara Altimus, PhD, is a director at the Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy.

A 'Just and Resilient Recovery' framework for international donors and financial institutions

July 09, 2020

HR&A_just_resilient_recovery_shutterstockEven as some of the most severe COVID-19 outbreaks subside, the pandemic continues to spread around the world, with 11.5 million cases confirmed and more than five hundred thousand deaths as we write. Roughly two-thirds of all new confirmed cases are in developing countries, with Latin America alone accounting for over a third of new confirmed cases.

The economic disruption that the virus and measures to contain it have brought to developed economies will be dwarfed by the consequences of similar efforts in the developing world. According to forecasts from the World Bank, COVID-19 will, by the end of 2020, push an additional forty-nine million people into extreme poverty. That represents an increase of 8 percent and would be the first increase in extreme poverty globally since the Asian financial crisis in 1998. The projections suggest that sub-Saharan Africa, where an additional twenty-three million people could fall into extreme poverty, will be hardest hit, with Latin America and the Caribbean and South Asia splitting the balance.

Designing emergency response programs, fiscal and monetary stimulus, and long-term economic recovery plans to address the effects of the pandemic will be more challenging in places where the economic damage is deepest and existing inequality the most acute. Indeed, a combination of already-stagnant economies, tight fiscal conditions, and weak institutional capacity has created a perfect storm in many developing countries.

A Framework for International Donors and Financial Institutions

Against this backdrop, the mitigation of economic and social damage in many countries has been left to global philanthropies and international financial institutions. The G20 countries have agreed to a useful, if limited, suspension of debt service for the poorest countries, and the World Bank moved quickly to mobilize $160 billion in new and repurposed capital, which was followed by other multilateral development groups. We believe, however, that these efforts will be insufficient if these and other institutions do not take a structured approach to understanding needs on the ground and the prioritization of the implementation of their actions.

While most actors have rightfully focused their immediate attention on public health measures and efforts to strengthen the safety net, as cities and regions start emerging from quarantine and effective therapies and vaccines are developed they will need to collectively address the underlying economic and social challenges that have made COVID-19 so devastating and destabilizing for the most vulnerable groups in society.

Based on our experience with previous natural, economic, and humanitarian crises, we have developed a framework to help guide cities and communities on the path to a more "Just and Resilient Recovery." The framework calls for public and private institutions to organize and coordinate their COVID-19 recovery efforts around the four sequential phases illustrated below.

Global Philantropy Commentary Graphic

The time for planning and coordinating fiscal policy efforts is now. Global donors and financial development institutions should start planning and prioritizing how and where their assistance will be directed to ensure that countries and cities that receive that assistance can use it to create a more just and resilient "next" normal that addresses some of the structural inequities of the old normal, including poverty, informality, and discrimination.

Over the coming weeks and months, as institutions continue to organize their internal resources and begin to develop road maps for the next phase of the recovery, they should consider the following:

Assess the economic disruption: As lockdowns ease and more evidence and data becomes available, institutions should develop a more granular understanding of the economic and fiscal impact of the virus in the countries and jurisdictions they serve. This can be done at scale with a dynamic model that takes into consideration baseline economic conditions pre-crisis, the scope of containment measures taken and the degree to which they have been enforced, the level of unemployment (formal and informal), and, where appropriate, the fiscal measures already taken by governments to mitigate the economic impacts of the virus. The model should also take into account the compounding effects of future natural disasters and the percentage of the population lacking access to clean water and waste treatment infrastructure. This more granular understanding of the economic damage resulting from the virus will enable institutions to better calibrate the magnitude and speed of the response required in different countries, regions, and communities.

Understand needs and opportunities: Supported by such an assessment, institutions need to understand which economic sectors and segments of the population have been most impacted and what the opportunities are to rethink how to rebuild and create employment opportunities in more productive industries. A focus on sectors with high economic multipliers such as technology, research, and advanced manufacturing should be seen as an opportunity to bring substantial numbers of workers into the formal economy and prepare large segments of the population for the future of work.

Map resources: Once the economic damage and the opportunities for a more just and resilient economic recovery have been identified, institutions need to think carefully about how to leverage resources from other countries, donors, and the private sector. The capital from donors and multilateral development banks should be seen as a "filler" that closes financial gaps and addresses market failures, catalyzing private investment and participation. Understanding the potential to effectively leverage private-sector participation under the current short-term capital commitments from development banks will be critical. That includes exploring more active participation in public-private concessions, providing availability payments, and making backstop guarantees to de-risk projects.

Prioritize areas of investment: With an understanding of the needs, opportunities, and resources available in the short- and mid-term, institutions should be able to prioritize the allocation of resources across countries and sectors in an efficient way and provide guidance and direction to specific country offices and divisions accordingly. Such a prioritization should consider which industries and clusters are best positioned to increase productivity and create jobs and how communities can benefit from such growth in an inclusive manner. This could include investments in digital infrastructure that pave the way for greater innovation and technology, public transportation to make job opportunities accessible to everyone and cities more sustainable, and resilient infrastructure designed to mitigate the shock and disruption of future climate-related disasters.

The global development community has a generational opportunity to substantially transform the economies of the poorest countries, leveraging resources from all sectors, with a focus on investments that boost productivity and eradicate secular inequities and establish a precedent for a Just and Resilient Economic Recovery. Let’s not let that opportunity go by the wayside.

(Photo credit: HR&A Advisors)

Shuprotim_Bhaumik_Ignacio_MontojoShuprotim Bhaumik is a partner at HR&A Advisors, where he specializes in economic development and public policy consulting. Ignacio Montojo is a director at HR&A and specializes in the design and implementation of public-private partnerships and financing strategies for infrastructure and real estate development projects. Both have worked on behalf of several international financial institutions, including the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the International Finance Corporation in countries around the world, including Afghanistan, Argentina, Bangladesh, Colombia, Costa Rica, Kenya, Panama, and South Africa.

Young Americans, racial equity, and the pandemic

June 29, 2020

2020-06-07T082928Z_1842925027_MT1AFL127122807_RTRMADP3_BLM_RALLY_IN_RESPONSE_TO_DEATH_OF_GEORGE-FLOYDRecent events have galvanized tens of thousands of young Americans of all races into becoming active and vocal supporters of Black Lives Matter — a vigorous, positive, can’t-be-ignored movement rooted in the efforts of countless others who have worked hard over decades to address and eliminate racial inequality in American society. The fact that the protests erupted in the midst of a public health crisis that required people to physically distance themselves from others has merely served to reinforce the shared experience of the protestors and made many feel as if they are part of an unstoppable global movement. Most young Americans (ages 18-30) now believe real change is at hand and inevitable.

The research initiative I lead under the Cause and Social Influence banner has been tracking the actions of this cohort in real time since the pandemic began, so when the first protests broke out after the killing of George Floyd, we were able to quickly add research questions specific to the issue of racial inequality. The result is four Influencing Young Americans to Act 2020 reports that reveal the kinds of actions young people have taken since Floyd’s death, as well as some of the other factors that have influenced young people since March.

Here are five key takeaways from the reports:

1. Charitable giving by young Americans is up. At the end of 2019, we asked young Americans what action they preferred to make when they supported social issues; only 9 percent said making a charitable gift. That number had inched up to 10 percent by the time a pandemic was declared in March, and ticked up again, to 12 percent in April, where it stayed in May. We expected this number to continue to tick up as social distancing guidelines remained in place in populated urban areas. Instead, as the protests sparked by George Floyd’s death grew in intensity in late May and early June, we began to see proof of what we have long believed and shared with our readers: passion drives participation. Indeed, during the first week of the protests, one-fifth (20 percent) of survey respondents who self-identified as either white, black, or a person of color made a charitable gift. And the passion we are seeing around the issue has sparked support beyond financial donations, including higher levels of volunteerism and advocacy.

2. Interest in online influencers is up. In the initial stages of the pandemic, family and friends were the major influencers in terms of how young Americans perceived and responded to the public health threat. By mid-April, young Americans were more likely to take their cues from local government, while 60 percent of members of this cohort said they were not looking to celebrities or online influencers/content creators for virus-related information. That started to change in mid-May, by which time the percentage of respondents who aid they were not relying on celebrities or online influencers/content creators for COVID information had fallen to 48 percent. The Black Lives Matter protests drove that number down further, especially among young Black Americans. During the first week of June, the percentage of respondents who said they weren’t turning to online influencers/content creators for information had fallen to 33 percent; broken down by racial group, we found that 43 percent of white respondents and 58 percent of young black respondents were looking to social influencers for news about race-based discrimination, racial inequality, and social injustice.

3. Young Americans trust nonprofits and distrust Donald Trump. As the protests were spreading in earnest in early June, nearly 50 percent of young Americans said they felt President Trump was not addressing racial issues “well at all,” with only 16 percent of white/Caucasian respondents saying he was handling the situation “moderately well.” Majorities of both white and black respondents also said they trust social movements and nonprofits more than the president or government to do what’s right with respect to racial inequality, race-based discrimination, and social injustice — a change from the early days of the pandemic, when local government and nonprofits garnered the highest trust rankings.

4. Purchases and companies can influence change. Over a decade of research, we have watched young Americans use their purchasing power to influence companies and brands to support the causes and social issues they care about. But how and where this cohort spends its money became much more obviously intentional after the 2016 presidential election. In the weeks after the election, we found that more than a third (37 percent) of young Americans had shifted their purchasing patterns in significant ways to align more with their positions on social issues. By 2018, a majority of this group believed their purchasing decisions represented a powerful form of activism, and by this spring, as shutdowns and stay-at-home orders became the rule, young Americans were focused on the economic sustainability of local businesses and the things they could do to help business owners. At the same time, eight out of ten (80 percent) young Americans believe companies can influence public attitudes with respect to behaviors that can help limit the spread of the virus. The same belief is reflected in our June survey, with 74 percent of respondent saying companies can have “a great deal” or “some” influence in addressing race-based discrimination, racial inequality, and social injustice.

5. Young Americans are creating new channels of influence. Younger millennials and Gen Z are the most educated young Americans the country has ever seen, and thanks to technology they have the kind of reach that activists in the past could only dream about. With those tools, we see them working to bring about change by petitioning political representatives, mounting advocacy campaigns, and turning out like-minded voters. They also are supporting brands that embody their values, calling out brands that only give lip service to those values, and directing more money to local and small-business owners. And they are giving to the causes they are passionate about.

The coronavirus pandemic and the nationwide protests sparked by the death of George Floyd are showing us how rapidly a fundraising and marketing strategy can be turned upside down. How well nonprofits respond in the months to come will depend on their familiarity with and connection to their audiences and their willingness to adjust their fundraising tactics and appeals to meet the moment.

(Credit: Keiko Hiromi/AFLO)

Headshot_derrick_feldmann_2015Derrick Feldmann (@derrickfeldmann) is the author of Social Movements for Good: How Companies and Causes Create Viral Change, the founder of the Millennial Impact Project, and lead researcher at Cause and Social Influence. You can read more by Derrick here.

We need more than COVID charity; it’s time for systems change

June 16, 2020

Land-grant-university-racial-equityToo many people in our home state of North Carolina are struggling to survive as COVID-19 wreaks havoc on their health, financial stability, schools, and communities. As the pandemic rages on, we also see thousands of residents protesting George Floyd’s murder and the injustices and racism that have permeated all aspects of our society for far too long. Charity is not enough to make a long-term difference.

We must begin laying the groundwork for what comes after this uncertain moment. We have the opportunity to reinvent what we want our state to look like and reform the systems that have failed many of our most vulnerable residents — communities of color, rural residents, elders, children, and families with low incomes.

Like many foundations in our state and around the country, The Duke Endowment and the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust moved quickly in the early months of the public health crisis and released millions of dollars to address urgent needs in the state, including food scarcity, housing insecurity, and inadequate healthcare supplies.

No matter how quickly we move, however, COVID-19 and the nationwide protests spotlight have amplified inequities that existed long before today.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people of color are disproportionately impacted by this virus. They’re more likely to be hospitalized or die from the disease. Latinos are almost three times as likely to be uninsured; African Americans are twice as likely to lack insurance.

We also have learned that many residents with lower incomes are essential — risking their lives so that others can ride the bus, buy groceries, or visit the doctor. A lack of access to affordable housing, reliable transportation, and personal protective equipment puts vulnerable residents in jeopardy.

As philanthropic leaders, we are calling on other foundations, government, and business leaders to think about how we, collectively, can change the path forward.

The public and private sectors came together to respond to urgent needs by investing millions when the COVID-19 crisis hit. If we continue to work together, we can make systemic changes that will help our state thrive well beyond this moment.

What might such a shift look like?

In North Carolina, all residents would have access to quality, affordable health insurance and care — during this health crisis and over the long-term. Residents in rural communities would be able to visit healthcare clinics that offer high-quality primary care and seamless connections, via telehealth, to regional medical centers. Children would have access to and thrive in quality early-childhood programs, where teachers are supported and appropriately compensated. Law enforcement policies that negatively impact communities of color would change.

How can we, collectively, make this happen? We — government, nonprofits, foundations, and businesses — must each do our part to ensure coordinated access to health care and mental health services. We must address the factors outside of medicine that impact health by investing in affordable housing, transportation, economic supports, and access to healthy food. We must increase access to technology and high-speed Internet so students and families can stay connected in a time when virtual learning is imperative. We must invest in innovation centers as our state transitions to value-based care to ensure that this new model of care, one that encourages providers to treat the whole person, produces equitable health outcomes for all. And we must strengthen our state’s public health system so that local communities are better prepared to address the next health crisis head on. These are just a few ideas; working together with our communities, we will develop more.

If we don’t seize this moment, we will end up revisiting these issues — entrenched poverty, systemic racial bias, high uninsured rates, children left behind in school, a shaky public health system — over and over again.

While we can’t literally join hands as we are social distancing, we can unite for change. Philanthropy and business can incubate and pilot innovative ideas and approaches, and our local, state and federal governments can bring those successful ideas and innovations to scale.

Will this take a significant investment of time and resources and a commitment to include all voices in the solutions? Absolutely. But experience shows that we can tackle difficult problems together. The moment to do so is now. COVID-19 and residents marching in the streets have taught us that the stakes of inaction and disinvestment are high.

By investing in bold ways to help our most vulnerable communities, we have an opportunity to build a future where we are stronger than we were before, with an equitable system that supports all residents.

Headshot_comp_Laura_Gerald_Rhett_Mabry_PhilanTopicDr. Laura Gerald is president of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and Rhett Mabry is president of the Charlotte-based Duke Endowment.

Foundations step up funding for COVID-19 response efforts (May 16-June 15, 2020)

June 14, 2020

Foundations-pledge-support-for-covid-19-relief-update_full_imageAs COVID-19 continues to disrupt life in the United States and around the globe, private foundations are stepping up with funding to meet the immediate needs of individuals and vulnerable populations impacted by the virus. Here's a roundup of grants announced over the last three weeks:

ALASKA

Rasmuson Foundation, Anchorage, AK | $550,000

The Rasmuson Foundation has announced twelve grants totaling $550,000 in support of COVID-19 response efforts as well as rural healthcare initiatives in Alaska. The second round of funding awarded in partnership with Premera Blue Cross and the Alaska Community Foundation through the Premera Rural Health Care Fund includes grants of $25,000 to the Arctic Slope Native Association for the purchase of oxygen bottles for COVID-19 patients; $65,316 to the Bartlett Regional Hospital for a COVID-19 triage tent; and $32,500 to the Copper River Native Association for emergency room telemedicine equipment.

CALIFORNIA

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Redwood City, CA | $755,000

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has announced grants totaling $755,000 in support of efforts to address the mental well-being of students and teachers impacted by the coronavirus. The Crisis Text Line, which saw a 22 percent increase in texts from students age 17 and younger between March and May, was awarded $550,000 to increase the number of trained volunteer counselors who provide real-time support and references to local care and services, while Healthy Minds Innovations will receive $205,000 to expand its app-based Healthy Minds Program, which is designed to help educators build awareness, connection, insight, and purpose.

Shurl and Kay Curci Foundation, Los Angeles, CA | $1 million

The University of California, Los Angeles has announced a $1 million commitment from the Shurl and Kay Curci Foundation in support of the UCLA COVID-19 Rapid Response Initiative, a partnership of the Fielding School of Public Health and the David Geffen School of Medicine. The gift will enable researchers to test frontline health workers and first responders for active COVID infections, antibodies, and immune response on a regular basis, facilitating rapid diagnosis and helping protect their colleagues and family members.

Omidyar Network, Redwood City, CA | Up to $750,000

The Omidyar Network has announced the recipients of a first round of grants from its COVID-19 Economic Response Advocacy Fund. Through the fund, grants ranging from $75,000 to $150,000 were awarded to the Maine People's Alliance, Michigan People's Campaign, Free Press Action Fund, Roosevelt Institute, Jobs With Justice, Groundwork Action, and Make the Road New York together with Make the Road Action.

startsmall LLC, Mountain View, CA | $11.6 Million

Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey's limited liability company, #startsmall, has announced commitments totaling $11.6 million in support of COVID-19 relief efforts. Commitments include $5 million to World Central Kitchen in support of its Restaurants for the People program in Oakland and another $5 million to former presidential candidate Andrew Yang's nonprofit, Humanity Forward, to help fund a project that provides basic income payments to individuals and families most at risk of experiencing loss of income. Other recipients include Eminem's Marshall Mathers Foundation ($750,000), the Edgewood Center for Children and Families ($350,000), and Sisterhearts, Inc. ($500,000). With this latest round of grants, Dorsey has committed more than $85 million to COVID relief since April, when he pledged $1 billion of his equity stake in Square to charity.

John and Mary Tu Foundation, Fountain Valley, CA | $1 million

The University of California, San Diego has announced a $1 million gift from the John and Mary Tu Foundation in support of translational research aimed at advancing COVID-19 testing and advancing new diagnostics, therapies, and ways to monitor the spread of the virus. The funds will support a team led by virologist Davey Smith, who has been working to sequence the virus and track it as it spreads into vulnerable populations, as well as leading clinical trials of new treatments for those who have developed moderately severe cases of COVID-19.

Weingart Foundation, Los Angeles, CA | $2.7 million

The Weingart Foundation has announced unrestricted operating support grants totaling $2.7 million to twenty-eight nonprofits impacted by the coronavirus. Recipients include the South L.A. Transit Empowerment Zone ($200,000), community-based housing organizations East L.A. Community Corporation ($100,000), and Reach Out West End and Access California Services ($100,000). In the belief that unrestricted funding remains the best way to help nonprofits respond and adapt to the public health emergency, the foundation plans to award up to $20 million in general operating support over the next twelve months.

COLORADO

Katz Amsterdam Foundation, Edgewater, CO | $1 million

Vail Resorts chair and CEO Rob Katz and his wife, Elana Amsterdam, have announced a $1 million grant from the Katz Amsterdam Foundation to the Tulane University School of Medicine in support of efforts to expand COVID-19 testing for populations most at risk in the metro Denver region.

Community First Foundation, Arvada, CO | $454,750

In a second round of funding through its Jeffco Hope Fund, the Community First Foundation has announced grants totaling $454,750 to help stabilize Jefferson County nonprofits that may not be providing direct services to county residents but have been negatively impacted by the virus due to canceled or suspended programming and fundraising events and/or a falloff in donations. Grant recipients include the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver, and Seniors' Resource Center, Inc.

CONNECTICUT

Antonacci Family Foundation, Enfield, CT | $250,000

The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts has received grants totaling more than $250,000 from the Antonacci Family Foundation, MassLive.com reports. Awarded through the foundation's Millions of Meals initiative, the funding will support the food bank's network partners in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties; its Brown Bag Food for Elders sites in twenty-one cities and towns in Hampshire and Franklin counties; and its Mobile Food Bank programs in Amherst, Easthampton, Greenfield, and Turners.

FLORIDA

Helios Education Foundation, Tampa, FL | $650,000

Helios Education Foundation and the Florida Consortium of Metropolitan Research Universities have announced the Helios-Florida Consortium COVID-19 Summer Completion Grant Initiative in support of low-income students at risk of not completing their degrees as a result of the public health emergency and its economic fallout. Funded by a $650,000 investment from Helios, the initiative will provide students at Florida International University, the University of Central Florida, and the University of South Florida with up to $1,250 to help meet expenses not covered by the CARES ACT or traditional financial aid.

ILLINOIS

Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities, Chicago, IL | $1 Million

The Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities, a funder collaborative that supports proven and promising approaches to gun violence prevention, has announced changes to its annual grant program and is awarding rapid response funding to organizations impacted by COVID-19. Grants were awarded to a hundred and sixty-four nonprofits working in twenty-one neighborhoods on Chicago's South and West Sides to build social cohesion and trust, foster cooperation between residents and the police, and adapt their programming in line with social-distancing requirements.

INDIANA

Ball Brothers Foundation, Muncie, IN | $35,000

The Ball Brothers Foundation has announced grants totaling $35,000 to Ball State University and Ivy Tech Community College in support of COVID-19 response and recovery efforts. The grants include $5,000 to help BSU College of Health's clinics provide telehealth services; $25,000 in support of planning efforts at local K-12 schools as administrators and teachers prepare for the fall; and $5,000 to Ivy Tech Community College's COVID-19 Relief Fund.

KENTUCKY

James Graham Brown Foundation, Louisville, KY | $1.5 million

The University of Louisville has announced a $1.5 million gift from the James Graham Brown Foundation in support of the Co-Immunity Project, a collaboration of the UofL Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute, Louisville Healthcare CEO Council, and Baptist Health, Norton Healthcare, and UofL Health systems. The funding will support expanded testing of individuals for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, as well as the testing of wastewater, with the goal of developing a "virus radar" that provides real-time data for tracking and curbing the spread of COVID-19 in Kentucky.

LOUISIANA

Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, New Orleans, LA | $150,000

The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, with support from the Helis, W.K. Kellogg, and Josef Sternberg Memorial foundations, has announced emergency relief grants totaling $150,000 through its Louisiana Culture Care Fund. Grants of between $5,000 and $12,000 were awarded to seventeen nonprofits, including the Amistad Research Center ($10,000), the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana ($10,000), and the Louisiana Preservation Alliance ($7,500).

MAINE

Sam L. Cohen Foundation, Portland, ME | $1 Million

The Sam L. Cohen Foundation has pledged $1 million in support of organizations and projects providing direct services to populations in Maine impacted by COVID-19. To date, the foundation has awarded thirty-one grants totaling $520,000, including $120,000 in support of programs for low-income individuals and those experiencing homelessness; $100,000 in support of healthcare, mental health, and eldercare services; $180,000 in support of food assistance programs; and $50,000 to COVID-19 community reliefs funds in Cumberland and York counties.

MICHIGAN

Kresge Foundation, Troy, MI | $4.2 Million

The Kresge Foundation has announced grants and grant supplements totaling $4.2 million in support of COVID-19 relief and response efforts in Detroit, Memphis, and across the United States. The foundation awarded new grants totaling approximately $2 million to nonprofits and state agencies, including PolicyLink (Oakland, California), which will receive $500,000 in support of the Convergence Partnership, a funder collaborative that invests in efforts to address structural and institutional barriers affecting the health and well-being of marginalized communities; United States Artists, which was awarded $250,000 to address, through its Artist Relief Fund, the immediate financial needs of individual artists and creative workers; and Whole Child Strategies, which will receive $200,000 in support of a coalition of place-based organizations providing emergency relief to low-income families in eight Memphis neighborhoods. As part of its commitment to provide grantees with more resources and flexibility to respond to the public health emergency, the foundation also is providing supplemental grant funds totaling $2.2 million to a hundred and twenty-four community development corporations and justice- and democracy-focused organizations.

Michigan Health Endowment Fund, Lansing, MI | $5.3 Million

The Michigan Health Endowment Fund has announced grants totaling $5.3 million in support of efforts to improve community health across the state and provide critical help during the COVID-19 crisis. The total includes more than $4.5 million in health impact grants to fifty-two organizations and projects — including many focused on food access, support for older adults, and mental health services — and more than $809,000 in capacity-building grants to eighteen organizations with annual budgets under $5 million. Recipients include the Autism Alliance of Michigan ($100,000), Community Housing Network, Inc. ($50,000), Grand Rapids African American Health Institute ($89,420), Mosaic Counseling ($30,000), Our Kitchen Table ($24,050), and Sylvester Broom Empowerment Village ($100,000).

NEW JERSEY

Russell Berrie Foundation, Teaneck, NJ | $4.48 Million

The Russell Berrie Foundation has announced emergency grants totaling $4.48 million in support of COVID-19 relief efforts in northern New Jersey and Israel. The grants will assist nonprofits working to address medical and healthcare needs, food and economic insecurity, and other social impacts of the pandemic. Grant recipients include Holy Name Medical Center ($250,000), the NJ YMCA Alliance (200,000), the Community Food Bank of New Jersey ($100,000), the Jewish Federation of Northern NJ ($50,000), Azrieli Faculty of Medicine of the Bar Ilan University ($500,000), and the Arab-Jewish Center for Empowerment, Equality, and Cooperation ($50,000).

Kessler Foundation, East Hanover, NJ | $1 Million

The Kessler Foundation has announced COVID-19 emergency grants totaling nearly $1 million to New Jersey nonprofits serving people with disabilities. Thirty-seven organizations received grants ranging from $10,000 to $40,000 to help cover unanticipated needs and expenses, including technology required for remote operations, personal protective equipment (PPE), and supplies needed to meet new federal and state requirements for sanitation and safety measures.

NEW YORK

William T. Grant Foundation, New York, NY; Spencer Foundation, Chicago, IL | $900,000

The William T. Grant and Spencer foundations have announced commitments totaling up to $900,000 with the goal of reducing disparities in youth outcomes exacerbated by the COVID-19 public health emergency. Two initial Rapid Response Research grants will support collaborations between researchers and policy makers — the first between the Boston mayor's office and Northeastern University professor Alicia Modestino, who will use evidence-based design to try to save the city's summer employment programs for youth, and the second bringing together researchers from Drexel University's Juvenile Justice Research and Reform Lab and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges to inform alternatives to confinement for young people caught up in the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

Price Family Foundation, New York, NY | $1 million

Albert Einstein College of Medicine has announced a $1 million challenge grant from Michael F. Price and the Price Family Foundation in support of COVID-19 research. The foundation will match donations on a one-to-one basis to the school, which, in partnership with Montefiore, is leading a national effort to test the efficacy of convalescent plasma for treating those fighting the infection, as well as studies on potential treatments such as remdesivir, leronlimab, and sarilumab.

Surdna Foundation, New York, NY | $4.6 Million

The Surdna Foundation has announced that it has allocated $4.6 million to date in support of grantees working to meet needs in communities of color disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Among other things, the funding will support efforts to assist business owners and workers, mitigate the impact on individual artists of color and small and midsize arts nonprofits serving communities of color, and bolster relief efforts and community organizing in black, brown, and Indigenous communities, with a focus on land, food, and environmental justice. Where appropriate, the foundation also has converted project grants and conference registration fees to general operating support, adjusted the terms of grants, waived project reports, expedited grant payments, and streamlined grant renewals.

Bob Woodruff Foundation, New York, NY | $1.9 million

The Bob Woodruff Foundation has announced $1.9 million grants to thirteen organizations working to provide veterans, service members, and their families and caregivers with health and wellness services; support veterans and military families transitioning into civilian communities; and address the acute and critical needs of veterans impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Grant recipients include Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), which is working to address the immediate emotional and financial needs of military survivors facing increased anxiety and depression as a result of the loss of income and isolation caused by COVID-related shutdowns; the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center's Medical-Legal Partnerships, which is providing legal services needed to address complex social factors affecting veterans' housing status, health, and well-being; and Goodwill Industries of Houston, which will provide vocational training to prepare veterans for high-need, high-growth careers.

Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, Winston-Salem, NC | $2.7 million

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust has announced investments totaling more than $2.7 million in flexible funding for COVID-19 relief efforts in Forsyth County and across North Carolina. Grants were awarded to healthcare delivery systems, including hospitals and associated clinics, free clinics, and health centers that regularly see Medicaid, Medicare, and uninsured patients; local and statewide community foundations, many of which are helping nonprofits meet the basic needs of vulnerable populations; local health departments, which require additional capacity to test, track, and report cases, coordinate state- and local-level responses, and protect populations most at risk of infection; and grassroots groups and other nonprofits working to provide timely COVID-related information to marginalized populations.

PENNSYLVANIA

Richard King Mellon Foundation, Pittsburgh, PA | $200,000

The Richard King Mellon Foundation has awarded $200,000 to MasksOn.org to provide four thousand protective masks to Pittsburgh-area healthcare workers and first responders, the Pittsburgh Business Times reports. Designed by doctors with help from engineers from MIT and Google, the converted snorkeling masks will be provided to Allegheny County's seven Federally Qualified Health Centers, Excela Health and Bethlen Communities in Westmoreland County, and Westmoreland County firefighters.

VIRGINIA

Ivy Foundation, Charlottesville, VA | $2 million

The University of Virginia has announced a $2 million commitment from the Ivy Foundation in support of biomedical research focused on COVID-19. The Ivy Foundation COVID-19 Translational Research Fund will support research aimed at addressing diagnosis, treatment options, vaccine development, and healthcare worker protection needs.

________

"New Grant Awards Include COVID-19 Response Projects." Rasmuson Foundation Press Release 05/21/2020.

"Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Awards $700,000 to Support Mental Well-being of Educators, Students." Chan Zuckerberg Initiative press release 05/29/2020.

"UCLA receives $1 million for COVID-19 Rapid Response Initiative." University of California, Los Angeles press release 05/26/2020.

"Omidyar Network Announces Initial Grants from COVID-19 Economic Response Advocacy Fund." Omidyar Network Press Release 05/27/2020.

"#startsmall Tracker." #startsmall Excel Sheet 05/21/2020.

"$1M gift speeds COVID-19 testing and tracking at UC San Diego." University of California, San Diego press release 05/28/2020.

"Unrestricted operating support will help nonprofits weather the COVID-19 crisis." Weingart Foundation press release 05/28/2020.

"Weingart Foundation unrestricted operating support grant awards: May 2020." Weingart Foundation press release 05/28/2020.

"Vail Resorts CEO to Donate $11.7 Million from SARs Exercise; Announces Grants to Support COVID-19 Efforts, Racial Justice Reform and Youth Access." Vail Resorts press release 06/08/2020.

"Jeffco Hope Fund Round 2 Aims to Help Jeffco Nonprofits Stabilize During Pandemic." Community First Foundation Press Release 05/21/2020.

"Big Y, Antonacci Family Foundation aid Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, as coronavirus pandemic makes it tough for families to keep food on the table." MassLive.com 06/03/2020.

"Helios Education Foundation and Florida Consortium of Metropolitan Research Universities Launch Summer Completion Grant Initiative." Helios Education Foundation Press Release.

"BBF awards special funding to support BSU and Ivy Tech COVID efforts." Ball Brothers Foundation press release 05/27/2020.

"Foundations Adapt $1 Million Anti-Violence Fund for Communities Hardest Hit by Virus & Gun Violence." Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities Press Release 05/20/2020.

"COVID-19 antibody initiative receives $1.5 million to expand testing, launch 'virus radar'." University of Louisville press release 06/08/2020.

"Thanks to support, LEH awards more emergency relief grants." Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities press release 05/28/2020.

"Sam L. Cohen Foundation Commits $1 Million to Support COVID-19 Response and Recovery in Cumberland and York Counties." Sam. L. Cohen Foundation Press Release 05/11/2020.

"$4.2M in New Grants to Equip National Nonprofit Response to COVID-19 Pandemic." Kresge Foundation Press Release 05/14/2020.

"Investing $5.3 Million in the Health of Michigan Communities." Michigan Health Endowment Fund Press Release 05/18/2020.

"The Russell Berrie Foundation Announces $4.48 Million in Emergency Grants to Support COVID-19 Response Efforts in New Jersey and Israel." Russell Berrie Foundation Press Release 05/19/2020.

"Kessler Foundation Awards COVID-19 Emergency Grants to Grantees Serving People With Disabilities in New Jersey." Kessler Foundation Press Release 05/13/2020.

"William T. Grant and Spencer Foundations award rapid response research grants to combat youth inequality exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic." William T. Grant Foundation and Spencer Foundation press release 06/01/2020.

"Luce Foundation emergency grants support underserved communities in the US." Henry Luce Foundation press release 06/05/2020.

"Grants information." Henry Luce Foundation webpage 06/05/2020.

"Albert Einstein College of Medicine awarded $1 million challenge gift for COVID-19 research from the Price Family Foundation." Albert Einstein College of Medicine press release 06/02/2020.

"Solidarity and Support for Our Grantees." Surdna Foundation Press Release 05/13/2020.

"Bob Woodruff Foundation announces $1.9 million investment in spring grant recipients." Bob Woodruff Foundation press release 06/09/2020.

"2020 spring grants." Bob Woodruff Foundation webpage 06/09/2020.

"Kate B. Reynolds Charitable trust invests more than $2.7 million in immediate, flexible funding to respond to COVID-19 in North Carolina." Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust press release 06/01/2020.

"Richard King Mellon Foundation brings converted snorkeling masks to Pittsburgh health care workers." Pittsburgh Business Times 06/01/2020.

"Ivy Foundation commits $2 million for COVID-19 translational research fund." University of Virginia press release 05/26/2020.

Maintaining a consistent fundraising stream: lessons learned from COVID-19

June 01, 2020

Top_keyboard_red_donate_button_GettyImagesOver the last few months, the staff at Valleywise Health Foundation has witnessed astounding levels of empathy and generosity directed toward healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic in Maricopa County. Many nonprofits and public charities are hurting right now, so it's especially uplifting to see how charitable people can be in the face of hardship and uncertainty. Like many organizations, we continue to face challenges, but as we like to say around here, with challenges come opportunities.

During these unprecedented times, we've found three approaches to be critical to our ability to maintain a consistent funding stream and ensure continued support for healthcare workers in the Valleywise Health system: adapting critical programs to new formats; appealing to donors' sense of humanity; and utilizing new channels to reach donors and supporters. We believe all three approaches are something other philanthropic organizations can benefit from as they work to secure support for critical services that are likely to become even more essential in the weeks and months to come.

Adapt to a "new normal." Social distancing requirements are forcing the cancellation of public gatherings and events nationwide. This new reality is a challenge for nonprofits and foundations that rely on events to raise awareness of and funding for their programs. But instead of despairing over the cancellation of your gala fundraiser or summer meet-and-greet, try to think about it as an opportunity to pivot to something new. All it takes is a little flexibility, creativity, and patience.

Valleywise Health Foundation's "Night of Heroes" event — an annual fundraiser that celebrates "heroic" patient stories and recognizes Valleywise Health's doctors, nurses, and employees — was scheduled to take place on April 23, with Isabella McCune, a 10-year old who suffered second- and third-degree burns over 65 percent of her body in a 2018 accident but whose courageous spirit remains undimmed after more than a hundred surgeries and procedures, as our honoree. As it became clear, however, that we would not be able to hold an in-person event this year, we decided to convert the night into a virtual livestreamed event for invitees and others. The results exceeded our expectations, and we raised a record $225,000 — significantly more than last year's total — for the new Arizona Burn Center and COVID-19 emergency needs in the county. The online nature of the event also enabled us to reach a far larger audience of potential donors than our original venue would have accommodated, and our cost-per-dollar-raised fell to 24 cents, well below the national average of 50 cents for in-person events.

Make a human connection. In times like these, it's imperative that you continue to reach out to your donors and supporters. While the depths of a global pandemic may not seem like the best time to fundraise, many people are reflecting more than ever on what is truly important to them and looking for new ways to support their communities. In fact, this is a great time to tell them how their generosity can lift up their community and the causes they care about.

At Valleywise Health Foundation, we are communicating with our donors on a regular basis about the ways in which their support strengthens the efforts of local healthcare workers to provide the best possible care to all who need it. By making sure to include a touch of the personal in all the stories we share, we also make it clear to current and potential donors that their gifts are helping real people with real needs. Even if you're not making an ask today, you should be looking to show current and potential donors how important your organization's work is to the community and how critical their support for that work is.

Utilize new channels for reaching donors. With millions of Americans currently sheltering in place, social media has become an even more important fundraising and awareness-raising channel for nonprofits. At our foundation, we've also turned to various apps to help expand our capabilities. For instance, we used Fund Duel, a gamified online fundraising platform, to support our virtual "Night of Heroes." The app allowed us to collect and share donations in real time, reaching even more donors than we could have during an in-person event. Embracing new technologies and platforms can add a layer of complexity to your fundraising, but more often than not they will provide opportunities to reach even more people with your message.

While online tools and platforms can help you reach a bigger audience, keep in mind that the key to creating a deep connection with members of that audience is to keep your message local. In an emergency, people want to be assured that their support is helping their neighbors and community. In other words, when communicating through a variety of channels, keep the message focused on the impact your donors are helping to create.

It's important that philanthropic leaders remain patient and flexible during this public health emergency. There is a lot we don't know about this virus, and the entire world is trying to adapt to our new reality as quickly as it can. We're all in this together, and while we may be facing a new normal on the other side of it, we can take steps now to adapt, pivot, and make ourselves stronger and more resilient as a sector.

(Image credit: GettyImages)

Kevin_Neal_for_PhilanTopicKevin Neal serves as board chair for Valleywise Health Foundation, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) that supports Valleywise Health, a comprehensive healthcare system serving Arizona's Maricopa County. To view the Night of Heroes livestream, digital event program, and film premiere, visit www.valleywisehero.org.

Uniting to Protect and Empower Women Is Everyone's Responsibility

May 28, 2020

Top_domestic_violence_awareness_GettyImagesImagine cowering in fear from the person you once trusted more than any other. This is the reality for the one in three women globally who will be beaten, raped, or otherwise abused in their lifetimes. In the United States, domestic violence is one of the leading causes of death among women between the ages of 15 and 44, while an estimated 3.8 million people, most of them women and girls, are trafficked every year. 

At a time when gender equality has never been more important, turning a blind eye to violence against women is not an option. The systemic abuse of women, often at the intersection of color, class, and caste, is simply not acceptable. Unfortunately, the global COVID-19 pandemic has seen a surge of violence against women that has shelters in the United States, China, Brazil, Russia, Mexico, Spain, India, the United Kingdom, Uganda, South Africa, and France reeling. Even more worrisome are areas of the world where hotlines are not ringing because women cannot get away to make the phone call that may save their lives or where services do not exist to help those most at risk.

In normal times, women are the ties that bind our communities together. But increased violence against them is fraying this social contract and threatening not only women's lives but community cohesiveness. At this critical moment, philanthropic leadership is essential to ensure that the safety and security of women, here in the U.S. and around the globe, are protected. 

Fourteen years ago, the NoVo Foundation stepped up to fill a gap in sustainable funding for organizations working to end violence against women, while at the same time modeling a new approach to women-focused philanthropy. Long before many of its peers followed suit, the foundation made flexible, multiyear gifts that were larger than most government grants and cleverly designed to unlock the promise of long-term change. In the years that followed, NoVo's leadership in the women's space had a huge impact in terms of breaking the silence around the scourge that is violence against women. It took a decade for the impact of that funding to become clear, but then countries such as Iraq and Sudan started to pass laws that criminalized domestic violence and practices like female genital mutilation. Justice had begun to raise its sleepy head. Indeed, inspired by the trust-based philanthropy modeled by the foundation, I made my first large commitment in this area. NoVo had changed the rules, and women around the world could not have been more grateful. 

Tragically, in May the foundation, in a letter posted on its website, announced that it had decided to scale back its extensive investment in organizations working to end violence against women. 

Women and women's organizations around the world were shocked and, a week later, are still reeling.

Historically, women and girls have largely been largely overlooked by donors, with only 1.6 percent of Americans' charitable giving directed their way. And the risk for women and girls will grow exponentially as women's unemployment hits double digits for the first time since the Great Recession and critical programs are dismantled due to lack of funds. 

At Women Moving Millions, we prioritize investment in women and girls because we know, and research has shown, that it is the most effective way to drive impact for everyone. We also recognize that we have a shared responsibility to ensure that communities which have borne the brunt of the pandemic have the resources they need to recover, and that the decisions we make today will impact what happens tomorrow — and for years to come. 

Trust-based investment in grassroots organizations led by women who are proximate to the issues rooted in gender discrimination is the only long-term, sustainable answer to centuries of patriarchy and white privilege. In the weeks and months ahead, philanthropy has an obligation to stay the course and even double down in support of women's groups at risk of losing their funding. 

Social change does not happen overnight. In this moment of uncertainty, opting out or scaling back is not an option. It is time for all of us to unite in shared purpose to protect women from violence and empower them as agents of change.

Mona_Sinha_for_PhilanTopicS. Mona Sinha is an advocate for gender equality in business and society and the board chair of Women Moving Millions, a community of women who look to fund "big and bold" ($1 million+) to create a gender-equal world. She is a member of the ERA Coalition, which seeks to include a constitutional amendment of equality on the basis of sex; is a trustee emerita of Smith College, where she served as vice chair of the board and led the Women for the World campaign; and serves on numerous educational and nonprofit boards.

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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