130 posts categorized "Civil Society"

Don’t Wait Until 2020 to Invest in Youth Leaders

December 13, 2018

Youth_engagementFor anyone interested in increasing youth civic engagement, the midterm elections are a cause for celebration. In the election,
31 percent of youth (ages 18-29) voted — according to at least one source, the highest level of participation among youth in the past quarter-century.

Traditionally, support for youth civic engagement declines at the end of an election cycle and resumes as the next cycle starts to heat up — along with thought pieces about why young people don’t vote. To break this pattern, I offer a suggestion: increase investment in youth organizing groups now; don't wait until 2020.

The country is in the middle of a massive demographic shift, with young people of color the fastest-growing segment of the population. The key to developing a robust and inclusive democracy that reflects this shift is to support the active civic participation and leadership of this group. And the best way to do that is not to wait until the start of the next election cycle to pour millions of dollars into advertising to reach young voters.

Instead, we should support organizations led by young people of color that are engaged in year-round organizing around both voter engagement campaigns and efforts to address issues in their local communities. Issue campaigns focused on quality schools, immigrants' rights, ending mass incarceration, and preserving reproductive rights are what motivate young people to become engaged in the world around them and, by extension, the electoral process.

Take the Power U Center for Social Change and Dream Defenders, youth organizing groups in Florida that have been organizing to end mass incarceration and the school-to-prison-pipeline. In the lead up to the midterms, both groups worked tirelessly in support of a ballot measure to restore voting eligibility to formerly convicted persons, and as a result 1.4 million people in Florida have had their voting rights restored. If those ex-offenders are organized effectively, most of them will vote — and in ways, hopefully, that strengthen their communities.

From where I sit, there are three reasons to double down on investments in youth organizing groups:

Youth organizers are good at engaging voters of all ages. Some youth organizing groups have focused on engaging young voters; others are organizing whole communities. Power California, a statewide alliance of more than twenty-five organizations, works to harness the power of young voters of color and their families. Between September and November, the organization and its partners worked in forty counties to get young Californians to head to the polls and make their voices heard on issues that affect them. Through phone calls, texting, and targeted social media, the organization talked to more than a hundred and fifteen thousand young voters and registered and pre-registered more than twenty-five thousand young people of color. Other organizations such as Poder in Action in Phoenix, Arizona, engaged young people in their communities because these young people are knowledgeable and passionate about the issues in play and serve as highly effective messengers. Our takeaway: investing in youth leaders generates results, now and for decades to come.

Engaging the pre-electorate now increases civic participation in the future. Many of the young people organizing and canvassing with grantees of the Funders' Collaborative for Youth Organizing were ineligible to vote because they hadn't turned 18. But while they weren't old enough to cast a ballot, many of them were active in knocking on doors and making calls to encourage others to vote. Today's 16- and 17-year-olds will be voting in 2020, and we should be supporting organizations working to engage them. These organizations are a vital resource for developing the next generation of civic leaders.

Youth organizers play a vital role in connecting issues and voting. Over the last several years, we've seen the emergence of a number of organizations that are organizing young people of color around issues in their communities and helping them engage electorally as part of a broader goal of creating a just and equitable society. These groups are developing the next generation of young leaders, organizing campaigns aimed at improving quality of life in their communities, and encouraging people, young and old, to get out and vote. Recent research shows that this kind of organizing is one of the best ways to support the academic growth, social and emotional development, and civic engagement of young people, and these groups are our best hope for actively engaging young people today, as well as developing a pipeline of leaders equipped to solve future challenges.

Unfortunately, funding for this work has been sporadic, often showing up — in insufficient amounts — just before elections and then disappearing as soon as the last vote has been counted. To build a just and inclusive society, we must make a significant, long-term investment in the leadership of young people of color willing to organize around issues and engage voters, both young and old.

The 2018 election cycle has come to an end. Our investment in youth organizing shouldn't. It is time to get serious about supporting the next generation of leaders.

By 2020, it'll be too late.

Headshot_Eric BraxtonEric Braxton is executive director of the Funders' Collaborative on Youth Organizing, a collective of social justice funders and youth organizing practitioners that works to advance youth organizing as a strategy for youth development and social change.

Funding for Democracy and Participatory Grantmaking: Two Sides of the Same Coin

November 29, 2018

In the wake of the U.S. midterms, it's easy to feel good about democracy and democratic practice. For those of us who were able to, exercising one’s right to vote can feel energizing. And the ubiquity of the 'I Voted' sticker on social media platforms offers a nice counterpoint to the all-too-common assertion that democracy is dying.

Trends cited as evidence of democracy's demise — dwindling participation in civic life, attacks on the press meant to undermine its legitimacy, the proliferation of digital disinformation, the rise of authoritarianism in formerly democratic countries — have been joined by renewed scrutiny of philanthropy, which finds itself under fire (once again) for being an anti-democratic tool of wealthy elites intent on shaping the world to their benefit. This criticism, however, exists alongside the reality that there are foundations funding efforts to strengthen democracy and loosen the grip of elite interests on the levers of power.

Democracy_twitter

Indeed, there's a substantial amount of philanthropic grantmaking informed by a belief that democracy is worth saving. At Foundation Center, we've captured this funding for the United States in a data tool, Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy, that we developed in partnership with the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Open Society Foundations, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Democracy Fund, and the Hewlett, JPB, MacArthur, and Rita Allen foundations. The platform makes publicly available information on 57,000+ grants awarded by more than 6,000 foundations since 2011 in support of democracy, including efforts to foster an engaged and informed public and promote government accountability, as well as funding for policy research and advocacy.

Grants that meet Foundation Center criteria are included in the platform regardless of whether a grantmaker self-identifies as a "democracy funder." And grants are not limited to a particular segment of the political spectrum. On the platform, you'll find grants awarded to the Young America’s Foundation, which is "committed to ensuring that increasing numbers of young Americans understand and are inspired by the ideas of individual freedom, a strong national defense, free enterprise, and traditional values," alongside grants to People for the American Way, which was "founded to fight right-wing extremism and defend constitutional values under attack, including free expression, religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy."

Across the four major funding categories represented in the tool — Campaigns, Elections, and Voting; Civic Participation; Government; and Media — you'll also find support for activities that challenge the status quo in the U.S. and run counter to the interests of the power elite.

Examples include a $400,000 grant awarded by the Democracy Fund in 2017 to provide general operating support to Issue One, a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated "to fixing our broken political system and strengthening our democracy"; a $30,000 grant from the Consumer Health Foundation in 2016 to Virginia Organizing in support of that organization's advocacy efforts aimed at engaging the Latino community and other immigrant populations in healthcare reform in Virginia; and a $30,000 grant awarded by the Altman Foundation to ProPublica in 2017 in support of the nonprofit investigative journalism organization’s reporting on public institutions in New York State.

Funding efforts aimed at encouraging civic participation or promoting greater public accountability is one philanthropic approach to supporting democracy. Another, participatory grantmaking, looks to democratize philanthropy and philanthropic practice itself. As defined in an expansive guide on the topic recently released by GrantCraft, participatory grantmakers cede decision-making power about funding — including the strategy and criteria behind those decisions — to the very communities they aim to serve.

Final_Guide_CoverParticipatory grantmaking can take many forms — and we've collected detailed descriptions of the different models here. But at its heart, the practice operates on the principle that those affected by funding decisions have a right to make those decisions. By putting the expertise of those with lived experience at the center of the grantmaking process, participatory grantmaking affirms and supports the value of civic engagement.

Democracy funders and participatory grantmakers do not necessarily see themselves as peers: the former is largely comprised of more traditional funders (see a list of top funders in the data set), while the latter are largely — though not exclusively — smaller, cross-border or community-focused social justice funds. But both operate from a similar set of principles — that there's a democracy deficit in the public sector, the philanthropic sector, and society more broadly, and that the solution to closing those deficits includes increased participation.

The perceived divide between the two types of funders breaks down further when one observes that many participatory grantmakers are, in fact, democracy funders. And that participatory grantmaking processes often result in grants awarded to support greater civic engagement — a sort of democracy multiplier effect! Examples of grants made by participatory grantmakers in support of civic participation include:

Foundations that consider themselves to be democracy funders by virtue of their outward-focused grantmaking could take a page from the participatory grantmaking playbook and incorporate the values of transparency, inclusivity, and representativeness in their own internal practices. But being participatory involves more than just ticking a box, and the prospect of figuring out how and where to start can be overwhelming. Commitments to living one's values can be difficult on an individual level (just ask me how my efforts to shop less on Amazon.com are going), while implementing change at the organizational level is always daunting.

Recognizing that it's not feasible or even desirable for every funder to adopt the practice, the GrantCraft guide offers some suggestions on where to start:

  • Begin with a single program.
  • Support research and knowledge-sharing around the practice.
  • Where goals overlap, fund participatory grantmakers who have established trust with a community and have been honing their processes for years.

Though it may seems like a contradiction in terms, a belief in the value of democratic and inclusive practices cuts across all kinds of foundations, even those whose origin stories start with the accumulation of vast wealth by a single entrepreneur. Not that these foundations always live up to these values, or that funding democracy inevitably leads to a stronger, more participatory democracy. One thing is clear, however: our chances of achieving that goal are much greater when democracy funders and participatory grantmakers see each other as allies.

Anna Koob is a knowledge services manager at Foundation Center. Headshot_anna_koob

Hill-Snowdon Foundation's Courageous Philanthropy Defends Democracy

November 28, 2018

Since winning an NCRP Impact Award in 2014, the Hill-Snowdon Foundation has been unrelenting in calling out white supremacy and anti-black racism while taking risks to invest in black-led social change work.

2014-ncrp-impact-awards-winner-badgeThe D.C.-based foundation's grantmaking has long been bold, but the leadership it has modeled through its Defending the Dream Fund matches the urgency of the real threats to our democracy. The foundation's decision in 2017 to simplify its practices and collaborate with other funders in creating the fund has resulted in more than $1 million in rapid-response grants being moved to groups working to fight policies that threaten the most vulnerable populations in the United States.

Even in 2015, however, the foundation knew this moment in American history — one that has seen the emergence of movements calling for just and fair elections, human rights for LGBTQ people and people of color, and economic equity — would not last forever.

So the foundation launched its Making Black Lives Matter initiative (MBLM), pushing philanthropy to look beyond the immediate moment and invest in longer-term infrastructure for black-led social change work. Grantees, funding partners, and other nonprofit groups in the community have rated that work as the most impactful they have done in recent years.

How did the foundation do it?

The Hill-Snowdon board of directors worked for almost fifteen years to understand what it really means to seek systemic solutions led by the people who are most impacted by the issues the foundation cares about. Consultants helped educate board members about the reality of systemic change, and with that information in hand the board went out and hired Nat Chioke Williams, a longtime youth and community organizer who had served as a program officer at the Edward Hazen Foundation and the New York Foundation, as the foundation's executive director. When Williams approached the board a few years later about wanting to speak more publicly about Making Black Lives Matter, the board readily agreed. Within two months, the board went from talking about it to releasing a request for proposals in the area of black-led organizing and leadership development.

Unsurprisingly, the 2016 election inspired even more action from the foundation. In the months following the election, and after conversations with other funders, Hill-Snowdon developed a framework to "defend the dream" against the growing threats to our democracy. The framework made the fund actionable, and within a year other funders had pledged almost $600,000 to it.

That collaboration has helped "stretch" the foundation and its partners to fund groups new to their staffs, streamline their proposal processes, and support issues outside their regular portfolios.

Throughout the process, Hill-Snowdon focused less on building its own influence and more on using the influence it had to move others to act. And it succeeded. The Defending the Dream Fund has attracted other funders and activists who have come to the foundation because of the sharp analysis it offers around anti-black racism.

In developing MBLM and the Defending the Dream Fund, the foundation modeled three practices that funders of today's most important social movements would be wise to consider:

  1. Executive Directors/CEOs: The foundation's leadership engaged board members in discussions and activities that helped them internalize an intersectional equity analysis so that when opportunities emerged, they were well versed in the issues and able to move quickly.
  2. Boards: HS board members trusted and empowered staff to make courageous strategic decisions that advanced the foundation's mission.
  3. Staff: HS staff committed to a culture of accountability and ownership and used all the foundation's resources – reputation, status, networks – to advance bold ideas anchored in a racial equity analysis.

The Hill-Snowdon Foundation has shown its peers that funding systems change work requires a commitment to facing hard truths, a willingness to act, and resilience in the face of challenges. When staff, board, and foundation leaders take the time to educate themselves and hold one another accountable, they build a solid foundation for the impact they hope to achieve. Today, movement leaders across the country are making a real difference. They need more funders like the Hill-Snowdon Foundation to step up and support their efforts.

Headshot_jeanne_islerJeanné L.L. Isler is vice president and chief engagement officer at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.

Weekend Link Roundup (November 10-11, 2018)

November 11, 2018

11-10-2018-malibu-fire-pchA weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Civil Society

On the twenty-ninth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Richard Marker reflects on "the fragility of civil society, the brevity of memory, and the destructive hubris of leaders motivated by xenophobic rage."

Criminal Justice

In the New York Times, Michelle Alexander, author of the acclaimed The New Jim Crow, hails "the astonishing progress that has been made in the last several years on a wide range of criminal justice issues." But she warns that "[m]any of the current reform efforts contain the seeds of the next generation of racial and social control, a system of 'e-carceration' that may prove more dangerous and more difficult to challenge than the one we hope to leave behind."

Environment

The world is drowning in stuff, writes Elizabeth Seagran, PhD, a staff writer for Fast Company. Isn't it time for nonprofits and foundations to do the environment a favor and just say no to all the cheap swag they hand out at conferences and events?

Giving

Nice post on the Charity Navigator blog about philanthropically minded celebs who have turned giving into an art.

Governance

On the GuideStar blog, Bill Hoffman, CEO of Bill Hoffman & Associates, LLC, a Tampa-based consulting firm, shares six things individual nonprofit board members can do to support their CEO's success.

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Weekend Link Roundup (October 27-28, 2018)

October 28, 2018

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

Climate Change

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

Civil Society

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

Education

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

Environment

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

Equity

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

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What's New at Foundation Center Update (October)

October 24, 2018

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

Projects Launched

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

Content Published

In the News

What We're Excited About

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

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Our staff will be attending these upcoming events:

Services Spotlight

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

Data Spotlight

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

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

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center.

Weekend Link Roundup (October 20-21, 2018)

October 21, 2018

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

Agricultural

The challenges facing the world's food systems are great and becoming greater. To avoid disaster, food producers, politicians, and consumers must pursue a new vision that "account[s] for human health and nutrition, environmental impact, and the hundreds of millions of jobs that depend on farming," writes Roy Steiner, managing director, food, at the Rockefeller Foundation. That will require at least four major transformations: a shift to more "flexitarian" diets; dramatic reductions in food loss and waste; stepped-up efforts to build and conserve soils; and applying our best technologies to the most underserved regions and populations.

Civil Society

"During much of the last century, philanthropic foundations based in the United States exported American ideals about democracy, market economies, and civil society. That mission was made possible by ideological support from and alignment with the U.S. government, which, in turn, imbued foundations with prestige and influence as they operated around the world," writes Ford Foundation president Darren Walker in Foreign Affairs. But, adds Walker,

American philanthropies such as the Ford Foundation can no longer count on such support. Nor can they be sure that the goals of increased equality, the advancement of human rights, and the promotion of democracy will find backing in Washington.
As U.S. leadership of the global order falters, American foundations must blaze a new path. The first step will be recognizing difficult truths about their history. The old order they helped forge was successful in many ways but also suffered from fundamental flaws, including the fact that it often privileged the ideas and institutions in prosperous Western countries and failed to foster equitable growth and stability in poorer countries. For all the good that American philanthropies have done, they have also helped perpetuate a system that produces far too much inequality. Their task today is to contribute to the construction of a new, improved order, one that is more just and sustainable than its predecessor....

In a time when society seems to be coming apart at the seams, libraries may just be "the last safe, free, truly public space where people from all walks of life may encounter each other.” In Quartz, Jenny Anderson looks at how libraries are reinventing themselves for the twenty-first century.

Climate Change

"I do not expect every foundation, corporation, and nonprofit to make climate change its top priority; there are many urgent issues that demand attention," writes Packard Foundation president Carol Larson on the foundation's website. "But if you care about children, if you care about health, or you care about economic development, you have to care about climate change. There is a role for every organization to play, and an urgent need for every organization to seize the opportunities in front of it...."

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It's Time to Invest in Youth Power

August 16, 2018

Youth_power_summitRecent opinion polls show that young people across the country are deeply dissatisfied with the nation's elected leaders and eager to see government pursue progressive policies on issues ranging from gun violence, to sexual assault prevention, to immigration. Young people also are registering to vote in record numbers, creating new hope that change may be at hand.

But whether this surge in interest and engagement among the nation's young people turns into a surge in advocacy and activism — and actual voting — is far from a slam dunk. There is an urgent need and opportunity for philanthropy to invest in efforts to organize and inspire young people, including young people of color, so they can become the transformational force we need in our communities and our country. 

The California Funders for Boys and Men of Color, a group of foundation CEOs dedicated to improving outcomes for boys and men of color through systems change, are supporting one such effort. This August, hundreds of youth advocates of color from across California gathered in Sacramento for four days of learning and advocacy during the Youth Power Summit, where participants had the opportunity to speak directly with candidates for California's superintendent of public instruction, among others. 

The young people who gathered at the summit are leading campaigns for racial and economic justice across the state — fighting for quality schools, an end to youth incarceration, immigrant rights, a healthy environment, healthier communities, and more. Organized by the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color and PolicyLink, the summit gave them an opportunity to bring their diverse movements together and build their power, leadership, and voice. One of the highlights was a rally on the steps of the state Capitol, where participants shared their vision for a more just and equitable future — a future that includes police accountability, sentencing reform, workforce opportunities, and trauma recovery services.

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Every Person Counts: Why Philanthropy Must Help Save the Census

July 31, 2018

2020_censusIn philanthropic circles, when we talk about protecting democratic institutions and values we often focus on expanding voting rights, improving representation, and connecting impoverished communities with the resources they need. However, all these issues — and many others — are tied to another fundamental pillar of American democracy: the decennial census.

Every decade since 1790, the government has counted the American population, as mandated by the Constitution. While it took the Fourteenth Amendment to ensure that all people were counted equally, the census has nonetheless performed an essential role in maintaining and improving our democracy. Today, our country uses census data to apportion congressional representation; to draw federal, state, and local legislative districts; and to enforce civil rights laws. Businesses use census data to decide where to open, offer jobs, and provide goods and services. The census helps cities and states identify locations for large infrastructure projects like schools, senior centers, public transportation, hospitals, and police services. It determines how roughly $700 billion in federal funds in 2015 were distributed and allocated to programs such as Medicaid, Head Start, and Section 8 housing.

If the 2020 census yields inaccurate data, programs like these — and the people who depend on them — will be in serious jeopardy. Projects may be deprived of crucial funding and entire communities denied fair representation in government. In other words, the consequences of a poorly conducted census will ripple through the public and private sectors, and through civil society, for at least the next ten years.

Unfortunately, there are mounting challenges to achieving a fair, accurate, and complete census in 2020.

The Census Bureau notes that certain populations — people of color, young children, and rural households among them — have been undercounted historically. On top of that, Census Bureau researchin 2017 revealed that the current political climate could further discourage census participation. According to the bureau's own Center for Survey Management, concerns about data sharing and privacy are growing, "particularly among immigrants or those who live with immigrants," which in turn could have a "disproportionate impact on hard-to-count populations."

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Weekend Link Roundup (July 21-22, 2018)

July 22, 2018

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

Animal Welfare

Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther reports on the return of Wayne Pacelle, the former Human Society of the United States CEO who was forced to step down from his position six months ago after "a flurry of accusations of sexual harassment led to revolts among donors and staff."

Civic Engagement

In the Stanford Social Innovation Review, California Endowment president Robert K. Ross argues that what America disparately needs is a "shared vision for [the] nation that is born from our communities and [a] new social compact to support that vision."

Education

Researchers from Northeastern University have put numbers to something many of us suspected: geography largely determines access to quality schools. In Boston, where the research was conducted, a lack of good schools in predominately minority neighborhoods means that students in those neighborhoods had "fewer top schools from which to choose, had greater competition for seats in those schools, were less likely to attend them, and had to travel longer distances when they did attend them." Sara Feijo reports for Northeastern News.

Diversity

On the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, CEP's Ellie Buteau shares findings from a new CEP report, Nonprofit Diversity Efforts: Current Practices and the Role of Foundations, that was based on a survey of nonprofit leaders that asked them about diversity at their organizations and how foundations can be most helpful in this area.

Environment

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, a leading funder of conservation efforts in the American West, has announced a refresh of its grantmaking strategy for the region that includes a couple of new imperatives: listen more to grantees, partners, and communities; prioritize equity, inclusivity, and diversity; and take a systemic approach to policy change. Click here to learn more.

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CBMA Turns 10: A Decade of Daring Work for Black Male Achievement

June 26, 2018

Campaign_for_black_male_achievementThis month, the Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA) marks ten years of progress: catalyzing more than $200 million in investment in black male achievement while building a national movement to eliminate barriers to the success of African-American men and boys.

From the beginning, we committed to building beloved communities across America where black men and boys are healthy, thriving, and empowered to achieve their fullest potential — that is our core mission and rallying cry.

Leaders in philanthropy, government, and business were not always as focused on mobilizing the necessary investment to ensure that black men and boys — and boys and men of color more broadly — were recognized as assets to our communities and country. That's why in 2008, at the Open Society Foundations, we launched CBMA in response to the growing need we saw in cities and communities across the nation where outcomes for black men and boys lagged far behind those of their white counterparts in all areas, including education, health, safety, jobs, and criminal justice involvement.

Over the last decade, together with our partners, we have catalyzed multiple national initiatives, including the Executives' Alliance for Boys and Young Men of Color, the BMe Community, and Cities United. We played an instrumental role in helping former President Barack Obama launch My Brother's Keeper, an initiative developed in the wake of his speech in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder trial of Trayvon Martin — asking ourselves, "How should philanthropy respond to Obama's speech on black men and boys?"

CBMA was spun off from OSF as an independent entity in 2015, and today our work resides at the intersection of movement and field building, bolstered by a membership network of more than five thousand leaders and three thousand organizational partners. Our network includes inspired individuals like Robert Holmes, who directs the Chicago Aviation Career Education Academy at the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals. In partnering with CBMA, Holmes has widened the reach of his efforts to create an educational pathway for young black men interested in becoming pilots, helping diversify a critical industry that has little to no black male representation.

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Weekend Link Roundup (May 26-27, 2018)

May 27, 2018

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

Civil Society

You don't want to, but you know — for the sake of our democracy — that you should. Talk, that is, to people you don't agree with. John Gable, CEO and co-founder of AllSides.com and AllSidesForSchools.org, shows you how.

Climate Change

Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther offers a hard look at "climate philanthropy" — and "the way in which the groupthink of big climate funders has helped to give us a U.S. climate movement that is neither driven by evidence nor politically powerful."

Education

The 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), often referred to as "the nation's report card," has been released, and on Valerie Strauss' Answer Sheet blog, Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, a nonprofit education group advocating for traditional public schools, looks at what some reformers have said about NAEP scores in the past and compares them to what they said this year.  

Fundraising

In a guest post on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Amy L. Cheney, president/CEO of Crayons to Computers and formerly vice president for giving strategies at the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, reminds fundraisers that in this uncertain environment, "building relationships with donors will continue to be critical," as will remembering that "a donor must believe in the cause and feel that the organization’s values affirm and strengthen her own."

Health

"At the core of the nation’s drug pricing problem is one fundamental fact," writes Commonwealth Fund president David Blumenthal. "Drug companies enjoy government-sanctioned and -enforced monopolies over the supply of many drugs."

Inequality

The big takeaway from a St. Louis Fed report based on demographic and financial information provided by 6,254 families? Your income and overall wealth-accumulating power are strongly influenced by your parents' race and whether they went to college. Jenny McCoy, a Boulder-based journalist, reports for the Colorado Trust. 

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Building Democracy: People and Purpose in San Diego County

May 25, 2018

On a March evening at a community center in San Diego, Francisco "Panchito" Martinez stood at a public forum, a bedrock exercise of democracy, and before three District 8 City Council candidates.

With microphone in hand and more than a hundred people in the audience, several of whom wore headphones to listen in Spanish, Somali and Vietnamese, the college student asked the candidates about cultivating and supporting youth leaders in the eighth most-populous U.S. city.

Martinez's participation was a form of engagement in more ways than one. The youth questioned those seeking the privilege of representing people in government while also addressing the need for multi-generational civic involvement.

For Martinez, who often goes by Panchito, and other residents who questioned the candidates in English and Spanish, the forum marked a continuum of a broader community-leadership initiative in San Diego County — one driven by residents and grassroots organizations seeking greater voice and more meaningful representation in government and community affairs.

Like other parts of the U.S., San Diego County's population has been transformed dramatically over the last several decades. Today, people of color are the majority among the county's 3.3 million residents. Together, Latinos and Asian Pacific Islanders make up four out of every ten residents.

In Barrio Logan, the San Diego neighborhood that Panchito and about five thousand other people call home, there are industrial businesses as well as residences.

In this primarily Latino neighborhood south and east of the city's popular Gaslamp Quarter and within view of the Port of San Diego and U.S. Navy facilities, concerns over health are one reason why residents say local government should better mirror the makeup of this diverse region.

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Weekend Link Roundup (April 14-15, 2018)

April 15, 2018

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

Arts and Culture

Lincoln Center president Deborah L. Spar, who left the top job at Barnard College to helm the performing arts mecca, has decided to step down after only a year. Robin Pogrebin and Michael Cooper report for the New York Times.

And across the East River, the Brooklyn Museum has come under fire for its decision to hire a white woman, Kristen Windmuller-Luna, as a consulting curator for African art. Alex Greenberger reports for ArtNews.

Civil Society

Writing in openDemocracy's Transformation blog, Vern Hughes, director of Civil Society Australia, suggests that the problem with the public and private sectors' "embrace of ‘civil society’ is that it bears little resemblance to what civil society actually is or means. Most of civil society is not constituted formally or headed up by a CEO," adds Hughes. Indeed, "[j]ust 40 years ago, very few not-for-profits or charities had CEOs at all: that term was associated with the corporate sector, and few community groups or charities had even contemplated mimicking the language and culture of such a different sphere. But in just four decades all this has changed, and it has changed at an extraordinarily rapid rate, with very little public discussion or scrutiny of the enormity of the organizational transformation involved and its social and political impact."

Roused by certain statements made by Mark Zuckerberg during his testimony to Congress earlier this week, Philanthropy 2173 blogger Lucy Bernholz shares some thoughts about the often-unappreciated role that civil society organizations and nonprofits play in curating and moderating content for the Facebooks of the world.

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Facebook, Foundations, and Democracy: Putting the 'R-word' Back Into Philanthropy

April 11, 2018

Risk is back in philanthropy. As populist rage and technological omnipotence sweep the globe, seven American foundations have stepped up in a way that only private philanthropy can.

Early this week, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, in partnership with the Alfred P. Sloan, Charles Koch, John S. and James L. Knight, and Laura and John Arnold foundations; the Democracy Fund; and Omidyar Network, announced the launch of a research initiative aimed at increasing public understanding of Facebook's role in elections and democracy. The funder consortium will pay for an "independent and diverse" committee of scholars that invites researchers to conduct research using proprietary Facebook data that “meets the company's new, heightened focus on user privacy.” To ensure an added layer of objectivity, the venerable Social Science Research Council (founded in 1923) will oversee the selection of research proposals and the peer-review process.

Slowing the game down

This is a perfect of example of how private foundations can contribute to the public good. In a volatile, contentious, and partisan time where dialogue (or lack thereof) can be measured in bots, posts, tweets, links, and likes, these foundations are using their resources and independence to declare a collective "time out." Foundations are not political parties, business, or lobbyists. Guided by mission, values, and donor intent, they have the distance and time horizon to be able to take a careful, deliberate look at what is really going on when it comes to media, elections, and democracy. Social science research, with its strict procedures for requesting proposals and conducting peer review of research, is built for methodological rigor, not for speed. In basketball, they teach you that the best way to deal with a running offense is to slow the game down. These seven foundations are doing just that.

Strength in numbers

Were any one foundation to try to do this alone, it would most likely be criticized for some kind of political or partisan bias. But the seven that have banded together on this initiative are a pretty interesting cross-section of the field. Collectively, they hold over $20 billion in assets originating in fortunes derived from technology (Hewlett, Omidyar, and the Democracy Fund), journalism (Knight), energy/finance (Arnold), the automotive industry (Sloan), and oil and manufacturing (Koch). They represent family foundations, independent foundations, and living donor foundations. They all have solid track records of grantmaking focused on improving the functioning of American democracy. But they do that in different ways. See for yourself in the network map below. Click the link and you’ll go straight to an interactive page on the Foundation Funding for American Democracy site where you can explore each and every grant made by these foundations. All these foundations are proud of their work and, unlike Cambridge Analytica, have nothing to hide.

Democracy-maps-constellation

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  • "Ignorance and prejudice are the handmaidens of propaganda. Our mission, therefore, is to confront ignorance with knowledge, bigotry with tolerance, and isolation with the outstretched hand of generosity. Racism can, will, and must be defeated...."

    — Kofi Annan (1938-2018)

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