485 posts categorized "International Affairs/Development"

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

April 10, 2019

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

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

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

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

This is why we, at the School of International Futures (SOIF) and the Social Innovation Exchange (SIX), believe that the philanthropic sector needs a much stronger "foresight mindset" to equip itself to harness the upsides of future change and mitigate the downside risks.

Philanthropic foundations have traditionally given relatively little emphasis to foresight, but philanthropy, in taking on untested or "frontier" areas, is more exposed to future risk than either the private or public sector. Which is why the sector urgently needs a stronger focus on becoming "future-fit": understanding how the trends of the next ten, twenty, and even fifty years will impact its focus, operations, and legitimacy.

Strategic foresight cannot tell us with certainty what the future operating environment will look like, but it can offer a much stronger sense of the range of plausible alternatives; help us navigate uncertainties; and make thinking about the future second nature.

Whatever systemic challenges the sector feels it is facing at present, you can be sure they will deepen in intensity over the next decade. The sector is beginning to address big questions about its future under the auspices of IARAN's thinking on the future of aid; Future Agenda's Future of Philanthropy project; and work on catalytic systems change by Co-Impact. And the questions raised about legitimacy, accountability, and effectiveness by Rob Reich's Just Giving and Anand Giridharadas' Winners Take All have forced a fresh look at ingrained assumptions.

Forward-thinking foundations are already seizing on the potential of strategic foresight — coupled with systems thinkingdesign thinking and social innovation — to help the sector achieve its potential. Omidyar Network, sponsors of the Next Generation Futures Practitioners awards, have set up an Exploration & Future Sensing unit. Other examples include the Health Foundation's emerging work on how to help the complex set of actors in the UK's health and care sector prepare for potential futures, and the Gulbenkian Foundation's Intergenerational Fairness Project.

Here at the School of International Futures and the Social Innovation Exchange we've seen an increased demand for foresight from the sector in the last few years.  And we see a stronger focus on futures as part of a welcome overall commitment to tightening up strategic capability. Many working in philanthropy are natural futures thinkers: ambitious, open-minded, and capable of critically appraising their own agenda and approach.

Given this growing interest, what could a foresight "prescription" for the sector look like?

The four essential steps are:

  1. Analyzing the trends that will shape the future operating environment.
  2. Exploring alternative future scenarios by mapping out the intersection of trends.
  3. Integrating insights about the future into today's decision-making and program design.
  4. Embedding strategic foresight into operations, culture, and organizational mindset.

We are also seeing a growing appetite in the sector to know how to better:

  1. scan upcoming trends;
  2. learn from global practice; and
  3. explore methodological questions such as the link with predictive analytics.

In an already complex world, it can be tempting not to look too hard at what's coming down the track. But by engaging with future complexity and uncertainty, the philanthropic sector can stress-test today's policies and make better strategic choices. Future-fit philanthropy is essential for any organization hoping to leave a legacy as lasting as that of a Carnegie, Rockefeller, or Ford.

Catarina Tully (@CatTullyFOH, @SOIFutures)is co-founder and director of School of International Futures. Louise Pulford (@si_exchange) is executive director of Social Impact Exchange. This post originally appeared on the Alliance magazine website.

7 Things One Family Foundation Is Doing to End Poverty

March 29, 2019

End_povertyThe Skees Family Foundation (SFF) is just one of the more than 86,000 private foundations in the United States, and with a corpus of just over $2 million, we're consistently the smallest foundation in the room at any peer gathering. Undeterred by the magnitude of the challenge, however, we've invested $1.7 million over fifteen years in efforts to end poverty. Along the way, we've learned a few things about how to leverage our funding:

1. Philanthropy of the hands. We named SFF after the grandparents (my parents) who struggled to feed their seven children but always added a dollar to the church basket and could find an hour when needed for community volunteering. Hugh and Jasmine believed in giving whatever they had: Hugh donated blood to the American Red Cross and volunteered for Habitat for Humanity and the Dayton International Peace Museum, while Jasmine sang in the church choir, crocheted prayer shawls, and visited with surgery and hospice patients. They taught us that so many of things we take for granted — abundant food, clean water, shelter, good health, security — were not ours because we deserved them but because of a combination of luck (being born in a stable, prosperous country) and hard work. They also taught us that all humans are created equal, deserve equal access to respect and opportunities, and are part of one big family. Their legacy — of humility, gratitude, and belonging — may seem idealistic in today's polarized world, but it's the core value on which all of our own families and careers, as well as our philanthropic collaborations, are based.

2. Diversity of viewpoints. SFF unites more than forty family members ranging in age from nine to ninety-one. We are Republicans, Democrats, and Socialists, occupy different places along the gender spectrum, are of many different ethnicities and nationalities, and work at a range of occupations, from nurse and nanny to soldier, salesman, accountant, Web developer, and writer. Each family member is invited to collaborate on an annual grant to an organization that reflects his or her passion for a cause — whether it's self-esteem training for at-risk young girls in California, tutoring and job skills development for young men in Chicago looking to make a new start after time spent in a gang or jail, or business skills training for a beekeeping women’s co-op in Haiti. As well, members of each of our three generations convene biannually to select grant partners with expertise in a specific area — whether it's mental health, veterans' issues, or survivors of trafficking — that are near and dear to their heart. When it comes to our major multiyear grants, we encourage loving debate by members of our all-family volunteer board, with a focus on programs that have the potential to reach the greatest number of people and to create a holistic ecosystem of respect and care.

3. Unity around a core value. Coming together on video chats and conference calls, at family reunions and our annual Skees Family Foundation retreat, we are pleasantly reminded that while we may look and behave differently, deep down we embrace the same ambitious goal: to end global poverty by doing what we can to support equal opportunity for all. "Our interest in human rights and social justice," says foundation director and CFO Sally Skees-Helly, "probably can be traced to a dominant gene passed down through the generations." It's not that our family is unique or special; rather, we believe what we believe because we are humanists and Christians, Americans and global citizens. Too often, people choose to see the world in one of two ways: as something finite that must be fought over and guarded from others, or as a place of abundance where all can thrive. We choose the latter.

4. Our mission serves our core value. Fifteen years on, we've honed our mission to support social enterprises (through impact investments) and innovative nonprofits (through unrestricted multiyear grants) working to provide access to education and jobs to underserved people, in the U.S. and around the world. We strongly believe that the gaping needs we see around us should be addressed now. But the feedback we consistently receive from our nonprofit partners and their clients is that most poor people simply want their kids to be able attend a good school and to be able themselves to secure a job that provides them with dignity and economic security.

5. Building community. The website that broadcasts our audacious intention to end poverty within our lifetimes also serves to unite a community of like-minded believers. A hundred nonprofits that have received grant support from SFF and five social-sector businesses in which we've invested can see profiles of their organizations — and in some cases their own dedicated page — on the site. Five hundred people subscribe to our biweekly blog, "Seeds of Hope," where they read stories of unsung heroes who are changing the world. It's always good news, and it is what keeps us, and others, optimistic about the future. In part because of the great response from readers, we’ve begun work on a social-mission book series that extends the reach of our community far beyond our immediate network of grantees while helping us raise funds for additional job-creating programs.

6. Listening to feedback. Since the foundation's earliest days, we've asked our partners how it's really going and how we can better support them. The rawest feedback always is shared during site visits — whether in Appalachia or Africa — when the people with whom we are meeting are too tired to be polite. In addition, we've formalized an annual process for gathering candid partner reviews by a third-party contractor, and we've made significant changes to our intake processes, eliminating applications and mandatory follow-up reports and taking steps to match partners doing similar work for mutual learning and lesson sharing. Formalized review platforms such as GrantAdvisor and Great Nonprofits also help keep us honest and self-aware.

7. Taking risks. We believe that the immense privilege and responsibility entailed in shepherding $2 million of charitable giving (along with a legal regime that allows foundations to move quickly and try new things) requires us to act. We desperately want to do something meaningful to address inequity and poverty, and, without losing our heads, we have positioned ourselves as first-in funders for many nonprofit startups and impact investments in our priority areas, education and job creation. Because our dollars are few, we feel they can do the most good at the beginning of a project. Operating this way requires us to constantly survey the landscape, keep up with the latest innovations and information, and do our best to discern what is working and what is merely trendy. We consider it a win when programs began to scale, and other funders follow in our wake. But what it always comes down to is people. People who are willing to lead ethically and ferociously; people who can innovate new ways to reach the underserved where they are; people who listen to community members and deliver from the resources available to them exactly what is needed. Just as all human beings deserve a chance to attend a good school, secure a good job, and build a life of security, freedom and choice, we believe all humans are capable of working together to make this vision come true.

Headshot_suzanne_skeesSuzanne Skees is the founding board chair of the Skees Family Foundation, which supports innovative self-help programs in the U.S. and developing countries. Her latest book, MY JOB, Book 2, More People at Work Around the World, is available on Amazon.

New Study on the Role of Philanthropy in a Safe, Healthy and Just World

March 07, 2019

Globus-icon-300Candid (Foundation Center + Guidestar) and Centris (Rethinking Poverty) are conducting a study on the role of philanthropy in producing safe, healthy, and just societies.

At a time when many people are questioning the value of philanthropy, the study aims to clarify its role in creating peaceful and inclusive societies that provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable, and responsive institutions.

A survey designed to identify stakeholders, strategies, and outcomes across a variety of dimensions of social progress is the first component of the study.

Initial results of the survey will be published in the June 2019 issue of Alliance magazine, a leading source of comment and analysis on global philanthropy that is read by over 24,000 philanthropy practitioners around the world.

The June edition will include an in-depth feature exploring the role of philanthropy in peace building — thirty pages that illuminate philanthropy practice around the world, explore the merit and value of community-based approaches to conflict resolution, and profile some of the pioneering people and networks in the field. The issue is being guest edited by a new generation of practitioners working at the intersection of philanthropy and peace — Hope Lyons of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Lauren Bradford of Candid, and the Dalia Association's Rasha Sansour. (For examples of the magazine's recent special features, see https://www.alliancemagazine.org/magazine/.)

A full report on the survey will be produced for discussion by the field at a variety of venues. All those who take part in the study will receive a copy of the report.

The survey has twenty questions and only takes seven to eight minutes to complete. Click here to take the survey now: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/Candid_Centris

Barry_knightThe survey closes on Wednesday, March 27, and all answers will be treated in confidence.

Please take part. Your views are important to us.

Barry Knight (barryknight@cranehouse.eu)

Weekend Link Roundup (February 23-24, 2019)

February 24, 2019

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

Democracy

"The key to improving the voting process," writes Adam Ambrogi, irector of the Elections Program at the Democracy Fund, "is straightforward: expand accessibility while also prioritizing security."

Giving

Have women's motivations for giving changed over time? Andrea Pactor, interim director of the Women's Philanthropy Institute at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy; Hillary Person, a former development director at the Pensacola State College Foundation; and Dyan Sublett, president of the MLK Community Health Foundation, take a look at the data.

Governance

On the NCRP blog, Rick Moyers, former vice president of programs and communications at the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation and a board member at BoardSource, reminds readers that while "[d]iversity is only one aspect of a larger conversation about equity and power," many boards aren’t ready to have that conversation. With that in mind, there are four things senior leadership should look for to determine whether their board is ready for deeper work in pursuit of equity.

International Affairs/Development

GiveWell has announced a call fro proposals from outstanding organizations operating in Southeast Asia and, in partnership with Affinity Impact, a social impact initiative founded by the children of a Taiwanese entrepreneur, will  provide three grants — one of $250,000, and two $25,000 grants — to organizations that are operating programs in global health and development in any of the following countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Vietnam. More details here.

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Insights for U.S. Nonprofits From the Russia Donors Forum Conference

February 17, 2019

Russia_donors_forumLast fall, I was invited to speak about collaboration for social impact and corporate volunteerism at the annual Russia Donors Forum conference in Moscow. The conference brings together philanthropy and corporate social responsibility professionals from foundations, corporations, and nonprofits to share insights and lessons about how non-financial resources can support philanthropic activity. The invitation stemmed from my work with Global Impact, a U.S.-based nonprofit focused on growing global philanthropy to help the world's most vulnerable people, and my experience there helped broaden my perspective on the international philanthropic sector and the work we do.

My stay in Moscow was eye-opening. Not only did I gain valuable insights into current trends in Russian philanthropy, I also learned how U.S.-based nonprofits can engage with individuals and nonprofits operating within the ever-evolving international philanthropic space. In advance of my trip, I reviewed recent research and reporting on the state of Russian philanthropy, including the 2018 Giving Global Matrix: Tax, Fiduciary and Philanthropic Requirements developed by my organization in partnership with KPMG. The report highlights the complex and varied tax laws that incentivize or disincentivize philanthropic giving in sixty countries around the world, including Russia, and also addresses ten questions designed to shed light on the philanthropic climate in a particular country. Many of the insights from my time in Russia confirmed the findings captured in the report — namely, that a generally supportive climate for philanthropy does, in fact, exist there. Moreover, my conversations and interactions with professionals at the conference deepened my understanding of the international philanthropic sector, as well as how nonprofit organizations and corporations are addressing areas of critical importance through the commitment of both financial and non-financial resources.

In Moscow, I was greeted by a vibrant network of social sector professionals working to achieve greater impact, improve platforms and methods of measurement and evaluation, and address causes and focus areas relevant to their specific country context. And I was reminded repeatedly how important it is for us to follow the lead of country-specific philanthropic communities in providing support and sharing best practices.

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Weekend Link Roundup (February 9-10, 2019)

February 10, 2019

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

Climate Change

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

Governance

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

International Affairs/Development

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

Journalism/Media

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

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Weekend Link Roundup (January 26-27, 2019)

January 27, 2019

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

Communications/Marketing

In a guest post on Kivi Leroux Miller's Nonprofit Communications blog, Peter Panepento, philanthropic practice leader for Turn Two Communications, shares ten mistakes you need to avoid if you want to get more media coverage.

Corporate Philanthropy

New research from Marianne Bertrand and her colleagues at the University of Chicago  that matches charitable-giving data of Fortune 500 companies with a record of public comments submitted to the federal government on proposed regulations between 2003 and 2015 shows how individual corporations influence the rulemaking process via gifts to nonprofits. Christopher Ingraham reports for the Washington Post.

International Affairs/Development

Nonprofit organization Verra has launched the Sustainable Development Verified Impact Standard, or SD VISta for short. Under the standard, which sets out rules and criteria for the design, implementation, and assessment of projects designed to deliver sustainable development benefits, projects must demonstrate to the satisfaction of a third-party assessor that they advance the SDGs. Amy Brown reports for Triple Pundit.

Nonprofits

Nonprofit AF's Vu Le seems to have struck a nerve — eighty-two comments and counting — with his latest: Why nonprofit staff should not be asked to donate to the organizations they work for.

Over at the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies site, Lester Salamon, the center's director, announces the release of the 2019 Nonprofit Employment Report, which found, among other things, that for-profit companies are making significant inroads in key nonprofit fields, cutting into nonprofits' market share.

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Weekend Link Roundup (January 19-20, 2019)

January 20, 2019

Shutdown+Architect+of+the+Capitol+US+Customs+and+Border+ProtectionA 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

According to a poll funded by the Knight Foundation, there "remain some aspects of American life where political partisanship does not yet dominate" — and philanthropy is one of them. Martin Morse Wooster reports for Philanthropy Daily.

Climate Change

"Despite its stature as a major funder of climate-change solutions, [the] MacArthur [Foundation] continues to finance the fossil-fuel industry," writes Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther, and "does so deliberately...by seeking out opportunities to invest in oil and gas...."

Communications/Marketing

On her Getting Attention! blog, Nancy Schwartz shares four steps you can take in 2019 to develop a more effective marketing plan.

Fundraising

Pamela Grow shares ten things your nonprofit can do to make 2019 its most successful fundraising year ever.

Andrea Kihlstedt, president of Capital Campaign Masters and co-creator of the Capital Campaign Toolkit, explains why capital campaigns can be a boon to major gift programs.

Inequality

The racial wealth gap is worse than it was thirty-five years ago. Fast Company's Eillie Anzilotti has the details.

Continue reading »

Most Popular Posts of 2018

December 28, 2018

New-Years-Eve-2018.jpgHere they are: the most popular posts on PhilanTopic in 2018 as determined over the last twelve months by your clicks! 

It's a great group of reads, and includes posts from 2017 (Lauren Bradford, Gasby Brown, Rebekah Levin, and Susan Medina), 2016 (by Nathalie Laidler-Kylander, May Samali, Bernard Simonin, and Nada Zohdy), 2015 (Bethany Lampland), 2014 (Richard Brewster), 2013 (Allison Shirk), and oldies but goodies from 2012 (Michael Edwards) and 2010 (Thaler Pekar).

Check 'em out — we guarantee you'll find something that gives you pause or makes you think.

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

What's New at Foundation Center Update (November and December)

December 18, 2018

FC_logoDoes anyone feel like the end of the year is the busiest time of all? Not only is everyone swamped, but with so much happening in the world and in philanthropy, there's hardly any time to prioritize reflection, learning, and empathy. Here at Foundation Center, we're scrambling to finish this year's projects while also planning some exciting things for 2019.

This is a long update, but I guarantee there's something useful in it for everyone!

Projects Launched

  • In partnership with the Early Childhood Funders’ Collaborative and Heising-Simons Foundation, we launched Funding for Early Childhood Care and Education, an interactive mapping tool that provides a valuable starting place for funders and practitioners interested in supporting the learning and development of young children across the country.
  • In partnership with the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, we launched the fifth edition of Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy, as well as a revamped website with an updated dashboard. The new report includes a five-year (2012-2016) trends analysis, adding to the information available on disaster giving and enabling philanthropists, government agencies, and NGOs to better coordinate their efforts and make better decisions about support for effective disaster response and assistance. You can view all these resources at: disasterphilanthropy.foundationcenter.org.
  • We launched the Barr Foundation Knowledge Center, which features key learnings and work from the Barr Foundation and their partners aimed at maximizing impact in their issue areas and the field more generally. Powered by our IssueLab service, the collection includes publications and resources that are free to browse and download.
  • In partnership with Hispanics in Philanthropy and Seattle International Foundation, we released a new report, U.S. Foundation Funding for Latin America, 2014–2015. This two-year analysis updates seven years of collaborative research with a multiyear analysis designed to help civil society leaders identify long-term trends in the region and better target their resources. With additional analysis on Central America, the report was highlighted at the 2018 Central America Donors Forum in El Salvador.
  • We added a new feature on YouthGiving.org, Causes: Youth In Action! The new pages provide an in-depth look at how youth funders are approaching critical issues in the world today. And while there are lots of causes around which youth are energized, the new feature focuses on three to start — Environment, Immigration, and Mental Health — with each page showcasing current funding data, ways youth can get involved, and stories from youth highlighting their work to effect change.
  • We released new research in partnership with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation that maps the composition of and support for the complex ecosystem of nonprofit and philanthropic infrastructure organizations around the world.
  • We launched new dashboards on the Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy site, a nonpartisan data visualization platform for anyone interested in understanding philanthropy's role in funding U.S. democracy. With the new dashboards, the site now provides information on more than 57,000 grants awarded by over 6,000 funders totaling $5.1 billion across four major categories: campaigns and elections, civic participation, government strengthening, and media.

Content Published

Newsworthy Connections

  • In the wake of the midterm elections, we have seen a reinvigorated debate around the role of philanthropy in a democratic society. But what are funders actually doing to support democracy in the United States? At a time of increased scrutiny of foundations, our updated dashboards on Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy provide a measure of transparency and a partial answer to that question and complement the broader discussion about philanthropy's role in a democratic society. Learn more at democracy.foundationcenter.org.
  • Teleangé Thomas, director of Foundation Center Midwest, was tapped to moderate a televised interview with Anand Giridharadas, author of Winner Takes All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World at the City Club of Cleveland in October.

In the News

What We're Excited About

  • Shifting from presenting data to sharing insights. A great example is this blog post on PhilanTopic written by our own Anna Koob on the intersection of democracy funding and participatory grantmaking — both recent focuses of our work.
  • Our GrantCraft guide on participatory grantmaking guide has been downloaded more than 2,000 times since it was launched in October! We've also received a number of inquiries from funders interested in adopting the practice and are continuing to advance the conversation through blogs, conference sessions, and webinars.
  • If you haven't already, check out the series in PhilanTopic on current trends in philanthropy by Vice President of Research Larry McGill and our Knowledge Services colleagues Supriya Kumar and Anna Koob. The series touches on big picture trends as well as a few of our recent research projects.
  • Foundation Center has officially joined the United Philanthropy Forum, a network of more than seventy-five regional and national philanthropy-serving organizations (PSOs). We’re excited about the exciting joint opportunities that lie ahead!
  • Foundation Center's annual Network Days conference for the center's Funding Information Network partners met the expectations of 93 percent of attendees and was attended by representatives of sixty-four of our partners, including a number from outside the U.S.

Services Spotlight

  • In October, we added 178,992 new grants to Foundation Maps, of which 4,665 were awarded to 2,269 organizations outside the United States. In November, we added 218,139 grants, of which 12,716 were awarded to 5,912 organizations outside the U.S.
  • Foundation Directory Online now includes more than 13 million grants. We've also made improvements to its search functionality and added more robust usage reports.
  • New data sharing partners: Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation; Boyd and Evelyn Mullen Charitable Foundation; Patrick and Aimee Butler Family Foundation; C&A Foundation; Delta Air Lines Foundation; Fichtenbaum Charitable Foundation; New York Women's Foundation, Inc.; People's United Community Foundation, Inc.; People's United Community Foundation of Eastern Massachusetts, Inc.; Pohlad Family Foundation; and David And Claudia Reich Family Foundation. Tell your story through data so we can communicate philanthropy's contribution to making a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.
  • Thanks to a generous grant from Borealis Philanthropy, we added 97 eBooks to Foundation Center's collection, bringing the total number of eBooks available to the public to 179. Since mid-April, when the collection was first made available online, the most-viewed titles have been The Complete Book of Grant Writing: Learn to Write Grants Like a Professional and Nonprofit Management 101: A Complete and Practical Guide for Leaders and Professionals. Check out our free eBooks today!

Data Spotlight

  • Since 2001, youth have made 101 grants totaling more than $475,000 in support of issues related to immigrants and refugees. YouthGiving.org's new cause page focused on immigration aims to help youth (and the adults who support them) to be more strategic in their work by highlighting quick facts and resources from organizations that work on these issues every day.
  • In terms of disaster assistance strategies, 42 percent of dollars awarded in 2016 supported response and relief efforts; 17 percent supported reconstruction and recovery efforts, with more than half of that awarded in support of efforts related to the Flint water crisis; 8 percent supported resilience measures; and 5 percent was allocated to disaster preparedness efforts. Learn more about these strategies and trends at disasterphilanthropy.foundationcenter.org.
  • Since 2011, Foundation Center has documented 57,000+ democracy-related grants. Of those, 11.5 percent totaling some $583 million were directed in support of campaigns, elections, and voting, including support for campaign finance reform, election administration, voter education, and voting access efforts.
  • Did you know funding for nonprofit infrastructure organizations averaged $70.4 million annually between 2004 and 2015? Learn more about the ecosystem of organizations working to support nonprofits, philanthropy, and civil society at infrastructure.foundationcenter.org.
  • Thirty-eight percent of the grant dollars awarded by U.S. foundations to Latin America went directly to recipient organizations in the region, while the rest was awarded to organizations located outside the region. Learn more about funding for Latin America here.
  • Youth have awarded more than $795,000 in support of the environment, including causes such as climate change, outdoor education, and animal welfare. Explore youthgiving.org/learn/causes/environment to learn more about why young people are taking action around the environment.
  • Since January 2018, Foundation Center has hosted more than 15,000 attendees at our in-person events at our five regional offices and registered nearly 30,000 folks for our online classes and self-paced e-learning courses. Check out our ongoing events calendar at GrantSpace. And browse our self-paced e-learning courses and other on-demand courses here.
  • Through our Ask Us chat service, Foundation Center staff have assisted with or answered more than 130,000 questions from the public on topics related to finding grants, fundraising, and nonprofit management.
  • Lastly, we completed custom data searches for the University of San Diego, Geneva Global, the Center for Evaluation Innovation, and the Educational Foundation of America.

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 (December 15-16, 2018)

December 16, 2018

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

Children and Youth

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

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

Civic Engagement

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

Fundraising/Marketing

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

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

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A Conversation With Ann Mei Chang, Author, 'Lean Impact: How to Innovate for Radically Greater Social Good'

November 14, 2018

Poverty. Mass migration. Economic dislocation. Climate change.

The problems confronting societies around the globe are big and getting bigger. The resources available to address those problems, however, are shrinking, as governments burdened by huge debts and future obligations and corporations wary of controversy pull back from “feel-good” causes and collective action. And while countless foundations and civil society groups continue to fight the good fight, their resources seem Lilliputian compared to the magnitude of the challenges we face.

It’s a moment that demands big thinking, bold thinking but also creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. The kind of thinking we’ve come to expect from Silicon Valley, the global epicenter of a certain kind of innovation and can-do spirit. The question, for many, is: What, if anything, can technologists teach nonprofits and social entrepreneurs about social change?

In her new book, Lean Impact: How to Innovate for Radically Greater Social Good, Ann Mei Chang, a respected social change-maker and technologist, tackles that question head-on. Based on interviews with more than two hundred social change organizations spanning almost every continent, the book distills the lessons learned by change-makers over the years into a set of "lean" principles for nonprofits looking to innovate their way to greater impact.

PND recently spoke with Chang about the genesis of the book, the sometimes testy relationship between tech and the nonprofit sector, and her advice for millennials and social entrepreneurs impatient with the slow pace of change.

AnnMeiChang-32Philanthropy News Digest: How did you get into social change work?

Ann Mei Chang: I studied computer science in college and then worked in Silicon Valley for over twenty years, at big companies like Google, Apple, and Intuit, as well as a number of start-ups. But I had known since my mid-twenties that I wanted to spend the first half of my career in tech, and the second half doing something more meaningful, something to make the world a better place. I hoped I would be able to make that change, and I was committed to it, although I didn't know exactly when or how. But as I got closer to that point in my career, in my early forties, I began to look around at all the things I cared about, and decided to focus on global poverty, as it seemed to be at the root of so many other problems I cared about.

I recognized there was a lot I needed to learn about a very different space. I ended up taking a leave of absence from Google and went to the State Department on a fellowship, where I worked in the Secretary's Office of Global Women’s Issues, with a focus on issues around women and technology. It didn't take long before I was hooked. I resigned from Google and signed on for another year. After the State Department, where a lot of the work takes place at the ten-thousand-foot level, I joined a nonprofit called Mercy Corps to learn how the real work was being done in the trenches.

Then I was offered my dream job — as the first executive director for the Global Development Lab at USAID, the agency's newest bureau with an inspiring two-part mission. The first part was to identify breakthrough innovations that could accelerate progress in the global development and humanitarian aid work that USAID does. And the second was to look at how we could transform the practice of global development itself by bringing new tools and approaches to table. The first was the "what," and the second the "how."

It fit exactly into the way I was beginning to think about what was really needed to make a difference. That's why it felt like a dream job — it was an opportunity to do this work at the largest aid agency in the world, in the belly of the beast, so to speak, but where I'd be responsible for thinking about how we could work differently and more effectively.

PND: It's an interesting career trajectory, in that it bridges the worlds of both technology and social change. In your experience, do technologists get social change? Or do they tend to see it as another problem that needs to be "engineered"?

AMC: That really depends on the technologist. As with everything, people in tech exist on a spectrum. I've known people in tech who think that technology can solve everything — we'll build a smart phone app and that will somehow end global poverty. There can be a naiveté and hubris, especially when you’re building products for people who live in contexts that you’re not that familiar with.

But there's also a thriving community of tech people in the global development sphere — we call it ICT4D, or information communication technologies for development — who are both technologists and development professionals looking at the intersection between the two. This community has developed something called the principles for digital development, which embody the best practices for the responsible use of technology in development.

One of the really exciting things that happened while I was in government was the creation of US Digital Services and 18F, where a lot of people from the tech sector came in to work for the govern­ment and saw that their skills could be put to use to help the government better serve people. It was catalyzed by the debacle with HealthCare.gov, which caused a lot of people to recognize that tech had something it could contribute that would really make a difference.

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

November 01, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Current Trends in Philanthropy: The Big Picture

October 29, 2018

Thebigpicture"Philanthropy" in the United States is a vast industry composed of individuals, foundations, and corporations that, in 2017, contributed $410 billion to charitable causes, an amount roughly equivalent to 2 percent of gross domestic product.

Of this total, nearly 70 percent is contributed by individuals, with more than half of that comprised of giving to congregations. The second largest source of philanthropic giving (some 24 percent) comes from grants made by private foundations like Gates, Ford, and Hewlett, which, along with a few dozen other major foundations, dominate a diverse ecosystem populated by tens of thousands of foundations of all sizes. Third is bequests, through which people designate universities, hospitals, and other tax-exempt organizations as beneficiaries in their wills. And last comes corporations — a surprise to many observers, who, given the dominant position of the private sector in the U.S. economy, no doubt assume that businesses play a far greater role in philanthropy.

My organization, Foundation Center, compiles comprehensive data on the more than 87,000 active U.S. foundations and, working with partners around the world, a growing number of foundations and foundation-like organizations in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. The center envisions a world enriched by the effective allocation of philanthropic resources, informed public discourse about philanthropy, and broad understanding of the contributions of nonprofit activity to transform lives and increase opportunity for all.

We also see U.S. philanthropy as having arrived at a critical juncture. Buoyed by a strong economy, U.S. foundations find themselves navigating a complex landscape in a volatile and highly polarized political environment. Foundations have something valuable to contribute in this environment —  namely, flexible resources free from market, electoral, and fundraising pressures. How they choose to use those resources to advance their work over the next few years is of interest to most Americans.

In a series of blog posts to be published over the next few weeks, we will look at some of the emerging issues that are getting the attention of U.S. foundations and will consider a number of frameworks (e.g., the Sustainable Development Goals) that are shaping the flow of philanthropic resources to different parts of the world. We'll also examine a variety of modalities — from traditional grant funding to experimentation with crypto-currencies — that foundations are using to advance their missions.

As many of you are aware, a growing chorus is questioning the foundation model, even as some donors are looking to experiment with new forms of philanthropy. A handful of younger philanthropists (Mark Zuckerberg, Pierre Omidyar) have opted to create limited liability corporations instead of setting up private foundations and have declared that their investments in social good will be directed to a broad spectrum of organizations and vehicles, not just tax-exempt nonprofits. Still, the predominant organizational form for U.S. philanthropy is the private grantmaking foundation, followed by corporate, operating, and community foundations. These legal structures and the regulatory framework in which they are embedded provide considerable flexibility for experimentation and innovation, and their continued popularity suggests that, for now at any rate, the "new philanthropy" is more of a rhetorical device than an actual phenomenon.

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Weekend Link Roundup (September 29-30, 2018)

September 30, 2018

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

Corporate Social Responsibility

As we've seen after other natural disasters recently, U.S. corporations and companies are stepping up to help the folks in the Carolinas who've been affected by flooding caused by Hurricane Florence. On a related note, Business Insider's Chelsea Greenwood has compiled a list of the ten companies that gave the most to charity in 2017.

The Forbes Business Development Council shares some good advice for small business looking to be charitable. 

Economy

Sso-called gig work promises a measure of flexiblity and independence that traditional jobs don't. But the pay is lousy, and people are starting to figure that out. A new report from the JPMorgan Chase Institute offers three sobering conclusions about the gig economy. Christopher Rugaber reports for the AP.

Health

How can we reverse the obesity epidemic? Washington Post contributor Tamar Haspel shares six commonsense suggestions.

International Affairs/Development

The world has made excellent progress in reducing poverty over the last twenty-five years, write Bill and Melinda Gates in an opinion piece for the New York Times. But thanks to "the unfortunate intersection of two demographic trends," that progress could stall, or even be reversed, if appropriate action is not taken.

Nonprofits

In Forbes, Ben Paynter shares findings from a new report issued by Fidelity Charitable which suggest that nonprofits should be doing more to court entrepreneurs as donors.

On the Guidestar blog, Becca Bennett and Jordan Ritchie offer some guidelines designed to help nonprofits get the most from their boards.

It's a crazy world we live in, and sometimes the best way to respond to it is to give ourselves a break. Social Velocity's Nell Edgington explains why it's important and what you can do to defeat that voice in your head which keeps whispering, "Don't even think about."

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    — Anne Lamott

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