430 posts categorized "Nonprofits"

My Way, Your Way, and the Highway

February 14, 2019

My way orWorking on a cause or leading a movement today means managing a team of people whose ages, backgrounds, work styles, expertise levels, and personality traits can be all over the place. And the backgrounds of your donors and stakeholders can be just as varied. Sooner or later, it raises the question: Are you prepared to manage the inevitable (though often hidden) tension that arises between young and old, new and experienced, impetuous and measured?

I've heard lots of stories in which a seasoned nonprofit veteran sees a new recruit to the cause begin to get attention for her ideas and becomes disgruntled, even resentful, while the new hire just thinks the more experienced colleague is being unreasonable and stubborn. Meanwhile, the tension between them mounts, with each wishing the other would just go away.

The same kind of tension can occur between organizations, creating a monumental stumbling block to significant, sustainable change as donors and supporters sort themselves into opposing camps.

That's more than a shame. According to the World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report 2019, "The world faced a growing number of complex and interconnected challenges in 2018. From climate change and slowing global growth to economic inequality, we will struggle if we do not work together in the face of these simultaneous challenges."

In other words, if we expect to make any progress on the urgent challenges at hand, it's imperative that we all do what we can to minimize this kind of tension.

I know, it sounds difficult. But it's not; it just requires a shift in mindset. You could, for example:

  • Reach out to organizations or individuals you've never considered as a potential partner and initiate a conversation around a mutual purpose or shared goals related to something you have in common.
  • Look to form partnerships that actively benefit constituents who are undeserved, or not served at all.
  • Create joint ventures and co-marketing opportunities that focus donors' attention on a single objective, rather than distracting them with multiple appeals and calls to action.

How and Why It Works

Consider the World Economic Forum's System Initiative on Shaping the Future of Food. Through the initiative, WEF hopes to facilitate the creation of "inclusive, sustainable, efficient, and nutritious food systems through market-based action and collaboration in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals." Among other things, the initiative hopes to improve the ways food is tracked from where it's grown to where it is consumed (a process known as "traceability"). For traceability to work, however, unprecedented collaboration involving governments, tech companies, agribusinesses, retailers, food producers, and civil society leaders will have to take place and become the norm.

One key to success will be the reception afforded new entrants and players in already established food production and distribution systems.

Remember how I started this post? 

  • Will new concepts and challenges to current approaches be openly and honestly debated and weighed?
  • Have "safe places" been established for the deliberate, authentic sharing of knowledge?
  • Will stakeholders grant the space, time, resources, and tolerance for risk that are needed for real, sustainable innovation to take place?

In my opinion, the real issue hampering collaborations today arises from the very human desire each of us harbors to be the person who solves or dramatically advances an issue. Irony notwithstanding, that impulse is perhaps the biggest obstacle to any organization or group of people being real drivers of change.

Getting In Our Own Way

In a recent post here on PhilanTopic, I wrote about how we, as representatives of our organizations, want people to keep our nonprofits top-of-mind and appreciate us for the work we do, but that such a mindset runs counter to how people in real life actually engage with a cause, in that it tends to make us, rather than the people we want to help, the focus of attention.

Similarly, when we choose to partner with other organizations, it's often because we're interested in having more people learn how great our organization is. From annual reports that lack any discussion about things that failed to inauthentic marketing language, the message for donors is predictable: Our organization is the best positioned to solve a particular problem, and we’re working harder than anyone else to do so.

Such a mindset comes at a huge cost: over time, we lose sight of the bigger goal and shut ourselves off from new ideas that could help us address the problems we all want to fix.

Remember that the next time you're in a meeting and the discussion starts to pit a seasoned veteran against a new person, the way it’s always been done against the “let’s think different” approach, the way your organization does things against the way a partner does things. Only by recognizing that we all have biases and acknowledging that neither we nor our organization have a monopoly on good ideas can we hope to advance meaningful and lasting social change. It may not be easy, but it's definitely worth the effort.

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

What's New at Candid (formerly Foundation Center and GuideStar) — February 2019

February 13, 2019

Candid logoHave you heard? Foundation Center and GuideStar have joined forces to become a single nonprofit organization, Candid. Together, we are dedicated to sharing information and insights that can fuel deeper impact. Candid will allow us to combine our knowledge and passions, and to do more than we could ever do apart. And the work continues! Here are some highlights of what we have been working on to start the new year.

Projects/Training Launched

  • New research supports: (1) donors give more to transparent nonprofits, and (2) transparent organizations tend to be stronger organizations. The research, recently published in the Journal of Accounting, Auditing & Finance, analyzed more than 6,300 nonprofits in the GuideStar database. They found that, as a group, nonprofits that earned a GuideStar Seal of Transparency averaged 53 percent more in contributions the following year compared to organizations that didn’t earn a Seal.
  • In partnership with the Early Childhood Funders Collaborative, the Heising-Simons Foundation, and the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, we've officially launched Funding for Early Childhood Care and Education, a joint effort to map the last ten years of philanthropic giving around family engagement and professional development. Foundation Center Midwest is partnering with the United Black Fund and the Cleveland History Center at the Western Reserve Historical Society to present The Soul of Philanthropy: Reframed & Exhibited.
  • We launched a new CF Insights research brief that looks at which community foundations are accepting donations of cryptocurrency, the challenges they've faced, and the platforms they use.
  • Glasspockets has unveiled a new transparency indicator that highlights whether foundations are publicly sharing their values or have policies that commit them to working transparently. The new "Transparency Values/Policy" indicator can be found on the Who Has Glass Pockets? page.
  • We've added a new infographic to the Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy site. Learn more on voting districts and the bipartisan divide on immigration issues.
  • In January, Foundation Center Midwest hosted an event in partnership with local arts stakeholders at which Foundation Center Midwest director Teleangé Thomas presented to a soldout room of young and emerging creative professionals on how Foundation Center can help them find funding with Foundation Directory Online and Foundation Grants to Individuals Online.
  • Also in January, Foundation Center Midwest hosted the Neighborhood Leadership Development Program's fundraising workshop, a full-day contract training for twenty-five "dreamers" working in the social justice and entrepreneurship space.
  • Foundation Center West successfully completed its contract training with the Creative Work Fund (CWF), a program of the Walter & Elise Haas Fund that is generously supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The training included a series of informational webinars and a convening around Mastering Collaboration featuring successful past CWF grantees and their grant award-winning artist + nonprofit collaborations.
  • Foundation Center West also completed two fund development workshop series for the San Francisco City and County Department of Children, Youth and their Families (DCYF). The series consists of three workshops each: fundraising planning; crafting a competitive letter of intent; and project budgets.

Content Published

In the News

What We're Excited About

  • Our offices in DC, Cleveland, New York, and San Francisco will host three-day proposal writing boot camps for the public in March and April. On average, Proposal Writing Boot Camp participants reported a 75 percent increase in their confidence after the session.
  • March 26: The "All Together Now: Conversations in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” series continues. During a program titled "Skills for Overcoming Burnout – Refueling the Fire," our partners at Rhiza Collective will share proven methods of self- and collective care. Learn how stress and trauma impact individuals and teams, and get strategies to address conflicts and resolve tensions.
  • We will travel to Miami in March to facilitate a funding panel, "Funding Collaborations and Building Ecosystems: A Grantmaker Meets the Changemaker Panel Discussion," in partnership with the Miami Children's Trust and Miami Dade Public Library System.
  • We've updated our self-paced e-learning courses, including "How to Cultivate Meaningful Relationships with Funders," "How to Use Data to Raise More Money from Corporations," and "How to Start a Major Gifts Program."
  • February 15: Foundation Center Midwest will be moderating a program in partnership with AFP Greater Cleveland, "Donor-Advised Funds: How to Find and Secure Support," featuring representatives from the Cleveland Foundation, Glenmede, and Fidelity. The program is a shared-cost contract program and, with a hundred attendees, is sold out.
  • The second webinar and watch party presented as part of Foundation Center West's California Wellness: Strengthening California Nonprofits grant will happen on February 27: 7 Lessons Learned from Nonprofit Leaders with Sean Kosofsky. In addition, five California Funding Information Network partners — Cal State University - Chico; the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy at John F. Kennedy University; Santa Barbara Public Library; Santa Monica Public Library; Pasadena Public Library — and one lapsed FIN, Cal State University - Fresno, have signed up to host watch parties and engage in a facilitated community discussion post-webinar.
  • GuideStar is providing nonprofit data to more people than ever before and in the last year recorded its 10 millionth unique visitor at GuideStar.org!
  • We're thrilled to announce that more than 66,000 nonprofit organizations have added information to their GuideStar Nonprofit Profiles, thereby earning a Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum GuideStar Seal of Transparency.
  • More than 70,000 university students and faculty in California now have access to GuideStar Pro resources for academic purposes thanks to UC Irvine and UC Berkley. Both colleges signed on to become GuideStar Library Services clients, providing institution-wide IP access to the GuideStar database.

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Our staff will be attending these upcoming events:

Services Spotlight

  • 458,072 new grants added to Foundation Maps in January, of which 2,960 grants were made to 1,836 organizations outside the U.S.
  • Foundation Directory Online now includes more than 14 million grants. In the new My FDO, new tools can help you manage your prospects like a pro.
  • New data sharing partners: Alaska Children's Trust, Alaska Community Foundation, Apex Foundation, Community Foundation of Snohomish County, Delta Dental Plan of Colorado Foundation, Inc., The Funding Network, George Alexander Foundation, John & Denise Graves Foundation, JRS Biodiversity Foundation, Kitsap Community Foundation, Sheng-Yen Lu Foundation, Melbourne Women's Fund, Montana Healthcare Foundation, Raynier Institute and Foundation, Satterberg Foundation, Thrivent Foundation, United Way of Pierce County, Westpac Foundation, and Sherman and Marjorie Zeigler Foundation. Tell your story through data and help us communicate philanthropy's contribution to creating a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.

Data Spotlight

  • Since 2006, private foundations in the U.S. have made grants of more than $7 billion to improve early childhood care and education, reflecting a deep commitment to the importance of supporting children and their families during a critical developmental period in their lives.
  • Total GrantSpace sessions for January 2019 exceeded 195,000.
  • As of November 2018, our Online Librarian service had reached its 2018 goal of serving more than 130,000 people.
  • We recorded nearly 30,000 registrations for our online programming in 2018.
  • We exceeded our goal for in-person attendance to our classes, with more than 16,000 attendees in 2018.
  • A five-year trends analysis of the largest 1,000 U.S. foundations demonstrates that foundations contributed an average $150.4 million a year specifically for disasters. Funding spiked in 2014 due to large grants for the Ebola outbreak, then declined over the next two years. Learn more about these trends at foundationcenter.org.
  • We completed custom data searches for Grantmakers in the Arts, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, McKinsey, the Mississippi Association of Grantmakers, the City of Phoenix,the City and County of San Francisco, Skidmore College, TCC Group, the University of San Diego, and GiveWell.

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 Candid.

Facing the Future Together

February 05, 2019

Candid_yellowThe social sector is big. It's essential. It's complex. For a combined 85 years, Foundation Center and GuideStar have helped people make sense of that complexity.

But the world faces growing challenges: polarization, climate change, technological revolution, and poverty and inequality. Foundation Center and GuideStar must do more to support the social sector.

That's why we are combining our talent, technology, data, and leadership to become a new organization, Candid. There is so much more we can do together:

  • We can offer a 360-degree view of the work of social good — who's doing what, where, on the issues that matter to people around the world.
  • We can bring the nonprofit sector closer to having common profiles for every organization and in doing so promote more efficient systems for raising funds, managing grants and donations, and measuring impact
  • We can offer insights that were never before possible and share those insights in clear and actionable ways.
  • We can link the learning of changemakers around the world so they can work smarter, together.

Combining two historic organizations — with tools used by millions of people across hundreds of platforms — will be challenging, to say the least. Over the next several years, we will be weaving together technology systems, petabytes of data and content, dozens of products and services, and, most importantly, the deep knowledge and experience of more than 200 staff. But we are confident we can do it.

Candid_illustration_philantopic-large
To guide this transition, we will aspire to the ideal embodied in our new name. The word candid speaks to the roots of Foundation Center and GuideStar, organizations born out of the need to provide fair, accurate, and objective information about foundations and nonprofits. It also informs how we will work, speaking to our future imperative of continuing to earn our stakeholders' trust in an information-wary world. To succeed, we will need to be honest about what works, what doesn't, what we know, and what we still need to figure out. In this vein, as Candid, we will use transparency as a guiding value in our communication with you.

Brad_jacob_compTomorrow two of our colleagues will discuss how we became Candid and what this change means for you. But now we turn to you. Tell us what you'd like to see in a stronger social sector: how can information transform the work of social good?

Bradford Smith is president and Jacob Harold is executive vice president of Candid.

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (January 2019)

February 01, 2019

The weather outside is frightful, but we've got some January reads that are downright insightful. So grab a throw, a cup of your favorite warm beverage, and enjoy.

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

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.

Philanthropy

Center for Effective Philanthropy president Phil Buchanan checks in with a stout defense of philanthropy, including three examples of trending philanthropic critiques that seem to be "a bit iffy." 

In his latest, Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther suggests that the important thing about wealthy people like the late Jack Bogle, the "father of the index fund," is how they make their money, not how they give their away.

Thanks to some good, old-fashioned reporting by The Guardian's Mark Harris, we now know a lot more about Elon Musk's secretive private foundation than we had previously. 

On the Ford Foundation's Equals Change blog, Hilary Pennington (executive vice president for program), Bess Rothenberg (senior director, strategy and learning), and Megan Morrison (officer, strategy and learning) explain what the foundation learned from the most recent Grantee Perception Report it commissioned from the Center for Effective Philanthropy and what it is doing to strengthen its relationships with grantees.

Whose voices should foundations listen to when they are ready "to engage meaningfully with those who would question their grantmaking strategies?" asks Ryan Schlegel on NCRP's Keeping a Close Eye blog. In other words, asks Schlegel, who has power and privilege in a changing country and world? And who should?

In a post on The Philanthropic Initiative blog, TPI president Ellen Remmer announces the launch of Invest for Better, a field-building initiative aimed at mobilizing women "to invest their personal, philanthropic, and institutional capital for good." 

Transparency

And philanthropy writer and communications strategist Elaine Gast Fawcett shares a few stories on the Transparency Talk blog that illustrate how family funders are thinking and acting when it comes to transparency.

That's it for this week. Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a note at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

The More You Know, The Greater the Impact of Your Giving

January 26, 2019

Keep-calm-and-make-informed-giving-choicesAccording to the latest edition of Giving USA, charitable giving in the U.S. exceeded $400 billion in 2017, a record. And in each of the four categories covered by the report – giving by individuals, by foundations, by bequest, and by corporations — the numbers were up, continuing recent trends.

As 2019 begins, donors need to start thinking about their giving — and the things they can do to ensure it has impact. One thing they can do is identify organizations most likely to deliver and/or create value for their clients. How?

Here are a few suggestions:

Find organizations whose work aligns with your goals. To ensure your charitable gifts are deployed effectively, head over to a site like Charity Navigator, America's largest independent charity evaluator, for objective ratings designed to help you find charities you can trust. Your research should focus on organizations whose missions align with your own goals and objectives. GuideStar is another good source of information on nonprofits.

A little Google goes a long way. A simple Google search not only will point you to an organization's website, it can also reveal information about the organization's reputation. Are there reports out there critical or questioning of its work, its leadership, its finances? Media outlets often report on charities that have violated the trust of their donors, like this report by CNN.

Check the metrics. Ask the following when evaluating the donor-worthiness of an organization:

  • Does it rigorously and consistently measure and report its results?
  • Do those results make sense?
  • Do you believe it is being transparent and honest about its results?

Charity Navigator describes in detail how to assess a charity's level of transparency. Look for statistics and information like this on the organization's website. Annual reports should be simple to understand and offer some information about the organization's impact. Holding nonprofits accountable for their results is something every donor should do.

How transparent is the organization about its finances? U.S.-based charities with tax-exempt status are required by law to file federal tax Form 990. They're also required to have their finances audited. Good nonprofits should make it easy for you to find and access multiple years of their audited financial statements and tax filings. (GuideStar is a great place to start.) If you have trouble finding an organization's 990 online, ask it to send you a copy; the speed with which the request is filled will tell you much about the organization's commitment to transparency.

Check an organization's operating and fundraising costs. "Overhead" is the necessary cost of doing business, for nonprofits as much as for for-profit businesses — it's what enables an organization to keep the lights on, pay its staff, and deliver on its mission. But not all overhead is created equal. Look at a charity's 990 tax returns to determine how much of its budget goes to overhead and fundraising and how much goes to programs and then compare that to the ratio for other organizations doing the same kind of work. The organization's annual report should provide you with this information, but if it doesn't, ask.

Look at the organization's leadership. What do you know about the people who lead the organization? The more you know, the more confident you can be in your giving decisions. A study published in Ivey Business Journal identified both personal and organizational traits and behaviors that should define today's nonprofit organizations and leaders, executives and board members alike. They include:

  • A commitment to financial stability and responsibility
  • A commitment to diversifying and/or expanding service offerings
  • A knack for identifying and addressing competitive challenges
  • A knack for identifying and addressing operational/effectiveness challenges
  • A commitment to building technological capacity
  • A commitment to increased transparency and accountability
  • A commitment to strengthening alignment with the board
  • An ability to develop a pipeline of young, diverse leaders

Can charities recover costs and still be charities? Many charities are able to recover a portion of their costs without sacrificing the quality of their services — an added incentive for donors committed to ensuring the sustainability of the organization and its work. For example, some charities charge their beneficiaries a nominal fee for services, which has the benefit of ensuring that the organization's services are truly wanted while giving beneficiaries more control over the provision of those services. Organizations should always be looking for financially sustainable strategies that are viable beyond the period covered by a donor's gift. My organization breaks down financial sustainability into three buckets: cost recovery, cross-subsidization, and profitability. The benefits in terms of our programs are obvious, enabling them to have greater impact with commensurately less reliance on individual donors.

Evaluate donor dependency. Donor dependency is a measure of how much a nonprofit relies on the contributions of individual donors to fund itself. According to Forbes, the average for a small sample it analyzed was 86 percent, meaning that the typical charity in the sample was able to bank 14 percent of its fundraising revenue for the future. If one is searching for a nonprofit that can survive a crisis or economic downturn, a rating below 100 may indicate it has substantial financial reserves or diversified revenue streams that make it more resilient when times get tough.

Look for an entrepreneurial mind-set. Nonprofits have evolved a great deal over the last twenty-five years, and many have adopted best practices from the private sector in an effort to improve their results and maximize the cost efficiency of their operations. The advantages of these kinds entrepreneurial strategies are many.

In short, as you're thinking about your giving in 2019 — and beyond — look for charities and nonprofits that inspire confidence in their ability to deliver innovative, services cost effectively and achieve real, lasting results.

Headshot_christopher_purdyChristopher Purdy is president and CEO of DKT International. From 1996 to 2011, he served as country director of DKT programs in Turkey, Ethiopia, and Indonesia, where he managed the largest private social marketing family planning program in the world. His professional interests include social marketing, global health, and socially responsible capitalism.

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.

Innovation

"[I]f innovation is essential to the ultimate achievements of the sector, we should spend less time on success, and more time on failure." Rohini Nilekani, philanthropist, social entrepreneur, and writer; and Kyle Zimmer, social entrepreneur and Schwab Foundation Fellow, talk with the folks at the World Economic Forum about failure and the social sector.

International Affairs/Development

A decade ago, microfinance was touted as the solution to global poverty. It hasn't worked out that way. Vox's Stephanie Wykstra takes an-depth look at its successes and failures.

Nonprofits

As we look ahead to a new year, Social Velocity's Nell Edgington has some hopeful words for nonprofit leaders and changemakers.

Is not having a COO a risk for a nonprofit organization? Eugene Fram explores that question through the lens of three different examples.

Philanthropy

Ford Foundation president Darren Walker ushers in the New Year with a clear-eyed analysis of the factors behind our current season of discontent and calls on philanthropy to "dedicate [itself], anew, to the cause of justice."

"Philanthropy's version of the 'gig economy' has bedeviled the progressive nonprofit sector for decades," argues Ryan Schlegel on the NCRP blog. "Nonprofit leaders chase program grants that pay some portion of their bills — effectively serving as short-term contractors for foundations – while hoping one day their luck will break with a general support grant that gives them time and space to actually lead." It's a dynamic, adds Schlegel, that is limiting the effectiveness of progressive foundations and their grantees.

In the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Antony Bugg-Levine, CEO of the Nonprofit Finance Fund and a former program officer at the Rockefeller Foundation, shares seven questions he now wishes he had asked himself and his former foundation colleagues back in the day.

In a guest post on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Joanne Kelley, CEO of  the Colorado Association of Funders, a regional philanthropy-serving organization, shares three themes that emerged from an effort in her state to encourage openness and feedback in the philanthropic sector, with the goal of increasing both foundation and nonprofit effectiveness. 

On the Transparency Talk blog, our colleague Janet Camarena chats with Lani Evans,  manager of the Vodafone New Zealand Foundation, the newest foundation with "glasspockets."

Angela Hariche, editor-in-chief at Two Lane Media, has a good Q&A with sector veteran Heather Grady, currently a vice president at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

And the McKnight Foundation, a family foundation based in Minnesota, has unveiled a new mission statement.

That's it for this week. Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a note at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Be Bold, Take Risks

January 10, 2019

Take_the_leapEvery year for the last decade or so, organizations have shared their ideas for engaging millennials with me and then asked for my feedback. Thinking about it over the holidays, I realized I received about the same number of approaches in 2018 as in previous years.

I've been studying millennial cause engagement with the Case Foundation for most of that time and have shared all kinds of research findings and insights through the Millennial Impact Project and the newer Cause and Social Influence initiative. Organizations seek me out for advice about their own particular situation, especially as it relates to what is now the largest generation in America. Typically, they do so for one of the following reasons:

  1. they have not been able to cultivate a younger donor base;
  2. their past success is being challenged by new ways of looking at their issue, new technologies, or both;
  3. their donor engagement levels have plateaued; and/or
  4. their revenues have been trending downward and the future looks grim.

After a decade of fielding such approaches, I can usually sniff out whether an organization has what it takes to change — and by that, I mean the kind of change needed not only to attract a new and younger audience, but to engage any person, regardless of age, with an interest in their cause.

Change is hard. It demands a willingness on the part of leadership and staff to leave the status quo behind and push in the direction of a new guiding vision. In other words, it requires people to be fearless.

This kind of approach to change is detailed beautifully by Jean Case in her new book, Be Fearless: 5 Principles for a Life of Breakthroughs and Purpose.

In her book, Jean describes a set of five principles that can be used by any individual or organization to become more relevant and valued in today's fast-changing world. The five principles are:

1: Make a Big Bet. To build a movement or drive real change, organizations (or individuals) need to step outside their comfort zone and make an audacious bet on something they ordinarily would reject as too ambitious or difficult. And the risks associated with a big bet, says Jean, can be mitigated, if organizations are willing to learn and course correct along the way.

If you want to target a younger demographic, go ahead and do it in a big but measurable way that will teach you something. A/B testing one line in an email campaign to a purchased list is a small bet involving little risk and with little potential for changing anything. Building a canvassing team to collect emails at, say, a popular music festival and then tracking engagement after the event is over is a bigger bet involving more time and expense for an unknown return. Creating a mobile unit to travel to locales around the country where younger people tend to live, work, and play and then identifying influencers, micro-influencers, and potential supporters is a much bigger, more expensive bet and thus a much bigger risk. But it's big bets like that which lead to new discoveries and have the potential to propel your cause or movement forward.

2: Be Bold, Take Risks. We all need space and the permission to take risks, especially If we are looking to advance a cause or build a movement. Absent a willingness to take risks, we inevitably become complacent and are unlikely to ever tap into the creativity and enthusiasm needed to drive real change.

Internally, then, organizational cultures need to change from a stance of avoiding risk to one in which it is embraced. In practice, cause leaders should document the risks and lessons that may result from a new idea, campaign, or approach, then inform and reassure staff that though an action has its risks, the potential outcomes and learnings to be gleaned from it are worth more in the long run than not doing anything at all.

3: Make Failure Matter. Each action we take as an organization or individual brings us a step closer to defining a new hypothesis or proving an existing one. I get excited when someone calls me and says, "We tried this and it didn't work, but we learned something" — not because I want to see them fail, but because I know they're taking steps to creating an even better movement or organization built on tested methods and disciplined iteration.

Before you launch your next call to action, campaign, or event, take the time to gather from your internal stakeholders all the hypotheses you hope to test and then post them on a wall or whiteboard. Then, after the campaign or event is over, regroup and determine which of the hypotheses proved out and which didn't, what you think you learned, and what you need to test next.

4: Reach Beyond Your Bubble. "Partnership" is an overused word in the nonprofit sector. Today, being a partner is an expectation, as is finding ways to join forces with others around a common approach to social impact. That said, it tends to be the unlikely partnership that generates the most meaningful change for the issues we serve.

In other words, look beyond the tried-and-true partners you've always worked with and identify organizations and individuals in other sectors who may have a unique asset you can use to advance your cause or movement. It could be a tech company whose technology can help make your approach more impactful for your constituents, or an entity that serves the same constituency but with a different product or value proposition.

5: Let Urgency Conquer Fear. The time to take action is now. Not tomorrow. Today. It's imperative for your organization to develop a sense of urgency about its issue, because a sense of urgency is often the only thing that drives us to find time to make change. Look at any direct mail appeal you received in December: I bet every single one pointed to the urgency of the situation — and most of them probably included an explicit deadline In their call to action ("Act before midnight on December 31!").

Not convinced? What if I told you your organization has a built-in structural need to engage its donors and supporters right now. Give up? It's this: 18 percent of the contacts in your database go bad each year. If you don’t address your donor engagement problem now, you'll be launching your next campaign or call to action already behind. Today is always the best time to experiment, to adopt a new approach, to try something risky that may lead to a breakthrough.

In her book, Jean invites us to ask ourselves, "What would you do if you weren't afraid?" — and to answer fearlessly. As I hope I've helped you see, being fearless doesn't mean you have to climb the highest mountain, swim the deepest ocean, or cross the hottest desert. And it doesn't mean you have to gamble your organization's future on an all-or-nothing bet. What it does require is thinking big, being intentional, making (and learning) from mistakes, and taking action, even if it's a small step — today and not tomorrow. You can do it. Good luck, and Happy New Year!

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

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.

5 Questions for...Rebecca Masisak, CEO, TechSoup

December 22, 2018

For more than thirty years, TechSoup has facilitated product donations and technical assistance to nonprofits and NGOs with the aim of helping them implement technology solutions that drive social impact.

With the goal of raising $11.5 million over the next three years to sustain and expand that work, the organization recently announced a direct public offering (DPO) through impact investing platform SVX.US. The DPO offers three tiers of debt security investments — risk capital notes, with a minimum investment of $50,000 and a 5 percent interest rate; patient capital notes, with a minimum investment of $2,500 and a 3.5 percent interest rate; and community capital notes, with a minimum investment of $50 and a 2 percent interest rate. TechSoup is the first nonprofit to be qualified by the Securities and Exchange Commission to raise funds through a Regulation A+ / Tier 2 offering.

PND asked TechSoup CEO Rebecca Masisak about the genesis of the DPO, as well as her views on the role of technology in building a more effective philanthropic sector and driving social change.

Headshot_rebecca_masisak_techsoupPhilanthropy News Digest: What was the thinking behind the decision to launch a direct public offering on an impact investing platform? Is there a broader goal beyond the immediate one of funding TechSoup's work and outreach?

Rebecca Masisak: Throughout our history, we've achieved scale and reach with the direct support of NGOs that wanted to use technology to achieve their missions. They have been investing in us — in the form of their administrative fees. The DPO takes that principle to the next level. It's important that those individual organizations from our community have a voice in what we do and have a way to vote — not just with a "like" on Facebook or a retweet — but with an expression of faith that comes with an investment in our DPO.

The direct public offering reflects our belief that TechSoup's stakeholders come from a range of economic backgrounds but share a common belief in the importance of a strong infrastructural backbone for civil society. The DPO enables us to offer a debt investment with interest as an impact investment, not just to institutional funders but also to U.S.-based individuals and smaller organizations in our community, with meaningful but relatively low investment minimums of $50. We want all these stakeholders to play a role in our future, not just those who have a larger budget to invest.

From the beginning, we knew we wanted to work with a platform provider in order to securely manage the investment transactions. We also needed a provider that could specifically support a Regulation A+, Tier 2 Offering in all U.S. states, so we looked at a few different options before making our choice. SVX has a strong track record as an impact investing marketplace in Canada and met all our technical platform requirements. Equally important, however, was that the SVX team shared our values and belief in democratizing access to impact investments. They have become a true partner to us, and I'm confident they will do an excellent job supporting the community engagement we seek.

PND: What has been the response to date from investors and other nonprofits?

RM: We get a lot of questions: Can nonprofits do this? What do you mean I get my money back? Why are you making the minimum investment so low?

This is a new way of doing investment in nonprofits — we are the first nonprofit qualified by the SEC to have this type of offering in all fifty U.S. states — and there are a lot of technical questions. We also know people are curious about how it turns out, not only because they want to see us succeed but also because they're thinking about doing it themselves. We're glad to be in a position to learn for the sector and to share our experience as the campaign progresses.

Since the launch in mid-November, the response has been incredibly positive. This includes those community-level "Main Street" investors who have had very limited opportunities to invest in this kind of security offering before. We see that the ability to invest this way feels empowering. Based on preliminary conversations to date, we also anticipate receiving significant support from larger entities at the Risk Capital note tier and look forward to making some announcements in the near future.

We're excited that other nonprofits have expressed interest in learning more about this approach, and we're committed to sharing what we are learning. We want others in the sector to benefit from our experience and have already started to publish updates on our blog and recently hosted a webinar along with the SVX team and our legal counsel from Cutting Edge Capital.

Continue reading »

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.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (December 8-9, 2018)

December 09, 2018

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

Children and Youth

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

Climate Change

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

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

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

Criminal Justice

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

Continue reading »

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (November 2018)

December 02, 2018

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

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

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

Weekend Link Roundup (November 24-25, 2018)

November 25, 2018

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

Arts and Culture

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

Climate Change

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

Education

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

Fundraising

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

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

Continue reading »

Contributors

Quote of the Week

  • "Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary...."

    — Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)

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