458 posts categorized "Nonprofits"

5 Tips for Giving Great Design Feedback

June 19, 2019

Feedback2Receiving feedback and iterating on creative work is a huge part of what we do every day at Constructive. Whether we're conducting an internal review with our designers and art directors, or discussing work with clients, collaboration is crucial to improving our work.

That said, it's easy to go through the motions without thinking critically about how to optimize the delivery of feedback when deadlines are approaching, budgets are tight, and multiple projects are being juggled. In my role as a project manager, I've sat in countless meetings to review feedback and have seen teams (ours and our clients) use different tactics to deliver that feedback, with varying degrees of success. What I've learned from the experience is that the difference between good and bad feedback can have a real impact on the overall success of a project and, therefore, is worth paying attention to. In that spirit, I'd like to share a few tips on how you can give great design feedback.

How to Give Great Design Feedback

1. Ask questions. A successful design process is by definition collaborative, and asking thoughtful questions only serves to strengthen that process. By posing questions rather than sending the design team a list of specific changes it needs to make, a client can open up lines of communication, encourage further discussion, and ensure that assumptions (false or otherwise) aren't inadvertently baked into the cake. Ultimately, a design team looks to its clients for their expertise in their particular issue area, and often it will learn more about a client's (and the client's audiences') needs when the client questions its design choices and a healthy conversation ensues.

2. Communicate problems, not solutions. It can be tempting to review a design and propose solutions to things you don't think are working. A better approach is to communicate what the problem is and why the said design decision is problematic. For example, if you don't like the placement of a newsletter call-to-action and want to see it moved to another page, telling us why you think your website visitors are more likely to sign up for your newsletter when engaged with another content type (news updates vs. insights, for example) will give us more insight about your audience and help us offer a better solution. By describing the problem, you're equipping the design team with information needed to explore other solutions, rather than spoon-feeding the team a solution that might not be the best one.

3. Keep the focus on strategic goals. Visual design can be subjective, so keeping the conversation focused on whether or not the design is meeting the stated goals is a great way to keep feedback discussions productive and projects moving in the right direction. Instead of asking yourself whether you like the new design, remind yourself about the project's strategic goals. Does the design successfully address the needs of the audiences you serve? For example, if the stated goal of a research hub is to be the go-to resource for policy makers in a field, does the layout support their need to get timely updates and be able to skim dense articles? If so, great! If not, it's probably a good time to start asking questions and describing the problem (see tips 1 and 2).

4. Consolidate feedback. Establishing a clear process for delivering feedback is critical to the success of a project — even more so when multiple stakeholders are involved. Consider: several stakeholders are reviewing a design mockup and provide comments that contradict one another. Some think highlighting the metrics related to a grantee's performance will be too difficult to maintain on the website, while others feel strongly they should be included. Not only does sorting through the conflicting feedback take time, it also puts the onus on the design team to make sense of the competing views and decide which one should be implemented.

To avoid such a scenario (a project manager's worst nightmare), we ask our clients to deliver feedback that reflects their final decision. And when a project warrants it, we advise clients to define specific project roles using a RACI matrix (responsibility assignment matrix). For instance, we recommend having one team member be "responsible" for delivering feedback and ensuring those who need to be "consulted" on the final decision have had a chance to voice their opinion.

5. Don't forget to share the good. Everyone likes to receive affirmation on a job well done. Even though feedback meetings typically focus more on ways to improve work, we love it when clients share what's working really well within a design. Not only does the pat on the back encourage us to keep working hard, it also allows us to build up a knowledge base of what the client likes so that we can bring more ideas to the table aligned with their design ideas and preferences.

Wrapping up

Paying attention to the way in which design feedback is delivered can have a real impact on the success of a project. By implementing these five tips, you'll be doing your part to make sure the design process is collaborative, team roles are defined, strategic goals figure into decision-making, and projects run a little more smoothly.

Headshot-Lily-Moaba-150x150Lily Moaba is a senior project manager at Constructive and collaborates with the firm's clients and internal team to keep projects moving, ensuring everyone remains focused on priorities, deadlines, and deliverables. before joining Constructive, she managed strategic partnerships and technology projects for American Corporate Partners for three years and spent time as a research assistant for the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research. A version of this article appears on the Constructive site.

Creating a Donor Stewardship Plan: 3 Best Practices

June 17, 2019

Istockphoto-500174600-612x612A common fundraising mistake made by many nonprofits is to put so much emphasis on acquiring new donors that they forget to pay attention to the donors they already have.

Do not allow donor stewardship — the process by which an organization builds strong, healthy relationships with existing donors long after their initial donations have been received — to become an afterthought. Effective donor stewardship is all about turning first-time donors into loyal, recurring donors and is essential to keeping your donor retention rate where it should be.

Sounds simple. And it is, if you keep these best practices in mind as you sit down to develop a donor stewardship strategy:

  1. Understand and use your donor data effectively.
  2. Make it easy for your donors to leverage the impact of their gifts.
  3. Publicly thank your donors for all they do.

Let's take a closer look:

1. Understand and use your donor data. Donor data can be overwhelming and cause lots of people lots of stress if it isn't collected regularly and with an eye to how it is going to be used. But when done properly, data analytics can help you understand who your donors are, when they are most likely to give, and what kind of appeal they are most likely to respond to.

Your data should do three things:

  • Provide you with basic knowledge about your donors (e.g., name, age, location, marital status, profession, the things that excite them about your organization, other organizations they support, etc.)
  • Capture their giving/communications preferences (e.g., preferred donation amount/range, preferred giving frequency, preferred communications channels/frequency, etc.).
  • Give you an idea of their capacity to give (e.g., net worth)

(To learn more about donor analytics and the importance of using donor data properly, see our prievous post. And to learn more about what motivates giving behavior and how you can use that knowledge to increase your donor retention, check out this study from OneCause.)

Knowing who your donors are is the first step in cultivating strong, lasting donor relationships and allows you to meet them on their terms.

The next step? Contact each of your donors and try to engage them in a conversation about:

  • the impact of their previous gift
  • the importance of your cause
  • what your organization could do with more resources
  • the possibility of furthering their engagement with your organization

Your donor data, when used effectively, can greatly enhance your ability to engage your donors, improve your fundraising results, and boost your donor retention rate.

2. Make it easy for your donors to leverage the impact of their gifts. Your nonprofit is sustained by the generosity of its donors. To ensure that each donation has the greatest possible impact and leads to recurring donations, you should seek out and promote corporate matches (in which a company or corporation agrees to matches the donations of its employees to your organization). Corporate matching campaigns amplify the impact of donors’ gifts with minimal effort on your part and no additional monetary contribution on the part of donors.

To simplify the matching-gift process for donors:

  • make sure any and all "Donate" buttons on your website are prominently displayed and work seamlessly.
  • provide a matching gift database search tool like 360MatchPro so that donors can search for their employer and the details of the company's matching gift program (if they have one), including minimum and maximum match amounts and the match ratio; employee eligibility criteria (full-time, part-time, and/or retired); organization eligibility criteria; and in-kind employee volunteer information (if any).
  • the database should also provide information on how to submit required matching-gift forms to the donor's employer. Because more than 80 percent of matching-gift forms are submitted online, a donor should be able to seamlessly complete this task as s/he is making a donation. His/her employer will then review the form, confirm the employee's donation with your nonprofit — and send you a check!

Encouraging matching gifts enables you to engage your donors in a way that benefits all parties involved. Your donors will love that they were able to leverage the impact of their donation to your organization, which, in turn, will deepen their commitment to and sustained engagement with your work. And companies with matching-gift programs will be grateful that their charitable contribution(s) supported a cause near and dear to a valued employee's heart.

One other thing: Be sure to follow up with donors after they've made a donation and suggest they consider having their donation matched by their employer. It's a good way to extend your relationship with them, and it’s a great way to improve your donor retention rate.

3. Publicly thank your donors for all they do. Do you know the secret to motivating donors to stay engaged? It's pretty simple and starts with "Thank you." Everyone wants to feel appreciated and valued for their efforts, and donors are no different. In fact, your donors will be exponentially more likely to give to your organization on a recurring basis if you take the time to thank them for their donations.

There are many ways to do that, including:

Online: You can display your gratitude online in two ways: in an email and on your website. Make sure your online donation process includes an automated thank-you email to donors when a donation has been completed, but don't stop there. Your organization should have an email newsletter (monthly, quarterly) that you can use to express your gratitude for your donors and tell them, in compelling fashion, what you’ve been able to accomplish with their support. In addition, your website should include a donor spotlight feature where you highlight the contributions of loyal donors.

In person: Galas and other in-person fundraising events are the perfect opportunity to really connect with your donors with a personal "thank you." Never underestimate the value of looking a donor in the eye, shaking his or her hand, and telling them their donation really made a difference. Donors will be much more likely to donate again if they hear from the horse's mouth, as it were, that good work is being done and their donations are helping to make that work possible.

In public: Public recognition of your donors on a wall or plaque is a great way to show them you value your relationship with them. When doing so, be sure to display the name of the fundraising campaign, the donor's name, the gift amount or range, and the season and year in which the donation was made (e.g., spring 2019). This type of thank you not only shows your organization's appreciation for its donors, it also will inspire others to give.

Your donors are one of your nonprofit's most valuable resources, and donor stewardship is essential to the success of your organization's fundraising. Demonstrating your gratitude is an excellent way to guarantee your organization maintains a relationship with them over the long haul.

Got any other tips or advice for nonprofits looking to develop an effective donor stewardship strategy and improve their retention rates? We’d love to hear him.

Headshot_adam_weingerAdam Weinger is president of Double the Donation, a provider of tools that help nonprofits raise more money from corporate matching gift and volunteer grant programs.

The Essential Guide to Modernizing Your Fundraising

June 11, 2019

NonProfit-Online-FundraisingIf you've been feeling stuck with fundraising strategies that don't quite seem to cut it anymore, you're not alone. Just as our technologies require periodic updates, so, too, do our broader fundraising strategies.

Nonprofit organizations of all sizes generally run a tight ship. Insufficient budgets and high-intensity campaigns mean that most nonprofits like to stick with what has worked in the past. But a lot can change, relatively quickly, in the fundraising world.

For example, look at telethons or cold calling; they were once reliable fundraising tactics for organizations of all kinds. But today, millennial and Gen Z donors tend to not even bother answering calls from unknown numbers, and why should they? Non-urgent communication has almost completely shifted to email and text messaging.

The point? Your nonprofit's fundraising strategies have to keep pace with constantly changing technologies and donor preferences — even when the prospect of investing precious time and resources in new tools is enough to ruin your week.

At DNL OmniMedia, we help nonprofits make the most of their digital assets. Regardless of which part of your fundraising strategy could use an upgrade, there are always steps your organization can take to improve its ability to both raise money and engage donors. And sometimes the steps are simple.

Let's take a closer look at some of them.

Conducting a Strategy Check-Up

This is the essential first step in the process and should precede any changes you decide to make to your fundraising strategy. Basically, you need to understand what you need to improve and why.

Take a comprehensive look at your current fundraising strategy, including all the different elements that go into it:

  • Current fundraising strategy. ;What types of campaigns do you conduct year after year? Which ones do your donors respond to — and which ones do they ignore? Is there a type of campaign you think you should be conducting but haven't had the time to explore or research?
  • Goals and necessities. Take a look at your bottom line. What's your budget for tech upgrades? Is there a specific goal you need to achieve, like growing your donor base by a certain percentage or retaining a certain share of donors?
  • Fundraising toolkit. What tools do you already have at your disposal? Have you been making good use of them? Is there anything you're not using but should? Is there anything you can afford to do without?
  • Available resources. What kind of support resources are available? If you're using a Blackbaud platform, for instance, have you already made yourself familiar with Blackbaud support and training resources? Or, if you've worked with a consultant or agency in the past, have you inquired about a fundraising assessment?

The main idea at this stage is to take a careful look at the tactics and tools you've already got in place. Rely on your donor data to identify those that most successfully engage donors and boost revenue.

This will help focus your attention on what needs improvement and enable you to begin to prioritize the various elements of your strategy. It also will make it harder for your team to waste time, energy, and money on things not on the list.

Upgrading Your Tech Toolkit

Chances are pretty good that new technology is going to play a big role in your efforts to modernize your organization's fundraising strategy. Tech updates come in all shapes and sizes, from simple add-ons to complete overhauls and system redesigns. Again, that's why it is so important to take the time to really understand your needs (or work with an expert who can help you understand them) before researching new products.

No matter how elaborate or costly the tech updates you hope to make, there's a fairly standard process you should follow, from initial research to final implementation. Let's walk through the steps:

1. Recruit a team. While it may seem unnecessary for small organizations interested in making minor technology updates to get more than one person involved, getting multiple perspectives, even for the simplest upgrade, is essential. At a minimum, the organization's director or a board member and key staff members whose day-to-day work will be affected should be involved. For larger-scale projects, the team also should include a consultant and additional stakeholders, as needed.

2. Evaluate your existing toolkit. Focus specifically on your toolkit. Make a list of all the software and Web-based tools your organization uses in its fundraising. Next, list the pros and cons of each tool and piece of software and have members of the team (ex board members) rate them on a scale of 1 to 5 with respect to their effectiveness, ease of use, etc. After you've compiled the ratings and feedback from every team member, you should have a good idea of the state of your toolkit.

3. Define your priorities. With a better understanding of the weak links in your existing systems and toolkit, you can use the ratings to set priorities for needed upgrades. Tools or platforms that were rated poorly across all categories or those that are impacting a team member's ability to do his or her job should be moved to the top of the upgrade list.

Your list of priorities should be informed both by the organizational pain points you've identified and your fundraising goals. Say your donation software does a good job of processing donations but your conversion rate is low. Improving your conversion rate should definitely be an upgrade priority — especially if a member of the team can recommend a tool with features that specifically support that goal.

4. Define your needs and make a budget. Take your list of priorities and start jotting down what is entailed in each one. The list should include things like:

  • the purchase of new hardware, software, or other digital service
  • custom development or configuration by a tech consultant
  • training resources for staff who'll be using the new tools

Next, outline the time and resources your organization is able to devote to the upgrades.

You may find your needs are more complicated than initially expected based on your list of core priorities. For example, if your top priority is to switch to a more advanced CRM, you may find that some of the other tools you depend on don't integrate with newer products or cloud-based services. In that case, you'll need to work with a tech consultant who can help you identify a CRM that works with your existing tools and can help with the integrations.

5. Begin researching vendors. Your team should split up the work of researching vendors for the new tools you plan to purchase. Use your list of priorities and budget as a guide, and pay close attention to any integrations or unique features you'll need. This is also the stage when you should determine whether and how much support you'll need from a tech consultant.

6. Develop a timeline and think about training. Once your decisions about software purchases, vendors, and consultants have been finalized, it's time to develop an implementation timeline. This step is crucial and should not be overlooked.

Without a carefully developed timeline and clearly defined roles for each member of the team, even the simplest project can quickly go off the rails. We recommend that you start the timeline process by settling on a hard end-date. Then work backward to establish milestones and check-in dates along the way.

Don't forget to include training in your timeline. And remember: your staff will need a reasonable period of time to get up and running on the new system before you can realistically expect to see improvement.

7. Finalize your plans. You're almost there! Before you "flip the switch" on the new system, you'll probably want to compile all the steps, decisions, and insights you generated during the process into a single document that team members can refer to as needed. Your board may also want to read through the document before giving their final approval.

Once all that is done, there are still a few things you may want to consider. Make sure you've established metrics and/or a system to measure your progress and success. If you haven't already done so, this is also a good time to begin applying for grant funding. (A comprehensive final document can be a great springboard for a compelling application!)

Putting It Into Action

Taking care of the technical aspects of your project is just half the challenge. Next, you'll need to put all those tech upgrades and improvements into action by matching them with updated fundraising strategies.

It can be tricky to figure out where to start. Try framing the question this way: Where do technology and fundraising intersect? Answer: In the big-picture strategies that determine how you use tech to support your fundraising efforts, including online fundraising, data management, and digital marketing.

We've put together a comprehensive guide designed to help you develop a new digital strategy for your nonprofit. Here's the boiled-down version:

  1. Establish your goals. These should be your bigger, overarching fundraising and donor engagement goals rather than the more specific tech goals discussed above.
  2. Identify your audience. Review your engagement data and think carefully about your donor base before you begin to outline a strategy you think they'll respond to.
  3. Define your constraints. These include things like budgets, deadlines, and other projects.
  4. Equip your team. This step essentially refers to the whole process we outlined in the "Upgrading Your Tech Toolkit" section above.
  5. Craft a communication plan. Think about your marketing channels, identify key spots through which you can funnel donors, and consider how your tech tools, new and old, can support each other.
  6. Test your infrastructure. Make sure you've got the tech infrastructure that donors will be interacting with in place, and make sure it is reporting engagement data properly.
  7. Measure your success. Conduct frequent check-ins to see how your new and improved strategies are working. And don't be afraid to make adjustments in real time.

For examples of a robust, comprehensive digital fundraising strategy that encompasses both tech and marketing, think about your favorite peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns. Such campaigns regularly put nonprofits to the test because they involve so many complex online and offline elements that need to build off of one another.

As you get started on modernizing your fundraising strategies, remember that such a project usually has two aspects: big-picture changes and specific upgrades. For example, you may decide that the key to boosting your donor retention numbers is to focus more on listening to and sharing donor stories. This is an example of big-picture change that can really deepen your engagement with your donors. And the flipside is making sure you've got the tools and communications strategies to support it.

A final tip: When it comes to modernizing your fundraising technology and strategies, you want to be sure to build in enough time for planning, researching new vendors, and finding and vetting consultants. Trying to do it quickly or on the cheap inevitably will lead to disappointment.

Remember, implementing new tech doesn't have to be a terrifying prospect for your organization. As with any other challenge, you'll find that breaking it down into manageable parts and steps goes a very long way. After all, nothing's as important for your nonprofit than its ability to engage with donors and translate those relationships into needed financial support.

Headshot_carl_diesing_for_philantopicCarl Diesing is co-founder and managing director of DNL OmniMediawhere he works with nonprofits to strengthen their fundraising and build their capacity to drive social change.

Giving Voice to Your Supporters

June 03, 2019

Giving_voiceIn their desire to give voice to the vulnerable and underserved in society, most cause-driven organizations fail to include their supporters in the equation. By failing to do so, they are denying others a golden opportunity to see themselves in the same light.

A few years ago, an agency for pregnant women/healthy newborns came to us for help with a fundraising campaign. The agency's volunteers visit pregnant women in their homes to teach them about prenatal care and how to take care of a newborn. The agency's typical supporter is someone who wants to give babies a healthy, safe start in life.

At the same time, the agency was committed to a program focused on fathers-to-be. Nowhere in the program materials was there recognition or an acknowledgment of how invested the agency's volunteers were in giving babies a healthy, safe start in life or, indeed, any mention of the volunteers who were lending their time and experience to reassure and help pregnant women who often have no one they can turn to for help.

Not surprisingly, the overall campaign was not as successful as it could have been. Potential supporters who might have seen themselves as "people who think every baby deserves a chance at a healthy beginning" instead heard "we are an organization that wants to help men be good fathers." Both sentiments are laudable, but only one truly resonated with the agency’s most important constituency.

If you've been reading my articles here on PhilanTopic, you know how important I think it is for supporters and potential supporters of a cause to know that others believe in the same cause and are actively doing something to advance it. The reinforcement of belief is a powerful factor in deepening an individual's involvement in a cause or issue and in creating a powerful sense of identity among a group of like-minded people.

One organization that is especially good at acknowledging the shared identity of its supporters is the Surfrider Foundation. Surfrider refers to its supporters as "Champions of Surf and Sand" and praises them as "a community of everyday people who passionately protect our playground the ocean, waves and beaches that provide us with so much enjoyment."

Consider this recent message from the organization:

Over 30 Surfrider Chapters participated in #HandsAcrossTheSand events — joining thousands of activists around the world in saying ‘NO’ to offshore drilling and ‘YES’ to clean energy.

The identity of the Surfrider community is unambiguous and empowering:

We're people who love and want to actively protect the oceans and beaches. When we band together and fight, we win. We are stronger together.

The appeal of such language is irresistible to someone who is passionate about the issue of ocean conservation. And it's effective because it comes directly out of the experience of the organization’s supporters, rather than from the organization's CEO or development director.

I've said many times that sharing authentic, compelling stories about the people who benefit from the actions we take is at the heart of every successful movement. I stand by that statement. However, most organizations focus their energies on telling stories as a lead-up to an ask or financial transaction and neglect to include messaging around supporter identity.

Your messaging should play a dual role: articulate purpose and give voice. Purpose in narrative makes it clear what supporters can do and why they should do it. Voice captures who and what they believe in, in stories that resonate because they see themselves in those stories.

In taking such an approach, we put supporters at the heart of our cause or issue. We show them that they are not alone in their passion and enthusiasm. We enable them to talk to each other about what they have done as a collective (as in the Surfrider example). Such an approach reinforces the beliefs of like-minded people, encourages them to openly share those beliefs, and gives them opportunities and the tools to connect with others.

Calls to action are necessary, of course. But in between appeals, your need to help your supporters maintain their enthusiasm for your cause or issue by speaking to and highlighting those who support it. They're the people who build movements.

Here some examples:

  • "Volunteers registered more than 5,000 new voters in April. This is what we do: We give people a voice to fight for change."
  • "The oceans and beaches are where we live and play, but plastic has pushed us into crisis. We give 10,000 hours each year to cleaning them up."
  • "Each one of us has signed the pledge to change the way we eat and shop for food."

This is how supporters, not your cause or organization, become identified with a cause. Here are a few other tips:

1. Listen to your supporters and then share with them what they told you. You'll never be as effective as you can be if you don't know what motivates your supporters. Listen to what they have to say and then create personas that capture the different motivations of the people who believe in and support your cause (and not just financially). Using those personas, you can then engage them to serve as storytellers on your behalf.

2. Capture and share images of your supporters in all your messaging. Marketing, calls to action, social media activity, and any other type of communications activity should include photos and (when possible) video of a diverse cross-section of your supporters.

3. When you don't have anything new to share, share stories of people engaged in the cause. As you're creating your organization's narrative and voice, be sure to tap into and share the stories of those most deeply committed to and engaged in the cause. You can even combine them with a call to action, but do so sparingly.

By sharing the stories of supporters of the broader cause, you'll be helping to build and sustain the movement even as you're recruiting new people to it. First-person messages from committed individuals that communicate their support for your cause mixed in with stories of the people who have benefited from your work create a powerful connection between what supporters of the cause do, why they do it, and how much change they're making in society. And at the end of the day, that's the bottom line.

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 (May 2019)

May 30, 2019

Candid logoSpring has been an exciting time here at Candid. Since Foundation Center and GuideStar joined forces, the two organizations have been busy with strategic planning, listening, and sharing, in addition to all the research, trainings, and campaigns we usually do. Here’s a recap of recent goings-on:

Projects Launched

  • We added new data and research to our Peace and Security Funding Index that highlight the diversity of funders and strategies focused on addressing issues of peace and security globally. For the past five years, Candid and the Peace and Security Funders Group have chronicled thousands of grants awarded by hundreds of peace and security funders, shedding light on who and what gets funded in the sector. You can learn more about that work here: peaceandsecurityindex.org.
  • Earlier this month, Candid, along with the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, launched U.S. Household Disaster Giving in 2017 and 2018 Report, the first comprehensive study of household donations to disasters. The study provides new data on U.S. households' disaster giving and answers many of the questions most often asked about patterns, preferences, and practices related to individuals’ charitable giving for disaster relief efforts.

Data Spotlight

  • Since March, we've been streamlining the process for developing the FC 1000 research set, which we use to track year-over-year trends in philanthropic giving. As part of this work, we're introducing systematic quality assurance checks on the grants data and aiming for a close date (for the 2017 grants set) in early fall. As of April, we've identified ~650 funders (out of an eventual 1,000) for whom we have complete-year grants data, and we've tracked down and outsourced grants lists for a hundred more. For the remaining funders, we'll be looking to the IRS for their grants lists and reaching out directly via email over the coming months.
  • Approximately 70 percent of grantmaking for peace and security issues includes some type of population focus. In 2016, funding for children and youth and women and girls each accounted for 14 percent of total peace and security funding, while funding for refugees and migrants accounted for 8 percent. Learn more at: peaceandsecurityindex.org/populations.

In the News

What We're Excited About

  • Candid Midwest will launch Candid's Nonprofit Startup Assessment Tool (NPSAT) on June 13 in Kansas City, Missouri, with the help of a generous grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The event will include our new course, Is Starting a Nonprofit Right for You?, as well as a demonstration of NPSAT and an Open House featuring our Funding Information Partner, the Kansas City Public Library (central location).
  • Candid South has completed a lease agreement with CARE in Atlanta and will be relocating our staff there in order to better leverage our existing community partnerships. CARE is a global leader in the worldwide movement to end poverty and is known for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of all people. Learn more about Candid South's transition here.
  • Candid's other library resource centers, located in San Francisco, Cleveland, Ohio, and Washington, DC, will be redirecting their in-person library services to local community partners in 2019. On June 20, Candid West will bid adieu to our San Francisco library and office with a Farewell Open House from 5:00-7:00 p.m. Then, sometime after June 217, the Candid West team will be relocating to Oakland to join the remainder of our Bay Area team. You can read more about Candid's plans to expand its outreach into local communities here.
  • On May 22, Candid West officially launched its virtual peer learning circle, Setting Your Development House for Success. We're accepting more participants through the learning circle's next session on June 19, however. Help spread the word! To register, click here.
  • On May 30-31, Candid West will be collaborating with Funding Information Network partner John F. Kennedy University’' Sanford Institute of Philanthropy and local funders and county supervisors to present a two-day convening in East Contra Costa County. The event will focus on the importance of strategies related to achieving a fair and accurate census and will include a capacity-building needs assessment as well as fundraising training.
  • Candid West will once again partner with CCS Fundraising and the Commonwealth Club on June 20 to present "Giving USA: A National and Bay Area Perspective." Historically, this has been one of our best-attended programs, and this year's event promises more of the same.
  • In June, Candid Northeast New York will begin teaching our core curriculum on a monthly basis at our Brooklyn Public Library partner site and will also visit and do public trainings at partner locations in Greenwich, Connecticut; Westerly, Rhode Island; and in Queens and Brooklyn.
  • On June 5, Candid's DC office will lead a contract training on proposal writing at the Glenstone Museum as part of Glenstone's Emerging Museum Professionals program.
  • On June 6 , Candid South will launch its Nonprofit Consultant Cohort, a four-part series, in Atlanta. Sessions will cover how to establish your client criteria and issue area, how to develop a marketing strategy that generates client leads, determining fee structure, and creating a business plan and presentation.
  • On June 6, Candid and Hispanics in Philanthropy will release a new dashboard, LATINXFunders, which illustrates philanthropy’s support for Latinx populations across the U.S. and its territories over a five-year period, 2012-2017.

Upcoming Conferences and Events

It's the season for conferences! Our staff will be attending these upcoming events:

Services Spotlight

  • 40,874 new grants added to Foundation Maps in April, of which 2,034 were made to 1,376 organizations outside the U.S.
  • Foundation Directory Online updates its database daily. Recipient profiles in the database now total more than 800,000.
  • The first-ever meeting of the NYC Grant Professionals Group was held in March. Join us for the second gathering on Friday, June 7. The purpose of the group is to support a community of grant professionals committed to serving the nonprofit community in the New York City metro area. Network and learn from your fellow grant professionals in a warm, engaging setting. Candid will be the host of the group's meetings.
  • New data sharing partners: Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, Ecstra Foundation, Urania C. Sherburne Trust, Helen and Ritter Shumway Foundation, McPherson County Community Foundation, Merancas Foundation, Inc., Permanent Endowment Fund of the Moody Memorial First United Methodist Church, and TCF Foundation. Tell your story through data so we can communicate philanthropy's contribution to making a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.
  • Candid's DC staff presented at the ECDC Refugee Resettlement Conference on May 1 to more than 200 participants from grassroots nonprofit groups across the country. With about forty attendees, our session on identifying prospective funders and using Candid resources was one of the best-attended breakout sessions at the conference.
  • Candid's DC staff also presented on Candid resources and the basics of proposal writing at the University of Maryland's Do Good Institute on May 5. Attendees were mostly graduate students from UMD's Nonprofit Management program and are future (or current) nonprofit staffers or social entrepreneurs.
  • Our lineup of online programs (webinars and self-paced e-learning courses) has attracted more than 10,000 registrations since the beginning of 2019, while over 5,000 people have attended our in-person classes since the beginning of the year.
  • In April, Candid Northeast New York hosted its third annual Nonprofit Formation Fundamentals Bootcamp, featuring a series of five weekly sessions on the essentials of starting a nonprofit organization. The series was produced in partnership with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest and the Support Center, and each session reached more than seventy participants, making this year’s event the best-attended iteration of Nonprofit Formation Fundamentals yet.
  • In April, Candid Northeast New York taught a public webinar at our partner location in Andover, Massachusetts, and did staff training at our partner locations in Riverhead, Queens, and Brooklyn. And in May, we did public trainings in Albany, Saratoga Springs, Brooklyn, and Queens. Learn more about our Funding Information Network partners here.
  • New partners:
    • Gary and Mary West Foundation (a group project with our Knowledge Service team)
    • Handbid (new API client)
    • RelPro (new API and data customer)
    • Bloomberg Philanthropies (new API customer)

Content Published

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.

How to Find Your Most Engaged New Board Member

May 23, 2019

Board-meetingThere are nonprofits that enjoy a celebrated status in their communities. Powerful people clamor to be on their boards, and they earn those seats with significant contributions and meaningful introductions. And then there are most nonprofits. Their boards work to attract qualified board candidates but often end up wondering whether they should make do with less.

What are these nonprofits to do? The good news is that it is possible to recruit board members whose commitment to your cause more than balances out their lack of connections or personal wealth.

Now, it doesn't hurt to have a few well-connected (and deep-pocketed) people on your board. But having too many can be a problem. Increasingly, nonprofits are looking to solve the challenge of board member engagement. They struggle with board members who don't do much beyond showing up for meetings, or who write a big check to the organization once a year and then drop out of sight. But when it comes to that long-term project or software integration the organization desperately needs, the one that requires board members willing to do research and outreach until the goal is met? Fuggedaboudit.

For a nonprofit to achieve big wins, it needs the kind of engagement that can only come from board members who are committed supporters of the cause. In other words, don't ignore the benefits of recruiting board members who — regardless of their wallet size — are passionate and energetic. When done well, board recruitment with an eye for passion and enthusiasm usually results in a board that follows through on its assignments, is willing to engage in robust discussion, and does everything in its power to strengthen the organization. Individual gifts often disappear when a board member's term is up. But the programs and internal systems shaped by engaged board members often continue long after they have left the board.

There are other benefits to prioritizing passion when recruiting board members. For one, board membership is a natural way for an organization to listen to and reflect the community or population it serves. And these days, it is essential that a nonprofit have at least a few board members who can speak directly to the needs and perspectives of the people most impacted by its work. If your area of focus is animal welfare, your board should include someone doing animal welfare work. If your focus is homelessness, you should try to find someone who has firsthand experience of or with it. If your organization supports individuals with a specific health condition, you need someone on the board who understands the unique challenges of the population with that condition. Besides being invaluable in terms of informing your organization’s strategies and programs, board members from the communities and/or population you serve also tend to be powerful ambassadors for the work you do.

Okay, so you've done an assessment of the kind of people, in terms of skills and experiences, you still need on your board. How do you find these rockstar board members? Start by asking your most active and committed volunteers. Odds are they know exactly who in the community already supports and is committed to your work. If you have a young professionals board or other non-board member committee, ask them. People who are already giving their time and talent to your organization are more likely to be engaged board members than those who don't. By recruiting from those already on the front lines of your work, you have a better chance of identifying board candidates who truly care about your success and will go the extra distance to help you achieve it.

In the short term, it's great to have board members able to write a nice check and willing to invite a group of friends to do the same once or twice a year. But in many ways, the better board member is the one willing to do the difficult work of positioning your nonprofit as a trusted resource for and friend of the community. Finding those people isn't always easy, so be careful not to fall into the trap of putting "butts in the seats." You'll be much better off having ten engaged, committed, active board members than twenty warm bodies.

Cultivating a strong, engaged board is a never-ending process for a nonprofit. Bit it doesn't always have to be a competition for the wealthiest or best-connected people in your community. By carefully considering candidates' talents and enthusiasm for your cause and keeping an open mind, a well-balanced and committed board is within any nonprofit's reach.

Headshot_Jeb BannerJeb Banner is the founder and CEO of Boardable, a nonprofit board management software provider, as well as two nonprofits, The Speak Easy and Musical Family Tree. He also serves as a board member of United Way of Central Indiana and ProAct Indy.

When It Comes to Reaching Donors, One Size Doesn’t Fit All

May 21, 2019

OnesizedoesnotfitallLet's say you’ve decided it’s time to buy a new pair of jeans. You’re thinking maybe skinny dark jeans or perhaps a light-wash high-rise boot cut. But when you walk in to your favorite store, the sales associate directs you to a table piled high with denim and a sign that reads: ONE SIZE FITS ALL. Um, no. The one-size-fits-all model may work with scarves, but it definitely does not work with blue jeans. Why? Because people’s body types are as diverse as their senses of style. (The Internet literally has hundreds of pages dedicated to breaking down the best style for your body type — seriously, there are algorithms for this stuff.) Your reaction to this abomination, this affront to your unique sense of style and individuality?

You walk out of the store.

Which is why, if you are attempting to engage all your donors in the same exact way, you’re going to see a lot more of them turning their back on your organization than buying what you’re selling.

In 1994, a team of social scientists conducted a study to determine what motivates an individual’s interest in and support for a nonprofit organization. Their research concluded that donors fall into seven distinct groups, which they dubbed "The Seven Faces of Philanthropy" (Maru, Karen & Prince, Russ Alan. Jossey-Bass 1994).

Astonishingly, we tracked down seven donors, one from each category, and asked them what they respond to when it comes to engagement.

Here's what we learned....

Name: REGINA REPAYER

Her motto: "Pay it forward."

Why she gives: Regina was positively affected by a nonprofit when she was a child. Now an adult, she feels a strong sense of obligation to give back to organizations that have missions similar to the one that helped her.

How to approach her: Regina is likely to be moved and motivated by hearing the personal story of an individual whose life was deeply affected by the work of your organization.

How to involve her: Regina might be interested in volunteering with your organization and might even be willing to tell her own story as part of a campaign.

How to thank her: Regina doesn’t want individual attention or recognition, but a handwritten thank-you note is always appreciated.

_____

Name: INGRID INVESTOR

Her motto: "Doing good is good for business."

Why she gives: Ingrid runs a large corporation and understands that partnering with and supporting nonprofits is a good look for her company. She is skilled at cost-benefit analysis and wants to know how her gift to your organization will be used to create the most impact. Just like her stock portfolio, Ingrid diversifies her giving among a range of organizations.

How to approach her: Ingrid wants charts and numbers — data that supports exactly how her gift will be used in the present and will contribute to a better future. She wants to be assured that her gift is not just changing one life, but potentially dozens of lives. And yes, she’d like you to talk with her about ROI.

How to involve her: Show Ingrid you appreciate her business savvy as well as her generosity. Invite her to join your board and finance committee. Solicit her thoughts on scalability. And do your best to persuade her that having her company be a sponsor of your next event is a win-win for both organizations.

How to thank her: Ingrid typically appreciates both public and private acknowledgement of her contributions.

______

Name: SALLY SOCIALITE

Motto: "If it's not fun, you're not doing it right."

Why she gives: Sally has a big heart and free time that she wants to use to make the world a better place — all the better if she can have fun doing it! She has an extensive social network and likes to work with others to create enjoyable ways for people to donate their time, treasure, and talent.

How to approach her: Sally is always looking for ways to burnish her reputation as a philanthropic mover and shaker. So invite her to an event! Make sure she has a good time and meets lots of people. Then follow up with a phone call or a coffee date and ask what she thought about the event. While you’re at it, feature a picture of her at the event in your newsletter or on your social media feed.

How to involve her: Ask Sally if she would be willing to help organizing a future fundraiser or social event — maybe even one at her home. If she’s a good spokesperson for the organization and believes in your cause, you can bet she’ll get her friends to believe in it, too.

How to thank her: Sally desires formal and public recognition of her generosity. Be sure to mention her generosity to others in her social circle.

_____

Name: COLIN COMMUNITARIAN

Motto: "Help others achieve their dreams, and you will achieve yours."

Why he gives: Colin is a local business owner with a strong sense of civic responsibility. He enjoys bringing people together around a common purpose and believes everyone has value and adds value.

How to approach him: Colin knows his community, and he knows there are problems that need solving. Using data-driven research, show Colin that your nonprofit also knows the community and the challenges it faces. Demonstrate that you and your colleagues care deeply and are dedicated to addressing those challenges and need his help to do it.

_____

Name: DEVIN DEVOUT

Motto: "We should feel grateful instead of entitled. We have a moral obligation to give back."

Why he gives: Devin gives because he has a strong belief in the cause and wants to align his efforts on its behalf with like-minded folks.

How to approach him: Devin is an ideal donor because he will unselfishly give everything he can in terms of time, treasure, and talent. But first he needs to establish trust in the leadership and values of your organization. Acknowledge Devin’s commitment to the cause and build his trust with a meaningful encounter with a senior leader at your nonprofit. Recognize that other organizations also are trying to court Devin, and be sure to keep checking in and listening to his hopes and priorities.

How to involve him: Devin is driven by his passion and commitment. You’ve done the leg work to gain his trust; once you have it, involve him as a thought partner.

How to thank him: Devin doesn’t seek public acknowledgement, but he should be thanked privately, personally, and often. When you thank him, consider sharing specific stories about individuals who have been helped thanks to his generosity.

______

Name: ALLIE ALTRUIST

Motto: "If you want to feel good, do good."

Why she gives: Allie gives out of generosity, empathy, and because she feels it is simply the right thing to do. And it feels good!

How to approach her: Allie chooses the nonprofits she supports based on her feelings of empathy and her heartfelt connection to the people involved. She is moved by personal stories of struggle and triumph and wants to know specifically how her assistance will make a difference.

How to engage her: Allie gets joy out of helping others and seeing the results of her assistance. She would welcome hands-on experience working with the community served by your organization. Offer her as many volunteer opportunities and ways to give her time, treasure, and talent as you can.

How to thank her: Allie almost always wishes to remain anonymous.

_____

Name: DINAH DYNAST

Motto: "Tradition simply means we must end what began well and continue what is worth continuing."

Why she gives: Dinah believes that philanthropy is everyone’s responsibility, and she sees it as part of her identity. Dinah’s family has been long-time supporters of many causes, and she very much is interested in carrying on that legacy.

How to approach her: Acknowledge that you understand and appreciate the valuable contributions Dinah’s family has made over the years. Dig into your organization’s history and site specific examples of how her family’s generosity has benefited the community you serve. Dinah is a donor you don’t want to lose, so be sure to give her lots of personal attention.

How to involve her: Dinah believes that giving time is as important as giving money. Ask her to serve on your board or a committee. If it isn’t already, she may also be interested in having her family’s name attached to a program or capital improvement. This can be a delicate conversation, so make sure you’ve thoroughly vetted her interest before broaching it.

How to thank her: Dinah should be thanked publicly, privately, and often.

_____

As you can see, each of these individuals has different philosophies and motivations with respect to their giving, and if you’re looking to maximize their contributions, the last thing you want do is to engage them as if "one size fits all."

Headshot_ashley_watersonAs for the type of jeans they prefer? Stay tuned for our next post.

Ashley Waterson, creative messaging guru at Envision Consulting, has more than ten years' experience crafting content for various platforms, including comedy sketches, NPR features, and websites.

Trends and Transitions in Education Reform and Philanthropy

May 13, 2019

Philantopic_denver_public_schoolsA few months ago, Susana Cordova, the new superintendent of Denver Public Schools, released her one-hundred-day entry plan. Having survived a divisive selection process and a difficult teacher strike at the beginning of her tenure, Cordova took a moment to ask the question: "What does it take to ensure that every child in our city thrives?"

With the release of her plan, she has put forth a vision that includes students, families, and staff working together to ensure that students do exactly that, with an emphasis on the need for her administration to reach out with new and intentional modes of engagement that ensure inclusion of all members of the community.

After reading the plan — and with Cordova's commitment to families front and center — my lingering question for Denver's education eco-space is whether the philanthropic community is willing to get behind community empowerment and advocacy as part of the solution. In order to do that, funders will need to be less prescriptive of the solution and more authentically responsive to what families say are their most critical needs.

Recently, Grantmakers for Education released its Trends in Education Philanthropy Benchmarking Surveywhich takes the pulse of and tracks trends in national education philanthropy. The results reflect a number of changes in education philanthropy, including a greater focus on the "whole learner," as well as deeper investments in postsecondary education and workforce career readiness. A notable finding of the report is that among respondents to the survey, more than 60 percent provided funding for community and family engagement, and many anticipate growth in those investments over the next two years. The report also notes that among the factors or trends funders identified as having the greatest potential impact, engagement with learners' families ranked near the top, while a number of respondents emphasized the role of community organizing in driving and sustaining local school system change.

For more than ten years, a group of local Denver funders — now known as the Colorado Education Organizing (CEO) Funders Collaborative — have worked together to help sustain the education organizing community in our region. As a  group, we  share the view: 1) that foundations have the power to either validate or legitimize entire fields of work due to philanthropy's outsized power and influence; 2) that collaboration among funders can foster and incentivize collaboration among grantees; and 3) that districts and schools often fail to develop a clear vision that permanently places families and students at the decision-making table. Our grantmaking focuses on involving communities of color and communities who are living in poverty to help determine solutions, instead of funders telling communities what they need.

Three years ago, Rose Community Foundation launched Climb Higher Colorado to create a bridge between grassroots and "grasstops" organizing and high-impact family engagement strategies. Both the CEO Funders Collaborative and Climb Higher are thriving, but the reality is that not all funders, in Denver or nationally, view community engagement and family engagement as key to changing educational outcomes. Even more truthfully, many funders are uncomfortable with the notion that communities should bring solutions to us, rather than the other way around.

The Benchmarking Survey highlights the important and difficult question: "How will we navigate the challenge of sharing power with those who have historically had little, especially on occasions when their ideas differ from our own?" Which foundations have the appetite for and courage to take that risk? The Denver education environment is changing. Many school districts locally and across the country are experiencing strategy changes with new leaders. Many local funders — including Rose Community Foundation — are in the process of determining how we must evolve, deepen, and in some cases pivot from our current path.

Philantopic_headshot_janet_lopezWhat we hope emerges from this era of change is greater willingness among education funders and those in power to enable local communities drive and shape their own education systems.

Janet Lopez is a senior program officer for education at Rose Community Foundation, where she works to help all children achieve academic success in the K-12 public school system.

Weekend Link Roundup (May 11-12, 2019)

May 12, 2019

0510_flooding_CNNA 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

There’s been an email marketing paradigm shift in the nonprofit sector, writes Caroline Fothergill on the npEngage site. Whereas the size of a list used to be all that mattered, "collectively [we've] come to realize the value of quality over quantity." Today, open and click rates are where it's at, and Fothergill shares some practical advice designed to help nonprofits improve their results in both areas.

Criminal Justice

"As a person who uses drugs," writes Louise Vincent on the Open Society Foundation's Voices blog, "I know that no one person is to blame. What is responsible for the hundreds of thousands of deaths from drug overdose is a broken drug policy, a system that prioritizes punishment over treatment, and a culture of prohibition that leads us to use drugs alone and in shame." 

Health

What does it take to build fair opportunities for health in rural communities? On the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health blog, Whitney Kimball Coe,  coordinator of the National Rural Assembly, a movement geared toward building better policy and greater opportunity across the country, shares some of the lessons she has learned in her work.

Book reading has been declining for decades, and language and communications experts are concerned. Markheim Heid, a health and lifestyle writer, takes a closer look at the research — and the implications for society.

Higher Education

It's time to shift the social contract of education away from short-term job training toward long-term development, writes David M. Perry, a former professor of history, on the Pacific Standard site. And free college has to be part of that shift.

In The Atlantic, Tom Nichols, author of the Death of Expertise, argues that the idea that students on college campuses should have "a say in the hiring and firing of faculty whose views they merely happen not to like...is a dangerous development — a triple threat to free speech, to the education of future citizens, and to the value of a college education." Readers of Nichols' article respond.

On the Charity Navigator blog, Emily B. Tyree, associate director of communications at Action Against Hunger, shares three ways mothers in developing countries are finding ways to deal with hunger and food insecurity and making a critical difference for their children and  communities.

Nonprofits

"[T]he lack [of resources] from which the nonprofit sector suffers is...a mindset," argues Nell Edgington. "But a mindset that can be overcome."

Lots of good posts on the the GuideStar blog. Be sure to check out "What Does It Take to Be Happy at Work?" by Nadia Elboubkri and Ruby Johnson; "Boost Your Fundraising by Centering Your Audience in Your Content and Engagement Strategy" by Brad (Schenck) Caldana; and "Fundraising Lessons from Freddie Mercury & Queen" by Barbara O'Reilly.

How is the nonprofit sector like Game of Thrones? Nonprofit AF's Vu Le explains.

Philanthropy

On the Heron Foundation blog, Jasmine McGhee, a communications associate at the foundation, chats with Mary Jo Mullan, who wore many hats at the foundation from 1992 to 2009, about why philanthropies should place general operating support front and center in their grantmaking strategies.

Pam Foster, a lawyer and strategic operations specialist with more than twenty years' experience in the philanthropic sector, looks at the growing field of collaborative philanthropy in a post on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog and explains how collaboratives can help new grantmaking organizations benefit from lessons learned by those who preceded them.

On Glasspockets' Transparency Talk blog, Genevieve Boutilier, a program associate at the Peace and Security Funders Group, suggests that "simply understanding who and what gets funded is only the start of the conversation" and that without more timely, detailed data, the sector will never be able to answer "tough questions...like: Why are certain regions, issues, and strategies underfunded? Why are certain populations prioritized over others? Why isn't awarding general operating support increasing, especially given the ample evidence that suggests that it’s a best practice? Why are certain kinds of grantees passed over for funding?"

And in the latest issue of Town & Country, Melinda Gates talks to activist and entertainer John Legend about about giving, her family, and her plans to change the world.

(Photo credit: CNN)

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

Philanthropy Has Changed How It Talks — But Not Its Grantmaking — in the Decade Since NCRP's 'Criteria' Was Released

May 10, 2019

Ncrp-image-1-234x300It's been ten years since NCRP released Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best. As I reflect on the animated response to the report, I'm struck by how far the sector has come since 2009 — and, paradoxically, by how little has changed.

Our decision to publish Criteria was, shall we say, controversial. That NCRP had the temerity to assert that any set of criteria be applied to the field of philanthropy, let alone criteria grounded in our belief that grantmakers needed to prioritize marginalized communities and support grassroots-led problem solving to address the systemic inequities and injustices confronting communities in America every day, had more than a few people aghast.

Here's a sampling of the some of the pushback:

"[NCRP's] hierarchy of ends is breathtakingly arrogant." — Paul Brest, former president, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, in the Huffington Post, 2009

"We reject the use of a single template to promote effective philanthropy." — Steve Gunderson, former president, Council on Foundations, 2009

"In the NCRP worldview, philanthropic freedom is not only at risk, it's an oxymoron." — Heather Higgins, former VP, Philanthropy Roundtable, in Forbes, 2009

Criteria earned NCRP new fans and more than a few critics. But when I consider the many books published in the last few years that have been critical of the field, I'm pretty sure that if we released the report today, few would bat an eyelash.

What's changed?

Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best: At A Glance

Criteria offered the following aspirational goals for grantmakers looking to maximize their impact in the world:

Criterion I: Values

...contributes to a strong, participatory democracy that engages all communities.

a) Provides at least 50% of its grant dollars to benefit lower-income communities, communities of color, and other marginalized groups, broadly defined.

b) Provides at least 25% of its grant dollars for advocacy, organizing, and civic engagement to promote equity, opportunity, and justice in our society.

Criterion II: Effectiveness

...invests in the health, growth, and effectiveness of its nonprofit partners.

a) Provides at least 50% of its grant dollars for general operating support.

b) Provides at least 50% of its grant dollars as multiyear grants.

c) Ensures that the time to apply for and report on the grant is commensurate with grant size.

Criterion III: Ethics

...demonstrates accountability and transparency to the public, its grantees, and constituents.

a) Maintains an engaged board of at least five people who include among them a diversity of perspectives — including those of the communities it serves — and who serve without compensation.

b) Maintains policies and practices that support ethical behavior.

c) Discloses information freely.

Criterion IV: Commitment

...engages a substantial portion of its financial assets in pursuit of its mission.

a) Pays out at least 6% of its assets annually in grants.

b) Invests at least 25% of its assets in ways that support its mission.

 

Philanthropic sector discourse has come a long way in the last decade

It has become commonplace for foundation staff to talk publicly about trusting grantees with long-term general support, investing in marginalized communities, and funding structural change.

An ecosystem of philanthropic support organizations devoted to spotlighting the unique needs of marginalized people has flourished with the help of foundation funding.

Equity, justice, and even power have become watchwords for an ascendant progressive philanthropy that is happy to speak openly in the digital pages of sector publications and the well-lit stages of the conference circuit about the kinds of values Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best embodies.

The core idea expressed in the publication — that foundations should be held to a higher standard of equity and community impact — has moved from the margins of sectoral discourse to its center.

The bottom line: The money didn't follow

NCRP's analysis of Candid data shows that the share of domestic foundation giving by the country's one thousand largest foundations for the intentional benefit of marginalized people — a category that, statistically speaking, includes most of the country — inched up from 28 percent to 33 percent between 2009 and 2015.

What do we mean by "marginalized communities"?

There are populations that experience disparities, are politically disenfranchised, or are otherwise marginalized by those with more power and privilege. Funders may use other terms such as "disadvantaged," "vulnerable," "at-risk," "underserved," or "underresourced."

NCRP's definition is intentionally broad and includes (but is not limited to) eleven of the special populations tracked by Candid — i.e., economically disadvantaged; racial or ethnic minorities; women and girls; people with AIDS; people with disabilities; aging, elderly and senior citizens; immigrants and refugees; crime/abuse victims; incarcerated and formerly incarcerated; single parents and LGBTQ citizens.

 

Over the same period, foundation support for structural change strategies, the work that truly transforms systems of deprivation and injustice, declined to less than 10 percent.

And general support grantmaking has remained flat at around 20 percent of domestic giving.

Some notable funders stepping up

A handful of innovative, courageous institutions have deeply transformed the way they make grants, and many of those with the least wealth and power in this country are better for it.

  • The California Endowment, once a skeptic about funding advocacy, is now a field leader as it pursues its mission to expand access to affordable, quality health care for marginalized Californians.
    In 2003, 17 percent of the foundation’s grantmaking was for social justice work. In 2015, that number had jumped to 73 percent.

  • The NoVo Foundation has accelerated institutional change in support of marginalized communities and social justice.
    In 2004, 31 percent of the foundation’s grantmaking supported marginalized communities and 14 percent went to social justice causes. By 2015, 100 percent of NoVo's grantmaking supported social justice for women and girls, Indigenous communities, and other marginalized people.

  • The Bush Foundation stepped up its efforts to make Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota better places to live for all residents, including members of the twenty-three Native nations in the three-state region.
    Between 2003 and 2015, the foundation increased the share of its grantmaking that benefits the region's marginalized communities from 39 percent to 83 percent.

  • The Weingart Foundation has made a public commitment to funding equity efforts in Southern California.
    Between 2003 and 2015, the foundation’s support for marginalized communities increased from 41 percent to 76 percent of its grantmaking. And in 2016, the foundation announced "a long-term commitment to base all of our policy and program decisions on achieving the goal to advance fairness, inclusion, and opportunity for all Southern Californians — especially those communities hit hardest by persistent poverty."

While the above examples can be considered clear signs of progress, the data and my own observations of the sector suggest that while the majority of foundations have grown comfortable with the language and concepts embodied in Criteria, not much has changed.

A shift in philanthropic rhetoric is a necessary first step toward a more just and equitable sector. But without accompanying actions, the words ring hollow.

Two lessons for changing philanthropic norms and practices

NCRP's board, staff, and allies firmly believe that now is the time for grantmakers to walk the talk. Our democracy is increasingly threatened by growing economic inequality, political disenfranchisement, and the resurgence of white nationalist rhetoric and violence.

We have had deep, reflective conversations among ourselves about how to get the sector to take action and have identified two takeaways that will inform our strategies in the years ahead:

1. Social movements — people power — are the best hope for changing the way money and power moves in philanthropy. Mass movements, from labor to civil rights to LGBTQ rights, have wrought the deepest transformations in American society — and the philanthropic sector has been similarly shaped, at least in part, by those societal shifts.

Through our nonprofit membership program, we've renewed our focus on building a vibrant community of grassroots nonprofit organizations eager to advocate for foundations to support their rhetoric with their resources.

A few weeks ago, we launched the Movement Investment Project, which articulates new data, new norms, and a new vision for how foundations and donors can and should relate to and support social movements, grounded in the experience, needs, and knowledge of grantee leaders on the frontlines of those movements.

2. Unless the philanthropic sector reckons with its power, grantmaking is unlikely to change for the better. The concentration of resources and certain kinds of expertise at foundations lends them significant power in the broader social sector. That concentration of power will continue to be an impediment to systemic change to grantmaking trends until foundations choose to build power among their grantees, share power with communities, and wield their power, in the form of their social and political capital, to benefit marginalized people.

If you're a foundation leader comfortable with the language of equity and justice, I hope you'll be inspired to take a hard look at your grantmaking through the lens of NCRP's Power Moves toolkit, or resources such as:

Pop the hood, do a deep dive into the data, and ask yourself whether your current reality matches your rhetoric.

In times of crisis, it can be challenging to think beyond the daily headlines. But consider your legacy: In a decade or two, when you look back on this time, a time when the fate of American democracy — indeed, the fate of many species, including our own — seemed uncertain, what do you hope to be able to say about your work?

Headshot_aaron_dorfman_finalNow is not the time for business as usual. The philanthropic community has a significant amount of money and power at its disposal. It is time to start using it to support grassroots social movements.

Aaron Dorfman is president and CEO of NCRP.

Design Therapy for the Purpose-Driven Organization

May 08, 2019

Branding_Alpha Stock ImagesThe value of brand design for nonprofits or foundations — when done right — is not just in the outcome but in the process. Design is the act of (re)imagining how we see and communicate ideas. It's an opportunity to challenge assumptions, change minds, and test the status quo. Brand design, in particular, is rife with such opportunities and, of course, potential landmines. For organizations that are prepared to embark on the adventure, it can be transformative in unexpected ways. At its best, a brand redesign can reinforce and strengthen an organization's work, increase its engagement with internal and external audiences, and pave the way for real growth.

Clarity, Meet Beauty

Branding is the process of figuring out the clearest, truest manifestation of who you are as an organization through words, images, and graphics. A great brand elucidates the "who" (people and ethos) and the "why" (purpose) succinctly and clearly. And the process of getting to a great brand typically starts with a design firm gathering as much qualitative data as it can about your organization.

By data, I mean the perspectives of internal and external stakeholders; an operational values assessment; deep dives into strategic business goals, personality drivers, competitive landscape, and positioning; and audience identification. It's similar in these respects to how an organization would approach a strategic planning process.

All the insights are then distilled into a strategy that highlights key elements such as organizational personality, values, and market differentiation. This strategy guides the creation of new messaging, tagline, logo, website, and so on.

So, what's the big deal? It seems pretty straightforward.

Branding in the for-profit world is often defined in marketing terms: name recognition and consistency leading to monetary transactions and customer loyalty. Starbucks' ubiquitous global brand presence is based on and contributes to a standardization of its customers' experience. People recognize the brand immediately and know what they are going to get.

Qualitative insights, strategizing, and collateral creation are elements of any good branding process, but the real key to a stellar nonprofit brand is activation of the "purpose" driver. A successful nonprofit brand boldly states what the organization delivers and establishes a recognizable identity through the compelling expression of the organization's core mission — both visually and via messaging. It shares the "awareness" goal of for-profit branding but emphasizes mission.

Let me give you an example. When we were first approached by the Oregon Community Foundation, the organization's identity fell short of expressing its mission and incredible legacy as Oregon's largest foundation. Over the months that followed, we led the foundation through a full rebrand which resulted in a new identity system that conveys the foundation's personality (steadfast, optimistic, approachable) and approach to its work of bringing together Oregonians to create real, community-driven impact.

Change Requires Courage

The process of reimagining an organizational identity can produce both excitement and fear. Going through a rebranding process means holding up a mirror to your organization — and yourself. What you see sometimes can be disconcerting. Often, people realize that their own vision for the organization hasn't been aligned with the organization's goals, or there may be disagreement among colleagues about who gets to define what the organization is and should be.

We started using the term "design therapy" with our clients to prepare them for what they're likely to experience. Undertaking a rebranding project requires courage, patience, and a lot of effort. Any therapeutic process includes some discomfort on the road to success. Whether it's recovering from a torn muscle, processing a momentous life event, or rebranding an organization, therapy involves grappling with, ironing out, and coming to terms with hard truths — and eventually making breakthroughs and arriving at compromises that serve the greater good.

A good agency comes to this work prepared to be a guide and with real empathy and understanding for the challenges that lie ahead. Every project presents a different mix of personalities, history, mission and culture. Inviting clients into the design process builds trust, transparency, and ultimately a powerful partnership that helps organizations embrace the uncertainty inherent in the process.

The real bottom line of any nonprofit branding process, however, is the collective nature of the work. Securing equitable stakeholder buy-in from the executive team, program leaders, and the board from the very beginning ensures that team members have a chance early on to weigh in.

Bringing these (oftentimes) disparate viewpoints into alignment via the branding process usually results in a renewed sense of engagement and belonging for all. Through the work, staff and leadership gain a renewed appreciation for the potential of the organization and are invigorated by it.

The process often results in a transformational shift in the organization's culture that leads staff to see the revived brand as a platform for deeper audience engagement and growth, as well as the "why" behind their commitment to the work. Only then can designers reimagine the visual elements of the brand in ways that capture the organization's aspirations for the future, creating resonance with internal and external audiences for year to come.

When executed well, a brand redesign helps your target audiences better understand what your organization is and does and will have them thinking: "I want to be part of that."

The rest is up to you.

Philantopic_headshot_Talie-Smith copy

(Image credit: Alpha Stock Images)

Talie Smith is a partner and creative director at Smith & Connors, where she draws on her background in visual design, literature, and foundation work to help organizations understand who they are and express their identity through brand, web design, and compelling user experiences.

 

From 'Tribal' Knowledge to Technology: How Data Can Supercharge Your Nonprofit

April 24, 2019

Nonprofit_working_spaceTeam members at nonprofit organizations often feel a special kinship. Everyone strives to deliver on the organization's mission and is passionate about the same thing — having a positive impact on people's lives and within their communities. In effect, the nonprofit you work for is like a "tribe" — a group of people bound together by a shared interest, a shared vocabulary, and specialized knowledge.

Many nonprofits rely on their staff's collective experience and "tribal knowledge" — undocumented information that is unavailable to those outside the organization — to keep things running smoothly. While both are invaluable, operating in such a manner tends to create gaps in actionable information. And it leaves the organization vulnerable to losing critical institutional knowledge when long-serving staff members retire or move on professionally. 

What's a nonprofit to do? 

Simply put, nonprofits need to be more efficient when capturing organizational knowledge, leveraging the experience of staff, and translating staff insights into action. How? 

With software and historical data. 

Filling Critical Gaps With Data

Better support for participants. Historical data can provide nonprofits with valuable insights that intuition or gut instinct alone cannot. Let's say a fifth-grade student in an afterschool tutoring program is scoring at a seventh-grade reading level. Intuition tells you the student needs to be challenged. But data can show you:

  • which strategies have worked for similar students in the past
  • which K-12 accelerated reading programs best fit the needs of the student
  • how to quantitatively measure the success of your strategies 

Data gathered from digital tools can help the organization answer the above questions and create a program for the student that both stimulates and challenges her. And just as importantly, it will enable the organization to provide customized support for all participants in the program — all the time.

Putting hours back in the day. You probably work in the social sector because you have a keen desire to help others. Spending hours each day on administrative work (like data entry) can undermine that desire, while wasting valuable time on tasks that could (and should) be automated only adds to your stress. You may feel pressure to "make up" that time, but rushing through routine data-entry tasks can lead to mistakes that might have been avoided if you weren't so pressed for time. 

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Weekend Link Roundup (April 20-21, 2019)

April 21, 2019

Redacted-Legal-Documents-1And...we're back with our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Disabilities

In a post on the Ford Foundation's Equals Change blog, the foundation's Noorain Khan and Catherine Townshend update readers on the foundation's disability inclusion journey.

Diversity

On the GrantSpace blog, Julieta Mendez, director of programs at Candid, explains how the organization's DEI programs are supporting the social sector.

Education

"Seven years after the state passed a law that required Maine’s high schools to award diplomas on the basis of demonstrated 'proficiency' in eight key areas, and nine months after the legislature repealed that mandate, the debate over proficiency-based diplomas continues to divide districts, teachers and families...even as the concept spreads to other schools and states." Kelly Field reports for the Hechinger Report.

Health

A proposed Trump administration rule to allow employers to fund individual, tax-preferred accounts for employees rather than cover them under employer-sponsored group plans could shift individuals from employee-sponsored plans to state-regulated individual markets and end up destabilizing those markets. Georgetown University professors JoAnn Volk and Kevin Lucia dig into the details on the Commonwealth Fund's To The Point blog.

Impact/Effectiveness

Charity Navigator, in partnership with Feedback Labs, Candid, GlobalGiving, Listen for Good, Acumen, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Bridges Fund Management, Development Gateway, and Keystone Accountability, has announced the release of version 1.0 of the Principles of Constituent Feedback, an effort to begin collecting and publishing the reflections of nonprofits on their feedback practice before #GivingTuesday 2019.

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What's New at Candid (April 2019)

April 17, 2019

Candid logoAs Foundation Center and GuideStar enter their third month as a single organization, staff are forging ahead with the work of integrating workflows, sharing ideas, and developing solutions. It's exciting! And like many other nonprofits at this time of year, we're out and about at conferences and events and knee-deep in projects scheduled to launch later this year.

Here are some of the highlights from March:

Projects Launched

  • In partnership with Sustain Arts and See Chicago Dance, we published a new report, Mapping the Dance Landscape in Chicagoland. The Chicago region is a hub for arts and culture and boasts a thriving dance community, and the report can be used to identify trends, opportunities, and challenges facing dancers, dance organizations, and the field as a whole.
  • On CF Insights, our annual Columbus Survey is now open. The U.S. community foundation data collected by the survey provides a snapshot of the field and can be used to inform the financial and operational decisions made by community foundation staff. You can learn more about last year's survey results here — and be sure to check back for the results of this year's survey later this spring.
  • Glasspockets reached a milestone when the Walton Family Foundation became the one hundredth foundation to commit to sharing its transparency self-assessment profile on the Glasspockets website. Janet Camarena and her team also debuted new Transparency Levels (Core, Advanced, & Champion) designed in partnership with active Glasspockets foundations and sponsored by, yes, the Walton Family Foundation.

Data Spotlight

  • As the 2020 U.S. presidential election begins to take shape, we continue to track how foundations are supporting implementation, research, reform, and or/mobilization efforts related to campaigns, elections, and voting on our Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy. According to Candid data, more than $555 million has been granted by 845 funders in support of campaigns, elections, and voting since 2011. Of that total, $136 million has taken the form of general/unrestricted support, while $69.2 million has targeted racial and ethnic minorities.
  • To date in 2019, we've recorded over 5,000 registrations for our webinars and self-paced elearning courses and have handled more than 18,000 questions through our knowledge base.
  • We completed custom data searches for the DeVos Institute of Arts Management, Grantmakers of Western Pennsylvania, Humboldt University of Berlin, Philanthropy Ohio, the Philanthropy Roundtable, and the Walton Family Foundation.

In the News

What We're Excited About

Upcoming Conferences and Events

It's conference season! Candid staff will be attending these upcoming events:

Services Spotlight

  • A total of 231,299 new grants added to Foundation Maps in March, of which 2,665 were made to 1,920 organizations outside the U.S.
  • Foundation Directory Online continues to support everything needed in a fundraising tool. Now you can build more robust prospect lists and see how much funders are giving based on your mission.
  • Candid’s webinar participants continue to gain practical skills and report an increase in confidence after taking one of our webinars. In a recent survey, 88 percent reported that they had gained a specific skill, tool, or strategy that enabled them to advance their work, while 95 percent said they expected to apply what they had learned in the webinar within the year.
  • Twenty-two participants from Northeast Ohio participated in a three-day Proposal Writing Boot Camp. Check out all 2019 boot camp dates here.
  • The Funding Information Network now boasts thirteen training partners. FINs are locations around the country where you can access Candid resources for free and take a scheduled class. Learn more about the Funding Information Network program here.
  • New data sharing partners: Barr Family Foundation, Better Way Foundation, Callison Foundation, District of Columbia Bar Foundation, Hamer D. & Phyllis C. Shafer Foundation Charitable Trust, and Victorian Women's Benevolent Trust. Tell your story through data so we can communicate philanthropy's contribution to making a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.
  • New customers: Purposeful is using our data and APIs, the Barr Foundation is using our Premier API, and a UK site called Social Bite is licensing our data to help with their cause (homelessness). We also added North Carolina State, George Washington University, and the University of Richmond to our roster of Library services clients.

Content Published

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.

The Importance of Donor Data and How to Use It Effectively

April 12, 2019

Data-analysisFundraising professionals don't need to be told that donors are more likely to support an organization if they feel they understand the work the organization does and that you, the fundraiser, value their investment in that work.

The key question, then, is: How can I effectively communicate with and develop relationships with donors that improve the odds of my organization retaining and even growing their support? And it follows that one of the biggest challenges nonprofits face in strengthening their donor relationships is not being able to seeand understand their donor data.

Given everything you do as a fundraising professional for your organization, the prospect of adding more data gathering and analytics to your tasks surely is concerning. Unfortunately, it isn't a task you can afford to ignore. Indeed, the success of your nonprofit depends on your ability to engage with donor data.

The good news? There's no reason to feel overwhelmed by yet another item on your to-do list. Donor data can be managed and used efficiently — you just have to have a little knowledge and the right tools.

Donor data encompasses several different areas and, when used effectively, can accomplish a lot. But first, you need to ask yourself some basic questions:

  1. Why should I bother to collect donor data?
  2. What kind of data should I track and collect?
  3. How do I keep the data organized?
  4. What can I do with the data?

Why should I collect donor data? 

A big part of your job as a nonprofit development professional is cultivate prospective donors and maintain relationships with existing donors. You organize fundraising campaigns and look for opportunities for your nonprofit to engage with the community to raise awareness of your cause.

Every donor interaction or community engagement results in new data. Collecting and analyzing that data allows you to:

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