592 posts categorized "Nonprofits"

Sustainable support for Haiti's local food system: A commentary by Frank Giustra

September 14, 2021

Headshot_Frank_Giustra_croppedWithout long-term investment, food aid for Haiti risks being a Band-Aid

The aftershocks of the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on August 14 are not only being felt by those nearest the epicenter.

The latest disaster not only has left six hundred and fifty thousand people needing immediate assistance but also has exposed the country's more than one million farming families, who depend on a precarious rural economy. While aid agencies are scrambling to distribute the World Food Programme's pre-positioned food and import additional supplies, farmers are facing the possibility of their ready harvests of staple crops going to waste. The result is loss of market opportunity, incomes, and the chance to sustain their livelihoods long enough to support Haiti's economic recovery.

If the lingering effects of the last major earthquake, which displaced 1.5 million people in 2010, are any indication, the full impact could be devastating for the country's food producers, their families, and communities, who lose out twice: first to the damage from the earthquake and then to the subsequent short-term influx of cheap imported food.

Before this latest earthquake, almost half the country, or 4.4 million people, faced food insecurity, while an even greater proportion — including an estimated 90 percent of the rural population — were living below the poverty line. Given that 60 percent of rural families rely on agriculture for their livelihoods, it follows that any shocks that impact food markets will also have a lasting impact on their economic security and well-being.

Conversely, supporting this key sector now and in the long-term is a fast-track way to tackle poverty, hunger, health disparities, and inequality and build resilience to the secondary impacts of natural disasters....

Read the full commentary by Frank Giustra, founder of Lionsgate Entertainment, Giustra Foundation, Acceso, and Million Gardens Movement.

[Review] The Post-Pandemic Nonprofit: 12 Disruptive Trends Your Nonprofit Must Master

September 10, 2021

Book_cover_the_post_pandemic_nonprofitThe last eighteen months have seen dramatic and — not to wear out a word we've all seen too much of as of late — "unprecedented" change across all industries of the global economy. The United States is no exception, nor is the nonprofit sector. As charitable organizations contend with figuring out what the "new normal"  looks like, Jeremy Reis, an experienced fundraising professional with a particular expertise in international development, offers to guide nonprofits on a path to post-pandemic success. While there is no denying that Reis has solid advice to give in The Post-Pandemic Nonprofit: 12 Disruptive Trends Your Nonprofit Must Master, given how quickly change can happen, the biggest question may be how long that advice will remain relevant and useful.

The Post-Pandemic Nonprofit contains exactly what it says on the tin. Reis has identified twelve strategies across three categories that he sees as key areas of investment for nonprofits to focus on as a way to survive and thrive in a post-pandemic philanthropic landscape: Who We Are (organizational identity), How We Operate (programming and functionality), and How We Grow (innovation and organizational development). While not all of these strategies are applicable to every nonprofit — and identifying his audience is something Reis struggles with throughout the book — the breadth of the suggestions means that most nonprofit professionals will be able to find something relevant and helpful to their organization's needs....

Read the full review by Audrey Silveman.

'What happens when funders don't center community voice in decision making': A commentary by Hannah Lee

September 07, 2021

Headshot_Hannah Lee_Cognizant_FoundationIt's time for philanthropy to trust and listen better to grantee partners

When Ralph Hoagland, the founder of CVS, recruited three hundred of his neighbors from the wealthy, liberal, and largely white Boston suburbs to donate to the Fund for Urban Negro Development (FUND) to support Black entrepreneurs, he promised a “no strings attached” approach to philanthropy. The group's aim was to support Black businesses and community organizations, build Black wealth, and foster community development across the city. FUND emphasized that Boston's Black leaders already had "the ability to solve the problems” facing their communities but just lacked the necessary resources to do so.

Importantly, the group promised not to interfere through "white controls, advice, or helpful hints." At the same time, FUND's white members did expect to serve as coaches and mentors. When Black leaders rejected some of the mentors' advice, members began pulling their support to FUND — and just four years after its launch, the group disbanded.

The story of FUND, more fully detailed in a research paper, took place more than half a century ago. But the rhetoric and eventual outcomes feel all too familiar. It serves as a powerful reminder about what happens when funders don't center community voice in decision making. And it remains a cautionary tale for those working in philanthropy today — especially in the wake of COVID-19 and our nationwide reckoning around racial justice....

Read the full commentary by Hannah Lee, a director at the Cognizant Foundation.

 

 

How software can amplify organizations serving adults with disabilities

August 30, 2021

News_disabilities_employment_300In the United States, adults with disabilities account for roughly sixty-one million people. This means that around 26 percent of our population is in need of supplemental assistance, such as being driven to work, getting help with grocery shopping, or assistance with everyday tasks at home. Organizations that specialize in supporting individuals with disabilities are often working with limited  budgets, receiving only 16 percent of total dollars donated to nonprofits — funding that is spread across the entire spectrum of human services providers.

Adopting dispatch software that makes managing clients, staff, and vehicles easier would better position those organizations to serve their clients more effectively and efficiently. Yet organizations serving adults with disabilities have been slow to adopt such technology and, for the most part, have relied on the manual way of operating with pen and paper.  Why? For most organizations working under budget constraints, the decision to upgrade existing processes to a digital system isn't made lightly.

Another barrier is the lack of accessible software and mobile apps that address the unique challenges adults with disabilities face. From vision and hearing impairments to cognitive disabilities, there is a wide spectrum of user interfaces that must be considered for a solution to be effective for this demographic. As a result, unfortunately, many software designers simply ignore this significant segment of the population.

When there is a software or mobile app available that serves clients with disabilities, the positive outcomes for service providers can be numerous. Technology can help organizations serve more individuals in an efficient manner, save money through improved resource management, and improve staff productivity.

On the in-house side for nonprofits serving adults with disabilities, HIPAA-compliant software can fill the gaps in the current legacy process and make data easily shareable with authorized personnel. Web-based forms are cost-effective and secure and allow organizations to be better advocates by enabling them to focus their attention on the needs of the client instead of administrative tasks. Filling out paperwork can end up taking the majority of an employee's day when that person could be working directly with clients. An online form that can be completed and filed with a few clicks frees them up to deliver superior care.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted additional considerations that a web-based scheduling and intake system can track far better than a desktop spreadsheet or pen and paper. An online software as a service (SAS) can facilitate COVID-19 alert tracking, ideal scheduling suggestions to allow for proper social distancing, and the ability to conduct contact tracing. In addition to supporting everyday time tracking and attendance reporting, these features can help nonprofits stretch every dollar, improve safety for their staff and clients, and enhance the client experience.

Take scheduling appointments, for example. Currently, scheduling is often managed by spreadsheets, calendars, and, at times, whiteboards — which can lead to many challenges, not only for staff but also for the individuals served. An automated system can help organizations keep a detailed history of schedules, schedule changes, and staff availability. Automating the process greatly reduces opportunities for human error and cuts down on staff time spent on manual entry, not to mention the need to update and review the schedules weekly, if not daily, to confirm accuracy.

Many organizations serving adults with disabilities offer transportation services to help get people to and from doctors' appointments or work. With digitized processes, drivers and clients know they are receiving accurate, up-to-date information and can communicate in near-real time. Drivers can check in and clients can track their ride at every point of the journey, allowing families, caretakers, or physicians to know where transportation is coming from and going.

As the U.S. population of adults with disabilities continues to rise, so does the demand for assistance. However, a recent study found that only 23 percent of nonprofit executives felt they totally understood the benefits of technology. Another survey found that only 11 percent of nonprofits viewed their organizations' approaches to digital solutions as highly effective. These statistics indicate that the nonprofit sector as a whole is behind the times when it comes to the adoption of technology. And this, unfortunately, is a significant "missed opportunity" to help their clients and their employees.

Organizations that support individuals with disabilities can meet the growing demand for services by modernizing their systems. Implementation of new technologies can feel overwhelming at the outset, but once adopted, the benefits are visible not only to the office staff but to the individuals served. The ultimate mission of organizations serving this community is to be a support system, and this shouldn't be impeded by administrative or clerical barriers. The adoption of technology assures that the focus is always on the client.

Headshot_Nicole Leisle_Bitwise_philantopicNicole Leisle is vice president  of product marketing at Bitwise Industries.

Three simple ways for funders to make their rural work authentic

August 26, 2021

Rural_wisconsin_farm_john-reed_unsplashI have been there. The visit from the big city or national funder. The awkward conversations with the visitors that want to get the best shrimp and grits or crawfish. And the never-ending sense that you are selling something that, even with the best intentions, the visitor is never going to understand. They may get enamored with your project, but never truly recognize the place and why your work is supporting a vision in ways that speaks to the rural dimensions of local people.

The 2016 presidential election saw a rise in interest in rural philanthropy — some by funders trying to understand and rethink their work. Other times by funders looking to retrench and defend their strategies. This all in the midst of the tens of thousands of family and community funders already deeply embedded in rural places and a continuing boom in the creation of healthcare conversion foundations — most with a significant rural footprint. Interest has waxed and waned since then but now more urban-based and national funders are engaged in rural conversations than have been for the past twenty years.

The blessing of the heightened interest in rural philanthropy is that it is calling into question many funder assumptions that are urban-based — emphasis on scale: big evaluations, reliance on large nonprofits and intermediaries. What it doesn't always come with, unfortunately, is a commitment to being authentic.

Here are three achievable ways for funders to be authentic in their rural work — whether they are large or small, new in the space or veterans.

1. Hire people from rural personal and/or professional backgrounds

It's inconceivable that a funder would have someone not of the disability community lead their disability work, or someone not personally immersed in Latinx culture lead that portfolio, or LGBTQ grantmaking by folks not of that community. It just shouldn't happen. Why, then, is it acceptable for funders to assign rural responsibility to those without a rural background? Understanding that the multiplicity of rural cultures in the United States doesn't make anyone an expert on a particular place, rural experience brings with it a core understanding of how people interact — the leadership models and the avenues of change. Why a funder would expect someone who has barely left any big urban or suburban community to understand what they see in front of them is perplexing. Is it more difficult to recruit talent for these roles? Sure. But not impossible. Start by looking at people who went to public and land-grant universities for one. Consider working with search firms that not only have a successful track record of recruiting for placement in rural communities but have search professionals that have personal and professional experience living and working in rural places. Market these opportunities throughout rural regions. Individuals already working in rural communities are those most likely to become culturally competent rural funders.

2. Work with intermediaries and contractors that have rural personal and professional experience

Much of the on-the-ground work of grantmaking and program implementation is carried out by national/regional intermediaries and contractors—not by funder staff. The choice of which organizations are selected to do this work is absolutely critical. I have had lots of interactions over the past decade with these folks. Some well-intentioned but naïve, some with misplaced urban arrogance. Lots of national firms assigning the rural work to their least experienced folks. And many firms and intermediaries hired on the basis of one rural project from some years back or a book of business in the rural space that hasn't evolved in twenty years. Make sure that the people who are going to be your on-the-ground informants are knowledgeable, genuine, and committed to rural America.

3. Have an internal rural quality control lens that is funder-wide

While it's great for funders to think about doing more rural investing, it's just as important that the infrastructure within the foundation is rural-friendly. This includes everything from RFP language, to meeting places, to evaluation models, to communications. Few urban and national funders have an explicit rural equity lens embedded in their operations, values and vision. How to get there? Ideally, have someone assigned to advise on these and related issues on behalf of rural communities and prospective grantees. Perhaps that is not possible. Alternatively, hire someone to do a rural equity audit every year about all aspects of foundation operations. Make public the findings. It is a surefire way to provide an entry point to real conversation with rural people and places.

The road to being an authentic rural funder has many branches, but it is encircled by some clear tactical markers. While rural America wants more attention from funders, no rural community needs another experience with a funder or intermediary that is going to highlight the often profound difference between funder intent and execution.

Additional Resources:

(Photo credit: John Reed via Unsplash)

Headshot_Allen_Smart_2021_PhilanTopicAllen Smart is the founder of PhilanthropywoRx. This article was originally published on the National Center for Family Philanthropy's Family Giving News blog.

As endowments rise and billionaires gain wealth, the world’s poor see little relief

August 19, 2021

News_globe_keyboard_solution_GettyImages.jpgAs COVID-19 reversed decades of global progress on ending extreme inequality, the world's wealthiest recorded record financial gains. Billionaires across the globe — collectively worth more than 13 trillion dollars — saw their wealth increase by $5.2 billion U.S. dollars per day. The wealth of the 50 richest Americans increased 10X more than that of the average U.S. family.

What's more, traditional philanthropic endowments have actually grown in the past year, so the anxiety shared by some in philanthropy that foundations are in a state of crisis is unfounded. Data from the Institute for Policy Studies and Inequality.org notes that even though large sums have been committed or given, the wealthiest philanthropies and their billionaire benefactors have seen near record returns in the midst of a global pandemic. 

As IPS report author and philanthropic expert Chuck Collins notes, "[Billionaire wealth] is growing so fast, it's simply outstripped their capacity to give it away. But in a time of acute charitable need, there's another growing concern in the broader charitable sector: Most of these funds may end up in family foundations and donor-advised funds [DAFs] that could legally exist in perpetuity — without ever supporting real, on-the-ground charitable work."

Even prior to the pandemic, individual billionaire philanthropists running grant-making operations outside of the traditional foundational models have made even more money and avoided grant payouts through a number of loophole strategies, including the creation of donor-advised funds, or DAFs), to hold their money tax-free. Nearly all of these accounts have neither disclosure nor distribution requirements, so while their list members may use their donations to get an immediate tax deduction, their dollars may not reach nonprofit beneficiaries for years, or longer. Many have argued that DAFs and other tax loophole workarounds often serve as performative philanthropic vehicles for positive PR even as investment houses like Vanguard, Schwab, and others make millions annually from funds that are, in theory, meant to be serving charitable purposes today, not in some long-distant future.

To make matters worse, there is a growing body of research that suggests not only did most endowments not take the hit that many anticipated, some foundations have proven unwilling to change their restrictions on grant-making nor support legislation to reform DAF payout requirements. Their resistance makes it harder to get critical operating funding to the organizations most at risk of having to shutter, all as they spend time, resources, and political capital fighting reform measures that would free hundreds of billions of dollars to those most in need. When it comes to pandemic recovery, those most at risk of dying from COVID-19 – communities of color, those living in poverty, women and girls, and those in the Global South — are still waiting to be vaccinated as the West discusses booster shots

Sadly, too many philanthropic decision-makers have treated grant-making as an either-or choice rather than a both-and, prioritizing domestic grants to organizations in wealthy countries like the U.S. that have already benefited most from vaccine access. Treating philanthropy as a zero sum game cannot continue to be the case, because the spread of even more contagious variants have shown that no one is safe until we are all safe. We must address inequities both at home and abroad, and the resources exist to do both.

The amount needed right now to support global famine relief efforts — $6bn — is a mere fraction of the more than $140 billion that was sitting in DAFs in 2020.

It is also less than 1% of the $1 trillion in US private foundation endowments in America that is sitting untouched, accumulating interest as 41 million people face starvation. To put the $6 billion figure even more fully into perspective, it is just 5% of the total increase in Elon Musk's wealth in 2020 alone, and 10% of Jeff Bezos's net worth increase in the same time period.

Prior to the pandemic, Global Citizen launched the Give While You Live campaign — an effort to get dollars flowing much faster to working charities on the front lines. Today, it's mission is even more urgent and critical, as billions of dollars sit idle across philanthropy at a time when charities, activists, and communities need it more than ever before.

Leaders in philanthropy should respond to the urgency of this moment by paying out more — not less — to fuel an equitable global recovery and committing to reforms that ensure inequality and wealth disparities are not allowed to continue unchecked indefinitely. To do so, they need to critically examine the use of DAFs, urge their peers to give more and to give more quickly, and ultimately begin a conversation to question the idea of perpetual philanthropy. 

For new high net worth donors and individual billionaires, this means joining Give While You Live and committing to pay out at least 5% of their net worth each year to important causes and issue areas. For everyone else, it means realizing that this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity — and perhaps the last opportunity — for funders to play a role in helping drive global recovery efforts before it is too late. 

At this point, there is no question that the need is greater than ever. It is also clear that billionaire funders and philanthropy at large have more money in the coffers than ever before. The world’s wealthiest could immediately fund a global recovery that drives vaccine equity, protects the planet, ends hunger, eradicates extreme poverty, and leads the way to a more sustainable and fair future for everyone on the planet.

 The only question left is whether they will.

(Photo credit: GettyImages)

Headshot_Michael_Sheldrick_PhilanTopicMichael Sheldrick the co-founder and chief policy and government relations officer at Global Citizen, where he oversees international advocacy campaigns in support of universal sanitation, climate mitigation and adaptation efforts, access to education, food security, gender equality and disease elimination and prevention. This post was originally published in Forbes.

'Toward sharing, ceding, and building political, economic, social, and cultural power': A Q&A with Cheryl Dorsey

August 18, 2021

Headshot_Echoing-Green-Cheryl-L-DorseyCheryl Dorsey has served as president of Echoing Green since 2002, after having received an Echoing Green Fellowship a decade earlier to help launch the Family Van, a community-based mobile health unit in Boston. In the interim, she served as a White House fellow and special assistant to the U.S. secretary of labor (1997-98) and as special assistant to the director of the Women's Bureau of the U.S. Labor Department (1998-99). More recently, she served as vice chair for the President's Commission on White House Fellowships (2009-17).

PND asked Dorsey about efforts to address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, changes in philanthropic practice to advance racial equity, and Echoing Green's ongoing work to create a support network for social entrepreneurs of color working to create a more just, sustainable, and equitable future for all. Here is an excerpt:

Philanthropy News Digest: Since the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted myriad structural inequities — for example, the impact on essential workers, who are disproportionately people of color and who also have limited access to health care — and the police killing of George Floyd ignited demonstrations calling for racial justice nationwide, the philanthropic sector has had to reckon with the role that many foundations have played in helping to perpetuate an inequitable system. As a woman of color leading a grantmaking public charity, how do you assess philanthropy's efforts at self-examination?

Cheryl Dorsey: [...] The ongoing global pandemic and moment of racial reckoning have certainly challenged philanthropy to reform old ways of working. There have been important and positive signs of momentum. Last year, more than eight hundred organizations signed a Council on Foundations pledge to eliminate burdens in grantmaking by implementing flexible and unrestricted models of giving. And more than four hundred funders have signed the Groundswell Fund open letter, authored by people of color-led public foundations, calling on funders to direct resources to grassroots racial justice movements and organizations. However, changes in funding behavior and capital flows are happening much too slowly. Though philanthropy deployed a record-breaking amount in funds after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, these funds failed to reach the communities of color most affected by the pandemic at a critical time. The Center for Disaster Philanthropy and Candid found that only 23 percent of dollars distributed in 2020 were explicitly designated for persons and communities of color globally. This number drops down to 13 percent when looking specifically at institutional philanthropy.

To ensure that this momentum of change is sustained, there must be a fundamental transformation of philanthropic norms and practices toward sharing, ceding, and building political, economic, social, and cultural power for racial equity leaders and communities of color. As we think about meeting this moment, we are witnessing retrenchment and backlash from inequitable systems including declining support for the Black Lives Matter movement and mounting restrictions on Black voting rights. The enduring assaults on our collective liberation require urgent action and staying on course, but they also require accountability and forward-thinking. What are the structures and systems we can put in place now to ensure that we remain resilient when met with the inevitable backlash?...

Read the full Q&A with Cheryl Dorsey.

The Sustainable Nonprofit: 'Lessons from a successful merger'

August 17, 2021

Handshake_two_suitsHow nonprofit mergers can energize donors and accelerate progress

While nonprofit and for-profit organizations differ in that nonprofits are mission-driven and for-profits are profit-driven, both seek to provide value to their constituents or customers, so it's critical to maximize efficiencies to increase capacity, value, and impact. Consolidation or mergers are an important way to maximize efficiencies — an area where nonprofits could learn valuable lessons from for-profits.

Although mergers occasionally occur in the nonprofit space, particularly among larger organizations, the tendency is toward proliferation, which is almost always driven by the best of motives. Individuals personally affected by a disease or cause are moved to action and often set up a nonprofit to do work that is already being done by other organizations. This can dilute available resources, create inefficiencies, and confuse donors. Consolidation, by contrast, creates opportunities for existing nonprofits to expand mission and achieve results that simply aren't possible when resources are fragmented....

Read the full column article by John L. Lehr, CEO of the Parkinson's Foundation....

Unpaid internships and the pipeline of privilege: A commentary by Kyra Kyles

August 16, 2021

Women_high_fives_GettyImagesEnding the pipeline of privilege: Why unpaid internships perpetuate inequities

Though the days of the coffee-fetching, fax-sending, thumb-twiddling intern are all but over, there is one vestige of the "first rite" of career passage that is stubbornly stuck in the past: the unpaid part.

In an era when tween and teen content creators can make thousands of dollars for a single TikTok or Instagram post, it is ridiculous that there are employers who don't make the connection between younger workers' efforts and meaningful compensation. Nor do these employers see the throughline between the absence of said compensation and the predominantly white pipeline of privilege that continues to flow into their workplaces.

Make no mistake: There is enough evidence to demonstrate that the pipeline of privilege is skewed to the white and male side of the spectrum....

Read the full commentary by Kyra Kyles, CEO of YR Media.

(Photo credit: GettyImages)

Hiring a nonprofit CEO in a mid-COVID environment

August 13, 2021

Man_and_woman_masks_handshake_GettyImages_VioletaStoimenovaThe COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts have proven to be incredibly challenging for businesses and nonprofits alike. Many have had to adapt and change their processes and procedures to accommodate social-distancing and other public health measures, and others have had to close their doors for good. Now, as restrictions are being lifted and doors can be opened again — let's call it a "mid-COVID" environment — organizations are faced with another challenge: hiring.

Since the world shut down around us and many of us transitioned to working from home on a long-term basis, perspectives and expectations around where and how we work have shifted. If your nonprofit was in the process of hiring a CEO before the pandemic and had challenges finding qualified candidates, hiring now, mid-COVID, is going to be even more difficult, as candidates will be seeking unique and alternative options for employment.

Here are some considerations for nonprofit board members to keep in mind when hiring in the "new normal" market:

Use your existing market: Sometimes the best candidates are right under your nose. Tap into the board members' networks and let them know that the organization is hiring. If the board is actively engaged in the community, they will already know the caliber of people to refer. Members of those networks and communities will not recommend just anyone, so you can rest assured that the candidates presented will have at least the minimum qualifications.

Commit to diversity and inclusion: Many of the people who lost their jobs to COVID are now looking for employment. This could be a great thing for your organization in that there is a larger pool to select from; however, this could also mean that some candidates may be overlooked. Ensure that the board makes diversity a top priority when selecting potential candidates.

Make a standout offer: Just as your board members are out scouting for talent, so are more than a thousand other organizations. Make sure that potential candidates can hear the "heart" of your organization; making a "heart" connection is going to be key to the recruiting process, as candidates are no longer motivated only by salary and benefits. Many candidates who are back out on the job market are people who had decent salaries and benefits that were lost when their nonprofit had to close their doors or downsize as a result of the pandemic. Make sure that your organization presents other ways in which it plans to retain the candidate, even if another pandemic or other crisis were to arise.

Be clear about workplace expectations: Be prepared for many of the candidates to ask about hybrid or remote work options and let them know what your organization's stance is. Take into consideration that many people are fearful of becoming sick or being in a large crowd, so be prepared to address this new question that was not a question candidates would ask pre-COVID. Board members should be prepared for some candidates to walk away from the opportunity if remote or hybrid options are not available.

Hiring will be a unique experience mid-COVID, and your organization must be prepared to adapt in order to attract qualified and dedicated candidates to the team.  

(Photo credit: GettyImages/VioletaStoimenova)

Headshot_Tiffany Rucker_JSGassociates_PhilanTopicTiffany Rucker is a small business and financial literacy coach at JSG & Associates as well as wife, mom, and special needs advocate.

MyCareer@PND: Four trends shaping the post-COVID recruiting and hiring experience

August 11, 2021

African_American_woman_laptop_GettyImages_PoikePost-COVID-19 trends shaping the recruiting and hiring experience

As with just about every aspect of life, the world of executive recruiting has evolved at rapid pace over the last year and a half. Now that we're moving into what may be the beginnings of a period of stability, it's become clear that some of the recruiting and hiring trends that have recently evolved are here to stay, at least in some form.

Here are four strong trends that are shaping the hiring experience for both candidates and hiring teams:

1. A focus on recruiting leaders of color. The murder of George Floyd and the ensuing civil unrest have had an extraordinarily strong impact on hiring. Hiring managers, teams, and organizations reacted to these events by looking inward and, in most cases, realizing that their teams are not diverse. This led to a sudden, intense demand for leaders of color, which has not abated. Leaders of color are reporting being recruited at higher rates than they've ever experienced, and hiring managers are prioritizing diversity in their pools and processes more than ever....

Read the full column article by Molly Brennan, founding partner and executive vice president of Koya Partners.

(Photo credit: GettyImages/Poike)

'Systems change work is intrinsic to creative youth development': A commentary by Daniel R. Lewis

August 09, 2021

Lewis_Prize_for_Music_awardeeSupporting creative youth development as systems change work

In her recent blog post announcing $2.7 billion in commitments to equity-oriented nonprofits across the country, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott writes: "Arts and cultural institutions can strengthen communities by transforming spaces, fostering empathy, reflecting community identity, advancing economic mobility, improving academic outcomes, lowering crime rates, and improving mental health."

[...] As a longtime arts philanthropist, reading Ms. Scott's post, I couldn't help but recognize the work she was describing as systems change — a vision my organization, the Lewis Prize for Music, has set for itself [...] While the pandemic magnified the already apparent need for young people to develop artistic and employable media arts skills, calls for racial justice showed the imperative for adults to provide movement-building support and guidance to young people. The CYD field has simultaneously addressed both of these needs.

Systems change work is intrinsic to CYD, and the holistic approach of CYD is itself systems change....

Read the full commentary by Daniel R. Lewis, founder and chair of the Lewis Prize for Music.

How nonprofits are navigating the real estate market in an almost-post-COVID-19 New York City

August 06, 2021

New_york_city_Katie Haugland BowenBefore the COVID-19 pandemic, the real estate landscape had always been a challenge for New York City nonprofits, with rent-related cost often being the second-largest expense of a nonprofit's budget and venue-dependent organizations allocating an even greater portion of their budgets to real estate. The pandemic's unprecedented impact on companies and organizations across the world varied by sector; for nonprofits, the effects were compounded by increased uncertainty around funding, physical closures, and, for many, the inability to fully transition to remote work while continuing to serve their missions.

Some organizations could not transition to remote work because in-person services were essential to their programmatic offerings, while others continued to work in physical offices because they faced low funding or technology barriers that prevented them from switching to remote work or elected not to do so because of the impact on work culture and productivity. For example, nonprofits committed to advocacy work, many of which rely on dynamic brainstorming sessions to analyze issues and advance strategies, found Zoom meetings a poor substitute. Those organizations eagerly returned to their offices as soon as they could, implementing safety protocols while getting "back to business." Nonprofits that work to address food insecurity also had personnel who were considered essential employees and were expected to come to work each day to package meals and deliver them to those in need.

Now, organizations that were able to transition to virtual operations are returning to varied levels of in-person work and navigating a hybrid work balance. Employees are increasingly expecting more flexibility from their employers about where — and sometimes when — they work, and employers are eager to capitalize on any benefits from this shift. Both nonprofit and for-profit organizations with fewer employees in the office on any given day are asking whether there might be a way to reduce real estate expenses. Without the obligation of coming into the office, can staff be hired in locations where the cost of living is lower and, therefore, at lower salaries?  

At the same time, some organizations appear to be emerging from pandemic restrictions in better financial shape than before. Early on in the pandemic, it was predicted that many venue-dependent organizations like theaters and healthcare providers that require physical space to deliver on their missions would have to close their doors permanently. However, for many in the performing arts sector, this has not turned out to be the case. As a general rule, nonprofit performing arts groups require subsidies to support their programming in normal times; therefore, less programming requires fewer subsidies. If an organization could maintain its donor base (i.e., the source of the subsidies) while reducing expenses, there was the opportunity to build a one-time surplus. 

One nonprofit client of my company, Denham Wolf Real Estate Services, that has provided social services to the community for decades, saw its revenue increase more than 10 percent over the past year, thanks to donors recognizing the increased need for the organization's services during the pandemic. With the advent of work-from-home, this nonprofit was able to convert unused office space to program space, thereby improving efficiency and saving on expenses. Other nonprofits, however, were not so fortunate.

The pandemic compelled organizations across the sector to reevaluate their real estate and, in many cases, adapt to new modes of service delivery. Healthcare facilities, for example, have had tremendous success transitioning to using telehealth to provide necessary services to individuals and communities. To accommodate populations that lack access to technology and Internet services, some nonprofits have redesigned their sites or, in some cases, taken on additional space to provide computers and make telehealth services readily available to all.

In commercial buildings, landlords have been struggling to retain existing tenants and write leases for new ones, which has resulted in more robust incentive packages. In addition to lowering rents, landlords are offering longer free-rent periods and increasing tenant improvement allowances. Tenants looking to sublet space may also add incentives, including access to shared conference rooms, phone systems, and receptionists. For tenants looking to sign new leases, particularly for office space, there are very good opportunities in the marketplace.

Each nonprofit faces a unique situation that requires careful planning to ensure good decision making. As nonprofits reevaluate the role of real estate in support of their missions, there is also an opportunity to re-engage with the community to help determine the optimal way to connect in this altered landscape. Service organizations are using this opportunity to communicate with their clients and better understand how they can best serve them, whether that means keeping the same services or offering new ones. Needless to say, the goal is always to do what is right for the people they serve, and if budgets are constrained, taking into account community input and evaluating programs is critical. Many organizations are receiving positive feedback from those exchanges and even increased community support through fundraisers or volunteers, which fosters a deeper connection with the community. While this process can be both exciting and daunting, aligning operations and budgets with the current needs and desires of those being served can inform a more sustainable future.

Looking to recovery, nonprofits are presented with a real estate landscape that is gradually stabilizing. Indoor spaces for work and events are cautiously reopening, and some remote work adjustments remain permanent. Organizational attitudes are shifting from preemptive planning to actual decision making — a shift reflected most clearly in the rising rates of lease signings and extended lease terms, which are once again reaching five to ten years. However, as organizations plan their return to the office, they're taking the time to fundamentally reevaluate space requirements, usage, and purpose of having a physical location. Across the board, nonprofits are reconsidering how square footage requirements and location, among other factors, will be most efficient for serving their communities. 

Throughout the pandemic, it has been encouraging to see the tenacity and creativity of the nonprofit sector's efforts to adapt and persist. The continued dedication to a mission-first approach in the sector through these incredibly challenging times reaffirms our confidence in the nonprofit community. The commitment and ingenuity of the staff and volunteers providing services to their communities, whether in a physical space or through a screen, are both inspiring and impressive.

(Photo credit: Katie Haugland Bowen)

Headshot_Paul_Wolf_DenhamWolfRealEstate_PhilanTopicPaul Wolf is co-founder and president of Denham Wolf Real Estate Services and has more than thirty years of development, brokerage, and nonprofit consulting experience.

The Sustainable Nonprofit: 'A fundamental shift in the mindset of young Americans'

August 04, 2021

Diversity_GettyImages_gmast3rA mindset shift among young American nonprofit employees

We've all seen people across the country and around the world struggling financially from the fallout of COVID-19. As our Cause and Social Influence researchers have continued to track young Americans' (ages 18-30) behavior related to causes during this time, we sought to understand the ramifications of these financial struggles from two perspectives: that of a young employee and that of a nonprofit. What we found is a fundamental shift in the mindset of young Americans that could hinder nonprofits' ability to recruit and retain talented staff.

Each quarter, our researchers track this age group's behaviors and motivations related to social issues and major moments and movements. In the first report of 2021, we found that their interest in social issues had become much more personal, thanks largely to their experiences during the pandemic. Now, findings from our research conducted in June underscore just how personal those issues have become....

Read the full column article by Derrick Feldmann, lead researcher at Cause and Social Influence.

'We have to rise up and do better': A commentary by Donita Volkwijn

August 02, 2021

Black_lives_matter_james-eades_unsplashContinuing the conversation: How philanthropy is changing how it talks about race

In June 2020, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors responded to questions in the sector about how to begin difficult conversations in the workplace. Our response was meant to provide guidance on how to talk about a reality that had left many of us in the philanthropic sector and beyond speechless. One in which the dual crises of the pandemic and racial injustice were shifting how we lived, thought, and yes, even breathed.

A little more than a year later, we are exploring how, if at all, these workplace conversations have evolved. As we enter yet another new reality, the most obvious shift in direction is to the talk of reopening (if we were privileged enough to work remotely). A friend recently shared a statement that captures what many of us are feeling: "Nothing should go back to normal. Normal wasn't working. If we go back to the way things were, we will have lost the lesson. May we rise up and do better."...

Read the full commentary by Donita Volkwijn, outgoing manager of knowledge management at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

Quote of the Week

  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."


    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

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