472 posts categorized "Nonprofits"

Less Hassle and Still Charitable: Why Projects Choose Fiscal Sponsorship

August 21, 2019

Fiscal_sponsorshipOne of the big trends we've noticed in both philanthropy and international development is increasing interest in funding different and new types of organizations. For many foundations, traditional public charities are not their first choice for investment. Instead, they are turning to international networks and partnerships that bring together diverse stakeholders, innovation platforms, funder collaboratives and re-granting funds, social enterprises, and short-term projects with a handful of staff.

As a result of this, we’re seeing many funders and project leaders consider the fiscal sponsorship model, which typically entails a project or small startup being "sponsored" by a larger tax-exempt organization with an aligned mission. The larger organization handles governance, financial management, and administration for the project it has agreed to sponsor, while the project (in many cases) pursues an independent strategy with semi-autonomous staff and its own advisors.

Since the Transparency and Accountability Initiative (TAI) transitioned to a U.S.-based fiscal sponsor in 2016, we have been repeatedly asked for advice by both project leaders and program officers. We’ve also watched as the fiscal sponsorship sector has grown. In the international development field, we’re even seeing the demand for fiscal sponsorship expand to other countries, most of which do not have legal frameworks in place to accommodate such a model.

Here in the U.S., the law currently supports a variety of models. In the model used by TAI, the sponsoring organization assumes responsibility for all tax filings, financial reporting, and legal compliance, including ensuring the charitable mission and activities of the project it is sponsoring. Typically the project is expected to contribute to the sponsoring organization’s overhead, abide by its policies, and report to its management and board. The exact terms of the arrangement usually are spelled out in a memorandum of understanding (MOU). The MOU often allows the project or startup to have its own steering committee to direct its strategy.

We are frequently asked about fiscal sponsorship and wanted to share some of the things you should consider before taking the plunge. (Nonprofit leaders may also want to consider how some of these factors are shaping organizational structures in their own fields.) Based on our own experience and what we’ve heard again and again from other projects that have gone this route, below are the top factors in deciding whether to pursue a fiscal sponsorship arrangement:

  • Time spent on administration. Many projects choose fiscal sponsorship out of a simple desire to focus on programming rather than governance issues or the nitty-gritty of administration (procurement, financial reporting, human resources, etc.).
  • A need to be nimble and/or drive short-term impact. Fiscal sponsorship is an option for activities like art exhibitions and disaster relief efforts, both of which require flexibility and are often short-term in nature.
  • Getting value from economies of scale. Overhead is always a consideration, and many projects worry that setting up their own formal organization will be too expensive and/or duplicative of other’s efforts.
  • Leveraging synergies. In best-case situations, hosted projects and their sponsors learn from each other’s activities and share networking opportunities, funding information, and strategic insight.
  • Balancing the interests of founders, funders, and stakeholders. Many networks and donor collaboratives choose fiscal sponsorship because member organizations are concerned about the hosting organization prioritizing its own issues and fundraising above the network’s needs.
  • Qualifying for tax-exempt donations sooner rather than later. When done properly, fiscal sponsorship enables a project or startup to receive tax-exempt donations (based on the public charity status of its sponsor) more quickly than if it had decided to set itself up as a 501(c)(3).

Fiscal sponsorship is not for everyone. The San Francisco Bar Association has a nice list of trade-offs, including loss of formal control,  branding issues, potential costs, and the difficulty of disentangling oneself from such an arrangement at a later date. Let us add here that a lawyer should be consulted on many of these issues.

We also don't want to see social sector leaders be daunted by the prospect of creating a new nonprofit entity. Nathaniel Heller is among those who have argued that too many projects and startups avoid the initial work of creating an independent nonprofit organization. There are also other options for structuring certain types of projects and networks (e.g., decentralizing work across members of a network).

Before diving into all the different models out there, project leads and their supporters will want to explore what it is they need and want. In TAI's case, we scoped out and prioritized the needs of the collaborative, including issues related to governance, administration, financial management, and human resources. We recommend others do the same: nailing down what it is you really want to accomplish and what you need to do it is invaluable information for key stakeholders as they consider the options available. It also will help if fiscal sponsorship is the model you decide on, as most sponsors will be eager to know more about your needs with respect to financial reporting, vendor management, hiring, and so on.

Funders are already embracing the fiscal sponsorship model. What are the implications for the nonprofit sector long term? If more projects are fiscally-sponsored, what might that mean for more traditional nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)? From where we sit, it seems that a growing number of NGOs are trying to capture the spirit of fiscal sponsorship with initiatives of their own, especially international NGOs, where the demand for fiscal sponsors who can hire international staff is great.

For their part, nonprofit leaders need to be aware of this trend and consider its relevance for their organizations. A growth industry often generates disruptive ripple effects. Pay attention to how new pilots, startups, networks, and collaborations in your issue area are being structured and how those changes might be shifting donor expectations. Are there ways to take advantage of these changes by offering sponsorship opportunities to others? Is there an opportunity to take advantage of the expertise and experience of another organization to incubate a new idea, spin out a project that has gained some traction but needs more support to generate impact, or create something with a fixed timeline? Maybe you’re just tired of the never-ending struggle to pay the rent and keep the lights on and are ready to let someone else worry about fundraising while you devote yourself to the cause or mission. If any those sound familiar, then fiscal sponsorship is a model you may want to consider.

Headshot_jenny_lah_michael_jarvisMichael Jarvis is executive director of the Transparency and Accountability Initiative, a global funders collaborative committed to building a more just, equitable, and inclusive society. Jenny Lah is an independent consultant who specializes in strategy, research, and organizational development, mainly in the international development sector. She has consulted with TAI as well as several other international networks on fiscal sponsorship and governance issues. Please note: the material above has not been reviewed by a lawyer. Organizations considering becoming or using a fiscal sponsor should get advice from an attorney with experience in nonprofit law.

Ten Years of Millennial Research: What I’d Do Differently

August 16, 2019

MillennialsIt's finally here — the final Millennial Impact Report, the culmination of a decade of research conducted by the Case Foundation and research teams I led into cause behaviors of the generation born between 1980 and 2000.

Any project of that magnitude — we interviewed more than 150,000 millennials, held hours and hours of focus groups, compiled and analyzed reams of data, and wrote volumes of narrative — begs the question: Would we do it all over again?

Absolutely — albeit with some tweaks based on what we've learned.

When we launched the project in 2008 — and over most of the next ten years — making assumptions about millennials seemed to be a favorite pastime of many of the people we interviewed or spoke to. We heard that millennials were lazy and more entitled than any  generation before them. They believed they deserved big salaries right out of college, and when reality hit they moved into their parents’ basement (still the most enduring cliché about young Americans in this age group).

Put it all together and you got the biggest assumption of all: there was no way millennials would want to get actively involved in causes.

When we set out to learn about millennials, it wasn't to prove (or disprove) our own assumptions; it was to better understand their real motivations and behaviors. So we designed the research process to be an ongoing journey of discovery. I wouldn't change a thing about that.

But in looking back at our journey, there are some things I wish we had explored further:

We ignored stereotypes but did we miss part of the picture? Although we all were aware of the often superficial things said and published about millennials (how could we not be?), and maybe disagreed (or agreed) with some of it, we did our best to ignore the most egregious assumptions and clichés. While the data we collected disproved most of those stereotypes, we know millennials heard and were paying attention to them; in fact, they often were repeated  back to us in surveys and focus groups when we asked millennials how they thought others perceived them. Looking back at some of those sessions, I can't help but wonder whether and how much millennial stereotypes actually helped influence millennials' approach to causes and cause-related work.

Here's an example: we discovered that many survey respondents and focus group participants believed millennials were careful to discuss issues and causes only with close friends and,  concerned that doing so could lead to tense conversations or nasty disagreements, were reluctant to share their opinions about such things with family or colleagues. Was that actual behavior they had observed, or were they simply recycling the stereotype of millennials as conflict-averse? And to what extent were non-millennials' perception of millennials influenced by exposure to such stereotypes? Today I not only wonder how much generational dynamics influenced the responses we collected, but how they might have affected the willingness of survey respondents and focus group participants to share their views — or "hear" the viewpoints of others.

We didn't examine how generations influence each other and they do. We looked at what was happening in the moment and not necessarily how generations had influenced each other to arrive at that moment. The reality, of course, is that every generation is affected by and affects other generations.

Boomers, for example, didn't one day decide that they needed to work crazy hours to get ahead; they grew up with parents and grandparents who themselves had grown up during the Depression and imbibed that earlier generation's work ethic.

Gen X, labeled cynical and unfocused at first by parents and older siblings who didn't understand them, grew up and became entrepreneurs and passionate volunteers committed to more causes than any generation before them.

It shouldn't come as a surprise, therefore, that millennials were slapped with unflattering labels right out of the gate by career-focused boomers and entrepreneurial Xers. Members of both of those generations worked hard for their successes — even as they created new work cultures and ideas about work-life balance that millennials took advantage of.

We tracked behaviors but didn't track who and what was influencing those behaviors. Nearly everyone possesses a certain degree of empathy, the very human impulse to help others. Whether we suppress this impulse or act on it often is a function of other aspects of — and people in — our lives. Over the ten years of the project, we inquired and tracked many cause-related behaviors, but we could have delved more deeply into the influences — or absence thereof — that drove them.

If we are to create real, meaningful social change, it is important we understand the influences that shape (and challenge) our actions and engagement. That's why the research we're involved in now, Cause and Social Influence, is looking beyond individual behavior into the who, what, how, and why of influence. I look forward to sharing our findings in October!

In truth, no generation has ever lived up to the initial public persona foisted on it by previous generations, and generations being critical of each other is nothing new. Expressions like "In my day, we had to [fill in the blank]" or "We were lucky to [fill in the blank]" will always be part of the inter-generational conversation because…well, that's just human nature.

But thanks to the research we've been doing, we are beginning to understand that these generational generalizations are detrimental to the conversations we need to have if we are to advance the kind of change we all want to see. Millennials were never too lazy or self-centered to be politically aware and active, to volunteer for and give to causes, or to passionately want to create change that helps others live healthier, happier, and more fulfilling lives. And now, as they enter the most productive years of their lives, we can only begin to imagine what that change will look like. I, for one, can't wait to find out.

I encourage you to download the final Millennial Impact Report, Understanding How Millennials Engage With Causes and Social Issues: Insights From 10 Years of Research Working in Partnership With Young Americans on Causes Today and in the Future. And to stay abreast of our new research on influences, follow us at causeandsocialinfluence and @causeinfluence.

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.

A Tale of Two Donations

August 15, 2019

Charitable-giftEarlier this year, I made a $15 donation to a small nonprofit and also pledged a planned gift, potentially worth six figures, to a huge charity. Guess which organization did a better job of followup?

Prompted by one of those "Thanks to a generous donor, all donations made TODAY will be matched!" appeals, I made the $15 donation online. As with most online donations, within minutes of pressing the "Donate" button I received an acknowledgment of my support.

But what was truly astonishing was what happened over the next two weeks: not only did I receive a written thank-you personally signed by the executive director by regular mail, I also received a phone call from a staffer thanking me for my generosity.

The potential six-figure planned gift was made in person, in the charity's office. I was there for a meeting and learned by happenstance that every time the organization was mentioned in a will or named as a beneficiary of a retirement fund, an anonymous donor would make a substantial gift to the group. I had long admired the charity's work, had made numerous gifts in support of its efforts in the past, and years ago had designated a percentage of my retirement account, upon my death, to its cause. With pleasure, I signed the pledge card, knowing that my potential future gift would also have an immediate impact on the organization's bottom line. I was thanked in person for my gift and was told I'd be invited to an event for those who had committed to making similar gifts.

Months have passed since that day and I have yet to receive a written thank-you note — either via email or regular mail — for my pledge, nor any formal welcome to the organization's planned-giving society. No one has asked me to document the pledge or share the name of the investment company that manages my retirement fund. I have received no communiqués spelling out how my future gift will make a difference. Nor, for that matter, have I received any information about a donor event.

The organization that received my modest $15 donation raises less than $2 million annually, has a small staff, and, according to its financial filings, depends on the generosity of about a dozen individuals for approximately half of its funding. Given its size and relatively narrow donor base, one could argue that it needs to enthusiastically steward all donors and supporters who come its way.

By contrast, the second charity is many times larger, in both budget and staff headcount, and has an experienced, professional development office — which makes it all the more puzzling that the organization has made no effort to date to acknowledge my planned gift. After all, if the donor of such a gift does not feel valued and appreciated, there's nothing to prevent him or her from changing the named beneficiary of the gift.

To be clear: I am still committed to the mission of the second charity, and my primary motivation for making my pledge was to ensure its good work continues after I am gone — not because I need someone to say "thank you."

But in the ever-crowded marketplace for philanthropic dollars, a charity cannot assume that others will feel the same way.

According to Giving USA 2019: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2018, there are at least two emerging trends that should worry leaders in the nonprofit sector: 1) the 1.6 percent year-over-year increase in dollars donated by individuals in 2018 was almost entirely driven by gifts of $1,000 or more, even as the number of people who gave fell by 4.5 percent and the number of new donors fell by a worrisome 7.3 percent; and 2) the nearly $40 billion total in charitable bequests in 2018 was essentially unchanged from the 2017 total (and down 2.3 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars) — despite rising mortality rates among the Silent Generation (those born before 1946) and the oldest boomers (those born after 1946).

Put simply, the data suggests that charities which ignore both ends of the giving spectrum — new, lower-level donors who might one day become bigger donors, as well as those who care enough about a cause or organization to include it in their estate plans — do so at their own peril.

My small charity of choice knows what means to have a donor-centric culture. As for the larger one, the jury is still out.       

Headshot_ellen_flax_PhilanTopicEllen Flax (www.ellenflax.com) served as the director of a public foundation and as a program officer and consultant at several large family foundations and now works as a philanthropy consultant.

Helping California Students Access College Financial Aid

August 09, 2019

FASA_appAs underserved communities continue to struggle, philanthropy is stepping up to ensure that nonprofits serving those communities are able to apply for and receive the support they so desperately need.

The Spark Grant program, a new initiative of the Michelson 20MM Foundation, aims to disrupt the slow and often opaque traditional foundation grant application process. The program gives organizations aligned with Michelson's mission a quick and easy way to apply for grants of up to $25,000. Unlike with a traditional grant, applicants to the Spark Grant program receive a decision on their proposals in just fifteen business days. The rapid turnaround makes Spark Grants particularly well suited to project-based initiatives designed to increase the number of underserved learners enrolled in postsecondary opportunities or help students earn a college or vocational credential that positions them for a well-paying job.

College Affordability

Michelson 20MM is passionate about making higher education more affordable for more people, particularly in this moment, when postsecondary education has never been more critical — or more expensive.

According to Sarah Goldrick-Rab, a professor of sociology at Temple University in Philadelphia, the rising cost of higher education puts college out of reach for many, if not most, students without some form of financial aid.

"The real price of attending college is higher than what colleges care to admit," says Goldrick-Rab. "The solution is making public colleges and universities accessible to everyone, like we do for high school, and operating under the assumption that everyone needs financial help."

In order to secure the financial aid they need, however, students must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) — the tool used by the federal government to determine financial aid eligibility. Unfortunately, many students have never heard of FAFSA or, if they have, are not successful in filling it out, which often results in them receiving either no aid or far less than they should. (It's also common for students who received aid for their first year of school not to re-apply through FAFSA in subsequent years.)

Enter Education Trust-West

Education Trust˗West is one of the first recipients of a Michelson 20MM Spark Grant. Founded in 2001 to address educational disparities experienced by low-income students and students of color in California, the organization works to ensure that students from underserved populations have access to a high-quality education while closing the opportunity gap between those students and their white middle-class peers.

"In the past two years in California, nearly a half million high school seniors didn't complete a financial aid application," says Tyler Wu, a higher education policy analyst at the organization.

The issue was elevated a year ago with the passage of California Assembly Bill 2015, which goes into effect in time for the 2020-21 school year. AB-2015 requires that every high school in California provide information to students about financial aid applications at least once before they enter twelfth grade — a step that has proved to increase financial aid completion rates. With the passage of AB-2105, says Wu, there is an urgent need for tools and resources that ensure the implementation of the law in ways that maximize educational equity for low-income students and students of color.

Education Trust˗West will use its $25,000 Spark Grant to fund the development of a California Digital Financial Aid Awareness Toolkit — a set of resources designed to improve awareness and understanding of FAFSA among high school and district administrators, counselors, and teachers and ensure that low-income students and students of color fill out the application successfully.

"Our goal is to get these resources in the hands of more educators around the state," says Wu, adding that the project will enable Education Trust˗West staff to meet with local and community educators and walk them through the toolkit, with the goal of boosting application rates statewide and putting more low-income students and students of color in a position to apply for the financial aid they need to go to college or vocational school.

The second round of the Spark Grant program opened for applications on August 5. Do you have an innovative education project that could benefit from an expedited grant? We’d love to hear from you.

Headshot_mayra_lombera_PhilanTopicMayra Lombera is director of strategic initiatives at the Michelson 20MM Foundation.

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (July 2019)

August 02, 2019

It's August, and here on the East Coast the living is...steamy. Not to worry. Our most popular posts from July will cool you down and make you smarter....

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

What's New at Candid (July 2019)

July 30, 2019

Candid logoWhenever someone asks me how things are going with our newly minted Candid, I honestly reply "it's never dull!" There are a lot of moving pieces as we develop our Candid 2030 strategy while continuing to share insights on everything from human rights funding to our nonprofit data profiles. After you've read through this update, please shoot me an email about what you'd like to hear from us going forward.

Project Highlights

Thought Leadership Highlights

For more great content, follow us on Twitter.

Candid in the News

I was honored to author two articles recently, one in the Chronicle of Philanthropy on lifting up philanthropy's unheard voices and another in Alliance magazine on a powerful learning experience many of us had at the recent United Philanthropy Forum conference. Candid also has been featured in several recent articles:

To check out more mentions of Candid in the news, see our press page.

Services Spotlight

Data Spotlight

  • The performance of the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team at the 2019 World Cup has generated renewed interest in gender-based pay-discrimination and equal pay for women. Take a look at how funders are supporting equality rights and freedom from discrimination for marginalized groups, including more than $84 million in grants for Women and Girls.
  • Data collected through the U.S. Census every ten years is a key factor in the distribution of more than $675 billion in federal funding. In advance of the 2020 census, foundations have joined forces with advocates and census experts to help support an accurate count. We've identified 53 grants, ranging from $5,000 to $3 million, awarded since 2011 that reference the census. Learn more here.
  • The number of eBooks checked out in June was 123, bringing the total number of eBook checkouts over the life of the program to 1,746. In addition, the number of eBook user registrations in June was 86, bringing the total to 1,253. We now have 209 eBooks in our collection, including 183 unique titles.
  • We completed custom data searches for the Center for Effective Philanthropy, the Community Foundation of Hawaii, the Federal Reserve of St. Louis, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, the National Endowment for the Arts, and School of Philanthropy and Public Policy at the University of Southern California.
  • Last but not least, we welcomed ten new data sharing partners in June: the Beverly Jackson Foundation, the Fouress Foundation, the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, the Lynch Foundation, the Michigan Humanities Council, Proteus Action League, the Michael Reese Health Trust, the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Canton, Warsh-Mott Legacy, and the WCA Foundation. Tell your story through data so we can communicate philanthropy's contribution to making a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.

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.

Changing the Way Candid Serves You

July 23, 2019

ZBlog 2 Option 2Announcing Foundation Center and GuideStar had joined forces was just the beginning — now the real work of being Candid has started. We're busy combining operations on a number of fronts, and starting up new and exciting projects, too. I mentioned one of our most important initiatives in a previous post: the transition from our four regional library centers to our 400+ Funding Information Network (FIN) partner locations. We've received some thoughtful questions about what this evolution might mean for you.

What's happening to Candid's libraries?

We're not changing whom we serve, we're changing how we serve.

We've been around a long time, and over the years we've heard feedback from people who have struggled with our metro locations in terms of accessibility, hours, and parking fees and availability. Our current footprint of library locations in specific metro areas also locks our teams in to commitments behind the desk. Plus, now that we've become Candid, we have two offices in both the San Francisco Bay Area and Washington, D.C.

ZBlog 4 Option 1By the end of 2019, our Bay Area and Washington, D.C., offices will have been combined so that we have one office each in Oakland and D.C., while our Atlanta and Cleveland teams will be operating out of co-working or partner sites. We will no longer provide in-person library services at these locations, but you will still be able to get all of your questions answered through in-person trainings with our partner network and online services (more on this below).

Our largest office and library in New York will continue to operate in its full current form (still providing library services and trainings). We'll also begin experimenting with local programming close to Williamsburg, Virginia, where a large contingency of Candid team members are based.

How will these changes affect my local nonprofit community?

We're focused on continued and increased engagement in your community. Candid's mission continues to be to connect people who want to change the world to the resources they need to do it — research, collaboration, and training are the ways we accomplish that mission.

Our transition away from providing direct in-person library services at our own offices will free up our teams to interact directly with audiences beyond our own four walls. Taking our D.C. metro area location as an example: three of our FIN partners are within a ten-mile radius of our current location, and all three are Metro accessible. Our D.C. team plans to offer three to five classes per month at local partners and other locations, and they also plan on holding monthly training events at the University of the District of Columbia.

What does the Funding Information Network do?

Over more than sixty years, we've built up our Funding Information Network, which is made up of more than 400 partner locations across the U.S. and around the world. In 2018, 24 new partners joined the network, and visitors at our partner sites executed more than half a million searches on Candid databases.

Screen Shot 2019-07-08 at 2.59.29 PMThese public libraries, universities, and resource centers will continue to offer access to Candid databases on-site, free to the public. They also host our low- or no-cost fundraising trainings, including advanced courses such as our Proposal Writing Boot Camp.

In 2018, our partner locations led 166 trainings. In addition to these programs, our own Candid staff hosted 80 programs at partner locations that were attended by more than 1,500 people. And next year, thanks to the transition away from our own four library centers, Candid staff will be able to offer even more programs at these locations. You can find the current training schedule at our GrantSpace calendar.

How do network partners support local nonprofits?

The first way is through access to, and on-site assistance with, Candid databases like Foundation Directory Online. One of our partner locations in Michigan told us, "It is wonderful to have this resource and the teaching tools at our disposal. People come into our library looking for information on how to write or search for grants all the time. Being able to point them to GrantSpace or schedule an orientation to the database helps our community."

Network partners undergo Candid certification each year to become experts at navigating our databases and other resources. In addition, Candid offers a substantial amount of training to our partners, including a deep dive into what Candid is and what changes they can expect. More than 98 percent of our Funding Information Network partners meet, if not exceed, the partnership standards we've set out.

ZBlog 4 Option 2We track these standards each year, and we are constantly seeking new ways to ensure that our partners have access to and are provided training on Candid resources. Our regional staff works directly with our partners and hosts monthly and quarterly calls to continue building their capacity to serve your needs on the ground. In addition, we host annual conferences and training sessions with our FIN partners to keep them up to date and prepared to assist you.

The second way our partners support local nonprofits is through trainings. A partner from Ohio said, "The first class I ever taught resulted in an individual writing a letter of introduction to a foundation not accepting applications, getting asked to apply, and receiving a $50,000 grant. I just spoke to a frequent database user who has almost solidified a $500,000 grant for her nonprofit which works to bring military personnel back from overseas."

One of our partners in Arkansas shared, "Last year, a person was at our location quite frequently for most of the year. Now that person has succeeded in establishing a new enterprise locally that assists homeless LGBTQ young adults in Central Arkansas."

Another partner, from Georgia, said, "[Being a Funding Information Network partner] enables us to meet our strategic goals of building the community and partnering with other organizations to bring needed programs and resources to the community. The classes we offer have led to partnerships with nonprofits."

Check the local calendar on grantspace.org to see upcoming community events and use our map tool to find partners near you.

What if I can't get to a partner location?

You can connect with us online, anywhere, anytime. We have developed robust direct online reference services at grantspace.org, where you can get customized help from a real Candid staffer who has the expertise to help with any of your fundraising or nonprofit questions. In 2018, our Online Librarian service addressed more than 135,000 questions. Engaging with us via our online reference service is free, and even easier than a visit — you don't need to find parking to ask us your quick or in-depth questions.

ZBlog 5 Option 2Grantspace.org also continues to be a comprehensive online learning site, with access to thousands of knowledge resources/tools, blogs, videos, and, of course, a vast calendar of in-person, live-online, and on-demand training programs available at your fingertips. In 2018, we delivered 116 webinars and self-paced elearning courses to nearly 20,000 participants.

We also continue to build out our eBooks collection, ensuring anytime, anywhere access to our online collection of information resources. An average of one hundred users a month are taking advantage of this free service.

Whom can I contact if I have more questions?

Please don't hesitate to reach out to any of our team members with questions or ideas:

Western region: Michele Ragland Dilworth
Northeastern region: Kim Buckner Patton
Southern region: Maria Azuri
Midwestern region: Teleangé Thomas

We are thrilled for the opportunity this new operating model presents Candid and are very excited to meet with more of you across the U.S. As always, you can connect with me directly to talk about how we can serve you better.

Zohra Zori is vice president for social sector outreach at Candid.

________

Learn more about what Candid can offer you today
Learn more about GrantSpace's live and on-demand trainings
Learn more about the Funding Information Network
Learn more about our eBooks lending program

 

Drive Commitment and Change With 'Moments'

July 18, 2019

Ripple-effectOrganizations are always on the lookout for strategies that can help them engage supporters or build their movements. When I interact with an organization or cause that is seeking to build a constituency, I like to ask two questions:

  1. What’s the next milestone you are working toward?
  2. What are you doing right now to increase your supporter base in advance of that milestone? 

A few definitions here will be helpful:

  • A milestone is an incremental achievement that leads to a "moment" within a movement. The milestone Is achieved by the community working together.
  • A moment is a one-time (or short-term) convergence of actions, informal or organized, that is fueled by cultural, political, and/or social events leading to a surge of individual participation and self-organizing by supporters.
  • An issue or cause is an existing state of affairs (societal, environmental, political) recognized by society as contrary to its values but that can be improved by people working together and taking advantage of community resources.

As a leader of a mission-driven organization, your work is to break new ground for your issue or cause. You’re the visionary always on the lookout for that movement-altering moment when public awareness, supporter engagement, and a broader narrative of progress come together to create progress.

Moments are incredibly powerful in the life of an issue or cause -- and for the supporters and people you serve. They’re the catalysts that drive your colleagues and supporters to commit themselves to the work every day, and they represent an enormous opportunity to strengthen your issue’s relevance to and resonance with both loyal and as-yet-unidentified supporters.

After I've gotten answers to my first two questions above, I usually move on to another set of questions. To design an effective moment, leaders of mission-driven organizations and movements need to get clarity on the following:

  1. Is your current supporter base loyal enough (and have you prepared them well enough) to help your issue by spreading a new narrative that brings others to the cause/movement?Who are the people who will be energized by your next moment, and how can you inspire them to be a voice and recruiter for your issue or cause?
  2. Typically, the only thing loyal and potential supporters have in common is an interest in your issue. And their awareness of what to do and how to do it, as well as their willingness to take action, almost always Is a function of their prior involvement with the issue or cause. This means you need to create different approaches for different audiences.

With that in mind, here are a couple of suggestions:

Maximize affinity and loyalty of current supporters

The goal here is to deepen the connection of your current supporters to your issue or cause by inspiring them to act. The idea, always, is action fuels commitment.

Step 1. Announce the upcoming milestone.

Step 2. Ask your current supporters for their help in reaching the milestone and share with them educational resources, actions they can take, and opportunities to develop DIY events and programs that will inspire and encourage others to support your issue/cause.

Step 3. Be sure to build in reporting and recognition mechanisms.

Here’s an example of an education-and-action pathway for your current supporters:

Table 1.1: Education-and-Action Pathway

Audience Goals Sample Actions Rationale
Current supporters Create a sense of belonging Supporter shares own "Why I believe" narrative about the issue Taking an action, especially if it involves sharing a personal story, makes a person feel more connected to an issue or cause

 

Increase understanding Supporter performs 3-4 CTAs that enhance his/her belief narrative (e.g., post on social media, attend event) The more actions a supporter takes, the deeper his/her understanding of the issue/cause

 

Inspire further action Supporter recruits peer/friend to issue/ cause and initiates conversation about it

 

Creates excitement and reinforces engagement when others respond positively to the same belief narrative

 

Table 1.2: Key Elements of Pathway

Action → Response → Action → Response →
Initiates pathway (e.g., sign a pledge or petition) Individual receives 3-5 automated emails with links to organized content (e.g., video, quiz, link to individualized achievement tracking) Individual completes call-to-action (e.g., “Bring one new person into the movement”) Those who complete CTA are publicly recognized and become part of the movement (e.g., showcase their picture/story)

 

Focus on new audiences already aligned with milestone

Recruiting new supporters to an issue/cause requires a different approach.

Step 1. Use targeted outreach to identify individuals who are already aligned with the upcoming milestone.

Step 2. Design an engagement program that inspires these micro-influencers to recruit their peers to the issue/cause. The program should incorporate a variety of tactics, from online display ads to face-to-face recruitment at programs and events that members of the targeted audience are likely to attend.

Step 3. Provide your micro-influencers with a digital environment (e.g., password-protected collection of online resources) specifically designed to engage them. Include an opt-in mechanism for those who want to pursue more intensive engagement.

Moments reinforce belief and drive active commitment

I’ve said this before: reinforcement of belief is a powerful factor in deepening an individual's involvement in an issue or cause and in creating a powerful sense of identity among like-minded people. Moments serve these purposes by demonstrably raising awareness of an issue among the public and inspiring some of them to act. By encouraging your supporters to achieve well-defined milestones, your organization will be advancing its issue or cause and helping to shape public discourse around the issue or cause.

But, remember: engaging supporters in your issue or cause should be your primary objective, while Increasing support for your organization should be a secondary goal. If supporters are passionate about an issue or cause, they will find -- and support -- the organizations that are most effective at advancing that issue or cause.

When organizations keep their issue or cause front and center and focus on moving it forward, moment by moment, good things inevitably follow.

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.

Stop Differentiating Between Program and Administrative Support

July 15, 2019

Siegel_family_endowment_workforceAs the director of special projects at Siegel Family Endowment, I spend a lot of time talking to folks in the philanthropic sector about their approaches to funding. It's an opportunity to get in the weeds with others about their strategic priorities and to build an understanding of innovation and best practices in the field.

And for years now, I've heard funder after funder draw the same false distinction between supporting an organization's administrative costs and its program costs.

There's one thing they're ignoring when they make this kind of distinction: You can't have one without the other.

If there's a single prerequisite for running an effective program, it's having the right administrative structures in place to do so. HR, compliance, reporting, fundraising, finance, IT —  they're all critical factors in determining whether a program ultimately succeeds or fails.

Designating funding as programmatic merely forces nonprofits to be cheap, not prudent. With the majority of funding supporting programmatic work instead of the infrastructure needed to make such work possible, nonprofits are often forced to skimp on the very things that can ensure the efficacy and sustainability of their work.

Unfortunately, there's no magic formula that funders can use when deciding how their grants should be allocated. If they want to be nimble and responsive, they need, instead, to be clear in their expectations and receptive to an organization's changing needs. Big administrative needs (like new software purchases or upgrading office space) are unlikely to be an annual expense,  but when they are needed, the impact on an organization's budget — and programmatic work — tends to be outsized.

My big recommendation for funders? Start by asking grantees where they have had to cut corners. An organization's long-term success is a function of the health of the infrastructure that makes its work possible in the first place, and we as funders owe it to our grantees to cultivate a relationship with them that’s honest, open, and bi-directional.

Grantmakers have an opportunity in 2019 to shift their thinking on how responsible, responsive funding works. Let's help our grantees be as effective as they can be by investing in every aspect of their work and not just cherry-picking the things that appeal to us.

Headshot_jessica_johansen_siegel_familyJessica Johansen is director of special projects at Siegel Family Endowment. A version of this post originally appeared on the SFE website.

[Review] The Business of Changing the World: How Billionaires, Tech Disrupters, and Social Entrepreneurs Are Transforming the Global Aid Industry

July 10, 2019

Gone are the days when major donor governments and multilateral agencies poured large sums into international development projects that were evaluated mainly by the level of the donors' generosity. As Raj Kumar explains in The Business of Changing the World: How Billionaires, Tech Disrupters, and Social Entrepreneurs Are Transforming the Global Aid Industry, the foreign aid industry, in the United States and elsewhere, is undergoing a huge transformation: once dominated by a handful of players, the sector is being reinvented as a dynamic marketplace hungry for cost-efficient, evidence-based solutions.

Tbcw-book-coverAs the co-founder of Devex, a social enterprise and media platform for the global development community, Kumar has a unique perspective on the emerging trends, key players, and new frameworks and philosophies that are shaping the development sector. And as he sees it, the sector is undergoing three fundamental changes: first, an opening up to diverse participants; second, a shift from a wholesale to a retail model of aid; and third, a growing focus on results-oriented, evidence-based strategies.

According to Kumar, the diversification of participants and, consequently, of strategies, both characterizes and is contributing to the growing success of this new era of aid. Prior to the twenty-first century, the sector was dominated by large agencies such as USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) and the World Bank functioning as an oligopsony in which aid strategies were relatively homogeneous and any latitude to innovate was limited. Thanks in part to the wealth accumulated by tech billionaires such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, however, that is changing and the sector today operates and is informed by a much broader range of perspectives.

One result of the influx of tech dollars and expertise into the sector has been a demand for results, often in the form of a measurable return on those investments. But despite the broader diversity of approaches, failure is still part and parcel of the field, and Kumar offers some insights into why. An example he cites repeatedly is Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Initiative, which never fully delivered on its thesis that providing laptops to children in the developing world would go a long way to closing education gaps. As Kumar notes, past evaluations of the program have found that laptops did not do much to improve children's learning — in part because the initiative failed to adequately train teachers or develop curricula tailored to computer-based learning — and he uses the example to highlight the importance of pilot-testing projects to determine their efficacy before implementing them at scale.

Indeed, while veteran development hands may commend Negroponte for his ambition and good intentions, a new generation of development professionals is more interested in setting goals by which a project's success (or failure) can be measured and conducting rigorous evaluation to determine whether it meets those goals. In a resource-constrained world, Kumar argues, such an approach is the best way for aid groups and their funders to avoid the opportunity costs of a failed project and harness their limited funds for maximum impact.

Another important change in the sector is the shift away from the traditional decision-making model in which decisions were made by well-compensated individuals embedded in institutions at a significant remove from the people in need of help. In the new world of aid, writes Kumar, donors and aid experts have to let go of the mindset that they know best, step back, and listen to the intended beneficiaries about how that aid should be put to use. "Only by asking...questions, listening carefully, watching how people actually behave and react in the real world, and then designing programs to address those realities," he writes, "will we be able to get the kind of results we want."

That also means that aid programs need to incorporate behavioral science- and human psychology-based approaches to ensure that the funded intervention will be both widely adopted and effective. In support of his argument, Kumar cites the example of an insecticide-treated mosquito net distribution effort. While a standard cost-benefit analysis most likely would conclude that such nets are a reasonable and cost-effective intervention, aid groups that took the time to interview the intended beneficiaries soon learned that mosquito nets distributed through previous campaigns were hardly ever used because they are too hot to sleep under and are not easy to set up. By doing a better job of focusing on "people, not widgets," aid groups stand a much better chance of ensuring that projects are executed efficiently and goals are met.

In addition to these broad trends and themes, Kumar looks at the ways in which the emerging aid industry has embraced a more diverse cast of players — including so-called social enterprises, which he defines as businesses "established with the sole purpose of meeting an important social need [that create] shared value for all those involved — the producers, the organization, customers, and the broader society." From Hello Tractor, an app modeled on Uber that connects Nigerian farmers who are not fully utilizing their tractors to farmers in need of a tractor, to microfinance platform Kiva, Kumar illustrates how social entrepreneurs are transforming the aid sector with technology and, crucially, a behavioral-science mindset, creating solutions that address the specific needs of a specific target population in real time.

While it's perhaps unrealistic to expect all businesses to operate with the sole intention of meeting a social need, Kumar argues that such enterprises could pave the way for more businesses to adopt the idea of shared value, creating what the World Economic Forum has called a "fourth sector." One way for corporations to become more socially responsible is to ignore the notion that people at the "bottom of the pyramid" (a phrase coined by C.K. Prahalad in his 2004 book The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid) can never function as a market. Instead, companies need to embrace the idea that the vast number of people who fall into that category are more than enough to create aggregate demand — and a profit — for any business and create products and services specifically for the BoP.

Kumar also examines the emergence of "retail" aid, as seen in the growing popularity of crowdfunding sites like Kiva and direct cash transfers, and notes that "frictionless" digital technologies are putting increasing pressure on "wholesale" models of aid to incorporate local input, monitor results continually, make course corrections as needed, and ensure that projects are self-sustaining over time. Such changes go hand-in-hand with "a new ethos" of what Kumar calls "open source aid" — organizational cultures that embrace the humility required to share results (including failures), openly and in the spirit of collective learning.

Despite the credit he gives social entrepreneurs and businesses for embracing market solutions, Kumar recognizes that systemic problems do not always lend themselves to a quick market or technological fix. One organization that seems to understand that is Teach for All, a global network of independent, locally led and governed partner organizations that has trained more than sixty-five hundred individuals to serve as educators in their communities. As he explains, if Teach for All's progress in transforming local educational systems has been slower and less quantifiable than might be the case with a more disruptive Silicon Valley solution, its approach is better suited to the "complex, emotionally fraught, politicized [education] system" in most countries. In other words, where market-based solutions may succeed in reducing complexity, they often fail to address many of the fundamental issues responsible for a system's underperformance.

Like education, extreme poverty is a challenge far too complex to be solved by a simple market-based solution. Today, seven hundred and forty-six million people around the world live in extreme poverty (defined as living on less than $2 a day), and, from conflict situations to "extractive institutions," Kumar points to the many systemic factors perpetuating the problem. So, if market-based solutions are unlikely to solve the problem, what will? Kumar thinks the answer lies in embracing a results-based approach to aid delivery, including the collection of real-time data that enables aid groups to track and disseminate the successes (and failures) of their interventions and drive awareness of and support to those deserving of more attention; and demanding that billionaire donors be held accountable for the support they provide. Good intentions and "giving pledges" are not enough in the twenty-first century, he writes; instead, we must do everything in our power to ensure that the resources provided by billionaire philanthropists produce real, meaningful results.

Kumar notes that even if foreign aid succeeded in eradicating extreme poverty in a given country, in most cases it would still leave 3 percent of that country's population living below the poverty line. While some readers might find this to be an oddly pessimistic note on which to end the book (coming as it does on the book's second-to-last page), it's more a case of Kumar wanting to highlight the urgent need for efficiency and effectiveness in aid delivery. Simply put, we cannot afford to waste resources on "best" guesses, insufficiently evaluated initiatives, and serial failures. The aid community, donors as well as those on the front lines, must listen to and engage with those they seek to serve so as to better understand the problem, think outside the box, and harness the power of data to produce desperately needed results. As Kumar reminds us, it is not enough to do good; it needs to be done well.

Avi Bond is a Knowledge Services intern at Candid.

 

An Engaged Board Is a Fundraising Machine 

July 03, 2019

Table-clipart-board-director-11Is your board pulling its weight in terms of fundraising? An active, engaged board can be a huge difference-maker for a nonprofit. We choose board members, after all, for their skills, connections, and potential to boost fundraising revenue — and they usually will, as long as we make an effort to encourage them to put those skills and connections to work.

Here are a few tips to help you do that:

Boost your board's fundraising capacity. You selected your board members for their knowledge, acumen, and abilities, but you still need to familiarize them with your brand, help them engage with your team, and make sure they're aware of your organizational needs and fundraising plans. The best way to do that is by boosting their engagement with staff and distributing tasks based on their specific interests and abilities.

Get and stay connected. If you're only seeing your board members during board meetings, you are missing out on much of what they have to offer. Be sure to invite board members to any community events you hold or workshops you host. An invitation to tour your facility or join you for an on-site visit where they can meet your volunteers and clients also is a good idea. Not only will it help them feel more connected to the organization, it will give them opportunities to network in the community as well as material for stories they can share in support of the organization.

While not every member of your board will be willing or able to take advantage of every invitation, many will, and doing so will help strengthen their rapport with each other and your work. Updating them on a regular basis about your work, your successes, and your ongoing funding needs also will help them feel like they are connected and an integral part of the overall effort.

Not everyone wants to ask for funds. You're likely to discover that some board members are far better at asking for donations or gifts on your behalf than others. Not everyone on your board has the same skill set (that's a good thing), and board members who are reluctant to solicit others for donations or gifts (whatever their reason) should be able to contribute in other ways. Remember the classic "Cycle of Fundraising." Being able to identify and cultivate potential patrons and supporters, thank current donors, and involve all your donors more deeply in your work are all key to successful board fundraising.

Stewardship improves your bottom line. If you're already bringing in plenty of funds but don't seem able to effectively support all the initiatives you've launched or dream about, the problem might lie in your inability to retain donors over time. One or more board members who focus on stewardship and helping donors feel connected to your organizational outcomes can go a long way to ensuring your organization’s sustainability without you needing to raise additional dollars from new donors in a neverending cycle. Both sides of the equation — effective fundraising and donor stewardship — ultimately drive your organization's ability to fulfill its mission.

Stock your board with experts. In the twenty-first century, you need to embrace and model diversity by putting people on the board of different ages, from different backgrounds (professional and personal), and with different expertise. I can't overstate how important this is to board fundraising, as it will give your organization more skills, connections, and perspectives to leverage and draw on. Chances are pretty good that the three lawyers you were considering for the board all share the same connections, while the advertising pro probably has a completely different group of colleagues and acquaintances to draw on when it comes to fundraising and networking.

Make it easy. If you know you're going to need your board's help on a specific campaign or for a specific event, you should let them know well in advance. If asking for board assistance is left to the last minute, your board members are unlikely to have enough time to help. (They're busy people, which is why they're on your board.) If your "ask" is tied to a specific need, project, or time of year, write up the main talking points for board members to refer to when they are talking with potential donors or supporters. You can also pre-draft an email that they can personalize to their own liking but that includes everything about your organization you'd like them to share with their networks. Lastly, images of the people and community you serve, figures and statistics that underscore your good work, and other talking points will make it easier for your board members to articulate exactly what its your organization does and why it's so important.

Your board plays — or should play — a critical role in your organization’s fundraising success. If it doesn't, get them engaged and actively working for you now. You’ll see a difference in your organization's capacity to serve its target population almost immediately. Good luck!

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.

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (June 2018)

July 01, 2019

Is it us, or does chronological time seem to be accelerating? Before the first half of 2019 becomes a distant memory, take a few minutes to check out some of the most popular posts on the blog in June. And remember: You're not getting older, you're gaining wisdom.

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

Collaboration Versus Competition: Funders Should Shift Their Giving Models to Better Support Families

June 25, 2019

Familia_adelantePicture this: In the New York City borough of the Bronx, Marlena and Jose Reyes had worked hard to provide for their family of four, often getting up before the sun rose to feed and get their children off to school before heading out to work. But their family hit hard times when Jose was injured on the job. The medical bills quickly added up, and, lacking disability coverage, he began to worry his family wouldn't be able to make ends meet. Soon, the family fell into financial crisis, and the threat of eviction became a very real and frightening possibility.

Fortunately, Marlena learned about a service provider collaborative in the community called Familia Adelante that could help.

Stories like those of the Reyeses are common inside the walls of Familia Adelante, which connects families with a range of services, from health care to educational support to job training, all in a single location.

Comprised of three organizations — Mercy Center, the Fiver Children's Foundation, and the Qualitas of Life Foundation —as well as Tanya Valle, a mindfulness practitioner, Familia Adelante helps low-income families access services based on goals they set with the help of a coach. Each of the three agencies focuses on its area of expertise, and together they meet regularly to evaluate families' progress. In the situation in which the Reyes family found itself, Familia Adelante was able to help the Reyeses prioritize their short-term needs, establish a plan to get out of debt, and, because the organization has access to a full range of basic-need services, keep their home and maintain family stability.

Unfortunately, for many families and service providers, the reality is much different. Rather than collaborating, many nonprofits compete fiercely with other nonprofits for resources. With a limited amount of charitable dollars available, nonprofits tend to view each other as competitors rather than as allies working toward a common goal. It's a model that hurts nonprofits — and the people they are trying to serve.

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Donor Dollars Into Dividends: The Past, Present, and Future of Nonprofits Aiding the Private Sector

June 20, 2019

TreeForkIllustrationBleeding plant-based burgers were last month’s biggest financial news. Beyond Meat had the most successful initial public offering of any startup since the 2008 crash, and Impossible Foods raised $300 million in venture capital. Both burgers can hold their own in the meat aisle or a fast food restaurant.

Clearly, there's a lot of money to be made by making meat without animals. So why are nonprofits spending donor dollars to support the industry?

It's no secret that nonprofits have a strained relationship with the private sector. All too often, it falls on us to clean up the messes businesses make — or to stop them from making those same messes again.

But when there's an urgent need for new entrants to transform an industry, nonprofits can play a pivotal role in making that transition happen — and happen fast.

Consider the industry producing antiretroviral drugs (ARV) for HIV. When the lifesaving treatment was first invented, it was produced in small quantities and sold for $10,000 to $15,000 a year. Most patients, especially those in AIDS-ravaged Africa, literally couldn't afford to survive.

To ensure that everyone could access treatment, activists knew they would need a pharmaceutical industry that could make up for low margins by selling in huge volumes. They encouraged new entrants, pressured incumbent companies, brokered purchase agreements, and funded scientific research. Prices dropped a hundredfold in less than a decade.

Today, incumbent energy producers are making fat profits by pushing us to the brink of climate disaster. Producing clean, renewable energy will be an uphill battle as long as existing infrastructure, government policies, and economies of scale make fossil fuels cheap and convenient.

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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.

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