424 posts categorized "Nonprofits"

Weekend Link Roundup (October 20-21, 2018)

October 21, 2018

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

Agricultural

The challenges facing the world's food systems are great and becoming greater. To avoid disaster, food producers, politicians, and consumers must pursue a new vision that "account[s] for human health and nutrition, environmental impact, and the hundreds of millions of jobs that depend on farming," writes Roy Steiner, managing director, food, at the Rockefeller Foundation. That will require at least four major transformations: a shift to more "flexitarian" diets; dramatic reductions in food loss and waste; stepped-up efforts to build and conserve soils; and applying our best technologies to the most underserved regions and populations.

Civil Society

"During much of the last century, philanthropic foundations based in the United States exported American ideals about democracy, market economies, and civil society. That mission was made possible by ideological support from and alignment with the U.S. government, which, in turn, imbued foundations with prestige and influence as they operated around the world," writes Ford Foundation president Darren Walker in Foreign Affairs. But, adds Walker,

American philanthropies such as the Ford Foundation can no longer count on such support. Nor can they be sure that the goals of increased equality, the advancement of human rights, and the promotion of democracy will find backing in Washington.
As U.S. leadership of the global order falters, American foundations must blaze a new path. The first step will be recognizing difficult truths about their history. The old order they helped forge was successful in many ways but also suffered from fundamental flaws, including the fact that it often privileged the ideas and institutions in prosperous Western countries and failed to foster equitable growth and stability in poorer countries. For all the good that American philanthropies have done, they have also helped perpetuate a system that produces far too much inequality. Their task today is to contribute to the construction of a new, improved order, one that is more just and sustainable than its predecessor....

In a time when society seems to be coming apart at the seams, libraries may just be "the last safe, free, truly public space where people from all walks of life may encounter each other.” In Quartz, Jenny Anderson looks at how libraries are reinventing themselves for the twenty-first century.

Climate Change

"I do not expect every foundation, corporation, and nonprofit to make climate change its top priority; there are many urgent issues that demand attention," writes Packard Foundation president Carol Larson on the foundation's website. "But if you care about children, if you care about health, or you care about economic development, you have to care about climate change. There is a role for every organization to play, and an urgent need for every organization to seize the opportunities in front of it...."

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Nonprofit Boards and Risk

October 11, 2018

RiskWhile most nonprofits know they need to be forward thinking in order to create change, many are (understandably) focused on the day-to-day delivery of programs and services and don't know how to proceed. It's a challenge to strategize about future plans or consider taking on new activities and programs with broader impact when resources are limited and the organization's staff and leadership already have their hands full. Which is why it is especially important for nonprofit boards to weigh and be willing to recommend taking calculated risks. Is yours?

What follows are some commonsense tips for nonprofit board members who are ready to help take their nonprofits to the next level.

Think data. A good strategic planning process should focus resources on the programs likely to have the greatest impact on the groups served by an organization, and data needs to be at the heart of that process. Every program (as well as every internal department) generates data. Making time to identify trends and patterns in that data in order to be more strategic and identify risk is the first step on the road to creating impact.

Assess current risks. In Green Hasson Janks' most recent nonprofit report, Board Governance: The Path to Nonprofit Success, one of the firm's principals, Mark Kawauchi, notes that "a significant percentage of nonprofits are not incorporating and addressing risks in their strategic plans." Mark goes on to suggest that nonprofits with sufficient resources should conduct a comprehensive risk management assessment that incorporates both the organization's operations and its programs.

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The Importance of Listening for and Sharing Stories

October 10, 2018

Share_your_story­When leaders of today's most vibrant social movements gather in a ballroom for a day to share advice and lessons learned, we ought to listen — and not just because as leaders of nonprofits competing for people's attention, dollars, and time, we should welcome opportunities to learn as much as we can about how best to apply our efforts to bring about change.

In September, leaders from the Ad Council, the Born This Way Foundation, Young Invincibles, the Transgender Law Center, the MBK Alliance, the National Geographic Society, and other organizations and causes gathered in Washington, D.C., at the Influence Nation Summit to talk about the tactics they've used in the past to move large numbers of people to take action.

Running through their remarks were two critical points that many nonprofits struggle to operationalize: 1) Listening is more important than talking; and 2) Sharing authentic stories with a compelling message is at the heart of every successful movement.

Listening is more important than talking

If you're a professional fundraiser, you've heard the admonition to focus on your donors and establish them as the "hero" of the narratives you share with supporters and stakeholders. You've been told to use "you" in your messaging instead of "we," to evoke donors' empathy by appealing to their emotions, and to assure them that whatever your organization has accomplished is due to their generosity and passion for the cause.

Imogen Napper, one of the speakers at the Influence Nation Summit, is a marine biologist and a National Geographic Sky Ocean Rescue Scholar who is focused on ridding the oceans of plastic, including plastic fibers found in clothing. Without listening to the online conversation around the topic, however, you might think Napper supports a ban on synthetic fibers in apparel. Not so. As she told attendees at the summit, "Plastic is a fantastic material as it is so versatile....Seventy percent of clothes are made of plastic. Therefore, it would be difficult and often expensive to completely avoid it." What people want instead, she said, is access to information that allows them to make informed decisions about the clothing they buy.

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Weekend Link Roundup (October 6-7, 2018)

October 07, 2018

0930-bks-kabaservice-superJumboA weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Advocacy

"[W]e are in a season when the electorate has the obligation to choose our future," writes Richard Marker on his Wise Philanthropy blog. "And the philanthropy world has an obligation to weigh in on many of these matters. We have everything at stake in re-asserting a stable and civil society, eliminating poverty, rejecting racism and xenophobia, and urging systemic equity. The challenge for us is to not be intimidated by those who would limit our outspokenness under the guise of accusing us of partisanship. Of course, there are legal limitations to what we can lobby for and what lobbying we can support. But our rights, I would say even our obligations as funders, to advocate for constitutional rights, civil society, and equity for all are virtually unlimited."

Children/Youth

On the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health blog, Martha Davis, a senior program officer at the foundation, shares six recommendations for communities that are developing collaborative, place-based approaches aimed at ensuring that all children have a solid foundation of safety.

In a Q&A on the Case Foundation blog, Justin Cunningham, the millennial co-founder of Social Works, discusses what he and his colleagues are doing to empower youth in Chicago.

Giving

The team at GiveWell has made a number of changes to the organization's cost-effectiveness model.

Grantmaking

In a post on the GrantCraft blog, Jen Bokoff, director of stakeholder engagement, announces the release of the latest GrantCraft guide, Deciding Together: Shifting Power and Resources through Participatory Grantmaking, which was created in partnership with researcher/writer extraordinaire Cynthia Gibson.

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How to Recruit, Engage, and Retain Millennial Board Members

October 03, 2018

Millenials_on_boardHere's a well-documented fact: in the nonprofit sector, most boards are lacking in diversity, especially when it comes to people of color and women. (We wrote about the former, and how to change it, a couple of months ago.) We also know that more diversity on a board tends to bring positive, lasting results to the organizations governed by those boards. There's another population that is often overlooked for board service, however, one that is well positioned to bring new and different perspectives to nonprofit board deliberations. I'm talking about millennials.

According to BoardSource, 57 percent of nonprofit board members are over the age of 50, while only 17 percent are under 40 (about the age of the oldest millennial). While work experience and years of service often translate to effective board service, so, too, can the fresh perspective and ground-level experience that younger professionals often possess. In our work at Community Resource Exchange, we see the value that young people bring to nonprofit boards. For example, one of our clients recently was looking to re-engage and strengthen its board, and it did so by recruiting a group of twenty- and thirty-something program participants to join the board. In no time, the new board members were able to provide their (significantly older) colleagues with first-hand knowledge of the organization's programs and share their deep understanding of social media and cultural trends. In this and many other ways, the fresh perspective of the younger board members reinvigorated the older board members and energized them to engage with new ideas, emerging technologies, and the increasingly important role of social networks.

This is precisely the kind of value-add nonprofits should seek out in board members. All too often, though, boards are seen solely as a source of funding for the nonprofits they serve. The proper role of a board of directors is much more than that. Boards are tasked with setting the direction of the organization, ensuring that it has adequate resources, and providing fiduciary oversight. They support the strategic direction of the organization by helping to set that strategy, making connections to ensure its successful implementation, and monitoring activities, outcomes, and goals. When we move beyond the narrow conception of board service as fundraising and see it for the important governance role it is, then the value of having millennials on a board is even easier to see. By introducing younger perspectives and experiences into board deliberations, governance tends to become more creative, flexible, and plugged into our rapidly changing world. And who wouldn't want that? Ready to get started? Read on!

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Philanthropy and Cyber-Security  

October 01, 2018

CyberSecurity-796x532With more than a trillion dollars flowing last year from donors and government agencies to grantees in the United States alone, online thieves have discovered fertile hunting ground. In the three years since hackers stole usernames, passwords, IP addresses, and other account data from some 700,000 nonprofits that used the Urban Institute’s online tax filing system, cyberattacks have only gotten more clever, and the stakes higher.

To thwart hackers, organizations in the philanthropy space need to focus on both common security practices and their special vulnerabilities, from the bottom to the top of the organization.

Foundations and nonprofits have the same security concerns as any business, but they also have particular needs based on their mission-driven orientation compared to, say, a retailer or bank. "You often have part-time or volunteer employees, and they like to be helpful," says Mark Walker, knowledge management and technology officer at the Jessie Ball duPont Fund. "And many philanthropic workers wear multiple hats, which means the person responsible for watching over security may not have time to be as thorough as they'd like."

Philanthropy often involves large transfers of money between organizations or people who don't interact daily. That gives hackers an opportunity to trick inexperienced employees who are unfamiliar with how cyber-crooks operate. "They'll contact you with a sense of urgency to act," says John Mohr, chief information officer at the MacArthur Foundation. "If the president of your foundation asks you to wire money quickly, you might not stop to wonder if it's really her."

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Weekend Link Roundup (September 29-30, 2018)

September 30, 2018

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

Corporate Social Responsibility

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

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

Economy

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

Health

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

International Affairs/Development

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

Nonprofits

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

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

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

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Weekend Link Roundup (September 22-23, 2018)

September 23, 2018

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

Communications/Marketing

"Anyone with a desire to manipulate opinions...knows that our digital dependencies make it easier than ever to do so through supposedly trustworthy institutions," writes Lucy Bernholz on her Philanthropy 2173 blog. What does that mean for nonprofits? "If your communications strategy still assumes that 'hey, they'll trust us — we're a nonprofit' or 'hey, this is what the data say,' " then it's time for your organization to "reconsider both what you say, how you say it, how you protect what you say, and your expectations and responses to how what you say gets heard and gets used."

Democracy/Public Affairs

In a new post on its website, the Community Foundation Boulder County looks at the work of Common Cause to ensure an accurate, representative census count in 2020.

On the Glasspockets blog, Janet Camarena, director of transparency initiatives at Foundation Center, chats with Jennifer Humke, senior program officer for journalism and media at the John D. and Catherine T.  MacArthur Foundation, about how foundation support for participatory media can strengthen American democracy.

Disaster Relief

Roughly 70 percent of the money and resources donated after a disaster like Herricane Florence goes to immediate response efforts, but recovery from such a disaster requires long-term investment. (Just as the folks in Puerto Rico.) Is there a better way to do disaster relief? asks Eillie Anzilotti in Fast Company. And while you're at it, check out our Hurricane Florence dashboard, which is tracking the private institutional response to the storm.

International Affairs/Development

The latest edition of the Commitment to Development Index, which ranks twenty-seven of the world's richest countries by how well their policies help improve lives in the developing world, has Sweden edging out Denmark (which led the index last year) as the top performer. The Center for Global Development has the details

In his latest, Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther piggybacks on ongoing assessments of a Catholic Relief Services direct-cash-transfer program in Rwanda to remind people that scale does not always equal impact.

In advance of this year's meeting of the UN General Assembly, the Rockefeller Foundation is asking folks to weigh in on what they think is the most solvable of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

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What's New at Foundation Center Update (September)

September 22, 2018

FC_logoHurricane season is upon us, and we'll be regularly sharing data here on PND with you about where funding for rebuilding is going. Grace Sato from our knowledge services team will also be speaking about disaster funding along with special guests from philanthropy on Tony Martignetti's radio show later this month. We've been working on sharing data and knowledge about other timely topics as well:

Projects Launched

  • We released a new report, The State of Global Giving by U.S. Foundations: 2011-2015. The report is the latest in a decades-long collaboration between Foundation Center and the Council on Foundations focused on analyzing trends in international grantmaking by U.S. foundations and is the tenth jointly published report since the collaboration began in 1997. In addition to a detailed look at trends by issue area, geographic region, population group, and donor strategy, the analysis also relates these trends to key events and developments, including the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals campaign, the emergence of Ebola in West Africa, repeal of the global gag rule, and the increasing legal restrictions faced by civil society organizations in countries around the world. Check out features in FastCompany and Alliance magazine, and this Slate Money podcast!)
  • Just in time for the midterms, our Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy site has a new look, making it easier to navigate from the funding tool to the IssueLab research collection to a collection of infographics. Check it out at foundationcenter.org.
  • It's Nonprofit Radio Month! The third episode of Nonprofit Radio Month at Foundation Center aired September 21 and was focused on building relationships with family foundations. The episode features Tony Martignetti in conversation with our most popular fundraising expert, Senior Social Sector Librarian Susan Shiroma; Stuart Post, executive director of the Meringoff Family Foundation; and a Meringoff Foundation grantee, Read Alliance executive director Danielle Guindo. Check it out, and join us every Friday in September from 1:00-2:00 pm ET for more Nonprofit Radio.
  • Foundation Center Northeast (NY) will host Arts Month in October, featuring a variety of panels, programs, and networking opportunities for artists and arts organizations.

Content Published

In the News

What We're Excited About

  • Our president, Brad Smith, was named to the 2018 NPT Power & Influence Top 50.
  • CF Insights has launched a new publication on CEO professional development.
  • Foundation Center has a robust portfolio of custom training for organizations (and/or grantees of foundations). Now is the time to invest in building the capacity of your staff/grantees. Email us at fctraining@foundationcenter.org for more info.
  • On September 25, in partnership with GlobalGiving and GuideStar, Foundation Center will launch BRIDGE (Basic Registry of Identified Global Entities) information as open data, making it easier to identify and share information on social sector entities around the world.

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Our staff will be attending these upcoming events:

Services Spotlight

  • 158,719 new grants added to Foundation Maps in August, of which 17,063 grants were made to 2,059 organizations outside the U.S.
  • Update Central is back in Foundation Directory Online Professional! Register for monthly alerts to ensure you're up-to-date on grantmaker leadership changes and new foundations.
  • New data-sharing partners: Bennelong Foundation; Buhl Regional Health Foundation; Community Foundation for Monterey County; Connecticut Health Foundation, Inc.; English Family Foundation; LA84 Foundation; Light a Single Candle Foundation; Perpetual Trustees; SumOfUs; Woodward Hines Education Foundation; and Wyoming Community Foundation. Tell your story through data so we can communicate philanthropy's contribution to making a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.
  • Eighteen new organizations have joined our Funding Information Network in 2018, including the Puerto Rico Science Technology and Research Trust, First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania, and the Roswell Public Library in Georgia.

Data Spotlight

  • As the country gears up for the midterms, we're looking at who's funding U.S. democracy. Did you know that more than 3,000 funders have made grants totaling $1.7 billion in support of civic participation? Learn more at foundationcenter.org.
  • Funders have granted nearly $400,000 in 2018 to organizations working in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda. Learn more about funding for this region at equal-footing.org.
  • We completed custom data searches for the Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership and the Executives’ Alliance for Boys and Men of Color.

If you found this update helpful, feel free to share it or shoot us an email. (And I'm curious: Did you read through to the end? If you did, tweet your favorite Foundation Center resource to @fdncenter with the hashtag #FCLove and you’ll be entered to win some swag!) I'll be back next month with another update.

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center.

Congress Introduces Bill to Revolutionize Philanthropy

August 27, 2018

When Americans picture a "philanthropist," they typically imagine a very wealthy individual — someone who gives billions of dollars away or establishes their own foundation.

Unfortunately, our tax code reinforces this stereotype by providing only the wealthiest Americans with tax benefits for giving back. Only taxpayers who itemize their deductions — those typically in the highest tax brackets — can lower their income taxes by giving to charity. Currently, about 30 percent of taxpayers fall into this category, but with the recent tax reform this number could drop to as low as 5 percent.

That would leave 95 percent of Americans who are denied the opportunity to lower their taxes by giving to charity. A bipartisan group of U.S. representatives has set out to prevent that.

FGA_image_0

On July 26, 2018, Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN) introduced a bill along with five co-sponsors that would help redefine the way America gives back by empowering a new class of Everyday Philanthropist.

The Everyday Philanthropist Act (H.R. 6616) seeks to empower working Americans to give back through a Flexible Giving Account (FGA). An FGA is a pre-tax payroll deduction for employee giving. Non-itemizers and itemizers alike would be able to set up an FGA through their employer, set aside a portion of their paycheck pre-tax to be donated to the charity of their choice, and immediately see their taxable income reduced. The employer would benefit as well from a reduction in its payroll taxes.

By empowering millions more Americans to give back, the legislation would dramatically increase charitable giving in the U.S. But the Everyday Philanthropist Act offers more than that.

The legislation represents a chance to initiate a major shift in the way America gives back. The FGA would encourage a culture of shared responsibility in the workplace, one in which employers assume a more impactful role in empowering their employees and the workplace is transformed into a community where employees at every income level feel inspired to give and engage.

With an FGA, tax-deductible giving would no longer be a privilege reserved for a select few. Instead, it would be an opportunity, attainable by all working Americans, to come together and create a positive impact in the communities they care about.

As a champion of the Everyday Philanthropist Act, The Greater Give will continue to work with members of Congress to encourage them to join Representative Paulsen in supporting this legislation and the millions of charities, businesses, and Americans who would benefit from it. The legislation has already garnered public support from many in the charitable sector, including Community Health Charities, America's Charities, and the Wisconsin Philanthropy Network.

To learn more about the Everyday Philanthropist Act and what you can do to support it, visit thegreatergive.org or follow The Greater Give on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Headshot_dan_rashke2_for_philantopicDan Rashke is the Founder of The Greater Give, a 501(c)(6) formed to increase charitable giving by cultivating a movement of shared responsibility between employers and their employees. Rashke also is the CEO of TASC, a third-party benefits administrator based in Madison, Wisconsin.

What's New at Foundation Center Update (August)

August 21, 2018

Fc_logo_stackedAs teachers prepare their course outlines and program leaders pause to reflect on insights from the first two quarters, we also have been getting ready for an exciting back half of our year. And, as you'll see below, our Annual Report has been released, which offers our team a great reminder of what our collective work looks like. Here's our July roundup:

Projects Launched

  • Our 2017 Annual Report is now available! This was a personal labor of love, so do give it a look to learn how we're strengthening the social sector inside/out. We highlight work we did in sharing knowledge, strengthening the global philanthropic sector, servicing the needs of community foundations, and much more. You can even take a look "under the hood" of our staff here at Foundation Center in our highlight reel.
  • Thanks to generous funding from Borealis Philanthropy's Racial Equity in Philanthropy Fund, we recently launched a new monthly webinar series to further a variety of conversations on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the social sector. This specific webinar series is free and open to the public. Webinar recordings can be found here and upcoming webinars can be found here.

Content Published

In the News

What We're Excited About

  • Foundation Center and the Council on Foundations launched a report with trends about US foundations working globally on August 14. (More to come in next month's update!) Watch this free webinar recording to learn more about how U.S. foundations are engaging globally and what these trends mean for our sector!
  • Foundation Center West (in San Francisco) will host an interactive live discussion with unicorn professionals (foundation and nonprofit leaders), in conversation with two of Unicorns Unite's authors — Jane Leu and Jessamyn Shams-Lau. This event will be livestreamed.
  • What might our communities look like if we didn't have to struggle for justice? What does liberation/freedom look like for our communities? Foundation Center South (in Atlanta) is creating space for the visualization of communities on the other side of oppression. Join our community conversation on August 29 to identify the role of art and artists in the reflection of the times as well as its ability to point to a future that dares to see the world differently than now.
  • We'll be launching a new GrantCraft guide on participatory grantmaking next month! Check out these videos from funders already engaged in the practice answering commonly asked questions about shifting the power in decision-making.
  • The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation has awarded Foundation Center an 18-month grant to develop and launch a nonprofit startup assessment tool. Scheduled for a formal unveiling in Q2 of 2019, this diagnostic tool will help individuals assess their readiness, capacity, and capability for starting a nonprofit prior to taking the leap.

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Our staff will be attending these upcoming events:

Services Spotlight

  • 212,203 new grants added to Foundation Maps in July, of which 20,162 grants were made to 3,122 organizations outside the U.S.
  • Did you know that in 2017, we reached a record of 9.5 million grants coded in Foundation Directory Online? Check out 2017 By the Numbers to learn more about what Foundation Center was up to last year!
  • Earlier this summer, we posted a survey to our GrantSpace community to gather feedback on how the re-launch of our website was received. Nearly 600 people responded. When asked about the greatest challenge they face, respondents said "finding grants for my nonprofit" (42 percent), "diversifying my funding sources" (15 percent), and "writing compelling proposals and fundraising pitches" (15 percent).
  • New data sharing partners: Australian Communities Foundation; Jack Brockhoff Foundation; Tim Fairfax Family Foundation; Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal; John Villiers Trust; Myer Foundation; NAB Foundation; Grace S. and W. Linton Nelson Foundation; Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation; James & Diana Ramsay Foundation; The Henry and Ruth Blaustein Rosenberg Foundation, Inc.; Trustee for the Bryan Foundation; and Wyatt Benevolent Institution (AKA Wyatt Trust). Tell your story through data so we can communicate philanthropy's contribution to making a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.

Data Spotlight

  • Total reported gifts received by the largest 100 community foundations have reached a new high for the third year in a row. Learn more at columbussurvey.cfinsights.org.
  • Recent research shows only 5 percent of foundation funding went to supporting the financial sustainability of civil society organizations in 6 researched countries.

If you found this update helpful, feel free to share it or shoot us an email! (And, I'm curious: did you read through to the end? If you did, tweet your favorite Foundation Center resource to @fdncenter with the hashtag #FCLove and you'll be entered to win some swag!) I'll be back next month with another update.

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center.

Small Charities Are Being Left Behind by Big Data for Social Good Initiatives

August 10, 2018

Big-Data-webData has the potential to help nonprofit organizations work at a scale larger than ever before and to solve problems more efficiently and effectively. Data can help organizations improve their monitoring and evaluation, determine where the biggest problems lie and where the most value can be added, influence policy through evidence, increase their reach, and enhance their fundraising capabilities.

But big data analytics and artificial intelligence have mainly been developed for and by the private sector. The good news is that third sector organizations increasingly are using data for social good, from predicting child welfare needs and monitoring climate change to working toward new cancer treatments.

Large nonprofits can use their brand power to leverage data-sharing partnerships with private companies, pay for expensive data-analytics services, or hire in-house data scientists. But for smaller charities, working with new data methods and analytics requires capacity, funding, and partnerships they typically don't have and can't easily secure.

That was underscored by Lloyd's Bank UK Digital Business Index 2016, which found that almost half of UK charities lack basic digital skills and that 80 percent are not investing in digital technology at all, let alone in big data. It's not difficult to see why: if comes down to a choice between hiring a program officer or a data officer, or between acquiring data analytics capabilities and additional project funding, most charities will choose to spend their limited resources in ways most likely to impact their constituents and communities.

Here at the Social Innovation Exchange (SIX), we recently conducted a global scan highlighting how data is being used in different ways for social good, emerging challenges in the field, and how philanthropy can be and is engaged in this work.

For starters, philanthropy can help level the playing field by addressing some of the biggest obstacles facing small charities in using data for good, including often-prohibitive costs, a lack of human capital, insufficient leverage to form data philanthropy partnerships, and a difficult regulatory environment.

But there is hope.

Below, we highlight four examples of how philanthropy is supporting smaller charities to better engage in this work:

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For Your Consideration: Your First Job Should Be a Nonprofit Job

August 03, 2018

Top_chance_change_GettyImageSIf you asked me my freshman year of college where I thought I would be in fifteen years — or even where I would be after graduation — I would not have said "working in the nonprofit sector." I had earned a B.A. in philosophy, politics and law from Binghamton University in upstate New York, and I had every intention of attending law school. But life often takes you in surprising directions, and when a job opened up at The Blue Card, a national nonprofit that provides resources and financial assistance to struggling Holocaust survivors, I knew it was something I needed to do.

I started at the organization in 2009 as a program coordinator, became a program director the following year, and in 2013 took on the leadership role of executive director. My grandparents had fled Nazi persecution, so I had a personal connection to the organization's work. And by making it possible for me to work toward a mission I believe in, the job has given me back as much — and more — as I've put into it.

So to those college grads who are heading out into the world, allow me this piece of advice: think about taking a nonprofit job as your first job.

I know, it's not the craziest idea you've ever heard. Research from Johns Hopkins University shows that, collectively, nonprofits are the nation's third largest employer, behind only the retail and manufacturing sectors. And while I could go on and on about why the nonprofit sector is a wonderful place to begin your career, I'll give you my elevator pitch.

There's plenty of room to grow. The best thing about working at a nonprofit organization is the relative lack of bureaucracy. In fact, most nonprofits are places where you can turn any role into a "stretch role" — that is, a place where you can seek out and perform tasks that fall outside your official job responsibilities. It's not that most nonprofit managers will let you take ownership of a project; in many cases, you'll be expected to. Take it from me, a crash course in grantwriting, budget planning, or government relations can put you on the fast track to a job with even more responsibility.

Nonprofits also provide lots of opportunities for moving around. Not loving the job you were hired to fill? Although you may not be paid as well as your peers in the for-profit sector, you're likely to find it a lot easier to switch to a different department or try something completely different.

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Every Person Counts: Why Philanthropy Must Help Save the Census

July 31, 2018

2020_censusIn philanthropic circles, when we talk about protecting democratic institutions and values we often focus on expanding voting rights, improving representation, and connecting impoverished communities with the resources they need. However, all these issues — and many others — are tied to another fundamental pillar of American democracy: the decennial census.

Every decade since 1790, the government has counted the American population, as mandated by the Constitution. While it took the Fourteenth Amendment to ensure that all people were counted equally, the census has nonetheless performed an essential role in maintaining and improving our democracy. Today, our country uses census data to apportion congressional representation; to draw federal, state, and local legislative districts; and to enforce civil rights laws. Businesses use census data to decide where to open, offer jobs, and provide goods and services. The census helps cities and states identify locations for large infrastructure projects like schools, senior centers, public transportation, hospitals, and police services. It determines how roughly $700 billion in federal funds in 2015 were distributed and allocated to programs such as Medicaid, Head Start, and Section 8 housing.

If the 2020 census yields inaccurate data, programs like these — and the people who depend on them — will be in serious jeopardy. Projects may be deprived of crucial funding and entire communities denied fair representation in government. In other words, the consequences of a poorly conducted census will ripple through the public and private sectors, and through civil society, for at least the next ten years.

Unfortunately, there are mounting challenges to achieving a fair, accurate, and complete census in 2020.

The Census Bureau notes that certain populations — people of color, young children, and rural households among them — have been undercounted historically. On top of that, Census Bureau researchin 2017 revealed that the current political climate could further discourage census participation. According to the bureau's own Center for Survey Management, concerns about data sharing and privacy are growing, "particularly among immigrants or those who live with immigrants," which in turn could have a "disproportionate impact on hard-to-count populations."

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[Review] How Change Happens: Why Some Social Movements Succeed While Others Don't

July 30, 2018

Social movements are nothing new. People always seem to be marching for — or against — something. Part of this is due to the fact that social movements often take decades to achieve the change they seek, while many never get there.

Book_how_change_happens_3DWhile there is no simple recipe for social movement success, Leslie Crutchfield, executive director of the Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI) at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, and her research team have identified a number of patterns that distinguish successful social movements from those that didn't succeed and shares them in her latest book, How Change Happens: Why Some Social Movements Succeed While Others Don't. The six she identifies are a focus on the grassroots; a recognition of the importance of state and local efforts; a commitment to changing norms and attitudes as well as policy; a willingness to reckon with adversarial allies; acceptance of the fact that business is not always the enemy and often can be a key ally; and being "leaderfull."

Crutchfield argues that successful social change leaders invariably recognize the importance of advocating for a shift in social norms, not just policy reforms, and that they never prioritize one over the other. And to support her contention, she shares some key insights from successful change leaders. In the movement for marriage equality in the United States, for example, LGBT advocates used polling research to reframe the focus of the campaign's messaging from "rights" to "love" and "commitment," which in turn led to the dissemination of now-familiar slogans such as "Love is Love" and, eventually, a change in marriage laws.

To further illustrate how change happens, Crutchfield highlights a number of instances where a movement prevailed over a determined counter-movement that strayed from one or more of the patterns. Most telling, perhaps, is the success the National Rifle Association has had "in defending and expanding the gun rights of gun owners in the United States" through a relentless focus on grassroots organizing. Indeed, "[t]he gun rights movement's grassroots army is the reason why, despite the waves of angry anti-gun protests, heartbreaking vigils, and pleading calls for reform that erupt after each tragic mass shooting…gun violence prevention groups still largely lose ground." Over the years, NRA leaders have been laser-focused in growing and emboldening their grassroots base through community events such as barbecues and town hall meetings. In contrast, gun safety advocates have been more oriented "toward elite politics at the national level" and in "push[ing] a comprehensive gun control bill through Congress." The dichotomous results of the two approaches speak for themselves and serve as additional support for Crutchfield's contention that the single most important decision movement leaders have to make is whether "to let their grassroots fade to brown or...turn [them] gold."

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