The Ice Bucket Challenge Multiplier: Driving Impactful Science Through Effective Research Funding Practices

August 23, 2019

ALSA_Cedar-Sinai Lab techsIn 2014, millions of people uploaded videos of themselves pouring ice water over their heads to raise awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). ALS is a disease where motor neurons, the cells that control muscles, die. As those cells die, people lose their ability to walk, speak, move, and breathe. There is no cure; most people die within five years of diagnosis.

The Ice Bucket Challenge was a playful way to fight a horrific disease orchestrated by charismatic leaders who themselves have ALS — Pat Quinn and Pete Frates. And it worked. More than 17 million people posted videos to Facebook, raising over $200 million around the world. The ALS Association received $115 million, which was many times more than our annual operating budget.

The Ice Bucket Challenge was a "lightning strikes" moment with a lasting legacy. And as we've learned over the past five years, the challenge — and the funds it raised — serve as an important case study for research funding in general. With help from RTI International, an independent nonprofit research institute, we evaluated the impact of Ice Bucket Challenge spending on our own research program and have identified research funding practices that have proven effective.

First, the funds raised by the challenge helped support the ALS research infrastructure, enabling us to better coordinate clinical trials across the nation, share data and specimens with scientists at no charge, and identify new genes (five to date) that cause ALS. In 2014, we were able to support 42 principal investigators, and by the end of 2018 that support had grown five-fold, to 237 principal investigators. In addition, the number of researchers collaborating on ALS-related scientific papers has nearly doubled.

Supporting collaboration in all its forms — whether on studies, helping each other stay focused and productive, and unfettered sharing of resources and ideas — is imperative. The ALS research community is getting too big to rely on informal information exchange as the sole means of preventing wasteful duplication of effort. As our space grows in complexity, we need to ensure that we do not create silos or bottlenecks in the flow of resources and ideas. That means more collaboration, of the kind we have supported with Ice Bucket Challenge funds, is needed if we want to see more researchers working urgently and efficiently toward a cure for ALS.

Collaboration in the ALS space has already borne fruit. Some of the recent discoveries in ALS research simply would not have been possible without the infrastructure and collaboration we've supported. We were able, for example, to fund multiple gene studies and databanks that pooled information and talent. More than 250 scientists around the world analyzed over 100,000 samples to identify a new genetic link to ALS, the KIF5A gene. That work is critical, as each new gene discovery is a new opportunity to develop ALS treatments.

Collaboration also creates an imperative for transparency and accountability. When ALS charities are transparent about what they fund, scientists and other funders can better plan ahead. We post our funded awards here, and we are working on approaches to make it easier to track our funding and impact. We've also adopted open science practices that encourage aggressive sharing of work; things like sharing scientific papers with colleagues at no cost, publishing preprints (complete public drafts of scientific papers), and publicly pre-registering scientific protocols before research commences are key steps to moving us all forward.

Finally, RTI found our Ice Bucket Challenge spending served as an important "multiplier" of funding from other sources: as a direct result of the $40 million in Ice Bucket research funding we awarded, ALS scientists reported receiving an additional $122 million in follow-on grants from other funders, including the federal government.

That multiplier, both in terms of dollars spent on ALS and collaboration by scientists working on ALS, leads to faster research and additional discovery, which in turn creates greater impact. Looking ahead, we expect to see an increase in the number of drugs tested in clinic, an acceleration in the speed of those trials, and for these trials to result in new treatments. We will accept nothing less, as people who are living with ALS have no time to spare.  

Neil-Thakur-headshotThe Ice Bucket Challenge was a transformative gift from the world to the ALS community. It's a phenomenon with staying power that has created an important blueprint for research funding, one in which sharing and collaboration increase the pace of discovery and make all the difference in the world. It's up to us, the scientists and funders who fight ALS, to embrace that legacy and move even faster.

Neil Thakur, PhD, is executive vice president, mission strategy, the ALS Association.  

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:

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Pediatricians Say Racism Is Devastating to Black Children — Let's Get to the Root Cause

August 19, 2019

Stop_racismIt's amazing how often the news media give big play to an academic report that tells us something black mothers already knew. Another example of the truism that nothing is considered real until white people discover or acknowledge it. Does that seem harsh? Consider the splashy coverage given to a recent policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics titled The Impact of Racism on Child and Adolescent Health (16 pages, PDF).

AAP's statement warns that the health dangers posed to children by racism "have become acute" and that racism, including racism experienced by the mother, "can have devastating long-term effects on children's health." It's received plenty of favorable news coverage.

But with all due respect, every black mother in America has known this for as long as there have been black mothers in America. And we didn't need an academic statement to tell us. Every precious baby to whom we have given birth over the course of the last four hundred years has come into a world that profoundly devalues black life.

What may be new to us is the devastating detail contained in the report: "The stress generated by experiences of racism may start through maternal exposures while in utero and continue after birth with the potential to create toxic stress. This transforms how the brain and body respond to stress, resulting in short- and long-term health impacts on achievement and mental and physical health. We see the manifestations of this stress as preterm births and low birth weights in newborns to subsequent development of heart disease, diabetes and depression as children become adults."

This should set off alarm bells across the black community, particularly among black mothers.

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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:

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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.

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Family Funders: Always Important in Rural Communities

August 14, 2019

Washington-rpa-report-1200x675The history of the United States is a history of wealth created in rural America: timber and wood products in the Northwest and Northeast; fossil fuels in Appalachia, the Southwest and Rocky Mountain region; textiles in the South. Related philanthropic funds have been created alongside these industries — often in the form of multi-generational family commitments to rural communities. With the renewed focus today on the challenges and opportunities confronting rural America, it’s a good time to take a look at how rural philanthropy fits into the philanthropic field as a whole, as well as at how the evolving field of rural philanthropy is helping to support more and better philanthropic investments in rural communities.

One narrative about rural philanthropy holds that rural America has received far fewer philanthropic dollars over the years on a proportional basis. This is true. The best data we have indicates that rural philanthropic investment comprises just 7 percent of  total private foundation grantmaking, while rural America accounts for 20 percent of the U.S. population — and 90 percent of the land! An equally compelling narrative, however, is that rural-serving foundations — often family-governed — are a strong and consistent factor in helping rural communities face the future with a sense of optimism. Over the years, family foundations like the Blandin Foundation in Minnesota, the Ford Family Foundation in Oregon, the LOR Foundation in Wyoming, the Orton Family Foundation in Vermont, and the T.L.L. Temple Foundation in Texas have made long-term commitments to rural community success.

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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."

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Building the Community We'd Like to See

August 08, 2019

Logo_BCYFPresident Trump recently made disparaging remarks about Baltimore that made headlines across the country. His comments stoked anger and outrage. He tarred Baltimore with a broad and reckless brush without offering even a token gesture of support from his administration.

This president has learned it is easy to throw stones. He hasn't learned how to pick up stones and build. Instead of tearing us down, Baltimore needs leaders at the state and federal levels who are committed to building.

Like many American cities, Baltimore struggles with the long-term consequences of disinvestment and segregation: aging infrastructure, dwindling resources, and too few opportunities for young people.

And so our city celebrated the creation of the historic Baltimore Children and Youth Fund as a beacon of hope and possibility, and as a commitment to the city's most important resource for the future: our young people.

BCYF was launched in 2015 by Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young, who was then the president of the Baltimore City Council. The fund was approved by voters in November 2016 with more than 80 percent support. The non-lapsing fund is supported through an annual set aside of property tax revenue.

Baltimore is only the third city in the nation to create such a fund, and it is the only fund of its kind that has included a racial equity and community participatory lens in grant selections. You will not find this sort of program anywhere in the country.

Why does this matter?

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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.

Black Wealth 2020 Adds HBCUs to Its Economic Empowerment Agenda

August 01, 2019

1515184852588The short-term economic impact of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) is $15 billion — rivaling that of corporations such as Bank of America and its more than 177,000 employees.
 
Yet according to the U. S. Department of Education, approximately 60 percent of all black college students have no expectation of a family financial contribution to their education. That's far lower than that for whites, for whom the number is approximately 30 percent. And it's approximately 48 percent for Latinos and 38 percent for Asians.
 
The economic impact of HBCUs, their struggle to stay afloat, and the dire financial disparities faced by HBCU students are the reasons that Black Wealth 2020, a catalyst for black economic equality, recently decided to add HBCUs as a forth leg to its three-pronged approach to growing black wealth (the others are black-owned businesses, black banks, and black homeownership).
 
"We've got to keep on pushing this agenda. And hooking up with HBCUs is a big way of doing that," said Michael Grant, former president of the National Bankers Association and a founder of Black Wealth 2020 in a meeting just before the principals voted unanimously to acknowledge HBCUs as being "central to strengthening the American economy."
 
"If we're serious about building black wealth," Grant added, "how can we not have a focus on our youth and the next generation?"
 
The expansion of the organization's vision was inspired, in part, by a presentation by Dr. Lezli Baskerville, president/CEO of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education and a principal of Black Wealth 2020.

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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.

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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.

Native Wisdom: A Review of Edgar Villanueva’s 'Decolonizing Wealth'

July 26, 2019

Cover_decolonizing_wealthIn his book, The Wretched of the Earth, published in 1961, Frantz Fanon noted what he considered to be the necessary conditions for the overthrow of colonialism: "To tell the truth, the proof of success lies in a whole social structure being changed from the bottom up." He added that "establishing a social movement for the decolonization of a person and of a people" was critical in disrupting the legacy of colonialism.

Almost sixty years later, Edgar Villanueva picks up on Fanon's call to action in his book Decolonizing Wealth. In the book, Villanueva places a spotlight on how colonialism has been perpetuated and stresses the importance of eliminating it from circles of wealth and, in particular, philanthropy, making it perhaps the most refreshing and insightful of the recent spate of books on foundations.

Villanueva is a rare combination: both a grantmaker and a member of the Lumbee Tribe, one of eight state-recognized Native American tribes in North Carolina. Drawing on Native American wisdom, he presents an eye-opening prescription for how foundations can dismantle the unequal power dynamic that historically has separated funders from the nonprofit organizations they support. Invoking the understanding common among indigenous people of medicine as "a way of achieving balance," he outlines what he terms "Seven Steps to Healing" — Grieve, Apologize, Listen, Relate, Represent, Invest, and Repair — with the caveat that the steps are less a checklist for funders to complete than an invitation to them to embark on a journey of "decolonization."

Differentiating himself from many of philanthropy's contemporary critics, Villanueva does readers a great service by focusing their attention on the grantmaking process. It's hardly a secret that change in the ways foundations operate is long overdue. What's so refreshing about Villanueva's approach is his application of a decolonization lens to that call to action, drawing on his own experience as a member of the Lumbee, the very first people on the North American continent to experience directly the arrival of and subsequent colonization by Europeans. In the process, he reminds readers that white supremacy on the North American continent has its origins in the 1400s and establishes the connection between that long, shameful legacy to current organized philanthropic practices. His blueprint for addressing that legacy offers a powerful set of arguments as to why those most impacted by the activities of foundations should be more involved in foundations' decision-making processes and why foundation officials have to go beyond their current practices and take steps to bridge the divide between grantmakers and grantees.

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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.

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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.

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Open Educational Resources: A Viable Alternative in a Changing Landscape

July 17, 2019

Online_texbooksIn May, two of the textbook market's biggest publishers, Cengage and McGraw-Hill Education, announced plans to merge. The merger will lead to the formation of a new company, McGraw Hill, with a market cap of $8.5 billion, rivaling publishing giant Pearson for dominance of the textbook market. Currently, a mere five publishers control more than 80 percent of that market, and the creation of McGraw Hill will further reduce competition.

With textbook prices rising year after year, a merger of this magnitude could spell disaster for students. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, textbook prices increased 88 percent between 2006 and 2016. Given the growing monopolization of the textbook market, alternative modes of access such as open educational resources are becoming an urgent priority for schools and students across the country.

Inclusive Access: Part of the Problem

As textbook publishers have seen sales of their print materials decline, they have turned to a new subscription-based model called "inclusive access," in which students pay a flat fee to access educational materials. Inclusive access has been likened to the streaming model increasingly popular in other media, including movies (Netflix) and music (Apple Music). The consumer is no longer purchasing a product but rather digital access to a product for a set period of time.

Publishers tout two major benefits of the inclusive-access model. The first is its ability to provide students with access to educational materials on the first day of class. In the traditional model, students often are forced — due to economic pressures — to wait until after they've received their financial aid packages to order physical textbooks. Inclusive access sidesteps this problem by incorporating the charge as a course fee via the school's billing system.

The second benefit, according to publishers, is that it delivers a "win" for affordability. Students pay a single per-semester fee ranging between $100 and $150 (depending on the publisher). In theory, the fee covers all educational materials used by the student. While the cost may seem reasonable, at least initially, that reasonableness rests on the assumption that instructors will only use materials available through the inclusive access system. If, however, an instructor decides to exercise her academic freedom and chooses a text outside a publisher's inclusive access catalog, an additional financial burden is placed on her students. One can easily imagine a scenario where two of a student's four classes are "inclusive access" and the other two are not, requiring the student to pay for additional texts on top of the per-semester inclusive access fee.

Cengage recently introduced Cengage Unlimited, a platform dedicated to inclusive access that charges $119.99 a semester for access to Cengage's digitized back-catalog. In 2018, McGraw-Hill Education significantly expanded the implementation of its own inclusive-access model. If past trends are any indicator, the price tag associated with both catalogs will increase dramatically post-merger.

The inclusive-access model raises not only pricing concerns but also concerns with respect to student data and privacy. As publishers gravitate toward the model, they are beginning to collect large amounts of data and analytics about students. Indeed, groups like the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) have raised concerns that this data collection — which can include a student's physical location, study habits, and data related to individual learning outcomes — poses privacy risks.

Open Educational Resources: A Viable Alternative?

There is a better alternative. Open educational resources (OER) are freely licensed materials that reside in the public domain and can include textbooks, full courses, tests, software, and more. As the materials are free to use and can be accessed at any time, there is no concern about students not having access on the first day of class. And because the materials can be accessed free of charge, OER delivers on the promise of affordability.

Even better, OER seems to improve student outcomes, with studies attributing a more than 12 percent increase in grades for Pell-eligible students who use open educational resources. When coupled with the fact that 17 percent of underrepresented minority students indicate that the cost of educational materials has forced them to withdraw from a course, OER is the right choice at the right time for today's college students.

With the recently announced merger between two of the largest textbook publishers in the country, concern is growing that prices on all materials provided by publishers, including inclusive access materials, will rise. But if policy makers, educational institutions, and faculty take steps to invest time and money into the creation of high-quality OER, the grip that publishers have on educational materials will weaken. In turn, a higher OER adoption rate will render mergers and the worry about potential price hikes increasingly irrelevant.

Philanthropy can play a role in supporting the expansion of OER and lowering the costs of textbooks. By investing in the field, foundations and other donors can help provide students with access to educational materials and spur their academic success. Foundations such as the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Lumina Foundation, and the Michelson 20MM Foundation are just a few examples of philanthropies that have funded the growth of OER in recent decades. The field is ripe with opportunity for additional leadership.

Headshot_ryan_Erickson_Kulas_philantopicRyan Erickson-Kulas is program officer of open educational resources at the Michelson 20MM Foundation.

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