1666 posts categorized "Philanthropy"

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.

'College Means Hope': A Path Forward for the Justice-Involved

July 12, 2019

Michelson_20MM_smart_justice"Former gang members make incredible students. The same skills that made me a good drug-dealer — resiliency, hustle, determination — I now use on campus to succeed in school," Jesse Fernandez tells the audience attending our panel discussion at this year's Gang Prevention and Intervention Conference in Long Beach.

I was on stage with Jesse as co-moderator for the first education-focused panel in the conference's history. (The Michelson 20MM Foundation convened the panel, tapping Jesse, Taffany Lim of California State University, Los Angeles, and Brittany Morton of Homeboy Industries to share their experiences.) Only 25, he has come a long way from the gang life he once knew. Today, he interns for Homeboy Industries, helping other students on their path to college, has finished an associate's program in Los Angeles, and has studied abroad at Oxford University. He may not look like a typical college student, but he speaks with the certainty and eloquence of someone who has been in school for years.

"College means hope. It means understanding your identity. For me, it was learning about my indigenous heritage, what it means to be Chicano, and how my community has been affected by violence and loss."

I first met Jesse over a lunch of chilaquiles (with salsa verde) and agua fresca (Angela's Green Potion is a "do not miss") at Homegirl Café, an L.A. staple since the 1990s. The café is run by former gang members and offers a safe space for people coming out of prison, providing many of them with their first job, creating a pipeline to sustainable employment. It's so popular that Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and other politicians on the national stage have stopped in for a bite while in town.

Jesse is one of thousands of justice-involved students attending college in California. The exact number is unknown, as public colleges in the state do not require the disclosure of a criminal history. Many students choose to self-identify in order to take advantage of resources specific to the justice-involved population. Others, says Morton, academic program coordinator for Homeboy, are still trying to overcome the perceived "stigma" of having been incarcerated.

"Imagine getting released from prison after twenty-plus years on the inside, and you've never used a computer before. Then you get to campus, and every form, assignment, and application is online. It's intimidating for people and there is a lot of shame connected to these experiences."

It's estimated that 53 percent of formerly incarcerated people have a high school diploma or GED, yet fewer than 5 percent have completed college (Vera Institute of Justice). Persistence in postsecondary education is fraught with challenges, especially for non-traditional students. The typical formerly incarcerated person has served more than two years in prison, has at least one minor child, and is over the age of 30. In the year after their release, they earn around $9,000 in wages. A year of community college in California costs around $10,000, putting postsecondary opportunities squarely out of reach for most people who have served time.

Making a Difference

That's where peer-led organizations like Homeboy Industries, Project Rebound, and Underground Scholars come into play. All three not only provide a physical space and financial resources to help justice-involved students graduate, they also cultivate a sense of belonging and deserving that stretches far beyond campus.

"The first thing people think when they hear about college opportunities for 'felons' is, why?" says Morton. "Why waste your resources on people who have messed up time and time again. Why focus on college when people with a criminal record can't even find jobs or stable housing. Why? My response is always, why not? Why not give people who have been let down by our education system a first chance at success? Why not help them become leaders, change-makers, peer mentors. Why not give them a sense of hope that they can strive higher and make an impact."

What's more, the programs have proven to be successful — for students, colleges, and even for taxpayers. Initial outcomes data demonstrates that programs for justice-involved students help keep students enrolled, out of incarceration, and on a path to economic stability. They also save money. For every $1 invested in correctional education, there is a resulting $4 to $5 return in avoided costs from reduced recidivism and increased employment.

While California has led the country in providing resources to justice-involved students, we still have a long way to go. Recent legislative efforts in Sacramento have helped catalyze a new push for expanded postsecondary opportunities. If enacted by the state legislature, the Smart Justice Student Fund would provide an additional $25 million to community colleges in support of justice-involved students both on campus and in prison.

This winter, Jesse Fernandez will be continuing his education at the University of California, Berkeley, where he hopes to major in Chicano Studies. He says he has already connected with other students on campus who were formerly incarcerated — and that has made it "easier to imagine the day-to-day of being a full-time college student at a place like Berkeley."

In a few years, Jesse will be part of a new generation of justice-impacted college students who strive to become leaders and visionaries in the fight for criminal justice reform in the United States. The first step is helping the public understand that people who are incarcerated deserve opportunities to better themselves above and beyond the limitations and barriers our systems have placed on them.

Allison_berger_PhilanTopicAllison Berger is program officer for the Michelson 20MM Foundation's Smart Justice program.

[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.

 

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.

Three Shifts Philanthropy Needs to Make to Better Design and Evaluate Social Change

June 28, 2019

Chalk-board-paradigm-shiftGood strategy-making and evaluation sit at the heart of philanthropy. Yet as a sector, we continue to struggle with how to design strategies, how to understand our impact, and how to use that understanding to drive stronger strategies. While we've made progress in using theories of change, logic models, indicators, and various types of evaluations in our work, we are often still stuck in more traditional, linear paradigms of thinking that do not lend themselves to the complex, ever-changing contexts in which we work.

I believe there are three key shifts that philanthropy needs to make to more fully embrace a complexity-friendly approach to designing and evaluating social change:

From...   To....
Projects Systems
Results Hypotheses
Planning Learning

From Projects to Systems: Most foundation staff tend to think of their work in terms of programs, projects, or even specific grants. There is value in opening up the aperture and examining the whole system, with all its interconnected components.

At the Democracy Fund, we created elaborate "systems maps" to explore the connections and dynamics that characterize the systems we seek to influence and created strategies that utilize specific "leverage points" in the system. While evaluating the impact of our strategies, we look not only at indicators of program impact but also at a set of "system impact indicators" that track system-level variables.

For instance, while our Elections program tracks how many jurisdictions are adopting a particular tool (program impact), it also tracks how voter confidence in elections is shifting overall (system impact). The point is not to attribute causality, but rather to situate and understand our impact in the broader context of how systemic variables are moving. (To learn more about taking a systems and complexity approach to evaluation, check out Evaluating Complexity.)

From Results to Hypotheses: While results matter greatly, we often spend inordinate time and effort on them and not enough on articulating and clarifying the hypotheses and assumptions that undergird our thinking.

In my previous role as a philanthropy consultant, I had a client who set a target of 88 percent high school graduation as the key result they wanted to see. A lot of deliberation and negotiation had gone into that number. There was just one glitch — almost all their programming focused on third-grade reading. While there could be a hypothesis that connects third-grade reading to high school graduation, the links are tenuous, at best.

The point here is to think through exactly how difficult are the challenges we are tackling, and what kinds of efforts and resources are needed to achieve the results we want. Making the hypothesis and assumptions explicit also sets us up well to test them. (A helpful resource on taking a hypothesis-based approach is this report on Evaluating Ecosystems Investments.)

From Planning to Learning: Most of us that came to philanthropy in the last two or three decades were indoctrinated into a traditional form of "strategic planning" that takes several months to complete and involves a process that proceeds from vision and mission to goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics. I believe that is a luxury we can no longer afford.

In a rapidly evolving context, the challenge is more about creating an adaptable and flexible plan that can keep up with the times, complemented by a robust learning agenda. A learning agenda should have a few components — a set of questions (about context, implementation, results) that must be answered, a plan for actually collecting the information through monitoring, research, and evaluation, and structures and processes for using the information to create meaning and drive decisions.

Accountability around the last component is critical, as without it what is learned often sits on a shelf. At the Democracy Fund, in addition to internal learning processes, each program team also goes in front of the board for a "learning conversation" roughly every twelve to eighteen months to recap lessons learned and offer mid-course corrections. Other foundations have instituted a variety of learning processes as well (such as those outlined in this report on Learning in Philanthropy).

Underneath each of these shifts is a humble and honest reminder that language matters in all of this. While "goals" and "targets" convey a sense of direct control, "aspirations" and "informed predictions" convey a more thoughtful, flexible direction. Even small changes like this to how we think about our work will influence how we move forward as a sector.

Philanthropy is driven by meaning that informs action. At a time when philanthropy is being criticized on various fronts, it is imperative that we seriously examine how we construct meaning — and do so in a way that strengthens our legitimacy. The three shifts outlined above are subtle yet powerful ways for philanthropy to challenge itself.

Headshot_Srikanth GopalSrikanth Gopal guides overall strategy and the programmatic portfolio at the Democracy Fund, where he also develops learning systems to ensure that the fund is impactful in its work. This post originally appeared on Candid's GrantCraft blog.

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.

What if there were a better strategy? What if there were a way to fund nonprofits that encouraged both efficiency and collaboration? It's a popular topic of conversation in philanthropy these days, and yet it's a model that has not been fully embraced.

The Case for Collaboration

In our work, we've seen how the competition for limited resources has resulted in a fragmented approach to service provision that undermines the value of those services for families in need. Too often, families are forced to start from scratch in their efforts to access services, filling out the same form multiple times for multiple agencies, then receiving a separate set of recommendations from each of those agencies. What's more, different agencies often will offer differing and/or conflicting advice. Families become overwhelmed. Parents become frustrated, unable to prioritize and plan their next steps. Children feel the lack of stability and bear the brunt of its effects. It's also difficult for busy family members to build solid, trusting relationships with representatives from multiple agencies.

In other words, it's a model that is broken. But there is some good news.

All of these problems are fixable, and the solution starts with how we approach and fund service provision.

To better meet the needs of working low-income families in New Jersey and the Bronx, the Pascale Sykes Foundation developed something called the Whole Family Approach, a collaborative, family-led approach to service provision that provides family members, children as well as adults, with the tools they need to set their own individual and family goals, establish a plan to reach those goals, and realize their dreams.

The Whole Family Approach

Pascale Sykes works with its grantee organizations to implement the approach through a collaborative model in which multiple agencies join together to provide a full spectrum of coordinated, complementary services designed to meet families' needs. Instead of funding a group of standalone agencies that operate siloed off from other nonprofits, we award funding to nonprofits on the basis of their willingness to work with others to promote family economic stability, adult and child well-being, healthy relationships, and family engagement with their communities.

To maximize their effectiveness, nonprofits and agencies that have bought into the Whole Family Approach capture and share information about their clients' goals, progress, and life changes in a centralized database, enabling partner agencies to see families as holistic entities with their own unique challenges, vulnerabilities, and strengths. Instead of operating individually, agencies participating in a collaborative begin to see other nonprofits in the collaboration not as competitors but as teammates they can lean on to organize priorities, share resources, and advance their mutual goals and objectives.

For example, Familia Adelante takes a "no wrong door" approach to service provision: if someone visits Mercy Center with a question about its services, that person will also learn what the Fiver Children's Foundation and other members of the collaborative have to offer. Families who sign up are assigned a life coach who can connect them with services to help them reach their short- and long-term goals. The coach may connect them with a financial counselor who teaches a class and can offer individualized advice and support. The overall effect is an environment in which families are encouraged, and feel more comfortable, asking questions about their progress and goals, and in which coaches are both empowered and equipped to pull together the various resources and services needed to help families meet those goals.

The model is not perfect (no service provision model is). For some organizations, coordinating their policies and procedures with other agencies can be a time-consuming logistical challenge. And employees can sometimes feel conflicted when they are expected to honor their original mission and, at the same time, advance the (usually complementary) mission of the collaboration.

Frances_sykes_jackie_edwardsThat said, most of the feedback we've received from our grantee organizations suggests that participating in a collaboration has opened up opportunities that put them in a stronger position to fulfill their missions, scale their work, and help more families achieve their dreams. It's time for other foundations and philanthropists to consider what they can do to encourage collaboration in service provision through their funding models and support strategies. At the end of the day, collaboration enables all of us to better accomplish our missions and create meaningful, lasting change.

Frances Sykes is president and Jackie Edwards is vice president of strategic engagement at the Pascale Sykes Foundation, which promotes the integrity, independence, and well-being of working low-income families.To learn more, visit https://pascalesykesfoundation.com/.

Women's Movements Hold the Key to Gender Equality — So Why Aren't Donors Funding Them?

June 21, 2019

Strong_womanAt the Women Deliver conference in early June, the Canadian government announced that it was pledging $300 million to the Equality Fund to advance women's rights worldwide. The announcement was especially exciting because the fund is committed to supporting feminist movements and their advocacy work — an unusual focus for an international development initiative.

Over the last two decades, U.S. foundations and the international development community have dramatically increased funding for women and girls in the Global South. Yet despite these outlays — avowedly dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls — evidence has shown that most funding going to women's empowerment is not only ineffective but actually harmful.

The typical thinking goes something like this: Empower a woman in the Global South with the means to generate her own income and prevent unwanted pregnancy, and she will invest in the health and education of her children and family, ending the vicious cycle of poverty and generating an outsized return on investment. This approach focuses on the individual woman or girl. Very little, if any, support goes to feminist organizations and movements. The missing link is the advocacy efforts of feminist groups, which are dedicated to changing the very structures that perpetuate inequality and oppression.

A 2012 study by Mala Htun and S. Laurel Weldon based on 1975-2005 data from seventy countries found that the critical factor in domestic policy change focused on addressing violence against women was not the activities of left-wing parties or national wealth but rather the mobilization of feminists. And a 2018 study by Alice J. Kang and Aili Mari Tripp based on data from fifty African countries similarly found that without action by domestic women's coalitions, legislative reform on women's rights was significantly less likely to occur. Feminist movements drive lasting change. Indeed, they are usually the only factor that does.

So what kind of funding should donors provide to feminist movements and organizations? Social change takes time. To be effective, activists must be nimble and able to respond strategically to changing conditions. As such, they require flexible, long-term funding that allows them to control the direction of their work. Yet over the past decade, the share of general operating support for gender equality from U.S. foundations has dropped from 30 percent to 15 percent.This trend reflects the philanthropic community's increasing preoccupation with the need to demonstrate its own impact — which translates into funding for specific, time-bound projects with "measurable outcomes" that often have little to do with effective change. Currently, less than 5 percent of empowerment funding from U.S. foundations goes to grassroots organizing, and only 0.1 percent supports convenings — spaces where women can collaborate, strategize, and build solidarity across diverse movements.

Numerous studies have shown that this pattern of funding cripples vibrant social movements. In 2009, Dean Chahim and Aseem Prakash found that the shift toward project support and stringent reporting requirements fractured, depoliticized, and, ultimately, de-legitimized Nicaraguan women's organizations. Organizations were forced to compete with one another for funding, which in turn disincentivized collective action and disrupted productive partnerships. Donor-funded projects also took time away from activism, ultimately directing organizations toward social service provision rather than transformative change. What's more, the weakening of women's organizations by donor funding has been documented in Brazil, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Ghana, Palestine, and Egypt from the late 1990s to the present.

How do we reverse this trend? For thirty-five years, the International Women's Health Coalition has supported and partnered with women's organizations worldwide. We know that women are a unique force for equality and social liberation. It is why we employ a strategy based on the Whitman Institute's trust-based philanthropy model. And it is why we provide general operating support to local women's organizations and fund grassroots women's movements.

We have funded specific women's organizations and movements for more than two decades, standing by their side through the ups and downs of social change. In Uruguay, for example, we celebrated when the country liberalized its abortion law after more than fifteen years of feminist organizing. In Poland, we have rallied in support of our grantee partner, the Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning, as it resisted repeated attacks on women's reproductive autonomy and rights. And in Pakistan, we increased financial support for our partner Aahung after the government decided to implement the organization's sexuality education curriculum in public schools.

Philanthropy must function in service of the communities it seeks to empower, rather than as an exercise in self-congratulatory metrics. It is time for funders to reexamine their models and seriously consider how they can move beyond the traditional frameworks of charity or development to truly empower women and feminist movements to drive change.

We invite other funders to join us and provid e women-led organizations with long-term, unrestricted, general operating support. Donors should celebrate the coalitions built by women and encourage cooperation, not competition, among feminist groups. Most importantly, funders should support women's leadership and agency and commit to women's own priorities. If even a fraction of U.S. foundations revised their strategies to recognize the need for consciousness raising and political action, they would be helping to catalyze sustainable social change in countries and regions where it is desperately needed.

In the current global political climate, feminist movements have emerged as frontline defenders against the rising tide of authoritarianism, hatred, and xenophobia. We must support these efforts, rather than cripple them. Canada's investment shows how we might begin to turn the tide.

Headshot_francoise_girard_for_philantopicFrançoise Girard, president of the International Women's Health Coalition, is a lawyer by training and an advocate for sexual and reproductive health and women's rights. She has played a key role in advocating at many UN conferences, from ICPD+5 to the process to negotiate the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Youth Apprenticeship: Accelerating a Path to College and Career Success 

June 13, 2019

MachineapprenticeWe seem to have reached a consensus that, in today's economy, it's nearly impossible to secure a quality job and get on the path to economic stability without postsecondary education. But the reality of student loan debt and surveys which show college graduates don’t feel prepared for their career of choice challenges the narrative that a successful future is intrinsically linked to a college degree.

Reality is also hitting employers' bottom lines as businesses of all sizes and in a variety of fields, including information technology, manufacturing, finance, and healthcare, struggle to fill good-paying positions. The pipeline that used to lead young people through high school and, ultimately, to the skills needed to secure those jobs is broken — and it might not have ever worked equitably, anyway.

It's clear our country needs additional, widely accessible postsecondary options that provide young people with the foundational skills, experiences, and credentials they need to thrive in a rapidly changing economy.

K-12 systems, institutions of higher education, and industries alike have been searching for solutions that reflect the current and future state of work, with little success. For decades, philanthropy has been investing to improve educational outcomes and college access, and it, too, recognizes that new approaches are needed, and fast.

That's why we funded the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship (PAYA), a multi-stakeholder New America-led initiative to promote more equitable and sustainable pathways to economic mobility. PAYA aims to do this by partnering with educators and employers to build more scalable long-term solutions that have been proven to help youth acquire the skills they need to navigate the rapidly changing world of work.

Youth apprenticeship aligns the needs of young people with the talent needs of employers. It builds on what is working in K-12, higher education, and work-based learning. Young people earn a high school diploma, gain paid real-world work experience, and earn college credit and credentials, at no cost to them or their families.

Far from an alternative to college, these programs can be a direct and less costly route through college, expanding rather than limiting students' future options. Apprenticeships can expand career options and economic opportunity for young people of color and others for whom it's mostly out of reach. Apprenticeship also keeps youth engaged in school and the workplace while earning a wage.

There is growing evidence that paid work experience really matters, especially for youth from underresourced communities. A recent analysis by the Brookings Institution and Child Trends underscores the importance of paid work-experience in connecting students to mentors and networks early in their careers, setting them on a path to long-term success.

We know we're onto something. In March 2019 we issued an RFP for PAYA's high-quality youth apprenticeship grants and received more than two hundred applications from forty-nine states and Puerto Rico. We have been floored by the response from states, cities, and regions across the country that have expressed real interest in launching or expanding youth apprenticeship programs.

In May 2019, PAYA awarded nearly $1.2 million in initial grants to expand pathways for high-school age youth to succeed in college and the workforce. The grants will support local employers, educators, community partners, and policy leaders who are working to build high-quality youth apprenticeship programs that promote inclusive economic development and create new opportunities for young people. By connecting these innovators, we hope to capture and disseminate best practices for students, employers, and communities that help them dramatically accelerate the pace of implementation.

We see youth apprenticeship as a rare and promising combination of the past and the future. Reinvented to address student disengagement, the need for greater diversity, and accountability to low-income students and students of color, youth apprenticeship deserves support from private funders, governments, and industry. As funders and believers in finding solutions to our ongoing struggle to provide educational and economic opportunity, we're planting a flag and invite others to join us in the cause.

This post represents the views of funders of the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship, which include Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Ballmer Group, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, JPMorgan Chase & Co., and the Siemens Foundation. To learn more about the initiative, see the PAYA website.

5 Questions for...Tanya Coke, Director, Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice, Ford Foundation

June 05, 2019

Tanya Coke has been involved in issues of criminal justice, mass incarceration, and immigration for more than thirty years. First as a researcher at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, then as a trial attorney in the Legal Aid Society‘s Federal Defender Division, and now as director of Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice at the Ford Foundation, Coke has been actively engaged in public interest law and social justice issues and, at Ford, leads a team focused on harnessing the resources and commitment needed to combat inequality based on gender, race, class, disability, and ethnicity.

PND spoke with Coke about the foundation’s efforts to reduce the U.S. prison population, decouple the criminal justice and immigration enforcement systems, and protect a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

Headshot_tanya_cokePhilanthropy News Digest: Your work with the Legal Aid Society, the Open Society Institute, and the U.S. Human Rights Fund has given you the kind of frontline exposure to the criminal justice system that few people ever get. You've said you hope to use your platform at the Ford Foundation to help reduce the U.S. prison population by 20 percent by 2022. What makes you believe that goal is achievable? And what kinds of things can the foundation do over the next few years to make that goal a reality?

Tanya Coke: When I began researching criminal justice issues in the late 1980s, politicians from both parties were falling over themselves to out-tough the other on crime. It is widely believed that Michael Dukakis lost the 1988 election over a flubbed debate answer over whether he would consider the death penalty if his wife were raped. It would have been hard to imagine back then that presidential candidates in 2020 would be competing to see who has the most progressive criminal justice reform platform.

That gives me hope and makes me believe we can make significant progress in taming the beast that is mass incarceration in America. Bipartisan momentum for reform is happening because of a confluence of several factors: low crime rates, tight state budgets, and a much greater understanding of how mass incarceration has decimated families and communities and made us all less safe. It is not a window that will remain open forever, however, so while it is open we have to work harder and more effectively to change not just minds about what we're doing but also hearts. That requires narrative change. It requires smart policy advocacy. And it requires more organizing in communities that are most impacted by mass incarceration.

The other thing that makes me feel optimistic is that we have seen prison populations in states like California, New York, and New Jersey drop by more than 30 percent in recent years, and in the past two years we've seen incarceration rates drop by more than 10 percent in very conservative states like Louisiana and Oklahoma. That gives me confidence we can achieve significant reductions in the incarceration rate in other states as well.

But it's not enough to focus on state prison populations. We also have to look at what’s happening in local jails, where people typically serve sentences of less than a year. While state prison populations are coming down, jail populations in many places are rising. To address the situation, we've been focusing on bail reform. Bail needlessly leads to the incarceration of people who shouldn’t be in jail, particularly poor people who don't have the wherewithal to pay cash bail. We're seeing growing awareness of that fact and momentum building across the country to do something about it. Another example is our work to effect broader change in the usual narratives about crime and criminal justice. That work takes the form of support for journalism projects, partnerships with Hollywood, and efforts to leverage other kinds of storytelling platforms, with a focus on trying to re-humanize people who are in the system and imagining a different approach to public safety.

PND: Many people have come to see the criminal justice system in the U.S. as an institutional manifestation of white supremacy. Is that an accurate characterization? And where are we as a society in terms of identifying and dismantling structural barriers to real racial equity and justice?

TC: That is the real work. There is no question that mass incarceration is driven by structural racism. To some degree it was set off by rising crime rates in the 1980s, but more than anything it has been powered by racial fear and a deep-seated instinct toward racial control of surplus labor. In my opinion, mass incarceration would not have been possible during the era of slavery because black bodies were too valuable as property in the South to let them sit idle in jail. Mass incarceration also was not possible in the 1940s or 1950s, the heyday of American manufacturing, again because black labor was needed to keep the auto factories and steel mills humming. But mass incarceration does become possible in the 1980s, after many of those manufacturing jobs had been shipped overseas and, suddenly, lots of people in black communities were forced into the underground economy of drug selling, which in turn led to a heightened, racialized fear of crime. Mass incarceration was a response not only to the advances of the civil rights movement, but also to the hollowing out of industries that employed blacks, and the racial fears that both spawned. In general, police are not comfortable with idle black men on street corners, and that fact accelerated the instinct to warehouse them in prison.

You have only to look at the difference in per capita incarceration rates in heavily black states like Louisiana, where eight hundred people per hundred thousand are incarcerated, and a homogeneous, largely white state like Vermont, where the rate is three hundred people per hundred thousand. Vermont is a state heavily affected by the opioid abuse epidemic, and yet it has made the choice not to incarcerate drug users or sellers at anything like the rate that prevails in states with large black populations such as Louisiana or Mississippi. Vermont is more inclined to treat opiod abuse as a public health problem.

In general, I think our field has not thought enough about the relationship between criminal justice, the control of labor, and the many ways in which black people in the United States have, in effect, become surplus labor. This has implications for social control as well as the rise of corporate interests that are profiting from mass incarceration. It's an under-studied area, and one where we need more research and advocacy to ensure that vulnerable people are reintegrated in a meaningful way into the economy.

PND: How has the current political environment complicated your efforts to address abuses in the criminal justice system with respect to immigrants?

TC: The Trump administration's attack on all forms of immigration, legal and otherwise, has meant that many of our grantees have had to expend an enormous amount of time and energy in defense of their clients and constituents. From the Muslim ban to separating children from their parents at the border, the administration's aim is to sow chaos and confusion. And our grantees have had to respond both on the ground and at the policy level. That said, there's also a pretty broad consensus among people on both sides of the debate that our current immigration system is broken.

PND: What would a reasonable, realistic immigration policy for the United States look like?

TC: I'll leave the details of that to the experts. But overall, we would like to see a system that recognizes the humanity of migrants and refugees and treats them with compassion. We'd like to see a system that recognizes that people do not lose their rights or dignity because they're fleeing persecution or seeking a better life for their families. And we expect that our country eventually will move toward a system that comports more closely with its values, as well as with the reality that our economy needs the labor and ingenuity of immigrants.

In the meantime, we're focusing on one aspect of the system that is especially harmful and where we see potential for change: the criminalization of immigration. We want to see the criminal justice and immigration enforcement systems decoupled. For nearly a century, immigration in this country has been a civil matter and largely a matter of labor demand. But over the past few years, the federal government and nativist forces have turned immigration into a criminal matter. We're criminally prosecuting people for simply crossing the border or seeking asylum, and we're doing it in ways that are excessively punitive — even though we already have a civil court system that addresses immigration violations. Illegal entry has become the most prosecuted crime in the entire federal system, and we're talking about people with no charges or criminal convictions, other than gaining entry to the U.S. without proper authorization.

We and our grantees strongly believe that local police should not be in the business of enforcing federal immigration law. It damages police-community relations, it leads to racial profiling, and it makes communities less safe by deterring immigrants from seeking police protection and emboldening those who victimize them. So we are working to try to make immigration enforcement systems more accountable and subject to greater oversight. At the moment, more dollars are spent on immigration enforcement than on all other federal enforcement activities combined. We want to make sure those dollars are well spent, and that there is a mechanism to hold agencies accountable when violations occur.

PND: Several states in the South and the Midwest have recently passed so-called "fetal heartbeat" bills that, if they survive a court challenge, will effectively eliminate a woman's right to an abortion in those states. Are those bills — and the broader effort to re-litigate a woman's right to choose — something the foundation is paying attention to? And what would you say to women who are alarmed by those legislative efforts?

TC: Yes, absolutely we're paying attention. In fact, in the last several years we have made reproductive freedom the center of our portfolio in anticipation of the kind of legislation we're seeing now. Women across the country have good reason to be alarmed, even though these laws will be challenged in court. In fact, we anticipate that a case challenging the constitutionality of a woman's right to choose will make it to the Supreme Court within the next twelve months.

What we're seeing is the culmination of many years of work by anti-abortion forces to chip away at women's reproductive rights. In many states today, there is only a single abortion clinic left, so while women might have a constitutional right to abortion in principle, they have little or no access to abortion services in reality. And what we're seeing with this latest slate of bills is making de jure what already is a de facto loss of rights for women.

Of course, poor women, especially poor women of color, will be most affected by a ban on abortion — both in terms of a denial of access to abortion services and the criminalization of women and doctors who seek or provide them. In this moment of crisis, we've been working more closely with other funders to align our giving and strategy in high-need states. It's important at this critical moment to strike the right balance between directing funds to organizations that are focused on women of color, organizations like Women with a Vision in Louisiana and Southerners on New Ground in Georgia, and that are on the frontline of some of these battles and national litigation, and policy shops like the ACLUPlanned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights.

But we also need broader mobilization efforts that embolden ordinary women and men to speak up. We need to hear from the millions of women who've had abortions, whose daughters have sought an abortion, as well as the men who, with their partners, were able to postpone having a family until they were ready. The anti-abortion forces have turned what is a private decision into a cultural issue and stigmatized it. Yet more than 60 percent of Americans support the right to safe and legal abortion. And a significant part of our work over the next few years will be focused on making it safe for people to say so.

 Matt Sinclair

 

What's New at Candid (May 2019)

May 30, 2019

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

Projects Launched

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

Data Spotlight

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

In the News

What We're Excited About

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

Upcoming Conferences and Events

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

Services Spotlight

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

Content Published

If you found this update helpful, feel free to share it or shoot us an email! I’ll be back next month with another update.

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Candid.

A Conversation With Angelique Power, President, Field Foundation

May 20, 2019

A Chicago native, Angelique Power started her career in philanthropy in the public affairs department of Marshall Field's Department Stores, where she learned about corporate social responsibility and what effective civic engagement in the business world looks like. She went on to serve as program director at the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation and as director of community engagement and communications at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, before being named president of the Field Foundation of Illinois in the summer of 2016.

Since stepping into that role, Power has helped catalyze new ways of thinking about racial equity and social justice at a foundation that has engaged in that kind of work for decades. Under her leadership, the foundation has expanded its relationships with the community-based nonprofits it historically has supported as well as a range of philanthropic partners in Chicago.

Philanthropy News Digest spoke with Power about how the foundation is rethinking its approach to racial equity, its new partnership with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and why she is optimistic about the future.

Heasdhot_angelique_powerPhilanthropy News Digest: The Field Foundation was established in 1940 by Marshall Field III, grandson of the man who founded the Marshall Field’s department store chain. Although the younger Marshall Field worked on Wall Street, he was also a committed New Dealer. What did Field think he could accomplish through the foundation, and what happened to the foundation after his death in 1956?

Angelique Power: As someone who in the day practiced what we refer to today as racial equity and social justice grantmaking, Marshall Field III was a leading financial supporter of Saul Alinsky, the godfather of community organizing. And the Field Foundation in the early '60s was a significant supporter of Dr. Martin Luther King, especially around some of the voter registration campaigns that Dr. King led. It’s always interesting to me to reflect on Field's trajectory, a person who was born into great wealth but who saw the racial inequality in Chicago and nationally and decided to use his resources and his platform as a white man of privilege to effect change in the system.

Marshall Field V is on our board, and I often tell him, "You know, I never met your grandfather, but I have such a crush on him." Marshall Field III was a visionary in the way he thought about democracy and the institutions that hold power accountable in a democracy and how you can support individuals who are working to create change at a systems level. And I'm pretty sure he had all of that in mind when he set up the foundation.

After he passed away in 1956, the foundation was broken up. His widow moved to New York and created the Field Foundation of New York, and his son, Marshall Field IV, stayed in Chicago and created the Field Foundation of Illinois. The Field Foundation of New York spent itself down after twenty years, while the Field Foundation of Illinois is what we today refer to as the Field Foundation. In many ways, I feel like the path we've been on since I arrived three years ago — and going back beyond that to the tenures of the foundation's last few presidents — has been to try to put into action the ideals of Marshall Field III.

PND: You're the third consecutive African American to serve as head of the foundation, and individuals of color comprise a majority of your board. Whom do you credit for ensuring that the leadership of the foundation reflects the community it aims to serve?

AP: In the late 1980s, the Field Foundation made a couple of very interesting and unusual moves for the time. One was adding Milton Davis, an African-American man, to the board. The other was hiring Handy Lindsey, Jr. as president. Handy, who recently retired as president of the Ruth Mott Foundation, is so well respected in the field, both locally and nationally, that for years there was a lecture series named in his honor.

There are a couple of other things about the Field Foundation that make it unique. One, we are not a family foundation, although we do have some family members on our ten-person board, including Marshall Field V, who is a director for life, and two other family members; everyone else is a person of color. And the board has a keen interest in having the foundation operate as a private independent foundation, rather than as a family foundation. Family foundations are great and allocate capital in really interesting ways. But there was a decision early on here at the Field Foundation to put the resources and influence of the foundation in the hands of civic leaders, as opposed to solely family members.

Marshall Field V was instrumental in that decision, and he has never served as board chair. He is also very careful about how he participates in board meetings. I'm talking about a brilliant human being who serves on many boards, who has raised a tremendous amount of money for conservation and arts organizations and other causes, and who understands that his voice carries a lot of weight. He is very intentional in the context of his Field Foundation duties about sharing power, and always has been.

The decision to diversify the center of power at the foundation began in the 1980s, and that's also something I attribute to Marshall Field V. It's because of Marshall that our last two board chairs — including Lyle Logan, who recently stepped down as chair after serving more than ten years in that role — have been persons of color.

According to the D5 coalition, nationally, 14 percent of foundation board members are people of color, while the population of Chicago is 60 percent people of color. Our new board chair, Gloria Castillo, who also serves as CEO of Chicago United, a robust organization of CEOs of color that is working to create a more inclusive business ecosystem in Chicago, is very thoughtful about how leadership should look and operate, and she is absolutely committed to making sure that our organizational culture reflects equity in every sense of the word.

I would also mention Marshall's daughter, Stephanie Field-Harris, who chaired the search committee that selected me and was fiercely committed to speaking to candidates for the job who could come into a situation and not do what most people expected them to do but would be willing to lead an inclusive process that tried to radically re-imagine philanthropy. I credit all those folks, and each of our board and staff members, for making the Field Foundation the special institution it is today.

PND: How has the foundation changed its approach to grantmaking and evaluation since you became president?

AP: I joined the foundation in 2016, and since then we've changed how we fund, who we fund, and how we evaluate our grantmaking. We've even changed the way we look at the function of a foundation.

It all started with a process we initiated in 2016, shortly after I arrived. It was a time in Illinois, and in Chicago in particular, that a lot of us were asking, "What can we do differently?" When I started at the foundation, in July, the state's budget had been frozen for a year. It would remain frozen for another year, which meant that a lot of nonprofits were put on a starvation diet. They were not receiving their usual funding from the state, and they were turning to foundations and the private sector to keep their doors open. At the same time, the city was halfway through what would, because of gun violence, turn out to be the second bloodiest year in its history. The video of the shooting of Laquan McDonald, the African-American teenager who was shot sixteen times by a white police officer, had been released about eight months before I started, and the sense of urgency in the city was palpable.

The Field Foundation had had a history of funding community-based organizations under Handy Lindsey, and that work had continued under the brilliant leadership of Aurie Pennick, who succeeded Handy. We had a thirty-year track record of building deep, trusting relationships with local organizations that didn’t always receive funding from foundations, and that helped lay the groundwork for what followed.

Staff and the board were starting to ask questions about impact and whether our resources were helping to reduce violence in Chicago. But with the number of shootings going through the roof, it was hard to argue that the grants we were making were helping to reduce violence. So staff and board got together to study the problem and possible responses to it. We looked at being both more responsive and more strategic. And we talked about an equitable approach where you focus more on dismantling power dynamics within philanthropy and try to move the needle on questions like, Who gets to establish theories of change? And who gets to decide what success looks like?

Then we took a deep dive into racial justice. The full board — and this is extremely important, in my opinion — as well as staff went through racial justice training. I started that session by reciting a parable I'm sure many of your readers have heard. I'm sure you've heard it:

A woman is walking along a river and all of a sudden sees a baby floating downstream. Alarmed, she jumps into the river to save the baby, only to see another baby floating in her direction, and then another, and another. She saves as many of the babies as she can and starts to panic about how she is going to shelter, feed, clothe, and educate them. All the while, babies keep floating down the river, and she never has a moment to think about heading upstream to find out where all the babies are coming from.

That was really important in helping my board understand the difference between charity and social change work. In the nonprofit sector, writ large, it's the difference between direct service and systemic interventions. If we are standing on the banks of the river, so to speak, and are asking questions like, "Have we helped reduce violence in Chicago?" we really either have to ask ourselves better questions, or, if the answers are unsatisfactory, we need to travel upstream to the source of the problem.

PND: What are the biggest challenges you and your colleagues face in working to advance racial equity in Chicago?

AP: One of the biggest challenges is that nobody knows how to talk about race in mixed company. We are all scared of offending, and we’re all scared of being offended. And most of us have not been given the tools to do it properly. It's really important to engage in training, to have a shared language, and to have the presence of mind to avoid the obvious traps that await everybody when the conversation turns to race.

We also find ourselves in a period when hate crimes are on the rise, and you have this extreme rhetoric coming from the highest office in the land, and you have racism showing up in unexpected places and ways. What's especially difficult is thinking that race conversations are mostly about unpacking individual racism, when in fact you need to be able to identify its influence in policy, and how it shows up in a city budget, and how it shows up in philanthropy, particularly in philanthropy metrics.

PND: Can you give us an example of how it shows up in philanthropy metrics?

AP: Say, you're giving a capacity-building grant to a small ALAANA organization [African/Latinx/Asian/Arab/Native-American organization] and expecting that the organization will use it to build out its board and increase its ability to access working capital. But, as we know, there's a significant racial wealth gap in many of these communities; you won't necessarily find a lot of high-net-worth individuals who are spending their volunteer time sitting on nonprofit boards. That's a metric that's never going to be attainable for a lot of these organizations.

And, yet, lots of studies have been done about the number of people in communities of color who volunteer and about how they give their time and talent and treasure, which they do; it's just in different ways. It doesn't show up in the same format that it does in, say, white, communities. Which means if we have metrics designed to gauge whether ALAANA organizations operate the same way that larger, mostly white organizations do, we are asking the wrong questions.

PND: How did your recent collaboration with the MacArthur Foundation come about, and what is the primary goal of the collaboration?

AP: It's a new chapter for us. We've never had this type of re-granting partnership with a foundation, and it's enabling us to do interesting things that we weren't able to do before, things like giving dollars directly to individuals.

It came about as a result of conversations with different people at MacArthur, which as you know awards hundreds of millions in grants annually and is a global foundation with tremendous reach. And even though MacArthur is headquartered in Chicago, and many of its staff are based here, due to the leadership of the past two presidents, the Field Foundation has extremely deep relationships in the city and a level of trust among nonprofits that we've earned through thirty years of local funding characterized by intentionality and trust building.

When we sat down with the folks at MacArthur, there was an understanding among everyone at the table that there are different kinds of capital — including social and financial capital — and that, collectively, we were all interested in doing something beyond how our respective foundations normally operate. So, we began to unpack the differences in the way we think about our work, and how we could learn from and with each other, and then we tackled the question of how we could do something that is better for the people we serve here in Chicago. We weren't fooling ourselves, thinking that from our positions of privilege we could create transformative solutions to all the major problems in our city. Instead, we asked folks in the nonprofit community to help us design a new giving program — what do journalists and storytellers need? What does philanthropy need to understand and do differently? So now we're rolling out a program designed by journalists and storytellers rather than by us on their behalf. We also heard that nonprofit visionaries need unrestricted capital to further develop their leadership capacity. We are listening and doing our best to respond.

PND: Is the collaboration with MacArthur an example of how the Field Foundation punches above its weight?

AP: We think of ourselves as being in the civic architecture business. Yes, we award grants, and that makes us a conduit to cash, which we try to provide responsibly and respectfully. But like any foundation, we also have a power and privilege that grants us access to many tables, in many different rooms. In some rooms we get to hear the voices of people who are smarter than we are, the nonprofit folks who are doing the actual work. In other rooms, often where decisions about policy or capital are made, those voices are woefully absent. We see our job as changing the architecture of those rooms, so all voices are deciding together.

PND: In recent remarks you made at Northwestern, you analogized diversity, equity, and inclusion work to owning and operating a restaurant. Focusing on diversity, you said, is like giving a handful of new customers a prized table in your restaurant and inviting them to enjoy a meal from a menu that hasn't changed much in years. In the analogy, inclusion is equivalent to checking on the folks you've seated to see how they're enjoying their meal. And equity is about totally re-defining the dining experience by disrupting the power dynamics of the business. Do you think philanthropy needs to be disrupted in order for it to advance racial equity more broadly?

AP: One hundred percent, which is why Winners Take All, by Anand Giridharadas, and Decolonizing Wealth, by Edgar Villanueva, are resonating so much right now. We're living in a time of intensely concentrated wealth and intensely concentrated poverty. At the same time, we're watching the equivalent of modern-day lynchings on our iPhones, we're seeing children torn from their parents and thrown into cages, we're seeing a huge rise in Islamophobia and outright bans on people from certain countries.

Solutions to problems like those cannot be dictated solely by people for whom access to capital is a given. While many of us might have been born on third base and had home plate moved halfway up the line in our direction, we are not in the best position to conceive of the solutions we need to the urgent problems we face. Those solutions need to be designed by folks who have struggled and are more resilient because of that struggle. By folks who have a deep understanding of the problems and who have a vision for their communities. If those people are not at the table with us determining how philanthropic capital is allocated, it means we are wasting resources and diminishing our return on investment.

Right now, the conversation people are having about racial equity is largely about the sharing of power and resources. It is not a conversation about representation. Equity is about changing the default operating system. Do I think philanthropy is a space with well-intentioned, thoughtful people and a tremendous amount of resources? Yes. Do I think it is as accountable to the communities on whose behalf it works as it needs to be? No.

PND: You did an interview with Marshall Field V for StoryCorp in which you mentioned the "unsaid" in the work of philanthropy. What are some of the things that go unsaid in philanthropy?

AP: First of all, that was one of my favorite interviews. I love that he sold encyclopedias door-to-door to learn everything about the businesses he ran. We have it on our website if anyone is interested in hearing more of his story.

But to answer your question about the unsaids in philanthropy, racialized systems and racism are the biggest. We talk a lot about "achievement gaps" and "immigration reform" and "community engagement" and "hard-to-count" populations. But we avoid the word racism, and I think that's because we associate it with people with tiki torches and polo shirts spewing intolerance and hate. As I mentioned earlier, hate crimes in the America are on the rise, and we haven't seen this kind of blatant dog-whistling in decades. But when we attempt to be race agnostic in philanthropy, we ignore how racism is designed. If we can't start with the correct diagnosis — which is that the history of our country is one in which genocidal policies targeting Native peoples were the norm and black people were enslaved for centuries and poor white people were trapped in indentured servitude well into the twentieth century and immigrants from some countries were and are turned away while immigrants from other countries are welcomed — then we will never be able to design solutions that address these problems.

To be honest, I don't think most people understand what we mean when we say "racial equity." People think it's about including a person of color here or there. That's not what we mean. What we are talking about is a rethink. It's about rebuilding systems so that they benefit everyone, and I mean everyone. Often in these conversations we pit communities against each other: urban communities of color versus white rural communities, for example. We need to understand that there are more similarities there than differences.

PND: When you look at where we are as a country, where we've been, and where we're headed, can you say that you are optimistic?

AP: I am an optimistic person by nature. While I believe one can and should be skeptical of systems, especially entrenched systems, I think you have to be optimistic because those systems, at the end of the day, are controlled by and can be changed by people. Today, more than ever maybe, people are desperate for connection and to be understood. We long to belong to something bigger than ourselves, to let our bravest selves shine through. People are awake. There are more women in Congress than at any other time in our history, we have our first black openly gay female mayor in Chicago, and people across the country, from every walk of life, are getting involved, joining school boards and running for city council and working to turn out the vote.

So, I am optimistic, extremely optimistic, that by shifting the allocation of power and resources we will go much further, much faster, toward designing the solutions the country desperately needs. And we will be a better country for it.

— Matt Sinclair

Trends and Transitions in Education Reform and Philanthropy

May 13, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weekend Link Roundup (May 11-12, 2019)

May 12, 2019

0510_flooding_CNNA weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Communications/Marketing

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

Criminal Justice

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

Health

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

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

Higher Education

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

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

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

Nonprofits

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

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

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

Philanthropy

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

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

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

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

(Photo credit: CNN)

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

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

May 10, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What's changed?

Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best: At A Glance

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

Criterion I: Values

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

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

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

Criterion II: Effectiveness

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

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

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

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

Criterion III: Ethics

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

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

b) Maintains policies and practices that support ethical behavior.

c) Discloses information freely.

Criterion IV: Commitment

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

The bottom line: The money didn't follow

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

What do we mean by "marginalized communities"?

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

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

 

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

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

Some notable funders stepping up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two lessons for changing philanthropic norms and practices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aaron Dorfman is president and CEO of NCRP.

The Privilege and Peril of Becoming a Foundation CEO

May 02, 2019

GettyImages-612396272-v2-compressorThe occasion of recruiting and hiring a new CEO presents an important opportunity for members of the board to collectively reflect on the unique challenges entailed in the leadership of a private foundation. While professional search firms usually have a profile in mind in terms of what constitutes an appropriate CEO candidate, in many ways the CEO role at a foundation is not a typical CEO position. To truly do justice to the position, the leader of a foundation should not only be able to articulate a vision, inspire confidence, and exemplify other classic qualities of leadership, s/he should also have the strength of character to manifest the unique values that characterize philanthropy at its best.

CEOs of grantmaking foundations occupy positions of immense privilege. They control access to significant sums of flexible capital and, for all intents and purposes, are accountable only to their boards. Typically, they have a significant amount of autonomy in how they choose to define their role, and it's not uncommon for a CEO to exert significant personal influence over the foundation's strategic priorities and grantmaking practices. For some boards, that equates to dynamic, visionary leadership. But there are potential pitfalls in the exercise of that privilege, and they can be damaging to the ultimate effectiveness of the institution. With the caveat that more than one of these traits often is evident in a single person, here are a few we've observed.

The CEO as Pundit

Compounding the significant privilege inherent in the CEO role is the likelihood that a foundation CEO will receive a daily shower of affirmation for his/her irreproachable wisdom and vision. To be susceptible to constant flattery is human. But unless the CEO makes a special effort to remain grounded, it's all too easy for him/her to succumb to the countless ego-gratifying opportunities to pontificate and exercise inappropriate personal influence over the agenda and daily operations of the foundation.

Internally, that can take the form of exercising an extreme form of control over every aspect of the foundation's work. Externally, a CEO may begin to feel the position qualifies him/her to offer regular opinions on the direction in which society should be moving, or even that the world of public affairs can uniquely benefit from the leadership of someone who is not beholden to the political process or company shareholders. Obviously, there is a role for foundation CEOs to speak out on issues of importance to their foundations, but it should be done in a thoughtful and intentional fashion that minimizes self-aggrandizement.

The CEO as Culture Weaver

Particularly if the CEO is embedded in a large organization, it's easy to misjudge and underestimate the unique internal management role s/he is expected to play within a foundation. Most foundations have a relatively small staff and embody something more akin to the culture of a family rather than an impersonal bureaucratized structure. That kind of culture calls for a leader who is aware of the critical importance of "soft skills" and is committed to a personalized approach to management.

Foundation CEOs also have a critical role to play in orchestrating the work of the staff. They are the one person in the organization that is uniquely situated to see the big picture and empowered to operate from that perspective. Finding the right balance in that role is a critical leadership success factor. Asking the right questions at the right time, guiding rather than controlling, and pushing for an appropriate synthesis of competing interests and ideas are essential aspects of the CEO role.

Rather than adopting a stereotypical "academic" style of leadership that by necessity cedes a high degree of autonomy to deans and departments, successful foundation CEOs should play a more integrative role, respecting and nurturing the talents of staff but also assertively articulating incentives for and the boundaries of effective cross-department collaboration that benefits the entire institution.

Above all, the CEO should take responsibility for focusing the foundation's attention and resources on opportunities within its field(s) of interest that are actionable. It takes special skill to translate compelling data and expert knowledge into a plan of action that effectively capitalizes on a foundation's unique strengths, and it takes real discernment to recognize where and how to creatively utilize the foundation's capacity for influence and maximum leverage.

The CEO as Wrangler

When it comes to dealing with the board, newly-minted CEOs display a tendency to demonstrate their leadership by asserting their point of view on every issue. Some even think that the best way to truly establish their authority is to ignore (or even disparage) the achievements of previous leaders. In the name of decisiveness, new CEOs also may feel compelled to move quickly to put their stamp on the organization and apply their spurs, as it were, to jolt their new mount into action.

In any truly mission-driven organization, however, recognizing and valuing the importance of the existing web of human relationships is another key leadership success factor. A new CEO's instinct may be to be seen as a doer able to quickly take charge. But, often, a more productive approach is to take the time to fully appreciate the talents and capabilities of current staff and observe and ask questions in order to capitalize on the strengths of the organization's existing culture before trying to introduce significant changes.

Particularly if a new CEO comes from a government or university setting and has little prior experience in working with a board of directors, it's essential that s/he invest the time and effort at the beginning of his/her tenure to understand and clarify the CEO role. No matter how much experience s/he might have in other management roles, being CEO is a qualitatively different kind of challenge. It's a role subject to ambiguity and hinges on one's ability to understand and appreciate nuance. It requires lots of intentional work to be sure everyone has a clear understanding of their respective roles, responsibilities, and organizational boundaries. Not devoting sufficient time or energy to those conversations at the outset is likely to set the stage for ongoing misunderstandings and associated difficulties.

It's also possible to overdo the listening. Foundations are notorious for taking as much as a year off from their grantmaking to think through the next phase of their evolution. The arrival of a new CEO frequently is the stimulus for a top-to-bottom assessment of a foundation's operations. Often, however, such a pause is perceived by the grantseeking public as self-indulgent and rarely of enough benefit to warrant the time and resources expended on it. Instead, it's important for new foundation CEOs to acknowledge and capitalize on whatever positive momentum they have inherited and to continue to move the herd forward while committing to learning and making appropriate adjustments in strategy and personnel along the way.

When and if the time comes to make changes in personnel, how those transitions are handled is of critical importance. Particularly if a program staff person has been part of the organization for some time, they are likely to have developed constituencies across the foundation's field(s) of interest. Organized philanthropy is a relatively tight-knit community: how people are treated by a new CEO can have significant ramifications for the reputation of the organization among its peers.

The CEO as Expert

Foundations tend to hire CEOs who are acknowledged experts in their areas of grantmaking. By that, we mean experts in the subject matter of greatest interest to the foundation. Often, experience in philanthropy itself is of secondary importance. There's a widespread belief that the era of the generalist is past, and that the future of foundations is best shaped by specialists.

Paradoxically, there can be unanticipated consequences to hiring a specialist as CEO that are not always to the benefit of the foundation. Experts tend to come with fully formed opinions about the most effective strategies to pursue. They have established networks of colleagues and may not be particularly open to expanding those networks. After all, if you're an expert, by definition you know what the best course of action is. It can also be exceedingly difficult for an acknowledged expert to extract him or herself from the details of the work to assume the critical "big picture" perspective referred to above.

Foundations are not universities or think tanks. They may manifest aspects of those institutions, but they have a unique opportunity — even an obligation — to not just follow the advice of academic experts but to look at problems in different ways, bring unexpected perspectives to bear, and craft strategies that move society forward. It's a unique space in the spectrum of organizations, and it takes a relentless curiosity and willingness to consider alternative solutions to use that privilege to full advantage. It may strike some as "old school," but a CEO whose greatest gift is a full appreciation of the potential of philanthropy may be a better fit to lead such an enterprise.

The CEO as Program Officer

It's tempting for a foundation CEO to want to also function as a kind of "uber" program officer. Having a "discretionary" grants budget at his/her disposal is a first step in that direction. It's quite common in the foundation world for a CEO to have a private pot of money from which s/he make grants at his/her discretion. When those funds are used for "corporate giving," in the sense of joining other foundation CEOs in making expected — and relatively modest — contributions to organizations or special events that support the field (e.g., to underwrite a conference), that's one thing. But it can be a slippery slope and quickly lead to more substantial resources being directed to a CEO's personal priorities, as opposed to those of the institution.

When a CEO is unable to resist being a grantmaker, it sets up several potentially unhealthy dynamics for a foundation. Grantseekers who enjoy a personal connection to the CEO quickly learn that they can sidestep the foundation's announced priorities and procedures and directly approach the CEO for support. And when they're successful, it not only sends a message to others in the community but also to those within the organization. Board members can begin to feel that it's appropriate for them to leverage their personal access to the CEO to secure funding for their own priorities, while grantmaking staff can be put in an uncomfortable, even untenable position.

A foundation may pride itself on the use of objective research and analysis in establishing its grantmaking priorities and making individual grant decisions. But when the CEO is playing by a different set of rules, it sends the wrong signal to staff about the integrity of the organization's processes and sets up an unfair competition for scarce resources. And when a CEO's personal priorities begin to consume a greater share of the foundation's grantmaking dollars, things can go sideways. Staff can be put in the position of not knowing what to anticipate. They may also have to "front" for those CEO decisions with the public while trying to keep to established procedures. Needless to say, it's not a pleasant position to find oneself in.

The CEO as Brand Icon

We live in an era where foundation boards are not just satisfied to support good work; they want to be publicly recognized for that work. As a result, the foundation world has embraced the kind of brand consciousness that was previously the purview of corporations, celebrities, and politicians. Corporate communications strategies that focus on grantee accomplishments without spotlighting the special contributions of the foundation (and its dynamic leader) are now passé.

When a foundation styles itself as a changemaker rather than as a grantmaker, the "brand promise" entails a different interpretation of the CEO role and a new set of criteria for hiring one. If a key component of a CEO's performance is to maintain a high public profile for the foundation, there is a real danger that philanthropic resources will be used to promote image and style at the expense of substance.

There's also a danger that a CEO's enthusiastic promotion of a personal brand can come to compete with the foundation's institutional brand. Some boards may not mind, but we are of the view that the foundation's mission and values, rather than any single person, should be the ultimate driver of its brand.

Securing and promoting a "name brand" CEO may be an accepted business strategy in our celebrity-obsessed culture, but the benefit to a philanthropic foundation is difficult to gauge. Indeed, as more foundations are coming to the realization that collaboration and funding partnerships are essential in addressing complex problems, a preoccupation with brand enhancement can most assuredly get in the way of genuinely collective ventures. Indeed, there is little incentive for a foundation to publicly admit to failure when it is focused on burnishing its brand as a pathfinding innovator. Foundations should think twice before heading down that path.

Headshot_julia_lopez_tom_david_compJulia Lopez is the former president and CEO of the College Futures Foundation (2008-17) and a former senior vice president at the Rockefeller Foundation, where she provided oversight, management, and evaluation of the foundation's strategic program grantmaking. She has also served in roles in the California State Legislature, the New Mexico Department of Criminal Justice, and the San Francisco Department of Social Services and currently serves on the board of public radio station KQED in San Francisco. 

Tom David advises foundations and other public benefit organizations on matters of strategy, organizational learning, and evaluation. Until July 2004, he was director of organizational learning and evaluation at the Marguerite Casey Foundation in Seattle and, prior to that, served as executive vice president of the California Wellness Foundation, vice president of the S.H. Cowell Foundation, and senior program officer at the James Irvine Foundation. David (http://www.tdavid.net/) was the recipient of the 2002 Terrence Keenan Leadership Award in Health Philanthropy from Grantmakers in Health

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