1709 posts categorized "Philanthropy"

Global Philanthropic Response to COVID-19 Approaches $3 Billion

March 31, 2020

On March 3, Candid identified almost $1 billion in pledges and donations in support of global relief efforts focused on mitigating the impacts of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). In the weeks since, the virus has infected 719,758 people worldwide and resulted in the deaths of more than 33,673. As the relatively localized outbreak in Wuhan, China, rapidly morphed into a global pandemic, the philanthropic community stepped up to meet the challenge, with pledges and donations in support of relief efforts almost tripling, to $2.6 billion, by March 23.

As was the case during the first two months of the crisis, overall giving for COVID-19 relief in March mirrored historical patterns of disaster giving in every way except total dollar amount (i.e., giving in response to COVID-19 has been much higher). What has changed over the last couple of weeks is funding by country, which has closely tracked migration of the disease.

Fig.1.1Together, the United States and China (including Hong Kong and Macao, China’s Special Administrative Regions) continue to account for 87 percent of pledges and 83 percent of total dollar amount, but the U.S. total has increased almost 700 percent since March 3 and now accounts for more than two-thirds of pledges and almost half the dollars pledged globally for COVID-19 relief. Italy, where the philanthropic response was almost nonexistent two weeks ago, now accounts for 11 percent of total dollar value.

The position of grantmakers and their relative contributions also have changed. Whereas early on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s $100 million commitment accounted for 55 percent of total U.S. pledges and contribution, it now represents just 9 percent of the more than $1.2 billion pledged by U.S.-based foundations. The largest single commitment now is the more than $175 million pledged by the Wells Fargo Foundation "to help address food, shelter, small business and housing stability, as well as to provide help to public health organizations." With its other announced commitment, Wells Fargo total announced contributions now total more than $181.2 million — or 15 percent of the U.S. total. Lastly, where there were only two U.S. grantmakers in our list of the top twenty funders globally at the end of February, there are now six in the top twelve.

Andrew_fg.1.2As total commitments and pledges have grown, so have relative contributions by funder type. Direct corporate giving still accounts for the lion’s share of contributions, but the percentage as dollar value of total contributions is down as commitments from corporate, family, and community foundations have increased, with the dollar value of contributions from corporate foundations increasing more than five-fold.

Fig.1.3Companies, both directly and through their foundations, represent 77 percent of the total U.S. philanthropic response to COVID-19. As Candid president Bradford Smith told the Chronicle of Philanthropy, after eleven years of a bull market many businesses have cash reserves. Broken down by industry, corporate giving also is following traditional patterns, with companies in the financial services sector — historically, the most generous sector in terms of its response to disasters — leading the way. With announced commitments totaling $421 million, banks, investment firms, and other kinds of lenders have contributed far and away the most to COVID-19 relief efforts, followed by the big Internet platforms (Amazon, Facebook, Google, Netflix) at $343 million. Together, the two sectors account for 80 percent of the total dollar value of U.S. contributions. (The graph below captures 90 percent of U.S. corporate contributions.)

Fig.1.4Some random observations:

  • Approximately 65 percent of the dollar value of pledges announced in January and February came in the two weeks after January 23. In February, pledges for COVID-19 relief actually declined by more than 12 percent, as countries in various stages of delay and denial looked on as the virus began its relentless spread beyond China's borders. In the first three weeks of March, by contrast, more than $1.5 billion was pledged, accounting for 61 percent of the total since January 23.
  • Unknown and multiple recipients continue to account for most of the pledges and total dollar value, followed by various Chinese Red Cross organizations. For named recipients, we're seeing a relatively small but growing number of grants to organizations such as Feeding America, Direct Relief, and the CDC Foundation.
  • The largest gift from an individual was made by Silvio Berlusconi, the billionaire and former Italian prime minister, who donated 10 million euros ($10.7 million) for a new hospital being built on the former fairgrounds in Milan. Here in the U.S., President Trump donated his Q419 salary of $100,000 to the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • In addition to the efforts of organized philanthropy, individuals and communities are coming together to help their families, friends, and neighbors. GoFundMe tweeted that more than 22,000 COVID-19 fundraisers have been initiated in the past few weeks by the global GoFundMe community, and that, collectively, they've raised more than $40 million.

In my first post, I speculated about whether private philanthropy would eventually step aside — as it did during the 2014 Ebola epidemic — as large-scale action and resources were brought to bear on the crisis by national governments. Back then (a month ago), I thought it would depend on how governments performed with respect to their fundamental obligations to guarantee public health and safety.

Now that several governments have concluded that maintaining public health and safety requires the shuttering of businesses and a prohibition of most kinds of social interaction, we are facing much more than a public health emergency. Indeed, the rapidly cascading economic downturn in the U.S. (and many other countries) promises to affect everybody over the next few months.

As governments scramble to respond, private philanthropy, especially community foundations, are creating COVID-19 response funds to help the most vulnerable members of their communities weather the storm. Philanthropy cannot and will not replace government action, but it is well positioned to move quickly and compassionately to offer a helping hand to those in need.

Headshot_andrew_grabois_picAndrew Grabois is corporate philanthropy manager at Candid. A version of this post originally appeared on the Candid blog. For more information on philanthropy's response to the pandemic, visit Candid's Funding for Coronavirus (COVID-19) popup page.

Ladder Funding: A Collaborative Approach to Changing the World

March 23, 2020

Pollination_projectAccording to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are more than 1.5 million charitable organizations in the United States. Despite the many different forms they take, all of them have something in common: a desire to create meaningful change in the world. Yet despite this commonality, nonprofits have a tendency to operate in silos. Some years ago, that realization led me to a question: What might happen if like-minded funders actually worked together to bring about the change they wished to see in the world?

As the executive director of The Pollination Project (TPP), a public nonprofit that provides seed funding to early-stage grassroots projects around the globe, the question is particularly germane. We believe there is significant untapped wisdom and power in solutions that emerge and grow from the bottom up. We use the money we raise to support a vibrant grassroots community of global changemakers who seek to spread compassion for the benefit of all. 

Every day of the year, our network uses an intentional, peer-led vetting process to select a new project to receive $1,000 in seed funding. That's right — every day. As individual projects blossom, their leaders can access capacity-building support, encouragement, and networking opportunities within a specific geographic or focus area. We've found that supporting individuals at the local level is a particularly robust way to bring about change.

But as our grantee network has grown and the projects we support begin to reach maturity, the need for project leaders to be able to access financial capital beyond the scope of our micro-grants has become ever more clear. In response to that need, we have developed a collaborative approach with other funders we call Ladder Funding.

What is "Ladder Funding"?

Imagine providing a step stool, or ladder, to project leaders that enables them to reach new heights in their levels of engagement with donors and supporters. As an organization that provides seed funding to early-stage projects, TPP is the "bottom rung" of the ladder.  

Sometime after project leaders have received $1,000 in seed funding from us, we evaluate them based on the impact of the work they have done and their alignment with the values and priorities of TPP partners who may be able to provide additional funding in support of their longer-term goals. If we see a match, we connect them directly to those partners, thus helping them climb the ladder of funding.

The model has many advantages, for both project leaders and funders:

It is low-risk. We've seen success with this model, as it addresses both the challenges that many project leaders face in accessing funding while at the same time providing our partners with access to trusted, vetted grantees.

It is streamlined. The reports that project leaders submit to TPP at the end of their seed grant from us serve as an application of sorts to our funder partners. It's an approach that saves time and streamlines a process that typically is labor-intensive for everyone involved. 

It promotes diversification. Project leaders are connected to potential funders directly, which gives them a leg up in terms of diversifying their base of funding and building relationships that can help strengthen their work over the longer term.

It is relational, not transactional. Our model is based on a more holistic approach to the grantee-funder dynamic, allowing TPP and funders in our network to serve as true partners to the projects they fund while shifting the focus away from the transactional nature of that relationship.

We've had great success with this approach to date and have partnered with several funders, including the McGinnity Family Foundation, to provide our project leaders with additional financial and non-financial capital. By building their capacity in this way, we ensure that they have the resources to carry out their work more effectively and efficiently.

Headshot_Ajay DahiyaPerhaps more important, our approach creates opportunities for leaders to connect with the missions and values of like-minded peers and funders. And by emphasizing collaboration rather than fragmentation, we are helping to create impact that is more deeply aligned with a vision for a just and equitable world.

Ajay Dahiya is executive director of the The Pollination Project.

Advice to Funders in the Covid-19 Era

March 18, 2020

For people born after November 23, 1963, 9/11 was an emotional and psychological shock unlike any we had experienced. The financial crisis of 2008 and the Great Recession that followed were a shock of a different kind: slower, murkier, more abstract — until, that is, people we knew and loved started to lose their jobs. In the weeks and months that followed, I wrote a number of posts for PhilanTopic (here, here, and here) aimed at helping my social sector colleagues navigate the difficult funding environment in which we suddenly found ourselves.

The coronavirus pandemic is a crisis of a different sort — both a biological threat as well as a threat to our economic security, stunning in its scope and the rapidity with which it has unfolded. In other words, existential.

Given the seriousness of the threat and the urgent need for a rapid, coordinated response, I offer these suggestions, with humility and deep respect, to my colleagues in the funder community. 

  1. Be flexible with your grant support.
  2. Endeavor to fast track your grants.
  3. Use community-based vendors whenever possible.
  4. Facilitate online meetups for grantees where they can air their concerns and share best practices and resources.
  5. Do not assume that your current grants are sufficient to cover the extraordinary demand, costs, and burdens that many nonprofits will be faced with over the coming months.
  6. Allow grantees to alter the budget terms of grants they have already received so as to maximize their flexibility.
  7. Be prepared to make long-term commitments and be in it for the long haul.
  8. Understand that while the virus is first and foremost a public health emergency, its impact will extend to a host of other  areas.
  9. Do your utmost to support local, culturally competent organizations, which are often the first point of access for at-risk individuals and groups.
  10. Remember the bigger picture and be generous with grantees with respect to your reporting requirements.

Michael Seltzer is a distinguished lecturer at the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs, Baruch College, City University of New York, board  chair of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa-USAand a long-time contributor to PhilanTopic. To read more from Michael, click here.

Jeff Bezos and Climate Change

March 17, 2020

Jeff_bezosJeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon and, according to Forbes, the world's richest man, has asserted himself in the race to address our greatest global threat, the climate crisis. In February, Bezos announced he was donating $10 billion to fight a problem that is affecting the entire planet…and one that is currently exacerbated by corporations such as his own.

Some might argue that, by making this pledge, Bezos is guilty of greenwashing — trying to persuade the public that he, and his company, are doing more to protect the environment than they actually are. The evidence would seem to support that view. In fiscal year 2018, the online retailer was one of the worst polluters in the United States, emitting 44.4 million metric tons of carbon, far exceeding the emissions of other trillion-dollar companies such as Apple, Alphabet, and Microsoft, as well as package delivery giants UPS and FedEx. And globally, the company is ranked with oil and gas producers as one of the top two hundred carbon emitters in the world. Bezos himself has come under fire in recent months for silencing climate activists within Amazon, Inc. and dodging climate agreements, even while committing the company to carbon neutrality by 2040.

When philanthropists from the tech world set out to solve complex social problems, they often adopt an outcome-oriented approach. Drawing on their business expertise, they want to be able to see and report on short-term, measurable results.

Other philanthropists approach their giving through a field-oriented lens, involving many different stakeholders and tackling the problem from several angles — leading, in many cases, to more sustainable, long-term impact.

Bezos alluded to this field-oriented approach in his announcement, stating that he intends to fund "scientists, activists, NGOs." But the language he uses is so vague that it's difficult to know which form his climate change philanthropy will take. The structure of the Bezos Green Fund, the main vehicle for his climate change philanthropy, is also unclear. Will it be structured in a way that enables it to lobby for policy change? How will Bezos's position as president and CEO of Amazon and his personal stake in the company affect the fund's grantmaking choices? Will it favor grantees that demonstrate a full commitment to immediate climate action, or will Bezos's money amplify the voices of more moderate groups that, intentionally or otherwise, actually slow progress on the climate change front? Given the ambiguity of his February statement, it's hard to know.

As things stand, Bezos’s call to "protect [Earth], together" rings hollow, given that his company is a massive contributor to the climate crisis and gives no sign of changing its stripes. If Jeff Bezos truly wants to be a leader in combating climate change, he needs to walk the talk. He could, for instance, commit to more aggressive climate-friendly initiatives within Amazon itself, such as investing in green packaging and transportation. Amazon's one-day delivery service is responsible for a large share of its carbon footprint, and the company should be rethinking how it provides that service. As Amazon Employees for Climate Justice have noted, "Amazon...has work to do: halting its support of the fossil fuel industry, stopping donations to climate-denying politicians and think tanks, and stopping enabling the oppression of climate refugees."

For the sake of the planet — and the perceived legitimacy of the Bezos Green Fund — Jeff Bezos needs to offer the rest of us a more transparent and comprehensive climate change strategy. And he needs to step up the pace of climate action within Amazon itself. It is time for both Bezos and Amazon to take meaningful action to address climate change. If and when they do, we can only hope other major corporations follow suit.

(Photo: AP: Cliff Owen)

Sierra Stephens, Lillie Heyman, and Hannah Connors are undergrad students at the University of Michigan's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

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More:

Jeff Bezos Pledges $10 Billion To Fight Climate Change, Planet's 'Biggest Threat'

Bezos Commits $10 Billion to Climate Action

Why doesn’t Jeff Bezos pay more tax instead of launching a $10bn green fund?

Amazon's Jeff Bezos pledges $10bn to save Earth's environment

Economic Democracy: A Conversation With Funders

March 12, 2020

Diane_Ives_Scott_AbramsThe Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative (BCDI), in partnership with the Kendeda Fund and the Open Society Foundations (OSF), recently hosted a funder briefing on economic democracy. In the lead-up to the briefing, Sandra Lobo, BCDI board vice president and executive director of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition — a founding member organization of the BCDI — sat down with Diane Ives from the Kendeda Fund and Scott Abrams from OSF to better understand how economic democracy became a priority for their foundations and the opportunities and challenges ahead. Ives has served since 2003 as fund advisor for the Kendeda Fund's People, Place, and Planet program, while Abrams is director of special initiatives for OSF's Economic Justice Program, where he focuses on early-stage high-risk bets aimed at advancing the concept of economic advancement globally. 

In a wide-ranging conversation, Lobo, Ives, and Abrams discussed their respective decisions to invest in BCDI, what funders need to do to support one another in this work, and why there is a need to create a collective consciousness around economic democracy. Economic democracy is a framework in which people share ownership over the assets and resources in their communities and govern and steward them democratically for a shared purpose. It's not just about more participation; it's about sharing power.

The transcript below, provided by BCDI, has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Sandra Lobo: You all have funded a number of different kinds of work in your tenure. How did economic democracy become a priority for you and your respective programs, and given what you've seen and learned, why do you think it's important?

Diane Ives: When I first started at Kendeda, we didn't even call it the People, Place, and Planet program. It was an environmental sustainability program. We were using the very familiar Venn diagram of sustainability, economics, and equity, and we realized that we were funding in all three of those areas but not where the overlap was, which is really what we were trying to get at. So we made a shift in 2012 toward a vision of "well-being for all within the means of the planet." Once we made that shift, it was easier for us to explore what we call "community wealth-building," which is this notion that communities should have agency around the decisions about their neighborhood and that they're able to retain and build the wealth they need to activate what they really want their neighborhoods and communities to be. So that was the shift we went through between 2012 and 2014.

Scott Abrams: A lot of what Diane just said in terms of community wealth-building resonates very strongly, but let me take a step back and explain how we came to this body of work. The first is widening inequality around the world — in terms of wealth and income — and a second is the way in which the structural deficiencies with the economy have been a driving force for populism and autocratic government we've seen all over the world. Part of our diagnosis is that so many people feel they've lost all control over the economy, and their role within it. This feeling of precariousness and vulnerability has fed a host of unsavory, radical, and regressive political outcomes.  

Questions of redistributive policy are difficult to grapple with in today's political climate. One of the ways in which we think about addressing these issues is to try to build models or spotlight examples of where democratic forms of economic activity are taking root. And a part of that for us is, of course, advancing shared ownership at the firm level and supporting ecosystems that enable more democratic forms of economic activity. Our larger, longer-term hypothesis is that some of those examples could help inspire replication, upscaling, et cetera, which would then impact the way people think about the economy more generally.

Sandra Lobo: Would you say those dynamics were always there, or have they shifted over time?

Scott Abrams: There's a great line from Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises where one of the characters is asked how he went bankrupt, and he answers: "Two ways. Gradually and then suddenly." What we see is a long steady march toward a worrisome dynamic epitomized by some of the political transformations we've seen with the election of Donald Trump, with Brexit, with the rise of Jair Bolsonaro [in Brazil], of Viktor Orbán [in Hungary], and the like. It has been a long time in the making — and partly the result of economic policy over the last forty or fifty years — but things have shifted very quickly recently.

Sandra Lobo: Tell us about the kind of investments you've made within Kendeda's economic democracy framework.

Diane Ives: In the United States, we have done a lot of really interesting work in different venues trying to understand what democracy means for government but have put very little effort into understanding what democracy means for the economy. It's almost as if the economy has been given a pass. We focus so much on policy, so much on elected officials, and so much on the rule of law. But the conversation is never about democratizing the economy and what that would mean and how that would benefit us overall. Instead, we've just accepted the neoliberal approach to the economy without asking, "Well, what does it mean for us in the United States as a democracy? How does this actually match up?"

With that in mind, I would say that some of the funding we do involves taking baby steps. Scott, you talked about this notion of shared ownership at the firm level. Is there a way we could get workers to ask every single day what it means to be part of an economic democracy in terms of decision making around where they work and all the different ways they engage in the economy on a day-to-day basis? It's that kind of truly tactile experience that needs to be scaled up, because it's not going to be a top-down, policy-driven directive. Whether the question is, "How do we convert a business to shared ownership?" or "How do we create a right-of-first-refusal for tenants to buy their buildings?", the minute you start thinking differently about how we, as economic actors, interact with the economy, an entirely different set of  options are on the table.

Some of the funding we've awarded has been to groups like the The Democracy Collaborative and the MIT Community Innovators Lab — groups that are thinking about ways to scale some of these examples on the ground. We've also supported groups like BCDI, PUSH Buffalo in western New York, the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation, which works on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, and Nexus Community Partners in the Twin Cities. And we've been looking at shared ownership in the workplace, making a series of grants around cooperative development for workplaces and converting existing businesses into worker coops or ESOPs [employee stock ownership plans].

Scott Abrams: For us, it's quite similar, actually. We have some of the same partners, which is a good sign on the one hand, in that we both have a lot of trust in the same folks, and not such a good thing on the other, in that it could be a sign that the field is not as diverse as one would hope. So our theory of change effectively has been to build out ecosystems for shared ownership. We want to support a few experiments that are up and running in a place-based manner, BCDI in the Bronx being one of them. We have similar initiatives in the UK — you may have heard of Preston, for example — and we also fund learning networks like the ones Diane mentioned — for example, The Democracy Collaborative, et cetera — that help link learnings across different sites and develop insights and lessons around those real-world experiments.

The other thing we feel is really important is that this doesn't become a politicized body of work. It need not be. So we're trying to balance our approach to where we work — places that are urban and politically blue — the Bronx is a good example — and hoping, once it takes root, that it is seen as a viable model for places that are far less blue and far less urban, places like western North Carolina and Colorado. Ideally, we would like to have two governors from different parties bring the concept of economic democracy and shared ownership to the National Governors Association.

Sandra Lobo: What would you say are some of the challenges and opportunities — and I'm linking them because sometimes they're one and the same — within the work you both are doing?

Diane Ives: I'll Identify two things we've been thinking about in terms of challenges that are also opportunities. Scott, you hinted at it when you mentioned that we all seem to be funding the same groups. I do feel like there are a lot more places out there that we could support than we are supporting, and that makes me hopeful. I also feel like the interstitial community and the opportunity for shared learning is still at a very early stage of development. I think a lot of groups are toiling away on their own without having a whole lot of connectivity to other groups. So one of the challenges we have been looking at is around communications and messaging. Everyone uses different language, and maybe that's necessary, but at the same time maybe there are some common ways we can talk about this work.

We are just about to sign a contract with a firm that is going to help us with communications. This is a dream right now — we'll see where it ends up — but when you look at the gay rights movement, one day it was about protection and the next it was about love. What is the language we need to describe and explain the shared economy? Is it about "beloved" businesses that "nurture" us every day? Can we come up with a different way to talk about the work?

We also need shared metrics. There's a real need for understanding what investors want to see and also for pushing investors to think about their metrics differently. We're not just talking about profit; instead, we're asking, "What assets are staying in the community?" How do you measure that in a way that causes an investor to say, "This is worth investing in"? That's the piece we are eager to explore.

Scott Abrams: The thing is that right now the concept of shared ownership is not deeply rooted in the psyche of most people in the country. It just doesn't exist as a concept, and the result is that there are groups like The Working World that help with conversions, but a lot of the time and energy and cost goes into reaching out to people and getting them interested in the idea, and then, and only then, beginning the process of training them how to do it. However, there is a window of opportunity opening up with the baby boomer generation starting to retire in large numbers and business owners starting to look for people like us, in which case the costs may come down markedly and the speed at which conversions take place rises exponentially. The work that Diane just described around language and messaging is absolutely critical, and we have to find a way to get this idea out into mass culture. A colleague of mine had the somewhat-wild idea of creating a reality show, but instead of, you know, opening a locker or flipping a house, it would be about converting a business to worker ownership.

Sandra Lobo: I love that idea.

Scott Abrams: Right? That kind of thinking is a way to expose the concept to a much larger audience. It's a huge opportunity for so many people who are going to see their legacy evaporate because they have no one to leave their businesses to — except their employees, which is something that rarely occurred to them. And, of course, it also rarely occurs to employees to approach an owner with that option. 

Sandra Lobo: I want to talk a little about how unique you both were in terms of your support for BCDI. Diane, you were a very early investor — you gave us our first major grant in 2014 — and you structured it as general operating support over multiple years. Some people might say that's a super-risky move for an unproven organization with very little history. What made you confident enough to make such an investment so early on, and what kind of impact were you looking for at that stage?

Diane Ives: When we first got the proposal from BCDI, it was for one year. Our donor was excited about the concept, but asked, "What are they going to accomplish in one year?" and I replied, "Well, probably not much." I mean, the first year you over-promise and work really hard, but typically there are a lot of bumps in the road. Our donor  said, "I don't want to reevaluate them in a year. I want to see how far they can get, so let's extend the grant and give them a little more running room." It was her idea to make it a multiyear grant. And, of course, it was really smart that she insisted on it, because you tried some things that first year that didn't pan out, and if we had just looked at the grant at the end of the first year we would have thought we had made a bad decision. Instead, we were in it with you, we wanted to see what was next, and it was a really interesting opportunity for us to go on this journey with you all over a period of time. 

I think part of what we realized early on was that if this were easy, it already would have been done, and at scale, so if it's not easy, then what kind of infrastructure is needed to allow for the complexity to be explored and better understood? Our metrics were more about: Can BCDI pull together the right players for its board? Can the board grapple with some of these tougher issues? Is there a way to focus the work but still embrace the complexity of the whole? Those were the kinds of things we were looking for. It took a while, but you got there.

Sandra Lobo: Scott, you came on board a bit later and awarded BCDI a substantial grant in 2019 that helped us transition from a late startup phase to our growth phase. What drew you to us initially, and what were you looking for at that stage of our evolution? How did we fit into the other investments you had made around shared ownership and economic democracy?

Scott Abrams: I’ve already mentioned our interest in supporting learning networks and a couple of concrete examples where we’ve seen early traction. And those investments helped lead us to BCDI. Some other considerations were that, since this was a new line of work for us and the Bronx is just five miles north of where we are sitting, it was a good opportunity to have a lot of interface with a team while we were learning ourselves.

Very pragmatically, in addition to the grantmaking work we do, we also run an impact investment fund. And there may one day be opportunities to deploy investment capital into some of the things BCDI helps foster — for example in some of the companies that are emerging from the Bronx Innovation Factory you run or the BronXchange. So it was a nice confluence of factors, and it turned into our first entry into place-based work within the economic democracy space nationally. The BCDI team is deeply passionate and deeply rooted in the Bronx. You already had experience with fighting back, and while that is incredibly useful, the fighting forward piece of the work is where we wanted to contribute. 

Sandra Lobo: What were the elements that allowed you to say, "Yes, this is what we want to be investing in"? 

Diane Ives: I guess there were a couple of things. One is that you demonstrated a willingness to tackle head-on the challenges you saw instead of sidelining them. Also, we were curious about how the work would evolve over time. How are your board members, who each represent an important community group in the Bronx, going to come together and prioritize the work of BCDI? How are they going to see this as a value-add to their own work and not a competition? That was something that made me say, "We need to go on this journey because this is something that we desperately need in other places and this is not something we've been able to figure out, for the most part." That was something we were super-excited about.

And I would also say that BCDI started with a very deep race and class analysis and a willingness to lead with race and class as an approach to the work, as opposed to trying to overlay it or rejigger it. It was, "No, we're starting there and that's how we’re moving forward!"

Scott Abrams: So three reasons for us: One, race and class. I won't repeat that. That was a huge part of our thinking. Two, the fact that it was very much connected to MIT CoLab [Community Innovators Lab] was appealing because we thought that so much of the learning could go back to a hub and be channeled out through that mechanism. That was really important to us. And three, a really important concept in our work in this space has been participation — and not for technocrats sitting somewhere and devising solutions for something, but rather the participation of many people mobilizing and thinking together. BCDI is an amalgamation of many other networks of community groups in the borough, and some of the participatory campaigns that took place prior, for example over the Kingsbridge Armory, spoke to the importance of participation for us.

Sandra Lobo: Last question. Focusing on philanthropy overall, what kind of space do you think we need to create for funders to learn about and support economic democracy? And what advice would you share with those who might want to shift their funding in this direction?

Diane Ives: One of my taglines is "Help people not be afraid of a changing economy." Part of what I see among funder colleagues in particular, as well as in some of the groups we work with, is this attitude that the economy is something that just happens and we just have to work around it because it's not something we can engage in or control. People get nervous about it.

I would say funders need more opportunities to experience the work. Seeing it firsthand is very powerful, whether it’s a trip to the Bronx or a trip to Mondragón in Spain or a trip to Emilia Romagna in Italy. I would also say we need more conversations among the different groups that are working in different places along with funders. We need to create spaces and opportunities where we’re all coming together more and talking about what we're learning.

Scott Abrams: ​One of the things we’re funding with The Democracy Collaborative is a working group on shared ownership that brings together people from five or six cities that are thinking about an ecosystem strategy much like BCDI's. We’re connecting that working group to a number of interesting examples across the country, from Cincinnati to the Industrial Commons [in North Carolina]. Amazingly, none of the members of The Democracy Collaborative working group had heard about the work in the Bronx or Industrial Commons. So we're looking now at how we can take advantage of existing convening spaces and tack on extra learning experiences for people to talk through and get inspired by these living examples.

Sandra Lobo: Well, this has been such a great opportunity to dig into your work with BCDI and economic democracy as a whole. Thank you both so much for your time.

Sandra_Lobo_for_PhilanTopicSandra Lobo is board vice president of the Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative and executive director of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition.

4 Design Essentials to Spark Lasting Change

March 11, 2020

Top_hands_inAmerican corporations, individuals and foundations gave over $425 billion to universities, cultural institutions, hospitals, and other nonprofit organizations last year, including significant funding hoping to address some of the biggest challenges we face across the country and around the globe — from climate change to homelessness. And yet, we have not made substantial progress on most of these systemic issues. That has to change.

The truth is the most critical and pressing systemic challenges our nation and our world are facing are too large and too complex to be solved by any individual organization working alone. But most funding flows to individual organizations. This mismatch is a key reason why progress too often stalls. To effect lasting, system-level change, funders must increase their support for coordinated, collaborative efforts — and demand no less from their grantees.

With decades of grantmaking experience between us, we decided to do the research to find evidence-based essentials that networks and coalitions need to make real progress toward meaningful, sustainable goals. Dell Technologies and 100Kin10, a network focused on addressing the nation's STEM teacher shortage, partnered to examine how to create and fund the kind of collective or networked efforts that can spark lasting change. This extensive analysis of successful, coalition-based social change efforts uncovered four "design essentials," elements that each effort needed to succeed. Here is what we learned:

1. It's not enough to have a shared purpose. It needs to be specific. No organization or coalition can address every issue at once. That’s why aligning on a specific vision and purpose across your coalition is essential. Just look at the Freedom to Marry campaign, which built its Civil Marriage Collaborative around raising funds in support of building a state-to-state movement with one unifying cause: the right for gay and lesbian couples to marry. Before approaching funders, the leaders of Freedom to Marry first made sure they were aligned on that goal and then pitched funders based on it (rather than in support of individual programs). There are other creative ways to make sure your shared purpose and your funding are connected. From the Ground Up, a redevelopment project in Milwaukee's Menomonee Valley, raised $25 million for a nonprofit entity that the entire region created for the purpose of fundraising for a wider group of organizations, all of which shared an interest in the redevelopment and then had shared access to the capital.

2. Investing time and resources in trust-building pays off. Building trust between network partners takes time and patience. But without that you'll find it much harder to align on a vision and execute it. One network that did a great job of creating trust between partners is RE-AMP, a Midwest-based coalition of more than a hundred and thirty organizations across eight states with a goal of reducing regional global warming emissions by 80 percent. To build trust among organizations that come from a variety of perspectives RE-AMP offers workshops to mitigate tensions and interpersonal challenges and facilitate regular opportunities for working groups to meet face-to-face.

Building trust with the communities you serve is also a key part of success. Co-Impact, a new global model housed at the Rockefeller Foundation that connects philanthropists with one another and with social change leaders around scalable, proven solutions, makes sure philanthropists meet with other sector leaders to build trust among all parties, including community representatives. The investments both organizations made will help them work through challenges and get results that would otherwise be nearly impossible.

3. Expect at least some failure. Putting pressure on a huge collaborative effort to succeed immediately is not an effective way to lead. Bringing people together in this context means changing your perspective on failure. Namely, failure should be viewed as a short-term bump — it's often these bumps that cause critical self-reflection and learning, which is crucial to the long-term success of your network. The Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) works on high-risk research projects that often don’t have any near-term payoff. But this challenge is part of the success of the projects. Without DARPA's willingness to embrace failure, we wouldn't have inventions like GPS.

4. Use incentives to foster collaboration. Networks don't happen on their own — in order to push collaboration, there need to be stakes. In our research, we found that every successful, coordinated effort incentivized its partners (though they often used different means to do so). For example, the National Science Foundation (NSF) can revoke funding if collaboration does not work, which encourages commitment and coordination from members. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition uses transparency among coalition members as a tool to incentivize positive activity. Their HIGG index, which measures and scores how sustainable a company or product is, shows members how partners (and competitors) are making their supply chain more sustainable.

While all networked organizations seeking to catalyze systemic change should include these four elements/areas, a one-size-fits-all approach will not work. There are also flexible, "design considerations" we discovered that come into play. Unlike the essentials, these considerations are aspects often found in successful social change efforts that should be tailored to the specific needs of the members and their institutional contexts. These include the level of funder involvement, who makes decisions within the group, and whether and how to foster competition among partners.

The world is a messy, complicated place, and solving interconnected, systemic problems requires patience and resilience. Grantmaking organizations and grantee organizations now have the opportunity and the drive to step outside of how they have always done things and really think about how best to structure their efforts and be catalysts for lasting change. Social innovators (and the funders they rely on) should prioritize these elements in their work as they strive to make the world a better place.

Talia Milgrom-Elcott_Jessica_AndersonTalia Milgrom-Elcott is co-founder and executive director of 100Kin10 (@100kin10). Jessica Anderson is director of strategic giving at Dell (@DellTech).

Funders Respond to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

March 06, 2020

On the last day of 2019, China advised the World Health Organization that some people in the city of Wuhan (Hubei province) were infected with an unknown strain of viral pneumonia.  Those infected were traced back to the city's Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. On January 7, Chinese officials announced that they had identified a new virus belonging to the coronavirus family, which was dubbed novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Since then, the renamed coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has killed more than 3,000 people, infected over 100,000 in at least 60 countries, and is present on every continent except Antarctica.

Candid has been closely tracking the global private philanthropic response to COVID-19 through news stories and other publicly available resources. Although the response to the virus has followed a familiar pattern, both in terms of funders and recipients, its scope has dwarfed funding for recent natural disasters in the United States and elsewhere. Since September 2017, Candid has identified pledges and donations for eight major hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires totaling more than $898 million; philanthropic funding announced in the last five weeks for COVID-19 alone has reached $980 million. [Ed. note: as of March 4, the figure had exceeded $1 billion.]

Fig.1.1 funding-for-recent-disasters

Obviously, epidemics and pandemics are not natural disasters, so if we want to compare funding for the COVID-19 response to a similar event, we have to go back to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. In that situation, Candid identified pledges and donations totaling more than $363 million over a period of six months, which is only a third of the COVID-19 response to date.

Although COVID-19 is a transnational epidemic on its way to becoming a global pandemic, almost all private funding we've been able to identify from publicly available sources — 76 percent of the pledges and 93 percent of the dollar value — has come from China and the United States. If you count Hong Kong and Macao, both "special administrative regions (SAR)" of China, the two countries account for 84 percent of the pledges and 97 percent of the dollar value.

Fig.12

In the United States, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation early on announced a commitment of up to $100 million to "strengthen detection, isolation and treatment efforts; protect at-risk populations; and develop vaccines, treatments and diagnostics." The foundation's commitment accounts for 55 percent of all contributions to date from private philanthropic sources in the U.S. and is consistent with U.S. private funding in response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak, when contributions from Gates and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation accounted for more than 57 percent of the contributions from private philanthropy in the U.S. The only other U.S. funder in the top 20 is Chicago-based Citadel LLC, one of the world's largest hedge funds. The single most generous donor so far has been Chinese Internet giant Tencent Holdings, which has pledged $216.3 million, both directly and through its foundation, totaling 22 percent of private contributions globally. (Although the company's name might strike some English speakers as ironic, given the size of its contribution, it actually means "galloping fast information" in Chinese.)

Fig.1.3

As is usually true of the response to natural disasters, companies have responded first and disproportionately, accounting for 86 percent of all COVID-19 pledges and 81 percent of the total dollar value of the private response. When grants from both companies and their foundations are counted, those figures increase to 95 percent of the pledges and 86 percent of the dollar value.

Fig.1.4 funders-by-type

Other observations:

  • Most COVID-19 pledges and donations were announced over a period of two weeks. Between January 23, when the first pledge was announced, and February 5, funders committed 74 grants totaling $638 million, accounting for 42 percent of pledges and 65 percent of the total dollar amount.
  • Unspecified recipients in impacted areas of China received 57 percent of pledges accounting 75 percent of the total dollar value of all contributions; multiple named recipients received 8 percent of pledges and 13 percent of the dollar value; and among single-named recipients the Red Cross accounted for 15 percent of pledges and 6 percent of the dollar value.
  • A number of Chinese technology companies are offering to build "hot diagnosis maps," "pneumonia prevention channels," and infrastructure for video meetings and online education courses. One of the largest such commitments came from Squirrel AI Learning, an adaptive learning education company specializing in K-12 afterschool tutoring, which announced that it would provide $72.1 million worth of online K-12 education courses across China free of charge.

Will private philanthropy continue to fund the front-line response to COVID-19, or will it largely step aside, as it did during the 2014 Ebola crisis, in favor of mega-funding from a few well-endowed family foundations and large-scale actions taken by nation-states and transnational organizations? It's hard to say. A lot depends on how well governments and multilateral institutions perform. You can be sure of one thing, however: Candid will be watching.

Headshot_Andrew_GraboisIn the meantime, we're in the process of adding COVID-19 pledges on our free, publicly accessible Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy funding map, which was created in partnership with the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Andrew Grabois is corporate philanthropy manager at Candid. This post originally appeared on the Candid blog.

5 Questions for...Justin Steele, Director, Google.org Americas

February 24, 2020

Growing up, Justin Steele was "a sensitive, brainy kid" who spent a lot of time thinking about what he could do to improve people's lives. After earning an engineering degree from the University of Virginia, he received a master's in urban social policy and nonprofit management at Harvard and went to work in the nonprofit sector full-time. Since 2014, he has held senior positions with Google.org, where he's taken a lead role in the organization's work on inclusion, education, and economic opportunity.

PND recently spoke with Steele about Google.org, its efforts to develop AI tools for nonprofits, and what it is doing to address homelessness in the Bay Area.

JustinSteelePhilanthropy News Digest: What is Google.org, and how much does it award annually to nonprofits here in the United States and globally?

Justin Steele: Google.org is Google's philanthropic and charitable arm. We support nonprofits that are working to address challenging problems and try to apply scalable data-driven innovations in support of those efforts. What's unique about Google.org is that we were established when the company went public with a commitment of 1 percent of its equity and an ongoing commitment of 1 percent of its net profit for charity. Google.org is the biggest beneficiary of that 1 percent ongoing net-profit commitment, and we currently award more than $300 million in cash grants to nonprofits globally each year, roughly split 50/50 between the U.S. and internationally.

PND: Can any nonprofit apply for a grant?

JS: We are predominantly invite-only in our philanthropy, but we do have a model called the Impact Challenge where we invite nonprofits to participate by sending us their ideas. Sometimes the challenge is topic-based, sometimes it's based on geography.

In the U.S., we are currently running Impact Challenges in a number of geographies. We have a $10 million Impact Challenge open in the Bay Area and $1 million challenges open in Georgia, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Ohio. A panel of local experts who have influence in the states where the challenge is occurring help us narrow down the candidates. The panel chooses the finalists who receive funding, but we also open it up to a public vote. The People's Choice winners get extra funding at the end.

The state-level Impact Challenges change from year to year, although this is the third time we've run a challenge in the Bay Area, which is where we’re headquartered. Last year, we ran challenges in Illinois, Nevada, and Colorado, and we expect to launch new challenges in other states in 2020.

We also opened up the AI Impact Challenge globally in 2018 and 2019 for organizations that are working on interesting applications of artificial intelligence for social good.

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Weekend Link Roundup (February 15-16, 2020)

February 16, 2020

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

Fundraising

Everything in the world of fundraising is based on relationships, or should be, right? Well, sort of, writes Vu Le on his Nonprofit AF blog. "[O]ur reliance on relationships is...problematic, as it often creates and enhances inequity and thus undermines many of the problems we as a sector are trying to address" — for example, by further marginalizing people and communities that don't have the same access to relationships as better-resourced communities and nonprofits, or by reinforcing our natural bias toward people who look, think, and act like us. 

Giving

On the Alliance magazine blog, Alisha Miranda, chief executive of I.G. advisors, considers the pros and cons of curated approaches to giving.

Grantmaking

PEAK Grantmaking has released a set of resources designed to help grantmakers operationalize the second of its five Principles for Peak Grantmaking: Narrow the Power Gap. Within that frame, the organization has three very specific recommendations: build strong and trusting relationships with your grantees; rightsize the grantmaking process and implement flexible practices that reduce the burden on your grantees; and structure grant awards to be more responsive to grantee needs. Elly Davis, a program manager at the organization, shares more here.

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50 Years of Southern Philanthropy

February 11, 2020

In November, I had the pleasure of speaking at SECF50, the 50th annual meeting of the Southeastern Council of Foundations. Using Candid data, I compared philanthropy in the South fifty years ago to philanthropy in the region today. Here are some of the key points I shared with the SECF50 audience.

Philanthropy has grown tenfold

Fig1.1_secf-growth

To put these findings together, I had the distinct, old-fashioned pleasure of turning to one of our earliest editions of the Foundation Directory (published in 1971), an actual book, to research the state of institutional philanthropy in the South at the time of SECF's founding. Information was a lot sketchier back then and we had to collect everything by hand, so our totals in 1969 are probably not as accurate as those we have today. Still, I believe it's safe to say philanthropy in the South has grown tenfold after inflation.

Back in 1969, only three states in the 11-state Southeastern region had more than 75 foundations of any size (Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida), and no state had more than 107. Now, there are more than 18,000 foundations across the region, and more than half are located in just two states: Florida (6,452) and North Carolina (3,139).

Asset distribution has changed

Fig.1.2_secf-assets-by-state-800w

In 1969, two-thirds of the region’s philanthropic assets were concentrated in Georgia and North Carolina (40 percent and 26 percent, respectively). Since then, assets have grown tremendously in Arkansas, Florida, and Virginia, changing the picture quite a bit. Arkansas held 1 percent of the region's assets in 1969; it now holds 7 percent. Florida went from 8 percent to 29 percent. And Virginia increased from 6 percent to 10 percent.

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Weekend Link Roundup (February 8-9, 2020)

February 09, 2020

1203880819.jpg.0Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Economy

The stock market is up and inflation is muted. It's the story of the last ten years. Or is it? In The Atlantic, Annie Lowrey reports on the affordability crisis breaking the back of America's middle class.

Global Health

The novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China, dominated headlines for much of the last week, leading to a spate of all-too-predictable scare stories and conspiracy theories. For a solid statistical breakdown of what is actually happening, in Wuhan and the twenty-seven other countries and territories in which the virus has been detected, check out this useful site created by the folks at World-o-Meter.

Grantwriting

On the Candid blog, Susan Schaefer, founding partner of Resource Partners LLC, looks at three of the core skills needed by a grant writing professional in 2020.

Health

More than fifty years after the civil rights movement changed the way Americans think about race, there is still much to do to reduce discrimination and increase health equity. On the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health blog, Dwayne Proctor, a senior advisor to the foundation's president, reflects on the role of stories in the search for solutions.

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Addressing Student Debt Through Philanthropy

February 04, 2020

GettyImages-1042539442_student_debt_piggybankIn an age of mega-donors and flashy facilities, higher education philanthropy increasingly is about bigness. Philanthropists and foundations scramble to put their names on buildings, endow chairs in popular departments, and fund the next scientific breakthrough.

Investing in higher education often is a great use of philanthropic dollars. But high-dollar gifts aren't the only big figures in higher education. These days, too many college students are burdened by the millstone of unconscionable debt. Indeed, as we begin a new decade, cumulative student debt in the United States has reached $1.6 trillion.

And debt is not the only financial challenge college students face. Once you factor in the supplementary or "incidental" costs of attending college, today's college students face a kind of death by a thousand cuts. Textbook costs are up 87 percent since 2006 — more than any other college-related expense. The cost of essentials like laptops, transportation, and living expenses often outstrip students' ability to meet them. Students are encouraged to prepare for the real world after graduation by taking low- or unpaid summer internships — another expense many simply cannot afford. As higher ed technology and course software changes, the costs add up.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (January 2020)

February 02, 2020

Novel-coronavirusA verdict in the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump, the growing threat of a global coronavirus pandemic, and the much-anticipated results of the Iowa caucuses — there'll be no shortage of news or headlines to track in the week ahead. But before we turn the page on January 2020 (already?), we thought we'd take a last look at the most popular posts on the blog in the month just passed. Be safe out there.

Interested in contributing to PND or PhilanTopic? We want to hear from you! Drop us a note at Mitch.Naufts@Candid.org.

Weekend Link Roundup (January 25-26, 2020)

January 26, 2020

Trump_Impeachment___Roberts.7Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Fundraising

It's the end of the world as we know it...and most of us feel fine. "Starting this year," writes Jeff Brooks on his Future Fundraising Now blog, "there will be no new Boomers entering the most-likely-to-donate stage of life. Now, they can only leave that stage...the hard way."

Giving

Did you get a few fundraising solicitations over the holidays? Looking for a way to cut back on all the mail/email you receive from charities at the end of the year? Charity Navigator's Kevin Scally and Ashley Post share a few tips designed to help you regain control of your mailboxes.

Health

Writing on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health blog, Dolores Acevedo-Garcia, professor and director of the Institute for Child, Youth and Family Policy at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, looks at how the latest iteration of the Child Opportunity Index, which she and her team at Brandeis first developed in 2014, can be used to help researchers and policy makers understand how children are growing up today in any neighborhood in the United States.

On the Commonwealth Fund's To the Point blog, Los Angeles Times reporter Noam Levey movingly describes the "lightbulb" moment that happens for people who experience a strong, patient-centered health system.

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Five Things Your Agency Can Do to Deliver Results for Families

January 17, 2020

Sykes_foundation_whole_familyIndividuals are whole people made up of a rich mix of physical, intellectual, social, emotional, and spiritual parts. Individuals exist within families, and families are the heart of our communities. In many ways, working families earning low wages are the backbone of our country, working the jobs that keep America running.

But many American families are struggling. Despite an uptick in the economy, more than 8.5 million children currently live in poverty, and they are often concentrated in neighborhoods where at least a third of all families live in poverty. Others are just a paycheck away from falling into poverty. For these families, a simple change in circumstance for a family member — a reduction in working hours, an illness, even the need for a car repair — affects the entire family's long-term well-being.

At Ascend at the Aspen Institute and the Pascale Sykes Foundation, we collaborate with families, nonprofits, government agencies, advocacy groups, and others to advance family well-being through a whole family or two-generation (2Gen) approach. Such an approach addresses challenges through the lens of whole people living in intact families, equipping children and the adults in their lives with the tools to collectively set and achieve goals, strengthen relationships with each other, and establish the stability of the family unit so that every member is able to reach his or her full potential.

In our work every day, we see the many meaningful ways in which a whole family approach benefits families and creates opportunities for service organizations to reach vulnerable populations, scale their work, and fulfill their missions. Here are five things your agency can do to shape its work in ways that will benefit families and support family members as they define, create, and realize the futures of which they dream.

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