1681 posts categorized "Philanthropy"

5 Questions for...Chera Reid, Director of Strategic Learning, Research and Evaluation, Kresge Foundation

September 16, 2019

As director of strategic learning, research, and evaluation for the Kresge Foundation, Chera Reid leads Kresge’s efforts to use data to inform its grantmaking and social investing strategies, partner with grantees to ensure that the foundation's evaluation efforts support organizational and community needs, and shape how the foundation advances the fields in which it works. Previously an officer in Kresge’s Education program, Reid has long focused professionally on issues of access and equity in institutions and systems and in her current role is leading the foundation’s efforts to apply an equity lens to its evaluation activities, place-based practice, and collaborations across different fields and sectors.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in English and African American Studies at the University of Virginia and a master’s from the University of Michigan, Reid served in leadership positions at the New York branch of America Needs You and the Phillips Academy Andover Institute for Recruitment of Teachers while earning a PhD in higher education from New York University.

PND spoke to Reid about Kresge’s transition from a foundation known primarily for making capital challenge grants to one focused on using a variety of tools to help grantees build stronger communities, the challenges of equity work, and how she stays upbeat and positive in challenging times.

Headshot_chera_reidPhilanthropy News Digest: You were named Kresge's first director of strategic learning, research, and evaluation in 2015, when Kresge was just a few years into its transition from being a foundation known primarily for making capital challenge grants to one focused on helping grantees build stronger communities. What role did the Strategic Learning Research, and Evaluation program play in that transition?

Chera Reid: When the foundation was primarily a capital challenge grantmaker, and we'd ask whether a project had been completed, a grantee would send in a photo of the completed physical structure. The other piece of it was financial. Kresge only released capital challenge grant funds when campaigns were nearing their finish line, which went a long way to ensuring the success of the grant.

The work I've been doing since I've been in my current role is about creating an intentional, learning organization. By virtue of that charge, the work I'm engaged in is about organizational culture change and about learning not just for the sake of feeling good about ourselves and to say we're doing it — it's about action and informing our decision making going forward. And accountability now is more about holding ourselves accountable to people in the communities in which we work and holding one another accountable to our mission.

What has changed at the foundation as we moved to a more strategic approach over the last decade or so is that we have expanded our view of our role. Kresge as a capital challenge grantmaker was an excellent thing. And we were brilliant at doing one thing: helping to build libraries, hospitals, and educational institutions. But today we're using a more complete toolkit of philanthropic resources. And that means we are table-setting, we’re bringing actors together from disparate fields, from the edges of practice and at the neighborhood level, and saying, "How about it? What do you think you can create together?"

We're also bringing different forms of capital to the table and saying, "How can we remove some of the risk associated with this work? Can we blend different forms of capital to get to the root of what people and communities are saying are their most pressing challenges? And how can we put learning, evaluation, and research to better use?" They’re all tools in our toolkit. And by being intentional about using learning and evaluation to inform a more strategic approach to philanthropy, we are committing to doing all the things that philanthropy can and should be doing to drive change.

When Sebastian S. Kresge started the Kresge Foundation in 1924, his directive as to what it should do was really broad: promote human progress. Today, it is about expanding opportunity for low-income people in cities and doing it with an equity lens. And in 2024, the year of our centennial, we'll be asking ourselves, "How did we do? What can we point to that shows the distance we have traveled as an organization in expanding opportunity for low-income people in America's cities? Have we really done it with an equity lens? And what is the path we want to chart institutionally as we look beyond 2024." Learning and evaluation are a really important part of that conversation, in that they help us hear the story, give us space to be more reflective, and enable us to look across different bodies of work and imagine the future we are trying to shape and contribute to.

PND: From an evaluation and learning perspective, what are the primary challenges of the foundation's equity work?

CR: Positing that we need to do that work through an equity lens has not been the issue, though that most certainly is not the case across the philanthropic sector. But for Kresge, bringing an equity lens to our practice has been a bridge. It resonates with other grantmakers and helps us come together and say, "Okay, what is it that we really need to learn?"

We try to incorporate the principles of equitable evaluation in whatever we’re working on. Evaluation in service of equity is about asking questions that get to root causes. It's about participant orientation and ownership, and also about ensuring that the work is multiculturally valid.

We do not have it all figured out. It's a challenge. As a sector, philanthropy has been able to work in ways that are not about evaluation in service of a bigger goal; we've been allowed to make evaluation about ourselves. But that is changing. And one thing adopting an equity frame means is that the many consultants we work with as evaluators have a long way to go to meet our goals and aspirations. What do I mean by that? We need more people who bring an equity lens to evaluative thinking, work, and consulting. In some ways, we've created that challenge for ourselves because in the past we did not ask for that kind of skill set. But we need more examples, and we need more of our peers to come forward and say, "This is what we’re trying to do and model." And there is definitely a sense of urgency around the challenge within the foundation.

PND: How does Kresge apply an equity lens to its environmental and climate resilience work?

CR: Lois DeBacker, the managing director of our Environment program and a person who has spent much of her career working in philanthropy on climate issues, often says that the climate question is everybody's question. Not so long ago, the foundation's Environment program employed an adaptation and mitigation frame, but when the foundation rolled out its urban opportunity framework, the program had to re-situate itself within that frame. So, today, our work in this area is about resilience, although there is still space for adaptation and mitigation.

For example, in the Climate Resilience and Urban Opportunity initiative, which is about centering people in their communities, one of the cities is Miami, where some neighborhoods are affected by flooding even on sunny days when so-called king tides are an issue. We're working with Catalyst Miami, a human services organization that has seen the effects of climate change on a regular basis, to bring together people who are most affected by the problem and have them help solve it along with government and business and community-based groups. That work is also pushing us into areas like public health and to say that climate change is a legitimate public health concern.

PND: You were a program officer in the foundation's Education program and, before that, ran an education nonprofit in New York City. What changes have you seen in the education field with regard to equity over the past decade? Are we making progress, and will we be able to sustain it?

CR: For me, the question about equity and education is largely about the narrative about who education — especially higher education — is for. I refer to it as education for liberation, by which I mean the freedom to think, to imagine, to dream, to wonder, to be curious, to hear oneself in the next person. I think that's the biggest gift education can give us.

Fewer than 60 percent of Americans — and this includes folks in states that are doing pretty well — have a high-quality postsecondary degree or credential. And I think the narrative around who higher education is for and what is supposed to happen when you get to college or university has shifted. Part of that shift is thanks to philanthropy, and a big part of the credit belongs to the Obama administration, particularly Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher campaign. Today, many colleges and universities are making student success their number-one priority. So, are we making progress? Yes, definitely, but we still have a long way to go.

What keeps me up at night is the continued segmentation in higher education that we see. By that I mean we have made it okay for people in this country who do not come from wealth or affluence — first-generation Americans, members of low-income households — to attend institutions that institutions that have the least resources and are asked to do the most for their students. And their social and economic mobility later in life often looks very different than it does for students from affluent families who attend elite institutions.

PND: These are challenging times for people working to advance a progressive social or environ­mental agenda. Do you ever find yourself getting dis­couraged? And what do you tell the people, both inside the foundation and your grantees, to keep them from getting discouraged?

CR: Last year, I was able to attend a fiftieth commemoration of Martin Luther King's assassination. I was grateful and moved to be sitting outside the Lorraine Motel in Memphis and to hear from folks like the Rev. Jesse Jackson and faith leaders from different religions and faith traditions. And part of what stood out for me was how young so many of those civil rights warriors in the 1960s were at the time. As a person who comes from a faith tradition, it reminded me of why I do what I do.

I think about my grandmother, who had an eighth-grade education. She lived well into her nineties, and she used to say that the race is not won by the swiftest or the strongest but by the one who holds on.

It's discouraging to see that our urban public schools are more racially segregated today than they were in the years after Brown v. Board of Education became law. It's a reminder for me that our work is both about today and about the past. The freedom struggle we are in is much bigger than the current moment. It is a movement that has unfolded over decades and continues to unfold, and we need to do our best to contribute to it what we can. The struggle is much bigger than we are.

In my role at the foundation, I recognize the importance of cultivating a radical social imagination. We have to attend to that sense of possibility, we have to let ourselves be curious, we have to be free to dream. I think john a. powell, who leads the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at UC Berkeley, is brilliant at cultivating and expressing a radical social imagination. Not only in the way that he describes othering and belonging for the many of us yearning to truly see ourselves, but in the way he brings his team together with truly inspiring people every two years for the Othering and Belonging Conference. The conference is a great example, for me, of what I mean when I say, "What does radical social imagination look like? Who are the best and brightest thinkers out there who can give us an answer and show us how to dream and imagine? What are the lessons we need to learn and share with others?"

There are times when I think rage and anger are important. Sometimes we have to call upon those feelings and take that energy to the streets. Sometimes we have to pick up pen and paper and write. Other times, it's a combination. But we owe it to ourselves to breathe through the work, to integrate those lessons into our own work, and to take to heart the charge that previous generations of leaders and activists put out there for us. As Martin Luther King said, "I may not get there with you, but I want you to know that we, as a people, will get to the promised land."

— Matt Sinclair

Museums Should Lead in Socially Responsible Investing

September 11, 2019

Plant-Growing-In-Savings-CoinsMuseums and galleries all over the world have been grabbing headlines lately as a result of controversies over the source of funding from donors and trustees.

Artists and members of the public have objected to sponsorship from companies and individuals linked to the sale of opioids, tobacco, fossil fuels, private prisons, or the manufacture of tear gas. But the outcry overlooks a bigger opportunity for endowed cultural institutions to signal their values: how they invest.

The financial investments of four museums that have been criticized — the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art — total more than $6 billion. Turning down a few million dollars in individual donations because of where the money comes from might feel good. But it ignores how these institutions invest the billions of dollars they already control.

Cultural institutions generally invest in public equities. It is reasonable to assume at least a portion of their public equity allocation is in an index fund, such as the S&P 500, which includes the very same types of companies — tobacco, weapons manufacturing, and fossil fuels — that are objected to in connection with controversial donors.

Yet there are hundreds of alternative vehicles that could allow for values-driven investing — including index funds such as the MSCI KLD 400 Social index and the S&P 500 ESG index. These exclude companies that produce negative social and environmental impacts. Then there are exchange-traded funds aligned with issues of race and social justice, gender equity, alternative energy production, and the UN sustainable development goals. In fact, in the U.S., $12 trillion is currently invested for positive environmental and social impact through funds such as these — one-quarter of all assets under management. So why aren't cultural institutions investing in these opportunities?

Mention the topic of socially responsible investing and people often ask whether investors sacrifice financial returns when they introduce factors such as environmental stewardship and good governance into investment decision making. The answer is no.

In fact there is a growing body of evidence demonstrating that socially responsible investments outperform conventional ones. Wealth advisers such as Perella Weinberg and impact investors as diverse as the state of North Carolina and the Russell Family Foundation are sharing their evidence and portfolio experience to prove it.

Cultural institutions should be at the forefront of socially responsible investing, and this is where their boards can help. So far, it is small arts organizations that are leading the way. Over the past few months, Building for the Arts and Creative Capital each invested in the NYC Inclusive Creative Economy Fund, the first impact investment vehicle targeting low-income communities. And in June, the Souls Grown Deep Foundation committed its entire $1 million endowment to an impact investment strategy focused on promoting racial and social justice and economic opportunity in the arts.

These three organizations see their investment portfolios as another tool to advance their mission. Larger operations such as the Ford Foundation, the Heron Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund have also demonstrated how to align the endowment of a nonprofit institution with its values.

Science and natural history museums including the Field Museum and the American Museum of Natural History have divested from fossil fuels in alignment with their stance on climate change. The time has come for our largest cultural institutions to demonstrate similar leadership.

Let's bring the best of Wall Street and Museum Mile together.

Headshot_laura_callananLaura Callanan is founding partner of Upstart Co-Lab and former senior deputy chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. Maxwell Anderson also contributed to this article, which originally appeared in the Financial Times and is republished here with permission.

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (August 2019)

September 06, 2019

Labor Day has come and gone, the days are getting shorter, and you're probably feeling the urge for goin'. Before you do, check out some of the posts that were popular with our readers in August. Enjoy!

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

Charitable Gift or Bribe? Lori Loughlin’s Legal Case Rests on Dubious Claim

September 04, 2019

USC_gateLast week, Lori Loughlin, the actress, and her husband, the designer Mossimo Giannulli, may have provided a glimpse of their defense strategy when they appear in court in October in connection with payments they made, say prosecutors, to help their daughters gain entrance to the University of Southern California. Their likely argument: the money wasn't a bribe; it was an act of altruism.

Loughlin's case is part of a larger — and by now, infamous — scandal involving thirty-four parents who were charged last March with paying money to a third party to "facilitate" their kids' admission to elite universities. Fifteen of those parents have pleaded guilty to fraud. One of them, actress Felicity Huffman, has pleaded guilty to paying $15,000 to have her daughter's SAT exam score artificially inflated and is scheduled to be sentenced on September 13. Unlike Huffman, Loughlin and Giannulli, who parted with $500,000, are planning to fight it out in court.

Loughlin's attorney, William Trach of Latham & Watkins, contends the money the government calls a bribe was really a charitable donation. "Checks were made out to USC Athletics and to a fund at USC," he says. "Those checks were cashed by USC." Trach’s logic, apparently: the money was sent to a tax-exempt charitable organization, and the organization put the money into its bank account; therefore, it was a charitable contribution. (Yes, the University of Southern California, with its $5.5 billion endowment, is a tax-exempt charitable organization.)

Money also traveled through another charity, Key Worldwide Foundation (KWF), which was established by William "Rick" Singer, the man behind the admissions scheme. Singer has pleaded guilty to racketeering charges and is now cooperating with prosecutors. We will likely hear more about KWF during the trial, but one question the prosecution should ask is how much Loughlin and her husband donated to entities not caught up in the scandal. Since their lawyer contends that their donations — that's plural — were in support of opportunities for underprivileged students, it might be helpful to know if the couple supported other, similar causes. In fact, it would provide context for their claim of generosity to know how charitable in general the couple has been over the years.

Clearly, a pure heart isn't the only thing driving many charitable contributions. Buildings and programs, for example, are often named for donors, a public recognition of their generosity. And there's no problem with that — not from the perspective of the IRS or the public. But where do we draw the line between a public accolade and a more tangible quid pro quo — a favor or advantage granted or expected in return for something. If the defense goes down the road of altruism, it will have to explain both the timing of the payment — at this point it's difficult to call it a gift — and the quo relative to the quid.

And what of Key Worldwide Foundation? Its mission statement is almost laughable in the context of the scandal: its website says the organization "endeavors to provide education that would normally be unattainable to underprivileged students, not only attainable but realistic. With programs that are designed to assist young people in everyday situations, and educational situations, we hope to open new avenues of educational access to students that would normally have no access to these programs." One might wonder how wealthy celebrities come to see their children as underprivileged. If Laughlin and Giannulli's response is that payments to KWF were meant to help others, that would mean it was mere coincidence that their daughters were accepted to USC. (And bear in mind they were accepted as recruits to one of the top Division 1 women's crew teams in the United States — even though they had no rowing experience.)

Then there's this: in addition to the colleges and universities involved in the scandal, the recipients listed on KWF’s 2015 and 2016 IRS information returns include a nonprofit called Friends of Cambodia (FoC). On those forms, KWF claimed it donated $19,200 in 2015 and $18,550 in 2016 to FoC. But NBC’s Bay Area affiliate KNTV spoke to Elia and Halimah Van Tuyl, the couple who founded FoC, who told the station they were "stunned" to learn their organization is listed on KWF's tax returns; the VanTuyls further claimed they had never heard of KWF or received any money from it. "There’s no record of any of these donations," Halimah Van Tuyl said. "I would have noticed — we’re not that big," added Elia Van Tuyl.

At this moment, it appears that in the gift vs. bribe argument, the evidence in support of the latter is stronger. And for reasons beyond bringing a group of parents trying to game the system to justice, it's important to know the difference. Philanthropy has entered an era of unprecedented scrutiny at the same time that nonprofits increasingly are being asked to demonstrate their impact. Our sector must be vigilant; we cannot afford to let charlatans, without charitable motive, falsely define the narrative of what doing good really means.  

Doug-White-headshot_optDoug White is an advisor to nonprofit organizations and philanthropists and an author and a teacher. His most recent book, to be published in October, is Wounded Charity: Lessons Learned from the Wounded Warrior Project Crisis.

What's New at Candid (August 2019)

September 03, 2019

Candid logoAlthough it’s still officially summer, we've been busy here at Candid, releasing new research, continuing the consolidation of our regional offices, expanding our Funding Information Network, and more. If there's anything you'd like me to cover in these monthly updates, shoot me an email. My colleagues and I are anxious to hear your thoughts!

Project Highlights

  • In the wake of tragic mass shootings in California, Texas, and Ohio and newly urgent conversations about gun control and the Second Amendment, understanding the full impact of gun violence in America is imperative. Our IssueLab colleagues have created a Gun Violence Special Collection that brings together evidence and insights from nonprofits, foundations, and research organizations working to understand that impact. In 1996, the U.S. Congress passed an amendment to a spending bill that banned the Center for Disease Control (CDC) from using any of its budget for gun violence research, leading to a dearth of data that could help inform the gun control debate. In the more than twenty years since, the social sector has produced over two hundred reports that explore policy models, provide data and statistics, and examine a range of sub-topics. Feel free to reach out to the IssueLab team if you have questions about the resources in the collection.
  • The surge in fires in the Amazon basin is a fresh reminder of the destructive impact that humans can have on ecosystems that are critical to life on the planet. Philanthropy continues to support efforts to ensure the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment, including the rights of Indigenous, marginalized, or other communities to the unspoiled natural resources that enable their survival; the right of Indigenous and marginalized communities to share in and determine the distribution of lands, territories, and resources; and the protection of these natural resources from destruction, overdevelopment, and/or pollution. To learn more about what funders are doing to support the environmental and resource rights of Indigenous and marginalized communities, check out this dashboard courtesy of the Advancing Human Rights initiative, a collaboration between Candid and the Human Rights Funders Network, in partnership with Ariadne: European Funders for Social Change and Human Rights and Prospera: International Network of Women's Funds.
  • Candid and the Human Rights Funders Network also have released a report that details foundation grantmaking for human rights globally. Conducted in partnership with Ariadne and Prospera, Advancing Human Rights: 2016 Key Findings highlights the scale and scope of funding for human rights, and sheds light on tough questions such as: Where is the money going? What are the gaps? And who is doing what?
  • CF Insights, a service of Candid, has launched the 2018 Columbus Survey Results Dashboard — the most up-to-date, comprehensive data set focused on financial trends and operational activity among community foundations in the United States. The data and findings provided in the dashboard are based on FY2018 survey responses provided by 251 community foundations and are supplemented by publicly available data.
  • Be sure to check out the new infographic on Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy that looks what foundations to combat the decline in local journalism.

You can learn more about other projects we’ve been working on in the Gain Knowledge section of our website.

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Services Spotlight

Data Spotlight

  • Funding by a matched subset of grantmakers for environmental and resource rights grew by 39 percent in 2016, a sign of growing international pressure to address the challenge of climate change.
  • We completed a number of custom data searches for the University of New South Wales.
  • New data sharing partners include: Alzheimer's Disease Research Foundation, American Friends Service Committee, the Cape Cod Foundation, the Climate Justice Resilience Fund, the Paul and Phyllis Fireman Charitable Foundation, the Goizueta Foundation, the Greater Worcester Community Foundation, the Klarman Family Foundation, the Libra Foundation, the New Coast Foundation, the Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation, the Washington Square Health Foundation, the Wettenhall Environment Trust, and the Women's Fund of Western Massachusetts. Tell your story through data so we can communicate philanthropy's contribution to making a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Candid.

Beyond the Dollar: Catalytic Philanthropy = Funds + Leverage

September 02, 2019

Coins-and-seedlingsFor as long as I have been working in the philanthropy field, New Zealand has been regarded domestically, and in international polling, as one of the most generous countries in the world. Based on comprehensive data captured in the Gallup World Poll for the period 2013-2017, last year's CAF World Giving Index placed New Zealand third on the list of most generous countries, behind Indonesia and Australia and ahead of the United States (fourth place) and the United Kingdom (sixth).

Each country is ranked for three behaviors:

  • Helping a stranger
  • Donating money
  • Volunteering time

Historically, these have been the ways we think about charity and philanthropy: giving by way of money or service, either in an immediate sense or, using a vehicle such as a charitable trust, donating money to specific causes or recipients in perpetuity.

Catalytic philanthropy is different, both more sophisticated and more focused on collaboration and measurement of return on investment, and is based on maximizing positive impact. Here is what it means for people and organizations in New Zealand:

1. Catalytic philanthropy represents a new approach to an age-old practice. The term describes the use of influence and leadership to leverage every dollar to the max. For instance, an organization with a corporate social responsibility program (say, an annual campaign in support of a bold-name charity) could be more strategic about increasing the impact of its giving by engaging with government and pressuring it to invest more in the charity’s area of interest, or by working harder with partners to garner more support for the charity.

In 2019, the scale of social need and urgency of the global climate crisis demands that we leverage our ability to give in much more practical and commercial ways than we have before. This is where catalytic philanthropy comes in: going beyond money to bring to bear every resource and partnership available to advance a cause or address a problem.

2. Silos are so twentieth century. The traditional model of philanthropy was adapted from the conduct of dynastic families like the Fords and Rockefellers in the early twentieth century. In the twenty-first century, the transparency demanded of charitable activity, combined with clear-cut social and environment concerns, gives the advantage to philanthropists and organizations that can think laterally and find inventive ways to extend their reach.

An example of this model is Foundation North, which employs what it calls "venture philanthropy" to engage other interested organizations and communities in finding solutions to complex social challenges. No longer is a single charity "responsible" for raising cancer awareness or cleaning the Hauraki Gulf; these days, we understand that we’re all in it together and that answers and funding have to be leveraged from a range of players to create long-term and sustainable impact.

Innovation is key to continually improving the impact philanthropy has on its intended cause or recipient. Under our founder Andrew Barnes' leadership, Perpetual Guardian established its own foundation, enabling donors, including those with more modest resources, to amplify the impact of their giving.

3. Money isn’t the be-all. Again, the old model was all about money: the more, the better. What we now understand through complex analyses such as those provided by JBWere is that the best social impact is not necessarily tied to the amount of money dedicated to a cause or issue but how adroitly it is used and tied to strong, measurable results. Catalytic philanthropy posits that the smartest giving is not the "biggest" giving; it’s the most strategic. And the most promising opportunity for today’s high-net-worth individuals is to build on the established charitable trust/foundation model to structure their giving in a highly strategic way.

4. Traditional trusts are becoming more sophisticated about ROI. New Zealand has over twenty-seven thousand registered charitable trusts, many of them set up decades ago by settlers who have since passed. In our business, we are starting to guide interested trustees toward a catalytic philanthropy model that follows the terms of the trust deed while taking advantage of progressive, collaborative developments in the sector.

An interesting impact investing example of this is the Stout Trust, which is well known for its work in the arts, heritage, and environment fields. This year, the trust will distribute $1.2 million to related causes, including predator-free work. Going beyond straightforward grant awards to investments that intentionally seek social or environmental impact alongside financial returns has become an increasingly important tool for trusts and foundations.

Impact investing has already demonstrated an impressive ability to harness the collective power of philanthropy, the private sector, and government at all levels. A prime example from the U.S. is the Detroit Home Mortgage Program, a collaborative effort between the Kresge and Ford foundations, a cadre of local banks, the City of Detroit (which was hard hit by the great financial collapse and the subsequent near-collapse of the U.S. auto industry), and the state of Michigan. The program is reviving the city’s decimated single-family housing market through a mix of grants, loans, and loan guarantees that ultimately enable buyers to purchase and renovate once-vacant homes.

Here in New Zealand, the NEXT Foundation established the Tomorrow Accord with the Government’s Department of Conservation. NEXT is a spend-down philanthropic fund of $100 million, and with the accord it is front-footing investment into pest eradication, with DoC agreeing to continue to fund those efforts in the future.

5. Businesses can define philanthropy in creative ways. Returning to the idea of creating a sphere of influence, business executives should be thinking outside the box in terms of creating social value alongside their immediate financial goals. Here at Perpetual Guardian we are working to advance the idea of a four-day, productivity-focused, reduced-hour model of work, which we regard as more suited to the demands of the twenty-first century workplace and lifestyle. In addition, we require each staff member to use, once a quarter, one of their personal days to engage in charitable or volunteer work. We’re also analyzing how staff can volunteer in ways that help them achieve even more for New Zealand communities.

Our efforts in this regard are about being strategic as an organization and leveraging the influence we have to increase our impact. There are many ways to do this, procurement being an obvious one; it is now commonplace for public- and private-sector organizations to seek out "green" options in technology, transport, and other services, which incentivizes service providers to think about and invest in climate-friendly initiatives.

Ultimately, catalytic philanthropy is a more comprehensive, encompassing, and sophisticated approach to a practice people have been engaging in for centuries. As experts in the field, we are enabling clients and communities at large to use resources in creative ways and to look beyond money to a more astute calculation of ROI – one that leverages the combined efforts of people and organizations to do the maximum amount of good at all levels of society.

Headshot_Liz GibbsLiz Gibbs is head of philanthropy at Perpetual Guardian. Over a career spanning twenty-five years, she has served as chief executive of Save the Children New Zealand and Philanthropy New Zealand and as head of foundation for Te Papa Tongarewa. Her current governance roles include deputy-chair of UNICEF New Zealand and board member at the Mediaworks Foundation.

5 Questions for...Kashif Shaikh, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Pillars Fund

August 27, 2019

Kashif Shaikh is co-founder and executive director of the Chicago-based Pillars Fund, a grantmaking organization that invests in American Muslim organizations, leaders, and storytellers in order to advance equity and inclusion. Established in 2010 as a donor-advised fund at the Chicago Community Trust with investments of $25,000 each from five Muslim-American philanthropists, the fund became an independent organization in 2016 with seed funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. To date, the fund has awarded $4 million in grants to small and midsize nonprofits to help ensure that American Muslims are able to thrive and live with dignity — and continue to have opportunities to contribute to civil society and public discourse.

PND asked Shaikh about the role of Muslim philanthropy in American society, the importance of supporting "culture work," and the fund’s current priorities.

Kashif_Shaikh_pillars_fundPhilanthropy News Digest: Your website states that the fund’s grantmaking "is inspired by Muslim tradition, which includes respect, conviction, sacrifice, action, and generosity." Why don't Muslim philanthropies and charities have a higher profile in the United States?

Kashif Shaikh: Giving of one's wealth, time, or effort is deeply embedded in the Muslim tradition. And in the United States, the earliest recorded example of Muslim giving was by enslaved Muslims, who in the nineteenth century distributed saraka in the form of small cakes to children on plantations off the coast of Georgia, continuing a tradition from West Africa. The word saraka is closely related to the word sadaqah, the Arabic word for "charity." This is important to acknowledge as we try to build on what generations of Muslims have already done in this land.

Three-quarters of Muslims in the United States today are immigrants or children of immigrants, and half of all U.S. Muslims arrived after 1970. Over the last fifty years Muslim communities put a lot of resources into building mosques and other communal spaces as they put down new roots here. A significant portion of this giving happened through informal networks rather than through established foundations and funds.

More recently, Muslim giving has been gaining greater visibility for a number of reasons. Many of our philanthropic and nonprofit institutions are relatively new to the scene. Among our grant applicants, 20 percent of the Muslim, Arab, and South Asian-led organizations were founded before September 11 and 80 percent were established on or after September 12, 2001. This tells us that many charitable efforts in our communities have been launched in response to the crises we faced. And, we've seen another burst of need  — as well as innovation — since the 2016 general election, which signaled another moment of crisis and "profiling" of our communities.

Unfortunately, many philanthropic efforts led by people of color have been historically overlooked and undervalued in this country. "Our issues" have not been seen as relevant to American society overall. More recently, however, attacks on the civil and human rights of Muslims in the U.S. have signaled a broader erosion of rights across communities. It has become increasingly clear to us that Muslim communities are going to have to coordinate our efforts to defend ourselves against these threats and work more closely with other impacted communities to protect ourselves.

At Pillars, we've recognized the need to target our resources, which includes funding those who are at the forefront of some of these challenges. As Muslims have entered more civic spaces and joined more networks and coalitions — and have been recognized for our work in doing so — our profile has been rising. We are intentional about raising our visibility because it is important for everyone to understand the role Muslims have played, and continue to play, in bettering society, whether through our philanthropic, cultural, or civic contributions.

PND: The fund works to achieve its goals through three program areas — grantmaking in support of "rights, wellness, and understanding"; empowering American Muslims to tell their own stories and ensure more accurate and authentic representations of Muslims in the media and culture; and providing thought leadership to foundations, think tanks, media, and civic leaders. Why is culture-focused work — for example, the multiyear public arts and oral history project you funded at Brooklyn Historical Society — so central to your efforts?

KS: Culture plays a tremendous role in shaping our beliefs about ourselves and others. Unfortunately, many people in the U.S. still hold a low opinion of Muslims, and much of that is rooted in the damaging narratives we’ve all been exposed to through popular culture, especially film and television, over many decades. If we want to shift how people perceive Muslims, we can't afford to ignore culture. Brooklyn Historical Society’s Muslims in Brooklyn oral history project, led by historian Zaheer Ali, empowers the borough’s Muslim communities to narrate a piece of New York City history. By listening to their stories, told in their own words, anyone can learn how Muslims have helped shape one of the world's most influential metropolises.

There is so much power in crafting and sharing your own story, which is why we are inspired by the oral history project. There is also a vast untapped reservoir of Muslim storytellers that we want to help organize and nurture. Muslims are one of the most racially and ethnically diverse faith communities in the U.S., and only when we appreciate the many perspectives within our community will we begin to understand what it means to be a Muslim in America. For example, the perspective of a newly arrived Syrian refugee could not be more different from the perspective of a fourth-generation African-American Muslim. We want to help create space to honor and share all of these stories.

PND: Has the current political climate in America changed the fund's priorities or the way it approaches its work?

KS: My co-founders and I established Pillars Fund because we observed that American Muslim communities were underresourced while being disproportionately targeted by harmful policies and widespread stereotyping that was feeding and reinforcing  bigotry and enabling those very policies to take hold in America. Particularly in the years since September 11, our community has been in a constant state of emergency, reacting to and mobilizing against new hate crimes, discriminatory policies, irresponsible news reporting, and biased cultural programming on a daily basis.

All of this work  has been essential to the health of our communities, but we've always known we needed to think beyond to the next twenty to thirty years. How will our communities function then? Are we cultivating the next generation of leaders and cultural producers? This is our focus, and we’ve tried to maintain that focus in the decade since our inception.

That said, the current political climate has changed the reality we're facing. As a young, evolving organization, we've tried to maintain our ability to respond to shifting dynamics. Under the current administration, we've had to contend with family separation and other humanitarian crises caused by the Muslim ban. But we're also looking at ways to support the many Latinx immigrants being rounded up by ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and separated from their children, and people whose families have been torn apart by other forms of mass incarceration. Family separation is a grotesque policy that we would stand against no matter who was being impacted, but it’s important to recognize that the U.S. Muslim population includes a vibrant and growing Latinx community. No person is defined by their faith alone, and it's important to recognize how the multiple identities each of us carries impacts our concerns and livelihoods.

PND: In 2018, the fund awarded  $800,000 in grants, most of which were less than $50,000. What's the theory of change behind your focus on awarding relatively modest grants to small and midsize nonprofits?

KS: There are hundreds of organizations working in or alongside Muslim communities in the U.S. Part of what makes Pillars Fund effective is our ability to assess the national landscape and identify where investments can accelerate progress toward a more just, equitable, and inclusive society. We want to give a boost to  organizations we see as doing pivotal work around the country, and this has required us to spread our resources over a relatively wide field.

Many of the nonprofits we work with are very small, and a grant of $50,000, $25,000, or even $10,000 is incredibly meaningful for organizations that are used to working with one full-time employee, an army of volunteers, or a budget of less than $100,000. A lot of our partner organizations are in the earliest stages of their development, and we can support them as they grow. In many cases, they are the people directly impacted by the issues they're working on. This isn't long-distance charity. In many cases we’re simply supporting them in doing the work they’d already be doing anyway.

In addition to awarding grant dollars, we’re always looking for ways to support our grantees' development through capacity building, which has included technical assistance with digital security, workshops and consultations on how to build their board and how to fundraise, communications support, and so on. This kind of wraparound support is something we’re committed to investing in even further in the years to come.

Pillars is building a community of Muslim grantee-partners, storytellers, and investors who share a broad vision, but each bring unique and important perspectives to our collective work. While I always see us contributing to a wide network of groups, I anticipate that the size of each grant will increase as our fund grows.

PND: Before helping to launch Pillars, you were a program officer at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and were tasked with helping Chicago nonprofits scale their work at the intersection of racial justice, poverty, and education. As the executive director of an organization that partners with much larger national foundations — including the Ford, Kellogg, MacArthur, Nathan Cummings, and Open Society foundations — what is the most important lesson you have learned about collaboration?

KS: That's a great question. Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that transparency is paramount. Everyone has their own interests and priorities, and it's important that you bring your individual mandates to the table when collaborating. This helps you avoid misunderstandings as the work progresses, and ensures that each organization is better positioned to accomplish its goals. Be transparent and communicate regularly to keep your collaboration on track.

I'll add this: the best advice I ever got about marriage is that it’s not really a 50/50 collaboration. Some days it's 90/10, and on others it's 40/60, and so on. Each organization brings its own value to a collaboration, and it doesn't always appear equal. What’s essential is to recognize what each of you brings, and to leverage and honor that contribution.

Kyoko Uchida

A Tale of Two Donations

August 15, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Family Funders: Always Important in Rural Communities

August 14, 2019

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

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

A question I’m often asked is: How does rural philanthropy differ from urban foundation work? The answer lies in both tactics and cultural context. Much urban philanthropy is focused on the development and implementation of large-scale best-practice models around specific issues — health, education, early childhood development, and so on. Grants are made to large staffed nonprofits with the aim of reaching thousands (if not tens of thousands) of constituents, and funders often dictate the specifics of the intervention and the outcomes. In effect, the funder is contracting for results.

The best rural philanthropic work operates differently. The emphasis is on place, not on a specific issue or intervention. It’s an approach that reflects how people live and work in rural communities — often wearing multiple hats (teacher, pastor, coach,  civic committee chairperson) concurrently. There may not be a large, well-oiled, local nonprofit to serve as the primary recipient of the grant. Instead, funders typically look to alternative anchor institution such as libraries, community colleges, or parks and recreation departments to administer the grant and work closely with smaller nonprofits that can do the job but may need extra support in order to expand their services and impact. The scale of the work is also different. But while the numbers might be smaller, the opportunity to do transformational work is significant.

Increasingly, equity is a part of many urban funders’ mission and funding strategies. While it is defined differently depending on the issue and outcomes, it always involves long-term disparities in access and opportunity for historically marginalized people. Many rural communities also struggle with divisions around race and ethnicity, and newer versions of these divisions have come into play with the arrival of new immigrants across rural America. The best rural philanthropic work recognizes and works to create equity around opportunity. This might entail broadening the voices that are heard in a rural community, bridging divides around broadband and health care, or opening up access to higher education for those previously shut out.

At the same time, rural communities can be dominated by close-knit leadership structures that leave lots of people on the outside looking in. Because of its historic roots in many of these communities, family philanthropy often is in the best position to promote and support inclusion and ensure the future viability and success of these communities.

One new philanthropic player in many rural communities is the healthcare conversion foundation. Created from the sale of nonprofit healthcare assets to for-profit providers, there are now more than three hundred and fifty of these foundations nationally, and many of them are rural-based or have a large rural footprint mirroring the service area of the original nonprofit. The opportunity for long-term rural-serving family foundations to collaborate and leverage their efforts with these newer conversion foundations is an underappreciated and -developed part of the rural philanthropic landscape. In the best circumstances, deeply rooted family funders can serve as mentors and connectors for the conversion foundations as they get the lay of the land while helping to diffuse the confusion and anxiety that often results from a large influx of new philanthropic capital into small and often underresourced communities.

Family philanthropy was present in rural America long before there was ever a "field" of philanthropy. Going back to the nineteenth century, families that prospered in America gave back by building schools, hospitals, and libraries. With that history to draw on, and with the technologies and philanthropic expertise developed over the last quarter-century at their fingertips, today's family foundations have a golden opportunity to support the kind of long-term systems change needed for rural communities to thrive. Fortuntaely, there are many willing thought and funding partners out there eager to be part of their efforts.

Headshot_Allen_SmartPhilanthropywoRx founder Allen Smart is a national spokesperson and advocate for improving rural philanthropic practice. A former interim president, vice president of programs, and director of the Health Care Division at the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, Smart recently served as project director for a national rural philanthropic project partially supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and based at Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina. He also regularly consults with regional and national foundations on rural and philanthropic strategy. A version of this post originally appeared on the National Center for Family Philanthropy site.

Helping California Students Access College Financial Aid

August 09, 2019

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

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

College Affordability

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

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

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

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

Enter Education Trust-West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building the Community We'd Like to See

August 08, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why does this matter?

When Freddie Gray died in 2015, many of us came to realize that our institutions, including public and private, weren't setting young people up for success. While a host of needed reforms were launched to address community and law enforcement relationships, a glaring question remained: How do we show our young people we are willing to invest in their future and provide entry points to help them find opportunity and long-term success?

BCYF is an important step forward in answering that question.

Community leaders agree. With less than $11 million available, the fund received $75 million in grant requests through nearly five hundred grant applications.

In its first year, BCYF granted $10.8 million in funding to eighty-four organizations. The grantees were a mix of small organizations and established nonprofits working on everything from mindfulness and mediation to financial literacy. Notably, 63 percent of the organizations funded in the first year were African American-led.

In what city does this happen? It's happening in our city. It's happening in Baltimore.

Too often when community leaders gather to outline solutions to various problems, they fail to include directly impacted people. Not this time. The fiscal steward Associated Black Charities and a team of professionals offered over three thousand hours of help to grantees who may have been new to the funder-grantee relationship or in need of added capacity to ensure maximum impact.

Before BCYF ever issued grants, they held community design sessions, technical assistance workshops, and trainings to ensure the community was prepared to complete the grant application and access resources. As a professional grantmaker with an extensive career in philanthropy, I know that this level of engagement between a funder and the community is rare.

For our president, spewing insults has become the standard response to criticism. He seems to want to drive us apart.

But in Baltimore, we know we can only succeed if we all move forward together. Just as a relay race involves multiple runners, sustained support for children, youth, and young adults requires multiple partners at the local, state, and federal levels.

Headshot_Patrick_McCarthyThe Baltimore Children and Youth Fund is a groundbreaking start. Let's build on it, and programs like it, to shape the future we'd like to see for our city.

Patrick McCarthy, PhD, retired in December as president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a position he held for nine years.

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (July 2019)

August 02, 2019

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

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

Black Wealth 2020 Adds HBCUs to Its Economic Empowerment Agenda

August 01, 2019

1515184852588The short-term economic impact of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) is $15 billion — rivaling that of corporations such as Bank of America and its more than 177,000 employees.
 
Yet according to the U. S. Department of Education, approximately 60 percent of all black college students have no expectation of a family financial contribution to their education. That's far lower than that for whites, for whom the number is approximately 30 percent. And it's approximately 48 percent for Latinos and 38 percent for Asians.
 
The economic impact of HBCUs, their struggle to stay afloat, and the dire financial disparities faced by HBCU students are the reasons that Black Wealth 2020, a catalyst for black economic equality, recently decided to add HBCUs as a forth leg to its three-pronged approach to growing black wealth (the others are black-owned businesses, black banks, and black homeownership).
 
"We've got to keep on pushing this agenda. And hooking up with HBCUs is a big way of doing that," said Michael Grant, former president of the National Bankers Association and a founder of Black Wealth 2020 in a meeting just before the principals voted unanimously to acknowledge HBCUs as being "central to strengthening the American economy."
 
"If we're serious about building black wealth," Grant added, "how can we not have a focus on our youth and the next generation?"
 
The expansion of the organization's vision was inspired, in part, by a presentation by Dr. Lezli Baskerville, president/CEO of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education and a principal of Black Wealth 2020.
 
"But for HBCUs, there would be no African-American middle class today. And that's a documented fact," Baskerville told the group. "Just the existence of HBCUs in our communities — even the ones that are not thriving — ends up collectively generating about $15 billion in short-term economic benefit. And that doesn't include anything other than what the institutions and their employees and students spend in surrounding communities."
 
Robert Smith's Morehouse initiative challenges black community on its support for HBCUs
 
In an initial move to encourage support for HBCUs, Black Wealth 2020 principals have also sent a thank-you letter to billionaire businessman Robert Smith, chairman/CEO of Vista Equity Partners, who touched hearts across the nation when he announced he would pay off the student loans of the Morehouse College class of 2019.
 
The letter applauded Smith, saying, "With student debt nationally at over $1.4 trillion and with the average college student leaving school $30,000 in debt, your gift not only relieved an enormous financial burden from...Morehouse [students] and their parents, you have challenged all African-Americans of means to think bigger about how to use their wealth to improve the lives of others within our race."
 
Members and supporters of the Black Wealth 2020 coalition include the National Association of Black-Owned Broadcasters; the U. S. Black Chambers, Inc.; Delta Sigma Theta Sorority; the National Bankers Association; the Collective Empowerment Group; the National Association of Real Estate Brokers; the National Black Caucus of State Legislators; the National Urban League's Marc Morial; the National Association for Equal Opportunity; Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA); former Small Business Aadministration deputy administrator Marie Johns; John Rogers, CEO of Ariel Investments; Andy Ingraham, CEO of the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers; and Marcia Griffin, CEO of HomeFree-USA.
 
"We thought it fitting that a coalition committed to building wealth should take the opportunity to acknowledge and praise your commitment to uplifting our people," the letter to Smith said in closing.
 
HBCUs struggle for funding — to the detriment of the nation
 
In her presentation to Black Wealth 2020 on the state of HBCUs, Baskerville made the case that student loan debt is inevitable for students whose families cannot help them pay for college. But, she noted, financial issues also hinder even good students from making it through college.
 
Baskerville drew heavily from a report compiled by economist Bill Spriggs, who has argued that HBCUs are the key to diversifying the tech industry, currently among the top-paying industries in the United States.
 
"In the pipeline of people who generate wealth in the African ancestry community, there is not today a challenge in terms of blacks getting into college," said Baskerville. "[Spriggs'] data shows that there is no disparity in the percentages of African-Americans from high-needs areas and whites that are enrolling in college. The gap happens after they get in. It's not that they're not prepared and could not thrive, given the opportunity; it's that once they get in, they don't have the dollars."
 
Among other facts Baskerville cited from the Spriggs report:
  • Despite the financial challenges faced by many institutions and the students themselves, HBCUs are performing above average and do very well in moving students from low-income families into the top 20 percent of income distribution.
  • Many non-HBCU universities now have more students from the top 1 percent than from the bottom 40 percent.
  • With a declining number of white students in the general population and a growing share of low-income students, HBCUs are an underresourced asset for the U.S. economy.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are currently a hundred and seven HBCUs operating in the United States. All  struggle with funding.
 
HBCUs Punching Above Their Weight (36 pages, PDF),  a recent report from the United Negro College Fund, the premier fundraising organization for HBCUs, says that despite their difficulties, HBCUs are still succeeding beyond expectations.
 
"Given their small average size and a history of being underresourced, the enrollment, degree and economic impacts of HBCUs on African Americans in their respective states are significantly greater than one would expect," the report states.
 
Principals of Black Wealth 2020 have vowed to push for the growth of HBCUs as part of their respective agendas and encourage other major organizations and the general public to join them.
 
"It means that for nearly a hundred and fifty years, we've had institutions of higher learning that have produced some of the best and brightest African Americans, and we still recognize the benefits that accrued to the African-American community because of historically black colleges and universities," said the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Weaver, a Black Wealth 2020 principal who represents the Collective Empowerment Group, an economic initiative involving approximately eight hundred black churches. "It's only fitting that Black Wealth 2020 would have a relationship through which we can find ways to collaborate and partner to create even greater synergy within the African-American community with historically black colleges and universities."
 
Headshot_HazelTriceEdneyHazel Trice Edney is the president/CEO of Trice Edney Communications and a former editor-in-chief of the NNPA News Service.

What's New at Candid (July 2019)

July 30, 2019

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

Project Highlights

Thought Leadership Highlights

For more great content, follow us on Twitter.

Candid in the News

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

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

Services Spotlight

Data Spotlight

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

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

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Candid.

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

July 26, 2019

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

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

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

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

Villanueva moves quickly from his deconstruction of how foundation practices are embedded in colonialism to solutions, noting that they are easily found in the practices and traditions of the continent's indigenous peoples. "All of us who have been forced to the margins," he writes, "are the very ones who harbor the best solutions for healing, progress and peace, by virtue of our outsider perspective and resilience." At the same time, his sense of "otherness" empowers him to ask difficult questions. He addresses, for instance, the question of where foundations choose to locate their offices. Are they located in  neighborhoods that foundations have targeted for their support? Are they designed and run in a way that is welcoming or intimidating for grantees? Even more challengingly, he probes the extent to which foundations must come to grips with the sources of their wealth, at one point asking whether foundations should actively seek out ways to address the business abuses of their founders? In many ways, Villanueva is both championing and reviving a point of view with a long tradition in organized philanthropic practice in the U.S., but doing so with a powerful new idiom and moral authority.

Perhaps most importantly, Decolonizing Wealth calls on foundations to give up or (at a minimum) share control of their decision-making with the people most affected by those decisions. Over the last several decades some family foundations and public foundations have taken modest steps in this direction. On July 28, 1961, for example, the Taconic Foundation invited a handful of civil rights leaders, including the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., to its offices in New York City to brief its trustees, foundation officials, and representatives of both the White House and the U.S. Department of Justice. The aim of the meeting was to bring other funders to the table to support voter registration efforts in the South. Other foundations have discovered the double value of adding grantee representatives to their board and hiring individuals from "affected communities" as program officers, while a growing number of foundations are tapping leaders in the fields they support to serve as trustees. (At many family foundations, those who serve in such roles typically are term-limited while family members are not.)

In San Diego, the Jacobs Family Foundation provides support to local partners involved in the Village at Market Creek, a sixty-acre community development plan for the city's Diamond Neighborhoods area that was created by teams of community residents. The foundation’s philosophy is to leverage its entire asset base for the benefit of its partners and grant recipients, and as a step in that direction the foundation has located an office in the neighborhood. Another example is Philadelphia-based People's Fund (today known as the Bread and Roses Community Fund), which has long supported grassroots social justice organizations. In the 1970s, all grant decisions made by the fund had to be voted on at an annual meeting open to "grantee partners" as well as donors and other stakeholders.

Twenty-five years later, as a program officer at the Ford Foundation, it was my turn to be exposed to the strongly-held belief (in the case of Ford) that those most affected by social and economic challenges are in the best position to craft optimal solutions to those challenges. Then, in 2011, while reading Janny Scott's book A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother, I learned about the work that Ann Dunham, Obama’s mother, did as a program officer for Ford in Indonesia in the 1970s. A  trained anthropologist, Dunham did not just sit in the foundation's Jakarta office and review proposals. Instead, she got out "in the field" and talked with local villagers and their elders about the challenges their communities faced. As a result of those conversations, she was able to craft grants that more directly responded to the aspirations of the people and communities Ford was there to help.

In a similar fashion, in the mid-80s, Ford engaged as consultants a number of frontline responders to the AIDS pandemic, including health officials, the chief executive officer of GMHC, and gay men either infected or affected by AIDS/HIV, to suggest strategies that would be most effective in stemming its devastation. (As the founding executive director of Funders Concerned About AIDS, I was privileged to be one of those who served in that capacity.) More often than not, such changes were due to the actions of well-placed individuals rather than from a structural analysis on the part of staff and board.

More recently, Jennifer and Peter Buffett's NoVo Foundation stepped in to help the women's movement in New York City create a place where women can gather. Similar places have existed for decades in cities as diverse as Rome and San Francisco. But New York, which has been a locus of women's organizing dating back to the nineteenth century, lacked such a hub. To correct the situation, NoVo stepped up and purchased a former correctional facility for women on Manhattan's West Side to serve as the site for the project and engaged a variety of stakeholders, including formerly incarcerated women  — "a circle of women leaders who bring wide-ranging skills, perspectives, and experience to the project" —  to make decisions about its use.

These examples suggest that the kind of participatory decision-making championed by Villanueva exists in philanthropy, but that they remain the exception rather than the rule. Which makes his book an even more powerful call to foundations to be focused and intentional as they embark on this journey.

In the final analysis, Villanueva's message is simple: the beneficiaries of foundation grants should be at the decision-making table. And if the field is to take seriously his call to action, then action is the next step. One hopeful sign that such change might be in our future can be seen in the fact that more than forty thousand people, including many foundation officials, have flocked to hear Villanueva speak since his book’s publication last year. Logical next steps to build the movement to decolonize organized philanthropy would include sharing stories of foundations that are on this journey; seeding programs at foundation gatherings in the Americas, Europe, Australia, and other continents whose governments are engaged in colonization; publishing case studies of participatory philanthropy; enlisting other voices as ambassadors; and continuing to collect and share emerging practices. We all must continue to explore new ways of creating greater equity between the institutions that hold the money and those who seek our support. Let this time in philanthropy be the moment of change.

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-USA, and a long-time contributor to PhilanTopic. A version of this review originally appeared on the HistPhil blog. To read more of Michael's posts for PND, click here.

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