125 posts categorized "Social Good"

Newsmakers: Jean Case, Author, ‘Be Fearless: 5 Principles for a Life of Breakthroughs and Purpose’

March 01, 2019

Jean Case is a woman on a mission. As the youngest child of a single mom working to raise a family in the small town of Normal, Illinois, and then in the Fort Lauderdale area, Case studied hard and dreamed big — of becoming a lawyer and maybe having a career in politics. But a few years out of college, something new called the Internet beckoned, and she found herself working at the one of the first pure-play online services. In short order, she took a similar position at General Electric and then, in her late twenties, landed a job at another startup, soon to become America Online (AOL), where over the next decade she and her colleagues helped usher in the Internet revolution.

In 1997, Case left AOL and not long after, with her husband Steve, then the chair and CEO of AOL, started the Case Foundation with an eye to "investing in people and ideas that can change the world." As the organization's founding CEO, Jean has helped guide its investments in online platforms like Network or Good, Causes, and MissionFish, and has spearheaded its forays into the still-nascent impact investing field. She currently serves on the boards of Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure (ABC2) and the White House Historical Association, and on the advisory boards of the Brain Trust Accelerator Fund, the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, and Georgetown University's Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation. In 2016, she was named chair of the National Geographic Society’s board of trustees, the first female chair in the society’s history.

Case attributes much of her success to her mother, her "first and most enduring role model" and the person who taught her "to take risks, to see possibility, and to be good to others." In her new book,Be Fearless: 5 Principles for a Life of Breakthroughs and Purpose, Case shares the stories of ordinary people who overcame their fear, took a bold risk, and did something extraordinary.

PND spoke with Case in January about the book and the lessons she has learned about success and the people who achieve it.

Headshot_jean_case2Philanthropy News Digest: Jean, I think a lot of people would like to know why you decided to write this book.

Jean Case: Well, the book is premised on research the Case Foundation undertook a number of years ago, where we set out to investigate the core qualities of great entrepreneurs and change makers, past and present, from around the world. And what we discovered was really surprising. When you think about what vaults people to success, it wasn’t genius, or privilege, or wealth. Instead, it boiled down to five things that are present whenever a transformational breakthrough happens. We thought it was interesting research, and we wanted to share it. And we quickly learned that what we were sharing resonated with people in every sector, with leaders of organizations in every sector, from college students to CEOs, in terms of challenging them to think about how they might move something for­ward that might have been languishing, or that they didn’t think they could do.

PND: The transformational breakthroughs you talk about in the book are almost always rooted in the willingness of an individual or an organization to make a big bet, take a risk, and let urgency conquer their fear. Urgency is key in that equation, isn't it?

JC: It is. In fact, I think the role it plays is often underestimated. I like to say that there is no better time to do something than when your back is against the wall, because you have nowhere left to go. It's what Martin Luther King called the "fierce urgency of now," and sometimes it's exactly the motivation we need to get out there and try.

That's really what the book is about. It's a call to people who have an idea about how to make the world better to get out there and try. And it provides a playbook, based on five principles, to help get folks started and to give them a sense of what they need to think about as they try to execute on a big idea.

PND: What do you say to young people who approach you and say, "Jean, I care, I really do, but I've got a lot of student debt, my parents aren't wealthy, housing costs are through the roof, and I just need to find a good job and make some money."

JC: Well, you know, the first chapter of the book is titled "Start Right Where You Are." And it’s meant to push back against the idea that to do something transformational, something that represents a breakthrough, you've got to have everything planned in advance and a detailed roadmap pointing you to where you hope to end up. That's just not what our research shows. It turns out that a lot of people who've gone on to extraordinary success got started in small ways. Yes, they might have had a big idea, but they started right where they were.

For example, I open the book by telling the story of Barbara Van Dahlen. Barbara was a family counselor, a sole practitioner, who was helping families deal with various mental health issues. But it began to dawn on her that the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq had created a huge mental health crisis among returning vets, and that the country simply didn’t have the capacity to meet the mental healthcare needs of veterans and their families. So, Barbara started donating an hour a week of her time to these families. And then she started talking to her colleagues, many of whom responded in kind, which then led her to wonder whether she could scale the effort. And that’s what she did, ultimately building a national network of thou­sands and thousands of doctors willing to donate healthcare services — some $25 million worth to date — to veterans and their families. She didn't quit her job, and she didn't wait until she had earned an MBA; she just started where she was and, step by step, took a big idea and moved it forward.

PND: If you had to choose between betting big on a person or betting big on an idea, which would you choose?

JC: I would always choose the person. You know, one of the things I point out in the book is that a lot of people who’ve seen success have had failures along the way. And often, the difference between people who find success and those who don’t is that the former are undaunted by their fears and failures. They've stared them in the eye, and they've pushed past them. It's not that they don't have them. We all have fears, and we all have had failures. But the person who learns to overcome them is more likely to be the person that finds suc­cess.

When I invest in startup companies, for instance, I like to invest in entre­preneurs who may fail, because I know they will take to heart those lessons I talk about in the book and will keep going forward, applying lessons they learned to their next company or startup situation. You know, Einstein said failure is success in progress. Too many of us don't think about it that way, and we need to.

PND: Do you have a favorite big bet, one that grabbed you as you were researching the book and exemplifies the maxim you attribute to Jane Goodall, namely, that every person can make a difference every day.

JC: It's interesting you mention Jane, because for me, she probably emerges as the truly iconic be-fearless story. Here she was, a young British woman with no education but who had a love and passion for animals. So, she gets herself to Africa, where she has the good fortune to meet Louis Leakey, who sends her out into the field, all by her­self, to do her chimpanzee research. She wasn't formally trained, so a lot of her methods were unconventional. But she ended up changing the field of primate research and today is considered to be one of the preeminent animal researchers in the world. She also likes to encourage others to act on their big bet and not be daunted by things they may not have or possess. In Jane's case, it was a degree. And that ultimately worked to her advantage.

PND: There are a lot of great quotations in the book. One of my favorites, credited to Henry Ford, is: "If I’d asked people what they wanted, they'd have said faster horses." He was referring to the importance of not only having a great idea, but also being stubborn enough to ignore the naysayers. Where does that kind of confidence come from?

JC: You know, you have to work at it, and hopefully people who are reading this have someone around them who encourages them when others are trying to rain on their parade. But even if they don't, if they have a big idea they probably also have a gut sense that they are on to something great. I talk in the book about moments in my own life where others were quick to tell me I was crazy and I just had to close my ears and do what I had to do. There are always going to be naysayers, but the person with a big idea knows in his or her gut that they’re on to something. They may have to pivot or change things along the way, but deep down they know that if they just keep going, they will achieve success.

The other thing the Henry Ford quote alludes to is how people with a big idea often have a knack for seeing around corners. They see things coming that others don't, and that gives them the confidence to stick with what they're doing. You know, when we started AOL, only 3 percent of Americans were online, and they were only online for an average of an hour a week. We had many people say to us, Why would I ever need e-mail? Why would my business ever need a website? It's really that ability to see what others can't that helps keep you going.

PND: In terms of practical advice, I really like your idea of pursuing a big bet in "chunks," a step at a time. But I think a lot of people who are passionate about making a difference want to make things happen now and have a hard time accepting the idea that change is a process, that it's more evolutionary than revolutionary. Is that how you see it?

JC: I definitely see it that way, and again I think this is one of those areas where people need to understand that there are small things they can do today, no matter their circumstance, to begin moving their idea forward. There are several tips and techniques in the book designed to help people get started from where they are, which is really key.

PND: Is the framework you lay out in the book translatable to other fields? A lot of foundations were established in perpetuity, and that tends to make the people who run them risk-averse and predisposed to the status quo. Can the Be Fearless framework work in an institutional philanthropy context?

JC: It most certainly can, and thanks to my role as chair of the National Geographic Society, a hundred-and-thirty-year-old organization, I can totally relate to the situation of larger, endowed, legacy organizations and the concern that trying new things can put all that at risk. I tell the story of National Geographic in the book, because it’s a great example of the need for organizations to constantly innovate and iterate if they want to stay relevant. Back when color photo­graphy was a new technology, the publisher and editors of National Geographic, the magazine, decided they wanted to include photographs in each issue, which led some members of the board to re­sign, because they felt that color photography was just a fad and not in keeping with the scientific mission of the National Geographic Society.

Fast forward to 2019 and look where we are — not only are we the most popular organization on Instagram, with over a hundred million followers, but our brand has become synonymous with high-quality color photography. And the society has been able to pull that rabbit out of the hat through each successive stage of technological disruption and change. When cable TV was the hot new medium, we introduced the National Geographic Channel in partnership with Fox. The same is true of social media more broadly, where we have the biggest footprint of any brand in the world. So, although we're an older, legacy organization — I mean, there are still mem­bers of the board related to the founding family — the one thing we are committed to is not settling for the status quo. We believe that if we don't continue to disrupt ourselves and find new ways to be relevant, we will lose our relevance altogether.

PND: At the same time, lots of people, in the U.S. and around the world, feel technology is moving too fast, that it's too disruptive, that we've let the genie out of the bottle and someday, in the not-too-dis­tant future, we're going to regret it. Is that a valid concern?

JC: I wouldn't necessarily say it's a valid concern or that we're going to regret it. But I do think it's accurate to say that the pace of tech­nological change is running faster than ever before in history, and that if we don’t have clear frameworks around ethics, around how to make sure all that change is in service to humanity, we could find ourselves in trouble. But, you know, I'm encouraged by all the people who are looking at this, and the very fact that we're having a dialogue about it. Things have happened quickly on the technology front and have taken us further than perhaps anyone would have guessed, and now we need to catch up and put some frameworks in place to make sure the future lives up to the promise.

PND: As you detail in the book, you didn't have a perfect Ozzie and Harriet upbringing. But you did have a very determined mother, wonderful grandparents, an excellent support system, and ended up living the American dream. Is that dream still achievable for most Americans?

JC: I would like to believe it is, but part of the reason I wrote the book is to sound a sort of clarion call to anyone who is questioning that. I was the youngest child of a single mom. What I had in my early years came to us through the generosity of others. One of the stories I include in the book is the story of Madame C. J. Walker, who was born the daughter of a slave in Louisiana a few years after the end of the Civil War. I mean, talk about starting life with challenges. And yet C.J. Walker built a hair care empire by herself, becoming the first self-made female millionaire and philanthropist in America.

It's stories like Madame Walker's that should inspire everyone who thinks the world has counted them out to say, "I'm not counting myself out. I know there are still opportunities in America for someone like me to do something great." That's why I wrote the book.

PND: What's the best piece of advice you ever received from a mentor?

JC: I'd probably have to say it's, "Don't wait to find the time to do the thing that matters." Life is short, and it's really important to make the time to do the thing that matters. In the book, I talked about how I use my calendar to do that. If I'm really trying to move toward a goal, I want to make sure that this week, every week, I've done something to move me closer to that goal. That won't happen if I just sit around and hope it does. I liter­ally have to put on my calendar as a reminder that I need to work on it. I have to be intentional in writing down what it is I want to achieve this week. It's a great piece of life advice that was shared with me early on, and I swear by it. It's really made a difference for me, and I believe it can make a difference for other people as well.

PND: A final question for you. Here we are a month or so into the new year. As you look ahead to 2019 and beyond, are you an optimist?

JC: I'm a total optimist. I think there’s never been a better time for people who see a way to make a difference in the world to make a difference. They just need to get started. And I'm super-optimistic that more and more people will feel called to do that. Yes, we have challenges, but we also have opportunities, and lots of people who see those opportunities, and I think that's true not just in the United States, but in countries around the world. So, I'm optimistic. And I'm looking forward to what 2019, and the future, brings.

— Mitch Nauffts

What's New at Candid (formerly Foundation Center and GuideStar) — February 2019

February 13, 2019

Candid logoHave you heard? Foundation Center and GuideStar have joined forces to become a single nonprofit organization, Candid. Together, we are dedicated to sharing information and insights that can fuel deeper impact. Candid will allow us to combine our knowledge and passions, and to do more than we could ever do apart. And the work continues! Here are some highlights of what we have been working on to start the new year.

Projects/Training Launched

  • New research supports: (1) donors give more to transparent nonprofits, and (2) transparent organizations tend to be stronger organizations. The research, recently published in the Journal of Accounting, Auditing & Finance, analyzed more than 6,300 nonprofits in the GuideStar database. They found that, as a group, nonprofits that earned a GuideStar Seal of Transparency averaged 53 percent more in contributions the following year compared to organizations that didn’t earn a Seal.
  • In partnership with the Early Childhood Funders Collaborative, the Heising-Simons Foundation, and the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, we've officially launched Funding for Early Childhood Care and Education, a joint effort to map the last ten years of philanthropic giving around family engagement and professional development. Foundation Center Midwest is partnering with the United Black Fund and the Cleveland History Center at the Western Reserve Historical Society to present The Soul of Philanthropy: Reframed & Exhibited.
  • We launched a new CF Insights research brief that looks at which community foundations are accepting donations of cryptocurrency, the challenges they've faced, and the platforms they use.
  • Glasspockets has unveiled a new transparency indicator that highlights whether foundations are publicly sharing their values or have policies that commit them to working transparently. The new "Transparency Values/Policy" indicator can be found on the Who Has Glass Pockets? page.
  • We've added a new infographic to the Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy site. Learn more on voting districts and the bipartisan divide on immigration issues.
  • In January, Foundation Center Midwest hosted an event in partnership with local arts stakeholders at which Foundation Center Midwest director Teleangé Thomas presented to a soldout room of young and emerging creative professionals on how Foundation Center can help them find funding with Foundation Directory Online and Foundation Grants to Individuals Online.
  • Also in January, Foundation Center Midwest hosted the Neighborhood Leadership Development Program's fundraising workshop, a full-day contract training for twenty-five "dreamers" working in the social justice and entrepreneurship space.
  • Foundation Center West successfully completed its contract training with the Creative Work Fund (CWF), a program of the Walter & Elise Haas Fund that is generously supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The training included a series of informational webinars and a convening around Mastering Collaboration featuring successful past CWF grantees and their grant award-winning artist + nonprofit collaborations.
  • Foundation Center West also completed two fund development workshop series for the San Francisco City and County Department of Children, Youth and their Families (DCYF). The series consists of three workshops each: fundraising planning; crafting a competitive letter of intent; and project budgets.

Content Published

In the News

What We're Excited About

  • Our offices in DC, Cleveland, New York, and San Francisco will host three-day proposal writing boot camps for the public in March and April. On average, Proposal Writing Boot Camp participants reported a 75 percent increase in their confidence after the session.
  • March 26: The "All Together Now: Conversations in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” series continues. During a program titled "Skills for Overcoming Burnout – Refueling the Fire," our partners at Rhiza Collective will share proven methods of self- and collective care. Learn how stress and trauma impact individuals and teams, and get strategies to address conflicts and resolve tensions.
  • We will travel to Miami in March to facilitate a funding panel, "Funding Collaborations and Building Ecosystems: A Grantmaker Meets the Changemaker Panel Discussion," in partnership with the Miami Children's Trust and Miami Dade Public Library System.
  • We've updated our self-paced e-learning courses, including "How to Cultivate Meaningful Relationships with Funders," "How to Use Data to Raise More Money from Corporations," and "How to Start a Major Gifts Program."
  • February 15: Foundation Center Midwest will be moderating a program in partnership with AFP Greater Cleveland, "Donor-Advised Funds: How to Find and Secure Support," featuring representatives from the Cleveland Foundation, Glenmede, and Fidelity. The program is a shared-cost contract program and, with a hundred attendees, is sold out.
  • The second webinar and watch party presented as part of Foundation Center West's California Wellness: Strengthening California Nonprofits grant will happen on February 27: 7 Lessons Learned from Nonprofit Leaders with Sean Kosofsky. In addition, five California Funding Information Network partners — Cal State University - Chico; the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy at John F. Kennedy University; Santa Barbara Public Library; Santa Monica Public Library; Pasadena Public Library — and one lapsed FIN, Cal State University - Fresno, have signed up to host watch parties and engage in a facilitated community discussion post-webinar.
  • GuideStar is providing nonprofit data to more people than ever before and in the last year recorded its 10 millionth unique visitor at GuideStar.org!
  • We're thrilled to announce that more than 66,000 nonprofit organizations have added information to their GuideStar Nonprofit Profiles, thereby earning a Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum GuideStar Seal of Transparency.
  • More than 70,000 university students and faculty in California now have access to GuideStar Pro resources for academic purposes thanks to UC Irvine and UC Berkley. Both colleges signed on to become GuideStar Library Services clients, providing institution-wide IP access to the GuideStar database.

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Our staff will be attending these upcoming events:

Services Spotlight

  • 458,072 new grants added to Foundation Maps in January, of which 2,960 grants were made to 1,836 organizations outside the U.S.
  • Foundation Directory Online now includes more than 14 million grants. In the new My FDO, new tools can help you manage your prospects like a pro.
  • New data sharing partners: Alaska Children's Trust, Alaska Community Foundation, Apex Foundation, Community Foundation of Snohomish County, Delta Dental Plan of Colorado Foundation, Inc., The Funding Network, George Alexander Foundation, John & Denise Graves Foundation, JRS Biodiversity Foundation, Kitsap Community Foundation, Sheng-Yen Lu Foundation, Melbourne Women's Fund, Montana Healthcare Foundation, Raynier Institute and Foundation, Satterberg Foundation, Thrivent Foundation, United Way of Pierce County, Westpac Foundation, and Sherman and Marjorie Zeigler Foundation. Tell your story through data and help us communicate philanthropy's contribution to creating a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.

Data Spotlight

  • Since 2006, private foundations in the U.S. have made grants of more than $7 billion to improve early childhood care and education, reflecting a deep commitment to the importance of supporting children and their families during a critical developmental period in their lives.
  • Total GrantSpace sessions for January 2019 exceeded 195,000.
  • As of November 2018, our Online Librarian service had reached its 2018 goal of serving more than 130,000 people.
  • We recorded nearly 30,000 registrations for our online programming in 2018.
  • We exceeded our goal for in-person attendance to our classes, with more than 16,000 attendees in 2018.
  • A five-year trends analysis of the largest 1,000 U.S. foundations demonstrates that foundations contributed an average $150.4 million a year specifically for disasters. Funding spiked in 2014 due to large grants for the Ebola outbreak, then declined over the next two years. Learn more about these trends at foundationcenter.org.
  • We completed custom data searches for Grantmakers in the Arts, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, McKinsey, the Mississippi Association of Grantmakers, the City of Phoenix,the City and County of San Francisco, Skidmore College, TCC Group, the University of San Diego, and GiveWell.

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.

Weekend Link Roundup (February 9-10, 2019)

February 10, 2019

Homepage-large-fc-and-gs-are-candid_tilemediumA weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

"Someday, perhaps, an entire nation could be powered by renewable energy, but that day is too far off to deal with the climate threat," say Joshua S. Goldstein and Staffan A. Qvist in a new book called called A Bright Future: How Some Countries Have Solved Climate Change and the Rest Can Follow. Instead, Goldstein and Qvist tell Marc Gunther, countries should be looking to nuclear as the short-term answer to the problem. For many in the environmental community, that is a non-starter. Gunther explores the dilemma.

Governance

Writing on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Kim Williams-Pulfer, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, shares some thoughts on nonprofit boards and the diversity imperative.

International Affairs/Development

On the OECD Development Matters site, Benjamin Bellegy, executive director of the Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support (WINGS), shares his thoughts on how philanthropy can best contribute to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals agenda.

Journalism/Media

Journalism and the news media in the U.S. are in trouble, the traditional business model for news threatened with extinction by the consolidation of eyeballs and ad dollars on a few mega-platforms. Forbes contributor Michael Posner looks at the conclusions of a new report funded by the Knight Commission on Trust, Media, and Democracy and finds that while the report diagnoses the problem well, "its recommendations do not go far enough."

Nonprofits

A new report from the Building Movement Project, a nonprofit research group, finds that women of color in the nonprofit sector face are twice as likely to be discriminated against than white men, more likely to be overlooked for advancement than any other demographic group, and, come review time, are more often ignored or subject to scrutiny in ways that appear directly related their minority status. Ben Paynter reports for Fast Company.

Social good organizations that don't gather and pay attention to feedback from their constituents are passing up a golden opportunity to improve their services and offerings, write Fay Twersky, director of effective philanthropy at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and Fred Reichheld, a fellow at Bain & Company and creator of the Net Promoter System®, in the Harvard Business Review. Fortunately, there are a growing number of tools out there, including something called Listen for Good (L4G), which is based on Reichheld's Net Promoter System, that make it easier than ever to do so.

In an era in which data is "revered," Paul Jolly, a fundraiser, creativity coach, and poet, reminds us on the GuideStar blog that "data does not guarantee good strategy. Data simply answers questions. And asking the right questions requires wisdom and curiosity."

Philanthropy

Amanda L. Gordon, who reports on wealth and philanthropy for Bloomberg, asks: What does it mean to be a billionaire in an age when there have never been so many? The answer is entirely unclear. 

On the Project Syndicate site, Peter Singer, a professor of bioethics at Princeton University and founder of the nonprofit organization The Life You Can Save, suggests that the Sackler family, the family behind the pharmaceutical company that has fueled America's opioid crisis, should stop using its wealth to promote the arts and start supporting, on the same scale as their arts philanthropy, groups that reduce suffering anywhere in the world.

In the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fidelity Charitable's Pam Norley and Elaine Martyn argue that donors with donor-advised funds "are poised to advance an emerging practice in philanthropy: listening to the organizations and people they are trying to help." But, they add, to "listen well, they will need the help of nonprofits they fund."

Science/Technology

Privacy in the twenty-first century is a complicated and often contested issue, writes Wilneida Negrón, a technology fellow in the Gender, Racial and Ethic Justice program at the Ford Foundation. Is it a human right? How much of it are we willing to give up in exchange for convenience or public safety? Should we expect the tech industry to self-regulate, or should government step in? All good questions, with no easy answers in sight. But there are things, says Negrón, that each of us can do "to build public support for laws, regulations, and interventions to promote privacy — and to ensure that the voices of the people and communities most affected are taken into account."

Social Good

As you're probably heard, Foundation Center and GuideStar have joined forces to become Candid. In this post, Brad Smith and Jacob Harold, president and executive vice president of the new entity, explain why it makes sense at this moment in time for the two organizations to combine their talent, technology, data, and leadership teams to help transform the work of social good. And in this post, Jen Bokoff, director of stakeholder engagement at Candid, and Gabe Cohen, senior director of marketing and communications, explain what the change means for users of GuideStar and Foundation Center products and services — over the next few months and in the years to come. 

Tax Policy

For Democrats, taxing the wealthy seems like a good first step to addressing  the urgent social and environmental challenges we face as a country. But it's not as easy as it might seem and, as always, the devil is in the details. Paul Sullivan reports for the New York Times.

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

Employee Pressure Will Help Redefine CSR in 2019

January 23, 2019

GlobeThis past year marked a turning point in corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts, with an increase of activism among corporate leaders and more pressure from employees urging employers to step up their philanthropic efforts. Early in the year, a piece I wrote for Blackbaud's CSR 2020: Experts Look Ahead examined trends at the intersection of employee engagement and community impact. At the time, I predicted there would be an increase in private-sector activity focused on social issues, especially as related to disaster recovery and resiliency, as well as a rise in CEO activism. Given the events of the past twelve months, it is safe to say those predictions not only proved true but have gained momentum.

Corporations as Activists

Just last month, 3BL Media and GlobeScan released survey results indicating that eight of ten corporate leaders believe companies are obligated to speak out on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues. They also predict that, inspired by the examples of Patagonia (environmental sustainability), Microsoft (diversity and inclusion), Chobani (immigration and refugee rights), and others, more than 60 percent of CEOs will increase their ESG advocacy over the next eighteen months.

Last year, Larry Fink, who serves as CEO of BlackRock, one of the world's largest investment management firms, outlined a new model for corporate governance in his annual letter to shareholders. In his letter, Fink emphasized BlackRock's commitment to considering both financial and social performance in all its investments. As 2019 gets under way, we've also seen the mainstream business press question, in pieces in the Financial Times and Fortune, the Milton Friedman doctrine that places the maximization of shareholder value above all else. Why? While core corporate values and building brand equity certainly are factors, the main benefits cited in these and other articles are employee-focused. Respondents to the 3BL Media/GlobeScan survey believe their organizations should be motivated by a desire to demonstrate a commitment beyond profit and, in a tightening labor market, do what they can to meet the expectations of employees, who have more options to take their skills elsewhere than they’ve had in a long time.

According to the 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey, millennials want corporate leaders to commit more aggressively to making a real impact on ESG issues while preparing their organizations (and employees) for a rapidly changing business environment. As CEOs grow increasingly vocal on important social and environmental issues, their companies will follow suit and work to demonstrate the values that employees are seeking through new philanthropic investments, volunteer programs, and community initiatives. While such activism has been modeled by some of the world's largest companies and more outspoken CEOs, companies of all sizes, across all industries, will face growing employee pressure, in 2019 and beyond, to act on issues of social and community import.

Skills-based volunteerism has already emerged as one of the most tangible, measurable connection points between employee engagement, values, and corporate community goals, with more than 50 percent of companies today offering a formal pro bono program to employees. In the next few years, we'll see more of those programs evolve past their pilot stage, embed themselves more deeply in the companies and communities in which they operate, and sharpen their focus on impact — for the nonprofit, the employee, the company, and the community.

Skills-Based Volunteerism to Build Disaster Resiliency

The past two years have seen an uptick in natural disasters across the globe and here in the United States, where communities have been battered by hurricanes, wildfires, mudslides, epic snowstorms, and earthquakes. Given the growing threat of climate change, there is little reason to believe that we  will experience fewer such events going forward. The good news is that American companies and corporations have responded to such disasters in force. Indeed, CECP Giving in Numbers: 2018 Edition showed a year-over-year increase of more than 300 percent in cash giving by corporations for disaster relief. While corporate partners have been quick to provide funding and launch employee donation drives when disaster strikes, these efforts often only address immediate relief needs. But as we've all learned, longer-term assistance for recovery and resiliency efforts also is needed — and presents an opportunity for pro bono volunteers to play a larger, more meaningful role in disaster recovery.

In the wake of a number of disasters in 2018 and 2017, Common Impact asked our partners a few critical questions: How could organizations work with employees from local companies to better equip their communities and region to deal with the next emergency? What skills and resources do they have that would best complement those of other institutions and organizations in their area? What we heard demonstrates that skills-based volunteerism and cross-sector collaboration can be a powerful way to help communities both prepare for disasters and support their ability to recover more quickly when disaster strikes.

It's a natural next step. The private sector's approach to disaster relief is grounded in service and sits within the context of a growing business imperative around climate change. For better or worse, natural disasters have become fertile testing ground for companies to band together to solve challenges larger than those they could reasonably tackle themselves.

Common Impact is hard at work shaping a more effective and efficient role for corporate volunteers and nonprofits seeking to support disaster relief and recovery efforts. Using our experience developing successful skills-based volunteer programs, our team has conducted extensive research and convened disaster response experts to better understand the critical role pro bono service can play in helping communities sustain their services, meet acute and unanticipated needs, and recover from the impact of disaster more quickly and efficiently. We believe this work can and will help the private sector move from a responsive approach to stronger, more proactive engagement.

While the business sector initiated the shift toward pairing purpose and profit, the concept will be tested again in 2019 — and the years to come. To be ready, companies need to identify their core priorities and make sure a social mandate is included in those priorities. Disasters, and the future, won’t wait.

Headshot_danielle_hollyDanielle Holly (@dholly8) is the CEO of Common Impact, an organization that helps companies and individuals invest their unique talents for environmental and social good. She is also a contributing writer to Nonprofit Quarterly, a member of the NationSwell Council, and has served on the board of directors for the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network and Net Impact NYC.

Be Bold, Take Risks

January 10, 2019

Take_the_leapEvery year for the last decade or so, organizations have shared their ideas for engaging millennials with me and then asked for my feedback. Thinking about it over the holidays, I realized I received about the same number of approaches in 2018 as in previous years.

I've been studying millennial cause engagement with the Case Foundation for most of that time and have shared all kinds of research findings and insights through the Millennial Impact Project and the newer Cause and Social Influence initiative. Organizations seek me out for advice about their own particular situation, especially as it relates to what is now the largest generation in America. Typically, they do so for one of the following reasons:

  1. they have not been able to cultivate a younger donor base;
  2. their past success is being challenged by new ways of looking at their issue, new technologies, or both;
  3. their donor engagement levels have plateaued; and/or
  4. their revenues have been trending downward and the future looks grim.

After a decade of fielding such approaches, I can usually sniff out whether an organization has what it takes to change — and by that, I mean the kind of change needed not only to attract a new and younger audience, but to engage any person, regardless of age, with an interest in their cause.

Change is hard. It demands a willingness on the part of leadership and staff to leave the status quo behind and push in the direction of a new guiding vision. In other words, it requires people to be fearless.

This kind of approach to change is detailed beautifully by Jean Case in her new book, Be Fearless: 5 Principles for a Life of Breakthroughs and Purpose.

In her book, Jean describes a set of five principles that can be used by any individual or organization to become more relevant and valued in today's fast-changing world. The five principles are:

1: Make a Big Bet. To build a movement or drive real change, organizations (or individuals) need to step outside their comfort zone and make an audacious bet on something they ordinarily would reject as too ambitious or difficult. And the risks associated with a big bet, says Jean, can be mitigated, if organizations are willing to learn and course correct along the way.

If you want to target a younger demographic, go ahead and do it in a big but measurable way that will teach you something. A/B testing one line in an email campaign to a purchased list is a small bet involving little risk and with little potential for changing anything. Building a canvassing team to collect emails at, say, a popular music festival and then tracking engagement after the event is over is a bigger bet involving more time and expense for an unknown return. Creating a mobile unit to travel to locales around the country where younger people tend to live, work, and play and then identifying influencers, micro-influencers, and potential supporters is a much bigger, more expensive bet and thus a much bigger risk. But it's big bets like that which lead to new discoveries and have the potential to propel your cause or movement forward.

2: Be Bold, Take Risks. We all need space and the permission to take risks, especially If we are looking to advance a cause or build a movement. Absent a willingness to take risks, we inevitably become complacent and are unlikely to ever tap into the creativity and enthusiasm needed to drive real change.

Internally, then, organizational cultures need to change from a stance of avoiding risk to one in which it is embraced. In practice, cause leaders should document the risks and lessons that may result from a new idea, campaign, or approach, then inform and reassure staff that though an action has its risks, the potential outcomes and learnings to be gleaned from it are worth more in the long run than not doing anything at all.

3: Make Failure Matter. Each action we take as an organization or individual brings us a step closer to defining a new hypothesis or proving an existing one. I get excited when someone calls me and says, "We tried this and it didn't work, but we learned something" — not because I want to see them fail, but because I know they're taking steps to creating an even better movement or organization built on tested methods and disciplined iteration.

Before you launch your next call to action, campaign, or event, take the time to gather from your internal stakeholders all the hypotheses you hope to test and then post them on a wall or whiteboard. Then, after the campaign or event is over, regroup and determine which of the hypotheses proved out and which didn't, what you think you learned, and what you need to test next.

4: Reach Beyond Your Bubble. "Partnership" is an overused word in the nonprofit sector. Today, being a partner is an expectation, as is finding ways to join forces with others around a common approach to social impact. That said, it tends to be the unlikely partnership that generates the most meaningful change for the issues we serve.

In other words, look beyond the tried-and-true partners you've always worked with and identify organizations and individuals in other sectors who may have a unique asset you can use to advance your cause or movement. It could be a tech company whose technology can help make your approach more impactful for your constituents, or an entity that serves the same constituency but with a different product or value proposition.

5: Let Urgency Conquer Fear. The time to take action is now. Not tomorrow. Today. It's imperative for your organization to develop a sense of urgency about its issue, because a sense of urgency is often the only thing that drives us to find time to make change. Look at any direct mail appeal you received in December: I bet every single one pointed to the urgency of the situation — and most of them probably included an explicit deadline In their call to action ("Act before midnight on December 31!").

Not convinced? What if I told you your organization has a built-in structural need to engage its donors and supporters right now. Give up? It's this: 18 percent of the contacts in your database go bad each year. If you don’t address your donor engagement problem now, you'll be launching your next campaign or call to action already behind. Today is always the best time to experiment, to adopt a new approach, to try something risky that may lead to a breakthrough.

In her book, Jean invites us to ask ourselves, "What would you do if you weren't afraid?" — and to answer fearlessly. As I hope I've helped you see, being fearless doesn't mean you have to climb the highest mountain, swim the deepest ocean, or cross the hottest desert. And it doesn't mean you have to gamble your organization's future on an all-or-nothing bet. What it does require is thinking big, being intentional, making (and learning) from mistakes, and taking action, even if it's a small step — today and not tomorrow. You can do it. Good luck, and Happy New Year!

Headshot_derrick_feldmann_2015Derrick Feldmann (@derrickfeldmann) is the author of Social Movements for Good: How Companies and Causes Create Viral Change, the founder of the Millennial Impact Project, and lead researcher at Cause and Social Influence.

New Year's Eve Roundup (December 31, 2018)

December 31, 2018

Happy_new_yearHere's our final roundup of the year. Wishing everyone a peaceful and prosperous New Year! For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Economy

No one has ever confused private equity with charity. That's not a surprise. As the Ford Foundation's José García and Xavier de Souza Briggs remind us: "One of the functions of private equity investment is to finance early-stage ideas and companies. Another is to help transform mature companies, for greater competitiveness....But too often," they add, "we have seen private equity funds focus narrowly on maximizing profits through leveraged buyout practices that come at the expense of disadvantaged workers, families, and communities." Must that always be the case? And is there any reason to hope that private equity investors might do something different to address the needs of displaced workers? In a post on the foundation's Equal Change blog, García and de Souza Briggs share a tale that provides a glimmer of hope.

Eillie Anzilotti, an assistant editor for Fast Company's Ideas section, shares seven things we, as a country, can do to create a more inclusive economy.

Fundraising

On the GuideStar blog, veteran fundraiser Barbara O’Reilly, CFRE, looks back at the year just passed and identifies some reasons for concern: giving in each quarter fell about 2 percent on a year-over-year basis, and the number of donors in the first half of the year fell about 7 percent (compared to same period in 2017). Just as importantly, donor retention rates dropped by 4.6 percent. As people start to file their 2018 returns, nobody knows how changes to the tax code will affect giving, but O’Reilly has some sound advice for nonprofits hoping to navigate the next twelve months unscathed.

Giving

Does taking pleasure in giving to others make us selfish? In Psychology Today, Kristin Brethel-Haurwitz, PhD, and Abigail Marsh, PhD, suggest that "it is our fundamentally caring nature that moves us to help others, and that feeling good may be merely a lucky and foreseeable outcome of giving, rather than its purpose — a critical distinction."

Urban Institute vice president Shena Ashley shares three trends in 2018 that could shape/reshape charitable giving in the years to come.

Continue reading »

Most Popular Posts of 2018

December 28, 2018

New-Years-Eve-2018.jpgHere they are: the most popular posts on PhilanTopic in 2018 as determined over the last twelve months by your clicks! 

It's a great group of reads, and includes posts from 2017 (Lauren Bradford, Gasby Brown, Rebekah Levin, and Susan Medina), 2016 (by Nathalie Laidler-Kylander, May Samali, Bernard Simonin, and Nada Zohdy), 2015 (Bethany Lampland), 2014 (Richard Brewster), 2013 (Allison Shirk), and oldies but goodies from 2012 (Michael Edwards) and 2010 (Thaler Pekar).

Check 'em out — we guarantee you'll find something that gives you pause or makes you think.

Interested in writing for PND or PhilanTopic? We'd love to hear from you. Send a few lines about your idea/article/post to mfn@foundationcenter.org.

What's New at Foundation Center Update (November and December)

December 18, 2018

FC_logoDoes anyone feel like the end of the year is the busiest time of all? Not only is everyone swamped, but with so much happening in the world and in philanthropy, there's hardly any time to prioritize reflection, learning, and empathy. Here at Foundation Center, we're scrambling to finish this year's projects while also planning some exciting things for 2019.

This is a long update, but I guarantee there's something useful in it for everyone!

Projects Launched

  • In partnership with the Early Childhood Funders’ Collaborative and Heising-Simons Foundation, we launched Funding for Early Childhood Care and Education, an interactive mapping tool that provides a valuable starting place for funders and practitioners interested in supporting the learning and development of young children across the country.
  • In partnership with the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, we launched the fifth edition of Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy, as well as a revamped website with an updated dashboard. The new report includes a five-year (2012-2016) trends analysis, adding to the information available on disaster giving and enabling philanthropists, government agencies, and NGOs to better coordinate their efforts and make better decisions about support for effective disaster response and assistance. You can view all these resources at: disasterphilanthropy.foundationcenter.org.
  • We launched the Barr Foundation Knowledge Center, which features key learnings and work from the Barr Foundation and their partners aimed at maximizing impact in their issue areas and the field more generally. Powered by our IssueLab service, the collection includes publications and resources that are free to browse and download.
  • In partnership with Hispanics in Philanthropy and Seattle International Foundation, we released a new report, U.S. Foundation Funding for Latin America, 2014–2015. This two-year analysis updates seven years of collaborative research with a multiyear analysis designed to help civil society leaders identify long-term trends in the region and better target their resources. With additional analysis on Central America, the report was highlighted at the 2018 Central America Donors Forum in El Salvador.
  • We added a new feature on YouthGiving.org, Causes: Youth In Action! The new pages provide an in-depth look at how youth funders are approaching critical issues in the world today. And while there are lots of causes around which youth are energized, the new feature focuses on three to start — Environment, Immigration, and Mental Health — with each page showcasing current funding data, ways youth can get involved, and stories from youth highlighting their work to effect change.
  • We released new research in partnership with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation that maps the composition of and support for the complex ecosystem of nonprofit and philanthropic infrastructure organizations around the world.
  • We launched new dashboards on the Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy site, a nonpartisan data visualization platform for anyone interested in understanding philanthropy's role in funding U.S. democracy. With the new dashboards, the site now provides information on more than 57,000 grants awarded by over 6,000 funders totaling $5.1 billion across four major categories: campaigns and elections, civic participation, government strengthening, and media.

Content Published

Newsworthy Connections

  • In the wake of the midterm elections, we have seen a reinvigorated debate around the role of philanthropy in a democratic society. But what are funders actually doing to support democracy in the United States? At a time of increased scrutiny of foundations, our updated dashboards on Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy provide a measure of transparency and a partial answer to that question and complement the broader discussion about philanthropy's role in a democratic society. Learn more at democracy.foundationcenter.org.
  • Teleangé Thomas, director of Foundation Center Midwest, was tapped to moderate a televised interview with Anand Giridharadas, author of Winner Takes All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World at the City Club of Cleveland in October.

In the News

What We're Excited About

  • Shifting from presenting data to sharing insights. A great example is this blog post on PhilanTopic written by our own Anna Koob on the intersection of democracy funding and participatory grantmaking — both recent focuses of our work.
  • Our GrantCraft guide on participatory grantmaking guide has been downloaded more than 2,000 times since it was launched in October! We've also received a number of inquiries from funders interested in adopting the practice and are continuing to advance the conversation through blogs, conference sessions, and webinars.
  • If you haven't already, check out the series in PhilanTopic on current trends in philanthropy by Vice President of Research Larry McGill and our Knowledge Services colleagues Supriya Kumar and Anna Koob. The series touches on big picture trends as well as a few of our recent research projects.
  • Foundation Center has officially joined the United Philanthropy Forum, a network of more than seventy-five regional and national philanthropy-serving organizations (PSOs). We’re excited about the exciting joint opportunities that lie ahead!
  • Foundation Center's annual Network Days conference for the center's Funding Information Network partners met the expectations of 93 percent of attendees and was attended by representatives of sixty-four of our partners, including a number from outside the U.S.

Services Spotlight

  • In October, we added 178,992 new grants to Foundation Maps, of which 4,665 were awarded to 2,269 organizations outside the United States. In November, we added 218,139 grants, of which 12,716 were awarded to 5,912 organizations outside the U.S.
  • Foundation Directory Online now includes more than 13 million grants. We've also made improvements to its search functionality and added more robust usage reports.
  • New data sharing partners: Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation; Boyd and Evelyn Mullen Charitable Foundation; Patrick and Aimee Butler Family Foundation; C&A Foundation; Delta Air Lines Foundation; Fichtenbaum Charitable Foundation; New York Women's Foundation, Inc.; People's United Community Foundation, Inc.; People's United Community Foundation of Eastern Massachusetts, Inc.; Pohlad Family Foundation; and David And Claudia Reich Family Foundation. Tell your story through data so we can communicate philanthropy's contribution to making a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.
  • Thanks to a generous grant from Borealis Philanthropy, we added 97 eBooks to Foundation Center's collection, bringing the total number of eBooks available to the public to 179. Since mid-April, when the collection was first made available online, the most-viewed titles have been The Complete Book of Grant Writing: Learn to Write Grants Like a Professional and Nonprofit Management 101: A Complete and Practical Guide for Leaders and Professionals. Check out our free eBooks today!

Data Spotlight

  • Since 2001, youth have made 101 grants totaling more than $475,000 in support of issues related to immigrants and refugees. YouthGiving.org's new cause page focused on immigration aims to help youth (and the adults who support them) to be more strategic in their work by highlighting quick facts and resources from organizations that work on these issues every day.
  • In terms of disaster assistance strategies, 42 percent of dollars awarded in 2016 supported response and relief efforts; 17 percent supported reconstruction and recovery efforts, with more than half of that awarded in support of efforts related to the Flint water crisis; 8 percent supported resilience measures; and 5 percent was allocated to disaster preparedness efforts. Learn more about these strategies and trends at disasterphilanthropy.foundationcenter.org.
  • Since 2011, Foundation Center has documented 57,000+ democracy-related grants. Of those, 11.5 percent totaling some $583 million were directed in support of campaigns, elections, and voting, including support for campaign finance reform, election administration, voter education, and voting access efforts.
  • Did you know funding for nonprofit infrastructure organizations averaged $70.4 million annually between 2004 and 2015? Learn more about the ecosystem of organizations working to support nonprofits, philanthropy, and civil society at infrastructure.foundationcenter.org.
  • Thirty-eight percent of the grant dollars awarded by U.S. foundations to Latin America went directly to recipient organizations in the region, while the rest was awarded to organizations located outside the region. Learn more about funding for Latin America here.
  • Youth have awarded more than $795,000 in support of the environment, including causes such as climate change, outdoor education, and animal welfare. Explore youthgiving.org/learn/causes/environment to learn more about why young people are taking action around the environment.
  • Since January 2018, Foundation Center has hosted more than 15,000 attendees at our in-person events at our five regional offices and registered nearly 30,000 folks for our online classes and self-paced e-learning courses. Check out our ongoing events calendar at GrantSpace. And browse our self-paced e-learning courses and other on-demand courses here.
  • Through our Ask Us chat service, Foundation Center staff have assisted with or answered more than 130,000 questions from the public on topics related to finding grants, fundraising, and nonprofit management.
  • Lastly, we completed custom data searches for the University of San Diego, Geneva Global, the Center for Evaluation Innovation, and the Educational Foundation of America.

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 Foundation Center.

Weekend Link Roundup (December 8-9, 2018)

December 09, 2018

F2abfbb4-60b6-4641-ae9f-37fc3299453b-Dole_BushA weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Children and Youth

Here on PhilanTopic, the Heising-Simons Foundation's Barbara Chow, and Shannon Rudisill, executive director of the Early Childhood Funders Collaborative, discuss  the results of a joint effort to map the last ten years of philanthropic giving in the field of Early Childhood Care and Education

Climate Change

On the Surdna Foundation site, Helen Chin, director of the foundation's Sustainable Environments program, explains how a recent rethinking of the program was an "opportunity to build community resilience...in partnership with grantees working at the frontlines in communities of color — communities hardest hit by climate change, disinvestment, and racist planning practices."

A caravan of Central American migrants "seeking relief from a protracted drought that has consumed food crops and contributed to widespread poverty," hundreds of millions of people in India at increased risk of not having enough water, prolonged drought in the Horn of Africa that has "pushed millions of the world's poorest to the edge of survival" — all, writes Landesa's Karina Kloos, "are stark reminders that the most severe consequences of climate change are being inflicted upon people living in the Global South...."

Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg traveled to Iowa this week to take the temperature of Democratic primary voters and while there vowed to make climate change "the issue" of the 2020 presidential race. Trip Gabriel reports for the New York Times.

Criminal Justice

A new report funded by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation found that the arrest rate for California has dropped 58 percent since 1989, reaching a historic low of 3,428 per 100,000 residents in 2016. The report also found that individuals who are arrested tend to be nonwhite, younger, and male; that racial disparities in arrests have narrowed; that overall declines are mainly due to plummeting arrest rates for juveniles and young adults; and that women account for nearly a quarter of all arrests.

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A Conversation With Ann Mei Chang, Author, 'Lean Impact: How to Innovate for Radically Greater Social Good'

November 14, 2018

Poverty. Mass migration. Economic dislocation. Climate change.

The problems confronting societies around the globe are big and getting bigger. The resources available to address those problems, however, are shrinking, as governments burdened by huge debts and future obligations and corporations wary of controversy pull back from “feel-good” causes and collective action. And while countless foundations and civil society groups continue to fight the good fight, their resources seem Lilliputian compared to the magnitude of the challenges we face.

It’s a moment that demands big thinking, bold thinking but also creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. The kind of thinking we’ve come to expect from Silicon Valley, the global epicenter of a certain kind of innovation and can-do spirit. The question, for many, is: What, if anything, can technologists teach nonprofits and social entrepreneurs about social change?

In her new book, Lean Impact: How to Innovate for Radically Greater Social Good, Ann Mei Chang, a respected social change-maker and technologist, tackles that question head-on. Based on interviews with more than two hundred social change organizations spanning almost every continent, the book distills the lessons learned by change-makers over the years into a set of "lean" principles for nonprofits looking to innovate their way to greater impact.

PND recently spoke with Chang about the genesis of the book, the sometimes testy relationship between tech and the nonprofit sector, and her advice for millennials and social entrepreneurs impatient with the slow pace of change.

AnnMeiChang-32Philanthropy News Digest: How did you get into social change work?

Ann Mei Chang: I studied computer science in college and then worked in Silicon Valley for over twenty years, at big companies like Google, Apple, and Intuit, as well as a number of start-ups. But I had known since my mid-twenties that I wanted to spend the first half of my career in tech, and the second half doing something more meaningful, something to make the world a better place. I hoped I would be able to make that change, and I was committed to it, although I didn't know exactly when or how. But as I got closer to that point in my career, in my early forties, I began to look around at all the things I cared about, and decided to focus on global poverty, as it seemed to be at the root of so many other problems I cared about.

I recognized there was a lot I needed to learn about a very different space. I ended up taking a leave of absence from Google and went to the State Department on a fellowship, where I worked in the Secretary's Office of Global Women’s Issues, with a focus on issues around women and technology. It didn't take long before I was hooked. I resigned from Google and signed on for another year. After the State Department, where a lot of the work takes place at the ten-thousand-foot level, I joined a nonprofit called Mercy Corps to learn how the real work was being done in the trenches.

Then I was offered my dream job — as the first executive director for the Global Development Lab at USAID, the agency's newest bureau with an inspiring two-part mission. The first part was to identify breakthrough innovations that could accelerate progress in the global development and humanitarian aid work that USAID does. And the second was to look at how we could transform the practice of global development itself by bringing new tools and approaches to table. The first was the "what," and the second the "how."

It fit exactly into the way I was beginning to think about what was really needed to make a difference. That's why it felt like a dream job — it was an opportunity to do this work at the largest aid agency in the world, in the belly of the beast, so to speak, but where I'd be responsible for thinking about how we could work differently and more effectively.

PND: It's an interesting career trajectory, in that it bridges the worlds of both technology and social change. In your experience, do technologists get social change? Or do they tend to see it as another problem that needs to be "engineered"?

AMC: That really depends on the technologist. As with everything, people in tech exist on a spectrum. I've known people in tech who think that technology can solve everything — we'll build a smart phone app and that will somehow end global poverty. There can be a naiveté and hubris, especially when you’re building products for people who live in contexts that you’re not that familiar with.

But there's also a thriving community of tech people in the global development sphere — we call it ICT4D, or information communication technologies for development — who are both technologists and development professionals looking at the intersection between the two. This community has developed something called the principles for digital development, which embody the best practices for the responsible use of technology in development.

One of the really exciting things that happened while I was in government was the creation of US Digital Services and 18F, where a lot of people from the tech sector came in to work for the govern­ment and saw that their skills could be put to use to help the government better serve people. It was catalyzed by the debacle with HealthCare.gov, which caused a lot of people to recognize that tech had something it could contribute that would really make a difference.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (September 22-23, 2018)

September 23, 2018

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

Communications/Marketing

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

Democracy/Public Affairs

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

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

Disaster Relief

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

International Affairs/Development

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

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

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

Continue reading »

'The House on Henry Street' Exhibition (Part 2)

September 13, 2018

Yesterday, in the first installment of a two-part series, Kathryn Pyle explained how the new "House on Henry Street" exhibition came about. In part two, she talks to the people behind the project about the unique challenges they faced in trying to distill a hundred years of social work and history into a cohesive experience.

HSS_Intro panel"Given our limited resources and the small space, we realized that any attempt to describe the significance of Henry Street Settlement in the late nineteenth century and show its relevance to our time meant that it had to be a multi-platform project," historian and curator Ellen Snyder-Grenier told me when I met with her earlier this summer. "On-site displays of artifacts and text could only tell a limited story. We decided that short films could round out the history and a website could expand the exhibit, breaking down temporal and space limitations."

Keith Ragone, the exhibit designer, recommended creating a 450-square-foot gallery from two smaller rooms on the first floor of the agency’s original townhouse and then "extending" that physical space through the clever device of having two windows looking out onto a late-nineteenth-century streetscape.

Ragone and his collaborators were familiar with the extensive trove of still photographs from that era and selected a number for the exhibit and website, but they also wanted to incorporate moving images into the display. Snyder-Grenier's research led her to the Edison Company films collection at the Library of Congress.

"I was flabbergasted by the extent and scope of the collection," she told me. When she discovered the three-minute film New York City 'ghetto’ fish market, she knew she had found the key element for their "view from the windows."

Another surprise was the Visiting Nurse Service of New York Film Collection, a digitized archive housed at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. The collection includes two hundred VNS promotional films, the earliest made in 1924. Lillian Wald herself appears in one from 1927; it’s in the exhibit and is embedded in a graphic timeline on the website that takes the visitor from the 1910s into the twenty-first century.

Cantos/ New Dances (1957) is a short film featuring the work of choreographer Alwin Nikolais, who established his dance company at the Henry Street Playhouse, later named the Abrons Art Center. Nikolais served for two decades as the artistic director of the center.

"Culture and the arts have been important from the beginning, and the Abrons Art Center has presented some of the most influential artists of our times," said Susan LaRosa, a marketing and communications officer at Henry Street for the past eleven years. "It was important that we acknowledge that, and the Nikolais film highlights one of our pivotal figures."

Continue reading »

'The House on Henry Street' Exhibition (Part 1)

September 12, 2018

HHS_entrance signThe first time, eleven years ago, Susan LaRosa, then a new marketing officer, pulled opened a cabinet drawer in her office at Henry Street Settlement, she discovered some forgotten letters written by the agency's founder, Lillian Wald, and early twentieth-century New York City civic leaders Louis Abrons, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and Jane Addams. The existence of the letters wasn't the surprise — LaRosa knew Wald had attracted many influential New Yorkers to her project. But the discovery made her wonder whether Henry Street's remarkable history was adequately preserved and what lessons that history might have for the present.

The questions her discovery sparked eventually proved to be the catalyst for a new exhibition, opening September 17, that explores the legacy of community through the story of a remarkable institution.

When I learned earlier this year about the upcoming exhibition and its designers' plans to include documentary films, a particular interest of mine, I decided to reach out to LaRosa to learn more about how the exhibition came to be.

Founded in 1893 by Lillian Wald, Henry Street Settlement, located on the Lower East Side of New York City, was one of hundreds of settlement houses that sprang up around the country in the late 1800s, primarily in cities with large, impoverished immigrant populations drawn by the huge demand for labor in a rapidly industrializing United States.

Settlement houses soon became a feature of the Progressive Era, a period of widespread social reform that understood poverty as primarily a social phenomenon rather than a failure of individual character — a distinction that continues to generate debate in our time. Settlement houses typically offered some combination of social services, recreation, education, job training, health care, and arts and culture, all geared toward helping lower-income working people, particularly immigrants, improve their living conditions and economic opportunities. There were once more than four hundred such houses around the country, and many still operate as community resource centers.

With its roots in Wald's original mission to provide visiting nurse services to the indigent on the Lower East Side, today's "Henry Street" serves sixty thousand people at seventeen neighborhood sites and thirty public schools with social services, education, and health care programs, and operates the Abrons Arts Center. A century ago, Wald mobilized support for the agency from wealthy supporters such as Abrons, whose family was among its first clients and whose descendants have continued their involvement with Henry Street up to the present.

Continue reading »

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

August 10, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there is hope.

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

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Foundation Center Relaunches GrantSpace.org

June 13, 2018

Skills, insights, and connections for a stronger social sector, from the foundation up!

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Have you heard? Foundation Center has relaunched GrantSpace.org, its learning community connecting nonprofits to the tools they need to thrive. Through the GrantSpace portal, Foundation Center, the leading source of philanthropy data worldwide, provides self-service tools and trainings designed to help nonprofits be more effective in their work.

GrantSpace originally was launched in 2010 at a time when the economy was struggling to recover from a deep recession and most organizations were cutting back on their activities. In the years since, learning behaviors have continued to evolve, but support for professional development within the social sector has failed to keep pace. Over the past eight years, GrantSpace has aimed to deliver valuable insights and knowledge to new and experienced social sector professionals, providing them with an increasing menu of in-person and on-demand trainings, knowledge tools, and opportunities to convene with like-minded peers and experts.

"GrantSpace is more than an information hub; it has evolved to become a gateway for learning, a place that houses everything from proposal templates, to step-by-step resources on starting a nonprofit, to a collaboration database with 650+ case studies detailing joint efforts in the sector," notes Zohra Zori, vice president for social sector outreach at Foundation Center. "The new site also makes it easy for our team to curate and showcase the finest tools out there — some  developed by our own staff, and many produced by respected partners in the field. Partnership is ingrained in our DNA, and GrantSpace is a place to illustrate how Foundation Center illuminates the good work of like-minded capacity builders, intermediaries, and colleagues in philanthropy."

The new site design features an enhanced, user-centered interface for simpler navigation, while new geo-location options enable users to easily search for events, locations, and programs in their community. "For those looking for help on the go," Zohri adds, "GrantSpace is now built for mobile, so that users can access any area of the site from any device. And If you're looking for the human touch to complement your online/mobile experience, use the 'FIND US' icon on the site to find the Funding Information Network affiliate location nearest you. Online and/or in-person… we've got you covered."   

Check out the type of training we offer online, or find a Foundation Center location nearest you!

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  • "Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary...."

    — Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)

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