Weekend Link Roundup (March 17-18, 2018)

March 18, 2018

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


Nonprofit communications professionals should pay more attention to their usage of hyphens. Nonprofit AF's Vu Le shares a dozen examples that demonstrate why. 

Criminal Justice

"As the U.S. confronts a growing epidemic of opioid misuse, policymakers and public health officials need a clear understanding of whether, how, and to what degree imprisonment for drug offenses affects the nature and extent of the nation’s drug problems." A new analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts finds "no statistically significant relationship between state drug imprisonment rates and three indicators of state drug problems: self-reported drug use, drug overdose deaths, and drug arrests." Pew's Adam Gelb explains.


On WaPo education reporter Valerie Strauss's Answer Sheet blog, venture capitalist Ted Dintersmith offers some advice to Education Secretary Besty DeVos based on what he learned after visiting two hundred schools in fifty states.

On the Aspen Institute blog, Jennifer Bradley chats with Caroline Hill, founder of the DC Equity Lab, which invests in early stage education ventures in Washington, D.C. 

More than 50 percent of the U.S.-based education companies invested in by Omidyar Network have been founded or led by women. ON's Isabelle Hau shares some  of the lessons it has learned along the way. 


The announcement by the New York City-based Nathan Cummings Foundation that it plans to “align 100 percent of [its] nearly half-billion dollar endowment with [its] mission" raises some questions for the always insightful David Callahan. 

"Youth-led organizations across the country are demanding to be heard," writes Mónica Córdova, deputy director of the Funders' Collaborative on Youth Organizing, on the NCRP blog, and it "is philanthropy's turn to grab hold of the opportunity before us and advance the movement for a multiracial, cross-class alliance of young people standing up to demand a society free from all forms of violence."

PEAK Grantmaking's Alyssa Curran has put together a very nice introduction to racially equitable grantmaking.

On the HistPhil blog, Columbia University doctoral candidate Andrew Jungclaus examines the "godly conservatism" of J. Howard Pew, founder of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

What's a day in the life of a program officer like? Doron Weber, a vice president and program director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, lays it out for Lifehacker's Nick Douglas.


The key finding from a new report by Brooking's Adam Looney and the the Federal Reserve Board's Nicholas Turner is shocking if not surprising: boys who grow up in families in the bottom tenth of the income distribution are about twenty times more likely to be in prison in their thirties than boys born into families in the top tenth. Vox's Dylan Matthews has the details.

Public Affairs

When it comes to politics, the generation gap is wider than it has been in decades — with wide and growing divides in generational views of racial discrimination, immigration, and the size and scope of government. The Pew Research Center breaks it down.

Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

9 Strategic (and Inexpensive!) Ways Funders Can Support Grantee Staff

March 16, 2018

Generic-supportNonprofits tend to sink or swim based not on mission and funding alone but on the talents of employees. Keeping good employees and equipping them for the work that needs to be done is one of the critical challenges frequently cited by nonprofit leaders, yet funders tend to invest much less in the "people" aspects of nonprofit organizations than they do in other areas. Indeed, businesses spend four times more per employee on leadership development than do nonprofits, while according to Foundation Center grant data from 1992-2011 less than 1 percent of foundation grant dollars are invested in nonprofit workforce development.

There are many reasons for this, from fear of getting tangled up in personnel issues to foundation charters that specify funding for programs rather than operations. However, as nonprofit organization Fund the People emphasizes, nonprofit people are nonprofit programs, and even modest investments in staff development can have significant impact.

At the Pierce Family Foundation in Chicago, our priority is capacity building and providing funding for the kind of "back office" support that keeps organizations strong and enables their programs to thrive. Given the particular experience of family members and founding staff in working for and running nonprofits prior to launching the foundation, a focus on supporting what it really takes to deliver mission was part of our vision from the beginning. It's only natural for us, therefore, to want to invest in the people whom nonprofits employ.

Below, I outline nine strategic and inexpensive ways we've invested in nonprofit staffing — and that we believe other funders interested in providing similar support can easily adapt for their own purposes.

1. Provide unrestricted general operating support. Capacity begins with staffing; do not underestimate the importance of supporting basic staffing costs by providing unrestricted general operating support. The more stable the general operating base, the more supported an organization will be in terms of staff retention, compensation, and morale. Staff also function better in non-chaotic environments that allow them to focus on how they can best put their skills to work. At the Pierce Foundation, 70 percent of our grantmaking takes the form of general op grants, and 30 percent is for specific capacity-building projects, from upgrades to CRMs and donor management software to consultant support for succession planning.

2. Offer an outside advisor for HR projects. Outside advisors can provide an objective review of a grantee's staff organizational chart, job descriptions, compensation levels, and personnel policies. We offer general workshops on topics such as "What Are You Paying and Why." We also offer private sessions with a consultant for organizations that are looking to revise their organizational chart or salary ranges, or (in a time of budget cuts) trying to combine two jobs into one. An outside advisor can make this process less painful and provide data and expertise that would not otherwise be available to an organization. We began experimenting with what made the most sense in this area because of the conversations our leading support specialist, Kris Torkelson, and Program Director Heather Parish found themselves having with grantees, many of whom did not know where to turn to for nonprofit-specific HR advice (much less a "reality check" with respect to job descriptions or comparables that can be shared with board members often reluctant to spend money on staff development).

3. Share salary data from national and regional surveys. We subscribe to the six or seven major nonprofit salary surveys because we know our grantees can't afford to and/or are unlikely to. One of our consultants combs and sorts through the surveys to identify "comparables" by position, type of organization, etc. and then shares that data with our grantees. This enables grantees to quickly see what organizations doing similar work pay their staff. Exposure to this kind of data often helps an organization understand why its staff turnover is high and can lead to needed adjustments to its salary ranges. We don't stipulate what our grantees should do with this data — that's not our role — but it typically feeds into the case for support made to their boards at budget time, as well as the longer-term planning done to ensure that an organization's ambitions align with its capacity.

4. Look at how you can support the staff. If you fund in a program area, that means you tend to work with a particular set of organizations across an entire field. In our case, it's services for the homeless. Because we kept hearing it was needed, we recently funded an expert to create a training manual that equips new shelter workers with what they need to know about current thinking and best practices in the field. We've also done simple things like covering the costs of outings, dinners, and other types of support for staffers whose jobs mean they deal with extraordinary trauma on a daily basis and rarely get a break.

5. Invest in peer support for your grantees. This could be an occasional roundtable for IT staff or an ongoing program like Peer Skill Share, which we created to match our grantees with counterparts at other organizations for one-to-one problem solving and professional development sessions. Support for peer learning helps build networks and is a cost-effective way for grantees to gain new skills and knowledge while reinforcing how much talent and experience is available to them within their existing networks.

6. Send your EDs to boot camp. Sponsor new executive directors' attendance at "boot camps" for new CEOs, which are often available through a local university, nonprofit support organization, or leadership program. If your resources allow, you can also support programs for staff in other key positions. For example, we pay a facilitator to host our Top Talent Institute, a six-month professional development program for senior nonprofit managers that is part roundtable, part learning circle, and part technical assistance. We believe efforts like this help keep talent in the sector and better prepare future EDs for the roles they may take on down the road.

7. Take note of and fill gaps around training offerings. It's often much easier for nonprofit managers and executives to find a workshop about how to write a proposal than to find one that teaches them what they need to know about supervising staff after they've suddenly been promoted or how to hire and fire. Workshops dedicated to human resource issues — and that take into account nonprofit culture and realities — tend to be few and far between. In fact, we've created many for our own grantees, and they are always the best attended of all the workshops we provide.

8. Subscribe to a pro bono legal service. These services might be available through local law firms or others in the legal services field. We pay an annual membership fee for a group of our grantees to be part of an over-the-phone advice line run by a law firm that offers grantees free access to an HR attorney, basic HR templates, sample personnel policies, etc. Remember: Many, if not most, nonprofits do not have the connections that would enable them to identify a pro bono attorney and do not have an in-house HR director who can stay up to date with current protocols, best practices, regulations, and so on.

9. Set aside an annual allowance exclusively for professional development. Our core grantees get a $2,000 stipend to apply as they see fit to professional development, which can include conference registrations, training fees, professional memberships, coaching, etc. When nonprofits are forced to cut budgets, professional development is often the first line item to go. A grant specifically earmarked for professional development reimbursement or support helps preserve this critical aspect of a nonprofit's operations and helps staff stay current, connected, and empowered.

The strategies outlined above do not require enormous investments of dollars or time, merely a willingness to see nonprofit staff as key to building the kinds of effective organizations we all want to see achieving goals we all share. We believe investing in staff and staff development is essential to achieving the outcomes any nonprofit hopes to deliver. After all, you can't get a meal without a kitchen, or the cooks who prepare it.

[Editor's Note: The Fund the People Toolkit recommended above is a free resource that details how to maximize investment in the nonprofit workforce and features the Pierce Family Foundation in its "case studies" section.]


What’s New at Foundation Center (March)

March 14, 2018

FC_logoI'm shoveling out from endless snow (or slush, as it's quickly becoming) to bring you this latest update in our monthly series focused on what we're learning about the social sector, where we're speaking, the data we're collecting, and how you can contribute to those efforts. Here's more on what we were up to in February:

Projects Launched

  • Our annual Columbus Survey launched on CF Insights. This survey collects data about financial trends and operational activity at community foundations in the United States. Explore last year's results dashboard to get a snapshot of the community foundation landscape!
  • We now offer ebooks you can borrow for free to read on your device! View our collection and create a free account on the main Catalog of Nonprofit Literature homepage.

Content Published

What We're Excited About

  • Our dedicated amazing GrantSpace specialist Sandy Pon was selected as one of 2018's 50 Movers and Shakers by Library Journal. Nominated as a "digital developer," Sandy addresses the critical (and free!) information literacy needs of the nonprofit and social sector every day through our Grantspace.org platform and our Ask Us service. Congratulations to one of our game-changing librarians!
  • Our soon-to-be released GrantCraft guide on knowledge sharing to strengthen grantmaking.
  • Our women-powered work.
  • Thanks to the generous support of the Doll Family Foundation and the William J. and Dorothy K. O'Neill Foundation, Foundation Center Midwest will conclude its 40th Anniversary celebration series with a nod to the future of philanthropy. The special program, "Meet the Changemaker: Next GEN Givers, Doers & Innovators," will take place on Saturday, April 7, at our Foundation Cenrer Midwest Cleveland office.
  • We've answered over 1,500 questions about nonprofit management and the social sector more broadly through our online chat since January. (Have a question? Ask!)
  • We're giving GrantSpace — our website geared to grantseekers — a makeover so that it's easier to find what you're looking for. Keep your eyes peeled for the new site in April.
  • Foundation Center Northeast (our New York office) will be hosting a series of workshops this year as part of a grant award from the Communities of Color Nonprofit Stabilization Fund. These awards are made in order to provide capacity-building services for selected nonprofits led by and serving communities of color across New York City's five boroughs. If you're an eligible nonprofit that did not apply for 2018, we would love to discuss partnering with you to apply for a grant for 2019. For more information e-mail Kate Amanna Demcsak, New York lead, at kva@foundationcenter.org.
  • We have a newly improved and easy way to tell your story through our Foundation Center Updater. Keep us up-to-date on the work of your organization!

A Few Projects in the Pipeline

  • In partnership with the Ford Foundation, a project to expand the data on local philanthropy in India.
  • In partnership with Native Americans in Philanthropy, a project to build a web portal featuring philanthropic funding related to — and by — Native peoples.

For more on these projects or how to work with us, send us an email.

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Our staff will be speaking/appearing at these upcoming events:

Our staff will be attending and/or exhibiting at these events:

Data Spotlight

  • 236,716 new grants added to Foundation Maps in February, of which 9,865 grants were made to 6,571 organizations outside the U.S.
  • New data sharing partners: Henry County Community Foundation, REI Corporate Giving Program, Samuel N. and Mary Castle Foundation, and the Philip L. Van Every Foundation
  • Illegal fishing accounts for about 20 percent of the world's catch, costing up to $23.5 billion a year. See more on our featured landscape, FundingTheOcean.org.

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 Foundation Center.

[Review] The Gender Effect: Capitalism, Feminism, and the Corporate Politics of Development

March 12, 2018

It has become axiomatic within the development community that educating women and girls is the most effective way to alleviate poverty and accelerate development in the Global South. Promoted in the early 1990s by economists such as Elizabeth King, T. Paul Schultz, and former Harvard University president Lawrence Summers, the approach has since been adopted by the most powerful multilateral development institutions, including the United Nations, the World BankUSAID, and the United Kingdom's Department for International Development.

Book_the_gender_effectThe approach was given a boost in 2008, when the Nike Foundation, the main philanthropic vehicle of global sports apparel manufacturer Nike, launched a simple, powerful animated video titled the "Girl Effect," which argued that by sending a poor girl in a developing country to school, you put her in a position to secure a loan to purchase a cow, the profits from which could help her family and be used to buy more cows, until one day she had a herd, the profits from which could be used to bring clean water to her village, which would lead men in the village to invite her to the village council, where she would convince them that all girls have value. The video went viral, and the rest, as they say, is history.

But what if it isn't that simple? In The Gender Effect: Capitalism, Feminism, and the Corporate Politics of Development, Kathryn Moeller takes a deep dive into that question and finds plenty of worrisome contradictions. An assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, Moeller argues that the real effect of significant corporate investment in the empowerment of girls and women has been to mask the historical and structural conditions that perpetuate poverty in the Global South and to de-politicize the demands for fair-labor practices and a more equitable economic order by the very women and girls such investment purports to empower. Indeed, by focusing on the economic potential of adolescent girls, Moeller writes, "[t]he Girl Effect...transfers the onus of responsibility for change away from governments, corporations, and global governance institutions whose actions have led to the unequal distribution of resources and opportunities that disproportionately affect the lives and well-being of girls, women, and the poor around the world."  

Based on extensive fieldwork conducted with the Nike Foundation, its partners and grantees, program participants, and the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) — where she helped organize a session on "Investing in Women and Girls"  — Moeller finds that, in the case of the Girl Effect, the primary outcome of what she terms the "corporatized development" model has been the strengthening of Nike's legitimacy and market power without a concomitant examination of its outsourcing practices — practices that, she writes, exploit "poor, racialized female labor" and famously led, in the 1990s, to strikes and protests against the company.

To prove her point, Moeller outlines the history of and discourse around investing in women and girls, an approach predicated on the concepts of "bottom billion" capitalism, philanthrocapitalism, gender equality, and "Third World difference" (the latter defining the post-colonial adolescent girl as both victim of gender oppression and solution to economic development). In this paradigm, women and girls are seen as "instruments" that generate the highest return on investment within a development context because they tend to be "rational, efficient economic actors" willing to invest more of their income in their families and communities than are men.

By embedding corporate social responsibility and philanthropy into their core business strategies, she notes, corporations like Nike both design and benefit from this kind of corporatized development. The Nike Foundation's decision to focus on adolescent girls and, later, to launch the Girl Effect with financial support from the NoVo Foundation and the United Nations Foundation "was a noncontroversial way to redirect public attention away from ongoing labor strikes and campaigns against the corporation in order to secure its social license to operate and, correspondingly, its financial bottom line." Fortune 500 companies with public relations problems such as ExxonMobil, Goldman Sachs, and Walmart followed suit, promoting programs targeting women and girls at confabs like the Clinton Global Initiative and the annual meetings of the World Economic Forum, creating, as she puts it, "the spectacle of empowering girls and women." Eventually, the increasingly popular idea of "doing well by doing good" enabled corporations to "reconstitute themselves as benevolent institutional actors" even as they were refocusing their philanthropy in ways that helped open new markets, increased market share, and promised a return on their investments.  

This is a problem for Moeller. By focusing on women and girls as a means to grow markets and profits, "corporations are investing in, rather than transforming, existing inequities across multiple axes of difference — gender, racial, class, religious, and geographic — even as they claim to be ameliorating them." Indeed, when pursued to its conclusion, the logic behind the Girl Effect model makes adolescent girls of color in the Global South disproportionately responsible for both market expansion and local economic development through their "unpaid social reproductive labor, anticipated professional or entrepreneurial labor, and increased consumption practices."  

The book illustrates in great detail how, within the Nike Foundation initiative, the foundation's need to prove its theory of change translated into a narrow focus on helping adolescent girls become employable and avoid pregnancy (a condition that diminishes their ability to contribute to local economic development). Moeller describes how one Brazilian grantee of the Nike Foundation changed its educational programming to exclude young men, young women who were pregnant or already had children, and women over the age of 24, and steered participants' career goals away from jobs requiring higher education credentials and toward things like administrative assistant positions, for which low-income girls of color were more likely to be hired. Moreover, in seeking to demonstrate that its model worked, the foundation imposed on grantees a reductive image of which girls had potential, while precluding efforts to address the educational, social, and economic inequities that girls and young women in those communities faced.

Moeller's criticisms extend to the methodologies employed to demonstrate the model's efficacy and justify its budget. As part of its efforts to collect data from beneficiaries around "universal indicators," for example, the Nike Foundation required participants to complete detailed questionnaires at the beginning and conclusion of the program that included questions about their income, assets, education, sexual experiences, attitudes toward gender norms, social integration and friendships, and exposure to violence. Not only did this monitoring and evaluation (M&E) methodology objectify adolescent girls as data in an experiment they had not fully consented to, Moeller argues, it also ignored many of the local, cultural, and individual contexts in which outcomes often contradicted the model's logic.  

At one point, Moeller even quotes a Nike Foundation partner as saying that "they play a little fast and loose from what they can actually say from the data." That tendency caused tensions with the International Center for Research on Women, which in the early stages of the initiative had provided the foundation with its expertise — a collaboration that ended when the foundation decided to keep its M&E knowledge to itself. But by then the foundation had leveraged its new-found expertise and relationships with multilateral organizations enough to see the Girl Effect model institutionalized by the World Bank.  

Given the Girl Effect's limitations as a philanthropic endeavor — "traditional development partners were not operating at the speed or providing the return the foundation sought" — and its unstated focus on expanding corporate profits, it seems inevitable that the Nike Foundation's efforts would conclude in 2014 with the Girl Effect Accelerator, a program designed to help social entrepreneurs envision women and girls in developing countries as future consumers and secure funding for enterprises designed to serve that burgeoning market. The accelerator, writes Moeller, "enabled the foundation to move from talking about girls as engines of development and an emerging market…to being intimately involved in the making…of girls as a new capitalist frontier."  Spun off by Nike and the foundation in 2015 as an independent social enterprise based in London, the Girl Effect no longer is constrained from promoting for-profit endeavors — and Nike is no longer the target of questions about its supply chain labor practices.

Written in a dense academic style, heavy on theory, and brimming with quotes from Michel Foucault, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, and dozens of other scholars, activists, and anonymized foundation staff and grantees, The Gender Effect is not an easy read. It is, however, a sobering and thought-provoking examination of something many of us in the Global North have taken for granted: the unquestioned benefit and feminist appeal of the Girl Effect model. For all the talk of the billions of dollars that closing the gender gap will "unlock" for the global economy, maybe it's time we asked tough questions about how we can truly invest in women and girls to address the myriad inequities they continue to face, instead of framing the perpetuation of those inequities as empowerment.

Kyoko Uchida is PND's features editor. For more great reviews, visit the Off the Shelf section in PND.

#TimesUp for the Nonprofit Gender Gap

March 09, 2018

Donor_perfect_workbook_for_womenFrom limited leadership roles to unequal pay to sexual harassment, the nonprofit community is coming to terms with its own #MeToo moment.

As a national conversation takes place around women’s issues, the surprising lack of gender diversity in nonprofit leadership along with the issues that surround it can no longer be overlooked.

For a sector that is largely funded and staffed by women, the numbers are troubling. While women make up about 73 percent of all nonprofit employees, they only hold 45 percent of nonprofit CEO roles. When it comes to pay, women nonprofit CEOs make just 66 percent of what their male counterparts make.

Fortunately, many nonprofits are having open discussions and taking action to promote gender equity in and beyond their organizations. 

In support of this crucial initiative, DonorPerfect partnered with five inspiring women who rose to the top of their organizations to create The Nonprofit Leadership Workbook for Women. This free downloadable guide commemorates Women's History Month in March, and every day, and offers a platform for these leaders to pass along what they believe it takes for more women in the nonprofit sector to ascend the ranks.

“This shift of power is so critically important. This shift in presence is so critically important,” says Marcia Coné, workbook contributor, author, and women’s advocate. “What follows is a shift in action, education, and understanding. It’s about balance and finding that there is space for both men and women to thrive, for both men and women to be safe.”

The Nonprofit Leadership Workbook for Women is designed to help women develop and demonstrate their skills, build their personal brands, expand their professional networks, and speak up to get what they really want — in and beyond the office. Its exercises challenge readers to set goals and create an action plan to achieve them. 

“She who dares, wins. There are so many rules and best practices in the nonprofit world, but if you sit back and follow every rule, you'll never be able to do what needs to be done within your organization,” says founder and CEO of Evoluer House and workbook contributor Cheryl Ann Wadlington. “Trust and creativity matters because doing the same thing the same way as everyone else is not going to cut the mustard and move your mission forward.”

From professional polish to the often overlooked art of self-care, the next wave of nonprofit leaders needs to tailor their growth in ways that reflect their unique wants, goals, strengths, and characteristics. 

Nonprofit leadership requires a vision, the ability to bring people together, and a knack for assembling a team of people who complement one another’s strengths.

Workbook contributor Tycely Williams, vice president of development at YWCA USA, says, “This initiative’s goal is to serve up an actionable and achievable plan to inspire women to lead with clarity, compassion, and renewed confidence. Regardless of where you are or where you want to be — these tips will help you achieve or sustain your leadership success.”

Among the many traits exhibited by successful leaders are excellent communication skills, a willingness to work on both strategy and execution, strong business acumen, flexibility, and an unwavering commitment to the task at hand.

In addition to professional development, the workbook addresses how to balance the many roles women play outside the office. “It’s so easy for modern women to get in that space where you’re just everything to everyone all the time,” says Coné. “We need to teach women and girls that ‘You matter and you need to take care of yourself, because that way you’ll have more to give to those around you’.”

The nonprofit community needs diverse perspectives, experience, and skills if it hopes to see wonderful causes around the world flourish. That change can only begin when women are empowered to rise up and serve a mission in roles that suit them best.

Download a free copy of Nonprofit Leadership Workbook for Women.

EmilyRosePatzEmily Rose Patz is the lead writer of The Nonprofit Leadership Workbook for Women at DonorPerfect, a company that helps nonprofits engage with donors via software tools for fundraising and cultivation. She often writes about fundraising and donor engagement best practices, inspiring growth stories, and trending topics in the nonprofit community.

A Conversation With Nicky Goren, President and CEO, Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation

March 06, 2018

Founded in 1944 by investment banker and Washington Post publisher Eugene Meyer — who later served as head of the War Finance Corporation, chair of the Federal Reserve, and founding president of the World Bank — and his wife, Agnes, a journalist, author, literary translator, and activist (President Lyndon Johnson credited her for helping build public support for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965), the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation in Washington, D.C., has supported efforts over the years to address racial inequity, urban poverty, and government funding (or lack thereof) for critical needs.

Nicky Goren was appointed president and CEO of the foundation in 2014, succeeding Julie L. Rogers, who had served in that position for twenty-eight years. Before joining the foundation, Goren had served as president of the Washington Area Women's Foundation and acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. In 2015 the foundation unveiled a new strategic plan focused on achieving greater racial equity in housing, education, employment, and asset building.

PND recently spoke with Goren about the process the Meyer Foundation initiated in 2014 to develop and implement a racial equity agenda, the importance of doing that work "authentically," and some things foundations new to the space should keep in mind.

Headshot_nicky_gorenPhilanthropy News Digest: While the Meyer Foundation has long supported efforts to advance equality and break the cycle of poverty for individuals and families, the foundation's 2015 strategic plan zeroes in on the "structural and causal" link between poverty and race. How did the focus on poverty and race come about? Were those discussions already happening at the foundation when you were appointed president and CEO in 2014?

Nicky Goren: At the organizational level, the conversations about race, about racism and its connection to poverty, were not yet happening when I got here. I think individual program officers from time to time had incorporated that connection into their portfolios, but it was not an organizational priority at the leadership level.

I came to the foundation with the point of view that those of us who work in philanthropy really needed to move out of our silos, move beyond thinking about grantmaking as a largely transactional activity, and think differently about how we do our work. And in my initial listening sessions as the new CEO, I was trying to understand where the opportunities were for us to deepen our impact and partnerships in the community and what the big issues were. It became clear to me pretty quickly that the big issue at the meta level was wealth inequality, and that the drivers of inequality in the region were disparities in housing, education, workforce skills, and asset building, and that the through line in all those areas was the history and legacy of systemic racism. From those community conversations it was clear that people were eager to move beyond incremental change to real transformation, which meant looking at things at the population level, which meant looking at root causes, which meant embracing systems change — and confronting racism and its role in creating and perpetuating these disparities. There was no way around it: to do our work authentically, we would have to address systemic racism.

PND: You came to Meyer from the Washington Area Women's Foundation, which focuses on improving the economic security of women and girls in the D.C. region. Did your work there inform the things you are doing at Meyer to advance racial equity?

NG: Definitely. That was the first time I was part of an organization that was using any kind of an equity lens, in that case a gender equity lens. And I was energized by what I learned in terms of the barriers to equality that women face. But in this region, low-income women are most often women of color, and the question started coming up more and more, from both funders and the communities we were working in: "Do you look at the work of the Women's Foundation through an intersectional gender and racial equity lens?" Well, it got me thinking and really helped me ask the right questions when I got to Meyer.

As for the intersectionality of economic and racial equity, at Meyer we've come to understand that the main reason for the persistent economic disparities in our region — and in other urban areas across the country — is racism. And if we don't name it and tackle the systems that perpetuate it — the institutions, policies, practices, and norms around race that lead to these economic disparities — we'll never be able to really address the challenges that low-income communities of color are facing. Naming it and looking at those challenges through a racial lens forces you to ask different questions and come up with different solutions, solutions that are more focused on the long-term and persistent barriers faced by people of color. It's about understanding the role race has played in our region's history and in our country's history so that the solutions you put in place really do make a difference in terms of addressing those disparities.

PND: In a blog post last December, you noted two significant developments in the foundation's efforts to integrate a racial equity lens into its work: the decision to focus on eliminating racial disparities in housing, employment, education, and asset building; and a decision to tackle the root causes of racial inequity and work toward systems change. In concrete terms, how has moving to a systems-change approach affected the way you work?

NG: We're still very much at the beginning of this — we just released the revised guidelines and newly restated goals with equity embedded in them at the beginning of the year, and our first grant cycle under the new framework just opened on February 15. So in terms of what we're seeing and how it will affect our work in the long term, I can't say. But the way we're thinking about it is that moving to a systems-change approach means we'll be supporting more community organizing, community-based and -led organizations, and community-driven advocacy and problem solving. We'll be promoting more collaborative approaches. And we'll be looking across a spectrum of systems-change efforts that, under our old framework, community-based organizations in the region might not have known about or might not have been eligible for.

For organizations that are already deeply embedded in the community and working on systems change in communities of color, we'll continue to provide a range of capacity-building support, from strategic planning to communications development to HR. And for organizations that are not there yet but want to build their racial equity capacity, we'll invest in training, consultants, and so on.

PND: Earlier this month you welcomed Terri D. Wright as vice president for program and community. In that role, Ms. Wright will oversee all the foundation's programmatic activities. You're also looking to fill the newly created position of senior director of strategy and racial equity. How do you see the reorganization suggested by these personnel changes driving your racial equity work?

NG: We're so excited that Terri has joined our team; she brings exactly what we were looking for in terms of experience and background in advancing racial and social equity through policy, practice, and management across multiple sectors. She's led and developed programs; she's tackled the social determinants of health, which are interrelated and are things we'll be working on; and she was at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation with Dr. Gail Christopher as Kellogg was going through its own racial equity journey.

My vision for the senior director position is to have someone who can drive the focus on equity in our own institution and systems and practices as we continue to evolve. That person will also help the board build its capacity around racial equity and systems change, will link those things with team building and training and organizational development more broadly, and will be available to nonprofits that are going down the racial equity path and need guidance or technical assistance.

In terms of program staff, when we approved the strategic plan back in 2015, even before we fully understood what our racial equity work would look like, we acknowledged that all the work we're doing is very local and contextual. So we reorganized ourselves in early 2016 around geography, moving away from the more traditional model of having a program officer for health and a program officer for employment to having program directors based on geography — one for Maryland, one for northern Virginia, and one for the District. That's because all the issues we're working on are interconnected — you can't tackle one and hope to succeed without addressing the others. And they're contextual in terms of policy, the players, where the opportunities are to bring people to the table, and who those people are. The new structure allows our directors to be much more immersed in and connected with their respective communities, in that they're meeting people where they live, literally, and learning firsthand who's doing what and identifying ways to leverage our resources at a much more grassroots level.

PND: What other organizational changes are you implementing as part of your focus on racial equity?

NG: When we included tackling systemic racism as a goal in our strategic plan at the end of 2015, we saw it as a way to initiate conversations both internally and externally about what that would mean. And for the next year and half, we spent time on internal education, building a shared language and understanding, and deepening our ability to have these conversations about race. The board did the same; we did some staff trainings; we spent time looking at other foundations to see what they had done. We started figuring out how to incorporate racial equity into culture-building work. We also had a number of staff retreats that surfaced issues we weren't aware of that have changed the way we think about the way we work. One thing we heard in those retreats was a desire for the foundation to be less hierarchical, and as a result my leadership team has gone from three people to five people, which has broadened the perspectives available to all of us and made it easier for us to work in cross-organizational teams.

We also took a hard look at and changed the way we hire — in fact, I have a post on the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers' blog about the four things we did to ensure that our practices lead to more staff diversity. At the same time, the board has changed the way it recruits, increased the number of board members, and changed the term limits of board members so as to bring on new members more quickly. We've also looked at how we select our vendors and at our personnel policy — some of this work is ongoing, of course, but we've been at it since the end of 2015.

PND: You've written that "[r]ace-neutral efforts, to date, have not been effective. It's time to confront racism head-on as we identify solutions." Do you think the philanthropic sector, broadly speaking, is coming to the same conclusion?

NG: There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic. We're seeing a lot of exciting developments locally and nationally in the philanthropic sector around racial equity; there isn't a single national convening I've been to in the last year where racial equity hasn't been the focus of at least one session, if not one of the major themes. Clearly, there's a growing demand for and interest in this conversation. As we went through our own process, we looked to other foundations for models — foundations that were much farther down the road on their own journeys like the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation and the Weingart Foundation and the Hyams Foundation and the Meyer Memorial Trust — all of which have been engaged in this work and understand why it's imperative. Locally, WRAG took this on two years ago when it put together a series for philanthropic leaders in the region called "Putting Racism on the Table" and, over a period of six months, walked participants through the process of creating a shared understanding of systemic racism, implicit bias, and white privilege, culminating with Dr. Gail Christopher talking about how a foundation can incorporate racial equity into its work. I believe that effort has had a ripple effect across the sector, across other sectors as well, so that racial equity is becoming more openly discussed and broadly accepted and increasingly adopted. I just had a meeting with a local elected official who is putting together a cross-sectoral group to figure out how to incorporate a racial equity lens into government.

Given the history of philanthropy in this country, we need to understand the role it has played in helping to perpetuate some of the challenges we face and rethink how we go about our work. I don't know that philanthropy has fully acknowledged where the wealth came from that created so many of our endowments; in many cases we see the private sector investing in things that keep communities of color at an economic disadvantage, and then philanthropy is called on to "fix" it by funding direct services. But if we really want to make a difference, we need to talk about systems change, and that inevitably leads you into a conversation about race. That's okay. The more we have those conversations, the more our eyes will be opened to the privilege that so many of us have, the systems we've put in place to preserve that privilege, and how we might think differently about our work. And because many of our boards are made up of people from outside the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors, taking those boards through this journey has a ripple effect, I think, on other sectors. 

I'm proud as someone who works in philanthropy to say that, increasingly, we're seeing philanthropic institutions use their voice in ways that they might not have in the past. The most recent example involved the heads of the Heinz Endowments and Pittsburgh Foundation co-authoring an op-ed in response to an editorial in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in a way that tackles systemic racism head on and that some might see as political, though I didn't read it that way. It's one of many signs that the philanthropic sector is moving in the right direction.

PND: How have the Trump administration's policies affected the foundation's work?

NG: We started down this path eighteen months before the last presidential election, and we'd decided on the goals and focus areas before that, but the current political climate merely reaffirms for us that we made the right decision. It's as important, if not more so, today to focus on racial inequities and disparities in society and rise to the challenge that doing something, once and for all, to address the plight of economically disadvantaged Americans, who are disproportionately people of color.

One thing that did happen post-election is that we partnered with the Greater Washington Community Foundation and other funders to create the Resilience Fund, which we put in place specifically to fund the critical needs of nonprofits working to support the communities in our region most vulnerable to changes in federal policy. We've far exceeded our original goal of raising $500,000, and we're going to extend the effort through at least the end of the year and possibly through 2020. The first round of funding awarded through the fund supported a number of organizations working with immigrant communities on immigration issues and DACA and responding to the Muslim travel ban. We also made a series of grant to address the increase in hate and intolerance and the climate of bullying that has emerged in a huge way since the election, as well as digital news literacy in schools. More things will be funded as issues emerge — we're paying attention to the impact of changes in tax law and health care, for example, and will be looking for opportunities where an infusion of philanthropic dollars could make a difference.

PND: The Meyer Foundation mostly awards annual general operating support grants and, on a case-by-case basis, program support as well as multiyear and capital grants. Why are general operating support grants the right tool for advancing racial equity?

NG: I would say that general operating support grants are the right tool for philanthropy in general. They give our grantee partners maximum flexibility, and in the case of racial equity that's often what's needed to advance solutions. Dictating how grant funds can or can't be used ties the hands of nonprofits, and part of equity, of course, is sharing power. General operating support puts the power of deciding how best to use grant funds in the hands of grantees, where it belongs. Even if we had decided not to go down the racial equity path, we'd have remained a predominantly general operating support funder, but especially when we're talking about equity, it's the way to go.

PND: What recommendations or lessons learned can you share with other grantmakers that are thinking about adopting a racial equity lens in their work?

NG: We could literally write a book about it. But we're still in the early innings, so I might have a different answer for you a year from now. The first thing I would say is that it's important to understand where your organization is in terms of its evolution, what its history is, who your staff are, and what its capacities are. As I said earlier, I don't think we could've authentically started this work at the Meyer Foundation without first doing the kind of serious internal examination that we did. Maybe other organizations can: WRAG stepped out with its "Putting Racism on the Table" series and made it a core part of its programming, but now, two years later, it is taking a step back and saying, "If we're really serious about this, we need to look at ourselves." I think that's a good decision. They saw an opportunity, and it was the right opportunity at the time, and they took advantage of it in a positive way, and now they're realizing they have more work to do. I don't think there's a right or wrong approach to this; you just need to understand who you are and, at some point, do the internal work — whether it's at the beginning, the middle, or the end will depend on the organization. But to do racial equity work authentically, that's what needs to happen.

I totally get that people may be scared. We've taught ourselves that it's not "polite" to talk about racism and the wide disparities it has created in society. It's hard, no question about it. And real change is going to take longer than perhaps we'd like, and there will be bumps in the road. But if every individual and institution started to have these conversations today, if every individual and every institution started with themselves, it would change the way we work and ten years from now we would find ourselves in a very different place. You learn so much about things that have gone unspoken, taken for granted, or that we've never learned about once you start talking openly and sharing and learning together. Yes, there will be hard moments — a lot of them — but you have to keep pushing through. The next conversation will be a little easier, and so will the one after that; it's like building a muscle.

It's imperative that we do this work. Yes, it's hard, and it may take a lifetime, but I've seen and learned enough over the last few years to know that we don't have a choice. We must do this work, and we must do it now.

— Kyoko Uchida

Weekend Link Roundup (March 3-4, 2018)

March 04, 2018

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

African Americans

Writer and activist Alicia Garza, who helped found the Black Lives Matter movement, in partnership with the Center for Third World OrganizingColor of Change, Demos, Socioanalitica Research, and Tides Foundation, has announced the launch of the Black Census Project, which hopes to talk to 200,000 black people from diverse backgrounds about their hopes, dreams, and needs by August 1. African Americans in participating can take the first step and fill out the online census.

Arts and Culture

ArtsPlace funders have released a statement on the Trump administration's 2019 federal budget request.

Climate Change

Nonprofit Chronicles Marc Gunther published an op-ed about climate philanthropy, and its failure to drive real progress on the issue, in the Chronicle of Philanthropy a few weeks ago. The Chronicle has given him permission to repost it on his own blog, here


This should come as a surprise to no one: in a statement released earlier this week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) called Betsy DeVos "the worst Secretary of Education this country has ever seen — by a large margin. Secretary DeVos has spent her first year bending over backwards to allow students to be cheated, taking an axe to public education, and undermining the civil rights of students across the country. [She] has failed in her job and she must be held accountable." Mother Jones's Edwin Rios has the details.

Higher Education

Public colleges and universities are facing a perfect storm of existential challenges over the next decade, and institutions in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont are the canaries in the coal mine. Lee Gardner reports for the Chronicle of Higher Education.


The Pew Research Center's Fact Tank has put together an excellent primer on U.S. immigration policy and proposed changes to those policies.


What's the first reaction many of us have when we learn that someone is thinking about starting a nonprofit? "Don't!" But maybe, says Nonprofit AF's Vu Le, we should lighten up a little bit and recognize that there will always be "well-intentioned individuals who feel [the] burning desire to found their own nonprofit. Persuading them to not do it may work in a few instances, but if we want systemic change, we need to look at this holistically." 

What can staff at nonprofits do to counteract the negative actions of a nonprofit leader who "begins to believe that she (and only she) cares enough, knows enough, or is enough to fix the massive problem she cares so deeply about [aka a Nonprofit Savior]"? Social Velocity's Nell Edgington has some good suggestions.


Mark Zuckerberg has sold $357 million of stock this month, part of plans to unload up to $12 billion to help fund the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

On the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers blog, Nicky Goren, president and CEO of the Eugene and Agnes Meyer Foundation, shares four recommendations as they relate to diversity, equity, and inclusion in hiring.

How will the rise of the millennials change philanthropy? Forbes contributor Jeff Fromm shares the perspectives of Rebecca Laramée, chair of Future Sinai at the Sinai Health Foundation, and Anita Strohm, vice president at Crossroads Communications.

On the HistPhil blog, Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, an assistant professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University, launches a new forum on the history of conservative philanthropy with a post that looks at how wealthy conservative donors and political entrepreneurs built up the infrastructure that positioned the GOP to take over statehouses and state legislatures across the country.

Are there more radical ways to improve openness in grantmaking that would benefit both funders and grantees? The Center for Effective Philanthropy's Kevin Bolduc thinks a transparency movement in the medical field called OpenNotes may have hit on some benefits that translate fairly directly to the grantee-funder relationship. 

Got something you'd like to share? Dro p us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Newman's Owns Gets a New Life

March 02, 2018

Newmans_own_logoOn February 9, 2018, President Trump signed into law the Philanthropic Enterprise Act of 2017 as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. The new law allows private foundations to own 100 percent of a business under certain conditions. The bill was championed by Newman's Own Foundation, which owns 100 percent of No Limit, LLC, the for-profit company that produces and sells the Newman’s Own-branded line of food products. The new law allows the foundation to maintain 100 percent ownership of No Limit, assuring that all profits of the company will continue to go to charity.

Newman’s Own Foundation needed the new law to avoid a requirement that it divest itself of at least 80 percent of No Limit under the "excess business holdings rule" of Internal Revenue Code Section 4943. The excess business holdings rule generally prohibits a private foundation from owning more than 20 percent of a for-profit company. It imposes extreme penalties on a foundation that are equal to twice the value of the holdings above the 20 percent limitation. In most cases, this will completely destroy the value of the “excess” holdings to the foundation. The new law creates an exception to the excess business holdings rule for foundations that own 100 percent of a business and devote all profits to charity.

Foundations that acquire more than 20 percent of a company normally have a five-year deadline to sell their excess holdings before the penalties apply. Newman’s Own originally faced that deadline in 2013 but was able to get a five-year extension that would have expired this year. The passage of the new law relieves Newman's Own from the requirement that it divest itself of No Limit, meaning it can continue operating as it always has without interruption.

New law, new rules

The new law, Section 4943(g) of the Internal Revenue Code, permits a private foundation to own 100 percent of a company under the following conditions:

1. The foundation must own 100 percent of the shares. There cannot be any other shareholders, and the shares must have been donated to the foundation or acquired in some manner other than by purchase.

2. All profits must go to charity. The company has to distribute 100 percent of its net operating income to the foundation within 120 days of the end of each fiscal quarter. Net operating income is defined as gross income minus taxes, deductions directly attributable to the production of income, and an amount for a reasonable reserve.

3. The for-profit company is operated independently of the foundation. First, no substantial donor to the foundation can be a director, officer, or employee of the company. A substantial donor is someone who donates more than 2 percent of the foundation's total contributions in a given year, and it includes these who donated shares or anything else of value to the foundation, if their donations exceed 2 percent of contributions to the foundation for the year. Second, a majority of the company's directors have to be persons who are not also on the foundation's board. Finally, the company may not make loans to substantial donors of the foundation.

4. Donor-advised funds  and some supporting organizations, cannot take advantage of the new law. Donor-advised funds and non-functionally integrated Type III supporting organizations are specifically excluded from the new law, thus are still subject to the 20 percent rule.

The new law, which took effect December 31, 2017, opens a world of possibilities for founders of companies that want to devote all profits from their businesses to charity, allowing them to place their companies under the ownership of a private foundation and permanently devote all profits to charity.

One way to adopt this model is to have the founder or the shareholders donate their shares to a foundation. They get a tax deduction for the value of their shares, but no buy-out. Since this is a gift, not a purchase, donating the shares satisfies the requirements of the new rule. The donations can happen anytime or even over time, but the new rule does not apply until 100 percent of the shares have been transferred to the foundation.

Under the new law, a total separation of the two entities is not required. The for-profit company will continue to be governed by its own board and managed by its own managers, with appropriate separation from the foundation. The new law permits the foundation, as the sole shareholder, to appoint the board, and the foundation may also hold other rights, depending on the jurisdiction where it was formed. For example, in many states, a sole shareholder has the right to inspect the books and records of the company and to sue the directors for breach of fiduciary duty (including the duty to pursue a social mission, if the company is a benefit corporation.) The shareholder may also reserve to itself the right to approve mergers, sales of assets, dissolutions, and to veto other fundamental decisions.

Profits of the business will be up-streamed to the foundation in the form of after-tax corporate dividends or, in the case of a pass-through LLC, as partnership distributions, in which case the tax on unrelated business income may apply.

We are sure to see a growing number of private foundations take ownership of profitable businesses as a result of this new law. It also offers another option for founders of mission-oriented companies who want a philanthropic exit that locks mission into the company on a permanent basis.

If you are a social entrepreneur or impact investor and want to know more about this new law and how it might affect you, contact Allen Bromberger (allen@perlmanandperlman.com).

Allen Bromberger_for_PhilanTopicAllen Bromberger is a partner at Perlman & Perlman, which has been providing legal advice to the charitable sector since 1959. This post was originally published on the firm's blog.

Breaking Through Branding B.S.: The Benefits of Nonprofit Brand Strategy

February 27, 2018

Branding-strategyWhen I tell people I work on brand strategy for mission-driven organizations, I get a lot of blank stares and raised eyebrows. I get it: brand strategy is a bit of a buzzword these days and not exactly easy to define. Adding to the confusion, there's a lingering perception that brand strategy belongs exclusively to the corporate world, that it's something mega brands like Nike, Coca Cola, and Starbucks leverage to woo new customers in a crowded marketplace.

So this article is for all those interested in, confused by, or skeptical about nonprofit brand strategy. It's my answer to the raised eyebrows, a proclamation of my firmly held conviction that a well-articulated brand strategy can be transformative for organizations working to create social change.

Agreeing on a Definition

Our team has written a lot about brand theory, and my aim in this article is to move beyond theory and discuss some of the tangible outcomes of a successful nonprofit brand strategy. But to make sure we're all on the same page, I first want to quickly review what brand and brand strategy are.

There are many definitions of brand, but for our purposes let me define it as the collective perception of an organization shared by its customers or constituents. Brand lives in the minds and experiences of all the different people who come into contact with an organization, including staff, board members, donors, beneficiaries, etc. Brand strategy is an articulation of how a brand is meant to be understood and expressed. At Constructive, we break down brand strategy into the ideas that drive and position an organization, the messages that express them, and the designed experiences that translate these ideas into more tangible deliverables such as a visual identity, communications collateral, and digital presence.

So with that out of the way, how does a successfully defined brand strategy actually help social change organizations accomplish their mission?

A Gut Check

In my opinion, some of the greatest benefits to be gained from a brand strategy engagement come from the process itself.

Brand strategy engagements typically (and always should) begin with extensive research and analysis of the organization and its existing brand. At Constructive, this phase is known as "discovery," and our research can take the form of interviews with internal and external audiences, surveys, peer analyses, and workshops with organizational leadership and staff. The culmination of this phase is a brand assessment that articulates the organizational goals for the brand strategy engagement, the perceived weaknesses and strengths of the organization's current brand, and a plan for mitigating challenges and leveraging opportunities.

Regardless of the exact nature of this up-front research and assessment phase, the value-add is the same: invaluable insights on how people — from junior staff to leadership, donors to beneficiaries — perceive your brand. It's a rare opportunity to gain visibility into how all these audiences think about and value your work.

These perspectives can be incorporated into organizational strategy as well as brand strategy, helping organizations address internal challenges that emerge down the road or to adjust their priorities based on audience feedback. For what it's worth, I've never worked on a brand strategy engagement that didn't illuminate organizational challenges and help inform leadership's response to those challenges.

An Authentic, Democratized Identity

At Constructive, we often say brand strategy should be built from the ground up and embraced from the top down. Why? Because brands that reflect the ideas and perspectives of only a few at the top of the organization and/or a small team of consultants are far less likely to resonate with a wider audience — including the staff and volunteers responsible for sustaining most nonprofit organizations.

Hey, nonprofits-that-have-messaging-and/or-visual-branding-that-either-has-never-resonated-or-no-longer resonates-with-staff, I'm speaking to you! You know what you also have? Staff who might feel demoralized and disconnected from the organization. Staff usually bear the burden of an outdated or dysfunctional brand because they're the ones tasked with developing bespoke communications material from scratch or visual workarounds to overcome the fact that the organization's brand is no longer an asset but a cross to bear. And that, understandably, can lead to frustration, resentment, and reduced productivity.

For external audiences, outdated visual branding is always a turn-off, especially given the level of visual sophistication that most of us, in the age of Behance and Instagram, have come to expect. By the same token, if a nonprofit's messaging no longer accurately reflects the work it is doing, its audiences are going to be confused. And who needs that?

Because it's built on the perspectives of many (not just a few), a well-executed brand strategy engagement ensures that a nonprofit's brand resonates with both internal and external audiences. And by understanding what motivates staff to do the work, donors to donate, and partners to engage, an organization will find itself in a much better position to communicate these key ideas in its messaging and designed experiences, transforming its brand into one of its greatest resources.

Bringing Clarity to the Cause

Many of our clients come to us for help because their external audiences seem to struggle to understand what they do and why it matters. They know that a well-articulated brand strategy can provide clarity to folks outside an organization, helping them understand the change an organization is seeking to create, how it plans to accomplish its goal(s), and how they can engage with the organization to bring about that change. It almost goes without saying that the more clarity a nonprofit can provide its audiences, the better positioned it will be to capture their attention, change their hearts and minds, and galvanize them to act.

That said, a related benefit of brand strategy that's often overlooked is the clarity of purpose it provides internal stakeholders.

Having worked in nonprofit leadership, I've seen first-hand the disparate ideas floating around about brand values/roles/personality/logos/etc. Board meetings that touched on brand issues were a particular pleasure. (Not.) Now that I've switched to consulting, it never surprises me when nonprofit staff, leaders, and board members offer different versions of their organization's vision and goals, not to mention the path forward for achieving them. It's understandable — the business of change is complex, and lots of nonprofits go at it through different programs, services, and initiatives. It's sort of like the parable of the blind men and the elephant, with each person describing that part of an organization's work with which they are most familiar.

Blind men and elephant

Again, one of the most transformative benefits of a successful brand strategy engagement is that the process, when executed well, brings together a range of unique perspectives that, in their totality, articulate the shared ideas that drive the organization's programs and motivate its people.

When staff, leadership, and board members feel their perspectives have been heard, and their ideas (and concerns) are reflected in a vision and brand narrative that captures that totality, they are better able to understand how their specific piece of the puzzle fits into the bigger picture (or which elephant part is attached to the others). That kind of unity and shared understanding can be enormously valuable for organizations used to struggling with programmatic silos, miscommunication, duplicated effort, and staff frustration and burnout.

Greater Consistency — and Trust

We've all heard the phrase "that’s not on brand," an expression that inspires eye rolls from even committed brand enthusiasts. But if nonprofits hope to convey consistency and build trust, they need to be able to assess what does (and doesn't) fit their brand. Here, too, an effective brand strategy can provide a much-needed framework.

Consistency is key to building trust with audiences. Humans tend not to like surprises and feel most comfortable when they know what to expect from others. We tend to like — and trust — people who are dependable (even if they're dependably flaky), and whose responses in a range of situations are more or less predictable. The same applies for brands — to build trust with your audiences, you want them to feel confident about what they can expect from you.

This idea is especially important in a nonprofit context, as organizations routinely ask supporters and potential supporters to put a great deal of faith in them: they ask us to give them our attention over many other worthy causes, ask to be trusted as thought leaders, and ask for our hard-earned dollars. But every time someone perceives an inconsistency in a nonprofit's messaging — maybe they notice different versions of a logo on a website, or come across different versions of a mission statement in collateral, or land on a donation page that doesn't work properly — it undermines their confidence and trust in the organization.

That's why nonprofits need to take the idea of projecting consistency seriously. It's not just the job of a communications manager to make sure the team is using the correct logo. You need a brand strategy that articulates a coherent messaging framework and provides internal stakeholders with everything they might need in the way of brand guidelines to convince your supporters and potential supporters that yours is a consistent, dependable organization.

Increased Capacity and Impact

Let's be real: the most brilliant brand strategy will not boost an organization's impact by itself. No, the value of an effective brand strategy lies in its usefulness to the real heroes of the show — the people who do the work.

People — committed, talented staff who bring their expertise to the hard work of creating positive change — are the most important assets a nonprofit possesses. And, in most cases, their job shouldn't require them to think about the organization's brand; their job is to create impact. By providing them with consistent brand messaging, compelling collateral, and a clear set of brand guidelines, brand strategy can be an invaluable tool that supports and amplifies their work.

So when people ask me what nonprofit brand strategy is good for, I tell them this: brand strategy is a sort of North Star that helps inform an organization's strategies and ensures that its talented staff arrive safely at their destination. By articulating messaging and brand experiences that express shared ideas, it helps organizations communicate with clarity and consistency to their audiences, and, in turn, helps audiences better understand a nonprofit's vision and how they can engage with it to advance a good cause.

Headshot_lexie_mcguireThe end result of all of that? Greater impact. So there.

Lexie McGuire is director of strategy at Constructive, a New York City-based brand strategy and experience design firm dedicated to helping social change organizations achieve greater impact.

Weekend Link Roundup (February 24-25, 2018)

February 25, 2018

George-harrison-guitar-1963-via-APOur 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

In an op-ed piece originally published in The Hill, Mott Foundation president Ridgway White argues that eliminating funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, as the Trump administration has proposed, would strip "resources from a successful initiative rooted in communities, dismissing decades of evidence proving that consistent participation by students in quality afterschool programs leads to improved school attendance, better grades and higher graduation rates...."


New York has the nation's most diverse public school system. It also is the most segregated. Michelle Chen reports for The Nation

With lots of support from the tech industry, "computer science for all" is making its way into k-12 curricula across the nation. But whose interests are being served, students' or the industry's? And given rapid advances in artificial intelligence, will the short-term focus on filling today's tech-sector jobs ultimately backfire? Benjamin Herold and the Education Week team explore theses questions with some leading thinkers in the field, including Code.org founder Hadi Partovi, the CSforAll Consortium's Ruthe Farmer, the National Science Foundation's Janice Cuny, and University of Michigan professor Megan Tompkins-Stange, who tracks trends in education philanthropy.

On Medium, Nellie Mae Education Foundation president Nick Donohue lays out his hopes for a strategic planning process recently announced by the organization — a process that aims to build on its belief that "to prepare all of New England’s students to succeed, [it needs] to focus on where the need and opportunity gaps are...[which] means thinking more deliberately about how [it] serves low-income students and students of color."


On the GuideStar blog, Adam Weinger shares five strategies designed to boost your fundraising results with matching gifts.

Gun Violence

Inside Philanthropy's Philip Rojc has a roundup of the handful of celebrities and philanthropists who have gone public with support for the student-led #NeverAgain movement that has dominated headlines and acted as a focal point for gun reform advocates nationwide since the mass shooting at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School ten days ago.  

Continue reading »

Labels…Do They Matter?

February 22, 2018

I-am-what-you-label-mePhilanthropy researchers have spent a considerable amount of time and effort trying to understand the donor's point of view, and they've taken much of what they've learned and condensed it into a sector-specific typology: Donor. Volunteer. Activist. Advocate. Maybe it's time, however, for a more sophisticated approach to how we classify these types of constituent relationships — and how we structure our organizations around them.

In many nonprofits, departments and staff are organized according to the nature of their constituent involvement. You have volunteer coordinators, corporate donor managers, major gift directors, membership managers, and so on. What's more, many nonprofits still keep their development functions separate from their marketing and communications teams.

The most effective nonprofits don't operate this way.

Ask yourself this: Do the labels we attach to people influence how we relate to them, or how they view their relationship to us?

What do we really mean when we say things like, "She's a key donor." "He's a great volunteer." "She's a real advocate."

Do the people we talk about in those terms see themselves in the same way? Does she see herself as a "donor," or a "volunteer," or an "advocate"? And does it matter if she doesn't?

From donor engagement studies and the research on millennials we have done, we know that most nonprofit supporters don't think of themselves in terms of their transactional relationship with the organizations they support. They don't give or volunteer out of loyalty to an organization. More often than not, their willingness to give or volunteer is rooted in the idea that their support for an organization or cause will improve the lives of others.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (February 17-18, 2018)

February 18, 2018

Chloe-kim-02Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....


How can we make strong learning outcomes accessible to every child in public education? Charmaine Jackson Mercer, a new member of the Education team at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, shares her thoughts.


Forbes Nonprofit Council member Austin Gallagher, CEO of environmental nonprofit Beneath the Waves, shares five fundraising tips for new nonprofit leaders.

Gun Control

On her Social Velocity blog, Nell Edgington argues that the pattern of social change in America — from the abolition of slavery, to women's suffrage, to the legalization of interracial marriage — should give us hope that Americans, led by moms, will come together to support commonsense gun legislation.


Th real cause of the opiod epidemic that is devastating America? According to a working paper authored by Christopher Ruhm of the University of Virginia its not what you think it is. Richard Florida reports for CityLab.

Human Trafficking

Here on PhilanTopic, Catherine Chen, director of investments at Humanity United, announces that, through its Pathways to Freedom challenge, Atlanta, Chicago and Minneapolis have been invited to partner with the organization to address the urgent problem of human trafficking.

International Affairs/Development

Hungary's right-wing nationalist government has introduced legislation that would empower the interior minister to ban non-governmental organizations that support migration and pose a "national security risk" — a bill seen by many has targeting the "liberal and open-border values" promoted by U.S.-Hungarian financier/philanthropist George Soros. Reuters'Krisztina Than reports.

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Cities Are Raising the Bar and Building Beloved Communities Where Black Men and Boys Can Thrive

February 16, 2018

Cbma_promise_of_placeTo build beloved communities across America where black men and boys are healthy, thriving, and able to achieve their fullest potential — that is the Campaign for Black Male Achievement's (CBMA) core mission and rallying cry.

CBMA's work is driven by the unwavering belief that black men and boys are assets to our communities and our country, that they possess untapped potential and brilliance, and that they thrive when given opportunities to succeed. We cannot truly prosper as a nation when any group is left behind and forced to exist on the fringes of society. The well-being of black men and boys is directly connected to the well-being and strength of our families, communities, and nation as a whole.

Over the past decade, CBMA has supported leaders in cities across the United States who are working to accelerate positive life outcomes for black men and boys and whose efforts are moving the needle in measurable ways. To chart and track the progress happening in these cities, in 2015 CBMA developed the Black Male Achievement (BMA) City Index, which scores cities based on their level of engagement with and investment in black men and boys. In conjunction with the new index, we released Promise of Place, a first-of-its-kind report series that assessed commitments and targeted initiatives across fifty cities focused on supporting black men and boys. A few weeks ago, we released a follow-up report, Promise of Place: Building Beloved Communities for Black Men and Boys, that explores whether those cities are keeping their promises. Encouragingly, we have found that most cities have in fact increased their investments and actions in support of black men and boys.

The new Promise of Place report finds that, since 2015, 62 percent of the cities included in the index have ramped up their efforts to support black males across a variety of focus areas and needs, with scores based on five key indicators: demographic mix, commitment to black men and boys, presence of national initiatives supporting black men and boys, targeted funding supporting black men and boys, and CBMA membership. Detroit and Washington, D.C., remain the two highest scoring cities, each with a score of 95, while Jackson (Mississippi), Seattle (Washington), Omaha (Nebraska), and Mobile (Alabama) saw the greatest improvements in their scores. Cities not captured in the first report — including Denver and Yonkers, New York — have since become highly engaged in leading black male achievement efforts.

To be clear, the BMA City Index is not a ranking of which cities are doing the best with respect to this work. Rather, it is meant to serve as a starting point to see what commitments and engagements cities are making to black men and boys. It is imperative that city and community leaders hold their cities accountable to these commitments and continue to collaborate on measuring the impact of their efforts.

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Building City Leadership to Combat Human Trafficking

February 15, 2018

Top_image_humanity_unitedIn America's small towns and big cities, in fields and on construction sites, in restaurants and bars, homes, and local businesses, slavery still exists in a pernicious, often-hidden form. Exploited for their labor and for sex, human trafficking victims are men, women, and children. There is no one race, face, or nationality.

Nor is there a single solution to the problem, given the different circumstances of human trafficking and the different needs of survivors. Yet funding for anti-trafficking efforts over the last fifteen years has mainly flowed through the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services, with an emphasis on strengthening a federal and local law enforcement approach and ensuring that victims receive services. Local efforts have also focused on large police operations to combat sex trafficking. Much less has been done to identify and respond to labor trafficking, which is often misunderstood or mischaracterized as employment disputes.

In an effort to develop and spur bold, cross-sectoral approaches to the challenge of ending human trafficking in all its forms, Humanity United, in 2013, launched the Partnership for Freedom, a public-private partnership aimed at catalyzing new ideas, data, commitments, and actions in the anti-trafficking movement through three "innovation challenges." In our third and final challengePathways to Freedom, Humanity United and the NoVo Foundation, in collaboration with 100 Resilient Cities, challenged the twenty-four 100RC member cities in the U.S. to propose a holistic, comprehensive approach to the problem of trafficking. We are pleased to announce that three of those cities — Atlanta, Chicago, and Minneapolis — have been invited to partner with us to tackle this pressing challenge.

To support the three cities as they develop and implement citywide plans to address labor and sex trafficking and better support survivors, Pathways to Freedom will award each city funding for a senior fellow for two years who will serve directly at the highest levels of municipal government. The fellow will work across multiple city agencies and with a range of community stakeholders. Each winning city also will receive technical assistance to fill knowledge gaps with respect to labor trafficking.

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What’s New at Foundation Center (February)

February 13, 2018

FC_logoLast month, we launched this monthly series as a way to keep you posted on what we at Foundation Center are learning, where we're speaking, what data we're collecting, and how you can contribute to that story. And while athletes from around the world are slipping, sliding, and jumping their way to glory in South Korea, we've been hard at work bringing data and knowledge to the fore for philanthropy globally. Here's the latest:

Projects Launched

  • Our Advancing Human Rights platform was updated with new trends data, revealing a 45 percent increase in human rights funding worldwide between 2011 and 2015, from $1.4 billion to more than $2 billion. In partnership with the Human Right Funders Network, we began to map the landscape of human rights grantmaking in 2010, which led to this first-ever five-year analysis. In addition to the site update, we also launched a blog series featuring human rights funders who provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse into key trends related to their areas of focus. And we created an infographic that distills the key findings from the analysis.

Content Published

What We're Excited About

  • We are a founding partner of the first U.S.-based Opportunity Collaboration Conference, taking place in Florida in May.
  • We answered nearly 900 questions about nonprofit management and the social sector more broadly through our online chat service in January.
  • We're giving GrantSpace — our website geared to grant seekers — a makeover so it's simpler to find what you're looking for. Keep your eyes peeled for the new site in April.
  • Our revamped custom training program for grantseekers uses in-person and online tools to connect participants in meaningful ways and promote concrete outcomes. Through assignments, peer review, expert coaching, and workshops, you'll be supported from start to finish. Email our training team at fctraining@foundationcenter.org for more information.
  • A soon-to-be-released GrantCraft Leadership Series paper by Barbara Chow focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion in philanthropy.

Projects in the Pipeline

  • In partnership with Sustain Arts and Audience Architects, a new report mapping the dance ecosystem in the Chicago area
  • In partnership with the Council on Foundations, a report on international grantmaking by U.S.-based foundations

For more on these projects or how to work with us, send us an email.

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Our staff will be speaking at these upcoming events:

Our staff will be attending and/or exhibiting at these events:

Data Spotlight

  • 328,486 new grants added to Foundation Maps since January 1, of which 4,045 were made to 2,591 organizations outside the U.S.
  • New data sharing partners: Austin Family Foundation, Charities Aid Foundation of America, ClimateWorks Foundation, Laffey-McHugh 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 Foundation Center.

Weekend Link Roundup (February 10-11, 2018)

February 11, 2018

Market_3275653kOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Corporate Social Responsibility

What if boycotts — punishing companies for perceived anti-social or -environmental practices by refusing to buy their products or services — isn't the most effective way to change corporate behavior? A new report from public relations firm Weber Shandwick suggest that "buycotts" — in which consumers actively support companies that model pro-social behavior — are overtaking boycotts as the preferred mode of consumer activism. Eillie Anzilotti reports for Fast Company.


In the New York Times, Kevin Roose profiles self-declared 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who tells Roose, "All you need is self-driving cars to destabilize society....[W]e're going to have a million truck drivers who are out of work [and] who are 94 percent male, with an average level of education of high school or [a] year of college. That one innovation will be enough to create riots in the street. And we're about to do the same thing to retail workers, call center workers, fast-food workers, insurance companies, accounting firms."


The 80/20 rule, whereby 80 percent of charitable gifts come from 20 percent of the donors, seems like "a quaint artifact of a simpler time," writes Alan Cantor in Philanthropy Daily. These days, the more accurate measure is probably closer to 95/5  and, according to the authors of a new report on giving, it's headed toward a ratio of 98/2. What's a nonprofit leader to do? "[G]o where the money is. Try not to sell your souls to your top donors, and do your best to maintain a broad constituency of supporters. "

In the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Heather McLeod Grant and Kate Wilkinson argue that, with a new generation of donors arriving on the scene, "we need to pay more attention to how values around philanthropy pass from one generation to the next and how that initial spark of generosity awakens — factors that most nonprofits can’t influence but should heed to as they cultivate donors."

Broadening access to college and increasing college completion are imperative, but they are not enough, argues Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and president emeritus of Michigan State University, if students who complete a degree are not ready for employment.

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A Conversation With Kavitha Mediratta, Executive Director, Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity

February 09, 2018

Chattel slavery — a practice (and later institution) in which enslaved Africans and African Americans were bought, sold, or traded as property at the whim of their "owners" — was common in British America from the earliest colonial days. Gaining a foothold in the tobacco country of Virginia and Maryland in the seventeenth century and spreading north and south from there, it was well established in the mid-Atlantic and South by the time of independence, reinforced, as historian Ira Berlin writes, by a regime of violence that was "systemic and relentless; the planters’ hegemony required that slaves stand in awe of their owners. Although they preferred obedience to be given rather than taken, planters understood that without a monopoly of firepower and a willingness to employ terror, plantation slavery would not long survive."

The violence employed by the slaveholding class to protect and extend its authority was, as Berlin notes, buttressed by special judicial codes, the courts (including the Supreme Court), and the U.S. Constitution itself. As the institution grew in scale and scope in the nineteenth century, driven in part by the invention of the cotton gin, which greatly boosted the profitability of cotton as a crop, and the outlawing of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the slaveholding class stepped up its efforts to promote ideologies that justified the institution’s existence — as well as the brutality and means, judicial and extra-judicial, used to maintain it.

While these explicitly racist attitudes were, as Eric Eustace Williams has argued, a consequence of slavery rather than its cause, their regrettable persistence has caused incalculable damage to American society, infected countries such as South Africa — which continues to struggle with its own history of racial apartheid — and even today divide Americans against each other. Indeed, whether America ever comes to grips with the pernicious legacy of slavery remains an open question.

Recently, PND spoke with Kavitha Mediratta, founding executive director of Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity, a ten-year, $60 million initiative launched by Atlantic Philanthropies, about that question and what her program is doing to support creative leaders dedicated to dismantling anti-black racism in both the United States and South Africa.

Mediratta previously served as chief strategy advisor for equity initiatives and human capital development at Atlantic and before that led the education program at the New York Community Trust and directed school reform programs at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University and the Institute for Education and Social Policy at New York University. She has, in addition, written extensively on race and educational opportunity in the U.S., with a focus on inequalities in school discipline, and has taught in elementary and middle schools in New Jersey, Chicago, and India.

Headshot_kavitha_medirattaPhilanthropy News Digest: How did you get into philanthropy and racial equity work?

Kavitha Mediratta: Well, actually, racial equity work is what led me into philanthropy. I came to the United States with my parents, who are Indian, when I was three, and we settled in a community on Long Island where we were pretty isolated. This was in the 1970s, and we thought America's days as a segregated society were behind it, but that's not really how it was on Long Island when I was growing up, and from an early age I was exposed to some of the contradictions between the idea of America as a place of opportunity for all people, and the way in which black people in America and others who are seen as different often are treated.

As a result, I became interested in racial equity pretty early on. I worked as a teacher and then as an organizer and policy analyst before ending up doing a lot of work with parents and high school students to improve public schools, which I saw as a key locus of opportunity for young people of color but that too often failed to deliver on those opportunities to help children realize their full potential. And it's really the work I did with young people that brought me to philanthropy, and Atlantic [Philanthropies], which had long supported people of color who were working to reform public education, and public institutions more broadly, in America.

PND: What are we talking about when we talk about racial equity? Do you have a definition that informs your day-to-day work?

KM: For us, racial equity is about creating a society in which opportunities and outcomes for people are not defined on the basis of racial categories. But we go a little bit further than equity, in that we talk about dismantling anti-black racism, aka white supremacy, as an important step toward building a truly just and inclusive society. And what we mean by a just and inclusive society is a world in which everyone has the opportun­ities they need not only to thrive, but to be seen fully for who they are, which is an important thing, since, at the moment, only some people in America are seen fully. The question is, How can we build a world in which all people are seen fully for who and what they are, and who are treated with the dignity, respect, and right to self-determination that all members of our national and global community deserve?

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Strengthening Philanthropy’s Role in the Resistance

February 08, 2018

WPI-SAC-1An increase in the minimum wage. Criminal justice reforms that have led to a 25 percent drop in the number of people incarcerated in state prisons. A Domestic Worker Bill of Rights that extended labor protections and overtime pay to five hundred thousand low-wage workers. Climate change laws that are delivering real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Expanded rights for transgender people.

Even as the federal government has become openly hostile to policy priorities such as immigrant and worker rights, environmental protections, and expanded access to health care, California has forged its own path. Not only are local and state governments standing up to oppose federal overreach, they are shaping real policy solutions that can serve as a model for the rest of the nation. And, in many cases, the state's progressive victories have been achieved with the help of philanthropic support for advocacy efforts.

For a long time, funders were wary about getting involved in policy work. That reluctance is fading as a growing number of funders realize that policy and systems change are critical levers for achieving their equity and social justice goals. And at a time when the federal government is intent on turning back the clock on progress that has benefited so many vulnerable communities, philanthropy is coming to see the value of investing in local and state policy work aimed at protecting and advancing people's rights.

But what is the best way for funders to support policy advocacy? How can foundations and other donors be more strategic about investing in policy change as a means to achieving their broader missions? And what exactly are the rules around lobbying and advocacy for foundations and their nonprofit partners?

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A Cooperative, Comprehensive Approach to Saving African Elephants

February 06, 2018

Elephant_cooperation_500I fell in love with wildlife as a child when I traveled to Africa with my father, who was a biologist. Back then, the beauty of the continent was difficult for me to put into words, and it stayed with me. But if I was in awe of all the different species I saw on that trip, I was overwhelmed by the elephants — so much so, that when I became a father myself, I wanted to share their beauty and majesty with my daughter. I had to wait a few years, but when she turned 15, we traveled together to the continent that had captured my imagination many years earlier.

It was not what I had expected, and my heart almost broke when I saw firsthand the devastation local elephant populations had suffered in the years since my last visit. I explained to my daughter that these magnificent creatures were being killed for their tusks — which would be smuggled out of country and turned into trinkets and bogus medical remedies to satisfy the growing consumer market in far-away countries such as China and Vietnam. What's more, at the rate they were being killed, African elephants might become extinct in my lifetime, and that her children — my grandchildren — might never have the chance to see one in the wild.

As a co-founder of a hundred-million-dollar company, I had long felt the need to give back, and when I got back to the U.S., I decided I would dedicate myself to saving the African elephant from extinction. It soon became apparent, however, that I would have to embrace unconventional strategies if I hoped to have the slightest chance of succeeding. As I returned to Africa several times over the next few years to learn about amazing organizations already working toward this goal, I realized I didn't need to start another NGO to bring a new approach or project to the table. Instead, I could create a nonprofit organization that would fund established projects and organizations already making a difference and use my connections and influence to bring those projects and organizations to the attention of donors and activists here in America.

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Weekend Link Roundup (February 3-4, 2018)

February 04, 2018

AP-Groundhog-Day.3Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

African Americans,

"It's obvious," writes Andre Perry on the Hechinger Report site, "that black history is needed all year long. But white history as we know it can no longer be the standard in a multicultural society, which is supposed to maximize the potential of all of its members."

Arts and Culture

Janet Brown was named executive director of Grantmakers in the Arts in December 2008 and retired from that post in December. On his blog for the Western States Arts Federation, Barry Hessenius talks with Brown about what has changed in arts philanthropy, GIA's racial equity work, and the current status of creative placemaking efforts in the U.S.

Civil Society

We look to civil society for many things and benefits, but do we appreciate and understand the critical role it plays in our democracy? In an excerpt from Philanthropy and Digital Civil Society: Blueprint 2018, philanthropy scholar Lucy Bernholz lays it out for us:

Majority-run democracies need to, at the very least, prevent those who disagree with them (minorities) from revolting against the system. Civil society provides, at the very least, the pressure-release valve for majority-run governments. Positioned more positively, civil society is where those without power or critical mass can build both and influence the majority. It serves as a conduit to the majority system and a counterbalance to extreme positions. It also serves as an outlet for those actions, rights, and views that may never be the priority of a majority, but that are still valid, just, or beautiful. When it exists, civil society offers an immune system for democracy — it is a critical factor in a healthy system, and it requires its own maintenance. Immune systems exist to protect and define — they are lines of defense that "allow organism[s] to persist over time."...

Corporate Social Responsibility

The UNHCT, the UN Refugee Agency, estimates that it will only reach 1 out of every 4 Syrian refugees at risk this winter. And with 200,000 displaced families in Syria, 196,000 in Iraq, 174,000 in Lebanon, 115,000 in Turkey, and 83,000 in Jordan, the global refugee crisis isn't likely to be resolved simply or quickly. Writing for Inc., Anna Johansson has a nice list of companies that are stepping up to help refugees.

Perhaps in an effort to appeal to socially aware millennials, Hyundai and Anheuser-Busch InBev will be running cause-based marketing spots during this year's Super Bowl. A harbinger of things to come or just business as usual? E. J. Schultz reports for AdAge.


Here's another (bittersweet) milestone of note: DonorsChoose Just funded its millionth project. Fast Company's Ben Paynter has the details.

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What's in a Job Description?

February 02, 2018

It might not be obvious, but search firms like ours get lots of unexpected looks into what really goes on at the organizations we work with. And we're not just talking about hiring practices. We also gain insights into office culture, power dynamics, and reporting structures (those that work as well as those that don't). Where does all that information come from? Not from exit interviews or placement questionnaires. No, if you really want to get the inside scoop on an organization, all you have to do is look at the documents that every supervisor and employee loves to hate. 

Yes, I'm talking about your organization's job descriptions.

How do job descriptions reveal more than they were meant to? Let's look at six fairly common types and zero in on what they might be saying about your organization.

The All-Do Can-Do Job Description

Everyone can't (and shouldn't) do everything, but apparently your supervisor never got the memo. Under "responsibilities," this single-spaced three-page monstrosity not only includes "leap over tall buildings" and "argue cases before the Supreme Court," it also has the nerve to end with "other duties as assigned."

What this could mean: There's a good chance with a job description like this that no one knows exactly what the core functions of the position are, so the team responsible for creating it threw everything and the kitchen sink in just to be sure. Unfortunately, that often means that the person who ends up in the position is spread too thin and is likely to underperform. Can't say we're surprised; lack of clarity in a job description inevitably leads to confused priorities and overwhelmed staff. 

Pro Tip: Keep your job descriptions to one page. (Anything longer may be the reason the position is still open.) 

Unrelated Educational Requirements

You value education; we value education. But nonprofits too often are guilty of asking for educational credentials that not only don't match the requirements of the job in question — they don't make sense given the salary range. Why would a junior coordinator need a $75K master's degree? Or why is there an educational requirement for a fundraising position? In a sector where almost everyone is passionate about social justice, why do we insist on either excluding qualified candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds or saddling our junior staff with untenable debt?

What this could mean: Your organization isn't really serious about diversity and inclusion. By insisting on including expensive educational requirements in your job descriptions, you could be eliminating otherwise qualified candidates from diverse backgrounds before your candidate search even starts.

Pro Tip: "Or equivalent experience" in a job description gives you much more flexibility and will open up the candidate pool to a much broader variety of qualified people.

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Newsmaker: Fred Blackwell, CEO, The San Francisco Foundation

January 31, 2018

Fred Blackwell joined The San Francisco Foundation, one of the largest community foundations in the United States, as CEO in 2014. An Oakland native, he previously had served as interim administrator and assistant administrator for the city, led the San Francisco Mayor's Office of Community Development and the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency; and directed the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Making Connections Initiative in Oakland.

In June 2016, TSFF announced a new commitment to racial and economic equity in the Bay Area. PND spoke with Blackwell about the foundation's racial equity lens, movement building in the wake of the 2016 elections and Charlottesville, and what it means for philanthropic organizations to speak out, step up, and actually try to achieve racial equity.

Fred_blackwellPhilanthropy News Digest: How do you define "racial equity"?

Fred Blackwell: I define it as just and fair inclusion in a society where everyone can participate, prosper, and thrive, regardless of their race or where they live or their family's economic status or any other defining characteristic. Obviously, the way we think about equity is colored by our particular focus on the Bay Area — a place where there is tremendous opportunity and prosperity being generated, but also where access to those opportunities is limited for many people. So from an institutional point of view, we need to answer the question: How do we make sure that the region prospers in a way that the rising tide lifts all boats?

PND: When you stepped into the top job at TSFF in 2014, the foundation already had a lengthy history of social justice work. How did the decision to focus the foundation's grantmaking on racial and economic equity come about?

FB: Shortly after I came to the foundation, we conducted a listening tour of the Bay Area. As part of that listening tour, we held what we called our VOICE: Bay Area sessions — a series of large public meetings in seven diverse low-income communities across the region. In addition, we held consultative sessions, half-day meetings with practitioners, policy people, and thought leaders to talk about trends, both positive and negative, they were seeing in the region and how those trends were affecting people. We did a lot of data collection and analysis. And the data all pointed in the same direction: the need for greater levels of inclusion here in the Bay Area. The fact that race and economic status and geography had predictive power over where people were headed and what they could accomplish concerned us, and it was important to try to respond to that.

There are two pieces of the foundation's history that we wanted to build on: one is the social justice orientation of our work, and the other is our regional footprint. We serve Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo counties. So in focusing on the equity issue, we're also thinking about it from a regional point of view. What makes the Bay Area unique is its diversity and prosperity, and yet we are a prime real-time example of the kinds of inequalities and inequities that you see on multiple levels across the country. It's important to us as a unit of analysis because equity and the issues that emanate from it — whether it's economic opportunity or housing or education or criminal justice or civic participation — none of those issues conform neatly to the boundaries of the various jurisdictions in the region. People may live in Oakland or San Francisco or Berkeley or Richmond, but they experience the Bay Area as a region.

What I think I brought to the foundation is a laser-like focus on the dimensions of social justice work with respect to racial and economic inclusion and equity — making sure that that "North Star" is something that is modeled at the top and cascades down through all levels of the organization. I would say that we are more explicit than we've been in the past about making equity the focus — not just in our grantmaking but also in how we work with donors, how we provide civic leadership in the region, and how we bring our voice to the table and those of our partners in order to make a difference. We view that North Star as guiding not only our programmatic work but everything we do here at the foundation.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (Jan. 27-28, 2018)

January 28, 2018

640_2015_01_02_15_45_20_04_2015_08_23_13_12_33Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Animal Welfare

Following recent allegations of workplace misconduct leveled at Human Society of the U.S. chief executive Wayne Pacelle, Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther takes a closer look at charges of widespread sexual harassment and gender bias in the animal welfare movement. 

Arts and Culture

Be sure to check out the Q&A on Barry's Blog, a service of the Western States Arts Federation, with John E. McGuirk, the recently retired director of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation's Performing Arts Program.


On the Inside Philanthropy site, IP contributor Mike Scutari asks: When should nonprofit institutions keep a gift that has been tainted by the bad actions of the giver?


You've been awarded a grant and now the deadline for reporting your program's outcomes is looming. Should you invest as much time and effort into writing the final project report as you did in writing the grant proposal? On the Philanthropy Front and Center-Cleveland blog, Jenna Gonzales, a program associate at the San Antonio Area Foundation, shares six things you can do to "articulate your impact and demonstrate you are a credible partner to consider for future grant opportunities."

Higher Education

At a time when postsecondary educational attainment in the United States remains below 50 percent for the 25-34 year-old age group, "the vast, affordable, and extraordinarily diverse community college system is central to the national debate about access and quality in postsecondary education, and about work life readiness for the next generation of Americans." The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's Mariët Westermann explains

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[Review] Putting Wealth to Work: Philanthropy for Today or Investing for Tomorrow?

January 24, 2018

At some point in their lives, high-net-worth individuals with philanthropic inclinations must answer an age-old question: Do I commit all (or most of) my resources to charitable causes in my lifetime, or should I create a giving vehicle that exists in perpetuity?

Book_putting_wealth_to_workIn Putting Wealth to Work: Philanthropy for Today or Investing for Tomorrow?, social sector veteran Joel L. Fleishman, director of the Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society at Duke University, examines the two sides of the question, finding strengths — and weaknesses — in both approaches and ultimately concluding that the correct answer is not either/or but both/and. In arriving at that conclusion, he also provides readers with an overview of modern American philanthropy, including the fairly recent advent of the Giving Pledge and the growing popularity of funder collaboratives; a brief history of limited-life foundations (i.e., foundations that have decided to "spend down" their corpus by a specific date); and a framework for critically evaluating this ever-green conundrum.

In the book (a follow-up to his well-received The Foundation: A Great American Secret; How Private Wealth Is Changing the World), Fleishman carefully deconstructs the arguments commonly made by "anti-perpetuity" critics and in the process does his best to separate fact from fiction. For example, anti-perpetuity critics often cite Henry Ford II's resignation from the board of the Ford Foundation in 1976 as evidence that foundations created to exist in perpetuity inevitably depart from their founding donor's intent. Fleishman, however, debunks the "myth" that Ford "should be regarded as the poster child for departure from donor intent," arguing that "no donor intent had been embodied in the legal instrument that created the…[f]oundation." He goes on to attribute the persistence of the myth to the conservative-leaning Philanthropy Roundtable, which has "kept alive a questionable interpretation of Henry Ford II's role in, [and] resignation from, the Ford Foundation," as well as other similarly inclined think tanks for "imputing departure from donor intent specifically to liberal foundations." The reality, writes Fleishman, is that "thousands of foundations that were founded by now-deceased donors do not appear to have wavered to any significant degree in trying to fulfill the intention of their founders."

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ICYMI: What’s New at Foundation Center (January)

January 23, 2018

FC_logoThere's a lot happening in the philanthropy world, and we’re doing a lot here at Foundation Center to keep up. This year, we're going to do a better job keeping you posted on what we're learning, where we're speaking, what data we're collecting, and how you can contribute to that story. Each month, I'll be posting a roundup; no better time to start than now with what we were up to at the end of 2017.

Projects Launched

Content Published

A Few Projects in the Pipeline

  • A GrantCraft guide on participatory grantmaking
  • A research project on facilitating financial sustainability in partnership with LINC

For more on these projects or how to work with us, send us an email.

What We're Excited About

  • Five of our conference session proposals were accepted for the PEAK Grantmaking annual conference in March! Topics include mapping changemaking campaigns, participatory grantmaking, opening up grants data, and how the SDGs facilitate foundation transparency. We hope you'll look for us there!
  • A spotlight on Foundation Center in the Carnegie Reporter. The article is especially meaningful to us given that Foundation Center was founded in 1956 with support from the Carnegie Corporation to bring the work of philanthropic organizations to light.
  • Our Cleveland and San Francisco offices turning 40!
  • This story from the Johnson City Library Foundation, one of our Funding Information Network (FIN) partners.

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Data Spotlight

  • 1,011,471 new grants added to Foundation Maps since November 1, of which 6,608 grants were made to 4,579 organizations outside of the U.S.
  • New data sharing partners: The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, Gobioff Foundation, Jasper Foundation, Inc. & Newton County Community Foundation, St. Louis Mental Health Board, Smithville Charitable Foundation and Greenville Health System.

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 Foundation Center.

Creating the Highest Performing Teams Through Community-Focused Initiatives

January 19, 2018

Ey_earthwatch_ambassadorsDiversity in the workplace has become a widely discussed topic, and while every company has its own approach and initiatives designed to promote diversity, most of us agree that diverse teams — not just across race, gender, and nationality but also background, knowledge, and skill-set — perform better. This has been proven by a great deal of research, but it is up to companies to bring this data to life in the workplace. At EY, we believe that our ability to execute on our purpose of "building a better working world" is best achieved by building a culture of the highest-performing teams, and a significant component of that has to do with encouraging a deeper understanding among our employees of working alongside people from other backgrounds and cultures, as well as promoting opportunities to learn new skills in new environments.

It's for this reason we invest in programs that promote high-performing teams by encouraging our people to "think outside the box." One program in particular — the EY-Earthwatch Ambassadors program — empowers our people to help overcome challenges that most corporations actively look to resolve: thinking and operating in silos.

The EY-Earthwatch Ambassadors program sends high-performing, early-career professionals from the Americas and Israel on a week-long expedition with the Earthwatch Institute to Mexico or Peru. Organized in four groups of ten, Ambassadors provide skills-based services to a local business and also engage in dynamic scientific field research (at no cost to the organization).

This past year in Mexico, two teams of ten Ambassadors helped improve the marketing and sales strategies of a local farming cooperative that is working to improve the health of the region's ecosystem. They also collected water-quality data in the Xochimilco wetlands outside of Mexico City as part of a study on the health of global freshwater ecosystems. In Peru, EY professionals provided operational recommendations to AmazonEco, a research expedition business that provides sustainable financial strategies for holistic conservation efforts in western Amazonia. Ambassadors also supported research staff by surveying a variety of wildlife species to better understand how climate change is impacting the region. Findings from the project are being used to develop conservation strategies in partnership with local indigenous communities.

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At What Cost 'Mission'?

January 15, 2018

Why_are_whereWhen an exempt nonprofit organization's single-minded pursuit of funding for its mission threatens to damage the broader common good, many in the larger community will question the tax advantages that enable that organization to thrive while others suffer. And so they should.

Recently, this tension was underscored by a situation in our nation's capital, where tax-exempt American University's activities as a commercial real estate developer have led to the loss of local businesses much valued in (and beyond) adjacent neighborhoods — and raised additional concerns about the sometimes-harmful practices of "charitable" entities. While local residents around the country have been doing what they can to maintain the increasingly fragile business mix that reflects the often-historic and unique character of their neighborhoods, too many exempt organizations ignore such concerns and go about their business with a blatant disregard for the consequences of their actions on others.

We've all become familiar with the egregious practices of commercial real estate owners who double, triple, or quadruple a small business owner's rent when a lease expires, forcing the business to vacate the space and leaving it empty for years in hopes that, at some point down the road, it can be combined with adjacent properties to create an attractive parcel for luxury development or perhaps a national chain tenant, even as the surrounding neighborhood retail ecosystem withers and dies.

And when ostensibly nonprofit organizations get into the game, it adds more than insult to injury. Indeed, in the recent case involving American University, which is taking steps to force out a popular family-owned garden center from one of the commercial properties it owns, it heightens the scrutiny on all exempt organizations.

Our current tax code allows exempt nonprofit organizations and institutions to maximize the revenue they generate by mimicking the often-rapacious behavior of commercial real estate developers. While some defenders of exempt organizations’ commercial real estate ventures believe that income from such activities are subject to Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT), they are wrong.

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Weekend Link Roundup (January 13-14, 2018)

MLKOur 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

On the Barr Foundation blog, the foundation's Climate Program co-directors, Mariella Puerto and Mary Skelton Roberts, outline "the rationale, priorities, and early steps of the foundation's newly-expanded focus on [climate] resilience."

New York Magazine's Reeves Wiedeman checks in with a fresh take on the climate advocacy of the Rockefeller family and its campaign against Exxon, one of the legacy companies of John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil.


A consensus has developed over the last decade around the importance of pre-K education. So why do so many preschool teachers live on the edge of financial ruin? Jeneen Interlandi reports for the New York Times.

To kick off the new year, the editors of Education Week share ten ideas that they believe have the potential to change K-12 education in 2018.


Why are we so bad at predicting the future, and what can we learn from our collective obtuseness? When it comes to fundraising, writes digital marketer and self-styled charity nerd Brady Josephson, "the question shouldn't be 'What will be different in the future?' but rather 'What will be the same?'"

International Affairs/Development

It may not have seemed like it, but 2017 was the best year in human history. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof explains. And Kristof's Times colleague Tina Rosenberg reminds us that it was a pretty good year for social innovation as well.

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5 Questions for...Laura Kalick, Tax Consulting Director, BDO

January 12, 2018

The GOP tax reform bill agreed to by the U.S. Senate and House in December and signed into law by the president on December 22 is over a thousand pages long. The bill is so long, in fact, that many members of Congress haven’t read — and are unlikely to ever read — it in its entirety. Its impact on nonprofits and the charitable sector could be significant, however, which is why earlier this month we spoke with Laura Kalick, national non-profit tax consulting director for the nonprofit and nonprofit healthcare industry at BDO in Washington, D.C., about provisions in the new law most likely to affect nonprofits in 2018, and beyond.

Headshot_laura_kalickPhilanthropy News Digest: There are lots of provisions in the tax reform bill that are going to affect nonprofits and charities. In your view, what is the one provision likely to have the greatest impact on the sector?

Laura Kalick: Well, the one that’s going to have the most impact is the doubling of the standard deduction and the limitation on deducting state and local taxes. These two provisions will likely result in a huge number of American taxpayers not itemizing their deductions and therefore not being able to deduct charitable gifts, which, as you know, is an important incentive for charitable giving. It's hard to know, of course, what people will do, but estimates from the likes of Independent Sector and the Council on Foundations suggest that charitable giving in the U.S. may take a hit of as much as a $20 billion, which is pretty substantial.

PND: The bill includes two provisions likely to be popular among individuals who do itemize their returns. One is an increase in the charitable contribution deduction limit, and the other is repeal of the so-called Pease limitation. How are those changes likely to affect charitable giving?

LK: The Pease limitation was more of a concern for high-income taxpayers, in that it reduced the value of a taxpayer's itemized deductions by 3 percent for every dollar of taxable income above a certain threshold — something like $250,00 for an individual and $300,000 for a married couple. With its repeal, people whose total income exceeds those levels will now get the full benefit of their contributions, so in that sense it could be an incentive for higher income taxpayers to give more.

The other provision is of little help to anyone, in my opinion. Previously, you could deduct charitable gifts totaling up to 50 percent of your contribution base — essentially, your adjusted gross income (AGI). That's a pretty large number, and although I don't have the stats for you, it's a lot more than most people actually allocate to charity. A provision in the new tax bill raises the maximum to 60 percent of one's contribution base, which is an even bigger number and not something that is likely to apply to too many people in any given year. I would also note that in addition to being able to deduct contributions up to 50 percent of one's contribution base, if there are contributions in excess of that amount, they could have, under the old code, and still can be carried forward under special rules. So I believe that increasing the limit to 60 percent is likely to have little impact.

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[Review] What Matters: Investing in Results to Build Strong, Vibrant Communities

January 09, 2018

For public- and private-sector leaders working to develop and implement solutions to the challenges — inequality, racism, gaps in educational outcomes and health status — that have vexed American society since the country's founding, the last few decades have been especially frustrating. As Antony Bugg-Levine, CEO of the Nonprofit Finance Fund and one of the editors of this volume, notes in his Introduction, despite collective investments in the trillions, "over 45 million Americans still live in poverty, more than half a million remain homeless...unemployment among young African American men stubbornly persists around 30 percent in many cities, an opioid abuse epidemic [rages] across [the] country," and the United States, with 5 percent of the world's population, "hold[s] 25 percent of the world's prisoners in a system that tends to warehouse rather than rehabilitate."

Book_what_mattersIn the latest addition to the What Matters series, Bugg-Levine and more than seventy-five contributors — including Peter Long, president and CEO of the Blue Shield of California Foundation; David J. Erickson, director of community development at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco; Zia Khan, vice president for initiatives and strategy at the Rockefeller Foundation; Jacob Harold, president and CEO of GuideStar; and Andrea Levere, president of Prosperity Now — make the case that progress on these and other fronts will only be achieved by shifting the collective mindset of community leaders from a short-term focus on outputs (e.g., the number of beds in a shelter occupied every night) to longer-term investments in outcomes (e.g., the number of people successfully transitioned to permanent housing).

In the area of health care, for example, Long argues that nothing short of a fundamental rethink of the nation's approach to health outcome management is needed. But despite ongoing efforts by stakeholders in both the public and private sectors to adopt electronic health records, develop health exchanges, and focus on interoperability, Long worries that "we are building a measurement system that resembles the Winchester Mystery House…[one] that contains hundreds of rooms, designed individually without relation to one another, and many staircases that lead to dead ends." What is needed instead is a clear vision for the U.S. healthcare system and a national infrastructure that supports a better, more coherent outcome measurement system. Unfortunately, Long writes, "in the current political environment, it [is] incredibly challenging to have a candid conversation about our national health values and priorities."

While that assessment might be overly bleak for those who see outcomes-oriented social impact investments as the key to "affordably address our most vexing social challenges," it is impossible to read this volume without recognizing how difficult bringing about such a fundamental shift is likely to be.

Of course, none of the book's contributors argues that such a change will come easily. Indeed, in essay after essay, the chief rationale for adopting an outcomes-oriented approach is the positive effect it can have on people living on the margins. "Across the country, extraordinary leaders are overcoming the status quo, making change happen in their communities, and pushing through the challenges," writes Bugg-Levine. Isn't that enough? Or as Bugg-Levine puts it in one of two essays he's written for the book: "Don't we already provide funding to hospitals to keep people healthy, to homeless shelters to end homelessness, to childcare centers to prepare children for a fruitful life, and to job training programs to find people permanent employment?"

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Quote of the Week

  • "Women acting on their own can do what all the philanthropic organizations in the world can never accomplish: change the unwritten rule that women are lesser than men. Our role, as we see it, is to make targeted investments that give women the opportunity to write new rules...."

    — Melinda Gates, co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

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