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[Infographic] Questions Nonprofits Should Ask to Assess Their Risk Management Practices

February 13, 2016

If, like the majority of Americans, you have some (or most) of your retirement savings invested in stocks, the last month and a half has been disconcerting (to say the least). The same is true for nonprofit organizations, which count on grants from endowed private foundations and deep-pocketed individual donors to fund key initiatives and, in many cases, keep the lights on. As anyone who was around in 2008, 2002-03, or the early 1990s can tell you, however, when stock portfolios fall in value, foundation grantmaking and individual giving are quick to follow. And volatility in revenue streams is just one of the many organizational risks the typical nonprofit faces.

What's a nonprofit executive to do? The worst thing he or she can do is to do nothing. As Ben Franklin liked to say: "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." So, how does one prepare for risks, both known and unknown, that lie in wait for even the best-managed organization? As the infographic from our friends at accounting giant BDO's global forensics unit reminds us, ask questions. Lots of them.

Infographic_risk_management

Does your nonprofit devote time and resources to risk management? What advice would you give to a freshly minted executive director who finds herself too busy to worry about things she has no control over? Inquiring minds want to know...

And, hey, as Sgt. Phil Esterhaus, the character played by actor Michael Conrad in the hit '80s police drama Hill Street Blues, might say: "Let's be careful out there." 

[Review] Getting Beyond Better: How Social Entrepreneurship Works

February 12, 2016

Changing the world is a lot like writing a novel: many people say they want to, but only a few actually accomplish their goal, and fewer still succeed in creating something that gets noticed.

Cover_getting beyond betterIn Getting Beyond Better: How Social Entrepreneurship Works, business strategist Roger L. Martin and Sally R. Osberg, president and CEO of the Skoll Foundation, provide an overview of the burgeoning field of social entrepreneurship and share the stories of several social entrepreneurs who have changed — and are changing — the world for the better. And, like the entrepreneurs they highlight — nearly all of whom have been recognized by the Skoll Foundation for their efforts — Martin and Osberg mostly succeed in their objectives, providing a definitional framework for the field, explaining the joys and challenges of the work, and finding compelling examples of people who have overcome those challenges.

Martin and Osberg define social entrepreneurship as direct action aimed at transforming, rather than incrementally improving, an existing system; in the process, a new equilibrium is created. Moreover, social entrepreneurs work in "ways that do not fit neatly into the traditional modes of government and business." Whereas businesses are constrained by a need to earn profits, and government-led change efforts are designed to provide services to citizens rather than cultivate new customers, social entrepreneurs are able to "[negotiate] these constraints. The creative combination of elements from both poles...is what enables [them] to build models designed for a particular context."

Through their work at the Skoll Foundation and the Skoll World Forum, Osberg and Martin have observed that transformative change involves four key stages: first, the social entrepreneur must understand the system she is trying to change; then, she must envision a future in which that system has been changed, build a model for achieving the change, and, finally, scale a solution.

It is not enough, for example, to be repulsed by a tradition such as foot binding or female genital cutting that has been standard practice in certain societies for centuries. Rather, the social entrepreneur "sets out to make sense of the problematic equilibrium itself: how did it come to be and why does it persist?" To do that, Martin and Osberg write, the social entrepreneur must "navigate three powerful tensions" with respect to the world they wish to change: abhorrence and appreciation; expertise and apprenticeship; and experimentation and commitment.

Take the case of Molly Melching, the much-honored founder and executive director of Tostan, a nongovernmental organization headquartered in Dakar, Senegal. Melching, who arrived in Senegal in 1974 as a young academic and, after her program was canceled, found work as a translator for various development agencies, soon fell in love with the country and its people and "began heading out from the urban familiarity of Dakar, with its French enclaves of cafes and bookstores, into rural villages." There, she saw signs of failed development and ineffective educational initiatives almost everywhere. "There was little appreciation [within the development community] of the reasons indigenous communities operated as they did," write Martin and Osberg, "[or] why the unhappy equilibriums that prevailed in Africa persevered even in the face of new incentives." After a few years, Melching "came to believe that a different approach was necessary if change was to happen sustainably in Senegal." Continuing her travels, she "sought to engage ever more deeply with communities…learn[ing] from and build[ing] relationships with village elders and young people, to explore community networks, and to shape her knowledge of how the society was structured." In the process, she became intimately familiar with the established equilibrium that prevailed in rural communities — and eventually realized she could do something to change it. After learning and helping teach rural children in their native Wolof language, Melching founded Tostan as a vehicle to scale a community empowerment program and start a conversation about human rights and women's health issues.

Before long, Melching was approached by three local women who asked for her help in ending the practice of female genital cutting (FGC), which was widespread in the Senagalese countryside. At first she balked at the idea, believing FGC to be so ingrained in Senagalese culture that, by taking it on, she risked losing the trust she and Tostan had established with local tribal leaders. But she could not ignore the inherent cruelty of the practice. Calling "on all she had learned about the structure and norms of Senagalese society," Melching turned to her longtime adviser, Demba Diawara, himself a descendant of Malian royalty, and urged him to reconsider his opposition to the women's efforts to eliminate "the tradition" — which he did after consulting with local imams, doctors, and village women. Demba then spent months engaging villagers in more than a dozen communities in discussions about FGC and eventually convinced representatives, both women and men, from thirteen villages to gather to debate the issue. They did, and at the end of two days, they collectively agreed to declare their "firm commitment" to not only end the practice but to spread what they had learned to other villages. "If you truly want to bring about widespread change," Demba told Melching, "you must understand something. When it comes to important decisions, they must all be involved." The lesson: Had Melching taken the standard development route and tried to impose a decision on Senegalese villagers based on Western notions of freedom and human rights, she would have failed.

Of course, some problems defy simple solutions, and what works in one cultural milieu may not work elsewhere. Indeed, it is not uncommon for a social entrepreneur to come up with an innovative solution to a problem only to discover that the particulars of the local context make it impossible to scale beyond the initial group of individuals he had hoped to help. Given that reality, Martin and Osberg seem to suggest that real, lasting social change is largely the result of leadership — the hallmarks of which include humility and the ability to think outside the box.

It was the latter, for example, that enabled Bart Weetjens, founder of APOPO (Anti-Personnel Landmines Detection Product Development), a registered Belgian nongovernmental organization, to reduce the costs of detecting and disabling land mines. For much of the second half of the twentieth century, dogs had been used to sniff out mines in post-conflict countries, at a cost of $300 to $1,000 per mine. Meanwhile, training a single mine-sniffing dog can cost upward of $40,000. Weetjens, who kept small rodents like rats and hamsters as pets when he was young, recognized that the animals might be both intelligent enough and small enough to do the job for a fraction of the cost. The result of his epiphany? APOPO's army of rats has cleared nearly seventy thousand mines and more than twenty-five million square meters of land since 2004, and along the way Weetjens learned that they could also be trained to sniff out tuberculosis in human tissue samples.

If the book has a shortcoming, it can be blamed on the relative immaturity of the social entrepreneurship field and the lack of a research base detailing the impact of such endeavors. By the authors' own admission, the book is a step, but only a step, down the long road to a cleaner, safer, more sustainable world. It also raises, for this reader at least, as many questions as it answers. For example, as the first generation of social entrepreneurs passes from the scene, who and what will keep their organizations, many of them founder-led, from fading away? And what of the millennial generation, which seems long on good intentions but lacking in resources and, at times, resolve? Perhaps Martin and Osberg will answer those and other questions in their next book. In the meantime, Getting Beyond Better is both a good read and an excellent illustration of the real potential of social entrepreneurship to change the world. That's something we should all embrace in these uncertain times.

Matt Sinclair is editor of Philanthropy News Digest. For more great reviews, visit our Off the Shelf section.

 

How to Double Online Giving in Six Months

February 11, 2016

More and more of the giving to nonprofits is taking place online, which means it's critically important that your online storefront is not only open for business but is optimized.

OnlinegivingAs part of my research on this topic for my new book, Nonprofit Fundraising 101, I interviewed Roderick Campbell, CEO of nonprofit fundraising platform CommitChange, who was kind enough to share a few takeaways from his organization's efforts to maximize digital donations for Mercy House, a $3.8 million nonprofit that has provided housing and support to California's homeless population since 1989.

The changes outlined below helped Mercy House double online giving to the organization in just six months — and I believe they can do the same for your nonprofit:

1. Break it down: CommitChange helped Mercy House break the donation process down into four steps: recurring versus one-time; amount; info; and payment. Instead of asking for the information all at once, CommitChange simplified the process, which is especially helpful for donors in the habit of contributing via their mobile device. Another great example of what this looks like is charity: water, which is also profiled in the book.

Whatever your process, be sure to look closely at recurring giving, as it is the category most likely to create valuable ongoing funding for your cause and increase average gift size (people are more likely to donate $10 a month than $120 in a single go). A simple tweak here and there can yield great results: By leading with the recurring gift option, Mercy House increased the number of donors willing to sign up as a sustaining member of the organization by 400 percent!

2. Be consistent: The data proves what we all know in our gut: Nobody likes to feel like they're leaving your website when they hit the "Donate" button. So be sure to keep the look and feel of your donation page consistent with the design and tone of your website and other communication materials and make sure your organization's logo is visible throughout the donation process. This simple change helped Mercy House convert more of the people who clicked "donate" into actual supporters while simultaneously increasing its average gift size.

3. Streamline the process: Less is more, which is another way of saying once someone clicks "donate," your job is to make the donation process as easy as possible. In fact, CommitChange discovered that every field eliminated from the donation experience increases conversion rates by 2 percent. And it was further able to optimize conversion rates by adding some simple programming so that when Mercy House website visitors click the donate button, a new tab opens up exclusively dedicated to the process, ensuring a closed environment free of distractions.

By making these three simple changes, Mercy House was able to improve online giving totals by 110 percent in just six months, and it didn't stop there. The organization continued to enjoy the fruits of its labor and saw an additional 73 percent increase in the six months after that. The point is, if you take the time to build a solid foundation for the house that is your online giving experience, the sky is the limit as to what is possible.

Headshot_darien_rodriguezDarian Rodriguez Heyman is an accomplished fundraiser, social entrepreneur, and best-selling author. His work to "help people who help" started during his five-year tenure as executive director of the Craigslist Foundation. Heyman also is an in-demand fundraising consultant and a frequent keynote speaker at social impact events around the globe. His new book, Nonprofit Fundraising 101, is the "first truly comprehensive yet practical guide to all aspects of fundraising for your cause."

Moving From Theory to Practice: A Synthesis of Lessons About Incentive-Based Instruments for Freshwater Management

February 08, 2016

Urbanwater_splashThere has been growing interest in applying incentive-based instruments such as pollution charges and tradeable permits to address the twin challenges of accessing enough freshwater to meet our needs while also preserving the well-being of freshwater ecosystems. These instruments use direct or indirect financial incentives as motivation to reallocate water or to reduce the health and environmental risks posed by an activity. But what do we know about how they have actually performed?

New York City provides an excellent illustration of the potential for incentive-based instruments. To meet new federal drinking water requirements in the late 1990s, the city was faced with the prospect of building a $4 billion to $6 billion filtration plant and spending an additional $250 million annually to operate it. Instead, city officials paid farmers and landowners in the upstream rural Catskill watershed to better manage the land, at a fraction of the cost of the proposed filtration plant. The outcome was a win-win, improving downstream water quality for people and ecosystems and boosting the rural economy.

This is just one example. To move beyond theory and better understand how these instruments perform in practice, the Rockefeller Foundation partnered with the Foundation Center and Pacific Institute on a synthesis review of existing, largely practice-based knowledge about incentive-based instruments. For the review, the foundation developed the project's scope and provided financial support, the Foundation Center and its IssueLab service were involved in project and technology development, and the Pacific Institute wrote the text.

The resulting report looks at water trading, water quality trading, and payment for ecosystem services but notes that these are but three of a much broader suite of methods available to address threats to freshwater availability and sustainability. Other methods, such as demand-side management approaches, have demonstrated considerable success in addressing such threats but were not included in the scope of the review.

While incentive-based instruments are often juxtaposed with a "command-and-control" approach, the report reveals that, in practice, these seemingly opposing approaches often operate alongside one another. With water quality trading, for example, governments mandate caps on allowable pollutant levels and issue tradeable permits that allow those in the industry to allocate polluting activities among themselves, incentivized by market forces. Similarly, with water trading, governments need to recognize and enforce rights to water use and then institute a framework within which water trading can occur.

The review finds that despite the popularity of incentive-based instruments, information about their performance and the conditions needed to make them work are limited. Many incentive-based programs lack baseline data or monitoring systems. Further, it can be difficult to attribute change to the program rather than external factors such as fluctuating commodity prices. Finally, such programs may not have reached threshold levels for measureable impact, or that impact may occur over a relatively long time period. More robust monitoring and evaluation are needed, and this information should be made more broadly available on open-access platforms.

The studies that have been done to date show that performance varies widely. Some programs, like the New York City program, have been highly successful, providing benefits to the community, regional economy, and environment. Others have had more mixed results. For example, the nation's largest agriculture-to-urban water trade, between the Imperial Irrigation District and the San Diego County Water Authority, has improved water supply reliability for the recipient, at the cost of significant adverse ecological, economic, and public health impacts in the area of origin.

The review identifies necessary, enabling, and limiting conditions – such as the nature and enforceability of existing water rights – that contribute to the success of any specific instrument. The success of a program in one set of conditions has little bearing on its potential under a different set of conditions. Altering the existing conditions requires determined effort and political will, as well as funding to incentivize stakeholders. The time and effort required to implement the necessary conditions for some instruments, especially water trading, helps explain their limited use in practice relative to their much more extensive presence in commentary and the theoretical literature.

The report concludes that decisions about whether and how to apply a particular instrument depend on the specific objectives, circumstances, conditions, and needs of a given area. These decisions should be based on an open and transparent process, with meaningful participation from all affected parties. Such an approach will help to craft a solution that is appropriate for local conditions and ensure that it is fair and equitable. It will also help reduce opposition and promote acceptance from those who will implement and be affected by the program. Those with the least power may not have the resources to participate, or they may be skeptical of the groups involved. In these cases, there is a need for consistent and rigorous outreach and, potentially, for engaging a trusted intermediary.

Many of these hard-earned lessons have already been captured by researchers and nonprofits worldwide in case studies, evaluations, and white papers. By going beyond anecdotal cases and instead synthesizing some of the lessons captured in the existing knowledge base while drawing out the unique characteristics of specific projects and geographies, we hope this effort can provide other foundations, practitioners, and researchers with a better understanding and starting place for their own work.

You can download the full study here, view the interactive tool here, and explore the related digital collection here.

Heather Cooley directs the Water Program at the Pacific Institute, where she conducts and oversees research on an array of water issues, including sustainable water use and management, the connections between water and energy, and the impacts of climate change on water resources. Michael Cohen's work at the institute has focused on water use in the Colorado River basin and delta region and the management and revitalization of the Salton Sea ecosystem. And Matthew Heberger conducts research on water resources policy, planning, and management for the institute. This post originally appeared on the Pacific Institute's Insight blog.

Weekend Link Roundup (February 6-7, 2016)

February 07, 2016

Black-history-month-1Our weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Arts and Culture

In The Atlantic, Andy Horwitz, founder and publisher of Culturebot, examines the recent history of funding for the arts in America and concludes that while the arts themselves aren't dead, the system by which they are funded is increasingly becoming as unequal as the country itself.

Criminal Justice

On the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy blog, Ben Barge, a field associate at the NCRP, shares highlights from a recent panel discussion, "Mass Incarceration: The Rural Perspective," featuring Lenny Foster, director of the Navajo Nations Correction Project; Nick Szuberla, executive director and co-founder of Working Narratives & Nations Inside; Kenneth Glasgow, executive director of the Ordinary People Society and co-chair of the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People's Movement; and asha bandele, director of grants, partnerships and special projects at the Drug Policy Alliance.

Giving

A new report from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy finds that "women give more than their male peers at virtually all income levels, even though women in general earn less and have less money in retirement than men." In a piece for the Wall Street Journal, Debra Mesch, Eileen Lamb O'Gara Chair in Women's Philanthropy and director of the Women's Philanthropy Institute, discusses the findings.

Health

Good post by Marc Gunther (Nonprofit Chronicles) on why this Super Bowl is likely to be the last one he ever watches.

International Affairs/Development

On Monday, the World Health organization declared the outbreak of Zika virus a global public health emergency. The New York Times' Sabrina Tavernese and Donald G. MacNeil, Jr. report.

According to UNICEF, more women and children are now migrating to and through Europe than adult males -- and many children are traveling alone. In related news, organizers of the annual Syria pledging conference are requesting a record $9 billion from the international donor community by the end of 2016. In comments to the New York Times, Jan Egeland, a former Norwegian diplomat who heads the Norwegian Refugee Council, characterized the humanitarian response to the Syrian refugee crisis as grossly inadequate and said, "What we are witnessing now is a collective failure to deliver the necessary support to the region. We are witnessing a total collapse of international solidarity with millions of war victims."

"If social scientists and policy makers have learned anything about how to help the world's poorest people, it's not to trust our intuitions or anecdotal evidence about what kinds of antipoverty programs are effective, write Dean Karlan,a professor of economics at Yale and founder of the nonprofit Innovations for Poverty Action, and Annie Duflo, the organization's executive director, in the New York Times. Rigorous randomized evaluations, on the other hand, "can show us what works and what doesn't....Hope and rhetoric are great for motivation, but not for figuring out what to do."

There was some good news on the global public health front in January. The UN Foundation's Jenni Lee has a roundup.

Leadership

On the Fast Company site, Dan Hoffield breaks down the proven habits of charismatic leaders.

Nonprofits

What are you doing to be happier and healthier in 2016? Hosted by Beth Kanter, the January Nonprofit Blog Carnival is chock full of great advice, including posts from Kathy Naylor, Lori Jacobwith, Suzette Annan, Joyce Lee-Ibarra, Erik Anderson, and Megan Keane.

Philanthropy

"You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn't credit the Barr [Foundation] for its enormous largesse, as the left-leaning charity funds causes that are dear to the city's liberal residents. But you would also be hard-pressed to find a grantee who will critique the foundation publicly. No big surprise," writes Patti Hartigan in a Boston Magazine profile of Jim Canales, the foundation's new president. "Barr makes its grants by invitation only. Those who receive funding want to keep it, and those who don't want to get it."

The L.A.-based Weingart Foundation has announced that, due to a recent surge in requests for capital funding, "effective immediately and until further notice, the foundation will not be accepting any new Letters of Inquiry (LOIs) for [such] funding."

On Fast.Co.Exist, staff writer Ben Schiller reviews Linsey McGoey's No Such Thing As a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy, which he finds a little "mean-spirited" but fundamentally sound in its critique of philanthrocapitalism and philanthrocapitalists.

Public Affairs

In a post on the Ford Foundation's Equals Change blog, Jean Ross, program officer for civic engagement and government at the foundation, argues that the crisis in Flint, Michigan, is about more than poisoned water. "In the short term, we know what to do about the water crisis: Distribute bottled water, and change the water source," Ross writes.

But once those most immediate problems are addressed, we're left with the same system that helped create the problem, and it continues to reinforce inequalities that shape the lives of people in Flint. The use of emergency managers has been largely reserved for cities with majority-black populations, where residents find their lives presided over by officials who are more concerned with financial health than public well-being. That's what led to the water crisis. Emergency manager control has also limited residents' ability to participate in decisions about how to fix public schools in Detroit and other communities that are close to financial collapse...

Social Innovation

Last but not least, be sure to check out Nell Edgington's ten best social innovation reads from January, including articles by Markets for Good blogger David Henderson, CauseWired president Tom Watson, and nonprofit leadership expert Tom Klaus.

That's it for now. What have you been reading/watching/listening to? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org or via the comments section below....

[Infographic] The 2016 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report

February 06, 2016

Kivi Leroux Miller, the award-winning author and trainer behind Kivi's Nonprofit Communications Blog and the Nonprofit Marketing Guide site, has released the sixth edition of her annual Nonprofit Communications Trends Report (33 pages, PDF). The report, which is available for free download (registration required), includes valuable information about which communications goals/channels are most important to nonprofits, how often they send send direct appeals and newsletters (both print and email), the social media sites they favor, the average size of nonprofit communications teams and the average salary for key team members, and what nonprofit communicators are most excited about as they look ahead to 2016.

For a taste of what's in it, check out the infographic below...

Infographic-2016-Nonprofit-Communications-Trends

What are some of the challenges you face as the leader or member of a nonprofit communications team? How has your job or responsibilities changed over the last year or three? What are the things you like about your job — and the things that frustrate you?

We're always interested in hearing from our readers, so don't be shy — share your thoughts/comments below....

5 Questions for...Laurie Garduque, Director, Justice Reform, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

February 04, 2016

Recent opinions handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court which hold that imposing harsh sentences on juvenile offenders violate the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment have transformed the landscape of juvenile sentencing. In December, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which earlier in the year had announced it would be winding down its significant support for juvenile justice reform efforts as part of a refocusing of its grantmaking strategy on  a handful of "big bets," including the over-use of jails and incarceration in America, released Juvenile Justice in a Developmental Framework: A Status Report (48 pages, PDF), its summation, based on twenty years of work, of developmentally appropriate best practices in nine key juvenile justice policy areas.

Last month, PND spoke with Laurie Garduque, director of justice reform at the foundation, about the genesis of its work in the juvenile justice field, the report's findings, and the prospects for further reform as MacArthur exits the field.

Philanthropy News Digest: MacArthur entered the juvenile justice field in 1996, a decision motivated by a belief inside the foundation that juveniles are not adults and should be treated differently by the criminal justice system. What was it about the environment in the mid-1990s that brought the issue to a head for you and your colleagues?

Headshot_laurie_garduqueLaurie Garduque: We'd been investing in research on child and adolescent development before 1996, and that research made it clear that children and adolescents were different, cognitively and emotionally, than adults. But the legal implications of those findings had not been considered. In the 1980s, violent crime among youths increased sharply, and fears of a generation of "super predators," a fear fanned by politicians and the press, led states across the country to move to treat young offenders as if they weren't young. States began to focus on the offense, not the offender, and moved toward harsh, punitive laws that included making it easier to try adolescents as adults. The report notes that, in the years leading up to MacArthur's decision to enter the field, forty-five states had changed their laws to try adolescents and children, some as young as ten years of age, as adults. States had also removed the kinds of due process protections you would like to see for young people – for example, determining whether or not they're competent to stand trial. And within the system itself, the emphasis was less on rehabilitation and treatment, and more on punishment. It wasn't about helping young people learn from their mistakes and getting them back on course; it was about punishing them harshly.

Knowing all that, knowing the harm that can result when you treat young people as adults, and seeing the toll these new laws were taking, dispropor­tion­ately, on young people of color and on low-income communities, the foundation started to look at ways we could use research, scientific evidence, and best practices to stem the tide and reform the system. In effect, we were looking for ways to reverse the rush toward draconian reforms and policies that was sweeping the country.

PND: One of the first things you and your col­leagues did was to create a re­search network focused on some of the important aspects of adolescent development and juvenile justice. Can you share with us some of the key findings surfaced by that initiative.

LG: You have to go back to the origins of juvenile court in the early part of the twentieth century, which was based on the recognition that children were deserving of a separate justice system from adults because they weren't as competent as adults, weren't as culp­able for their actions, and should be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their capacity to change. Those ideas were challenged in the '80s as crime rates in the United States rose. To get society to once again accept the idea that a young person is less culpable for his actions than an adult, is less compe­tent to stand trial, and has more of a capacity to change than an adult, we knew we would have to map the adolescent development research that was being done to specific legal concepts. How, for example, do you determine whether someone is competent to stand trial? Are adolescents fully responsible for and truly understand the consequences of their actions? Are they more susceptible to peer pressure? More impulsive? Given their developmental immatur­ity, both with respect to their behavior and their brain development, should the criminal justice system treat them differently? The same is true of sentencing. We tend to punish adults harshly because we don't believe they have the capacity to change, or they're not as amenable to treatment and rehabilitation, whereas young people, who haven't yet matured, either emotionally and, in many cases, psychologically, are more likely to respond to rehabilitation.

So, as I said, it became important to map what all that looked like in terms of adolescents' social, emo­tional, and cognitive develop­ment, and to try to identify what the differences between children, adolescents, and adults in those areas were. We were confident that if we could pro­vide scientific evidence which demonstrated, in effect, how the immaturity of young people argues against them being treated as adults by the justice system, it could be the basis for a new way of thinking about how to hold juvenile offenders accountable for their behavior.

As things turned out, that body of research also became important in terms of recent Supreme Court decisions and was a valuable source of guidance for state and local agencies with respect to their juvenile justice practices.

PND: I want to talk about the Supreme Court in a minute. But first, in addition to supporting research, tell us about some of the other strategies the foundation developed to advance the cause of juvenile justice reform.

LG: What we recognized very early on is that there's no such thing as a single juvenile justice system in the United States. There are fifty juvenile justice systems, in that each state has the power to decide what it is a juvenile offense and what the policies and practices should be in terms of sentencing for that offense. We also knew that there was a great deal of discretion exercised at the local level about whether to process the young person formally or informally, and that states vary in terms of the amount and kinds of resources available to keep kids in the community, as opposed to sending them off to prison. We also knew that if we wanted to demonstrate that juvenile justice reform was practical, feasible, desirable, and could produce better outcomes for kids and the community, all while saving taxpayer dollars and improving public safety, we had to make our case on the ground, in individual jurisdictions.

So, with the research generated by our research network providing the basic framework around which juvenile justice reform should, in our opinion, be pursued  things like ensuring that due process protections for juveniles are in place, minimizing juvenile offenders contact with the adult criminal justice system as well as the use of secure confinement, providing them with rehabilitation and treatment — we had to show it could all be done and produce the desired outcomes.

That was the genesis of Models for Change, our signature effort for over a decade in terms of working with state and local jurisdictions across the country. We wanted to demonstrate to states that they could accomplish juvenile justice reform regardless of their starting point in terms of resources, past history, or politics. We started with Pennsylvania and then expanded our efforts to Illinois, Louisiana, and Washington. As it turned out, that expansion was critical to our success, in that it enabled us to show that there were multiple pathways to reform, regardless of your starting point. It didn't matter whether you were dealing with a Department of Justice investigation, as Louisiana was at the time, or whether you had a long history and track record of progressive reform, as Pennsylvania did. It didn't matter whether you were a red state or a blue state. And it didn't matter whether the drive for reform was led by a charismatic individual inside or outside of government. Through Models for Change, we were able to show that the system could be changed, that reform could happen, and that those reforms could be both cost effective and improve outcomes for kids and the public.

Eventually, we expanded our work with those four states, where the focus was on comprehensive reform, to twelve additional states, where the focus was on specific issues such as reducing racial and ethnic disparities, improving access to and the quality of juvenile indigent defense, and addressing the mental health needs of kids in contact with the system. And through that work, we generated a series of best practices that had been field-tested and demonstrated to be effective, developed guidebooks, tool kits, manuals, and training curricula, and partnered with the Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to spread those resources to additional states. Those efforts have made a difference. The spread and diffusion of innovative policies and practices has been validated by the National Academy of Sciences, which in several recent reports talks about a developmental approach to juvenile justice reform and new ways to think about the application of a developmental framework to systems reform. The Council of State Governments has issued a similar report drawing attention to changes in law and policy. So, we feel there has been a cultural shift in the country, one that recognizes the importance of holding young kids accountable, but in ways that ensure they acquire the skills and competencies they need to become successful and productive citizens.

PND: You must be gratified by recent events. First, the Supreme Court, in a six-to-three decision, ruled that a prior decision to bar mandatory juvenile life sentences without parole must be applied retroactively. And on the same day, President Obama issued an executive order banning the use of solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons. Does that mean you can declare victory, or is there more work to be done?

LG: We're still dealing with the consequences of the harsh and punitive sentencing practices of the 1980s and '90s, and there is still a tendency to think that treating adolescents as adults is sound policy and practice. Which means we still have work to do in terms of rolling back automatic transfer of juvenile offenders to adult criminal courts.

I also think too many states still put the emphasis on the offense and not the offender. They just don't understand that an adolescent and an adult who commit a similar offense are not, and should not be, considered the same under the law. From an adolescent development perspective, too many of our laws are still unfair, unjust, and inhumane, and those laws have proven to be difficult to roll back. Does it surprise me? Not really. The Supreme Court only eliminated the juvenile death penalty in 2005, and only recently followed that up by eliminating life-without-parole sen­tences for juveniles in non-homicide cases and mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles charged with homicide. But we still see plenty of extreme sentencing practices, which I would call anything beyond twenty-five years without the possibility of parole, for many young offenders. Those laws have proven to be very difficult to change.

PND: Now that MacArthur is exiting the field, how can other foundations support the work that needs to be done?

LG: We think there’s a lot of momentum building behind juvenile justice reform, that networks and advocacy organizations have been seeded at many levels, that juvenile justice professionals and state legislators are better informed, and that there's a substantial body of knowledge out there with respect to best practices, sentencing guidelines, and so on.

That said, MacArthur has shifted its focus to the misuse and overuse of jails, a major issue affecting low-income people and communities of color, where the problem of mass incarceration begins. Based on our juvenile justice work, we were, and are, confident that there is an interest, at both the local and state levels, in changing policies and practices when it comes to the use of jails and incarceration while protecting public safety. One of the things we learned is that local jurisdictions not only need resources to support the adoption and implementation of new policies and practices, they also need technical assistance to help guide their reform efforts. But with new leadership, new resources, and clear pathways with respect to systems reform, the prospects for further change, change that can be sus­tained, are bright. Will there be threats to the current wave of reform? Another spike in crime rates followed by a moral panic? No one can say, but it's certainly happened before. Still, we're hopeful that activists and reformers are in a better position, as a result of our efforts, to deflect any such threats to the gains that have been made and will be able to keep the momentum going.

— Mitch Nauffts

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (January 2016)

February 02, 2016

Not even an epic mid-month nor'easter could keep January from flying by. Not to worry. For those who blinked and missed all the great content posted here during the month just passed, we've got you covered....

What did you read/watch/listen to last month that made you think, got you riled up, or restored your faith in humanity? Share with the rest of us in the comments section below, or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

5 Major Mistakes Nonprofits Make When Measuring Performance

February 01, 2016

News_data_charts_for_PhilanTopicTracking metrics is about making the seemingly intangible tangible and getting better results. From major giving to special events and everything in between, there's room for improvement in the operations of even the most established nonprofit.

Where many organizations falter, however, is in identifying areas for improvement and coming up with a way forward. Let's face it, most nonprofits generate a ton of donor data, and it can be challenging to figure out what's worth looking at and what can be safely ignored.

To help you get the most out of your efforts, here are five common mistakes nonprofits make during the performance measurement process — and how to avoid them:

Mistake #1: Forgetting to Foreground Conversion Rate

There are lots of tried-and-true marketing and communications tactics nonprofits can take advantage of. You can tweet out a link to your donation page, send out a mass email asking volunteers to crowdfund on your behalf, or post a video appeal on Facebook. All three are great because they are cost-effective and not especially resource intensive.

They can be difficult to track, however. They involve sending digital communications out into the Internet abyss, and it can be hard to pinpoint exactly where the resulting donations are coming from. Twitter? Email? Facebook?

In most cases, it will be a combination of all three, and you need to be able to track a specific metric for each channel in order to gauge its effectiveness — i.e., the conversion rate.

The fix: The best way to measure conversion rates is to embed a specific tracking link in every one of your calls-to-actions on a digital channel. Each link should lead to a landing page, and arrivals on those pages should be cataloged using a traffic-monitoring tool like Google Analytics. It might sound a little complicated, but take it from me, it's a great way to inject transparency into a process that can often feel maddeningly opaque.

Mistake #2: Not Adapting to a Changing Fundraising Landscape

Speaking of the many digital avenues open to development professionals, it's important for your performance tracking to reflect how your organization fundraises and, more broadly, how it interacts with donors and potential donors.

Ask yourself and your colleagues, "Do we have tracking systems in place for":

We're all super busy, and it's easy to fall into a rhythm with your performance measurement and forget to incorporate metrics for new tactics your organization decides to implement.

The fix: Keep the desired end result in mind as you adopt new fundraising techniques and tactics. Map out goals for any new tactic, set a timeline for reaching said goals, and be sure to implement a means of monitoring your progress toward those goals.

Mistake #3: Targeting Improvements in Acquisition Over Retention

There's an ongoing conversation in the nonprofit world about the relative significance of acquisition versus retention.

Both are extremely important, but generally speaking most organizations place greater emphasis on their acquisition processes than their retention practices. Why? Well, growth in the donor base tends to be a top priority for most nonprofits, and donor acquisition is clearly correlated with donor growth. Need more donors? Focus on attracting more donors!

It’s hard to argue with the logic of that statement, but there's a flip side to the coin: donor retention. If you're analyzing performance metrics such as donor growth and wondering why improvements to your acquisition strategy aren't gaining traction, chances are the problem lies with your retention efforts — or lack thereof.

A strong acquisition strategy can balance out weaker retention practices, but you'll need to strengthen the latter if you expect your organization’s revenue growth to continue on an upward trend. Because past giving is the strongest indicator of future giving (view the statistics here), you simply cannot afford to ignore donor retention rates.

The fix: You can improve retention rates by:

  • Developing better stewardship practices (i.e., strengthening your relationships with existing donors).
  • Improving your acknowledgement strategies (i.e., being sure to thank donors).
  • Offering unique engagement experiences to your donors.
  • Seeking the advice of colleagues at organizations with successful retention strategies in place.

Mistake #4: Miscalculating ROI

One easily identifiable and solvable problem is the miscalculation of fundraising return on investment (ROI).

Think through your organization's recent fundraising activities and ask: Was XYZ the most effective use of our limited time and resources? If your answer to that question is "no" or even "maybe," you may need to reflect on your process of predicting and calculating fundraising ROI.

The fix: Ensure that you account for all costs when budgeting for your next fundraiser. You should even go so far as to predict where you think there might be unexpected costs.

  • For a fun run: Will snacks and beverages for the athletes be donated or is it an expense?
  • For a capital campaign: How are we conducting our feasibility study?
  • For launching a major gift program: Are we bringing in a consultant to identify prospects?

For every fundraiser, there's a huge collection of "what ifs" your team needs to weigh before it makes the decision to go ahead with the event. In many cases, the return on investment will be worth all the upfront costs, but you need to make sure you understand the costs, real and hidden, beforehand.

Mistake #5: Losing Sight of Your Mission

When measuring performance, it's tempting to want to analyze only the data that is easy to quantify.

Qualitative data, on the other hand, can be intimidating. And perhaps the biggest qualitative benchmark that nonprofits struggle to measure is mission fulfillment.

The fix: 

  • Study your mission.
  • Set long-term goals with clear benchmarks and milestones.
  • Hold your colleagues accountable to those goals.

Mission creep is a bigger problem in the nonprofit sector than you might imagine, and a semi-regular review of your mission and the steps you are taking to serve it are the best way to avoid it. And what could be more important than that?

Blake_groves_for_PhilanTopicIntuition and experience matter in nonprofit evaluation, of course, but that doesn't mean you and your colleagues can afford to disregard the kind of non-subjective findings that data can provide. Both approaches are necessary, and finding a balance that works for your organization will give it a leg up in the competition for donor dollars. 

At the end of the day, hard data is an excellent starting point for conversations about organizational effectiveness and efficiency. But it's your job to use that data to make good decisions.

Blake Groves is Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at Salsa.

Weekend Link Roundup (January 30-31, 2016)

January 31, 2016

Woolworth_sit-inOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

According to Jessica Leber, a staff editor and writer for Fast Company's Co.Exist, Al Gore, at one time "possibly the gloomiest man in America," is feeling somewhat hopeful for the future of the planet, thanks in part to what he sees as the success of the recent Paris climate change talks.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Hey, you CSR types, looking to achieve more social good in 2016? Saudia Davis, founder and CEO of GreenHouse Eco-Cleaning, shares some good advice.

And Ryan Scott, founder and CEO of Causecast, a platform for cause engagement, weighs in with six reasons businesses need to increase their CSR budgets.

Criminal Justice

"It is clear," writes Sonia Kowal, president of Zevin Asset Management, on the NCRP blog, "that our justice system is designed for control rather than healing. And with the alarming demographics of national incarceration rates, it's also clear that it helps facilitate an economy of exclusion that considers many people of color to be unemployable and disposable." What can foundations and impact investors do to change that paradigm. Kowal has a few suggestions.

Education

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation has announced the launch of EDInsight, a new education-related blog that will  "provide a forum for discussing a variety of topics related to education — including teacher preparation, school quality, postsecondary attainment, use of education data and other education news and trends."

Giving Pledge

The New York Times reports that, since July, investor and Giving Pledge co-founder Warren Buffett has gifted $32 million worth of stock in Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company he controls. The Times also notes that the total represents "a relatively small part of Buffett's plan to give most of his $58.3 billion fortune to charity." Interestingly, despite giving roughly $1.5 billion a year (mostly to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) since launching the Giving Pledge in 2010, Buffett's personal net worth, most of it tied to Berkshire stock, has increased by more than $10 billion, while Bill Gates's net worth has grown by $27 billion, from $53 billion to $80 billion. In other words, neither man is giving his fortune away as quickly as he is adding to it.

Continue reading »

[Review]: Charity Detox: What Charity Would Look Like If We Cared About Results

January 29, 2016

Each year, hundreds of thousands of charities raise billions of dollars to fund their efforts to serve the less fortunate. But the efforts of a vast number of these charities — indeed, most of them, says Robert D. Lupton — may actually be hurting those they aim to help. And charity that does more harm than good is definitely not better than no charity at all.

Book_charity_detox_for_PhilanTopicIn Charity Detox, Lupton, the founder of Atlanta-based FCS Urban Ministries and the author of the 2011 book Toxic Charity, explores and tries to answer the question: "What would charity look like if we cared about results?" But where Lupton's earlier book exposed what he calls "the dirty little secret that on-the-ground charity workers know all too well but are loath to admit" — namely, that most anti-poverty programs not only fail to end the cycle of poverty, they perpetuate it by creating dependency — here he argues that even though charitable giving almost always makes donors feel good, the negative impact of such giving on the poor cannot be ignored. The question, then, is how can charities "detoxify" themselves so that they truly help those in need?

"The fact is," Lupton writes, "we cannot serve others out of poverty." What people living in poverty need, instead, are living-wage jobs and healthy, thriving communities. And that requires two things: economic and community development. Lupton notes that one obstacle to reforming the traditional model of "pure philanthropy" are churches, which, he argues, have been at the vanguard of the "compassion industry," dispensing “unexamined charity...that fails to ask the hard questions about outcomes." Too often, he argues, charity in the United States looks like disaster relief in its inability to distinguish between a crisis and chronic need. In contrast, when the charities Lupton was involved with in Atlanta began to actually measure outcomes and not outputs, both he and those charities were transformed for the simple reason that measuring outcomes forces nonprofits and their funders to focus on specific goals rather than a diffuse "serve-the-neighborhood" approach. The book then goes on to describe how a range of organizations and initiatives, from foodbanks and co-ops, to Christian ministries, to urban development projects, adapted their operations not only to create sustainable opportunities for the poor but also to build trust and dignity among the people they served.

In Lupton's view, the best way to accomplish that is through "comprehensive community development" — an approach requiring fundamental changes not only in organizations but in the people who work for them. What kind of change? First, charities and nonprofits need to leverage the business expertise of their supporters to accurately measure return on their charitable activities. While lots of people in nonprofits and faith-based organizations tend to view wealth and the profit motive with suspicion, he writes, real economic development is impossible without profit-making enterprises. Accordingly, nonprofits that can sustain themselves through entrepreneurial and/or earned-income activities have a better chance of creating larger, longer-term impact than those who reject or shy away from such activities. What's more, this focus on business discipline should extend to both internal operations and operating models. And there's an added benefit: organizations that operate successful businesses are in a position to provide economic opportunities, in the form of jobs, to people in the community. Offering competitive pay and health and educational benefits to one's employees is an element of what Lupton describes as doing business well, and, in turn, can help lift those employees and their families out of poverty. 

Continue reading »

Gen X and Millennial Women: Ready to Give in More Meaningful Ways

January 28, 2016

Professional-womenOver the past couple of decades, baby boomers have been the lifeblood of charitable giving in the U.S., their rock-steady giving fueling nonprofits' efforts to make a difference in the world. While aging boomers continue to play an outsized role in charitable giving, research tells us their giving levels will start to decline over the next few years. But with the world focused on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, it's imperative that nonprofits begin to build relationships with younger generations and inspire them to give in more meaningful ways. While a lot of attention has been focused on millennials, a generation that is even larger than the boomer generation, a growing body of evidence suggests that the next demographic cohort to step up as significant givers will be Gen Xers and "older" millennials — especially female donors between the ages of 30 and 45.

Let's look at some of the factors that could drive increased giving within this group. We know that the greatest wealth transfer in American history has already begun, as the so-called Silent generation and boomers pass on their wealth to their children and grandchildren. Indeed, according to a study from Accenture, more than $30 trillion eventually will be passed on to these younger generations. Moreover, history shows that people, as they reach their thirties and forties, begin to think about their legacy and establish giving goals, while a number of recent surveys tell us that donors in this demographic group are likely to increase their giving, with women an increasingly significant factor in that giving. In fact, according to the Women's Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, women in almost every income bracket give more than their male counterparts.

Being in a financial position to contribute in a meaningful way is only part of the reason why women between the ages of 30 and 45 are poised to become game-changers for philanthropy. A second is that women in this age group are deeply interested in and motivated to make a difference in the world. As a group, they are culturally diverse, connected to the world in new ways, and see themselves not as individual philanthropists but as members of a community. Many also are well educated, find themselves in leadership roles, and are focused on proactively shaping the environment in which their children will grow up. Yet, despite their potential as donors over the long run, they have not been a focus of the charitable sector.

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5 Questions for...Gloria Duffy, President/CEO, Commonwealth Club of California

January 26, 2016

Foreign policy elites in the West were rattled in early January after news broke that North Korea had conducted an underground test of a hydrogen bomb, its first. Although many experts doubted the claim, the action drew immediate condemnation from the United States and its allies and sparked renewed calls for tougher sanctions on North Korea — and a more forceful response from China, the Hermit Kingdom's closest ally.

Earlier this month, PND spoke with Gloria Duffy, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Club of California, the oldest and largest public affairs forum in the United States, about the news and what it means for the current sanctions regime and further nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Before joining the Commonwealth Club in 1996, Duffy served as executive director of the Ploughshares Fund and later joined the incoming Clinton administration as an assistant secretary of defense, in which position she was credited with negotiating historic agreements with Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan to dismantle their nuclear arsenals, and with Russia to prevent the spread of its weapons, materials, and know-how.

Philanthropy News Digest: How worried should we be about North Korea's claim to have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb?

Photo-gloria-duffyGloria Duffy: Well, it's just that, a claim. There's really no verification that it was a hydrogen bomb, and if it were a hydrogen bomb, it was a rather crude one. The concern is the continuing pattern of North Korea testing both nuclear devices and long-range delivery vehicles. That's the worrisome part, because they do glean data from each test, and we assume they are using that data to improve their nuclear weapons, improve the miniaturization of those weapons, and gradually build their way to having a functioning nuclear weapon on a functioning long-range delivery system.

PND: What kind of message is North Korea trying to send the United States with its actions?

GD: We like to think of ourselves as the intended target of overt messages from a country like North Korea, but it's likely they have various audiences in mind. One of the primary audiences is internal, the people of North Korea itself. There is a Communist Party Congress coming up in May, and Kim Jong-un, the country's supreme leader, clearly wants to demonstrate he's in charge, that his policies are succeeding, and that he can repel any challenges to his authority. Then there's a global audience, the main components of which are South Korea and other countries that might directly threaten North Korea or try to intervene in its affairs. So there are multiple audiences and multiple messages, but the overriding message is one of strength and power, possibly with the aim of squeezing more concess­ions from the United States and other countries in return for slowing down or moving away from its nuclear program.

PND: How secure is Kim Jong-un's hold on power?

GD: Well, that's a bit of a black box. There have been rumors of various challenges to him, and he's taken some actions against family members and others who he perhaps perceived as a threat. So, while his position appears to be strong, he is not immune to challenges, and I'm sure he's aware of that.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (January 23-24, 2016)

January 24, 2016

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

African Americans

Are the residents of Flint, the majority of whom are black and many of whom are poor, the victims of environmental racism? Would Michigan's state government have responded more quickly and aggressively to complaints about its lead-polluted water if the majority of the city's residents were white and affluent? The New York Times' John Eligon reports.

"Recent events have shone a light on the black experience in dozens of U.S. cities. Behind the riots and the rage, the statistics tell a simple, damning story," writes Richard V. Reeves on the Brookings Institute blog. "Progress toward equality for black Americans has essentially halted." 

In the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Tamara Copeland, president of the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers, writes that, despite the election and re-election of Barack Obama, America is not a post-racial society, and that until the public — and philanthropy — acknowledge that the "negative treatment of a group of people based solely on race is a major contributor to poverty and inequality,...we won't be able to take the steps needed to end racial inequities."

How can America narrow its racial wealth gap? the Annie E. Casey Foundations shares four policy recommendations designed to help low-income families boost their savings and assets, "the currency of the future."

Children and Youth

On First Focus' Voices for Kids blog, Karen Howard shares the five things every presidential candidate needs to know about poverty among America's youngest children.

On the Chronicle of Social Change site, Inside Philanthropy's Kiersten Marek takes a closer look at what new leadership at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation — Peter Laugharn is the first non-Hilton family member to lead the foundation — and a doubling of assets is likely to mean for the foundation's future support of child welfare initiatives.

Community Improvement/Development

Returning to the subject of the most popular post on his blog in 2015, "trickle-down" community engagement, Vu Le argues that communities of color and other marginalized communities too often are "infantalized" by funders, a dynamic that plays out in a number of ways: a lack of trust that communities have solutions to their own problems; unrealistic expectations for communities to "get along"; and demands for communities to prove themselves with little initial support. Instead, writes Le, "[w]hy don't we try the reverse for once, and invest significant amounts in organizations led by the people who know first-hand the inequity they are trying to address." We are tired, he adds,

[of] being asked to attend more forums, summits, focus groups, answer more surveys, rally our community members, only for our opinions to be dismissed. One funder told me, "Communities need to stop complaining and start proposing solutions."

We have been. We propose solutions all the time. But if there's no trust that we actually know what we're talking about, if there's no faith that the qualitative experiences and perspectives of people who have lived through decades of social injustice are just as valid as double-blind quantitative meta-studies written up in a glossy white paper or whatever, then what's the point? The investments will be token, oftentimes trickled-down, and then that will be used to say, "You know what, we invested in you, and it didn't lead to what we wanted," further perpetuating the cycle....

In his last blog post as president of the Vermont Community Foundation, Stuart Comstock-Gay, who is leaving VCF after seven years for the top job at the Delaware Community Foundation, reflects on four questions that all Vermonters — and many other Americans — should be asking themselves.

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3 Surefire Ways to Engage the Best Volunteers

January 23, 2016

Happy_volunteersOver 60 million people spend an average of 52 hours a year volunteering their time with nonprofit organizations. Many organizations agree that volunteers are critical to their overall health and play a role in their ability to become, and remain, sustainable. Volunteers serve many functions; they can help deliver client programs, create awareness about mission and impact, and keep staff costs reasonable. But having volunteers can be a lot of work!

Before evaluating an existing volunteer program or embarking on a new one, determine what motivates your volunteers and then work toward creating, and supporting, a program that best serves their needs while advancing your mission. I recommend using the "3 R's for Happy Volunteers" as a framework for the internal conversations that will help structure your program:

Relevant. Volunteers feel most productive when their time is connected to their particular interests and skills. Volunteers excel when they feel they're in a position to leverage their expertise in service to a greater purpose. To generate maximum volunteer productivity, interview prospective volunteers to understand their motivations, skill sets, and interests before assigning them a task.

Realistic. The typical volunteer is between 35 and 64 years old and is employed. Statistically, most people who volunteer also volunteer for more than one organization. In other words, your typical volunteer leads a busy life! When structuring a volunteer program, consider the scope of the tasks being assigned. Your goal should be to expand the capacity of your organization using volunteer know-how and enthusiasm while providing your volunteers with tasks that can be accomplished without overwhelming them (i.e., some of the larger, longer-term tasks on your to-do list may require a team of volunteers working in concert with a staff member).

Rewarding. People volunteer in part so they can feel good about making a contribution to their community. When developing a volunteer program, therefore, focus on providing high-touch, meaningful work that your volunteers will be proud to talk about with their networks, colleagues, and friends. And in those cases where the work that needs to be done is more administrative or mundane in nature (see "Relevant" above), make an effort to match the right volunteer to the task. As with donors, volunteers thrive on and respond to recognition and appreciation for their efforts.

Bottom line: Happy volunteers help drive the effectiveness of our organizations, make our lives easier, and are more likely to become both financial supporters of and advocates for our cause!

Want to learn more about creating a volunteer program that meets the needs of your volunteers and your organization? Then join me for "Build a Successful Volunteer Program," a Foundation Center webinar, on February 9, from 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET. We'll talk about the questions you should ask before inviting volunteers into your organization, practical tips for choosing the right volunteers, and tactics you can use to effectively recognize and retain valuable volunteer talent. We'll also focus on practical information you can use right away to create more meaningful and lasting volunteer engagement.

New York City-based Marti Fischer is an entrepreneur, radio host, teacher, career coach, and nonprofit development consultant who helps individuals and organizations hone their communication skills in order to "Achieve Their Next." Marti can be reached through her website www.martifischergroup.com.

Big Philanthropy's Social Impact Depends on Its Social License

January 21, 2016

Approved_stampMark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan's recent pledge to donate 99 percent of their Facebook shares to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) quickly became the subject of criticism from some quarters of the not-for-profit sector.

Some of this criticism focused on how Zuckerberg and Chan decided to establish the CZI as a limited liability company (LLC), rather than as a traditional foundation.

There are some advantages to doing this — an LLC has much more flexibility to contribute to the common good by investing in for-profit companies as well as by donating to not-for-profits.

But because LLCs aren't subject to the same regulatory requirements as traditional foundations, they can, in theory, fund things that don't necessarily further charitable goals.

Criticism also has focused on how such a massive amount of money, combined with the use of a "less accountable" LLC, could lead to a further concentration of power in the hands of wealthy people such as Zuckerberg and Chan.

If nothing else, the debate has opened up an opportunity to have an important discussion about the relationship of philanthropy, particularly "big philanthropy," to the broader community — and what kinds of actions can enhance this relationship in order to maximize both philanthropy's social impact and the community's support for its work.

In this context, the concept of a "social license to operate," which has generated more attention in the private sector, particularly within the mining industry, than from the not-for-profit sector, is relevant — and reflects an increasingly common view that private companies can't just do what they want while ignoring the needs of local communities.

Defining the Social License to Operate

It's not a license in the formal sense — you don't apply for it and get it if you tick the right boxes. It's something a company earns through its actions; it's an intangible asset that a company earns and must work to maintain, in much the same way that it earns and must work to maintain its reputation.

In other words, a social license is a type of "soft" regulation, as opposed to "formal" or "hard" regulation, which is determined and enforced by government agencies and regulators.

Continue reading »

Ways to ‘Own’ a Movement

January 19, 2016

Blue_hand_claspAdvances in technology and the emergence of social media tools make it more possible than ever for social movements and causes to quickly spread far and wide (to go "viral" in the parlance of the moment). But how do you take a cause and transform it from an idea into something with universal appeal?

In the past, the concept of organizing, fundraising, and building a movement was focused on individuals "belonging" to a cause. In the twenty-first century, however, a successful movement isn't owned by an organization or single entity; it's owned by the people who comprise the movement itself. This idea speaks to the realities of modern constituent engagement theory and how people are perceived, whether as activists, social changemakers, supporters, or donors.

Importantly, in the research we’ve conducted, it's apparent that younger people view themselves as of a cause and not for a cause. It's a critical distinction. Young people tend not to belong to a cause but rather believe in a cause — and act accordingly.

Social movement builders who understand this understand that they have to do whatever is necessary to ensure that the qualities of purpose, authenticity, and self-actualization are embedded in their messaging when engaging supporters and would-be supporters. Without these qualities, individuals are unlikely to fully appreciate the potential of the movement or their own role in its ultimate success.

The shift I'm articulating is cultural and a function (I believe) of the instantaneous digital technologies that increasingly connect us to each other and the world. It's also something that social movement builders and leaders need to grasp in all its dimensions if they hope to be successful in harnessing the power of individuals to a common purpose. What do I mean by that? And what are the signs your cause or movement may be missing the boat?

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (January 16-17, 2016)

January 17, 2016

Martin-Luther-King-2016Our weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Diversity

A new report on workforce diversity in the metro Pittsburgh region is not only an incredibly important data set, writes Grant Oliphant, president of the Pittsburgh-based Heinz Endowments. It's also a reminder that the the issues the report points to are NOT just a matter of perspective, are NOT just a concern for minorities, and are NOT unfixable.

Economy

Although long-term unemployment has fallen significantly since the Great Recession, the decline has been slow and long-term unemployment still remains high. Congress could do something to address the situation, write Harry Stein and Shirley Sagawa on the Center for American Progress site, by following through with funding for the "significant" expansion of national service programs like AmeriCorps it authorized back in 2009.

Education

Can the Hastings Fund, the $100 million philanthropic entity created by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, avoid the controversy and criticism that have greeted the education reform efforts of other tech moguls? The Christian Science Monitor's Molly Jackson reports.

Immigration

"Like it or not, integration has been happening over America’s 239-year history, as members of both groups —immigrants and the U.S.-born — continually come to resemble one another. And America has benefited greatly from the economic vitality and cultural vibrancy that immigrants and their descendants have brought and continue to contribute." Writing in Fortune, Audrey Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a member of the National Academies of Sciences panel on immigrant integration, reminds us what we are missing about the immigration debate.

International Affairs/Development

On the HistPhil blog, Ruth Levine, director of the Global Development and Population Program at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and her father, Gilbert, professor emeritus of biological and environmental engineering at Cornell University, review David Rieff's new book, The Reproach of Hunger.

In a post on the Development Set, a space created by Medium for discussions of global health and development issues, Courtney Martin offers some compelling advice to young activists, advocates, and entrepreneurs interested in creating a life of meaning by helping to solve pressing social problems in the developing countries.

Continue reading »

[Infographic] Nonprofit Strategic Restructuring

January 16, 2016

col·lab·o·ra·tion
kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n/

noun

  1. the action of working with someone to produce or create something.
  2. traitorous cooperation with an enemy.

For many people, the word collaboration has more than one meaning. And while they may not be as derisive as the second definition above, the topic, when it comes up, almost never fails to spark lively conversation.

Which is as it should be. Nonprofit collaborations are serious affairs and should not be entered into lightly. But as our first infographic of the new year — courtesy of the folks at Tides and La Piana Consulting and our social sector outreach and GrantCraft colleagues here at Foundation Center — makes clear, collaborations, when approached strategically and with an open mind, can yield significant benefits. 

Continue reading »

[Review] The Self-Help Myth: How Philanthropy Fails to Alleviate Poverty

January 14, 2016

"Foundations are bizarre beasts. They are created to solve societal problems by using inordinate amounts of wealth — wealth that is inherently contradictory because it was gleaned out of the inequalities...it proposes to address."

That contradiction, shared with Erica Kohl-Arenas by a foundation program officer in an interview conducted for her new book, The Self-Help Myth: How Philanthropy Fails to Alleviate Poverty, is at the heart of what Kohl-Arenas calls the "self-help approach to poverty alleviation." It's an approach, she writes, grounded in the "belief that entrenched poverty is the result of social and economic isolation that [traps] poor people within a culture of poverty," while largely ignoring "the structural causes of poverty and inequality." As starkly illustrated by Kohl-Arenas, an assistant professor of nonprofit management at the New School in New York City, it is also an approach whose inherent limitations raise troubling questions about the ability of private philanthropy to change "the conditions of poverty or help the people [it] claims to serve."

Book_the_self_help_myth_for_PhilanTopicDrawing on case studies of the mid-twentieth-century farm workers movement and more recent foundation-funded initiatives in California's Central Valley, Kohl-Arenas documents how, over the decades, grassroots self-help initiatives have repeatedly been co-opted by private foundations into "nonthreatening service or 'civic participation' programs in keeping with [their] current funding priorities," obscuring the fact that foundations in general are reluctant to support union organizing, strikes, boycotts, and other types of "radical" activity. The surprise, for Kohl-Arenas, is that anyone would be surprised. After all, it was Andrew Carnegie, in the Gospel of Wealth (1889), who suggested that "the new rich had a responsibility to help the poor help themselves — in the interest of preventing protest," while the history of American philanthropy in the decades since is rife with examples of foundations de-politicizing and "neutralizing" initiatives that threaten the social and economic status quo. As a result, Kohl-Arenas argues, foundation-funded self-help programs have served to shift the focus from "capitalist processes that create poverty" to "the weaknesses and responsibilities of the poor."

To illustrate her argument, Kohl-Arenas devotes a chapter to the case of Cesar Chavez, whose efforts to organize and unionize farm workers in California and Florida in the 1960s and '70s have been the subject of two recent books and a movie that, in her words, "complicate [the] story most commonly told." A farm worker and civil rights activist in the 1950s, Chavez rose to national prominence in the 1960s as co-founder (with Dolores Huerta) of the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA). The broader farmworker movement had received crucial early funding, including "Depression-era grants to support migrant community and childcare centers incubated through the [Works Progress Administration]," from the San Francisco-based Rosenberg Foundation, which provided additional funding in the late 1950s and early 1960s to assist Central Valley farmworkers in building their own homes and to support so-called movement organizations. The effect of the foundation's programs, however, was to create, in Kohl-Arenas' words, farmworker leaders "more concerned with empowerment through education, relationships with mainstream institutions, and migrant-led infrastructure development," a model that, because of "its educational and relational, as opposed to confrontational and systemic, approach to self-help...garnered mainstream institutional support in local communities."

The emergence of Chavez as a social justice activist during the Delano grape strike of 1965 and the national grape boycott launched by NFWA the following year changed the picture. According to Kohl-Arenas, a younger Chavez never imagined union organizing becoming the focus of the movement, but as political unrest across the country mounted, the charismatic Chavez "rose to the occasion and became a spokesperson for the strike, both in the fields and nationally."

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Disaster Philanthropy: What Matters

January 12, 2016

Few foundations think of themselves as disaster funders … until the next disaster strikes. Their desire to be strategic and have impact leads them to shun program areas and ways of working that are reactive in nature. But the desire to help those in need is so hard-wired into foundations' DNA that many cannot help making emergency grants when news is dominated by coverage of the next big disaster. So they act quickly as the situation demands, though frequently with little knowledge of who the experienced funders are, what approaches work best, and how their giving fits into what Bob Ottenhoff of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy calls "the mosaic of funding," formed by the collective (but uncoordinated) efforts of corporations, governments, online givers, and other foundations.

Disaster-philanthropy-2015And that is precisely what makes Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy from the Center for Disaster for Philanthropy and Foundation Center so valuable. Rich in data and trends, this new online data dashboard, funding map, and report (PDF, 28 pages) frames disaster philanthropy as an emerging field mobilizing billions of dollars around the world. In them we learn that there are different types of disasters (natural, man-made, and humanitarian) and different strategic approaches to addressing them (resilience, preparedness, relief, and recovery). These and the accompanying sub-categories provide funders with an essential framework that enables them to be intentional and strategic about disasters in much the same way they are about their other funding priorities.

The report, my own long experience as a funder, and, more recently, as president of Foundation Center, sparked a few thoughts about foundation giving in response to disasters and what matters.

Media matters — Every year disasters occur around the world that we hear little or nothing about. But the ones that strike in or near our own backyard and dominate the news media are the ones that drive the lion's share of philanthropic giving. It's impossible to fund something about which you never hear and difficult to fund that which, because of lack of information, you can't understand.

Disaster type matters — The report shows that the overwhelming majority of U.S. foundation giving for disasters, some 68 percent, goes toward natural disasters, primarily storms. That makes sense. Storms strike quickly, are often devastating, and their victims did nothing to deserve the death, suffering, and havoc they create. The need is clear and funders respond. This contrasts with complex humanitarian emergencies, which are difficult to understand and frequently progress from emergencies into the types of long-term crises foundations feel they cannot effectively address. Even less support is given to what the report refers to as "man-made accidents" because when it comes to oil spills or factory disasters, foundations understandably feel that the primary burden for response should lie with the companies, governments, or others responsible for the accident in the first place.

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Weekend Link Roundup (January 9-10, 2016)

January 10, 2016

5-save-worldOur weekly round up 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 in the Detroit Free Press, Kresge Foundation president Rip Rapson explains why it  is imperative to rebuild the city's early childhood ecosystem and the steps the foundation is taking to that end.

Communications/Marketing

According to the folks at Top Nonprofits, a good logo should be aesthetically pleasing, distinctive, memorable, timeless, scalable, simple enough for use in multiple mediums, and effective in communicating the qualities of your organization's brand. Sort of like these fifty logos.

What can nonprofits learn from public radio about storytelling? With the help of some podcast snippets, Aquifer Media's Will Coley explains.

Nice post by Ebola Deeply managing editor Kate Thomas illustrating how first-hand narratives can add meaning to hard data.

The Virginia Quarterly Review, a 91-year-old literary magazine published at the University of Virginia, is planning a year-long "experiment" on Instagram in 2016 featuring a series of black-and-white photographs and accompanying text. "We're improvising as we go along," VQR deputy editor Paul Reyes told Neiman Lab's Shan Wang. “The potential lies in how Instagram, as a platform, shapes content. Part of this is determined by what people want to write about, what they're sick of reading about, and how they might be motivated to push the limits of what can be done on this platform." 

On her Getting Attention! blog, Nancy Schwartz shares four reasons why your nonprofit needs to identify and launch a team of staff messengers ASAP.

Environment

To kick off 2016, three of last year's Goldman Environmental Prize recipients — Howard Wood (2015, Scotland) of the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST), Jean Wiener (2015, Haiti) of the Foundation for the Protection of Marine Biodiversity (FoProBiM) and Phyllis Omido (2015, Kenya) of the Center for Justice Governance & Environmental Action (CJGEA) — share their hopes for the new year.

Gun Violence

On Medium, Joyce Foundation president Ellen Alberding commends the series of executive actions to reduce gun deaths in America announced by President Obama on January 5 — and the president's use of research funded by the Joyce Foundation to support those actions. And here's a good piece by the Washington Post's Josh Lederman explaining the president's plan.

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For-Profit Prison Industry Not a Smart Investment

January 06, 2016

I-want-you-prison432x617If there's an adjective that defines our era, it's "smart." Smartphones, smart cars, smart policy, you name it. We live in a time when people expect and demand that everything in their lives — from their thermostat to their government — operate intelligently, transparently, and with an adherence to common sense.

That explains why there is rare cross-ideological and bipartisan support for fixing what can only be called the "dumb" criminal justice system in the United States. For the past thirty years, a "lock 'em up" approach to crime has left us with 25 percent of the world's prisoners and an incarceration system that does very little to rehabilitate people, treat people who are addicted to illicit substances, or make our communities healthier and safer.

The momentum behind change is leading to real reforms on the ground. Some truly smart new approaches to criminal justice are already making a difference, with foundations helping to lead the way.

One of the best examples is the "Public Safety Assessment," a data-based tool that gives judges guidance on whom to lock up and who to release during the period between a defendant’s arrest and trial. Created by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the tool uses the same kind of algorithms that direct drivers to routes with less traffic and allow epidemiologists to monitor disease outbreaks. The tool is used in dozens of states and jurisdictions, including here in California, and it is proven to reduce repeat offenses, overcrowding in prisons, and crime.

Most importantly, by tackling the problem on the front end — during the pretrial period — PSA applies the power of prevention, which is well documented in health care, to our broken criminal justice system.

We need to apply the same kind of smart thinking throughout the system.

Perhaps one of the best places to start is to shut down the for-profit incarceration industry, which, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, currently houses up to 8 percent of our states’ prison population and, according to the Huffington Post, half of all immigration-related federal detainees.

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A 'Big Bet' Strategy: Large Grants for the Long-Term

January 05, 2016

The long runThe Jim Joseph Foundation is about to complete its tenth year of grantmaking and continues to be a work in progress. Striving for continuous improvement involves concentrated time and effort among foundation directors and professionals. The foundation has intensified its focus on strategy in its grantmaking, governance practices, and financial and staff capacities. All this activity has created a change-management agenda, but our commitment to a founding strategic principle has not wavered: careful consideration of invited grant proposals for significant amounts of funding over four- and five-year periods.

We are often queried why the foundation makes such "big bets," enriching relatively fewer organizations with philanthropic capital when many others might benefit from foundation grant funding. This question tends especially to surface when the foundation decides to renew funding to one of its major grantees, often doing so at significant levels of funding support. Two examples of this type of funder/grantee partnership from earlier this year — Hillel International and Moishe House — offer insights regarding how and why the Jim Joseph Foundation chooses to strategically fund well-aligned grantees with large grants and long-term funding.

First, it bears noting that much of the social sector struggles incessantly to achieve organizational stability. Mario Morino posited years ago that:

Nonprofit organizations exist in a culture of dysfunction — limited capacity and modest outcomes pervade critical organizational elements such as strategic planning, staffing, training, management, financing and performance measurement. This dysfunction makes success highly improbable and calls into question the sustainability of organizations unable to adequately capitalize future growth.... (Community Wealth Ventures, Inc., "Venture Philosophy: Landscape and Expectations," Reston, VA: Morino Institute, 2000)

In this regard, the Jim Joseph Foundation spends a great deal of time conducting due diligence on potential grantees. For organizations that are mission aligned, potentially scalable with their reach, and critically positioned within the foundation's focus on education of Jewish teens, youth, young adults and young families, deep investment is inviting.

Recognizing, for example, that Hillel reaches and engages 400,000 college-age students annually, the foundation determined early in its existence to explore effective partnership with the organization. We learned quickly that Hillel would require repeated infusions of funding to build capacity in order to most effectively engage as many college students and communities as possible. Our grants for the Senior Jewish Educator/Campus Entrepreneur Initiative; evaluation of the initiative; funding for the Heather McLeod Grant and Lindsay Bellows study about Hillel's effective strategy to leverage social networks for student engagement; resources for business planning; and seed capital for Hillel projects deemed to be of high priority to a new CEO speak of our commitment to long-term investment in high-performing grantees. And the $16 million, five-year grant the foundation awarded to support Hillel in accelerating its ambitious Drive to Excellence campaign affirms this deep commitment.

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Weekend Link Roundup (January 2-3, 2016)

January 03, 2016

Jan_fresh_startHappy New Year! Read on for our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. And for more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

African Americans

In an open letter to friends, supporters, and fellow activists, the Campaign for Black Male Achievement's Shawn Dove looks back on a year that was filled with "both progression and painful reflection."

Children and Youth

"Spending on children makes up just 10 percent of the federal budget, and that share is likely to fall," write Giridhar Mallya and Martha Davis on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health blog. In part as a result of that underinvestment, child well-being in the United States ranks 26 on a list of 29 industrialized nations in a UNICEF report. If we want to change that calculus, add Mallya and Davis, "the best thing we can do to give kids a healthy start in 2016 [is to] support parents and families."

Education

Can America's troubled public schools be fixed? In The Atlantic, a group of "leading scholars of, experts on, and advocates for K-12 education" offer reasons to be both discouraged and hopeful.

In Education Week, Doug Allen, principal of the Bessie Nichols School in Edmonton, Alberta, and a member of the Mindful Schools network, offers some reflections for educators on why they should implement a mindfulness practice.

Environment

According to Environmental Health News' Doug Fischer, 2015 was the year that "[c]overage of environmental issues, especially climate change, jumped traditional boundaries to pick up broader — and slightly ominous — geopolitical and health angles."

Environmental Defense Fund's Fred Krupp shares five reasons why 2016 will be a good year for the environment and environmental progress.

Food Insecurity

Before you donate the unwanted canned goods in your pantry to your local foodbank, read this article by the Washington Post's Colby Itkowitz.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (2015)

January 02, 2016

Here they are -- the PhilanTopic posts you selected, by virtue of your clicks, as your favorite from the year just passed. Stay tuned in 2016 for more great content from our contributors. To join the lineup, drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org. And from all of us here at PND and the Foundation Center, have a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Tips for Working With a Recruiter

December 31, 2015

Dream-job-next-exitAs a recruiter focused on the nonprofit sector, I've interacted with thousands of candidates over the years. And I've often wished that more people understood how to fully leverage the recruiter-job candidate relationship. To that end, here are some tips for working with a recruiter that will help you land your dream job in the new year.

Return our calls! A recruiter could be reaching out to you to tap your network or to see whether you're interested in a particular position. While you might not be looking for a job today, taking five minutes to return the recruiter's email or call will help you establish a relationship that could lead to your next professional opportunity. It's worth the time and effort.

Be honest and open about your compensation requirements, whether you are willing to relocate, and other potentially sticky issues, including whether you have been contacted by or are working with other recruiters. A good recruiter will be able to guide you through those issues to a satisfactory outcome – but only if you're honest and up front with her.

Leverage your recruiter's experience to help you navigate the hiring process. When working with a recruiter, be sure to ask questions about what you should emphasize, what you should downplay, and how to manage questions about gaps in your experience. It's in a recruiter's best interests to help his or her candidates shine, and you might be surprised at how effectively we can help you do that.

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Where Are We On the Road to 'Open Knowledge' in the Social Sector?

December 29, 2015

Open-doorIt's that time of year again. The time for performance reviews, grant reports, and setting annual goals. It's also the moment to set aside any illusions you have about what you still hope to accomplish in 2015 and take a hard look back at what really happened over the last year.

As is true for many of you, my performance goals are tightly bound up with my larger goals and aspirations for the social sector. Checking in on how far I have come this year often means gauging that against how far we have all come. And the thing I am most concerned with is the progress we have made toward greater openness in how we (foundations and nonprofits) share the knowledge we fund and produce.

The reason we are so deeply concerned with openness at IssueLab, and at Foundation Center in general, is because we hear again and again from individuals and organizations who want to build on what their colleagues have already learned. In other words, they want to work smarter, but they don't always have the resources to track down the knowledge that's out there on their own. To a significant extent, the knowledge foundations and nonprofits need, the feedback we seek, and the on-the-ground lessons we crave are captured in the reports, case studies, and evaluations we routinely fund and produce. Unfortunately, these are shared (or "published") in ways that may on the surface be free but are only rarely "open."

I admit, there is no easy measure of progress toward greater openness. How much of the knowledge we produce is even discoverable and accessible to the people who need it to do their work? How free is "free" if individual practitioners and organizations need to spend weeks of staff time searching for and sifting through hundreds of different websites to answer a question about what has already been done or learned? How much of what foundations know are they actually sharing with their grantees and the public? A recent post from CEP includes a statistic that really got my attention when it first came to light. In 2013, CEP reported that only 36 percent of grantees thought funders share the knowledge they have about what other nonprofits are doing to address similar challenges. By any measure, that's not enough — especially when you consider that foundations already have tools for greater knowledge sharing at their disposal.

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Weekend Link Roundup (December 26-27, 2015)

December 27, 2015

New-years-resolutionsOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at@pndblog....

Arts and Culture

Eight years after its controversial Central Library Plan was greeted with alarm and derision, the New York Public Library  is moving forward with a $300 million renovation of its historic midtown campus, and this time, library leaders say, "it's a different story." WNYC's Jessica Gould reports.

How can we talk about art and artists in a way that makes clear their contributions to quality of life in the communities we call home? Veteran policy advocate and communicator Margy Waller shares some thoughts on Americans for the Arts' ArtsBlog.

Civil Society

On the Open Society Foundations' Voices blog, OSF president Christopher Stone notes the troubling fact that, in countries around the world and for a variety of reasons, "active citizenship is under attack and the space for civic engagement is closing."

Climate Change

Andrew Simmons, founder of the JEMS Progressive Community Organization and the Caribbean Youth Environment Network and a previous winner ('94) of the Goldman Environmental Prize, talks to the folks at GEP about the global agreement forged at the recent Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC/COP21) summit in Paris and whether it is enough to save vulnerable island-nations from disaster.

Corporate Philanthropy

Based on Corporate Responsibility magazine's list of the 100 Best Corporate Citizens of 2015, the folks at the JK group share ten lessons from their work that make these companies the best in philanthropy and how yours can follow suit.

Criminal Justice

On the Marshall Project site, Vincent Schiraldi, formerly director of juvenile corrections for Washington, D.C., and a senior advisor to the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice in New York City, argues that in order to truly end mass incarceration in the U.S., "we need to completely shutter the doors of youth prisons...."

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Dashboards: Nonprofits' New Best Friend

December 22, 2015

Executive-dashboard-example-1_0If you lead or help manage a nonprofit organization, you know how hard it can be to provide clarity and transparency to your stakeholders. Revenue streams are unpredictable, databases can be hard to work with, and money has to be allocated where it is needed, not necessarily where it provides value. And all this while donors and funders insist on holding your organization accountable. Because of these and other factors, reporting systems in nonprofits often are less than state-of-the-art, spreadsheets provide numbers but not critical analysis, and meaningful data-driven conclusions are hard to come by.

That's why a growing number of nonprofit leaders and decision-makers are turning to a powerful visibility tool to overcome such obstacles: the dashboard.

Good dashboards integrate and visualize vast amounts of data from different sources into a single-screen presentation that can be understood at a glance. The most effective dashboard solutions are intuitive, visually dynamic, and present an accessible real-time look into a range of metrics. The combination of comprehensive data gathering with superior data visualization make dashboards a vital tool for organizations looking to gain critical insights and a fresh perspective on their activities.

Case study insights

To get a sense of how dashboards can have a positive impact, consider the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas's experience. Burdened by incompatible donor database and financial systems, the organization sought a solution that would integrate disparate data sources and enable it to upgrade out-of-date and hard-to-understand internal reporting mechanisms.

By implementing a powerful customized dashboard solution, UWMD was able to transform its reporting so that its board now receives timely information — including specific goals, updates on revenue and key performance indicators (KPIs), and a range of metrics related to progress toward longer-term goals — in an easy-to-understand format.

In addition to organization-wide tracking, the organization also uses dashboards for individual initiatives such as monitoring funds raised in a given year and big-picture progress on its campaigns. In a field where transparency is critical to success, making it clear to internal stakeholders where and how assets are being used is essential.

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  • "To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships...."

    — W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963)

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