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Why Venture Philanthropy Is the Future of Giving

August 04, 2015

News_plant_giving_growth_200For decades, the formula has remained unchanged: donors give to charities, nonprofits, and other social purpose organizations — here in Canada, where LIFT Philanthropy Partners is based, more than $12 billion was donated last year — and organizations, in turn, use those donations to run their programs and offer services in their communities. Benefits are considered to be directly correlated to the size of the donation: more money = more programs and services; less money = fewer programs and services. The cycle simply repeats ad infinitum, without a real understanding of results, impact, or long-term value.

The chief executives of many of these nonprofits are so busy feeding the cycle so as to serve their vulnerable clients that they have little or no time left for the business planning or evaluation that would be the next steps in building organizational capacity. The result is real and systemic challenges that, year after year, aren’t addressed in any meaningful way. For example, despite $12 billion in donations, 42 per cent of Canadians have low literacy skills, more than 20 per cent of those over the age of 20 have not completed high school, and only 4.4 percent of youth get the recommended amount of physical activity.

How can we help nonprofits do more to tackle these problems? How can we ensure that every dollar of that $12 billion is being used to address the very real, very systemic challenges that are a reality for too many people? How can we get more results from hard-working organizations that are already stretched thin?

What if instead of treating charities like charity cases, we thought of them and invested in them as businesses — helping them scale, become more efficient, and deliver a better ROI? That’s the thinking behind venture philanthropy. And it’s the kind of thinking that should be the future of funding for nonprofits in Canada, the United States, and around the world.

Venture philanthropy makes nonprofits stronger, more sustainable, and more efficient at delivering impact, so that they in turn can help more of the vulnerable and at-risk. Although the concept has been around for years — in the U.S., there has even been discussion of whether venture philanthropy has peaked — it has yet to reach its full potential in Canada. Instead of simply providing cash grants to charities, nonprofits, and social enterprises, venture philanthropy invests in their business structure to help them grow and function more effectively. It's the difference between giving someone a fish and teaching him/her to fish.

Venture philanthropists like LIFT Philanthropy Partners select proven organizations with unrealized growth potential, work closely with the organization to develop a strategic plan, and then provide access to the financial and non-financial support they need to implement the plan, with hands-on support from our staff team and business expertise from our pro bono partner network. We may help recruit for a new executive position, design a new governance model, or develop a sponsorship plan — things that allow an organization to fundamentally improve and increase the services it provides to those most in need. The difference is that instead of a financial return on a business investment, the dividends we reap are social — and benefit an entire community and beyond.

At LIFT, we’re pioneering venture philanthropy in Canada, and we’re proud of the impact we're having. As an example, from 2012 to 2014, we worked with KidSport Canada, an organization that believes no kid should be left on the sidelines and provides families in need with financial support for registration fees and equipment. But instead of simply making a donation to the organization, which would have helped a finite number of kids over a short period, we helped KidSport improve its governance structure, enhance its brand and communications strategy, develop a national data management system, and implement a national revenue-generation program. The result is a stronger organization that’s poised to help a much greater number of kids over the long term — and, with the support of the TwentyTen Group, a LIFT partner, has already managed to secure a $1 million national partnership with CIBC, one of Canada’s leading banks — to help it do so.

Bruce_dewar_for-PhilanTopicInstead of asking for donations to charity, let’s start asking for investments in our future — and the future of the many incredible organizations that are helping our most vulnerable people every day. It might just be the best investment we ever make.

Bruce Dewar is the CEO of LIFT Philanthropy Partners, a national venture philanthropy organization in Vancouver, Canada. Check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQ7mUnQDaME for LIFT’s “Anthem” on making good better.

Weekend Link Roundup (August 1-2, 2015)

August 02, 2015

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

Climate Change

While the decision of the Hewlett Foundation to amend its social investment policy to say it will "refrain from future investments in private partnerships primarily involved in oil and gas drilling" falls far short of divestment, it is significant nonetheless. Marc Gunther explains.

In the New Yorker, Katy Lederer explains how a new report from international consulting firm Mercer not only quantifies the investment impacts of various climate-change scenarios, it makes clear that as climate change "trashes" the economy, superfiduciaries— sovereign wealth and pension funds, foundations, and endowments — are not going to be able to meet their long-term obligations. 

Endowed institutions aren't the only ones waking up to the existential threat of unchecked climate change. Bloomberg Politics reports that executives of thirteen major U.S. corporations have announced at least $140 billion in new investments "to [reduce] their carbon footprints as part of a White House initiative to recruit private commitments ahead of a United Nations climate-change summit later this year in Paris."

Communications/Marketing

The latest edition of the Nonprofit Blog Carnival, which is being hosted by Kivi Leroux Miller on her Nonprofit Marketing Guide blog, is open for submissions. The topic of this month's roundup is how you share progress or communicate your accomplishments -- "not just with donors, but to program participants, and other supporters and influencers as well." The deadline for submissions (new or recent posts) is  Friday, August 28, and the roundup of all posts will be published on Monday, August 31. To submit a post, just email the URL and two- or three-sentence summary to nonprofitcarnival@gmail.com.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Large multinationals spent some $20 billion on corporate social responsibility programs in 2013. Good news, right? In The Atlantic, Gillian White explains why we shouldn't get too excited.

Education

"It’s at the level of the school building that most of the action around teacher evaluation and its consequences occurs, and truth be told, most economists are not devoting much attention to the interior of the school or the social relations among school leaders, teachers and students." In a good piece for The Hechinger Report, Aaron Pallas explains.

International Affairs/Development

Almost a year and a half after the publication of his book Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor, NYU economist William Easterly responds to three of the book's most trenchant critics.

Leadership

Agility, the ability to continuously learn, is one of the most important skills for a leader in today's fast-paced world. And the good news, writes Beth Kanter on the Markets for Good blog, is that learning agility is a skill that can be developed.

Philanthropy

On the Huffington Post's Impact blog, Natalie Martinez, an organizational psychologist, strategist, and technologist, argues that traditional philanthropy as we know it needs a major rethink. The Awesome Foundation, a global community that is working to advance "the interest of awesome in the universe, $1000 at a time," is a good place to start. 

Traditional philanthropy gets its due in the summer issue of Lapham's Quarterly, which is entirely devoted to the subject. "What would happen," asks Phil Cubeta on his Gift Hub blog, "if all who write about impact investing or social capitalism or metrics were willing to read this issue, take it to heart, and spend 10-20 years in meditation before re-entering the public sphere?" 

On the HistPhil blog, HistPhil co-founder Maribel Morey and Faith Mitchell, president and CEO of Grantmakers in Health, consider the Ford Foundation's recently announced equality initiative as part of the kick-off to what promises to be a rich discussion of philanthropy and inequality. 

Can anything be done about growing inequality in capitalist countries? In a Q&A with Lynn Parramore on the Institute for New Economic Thinking site, Oxford economics professor Tony Atkinson, author of the recently published book Inequality: What Can Be Done?, is cautiously optimistic.

Social Good

If you're really serious about helping the world's poor and changing the world, you should think about becoming an investment banker, philospher Peter Singer tells Reuters' Joseph D'Urso. But there's a kicker: As you're making a lot of money in the banking profession, you also have to give it away.

And in a post on the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog, Hildy Gottlieb argues that building the capacity of organizations is not enough to change the world; we need to change the very nature of socially minded organizations and businesses so that they act more like movements than organizations.

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

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (July 2015)

August 01, 2015

It was a typically hot and muggy July in most places, but here at PhilanTopic it was an especially cool month, with new posts from Sarah Gunther and Diana Samarasan related to the release of an updated Foundation Center report on funding for global human rights, three posts full of great fundraising and governance advice for nonprofit leaders, a new Q&A with Jean Case, and the latest installment in Matt Schwartz' Cause-Driven Design series topping the list of the most popular posts on the blog. What, you were on vacation? Don't sweat it. Here's your chance to catch up....

Read, watched, or listened to anything lately that surprised or made you think? Share your find with others in the comments section below, or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

The Parting Glass

July 30, 2015

Jane_Schwartz_Paul RapoportIn 2009, when the board and staff of the Paul Rapoport Foundation decided to spend out in five years, we focused initially on conveying our decision to our grantees with total transparency. We then worked to develop effective guidelines, assist applicants in creating strong grant proposals, and help grantees develop viable exit strategies once our final multiyear grants had concluded. We were so focused on these activities that we were all taken by surprise when we realized it was 2014 and our grantmaking was at an end. After twenty-seven years of supporting all the major organizations in New York's lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual (LGTB) communities — providing start-up funding to many, ongoing general operating support to many more, and essential infrastructure development in our final spend-out period — the actual closing date was upon us.

Throughout the preceding decades the foundation's board and staff had engaged a number of excellent organizational consultants to help us with strategic planning, including during our final spend-out phase. When they realized our closing was imminent, all of them — either formally or informally — reached out and urged us to plan for some sort of closure, not just for board and staff but for our grantees as well. So while we had had the idea in the back of our minds during the spend-out process, holding a final event for the community suddenly became vitally important to us as a way to deal with the sad realities of closing.

The result was a farewell party to which all our grantees were invited — not only current staff but former grantee staff members who had worked so closely with us to develop successful grant proposals in the early years of the LGTB community's growth. We also invited fellow grantmakers from private and public funding sources who had traveled with the foundation on its journey from the early days when it was one of a very few foundations funding AIDS programs in New York to our final years of making grants specifically to organizations serving LGTB communities of color. And, of course, we invited our own former board members who had worked so thoughtfully and hard to create the foundation and its funding strategies over the years.

We also realized that the history of the foundation's funding tracked the development of the LGTB community in New York, and so we decided to create an illustrated timeline highlighting the important developments of that community over the past three decades. Among other things, this allowed us to show how closely the foundation had monitored these community developments and adjusted its grantmaking strategies to support the community's changing needs. The publication, which included dozens of grantee photographs, also showcased the vast majority of our grantees and served as our souvenir program for the event, which turned out to be a cocktail party in an inviting rooftop garden setting that allowed folks to sit and reconnect with colleagues they may not have seen in decades. Throughout the evening, the same refrains were repeated over and over:

"Oh my goodness, I haven't seen you since…" Or:

"I can’t believe it…is that...?"

The event clearly underscored the important role our grantee organizations had played in the development of the LGTB communities in New York, and it allowed the foundation to thank its grantees, as well as our terrific board members, past and present, for the wonderful work they had done over so many years. During the "formal" portion of the evening's program, we also announced the foundation's "legacy grant"— to Equal Justice Works — and invited one of the first recipients of the Paul Rapoport Fellowship, a young LGTB lawyer of color, to describe the work he would be doing over the next two years in the field of public interest law. It is our hope that the fellowship will continue to keep Paul's name alive in the LGTB community for decades to come while also providing much-needed legal advocacy to underserved communities of color.

Looking back, I would say that the outpouring of good feeling and best wishes on that night transformed what, for many, was an otherwise painful end to something we had loved into a proud occasion, and it helped us close our doors on a decidedly upbeat note.

(Photo credit: Philip Greenberg for the New York Times)

Jane D. Schwartz was executive director of the Paul Rapoport Foundation. This post, the twenty-third in the "Making Change by Spending Down" series produced by GrantCraft in partnership with the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, originally was published on the GrantCraft blog. Use the #spenddown hashtag to comment on the post (and series) below and on Twitter.

[Review] How to Be Great at Doing Good: Why Results Are What Count and How Smart Charity Can Change the World

July 29, 2015

Book_how_to_be_great_at_doing_good_for_PhilanTopicThere are more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States, and in 2013 over 62 million Americans volunteered nearly 7.7 billion hours to charitable causes. Given these statistics, you might think we were well on our way to a world in which caring people are significantly improving the lives of people in need. According to the World Bank, however, more than a billion people globally live in extreme poverty, and each year over 2.6 million children die of hunger-related causes. It's enough to make one wonder whether charity does any good.

In How to Be Great at Doing Good: Why Results Are What Count and How Smart Charity Can Change the World, animal rights activist Nick Cooney offers an antidote to such cynicism in the form of a "complacency-shattering guidebook for anyone who wants to actually change the world, whether as a donor, a volunteer, or a nonprofit staffer." 

In the book, Cooney addresses the misconceptions that persistently prevent donors and volunteers from "succeeding" in their charitable endeavors. He tells us, for example, that most people see charity as

a warm, fuzzy thing and that as long as our intentions are good we should be applauded. We are not taught to think rigorously about our approach. We are not taught how to succeed at doing good, or even that success is what matters. So we aren't in the habit of making calculated decisions when it comes to doing good....

But what do we mean by "success"? "The measure of success for charities," Cooney writes, is not an "up or down vote on whether they are making the world a better place." The question is, or should be, how much good can a charity accomplish. It's not a revolutionary — or even new — idea, but if pursued to its logical conclusion, it requires donors, volunteers, and nonprofit practitioners to make some tough decisions. If we really want to change the world and include as many individuals as possible in that change, we need to completely rethink the way we do our work.

For nonprofits to become more efficient, Cooney argues, they first need to establish a "bottom line" that reflects their "cost per good done." It could be something like the "cost per HIV infection prevented," or "the cost per ton of greenhouse gas emissions prevented." Not that establishing such metrics is easy. A study by the Center for Effective Philanthropy found that "even among the largest foundations...only 8 percent had any data whatsoever that showed how successful they'd been at achieving a defined goal." 

Cooney uses Habitat for Humanity, which works to provide "decent housing to as many people as possible," to illustrate what this might look like in practice. Habitat, which mostly operates in the United States but also has operations in developing countries, could lower its "cost per" by shifting even more of its activities to developing countries, where building costs are much lower. If it did so, the question for the organization then would become how "to balance the fact that overseas construction has a dramatically lower 'cost per family housed' with the fact that donors might reduce their giving as a higher and higher percentage of [Habitat's] work [took place] abroad." Cooney's answer is to "shift more and more construction overseas until the number of families the organization was able to house began to drop." He understands, of course, that the organization is unlikely to follow his advice, for any number of reasons: change is hard; it's easier for people to empathize with those in need in their own communities; charities have little appetite for risk, especially when it comes to their revenue.

If shifting more of its programming abroad presents Habitat with multiple challenges, Cooney believes other organizations need to make even more drastic changes. He cites the Make-A-Wish Foundation as an example of a charity that could accomplish its goal — to alleviate the suffering of children with life-threatening illnesses — far more efficiently, and to make his point he contrasts it with the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI), which treats schistosomiasis, a debilitating but easily preventable tropical disease. Through its activities, the Make-A-Wish Foundation makes sick children happier for a few days, whereas treating schistosomiasis in regions where it is endemic prevents a lifetime of debilitating chronic illness for a far greater number of children. In fact, it costs SCI less than a dollar per child to treat the disease, while Cooney estimates that Make-A-Wish spends $19,000 "per sick child made temporarily much happier."

If Make-A-Wish really wanted to succeed at its goal of helping children, he argues, it could allocate a percentage of its budget to treating diseases such as schistosomiasis. And if that resulted in a falloff in donations from an American public that is less interested in funding children's health initiatives in Africa than in granting wishes for dying children here at home — well, so be it; the measurable increase in lives changed for the better would be worth it. Indeed, in Cooney's view, every year the Make-A-Wish Foundation decides not to make such a change, it "[condemns] to a lifetime of debilitation" thousands of children it could have otherwise saved from a preventable disease.

"While a significant shift in program funding like this may have to be rolled out slowly," he adds, "in practical terms it is very doable." What's more, it's been done before by the likes of the YMCA and the American Cancer Society. Make-A-Wish officials might argue that such a change would come at the expense of the organization's brand identity and the goodwill it has built up over decades of operation. Cooney will have none of it, arguing that maintaining a "consistent [brand] identity" is far less important, and less urgent, than helping as many sick children as possible.

Furthermore, if our main priority is to make the world a better place, he writes, then we all need to recognize that we have an important role to play in incentivizing nonprofits to become more efficient. For Cooney, that means supporting organizations that prioritize a lower "cost per" over a "consistent identity, setting up a free-market-style competition among organizations that further drives down their costs and results in more people who need help being helped." Donors also need to spend more time researching a charity's effectiveness — although such an approach is not without problems. The biggest, of course, is that the data needed to determine nonprofit effectiveness is hard to come by. While overhead costs are easy enough to find (through sites like GuideStar and Charity Navigator), overhead has little to do with effectiveness. An organization can spend an exorbitant amount on overhead while still maintaining a low "cost per good done" if it carries out its programming efficiently. Cooney's solution to the problem is for nonprofits to work harder to provide data that demonstrates their effectiveness — and for funders and donors to incentivize nonprofits to do that.

The bigger problem, however, is that not all charity work is created equal. Indeed, for Cooney, charity is a zero-sum game. If one donates to a local arts organization instead of to the Seva Foundation, which works to prevent blindness in twenty countries, he or she is in effect "condemning" people to blindness. The idea that "it's all needed" or that all charitable dollars are well spent rings hollow when one considers the extreme levels of suffering in the world. And that means we need to prioritize our giving, because "each of us has a very limited amount of time, money, and energy to devote to charity."

It's an idea that many readers of his book will object to. Likewise, Cooney's insistence that "bias" is what causes people to not support the most cost-effective program — that is, the program that helps the greatest number of people for the least amount of money, regardless of where those people live or other needs closer to home — will be rejected by many who see investments in one's community as both critical and appropriate. Who could blame residents of America's poorest cities, for example, for wanting to donate to local programs, even if doing so is less "cost-effective" in the global scheme of things?

These are relatively minor objections, however, to Cooney's otherwise compelling arguments. For those committed to making the world a better place, How to Be Great at Doing Good is a book that deserves to be read and widely discussed.

Mirielle Clifford is an editorial assistant at Foundation Center in New York.

New Tool to Help Funders Coordinate and Grow Early Childhood Investments in East Africa

July 27, 2015

Coordinating investments is a challenge for all funders. How do we avoid duplicating investments in some areas while other areas are overlooked and underfunded? How do we identify potential synergies and opportunities to collaborate with others who have similar interests and align our investments to be more impactful? These questions arise frequently for my colleagues and me at the Bernard van Leer Foundation. As the range of actors investing in early childhood development (ECD) in East Africa grows, so does the challenge of understanding who is investing in what, and where.

Luckily, we now have a way to get at the answers we need. With our support, Foundation Center – a leading source of information about philanthropy worldwide – took up the challenge of creating Foundation Maps for Early Childhood Development in East Africa, a funding map that serves as a planning and learning tool to identify gaps and opportunities. Foundation Center designed it with foundations, NGOs, policy makers, and other ECD stakeholders in mind.

My colleagues first started thinking about a way to coordinate funding during a meeting a few years ago in Tanzania with a coalition of funders that invests in young children's development in the region. The group agreed that an integrated information hub which includes contextual information and information on bilateral and multilateral aid flows would be a critical tool to guide and inform strategy. We wanted to support something that not only would serve our foundation but that could increase transparency and serve others working in our field.

ECD_map

The map shows who is funding what and where. It has information on over two hundred and fifty funders funding more than $2.7 billion, as well as more than $13.5 billion in bilateral and multilateral aid for early childhood development from 2008 to the present. The ECD funding map provides access to foundation grant and disbursement details and can be overlaid with three country-level indicators: mortality for children under the age of 5, prevalence of undernourishment, and GDP per capita. Foundation Center will keep the map updated as new information becomes available.

We funders often lack the time and information to situate our programming in a broader context. With a tool like the ECD funding map, this is no longer the case. The Bernard Van Leer Foundation will be using this map to further develop our strategy in East Africa, coordinate our investments in the region, and find new partners.

Foundation Center has tackled the trickiest part of making data usable, aligning all the grants information so that we can compare apples to apples. However, launching the ECD funding map is only the starting point. We are eager to put the map into the hands of those who will use it. Foundation Center is committed to enhancing the map to meet the needs of ECD stakeholders, and with your help we can make it an even more valuable resource. We encourage you to check it out, send Foundation Center your feedback, and share your foundation's grants data for inclusion in the map.

Our hope is that the map will help shift investments in East Africa to fill existing gaps, increase collaboration among funders, and grow the amount of funding invested in early childhood development in the region. We also hope it will help translate the growing level of funding for early childhood development in East Africa into effectively ensuring that all children in the region are able to develop to their full potential.

Katelyn Hepworth is research & evaluation officer at the Bernard van Leer Foundation in The Hague, Netherlands. This post originally was published on GrantCraft.

Weekend Link Roundup (July 25-26, 2015)

July 26, 2015

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

Criminal Justice

The people who credit mass incarceration for reducing crime in the United States have it all wrong, writes Allison Schrager in Quartz.

Democracy

In advance of National Voter Registration Day on September 22, Independent Sector, the National Council of Nonprofits, Nonprofit VOTE, and United Way Worldwide have launched Nonprofit Votes Count, a national campaign aimed at encouraging every eligible nonprofit staff member and volunteer to register and vote.

Disabilities

Sunday is the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the ADA National Network and its ten regional centers  have out together a nice tool kit to mark the occasion.

Education

The folks at Vox have posted a new explainer on the Common Core.

Global Health

On the NowStand4 site, Grant Trahant interviews Andrea Tamburini, CEO of Action Against Hunger, about his organization's efforts to treat malnutrition and end hunger around the globe.

With the goal of helping PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) in its ongoing efforts to increase data transparency and general participation in the COP process, amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, has launched a PEPFAR Country/Regional Operational Plans (COPs/ROPs) database featuring planned funding reported in publicly released 2007-2014 country and regional operational plans

Continue reading »

Tell People What You Believe In

July 24, 2015

Share_your_passionHow often does this happen?

You're at a gathering and someone asks you what you do. As soon as you say you work for a nonprofit, the next question is, "What does your nonprofit do?"

This is the point where most nonprofit professionals recite their organization's mission statement. Tailored to the person you're talking to, your response probably sounds something like:

"We educate and empower people who lack resources and opportunities…."

Or:

"We provide basic services to those in need…."

While that kind of generic description might be totally appropriate when you're making small talk, it probably doesn't convey the passion you actually feel for your organization and cause. And it should never find its way into your solicitations.

I know, it's only July. But the end-of-year fundraising season is just around the corner, and I'm already looking forward to the many direct mail pieces I expect to receive listing the reasons why I should give to this cause or that. But while almost all those letters will tell me what the organization does, only a handful will tell me what the organization stands for.

Continue reading »

Grassroots Activism Is the Key to Transitioning America From Coal to Clean Energy

July 22, 2015

News_coal_power_plant_for_PhilanTopicWhen business reporters, industry leaders, and analysts claim "market forces" on Wall Street are behind coal's decline, they're getting it only half right. The most powerful forces driving this transition are the national network of grassroots activists and growing coalition of more than one hundred allied organizations working for a clean-energy future. All across the nation, empowered communities are defending their right to clean air, clean water, and a strong economy.

Over the past decade, health advocates, environmentalists, and community leaders have broken coal's hold on electricity production in the United States by organizing local grassroots campaigns backed by strategic litigation. After watching generations of families suffer the health impacts of coal burning, people all over the nation are taking to the streets to stand up to Big Coal. In fact, this movement recently celebrated a huge milestone when we announced the retirement of the two hundredth U.S. coal plant since 2010.

Two of the people fighting back are Wally and Clint McRae, a father and son who have fought for thirty years to protect their Montana cattle ranch from a proposed coal train that would cut right through their land. The McRaes have been active for decades in their local community, but with the support of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, they were able to bring their message to a national stage.

Continue reading »

We're There When You Need Us

July 21, 2015

Money-treeDo you expect your street to be plowed after a big storm? Yep. Do you expect that bridge to remain standing as you drive over it? Of course. Do you expect the folks at the 911 hotline number to pick up every time you call? Without question. Do you take the existence of all this publicly-supported infrastructure for granted? Most likely.

The same is true for the infrastructure serving the social sector. Philanthropists and nonprofits depend every day on hundreds of organizations around the globe that serve the needs of the field. Organizations such as Independent Sector, Grantmakers in Health, the Michigan Nonprofit Association, and the European Foundation Centre are there to make connections, answer questions, and, in myriad other ways, facilitate the work of the sector.

So, how do they keep their doors open? Up to now there was no comprehensive picture of what support for "infrastructure organizations" looked like and how that funding was faring relative to other grantmaker priorities. But thanks to a new Foundation Center analysis (22 pages, PDF) prepared at the request of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, we now know more.

Continue reading »

Knowledge Is Power: LGBTQI and Human Rights Funders, Disaggregate Your Data!

July 20, 2015

Lgbt-handprintWhen several LGBTQI funders set out in 2013 to better understand the landscape of funding for trans* human rights, our first stop was the International Human Rights Funders Group (IHRFG) and Foundation Center's groundbreaking data set on global human rights funding. To our surprise, we found very little information about funding for trans* people specifically. When I went looking last month for data on funding dedicated to lesbian, bisexual, and queer women, I found the same gap. This, I realized, is because most foundations report their funding for "LGBT" people as just that: "LGBT."

We know, however, that the LGBT acronym masks a huge diversity of communities, needs, and human rights priorities. Lesbian and queer women may be more concerned with addressing family violence or changing cultural narratives about sexuality than overturning a colonial sodomy law. Trans* activists may be focused on ending the discriminatory policing of trans* women of color or passing laws that allow people to self-determine their legal gender. Intersex activists are seeking specific protections against non-consensual genital surgeries and other rights-violating medical interventions on intersex bodies. From Astraea’s nearly forty years of supporting queer and trans activism with a racial, economic, and gender justice lens, we also know that foundation funding for LGBTQI rights does not match this diversity of agendas. Without dedicated attention to lesbian and queer women, trans*, and intersex folks, "LGBT" too often means the leadership and priorities of cisgender gay men.

Without attention to other identities we hold, "LGBT" also often means the more privileged aspects of our movements in terms of race, class, and age. It would be easy to look at the LGBT funding dedicated to marriage equality in the U.S., for example, and say that our work is getting done. But we know that LGBTQI justice will only come when all people experience legal and lived equality, and when we are all free from hatred, discrimination, and violence. That is why we need an LGBTQI agenda that dismantles racial, gender, and economic inequality, and why we need to look not only at the gender breakdown of "LGBT" but also the proportion of funding that supports organizing by and for communities of color, as well as poor and working-class folks. Our data must reflect the intersectional reality of our lives and our movements.

This year's Advancing Human Rights report tells us that LGBT funding represented 5 percent of all foundation human rights dollars in 2012 and has held relatively steady over the past three years. If we are going to meet the demand from growing LGBTQI movements pursuing human rights around the world, we absolutely need to grow the overall pie. But we should also look at where the funding available to us is going. Which constituencies are receiving support? Whose agendas are they funding and amplifying?

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (July 18-July 19, 2015)

July 19, 2015

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

Economy

On the Bloomberg Business site, Alex Nussbaum reports that a new study released by the Analysis Group, a Boston-based consulting company, found that a cap-and-trade program for carbon dioxide generated $1.3 billion in benefits for nine U.S. states, created more than 14,000 new jobs in the Northeast, and saved consumers $460 million on their electric bills over the past three years.

Education

No Child Left Behind, the education policy overhaul introduced by George W. Bush in 2000, has more critics than supporters. But no one in Congress knows how to fix it. Mother Jones' Allie Gross reports.

Fundraising

The economy is recovering (slowly), but your fundraising results remain stuck in second gear. Future Fundraising Now's Jeff Brooks shares some thoughts on what organizations do — and don't do — to create their own fundraising recessions.

Higher Education

Should public university-affiliated private foundations be subject to state public-records laws? Of course they should, write Jonathan Peters and Jackie Spinner in the Columbia Journalism Review. In fact, courts "should cut through any artifice and conclude that a university-affiliated foundation that exists for the purpose of serving the university and performing public functions is an arm of the state and accountable to its citizens....[And] foundations should view those laws as a floor rather than a ceiling, making it a policy to release more than simply the minimum required by law.... "

International Development

The United Nations will commit to new Sustainable Development Goals in September. In advance of the launch of the SDGs, the folks at the Global Partnership for Education have put together a nice post explaining how education is essential to the success of every one of the seventeen goals.

Philanthropy

What do Bill and Melinda Gates talk about in the privacy of their home? New York Times columnist Nick Kristof asked them. And on LinkedIn, former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan explains what Bill and Melinda — and other modern philanthropists — do better than their distinguished predecessors in the field.

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5 Questions for...Jean Case, CEO, Case Foundation

July 17, 2015

How the digitally native, media-savvy millennial generation is shaping the way people view and bring about social change has been a topic of debate for some time. Are millennials "the giving generation," or are they just  "slacktivists"? Founded in 1997 by AOL co-founder Steve Case and his wife, Jean, the Case Foundation has been working to engage millennials in social work for the better part of a decade. As part of that effort, the foundation, in partnership with Achieve, an Indianapolis-based research and creative agency, recently released the 2015 Millennial Impact Report: Cause, Influence & the Next Generation Workforce (41 pages, PDF), the eighth in a series of reports that examines the question: How does the millennial generation engage with and support causes?

Recently, PND asked Case Foundation co-founder and CEO Jean Case about some of the report’s findings and  implications.

Headshot_jean_casePhilanthropy News Digest: Since 2010, the Millennial Impact Report series has examined trends in giving and volunteering by millennials. This year's report is focused on company cause work, the factors that influence engagement in the workplace, and the relationship between millennial employees and their managers. Why is it important for millennials to be engaged in giving and volunteering at the workplace?

Jean Case: Millennials play a powerful role in democratizing philanthropy. Now eighty million strong, the millennial generation is one of the most educated, tech-savvy, and idealistic generations ever. At the Case Foundation, we have long recognized the power of millennials to change the world — and that is why our support of the Millennial Impact Project has been critical to the exploration of how they connect, give, and inspire. Throughout our six years of research (and eight reports) with Achieve, we've found that with few exceptions, this generation is consistently willing and eager to "do good." And they choose not to leave their personal passion for doing good at the door but rather seek to integrate it fully into their work and social network of friends and colleagues. If we are going to solve the complex social problems of our era — eradicating deadly diseases, conquering global hunger, scaling sustainable energy solutions — we need this generation to lead the charge.

One aspect of our research which was telling was that 70 percent of millennials volunteered for a cause last year. That number is triple the average volunteer rate of America as a whole, which was just over 25 percent in 2014. Millennial employees value putting their skills and expertise to work in support of a cause, which means employers have a greater opportunity to positively engage with this growing portion of the workforce.

PND: According to the most recent survey, 46 percent of millennial respondents said they were more likely to donate to a company-sponsored giving campaign if asked by a co-worker, while only 27 percent said they were more likely to give if asked by their supervisor. Similarly, 65 percent said they were more likely to volunteer for a company initiative if their co-workers were participating, while only 44 percent said they would if their supervisor participated. What are the implications of these findings for companies looking to engage their millennial employees in "company cause work"?

JC: Millennials now make up a majority of employees — 53.5 million workers to be exact, or more than one in three American workers. We know that they place value on the relationships and bonds they build with co-workers. This is a generation that demands our attention and wants to take its idealism and put it into action in meaningful ways. CEOs and those in leadership need to understand that millennials are influencers who shape the behaviors and purchasing decisions of their larger social circles, so it's no surprise that they tend to be the most inspired by their colleagues and peers, and less so by management. Organizations can take this opportunity to shift away from hierarchical structures and top-down CSR programs and move toward more collaborative cause environments.

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Being Counted: Funding for People With Disabilities

July 16, 2015

"It's a sad truth that in many developing countries people with disabilities simply don't count. No data is collected on their disabilities nor their abilities, so it’s as if they just don’t exist…."

— Former UK parliamentary undersecretary for the Department for International Development (DFID) (quoted in the Guardian)

Disability_symbolsRecognizing that, to date, development goals have not been reached because people at the margins have not been included, the concept of "leave no one behind" has been a key part of the post-2015 development process. Among those left behind have been people with disabilities who, until the publication of the first World Bank/World Health Organization World Report on Disability in 2011, were not specifically enumerated among the world's population.

As it turns out, people with disabilities make up an estimated one billion people around the world. That is 15 percent of the world's population, or one in every seven people. Further, children with disabilities are the single largest group excluded from school, making up 30 percent to 40 percent of the out-of-school population according to UNESCO. Women with disabilities are 40 percent more likely to be victims of domestic violence than other women, and 20 percent of the poorest people in the world are people with disabilities.

Despite these dire statistics, most countries in the developing world either do not count their populations with disabilities or do not use standardized methods to do so, meaning that official data on persons with disabilities and the conditions they live in is poor or absent.

Until recently, this was also the case among human rights funders and human rights organizations. Disability — considered a charity or medical issue — was not delineated as a human rights concern. Indeed, it was only in 2010, following the implementation in 2008 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, that even as formidable an advocate as Human Rights Watch started systematically reporting on rights abuses against persons with disabilities.

Thus, when the International Human Rights Funders Group (IHRFG) and Foundation Center initiated a project in 2010 to map global human rights grantmaking, I was excited that the project would include people with disabilities among the recipient populations to be tracked. For the first time, people with disabilities would be listed as a population of concern for funders making human rights grants.

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How to Solve the Puzzle of Millennial Engagement

July 13, 2015

RubikCube02bFor most people, myself included, trying to solve a Rubik's Cube is laughably impossible. Sure, I can get a few of the colors to line up here or there, but that's about as far as I get.

But here's the thing: Rubik's Cubes are most definitely not impossible to solve. In fact, some people are freakishly good at them. So why can’t I solve them?

Simple: I don't know the tricks. I keep trying to solve them the same way I solve more traditional puzzles instead of recognizing that they're a different beast altogether.

The same holds true for solving the puzzle of millennial engagement. Organizations continue to try to engage millennials by sticking to the same old strategies they've used for fifty years — and then putting it on a Facebook page. But here's the thing: millennial engagement is a different beast altogether — and it's not limited to how technologically savvy you or your organization are or are willing to be.

Whether solving a Rubik's Cube or developing a millennial engagement strategy, each requires the recognition that you're dealing with a new kind of puzzle with its own quirks and tricks. So, what are the tricks for how to solve the millennial engagement puzzle?

At Third Plateau, we spend a lot of our time uncovering these tricks. I'll share three of the most important, which can apply to millennial employees, volunteers, and donors.

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Weekend Link Roundup (July 11-12, 2015)

July 12, 2015

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

Civil Society

In a guest essay for Civicus, Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, argues that the international development community's "obsession with quantifiable impact, and frequently dogmatic adherence to discrete deliverables, undercuts the expansive purpose of [civil society organizations], miniaturizing them in their ambition...[and] distort[ing] and inhibit[ing], rather than unleash[ing], the potential of civil society." Walker continues: "If we believe in the work that CSOs are doing — and we should — then [donors] must help usher in a new era of capacity-building investment, for institutions, and the individuals who comprise them...."

Data

"Given the nature of digital data (generative, remixable, scalable, storable, copyable, etc), it's hard to see how the current nonprofit corporate governance structures provide much assurance that these assets will be used for good," muses Lucy Bernholz on her Philanthropy 2173 blog.

Giving

"The best way to activate positive-emotion circuits in the brain is through generosity." Kathy Gilsanan, a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, reports.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett has announced an annual gift of Berkshire Hathaway Class B shares totaling $2.8 billion to the five foundations he pledged his fortune to back in 2006. As has been the case since Buffett made his pledge, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation received the bulk of the shares, with smaller amounts going to foundations run by his three children and the foundation established by his first wife, Susan, who died in 2004. The Wall Street Journal has the details.

As generous, elegant, and carefully thought through as it may be, the Buffett style of philanthropy is in "the process of being re-formulated by a new generation of capitalists, many of whom earned their fortunes disrupting traditional business models." John G. Taft, CEO of RBC Wealth Management, explains.

In a post on the Oxford University Press blog, Ed Zelinsky (The Origins of the Ownership Society: How The Defined Contribution Paradigm Changed America), the Morris and Annie Trachman Professor of Law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University, outlines the continuing benefits (and costs) of the Giving Pledge.

The folks at Eleventy Marketing Group have pulled together a list of key findings from the 2015 Millennial Impact Report, which details how millennial employees "engage in cause work with the companies they work for — and the factors that influence their engagement and involvement in philanthropy programs."

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Seven Charitable Foundation Rules: Myth and Reality

July 10, 2015

Myth-vs-FactFederal statutes and regulations that apply to charitable foundations are complex and frequently misunderstood. To add to the confusion, they often are counterintuitive. Here are just a few examples of rules governing foundation grantmaking that I, on numerous occasions, have found to be misconstrued or misunderstood:

Myth No. 1: Foundations are only permitted to support 501(c)(3) organizations.

Reality: As long as foundations comply with certain legal requirements, they are permitted to make grants for charitable purposes to a range of organizations and entities. For example, if the foundation undertakes a preliminary inquiry, both the grantor and the grantee commit in writing to comply with reporting requirements, and the prospective grant recipient commits in writing that the funds will be expended for charitable purposes, the foundation can legally make grants for charitable purposes to government agencies and even for-profit corporations.

Myth No. 2: Foundations are not permitted to support the development, publication, or distribution of materials that comment on positions taken by candidates in election campaigns or on positive or negative features of pending legislation.

Reality: Foundations are permitted to provide financial support to organizations for the preparation of voter information guides and educational materials about proposed legislation and other issues of public interest. Voter information guides must refer to each candidate's views on a cross-section of issues and include a fair and unbiased analysis of other positions. Educational materials supported by foundation dollars must present all sides of the issue in question and be sufficiently balanced to enable readers or listeners to form their own opinions. Foundations are not permitted to reveal their own positions or preferences with respect to an issue in such materials.

Myth No. 3: Foundations are required to receive and retain a grantee organization's written acknowledgement for any gift in excess of $250.

Reality: The $250 written acknowledgment rule applies to payers of income tax such as individuals and for-profit corporations, but not to foundations — which are exempt from income taxes. So long as a foundation retains proof of the support it has given to a grantee organization (such as a canceled check), it need not seek or retain that grantee organization's written acknowledgment of a gift.

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How Nonprofit Branding Strengthens Impact: Part 2

July 09, 2015

Brand-PowerIn my previous article, I introduced some thinking on the nature of a nonprofit's brand, three characteristics of a compelling nonprofit brand experience, and the six key components of every brand. The big takeaway (hopefully) was that a brand is a combination of psychological concepts and tangible assets that together embody the vision, values, and mission of a nonprofit.

In Part 2 of this three-part mini-series on nonprofit branding, I'll take a closer look at the ways in which an effective brand creates organizational value for nonprofits, as well as how design firms and nonprofits collaborate to translate organizational strategy into brand experiences that reflect a nonprofit’s values and help advance its mission.

A New Approach to Leveraging Social Impact

Seeking new ways to increase their impact, leading nonprofits increasingly are taking a broader view of the strategic role their brands can play in driving long-term social change. In this new view, a nonprofit's brand is critical to organizational strategy — making that strategy tangible through a system of designed experiences that express the ideas and values the organization represents.

Such a view marks a significant departure from the communications-centric model of nonprofit branding in which a brand exists primarily as a marketing tool for managing perceptions. In the new paradigm, a brand must embody critical elements such as social innovation and design thinking (as exemplified by the work of design firms such as IDEO). This view also embraces the ability of a brand to shape conversations, strengthen relationships, and increase an organization’s effectiveness. This line of thinking is best articulated in the work of Harvard professor Nathalie Laidler-Kylander and Christopher Stone — and detailed in their book The Brand IDEA: Managing Nonprofit Brands with Integrity, Democracy, and Affinity.

Among its many insights The Brand IDEA suggests a new role for "brand" within the nonprofit organization — a role in which it is both driven by, and acts as a primary driver of, organizational strategy, exerting influence and commanding mind-share, both internally and externally, to create a virtuous cycle that strengthens and reinforces itself with each success.

Visualized, what Kylander and Stone title the "Role of Brand Cycle" in a nonprofit looks something like this:

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Funding the Marriage Equality Movement: Lessons in Collaboration and Risk Taking

July 06, 2015

Rainbow-flagThe marriage equality movement in the United States has been fueled by the strategic and coordinated efforts of legal groups, advocacy organizations, and a small but active community of grantmakers. The historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling on June 26 to extend marriage equality nationwide was preceded by a gradual legislative sea change and a dramatic shift in public opinion. In 2001, a majority of Americans opposed the idea of allowing same-sex couples to marry. In 2015, polls showed a reversal of the numbers, with 57 percent of Americans favoring marriage equality.

One of the key funders behind this shift was the Civil Marriage Collaborative (CMC), an initiative of the Proteus Fund that has partnered with individual donors and foundations to award roughly $2 million in grants each year since 2004 for a broad range of publicly visible education activities aimed at advancing marriage equality. In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision to uphold same-sex marriage as a constitutional right, it's worth looking closer at how CMC, as a funder collaborative, contributed to the success of the marriage equality movement. The CMC story also offers lessons about the role philanthropy can play in advocacy, as well as how funders can collaborate and take risks to achieve greater impact.

Prior to the Supreme Court decision, federal law defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman. By 2004, marriage equality had gained traction with a number of key legislative wins, including the approval of civil unions in Vermont, which granted same-sex couples some (but not all) of the legal benefits of marriage, and a landmark victory in Massachusetts that made it the first state in the U.S. to uphold the right of LGBT couples to marry. But it was also a year of setbacks for the movement, as a series of same-sex marriage bans were passed in thirteen states. According to CMC director Paul A. Di Donato, it was around this time that some grantmakers began to realize that achieving a critical mass of support for marriage equality would require greater engagement by the philanthropic community, not just a few relationships between individual foundations and big national players. With that in mind, a group of funders, including the Gill Foundation, the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, the Overbrook Foundation, and the Proteus Fund (as a convener), came together around the idea that pooling financial resources and sharing collective knowledge could lead to broader change. Subsequently, they agreed to test the waters as a funder collaborative for a few years to see whether same-sex marriage would continue to gain traction as an issue. In 2007, when Di Donato joined CMC, same-sex marriage was still at the top of the LGBT agenda and the collaborative's members were still deeply committed to supporting public education activities aimed at advancing that agenda.

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Weekend Link Roundup (July 4-5, 2015)

July 05, 2015

Grateful-dead-50th-anniversary-logo-stickerOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content from and about the social sector, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Civic Engagement

"Indicators of America’s flagging democratic engagement abound," writes Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation, in an op-ed on the Fox News site. And a key reason, says Merisotis, is that America is "losing its edge when it comes to talent – the knowledge, skills and values that lead to success in our lives and careers." What's more, the decline in talent not only serves as a drag on the economy, it affects the quality of our democracy. "Without opportunities to cultivate their talent," writes Merisotis, "Americans are left with few prospects to move up the economic ladder. That creates a sense of hopelessness and apathy, which in turn has a dampening effect on Americans’ willingness to vote and engage. And without such involvement, democracy’s power wanes."

Fundraising

"[T]apping into your network and empowering your people is how the [fundraising] magic happens (especially with big fundraising events like #GivingTuesday)," writes Caryn Stein, vice president for communications and content at Network for Good. And this year, she adds, there are "two things you absolutely must do for a truly successful #GivingTuesday campaign: 1) identify your team and 2) activate your community.  While you're at it, be sure to check out our Q&A with 92nd Street Y executive director Henry Timms, the "father of #GivingTuesday." 

Joanne Fitz is hosting the July Nonprofit Blog Carnival on her Nonprofit Charitable Orgs blog and is looking for posts on a topic of great interest to all nonprofit leaders: year-end fundraising. To be included in the final roundup, you have to have first published a post or article on your own blog. Then submit it by Saturday, July 25, to Joanne at nonprofitcarnival@gmail.com. Joanne will review all submissions and pick the best to feature in a round-up post on July 28. Good luck!

International Affairs/Development

Writing in the Huffington Post, Suzanne Skees looks at efforts by the Grameen Foundation to design disruptive mobile solutions "to the kind of poverty that's most challenging to reach, in remote rural areas, and to the poorest of the poor."

Nonprofits

On his Nonprofit Management blog, Eugene Fram shares some behavioral ways by which to assess whether or not a quality partnership exists between the board and CEO.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (June 2015)

July 01, 2015

Book reviews from two of our favorite contributors, a timely look at the future of community foundations from Silicon Valley Community Foundation president Emmett Carson, a thought-provoking post on the relationship between philanthropy and inequality by Foundation Center president Brad Smith, a cool infographic from CECP and the Conference Board, and great advice for nonprofits from Claire Axelrad and Bethany Lampland — all that and more helped make June the second-busiest month ever at PhilanTopic. Best of all, you've got a long holiday weekend to catch up on the good stuff you may have missed. Have a happy and safe Fourth!

Read, watched, or listened to anything lately that surprised or made you think? Share your find with others in the comments section below, or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

5 Questions for...Henry Timms, Executive Director, 92nd Street Y

June 30, 2015

#GivingTuesday was established in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y in New York City and the United Nations Foundation as a sort of corrective to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, two post-Thanksgiving "holidays" dedicated to spending and consuming. The idea, according to Henry Timms, executive director of the 92nd Street Y, was simple: "We were really just trying to say, look, everyone talks about the holiday season and the giving season, and we think there's space for the philanthropic community to make a statement, amongst all the consuming and buying, that giving is important, too."

PND recently spoke to Timms about a new report that provides an in-depth look at #GivingTuesday fundraising trends since 2012.

Headshot_henry_timms_cropPhilanthropy News Digest: A new analysis by Blackbaud shows double-digit year-over-year growth in #GivingTuesday donations for three years running. Is it your sense that the growth in donations is in addition to the usual giving that happens at the end of the year, or is it coming at the expense of traditional year-end giving?

Henry Timms: We haven't seen evidence of the latter. In fact, the data we have seen has been quite positive with respect to the additive value of #GivingTuesday, both in terms of gift size, which has been meaningful, and also from an overarching perspective. Our own #GivingTuesday campaign has been hugely beneficial in terms of additive donations. It would be naïve to suggest it doesn't happen, occasionally, but the overall trends are very positive. Steve MacLaughlin at Blackbaud has actually been very good on this topic and has written some really interesting pieces on how Americans think about giving, and one thing he talks about is that we do have this kind of default fear of scarcity in the nonprofit sector. It’s a kind of Oliver complex, where we tremble whenever we get up the nerve to ask for more. I wonder how healthy that is, especially this year, when we see first-half fundraising numbers coming in pretty bullish. It seems to me like it’s a good time to be asking for more. I was at an event in Westchester County recently, and someone there said to me, "You know what, I love #GivingTuesday because it gave me the confidence to ask, which is something I never had." Many of us recognize how important that permission is, and I think we need to encourage our colleagues in the field to ask more regularly. Not just on #GivingTuesday, but all year long.

PND: Was there anything in the Blackbaud study that surprised you?

HT: The finding which jumped out at me was mobile. Something like 17 percent of the online donation form views on #GivingTuesday were from mobile phones. But how many nonprofits are ready to accept mobile donations in a meaningful way? It's a wake-up call. If you've spent any time in Silicon Valley, you know that everyone is building for mobile. The same can't be said of the nonprofit sector, so I hope that finding starts to get people really thinking about mobile. I was also pleased to see a lot of smaller organizations report positive #GivingTuesday results, because one of the early criticisms of the campaign was that it would only work for large organizations. Generally speaking, the data in the Blackbaud study is quite interesting, and one of the many good things about #GivingTuesday is that, three years on, we have richer data and a lot more of it.

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Weekend Link Roundup (June 27-28, 2015)

June 28, 2015

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

Economy

"For young and old alike," a new poll suggests, "debt now looms as a major factor in setting their life course. An identical 38 percent of both young and older respondents said that in making decisions such as when to get married, buy a home, or have children, debt had affected their choices 'a great deal'. Nancy Cook, a correspondent for National Journal, reports for The Atlantic.

Fundraising

On the Nonprofit Marketing Blog, Jennifer Chandler, vice president and director of network support and knowledge sharing at the National Council of Nonprofits, shares some thoughts on how new rules issued by the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) could "make life less stressful for nonprofit fundraising professionals and development directors."

In a post on the Software Advice blog, Janna Finch, a market research associate at the firm, shares key findings from a report based on a recent survey of nonprofit event planners.

Giving

Is charitable giving really at a record high? On the CNBC website, Kelley Holland takes a closer look at the numbers.

Higher Education

Meredith Kolodner, a staff writer for the Hechinger Report, checks in with a deeply researched look at merit-based scholarship programs, which, studies show, "disproportionately benefit middle- and upper-income students and have little impact on college graduation rates.

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[Infographic] Impact Investing Opportunities

June 27, 2015

Impact investing is an activity "that aims to generate a specific social or environmental benefit in addition to financial gain." Previously the domain of institutional investors, over the last five years it has begun to attract the attention of foundations and high-net-worth individuals and, according to the team at Getting Smart, has powered a revolution in ed tech. In addition to outlining basic considerations for donors thinking about making an impact investment and listing ten education investment categories, our infographic of the week (courtesy of Getting Smart) includes a link to a paper (38 pages, PDF) that identifies twenty-five impact investment opportunities in K-12 education.

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[Review] 'Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change From the Cult of Technology'

June 26, 2015

Don't be fooled by the title of Kentaro Toyama's Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change From the Cult of Technology: this is not an iconoclastic anti-technology manifesto. Nor is it a paean to an idealized pre-digital age when social change was driven by "people in the street." Instead, as back-cover blurbs from both Bill Gates and William Easterly, the NYU economics professor whose book The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor excoriated the kind of "technocratic" global health interventions favored by the likes of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Geek Heresy presents a nuanced argument for a human-centric approach to development work that leverages, rather than relies on, technology to create change.

Cover_geek_heresyA "recovering technoholic," Toyama, co-founder of Microsoft Research India and now the W.K. Kellogg Associate Professor of Community Information at the University of Michigan, once believed fervently in the power of technology to solve a range of "social afflictions." Like many of his peers in the tech industry, he embraced the idea that digital technology and cleverly designed devices could improve failing schools, eliminate health disparities, and lift communities out of poverty. But his work in India and elsewhere soon disabused him of that notion, convincing him, instead, that technology's role in society, not to mention its many grave consequences, was widely misunderstood. He couldn't ignore the fact, for instance, that Microsoft Research India's pilot projects, though successful in well-funded, closely monitored demonstration schools, faltered when scaled to underfunded government schools — in part due to the lack of adequately trained teachers, engaged administrators, and tech support and infrastructure. In those situations, technology not only didn't improve things; it exacerbated existing problems and disadvantages.

This "Law of Amplification" is the crux of Toyama's argument. "[T]echnology"s primary effect," he writes, "is to amplify human forces...[and] magnify existing social forces" — another way of saying "the degree to which technology makes an impact depends on existing human capacities." While it isn't a novel idea, as the author himself admits, Toyama sees it as a useful framework for a discussion of how NGOs, development experts, and industry leaders can leverage technology more effectively to address poverty, educational disparities, and other development challenges.

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Restoring Eyesight: Leveraging Tech to Empower People

June 24, 2015

Wasty_steinberg_maguire_phillips_200.2Jadi Begum Bi lives in a small mud house near Sargodha, Pakistan. She may never meet Shakil Khan, a member of a displaced community near Syedpur, Bangladesh, or Raju Sharma, a laborer in Patna, India. They all have one thing in common, though: they had been blind for years, until their eyesight was restored and their lives transformed as part of RS Foundation's ocular procedures program.

A Canadian nonprofit organization, the RS Foundation has facilitated more than fourteen thousand procedures for men, women, and children over the past six years by funding local and international partners such as OBAT Helpers USA, Sightsavers in the UK, and the Seva Canada Society. Other organizations engaged in this work in a significant way include 20/20/20 (U.S.), the Fred Hollows Foundation (Australia), the Aravind Eye Care System (India), LRBT (Pakistan) and Unite for Sight, whose eye clinics have benefited 1.9 million patients in Ghana, Honduras, and India.

According to the World Health Organization, 60 percent of the estimated half a million children who go blind every year in developing countries will die in childhood. WHO further notes that restoring sight is the single most cost-effective health intervention in reducing global poverty. For the cost of dinner at an inexpensive restaurant, a poor, visually impaired individual can have their sight restored, regain the ability to work and provide for their family, and recover their lost dignity. Indeed, studies have found that eye surgery interventions in developing Asian and African countries "significantly increase personal consumption expenditure (PCE) among operated cases" and raise "productivity among vulnerable groups, in particular females, [the] elderly and those with the [least] economic opportunity."

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5 Questions for...Vic De Luca, President, Jesse Smith Noyes Foundation

June 23, 2015

The Jesse Smith Noyes Foundation was established in 1947 by Charles Noyes, a real estate developer in Manhattan, in honor of his wife, Jessie Smith, herself a women's suffrage and civil rights activist. Initially, Noyes set up the foundation to provide scholarships, with half earmarked for non-white students. In the 1990s, the family decided to change course and began to provide funding more directly to organizations working on issues in which they had an interest. Today, most of its support goes to grassroots organizations and movements in the United States working "to change environmental, social, economic, and political conditions to bring about a more just, equitable, and sustainable world."

Recently, PND chatted with Vic De Luca, who joined the foundation in 1991 and has been its president since 2000, about its donor-advised campaign, a new initiative aimed at convincing donors to make more timely allocations from their donor-advised funds.

Headshot_vic-de-lucaPhilanthropy News Digest: The Noyes Foundation recently launched a campaign around the timely distribution of monies from donor-advised funds. Why is the distribution of funds from DAFs suddenly an issue?

Vic De Luca: Donor-advised funds have been around a long time, administered in many cases by community foundations, but they started to become really popular among donors in the 1990s after mutual fund companies like Fidelity and Vanguard began to offer them, and by the early 2000s their popularity was off the charts. One of the reasons for their popularity is that contributions to a donor-advised fund qualify for an immediate tax deduction, while donors have complete say over how those tax-advantaged dollars are allocated. In other words, you're allowed to transfer funds from your own personal account at Fidelity or Vanguard to a public charity, and then at some point in the future you get to "advise" that public charity as to where those dollars should go. It's a simple process. You just contact the fund-holder, answer some questions, and make a contribution; it can be a one-time contribution, or you can choose to contribute on a regular basis. And you can make disbursements from the fund at any time, or not at all.

PND: What part of that equation does your campaign address?

VDL: We're not saying donor-advised funds are good or bad; we're saying the current system is broken, in that it allows an individual donor to take an immed­iate tax deduction but does not insist on a corresponding responsibility to put those dollars to work for public benefit in a timely fashion, which is something we'd like to see. We think donors should be encouraged to give, and what we're trying to do is to say to individuals who have donor-advised funds, "Look, you've made your contribution to this public charity, you've gotten your tax deduction, don't let that money sit there, let's put it to good use." We think the money sitting in donor-advised funds is an untapped resource that could and should be used to deal with some of the pressing problems of the day. And we can help donors who share our social justice concerns do that.

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How to Identify Prospects in a Small Shop

June 19, 2015

Prospect_research_HiResWhen it comes to identifying prospects, many otherwise intelligent people enter the world of the Sugar Plum Fairy. They figure that all they have to do is research individuals with a high net worth, determine an appropriate six-figure "ask," find out where these individuals live, and then track them down and request a gift. The Sugar Plum Fairy part is that these individuals will be delighted to have been stalked in this way and will make the gift. 

In fact, effective prospect research has to start with people to whom you have access: your own friends and family, your board members and their networks, your organization's current donors, and your donors' friends and family members. Many famous people might, in fact, be interested in your organization. But getting your message in front of them requires a messenger: someone you know has to know them. 

So, we start with who we know. Then we must determine: of the people we know, who gives money to charitable causes? In a typical year, about 70 percent of the adult population will make a donation to a nonprofit organization, so there's a better-than-average chance that the people we have access to are givers. That said, there is no point in asking someone for money who never gives. Once you've eliminated the people who never give, you have a list of prospects to research. And if you hang out with high-net-worth individuals who also happen to be generous donors, then you'll want to do more research on them and maybe eventually ask them if they'd be interested in supporting your organization.

When thinking about prospect research, keep the following in mind:

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[Review] 'The Social Profit Handbook: The Essential Guide to Setting Goals, Assessing Outcomes, and Achieving Success for Mission-Driven Organizations'

June 18, 2015

In his poem "i thank You God for most this amazing," e.e. cummings wrote that "now the ears of my ears awake and / now the eyes of my eyes are opened." It is precisely this sense of clarity that comes to mind when reading The Social Profit Handbook: The Essential Guide to Setting Goals, Assessing Outcomes, and Achieving Success for Mission-Driven Organizations (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2015) by David Grant, former president and CEO of the New Jersey-based Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

Cover_the_social_nonprofit_handbookAs Grant notes, the world of the twenty-first century increasingly is defined by metrics and data. The social sector is no exception, and calls for better and more timely measurement of its activities have become a feature of the landscape. Gone are the days when funders were content to let intuition and anecdotal evidence guide their funding choices. Donors today — both institutional and individual — are keen to move the needle on large, seemingly intractable societal and environmental challenges, and in attempting to do so they have become ever-more interested in data that can demonstrate the impact of the programs and organizations in which they have invested. As a long-time admirer and teacher of poetry and literature, Grant relishes the complexity of this brave new world and applies his nuanced perspective toward a keen assessment of what it means for the field. "Social profit," he writes, "is about desired social benefits, and so it has to be defined locally depending on what a community of people values and what they need. It will never have a fixed or standard measure, and efforts to create one will get bogged down in endless quibbles and conflict about measurement itself."

According to Grant, efforts to measure social impact are fraught with challenges with which the for-profit world does not have to contend. Trying to balance multiple bottom lines, for example, is necessarily more complex than having to worry about a single one, he notes, especially given the fact there is no single agreed-upon unit of "social profit." Rather than focus on quantitative measures, therefore, Grant emphasizes qualitative "formative assessment." While not ignoring quantitative performance measures, he favors "soft measurements" and argues that a true assessment of social profit demands "a combination of pertinent metrics and a qualitative description...that can only be created by the people who are providing and receiving it."

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Climate Action: A Catalyst for Change

June 17, 2015

Take_action-580x386The coming months promise to be the most hopeful yet in our long fight against global climate change.

President Obama is moving forward with a plan to clean up dirty power plants. The Clean Power Plan will do more to cut the dangerous carbon pollution that's driving climate chaos than any single step ever taken, and it will also spur tremendous innovation and create tens of thousands of clean energy jobs.

Elsewhere, Pope Francis is poised to issue a papal encyclical on our collective moral obligation to protect future generations from the dangers of climate change. And more than a hundred and ninety world leaders will gather in Paris later this year with the goal of taking concerted action to confront the climate crisis. In doing so, they will also be creating a more equitable, just, and sustainable future for our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

And yet, powerful forces, most notably the fossil fuel industry and its political allies, are prepared to do everything they can to derail this progress. Theirs is a simple agenda: put fossil fuel profits first — even if it puts the rest of us at risk.

In the two-year run-up to the midterm elections last November, the fossil fuel industry spent more than $720 million to support its agenda and its allies in Congress. They seem to be getting their money's worth. Republican leaders in the House and Senate have been pushing legislation meant to block the Clean Power Plan, while offering no alternative of their own to address climate change.

We can't let them get away with it.

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