Forty-five years after the first Earth Day in 1970, efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have stalled and the planet faces the potentially devastating effects of accelerating climate change. At the same time, calls for educational and philanthropic institutions to rid themselves of investments in fossil fuel companies have gotten louder and a grassroots divestment movement has emerged from college campuses across the country.
PND asked noted environmental activist and author Bill McKibben about the impact of the fossil fuel divestment movement, the role of philanthropy in the fight against climate change, and the prospect that something meaningful will come out of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris later this year.
Philanthropy News Digest: The name of the organization you co-founded, 350.org, refers to the goal of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from the current level of 400 parts per million to 350 ppm — a level, according to climatologist James Hansen and others, that is necessary to preserve conditions on Earth similar to those which prevailed as humans evolved and flourished. Where do things stand as of 2015? And do we have any chance of meeting the 350 ppm target?
Bill McKibben: Where we stand is the CO2 level in the atmosphere climbs 2 ppm annually — and the Arctic and the Antarctic are dealing with preposterous changes that even the most pessimistic scientists thought would take many decades to arrive, oceans are acidifying, and the cycle of floods and droughts is deepening. If we managed to get off fossil fuels with great haste — if we worked at the outer edge of the possible — then by 2100 forests and oceans would have sucked up enough carbon that we'd be moving back toward 350 ppm. Much damage would be done in the meantime, but perhaps not civilizational-scale damage. But that window is small, and closing.
PND: 350.org’s Fossil Free campaign aims to convince educational and religious institutions, governments, and other organizations that serve the public good to divest their investment portfolios of fossil fuel companies. One frequently heard criticism of the campaign is that it is trying to put out a fire with a garden hose. That is, getting a few dozen or hundred institutional investors to divest their portfolios of fossil fuels will have no measurable impact on the activities of large energy companies — or on other investors who may see an opportunity as those stocks are sold. What’s wrong with that argument?
BM: If it was all anyone was doing, it would not be enough, not even close. Of course, we're also fighting against new pipelines and coal mines, and for the rapid spread of renewable energy. But divestment is one of the things that knits it together — it's been the vehicle for spreading the news that these companies have four times the carbon in their reserves than any scientist thinks we can safely burn. That's why everyone, up to the president of the World Bank, has hailed divestment as a crucial part of the fight.
PND: Private foundations, including the two largest in the world, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK-based Wellcome Trust, have been the target of divestment campaigns mounted by a group here in the U.S. called Divest-Invest Philanthropy and, in the UK, by the left-leaning Guardian newspaper. Is divestment the best way for philanthropy to support action on the climate, or should it be doing something else?
BM: It doesn't preclude them from doing other things — indeed, since fossil-free portfolios are outperforming the broader market, it will give them more resources to do those things. But it is a necessary thing for them to do. Otherwise their investments will only work against their own programs, as dozens of top scientists have tried to tell Wellcome and Gates.
PND: A handful of leading conservation organizations, including the Nature Conservancy, argue that the best way to change the behavior and practices of large energy companies is to engage and make them partners in the fight against climate change. What is your response to that argument?
BM: It's not serious. There's no sign of any of these companies abandoning their core business models as a result of engagement; they’re only interested in more greenwashing. That became clear when the Rockefeller Brothers Fund divested in September 2014. They had worked for a decade to "engage" Exxon — which is the family company — and failed completely. I don't think it's actually what TNC is doing, but if it is, it's a bad idea.
PND: 350.org is known for a distributed, grassroots organizing model in which local campaigns are run by independent, loosely affiliated organizations. Is that kind of decentralized model the right model for a movement with such large ambitions? And will we see a meaningful climate change agreement come out of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris later this year?
BM: We’re focused on grassroots organizing because the fossil fuel industry is sprawling and protean, and we need to be as well. Call it the fossil fuel resistance — it's the fastest spreading movement on the planet, which is good, because this is the first truly global crisis.
We'll see a little more progress than we did in Copenhagen — because there is a movement now in various countries that is pushing leaders to act. But whatever happens in Paris is not going to solve the problem — it will be one small step along the way.
— Kyoko Uchida
Organized philanthropy in Mexico, as elsewhere in Latin America, is still in its nascent stages, and getting a handle on who is doing what and where can be difficult. To address the dearth of good information about philanthropy in Mexico, in 2013 Foundation Center partnered with Alternativas y Capacidades, a civil society organization that works to promote transparency and accountability in the Mexican philanthropic sector, and two other organizations to create Fondos a la Vista, a clearinghouse for information on civil society organizations in Mexico.
Recently, the Foundation Center's Marie DeAeth spoke with Claudia Nateria, the coordinator of the Fondos a la Vista project, about the some of the challenges confronting the Mexican philanthropic sector and the work her organization is doing to address those challenges.
Marie DeAeth: What are some of the significant features of the philanthropic sector in Mexico?
Claudia Natera: One significant feature is its size. When compared to other Latin American countries, the Mexican philanthropic sector is considerably smaller. For instance, Chile, Brazil, and Argentina have a higher number of nonprofit organizations relative to their populations. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía, or INEGI), there are around forty thousand civil society organizations (CSOs) in Mexico, although we do not have information on all of them. Only about seven thousand organizations are authorized as tax exempt by the Mexican Tax Administration Service (Servicio de Administración Tributaria, or SAT); there are twenty-four thousand other nonprofits that receive government funding. Keeping in mind that some organizations could appear on both registries at the same time, we have information on around twenty-seven thousand organizations. That means that there are approximately thirteen thousand nonprofit organizations that are operational, but the fact that they are not registered with SAT or the National Institute of Social Development (Instituto Nacional de Desarrollo Social, or INDESOL) makes it difficult to gather information about them.
Another challenge for philanthropy in Mexico is a lack of confidence on the part of society. A 2013 national survey showed that Mexicans are willing to help each other, with nearly eight out of ten saying they had made a charitable donation in the last year. However, only one out of ten did so through a civil society organization. That means Mexicans prefer to give money to people on the street than to a CSO. According to the survey, one of the main reasons for that is the distrust the average Mexican feels toward civil society organizations specifically and toward institutions in general. This lack of confidence is a serious challenge for the philanthropic sector in Mexico and one that we have to try to overcome through better transparency practices.
MD: What are some of the other challenges you face?
CN: In addition to a lack of confidence in the sector, one major challenge is the small number of grantmaking entities in Mexico. In Fondos a la Vista we've identified only about two hundred grantmakers focused solely on giving funds to other organizations. And most of those grantmakers do not provide money for capacity-building programs or initiatives. As a result, many nonprofits in Mexico struggle to secure funding, which weakens their ability to perform their work. The challenge for us is to create awareness in the Mexican grantmaking community about the importance of funding capacity-building projects as part of their social investment strategies, which would help them achieve greater social impact.
MD: Tell us a bit about your organization. What are some of your recent successes? And what are your plans for the future?
CN: Alternativas y Capacidades works to strengthen civil society organizations in Mexico, with a focus on four areas. First, we work with civil society organizations and engaged citizens to build advocacy skills that they can use to improve social policies in the country. Our second area of focus is our own advocacy work on behalf of better policies, laws, and a regulatory environment that recognizes the value of CSOs in Mexico. The third area is the work we do with private foundations, community foundations, companies, and international foundations to promote more strategic social investments in Mexico. Last but not least, in 2012, in partnership with Foundation Center, we launched Fondos a la Vista, a digital platform that displays the most complete information, including contact information, finances, and grants donated and received, about Mexican CSOs. The project aims to promote more self-regulation and transparency among Mexican CSOs as good practices that will inspire greater trust in the sector. The platform also is a useful tool for linking organizations to each other and promoting their work.
Our plans for 2015 include the development and launch of a micro site that hosts information about capacity-building organizations in Mexico as a free resource for CSOs.
MD: What is Alternativas y Capacidades' role in promoting greater accountability and transparency in the Mexican social sector?
CN: At Alternativas y Capacidades we believe that the promotion of clear, straightforward accountability practices is not the sole responsibility of government. Civil society has to play an active role in promoting transparency as part of our shared democratic values. Fondos a la Vista has adopted this mission as a means of strengthening the sector. We think these practices can not only boost the credibility of and instill trust in different stakeholders, but also lead to a higher level of cohesiveness among different groups in Mexican society. As of today, more than six hundred CSOs have created accounts in Fondos a la Vista to update their information, and some of them have shared their commitment to transparency with the motto: Ya estoy a la Vista.
To extend the reach of that message, we recently joined a national network of CSOs committed to transparency. This eventually will enable us to increase our impact, here in in Mexico and even abroad. In fact, over the last couple of months, some anti-corruption international organizations have let us know that they consider Fondos a la Vista a good example of transparency and self-regulation in Latin America.
MD: What are a couple of things your organization could use that you don’t have?
CN: We believe technology offers great advantages to CSOs. However, one of the challenges we struggle with is finding funders who will support the development of our technology-focused projects. Fondos a la Vista, for example, requires a lot of updating and isn't cheap to operate. For sure, we couldn't have built it without our partnership with Foundation Center, which assisted us in developing the search engine and recently helped us upgrade some of the other features of the site.
But we want to keep improving Fondos a la Vista, and we want to improve our technological skills and capabilities, for this and other projects. For example, we want to create a program focused on social investments that includes an evaluation mechanism for quantitative and qualitative follow-up on organizations' programmatic work. We also want to expand the opportunities we provide to the organizations we work with, while maintaining the respect we have earned over the last years and solidifying ourselves as the leading organization focused on social sector capacity building in Mexico.
Marie DeAeth is liaison for the Americas in the International Data Relations department at Foundation Center. In October, she interviewed Maria Carolina Suarez Visbal, executive director, Asociación de Fundaciones Empresariales (Association of Corporate and Family Foundations), an association of corporate and family foundations in Colombia, about AFE's efforts to promote accountability and encourage the sharing of best philanthropic practices among its members.
Indiana Business Journal reporter J.K. Wall looks at how Eli Lilly & Co. is shifting its corporate philanthropy from an approach focused on social responsibility to one that emphasizes "shared value."
In a post for the Evelyn & Walter Haas Jr. Fund, writer and consultant Cynthia Gibson asks whether organizations that work to foster a "culture of philanthropy," a mindset in which "fundraising is seen less as a transactional tactic and more of a way of operating," are more likely "to boost their giving levels and donor retention; strengthen trust, cooperation and engagement among board and staff members; and align mission and program goals more seamlessly with revenue generation." What do you think? Click on over to the Haas Fund site to share your thoughts.
Long admired for its no-tuition policy, Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in Manhattan began in 2014 to assess incoming freshman a tuition fee of $20,000 — a decision that led to student protests and media scrutiny of the school's financial dealings. Earlier this week, New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman launched an investigation of focused on the Cooper Union board's "management of the school's endowment; its handling of its major asset, the iconic Chrysler Building; its dealings with Tishman Speyer Properties, which manages the skyscraper; and how the school obtained a $175 million loan from MetLife using the building as collateral." New York Times writer James B. Stewart reports.
On the D5 Coalition blog, Ben Francisco Maulbeck, president of Funders for LGBTQ Issues, shares some thoughts about what foundations can do to support LGBT communities in the wake of the "religious freedom" bill signed into law by Indiana governor Mike Pence.
On the Global Dashboard blog, policy analyst and researcher David Steven looks at five ways co-facilitators have made the targets for the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals worse.
Neiman Lab's Justin Ellis has a nice summary of a new report from the Knight Foundation which finds that "more news organizations are creating ways to increase their revenue and expand their audience. The bad news: They’re still heavily reliant on grants and philanthropy — leaving outlets at the whim of a few foundations or wealthy individuals."
On the GuideStar blog, Caitlin Sislin, a strategic consultant to nonprofit organizations and philanthropies, explains why your organization should have a theory of change.
What can nonprofits learn from Animal Charity Evaluators, a nonprofit dedicated to identifying and promoting effective ways to improve the lives of animals? Quite a bit, argues Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther.
Writing in the Huffington Post, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich argues that "large corporations and Wall Street...[are] buying off nonprofits that used to be sources of investigation, information, and social change," even as other sources of funding are drying up.
In the spring issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, a lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and founder and board chair of the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, looks at four areas where technology has great potential to change philanthropy — and challenges individual donors and philanthropy professionals to embrace the advances it could bring.
On his Wise Philanthropy blog, Richard Marker reminds us that it's easier than ever for anyone to be a philanthropist.
Although economic growth "has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and improved the lives of many more over the last half-century...it is increasingly evident that a model of human development based on economic progress alone is incomplete," writes Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter on the Project Syndicate site. "A society which fails to address basic human needs, equip citizens to improve their quality of life, protect the environment, and provide opportunity for many of its citizens is not succeeding," Porter adds.
That's it for now. What have you been reading/watching/listening to? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or via the comments box below.
In 1823, a young French physician, Pierre Charles Alexandre Louis, published a controversial article urging doctors to compile, share, and study statistics about their patients. He said that by recognizing larger trends across a community, physicians could more effectively treat individual patients. One of Louis' findings, based on thousands of case histories and autopsies he conducted, was that the common practice of bloodletting was probably not a good idea.
Many of his colleagues initially disagreed, but it was hard to argue with Louis' numbers, and bloodletting soon fell out of favor. Meanwhile Louis' "numerical method," as he called it, expanded beyond specific treatment to include background information on patients – their ages, their jobs, where and how they lived – and laid the foundation for modern epidemiology and today's clinical trials.
Today an exponentially greater revolution in health information sharing is under way. New technology is offering everyone, not just health professionals, vastly more health-related data than we could have imagined even a few years ago. This new era of data, both big (populations) and small (individuals), offers remarkable opportunities to improve health, by helping to stop the twenty-first century equivalents to bloodletting – those unhealthy behaviors and unnecessary medical procedures that are draining our physical, mental, emotional, and economic well-being.
Our devices and electronic records are diligently gathering data about almost every aspect of our lives. Once people can get that data and cogently analyze it, they can turn it into information. That shared information can then become the basis for wisdom and, ideally, action to improve health. That's what is so exciting about the new report Data for Health: Learning What Works, produced by an independent advisory committee with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).
One of the most appealing aspects of the report is that it was based on listening – specifically, on a series of five "listening sessions" that the committee conducted across the country. Based on those sessions, the Data for Health Advisory Committee produced recommendations for specific ways that government, private business, nonprofits, and philanthropies can moved forward in helping people get, use, and share data to help us all stay healthy longer.
The "listening" behind the report's insights and ideas harkens back to Dr. Louis painstakingly interviewing patients for their medical histories, and reminds us that each bit of data represents a person. Every number is someone's father, mother, brother, sister, son, or daughter. Every number comes from a person who wants to make informed choices about their health, but often doesn't have the knowledge to do so.
I believe that, fundamentally, data is all about helping people find new opportunities to pursue optimal health and participate in their own care. That means promoting ways to get, use, and share information about themselves easily and securely.
We need new and better ways to empower people to provide health-related information about themselves without giving up their privacy or security. We should help people understand, through statistics, how they can be more responsible for themselves and their families, and more accountable to their communities.
To help people begin to use their data, we need more bridges between researchers, developers, investors, health care providers, data entrepreneurs, and patients. Apple's new ResearchKit, announced along with the new Apple watch, includes apps developed by Sage Bionetworks (with funding from RWJF) that allows people to easily and securely share their data with researchers, which should speed up medical knowledge and action. Perhaps the most important data bridges will be between people sharing information about themselves, not only from their FitBits and UPs but in person, in ways that will benefit not only their own health, but that of the people around them.
When teenagers in San Diego make sure their friends don't get sunburned, when retirees in Omaha prod each other to walk a couple of hills every day, when joggers trade tips about the best running trails – it's all about sharing information. That, in turn, will help to accomplish RWJF's own mission – to build a Culture of Health where every person can live the healthiest life possible, no matter where they live, learn, work, or play.
Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, is president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation's largest foundation dedicated to improving health.
They are communities which nurtured many of us and to which many of us return when we want to recharge and reconnect. The fact that they are rural and removed from the economic dynamism driving the revitalization of urban areas across the country also means they often lack the capital – financial and human – needed to improve the circumstances of people who call them home. That organized philanthropy, like much of corporate America, finds it relatively easy to overlook such communities further complicates the situation.
One foundation looking to change that dynamic is the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, a philanthropy established in 1946 by Kate Gertrude Bitting Reynolds, the wife of William Neal Reynolds, chairman of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, to improve the health and wellness of low-income residents of North Carolina. In March, PND spoke with Karen McNeil-Miller, the trust’s president, about Healthy Places North Carolina, a new place-based initiative focused on rural areas of the state.
Karen McNeil-Miller: Well, for us, almost everything. For instance, we're not leading with money, which is a huge thing. We're not going into these communities saying, "Here's our agenda, apply for a grant." We're going into these communities and, essentially, are trying to help them organize themselves. In a way, we're leading from behind instead of leading from in front. The trust is deferring its goals to the goals of the community; we want the community to determine what it needs or what it would like to change, and then we'll bring our resources to bear to help them achieve those goals.
PND: Beyond a lack of resources, what are some of the challenges unique to rural communities that you aim to address through the initiative?
KMM: Well, one of the things we want to address is the building of human capacity. These days, it's hard to get folks to move to rural communities, which means if you want to help these communities thrive, you have to build the leadership capacity of the people who are already there.
We also want to help them, where we can, with access to care. In so many rural communities, you may have a primary care physician or two, but hospitals and specialty care are much less common. So, through the initiative, we've been helping community-based organizations invest in tele-health infrastructure, whether it's tele-psychology, or tele-therapy, or even tele-osteopathic medicine.
Of course, one of the most plentiful assets in rural communities is land. So helping communities make the best use of their land assets, whether it's through building an amenity like a playground, or bike or walking trails, or any of the other things that make communities more livable and healthy, is something we're interested in.
What's harder to address is job creation. But if we can help local people see the connection between physical and mental health and economic health and help them build their capacity to partner with local government to create the kinds of amenities that help attract jobs and improve quality of life for everyone, that will be big. We want everybody to start thinking that health is their business, not just the purview of healthcare institutions. It's about broadening the conversation to people who don't normally see themselves in the health business, to people in law enforcement, to people in the educational system, to business and industry, and bringing them all together to talk about what they can do to make their community the healthiest community possible.
"[T]he stories of individuals, communities and organizations who are working to help... transform [Detroit] street by street — in small and much larger ways — are often overlooked," writes Frances Kunreuther, co-director of the Building Movement Project, on the Transformations blog. In contrast, Detroiters who are working at the neighborhood level "know that the real promise of urban transformation comes not from the outside in, but from the inside out — building a new city from the bottom up."
The debate in Congress over reauthorization of "No Child Left Behind," former President George W. Bush's signature education initiative, is a useful reminder, writes Diane Ravitch in the New York Review of Books, that "[p]overty is the major obstacle to equal education. To overcome that obstacle requires not only investing greater resources in the education of poor children, but creating economic opportunity and jobs for their parents."
In the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Michael Anft reports on research which shows "the charity world lacks a basic understanding of how donors' brains work, how would-be donors behave in certain situations, and what incentives can successfully woo them."
NPR reports that the dramatic shift in fundraising engendered by social media -- think Movember, the Ice Bucket Challenge, and Giving Tuesday -- is putting pressure on large national nonprofits to rethink their walk-related events.
We all know that grants are awarded in response to submitted proposals — not the draft sitting on your desk but the one you actually get out the door. Sounds simple, doesn't it? If you're spending too much time writing, editing and fine-tuning your proposals, you won't get them in front of the decision makers at foundations — or at least not enough of them to bring in the significant dollars you could be raising. That's why my "top tip" for bringing in more funding is to spend more time asking and less time writing.
But getting more proposals out the door isn't a strategy in and of itself. Effective fundraisers need to determine the correct amount to ask for from foundations that care about what they do, and then work to build connections with those funders over time.
To that end, here are my top five strategies for streamlining your fundraising program and ensuring that you spend your time as effectively and efficiently as possible:
With 2015 in full swing, we are pleased to share with you the McKnight Foundation's new Strategic Framework, updated and refreshed for 2015-2017. This is the second iteration of this important document, the first of which was developed in 2011 and implemented for 2012-14. We got good mileage out of our inaugural framework during the first three years, and we are excited to put the new one — a slightly streamlined model which retains the parts that worked well and revises those that needed tuning up — to use during the next three.
McKnight's Strategic Framework is very much a living document, which — like our work — must evolve in response to a changing environment if it is going to remain useful and relevant. We intentionally took an open and collaborative approach to the updating process, inviting input from stakeholders connected to McKnight's mission at all levels. Naturally, our board and staff were highly engaged; but we took a further step this time around, turning to our network of grantees, peers, and other partners for ideas on mapping our strategic course based on their unique contexts.
I want to thank everyone who responded to my earlier blog post inviting input as we updated the previous framework. It was gratifying to hear affirmations of McKnight's embrace of adaptive action in addressing complex challenges and changing external conditions. There were also comments specific to individual program areas and suggestions for new issues we should consider, all of which were shared with relevant staff. I also heard from several foundation and nonprofit colleagues that they had used the framework format for their own reflection and planning efforts. Thank you for contributing to our process; your input helped make the final product relevant and useful to us, our peers, and our partners.
Soft breezes and the hint of warm earth. The season's first daffodils signaling all clear. A fond "see ya next year" to the winter coat that kept hypothermia at bay. April Fools! But don't despair. Our most popular reads of March will inform and delight as you wait for the real thing to arrive....
What have you read/watched/listened to lately that made you think? Share your finds in the comments section below, or drop us a line at email@example.com.
On the Rockefeller Foundation blog, Zia Khan, the foundation's vice president for initiatives and strategy, shares four "counter-intuitive lessons" about cross-sector collaboration.
On the Markets for Good blog, Bill Anderson, technical lead for the Secretariat of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), examines the potential for a people-based data revolution across Africa.
50CAN, a network of local education advocates "learning from and supporting each other," has launched a new blog called The Catalyst to help local education leaders develop policy goals, craft their advocacy plans, and secure lasting change.
On the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation blog, Cari Schneider, director of research and policy for Getting Smart, suggests that one of the least appreciated barriers to effective education reform is definitional in nature.
Why do people give to charity? The Guardian explains.
While people of color in the United States account for nearly half – 48 percent – of the total student population, leadership in nonprofit education organizations doesn't mirror this demographic fact. In a recent survey, From Intention to Action: Building Diverse Leadership Teams in Education to Deepen Impact, Koya Leadership Partners and Education Pioneers found that at the director level within education nonprofits, only 39 percent of leaders are people of color. At the vice president level, the number dips to 18 percent. At the CEO level, 25 percent of leaders are people of color.
Through our collective research, we concluded that while most nonprofits have the right intentions when it comes to diversity and inclusion, many don't have practices in place to build and retain diverse leadership teams.
The absence of tools for ensuring "fit," a lack of retention initiatives that support employee and career growth, and not enough time spent building strategic partnerships that help attract candidates of color are leading to a less diverse workforce and to poor hiring decisions across the board.
Among other things, our survey found that nonprofits often put too much focus on recruiting, rather than investing in, diversity at the leadership level. While recruiting is necessary to bring talent into an organization, a healthy organizational culture depends on leadership development from within. Without it, nonprofits – including education nonprofits – can expect to continue to experience high turnover.
Dr. Rupert Graf Strachwitz is director of the Berlin-based Maecenata Institute for Philanthropy and Civil Society, an independent academic center established in 1997. A political scientist and historian and the son of a German diplomat and English writer, Graf Strachwitz chaired the German Advisory Council on Global Change from 1995 to 2001 and has been a contributor to the Johns Hopkins Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project since 1990. He was interviewed by Emily Keller, international data relations liaison at Foundation Center.
Emily Keller: What is unique about German philanthropy?
Rupert Graf Strachwitz: The huge diversity in function, size, operating methods, governance, and vision is arguably the most unique feature of the German philanthropic sector. A uniform foundation model does not exist in Germany, nor do German foundations conform to an international model.
EK: How would you describe the philanthropic sector in Germany?
RGS: The German philanthropic sector looks back on a very long history. The oldest foundations still in existence probably go back to the first millenium. The greater part of these foundations were connected to the established churches. People donated funds, real estate, building materials, and time, and engaged artists to build, embellish, restore, and maintain church buildings. An estimated fifty thousand of these foundations still exist under the auspices of the established churches, plus an additional fifty thousand that serve immediate church purposes. Through the many political upheavals and changes that have marked German history, these institutions survived.
Secular foundations in Germany also have a long history that goes as far back as the Middle Ages. Approximately two hundred and fifty of these remain and many of them are more than five hundred years old. Some had a single donor back in the day, while others were started by what we would call crowdfunding efforts today. They operated hospitals, hospices, and other related business, and made grants in support of universities, schools, and other institutions.
Due to this complex history, German foundations still perform four distinct functions, with larger foundations quite regularly performing more than one: ownership, by which I mean not holding assets but fulfilling their purpose through the exercise of ownership rights; operational; grantmaking; and supporting individuals in need.
In recent years, major grantmaking foundations have tried — successfully, in most cases — to become more operational by managing their own programs and/or institutions. Most of our nongovernmental universities, a new phenomenon, are owned and operated by foundations.
Another important aspect of the German philanthropic sector is the fact that philanthropic institutions come in a variety of legal forms. Besides a special form of legal entity described in the Civil Code that is remarkable for not having outside owners or being subject to a specific form of government regulation, foundations may exist as trusts without legal personality, limited companies (gemeinnuetzige GmbH), or foundations under public law, which are arms-length components of government. The latter includes philanthropic foundations as well as private benefit or family foundations.
Public benefit foundations in many cases are not created and endowed by private citizens but by corporations, membership organizations, government bodies, and, more recently, even other foundations. The common denominator among them is their adherence to the founder's intent in perpetuity.
Unlike many other countries, German philanthropic institutions are not restricted in their choice of assets, with the exception of particularly risky ones. Some of Germany's major foundations are sole or majority shareholders of major corporations. Others may own and manage agricultural and forestry businesses, vineyards, publishing enterprises, or other non-related businesses.
About half of all the foundations in Germany today were created in the past fifteen years, with a significant number also having been created in the 1990s. That first wave followed the extinction of a large number of foundations which faced the loss of their assets in the hyperinflation after World War I, having been required by law to invest in government bonds.
When Foundation Center was developing Foundation Maps, a platform through which users can explore the world of philanthropy, our staff met with dozens of potential end users. My colleagues connected with foundations, funder networks, philanthropy consultants, and nonprofits — on their home turf, whenever possible — to better understand how they do their work. The goal was to spark ideas for how we could create tools to make their jobs easier. Just as a site visit brings a grantee’s work to life for funders, these user experience (UX) interviews enabled our geographers, programmers, and web designers to deepen their understanding of your needs and envision new possibilities.
Our process can be summed up in three words. Listen. Improve. Repeat.
Listen: We synthesized what we heard from our UX investigation and channeled it into the first iteration of the Foundation Maps application. Features were developed to help target audiences meet their core needs: scanning (funders), member support (funder networks), client service (consultants), and fundraising (nonprofits). We launched Foundation Maps with the ability to visualize funder, recipient, and grant data through a variety of filters with map and list views. The Professional version added even more sophisticated features, including trend charts, demographic overlays, and something we named Pathways (philanthropy's version of the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game).
Improve: In our view, a platform like Foundation Maps is never finished; we're constantly striving to make enhancements. To keep it fresh, Foundation Center cleans, codes, and adds new data to the platform every week. We keep a running list of user needs that informs future improvements. We just introduced a free trial with a quick feedback survey. And we plan to keep sharing what we're learning in a free webinar series to be held on the first Wednesday of each month, starting April 1.
Repeat: Meanwhile, suggestions from our original UX interviews continue to inform our development work. For example, we learned there's a critical need to quickly and easily see what funding is happening at the local level, and that has served as guidepost for us, informing our Get on the Map campaign with the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers. Iterating on this need also led us to create a series of new features for the just-released Foundation Maps Professional 2.0:
When it comes to knowledge services, we're going to keep listening to our users, keep striving to improve those services, and keep repeating the process. That's how we learn, and how we can help you visualize the world of philanthropy.
Lisa Philp is vice president for strategic philanthropy at Foundation Center.
More than forty years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a woman's right to have an abortion in Roe v. Wade, a number of states have passed laws designed to restrict women's access to reproductive health services, including emergency contraception and abortion. In Congress, meanwhile, the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding of abortion services in most cases and has routinely been attached as a "rider" to annual appropriations bills for the Department of Health and Human Services, recently was attached to the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act — a bill designed to protect citizens or permanent residents of the United States who have been trafficked and/or sexually assaulted or abused.
We asked Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, a global human rights organization that uses constitutional and international law to secure women's reproductive freedom, about these legislative trends, efforts to push back against them, and the road ahead.
Philanthropy News Digest: Your organization recently launched a campaign, "The War on Women Is Over! If You Want It," that was inspired by Yoko Ono and John Lennon's 1970 "War Is Over" campaign. What are the goals of the campaign, and what kind of response has it generated?
Nancy Northup: We launched the campaign on the forty-second anniversary of the historic Roe v. Wade decision with the goal of inspiring current activists engaging and educating new audiences about the profound threats to women's freedom here in the United States. We're thrilled with the support we have received so far, from men and women across the country. Celebrities like Taylor Schilling, Susan Sarandon, Martha Plimpton, John Lithgow and Yoko Ono herself have all thrown their weight behind this campaign, and we couldn't be more grateful.
We were inspired by the power and history of Yoko Ono and John Lennon's 1970 "War Is Over" peace movement, which brought together thousands of anti-war activists across the country and unified them behind a simple message. And we are incredibly fortunate and grateful to have the personal blessing of Yoko Ono as we go forward with the campaign.
PND: The inclusion of the qualifier "If You Want It" would seem to suggest that society — women and men — have become complacent about women's reproductive freedom in the decades since Roe v. Wade. Why is that?
NN: There are countless dedicated people — clinic escorts, providers, doctors, lawyers, youth activists, researchers, elected officials, writers, volunteers, and donors — actively engaged in the fight for women's reproductive freedom. The vast majority of Americans support women's access to safe and legal abortion as part of a full range of reproductive health care. But the anti-choice community has waged a successful propaganda war, based on fear and misinformation, to marginalize the seven in ten Americans who want to see Roe v. Wade upheld, and that has made people feel alone and reluctant to speak up. This campaign is about giving the silent members of our majority an opportunity to make themselves seen and heard.
Cold winter, wasn't it? Well, yes, if you were on the East Coast of the United States. Not so much everywhere else.
According to Equities.com, the Guardian has launched a campaign to encourage the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK-based Wellcome Trust, the two largest funders of nongovernmental medical and scientific research in the world, to divest their portfolios of investments in fossil fuel companies. "We have to confront our own inconsistencies," said Professor Chris Rapley, former director of the Science Museum in London. "Either [Gates and the Trust] accept the argument that we need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels or they don't. It's highly symbolic when charities like this make a stand."
On the Gates Foundation's Impatient Optimists blog, Allan Golston, president of the foundation's U.S. program, argues that annual, comprehensive education data is vital to ensuring that all students have access to a quality education.
In the Washington Post, Kevin Sullivan and Rosalind Helderman offer a closer look at how Bill and Hillary Clinton's charitable work in Haiti has both succeeded and failed.
On the NCRP blog, Britt Yamamoto, executive director of iLEAP, a nonprofit organization that works to inspire and renew social leaders, shares some key takeaways from the NCRP report Cultivating Nonprofit Leadership: A (Missed?) Philanthropic Opportunity.
The future of innovation in the social sector is...general operating support, writes Jocelyn Wyatt, executive director of IDEO, on the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog.
Boston-based venture capitalist Todd Dagres is a fan of Shark Tank, the ABC business-pitch reality show, and according to the Boston Globe's Sacha Pfeiffer, he's looking to create a competition modeled on the show where "[e]arly-stage not-for-profit organizations could pitch their missions to investors, who would vet them on their plans and fund those they consider most promising."
This week's infographic, courtesy of the Horatio Alger Association, a nonprofit educational organization "established in 1947 to dispel the mounting belief among the nation's youth that the American dream was no longer attainable," doesn't break any ground when it comes to the traits that make nonprofits great. These are things all nonprofits need to (rather than should) do if they hope to succeed over the long term. But while some (#4, #6 and #9) are more important than others, all contain at least a kernel of good advice....
In my last post, I suggested that the shared interests of nonprofits and design firms make us ideal collaborative partners. One of our readers, Emily, added a valuable perspective, commenting that trust was an essential element of the client/design firm relationship because while those who work at design firms and at nonprofits may have shared goals and values, we often have different experiences and vocabularies.
Emily's comment made me think about how, in my experience, communication often is the biggest impediment to a productive client/design firm relationship. It also underscored the importance of discussing the dynamics of the client/design firm relationship before exploring the nuances of the design process itself.
In other words, what do clients and design firms want and expect from each other? And what can we do to ensure that those needs and expectations are met?
Process Makes Perfect
For clients in any consultative relationship, it can be unsettling to work on an important project while navigating unfamiliar territory. You've got a lot invested professionally, financially, and emotionally. You have a sense of where you'd like to go, but only a basic understanding of how to get there. And to get there, you have to depend on people you only recently met.
This dynamic highlights a truism: when it comes to design, process is far more important than results. Process enables us to more consistently create effective solutions, embrace the unknown, and blend a wide range of skills and disciplines (especially if you accept Herbert Simon's definition of "design" I shared) in my last post. Structured effectively, process turns design into an inclusive endeavor by inviting participants from both sides of the client/design firm divide to set expectations, establish benchmarks, and work toward a common goal.
At my firm, process is as collaborative as the work we produce. We are continuously evaluating it, getting feedback from clients, discussing it internally, and evolving how we work – all with the goal of creating the best possible experience and the best possible results. Given the complexities and competing interests inherent in collaborative design, that is no small task!
The Convergence of Business and Design
Used to be that design and business professionals operated in silos, with designers brought in at the end of a process to execute other people's ideas. Over the last twenty years or so, however, "design" has become an integral part of the business lexicon. Clients expect to be part of the process, and designers want (and often expect) a seat at the table when strategy is being developed. This new, more collaborative "co-design" model offers great advantages. It can also bring its fair share of challenges, as individuals with shared goals but different experiences, vocabularies, and expectations are asked to work together to design solutions to complex problems.
An effective process with clearly defined phases can help strengthen this collaboration. Process, however, is only one part of the equation; for it to work, everyone must respect and be mindful of everyone else's goals and priorities.
Rules of Engagement
To help foster this kind of open, collaborative dynamic, we at MSDS have made the following principles the cornerstones of our design process. We live by them, and we look to build relationships with clients that encourage them to do the same.
As the United Nations' Commission on the Status of Women meets this month to highlight progress in advancing gender equality, the status of women and girls worldwide continues to be the focus of media coverage, reports, and social media campaigns. But despite progress in areas such as access to education and health care, global statistics for domestic violence continue to alarm: Nearly 33 percent of women in high-income countries, 46 percent of women in Africa, and 41 percent of women in South and Southeast Asia say they have suffered physical or sexual violence, while only 14 percent of cases are reported to the police and the majority of victims do not seek support services.
Recently, PND spoke with Virginia Witt, co-founder and director of NO MORE, a public awareness and engagement campaign supported by an alliance of foundations, nonprofit organizations, and corporations, about efforts to end domestic violence and sexual assault in the United States and globally. Witt has served as a senior executive in a variety of nonprofit and philanthropic organizations, leading strategic initiatives and public awareness campaigns to advance public health, education, and social justice issues.
Philanthropy News Digest: According to a recent report from the United Nations, 35 percent of women worldwide are estimated to have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence — with higher rates in many lower-income countries. What is the connection between violence against women and poverty?
Virginia Witt: Violence against women definitely was an urgent topic at the United Nations Beijing +20 Summit last week, as it should be every week. The UN statistics are very telling in terms of the magnitude of the problem, and we have seen commitments to address the issue building around the world. In many societies, women are not on an equal footing with men, and we know there is a strong connection between violence against women, gender inequality, and poverty. At NO MORE, however, we recognize that domestic violence and sexual assault go beyond gender, culture, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status, and that economic empowerment is a crucial piece of the puzzle.
PND: According to the UN report, a "major obstacle to ending violence against women is the persistence of discriminatory attitudes and social norms that normalize and permit violence." To what extent do you think awareness-raising campaigns like NO MORE can make a measurable difference in changing such attitudes?
VW: We know from our own research that simply starting a conversation about these issues can make it easier to help someone. There is so much silence, shame, and stigma attached to domestic violence and sexual assault. When survivors see the conversation opening up, they feel more comfortable about coming forward and seeking help. On our NO MORE Gallery, thousands have come forward — many of them survivors who are sharing their stories for the first time — to say "NO MORE" to domestic violence and sexual assault. NO MORE is a platform for survivors and bystanders to speak out, to feel supported, to feel empowered. We saw with HIV/AIDS that awareness efforts broke down the stigma around the disease over time and opened up new opportunities for those working at the community level to help those affected by the disease. We’re starting to see the same shift happening around domestic violence and sexual assault.
Like siblings separated at birth, nonprofits and design firms are connected by a common bond: to understand the world around us and to create new ways to make it better, more rewarding, and more meaningful. We do this, usually, not for ourselves, but for the satisfaction we get from helping others.
Nonprofits bring passion, dedication, and expertise to the often complex problems they are trying to solve. Design firms bring a similar passion, dedication, and expertise to the work of designing experiences. While the specifics of what we do and the way we do it may be different, at our cores nonprofits and design firms share similar values and a commitment to the greater good.
What makes being part of a firm that works with nonprofits so rewarding is that every day I have the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from experts in different fields who are hard at work addressing some of the world's greatest challenges. It's like earning a post-graduate degree in "How the World Works." Even better, I get to take this continuous learning and apply the skills I've acquired over the course of my career to collaborate on meaningful work that helps nonprofits make a difference.
For those with whom we collaborate, a firm like ours offers an equally deep reservoir of expertise — expertise that can help them turn their missions, research, and programs into brand experiences that connect people to big ideas — and each other. We also bring a fresh set of eyes and ears, providing a valuable outside perspective on how effectively an organization's messaging resonates with its target audiences.
A Shared Mission & Vision
If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that the key to a successful partnership between a client and a design firm is that both parties must engage in the spirit of active listening and share a commitment to both learn from, and educate, each other. Whether we're working with nonprofit clients who are well versed in the principles of design or relative novices, the best partnerships hinge on whether, and how much, everyone is committed to establishing a relationship based on trust, respect, and a shared vision. You simply cannot produce effective work without it. What's also needed is a commitment to always doing what's best for the work — which means a willingness to challenge the ideas of others, to have your own ideas challenged, and to check assumptions and preconceived notions at the door.
If you're a small foundation aiming to achieve greater philanthropic impact, how can transparency be a tool? At the JRS Biodiversity Foundation, we're using it to drive impact through better project management and improved grantee relationships: transparency for adaptability rather than accountability.
Open access to biodiversity information to benefit nature and society is our mission. The principle that data access enables change applies to philanthropy as well as conservation and aligns well with our foundation strategy and culture. And transparency underlies a number of our practices, including customized progress and financial reports, detailed report reviews, amended grant agreements and plans, and regularly updated project Web pages.
From the first steps in the grant application process through the final grant report, we try to model and achieve openness and accessibility. An important moment for new grantee relationships is an orientation video-conference that introduces our approach to managing the funded project. We use the call and future communications to promote the continued refinement of thoughtful qualitative and quantitative indicators that can lighten a grantee's reporting burden and allow us to collaboratively identify areas where plans need to change. Then, during the project, we regularly remind project directors that the plan made months or years earlier to win our funds was merely the starting point; they need to execute on the plan to meet their stated goals today, and that requires flexibility on their part – and ours. When a grantee is transparent about something that has gone wrong, we'll help them revise their budget and plan to do what makes sense based on the changed circumstance. Rose-colored reporting and rigid grant agreements don't serve anybody well, while candor in the grantee-funder relationship keeps small challenges from becoming big problems. We also try to keep a promise to our partners to match our attention to milestones and metrics with our enthusiasm to adapt to emergent challenges and opportunities.
I spend a significant amount of time talking with donors about the things organization and causes do (or should be doing) to attract and engage them. That doesn't mean I don't have colleagues and friends on the for-profit side of the fence. In fact, that's where I get a lot of my ideas.
At the meetings and cocktail parties where I run into those colleagues and friends, I hear a two-word phrase over and over again. That phrase is customer journey – the idea that every point of contact between a company and its customers is important and should flow organically from one point to the next. As they explain it, it starts with a customer's first glimmer of interest in a product or service and extends to the point of purchase. But it doesn't end there; the journey continues as long as the customer remains engaged with your brand.
The same dynamic exists in the cause world. We just don't realize it.
It's time we did. It's time to focus on the donor journey – on how donors interact with your cause, from the moment you manage to get their attention to the call to action that leads to a gift – and beyond.
"But, Derrick," I can hear you ask, "why the change in terminology? Isn't donor journey just another term for stewardship?"
Yes and no. You can't expect a person to support your cause or organization if you don't ask them. But asking is no guarantee that support will follow, and it's not the same thing as inviting someone to take a journey with you.
"For years, punitive policies...have conspired to reinforce injustice and inequality [in America]. Together, they have produced an overrepresentation of people of color in our prisons and jails. Today, more African Americans are part of the criminal justice system than were enslaved on the eve of the Civil War," writes Ford Foundation president Darren Walker in an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee. Walker goes on to mention some of the things Ford is doing to bring change to the criminal justice system and urges policy makers and his colleagues in philanthropy to do more to address the root causes and systemic issues that contribute to the shameful pattern of mass incarceration in the U.S.
In the Washington Post, Lyndsey Layton reports that New Jersey governor Chris Christie's plan to remake the Newark public school system with the help of a $100 million investment from Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has run aground.
In a post on LinkedIn, Wounded Warrior Project CEO Steve Nardizzi applauds the Humane Society of the United States' suit against Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt, who, according to Nardizzi, "has waged a public war against the HSUS, accusing the organization of exorbitant fundraising costs for misleading solicitations and untruthful advertisements."
Writing in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Jim Thaden, executive director of the Central Asia Institute, offers a staunch defense of the organization's decision not to fire co-founder Greg Mortenson after a 60 Minutes segment in 2011 questioned many of the "facts" in Mortenson's best-selling 2006 memoir Three Cups of Tea and raised questions about the organization's finances.
"Impact investing advocates can sometimes give the impression that they have 'outsmarted poverty' (and other societal problems)," writes Alex Counts, president and CEO of the Grameen Foundation, on the Center for Financial Inclusion blog. But "[i]t is important to remember that few if any social innovations besides microfinance have proven capable of reaching large scale and generating consistent profits – which should give people pause before they create a new impact investing 'bubble'."
David Barash, an emergency room physician, joined the GE family in 2010 as chief medical officer of the Life Care Solutions business, a division of GE Healthcare known for its technological innovation, and moved to the GE Foundation, which he serves as the chief medical officer and executive director of the health portfolio, in 2013.
Philanthropy News Digest recently recently spoke with Barash about the foundation’s global initiatives and plans for 2015.
Philanthropy News Digest: Over the past few years, the GE Foundation has earmarked a significant portion of its resources for Africa, with a focus on children and mothers. How did that programmatic focus come about?
David Barash: We started thinking about what we could do programmatically in Africa about ten years ago. Initially, the Africa Project was limited to in-kind donations of equipment. We soon realized, however, that simply donating equipment is a flawed strategy if you don't have people on the ground who can use and maintain that equipment. So we re-evaluated what we were doing and determined that our goals were really to help drive capacity building and strengthening public health systems in the region.
With that in mind, the two pillars of our grantmaking in Africa today are Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5, Reducing Child Mortality and Improving Maternal Health, and Safe Surgery in low resource settings — seeing what can we do to help provide safe surgical environments, primarily for pregnant mothers, but also for accident and trauma victims.
GE is known for is its lean Six Sigma approach and change acceleration process, what we call our CAP program. In working with health clinics here in the United States, for example, our teams are invited in to work with the clinic leaders, look at what is needed, ask clinic staff what they need, and provide the type of training GE leaders and executives get. In most cases, it's about the change process: here's what you can change, here's how we would suggest doing it, here are the things you need to look out for. We work alongside clinical staff to help them get where they want to go.
We use the same principles in sub-Saharan Africa, where hundreds of women die every day as a result of complications from pregnancy. A lot of those mothers are dying because there is limited access to safe anesthesia, which reduces the availability and increases the risk of C-section. One of our communities is Kisumu, in western Kenya, which before we got there had no anesthesiologists for a population of five hundred thousand people. We saw that and thought, "What if we can offer a simple intervention? What if we train nurses to deliver anesthesia independently of a physician or anesthesiologist?" If we trained X number of nurses, they could handle Y number of cases a day. Of course, there are other issues: you need to have operating rooms, you need to have clean water, oxygen — some of which we're delivering. But right now, without anesthesia, women are dying.
We had heard about Dr. Mark Newton, a physician from the U.S. who has been working at Kijabe Hospital, north of Nairobi, for fifteen years, training nurses to be nurse-anesthetists. He's been very successful and has been able to deliver extraordinary services and safe surgery in a very resource-poor setting. In a partnership with the Kenyan Ministry of Health, Dr. Newton and Kijabe Hospital, our local partner the Center for Public Health and Development, Assist International, and Vanderbilt University, we have established a robust program to train forty nurse anesthetists for Kisumu County.
PND: Jumping to the other side of the continent, the foundation provided $2 million to Partners In Health to address needs related to the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. Had you been active in West Africa prior to the outbreak?
DB: We have a significant presence in Nigeria and some in Ghana, but we have limited programs in the three countries most affected by the Ebola outbreak. However, as the news from the region grew dire, we started thinking about what we might do, and I asked our board to look carefully at the potential impact Ebola could have — not just on Africa, but on the global economy. Quite frankly, looking at what we could do to help those underresourced countries was the right thing to do and led directly to our commitment to Partners In Health.
We also looked at other ways we could help. For example, we established what we call the Ebola Business Response Team, which is looking at how GE businesses can have impact beyond just the cash contribution we’re making to Partners In Health. GE Healthcare is looking at what equipment might be useful, not only in the response to the current outbreak but in terms of strengthening public health infrastructure in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. And we're talking to GE Water about some of the filtration systems they make and what we might be able do to strengthen water systems and infrastructure in all three countries, as well as GE Power and our healthcare software and global software businesses.
For those of us who live and work in the Northeast, it was cold, really cold, in February. Fortunately, we were too busy serving up great content here on PhilanTopic to notice. So, while you wait for the next winter storm to roll in, pull up a screen and see what you missed....
What have you read/watched/listened to lately that made you think? Share your finds in the comments section below, or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Impact measurement has been a hardy perennial on the agenda of philanthropic conferences and events for a while. Recently, more attention has been focused on the role associations play in supporting foundation impact practice and how they think about their own impact as infrastructure organizations. Thus, it was no surprise that a session was devoted to this topic at the meeting of the Donors and Foundations Networks in Europe (DAFNE) in Warsaw in January.
I wrote this post to share my experience with the UK Association of Charitable Foundations' Inspiring Impact program and the overall challenges presented by the topic. Being thrown into a different environment and asked to explain yourself forces one to reflect more critically on what one has done, why, and what one has learned from the experience. So, in that spirit, and as I did at the Warsaw meeting, I offer my thoughts and comments on what has been a lengthy and often complex process.
But first, a little background. As "impact" began to gain traction in the social sector a decade or so ago, interest in and activity around tools and techniques to measure it also began to grow. Indeed, it became something of a specialized area, the preserve of "impact nerds," with a language all its own. Research conducted by NPC in 2012 revealed that funders play "a critical role in shaping behavior" with respect to impact measurement. At the same time, it was clear to ACF that there was more at stake than tools and techniques, and that consideration was needed around the art rather than the science of impact measurement, on the broader implications for how organizations operate, and on the relationship between funders and grantees. This prompted ACF's engagement with NPC and organizations representing nonprofits, as well as those with evaluation expertise, leading to the development of an ambitious program, Inspiring Impact, that aims to make good impact practice the norm for charities and social enterprises by 2022.
BoardSource’s Governance Index for 2014 found that only 12 percent of nonprofit boards utilize their CEO/executive director as a voting board member. That caused me to wonder why the other 88 percent of nonprofits still embrace old-school management practices. If nonprofits want to be treated with the respect they deserve and hope to achieve their full potential, the non-voting CEO is an antiquated idea that should be jettisoned.
There are some who’ll argue that including the CEO as a voting board member compromises a board’s ability to provide impartial oversight and governance. That’s a straw man argument. How often are for-profit CEOs who are voting members of the board removed as CEO? Exactly. A voting CEO only has one vote, and if he or she fails to deliver on expectations...well, they usually end up looking for a new job.
There are many reasons why it makes sense for a CEO to be a voting member of the board. Here are a few:
On Medium, Dan Gillmor, the long-time technology writer for the San Jose Mercury News, argues that governments and powerful tech companies such as Google, Apple and Microsoft are creating "choke points" on the Internet and "using those choke points to destroy our privacy, limit our freedom of expression, and lock down culture and commerce. Too often," Gillmor adds, "we give them our permission — trading liberty for convenience — but a lot of this is being done without our knowledge, much less permission...."
In an op-ed for the Minn Post, progressive activist and education blogger Lynnell Mickelsen suggests that Minneapolis could change its schools to work better for kids of color, but it "would involve asking mostly white middle-class administrators, teachers and employees to change their work lives — i.e. their schedules, assignments, job locations and even pay — around the needs, comfort and convenience of low-income people of color and their children." Be sure to check out the comments thread.
Pamela Yip, a business columnist for the Dallas Morning News, reports on a recent presentation by Sharna Goldseker, managing director of 21/64, a New York consulting firm, in which Goldseker touched on several factors that distinguish younger donors from their parents and grandparents.
In a podcast on the Humanosphere blog, Gilles van Cutsem, a physician and medical director for Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, says the Ebola crisis in West Africa is far from over.
As this well-thought-out data visualization from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation shows, America’s postsecondary student population is more diverse than ever.
Under Construction is a multimedia online exhibit showcasing some of the best and brightest organizations working with males of color. The UC team of filmmakers, photographers, writers, and nonprofit experts worked directly with each of these organizations for several weeks. The collaborations yielded comprehensive portraits of the services men of color receive. Each profile features a short video, a photography exhibit, a visual program model, and a narrative essay detailing the efforts of these organizations.
It doesn't necessarily look like a place where someone would find freedom. It is indeed a sanctuary, but not in a mystical, ethereal way. Instead, freedom exists in a small commercial suite in northwest Washington, D.C., its largest room hugged by three cornsilk-colored walls and a fourth that is such a brilliant shade of red it shocks the system to attention. Navy Berber carpet sprawls underfoot and an assembly of IKEA-inspired furniture, mostly folding chairs and tables, make up the functional decor. This is the community space at DENIM, where young black gay, bi- and same-gender-loving men are affirmed, understood and validated, celebrated, informed, and encouraged.
DENIM stands for "developing and empowering new images of men." In practice, it is a place where young men between the ages of 18 and 29 find unconditional acceptance and connect to programming that addresses their unique needs. "We wanted to provide a center that accommodated the many subcultures of black gay life: college-educated, people affiliated with Greek-letter organizations, gamers, the ballroom community, people who don't identify as gay, people who are openly gay, people who are transgendered, and create this organic experience for all of them," says Terrance Payton, one of DENIM's founders.
Launched in 2012, the organization is relatively new, particularly compared to others in the city that have been serving the gay community for decades. Every group has another group inside of it, and when dissected along the lines of race, age, and socioeconomics, the black gay experience looks a lot different than others. DENIM lifts up a population that is sometimes underrepresented — or not represented at all — in broader conversations about gay issues in the metropolitan area.
Governments at the local, state, and federal level increasingly are competing with charities for private-sector donations using crowdfunding and other individual donor-focused techniques. That's a problem not just for nonprofits, but for all who depend on government to address our shared needs.
Most people would agree that the more each of is willing to do to help those in need, whether with our time or money or both, the better off we all are. That kind of engagement makes for better neighbors and better citizens, both of which are key ingredients of a better society.
So why are we suddenly eager to substitute individual philanthropy for collective public responsibility? Do we really trust people's personal motivations and sometimes impulsive altruism to substitute for government in prioritizing problems and aggregating resources to address those problems over the long haul?
Consider the ALS Association's wildly successful Ice Bucket Challenge, which has raised more than $115 million since its debut in July for the organization's efforts to find a cure for Lou Gehrig's disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) – about six times the association's total revenue from all other sources in 2014. The challenge, which encouraged participants to video themselves having a bucket of ice water poured over their heads and then nominating others to do the same within twenty-four hours or pay a "penalty" in the form of a contribution to the association, also drove worldwide donations for ALS of an additional $100-plus million. No wonder nonprofits and governments at all levels have become interested in crowdfunding and other social-media-driven techniques. Yet, for all its success, the Ice Bucket Challenge also highlights some real issues.
Few would begrudge the ALS Association a penny of those contributions. But one could be forgiven for wondering why the 2.4 million new donors to the organization (triple the number it could boast prior to the challenge) made the decision to contribute.
"My idea of education is to unsettle the minds of the young and inflame their intellects...."
— Robert Maynard Hutchins
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