Now More Than Ever, Foundations Need to Step Up for Democracy

December 14, 2017

Vote_counts_830_0Even before agreeing on the final details of their tax bill, Republican leaders in Congress have made it clear they hope to address the national debt — the one their bill adds a trillion dollars to over the next ten years — by cutting vital safety net programs. Indeed, the dishonest Republican plan rewards the richest one percent of American taxpayers with over 60 percent of the proposed benefits of tax "reform" while people living in poverty or who depend on Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs will lose ground. Even the elderly and the sick, as well as those whose future well-being is tied to Social Security, are likely to be sacrificed on the altar of "deficit reduction."

What can charities and philanthropy do about it? Apparently nothing, judging from the feckless efforts to protect charitable giving and the integrity of the sector during the recent tax cut battle. It's reported that nonprofit "infrastructure groups" spent over $670,000 on lobbying activities in 2017 (through September) — with little in the way of results to show for it. Additional efforts — and expenditures — by individual charities and nonprofit coalitions likewise failed to derail the regressive policy changes championed by Republicans in Congress.

It doesn't have to be that way. Charities have created little opportunity for themselves to be heard on the tax bill, and it's unlikely their collective voice could affect anything but the proposed repeal of the Johnson Amendment — an action that, if not dropped from the final bill, would turn tax-exempt organizations into partisan political action groups. One hopes, however, that charities — and foundations — will learn from this depressing experience and act to better represent the public interest in the lead up to the 2018 midterm elections — and beyond.

For charities and foundations to succeed in this endeavor, three things need to change: (1) public policy issues must be seen for what they really are; (2) charities and foundations must work to invigorate enlightened grassroots participation in the democratic process; and (3) we, especially funders, need to overcome our arrogance and self-serving timidity and recognize that, regardless of organizational mission, we will not succeed as a sector if we don't also support efforts designed to strengthen civic engagement and democracy.

In other words, if the sector is to remain a vital part of the American fabric, nonprofit and philanthropic organizations must be willing to build "people power" through democratic action.

First, the issues: Although President Trump and Republicans have insisted their tax bill is designed to benefit the middle class, it is clear it mainly benefits their donors and other wealthy individuals and corporations. By the end of the ten-year "reform" period, most taxpayers with incomes under $75,000 would see their taxes increase. And even before the provisions of the bill are scheduled to expire, people who earn their income through wages will pay higher taxes on the same amount of income than those privileged enough to set themselves up as corporations or independent contractors.

Some have called this "class warfare," and Republicans recently seem to have acknowledged as much, with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the powerful chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying that Republicans wanted to reward investors "as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it's on booze or women or movies." Meanwhile, Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) told the Washington Post that "From a truth-in-advertising standpoint, it would have been a lot simpler if we just acknowledged reality on this bill, which is it's fundamentally a corporate tax reduction and restructuring bill."

Led by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), these same Republicans are using the bigger deficits created by their efforts as a reason to eviscerate programs critical to those who aren't rich. In a testy exchange with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) recently, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) claimed that budget cuts favored by Republicans are necessary "because we don't have money anymore." Hatch then admitted that he was having "a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won't help themselves, won't lift a finger and expect the federal government to do everything."

Let's be clear: the Republican tax plan isn't about helping the middle class or those in poverty; it's a massive transfer of resources into the pockets of the already-rich. And as is also painfully clear, the next big legislative battle will be focused on more of the same — with the battleground shifting to so-called entitlement and other programs that scores of millions of Americans depend on.

Second, if charities hope to be effective in fighting these battles, they must acknowledge that they need political power to affect policy, and that the deck is stacked against them because of the very way in which political power in twenty-first century America is gained and applied — through targeted campaign contributions controlled and directed by lobbyists.

Given the makeup of the Supreme Court, it is unlikely we will see effective campaign finance reform enacted in the foreseeable future. And that means charities' public interest lobbyists will never be on an even playing field with deep-pocketed private and corporate interests. Instead, the only way for charities and the public to win this game is to change the way it is played.

Fortunately, we live in a democracy and — though it may sound anachronistic — democracy does afford ordinary people ways to gain and wield power. It's a lot easier, however, if they are supported in those efforts by charities and foundations.

If already over-burdened charities are to succeed in this work, they will need to be led and guided by nonprofit infrastructure groups and mission-area associations. But such democracy-building leadership seems to be in short supply. Instead of quixotically advocating for a universal charitable deduction, for instance, these groups should have rallied around the broader public interest. And instead of relying on lobbyists and elite-led campaigns to promote the public interest, they need to recommit to the hard work of organizing people to participate in the democratic process.

Nonprofit organizations employ over 11 million people and, on an annual basis, are supported by 63 million volunteers and millions more who donate. And those numbers pale in comparison to the countless number of people and communities directly served by charities.

That is a huge universe of people whose interests and well-being are aligned with and served by charities and nonprofits — and who would seem to be predisposed to becoming more engaged in the democratic process. Well-designed and -funded efforts to help people better understand what's at stake with respect to public policy decisions and what charities and nonprofits are doing to combat threats to the public interest would be a great start in building a powerful army of advocates and an informed and active electorate.

Building, animating, and sustaining such networks of democratically engaged people will require leadership from nonprofit infrastructure groups and nonprofit associations and coalitions, and action by charities themselves. And that takes money.

Which brings me to my final point: Foundations either seem to think they know what public policy ought to be and attempt to influence it directly through concerted grantmaking, or they fear any kind of engagement with policy and will do their best to avoid anything that might run counter to the interests of their own wealthy board members, founding families, and friends.

With the exception of a handful of philanthropies, what seems to be missing from the equation is robust support for democratic institutions and civic engagement — which, as Gary Bass and I discussed previously in these pages, attract well under 2 percent of U.S. foundations' grant dollars.

Former President Obama noted recently that, given its fragility, "We have to tend to this garden of democracy or else things could fall apart quickly….[Y]ou've got to pay attention. And vote."

That's the only route to real power for the sector in the current environment: we simply must do whatever is needed to catalyze broad-based participation in the democratic process and get people to vote.

But we won't succeed in this all-important enterprise without increased foundation support for democratic organizing. Funders are wise enough to know that. A failure to act accordingly is nothing less than an abdication of the very meaning and purpose of philanthropy.

Headshot_mark_rosenmanMark Rosenman is a professor emeritus at the Union Institute & University. To read more of Rosenman's commentary, click here.

Driving Innovation in Global Development: Why We Need Next-Generation Leaders

December 13, 2017

P1_Edible-InsectThe face of global development is changing. Shifting priorities, new organizations, new technologies — the landscape of the field is in flux. And in this era of sustainable development, a new generation of global leaders is poised to play a leading role in catalyzing change.

The Challenges Ahead

Despite decades of progress, the global community continues to grapple with urgent challenges such as poverty, malnutrition, and environmental degradation. Global trends such as urbanization, income inequality, climate change, and technological disruption increasingly are driving the scale and intensity of these challenges, forcing us to think differently and more collaboratively. The United Nations2030 Sustainable Development Agenda is emblematic of this changing landscape. The message is clear: business as usual is no longer an option.

In the area of global nutrition, these trends are already having a profound impact. Malnutrition remains one of the most pervasive challenges and is the leading underlying cause of child mortality worldwide. As the planet becomes more populated and prosperous, food production and consumption patterns are changing and stressing our fragile natural resources. With the global population on track to hit 9.8 billion people by 2050, the field of nutrition is ripe for innovation. The task at hand is significant, if not daunting: How do we sustainably meet the nutritional needs of a growing global population?

To address hard problems like these, we need to consider new approaches and sustainable solutions. The health and livelihoods of many vulnerable communities — and the planet we all share — depend on it.

Engaging Emerging Leaders

Harnessing the insights and talents of the next generation of global leaders will be critical to unlocking innovation for sustainable development. With an eye to the future, early-career professionals can help us examine problems in new ways, elevate diverse perspectives, and surface creative new ideas. We should not underestimate the value of the entrepreneurial energy that early-career professionals bring to the table. By questioning age-old assumptions and confronting problems with analytic, data-drivenc vigor, they can help us chip away at some of the barriers that have slowed our progress.

For PATH, the Hilton Prize Coalition Fellows Program has provided an invaluable opportunity to engage future leaders from around the world in tackling some of today's most persistent challenges. From investigating the potential of edible insects as a sustainable animal-source food, to unpacking the relationship between tobacco use and nutrition outcomes, to exploring the many synergies between agriculture and nutrition, our team's Hilton Prize Coalition Fellows have drawn on their diverse backgrounds to help PATH facilitate bold cross-sectoral solutions aimed at improving nutrition for people around the world.

And while we have valued the creativity and contributions of our fellows, they have gained professional development opportunities to advance their careers. During their time at PATH, our fellows have developed skills, cultivated their networks, made friends, and completed a project that addresses the next generation of health and development challenges. But the time our fellows spend with PATH is only a small part of their professional journeys, as they each embark on careers focused on creating a brighter future for people and the planet.

Investing in the Future

The scope and scale of the challenges we face necessitate immediate action. Addressing these challenges will require new ideas, creative thinking, curiosity, and humility. Our future will soon be reality for the next cohort of global development leaders. To achieve the aspirational goals we've set for ourselves for 2030, let's make sure that the next-generation thinkers of today have a seat at the table.

Katharine_kreis_for_PhilanTopicKatharine Kreis is director of strategic initiatives and lead, nutrition innovation at PATH.

Philanthropy in India Report Sparks Questions…and Opportunity

December 11, 2017

Sdgs-circleRecently, Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace, in association with Alliance magazine, Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support (WINGS), and the Centre for Social Impact and Philanthropy at Ashoka University, released a highly anticipated thought piece on the emerging philanthropic sector in India, one of the largest and most rapidly changing countries in the world.

The report, a working paper by Caroline Hartnell titled Philanthropy in India, draws on interviews with key local actors to inform us about the varying types of philanthropy, illustrate some of the current challenges and opportunities, and throw light on the history of and approaches to philanthropy in India. The report does not purport to answer all questions or predict trends, nor does it present hard numbers on giving or impact, but it does start to give an intelligible and exciting glimpse into the complexities and highly varied contexts in which philanthropy operates in a country as multifaceted as India. But because the report, understandably, offers only a partial view into Indian philanthropy, it raises as many questions as it answers.

Giving by the middle class in India is rising rapidly — this is one important insight offered by Hartnell's paper, as it may be the most significant trend in Indian philanthropy. Other findings — such as the lack of donor education about local contexts and the constantly competing interests of local and international NGOs — are more troubling but equally important, in that we see these issues over and over worldwide without doing anything to change our collective approach. And still other findings, such as that almost 33 percent of the Indian population live below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day while around 69 percent live on less than $2 a day, provide a strong call to action for philanthropy to respond to.

We often look for the "silver bullet" in reports and clear answers to send us on our way, but I strongly believe that if we are going to solve recurring and new challenges and eradicate global poverty, we need to get more reflective about the facts to help us design the right solutions; Hartnell's report helps us do exactly that.

Is too much funding going to education?

An important question raised by the report is whether education funding is the most important lever for change in India, and that begs another question: If everyone is funding education, who is funding everything else? Clearly, education is necessary to the eradication of poverty, reducing inequality, and generally improving quality of life overall. It isn't possible to come up with a total figure for giving to education due to the lack of data. In the report, however, funding to education as a key focus is mentioned over twenty times and, as the report notes, is being done by all types of philanthropists and philanthropic entities. Bain & Company's annual India Philanthropy Report, first produced in 2010 and most recently this year, claims that "the most popular causes in 2010 were education, food and housing — a list that hasn't changed significantly to this day" and that "the 2012 report…noted the abiding desire of Indian philanthropists of all stripes to invest in education." Education also received the most funding (32 percent) from CSR activities according to recently released figures by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.

The problem is that education alone will not solve our greatest development challenges; development issues are cross-cutting. Education can improve literacy, boost female empowerment, and contribute to the development of technical skills. But students won't be able to get jobs if the local economy is weak, if there are limited job opportunities because we have neglected to fund efforts to develop small and medium enterprises (or entrepreneurship in general), or if flooding caused by climate change destroys small lot farming, leaving people without a basic source of income. Even Charities Aid Foundation India notes that of the projects it managed in 2015-16, support mostly went to "safe" areas such as education and care of the elderly.

Where is the vision and funding for non-education-based initiatives and approaches? Meenakshi Batra, CEO of CAF India, asks us to imagine what would happen if the people that are giving to education gave to support all spheres of civil society. "It could yield vast resources to help solve the country's most intractable social problems." Imagine.

While I believe funding education is essential, how that funding is structured says a great deal about the value of these interventions. Who is being educated — only those that can afford it, or the nation's poorest as well? Are the funds going to support educational quality, or to getting more seats in classrooms, or both? In the report, philanthropist Luis Miranda states, "[A] lot is being spent on education…but not enough on empowering communities and funding research on why the problems exist in the first place and how they can be effectively solved." Therein lies the nexus between research and education.

Why the lack of data to inform funding decisions?

India is world renowned for its talent in data, coding, and technology and would seem to be the ideal environment for such important work to be nurtured. But this work does not yet seem to have been integrated into the philanthropic landscape. Why? The report suggests that one challenge for NGOs is that they are not ready to invest in technology or to scale their operations with the help of data because they feel they don't have sufficiently trained staff, quality databases, and adequate funding to invest in online giving tools and promotional activities. I wonder, however, if somewhere beneath the surface some data is indeed being collected but not being shared due to a lack of transparency, accountability or willingness, as well as legitimate concerns around security or storage. Without active sharing, it is also possible that the value of such data is not well understood.

What about collaboration?

Finally, is collaboration a part of the philanthropic conversation in India? A discussion of collaboration, something of a buzzword in philanthropy of late, is very much absent from the report, which finds a lack of willingness to partner to be characteristic of Indian philanthropy. It's not a new issue, but the fact remains that individual organizations cannot solve complex societal problems on their own. Philanthropy is part of a broader development ecosystem; by working with other organizations with a stake in development outcomes, philanthropy can begin to better leverage its financial resources and human capital.

Is Indian philanthropy indeed less eager to collaborate, to work in partnership and build bridges? Givers do seem to realize (in theory at least) that building social capital in communities can be difficult but is necessary, and that leveraging the existing relationships of local NGOs is a more strategic way of having impact on the ground, but there is little evidence that they are putting this into practice. The mutual mistrust between the wealthy and social activists seems likely to widen this divide even further.

Then there is collaboration with government. As Hari Menon of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation explains in the report, "[I]nterventions completely external to the government are unlikely to have the long-term sustainability and impact you can have if you do engage with and catalyze the government." Yet the ability and desire to work with government at all levels in India seems to be (not surprisingly) the exception, not the norm. The Azim Premji Foundation, for one, realized it could do more than just make grants through partnership with the government, so it added "another component in the portfolio — systems-level work, which is really a matter of orchestrating a number of partners and working with the government to achieve a particular change."

What role for the SDGs?

One framework that could help encourage and guide collaboration and assist funders to find partners and synergies across their work is the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As someone who works across numerous countries that are connected in their work through the SDGs, I paid extra attention to the role outlined in the report of the SDGs in Indian philanthropy.

The SDGs are a set of seventeen cross-cutting goals created by a multi-stakeholder process and led by the United Nations to eradicate poverty by 2030. They position the service delivery development need for education (Goal 4) along with other thematic areas; they bring in an impact measurement component and the need for better data (there are 169 targets and 230 indicators); and they encourage us to work in partnerships (Goal 17).

The SDGs Drivers Forum is just one local initiative that aims to catalyze the national engagement of private stakeholders in the SDG process. The SDGs can also help funders identify where blended finance mechanisms may be appropriate and help them better define outcomes. Funders looking for guidance should visit, which was designed to highlight who is funding which goals and where. The site also provides an SDG Indicator Wizard, a tool that allows organizations to identify exactly which goals, targets, and indicators are relevant to their work.

Philanthropy in India, as in all countries, will always face the tension between giving where a donor wants to give and giving where it is needed most; donors care about issues that align with their values and passions, and that affect their lives. I hope some of the questions I've raised stimulate others, from foundations to high-net-worth individuals and the growing cadre of middle-class givers, to think more deeply about how data, research, partnerships, and the cross-cutting nature of development issues can increase the impact of their investments in India, allowing all of us to contribute to more effective grantmaking and development outcomes there.

Headshot_lauren_bradfordLauren Bradford is director of global partnerships at Foundation Center. This post originally appeared on the Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace site.

5 Questions for…Vanessa Daniel, Founder and Executive Director, Groundswell Fund

December 07, 2017

Vanessa_danielGroundswell Fund is the largest funder of the reproductive justice movement in the United States. In addition to its CatalystRapid Response, and Birth Justice funds, the organization created the Liberation Fund in the wake of the 2016 elections to support effective grassroots organizing efforts led by women and transgender people of color across the social justice sector. A joint project of the Groundswell Fund and the newly created 501(c)(4) Groundswell Action Fund, the Liberation Fund will announce inaugural grants next week to grassroots organizations selected with the help of women leaders of color, including Alicia Garza, Ai-Jen Poo, Mary Hooks, and Linda Sarsour. 

PND spoke with Vanessa Daniel, founder and executive director of the fund, about intersectionality in the context of reproductive justice and racial equity and her hopes for the Liberation Fund. Before founding the fund in 2010, Daniel worked in grassroots organizing, advocacy, and grantmaking at the Tides FoundationSEIU, the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, and what is now Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation.

Philanthropy News Digest: You founded Groundswell Fund after working to advance LGBTQ rights as well as economic and environmental justice at various organizations. Why did you decide to focus on reproductive justice for women of color, low-income women, and transgender people?

Vanessa Daniel: When I first learned about the reproductive justice (RJ) movement in 2005, I had been working in various social justice movements for ten years. The RJ movement had been founded a decade earlier by a group of black women and was on its way to becoming the largest force in the country in terms of engaging a multiracial base of women of color, low-income women, and LGBT people on reproductive issues and as grassroots organizers and activists. I was a young, twenty-something, queer, biracial woman of color from a working-class immigrant family on one side and raised by a second-wave white feminist single mother on the other.

I had, like many women of color, experienced what I lovingly refer to as a lot of bad "movement dates." Have you ever been on a date with someone who orders for you without asking what you want? Or people who talk about themselves the whole time without asking how your day was? Well, you can have the equivalent of that date with a social justice movement. It's not true for every organization, but for example, you have a lot of labor unions that invite women to the table but don't want to talk about reproductive issues, even though these issues are important to women. You have many immigrant rights groups that don't want to talk about LGBT rights, even though there are lots of LGBT people in the immigrant communities they are organizing. You have way too many white feminist organizations inviting women of color to the table and then not talking about race, even though racism is literally killing us. The reproductive justice movement was, quite simply, the best movement date I ever had, because it was the first time I had encountered a movement that didn't require me to leave any piece of myself or anyone I loved at the door in order to enter. I could be whole.

And here's why. There are three hallmarks of RJ: First, it's multi-issue. That means it says to people, yes, we are standing with you on the right to access abortion and contraception, but we are also standing with you to stop environmental pollution that is harming reproductive health; to stop mass incarceration and immigration detention and deportation that continues an ugly legacy of breaking up families of color that dates back to slavery and mission schools and immigration exclusion acts; to expand comprehensive sex ed in the public schools along with non-stigmatizing supports for young parents that don't shame and shut them out of their education; to expand access to birthing options like midwifery that are finally shifting racial disparities that have left black women four times more likely to die as a result of childbirth than white women in this country; to fight for LGBT rights. It's a holistic movement.

Second, it centers grassroots organizing as a strategy. It doesn't believe major social change trickles down from large organizations sitting "inside the beltway"; it believes it surges up from cities and states, from ordinary people holding their elected officials accountable in their home districts.

Third, it is a multiracial movement with significant leadership from women of color working alongside white women who are able to consider things through a racial justice lens. It is tactically impossible to move the needle on most social justice issues today without the leadership and engagement of communities of color, which, polls show us, vote in a more progressive direction down ballot on nearly every issue progressives care about.

The RJ movement exemplifies what it means to build a movement with the backbone to leave no one behind. And that, I believe, is the kind of movement that all social justice activists should be looking to build. RJ is shining a light on the path the larger progressive movement needs to walk in order to be successful.

PND: It's estimated that African-American women in the United States are three to four times more likely to die of childbirth-related complications than their white counterparts, while the infant mortality rate for babies of African-American mothers is more than twice that of babies of white mothers. What's behind these racial disparities?

VD: The data has perplexed many scientists, in part because when they control for education levels, economic status, diet and behavior, and other factors, the disparities still show up in the data. This means that middle-class, college-educated black women who take excellent care of their health are still dying at higher rates than low-income white women without a high school diploma. How does one explain that? There is a growing number of scientists, including epidemiologists who believe that racism itself is a major factor in these disparities. First, the racism and implicit bias of many medical practitioners often leads them to provide substandard care to women of color. Many studies back this up; one recent study, for example, shows that people of color, including children of color, are given significantly less pain medication than are white people.

Second, and very importantly, scientists are pointing to the impact that racism, experienced on a daily basis by people of color, has on the body. The midwifery and doula models of care we support are often run by women of color or by a multiracial staff that provides high-quality, culturally competent care. Our grantee Sacred Heart Birthplace in Espanola, New Mexico, has a 2 percent cesarean section rate, compared with a state average of 24 percent, and a 92 percent breastfeeding rate at six months post-delivery, compared with a state average of 26 percent. In Florida, our grantee Common Sense Childbirth has achieved a 0 percent preterm birth rate among black women, compared with the state average of 14.2 percent.

PND: Groundswell Fund believes that the people who are most directly affected by an issue are also the ones best able to develop strategies to address the issue. How do you envision the fund's work with respect to advancing racial equity more broadly?

VD: White supremacy is bad for all of us, and dismantling it and advancing racial justice is what will lift all boats. We cannot move forward or evolve as a country if we don't do this.

The strongest efforts to dismantle white supremacy in this country are being led by people of color. As a country we need to follow their lead. That is why 90 percent of our grantee organizations are led by women of color. If more of us had followed the lead of black women last year, when they voted 96 percent against Trump, none of us would be in the mess we find ourselves in. White people also have an important role to play in dismantling white supremacy, and we make sure that the white-led organizations we fund are actively doing this work in white communities. It's not an addendum to moving the needle on issues like reproductive justice or climate change or healthcare access — it's a requirement and an imperative.

PND: The Liberation Fund was created in the wake of the 2016 elections to support those who "bear the greatest burden of white supremacy and misogyny in the U.S. — women of color and transgender people of color." Why did you decide to focus on grassroots organizations? And what are your hopes for the first cohort of grantees?

VD: The list of organizations the Liberation Fund supports were curated by fifteen of the most prominent women of color leaders in the country. They have teamed with Groundswell to bridge a longstanding gap that exists between the funders in this country and the grassroots organizing work that is offering the boldest and most effective solutions to white supremacy and misogyny. Since the election, billions of dollars have flowed into progressive movements, and nearly all of it is going to large national organizations. While many of these organizations play an important role in the social change ecosystem, they cannot protect communities or advance bold change on their own. Most of us don't believe in trickle-down economics, so why do we fund trickle-down social justice? Elected officials are elected in their home districts and must be held accountable by people who live and vote in their districts. Groundswell's Liberation Fund has teamed with these fifteen advisors to provide an easy way for donors and foundations to move money to the strongest grassroots organizing efforts in the country led by women of color and trans people of color.

As we face the two-headed monster of misogyny and white supremacy, women of color, who have been battling that monster for hundreds of years for our very survival, have something to teach America about how to fight.

The path to large-scale progressive change in this country is one of bold, multi-issue, solidarity-based organizing. My greatest hope for this first cohort of grantees is that the Liberation Fund helps them turn up the powerful light they are already shining on the path that social movements writ large must travel in order to win, and that those movements and donors follow their lead.  

PND: What could other funders interested in supporting efforts to advance racial equity learn from your experience working at the intersection of reproductive, racial, and economic justice and LGBTQ rights?

VD: Fund multi-issue grassroots organizing work led by those most affected by injustice. Take steps to make people of color-led work that has a strong race/class/gender/decolonization lens the majority of your grant portfolio. Don't fund white-led organizations that lack a racial justice focus or demonstrated practice of standing in solidarity with communities of color against white supremacy. Given the fact that less than 7 percent of all domestic giving goes to communities of color — a number that hasn't increased in years — with even less going to grassroots organizing, philanthropy has its work cut out if it hopes to remain relevant to one of the most important fights for freedom in the history of this country.

-- Kyoko Uchida

There’s More Than One Needle in This Haystack: The 100&Change Solutions Bank

December 05, 2017

100Change-logo_padded15Earlier today, Foundation Center launched something new and still unusual in the field of philanthropy: a site that provides access to nearly nineteen hundred proposals submitted to a foundation by organizations with ideas for solving some of society's most pressing challenges. The site, the 100&Change Solutions Bank, features submissions to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's 100&Change competition, which the foundation launched in June 2016 and which will soon announce a winner. Recognizing that it had received many more viable ideas worth funding, the foundation decided to partner with Foundation Center to bring greater visibility to those ideas, with three goals in mind: to drive investment in proposals that merit it; to facilitate collaboration and learning between organizations working on similar problems; and to inspire funders and organizations working for change to do things differently.


The 100&Change competition will end with a single winner being awarded a $100 million grant. But the competition itself generated a great many solutions worth investing in — and the number of inquiries fielded by MacArthur staff suggests that other funders know this. Rather than force 100&Change applicants to spend more time tailoring their proposals to meet the requirements of their own application processes, funders should take advantage of the work MacArthur has done to surface good ideas in a variety of fields. With the launch of the 100&Change Solutions Bank, funders now have a lot to gain by spending just a few minutes exploring the proposals they’ll find there.


Whether it's a big, global challenge like climate change or a local (yet widespread) problem like homelessness, there is more than one organization working on a solution. This diversity of actors represents a golden opportunity to learn from others' approaches — even when they are implemented in a different context — and, potentially, to collaborate. Yes, this type of learning does happen through existing networks, listservs, and working groups. But what the Solutions Bank offers is the chance to learn from organizations you may not have a connection to.

Get Inspired

The 100&Change competition was a call to organizations to think "big": What would you do to address a problem if you really had the resources to solve it? The “permission” to be bold prompted many organizations to think differently about their proposed solutions. For organizations seeking funding, the competition and the ideas it sparked might serve as inspiration to change the scope and scale of their work and what they propose to funders. For organizations with resources, the ideas that an open invitation to "dream big" can generate might prompt reconsideration of current strategies.

Foundation Center President Brad Smith has said that the next frontier for philanthropy is the production and sharing of knowledge. As Smith puts it, what foundations know is just as valuable as what they fund. While the reports and evaluations commissioned by foundations are one source of knowledge, the hundreds of proposals they receive on an annual basis is another. The 100&Change competition was remarkably open: almost any organization from anywhere in the world could apply, with no restrictions on the problem to be addressed or the location of the proposed work. Contained in the proposals submitted to the competition is applicants' deep understanding of the most significant problems confronting their communities; their best thinking as to how to solve them; and their knowledge of what has, and hasn't, worked in the past.

For Foundation Center, the 100&Change Solutions Bank is both a hopeful experiment and the start of what we hope will be an ongoing conversation sparked by a simple but profound question: What happens when social sector organizations share their knowledge with others in the field?

Headshot_laia-grinoWe hope you'll be part of that conversation.

Laia Griñó is director of data discovery at Foundation Center. For more posts in the Insights series, click here.

[Review] 'The Unfinished Social Entrepreneur'

December 04, 2017

Social entrepreneur. A once-niche label for a great many people who toiled as environmentalists, civil rights activists, and suffrage fighters before any of those was a "cool" thing to be. It's also the focus of The Unfin sh d Social Entrepreneur — as the book's cover cleverly renders it — by Jonathan C. Lewis, a life-long social justice activist and accomplished social entrepreneur who has founded two socially focused enterprises, MCE Social Capital and Opportunity Collaboration; co-founded another, Copia Global; and currently serves as a trustee for the Swift Foundation, which was founded by UPS heir John Swift in 1992 with a mission to enhance the well-being of people and the environment.

Book_unfinished_social_entrepreneurIntended as a guide for current and would-be social entrepreneurs, the book outlines twenty-one themes that Lewis believes are essential values for anyone thinking about jumping into, or currently working in, the social entrepreneurship space. In short (five to ten page) chapters, Lewis uses each theme as a lens through which to explore the mindset required to be truly successful in the world of social justice, whether it's founding your own social enterprise or joining someone else's cause.

He begins with a chapter on "Justice," describing how he dropped out of college to work as a legislative aide for Nicholas C. Petris, a California state senator representing the 11th district (consisting of portions of Alameda, Contra Costa, San Joaquin, and Santa Clara counties) from 1966 to 1976 and the 9th district (encompassing most of the East Bay area) from 1976 until he was termed out in 1996. Petris's "clear sense of right and wrong; his bold embrace of new and controversial ideas; his courageous use of power; his principled instinct to fight alongside those without privilege or advantage" are, writes Lewis, "the very soul of the social entrepreneur." Lewis then weaves his personal story through chapters titled "Starting," "Passion," "Rescued," "Connection," "Failure," and "Misgivings," walking readers through the twists and turns of his journey, with each chapter highlighting a lesson learned and/or core value to be absorbed and put into practice by would-be social entrepreneurs among his readers. Taken together, they are values that — if we remain cognizant of them in our day-to-day lives, writes Lewis — will help us be better, more compassionate, and empathetic, both as human beings and as professionals.

For example, in the chapter on "Listenership," Lewis shares a moment in which he learned the value of listening "authentically," of paying attention to both verbal and non-verbal cues, and of pushing our understanding beyond the limitations of our individual frames of reference. "Listenership means hearing others: the Others who have come before us, the Others who walk alongside us, the Others who are marginalized," he writes. "Listenership is social entrepreneurship....Social entrepreneurship valorizes the listening skill because it's so fundamental, so vital, to achieving social impact." 

Lewis is not embarrassed to acknowledge the limitations of his perspective, writing early in the book: "I'm…in my 68th year. I am a Caucasian male born in the United States, the only child of two working-class parents married during the Depression. Having no other choice than to be me, the book is framed (and limited) by my personal experience, and my particular perspective as an American social entrepreneur." At the same time, he notes that "the skin color your parents bequeathed to you; the streets you've walked; what you know about surviving life's grisly parts...whatever makes you angry enough to take action...are the fixed attributes that make you distinctive and in-demand for social justice work." 

As aware as he is of the "narrowness" of his own perspective, Lewis doesn't shy away from tough conversations. Using inclusive language while naming the problem explicitly and challenging problematic narratives is in the DNA of social entrepreneurs. In the chapter on "Power," for example, he suggests that a social entrepreneur can't do "social justice work without debunking, exposing, challenging, decrying the institutional rigidities that impede social progress." And throughout the book, he challenges readers to take a stand, that being the only way to achieve progress toward a more equitable society.

It's clear from his references that Lewis has been inspired over the years by a wide array of books and writers. He references Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours rule and Gladwell's David and Goliath, as well as Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow. There is, as well, an informality and human quality to the book that I found appealing. Some of the jokes miss their mark, and the language, as approachable as it is, can be clichéd. But this is how I imagine Lewis would sound if we were having a conversation.

For millennials eager to find a purpose in life and engage in meaningful work, The Unfinished Social Entrepreneur is a great starter read that offers lots of food for thought It also presents a useful framework for how social entrepreneurs should think of themselves, their communities, and their work. "Social entrepreneurs are aggrieved," Lewis writes, "and those grievances, collectively and individually, identify and bind us as a tribe." If you are outraged by the many injustices of the world and are ready to start a career in the social entrepreneurship space, this is the book for you.

Laura K. Wise is a regional event specialist at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and a journalist who writes about social justice issues and impact. For more great reviews, visit the Off the Shelf section in PND.


Weekend Link Roundup (December 2-3, 2017)

December 03, 2017

Local-food-and-wine-roasted-chestnutsOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....


According to Claire Petersky, executive director of the Wallingford Community Senior Center in Seattle, "Only 4 percent of us end up in nursing homes, and that number is dropping. Dementia? The vast majority of us, 90 percent, have our marbles when we die, and the numbers who die with dementia is also dropping. Depression? Turns out, we are happiest at the beginnings and ends of our lives. It's called the U Curve of Happiness." Petersky's colleague, Nonprofit AF blogger Vu Le, explains why we all need to change the way we think about older adults.

Climate Change

The California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), the largest public pension fund, in the U.S., has announced an equity investment in two large wind farms, the Caney River facility in Elk County, Kansas, and the Rocky Ridge facility in Kiowa and Washita counties, Oklahoma.

An NPR analysis of grants awarded by the National Science Foundation found a steady decline in the number with the phrase "climate change" in the title or summary — a change in language that "appears to be driven in part by the Trump administration's open hostility to the topic of climate change." Rebecca Hersher reports for NPR.

Disaster Relief

Mother Jones editor Kanyakrit Vongkiatkajorn shares some good advice for those who want to help in the wake of a natural disaster.


If you haven't heard, this year's #GivingTuesday campaign (the sixth annual) was a huge success, raising more than $274 million for nonprofits working in the U.S. and around the world. Congrats to all who gave and participated!

Felix Salmon, host and editor of the Cause & Effect blog, had charitable giving on his mind this week, posting a piece on Tuesday about why it's okay if the charitable sector shrinks a little as a result of the Republican tax bills working their way through Congress ("[A] a lot of very rich people are going to see their taxes cut, and at the margin, the less you pay in taxes, the less incentive you have to try to avoid them through mechanisms like charitable giving") and following that up with a piece on Thursday that addresses the question: How do you get people to donate less money to less-effective charities, and more money to more-effective charities.

According to Network for Good, 29 percent of all online giving happens in December and 11 percent happens in the last three days of the month. Which is why you'll want to spend a few minutes with these "essential" fundraising resources compiled by Brady Josephson.

It's not exactly news anymore, but business columnist Jennifer Pagliara has some good advice for those who are looking to reach out to to today’s digitally savvy contributors — millennial or otherwise.


In a post on her Philanthropy 2173 blog, Lucy Bernholz asks: Does journalism's past hold clues to nonprofits' futures?

Earlier this week, charity watchdog and evaluation service Charity Navigator announced that it will make "concise" impact statements and progress reports for twenty-four hundred charities available free of charge on its website.


The Ford Foundation and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation have launched a new research initiative, US 2050, that will examine and analyze the demographic, socioeconomic, and fiscal trends likely to shape the nation at mid-century.

In a post that celebrates the charitable spirit behind Giving Tuesday, Barr Foundation president Jim Canales shares a few reflections on how his foundation seeks to deepen collaboration with the organizations it funds.

Philanthropy has reached an "impact tipping point," with organizations "becoming more educated about how and why impact matters, and what difference their work has made"& — and not a moment too soon, writes Triple Pundit contributor Leon Kaye.

In a post for CityLab, former D.C. mayor Anthony Williams notes that the "golden age of [urban] parks philanthropy" in which we find ourselves does little to benefit lower-income neighborhoods and wonders whether there's a more equitable way to spread around the charitable dollars of mega-donors?

And this bit of news caught our attention Friday as we were getting ready to head home for the weekend: Matthew Bishop, U.S. business editor and New York bureau chief for The Economist magazine, is leaving the venerable publication after twenty-seven years to become a managing director at the Rockefeller Foundation, where he will lead the foundation's Bellagio Center on the shores of Italy's Lake Como and be tasked with creating a new global institute and network. Alcuni ragazzi hanno tutta la fortuna!

That's it for this week. Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a line at

Joint Letter of Opposition to the Senate Tax Reform Bill

December 01, 2017

On Wednesday, the leaders of three D.C.-based nonprofit intermediary organizations — Vikki Spruill, president and CEO of the Council on Foundations; Tim Delaney; president and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits; and Dan Cardinali, president and CEO of Independent Sector — released a letter to lawmakers on Capitol Hill stating their joint opposition to the tax bill that is rapidly moving toward a vote in the U.S. Senate. You can read the full text of the letter below, and learn more about the organizations' policy-focused advocacy efforts here, here, and here.


Dear Senators,

The charitable nonprofit and foundation communities stand united in opposition to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and, in the strongest possible terms, urge a "NO" vote on the bill. The current legislation damages the civic infrastructure upon which our communities depend, and hurts the people that we serve.

We collectively represent tens of thousands of charitable and philanthropic organizations that employ millions of individuals in every state, engage tens of millions of additional individuals who serve as board members and other volunteers, and touch the lives of virtually every American every day. For 100 years, federal tax policy has incentivized this giving spirit and empowered this crucial work. Our overriding concern, and that of our member organizations, is the impact of both versions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on the people and communities we serve. On the basis of securing a sound future, maintaining our ability to serve as dedicated problem solvers in our communities, and the ability of the sector to secure resources to perform necessary work, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is fatally flawed.

The goal of simplifying the tax code and making it easier for Americans to file their taxes is admirable, but the collateral damage this simplification would cause is too great a cost. According to Republican estimates, nearly doubling the standard deduction would result in only five percent of taxpayers itemizing their tax deductions — placing the charitable deduction out of the reach for 95 percent of taxpayers. As a result, experts calculate that the absence of this powerful incentive for such a vast majority of taxpayers would reduce giving by $13 – $20 billion every year. It is regrettable that neither chamber has recognized the simple solution to this issue: a universal charitable deduction that would extend an incentive to give to all taxpayers, not just the very few who would itemize.

A decrease in giving of this scale would force charitable nonprofits to make significant cuts to their operations — meaning that millions of people will no longer have access to the services that nonprofits are currently able to offer. Economists also estimate a loss of 220,000 to 264,000 jobs in the nonprofit sector as a result of the cuts that will be necessary for many charities to keep their doors open. A bill that is designed to create jobs shouldn't be taking away the jobs of almost a quarter of a million Americans who are trying to help others.

While we were encouraged to see that the Senate bill does not contain the same provision that was buried in the House bill to repeal the so-called "Johnson Amendment,” we continue to hear that this provision may be offered as an amendment to the Senate version, or could survive in the bill post-conference. This provision alone is independent grounds for the entire tax package to be rejected. More than 5,500 nonprofits and foundations, more than 4,200 faith leaders, more than 100 religious and denominational organizations, the state law enforcement officials who focus on regulating nonprofits,  89 percent of Evangelical pastors, and 79 percent of the American public have expressed steadfast support for the law that has been in place for more than 60 years. The nonprofit and foundation communities strenuously oppose the addition of corrosive partisanship to our sector. The proposal to take this important protection away is an affront to organizations that are dedicated to improving our communities through nonpartisan engagement. Current law doesn't cost anything, but the unwanted change would cost taxpayers billions of dollars, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Our three organizations stand ready to work with Congress on future legislation to improve our communities and strengthen civil society through the tax code. However, for the reasons stated above and many more that affect the people in communities across this country that rely on our services, we must urge each of you to vote "NO" on the tax bill before the Senate.


Vikki Spruill
President and CEO
Council on Foundations

Tim Delaney
President and CEO
National Council of Nonprofits

Dan Cardinali
President and CEO
Independent Sector

Building a Better World Through Design: Protothon and EY

November 29, 2017

Keep calm and get hackingRecently, more than eighty design-oriented and engineering students from ten different universities as well as professionals from across New York City spent fifteen hours over two days at the NYU Media and Gaming Network (MAGNET) facilities in Brooklyn for the first-ever "Prototyping Hackathon" (ProtothonTM). Sponsored by Ernst & Young LLP (EY), the theme of the inaugural Protothon was disaster relief.

In the U.S. alone, the first nine months of 2017 brought fifteen disasters claiming a total of 323 American lives and costing $1 billion or more each. These figures do not include the devastation Mexico suffered from a recent earthquake and the extensive damage storms have inflicted across Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In the aftermath of major disasters like the ones we saw in 2017, nonprofit organizations, companies, and individuals are eager to extend a helping hand, either by donating money in support of relief and recovery efforts or by applying their core competencies to the situation in innovative ways.  

"Design can save lives," said Domenick Propati, founder of Protothon and an NYU professor. "This Protothon will showcase that premise as teams develop impactful and actionable solutions that can be carried forward to help those impacted by natural disasters."

Participating students sat in on a panel with three people who have worked in different aspects of disaster relief and recovery efforts, attended a UX design workshop, and then broke into teams and spent ten intense hours working to develop innovative and sustainable solutions that addressed one of the many disaster-related challenges voiced by the panel. While the final presentations featured prototypes of the solutions, they all had seen numerous iterations and improvements throughout the day — with feedback from experts in design, disaster relief, and solutions development.

"Disaster relief solutions largely look exactly how they looked thirty to forty years ago, pre-Internet," said Reese May, the national director of recovery at the St. Bernard Project, who served as a panelist. "So you can imagine how ripe this industry is for new, creative, innovative solutions to address this ever-shifting environment."

The Protothon provided students with an experiential learning opportunity while allowing EY to work with them in solving real-world challenges in a simulated environment that was similar to what they are likely to experience upon entering the workforce. Students also got a chance to learn more about the full breadth of services EY brings when solving client and community problems and its commitment to diversity of perspective, one of the critical pillars of design thinking.  

"As an organization that is two-thirds millennials and ranked number one on DiversityInc's 2017 Top 50 Companies list, EY understands that the best solutions come when all levels, perspectives, and experiences are included at the same table," said David Kadio-Morokro, deputy innovation leader at the firm. "Many of the processes our EY professionals use in identifying and refining solutions in the private sector for our clients can be applied to solving complex challenges that affect people and communities. That's what Protothon is all about, and we are proud to be sponsoring the great work these students have put forward."

Ideas that leverage the blockchain, digital storage of critical insurance documents, drone damage assessments connected to SMS emergency alerts, and an app for crowdsourcing specific aid needs for nongovernmental agencies (NGOs) were just some of the solutions presented by Protothon participants. Throughout the event, Protothon founder Dom Propati stressed the importance of "the design thinking process" and not just "the result." Later he noted, "It was never about the perfect solution. There is no one right answer for disaster preparedness, relief, and response. For participants, this was an extremely real-world exercise in deconstructing a complex problem, clearly defining their end users, testing their concepts, refining their prototypes based on feedback, and articulating their findings to judges." The presentations helped the "experts" think differently about their relief strategies and about different ways they could approach disaster relief. And the reminder to digitize all critical documents relative to ownership, insurance, and emotional memories was an especially helpful takeaway.

As recruiting becomes increasingly sophisticated and technologically focused, organizations need to understand that hackathons and other experiential activities can be opportunities for young people and potential job candidates to engage in something productive for themselves and society. Yes, the organization with positions to fill will pay close attention to candidates' work style, problem-solving abilities, and teamwork skills, but regardless of whether students leave with a job offer, everyone in the room will feel better that they have contributed to solving a problem and making a difference in their communities.

Ellen_glazerman_for_PhilanTopicEllen Glazerman is EY Americas University relations leader and executive director of the Ernst & Young LLP Foundation.

[Review] 'Engine of Impact: Essentials of Strategic Leadership in the Nonprofit Sector'

November 28, 2017

The nonprofit sector has never faced more difficult challenges — or had the potential to create greater impact — than it does today, argue William F. Meehan III, director emeritus of McKinsey & Company, and Kim Starkey Jonker, president and CEO of King Philanthropies, in their new book, Engine of Impact: Essentials of Strategic Leadership in the Nonprofit Sector. But for nonprofits — by 2025 projected to need up to $300 billion more annually beyond currently expected revenues in order to meet demand — to benefit from the largest intergenerational wealth transfer in U.S. history (an estimated $59 trillion expected to change hands between 2007 and 2061), they will have to "earn the right to expand [their] role and maximize [their] impact" in what Meehan and Jonker refer to as the coming "Impact Era."

Book_engine_of_impact_3dDrawing on a number of surveys, including the 2016 Stanford Survey on Leadership and Management in the Nonprofit Sector; a variety of Stanford Social Innovation Review articles, business and nonprofit management books, and Meehan's course on nonprofit leadership at the Stanford Graduate School of Business; and Jonker's experience overseeing the Henry R. Kravis Prize in Nonprofit LeadershipEngine of Impact outlines the challenges nonprofits currently face — lack of impact data, transparency, and sustainable operational support; donors' tendency to give impulsively to well-known organizations rather than high-impact ones; ineffective boards — and then explores a number of tools that nonprofits can use to address those challenges. They do not include venture philanthropy or impact investments, which Meehan and Jonker, somewhat "controversially," are skeptical of. Instead, they urge nonprofits to embrace the "essentials of strategic leadership" — mission, strategy, impact evaluation, insight and courage, funding, talent/organization, and board governance — which, when brought together thoughtfully and intentionally, create an engine of impact that drives organizational success.

Quoting liberally from business management expert Peter Drucker, Ashoka founder Bill Drayton (an early mentor of Meehan's), Good to Great author Jim Collins, and other luminaries, the authors illustrate each component of strategic leadership with concrete examples often drawn from the work of Kravis Prize winners such as the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), BRACLandesa, and Helen Keller International. And while they concede that some of them may be obvious, they are quick to note, based on survey results, that they are not all well understood or effectively implemented.

They emphasize, for example, the importance of a well-crafted mission statement, and caution organizations against mission creep, even if avoiding the latter means saying no to a new funding source. Indeed, saying "no" seems to be a critical part of strategic leadership, in that the urgent need to achieve maximum impact in a time of enormous challenges and limited resources is too important for nonprofit leaders to be distracted by non-mission-aligned activities — or by debates over semantics (e.g., "theory of change" vs. "logic model"): "if you ever find yourself caught in a debate about these terms' usage," Meehan and Jonkers write, "we suggest you leave the room immediately. We do."

One somewhat puzzling note is Meehan and Jonker's warning against setting up a straw man in the debate over quantitative vs. qualitative data while seeming to do just that — as if nonprofit and foundation leaders in 2017 are all either purely "analytics" or "poets" and don't recognize and value, to some degree, both types of data, as do Meehan and Jonker, who urge their readers to make all impact measurements "quantifiable" but to only "count what counts." It's also important, in their view, to invest in evaluation — the sooner in the process the better — in that such investments create feedback loops that can drive improvement and advance strategic thinking. Alas, according to the Stanford survey, few funders require (or fund) impact measurement, and only 57 percent of nonprofit executives and staff regularly use findings from evaluations to refine their theory of change or adjust their overall strategy. Taking such a step, as well as making unpopular decisions and saying no when necessary, requires insight and courage, write Meehan and Jonker — qualities exhibited by the likes of successful social entrepreneurs such as Drayton, Landesa founder Ron Prosterman, and AIL founder Sakena Yacoobi. Indeed, they are the kind of essential leadership qualities that "even inexperienced" funders can recognize, the authors write, and as such they should be included in funders' grantmaking criteria.

Once an organization has built its engine of impact, that engine needs fuel, which is where talent, funding, and board governance come in. Meehan and Jonker argue for a "team of teams" model that "emphasizes decentralized autonomy, meritocracy, and a sense of partnership"; minimizes bureaucracy; maximizes talent development and leadership opportunities; and, they believe, will become "the new standard for nonprofits, foundations, and even for-profit global businesses." They also urge organizations to get "the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the key seats before [figuring] out where to drive the bus"; to compensate high-performing leaders well; and to see succession planning as the "inherently difficult" but important function that it is.  

The board plays a critical role in all of these areas, as it does in ensuring that mission-focused goals, strategies, and impact measurement systems are in place. Therefore, boards themselves must be designed for transparency and efficient decision making, while board members must bring their "work, wisdom, and wealth" to bear on the organization's efforts. The latter, in Meehan and Jonker's view, is no minor detail: "board members should give at a personal stretch level and should prioritize [their] organization within their charitable giving" — a reasonable, if somewhat audacious, demand. 

"Audacious" also is what strategic nonprofit leaders need to be when it comes to securing funding. After their own board members, the authors advise, nonprofit leaders and development staff should target individuals, who account for the bulk of charitable giving in the U.S., rather than foundations, whose grants typically are project-based and more often than not fail to cover the cost of evaluations, leadership development, and capacity building (especially in the area of fundraising). Meehan and Jonker focus on what they call "plutophilanthropy," the kinds of major gifts from ultra-wealthy donors that have long benefited colleges and universities, medical centers, and high-profile cultural institutions. Social service providers should invest in educating and cultivating donors with the wherewithal to make such gifts by engaging their families and networks, developing individualized cultivation plans, and, for younger philanthropists, fostering a strong sense of community.

So, how many U.S. nonprofits are ready to follow Meehan and Jonker's advice and "tune" their impact engine with the aim of scaling their efforts? Believe it or not, only one in ten (11 percent). Not sure where your organization falls? The book offers a "readiness-to-scale matrix" (supplemented with a diagnostic on the book's website) for assessing whether an organization lacks a well-built engine and fuel ("Scale Jail"); has a proven engine but needs to secure a good fuel source ("Field of Dreams"); provides a specific service to a specific population and thus has no reason to scale ("Small Is Beautiful"); has a poorly built engine but receives significant funding "because the leaders...excel at creating the kind of buzz that fills the atmosphere at social sector conferences" ("The Waterfall"); or has "earned the right to scale their impact by creating a well-built, proven impact model and by finding the fuel they need to sustain growth" ("The Promised Land"). Cute labels aside, the authors showcase options for increasing an organization's impact without increasing its size, measuring its cost-efficiency, and leveraging technology to expand service delivery — if not necessarily increase donations.  

As the repeated use of the phrase "earn(ed) the right to scale" makes clear, Meehan and Jonker believe that only nonprofits that can demonstrate, through quantifiable measurement, their impact and capacity to maximize it, should — and will — thrive in the Impact Era. What's more, their sense of urgency is palpable throughout the book. While none of the concepts they present are revolutionary, they have been reinvigorated and realigned for this moment. Which makes Engine of Impact an energizing, if sobering, read for nonprofit leaders, board members, and funders alike. If the book elides the fact that donors rarely base their giving on impact data ("[W]e hope that situation will soon change"), it is nevertheless an optimistic book whose authors are confident that "in a nation and a world divided...a nonprofit sector poised to bring unprecedented resources and, for the first time ever, a set of robust tools that will support the fact-based decision making that maximizing impact requires" will succeed in creating the change the world desperately needs.

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


Weekend Link Roundup (November 25-26, 2017)

November 26, 2017

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


In the Bangor Daily News, Chris Gates, former president of the National Civic League and executive director of Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement, argues that the House Republican plan to eliminate the estate tax "would hurt [the] country, and the people of Maine, in significant ways" — with charitable giving all but certain to be one of the biggest casualties.

Which state is the most generous? And which is the least? Mona Chalabi, data editor at the Guardian USand a columnist at New York magazine, has a state-by-state breakdown on the FiveThirtyEight site, for which she was previously a lead news writer.


Here on PhilanTopic, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Karabi Acharya shares some of the ways the foundation scours the globe for ideas with the potential to improve health and health care in the U.S.

International Affairs/Development

Yemen is on the brink of a terrible famine. Amanda Erickson reports for the Washington Post.

"[W]ithout the ability to conduct accurate, timely, and robust progress measurement," efforts "to advance human health and development...and the SDGs have an unaddressed Achilles heel," writes Philip Setel on the Devex site. But there is a way forward, says Setel. Because of technological advancements in data collection and processing, and a landmark investment from Bloomberg Philanthropies and the government of Australia, "for the first time in history it may be possible to count every human life and make the invisible visible."

On his Nonprofit Chronicles blog, Marc Gunther reports on the efforts of Village Enterprises, a small NGO headquartered in San Carlos, California, to fight poverty in East Africa with something called results-based financing.


In an interview with HuffPo contributor and Ireland Council of State member Ruairí McKiernan, former Atlantic Philanthropies head Gara LaMarche argues that "[f]unders badly need to rethink their approach to philanthropy if they are serious about social justice."

Are Shark Tank-style competitions featuring nonprofits really an effective way to allocate scarce resources and deliver the disruptions and breakthroughs they often promise? In the Nonprofit Quarterly, Sheela Nimishakavi, a nonprofit finance and operations professional, says the evidence for such claims just isn't there. 

The mind-boggling news that auction house Christie's sold Salvator Mundi, believed to be the last known painting by Leonardo da Vinci in private hands, for $450 million, prompted the Artsy website to ask six luminaries from the world of arts, economics, bioethics, and development to share how they’d spend $450 million.

In The Atlantic, Helaine Olen profiles Resource Generation, "the almost 20-year-old nonprofit that works with wealthy people between the ages of 18 and 35 to encourage them to devote a portion of their financial assets to left-wing causes, including addressing the economic divides between the haves and the have-nots, and race and gender discrimination...."

PEAK Grantmaking (formerly the Grants Managers Network) and Foundation Center are interested in better understanding the practice of "grants management" and the role it plays in decision making at foundations. You can help by completing this short survey.

Public Affairs

In a post on the World Wide Web Foundation site, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web and the foundation's founding director, argues that the protection of net neutrality — "the fundamental principle that all content should be treated equally online — is vital "to individual empowerment, democracy, and economic growth."


And in honor of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which this year fell on November 25, the Hilton Prize Coalition, an independent alliance of the twenty-two winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, is shining a spotlight on 2006 Hilton Humanitarian Prize laureate Women for Women International and the work that organization is doing with women who have been displaced by war and conflict in the Kurdistan region of Iraq and around the world.

That's it for this week. Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a line at

[Review] 'Generation Impact: How Next Gen Donors Are Revolutionizing Giving'

November 21, 2017

A new generation of donors is expected to inherit an estimated $59 trillion dollars by 2061 and to allocate almost half that sum to charitable causes. In addition to this unprecedented transfer of wealth, there are also a growing number of next-generation donors who have earned their own fortunes at a relatively young age and are currently, or will soon be, engaged in philanthropy in a significant way.  

Gen-impact-book-1In Generation Impact: How Next Gen Donors Are Revolutionizing Giving, authors Sharna Goldseker and Michael Moody set out to illuminate the "collective mindset" of this emerging cohort of Gen X and millennial philanthropists, who, as a result of almost unprecedented wealth creation and concentration, are ushering in a "golden age of giving" marked not only by significantly more financial resources available for charitable causes than in the past but by dramatic shifts in the traditional norms of philanthropy. These shifts are the impetus for Goldseker and Moody's book; through interviews and surveys with hundreds of younger philanthropists, as well as first-person accounts from thirteen next-gen donors, they aim to help the social sector understand who these next-generation donors are, how they're giving, and how they're likely to approach change-making efforts in the years to come.  

The authors call these next-gen donors "Generation Impact" because they're hyper-focused on seeing the needle actually move with respect to the various issues they are passionate about. Many want to understand an organization's theory of change; others are eager to go on site visits to see the impact created by their support, while still others want to review hard data that shows the success (or lack thereof) of a program or organization. This focus on results also goes hand-in-hand with a desire to not just fund organizations, but to invest their own time and talent in causes that are important to them. That can take many forms, from volunteering with an organization before becoming engaged as a donor, to connecting with the beneficiaries of a program that they're thinking about funding, to lending their skills and expertise to organizations in addition to (or instead of) writing a check. "Experiencing it with your own hands and eyes is a must," one donor tells Goldseker and Moody.  

Many of these next-gen donors also are beginning their engagement with philanthropy at a relatively young age and will continue giving throughout their lives; as a result, they strive to bring their full selves to their philanthropic endeavors instead of merely viewing charitable giving as an add-on to their professional and personal lives. As one donor puts it: "Philanthropy is not just something that you do; it is very much a part of who you are."  

And while they continue to give through traditional vehicles like family foundations and donor-advised funds at community foundations, next-gen donors increasingly are turning to less traditional vehicles such as crowdfunding platforms and impact investments, are supporting social enterprises and hybrid organizations that blur the lines between for- and nonprofit, and are often focused on working with others to effect change. "They are hungry," write Goldseker and Moody, "for meaningful connections with peers in similar situations of philanthropic affluence so that they can connect personally, to learn and grow together and be more effective in their giving."

Given all that, it's surprising the authors make a point of mentioning the "paucity of other sources of learning in the philanthropic field" for next-gen donors, a lack that leads them, in their words, to seek out their peers for strategic advice. Many infrastructure groups, in fact, including the Jewish Teen Funders Network, Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, and the Council on Michigan Foundations, have resources and programs geared to providing next-gen donors with a "roadmap" for their philanthropic journey. Here at Foundation Center, we recently developed — a platform designed to connect, inspire, and inform youth grantmaking, enabling younger donors to not only find and connect with peers, but to learn about other next-gen donors' experiences, failures, successes, and collective impact.

More importantly, what do these shifts mean for the social sector? The authors do a great job of taking the themes surfaced by their research and offering practical advice around what those themes are likely to mean for nonprofits, other philanthropists, and next-gen donors themselves. Younger donors may be rethinking the way Americans give, but, as Goldseker and Moody argue, they're also revolutionaries who respect tradition and will continue to support many of the same causes funded by older generations: indeed, next-gen donors "are earnestly and eagerly searching for ways to honor their elders' legacies and adapt their giving to have maximum impact."  

This should be comforting news to nonprofits that worry their donor support will dry up as younger philanthropists become a bigger force in the field. Still, Goldseker and Moody caution that nonprofits hoping to benefit from the intergenerational transfer of wealth will need to adapt and do a better job of showing the impact of their younger donors' gifts. Other key takeaways for nonprofits include the need to focus on developing meaningful relationships with next-gen donors by aligning with their values, providing them with personal experience of the programs they support, and encouraging them to donate their time and professional skills in addition to (or even instead of) financial resources.

Key takeaways for family foundations looking to engage the next generation include the need to ensure that governance structures give real voice to younger family members, to embrace transparency and use generational differences to their advantage, and to provide younger family members with opportunities to connect with, learn from, and collaborate with their peers in philanthropy. The authors also stress that next-gen donors should respect the boundary between being "hands on" and micromanaging or asking for too much from organizations that are looking for help and support. Or, as they put it: "They will need to keep the inherent power divide in mind, to check in with their partners on the other side of the funding table, and, above all, to listen to what people and organizations really need."  

Goldseker and Moody are incredibly optimistic about next-gen donors who are coming into the field and their potential to meaningfully move the needle on many of our most pressing social problems. Indeed, they believe that impact created by next-gen donors will be greater than the impact created by earlier generations of philanthropists — not only because they are likely to have more resources at their disposal, but because they're more entrepreneurial, more focused on concrete results, and more invested in using new tools to produce those results and effect meaningful, lasting change. It's up to nonprofits and other philanthropists, they write, to adapt to and embrace these new attitudes and behaviors. And it's up to next-gen donors to use their significant privilege and resources strategically, while listening respectfully, to maximize their impact.

Erin Nylen-Wysocki is manager of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center. For more great reviews, visit the Off the Shelf section in PND.


Learning From Abroad: Philanthropy’s Role in Spreading Social Innovation

November 20, 2017

Four_idea_lightbulbsDid you know the toothbrush was first invented in China, or that the idea for kindergarten originated in Germany? The United States has benefited from great ideas from other countries for years. As grantmakers — whether a national philanthropy or a local funder — we can learn so much by embracing the notion that good ideas have no borders.

At the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), I direct an effort explicitly tasked with searching the globe for ideas with the potential to improve health and health care in the U.S. And as the foundation continues on its ambitious journey to build a national Culture of Health, my colleagues and I are casting a wide net with our own learning efforts to bring the best ideas and solutions forward.

Finding promising ideas from abroad isn't always easy. It requires time and commitment. Making global ideas accessible and adaptable so that the communities we serve can implement them successfully can be challenging. But I am optimistic. Our efforts to learn from abroad have led us to the work of many organizations and experts who are advancing ideas in areas as diverse as creating a new workforce to support frail elders, building new partnerships to disrupt community violence, and bringing disengaged youth back into the fold.

Our journey also has led us to efforts like ChangeX that are laser-focused on transforming communities with great ideas and social innovations.

Launched in Ireland in 2015, ChangeX International has inspired and supported hundreds of community-led innovations around the world, providing a roadmap for leaders to  drive change in their own neighborhoods. The ChangeX platform finds and packages proven ideas for local adaptation. For instance, Welcome Dinner is a program where residents of a community seek out newly settled refugees and immigrants to share a meal. Because of ChangeX, the idea, which originated in Sweden, has spread quickly throughout Europe and is now helping build social cohesion in communities in the U.S. Men's Shed, an Australian innovation, has become a global movement in ten countries that makes it possible for retired men to come together in dedicated community spaces to find meaning, new skillsets, and friendship. GirlTrek has turned a low-cost, high-impact solution — walking — into a health movement that activates thousands of black women to be change makers.

These are just a few of the many innovations ChangeX is spreading around the world.

With RWJF's support, last year ChangeX launched its first U.S. expansion in Minnesota, and to date more than a hundred local projects are up and running across the state. What's interesting to me is that some of the proven and promising solutions on the ChangeX platform emerged directly from local needs and local values. For example, Sambusa Sunday started in Minneapolis when local Somalis wanted to thank the many residents who supported them during a recent spike in anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment. Featuring free chai tea and Somali pastries called sambusas, these public events bring together neighbors of all backgrounds and nationalities. We're also finding that these innovations are easily adapted for use in other communities, provided local leaders are given the right resources and tools to move them forward.

ChangeX, and adapting global ideas to uniquely local circumstances, sometimes feels a bit like gardening: You take a cutting from a healthy, vibrant plant; root it; and transplant it in another locale, where, with proper care, support, and cultivation, it too can flourish.

As we — funders and grantmakers — look for ways to build stronger, more vibrant communities here in the U.S., we should explore what other countries are doing well. Platforms like ChangeX are a great place to start.

I invite you to join me and my colleagues at RWJF on this global learning journey. What spaces are you currently exploring that could be informed by looking outside our borders? What global efforts do you see holding promise for supporting U.S. communities?

Great ideas are out there. Let's work together to find them!

Headshot_karabi_acharyaKarabi Acharya directs the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s strategies for global learning as it identifies best practices in other countries and adapts them to improve the social determinants of health in communities in the United States. 

Weekend Link Roundup (November 18-19, 2017)

November 19, 2017

Say no to sexual harassmentOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....


"In a world where there is 'an avalanche of crazy things coming out of the [current] administration', communications professionals find themselves having to rethink how they communicate both internally and externally," writes Jason Tomassini, associate director for editorial at Atlantic Media Strategies, on the Communications Network site. At the recent ComNet17 conference, Tomassini and the network invited attendees to participate in a discussion about how they're navigating communications challenges in the current political environment. Here are four key takeaways from that discussion.

Disaster Relief

The Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, the fund created by Houston mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County judge Ed Emmett, has announced a second round of grants totaling $28.9 million to nintey nonprofits. The Houston Chronicle's Mike Morris has the details.


Although the giving traditions of the Rockefeller family were established almost a hundred and fifty years ago, writes Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisor's Melissa Blackerby, modern philanthropists can still learn from the family's values and example.

Gun Violence

In the HuffPost, Melissa Jeltsen and Sarah Ruiz-Grossman use data collected by Everytown for Gun Safety to argue that most mass shootings in America are related to domestic violence.

Higher Education

The dueling Republican tax bills working their way through Congress have implications for exempt sectors of the economy that could fundamentally change the way they operate. In this Weekend Edition segment, NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro talks to Raynard Kington, president of Grinnell College, a small liberal arts college in Iowa with a large endowment, about the Republican proposal to levy an excise tax on endowment income.


Nonprofit AF blogger Vu Le has re-posted to his own blog his NPQ think piece on the future of the nonprofit sector.

Forbes contributor Christian Johnson, co-founder and CEO of Seed Consulting Group, suggests that nonprofit leaders can learn from cardiologists and the complex information and alert systems they rely on to more effectively run their organizations.


In his annual president's message, a somber Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, notes the passing of two Rockefeller family members "who profoundly shaped the character and work of th[e] foundation over many decades" and shares some thoughts about the challenges confronting the nation and the global community.

In the Nonprofit Quarterly, Martin Levine suggests there's "a not-so-quiet storm brewing in the structure of philanthropy," as donors of all sizes increasingly turn their back on private foundations and look to new vehicles, such as limited liability corporations and donor-advised funds, that "allow them greater control and less oversight."

Could foundations achieve greater impact if they made grants the way venture capital firms approach their investments, focusing not on organizations per se but on industry disruptors? Gabe Kleinman, head of portfolio services and content/marketing at Obvious VC, considers the implications.

Here on PhilanTopic, Fiduciary Trust's Joel Mittelman and Stacy K. Mullaney explain why, in an extended low-rate environment, a "total return" approach makes sense for foundations and endowment managers.

The Philanthropy Workshop (TPW), which works to "inspire, transform, and catalyze a network of effective philanthropists as a means to a more just, sustainable, and enriching world," is looking to hire a chief executive officer. Learn more about the opportunity here.

Public Policy

In The Hill, Independent Sector president/CEO Dan Cardinali and Council on Foundations president/CEO Vikki Spruill decry House Republicans' targeting of the Johnson Amendment, a 63-year-old measure that prohibits 501(c)(3) organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. Repeal of the provision, write Cardinali and Spruill, would result in billions of dollars of anonymously contributed dollars being funneled through nonprofits for partisan political purposes. And with all that money flowing through new, opaque channels, it would only be

a matter of time until scandal erupts, resulting in congressional hearings, IRS probes and public calls for a crackdown.
Think for a moment what that might look like: The IRS could impose vastly increased reporting requirements on nonprofits, a move that would increase the cost of fundraising and reduce spending on missions.
Religious organizations, for the first time, could be forced to file a Form 990, and all nonprofits could face greater scrutiny of their donor lists. Most ominously of all, Congress would feel pressured to eliminate the charitable deduction entirely to prevent government-subsidized funding of political campaigns....

Lucy Bernholz shares her own take on the so-called Brady amendment in a post on her Philanthropy 2173 blog.

In The Atlantic, Derek Thompson details the many bad arguments for getting rid of the estate tax. And here's the left-leaning Center for American Progress' dire take on repeal.

Frequent PhilanTopic contributor Mark Rosenman doesn't mince words as he lays out all the ways that Republican tax "reform" will hurt the charitable sector.

And believe it or not, there are a few millionaires and billionaires in the country — actually, more than four hundred — who have come out and just said "no" to the idea of cutting their taxes.

That's it for this week. Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a line at

Endowments Look to Total-Return Approach Amid Low Rates

November 16, 2017

Absolute-returnThe extended low-rate environment has had a considerable impact on almost all institutional investors, but perhaps none more so than endowments and foundations, which often struggle with distribution requirements and spending needs in excess of realized returns. A recent NACUBO-Commonfund benchmarking study found that endowments produced average returns of -1.9 percent in 2016. And while performance has improved significantly in 2017, in an era in which interest rates are near historic lows and yield remains difficult to find, endowments and foundations are rethinking whether they should adopt a "total return" approach as part of their underlying investment strategies.

A survey and accompanying white paper published earlier this year by Fiduciary Trust Company and Associated Grant Makers demonstrated the extent to which the low-rate environment is affecting nonprofits across nearly all traditional activities — from spending and grantmaking to fundraising and board governance. Among the fundraising institutions polled, for instance, an overwhelming majority (over 80 percent) have stepped up their fundraising efforts, while more than two out of every five grantmaking institutions have reduced their grantmaking activities or are weighing such a decision. Moreover, nearly half of the public charities responding to the survey said they had considered reducing or have reduced spending. To be sure, such tactics can help bridge the gap during periods in which returns suffer, but at what expense to the charitable or grantmaking missions of the organizations in question? And then there's the fact that a significant number of respondents, roughly one in five, have broadened their investment universe to allow for riskier investments in pursuit of higher returns, in many cases (we assume) without proper regard for downside risks.

Thanks in part to the pressures that accompany a low-rate environment, the value of a "total return" approach has again come to the fore. According to the same survey, half of the more than two hundred and thirty respondents indicated that their organizations have either already adopted a total-return approach or are considering such a move. Total-return strategies can come with short-term risks, but broadly diversified portfolios generally offer reduced volatility from year to year and, as a result, provide institutional investors with more control, consistency, and visibility as it relates to their distributions and related planning.

For those who may not be familiar with the term, "total return" refers to the value that amasses in a portfolio over a given period of time and combines interest and dividend income with capital appreciation from both realized and unrealized gains. In the past, by statute or by design, many organizations may have employed investment programs that limited distributions to income from bond interest or equity dividends.

Interest and awareness in a "total return" approach, however, is by no means a novel idea; it actually goes back to the late 1960s when former Ford Foundation president McGeorge Bundy commissioned two studies that analyzed the lackluster investment performance of university endowments common at the time. The second of the two studies, "Managing Educational Endowments," by Robert R. Barker, attributed the poor returns to an overemphasis on avoiding losses and maximizing current income.

Barker's research was groundbreaking in that it made a case for nonprofits to apply Modern Portfolio Theory, which itself was introduced by Harry Markowitz in the 1950s, to the management of their endowments. But the Barker study also set the stage for changes to the fiduciary standard, allowing boards to assess the "prudence" of a given investment strategy at the portfolio level versus analyzing each commitment independently and apart from other investments. Recognizing the extent to which loss aversion was affecting performance, the research also advocated for the delegation of investment management to qualified professionals who are best able to optimize performance while managing risk.

In addition to the improved consistency and better command over distributions, a total-return approach also can lead to superior investment management decision-making and, potentially, higher overall distributions. By re-assessing asset allocations and rebalancing exposures as valuations and market conditions change, a total-return approach also imposes far more discipline than a mere focus on income generation at the expense of other risks or investment opportunities.

While it may seem counterintuitive, organizations that eschew a total-return philosophy may be placing undue hardship on their endowments and grant recipients. It should be noted that statutes such as UPMIFA (Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act) or private foundation rules under the Internal Revenue Code may allow boards of tax-exempt organizations to consider the total return of an investment portfolio and also the circumstances dictating the prudence of diversification.

Mittelman_mullaney_for_philantopicDespite President Trump's nomination of a new Federal Reserve chair and investor expectations about future rate hikes, it is likely that the absolute level of rates will remain depressed for some time. What this means for nonprofits is that the same challenges that have complicated income-focused investment strategies over the past two years will likely remain in place until new catalysts emerge or as monetary policy changes. Against this backdrop, for many nonprofit investors there is not only more that can be done but more that should be done to meet the fiduciary duties that govern most trustee and board positions. A total-return approach isn’t just a solution for periods marked by low rates; it’s an antidote which can help ensure that portfolios retain a prudent level of diversification aimed at both augmenting long-term performance and managing risk.

Joel Mittelman is a vice president and head of endowments and foundations at Fiduciary Trust. Stacy K. Mullaney is chief fiduciary officer at Fiduciary Trust.

The Worst Tax Reform That Money Can Buy

November 15, 2017

Tax-reformCharities and foundations are lucky. Often their self-interest and the public interest seem to be in conflict. But not this month, thanks to Congressional Republican efforts to "reform" the U.S. tax system.

In simple terms, the Republican plan is an effort to transfer more than $1.5 trillion from public purposes, government, and charities in order to further enrich already fantastically wealthy individuals and corporations. Under both the House and Senate plans, far less of the proposed cuts would benefit middle-class folks — many of whom would actually end up paying more in taxes. And even if Republican leaders' hopes to finance their scheme through cuts to Medicare and Medicaid fail, many of the other so-called reforms would profoundly hamstring our nation's ability to address critical social needs.

It's the same old class warfare that Republicans have promoted since the days of Ronald Reagan, and it must be opposed for the sake of both the nonprofit sector and the people and causes who rely and depend on the sector.

As detailed elsewhere, standard deduction provisions alone would cost charities more than $13 billion in donations each year. Changes in the estate tax, which the House proposes to eliminate and the Senate would reform by doubling the exempt amount, would also have a devastating impact. When the tax was suspended for a year in 2010, bequests dropped by over a third; full repeal would cost the Treasury $270 billion over a decade that might otherwise fund critical needs across America. Yet the Republican proposals allow the top one-fifth of one-percent, the very wealthiest 00.2 percent of Americans, to keep that money, even though most of it has never been and never would be taxed.

Simply put, the various tax policies being pushed in both the House and Senate would significantly cut charitable donations and otherwise harm nonprofits in order to finance giveaways to Americans who already hold a disproportionate share of the nation's wealth.

Why are Republicans willing to cause so much harm to charities and ordinary people? Because, as has been candidly admitted by Republican politicians themselves, their donors and wealthy CEOs (often one and the same) expect it and have even threatened them if they fail to deliver. And, as a harbinger of worse things to come, some Republican-aligned groups are spending upwards of $40 billion to sell middle-class voters on the plan.

In a further move to serve their own narrow interests, House Republicans are angling to repeal the Johnson Amendment and allow 501(c)(3) organizations to engage in partisan political activity. If they succeed and donors start to use tax-exempt charities to fuel their own partisan agendas, the Treasury stands to lose more than $2 billion in tax receipts, and nonprofit organizations of all persuasions are likely to become embroiled in terribly divisive partisan debates over policy. They would also be much more susceptible to coercion by their donors — and by government contract and grant officials — to adopt partisan positions, or face the consequences.

Other provisions hidden in the House or Senate bills — and, remember, provisions in either bill can become law through the work of the final conference committee — do harm to certain charities and those they serve. One proposal would tax the endowment earnings of large universities. As it stands currently, this would cost those institutions a cool $3 billion a year, money that might otherwise be used for student financial aid. It would also open the door to such policies being extended to other charitable entities and funding streams.

Related proposals would hurt university students more broadly and directly. The deduction for student loan interest would disappear, with potentially devastating consequences for roughly twelve million Americans. Student tuition waivers also would be taxed. In total, another $65 billion would be taken from students to finance the Republicans' money grab — even as the same politicians push regressive policies that will exacerbate inequality and make it harder for the working class to realize the American dream.

Under another Republican "reform," universities, hospitals and other charities would no longer be able to finance new facilities and capital improvements through tax-free bonds issued by state and local governments, raising the cost of education and health care by close to $40 billion. School teachers' deduction for the cost of the supplies they buy (only covering the initial $250 they spend) would disappear. And the close to nine million Americans who claim a medical expense deduction (many of them served by nonprofits) are more likely to become even sicker as they watch the transfer of more than $180 billion in tax benefits to the wealthy and large corporations. Seniors would be hurt the most.

There's more. For the first time ever, charities would find certain of their practices subject to fiscal disincentives. Compensation of over $1 million paid to any staffer would be subject to an excise tax.

Now, while some might favor discouraging excessive compensation packages in the charitable sector (I among them), others (I among them) argue that: first, without competitive salaries, large nonprofit hospital systems and similar entities will be unable to today attract the qualified people they need to run those operations; second, that government ought not to impose such disincentives on nonprofits without commensurate action on corporations that have driven up executive compensation to egregious multiples of the average worker’s wage; and third, that it is a terrible precedent for politicians to decide which charitable practices they like or don't like and to use tax policy to enforce their preferences.

Other policy provisions will dramatically impact ordinary Americans. While capping the deduction for mortgage interest is likely to hurt those with more expensive homes, House Republicans don't seem to mind the fact that tax-payers in cities with the highest cost of living — places that, not coincidentally, tend to vote Democratic — will be penalized the most. So, too, the Senate's plan to eliminate the deduction for state and local taxes — a provision that would disproportionately affect those living in "blue" localities.

As "ambitious" as the House, Senate, and White House "reform" packages may be, they clearly work to the detriment of charities and the public. Even as Republicans try to sell their efforts as a boon for the middle class, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has had to admit that the upshot for 25 percent of those in such income brackets is a higher tax bill. Indeed, it is wealthy people like Donald Trump who already pay far less than their fair share of taxes who will benefit the most.

No matter which of these specific proposals survive initial votes in the House and Senate, no matter which of the president's regressive ideas are adopted, and no matter what kind of bill emerges from the conference committee for a final vote, the "reforms" gleefully touted by Republicans will be ruinous for the nation. Charities and organized philanthropy need to stand up and speak out now — for themselves and for the public and the planet — before it's too late.

Headshot_mark_rosenmanMark Rosenman is a professor emeritus at the Union Institute & University. To read more of Rosenman's commentary, click here.

Philanthropy and Conflict Transformation

November 13, 2017

Conflict_transformationCarnage on the streets of New York, London, and Paris has taught us that anyone can be affected by violent conflict. In an interconnected world, borders mean little and war spreads easily. Such attacks, where anyone can become a victim, have their roots in deeper social problems.

Violent conflict brings death, lost homes, displaced persons, and spoiled lives. It costs money, too. The Global Peace Index estimates the 2017 cost of violence across the world at $14.3 trillion (or 12.6 percent of global GDP).

The response of philanthropy to these problems has historically been modest. According to the Peace and Security Funding Index, 290 U.S. foundations gave $357 million in 2014 (the latest date for which figures are available). The mismatch between the scale of the problem and the size of resources stimulated discussion at a workshop organized by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP), Foundation Center, and Donors and Foundations Networks in Europe (DAFNE) on October 30. Some forty-five funders, peace organizations, NGOs, and think tanks concluded that there was a need to learn from each other and to join up the field.

Jean Marc Rickli from GCSP gave a lightning tour of recent conflicts across the world. A few high-intensity armed conflicts are causing large numbers of civilian casualties. Elsewhere, progress promoting peace and justice, together with effective, accountable and inclusive institutions, remains uneven across and within regions. Over the past thirty years, the face of violent conflict has changed markedly. Rather than standoffs between states, conflict is more likely to be based on asymmetrical power relations. Conflicts have become more scattered over a wider area and are driven by nationalism or differences in ideology.

Celia McKeon, from Rethinking Security, identified the drivers of modern conflict: social and political marginalization, inequality, climate change, competition for resources, racism, nationalism, hyper-masculinity, and growing militarization. In studying strategies for national security, she found a reliance on elite-level dialogue, a focus on short-term matters, and unrealistic time frames for post-conflict recovery. Much less attention is paid to preventive work and root causes and support for actors on the ground. Alex Bryden from the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of the Armed Forces (DCAF) echoed these comments, suggesting that security policy was often muddled in suggesting, for example, that more private security is a good thing. The failure to address these factors demonstrates the weakness of global governance and the widespread failure of institutional solutions to peacebuilding.

In the light of the complexity of the issues and the risks entailed, it is perhaps not surprising that many philanthropies find the issue of conflict difficult to engage with. However, as Larry McGill from  Foundation Center observed, the experience of the Peace and Security Funders Group demonstrates that there is much scope for constructive engagement and described a wealth of different interventions in twenty-three different issue areas — from building coalitions to training journalists. Avila Kilmurray, drawing on her work with the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland and Foundations for Peace, and citing her recent study for Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace (PSJP), pointed out that grantmaking in divided societies is different because efforts can be undermined by a bomb going off at any time. Both small and large grants are important, though a small unrestricted grant that allows freedom to spend money in a variety of ways is often better than large grants tied to restricted programmatic goals. There is a key role in research and development for foundations — trying out things that might work and sticking with issues over the long haul. A key task is working with communities that are affected by violence and engaging them in the solutions.

In afternoon workshops, participants explored the challenges facing NGOs and funders working in conflict prevention and resolution. They highlighted the need for a thorough understanding of the context and the causes of the conflict; clarity of purpose and the building of trust between donors and project implementers underpinned by alignment of mission; a preparedness to take risks; and a commitment to a scale and duration appropriate to the conflict and its resolution.

The conclusion of the workshop was that the field needs new energy and thinking. In her summing up, Lauren Bradford from Foundation Center noted that while lots of things are happening in different spaces, the field should be brought together in a way that would yield an ecosystem supportive of the skills, knowledge, and expertise of different actors. A useful vehicle for doing this is SDG 16, whose goal is to "promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels."

There was widespread agreement on the need for a follow-up meeting focused on strengthening connections. A useful place to start this process would be at the annual meeting of the Peace and Security Funders Group due to take place in Minneapolis in May 2018.

Barry Knight bio picBarry Knight oversees the work of the Webb Memorial Trust, supports Foundations for Peace, and works with the Global Fund for Community Foundations, the Arab Reform Initiative, WINGS, and the European Foundation Centre. He is also co-chair of the Working Group on Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace and has previously advised the Ford Foundation and Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. The author or editor of fourteen books on poverty, civil society, community development, and democracy, Knight recently published Rethinking Poverty. What Makes a Good Society?

Spoiler Alert: It’s Not All About Fundraising

November 07, 2017

Spoiler-alertAs a nonprofit leader, you'll be delighted to learn that new research affirms what most of us knew: Americans are generous. In fact, this year’s edition of Giving USA found that charitable giving by individuals in the U.S. was up nearly 4 percent in 2016, hitting an all-time high.

But as The Chronicle of Philanthropy notes in How America Gives, a recently released analysis of American giving patterns, these gifts are coming from fewer people. In 2015, the Chronicle notes,

only 24 percent of taxpayers reported a charitable gift....That’s down from 2000 to 2006, years when that figure routinely reached 30 or 31 percent....

While the Chronicle suggests the drop off could be due to a decrease in the number of Americans itemizing deductions on their tax returns, they also point to other possibilities: the lingering after effects of the Great Recession, an increase in the number of struggling middle-class families, more competition for fewer dollars.

And then there's the millennial factor. The generation born between 1980 and 2000 is the largest in American history, and as the Chronicle notes, "it's well known that [millennials] aren't embracing traditional ideas of giving."

It's a trend that's reflected in our own research. Indeed, Phase 2 of our 2017 Millennial Impact Report found that the millennial generation doesn't rank giving — or volunteering — as all that meaningful in terms of effecting change. In the study, survey respondents were asked to rank their typical cause/social issue-related behaviors in order of how influential they believed each to be. Out of ten actions, volunteering for a cause or organization ranked sixth while giving ranked eighth — well behind other actions such as signing a petition, attending a march or rally, voting, or taking to social media to share one's views.

In other words, when it comes to creating change, millennials seem to favor what we call activist-type behaviors to more traditional forms of cause engagement (like donating and volunteering). And it isn't just millennials: NPR noted earlier this year that the election of Donald Trump ignited grassroots activism — on both the left and right — at a level "never seen before."

Whether politically motivated or not, a clear trend is emerging: People across the country are looking for more effective ways to bring about the kind of change they'd like to see, and the actions they're taking don't necessarily start with (or sometimes even include) giving or volunteering.

For nonprofits that rely on donations from individuals, this poses a problem. While it's good that people are passionate and want to get involved with issues they care deeply about, cash, for nonprofit organizations, still matters — and often is the most important factor in an organization's ability to do its work and advance its mission.

What's a nonprofit leader to do? And what can nonprofit organizations do to address this shift in behavior?

Here are three things to keep in mind as you look to activate a new generation of supporters:

1. Make it about the issue. In my previous post, I looked at some of the things nonprofits should be doing to turn one-time donors into loyal and engaged supporters. And one of those things is articulating how a small action by a supporter can connect with other small actions to create bigger impact with respect to an issue or cause.

The same is true when you are looking to cultivate and/or strengthen relationships with your existing supporters. People give and get involved with an issue through an organization, not because of an organization. Think about it: I'm more likely to become involved with Pencils of Promise not because someone told me that PoP was doing great work and its focus is on education but because I’m passionate about quality education for all kids and PoP does great work in that space.

2. Don't just run a campaign, build a movement. It's easy for nonprofit development professional and fundraisers to get hung up in the wash-rinse-repeat campaign cycle. At the start of the year, your fiscal calendar is already blocked out with various appeals, volunteer drives, and fundraising events — so many, in fact, that you barely have to time to think. But how are they connected? What are you doing between campaigns to maintain the engagement level of your supporters and continuously deepen their connection to your issue?

To truly make a difference, you need to activate your supporters and followers at every level of engagement, moving them along a continuum from having a more-than-passing interest in your issue to actually standing up and taking action on behalf of it. Campaigns have a role to play in that, but every campaign (and all your communications) should be designed to deepen an individual's engagement to the point where she feels herself to be an actual member of a movement and is willing to introduce others to the cause.

3. Update your organization's structure. Because of the resource constraints most nonprofits have to deal with, activism and advocacy often end up taking a back seat to core operating functions. If you're going to build a movement predicated on greater levels of supporter engagement, however, you're going to need a different kind of organizational structure.

Which means you should align that structure in ways that engage and support your audience today, rather than next month, next year, or at some happy point in the future. A good place to start is adding a director of advocacy or constituent engagement to your leadership team and giving them a set of responsibilities focused on movement building and donor cultivation, not just fundraising.

In this new era, it's vital that nonprofit leaders change their thinking to more closely align with where and how a rising generation of potential supporters wants to be involved with the issues and causes that matter to them. In other words, if you want to create lasting change, don't focus on your organization; focus on connecting people to your issue through your organization.

Headshot_derrick_feldmann_2015Derrick Feldmann is the president of Achieve, a research and marketing agency for causes, and the author of Social Movements for Good: How Companies and Causes Create Viral Change, available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Weekend Link Roundup (November 4-5, 2017)

November 05, 2017

Article-flanagan1-1105Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

Can you hear me now? From Reuters: "The amount of carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere 2016 to a level not seen for millions of years...." 


Do the wealthy "need" to give?  Do they give to make the world a better place, to give back to the community? Or is their charity motivated by reasons that are far less noble — peer pressure, social status, a version of conspicuous consumption? On the Foundation for Independent Journalism's Wire site, Jacob Burak explores the varied and complex motivations that drive charitable giving.


Open enrollment season for the Affordable Care Act opened November 1 and, this year, runs only through December 15. The Aspen Institute's Natalie Foster explains why, as the nature of work continues to change, the viability and success of the Affordable Care Act is increasingly important.

Here on PhilanTopic, the Campaign for Black Male Achievement's Shawn Dove and Phyllis Hubbard make the important point that people who do this kind of work also need to be sure to take care of themselves.

International Affairs/Development

On the WINGS blog, Debasish Mitter, India country director for the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, notes that while "the nature and extent of development problems... have changed over the years... [p]hilanthropy has been changing and evolving, too," before listing half a dozen ways in which philanthropy is changing its approach to development work.


Investigative journalism around the world is under attack by illiberal and authoritarian forces. In a post on the Omidyar Network blog, Nishant Lalwani, director of ON's  Governance & Citizen Engagement initiative, explains why the organization has made a significant investment in Reporters Without Borders. For those interested in learning more about RWF's work, the organization has just announced the launch of its "Forbidden Stories" project.

"There are more than one hundred digital news nonprofits in the United States, and the vast majority are trying to diversify their revenue streams to become less reliant on these major gifts," writes David Westphal on the Columbia Journalism Review website. That said, adds Westphal, "some leaders in this industry are simultaneously coming to believe that philanthropy, particularly individual giving, has room to grow. Perhaps a lot of room."


This speech by BoardSource president and CEO Anne Wallestad may be the best speech given by anyone, anywhere, in 2017.


By 2025, philanthropists will contribute a record $500 billion to $600 billion annually to nonprofits, well above the $373 billion given in 2015. The bad news is the nonprofits will still come up short, by a couple of hundred billion dollars, in the funding they need. Which is why Stanford researchers Bill Meehan and Kim Starkey Jonker wrote Engine of Impact: Essentials of Strategic Leadership in the Nonprofit Sector.  


Forbes' contributor Igor Bolsikovski checks in with a nice profile of 41-year-old Gerun Riley, the newly named president of the Eli and Edyth Broad Foundation. 

Public Policy

The list of nonprofit/philanthropic associations and infrastructure groups that have come out against the House Republican tax plan is long and includes the Council on Foundations, Independent Sector, the National Council of Nonprofits, and the National League of Cities.

Social Media

Last but not least, the New York Times' Farhad Manjoo and Kevin Roose asked nine tech experts what they would do to address the malign influence that Facebook increasingly has in our politics and civic discourse. Well worth a read.

That's it for this week. Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a line at

How to Keep Me Scrolling Through What You Are Sharing

November 02, 2017

Hello, my name is Tom and I am a Subscriber. And a Tweeter, a Follower, a Forwarder (FYI!), a Google Searcher, and a DropBox Hoarder. I subscribe to blogs, feeds, e-newsletters, and email updates. My professional title includes the word "knowledge," so I feel compelled to make sure I'm keeping track of the high volume of data, information, reports, and ideas flowing through the nonprofit and foundation worlds (yes, it is a bit of a compulsion…and I'm not even including my favorite travel, shopping, and coupon alerts).

It's a lot, and I confess I don't read all of it. It's a form of meditation, I guess, for me to scroll through emails and Twitter feeds while waiting in line at Aloha Salads. I skim, I save, I forward, I retweet, I copy and save for later reading (later when?). In fact, no one can be expected to keep up, so how does anyone make sense of it all, or even find what we need when we need it? Everyone being #OpenForGood and sharing everything is great, but who's reading it all? And how do we make what we're opening up for good actually good?

Making Knowledge Usable

At some point, we've all battled Drowning in Information-Starving for Knowledge syndrome (from John Naisbitt's Megatrends — though I prefer E.O. Wilson's "starving for wisdom" theory). The information may be out there, but it rarely exists in a form that is easily found, read, understood, and (most importantly) usedFoundation Center and IssueLab have made it easier for people in the sector to know what is being funded, where new ideas are being tested, and what evidence and lessons are available. But to really succeed, nonprofits and foundations will have to upload and share many more of their documents than they do now. And we need to make sure that the information we share is readable, usable, and easy to apply.


DataViz guru Stephanie Evergreen recently taught me a new hashtag: #TLDR – "Too Long, Didn't Read."

Evergreen proposes that every published report be available in three formats — a one-page handout with key messages, a three-page executive summary, and a 25-page report (plus appendices). That way,  "scanners," "skimmers," and "deep divers" can access the information in the form they prefer and in the time that's available to them. Such an approach also requires writing (and formatting) differently for each of these different audiences. (By the way, do you know which one you are?)

From Information to Influence

But it isn't enough to make your reports accessible, searchable, and easily readable in both a short and long form; you also have to include the information people need to make decisions and take action. It means deciding in advance who you hope to inform and influence and what you want them do with that information. If you expect people to read, learn from, and apply the information you're sharing, you need to be clear about your reason for sharing it, and you need to give people the right kind of information.

Too many times I've read reports that include promising findings and interesting lessons, and then I race through all the footnotes and the appendices at the back of the report looking for resources that could point me to the details or implementation guidance. Alas, I usually wind up trying to track down the authors by email or phone.

2005 study of more than one thousand evaluations focused on human services found only twenty-two that shared any analysis of implementation learnings — i.e., the lessons people learned about how best to put the program or services in place. We can't expect other people and organizations to share your knowledge and what you've learned if they cannot access information that helps them use that knowledge and apply it to their own programs and organizations. YES, I want to hear about your lessons and "a-ha" moments, but I also want to see data and an analysis of the common challenges faced by all nonprofits and foundations:

  • How to apply and adapt program and practice models in different contexts
  • How to sustain effective practices
  • How to scale successful efforts to additional people and communities

This means making sure your evaluations and reports include a frank discussion of the challenges related to implementation — challenges that others are likely to face. It also means placing your findings in the context of existing knowledge and learnings and using commonly accepted definitions that make it easier to build on the knowledge created by others. For example, in our recent middle school connectedness initiative, our evaluator, Learning for Action, reviewed the literature first to identify the specific components of and best practices in youth mentoring, thus enabling us to build the evaluation on what had been done in the field by others, report clearly about what we learned about our own initiative, and share that knowledge with the field. 

So please plan ahead and define your knowledge sharing and influence agenda up front, and as you're doing so keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • Who do you hope reads your report?
  • What information should it share in order to be useful and used?
  • Review similar studies and reports and determine in advance what additional knowledge you'll need to share, as well as what you plan to document and evaluate.
  • Use common definitions and program model frameworks so that others are able to build on the accumulated knowledge of the field and not have to start from scratch each and every time.
  • Pay attention to the implementation, replication, and management challenges (staffing, training, communication, adaptation) that others are likely to face.
  • Disseminate your evaluation widely via conferences, in journals, through your networks, and in IssueLab's open repository.

And if you do all of the above, I will be happy to read through your report's footnotes and appendices the next time I'm waiting in line for a salad!

Headshot_tom_kellyTom Kelly (@TomEval, is vice president of knowledge, evaluation and learning at the Hawai‘i Community Foundation and has been learning and evaluating as a practitioner since the beginning of the century.  This post originally appeared as part of Glasspockets' #OpenForGood series, which explores new tools, promising practices, and inspiring examples of foundations that are opening up the knowledge they acquire for the benefit of the larger philanthropic sector and is presented in partnership with the Fund for Shared Insight.

To Close the Racial Health Gap, Philanthropy Must Itself Prioritize Wellness

October 31, 2017

In December 2009, the Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA)  convened a cross-section of leaders working to improve life outcomes of black men and boys at a leadership retreat that included a session focused on strategies for healing and self-empowerment for leaders in the Black Male Achievement (BMA) field. At the time, the BMA field was still relatively new, having been launched by CBMA at the Open Society Foundations in June 2008. What the workshop revealed was both astounding and urgent: that the very leaders working vigilantly to support black men and boys in their communities were themselves in dire need of support and information with respect to how they addressed the myriad health and lifestyle challenges they, and an alarmingly large number of African Americans, face.

Young-black-man-with-head-007-2Then, in 2014, the BMA movement was dealt a tragic blow with the news that BMe Community leader Dr. Shawn White, a renowned academic working on public health matters, had died suddenly at the age of 42 of a stress-triggered seizure due to complications from severe hypertension, a preventable disease. There was and remains little doubt that the high levels of stress associated with doing racial equity work was a critical factor in the kinds of health issues faced by leaders such as Dr. White. There is also little doubt about how these issues are exacerbated by the insidious effects of interpersonal and institutional racism — psychological, physical, and emotional — on black people and communities.

The learnings that came out of that retreat nearly a decade ago have been given new life with the release of a report issued last week by National Public Radio, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Titled Discrimination in America: Experiences and Views of African Americans, the report addresses the various types of individual and systemic discrimination that black Americans experience in a variety of arenas, including employment, buying a home, interactions with law enforcement, civic engagement, and access to health care. In each of these areas, African Americans reported frequent and consistent encounters with race-based discrimination — a finding that spans gender, education, political affiliation, geography, and socioeconomic status.

Among its most noteworthy discoveries, the report revealed that roughly a third of black Americans have felt they were discriminated against when seeking medical care from a doctor or health clinic. Equally disturbing is the finding that 22 percent of black respondents admitted to not seeking out medical care due to their past experiences with medical professionals. Considering the well-documented legacy of bias and outright violence against African Americans at the hands of the medical and scientific communities, it should come as no surprise that black people, particularly black men, would harbor a level of distrust and suspicion toward the medical community that ultimately poses a threat to their own health and well-being.

This is one of the several urgent reasons why the Campaign for Black Male Achievement created CBMA Health and Healing Strategies — an innovative and timely effort to empower Black Male Achievement leaders with the information, tools, and resources needed to monitor and maintain their personal health, healing, and wellness. Launched in 2016, the initiative aims to combat the racial health gap by promoting healthy behaviors and strengthening the wellness of leaders and caregivers, so that they, in turn, can create healthier environments for the young people of color they serve. One of the catalytic moments that spurred CBMA to launch Health & Healing Strategies occurred in 2015 during its annual Rumble Young Man, Rumble event in Louisville, Kentucky, where a number of leaders in attendance shared their own struggles with depression, poor health, and even suicide ideation. At that moment, CBMA knew it needed to be proactive in responding to this growing challenge, both in the BMA field and the broader black community.

With seed support from the California Endowment, Health and Healing Strategies has been implementing school and community-based strategies around the management and reduction of stress, pain, trauma, and other health challenges that disproportionately impact black people. The initiative also uses multi-media and storytelling to help increase awareness, promote dialogue, and change the narrative around these issues. With a focus on addressing the root causes of poor health and disease, and their frequent aggravation by inadequate and inequitable healthcare access and treatment (as highlighted by the report), CBMA seeks to instill a renewed and strengthened commitment to health and well-being in America’s black communities, today and into the future.

The California Endowment’s continued investment in Health and Healing Strategies (including an additional half a million dollars earlier this year to expand the initiative) demonstrates philanthropy’s critical role in cultivating the innovation and collective will needed to achieve positive health outcomes for black people. But in order to sustain them, efforts like Health and Healing Strategies need increased support from bold and courageous leaders at both the philanthropic and policy level, leaders who are unambiguously committed to eradicating racial and other biases from our healthcare, education, criminal justice, and political systems.

Shawn_dove_phyllis_hubbard_175x425At the same time, leaders in philanthropy and the BMA field must look in the mirror and ask themselves how they can set an example by integrating health, wellness, and self-care into their collective and organizational ethos and culture. Only by embodying the type of leadership we want others to exhibit will we successfully create the transformative change needed to close America’s racial health gap.

Shawn Dove serves as the CEO of the Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA), a national membership organization dedicated to ensuring the growth, sustainability, and impact of leaders and organizations focused on improving the life outcomes of America’s black men and boys. Dr. Phyllis Hubbard is the director of CBMA's Health and Healing Strategies, a wellness program that seeks to improve the health and well-being outcomes of cross-sector leaders working on behalf of black men and boys.

5 Questions for...Laura Speer, Associate Director, Policy Reform and Advocacy, Annie E. Casey Foundation

October 30, 2017

Children are the future. In a country whose population is aging faster than expected, the implications of that truism should be of special concern. The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private philanthropy based in Baltimore that works to improve the lives of America's children and their families, certainly believes so. And it backs that work up with data — lots of it, including its signature KIDS COUNT data book and center.

Earlier this month, the foundation published the second report (28 pages, PDF) in its Race for Results series, a KIDS COUNT spinoff that explores "the intersection of kids, race and opportunity" and describes many of the barriers to success facing children of color in America. The report also includes a section devoted to immigrant families and children, as well as policy recommendations designed to ensure that all children in America have the opportunity to realize their full potential.

PND spoke with Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and advocacy at the Casey Foundation, about the new report's findings, the potential consequences of Trump administration policies for immigrant children, and the economic argument for boosting spending on programs designed to improve health, education, and economic outcomes for kids of all races and color.

Headshot_laura_speerPhilanthropy News Digest: Your new report, the second in the Race for Results series, is based on data from 2013 to 2015 and shows general improvement across the board in most of the twelve indicators the foundation uses to measure how children from different racial backgrounds are faring on the path to opportunity. Were you surprised by any findings in the report?

Laura Speer: Well, we were happy to see improvement across the board in many of the measures we track. Of course, both reports covered periods when the country was recovering from the Great Recession, so it wasn't a huge surprise to see improvement in many of the measures — things like the percentage of young people who are graduating from high school or teen pregnancy rates. Those are areas where we're seeing improvement for all kids. What is disheartening, however, is that there really wasn't much of a change in the gaps that existed previously for African American, Native American, and Latino kids, all of whom, in the aggregate, are still lagging behind other groups of kids in terms of meeting these milestones.

PND: The report argues that we can't afford to ignore those disparities any longer. Moral arguments aside, why do we need to pay more attention to the barriers that prevent kids of color from reaching their full potential?

LS: We made the case in the first report, and we reiterate it again here, that in the United States today, slightly less than 50 percent of the child population are kids of color. However, demographic pro­jections show that that is going to change pretty quickly, and that kids of color will be the majority of the child population in just a few years. And, because kids grow up to be adults, people of color will comprise the majority of the workforce within the next couple of decades and the population of the country itself will be majority people of color by 2040 or so. In other words, today's kids of color are our future work force, the future parents of the next generation of American kids, the future leaders of our country. And that is why it is more important than ever that we not accept or get comfortable with these disparities, and why we've got to identify the factors that are contributing to the barriers to success that exist for kids of color and figure out how, as a country, we can design policies and programs that help more young people achieve their full potential. We need these kids and all the talents they possess if we want to be able to compete on a global scale and be successful as a country in the long run.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (October 28-29, 2017)

October 29, 2017

Tax_2Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Civic Tech

On the Getting Smart blog, Tom Vander Ark, former director of education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and author of Getting Smart: How Personal Digital Learning is Changing the World, highlights ten tech-driven developments (widespread unemployment, widening inequality, algorithmic bias, machine ethics, genome editing) that require decisions, sooner rather than later, we are not prepared to make.

In a new post on her Philanthropy 2173 blog, Lucy Bernholz wonders whether the social sector can "pre-emptively develop a set of guardrails for the application of new technologies so that predictable harm (at least) can be minimized or prevented?" 

Disaster Relief/Recovery

In Houston, the newly formed Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium is convening leading  researchers to compile, analyze, and share an array of scientifically-informed data about flooding risk and mitigation opportunities in the region. Three key stakeholders in the effort — Ann Stern, president and CEO of the Houston Endowment; Nancy Kinder, president of the Kinder Foundation; and Katherine Lorenz, president of the Cynthia & George Mitchell Foundation — explain what the initiative hopes to accomplish.


"It is the latest iteration for a philanthropy that has both had a significant influence on K-12 policy over its two-decades-long involvement in the sector — and drawn harsh criticism for pushing ideas that some see as technocratic." Education Week's Stephen Sawchuck examines what the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s recent strategy pivot and new investments in K-12 education signal for the field.


Donald Trump and his administration's policies appear to be behind a dramatic increase in giving to progress groups. Ben Paynter reports for Fast Company.

Forbes has published its annual list of the top givers in the U.S.

Continue reading »

[Review] 'The Clean Money Revolution: Reinventing Power, Purpose, and Capitalism'

October 27, 2017

I'm not sure what to think about The Clean Money Revolution: Reinventing Power, Purpose, and Capitalism, Joel Solomon's memoir-cum-manifesto about the importance of taking "a mission-based" approach to finance and investment. I certainly appreciate Solomon's passion for the environment and his sincere belief that we need to move from an economic system built on exploitation to a more "regenerative" system. But I didn't much care for his omission of the poor and people of color in his call for "revolution," or his apparent blindness to his own white privilege; for the many bold claims backed up by engaging anecdotes but little data; or for his limited understanding of the world of private foundations. To be fair, Solomon, the chair of Renewal Funds, a mission-based venture capital firm, acknowledges that the book is written from the perspective "of an older, rich, white male heterosexual," and he "apologize[s] in advance for [the] narrow context and perspective." Still, the book has some glaring blind spots that undermine its impact and, ultimately, expose the superficiality of its premise.

Cover_The_Clean_Money_Revolution_BookLet's start with the positive. The Clean Money Revolution is full of interesting personal anecdotes, making it read more like a memoir than a self-help investment guide. Solomon has led a very interesting life and has played a part in growing many consumer brands that have become household names, including Stonyfield Farms and Ben & Jerry's. He grew up in Chattanooga and, after graduating from Columbia University, spent his early twenties bumming around the western United States. Following a diagnosis of PKD (polycystic kidney disease), he began to look into organic food and "healthy" living and eventually landed in an "intentional community" of "gypsy gardeners" on Cortes Island,  at the head of Georgia Strait between mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island: "I was 25 with long hair and a bushy beard," he writes. "I rarely wore shoes. It was a good time." On the island, at something called Linnaea Farm, "an early model of money transformed by intentional 'cleaning'," Solomon developed an appreciation for the environment and a passion for organic food systems. It's also where he met Drummond Pike, "an early adopter social entrepreneur" who went on to found the Tides Foundation, as well as Robert and Penny Cabot, old-money philanthropists who would later influence his investment strategies.

Solomon eventually accepted a caretaking position at OrcaLab on the even more remote Hanson Island, where he spent months at a time alone, communing with nature and observing the "complexity, diversity, and interdependence" of the island's ecosystem; reading widely in philosophy, history, and anthropology; and developing what would become a lifelong passion for self-reflection and contemplation. Then he received a $50,000 payout from one of his father's real estate investments — which he invested in Hollyhock Farm, a property on Cortes Island that today is a not-for-profit leadership learning center, and Stonyfield, then a nonprofit organic farming school with seven cows.

Soon after, Solomon's father died and he received a $3 million inheritance. The rest of the book details his (usually) successful investments in small businesses focused on natural food systems and local communities. Many of the stories Solomon has to tell are inspiring, and his sincerity is apparent. But it is difficult, at times, not to question his assumption that readers will relate to his adventures in finance, or be interested in his investing advice. About a third of the way through the book, for instance, he observes: "If you have more than enough money, there is a vast opportunity to move capital from stock markets and massive corporations to dynamic small businesses that generat[e]  innovation, relationship, and community."  If is only a two-letter word, but it conveniently elides an assumption that undermines the tale Solomon has to tell: capitalism can be transformed from something inherently exploitative and immoral into something regenerative and moral — but only by those with the capital to do so.

Continue reading »

Why Evaluations Are Worth Reading – or Not

October 26, 2017

EvaluationTruth in lending statement: I am an evaluator. I believe strongly in the power of excellent evaluations to inform, guide, support, and assess programs, strategies, initiatives, organizations, and movements. I have directed programs that were redesigned to increase their effectiveness, their cultural appropriateness, and their impact based on evaluation data; helped to design and implement evaluation initiatives here at the McCormick Foundation that changed the way we understand and do our work; and have worked with many foundation colleagues and nonprofits to find ways to make evaluation serve their needs for greater understanding and improvement.

One of the best examples I've seen of excellent evaluation within philanthropy came with a child abuse prevention and treatment project. Our foundation had funded almost thirty organizations that were using thirty-seven tools to measure the impact of treatment. Many of those tools were culturally inappropriate, designed for initial screenings, or inappropriate for other reasons, and staff from organizations running similar programs had conflicting views about them. Program staff here wanted to be able to compare program outcomes using uniform evaluation tools and to use that data to make funding, policy, and program recommendations, but they were at a loss as to how to do so in a way that honored grantees' knowledge and experience. A new evaluation initiative was funded that included the development of a "community of practice" to:

  • create a unified set of reporting tools;
  • learn from the data how to improve program design and implementation, and use data systematically to support staff/program effectiveness;
  • develop a new rubric that the foundation could use to assess programs and proposals; and
  • provide evaluation coaching for all organizations participating in the initiative.

The initiative was so successful that the participating nonprofits decided to continue to work together beyond the initial scope of the project to improve their own programs and better support the children and families they serve. This "Unified Project Outcomes" article describes the project and the processes that were established as a result in far greater detail.

Continue reading »

Finally! A Global (Data) Language!

October 25, 2017

Trying to get global consensus on anything is nearly impossible. But in collaboration with a dynamic cohort of individuals and organizations, we've managed to develop a new manifesto with respect to the structure and sharing of data about global philanthropy that is valued across contexts. Meet the new Global Philanthropy Data Charter.

Philanthropy, and more broadly, civil society, play a large and increasingly visible role in solving complex societal issues around the globe. Over the last twenty years, as private wealth in countries around the world has exploded, we've seen a significant increase in giving by institutions and individuals. At the same time, technology adoption and economic populism have emerged from the shadows while foreign aid to the least developed countries has declined. Established in 2000, the Millennium Development Goals paved the way, in 2015, for the multi-stakeholder Sustainable Development Goals. Each step in this evolution was guided by data. Good data? Not always. But in our rapidly changing world, everyone must tell their own story — or risk having it told for them. The good news? Philanthropy has had to become more transparent, more accountable, and more effective. Rather than siloed efforts, maximizing impact based on smart giving and shared learning has become a collective world-wide aspiration.

Continue reading »

Easy Steps to Make Your LinkedIn Profile Not Suck

October 23, 2017

LinkedIn-Logo-1Good news! The job market for nonprofit leaders is looking good! Boomers are slowly but surely retiring and leadership opportunities across the sector are opening up. Think you've got the chops? Great. Read on to learn how you can use LinkedIn to show the world what you've got.

Wait, what? Today, recruiting firms like Envision Consulting don't just flip through Rolodexes to find top talent. In addition to working our networks and going through applications, we rely on LinkedIn to uncover promising candidates. Yep, that's right, LinkedIn. It's the world's largest professional network, and though not without shortcomings, it is still the best source for recruiters to find qualified candidates. And increasingly, recruiters, colleagues, even your clients and funders are looking at LinkedIn profiles to learn more about you. Which means that not having a profile on LinkedIn, or having one that is incomplete or slapdash, tells them you are stuck in the pre-digital age, or, worse, have nothing of interest to share.

So, what makes for a good LinkedIn profile? Here are seven tips from the executive recruiters at Envision Consulting:

Set up a profile. First things first. That means you need to set up a LinkedIn profile and populate it with the basics: where you've worked, what your title/role was, and the start and end dates for each position. Add a blurb about yourself and highlight a few key accomplishments for each job you've had. Bonus tip: Take a moment to choose a stimulating headline for your profile. Use a fun phrase or three to four words that best describe you and your skills. These become searchable keywords for recruiters who are trying to locate job candidate with the right skill set.

Respond to messages. Don't burn your bridges before they've been built. As with anyone that reaches out to you in a professional capacity, reply to the messages you receive on LinkedIn a courteous and professional manner. (Recruiters are real people, too, and we want to help you succeed in your career.) It's okay if you tell a recruiter you're "not interested at this time" — at least we'll know that you're familiar with basic email etiquette. Bonus tip: Don't click on the "decline email" link if you do want to stay in touch. LinkedIn prevents people from sending you a follow-up message if you "decline" a message.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (October 21-22, 2017)

October 22, 2017

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


In 2010, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made a $100 million gift in support of a major overhaul of the public school system in Newark, New Jersey. To be spearheaded by then-Newark Mayor Cory Booker (now a U.S. senator) and New Jersey governor Chris Christie, the effort stumbled out of the gate and became the object of derision (as well as the subject of a well-reviewed book by education reporter Dale Russakoff). But a new study from a team led by a Harvard University researcher finds that the performance of students in the district has improved significantly in English (although not so much in math) since 2010. Greg Toppo reports for USA Today.


In a post for Forbes, Kris Putnam-Walkerly offers ten reasons why community foundations are your best for disaster relief giving.

On Beth Kanter's blog, Alison Carlman,  director of impact and communications at GlobalGiving, challenges the conventional wisdom that donors are fatigued by the series of disasters that have hit the U.S. , Mexico, and Caribbeanf.  

Interestingly, a new study from Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy shows that since the early 2000s, volunteering and charitable giving in the United States has dropped roughly 11 percent. And, as a country, our generosity appears to have peaked around 2005, with giving hitting an average of $1,024 annually; in 2015, the most recent year measured, that number dropped to $872. Eillie Anzilotti reports for Fast Company.

In the Stanford Social Innovation Review Jennifer Xia and Patrick Schmitt, students at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, note that while the largest wealth transfer in human history will take place over the next twenty years, most nonprofits are poorly positioned to take advantage of it.

In a video on the CNBC site, tech entrepreneur Alexandre Mars, the "French Bill Gates," argues that giving is something that anyone can — and everyone should — do.

Continue reading »

5 Questions for...Mark Brewer, President and CEO, Central Florida Foundation

October 19, 2017

In September, with the Houston area still wringing itself out after the historic rains dropped by Hurricane Harvey two weeks earlier, parts of the Caribbean and Florida suffered their own disaster, as Hurricane Irma became the first Category 5 storm on record to hit the Leeward Islands and then moved over much of Florida as a Category 3 storm, causing millions of Floridians to evacuate and leaving the Florida Keys cut off from the mainland.

Recently, PND spoke with Mark Brewer, president and CEO of the Orlando-based Central Florida Foundation, about the relief and recovery efforts in his region and what the foundation is doing to help nonprofits in the area get back to normal.

Philanthropy News Digest: What is the extent of the damage in the region served by CFF?

Mark_Brewer_Central Florida FoundationMark Brewer: Finding the answer to that question has been an evolving process. As I'm sure you know, there are three phases to these events: response, recovery, and rebuilding. In some parts of the region we're still in response mode, in part because of the widespread electrical outages and water-related issues in the counties on the coast. But response and recovery is going to look different here than it does in South Florida and the Caribbean, even though we suffered a large amount of unseen damage.

This morning [September 25], for example, more than a hundred daycare centers didn't open because they suffered damage to their buildings or their employees couldn't get into work. That translates into thousands of people who couldn’t get to work because they didn't have child care. So when you look out at the roads, things look like they're clearing up, the tree branches are being removed. But when you start looking at nonprofits in the region, you see that they're struggling to get back to full strength.

PND: What are the most immediate needs, and how do you think things will unfold over the next several months?

MB: The response phase is wrapping up. Most of the power has been restored, and people are starting to get back into their normal routines. Recovery is about getting back to business as usual. It's not just those daycare centers, it's also about making certain that everyone who cares for people with disabilities, children, and the elderly are back in business and the overall "quality-of-life-system" in the region operates as it’s supposed to. For the rest of 2017, we're going to be moving into recovery and making certain that service providers are operational and have what they need. Then for most of 2018, I think it will be a mix of recovery and rebuilding as it becomes clearer who was able to recover from the storm and who wasn't. Remember, while we're happy to have FEMA on the ground, it can sometimes take months  even years  for FEMA to pay the bills. That means you will see a lot of nonprofits that are stressed in terms of their capacity to help people with things that they've been told they'll be reimbursed for later.

Continue reading »

Deepening Audience Engagement With Long-Form Content

October 18, 2017

Communicating complicated ideas can be a significant challenge for social change organizations trying to reach diverse audiences in a short-attention-span world. But it's something long-form content is particularly well suited for. If your organization publishes research, reports, and other types of long-form content, what strategies can you use to ensure that your content resonates with and engages your target audiences?

Audience-Engagement-bubblesDigital communications and social media have had a tremendous impact on our ability to maintain focus and attention — not just online, but in the real world. Online and offline, we are awash in content that's fragmented and comes at us fast. Distractions are everywhere and, for social change organizations, creating awareness around complex issues can feel like an uphill battle.

But even as short-form platforms like Twitter increasingly shape how issues are framed by the media, recent studies show that when it comes to audience engagement, long-form content performs better than shorter content. So, while we may live in a world dominated by short bursts of commentary, opinion, and insights, long-form content remains a critical (and effective!) format.

While every organization with a message to communicate has to learn how to navigate this dynamic, social change organizations face a bigger challenge. Because when your mission revolves around a complicated issue, is connected to a problem in a far-away place or the distant future, or is just removed from the concerns of everyday life, maintaining audience engagement is inherently more difficult.

Still, it usually boils down to the same question: How can we elevate our issue or cause and engage our target audiences? The time-tested principles used by storytellers since, well, forever are an excellent place to start.

Leveraging Narrative Structure

Whether presented as narrative or as academic research, all long-form content can benefit from the three-act structure of exposition, confrontation, and resolution familiar to professional storytellers. In general, it works like this:

Continue reading »


Quote of the Week

  • "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results...."

    — Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Subscribe to Philantopic


Guest Contributors

  • Laura Cronin
  • Derrick Feldmann
  • Thaler Pekar
  • Kathryn Pyle
  • Nick Scott
  • Allison Shirk

Tweets from @PNDBLOG

Follow us »


Other Blogs